how can I get a coworker to take computer classes, new desks don’t work with skirts, and more

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

1. How can I get a coworker to take computer classes?

My company recently hired a new employee, “Jane.” She’s not my subordinate, but I’ve helped train her, which makes this whole situation awkward. Jane is basically computer illiterate. At first I just thought she wasn’t used to Microsoft Office products, but the more I work with her the more I’m certain Jane’s only used a computer for typing and maybe tallying a spreadsheet. I’ve had to teach her very basic functions like how to create a new tab in a spreadsheet, how to accept a meeting invitation in Outlook, or even CTRL+C. She doesn’t seem familiar with any computer program. For instance she doesn’t seem familiar with basic icons, like the Save button or even Close — she uses File->Close to exit most programs. This makes tutoring a bit of a challenge as I’m never sure what terminology I can use.

I will say she is trying really hard and learning. But the way Jane’s going about it is a problem: she’s just asking for help doing the task in front of her, instead of trying to learn how to work a whole system. There’s no way she can learn everything she needs to learn to keep up with her workload like that.

Virtually every time I walk by her desk she looks completely overwhelmed, and if I don’t stop to talk, she sighs and announces she’s totally lost or stuck or something. She dropping by my office multiple times a day to ask for help. I’m happy to help, but this is taking up way more time than it needs to. It seems whenever she has a questions she wants someone to walk her through it instead of first trying to find an answer herself.

Multiple times I’ve suggested she look up online tutorials and she says she doesn’t know how to dig through that stuff or doesn’t have the time. Or I’ve pointed her towards free computer courses, and again she cites not having time. I really think her taking a day or two to take the courses would solve a lot of problems.

How can I get Jane to take them without overstepping my bounds? She’s trying so hard and I want her to succeed and I’m worried going over her head will get her in trouble. And like I said, my suggestions are not being taken. I also know she’s really embarrassed about her struggle to get a grasp on things, and I’m worried if I tell her I can’t help her anymore she just won’t ask and things will pile up.

The good news here is that there’s someone whose job it is to deal with this and who can do it without having to worry about overstepping any bounds: her manager! I know you said that you don’t want to get her in trouble, but (a) she is far more likely to get in trouble if this continues because it’s going to impact her work, and (b) this isn’t really about being in trouble or not; it’s about flagging a serious skills deficit and letting her manager know that she needs training. As someone helping to train her, you very much have standing to say to her boss, “Hey, I’ve realized that Jane is lacking basic computer skills and that’s standing in the way of her being able to do her job efficiently. Can you work with her to get her some fundamental computer skills training?” In fact, you’d actually be being negligent if you didn’t share what you’ve observed with her boss — this is the kind of highly relevant info that needs to be shared when you’re training someone.

I think, too, you’re falling into a bit of mission drift on your work here. Your job isn’t to find a way to help Jane succeed at all costs, even when it takes you well beyond the scope of what you were asked to train her on. It’s to do the training you were asked to do, and to loop in her manager if there are obstacles to that.

All that said … you could certainly try a direct conversation with Jane too. You could say, “I think we’re at the point where you need to shore up your basic computing skills before we can go any further. Can you plan to take the courses I pointed you toward, and then we can reconvene after that? I’m going to talk to (manager) about working with you to find time to do that, since I think think it’s really essential.”

2. Our new desks don’t work if you’re wearing a skirt

We have just moved offices and got a set of new and unsuitable desks. The new desks do not have modesty boards underneath. We are a largely female office and many of the staff wear skirts. If you are using a floor plug, you can see straight under many desks and into the groin area of the staff, and you can also see under certain desks when walking normally through the office. Our dress code is smart/casual.

The manager is not taking this seriously as a genuine concern of his staff (we also receive a lot of visitors to the office). Apparently the only solution is to buy completely new desks (the cable tidies stop boards from being attached) to the existing desks. Do we have any grounds for complaint or is this just something we have to get used to?

Yes, you have grounds to complain! It’s absolutely reasonable for you all to say, “These desks aren’t suitable for us and we’re not comfortable using them. We need to switch them out for desks that don’t uncomfortably expose us.” Say it as a group — which will be harder to ignore — and take the approach of “of course it’s obvious that we can’t use these desks so what do we need to do to get new ones?”

3. Interviewer told me my interview was probably a waste of time

During my job hunt for the job I’m at now, I applied for a pretty wide range of positions within a pretty wide range of industries. The first interview I got was with an insurance company. Admittedly I was a bit under-qualified for the role, but I had decided to throw my hat in the ring anyway.

When I got to the office for the interview, I ended up having to wait probably around 45 minutes because the man interviewing me was running late. Once the interview started, he told me that when the interview was scheduled I had been the most qualified candidate, but since then more qualified candidates had come in so this interview was basically a waste of time and they almost certainly weren’t going to hire me (I’ve forgotten exactly how he phrased it, but it was something along those lines). He did the interview anyway, but this really threw me off. It was honestly kind of humiliating and demoralizing. I had a tough time answering questions and walking him through some examples of my work I had brought along because of how distracted and upset I was. I did my best not to let it show, but I’m almost positive it did. Once the interview was over and I got back to my car, I started crying. With this being my first “real person” job interview I had no idea what to expect, but I was pretty sure this was not what an interview was supposed to be like.

Is this a normal thing to happen in an interview, or is this just my naivete showing? I only had two more interviews before I got the job with the company I’m at and neither of these interviews were anything like this, but a sample size of three is not much to go on. In a way I’m thankful this interview experience was so terrible, because I wouldn’t have ended up where I am now, but I’m interested in your perspective on this one.

Nah, he was just a jerk. Sometimes when jerks get the very minor power afforded by being the interviewer, they sometimes become really flagrantly jerky, and it sounds like that’s what happened here.

The good thing about this type of interview is that you get to find out the person is a jerk early on enough that you can decide not to work for them. It’s much worse to find out after you’re working there.

4. I’m supposed to give input on a candidate — but now I think I might want to apply for the job too

I was asked to have lunch with the candidate for a job that I hadn’t considered applying for in my organization and to give my feedback on the candidate to the search committee. In the process of giving the feedback to a member of the committee, I realized what the search committee wanted in a candidate and that I was qualified. I have since decided that I want the job if the search fails. I subsequently verified my qualifications with a former supervisor who knows of the situation and she also thinks I am qualified. The search committee is undecided about the candidate; the head of the search committee wants to talk to me about my impressions. I want to a) be honest and give honest feedback but admit that I’m now biased and b) put myself forward as a candidate. Advice?

Be up-front! Before you give any input on the candidate, say something like this: “I want to be transparent that in the process of talking with the search committee about what to look for in a candidate, I’ve realized that I’m interested in the position myself. I’d be interested in throwing my own hat in the ring, either now or down the road if the process doesn’t produce a candidate from the current pool. I’m going to try to be as unbiased as possible in my feedback about Jane, but I want you to have that caveat in case my feedback shouldn’t be considered at all.”

And then, assuming they do still want your feedback about the candidate, make sure you’re being as objective as possible. Give the feedback you’d give about her if you weren’t interested in the job at all. That’s an ethical obligation, of course, but it’s also going to help your own credibility if it’s clear that you’re not letting your own potential interest in the job bias your feedback.

5. Passing on positive feedback to a customer service agent’s manager

Recently I have spent a lot of time on the phone talking with various customer service agents due to an upcoming relocation (cable, internet, moving companies, insurance, utilities, etc.). I have a lot of respect for customer service representatives because I know they must deal with a lot of frustrated customers all day long, and I try to always be friendly and patient.

During my past few calls, if I get a representative who really does a thorough job, is friendly and engaging, and makes my experience a great one, I have asked to speak with their manager so I could pass on my positive feedback about the interaction. I figure this is one little thing I can do to express appreciation for someone doing a really challenging job and helping me solve an issue with a great attitude. I’ve felt really good about passing on positive feedback and plan to continue this process in the future. (And for the record, I am not interested in speaking with a manager about a not-so-good interaction – this is all about paying some good vibes forward.)

However, I want to ask, is this feedback practice helpful for the employee and for the manager? The times I’ve done this, the reps have seemed pleased and happy to transfer me to their managers, so I assume that it is. But I want to be sure this isn’t a misguided attempt at doing a good thing and causes some unforeseen difficulty for the people on the other side (as I have no experience in how call centers work and how their employee evaluations are handled). For example, they have to put me on hold, summon the manager, and take extra time to deal with me. And, if this is a good practice to continue, do you have recommendations about what kind of specific feedback would be helpful for managers to hear about the employee’s work during my brief conversation with the manager? Or key phrases I could use that would really make a difference for them to hear? The first one, I kind of babbled about having a great interaction and the employee being helpful, but am not sure I provided anything concrete that would actually be useful.

Yes, please continue to do that! It’s a lovely thing to do for people in a job where they’re often on the receiving end of anger and frustration. In some jobs, it can make a real difference in the types of evaluations people get, and if nothing else, it can really brighten people’s day.

As for what to say, just explain what you appreciated about the rep you talked to — “she was so pleasant and efficient, and she made what could have been a frustrating transaction a pleasure to resolve,” or “I called in with a really thorny issue and she was incredibly patient and knowledgeable in helping me get it sorted out,” or “I was pretty frustrated when I called, and she was so kind and good at her job that I felt I need to tell you — you have a real treasure in her” or whatever else feels true to you. You don’t need to deliver a lengthy treatise — just a sentence or two is fine.

{ 1,053 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    I’m putting this up here so that hopefully people will see it before commenting — although I’m posting it at 12:30 p.m. EST, so I realize the horse is out of the barn on this one:

    Please do not tell letter writer #2 that she and her coworkers should just sit more “modestly,” or with her ankles crossed all day. It’s not okay for women to have to police the positioning of their bodies more rigidly than men do (not to mention having to sit in an uncomfortable position for hours on end).

    Also, if you are a person who wears skirts and is not bothered by not having a privacy panel at the front of your desk, that is good for you! But it does not negate the fact that the letter writer (and apparently her coworkers) are bothered by it. It can be tempting to think everyone is like you, but indeed everyone is not.

    Reply
      1. Free Meerkats

        I complain that I have to wear pants and not a kilt. But that’s because I sometimes work int he right of way, and safety requires long pants.

        Put me at one of those desks in a kilt, and I guarantee they will be changed, posthaste!

        Reply
      2. Safetykats

        Given that the workplace is sufficient formal for women to be in skirts, I doubt the men are wearing shorts. The OP said the office dress code was smart/casual. That generally would not include shorts for men.

        Reply
    1. Lady Phoenix

      Can you also add to stop shaning women for wearing skirts? Cause we have been getting comments shaming women for wearing akirts too.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Agh, I haven’t read everything so didn’t see that. But yes, it’s not okay here to shame people for wearing skirts or imply they need to stop wearing perfectly acceptable business clothing in order to solve this.

        Reply
        1. Lady Phoenix

          Yeah. Apparently pencil skirts are either slut wear to some commenters… or all skirts are coded women so we have to dress up like men because being a woman is BAD and apparently men are the default.

          Reply
          1. Noah

            It seems like pencil skirts are long enough that you wouldn’t have this problem, but I’m a guy so I defer to the woman here if that is not true. It’s also not really relevant — obviously there are skirts long enough to solve this problem, but as long as the dress code allows skirts that aren’t long enough to solve this problem, they need protect the women from inappropriate viewing — just like you wouldn’t have clear floors.

            Reply
  2. Jenny Next

    OP #3, I totally agree that this interviewer was a jerk and that the behavior isn’t normal. But there are two sub-categories of interviewer jerkiness that are worth being aware of. Please use the search engine of your choice to look up the terms “stress interview” (in which the applicant is treated poorly just to see how they will respond) and “negging” (in which applicants and employees are constantly told how inferior they are in order to break their morale and keep them “in their place” ).

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Honestly, I think more common than either of those are interviewers who are just jerks. They don’t realize that good candidates will be assessing them right back, they’ve let power go to their heads, they’re inconsiderate, etc. Deliberate stress interviews do happen, but they’re pretty uncommon.

      Reply
        1. JM in England

          I think that stress interviews are a complete waste of time too as a tool for evaluating candidates. Interview stress and on-the-job stress are completely different animals and people will react differently to them.

          Reply
      1. Mookie

        Also, I don’t care about their motivations. Being mean to me as a strategy automatically makes them unqualified to hire and manage me. It could definitely be psychologically and emotionally healthy for the LW to view these interviewers as being intentionally rude for a specific purpose — so, it’s not personal — but, for people like me, that would actually be more demoralizing, that you’re just another victim of some terrible fad involving ritual humiliation.

        If someone is going to insult me, I want that insult to be personalized, damnit.

        Reply
        1. Sara without an H

          “If someone is going to insult me, I want that insult to be personalized, damnit.”

          Love it, Mookie.

          Reply
        2. Rachel01

          3. Interviewer told me my interview was probably a waste of time.
          You could have walked out in this situation. I have done it when I had an interview, went in and it was a group interview for a sales positon. They mislead all of what it was, and had a captive audience. If I were in your shoes, I would have walked right out, gone home, and called their HR to tell them what took place.

          I had one interview years ago that the job description was for an executive assistant and went I came in for the interview it was clear that they wanted a web designer & technical writer combined in one. They wanted someone that had those capabilities; it was not listed on the job posting / description. I suspect that this was a work around HR & the budget office. They did not have the funds to pay for the position they wanted and/or couldn’t get the authorization to bring in a technical writer / web developer so they advertised it the only way they could get it approved. This was when web developing was first starting, it wasn’t a standard skill.

          Reply
          1. Rachel01

            Forgot to mention. I clearly stated the VP interviewing me that what the job posting was for and the description of the duties didn’t match. Than I called Human Resources. But I had a lot of goodwill built up at the university than, I had been there for 10 years.

            Reply
      2. Jenny Next

        Oh, sure, I agree that garden-variety jerkiness is the most likely explanation. But if interviewees are aware that some people actually do this for a purpose other than to throw their weight around (or because they are socially inept), then they are better prepared to see it for what it is and either counter it or move on.

        Reply
    2. Kaittastic

      Interviewer: You’re under
      qualified for this position and this is a waste of time.

      Me: Thanks for your honesty! Have a great day and good luck with your other interviews!! (leaves with big )

      Seriously I couldn’t stand someone wasting my time in such a rude way.

      Reply
        1. Chocolate Teapot

          I did that once, and got a surprised response of “But aren’t you going to stay for the rest of the interview?”

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          1. Not Australian

            Me too. I got up, thanked the guy, said “I think we’re just wasting each other’s time,” and walked out without looking back.

            Reply
          2. Mookie

            I had one complain that they were going to get in trouble if I left so soon. I don’t care. If management are the ones telling you to behave this way, you need to leave, too.

            Reply
            1. Jadelyn

              Seriously? You waste my time, you tell me to my face that you are wasting my time with this interview, and you expect me to give a crap if you get in trouble if I don’t stay for the whole interview? That sounds like a you problem, bud.

              Reply
          3. Mona Lisa

            Similar. I had an audition for a church job, and the guy who was auditioning me was very late. When he finally arrived, he mixed up my voice type when I had indicated I was actually another. He said they couldn’t take me for that, but he could hear me for a sub list. He gave me a piece to sightread, which was going well, and halfway through, he stopped playing, turned to me and said, “This isn’t going to work.”

            “I don’t think it will either, but thank you for your time,” I replied since I’d already decided I didn’t want to work for this guy. I offered up a friendly handshake to show there were no hard feelings.

            He stared at my outstretched hand and then pointed, saying, “The door’s over there.”

            I don’t think I’ve ever met such a rude interviewer in my life!

            Reply
            1. Tiny Soprano

              Church choir conductors are another group of people who often let the minor power they wield go completely to their heads…

              That guy though! Wow! That’s a quadruple forte, all stops out level of jerkiness right there!

              Reply
        2. Cedrus Libani

          That would be my response NOW, but fresh out of college? I’d have responded just as the letter writer did. (Like any skill, self-respect takes practice…)

          Reply
          1. Fortitude Jones

            Exactly. OP said this was her first real job interview (I imagine she means a professional job interview), so she wouldn’t yet have the confidence to do this, especially if she needed a job ASAP. But this is good advice for her going forward.

            Reply
            1. Em

              OP #3 here, yeah, this was my first professional job interview. I like to think that should this happen again, I’ll be able to just walk out. Thanks everyone for your comments! Glad to hear that I wasn’t off base thinking this guy was a jerk.

              Reply
              1. Sara without an H

                OP#3, going forward, remember, you’re interviewing them at the same time they’re interviewing you. When I was first starting out, I accepted a position in what turned out to be a Toxic Waste Dump of an organization. Why? I was concentrating so hard on getting them to hire me that I ignored the big red flags waving all over the place.

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                1. Jam Today

                  Now that I’m old and cynical and don’t suffer a-holes lightly, I do a lot more work to interview the company than I did when I was young and just really needed the paycheck (nothing like the impending non-payment of rent to motivate you to take a really crappy job…) I’ve halted interview processes after being treated rudely by two people in a row from the same company (including one who told me I’d misspelled my own name on my resume — its a common name, a less-common-but-definitely-standard spelling), and not gotten at least one job because the interviewers were so taken aback by my asking them some hard questions about their organizations (such as: “how many women are in executive leadership?”) Good riddance to them. If someone treated me like this during an interview I’d walk out.

                  Good luck to the OP, you’ll get the confidence and security you need to stand up for yourself, it comes with time and experience (and a bank account with a little buffer in it for lean times). Sometimes we have to grit our teeth and live with being treated badly just so we can get some stability that will allow us to make moves that improve our situation. Don’t get bogged down in “I would have, she should have” stuff. You do what you need to do, time and age will take care of the rest.

                2. many bells down

                  Oh yeah, there was a job I *really* wanted a few years ago, but the red flags were waving from day one; disorganized, forgetful (they forgot to give me the actual location for the interview until the morning of, and only after I’d sent two emails asking for it). I still really wanted the job, though, so I kept telling myself it would work out because the job itself offered a lot of autonomy.
                  They ended up offering me a trial period and then ghosted me. Never heard from them again, although I do still occasionally get emails asking how I liked their company’s services.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago

                You are definitely not off base! And now you know that if this ever happens again, you do not have to just go along with it.

                Good luck with your job search!

                Reply
              3. the.kat

                Early in my job hunt, I ran into an interviewer who it felt like was determined to make me cry. I wish, wish, wish I’d have had the guts to get up and leave, but I didn’t. I just sat there and took it. Spoiler alert, I did not get the job.

                I feel for you OP and it made me a better interviewer in the long run because I told myself that I never have to let someone treat me like that again. Good luck!

                Reply
              4. Elizabeth West

                Not off base at all. Especially if the jerk interviewer would be your boss, consider what it would be like to work for him/her. It’s okay to do this as long as you’re polite and you know you don’t want the job.

                I once ended an interview for an admin job. The pay was okay and the interviewer was nice, but they didn’t offer insurance, and that was a deal breaker for me.

                Reply
          2. anna green

            (Like any skill, self-respect takes practice…)

            I LOVE this sentence! I’m totally stealing this as a reminder for myself.

            Reply
    3. Gen

      Yeah I’ve never seen desks with modesty boards, except for receptionists, but then I’ve never worked anywhere that the desks weren’t facing each other or anyone would be permitted to wear a skirt so short that you could see up it. Putting the desks back-to-back would at least double the depth of the desk so no one can see under it from standing rather than buying expensive new equipment to accommodate wardrobe choices. If the in-floor plug sockets are in constant daily use then why not get extension cords the raise them to desk height or something

      Reply
      1. Mookie

        anyone would be permitted to wear a skirt so short that you could see up it.

        That’s not, generally, how or why this happens when somebody sits down, unless you’re suggesting that calf- and ankle-length skirts and dresses are the only ones suitable for a office-casual environment like the LW’s.

        Reply
        1. Turkletina

          Further, the OP is concerned about people leaning down to use floor plugs. From that position, I can imagine that you might be able to see up something like an A-line skirt that falls below the knees.

          Reply
      2. Falling Diphthong

        Unless you have worked exclusively with the Amish, I’m betting you have worked in places where women wear knee length skirts to work.

        Reply
        1. ThatGirl

          Don’t see a lot of Amish women working with at desks/with computers, anyway. Some old order Mennonites perhaps. ;)

          Reply
      3. Rusty Shackelford

        Yeah I’ve never seen desks with modesty boards, except for receptionists

        Really? Every desk in my building has them.

        Reply
        1. Antilles

          Same here. Every single desk in my building does too. And I work in construction – an industry that’s 90% male and where it’s completely impractical/unsafe to wear anything except full length pants.

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          1. Katelyn

            The “modesty panel” can actually be a structural element of the desk. Not for support, but to help brace and prevent side-to-side shifting, particularly if unexpectedly heavy objects are moved onto/off-of the desk (e.g. steel I-beam, bundle of rebar, heavy power tools). It’s the same reason saw-horses have that inverted V shape, it takes the weight and provides stability from side-to-side movement.

            So pretty much I’m saying that these tables are pretty cheap and not meant to hold up in the longer-term anyways…

            Reply
            1. Chapeau

              “So pretty much I’m saying that these tables are pretty cheap and not meant to hold up in the longer-term anyways…”

              This.

              Granted, I don’t live in the US, but here where I live all the desks at school even have that panel

              Reply
        2. Not a Morning Person

          Yes, I’ve never worked in a place that had a desk you could see under from the front. Every one had a panel that ran almost to the floor. 6 different industries, four different states, and at all client and customer offices, too, I never saw a desk that didn’t have the panel. I have seen them on TV, just never IRL.

          Reply
      4. Justme, The OG

        I’ve never had a desk that didn’t have a modesty panel. My desk is against the wall and still has the panel.

        Reply
        1. TychaBrahe

          I don’t think I’ve seen a modesty panel in 20 years. My current desk is a table. My desk before that was a table. Before that I had a cubicle. Maybe, back in 94, when I was working in an open plan office.

          But also, I ride the bus to work. So I’d be sitting in the exact same position without even a desktop to hide my legs. That’s why my skirts go to mid-calf.

          https://www.jcpenney.com/p/white-mark-flare-flared-skirt/ppr5007267130?pTmplType=regular&rrec=true&rrplacementtype=product1_rr

          Reply
          1. Natalie

            The bus is not an adequate comparison, IMO – they generally have a bunch of seats in a row so there is a seat back less then a foot away. Unless someone is lying on the floor of the bus under the seats, they’re not actually in a position to see up a skirt while you’re sitting down.

            Reply
            1. Nita

              The last thing I’d want to worry about on a bus is whether anyone can see up my skirt. Even more so on a subway train – 90% of the seats face the aisle. Much simpler to just go with a skirt that doesn’t require one to pick a specific seat. Of course, that was learned the hard way with some fails…

              Not that long skirts are fail-proof, once I stepped on the hem of my favorite maxi on the way to work. Then had to walk around all day hoping it will look like the gash in the fabric is a fashion statement…

              Reply
        2. Safetykats

          At most of the office I’ve worked at, desks have modesty panels. The exception is standing or adjustable height desks – I don’t think it’s practical to put a modesty panel on a desk that adjusts from sitting to standing height (although I could be sting about that). People who have adjustable height desks have them facing the wall of a cubicle or office, so that there is no view angle from the front of the desk. Maybe the OP has these type of desks? They aren’t cheap, by the way, so I can see how there might be frustration around replacing them. However, placing them in open-plan seating was a really big mistake.

          Reply
      5. vjt

        Literally every desk I’ve ever sat at since leaving school has had some sort of design element that turns it from a ‘table’ into a ‘desk’ and prevents a woman wearing a knee-length skirt from having to keep her knees crossed at all times. And it doesn’t matter if the desks are back-to-back (I think you probably mean front-to-front?) because then it’s your deskmate who’s getting an eyeful when she accesses the in-floor plug. Which by the way no woman wearing a skirt as short as you’re imagining would be able to do without flashing the room.

        Reply
      6. Kathleen_A

        You probably have, though. It’s one of those things that often goes unnoticed until…well, until you need one and it isn’t there. If you Google “office desk,” you’ll see that many (and probably most) of those pictured do have that panel.

        Reply
        1. Tiny Soprano

          I would certainly have a lot of shocked people in my office if their panels disappeared. Not so much from a modesty perspective (they spend a lot of time in the field so most of them just wear their field gear around the office), but because of the lack of under-desk-cave-storage-area. Where else are they meant to stash their soil samples?

          Reply
      7. Hildegard Vonbingen

        You don’t have to be wearing a miniskirt for people to see up your skirt or dress.

        If the OP can’t get a desk with a modesty board, one thing she could do is get a tension rod, like the kind you use to hang up a shower curtain, and a fairly short curtain, then rig it up where the board should be. It would look like some old-fashioned kitchens I’ve seen. Not the most professional look, but then neither is having your private areas visible.

        Most places I’ve worked have had modesty boards on the desks. Until I read this, I didn’t know that’s what they were called, actually. But the desks I’ve seen had them. I assumed that was standard-issue.

        Reply
        1. Elsewhere

          Or some curtains, with a nice valance (or pelmet, if you’re a Brit), some sheers, maybe some cute tie-backs. Everyone could be as creative as they wish.

          Wouldn’t you love to see the face of the manager who didn’t think privacy was a “thing” when confronted with a large number of curtained deskse? I’m a guy, but would be happy to do a nice Austrian swag in solidarity.

          Reply
          1. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived

            This was my thought as well. You could also tape paper across (if you have access to rolls of paper) or nail a piece of plywood to the desk if you want something more urilitarian.

            Reply
        2. (another) b

          Idk I just don’t get the big deal. My last job had desks like that and I wore skirts, and just sitting with my legs closed was fine. I wasn’t worried about anyone looking up my skirt, and it would be pretty obvious if they were doing so. If it’s a big issue maybe try to hang something off the desk to cover it.

          Reply
      8. Rachel01

        2. Our new desks don’t work if you’re wearing a skirt
        A photo showing what the issue is might be required. To be honest, it is almost an HR issue. I will state that the female employees should not be wearing skirts that ride up so much that you can see everything. I’m assuming that isn’t an issue, but had to state it. I would not want someone to have a view of my groin, with my belly scrunched up in a pair of pants or skirt. Is your management male or female? It could be that someone doesn’t want to admit that they purchased something that isn’t working our & must be returned. It needs to be addressed immediately, depending on the contract & where purchased they could delay too long to do an exchange. They may have to pay for the pick up and delivery.

        Reply
        1. many bells down

          I don’t own a single skirt that is shorter than knee-length. I have a personal aversion to short skirts. But when you sit down, the skirt is no longer hanging straight, it’s pulled up higher. Thus my knee-length skirts would now expose my knees, and therefore unless I keep my legs constantly clamped together, you could see up it. Crossing one’s legs can even cause a perfectly “modest” skirt to ride up even higher, exposing the back of the thigh or more.

          Reply
        2. JB (not in Houston)

          You actually didn’t have to state it because there’s absolutely nothing in the letter to suggest that the OP doesn’t understand how to dress professionally.

          Reply
      9. OP2

        My skirts are knee length but when sat down and shufling about, things move! The desks are shallower than we had previously which is also contributing to the lack of privacy

        Reply
        1. Luna

          Exactly, I really don’t get why some people are pretending that they don’t know this happens (to everyone, no matter how tightly they try to clench their knees!) I hope you aren’t disheartened by all these inappropriate comments, most people understand why this is an issue.

          Reply
          1. Tiny Soprano

            And please ignore those who think it’s reasonable to expect everyone to sit with their knees tight together all the time all because that’s what they do. My constantly-shifting, frequently-cross-legged-on-top-of-the-chair self is jealous of their lack of back issues.

            Reply
    4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

      A good stress interview isn’t just “treat this person like garbage for no reason.” Done right, they should be very specifically aimed at a very specific kind of stressful situation that will be common on the job. IIRC someone on here mentioned a while back about a floor trader interview where they asked candidates to stand on their chairs and yell as loudly as they could. That’s a stress interview request, to select for people who are comfortable being very loud and attention-grabbing.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        I would think in a good stress interview, the candidate would be made aware beforehand that’s that what was going on – just like in a stressful work situation where they’d be “consenting” to being there and know what they were getting into. Presumably if you’re going into the kind of field where a stress interview might be relevant, it’s not a surprise.

        Reply
          1. Not a Morning Person

            And done right it’s not necessarily about breaking social norms. One of my former managers had worked at the State Department and conducted interviews for ambassadors and staff. One of the stress interview tactics was to simply ask people to do calculations in their head and provide the answers quickly and the questions came faster than you could respond to. He said it was used to determine whether people got flustered under pressure or how they responded to particular kinds of pressure. That was not the only tactic and it was interesting to learn.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              Yeah, I don’t think it’s necessarily about warning them about breaking social norms so much as doing role-playing that might be non-standard for most interviews. But you intro them into that role playing, you don’t just suddenly start acting like a big jerk.

              Reply
            2. Liz2

              Bleh had one interview do that to me and I hated it- because in real world situations I EXPECT things to go wonky and can adjust. In an interview, why would that ever happen? Plus, I suck at math calculations in my head. If I had been asked relevant questions about my job I’d have had no problems with rapid fire, and in real world situations have no problems saying “I’ll need to check with Joe and Sam and get that confirmed right now.”

              Reply
            3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

              I honestly think that’s a great one. Time pressure can either turn people into diamonds or shatter them entirely.

              Reply
    5. cutie honey

      i don’t really get the point of this comment? just because someone is being a jerk *for a reason* doesn’t really change my perception of their jerkiness or my desire to work for them?

      Reply
      1. Jenny Next

        The point is that OP #3 can shift her emotional response when this happens. She felt humiliated and demoralized, and was so upset that she cried. I’ve been there!

        If she can shift her brain to “Some people are deliberately trying to upset you and throw you off,” then she can summon a healthier response such as anger at the interviewer for being a jerk, or, better yet, cool amusement that he thinks that being a jerk gives him some kind of upper hand.

        Reply
  3. Huh

    I wear a suit with a skirt every day and I have always worked in places with an openish office (not my own private one but a big room with multiple colleagues) where the desks were just a top and four legs and no front or modesty panel. I’ve worked for over a decade at multiple Fortune 500 companies and it has always been this way for any place I have worked or seen in interviews I just make sure my skirts are long enough (for me this is to just about my knee and I am 5’11 so finding the right kind of skirts takes some work) and wearing either dark colored tights, or if I wear pantyhose than I wear dark thigh length shorts/shapewear underneath. I also make sure I keep my ankles together/crossed when I sit. It has literally never been an issue for me and I have never heard any of the women I work with or know (most of whom wear skirts or dresses) say anything about this. If this was mentioned at my current place you would be given some major side eye if you expected the company to purchase a new, special desk for you. Both of my parents worked in offices when I was a kid and the desks in their offices were the same (a law firm and a university). I had no idea this was even a thing.

    Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It’s kind of uncomfortable to know you can’t relax or get lost in thought (or in the zone) at work if your desk + default positions could result in an ongoing upskirt visual situation.

        Reply
        1. kittymommy

          Yes! This has not been an issue for me personally because I’ve never worked in an office where the desk is open like that, but if it was I would have problems. Due to back issues I I need to constantly readjust the way in sitting, constantly staying with my ankles crossed, legs flat together, etc. just isn’t feasible for me and my skirts do ride up.

          Reply
          1. Pollygrammer

            I’m in the same boat! I have to change positions every 10 or so minutes. I wouldn’t want people to constantly see me in my various chair-pretzels even if I was wearing pants, because it just looks silly.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              I recommend objecting to the desks, and (pragmatically) when management ignores you because the desks were expensive etc, a scarf.

              Ideally, pushpin or duct tape or staple or ziptie (or whatever) a wide scarf to the underside of your desk.

              Otherwise, drape a scarf over your lap. (I have to do this when in a sheath or pencil skirt because my proportions mean that a perfectly modest standing length goes way up my thigh when sitting.)

              It’s not awesome, but it’s workable and doesn’t expose your undies to coworkers.

              And sorry you’re dealing with this nonsense.

              Reply
          2. Tiny Soprano

            +1

            I’m surprised that so many people seem to think everyone is capable of sitting like June Dally Watkins all the time. The way I sit may not be the height of professionalism, but neither is me falling down on the way to the printer shouting some very nasty words because my back is cranky at me.

            Reply
            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

              +1

              It’s much easier for me to find skirts that fit rather than pants that fit. I own probably 3x as many skirts as I do pants of any kind, counting non-work appropriate ones.

              Reply
              1. AMPG

                I only wear skirts to work because it’s much more time-consuming and expensive to buy dress pants and have them altered to fit. I can buy two work skirts for the price of one pair of pants (including tailoring).

                Reply
          1. Jessie the First (or second)

            If that’s an issue, why not use the desks that the company *already had* that contained the appropriate panel, rather than buying all new desks and requiring the female part of the workforce to go outandbuy all new work clothes?

            Also, FWIW, some very conservative industries expect women to be in skirt suits. I used to clerk for a judge who required skirts and nylons from his female clerks and expected attorneys who argued in his court to be dressed that way as well. So “buy new clothes and don’t wear skirts” is not practical or even helpful advice.

            Reply
          2. Justme, The OG

            Because some people don’t like pants. It’s not your job to police what people wear. The easy solution is to use desks that are appropriate no matter what the worker is wearing on their bottom half.

            Reply
            1. OP2

              It also protects those who don’t wear skirts from the chance of accusations. Removes the opportunity for accusations without policing clothing which is already following the company guidelines

              Reply
          3. Allison

            Dude, pants suck. Or rather, the act of shopping for pants that fit well and flatter your body, and/or having to build the cost of tailoring into your budget when buying pants, is a pain in the neck. I like skirts because I’m into vintage styles, but I also opt for skirts and dresses because they’re just easier to shop for. My desk was open in the front, maybe I’d approach dressing for work a little differently, but it’s something I’d rather just not worry about.

            Reply
            1. Justme, The OG

              I wear pants fairly exclusively, and pants shopping does suck (I hate skirts more than anything, though). I had to stop going work pants shopping with my kid, because I would end up crying in the dressing room because nothing fit properly. I even found a swimsuit on the first try, but pants shopping is horrible.

              Reply
            2. Cactus

              So glad I’m not the only one who thinks this. I HATE shopping for pants. I especially hate the skinny pants fashion that’s been in style the last few years. Unless the temperature is 15 degrees or below (and sometimes even then), I’m wearing skirts.

              Reply
          4. Jennifer

            Because some of us have bodies that aren’t catered to by the clothing industry. If I can even find pants with an inseam long enough, that doesn’t guarantee the rest of them will actually fit me.

            Reply
            1. Sarianna

              And I have the opposite problem–most pants are designed for people significantly taller than I, so the wider/narrower parts fall in the wrong place on me, even if I were to hem the bottoms to be shorter.

              Pants shopping suuuuuuucks.

              Reply
              1. Not a Morning Person

                Agreed! And I have the opposite problem with longs. (Hopefully you can find at least some options in petites or short styles.) Too often the longs just add a few inches to the inseam and don’t account for a longer rise. Started wearing pants when I moved to the midwest. Too windy all the time and too cold in the winter for skirts and dresses here.

                Reply
              2. many bells down

                Right? “Oh, you take a size 10 pant? You must be six and a half feet tall, then.” I’ve bought two pairs of dress slacks recently that I had to hem up over SIX INCHES. And I’m not particularly short; I’m 5 foot 5! I have short legs, though, I guess.

                Reply
                1. Allison

                  Before I knew what short sizes were, I was trying on jeans at Old Navy (age 12 maybe), and realized the pants that were short enough were too narrow, and the pants that fit me around the hips were too long, and I broke down crying because I thought that meant my body was “wrong.”

                  My mom took me to Kohls where they had different lengths.

            2. ClownBaby

              Preach!

              I am 6’2″ with a 37″ inseam. Most of the time when I wear pants it looks like I am ready for a flood.

              Plus my butt is flatter than Kansas and my hip to waist ratio is probably like 1. Pencil skirts do wonders in giving me some sort of curves. In pants, I look like Business Casual Slenderman…preparing for a flood.

              Reply
          5. Pollygrammer

            Um…among many other reasons, including the fact that women should be able to wear what they want as long as it’s office appropriate, LW and her cohorts probably already own skirts and had no reason to think they suddenly wouldn’t be viable options for work?

            Reply
            1. OP2

              I have plenty of work appropriate skirts, I can’t afford to buy a whole set of trousers, and I shouldn’t have to due to this I’ll thought through change of desk :-(

              Reply
          6. Specialk9

            “If that’s an issue, why not wear pants.”

            So the solution to a male exec making an accidentally sexist decision is to arbitrarily change the dress code without notice, for only the females? To save $100 on screwing a panel in place to show women that they are people too, and instead demand that each of the females identified workers has to spend hundreds of dollars redoing their wardrobes? Is that really your solution?

            Reply
        2. Lora

          Having to crawl under your desk to plug things in while wearing nice work clothes sucks regardless of type of work clothes, if you’re doing it more than once a year — but the day your $250 Theory pencil skirt tears at the seam while you were crawling under your desk to find an outlet *so you could present to a client* is the day you demand a power strip mounted to the top of your desk.

          It’ll take the facilities staff 5 minutes. It costs the company $10 at Staples. The manager giving you static on this is a jackass.

          Reply
          1. AnonyMouish

            I love this solution (and it’s a lot easier than getting all new desks) but I think the OP is saying some under-desks are visible even from a standing position in the office… which isn’t ideal.

            Reply
          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            The problem is not skirt-wearing people having to climb under their desks; the problem is anyone climbing under desks (which happens for a variety of reasons) having a view onto skirt-wearing people’s bodies.

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              Yes but this would be true with or without modesty panels. If someone is crawling under the desk, you stand up and move out of their way. Crawling under desks should not be an every day thing. If it is, there needs to be a work around because anyone crawling under desks is disrupting the work there. If things need to plug/unplug that often, someone above already said it, there needs to be a powerstrip on top of the desk or on the side leg or something. But anything that has to be accessed so often it’s a problem, means the desk isn’t the problem the location of the plug is.

              Reply
              1. many bells down

                No, I think it’s more like … James’ desk faces Sally’s desk. James has to crawl under HIS desk to plug something in, and suddenly realizes he’s looking right up Sally’s dress. With a modesty panel, James only sees plywood.

                Reply
              2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

                …. if they’re climbing under your desk, sure. But if there are dozens of desks with no cube walls or modesty panels, someone under any of the desks can see the bodies of everyone sitting at any desk.

                I’m baffled that this is controversial or confusing to people.

                Reply
        3. bookish

          Yeah, this isn’t good. I couldn’t relax unless I was wearing an ankle/floor-length skirt, which tends not to look business appropriate, or pants. Otherwise I’d have to spend my whole business day stressing out that my legs were clenched tightly together and not only would that be physically uncomfortably but it would be diverting my mental energies from my work. Even if I was wearing opaque tights and a skirt that wasn’t, like, riding up to my thighs, I don’t need to worry about someone being able to see between my legs. This is so clearly an issue that affects the women in the office and is making them uncomfortable, and needs to be addressed.

          I don’t know if this would work with the office culture but I hope in the meantime OP can do something like put a thick tablecloth over her desk that covers the front of her desk from tabletop to floor.

          And I don’t love the input that OP should just get over it because other women have had to put up with sexism in the work place. We can all do better.

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            If I worked there, I’d be getting out the canvas, the hem-fusing tape, and some lattice, and making a cloth panel to attach to the underside of the desk (wrap the top around lattice strips to stiffen it, and attach those to the underside of the desk; maybe attach lattice to the bottom to stiffen the bottom and weight it down). You can cut holes in the fabric to accommodate the wiring hardware.

            Reply
          2. Lady Phoenix

            In the age of “#MeToo”, everyone should be striving to do better.

            Tell women to suck it up and focus on not looking like a “tramp” when they need to type spreadsheets is slut shaming and terrible.

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              I’m assuming the comment using the word “tramp” was deleted because I can’t find it, and your comment endless-nested so I can’t see the original comment you’re replying to.

              Reply
              1. Specialk9

                Oh, nope, I found the comments below that didn’t use the exact word, but talked about how *their* mother taught them to sit like a lady in a skirt, and just keep your legs shut. Yeah, gross, and ironic to modesty shame women who are trying their best to be *more* modest.

                Reply
      2. Elizabeth H.

        I’m not sure why it’s a thing either. I wear skirts a lot and I just assume that people won’t want to look up my skirt at work. If someone chooses to look and chooses to be offended they can have at it.

        Regardless of skirts I actually would prefer modesty panels as a general rule, but it’s because I like to put things in my lap sometimes or I want to sit in half lotus in my desk chair sometimes which looks kind of unprofessional. I don’t think “open back desks are incompatible with skirts” would have occurred to me.

        Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          What if they don’t want to look but can’t avoid seeing unless they walk around with their eyes averted? I for one would find that pretty stressful!

          Reply
          1. JB (not in Houston)

            And assuming that people won’t want to look up your skirt is placing an awful lot of confidence in people. I’d like to think that nobody I work with would, but there are laws banning upskirt photos for a reason. It’s depressingly common for people to try to look up women’s skirts.

            Reply
        2. Rusty Shackelford

          I wear skirts a lot and I just assume that people won’t want to look up my skirt at work. If someone chooses to look and chooses to be offended they can have at it.

          That’s what you think the issue is? That the LW is concerned people who can see up her skirt will be offended?

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth H.

            Maybe it’s hard to phrase this to express what I meant? What I meant was that I don’t think that the mechanical or psychological burden of preventing others from being able to see up one’s skirt should be on the skirt wearer. Even if skirt wearer is sitting at an open desk or table rather than a desk with a front panel.

            Reply
            1. Luna

              That’s why there should be a panel, to take that burden off of the skirt wearer…otherwise there is no way to prevent it without the burden being on that person.

              Reply
            2. Snark

              But when there’s direct sight lines for people walking by or plugging in equipment to inadvertantly get an eyeful, it’s not like expecting others to display perfect avoidance is a realistic solution. It’s not like people are actively sneaking peeks. And if it’s possible someone might inadvertantly look up her skirt, through nobody’s fault and not particularly avoidable, I think it’s totally reasonable for her to expect a modesty panel.

              Reply
              1. Rusty Shackelford

                Yes, this. I don’t think you quite understand the problem, @Elizabeth. It’s not that people are making an effort to look up her skirt, and she feels compelled to prevent that. It’s that she’s uncomfortably visible to anyone walking by. Are people supposed to avert their eyes?

                Reply
                1. Snark

                  I’m imagining those creepy blinder-bonnets they wear in Handmaid’s Tale. “Welcome to LlamaCo; here’s your bonnet.” “But why?”

        3. E. Null

          “I wear skirts a lot and I just assume that people won’t want to look up my skirt at work. If someone chooses to look and chooses to be offended they can have at it.”

          That’s great for you, but not great for everyone- as proven by how many brave women have come forward to publicly speak about sexual harassment and misconduct in their work place, your assumption simply isn’t true for so many people. I hope you consider that most people find the idea of someone being able to look up their skirt horrifying, and not just something they can “have at” or deal with.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth H.

            I do consider it! I think the letter writer’s concern is reasonable and I can understand being more focused on modesty such that you don’t like the idea of anyone being able to catch a glimpse up a skirt accidentally (or on purpose) – maybe a lot of people are more like this than I am. I just meant to suggest that perhaps there is a wider distribution of people that some might not find it a major concern, which could explain why the LW and her office mates might encounter difficulty making their concerns understood. It seems like I’m in a small, but existent minority here in terms of my comfort level. Personally, as long as I’m dressed within professional norms for my office, I’ll be comfortable. The letter writer and her office mates aren’t and that is reasonable too.

            Reply
            1. Misc

              It’s the difference between modesty and vulnerability. Modesty is a personal choice (even if culturally shaped), vulnerability is a stressful power dynamic imposed on someone.

              Reply
        4. LBK

          I wear skirts a lot and I just assume that people won’t want to look up my skirt at work.

          I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a condescending jackass but have you read literally any news lately? Looking up a woman’s skirt barely even scratches the surface of creepy behavior men are capable of in an office.

          Reply
          1. Alli525

            Right? People have been known to take PHOTOGRAPHS up women’s skirts – some of these comments today make no sense at all.

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              And some courts have actually said that depending where that woman is, it’s not illegal on it’s face to do so. Scarey wot?

              Reply
              1. SarahKay

                Yup. In the UK (excluding Scotland) upskirt photos taken in a public place are only prosecuted as a ‘Nuisance’ claim (if at all). It only counts as a sexual offence if the person being photographed isn’t wearing underwear!

                Reply
          2. Elizabeth H.

            I understand that my comfort levels with different situations aren’t the same as everyone else’s but this attitude doesn’t make sense to me either. Is the only point of back panels on desks (or whatever furniture arrangement that minimizes ease of up skirt viewing) to obstruct the creepy behavior from men that would otherwise be occurring? That would be the problem in and of itself and it’s not the fault of office furniture, it’s the fault of the creeps.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              I don’t disagree, but I don’t think creeps are going away in the immediate future so I think it’s still better to put in precautions where possible. And predatory behavior aside, I still think there’s something to be said for preventing people from catching accidental glimpses of something; I mean, we put doors on bathrooms for a reason. Just because most people aren’t actively looking doesn’t mean a) they might not see something accidentally that the person might not want them to and b) that people can’t have reasonable expectations for privacy. It seems silly to rely on behavioral controls when the physical solution is so simple and common.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth H.

                That’s reasonable. I find the differences between people’s level of comfort with how much other people see of them in a public or semi-public setting really interesting and that may be factoring into what I am saying here. It involves so many different factors like social context, body image, culture, family background, individual preference, etc. as well as the difference between modesty and vulnerability as commenter Misc described above which I thought was a terrific way to distinguish different elements of this issue.

                Reply
            2. Rusty Shackelford

              Is the only point of back panels on desks (or whatever furniture arrangement that minimizes ease of up skirt viewing) to obstruct the creepy behavior from men that would otherwise be occurring? That would be the problem in and of itself and it’s not the fault of office furniture, it’s the fault of the creeps.

              No, that’s not the point. The point is to obstruct the view of ANYONE. I don’t want anyone looking up my skirt, whether it’s a creepy man, a creepy woman, or my own grandmother.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth H.

                I was responding to LBK’s response to me which objected, “Looking up a woman’s skirt barely even scratches the surface of creepy behavior men are capable of in an office” – I was arguing that creepiness isn’t the make or break point upon which to choose your office furniture.

                In any case, I am fervently pro-modesty panel! I keep all this junk under my desk and I hate the idea that people could see whatever I had on my lap or on top of my under desk cabinet and my spare shoes or whatever. Especially because I like to take off my shoes under my desk. I think everyone should have a back of desk panel that goes all the way down. I also don’t think I was picturing LW#2’s office setup correctly at first for some reason. Now I get what the issue is more clearly.

                Reply
                1. Specialk9

                  I have a sit stand desk, and it’s one of those simple tables that look so great in magazines (because nobody puts cords in magazines) but isn’t terribly modest.

      3. Perse's Mom

        The new desks do not have modesty boards underneath. We are a largely female office and many of the staff wear skirts. If you are using a floor plug, you can see straight under many desks and into the groin area of the staff, and you can also see under certain desks when walking normally through the office.

        Hope that helps. Straight out of the letter, emphasis mine.

        Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      The letter writer says “If you are using a floor plug, you can see straight under many desks and into the groin area of the staff, and you can also see under certain desks when walking normally through the office.” That seems like a legitimate problem to me. She’s also not asking for a special desk for just for herself — it sounds like there are a number of women in her office who have the same concern.

      Reply
        1. finderskeepers

          Does that refer to someone else using a floor plug and being able to see up the person’s skirt, or the person at the desk using a floor plug without a modesty board? So confused…

          In any event, if using a floor plug is a constant thing, I think your office has bigger problems.

          Reply
          1. Fabulous

            After reading these comments, I think it means if someone were to plug in something into a floor plug, they have a direct line of view upskirt.

            Reply
          2. Turquoisecow

            Yeah, while I certainly understand the modesty concern, the front of a desk isn’t direct line of sight for someone standing there, and I wonder how often people are plugging things in (or unplugging them) on the floor. I guess you could also argue that if someone picks up a pen from the floor they have line of sight, but how often does that happen?

            If you have coworkers who are using floor plugs or whatnot on a regular basis just for the excuse of getting an upskirt view, that’s another issue entirely.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              If this is an open office plan with a lot of hotdesking and no docking stations, people could conceivably be plugging/unplugging laptops pretty regularly. Plus, she explicitly says that there are other places in the office where you can see under someone’s desk even from a standing position. This doesn’t seem like a case that warrants questioning the OP’s grasp of whether something is a problem or not, it’s kinda gaslighting.

              Reply
            2. Anna

              Literally does. Not. Matter. OP has expressed concern about something that either is happening or she knows can legitimately happen and that enough of her coworkers are concerned about that they would like management to do something about it. It makes no difference how often a pen gets picked up or a floor plug needs to be used. It is happening with enough regularity the OP is concerned.

              Reply
              1. Jadelyn

                Thank you. Do we really need to audit OP’s concern to decide if it’s “reasonable enough” that she’s *allowed* to be concerned about it? Which is what a lot of the comments being made boil down to.

                Reply
            3. JessaB

              I am now wondering if these desks are clear lucite or something? Like those computer desks that are just metal struts and clear plastic? Which would make this issue far worse to deal with than a lack of modesty panel.

              Reply
          3. Browser

            Electricity is not wireless, things have to be plugged in somewhere. Are you expecting outlets to hang from the ceiling?

            Reply
            1. Koala dreams

              I’ve never seen an electric outlet actually in the floor. In apartments, they are usually in a wall, high for lamps, medium level for kitchen applicances and low in the living room for you tv and such. In schools and conference rooms they are usually hanging from the ceiling (yes, I’ve seen this) or mounted on the wall. In many public buildnings they are medium level for vacuuming and such, often slightly too high for easy charging of mobile phones.

              It seems very unpractical to have them in the floor, I would be very bothered with having to squat on the floor to use the outlet, or tripping on it. I guess people have different ideas about optimal outlet placement.

              Reply
              1. please

                “I’ve never seen an electric outlet actually in the floor.”

                Floor plugs are common in open-plan offices where there are not walls to place the plugs on. They are flush so when not in use people won’t trip on them.

                I’ve never seen them hanging from ceilings (except in factories) but that probably just reflects on my own limited experience, since you have see that. But I have to dispute the “usually” part of your statement “In schools and conference rooms they are usually hanging from the ceiling” – I don’t believe that at all.

                Reply
                1. Rusty Shackelford

                  I’ve never seen them hanging from ceilings other than factories either. I thought Koala dreams must live someplace other than the US, where these things are common. (I’ve never actually seen them placed “high for lamps” in an apartment, either – they’re always close to the floor in my experience, unless they’re above a countertop.)

              2. zora

                Floor outlets are super common in hotel conference rooms, in the US anyway, but you might not notice if you aren’t looking for them. They usually have a metal cover that you open, to make them flush with the floor and covered when not in use. The room is so big, you can’t just rely on the walls, you would need crazy extension chords to reach the middle of the room.

                The hot desking area in my building has cords and power strips running along the floor between rows of desks, which I think is annoying and dangerous personally (I tend to trip) but it would result in the same problem the OP is facing, people regularly bending down to the floor to plug/unplug their equipment.

                Reply
                1. Koala dreams

                  Yeah, apparently I haven’t been to large enough conference rooms, thanks for explaining! It’s interesting to learn how something so simple as electrical outlet varies so much. I’ll look for those metal covers in the future!

            2. OP2

              Open plan office, no walls to have plugs (sockets) coming from.
              Also, we did have desktop plugs, but not since the move…
              Lots of hot decking with various equipment means lots of plugging and unplugging of devices too

              Reply
      1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo

        But doesn’t the same thing happen when you are plugging things into an outlet under a conference table?

        And how often are people plugging things in? I can’t remember the last time I plugged or unplugged anything at my desk.

        Reply
        1. finderskeepers

          That is why conscious and sensible employers now install outlets built into the *top* of conference tables to avoid this kind of indignity.

          Reply
          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo

            Or rich ones :) I can’t even tell you how old the conference table is in the office I work in. I do know it was a hand-me-down that we got about 16 years ago.

            It would be silly to spend money to replace a table that is in perfectly good shape just because someone might wear a skirt. Now when it does finally get replaced (and who knows how long that will be) maybe then it would be replaced with a fancy in table outlet version, but I doubt it.

            I would side eye any company that replaces perfectly good furniture for new just because of fashion preference.

            (In case anyone is wondering or it matters.. I am female)

            Reply
            1. Allison

              But the OP is talking about newly purchased desks, that replaced desks that did have panels in front; she’s not lobbying to have perfectly good furniture replaced with her preference in mind. Yes, arguments regarding practicality are valid, but reading comprehension is important here.

              Reply
              1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo

                Yes reading comprehension is important… Because the OP clearly states that these are new desks and the only solution would be to replace the desks.

                So umm yeah she is lobbying to replace new furniture.

                Reply
                1. Jessie the First (or second)

                  Replace them with desks they already have.

                  Or install a panel on the new desks – which, per the furniture designer below, would be NBD.

                  Not a really big expense in either case. The wasteful part of this situation was in buying new furniture to replace functional current furniture, especially considering the new furniture is not really functional. Because I consider furniture not functional if it does not take into account how people dress and sit and use the space.

                2. Snark

                  No, she’s lobbying to install a panel that I can nearly guarantee is already an optional accessory for that desk, which is not likely to be terribly expensive, and which I’ll bet can be installed in five minutes with a screwdriver.

                3. Natalie

                  @ Snark, might not even need a screwdriver, I think you can get freestanding ones that just sit on the floor.

                4. Alli525

                  She’s lobbying to reverse a poorly-made decision on furniture. It’s probably safe to assume that the person who made the decision is (1) a man / (2) has their own office / (3) both, and didn’t consult any open-plan-sitting women about the decision.

              2. LCL

                Mentioning reading comprehension in a post about something other than reading comprehension is not the friendliest way to further the discussion.

                Reply
            2. Kate 2

              Taking the needs of half the population into consideration is normal and necessary if you don’t want to lose good employees. If OP’s employer had done that in the first place they wouldn’t have bought such badly designed desks.

              Reply
            3. Jadelyn

              I suppose it depends on your priorities. If you prioritize frugality over the ability of your female employees to come to work in perfectly normal women’s work clothes without having to worry about being exposed to their coworkers in the course of a normal workday…then yeah, I guess it would be “silly” to replace a table or desk that puts your female employees in that position. It just makes it suuuuper clear where your priorities lie, though.

              (Can we also stop calling it “fashion preference”? Skirts, knee-length dresses, pencil skirts, skirt suits, etc are all very common and very appropriate workwear. It’s not like someone wanting to be able to wear graphic tees with their favorite band or political slogans on them, which would legitimately be just a preference for a certain fashion; making it unsafe to wear any skirt shorter than calf-length is a bit beyond “fashion preference”. Unless you think it’s reasonable to expect female employees to go out and buy a whole new work wardrobe to accommodate the office’s “furniture preference”.)

              (And no, it doesn’t matter that you’re female. Women can perpetuate anti-woman bias in the workplace quite well.)

              Reply
              1. Perse's Mom

                In re: fashion preference: In some industries and some specific offices, it’s very clear that it’s not a preference at all anyway! You either wear a skirt or you face consequences.

                Reply
              2. Luna

                I don’t think I’ve ever seen a women’s business suit with a calf-length skirt. It’s either pants, or a skirt that is about knee length.

                Reply
              3. Specialk9

                Yeah, that phrasing made it sound like work appropriate skirts were some wild new fashion craze that NOBODY could have predicted would happen, as opposed to a century old mode of dress that was in fact once the required uniform for half the population. (And still is in some old-fashioned industries.)

                Instead of demanding that women dress like men in the name of frugality (!!!!), howzabout not spending lots of money on phallocentric furniture? Cuz that is pretty sexist, and not at all careful with money.

                Reply
              4. Annoyed

                “(And no, it doesn’t matter that you’re female. Women can perpetuate anti-woman bias in the workplace quite well.)

                Anywhere really. Internalized misogyny is a hell of a drug.

                Thanks for pointing this out. I despise hearing/reading some kind of patriarchally inspired garbage that includs somehing like “and I am [a] female…”

                Almost *always* “female” too. Or “girl.” Hardly ever “woman.” But yeah, women aren’t still being oppressed.

                Sorry for the derail/rant. ‍♀️

                Reply
            4. JessaB

              But in that case you could easily mount a powerstrip to the table where it’s accessible. Or run a line and mount one on a wall.

              Heck we have wall outlets and when we move apartments the first thing we do before placing any furniture is run extension cords to all the outlets that the furniture would cover up and make impossible to use. So that we don’t have to move furniture to plug something in. Really high quality powerstrips with surge protection and battery are under 20 bucks now in most places.

              Velcro tape (so you can remove them to replace them) can be had in giant rolls for very little money.

              If the outlet is in a bad place, move the outlet.

              Reply
            5. Talia

              Doesn’t need to be rich. We bought power strips, plugged those into the floor, and affixed them to the tops of the desks with plastic braces printed off a 3D printer. Hardly costs anything at all.

              Reply
              1. Browser

                And if they chose desks without modesty panels to achieve a certain aesthetic, they probably aren’t going to go for something like that either.

                Reply
              2. Amanda

                This has been pointed out ad nauseum but there are a shockingly large number of comments re: outlets, and OP did not write in asking for tips on how to make the floor plugs in her office more convenient and I think it is safe to assume that she is probably amply aware of all the nuances of power strips.

                Reply
                1. Annoyed

                  Moreover OP states right in the letter that people simply walking through the office can get an eye-full. It’s not a power strip issue…at all.

          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            And why I exclusively wear pants to meetings that I know will be in an “open square” conference set up. I literally check the rooms for every meeting on my calendar to determine whether I can wear a skirt on a given day.

            Reply
        2. SKA

          I often work from home, and my work laptop only has one power supply. So any day I work from the office, I’m under my desk twice a day plugging/unplugging it.

          Reply
          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo

            Have you asked your IT department (if you have one) for a spare cord? I’ve found they generally have an overflow of stray parts hanging around from frankensteined equipment.

            Reply
            1. SKA

              There’s apparently only one spare Mac cord (which I’ve had to borrow when I forgot mine). But I think they like to keep that at IT (for, I assume, people like me who forget theirs).

              Reply
        3. embertine

          Anyone who works from a laptop, i.e. everyone who works in construction? And I’m sure this applies to other industries too.

          Reply
        4. Liz2

          Everyone in our building is in and out of meetings all day- and everyone brings laptops to every meeting. Happily there are ports on top of everything, including the lunch tables.

          Reply
    2. Engineer Girl

      It’s dependent on the office. If the office is poorly air conditioned then wearing extra shorts and tights is problematic.
      The real issue is that they purchased desks that didn’t take the needs of women into account. This is like the male oriented desks we used to have where I worked. They were so high that your feet didn’t touch the ground if you set your chair to the right height.
      I think the women need to go as a group and state the problem. That’s what we women had to do to get our desk problem corrected.

      Reply
      1. finderskeepers

        True, on the flip side, my male height means the new-age half height cubicle walls make my workspace sound much noisier.

        Reply
        1. Jesca

          Worry not, the half height wall cubicles are noisy for us 5’4″ women as well. I don’t think they were changed to accommodate height though …

          Reply
        2. HannahS

          It’s not “on the flip side” because lower cubicle walls were not built based around the average heights of women. They were designed to irritate us all equally.

          Reply
          1. Jesca

            Haha they really were! No one ever considered how creepy it can feel sitting in an end of row cubicle and having people walk by all day “glancing” over at your desk while you are working. I feel so on display! And like 99% of people do it!

            Reply
            1. But you don't have an accent...

              Ugh I have the corner cube too and I feel like I can’t concentrate on anything because there’s no divider between me and the walk way! And I’m the unofficial morning greeter because pretty much everyone walks by my desk (facing me) as they come in.

              Reply
          2. Allison

            Yup. I love my old fashioned cubicle and I am dreading our move to an open office, where at best we’ll have short walls between the desks, and it’ll be a rough adjustment for many of us.

            My coworkers are all “yay, I’ll get to SEE all of you!” and I seem to the one cranky cave dweller who likes getting to disappear into my cube and get my work done in peace.

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              I do not know how anyone can hear with those things. They don’t do anything for privacy and they sure as heck don’t baffle the sound.

              Reply
              1. zora

                No one can hear. In our company’s main office they have those half walls, for the whole office. And if anyone has to take a phone call they go find a corner somewhere away from the desks. So, people spend half their days running around looking for somewhere to take a call. They all say they are fine with it, but I’m glad I don’t have to work there.

                Reply
            2. Brittasaurus Rex

              I worked as an editor at my last office job, a vocation that requires a certain amount of privacy and quietude. Naturally, the PTB decided lower cube walls were a great idea for everyone. Sound was bouncing off the walls! It was ridiculous.

              Reply
      2. Lil Fidget

        Yeah, my office installed a floating staircase between the third and fourth floor, and it was clearly not designed by or for women – there is a reception area directly below it, meaning lots of people hang out down there waiting. When you hear someone come walking down the open stairs, it’s instinctive to glance up and you will be looking directly up their skirt. I either wear pants or take the elevator, but it’s really too bad.

        Reply
        1. Language Student

          It never even occurred to me that people could see up skirts if they look up with those. I’ve always hated them anyway (fear of heights) but ahh, that’s bad.

          Reply
      3. LBK

        I’m reminded of a building my sister was telling me about recently where they installed very fancy, avant garde transparent stairs in the lobby…clearing without the input of any woman who would have told them, “Uh, guys, this is an upskirt bonanza”.

        Reply
        1. SarahKay

          Transparent stairs?!? That sounds like a literal nightmare to me, both for skirt-wearing issues and because I hate walking on surfaces you can see down through. Those old bridges with gaps between the boards – I’m the person holding onto the handrail with a death grip. No. Just, No.

          Reply
          1. Perse's Mom

            One of my employer’s two buildings has frosted stairs, but a clear railing panel and the stairs are just flat panels – there’s no front panel, so there are like 6in gaps. It’s the worst of all worlds.

            I take the elevator if I have to go over there.

            Reply
          2. LBK

            I’m with you on that – I hate hate hate open stairs, even solid stairs that don’t have a vertical piece between them. No thank you.

            Reply
            1. RB

              We have those too. The area immediately under the stairs is blocked off for storage but anyone standing to the side of the stairs and looking up would get a good view. I’ve just learned not to think about it.

              Reply
              1. Connie-Lynne

                If it makes you feel any better, when I was in elementary school and Jr High, the outdoor stairs had big gaps between them. Our uniform was a skirt and of course all the girls were worried about boys going under there to look up our skirts.

                Because I am of an analytical bent, and also because I hated wearing shorts under every day, I finally got together with some friends to test whether you could see up our skirts. You could not.

                To me this says that inadvertent upskirt views in a workplace with stairs like this are unlikely. Deliberate ones are also going to take effort.

                (And because it’s been contentious here, this in no way invalidates OP2’s assertion that there are areas where you can inappropriately see under desks and up skirts walking around her office. I only shared it to help put the minds of folks who have open stairs at ease.)

                Reply
    3. TL -

      If you’ve worked in a place where shorter skirts can be modest, having to replace a number of your work outfits would be very frustrating and maybe prohibitively expensive/limiting.

      I’m assuming that the floor plugs are somewhat centrally located and often used, versus ones that are out of the way and rarely used – if someone is bending down in front of my desk a few times a week, I would get uncomfortable if they could see my underroos too!

      Reply
      1. Allison

        Yes, exactly! Many of my skirts and dresses are knee length or hit just above the knee when standing, and this is fine for my industry and region, but could be an issue with this particular setup. I’d probably be draping a cardigan over my knees every day, because while my wardrobe generally evolves over time, replacing it all at once would be very expensive.

        Reply
        1. Lil Fidget

          +1, I realize this doesn’t solve the systematic issue in the office, but in the short term I recommend buying a light shawl and keeping it in your lap like a blanket. I have to do that anyway because I’m next to a floor vent and I’m always cold.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            Yeah that’s my solution too. In my case due to how my body is built, my knee length skirts go thigh high when sitting, especially in certain chairs. It’s one reason I’ve gravitated to flare skirts, which don’t so they same creep-up.

            Reply
      2. a1

        I’m trying to figure out why someone would be constantly plugging or unplugging something it. It doesn’t sound like this is hotdesking, so once you plug in your phone or computer or radio or whatever, wouldn’t it just stay plugged in? I know I only have to crawl under my desk to plug something in when it’s new or replaced. Even when I bring my laptop home, I use the 2nd power supply that came with it, not unplug the one at my desk. And even if I forgot the 2nd one somewhere, it’s not a multi-times a week occurrence to have to unplug something from the floor.

        Reply
        1. Ersong

          I plug in my cell phone at work to charge it. I also sometimes have to plug my wireless bluetooth headphones into my computer to charge them, and the computer is on the floor.

          My desk doesn’t have a modesty panel, but I do have cubicle walls around the front of my desk, so no one can see when I’m rooting around under my desk.

          Reply
          1. Lil Fidget

            It’s also a design flaw if the only outlets for personal devices are on the floor! I don’t want to be crawling around on my hands and knees every day – the outlets should be on top of the desk/in the cube wall. This theoretical office sounds like Design Hell.

            Reply
            1. Browser

              If they had cube walls around these desks, the lack of modesty panel wouldn’t be an issue.

              It is an issue, therefore there are not cubical walls.

              Reply
            2. Trickle

              I’m not sure that bending over from a standing position or squatting or leaning over from a sitting position quite counts as crawling around on hands and knees though! I think that’s a little hyperbolic and makes it sound a bigger issue than it really is. I can’t imagine anyone would be crawling anywhere during an average workday of plugging a few items in.

              Reply
      3. Emmie

        I do not understand why someone would be able to see another’s groin – even with these open desks. I keep my legs closed when I’m wearing a dress. OPs focus on that feels unbelievable to me. When we get really upset about something, we can take the most extreme position – one that’s not realistic. I get that OP is frustrated. It seems like a change she’s not happy about. But, focus on things that are actually an outcome from this. (To be fair, my position could change if I had more information.) Is there a coworker that’s actually looking at people’s clothed groins? Well, that would be a larger issue that should be addressed no matter the desk situation.

        Reply
        1. ket

          But if you’re someone who crosses your legs, for instance, that shows an awful lot of thigh if you’re wearing a pencil skirt. And if you’re not a person who naturally sits at the desk with “legs closed” and not crossed, it’s pretty annoying to have to change how you sit at work. It takes a continual low grade attention that will decrease your productivity or degrade your energy. It’s just another stupid thing distracting you from the bottom line at work, even if — or probably especially if — you are very conscientious.

          It’s poor design. Desks are supposed to be tools to facilitate work. If you need to work around your tools, or be conscious of not using them wrong in ways that are entirely unrelated to their actual purpose, they’re less useful tools. It’s like using a hammer with a broken handle that has slivers. You can tell someone, “just hold it higher up where there aren’t slivers of wood — when I use a hammer I just hold it higher up and it’s fine!” but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a less useful tool as a result.

          Reply
          1. Lucky

            And sitting with your legs crossed (which I am doing right now) is not good for your lower back. My company’s ergonomics diagrams show a man sitting with a straight back and both feet planted firmly on the ground, about 12″ apart. For me, today, that would give a clear view up my skirt to the white panel crotch of my tights.

            Lucky for me, when I moved offices & furniture, I asked my coworker to check and see whether I still needed the modesty panel (I wanted to leave it off to give visitors a more comfortable place to sit) and she shouted “NO! I can see!” from her seated position about 6 feet away. She was not on the floor trying to plug in anything.

            Reply
        2. tigerlily

          You may keep your legs closed, but that’s not how everyone sits. I’m pretty short for instance, and with the office chairs we have at our office, if I sit against the back of the chair with my legs together in front of me, my feet don’t touch the floor. So usually I’m sitting with my legs completely open against the sides of the chairs so my feet are resting on the wheels of the chair.

          I’m getting a little annoyed about the comments that are saying this shouldn’t be an issue or OP is exaggerating the situation. This may not be something that would be an issue for you, but it is for the OP and the other women at her work.

          Reply
          1. Perse's Mom

            I don’t even wear skirts and some of these comments are kind of enraging me. It would be exhausting to have to be constantly aware of how visible my groin is to everyone else at work, even in jeans.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              As a guy who’s not inclined towards wearing skirts I’ve been trying to think about whether my sitting position would be revealing if I were wearing one today and boy, I would be flashing people constantly. It’s really hard to force yourself to do if you don’t naturally sit that way.

              Reply
              1. Oranges

                Hmmmm…. I kinda want a national “men must wear skirts day” now. Also when other people can see up your skirt they have to point it out to you. I might be slightly evil.

                Reply
          2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

            And I’m fat, and it’s quite difficult to keep my knees together when seated. Nobody would see my underwear if they looked up my skirt, but they’d see my bare thighs, and that’s also not ok with me.

            Reply
        3. Perse's Mom

          I do not understand why someone would be able to see another’s groin – even with these open desks.

          Because people don’t rubberband their knees together to prevent any adjustment of position that might accidentally flash someone else.

          I keep my legs closed when I’m wearing a dress. OPs focus on that feels unbelievable to me.

          We’re asked to take OPs at their word (that this is really a concern for multiple women in her office), the OP is the best judge of her office environment, and that first sentence is weirdly judgmental and shaming and not okay.

          Reply
          1. OP2

            It is an issue for the other women (we’ve discussed it) and even those who consistently wear trousers are uncomfortable with the lack of privacy.

            I shouldn’t have to use this as justification but, I’m going to. Some of the women have back problems and their physio has instructed them on how to sit (ie NOT with legs crossed) so they physically cannot use that avoidance technique.

            Also, it just takes wrong timing for someone to catch a view, I’m assuming you don’t stand up with your legs still crossed.

            Please believe me when I say, you can see groins when just walking normally through the office. It’s not about me changing my behaviour to protect me from crotch shots (being on either end). We previously had a desks that worked, and was not considered with the new desks – they we I’ll considered.

            Also, we needed to buy desks because we relocated and expanded to an empty office

            Reply
            1. Specialk9

              I’m sorry you had to deal with this comment, and others like it, when coming to ask for advice.

              It’s like this tiny microcosm of what happens when women complain about anything that affects only them. I’m having a hard time not getting mad at all of the people dismissing your problem, questioning your veracity or grasp of how things work, fixating on irrelevant aspects, shaming you for not being sufficiently womanly AND for not dressing like dudes, and implying you should suck it up in the name of frugality, etc. It just feels like sexism in a box.

              Reply
        4. Jadelyn

          Do you have magnets on the inside of your knees to help them stay 100% pressed together at all times, or something? Because it’s very natural for the knees to part slightly when you’re sitting – it doesn’t require sitting with your legs *spread*, but the natural way the body arranges itself leaves anywhere from 6-12″ of space between the knees. So you’re basically saying that any woman who wears a skirt or dress should have to sit in an unnatural position at all times to avoid anyone seeing up their skirt, rather than considering that the company should’ve stuck with the same kind of desks it already had. How does that sound like the reasonable position here?

          Reply
      4. Jadelyn

        Especially if you’re tall and/or long-legged, skirts that stay below the knee are near impossible to find in professional wear. I’m 5’8″, but it’s all in my legs (seriously, if I stand next to my father, who’s 6′, we’re the same height at the hip), and every professional pencil skirt I’ve ever tried has wound up being a couple inches above the knee on me, even standing. I’d have to go to some pretty extreme lengths, either shopping at (expensive) specialty retailers who cater to tall women or paying extra to have items tailored, to have professional skirts that stay at or below my knees.

        Reply
        1. Tiny Soprano

          And that problem just gets worse the less you can afford. H&M pencil skirts sit just above the knee on me and I have the legs of a miniature pony. Taller women on a junior salary can’t be expected to fork out on expensive clothing all because they happen to be a) tall and b) women.

          Reply
        2. Specialk9

          I absolutely agree with this problem. Especially being leggy with a big rear and hips, that just makes the sitting hem creep-up worse.

          Nobody should have to adjust for sexist furniture choice, but as an aside to people with the same problem: eShakti has affordable clothes with no cost height adjustment; flare skirts don’t tend to ride up as much (though that’s a bit less formal than column skirts); and one can layer a second skirt under for coverage (not in hot weather though, and you have to match skirt shape – both flare, both straight).

          Reply
    4. SS Express

      I’ve never worked anywhere that *didn’t* have modesty boards. “Just wear a pair of black Spanx under your dress every day and sit with your legs crossed” isn’t actually a great solution. Especially to someone who is concerned about their finances, posture or yeast infections.

      P.S. The OP isn’t asking for a special desk at a company that doesn’t usually provide them, she and her colleagues are asking to *all* keep using the same type of desk they always had in the past.

      Reply
      1. TL -

        Yeah, if I’m deeply absorbed in something, I tend to curl a leg up under me or sit cross-legged on a chair without thinking about it. I don’t wear just a skirt that often but I could see myself putting on quite a show without realizing it!

        Reply
        1. Tuesday Next

          Exactly. I’m sure productivity isn’t improved when your staff have to focus on how they are sitting / are they flashing their colleagues instead of actually, you know, working.

          Reply
      2. Sam

        Honestly, I’m having a hard time picturing this being an issue unless you’re sitting with splayed legs or wearing a mini skirt. Without more info, I wouldn’t blame whoever needs to sign off on the desk purchase for being skeptical. For the record, this is coming from someone who wears dresses or skirts to work 100% of the time. I literally do not own work-appropriate pants. And while my current desk has a “modesty board,” that hasn’t always been the case. I was concerned people would judge me for kicking off my shoes or the like, but I can’t say that flashing people was something I ever worried about. Am I just in the minority on this?

        Reply
        1. copy run start

          Maybe we are. I’ve guess I’ve just never thought any skirt that could be revealing when sitting was work appropriate, and my mother always drilled in me to keep my legs closed/crossed at all times, wear pantyhose, etc. I’m not that old but perhaps I am old fashioned? I feel like it probably makes the workplace look sloppy to not have a “modesty board” (a closed-back desk does hide the cable clutter and help all genders look more professional in general) but that’s not reason enough to purchase all new desks in my book. Surely someone can come up with a solution, like attaching a fabric skirt or a bit of board to the underside?

          Reply
          1. a1

            Yes, I was just taught that wearing a skirt means you have to sit differently. It’s just part of the deal. Unless is a maxi or full length skirt. This is partly why I hardly wear skirts or dressed to work. Because even if my desk a modesty panel, conference rooms dont, lobbies, don’t lunch places don’t, etc.

            Reply
            1. ket

              In a conference room, everyone is facing each other and your legs are all under the table together. In a lobby, you’re not working. At lunch, there are often chairs right across from you or since it’s a short amount of time and you’re not doing analytical work you can take the mental energy to monitor your posture. It’s great that you and copy run start are happy to self-monitor your posture at all times of the day, just as some people are trained never to leave the house without a full face of makeup and others know a lady never swears. But some of us need to wear a skirt suit for some purpose and, slovenly as we may be, we may want to spend 20 minutes out of 8 hours with our legs apart, without checking every time whether someone’s in line to see under our desk!

              Reply
              1. a1

                My point was, that I was taught that wearing a skirt meant you had to sit different, period. All day long, no matter where you are. It’s just part of the deal of skirt wearing. That doesn’t mean I think the OP should be uncomfortable, but I’m just flabbergasted that so many people don’t think that. If you wear a skirt, it’s more prone to showing things you don’t want show (like your underwear) and to deal with that you sit with your legs closed – all the time – no matter where you are sitting, a desk, a bench, a car, a stool, a couch, etc. And it’s quite surprising to learn that a lot of people think skirt wearing means no change in how you sit. Like I said above, this is why I hardly ever wear skirts or dresses – because I don’t want to deal with it. On the occasions I do wear skirts or dresses I keep my knees closed in lots of different ways (i.e. not crossing by legs or ankles because crossing ankles actually makes my knees spread) because as has been noted our bodies are different and what works for one person may not for another.

                Reply
                1. Natalie

                  I don’t think anyone is suggesting that a person would or should never sit differently while wearing a skirt. Sitting in X Position during your 30 minute bus ride (with a seatback right in front of you) or during your hourlong meeting in the conference room (where you can reasonably assume no one is crawling around under the table) is one thing. Having to sit in only X Position for 8+ hours while you’re supposed to be focusing your attention on tasks other than How Am I Sitting? is an entirely different matter.

                  Now, I’ll spare everyone my random musings about why but I imagine some people skirt-sit without thinking about it at all, it’s utterly second nature. But others don’t, and folks just have to accept that this is a reality for plenty of people. Especially when a nice simple solution like a panel is available.

                2. Perse's Mom

                  I don’t think anyone at all has said wearing a skirt means no change in how you sit. I think lots of other commenters are aware that it’s mentally draining to *constantly monitor* exactly how you’re sitting so that you don’t inadvertently flash the room. The modesty panel doesn’t mean skirt-wearing women all Al Bundy it up; it means they can cross their legs or sit with a leg under them or whatever position is most comfortable for them so that they can focus on their job and not whether Fergus just walking by can see London AND France if he turns his head slightly.

                3. KRM

                  I am a VERY restless sitter, and constantly move my legs around, skirt or no skirt. If I had to mentally monitor my sitting position ALL DAY while wearing a skirt, that would be really irritating and draining on my mental energy. Currently I am sitting with one leg crossed under me and one on a raised panel under the desk. Luckily my desk is on a wall–I got into this position unconsciously, because it’s comfortable now, and if I in 10′ suddenly realized I had to think about if someone could see up my skirt or not, that would suck.

                4. a1

                  So you *are* saying you weren’t taught to sit differently all day, full stop, period, when wearing a skirt. I like to be comfortable, too, and am a restless sitter – I move my legs all the time. This is why I mostly wear pants. I can sit however the hell I want w/o risk of exposing my undies. But when I do wear a skirt, I sit differently, all day long. Yes, it’d be more comfy to sit on one leg or put one leg over the other, or any other position, but I don’t – because skirt. AND I even am in a cubicle but you never know when someone will walk by or stop in, and if you need to adjust, etc.

                5. Natalie

                  @a1, you are arguing against a point no one has made. And as the LW didn’t ask about their wardrobe, I’m not sure why you’re giving them wardrobe suggestions.

                6. a1

                  I am giving no one wardrobe suggestions. I’m stating what my experience has been. As do nearly all the commentators on nearly all the letters. I was also clarifying why so many of us are surprised because we don’t have those same expectations – to sit however we want when wearing a skirt at work. I even said the OP should be comfortable. Please don’t infer anything I’m not implying. I choose word based on what they mean. I mean nothing more than I say.

                7. Luna

                  I’m willing to bet that the people insisting that they sit with their knees jammed together 100% of the time, for 8 hours straight, do not in fact really do this and just don’t realize it. You don’t have to have your legs splayed wide open for upper thighs and sometimes groin area to be visible. Plus when a person is concentrating on something else (like work) it is normal for the body to relax into a more natural position without noticing right away.

                8. Specialk9

                  A1, I don’t think you’re intending to sound critical and dismissive, but you are. You’re basically implying that women who don’t sit the way your mother taught you are doing it wrong, and are responsible for people seeing their underwear at work. That doesn’t need to be said in this context – OP says desks used to have modesty panels and don’t now, and it was decided by a man who still has a private office and a desk with privacy panel – and it reeks of victim blaming.

                  I wear dresses and skirts almost exclusively due to body proportions and preference. I am very conscious of my posture when in ‘public’ – walking to get coffee, to the bathroom, through the halls – but not when concentrating at my desk. Having sexist furniture policies is just sexist – why are you arguing that women should change behavior instead of that the male exec should fix his accidentally sexist mistake?

                9. Annie Moose

                  For the record, I grew up regularly wearing skirts as well, and I have indeed learned the fine art of “how to sit on a chair across from a bunch of other people, in a knee-length pencil skirt, without anyone seeing my underwear”.

                  But it’s still incredibly annoying to deal with, and even though I’ve done it all my life it’s still something that I spend way too much of my brainspace focusing on any time I’m in that situation. Especially because I’m a naturally fidgety person for whom it’s extremely uncomfortable to stay in one position for a long period of time. In the context of an office, where I’m working at a desk, this is not something that I should have to pay attention to or focus on, because normal desks do not cause this problem.

                  And that’s the crux of the matter: not “are they sitting properly in a skirt”, which I assume an office full of women who regularly wear skirts would know how to do, but “why should they have to when they previously didn’t need to and there was no problem caused by this”.

          2. Kate 2

            Really? Most skirts I see now are designed to be knee length, if you don’t sit with legs tight together they are just the length to show a straight shot view of everything! Are you wearing calf length skirts maybe? Or maybe this is a height issue.

            Reply
        2. Fabulous

          I was skeptical at first when I read this one too; my initial thought was “why are you wearing skirts that short to work?!” But then I realized, even if the skirt was knee length it’d still have clear view under it when sitting… like a fitted or pencil skirt, not something flowy that actually drapes over the legs. So I can see how it could be an issue for those who don’t wear pantyhose or shorts underneath. Yes, one could cross their legs, but you obviously can’t sit that way all day. I’m constantly moving in my chair so my legs don’t fall asleep. It’d be terrible if I didn’t have something covering the front of my desk!

          Reply
          1. sap

            In what world are pantyhose a solution to “people see my underwear now, and it feels exposing/unprofessional?” Most pantyhose are sheer up to at least a point on the thigh that would be inappropriate to expose at work, or to the underwear. Also, lots of people consider the part where the hose turn more opaque (if you’re wearing that kind, which are actually not that common anymore) to be… Underwear, either from the perspective of their own modesty or the perspective of what they find titillating/inappropriate to see.

            Reply
        3. JB (not in Houston)

          Hold up, I don’t wear mini skirts but you would definitely be able to see up my knee-length skirts when I’m sitting down. And why can’t I sit with splayed legs at my desk, anyway? I have to sit carefully all day long, all the time making sure that my legs are tightly closed together? That’s ridiculous.

          Reply
            1. oldbiddy

              I’m surprised at the number of people who put the responsibility on the skirt wearer to sit in a proper position at all times. It’s kind of like the argument that if someone didn’t want to have an upshirt picture taken, they shouldn’t have worn a skirt. We need to have a reasonable expectation of relative privacy most of the time. It’s in the best interest of the company’s productivity that their employees don’t have to waste mental and physical energy constantly self-monitoroing their sitting position.

              Reply
              1. Future Analyst

                Seriously. Do you want me to think about work, or spend the day thinking about my legs/exposure? Seems like a no-brainer.

                Reply
          1. cutie honey

            “And why can’t I sit with splayed legs at my desk, anyway? I have to sit carefully all day long, all the time making sure that my legs are tightly closed together? That’s ridiculous.”

            This!!

            Reply
        4. Jesmlet

          Coming from a slightly above average thicker-thighed woman, I’d have to sit with my legs more than shoulder width apart for anyone to see anything besides a little extra of my leg. How loose would a short skirt have to be in order for “splaying” to be a legitimate problem? Granted, I’m pants or dresses but there’s just an understanding that your posture when wearing a dress is different than when wearing pants. I just can’t imagine this being a problem that I would have thought of beforehand, or frankly that I would spend money on to fix.

          Reply
          1. Arjay

            This is where I’m coming from too. I can sit and move around normally in a skirt or dress without showing off the fine china. Maybe different body types have different issues with this.

            Reply
            1. Tiny Soprano

              They definitely do. The downside of a thigh-gap you could drive a truck through is that unless the dress is mid-calf, someone’s probably going to see something at some point.

              Reply
          2. TL -

            My thighs touch but you can still see a lot because I sit in weird positions (crossed legged on a chair, one leg tucked up, both legs tucked up, legs making an acute angle, manspreading, jiggling leg) and people who have wide set legs or skinny legs also should deserve to not have their underwear on view, so…

            Reply
        5. Snark

          Are you seriously under the impression that litigating the LW’s personal boundaries and comfort level is a productive line of discussion or in any way helpful to them?

          Reply
          1. Anna

            JFC, thank you. I don’t understand why this is such a difficult concept to grasp.

            1. Don’t worry about how short their skirts are. Clearly , where they work they are within dress code and so it’s none of your business.
            2. Don’t worry about how they’re sitting. Clearly, it’s none of your business and it’s getting into some weird policing.
            3. Don’t worry about why people would be plugging things into the floor or why the plugs are on the floor or ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT THE DAMN PLUGS. Clearly, there’s a reason for it and how the plugs are situated has nothing to do with the concerns the OP has.

            Reply
            1. Wannabe Disney Princess

              Honestly.

              I’m stunned people are so caught up on the plugs. If the LW was worried about the rogue acrobatic troupe that backflips through the office I certainly wouldn’t be able to relate – but I wouldn’t say “Well, how often do they REALLY backflip? And wouldn’t it be easier to just have them stay in the lobby to perform astonishing feats of athleticism?”

              This set up is a problem for the LW. Ergo, regardless of my personal experience, I accept her at her word that this is indeed an issue.

              Reply
            2. tigerlily

              Yes for sure about the plugs. So many people confused about the plugs and offering up that the solution should be to move the plugs. Um…unless OP is a certified electrician, I don’t think that’s in her control at all.

              Reply
              1. sap

                Yeah, I’m confused that commenters think move the plugs is a thing that it would be MORE likely the employer would do. Spend tens of thousands of dollars rewiring the office vs. definitely less on wood? Probably not gonna br a solution if an employer is too stingy to buy plywood.

                Reply
        6. Kimberlee, Esq.

          FWIW, I’m someone who is overweight and a simple “sit with your legs crossed every day at your desk” would be debilitatingly uncomfortable for me. This is very much a case of “I, as the unique person I am with my own attendant plusses and downsides, can do it, so why can’t everyone?” It’s cause there are a dozen reasons that don’t apply to you, but apply to others, and the easy and kind thing to do is to just believe people when they tell you these things. I’m willing to do whatever I need to on the subway or whatever, but if I’m at work, where I live for 8 hours a day, I would like to be able to sit comfortably!

          Reply
          1. a Gen X manager

            Agree, Kimberlee! Further, sitting at a desk cross-legged for any length of time isn’t ergonomically sound and certainly shouldn’t be done for the whole day!

            Reply
          2. Polar Bear don't care

            I’ve had three blood clots in the same leg. I never cross my legs. I only wear skirts. I AM conscious of my skirt positioning, but having to glue my knees together all day every day is unreasonable. A few may think otherwise but that doesn’t make the rest of us wrong.

            Reply
          3. Jadelyn

            This is why I hate flying – I’m so hyperaware of my physical boundaries and trying to keep myself to myself in my seat, and my thigh muscles literally get sore because I’m having to actively squish my thighs together for hours on end. I can’t imagine having to do it at work.

            Reply
        7. Oranges

          A skirt needs to be ~2 inches below the knee in order for no “up-skirt” to be possible.

          Knowledge I have from being in band in a religious school. We had to wear skirts (had to hit the knee-cap) but for recitals we had to wear longer ones just because we were on stage and upskirts would happen.

          Reply
          1. Oranges

            This also didn’t account for the fact that in recitals we had perfect posture and didn’t re-adjust our legs. So in real life? I’m guessing more like 4 inches below the knee.

            Reply
        8. NaoNao

          Yeah I also was like “how…are…they…seeing…anything?” But then I have full thighs that sort of…spread to hide the “view” when seated, shall we say, I tend to sit with legs crossed at waist (not ankle in other words), and I wear tights or skimmies/spanx under every skirt because chub rub is real, y’all.
          So, yeah, you weren’t the only one :)

          But I was also like “how often are people plugging stuff in?

          So many questions.

          Reply
          1. nonegiven

            Sounds like they are hot desking, so at least twice a day, barring needing to plug in a phone charger or something else, too.

            Reply
      3. anonagain

        Agreed. Also, I wear shorts or leggings under skirts or dresses most of the time, because I move around too much. I still don’t want anyone to be able to see up my skirt.

        This also seems like the kind of issue that once brought to your attention, you find a way to fix. I would be really uneasy if I told a boss that I was worried about people being able to see up my skirt and they said there was nothing to be done.

        Reply
        1. CG

          Agreed, especially co-signing that last bit.

          I’m a tall lady currently wearing a super modest work dress that hits about an inch below the bottom of my knee cap when I stand, and about 4 inches above the top of my knee cap when I sit at my desk chair (I just checked both of these). I cross my legs a lot and I wear tights all winter, but if I had a desk that faced out into my office with no modesty panel, I’d still feel a little uncomfortable all day too, whether people were regularly bending down to eye level with my junk to plug stuff in or not. Having the view of your legs/skirt exposed from the front when you sit is pretty abnormal for most non-casual office desk jobs, and that would feel like a pretty big environmental change, and I’m a bit put off by some of the comments here implying that women who feel super uncomfortable must be wearing miniskirts or sitting in unprofessional manners.

          Reply
          1. CG

            Also, I spend a lot of time at conferences, and when you’re in a big rectangle conference room setup and they forget to add a modesty panel, you can see all of everything across the way from you. It’s not just people bending down nearby who can see stuff – it’s also people with a bit of distance who are at eye level.

            Reply
            1. Mononymous

              +1 if this is an open office, unless all the desks are facing the same direction in rows like in a classroom (which I highly doubt), anyone who glances up from their computer screen could get an eyeful at any time. I don’t know about y’all, but I glance across the room several times an hour to refocus my eyes to avoid eye strain. I would be right there with OP campaigning for modesty panels in this office.

              Reply
            2. SarahKay

              CG, Our site has exactly the conference room set-up you describe, and if I’m wearing a knee-length skirt I’m very conscious of the need to be more careful about how I sit, because I know that I can see the laps of everyone sitting opposite me.

              Also, seconded that I’m not thrilled about the comments implying that the problem is with OP / those who feel uncomfortable.

              Reply
            1. CG

              Seriously! It takes effort and focus to constantly think about what your legs are doing and whether the view is appropriate.

              Reply
        2. Misc

          “This also seems like the kind of issue that once brought to your attention, you find a way to fix. ”

          Yeah. I started off reading this going ‘this is a thing?’ And ended going ‘well, clearly it is a thing even if it would not be a problem for me specifically, it is affecting people, obviously this should be fixed and would be quite easy to solve if someone actually cared’.

          Reply
      4. JessaB

        It can be a nightmare when they want to change the look of the place. I basically got forced out of a company that wanted to redesign and wouldn’t take into account my ADA need for a certain type of chair. Mind you the expense to the company was ZERO, I was sitting in one. All they had to do was sell off 1 less chair. But no, all the chairs had to be exactly the same, already negotiated accommodation aside. I ended up leaving, the place was awful in more ways than that.

        But my point is, once a company gets some design idea in their corporate heads, they can get really unreasonable when there’s pushback. Even when the new design will cost thousands and thousands and they already have a design that works. The people who think these things up don’t care about their impact they care how pretty it is.

        Reply
    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I think between making employees have to buy new wardrobes to work with the desks and the company simply using their old desks (or replacing the new, unimproved ones), it makes more sense to put the burden on the company to come up with a workable solution. OP shouldn’t have to readjust her body posture and wardrobe to fit the desks—the desks should fit the users!

      [I’ll reserve my rant about all office furniture being designed for the average man, not the average woman! :) ]

      Reply
      1. tsehafy

        I recall that when the Scottish Parliament was re-modeled some years ago they weren’t going to put in modesty panels at the desks where the members of parliament sat. To demonstrate the need, women parliamentarians showed a man with a kilt sitting at the desk. Point was apparently taken. To make the point to the employer, I would be tempted to find the most colorful fabric I could and install a little curtain using removable hooks where the modesty board should go.

        Reply
        1. SarahKay

          I have a vivid memory of a ceilidh in Edinburgh where some friends and I glanced across at a row of men in kilts, and realised they had all decided to go for the traditional approach to underwear with a kilt (i.e. none!). The men were all sitting upright, legs slightly apart – fine in trousers, but it hadn’t occurred to them that it was rather less fine in kilts….

          Reply
              1. JessaB

                You’d think Scotsmen who regularly wear kilts would already know this, but I’m not surprised. I can imagine the OMG what look on all their faces.

                Reply
                1. SarahKay

                  We were all students, so only aged 18-21, and some of them were English, so in both cases, not necessarily much practice in kilt-wearing. And certainly not much practice in kilt-wearing with no underwear. We thought it was hilarious, they were very definitely more OMG what :)

          1. Emi.

            Ha! My husband got married in a kilt and I had to coach him on how to sit properly in church beforehand. He was like “Oh, that’s why you always do that thing with your skirt. It all makes sense now.”

            Reply
            1. Amber T

              I was a bridesmaid in a wedding party where all the groomsmen wore kilts. We were taking pictures outside and it was fairly obvious who was used to wearing kilts (and skirts) and who was not. It was particularly windy that day, and every time a good breeze came by, the groom, his brother, and his best men (Scotsmen who were used to wearing kilts), and all of the ladies, would gently hold their sides to keep their fabric in place. The rest of the gentlemen… let’s just say I’m a bit grateful that they decided not to go the traditional route and allow them to wear something underneath!

              Reply
          2. Aphrodite

            There’s an image online (not hard to find in Google Images) showing a formal picture of Queen Elizabeth sitting in the front row center of a group of soldiers (I think) who are all wearing kilts. One of the men right next to her is sitting as he is used to–and you see every darn part of him.

            Reply
      2. bluesboy

        Thank you for your last sentence about office furniture being designed for men – it sent me off on a fascinating Google hunt! As a 6 foot 1 man I’ve always found everything a touch small for me but just assumed it was normal when you’re taller than average. In particular, I struggle with kitchens – I love cooking, but can get backache while chopping or washing up because the surface is too low.

        It was absolutely fascinating (and not a little shocking) for me to discover that even in 2017 the average office is designed for men and the average kitchen is designed for women!

        To get back on topic, let me confirm that open backed desks are awkward for me too – I’ve had a number of occasions when I’ve had to plug a laptop in while sitting across from a skirt wearer. Still not sure of the etiquette – should I turn my head away and try and find the socket by touch? Warn her that I’m going under the desk, and that she might want to cross her legs? Because to me that sounds really pervy. Current solution is to ask her to stand up, pretending that her feet are in the way of the socket. It’s really just easier with a modesty board.

        Reply
        1. HannahS

          Hah, it’s a point of commiseration for me (5’2) and my cousin (6’3) that our backs hurt all the time from furniture that’s not designed for us.

          Reply
            1. VerySleepyPregnantLady

              5’2″ very pregnant person here.

              Every G-D thing is unusable. Counters are such a no go I’ve given up and do all food prep while sitting at the kitchen table.

              Reply
            2. nonegiven

              My cousin had the best kitchen for her height when she was single. The kitchen in the house she rented had been designed for a woman in a wheelchair. She said the countertops were perfect for her.

              Reply
          1. Kate 2

            Love this! As a 5’0 woman everywhere I go, when I sit my feet almost never touch the ground. City buses and subways, furniture stores, restaurants, etc. At the office if I sit at the right height for the desk to be comfortable my feet don’t touch the ground, if I sit at a height that lets my feet be on the ground my arms are raised close to shoulder height when I type. And I can’t really get my back against my chair either way because the bottom of the chair is so long that my knees can’t be bent when I do, my legs have to stick out.

            TL;DR Being really tall or really short is ergonomic hell.

            Reply
            1. But you don't have an accent...

              I am also 5’0, and I need a modesty panel because I either have to rest my feet on the wheels of my chair or let them dangle uselessly if I want to be in a comfortable typing position.

              Reply
          2. Misc

            Same. Well, actually, I’m a totally normal height, but my legs are really short so I am taller than almost everyone when I sit down (I gain like a foot of apparent height).

            Ergonomics are delightful fun.

            Reply
        2. App

          Ergonomics began around WW2 – because suddenly, large amounts of data on the measurements of a lot people become available.
          However, all that data came from American GIs – so varied…. but not that much. In order to serves you had to be a certain range of height-weight-fitness-body type-whatever, and THAT’S why all our desks, tables, and chairs are great for the “standard” man, but not so much for short people, tall people, or (gasp!) women.
          Things are getting better (height adjustable desks are pretty great!) but slowly.

          Reply
          1. Specialk9

            My mom did a kitchen redesign, and was fine with re-used cabinets, but *insisted* on a raised dishwasher, even though it was a bit of a bother. My dad tells her she was right every single time he does dishes. It makes SUCH a difference! (Also I’m inferring he likely complained a lot.)

            Reply
        3. LCL

          Ha. It’s like the theater aisle dilemma, when you have to walk past a seated row of people do you face toward them so your equipment is in their face, or away from them so your rear is in their face? There is no good non-rude answer.

          Reply
          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo

            lol… Especially when the people in the row ahead gets the alternative option to the back of the head.

            I think the only answer is for everyone to look away, give as much room possible, and hurry!

            Reply
          2. Specialk9

            Actually some cultures have a clear rule. I was told that my face-away while apologizing and edging awkwardly past someone in aisle seating was rude, and that in that country it was face-to-face. (I want to say Switzerland?) Which just feels awful to me – when they stand, it’s eye contact awkwardness, and when they stay seated I’m basically shoving my crotch in their face.

            Reply
        4. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Yep. I’m 5’8 and working on the kitchen counter kills my back — I’ve got the double-whammy of being taller than kitchens are designed for, and having quite a lot of weight up top, so my back muscles go bonkers holding me at that just-slightly-leaning angle.

          Reply
          1. Jadelyn

            Allow me to commiserate! I’m 5’8″ with a…let’s call it a significant amount of chest, and doing dishes is an absolute flipping misery for my lower back. Cooking isn’t much better, which is probably part of why I hate it so much.

            Reply
            1. Misc

              This is a bit off topic, but gc2b makes fantastic binders that while aimed at trans men are also ideal as an alternative to bras because they hold all the weight close to your centre of mass and take the strain off your upper back.

              Reply
        5. Elizabeth West

          I’m a 5′ 11″ woman and nothing designed for *me* fits. I have to buy men’s pajamas or shell out for specialized tall clothing. Car seats must be pushed back. Airplane seating in economy sucks.

          There was an article recently saying that passengers who prefer the window seat are more selfish–they like to be in control and be in their own bubble. Rubbish–I take the window seat because there is a slight curvature in the fuselage that gives me an infinitesimal bit of room for my long-ass legs.

          Reply
          1. Not a Morning Person

            And what’s wrong with preferring comfort on a flight? If it’s selfish to want to be comfortable, then I’m going to assume that everyone’s preference, window or aisle or wherever is selfish!

            Reply
        6. sap

          I think warning the woman across from you ONLY that you’re going to be rummaging on the floor is polite, as a matter of etiquette. She can cross or not cross her legs as she sees fit. I’d be a bit put off if a man warned me that he was going to plug something in “so I might want to cross my legs.” If he wasn’t senior to me, he would get at least a snippy, sarcastic comment about how the more appropriate solution would be for him to put out his eyes if he can’t help himself, or go back to 1930, or “thanks violentacrez.” So I would caution against that approach.

          Honestly, I warn The Room I’m going to be on the floor if there are people withing probably a 6-foot radius of me because I’ve been stepped on and it’s not fun.

          Reply
        7. SS Express

          Interesting how nobody’s telling Bluesboy that his problem’s not really a problem and all he needs to do is police his clothing choices to the point of inconvenience and compromise both his posture and his ability to focus on his work…

          Reply
      3. KR

        I am HERE for your rant if you want to take it to the open thread Friday. So sick of huge gigantic chairs meant for large, tall people and being completely too big for my small frame. My posture matters too!

        Reply
        1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo

          I’ll join that rant! Here’s my personal rage point. Why for the love of green apples has nobody designed a foot rest/riser that takes into account the base and wheels of an office chair. I feel like I’m always sitting funny because I can’t put my feet directly below my knees because the foot rest can’t fit in the correct place.

          Reply
          1. Competent Commenter

            OH!!! That’s why foot rests aren’t as good as the floor! I’m 5’1” and have very short legs proportionally and a hard time fitting at work tasks. I finally got things settled at work in a way that is ergonomically acceptable and solves my chronic pain issues but can’t seem to do it at home. Part of the problem is that I have to use a foot rest at home and it’s just never all that comfortable. I couldn’t figure out why. This totally makes sense. Thank you!!!

            Reply
        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I’ll bring it on Friday! :) I have a bunch of favorite academic articles about it, too.

          Nothing fires up an obsessive frustration with office furniture like going to law school and being in constant pain because literally zero spaces are built for your body (or the bodies of 50-55% of the school population) ;)

          Reply
        3. Snorks

          I’m 6’8″ and 330 lbs. I can personally guarantee you that standard furniture is not made for large, tall people.

          Reply
      4. KellyK

        Exactly! If the company suddenly rolled out a completely different dress code, with no advance notice and expected employees to comply immediately, I think a lot of people would better understand the inconvenience. Essentially, that’s what they did, except that instead of deliberately writing “all skirts must fall below the knee” into a formal document, they went out and bought furniture that created the requirement, probably without even noticing they were doing that.

        Reply
    6. Observer

      From what the OP describes, knee length is not going to work – the floor plugs are a MAJOR problem in this regard.

      As for sitting with ankles crossed at all times, what century is this, again?

      Reply
      1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo

        The century that has women who doesn’t want people looking up their skirts :) This isn’t a women’s lib issue, it’s a keep your private bits covered issue.

        I have to admit I’m with the others that say if you are going to wear a skirt you have to adjust your sitting position. Ankles crossed isn’t the only way to accomplish this… knees together generally works too.

        Reply
        1. SystemsLady

          I have to ask, are you a woman? Because especially if not, please don’t assume that crossing your legs can’t get uncomfortable for those bits. It can.

          Reply
          1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo

            Yes I am a woman. And I didn’t say that crossing ankles or legs are the only answer. Knees together not splayed usually does the trick just as well as leg or ankle crossing.

            Reply
            1. Anna

              Keeping my knees together all day while I sat at my desk would be incredibly uncomfortable, as I’m sure it would for a lot of other women and probably men. And again, it’s about a female identified person wearing a skirt having to adjust the way they sit while a male identified person does not. This is what’s known as everyday sexism.

              Reply
            2. Kate 2

              I have thick thighs. Keeping my knees together for 8 hours a day every day would not only be uncomfortable it would be painful.

              Why should the onus be on women to drop 200$ on pants or be physically uncomfortable all day long?

              Why isn’t the onus on the company which purchased office equipment that ignores the needs and bodies of 1/2 their employees?

              Reply
            3. Guava

              I think it is completely ridiculous to assume that all women are going to be completely comfortable keeping their knees together or ankles crossed for the duration of an eight-hour workday. This is an office, not church. We’re not being graded on penmanship or posture here. It’s not the 1950s. Management didn’t take the needs of the female employees into account when they ordered the new desks. It’s their job to fix it.

              Reply
        2. Jesmlet

          One leg crossed over the other always works for me. It’s how I sit most of the time regardless of what I’m wearing. I’m with you on this.

          Reply
            1. Jesmlet

              Yeesh, how tall is your chair/how low is your desk?? Point taken, I guess I’ve been lucky with my office furniture thus far.

              Reply
              1. Competent Commenter

                It sounds bad but actually I have a great setup. My desk like pretty much all desks is too high for me to ergonomically mouse and keyboard on. Keyboard trays can also be hard to mouse on. So I received a small table on wheels that sits under my desk. I roll it out as far as I need to and it has my keyboard and mouse on it. The legs are adjustable in height so I have it just right. That gives me about two inches clearance from the top of my thighs to the bottom of that table.

                Reply
              2. sap

                Yeah, for most body types, if your keyboard is at the ergonomically optimal position for your shoulders and elbows, you’d have to have a razor thin desk/no keyboard tray to cross the legs above the knee and not be knocking against your desk/keyboard tray. I have really bad arm joint problems, and I frequently bruised my thighs when I had to readjust my position at all because it would quickly become incapacitatingly painful for me to have my arms at even a slightly smaller angle. Now I have to work from a special chair due to an issue with my legs as well so I don’t have that problem anymore, but I would have had to basically show up to work zonked on painkillers if I’d needed to cross my legs in that setup.

                Reply
            2. Rusty Shackelford

              Nor can I. And if I could, my back and/or hips would be in a lot of pain. But, I guess if it always works for Jesmlet, it always works for me, so maybe I only *think* I’m in pain.

              Reply
              1. Jesmlet

                Well that’s a little obnoxious. I never said it works for everyone and my point was that most women don’t sit the same in pants as they do in shorter dresses and skirts.

                Reply
                1. Jadelyn

                  It’s also a little obnoxious that so many people in this thread are basically taking the “I do XYZ when wearing a skirt, I don’t see why this is a problem” approach, you among them. Rusty’s response may not have been the kindest one possible, but I sympathize with the frustration that prompted it.

            3. Middle School Teacher

              I can’t either. There’s a drawer in the way and I always always hang my knees on it. (If anyone was wondering if there is such a desk too short for someone who’s 5’2”, there is. It’s in my classroom.)

              Plus sitting with your legs crossed all day is actually not super good for your posture. I’m so happy my desk has boards on three sides.

              Reply
            4. Jadelyn

              I can’t either – and in fact I just kicked the crap out of the ~~modesty panel~~ on my desk trying to do so, just to check if I could. I’m tall with long legs, my desk is short(ish), my chair has to be up quite high for my legs to be comfortable, I can’t even have a keyboard tray under my desk because it hits my thighs and I’d have to scoot my chair way back to be able to use it. Crossing my legs is something I can only do when I’m spun away from my desk to talk to someone.

              Reply
            5. ClownBaby

              Same. I can’t cross my legs unless the bottom leg is completely stretched out. Hurray for being nearly a foot taller than the average height for women! Leg crossing under my desk is not an option. I’m also quite chicken-legged, so even flat footed with my knees together, my thighs don’t touch so with the -right- angle, it’s an easy view to the bits.

              I don’t know what I’d do without my desks modesty panel. I never knew that was what it was called until this post. I always thought it was just to camouflage any wires that run under my desk.

              Reply
          1. Observer

            Others have already pointed out that this is not compatible with a lot of desks. I’ll also point out that it is also not compatible with good health for most people. This seating posture will mess with a lot of people’s backs, hips and circulation.

            Reply
          2. Annie Moose

            One leg crossed over the other in a narrow skirt means it’s going to end up significantly shorter than without crossing your legs.

            Reply
        3. Competent Commenter

          Gotta disagree. I could not sit like that all day. My physical therapist and work ergonomic consultant would have my back in this argument, so to speak. Everyone’s body is different. And your body today isn’t the same as your body in 10, 20 or 30 years either. Which is why I can no longer use a regular mouse and have to have an ergonomic consultant. Please don’t assume that what’s comfortable for you with your length of leg and your body type is going to be comfortable for others. I’m willing to grant that somehow you could sit like that all day even though that sounds crazy but please grant that I absolutely cannot.

          Reply
          1. Rusty Shackelford

            Please don’t assume that what’s comfortable for you with your length of leg and your body type is going to be comfortable for others.

            No kidding. The arrogance of “this isn’t a problem for you because it isn’t a problem for me” is really thick today.

            Reply
        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          This really isn’t a reasonable “solution” to the problem. It’s not fair to impose what works for your body on everyone else. And I do think it’s meaningful to bring up the fact that women’s bodies are policed in offices more than men’s—why should we have to even worry about upskirt problems when the company could use the old desks or come up with a modesty-board-like solution? (Especially since modesty boards are widespread and a common feature for most office furniture.)

          For example, I have persistent low-back problems, and I’m the average height for a woman. By the time I jack up my seat high enough to be in an ergonomically neutral position relative to my desk/keyboard, I often can’t cross my legs without creating other body posture problems. If I sit properly (feet on the floor), I should not be doing so with ankles crossed or even feet/knees together (my doc wants me to sit with knees shoulder-length apart, which creates a definite upskirt situation). All my skirts/dresses are “modest” by a conservative offices standards, but they’re not long enough to block the “view” if I’m seated neutrally. And because of the region in which I practice, pants are not an option—I’ve been denied entry into court because we have a grand-old-sexist judge who won’t allow you to appear if you’re wearing a pantsuit.

          I’ve already borne the burden and cost of accommodating my ridiculous furniture and profession. Why should I also have to risk crippling myself when there’s an alternate solution available that puts the burden on the right entity (the employer)?

          Reply
          1. sap

            Can I just commiserate with you for a second about the antipantsuit judges? When I complain about this to non-lawyers, they’re always like “you’re a lawyer, you know that’s not really legal, why don’t you do something about that?” And it’s futile to try to explain how much NOT a solution that is, because people assume that you could somehow avoid that judge taking it out on you/all of your future clients in discretionary rulings, or that somehow your clients will be totally fine with you litigating a personal issue with your judge during their case. Ghhhhfjf.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              People truly underestimate the power judges have in these situations. Everyone knows the judges who are blatantly (and unlawfully) sexist and channel that sexism by humiliating women about their professional attire. But we all also know that those judges hold grudges and will penalize our clients if we (attorneys) file a grievance.

              But I feel the same way about it that I did about Kozinski—why aren’t the other judges, who ostensibly are in an equal position of power, making complaints or leaning on their colleague(s)?

              Reply
        5. Observer

          Nope. There are far more sensible way to make sure that people’s groins are not exposed that requiring women to alter the way they sit for hours at a time.

          The idea that women should all have to change the way they dress – which not only has a financial cost, but also a cost in how women are seen in the office – and the way they sit for their entire workday just because someone won’t get STANDARD office furniture is ridiculous. When it’s in an office layout that has an unusually problematic set up that’s even more ridiculous.

          Reply
        6. Ceiswyn

          Knees together is so uncomfortable for me that I would be in agony before midday.

          So my employer could require me to buy a new wardrobe, to sit in ways that cause damage to my muscles and joints… or my employer could provide a g-d modest board, seeing as it’s their screwup in the first place.

          Reply
    7. Birch

      Yes. Does OP never have to sit somewhere that’s not at their personal desk? Are there no meeting rooms with those skinny tables arranged in a circle? What about at lunch? Cafe tables don’t have modesty boards. I wear skirts and dresses almost exclusively and it’s never even crossed my mind. IMO if my wardrobe doesn’t work with the furniture, it’s not the furniture that needs changing. I guess the problem here is that people are actually bending down in front of the desk to plug stuff in, but surely that’s more distracting in other ways? Why are the desks arranged in a way that forces people to use floor plugs that are clearly in someone else’s desk space? If they’re just in the middle of the room, why are people looking up across the room when plugging things in? As a petite woman, I totally get this issue of desks and chairs being designed for men, but I also think it doesn’t make sense that this is the only place OP is encountering the problem, and I think that that moving the desks or rearranging the plug areas (maybe an extension cord or a surge protector with lots of plugs on a small table so no one has to bend down?) would be a better solution. I also just really hate the idea of “modesty boards” in general, as if women’s lower bodies need extra special protection from those men who can’t control themselves. Everyone just needs to be adults and realize that sometimes wardrobes aren’t perfect for every situation.

      Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        It’s not about women so much as people who wear skirts – who tend to be women.

        In general I think cafe and meeting room tables are – at least in my experience – a bit wider than the average desk, so they aren’t necessarily comparable.

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          Yep, it makes sense that this is where the LW experiences this issue, because she probably spends a good chunk of her public life at work, and her office clothes may differ from her off-duty wardrobe. I don’t really need to concentrate on eating my sandwich on a park bench for a few minutes; however, having to sit in a regimental way for hours at a work would hurt my productivity. As someone who grew up wearing skirts and dresses off and on, I’m pretty well-versed in how to avoid flashing my underwear at somebody and I’d guess the LW and her colleagues are, as well. When equipment interferes with that function for a lot of people, it’s a problem that needs a systemic solution, not an opportunity for people to re-learn normal human behavior or accommodate a seating issue that can be fixed.

          Reply
          1. neverjaunty

            Or to be lectured about how they need to stop being so sensitive and maybe should just wear maxi skirts or sit with their ankles crossed all day.

            Reply
            1. Allison

              But but but women who are exceptionally, effortlessly ladylike have a moral obligation to shame women who fall short of such a goal! The pearls must be clutched, for the sake of decency!

              Reply
              1. Allison

                For real though, the idea that the only women who need modesty panels are those who cannot be modest themselves is a bit troubling.

                Reply
                1. Rusty Shackelford

                  As well as the idea that if someone sees up your skirt, it’s not a problem if you’re wearing spanx. Or that you care whether those people who can see up your skirt are offended.

                2. Matilda Jefferies

                  Seriously. The level of judgement towards the OP in this thread is pretty astounding, frankly. Can’t we just take her at her word when she says it’s a problem, without resorting to shaming her and her colleagues about the length of their skirts?

                3. Allison

                  Especially when we don’t know how long their skirts actually are. Seriously, it’s not like we’re looking at a real picture here, people are essentially saying “if this is a problem for you, your skirt is definitely too short.”

                1. OP2

                  Amazingly, I manage to navigate public transport daily, eat lunch in public without showing my upskirt, usually because I am aware of how I am sitting, and, for those times, adjust my posture to protect myself.

                  At work, at a desk, working all day, I don’t want to feel like I have to be hyper aware of my posture ALL DAY! I can’t cross my legs because I don’t have the room but I know I couldn’t sit like that all day as I’d probably get heat rash and a yeast infection along with back problems

            2. Gingerblue

              But I just need more information to decide if this is actually a problem for all those women telling me it’s a problem!

              Reply
              1. Allison

                Right? Women lie and exaggerate things all the time, they don’t have logical or intelligent thought processes, so it’s important to interrogate them every time they claim anything to be true, so that one can make a more logical assessment of the situation.

                G’day, M’lady *tip*

                Reply
                1. Rusty Shackelford

                  Right? Women lie and exaggerate things all the time, they don’t have logical or intelligent thought processes

                  So true. It obviously never occurred to the OP that she should simply keep her legs locked together. Silly woman.

            3. Pontoon Pirate

              Gah, yes. These clothing patrol/morality brigade comments are infuriating. The OP is telling us this is a problem – why are so many people spending so much G-D time telling her it’s not?

              Reply
                1. sap

                  There is a difference between showing your work when answering “is this thing I’m worried about going to come across as out of touch at the office” affirmatively by explaining to the LW why their concern is unfounded and telling people that the specific thing they say is happening in their office isn’t happening.

                  We didn’t ask the LW who didn’t want to use Uber whether they were actually scared of Uber or whether their employer actually made them use Ubers because that isn’t typical.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                  That was also different because the OP asked Alison if use of AirBnB/Lyft is a new business norm or if others shared her concerns about those services, and Alison turned it over to readers. OP#2 has not asked the readers whether the issue she and her officemates are facing is valid or widespread in other offices. She’s asked how to get her thick-skulled boss-man to understand that the current setup does not work.

      2. MK

        It’s one thing to have to be careful of how you sit for less than an hour at a cafe, or a couple of hours at a meeting or even a couple of days, if you are attending a conference or something, since these are occassions when you are more “on” anyway. It’s another to have to modify your wardrobe and be aware of your posture constantly, every single minute of your workday, while also focusing on your work.

        There are many cases where this isn’t an issue, if the desk if facing (or is close to) a wall, if the desks are back-to-back to eachother, if the desks are very wide, if there are cublicles, even if the desks are reasonably close together or there are other objects (plants, etc) that the visibility is mostly blocked. But is an open-space office it can be; if the OP says that people walking by might be able to see under the desks, it certainly is.

        Also, I think it makes a difference that this is a new development for this workplace. If the OP started a new job recently and just found out that the desks there have no panels, I wouldn’t advice her to demand that the office furniture be replaced; as a new employee, she would have to find a way to deal with it. But in this case, whoever ordered the desks messed up and they should try to find a solution.

        In any case, I think this is a danger of ordering without thinking practically: in furniture stores and photos, desks without panels look better, more sleek, modern and minimalist, while the ones with panels look heavy and bulky. But in practice, people are going to put things under their desks, they will drop stuff and forget to pick them up, they will mangle the wires they use for their devices, they will cross their legs in ways that aren’t recommended by posture books, and generally commit a multitude of “faux-paux” that panels would hide; so an office with panelless desks ends up looking messier.

        Reply
      3. Emi.

        > “modesty boards” in general, as if women’s lower bodies need extra special protection from those men who can’t control themselves

        That’s a red herring. Most women don’t want our underwear to be visible to others (especially not at work!), regardless of men and their self-control. My underwear is private and none of anyone else’s business, and I’d like to keep it that way—even if all my colleagues are women.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          I don’t think most men want to show their underwear off to their colleagues, either, it’s just less of a possibility given men’s typical dress.

          Reply
        2. SarahTheEntwife

          +1 yes! Honestly one reason I don’t wear shorter skirts is that I’ve never learned how to sit in them and don’t really feel like making the effort to learn. I don’t worry that my male colleagues will ogle me; I worry that neither of us wants them to have to have the “erm…you’re kinda flashing the office in that outfit ” conversation.

          Reply
          1. sap

            I am bad at sitting at skirts, and the only people who have ever said something to me are other women–and I changed my practice of which skirts I’ll sit in which ways in not because I cared if people saw my underwear or was concerned that boys might be titillated by my underwear, but because girls (I was like 12) told me they didn’t want to see my underwear, and I thought that was reasonable.

            Reply
        3. Turquoisecow

          +1

          I wouldn’t want to flash my undies to a group of women, either. It has nothing to do with “control.”

          Reply
      4. Rusty Shackelford

        I also just really hate the idea of “modesty boards” in general, as if women’s lower bodies need extra special protection from those men who can’t control themselves.

        This is a straw man argument (or maybe a red herring?) that’s offensive to both men and women.

        Reply
      5. Anna

        Even the idea that “everyone just needs to be adults, etc.” is about how the OP needs to be an “adult” and get over how their wardrobe isn’t perfect with the unwritten part being “so get over it.” Perhaps you don’t agree with the modesty board, but you seem just fine putting all the weight on the OP to get over it and stop being so damned sensitive.

        Reply
    8. also confused

      Now I’ve had two replies eaten by IE *sigh* Let’s see if this super old version of FF works.

      In none of my companies we’ve ever had modesty boards and I was unaware of their existence even!

      When the outlet is in a floor tank I would assume to be looking at the floor, and if it’s beneath my desk and requires acrobatics, then I’m still focused on it and not purposefully looking up other people’s skirts.

      I am a woman who wears skirts and dresses, but I also assume the best of my colleagues. There is nothing inherently indecent about underwear or anyone seeing it and I have no problem if it’s a situation where “the eye wanders past” as opposed to “I stare at your white cotton knickers because I’m turned on by them” (and the latter would the starer’s problem anyway). As I said, I assume the best of my colleagues and that they a) don’t purposefully keep staring if they catch a glimpse and b) that they don’t take pictures.

      (If you’re going commando at work, that is a whole different issue, but I wouldn’t recommend that.)

      (On a side note, for people who draw their leg/knee up on the chair to sit in it, go ahead! But please take off your shoes, because there is nothing worse or more unhygienic than street shoes on the upholstery. If for whatever reason I have to sit on your chair, I don’t want to sit my butt down in the dirt from outside.)

      But! All of this might be a cultural thing. I can say that in all of my companies so far as well as the academic setting I was working in before, this request would be wildly out of place and would not be heeded. You would also probably get a bit of a reputation of being a bit extra. (In workplaces where female bosses are common and ethnicities and religions are very mixed.)

      Reply
      1. Bette

        Meh. It’s *my* office chair. I’m not going to take off my shoes when sitting on a foot on the off chance that *you* might sit in my chair. There are definitely worse and more unhygienic things than street shoes on upholstery. Every time you touch a doorknob, for example. Ultimately you can only control your own work space, not that of others.

        Reply
      2. Turquoisecow

        If you’re wearing pants or a skirt, why is it unhygienic for my shoe to touch the chair? It’s not like you’re touching the chair with your bare skin. I get the desire for sanitary environments, but I think seats are taking it a little too far.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Maybe not unhygienic, but shoes usually have dirt on them. I probably wouldn’t want it on my clothing. Most people don’t check the bottom of their shoes unless they step in something smelly.

          Reply
          1. sap

            I have a sweating condition, and it is much less hygenic to put my bare or socked feet on upholstery, because it will become wet upholstery. Obviously, my feet should stay off of other people’s chairs either with or without shoes.

            But should my shoes be on or off when I’m sitting at my desk on top of my feet, just in case you need to borrow my chair?

            Reply
          2. sap

            This probably came across wrong, but my point is that some people actually find it much grosser to sit somewhere where unshod feet should be (and some people have really smelly feet!)–so I think probably nobody should be policing whether it’s cleaner for their coworkers to keep their shoes on or off in this context, since that actually really does vary a lot. Personally, I would *absolutely never* take my shoes off at work in a way that my coworkers would see, and I think taking your shoes off at work is a bit unprofessional, so I disagree with your premise that it’s a better practice to take them off even without a sweating condition.

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              That wasn’t a premise and I wasn’t policing anyone. I was answering Turquoise Cow’s question about why some folks might think it’s unhygienic to put your shod feet on the chair. I’ve looked at my shoe before and seen mud/dirt I didn’t notice.

              It’s not a big deal–just check your shoe first.

              Reply
      1. London Bookworm

        Modesty boards are also the sort of thing that one doesn’t tend to notice. I’d be willing to bet that a handful of the people saying they’ve never had them have, in fact, had them. Most professional office furniture comes with some version of a modesty board.

        I only learned what they were during my second job, where I said we didn’t have them. Then went in on Monday to see that, we did, in fact, have modesty boards on all the desks. I’d just never registered the little boards on all the desks, particularly because our open-floor seating plan meant that the desks were mostly back-to-back, so you’d only notice it if you were on the floor plugging something in.

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          I agree, I never consciously recognized what they were for.

          I was actually referring to Huh extrapolating from their own experiences and not realizing this is a genuine problem for other people who wear skirts and dresses.

          Reply
          1. Murphy

            I never realized what it was for either, but now that I know, and based on where my desk is located, I’m super glad I have one!

            Reply
        2. Purplesaurus

          I didn’t realize what they were for until this discussion. I just thought that’s how desks were made, and previously resented them because I often crash my feet into them (tall, often keep one leg dancing atop the other).

          Reply
        3. Allison

          I’ve definitely taken them for granted, and regardless of how I normally sit or dress, I think I’d be much less comfortable sitting at my desk without one, knowing just how much more mindful I have to be about how my skirt and legs are positioned. I’d probably sit with a blanket over my legs, or attach my own makeshift panel, just for good measure.

          Reply
        4. Natalie

          I have a portable one under my desk that is both a privacy panel *and* a space heater. It’s basically the greatest office invention I’ve learned of ever.

          Reply
            1. Natalie

              I have literally never seen one before. But, everything in my office seems to have come from a time machine from the 80s, so that could be why.

              Reply
        5. LBK

          Yeah, I’ve always assumed those were structural – I didn’t realize they served the purpose of covering up the person’s lower half (or if it did, that that was an intentional part of their usage and not just icing on top of the structural cake).

          Reply
    9. Augusta Sugarbean

      Well, wouldn’t you just rather have a modesty panel on your desk? Then you wouldn’t have to make sure your skirts are long enough. Or wear specific tights or nylons. Or make sure you are sitting with your ankles crossed.

      I’m not sure why you and others are so surprised by the idea of a modesty panel. You say it’s literally never been an issue for you. But you *are* addressing the modesty/comfort issue – just via clothing instead of desk design.

      Reply
      1. London Bookworm

        I’m really surprised by the pushback on this. Modesty boards are hardly an expensive or onerous piece of furniture, and it seems like a fairly straightforward way for the company to make sure people are comfortable.

        Reply
          1. Not Today Satan

            Yeah. I consider “modesty boards” to not really be a thing, and that the issue here is that the desks are missing a wall/panel. It’s not for dainty ladies, it’s a standard part of a desk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an office desk that didn’t have a front panel. Are these people working on card tables or something? It’s absurd.

            Reply
            1. cataloger

              Same! I’d never considered that part of the desk to have a name, but rather to be a defining feature of a desk (and if it doesn’t have that, it’s a table).

              Reply
            1. MechanicalPencil

              This! And that I’ve kicked off my shoes, have a blanket in my lap and am sitting in a way that is less than professional (half lotus, one foot curled under/other leg on chair with knee up…). I love those front panels, whatever their name.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth H.

                High five for sitting in half lotus in office chairs. It’s my favorite sitting position in a chair. Or pretty much anywhere.

                Reply
          2. Natalie

            I’ve heard them called a “privacy panel”. I don’t really love that either but it’s a little better than “modesty” to my ears.

            Reply
        1. Birch

          It’s the name, the fact that this isn’t a problem anywhere else out in the world, and that the real problem is that people are bending down right next to other people’s desks in order to use plugs. If the design of the whole room is such that it’s that easy to see up people’s skirts, something else is very wrong and IMO it seems weird to be fixing the problem by installing extra bits to furniture in order to block the upskirt view. Why are the plugs on the floor in front of OP’s desk? Disregarding the upskirt issue completely, it has to be distracting for people to be clambering around down there! This is sort of like someone keeping files in a cupboard right above an employee’s head and then the employee requesting a screen to keep people from looking down her shirt. Don’t keep the files there!

          I also want to point out the huge amount of skirts out there made of materials that flow between your legs when you sit down so there’s nothing to look at. It seems like a really specific type of short, tight pencil skirt that’s being discussed here, which is why a lot of people who wear skirts are confused that this is a problem. I get that those types of skirts are still the standard of “professional” dress in some fields/offices, but OP says their office dress code is “smart/casual,” so it seems that doesn’t apply here.

          Reply
          1. MK

            I don’t get what you mean by “this isn’t a problem anywhere else out in the world”, or on what you base such a pronouncement. It’s true that this isn’t a problem in a significant number of workplaces (see my comment above), and also in ones that aren’t open-plan (it’s rarely an issue if you have your own office or share with a couple of people) or that use other type of office furniture. like stands. But the majority of standard office desks do have panels, if only because they have drawers attached (I have rarely seen a desk with drawers and without a panel).

            Also, most professional skirts are very much not the kind that flow between your legs when you sit down; that only happens with pleated and clos skirts that are not what most people associate with a woman’s suit, which usually has a tube skirt that is neither tight or short, but certainly doesn’t flow between your legs when you sit.

            In any case, I don’t think the actual issue is if people can see your underware. I mostly wear trousers, but I feel more comfortable with a panel, and I think the office presents a more professional appearence with such desks.

            Reply
          2. London Bookworm

            It’s hat’s a fair point that the room seems to be oddly designed. I’ve never worked anywhere where adjusting the plugs would mean seeing under lots of desks (maybe my immediate neighbour).

            However, if the company is going to design their rooms that way, it’s reasonable for them to then accommodate this concern. Frankly, even if I were in pants (and I love my pencil skirts, even in ‘casual’ offices) I still would prefer to not be in OP’s situation.

            Reply
          3. Laura

            It’s not true that this isn’t a problem anywhere else in the world! I used to work in Southeast Asia and was told by my local colleagues that every single meeting room absolutely must have tablecloths on the tables or panels on the back of them because otherwise women cannot sit there. Every desk I saw in both of the two countries I worked in there had modesty panels. It’s not an issue because it’s become standard, not because women are sitting in a special way.

            Also, keep in mind that it’s not just “tight pencil skirts” that are an issue. Knee-length A-line skirts cause this problem for me, as does anything that’s not at least mid-calf length and flowy, most of which are made of fabric that would be inappropriate in my current office, as well as knee-length dresses that are not tight-fitting like the sweater dress I’m currently wearing.

            Reply
          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Uh, please come visit me in rural Kenya where people where full-length skirts, and they still have modesty boards. Or in India. Or literally any of a number of countries.

            You can wear a perfectly normal/professional, knee-length (or just below the knee) pencil skirt and it will not be adequately flowy to block the view of your underwear if you’re sitting neutrally. Please see, e.g., every single “conservative” skirt or dress-suit I own for the stodgy practice of law, which is plenty conservative and backwards about skirt length, etc.

            I really don’t understand why people are litigating clothing choice, posture, etc., and making general pronouncements about how this “isn’t an issue” for most of the world when there’s no evidence to support that position.

            Reply
          5. Rusty Shackelford

            the fact that this isn’t a problem anywhere else out in the world

            How do you know what part of the world the OP is in? Or are you saying it’s not even a problem in her part of the world?

            Reply
          6. ket

            What do you mean this isn’t a problem anywhere else in the world? Classrooms at colleges and universities put up a board there when it’s a lecture hall where the lecturer would otherwise be forced to politely avoid looking at boys scratching their bits. Tables often have tablecloths which amazingly serve the same purpose in a larger room where the wideness of the table isn’t sufficient to do it. Well-designed staircases take this into account. You just don’t notice it because good design takes into account the people who are using the stuff.

            Reply
          7. Browser

            It’s not an extra bit of furniture. It is literally part of a standard desk and has been so for decades. Centuries, even.

            Reply
          8. Kate 2

            I think OP specifically mentioned you can see up skirts even standing. I’ll lose my place in the comments if I scroll back up though, so maybe I’m wrong.

            Reply
        2. Turkletina

          Yep. The OP wrote in with a problem, and half the commenters are like “but this isn’t actually a problem!” It’s a problem for OP (which is why she wrote in!) and I don’t see why it’s so difficult to take her at her word that it’s a problem.

          Reply
            1. essEss

              LOL… agreed. It’s like someone saying the their head is throbbing and they ask someone for an aspirin and the person with the medication says “well, MY head doesn’t hurt so you don’t need one.”

              Reply
              1. Hey Anonny-Nonny

                “Well, you wouldn’t have a headache if you didn’t go out drinking on work nights! I never drink, so I never get headaches. I don’t see why you’d need aspirin if you don’t drink, I never need them.”

                (Just thought I’d add that weird tinge of moral judgement that’s somehow part of this desk discussion)

                Reply
                1. essEss

                  oooh… AND that they can solve the headache problem themselves if they keep their head at a 27.3 degree angle with the finger pressing on a specific point on the temple. And remember to retain that exact position for the entire 9-hour work day (including while typing and eating lunch). Hahaha…..

          1. Gingerblue

            Well, you know. Those hussies with their pencil skirts and their phone chargers. Why would anyone actually believe them about anything?

            This entire thread makes me feel like I woke up in the 1950s.

            Reply
                1. SS Express

                  OP, I’m really sorry that you’ve received this response to a perfectly reasonable question! It’s a horrible feeling for me just as a reader to see that so many people think I shouldn’t feel entitled to be as comfortable or as focused on my work as male colleagues – I imagine reading these comments would be kind of rough for you. I hope you can focus on the number of people who *do* understand why this is a problem and support you in looking for a solution, because you absolutely deserve one. Good luck!

        3. Jesmlet

          My problem with all this discussion on modesty boards is that my read of the letter gave me the impression that they were not an option, and that the only option was buying entirely new desks. It’s also too bad that we don’t have a picture of the office because I’m having a really hard time understanding this plug issue.

          Reply
            1. Jesmlet

              Please see where I said “understanding” rather than “believing”. I believe that OP has an issue. I wish I could understand it better because it’s easier to give useful solutions when you fully understand the problem. Is the plug right in front of OP’s desk? Is it someone else’s plug from across the room that they’d have to bend down to reach? One vs the other would change what points she can bring to the manager’s attention.

              Reply
              1. Browser

                The only point she needs to bring to the manager’s attention is “Our old desks had modesty boards and these new ones do not. Can we switch back to the old desks or is there a panel that can be installed on the new ones?”

                As for the plugs, things have to plug in somewhere. If the desk is not against a wall, there will be a plug in the floor. It’s not rocket science to figure that out.

                Reply
                1. Jesmlet

                  If that worked, then OP wouldn’t have said this: “The manager is not taking this seriously as a genuine concern of his staff”

                  Should she need to have a detailed reason why things should change? No. But clearly her manager needs something more than “hey, this doesn’t work for us.”

                2. OP2

                  Big open plan office, only way to power PCs, phones etc is in power sockets in the floor from points under every set of desks

              2. many bells down

                Everyone’s outlets are on the floor under their individual desks. If you need to plug something in, you have to get down on your hands and knees and crawl under the desk. From that position, you are at eye level with everyone else’s knees, so if you look up, you can, as Carrie Fisher said of her metal bikini, “see all the way to Florida.”

                Reply
    10. neverjaunty

      “My experience is way different than the OP’s and she should be getting side-eye” maybe not the most helpful response?

      Reply
      1. Clare

        Yes I’m really annoyed by these responses. Let’s stop putting on the “cool girl” persona in order to make the OP feel ridiculous when her concerns are perfectly reasonable for the vast majority of women.

        Reply
      2. Laura

        Exactly!!!! These kinds of comments frustrate me like crazy! It feels to me like a version of slut shaming women just for wearing normal clothes and not wanting to have to sit with their legs crossed or knees together at all times.

        Reply
        1. Jesca

          What shocks me is how much effort people are putting in to their daily lives just to accommodate an”open desk” that can literally be corrected by choosing appropriate furniture. I would really like to point out some of these acts: sit consciously upright, consciously sit with your legs closed, ensure when by dresses or skirts (or even pants) that it doesn’t look to revealing or odd when you sit in a chair, consciously advert your eyes every time you walk through the office (OP says this is an issue as well), never look up when you have to get down under your desk, and so on and so forth.

          The other option: buy clothing that follows your dress code (skirts around the knee area) and sit at your desk and work.

          See? It is actually hilarious how much this puts women at a disadvantage in the work place and how absolutely adamant people are on defending it. All the above advice is great if the OP finds she has no choice, but telling the OP she is absurd in bringing it up? I suggest re-reading what I wrote above and then tell me what actually sounds more absurd just to sit at a desk and work!

          Reply
          1. Reba

            Yes, and this is an example of a systemic problem being made into a [woman’s] personal responsibility to solve!

            Now, it is true that a lot of learned behaviors to accommodate issues we face in the world become second nature, so you can say how “easy” it is to “just” [wear special types of undergarments that you know to shop for, hold your body in a certain way at all times, or on a more serious note, look out for environmental cues that signal your relative safety, etc etc. etc.]

            It’s worth noticing once in a while how much work that all is, and how it’s work that is often invisible because it’s more vulnerable people that have to do it.

            Reply
            1. Oranges

              The “woman tax”. I don’t remember where I heard it but I think it’s the perfect descriptor for this type of BS.

              Reply
            2. OP2

              Thank you! Amazing how much effort certain groups have to put in to accommodate the way things have been set up. It’s exhausting

              Reply
          2. finderskeepers

            I’d just like to point out that in summer, and especially in very hot areas, a woman being able to wear a knee length skirt for comfort, whereas a man must still wear ankle length pants.

            So a dress code that doesn’t allow men to wear shorts in the summer puts them at a comfort disadvantage, and possibly a reason why the AC runs cold

            Reply
            1. Pontoon Pirate

              I mean this kindly, but this isn’t the forum to re-litigate the men’s vs. women’s professional clothing debate. It’s “whataboutism” that is going to take the conversation at hand nowhere.

              Reply
                1. SoCalHR

                  So you’re saying that if men were allowed to wear skirts then there wouldn’t be an issue with not having modesty panels because the (likely) man who ordered the panel-less desks would have thought to include them because he sometimes wears a skirt to work and doesn’t (presumably) want his junk exposed at the workplace, right?

            2. Jesca

              I would like to point out that there have been extensive studies on the constrictiveness of women’s clothing used in an attempt to keep them passive throughout modern times and throughout history, but that too would be really derailing as well.

              (FYI shorts are not in the same realm of revealing as skirts are for obvious reasons. This isn’t some huge social argument either. If you want to wear shorts, petition your job. But don’t run around screaming it every time skirt etiquette is brought up as some comparison. There are still many industries where skirts and dresses are required for women.)

              Reply
              1. Oranges

                You mean the constant policing and unequal social payments/punishments are a systematic form of abuse? I am shocked. Shocked I tells ya.

                Also I wonder how/why this particular method of abuse has been used so frequently. I assume it’s because it works but why does it work. Anything you can point me to on that or things I can type into a search engine that might give me a good shot at finding what I’m actually looking for?

                Reply
            3. sap

              In my opinion men should be free to wear a pencil skirt in the summer if they choose to, and it would be great if there were formal office appropriate shorts for both men AND women, but since LW isn’t a man who wrote in about wanting to wear a pencil skirt in the summer, I’m going to comment on appropriate desks instead.

              Reply
            4. SS Express

              Yep, you’re right, men can be disadvantaged by the patriarchy too, not only in this way but also in many others which I won’t mention because they have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

              Reply
    11. Call me St. Vincent

      I encourage everyone reading this subthread to scroll down the page to read the comment from Triplestep who is an office furniture designer! It was very informative about the issue of modesty panels in general and how office furniture is designed from a designer’s perspective. The below quote is only a short section of the very good comment, but it applies here very well.

      “To those folks here saying they do not have modesty panels, I am skeptical. The way systems furniture is designed now, modesty panels are often a very integral part of the design, helping to keep the desk stable (just like the stretcher bar or apron on your kitchen table) and holding channels to hide wiring.”

      Reply
    12. Lady Phoenix

      So maybe all we he women should wear Burkas so as they cover everything up. Ecause it is just too cumbersome to mak employees work comfortably and them wimmenz are temptresses anyways.

      That is sarcasm BTW

      Reply
    13. Anononon

      I’m admittedly very skeptical that you’ve never seen a desk with a modesty board. I just google imaged “office desk” and the majority of the pictures had them.

      I really think the name of the design feature is throwing people off. It does sound very hand-wringing.

      Reply
      1. not sharing my user name on this one!!

        I work at a state agency which have a wrap around counter with a single pole holding up the one end that is open to the door way, opposite a mostly glassed in conference room.. believe you me, I take care of how I sit when that room is in use.

        It’s about as annoying as many of the comments in this thread (which have me ~Ragey~ this morning)

        For those that say no desks are made this way- if I did this correctly, my name will link to a picture of mine. I keep a chair pushed up against the opposite side of the counter for a bit of privacy. I wear dresses almost every day because pants don’t fit me well.

        Reply
    14. Morag

      Actually, they’re not “special” desks, they’re the standard. Think of it as a “privacy panel” not a “modesty” panel and it makes more sense. It’s ridiculous to have an open desk for anyone.

      The term modesty panel dates from the time when men (ie bosses) in offices had real desks that were obviously closed off in front, but women (ie secretaries & receptionists) had smaller triangular jury-rigged setupss that were physically lower and and also had a typing return on the side to hold your IBM Selectric. If your desk was outward facing then you needed the modesty panel to get the same privacy as the men had with their actual real closed in desks. If your desk was against the wall, your company could cheap out (which is what this company is doing now in 2018) and omit closing in the front of your desk.

      Everybody deserves a closed in real desk, male or female.

      Reply
    15. Thursday Next

      I think it’s okay for people to care about this issue. (Also okay not to care, FWIW.) I don’t think it’s okay to criticize the LW for caring about it.

      Reply
      1. sap

        I’m one of those hussies who doesn’t pay a lot of attention to how I sit in a skirt (beyond “I am not manspreading/sitting crisscrossed applesauced in it, and if I do I will use a blanket) because I really don’t think it’s my problem if people want to peer up it–and I know full well that when sitting comfortably in a suit at a cafe someone could look right up it if they wanted to. But I STILL think this is a problem for LW, because women’s emotional responses to sexism don’t need to be the same as mine to be within the boundaries of healthy, normal behavior.

        Reply
    16. Karo

      OTOH, when I’ve been in the OP’s situation I’ve been so uncomfortable, focusing on my posture and how I’m sitting, that I’m not doing quality work. Maybe it’s something you can get used to but it’s also not unreasonable to expect your desk to have something where you’re not flashing literally everyone that walks by.

      Reply
    17. SignalLost

      I *do* wear shapewear under my skirts. It holds my tights up. I still don’t want my company to provide an environment where someone can look up my skirt in the normal course of business. It’s not a fear of flashing my genitals, it’s that covered or otherwise, no one’s groin should be featured by the furniture in the office.

      Reply
    18. Nita

      Yeah, I’m a little confused too. I mean, I don’t normally have a view of how my skirts look when I’m sitting down, but it seems like if they’re just past the knee they’re already long enough to avoid wardrobe malfunctions? And if they’re shorter, they’re a malfunction hazard when sitting *anywhere,* not just at the bad desk? Maybe I’m missing something though, since a lot of women in OP’s office are complaining…

      Reply
      1. Natalie

        Most skirt suits I see are a little above the knee, not past it. Also, I believe both pants and skirts ride up a bit when one sits down, so a just-past-the-knee skirt is not going to be in the same position while sitting.

        Reply
    19. nnn

      Can you tell us where you’ve been finding suit-style skirts that are long enough on someone who’s 5’11” recently?? The past few years, all I’ve been able to find are either skirts that are uncomfortably short, or maxi skirts.

      Reply
      1. Emmie

        No where really. Banana Republic had some skirts in tall, and that was wonderful. I always look at the inseam to see if it can be tailored. I tailor my dresses, skirts, and most of my pants.

        Reply
      2. Nita

        I’ve had pretty good experiences with Sears last time I went skirt shopping (full disclosure, I have not been to one in a couple of years, and am a bit shorter than you).

        Reply
    20. Temperance

      I had to put a sign in front of the desk in my last office because I regularly wear skirts and dresses, and don’t want to waste energy on trying to be dainty/proper whatever it is that you are.

      Reply
    21. Rusty Shackelford

      I just make sure my skirts are long enough (for me this is to just about my knee and I am 5’11 so finding the right kind of skirts takes some work) and wearing either dark colored tights, or if I wear pantyhose than I wear dark thigh length shorts/shapewear underneath. I also make sure I keep my ankles together/crossed when I sit. It has literally never been an issue for me

      1. I make sure to wear long enough skirts, which takes some work.
      2. I wear dark tights or pantyhose.
      3. If I wear pantyhose, I wear long shorts or shapewear over them.
      4. I sit in a certain way, keeping my ankles together or crossed.

      Somehow, all of this doesn’t add up to “literally never an issue.” To me it looks like a real live actual issue that you’ve put a lot of work into addressing. I mean, you literally said it “takes some work” to find appropriate clothing that you can wear at your desk.

      Reply
      1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

        I would think everyone would want a privacy panel so that you can discretely rearrange yourself, scratch and itch, shift something that is binding, etc..

        Reply
        1. a1

          People do those things at their desk? I was always taught not to do those things in public. Got an itch in your crotch? Go to the bathroom, or just deal with it. You don’t scratch your crotch at your desk. Scratch your arm, sure, but your crotch or butt, no. Need to adjust your bra (more than just move a strap up) or underwear – same thing. I never knew people were doing so many things under their desks. (truly, not being sarcastic)

          Reply
          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

            I was thinking more scratching your leg/knee/foot/ankle and lifting your leg or leaning down to do it, shifting position which sometimes means spreading your legs, etc.. Basically with these new desks every fidget, gesture, and motion is visible to everyone walking into the office

            Reply
          2. HannahS

            I mean, I wouldn’t dig in and scratch at a desk, but dislodge a wedgie? Definitely. If I waited to go to the bathroom to do that, I’d be running there multiple times a day!

            Reply
          3. Natalie

            Sure, why not, if no one can see me? The very air around me isn’t going to be offended that I didn’t go to the bathroom.

            Reply
            1. a1

              But unless your desk is in an enclosed office, people can see you. So then you wouldn’t do it at your desk. And if you are alone in an enclosed office, have at it. I was talking about in public, like in cubicle farms or open office plans (or on the bus, or in a lobby, etc).

              Reply
              1. Natalie

                YMMV I guess. The open plan offices I’ve seen still have sufficient cubicle walls that your co-workers don’t have a line of sight to your butt. And if they’re standing right next to you, you’ll obviously know it.

                Reply
          4. Delphine

            Qhat you were “taught” you were taught as a woman–its the rare man that’s running to the bathroom every time he needs to make an adjustment.

            Reply
    22. Yorick

      Many women don’t wear tights, pantyhose, or thigh length shapewear under their dresses. And this shouldn’t be required just because the desk doesn’t have a front.

      Reply
    23. July

      I am a wearer of skirts who was raised (by an elderly grandparent, obviously) to cross my legs at the ankle when seated, irrespective of what I have on. I’m in my mid-thirties and woke up several months ago with what turned out to be a really persistent pain in the knee of my “bottom” leg. Three doctors later, I learned I was putting weird stress on my legs with my super ladylike ways. I now have to sit at my desk with my feet elevated and hips-width apart. I think it’s really unreasonable to assume that a posture that has the potential to cause physical injury should be a part of women’s daily life in the workplace.

      (That being said, if you’re a person any gender who’s sitting on a stage kindly keep your legs closed. Sprawling looks terrible.)

      Reply
    24. DMLT

      Lemme summarize.
      Your office is set up the same way. You list all the many things you do to deal with it, including wearing an extra layer under your skirt and the phrase “takes some work” to find skirts that are acceptable, and then say “it has literally never been an issue for me”
      Yes, it has been an issue. You’re just used to dealing with it. But clearly you have to put effort, time and money into making it work. I hope you can see where taking on all these precautions as a NEW thing could be burdensome.

      Reply
    25. Lynn

      I’m a trial lawyer. Courtroom table provide no privacy. So when there are jurors in the room, I have to pay attention to my posture, leg placement, etc. Of course I’m wearing a skirt suit because you never know who will judge me unfairly if wearing pants. Legs covered, but because I’ve got sensitive skin I have to wear cotton tights instead of nylons so I don’t itch until my skin bleeds. And boy do those tights get warm in the summer. That’s in addition to my facial expression, tone of voice, and how I move around the courtroom. It is SO. DARN. EXHAUSTING. for the 6-7 hours a day your in that courtroom. Both mentally and physically. I cannot imagine being required to have a similar level of focus on my physical being when I’m just in my office doing work.

      Men complaint about women getting to wear skirts when they have to wear a suit, but once they’re dressed, men don’t have to concern themselves with runs, a skirt riding up, static cling, etc.

      Reply
      1. sap

        It’s funny how men are always complaining that women “get” to wear skirts but don’t ask to wear them themselves. If it looks so much more comfortable to them, why don’t they try it?

        Because it doesn’t actually look more comfortable to them.

        Reply
    26. Misc

      “I also make sure I keep my ankles together/crossed when I sit”

      That’s actually really bad for your overall posture. It does bad things to your hips collapsing them inwards constantly and increases the chance of back pain because it refers ss up your spine. While some people will get away with it, it certainly shouldn’t be required.

      Reply
    27. Amanda

      It is clearly an issue and we know that because the LW wrote in and told us it is an issue. As a number of people have said above, nothing in the letter indicates that the LW does not know how to dress professionally.

      Reply
  4. chersy

    OP #5, you’re very kind to do that! I used to work in a call center handling credit cards and bank transactions, and the verbal abuse I got from frustrated and angry clients can really, really get to you! We would usually get at least a hundred calls a day, and most clients are either angry or indifferent, and no matter how hard we try to pacify them and resolve their concern, some people are just so toxic. Compliments, on the other hand, are quite rare (usually one or two out of a hundred or so calls!). Whenever I get one for doing my job well or even a nice comment on my “smiling” voice, it really makes a whole world of difference! We really appreciate a little thanks or feedback because it makes our day, and lets us know also how we should continue doing things.

    Reply
    1. Mel

      Not a call center, but the manager of my favorite lunch place carries gas cards and grocery store gift cards in her pockets for any complements her staff gets. She told us she doesn’t always wait for a customer to tell her something, if she sees it, she will give the gift card on the spot, and if another staff member passes along something positive they both get something (she said it is usually extra break time). But I always made sure I passed along my thanks there, because I knew there was a chance that they could get something. (I mean even a $5-$10 gas card can take a little pressure off a tight budget.)

      Reply
    2. SusanIvanova

      OK, y’all have convinced me to do the survey for the insurance company that’s been sitting in my mailbox since Monday. The *last* person I talked to was very helpful. If only it hadn’t taken being transferred to the wrong place 3 times to get to her…

      Reply
      1. Kara

        Please be aware that at many companies, anything less than the highest score is considered a failure. So unless you get absolutely terrible service, you should always give the highest rating. It is so disheartening to get a “Very Good” (4 out of 5 at my company) because the customer was obviously happy with you, but it counts against you. These ratings often affect raises and promotions.

        Reply
        1. Deb B.

          Where I work surveys customers and asks questions on a scale of 1-10 and the team needs an average score of 92 percent at any given time to be “acceptable”. So, if every customer rated every question a 9 out of 10, that wouldn’t be acceptable. And PLEASE, don’t ding the rep for something beyond their control like company policy, being short staffed, business hours. Rating the rep 5 out of 10 for wait time because you think they will hire more people doesn’t work. Telling the manager that the reps are working very hard and could use more help would be better (That is if the wait was truly too long. Some people just expect not to have to wait, period.)

          Reply
    3. Djuna

      +1000.
      I spent a little over ten years of my working life in CS phone jobs, and can vouch for a call with someone like OP#5 turning my day (or my week!) around.
      Also, positive comments on post-call surveys – since these are often used as a performance metric.
      Kindness like that can make a real difference, and its value can’t be overstated.

      Reply
    4. Traveling Teacher

      Wow, I’m really shocked to hear just how bad it can get! I’m not surprised that there are so many angry people, I suppose, but *that* many angry people versus kind people already leaves a bad taste in my mouth!

      I always thank the rep I talk with, personally, even if they haven’t been very helpful for me, but now I’ll go the extra mile to do the survey–I saw those as impacting general company metrics, not individuals. It had never occurred to me that that could have an impact for the person on the other end of the line!

      Reply
      1. Jaintenn

        My spouse is a supervisor in a call center that provides customer service for a contract company. There seems to be nothing that will have more impact on the individual agent than that post call survey. So, by all means, express your pleasure verbally to the agent and their supervisor, but please do not neglect the survey.

        Reply
      2. tangerineRose

        I think that there are multiple reasons for this. People are usually already upset when they call, the callers are talking to strangers who they aren’t likely to need to interact with again, and the callers probably perceive the support people as being fairly powerless.

        I’m always nice to the rep I talk with too. It isn’t their fault that the problem exists, and I like to treat people decently.

        Reply
    5. On Fire

      I was having some kind of tech problem with a phone and used the chat function on the cell provider’s website to get help. At the end, I thanked the person who had helped me and told them I hoped their supervisor could see the chat log, because I wanted the supervisor to know that I was very happy and the CSR was great. Anyone know whether chat logs are monitored like calls?

      Reply
      1. Lisa B

        I spent 10 years in a call center for major telecommunications, in variety of roles. From the rep side, hearing a compliment can absolutely turn your day around. Most people are calling because they are upset, so getting verbally beat down for 8 hours is a lot to take. (“YOU PEOPLE…..” *shudder*)

        Customer quotes do regularly show up in a rep’s performance review, so YES, send compliments. Compliments also carry more weight than complaints. If a manager takes one angry call about a rep, it’s taken with a huge grain of salt, because often the customer is upset at something the rep can’t do anything about. “I’m sorry the POWER OUTAGE has left you unable to watch your television, and that I can’t control the weather….” “I’m sorry I can’t get a repair technician out within the next 12 hours….” But a COMPLIMENT is usually because of the rep’s direct actions or behavior. Criticisms of a rep don’t often reflect on the review unless it’s a pattern, but a single instance of a great compliment can be included in a formal review.

        Also, chat logs are sometimes reviewed, but they would be randomly selected and monitored for QC purposes just like a call would. So if a rep does 250 customer connections a week, either phone calls or chat logs, maybe one or 2 of them get pulled for a QC and scored. The odds of your contact getting pulled are pretty low.

        Customer service is a very very thankless job. Please, if you can, always give feedback on positive experiences. They make someone’s day. And don’t assume the supervisor will be too busy- a rep will find SOMEONE to listen to your compliment and make sure it gets to their boss- a different supervisor, the floor senior, anybody.

        Reply
        1. k.k

          And it’s so rare that a customer will go out of their way to ask for a manager and take the time to make a compliment. Usually the happy customers just go along on their happy way, and only the horrible yelling customers are demanding a manager. So it carries even more weight.

          When I worked in customer service and was on the verge of burn out loosing it, one little compliment could give me fuel to make it through a whole week. It really makes the world of difference.

          Reply
        2. Changed

          In my time working in a call centre role focused on taking escalations, I must have spoken to thousands of customers, and before I got the supervisor role it must have been tens of thousands.

          I encountered positive escalations exactly three times, twice where I was the one they wanted to give feedback on and once where I was the manager taking the feedback, and it made my day every time.

          Al that rarity, and this was while working for a company famed for excellent customer service, where I’d regularly get customers being shocked at how quickly and easily we sorted their issue out. (My favourite type of customer is the one who’s used to speaking to power companies and internet providers, and is ready to fight tooth and nail to get what they want. Then you just say “sure thing, I’ve done that now” and it’s like you can hear the air rushing out as they deflate.)

          When you ask to speak to a call centre employee’s manager, it’s probably quite unlikely that you actually will speak to the person directly above them in the org chart, but you’ll definitely speak to someone that’s got a bit of vertical advantage. That person will almost certainly move heaven and earth to get the feedback to the phone-answerer’s actual manager though.

          Definitely don’t neglect the survey though! The stats on that are the only quality-related thing the agent is judged on. The non-quality things are usually calls per hour or handle time, and there’s sometimes a record of how many times they’ve made an exception to policy. If you want one way to quantify how good a call centre is in general, for both staff and customers, it’s how they weigh these things.

          Reply
    6. Aaron

      Yeah, this can be a really good thing to do. For example, I know some of the airlines have a corporate rewards program to reward employees who receive positive feedback. As someone who flies a lot, I know that there’s a huge range of customer service with US carriers, from exceptional to miserable, and mostly in between. It feels good to help out those who go above and beyond and show them it’s appreciated, especially because there’s a very good chance the next person that support agent is talking to is going to literally be screaming at them about their cancelled flight/etc.

      Reply
    7. calonkat

      OP #5, I second continuing. I always try to take the time to talk to a manager of any place I feel I’ve gotten exceptional customer service (and I count getting my needs fulfilled quickly, efficiently, and with a smile as exceptional these days…) I’ve spoken to managers at fast food, retail stores, and many, many call centers.

      I try to always be polite myself, and I know the person who is on the phone/at the customer service desk is not generally the person who caused my problem. I figure if I’m willing to complain about BAD service, I have an obligation to compliment GOOD service as well. And honestly, I seem to get much more good service than bad :)

      Reply
    8. SystemsLady

      I’ve received some very complimentary feedback this way, and once won a quarterly award with a gift card attached to it because of an email sent to my boss. Both bosses and employees appreciate this!

      Reply
    9. libbeth

      I have a friend who is a supervisor at a call center and getting those calls is a bright spot for her, too, since she’s more often dealing with correcting or reprimanding. Knowing one of her team members did well, and getting to pass that praise along to them, is pleasant for her as a manager and good for morale overall. So yes, I’d say keep doing it, especially because it makes it more likely that person will get good shifts and all.

      Reply
    10. ThatGirl

      I agree. I work in a customer-facing role, we’re not a typical call center and there no bonuses or gift cards or anything for customer ratings, but it’s still nice to hear that we’ve really helped, done a great job, etc and have that passed along to our team lead.

      Reply
    11. BeepBoop

      I worked at a call center for a VERY well known cable, internet, wireless provider. While telling managers how great we did is wonderful in the moment and can make you (the rep) feel great, it doesn’t affect our performance review at all. In most cases it honestly comes down to those stupid surveys you do after the interaction, like an online survey or if they call you later to ask how we did. If we got all 5’s – YAY you won’t be in the hot seat, but if you even got just one four – or god forbid anything less than a four- then our quota wasn’t met, you were put on PIP, and your paycheck would be cut in half.

      Side note, always call on Mondays – better access to discounts.

      Reply
    12. PersephoneUnderground

      Yes, OP #5, keep doing this! And others, please do this in retail and other customer service jobs as well- it makes a real difference! You’ll earn your place in heaven!

      I’ve made a point of writing an email to management at retail places where I got great service with the name of the person who helped me, and gotten really happy responses. Try to jot down the name of the person (or it might be on your receipt if the person rang you up, or you can give them other receipt info like the transaction number, date, time, and register number, so they can look up who it was) and write a quick email to the corporate division or store email address. They normally only get complaints sent to corporate, a customer taking the time to send positive feedback can make a big difference. If you don’t have time for that, stop by the store’s customer service desk and ask how you can leave positive feedback there for an employee.

      Reply
    13. Rebecca in Dallas

      I used to be a customer service manager and I loved it when customers went out of their way to compliment the service they got! Generally if a customer got referred to me, it was because they were upset about something. It was so refreshing to hear about a good experience! And I always made sure to reward the customer service associate. (At the time we had $5 gift cards we could give as service awards plus a pin, funnily enough my associates always seemed more excited about the pin! They’d collect them on their name badges.)

      Reply
    14. myswtghst

      Yes, OP #5, please keep doing this! In the call centers I support, customer compliments made to a manager mean at minimum an email to the team to recognize the employee, and often lead to additional (monetary) recognition. It also is just a nice thing to hear when you’re dealing with angry customers and sob stories all day.

      Reply
    15. Elizabeth West

      I used to take ads for a shopping paper and I received a few notes from customers praising me for the job I did helping them. It was a little thing, but it made my day. It also made my boss appreciate me more. So by all means, do it! :)

      Reply
    16. Rocketship

      Just adding my voice to the chorus of “YES!” in this comment thread. Almost my entire career has been spent in high-burnout thankless jobs like this – food service, retail, call center, etc. – and it’s absolutely true that it’s just a daily barrage of anger and recrimination. Not only that, but the employee in those situations can literally lose their job for being anything other than polite and kind and smiling and helpful in the face of screaming and name-calling. And the times when a customer is being completely unreasonable and the employee tries to set some sort of boundary? A good portion of the time they know the customer is going to ask for a manager, who will just override the employee to shut the customer up. Which has the double effect of making that employee look incompetent and/or difficult, AND teaching this customer that rudeness and anger are the way to get what they want. So… yeah. A little compliment can go a long way.

      My last such job was a call center for an online retailer with an unusual setup that meant deep discounts but extra-long shipping times. The amount of vitriol I received over things completely outside my control on a daily basis was extraordinary. I’ve been called every name in the book and a few new ones besides. I’ve had to take the headset away from my ear so the volume of yelling wouldn’t damage my hearing. And I’ve had to learn how to stay calm through it all and say “I understand, I want to help” etc etc etc.

      There are only two things that made me cry: one was a woman who called up weeping and saying she felt like a monster because the clothes she ordered were too small (to this day I think about her, hope she’s okay, and regret not sending her a link to a suicide help line)… and the time a manager shared a recording with me of glowing praise a customer had passed along about my interaction with them. Ever since then, I always go out of my way to pass along good feedback when warranted (even if the interaction was just good, and not amazing). I even do this in restaurants from time to time – although I always feel bad asking for a manager, because in the restaurant industry it’s even more rare to give good feedback to a manager than in call centers. There’s always a brief moment of panic until I assure them it’s because they did a good job.

      Reply
      1. SarahKay

        Seconded to the awfulness of call centres. I’ve been lucky enough to escape them (done retail and restaurants, though) but my sister spend about four months working in one.
        She then moved to become a cell attendant at the local police station and said it was the biggest change in job satisfaction ever.
        The joy of going from a job where you had to remain relentlessly professional and polite and helpful regardless of the unreasonableness of the customer, to one where, in the face of unreasonableness you could tell them to stop, and if that failed you could (and should) just shut the cell door and *walk away*! She said, also, when sober, most of those being locked up were politer than the call-centre customers because she and her co-workers were the ones who could give them a light for their cigarettes. (This was back before smoking indoors in workplaces became illegal throughout the UK).

        Reply
    17. Charlotte Collins

      Yes! Let them know either during the call or in writing. It means a lot, and even if there aren’t bonuses involved, it can help the employee at review time or when the management is looking for people to promote.

      I worked in a call center years ago and then trained CSRs for a few years. (We did phone and written correspondence for a government benefit.) A beneficiary once wrote a letter to the company detailing how people had helped him with his issues and included names of everybody who had helped him. Since I had answered a letter from him (too complex to give new trainees), my name was on it, and my manager gave me a copy with my name highlighted.

      I still have the photocopy.

      Reply
  5. TL -

    OP1: I’ve been in a similar situation and it’s so very frustrating! I talked to our manager about it, which was very helpful for me because I then could catalogue it as “not my problem” no matter how inept my coworker was. (I also didn’t feel guilty about taking over duties, but that was more the nature of the work; some things were too important to let him mess up.)

    One other thing that helped was I sat him down and said, “I expect you to learn most protocols by observing and taking notes once, doing it once with close supervision, and then doing it a third time with loose supervision (with a reasonable amount of flexibility.) You are not doing that and that is a problem.” He responded that his expectation was to watch at least 4 times, never take notes, and gradually do more as he felt comfortable – so he truly did not understand how far behind he actually was by our standards. So having that conversation was a big eye-opener for both of us.

    You might have a similar conversation with her -“I expected you to reasonably familiar with Word, Google, and Program by X weeks. It’s been Y weeks and you’re not, and I do not have the time to train you more extensively, nor do I have the time to continuously answer questions. If I don’t see an improvement by X/I haven’t seen an improvement, so I am going to bring my concerns to Manager, because I can’t provide the support you need.”

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      I think also that one of the frustrations with Jane may be that – like your guy who wanted to never take notes – she isn’t really taking responsibility for the situation. Maybe she thinks it’s better to try to hide the problem than admit she has a major training need, but the passive aggressive huffing and sighing isn’t helping.

      Letter writer, I suggest you give yourself permission to ignore it when Jane sighs and announces that she’s stuck. At the moment, that is working for her as it results in you helping her – but it’s okay not to do it. Aside from talking to her manager as Alison suggests, I think it might also be worth telling her that you have limited capacity to help and that you can talk to her twice a week for 15 minutes (or whatever you can fit in) so she needs to prioritise how she uses that time. And then stick to that, even if it means cutting her off halfway through a question. Maybe ask her to tell you what questions she has and say you have time for three (or whatever you have time for) and she needs to pick.

      And if she tells you again that she doesn’t have time to take those courses, you could point out that you are both spending x hours on this and that you would like her to devote some of that time to doing training instead. If you want to, you could say that these courses might seem daunting but that they’ll help her feel more confident and get more out of any time you do spend helping her.

      Reply
    2. Jesca

      Yes, and the question by LW#1 is actually why I love AAM so much. These are things that happen over and over yet once we find ourselves in them, we get stuck in our minds as what we should do! I will come on here and search sometimes when I am stuck on something that then seems so obvious.

      But in a broader stroke, your story and the OPs reminds me of the importance of communication the expectation of the training to the trainee up front with timelines and expectations given. This in the pas has helped reduced the dependency thing that seems to happen with some people once they start. They know where they need to be when given the timeline and expectations and therefore will work on their own enough to get there. Also, it doesn’t come as a shock later to the trainee when you have to let management know training is beginning to lag behind.

      Reply
      1. Rachel01

        1. How can I get a coworker to take computer classes?
        Then HR & management needs to evaluate the wording used in the job posting. OP, did the job posting and/or the interview state that basic computer skills were required? If so, the employee slipped through the hiring process. I have had interviews ask how comfortable I am with the software, and I state yes. That is the end of it. If those questions were asked during, the interview and she stated or led the interview committee to believe she had the experience that is grounds for immediate dismissal.
        Many times, we do not want to be the barrier of bad news. Employers assume that individuals have experience with Microsoft Office. To me, I think she is not qualified and should be let go. You do not want to spend a good portion of your working hours training someone on basic skills. Many temporary agencies offer on-line training on software package for their employees. She might need to go that route or take classes to bring her skills up to the standard level.

        Reply
      2. myswtghst

        “But in a broader stroke, your story and the OPs reminds me of the importance of communication the expectation of the training to the trainee up front with timelines and expectations given. “

        Such a great point! I train call center new hires, and one of the things I do from day one is to be as clear as possible about the fact that I cannot teach them every possible issue they’ll see, but I can teach them the basics, and I will teach them how to find the answers for all the other weird stuff that comes up. I still have people who, at the end, get huffy that “no one ever taught me this!” but it helps to be able to say “I get that, but that’s why you have these resources that we reviewed in depth – so you can find the answer.”

        Reply
      1. myswtghst

        I had a coworker at a previous job who always marveled at my technical skills, and never seemed to believe me when I told him that 98% of it was Google. At this point, it’s really rare to have a computer problem/question that no one has ever had and posted about on the internet, so Google is a great starting point.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth H.

          So my recent observation is that knowing how to Google things for best results is becoming a skill itself! I feel like this has become much more of a thing as their search algorithms have changed over time. I frequently find myself when my manager and I are working together, suggesting specific search terms to use (Including for tech support type stuff). Wonder how much thought others put into this.

          Reply
          1. Triumphant Fox

            I definitely feel that googling is a technique in itself – mainly because I see when it fails. My last manager once asked me how I would search for “Major publications CFOs read in the Teapot industry” and I was so confused by the question at first, but he literally wanted to know what search terms I would put into Google. I replied, “Major publications CFOs read in the Teapot industry” and he was blown away – such brilliance. So much of that job was me constantly googling the alphabet soup that is the teapot industry/ every term of art people would use in meetings because I had no background in anything related to that job.

            Reply
    3. DJ Roomba

      It sounds to me like the real problem here is that Jane is not qualified for her job. Computer work is a key component of this role (as it is for many other roles) and she doesn’t have the necessary skills. So while I like TL’s recommendation, I worry that saying “I expected you to be reasonably familiar with Word, Google, and Program by X weeks…” implies that teaching Jane how to use Word & Google is part of the job. It’s not.

      Perhaps OP is reluctant to mention this to the boss because she doesn’t want to get Jane fired. There are plenty of places I’ve worked that wouldn’t hesitate to let someone go if they lacked these skills. If that IS the case, I’d advise OP1 to have an honest and frank conversation with Jane about how critical it really is to learn these skills.

      Reply
      1. Bea

        This is my thought as well. Jane probably embellished skillset or most likely the hiring manager never thought she needed to ask about basic computer knowledge. She cannot function in her job and isn’t interested at fixing it for some reason.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Yes, I don’t think it’s wise to automatically assume everyone is computer literate. Even younger people–though a lot of times, we assume it’s older workers who don’t have those skills. There are a myriad of reasons why they may not have learned it.

          Reply
          1. Triumphant Fox

            Or learned it to the degree they need to. So many college grads come in with no clue about the finer points of Excel (the number of times I have taught someone what a new sheet is in…), PowerPoint or Word. Often, they weren’t formally taught these programs but learned to do them as part of different school projects, which can lead to really varied knowledge.

            Reply
            1. Deb B.

              Absolutely. Nowadays everyone is told not to put knowledge of things like Microsoft Office on their resume because EVERYONE knows it and it is just assumed. Wrong! I remember being asked to give a presentation to several dozen employees because I did a task particularly well. In all honesty, it was VERY basic excel. But apparently that was more than many of the employees knew. And sadly, that is all they could do after my presentation. After all, it was only 10-15 minutes. Not a class. They could do what I did for THAT task. I think that is how a lot of us have learned. I know there are holes in my learning. But, sadly, my moderate(at best, I am working on it) skills make me a computer genius to many of my family and friends.

              Reply
      2. Anon and on and on

        Here’s the thing OP, you are there to teach her how to make a sandwich, not how to make bread – much less how to open the bread bag and the mayo jar. Every time.
        I think you need to kick it upstairs because she’s finding Jane is not trying. This has gone beyond, “she only knows how to open and close a file,” into “she wants me to walk her through something step by step and sighs and huffs when I ask her to try it herself first.”

        Reply
      3. sap

        Seconding having an honest and frank conversation with Jane as step 1. It doesn’t have to be “learn this or I’ll escalate it to the boss and you might get fired,” but “you’ve stated several times that you don’t know how to use a search engine to find answers and don’t want to take a computer class. However, I was asked to train you how to do x, y, and z, which require that you know how to do a, b, and c already; in this role, you are expected to know a, b, and c already. I wasn’t asked to teach you a, b, and c, and doing so would amount to taking on an additional project, which would be something I will need to discuss with my/our boss to make room for on my plate. How does that sound to you?”

        I think you’ll probably need to escalate Jane’s skills gap anyway, but it really does sound like right now Jane thinks that it’s reasonable that she doesn’t know these things and that you were actually assigned to teach these things to her, and she might be a lot more proactive about figuring them out on her own if she knew you weren’t actually supposed to be helping her learn them as part of the training process.

        I also think it’s reasonable to escalate this without the conversation, but it sounds like LW doesn’t want to get Jane in trouble if Jane’s problem is just that she doesn’t realize she is making requests outside the scope of what LW is expected to handle as a trainer, and an easy way to check whether that’s what’s going on is for LW to tell Jane she’s asking for training outside what LW is expected to give.

        Reply
    4. Turquoisecow

      Every time I’ve been a trainer, my boss (and sometimes others) have periodically asked me how the new person was coming along. I tried to be positive in the first report, but by the end of a week or so, I can usually tell whether this is going to work out or not.

      OP, if your boss isn’t having these check-ins with you (and Jane), you should definitely take he initiative to update them. Chances are, boss is not going to interact with Jane half as much as you are, and would appreciate a heads up if, for example, it takes Jane twice as long to complete tasks that others do, or she needs significant hand holding, and this slows down your work.

      A few years ago, I had a coworker who was only slightly more skilled than Jane on computer tasks. I pointed out this deficiency several times, but unfortunately nothing was done. The company also offered Excel and Word classes to its employees, with the idea that we could use these skills to help us with our jobs, as well as professionally develop. (It didn’t really help this coworker.) However, there’s a limit to that. As someone else said above, it’s not your job to teach Jane basic computer skills that are presumably a requirement of her job.

      Reply
      1. Kate 2

        Honestly this is why I wish more companies would require skills testing between the resume and interview stages. It puts less of a burden on the applicant to figure out what the company wants (e.g. intermediate Word skills) and more on the company to be sure the candidate isn’t lying/confused (Can you create a basic Excel spreadsheet?)

        Reply
  6. Diamond

    For the desks, how about attaching fabric to the back of them? I’m thinking a strip of fabric attached to the back of the desk with those stick-on velcro strips. A lot easier and cheaper than replacing all the desks and you can work around the cables.
    It had never occurred to me before that that’s what the panels on the back of desks are for!

    Reply
    1. Knitting Cat Lady

      Heh, I’ve never had a desk with a panel at the back!

      And those few desks I’ve seen with panels I always thought they were a design element to look pretty!

      Reply
      1. Diamond

        I just checked my desk and it doesn’t have one, ha. No one can look up my skirt though. I thought they were just to look pretty too!

        Reply
      2. Wendy Darling

        I had legit never heard the term “modesty panel” before — I also thought it was a design element.

        None of my desks have had any such thing except the giant three-ton ones from the 1960s we had in all the offices when I was in grad school, and I just assumed it was cheaper or prettier to have the board covering the backs of the drawers cover the entire back of the desk! I’ve also never worked somewhere that skirts were super common, though — mostly I’ve worked in blue-jeans kind of places.

        Reply
        1. Mookie

          Same. It’s proof that a functional aspect of design doesn’t have to kick you in the teeth to serve a need. They’re so invisible to me that it never occurred to me why they was there, and now they end up looking quite aesthetically pleasing to me.

          Reply
          1. Charlotte Collins

            They aren’t used if the desk is meant to be against a wall. (Sometimes – I have a very old computer desk –
            the kind with the space for a CPU and one of the huge old tube monitors – with one – even though nobody I’ve ever known with one of those desks put it anywhere *except* against a wall, because they were functional pieces of furniture that nobody thought looks nice.)

            Reply
    2. Landshark

      The idea of “modesty curtains” isn’t bad, but I fear it risks being a fire hazard. Still, some form of alternative solution along these lines may be helpful for OP2 and her co-workers as a suggestion to bring to the table in case their workplace won’t budge on the new desks.

      Reply
    3. Laura

      I came here to suggest exactly this temporary solution. It clearly won’t look as nice as desks that have an actual modesty panel, but would be easy enough to do. It would be a much cheaper solution for your company to pay for if they’re refusing to buy new desks. You can also encourage them to do it to all the desks with the same fabric so that they match, otherwise it could become a very colorful office if you each bring in your own fabric.

      Depending on the temperature of the office, something I’ve done in the past is bring a large shawl to use as a lap blanket. I started out doing this in an office that was super cold in the summer and learned that it had an added benefit of allowing me to not have to pay so much attention to how I was positioning my legs when wearing a skirt. If your office is warm, this wouldn’t be a good option, but I’m guessing if they didn’t think of women in selecting desks, they aren’t thinking of women with the thermostat either.

      Reply
    4. The Cosmic Avenger

      Yeah, while it’s not something the OP should have to take care of herself, as a practical matter I was thinking a large piece of light cloth held down by whatever is heaviest on your desk. (For example ,I have paperweights and large mugs on my desk.) A summer wrap or shawl (something wider than a normal winter scarf) might do, or even a tablecloth. They should have cheap, unpatterned, neutral-colored plastic or paper temporary tablecloths at a party store, or online.

      I’ll bet that 1) the management in this case is male, and 2) if there was a kilt-wearing Scotsman in the office, the male management would suddenly take this a lot more seriously!

      Reply
      1. Ella

        “Dear Alison, We have these new desks at work that do not have modesty panels, and every time I bend down to plug in my laptop, I can see up the kilt of my traditional Scottish coworker. He does not like to wear underpants with his kilt, nor does he cross his ankles. What should I do?”

        Reply
      2. Ghost Town

        The story goes that at another building on our campus this wasn’t initially addressed till summer, when the (male) tech staff were wearing loose fitting shorts with no underwear. They got modesty panels installed.

        Reply
    5. LCL

      Fabric yes. Or, I was thinking the more rigid plasticy foam core stuff, like what campaign signs are made of. They are lightweight enough that between Velcro and zip ties you could provide some concealment. And for bending over to plug something in, buy yourself a good quality power strip to keep at the desk.

      Reply
    6. A.

      My former coworker did something similar to her office door. It was made of glass so she covered it with wrapping paper so she would be able to have privacy to breast feed. Another option would be to place a summer wrap or shawl across your lap.

      Reply
    7. Student

      Make it a (sturdy) poster with some company thingy on it (motto, latest initiative, logo, whatever works for you guys). Then it’s a lot harder for somebody to look at it and complain about aesthetics.

      Reply
    8. Betsys

      My first thought – go to the dollar store and get some nice big tablecloths. You can tape them to the back of the desk or arrange them tablecloth style. If the whole office does it , it will be a dramatic statement.

      Also it’s never impossible to attach a back to a desk, if you have an electric drill and a little creativity. Even if there are cable tie tidies there.

      If all else fails, something can be put on the *inside* of the desks. Some sort of clips attached to the cable run, holding a curtain rod. Or a small tensioned curtain rod. Or just a small easel or whiteboard.

      I bet if you post a picture of both the outside of the desk and the view from the chair side, looking up towards the back, you’ll get a lot of good ideas
      (and work should pay for any hardware!)

      If you work in a biggish company, the folks in the maintenance department may have some good creative ideas.

      (you know what’s really cheap ? Halloween wall decorations. I once papered my cube with a fake stone wall for halloween)

      Reply
  7. MilkMoon (UK)

    LW5: On behalf of customer service and call centre employees and managers everywhere, THANK YOU. Please, absolutely do give good feedback and know it’s really making both the employee & manager’s days.

    You are correct in your assumption that we deal with a lot of awful people and their poor manners and/or poor opinion of customer service representatives – it’s a really draining job. Basically we get verbally abused a lot for things that aren’t our fault – some people evidently believe we’re paid to be punchbags.

    I do get a lot of good feedback from customers while on calls ‘You’ve been wonderful’ etc, which is lovely of course and I’m not knocking it at all, but unless that’s picked-up in a call quality session it doesn’t *really* get much further. Customers who compliment you directly to the manager or send an email in to that effect do give us good, quantifiable feedback for our work reviews.

    Reply
    1. Gen

      Yes! They might also use those calls for review since they’ve already pulled the records which can be very handy in getting the callhandler a better score overall. Similarly if you’re happy but not so ecstatic that you want a manager do take the review at the end if you’re offered one- it’s often a button push 1-5/1-10 rating. Some places track the refusals as a midlevel score even if the customer verbally stated that they were delighted with the callhandler

      Reply
      1. Karma

        It’s worth noting also that some companies (such as the one I work at) place anything below an 8 out of 10 as a ‘neutral’ score. A lot of people would only give 10/10 if they got exceptional service where the person went way above and beyond but personally, as long as I got everything I needed and the person helping me was friendly I always give them a 19.

        Reply
    2. Loz

      We have managers positive customer feedback on our internal “Facebook-like” site. CSRs get recognition (not sure about $) but yeah! Make it known. Everyone wins, right?

      Reply
      1. The Cosmic Avenger

        When I was supervising a call center, we used to document every time a customer emailed or talked to a supervisor, and that feedback was all considered when it was time for the employee’s review. I always ask for a supervisor now when I’ve had someone who was more helpful or nicer than I expected.

        I will say to the OP, though, not every call center is like that. If the CSR balks or says they can’t and they’ve truly been exceptional, ask them if there is any way you could give them positive feedback. They may ask you to do a survey or even write an email or letter. I know those are more effort, but if you really want to help, it’s important to listen to what actually helps and what doesn’t. Even if there is no way that feedback will help them professionally, you’ll have definitely given them a huge boost by offering. And that’s even more important to do when it’s the kind of workplace that does not care about positive feedback or commendations.

        Reply
        1. myswtghst

          Yes to your second paragraph! The majority of the time it’s no problem for our reps to grab a manager, but if everyone is busy / in a meeting, it helps if the customer is open to sending in an email instead.

          Reply
    3. BK

      Yes, this! LW5 please continue to do this, it is rare and makes someone’s day. Where I worked in a call centre (IT support working for giant company, with another giant company’s employees as our clients), we weren’t allowed to get managers on the line, but an email asking for feedback was sent out after each call. Most people of course only thought to send it back if they had a complaint – which made the positive ones all the more special. Among all the quantifiable ratings we received based on a bunch of metrics (call length, number of calls taken, ‘first call fixes” etc) something subjective like this feels more real because this tells us we are good at helping YOU, and not just at maximizing our employer’s income.

      Reply
    4. Mabel

      Should I still do this if the employee may have broken/bent a rule to help me? I don’t want to get the person in trouble when I really want to appreciate them! I recently brought my dogs to doggie daycare for overnight boarding three hours after they closed (I thought they were open later on that day). The person who was there watching the dogs happened to walk by the front window as I ran up the door, and she let me drop off my dogs for their overnight stay. I REALLY appreciated it! But I was worried if I said anything, the manager might be upset that she opened the door after hours. In that kind of situation, I’m not sure what to do. (In that particular situation, it turns out that she told the daytime staff because they mentioned it to me the next day, so I guess it was OK for her to do that, but if they hadn’t said anything, I wouldn’t have known.)

      Reply
      1. SarahKay

        I still give the compliment, but phrase it a little more non-specifically. E.g. ‘Jane at Doggie Daycare was very helpful and friendly and it’s great to be able to leave my dogs with a company that has such a wonderful employee’.

        Reply
    5. Aurion

      I once was buying a new hard drive for my computer and had a really nice (ran into him twice; first time when I bought the drive and second time when I exchanged it because I was a moron and bought it in the wrong size). I sent some positive feedback through the store website (it allowed me to select the store I was at), noted the rep’s name and rough time I met him, and went on my way.

      Several months later, I ran into the guy at an evening class I was taking. He remembered me and we became friends (I haven’t talked to him in a while, but we were in regular contact for several months to a year, and whenever I stopped by his store I’d ask if he was in and we’d chat for a few minutes). I’m pretty damn sure that it was my feedback that made him remember me that night at the class; at a store that size, each CSR probably helps dozens of customers a day.

      Feedback makes a difference, all. :)

      Reply
  8. MilkMoon (UK)

    LW3: It’s not normal, and it’s not naive to assume and expect that you will be treated with respect at a job interview, or anywhere for that matter.

    As Alison said, one good thing you can take from that experience is that he was so upfront about being a jerk, and taught you what you won’t accept from an interviewer in future!

    Reply
  9. Landshark

    OP5, my husband works in insurance sales over the phone at [big insurance company], and people rarely do what you do, even if they rave about him on his line. The managers usually love hearing it, and it can make a CSR/sales rep/other person who has to field phone calls from often rude people’s day. Keep it up!

    Reply
    1. Corky's wife Bonnie

      Plus a lot of times when they get these complimentary calls from people, the manager may make a note of that and put it in their file for review time!

      Reply
  10. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

    I’ve been sitting at a desk in a relatively public area in numerous jobs and I’ve never NOT had a modesty panel. While it’s easy to think that skirt wearers are the ones most impacted, I think you’ll find that most men don’t want to think that coworkers and customers are staring at their crotches either.

    Reply
    1. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)

      * over a 40 year career in mostly conservative industries (banking, finance, insurance, engineering).

      Reply
      1. Jesca

        Yes, in industries where you regularly have clients/customers filling out paperwork at your desk, this is not uncommon. In the broader office world, it is not very common at all.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          In the broader office world, it is not very common at all.

          This hasn’t been my experience at all. Every office I’ve seen with floating desks (as opposed to desks against a wall or cubicle) has had a panel on the back of the desk.

          Reply
          1. Jesca

            LOL no. I misread the initial comment where they said they did NOT have a modesty panel. So flip what I said haha. As in: In environments where signing at one’s desk is common, having no modesty panels is not uncommon. In a general working environment, it is very common to have modesty panels.

            Reply
        2. Health Insurance Nerd

          “In the broader office world, it is not very common at all.” This is not correct. I work in a company of more than 2000 people. We do not have clients in our offices, and the desks are equipped with a privacy panel as a standard issue.

          Reply
    2. Elsajeni

      Yeah, I rarely wear skirts, but I’d still hate to have a desk without a modesty panel — I just don’t want to have to think about whether my legs and feet are posed in a “professional” sort of way all the time! Give me my modesty panel and let me tuck one leg under me like a flamingo in peace.

      Reply
      1. zora

        I also want to be able to have stuff under my desk without it looking messy or everyone being able to see it! I keep an extra pair of shoes under my desk for the days it’s raining and I wear rainboots on my commute. I would hate the cluttered messiness of seeing under everyone’s desks, the modesty panels make the office look tidier and more uniform.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth H.

          This is the #1 reason I think the back of desk panel is so important. I keep so much stuff under my desk and I also have a file cabinet under my desk that is shorter than the desktop, and I keep stuff there like my phone, my coffee cup, my lunch etc. (I often find myself eating part of something then putting it away there then resuming eating it). And shoes. And my backpack sometimes. Having everything like that on display is pretty horrible imo. I completely agree with you about the cluttered messiness of being able to see under desks.

          Reply
          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead

            I hope you haven’t been discouraged by the comments, OP2. I think it sounds like a frustrating situation and would love to hear an update when/if you have one

            Reply
  11. NicoleK

    #1 I work with a Jane. In fact, she trained me when I joined the company and it was one of the worst training experiences I’ve ever had. I’m stuck now as Jane’s de facto IT support. And yes, our boss is aware that Jane has very limited computer skills. Please go to your boss and share your concerns. As her “trainer” your boss should be seeking your feedback anyway.

    #5 Besides speaking with the manager, you can always write a thank you note too. That kind gesture is always appreciated.

    Reply
    1. The Cosmic Avenger

      I had a “Jane” who literally could not click on something when I pointed to it on her screen. She also said the exact opposite of what we trained everyone to say on calls. She wouldn’t have lasted as long as she did if she wasn’t an internal hire! I’ve never forgiven that other division for not warning me about her, that was my first and only PIP I ever had to even threaten, much less implement.

      Reply
      1. Pollygrammer

        Me too! I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for Jane, because it sounds like she knowingly accepted a job she should have known she wasn’t qualified for.

        Reply
      2. Just Jess

        Guess 1: Jane “interviewed very well” and that means there was no testing of actual skills required for the job

        Guess 2: The hiring manager did not have a clear idea of what kind of work Jane’s position would be doing. This sounds unbelievable, but I’ve started noticing that sadly it does happen. Or more generously, the position changes between the time the vacancy is announced and the time the final candidate starts their first day.

        Guess 3: A combo of 1 and 2; the person who picked Jane (not necessarily the hiring manager) didn’t know enough about computer skills to identify her skill gaps

        Reply
        1. DDJ

          Yup! Ended up with a situation due to Number 1. My organization doesn’t do skills testing.

          As it turns out, that’s how you end up with someone who can work in various database systems and has the more complex experience you’re looking for…but doesn’t know how to create or send an email.

          Reply
  12. Snorks

    OP #5, I did that once when I went into a new store. The lady working was just the perfect blend of helpful but not in your face, knowledgeable about their products, etc.
    I made sure to get her name (no name tags, had to ask) and leave feedback on their website. Even better, the State Manager responded saying they liked getting feedback like that and how it will go on her file, etc.
    They’ve got themselves a customer for life.

    Reply
    1. Joan Callamezzo

      I did this once in a dept. store. In about 45 minutes, no fewer than 4 saleswomen cheerfully asked if I was finding what I needed, offered to start a room/show me related items, told me about special promotions, asked me if i needed different sizes, etc. They were friendly and attentive without being overbearing.

      When I brought my items to the counter, I pleasantly asked if I could speak to the manager and everyone froze. The cashier summoned her manager from another floor and, smiling tightly, assured me she was on her way. When the manager arrived I shook her hand, apologized for taking her away from her duties but told her I’d been so impressed with the level of service that I just had to let her know. All the saleswomen sagged in relief and then got very smiley and animated. It was clear this didn’t happen very often. The manager seemed pleased and said she appreciated the feedback, and the rest of the staff, visibly floating on warm fuzzies, practically carried my bags to my car.

      I really should do that more often.

      Reply
      1. Salesforce

        Next time, please make it clear that you aren’t complaining when you ask to see the manager, though! It was a nice thing to do, but those few minutes waiting would have been horrible for the staff.

        Reply
        1. MCMonkeyBean

          Yes, it’s easy not to think of that in the moment but you could probably say something like “the service here has been really great; I’d like to speak with your manager about it!”

          Reply
        2. Joan Callamezzo

          Yeah, it was a couple of minutes before I figured out what was happening, and it took me by surprise, so I hadn’t quite figured out how to address it until the manager was already there. Next time I would definitely frame it differently to be clear I wasn’t planning to complain.

          Reply
      2. Ella

        There’s a music venue in Boston that I go to regularly, enough that I recognize many of the security staff’s faces, especially the bouncers at the front of the stage who catch crowd surfers (I am often one of the people in the front row, getting said crowd surfers dragged off my head). Once after a week of particularly surfer-heavy shows, I tracked down the security manager, and when I asked him if he was the manager and if I could speak to him, I got that same deer-in-the-headlights look, until he realized that what I was doing was thanking his staff for being professional, and strong, and keeping all of us on the front rail safe. The look of gratitude on his face when I was done complimenting his staff was something to remember. I don’t think people ever thank venue staff.

        Reply
      3. Queen Anon

        I thought your comment was going to be a complaint – if four separate salespeople approached me in a short time (or even one person four times), I’d probably put down whatever I had on my hands, leave the store, and never return. You asked me once, thank you. If I need assistance, I promise I’ll let you know. For pity’s sake, please leave me alone and let me shop in peace! Funny how one person’s lovely shopping experience can be another’s worst shopping nightmare. (I know that, unfortunately, sometimes salespeople are required to be intrusive by store policy just like fast-food staff are required to upsell.)

        Reply
        1. Joan Callamezzo

          I understand! I am most definitely not the kind of person who want a salesperson at my elbow all the time–I don’t respond well to hard sells and it can drive me out of a store if they won’t leave me alone. It’s hard to describe, but these ladies were all cheerful and prepared to be helpful but it was more of a brief check-in each time than trailing me around the store shoving garments at me. The whole vibe was friendly but low-key.

          Reply
      4. Elizabeth West

        I did that when I bought a computer from this place that did custom builds. They were so amazing I had to tell the manager. That computer lasted for seven years–I had to take it in for maintenance a few times, but they worked within my budget and were just generally great. I don’t regret taking the time to do that–I think it also made them think of me as a good customer. :)

        Reply
    2. The Cosmic Avenger

      Wegmans will reward their employee with a free lunch when they get named (first name from the nametag and department are enough) in a compliment on a comment card. I’ve written a few of those myself, because employees there seem to be trained to go above and beyond when you ask them anything.

      Reply
    3. Trickle

      Yep, I regularly email companies when I’ve experienced great customer service from them. It’s usually shops or restaurants. It’s so easy to message them on Facebook messenger! When I used to work as a delivery driver for a pizza chain I had three or four customers over the years message our store saying how friendly, helpful, professional I was as a delivery driver (I’d go above and beyond like heading to the random shop nearby to get them several bottles of cold coke if our bag packers had forgotten to include the drink, out of my own cash, rather than make the customer wait while I did a repeat trip for the drink back at the store, so they didn’t have to eat their pizza without their drink and could start eating asap), and for resolving complaints on slow Saturdays (‘she’s wasted as a driver, she should be manager!’).

      They helped me keep my hours in our crappy zero hour contract minimum wage culture, made my bosses love me and think of me when assigning shifts, and made my week to be appreciated for a generally thankless task. I still have copies of those emails now I’m a social worker! I love to pass on decent feedback as I know people normally only get complaints and in a dog eat dog business they can vouch for the employee and raise morale. I know how good I felt so I like to pass it on :)

      Reply
  13. Novocastriart

    Absolutely do it – I manage a team of CSRs and thoroughly appreciate any opportunity to shine a light on team members who are doing a great job. The feedback you give can have a number of positive outcomes for the individual CSR as well as the team as a whole. What I *really* like, is when someone (during the course of our discussion, or prior to speaking with me) asks for my email address, and sends a quick note with their main compliment- as this can be shared more readily – and put on the employees file/notice board/intranet, or whatever is appropriate. Good on you, for recognising someone doing a great job!!

    Reply
  14. Dan

    OP1 —

    This type of question comes up from time to time here, and I find it interesting. I have a technical background — I write software and do data analysis, and have a six figure salary. For the last ten years, the two companies I’ve worked for have been MS Office companies. And let me tell you, at my first job, it was pretty embarrassing how lacking my MS Office skills are. In fact, they suck so bad that I can’t pass the tests temp offices give their prospective staff. (My ex had a take home test, and I looked over her shoulder. I was screwed after the fourth or fifth question in most of the applications, especially Word and Outlook.) At my last job, my first “paper” had something like 80 images, and I didn’t know that there were certain commands that you entered such that they rolled up into the table of contents. Oops. My tech editor laughed at me pretty good.

    Even these days, I work with specialty or niche software, much of which is written in house, or otherwise specific to my field of study. When it comes to MS Office, our admins run circles around me.

    I can’t tell whether your new hire just can’t use a computer at all, or is just unfamiliar with MS Office. If she is lacking skills that you think are generally possessed by most of your applicant pool, I’d spell them out in the job ad, and test/interview for them on the job. (And none of this “intermediate” or “advanced” stuff, please. Spell out the kinds of things that will be needed.)

    When it comes to hiring, assume nothing and screen for the important things. Even in the software world, people who claim to be programmers usually end up doing some light “coding” on a white board during the interview.

    Reply
    1. Myrin

      I actually think it sounds pretty clearly like Jane can’t use a computer at all – the OP actually mentions thinking at first that it’s just Office she’s got problems with, but actually over time came to the conclusion that “Jane is basically computer illiterate”. I think that’s pretty easy to discern usually, especially if you’re the one training the person in question and have been doing so for a certain amount of time.

      Reply
    2. College student

      That’s what I was thinking too. Maybe she’s just a MacOS user (a bad one, but still) and not familiar at all with Windows or MS Office. I’m studying for a career in tech and when I was a helper at a tech workshop that turned out to be run all be on Mac’s… well let’s just say I wasn’t very helpful and looked like I knew nothing about tech. (the workshop wasn’t announced as all MacOS’s; I wouldn’t have signed up if I’d known.)

      Reply
        1. Natalie

          It’s not like it’s free – plenty of people who owns Macs just use the native, free programs rather than buy an extra one. It used to be really expensive, too, although it looks like that’s not the case anymore.

          Reply
      1. London Bookworm

        This is a possibility, although some of the stuff mentioned (like using the close button rather than the file drop-down) are the same on most operating systems.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          That example is one of the key differences, in fact! File->Close doesn’t exit the program in the Mac environment; it just closes out the document. Confuses the heck out of me whenever I need to work in Windows.

          Reply
          1. London Bookworm

            Ha! It’s been a few years since I’ve been a regular Word user – clearly, my memory is starting to fail me.

            Reply
        2. Trig

          I sounds like Jane *does* know some of the very basics, but not the shortcuts. Some of the examples (CTRL+C, close button) are just alternate, more efficient ways to do things. Jane knows one way to do a some things, and is comfortable with that. It’s not wrong to do it the one way you know how, but maybe takes a bit more time, which can be super frustrating for someone who knows the other ways. I work with a lot of Gen-Xers who use the dang file menu for everything! File-Save! File-Close! File-New! Delete and retype an entire sentence to fix a typo! Don’t know about CTRL+arrow to skip over an entire word! It drives me a bit batty, but these are otherwise competent people, and they do their work just fine; and this is just the way they’re used to doing things. I bite my tongue instead of constantly pointing out that there’s a faster way, because that would be super annoying. I’m sure someone ten years my junior knows all kinds of expediencies I don’t at this point.

          That said, I don’t disbelieve that Jane is lacking other basic computer skills, and these were just easy examples the OP could think of. I think the main problem is her unwillingness to experiment and figure it out on her own, which again, is something I’ve noticed in some of my colleagues. They are afraid to screw things up in an irreversible way. But they are ALSO usually fine with Googling it or learning how to do it, which Jane is not.

          So yeah. All that to say, Jane could use a basic course and some prompting from her manager to try and sort it out herself before enlisting other people/LW.

          Reply
          1. ket

            I gotta say, although it’s probably not Jane’s problem, I sympathize with Dan above. As I read I thought, Ctrl-C? Usually that goes with another Ctrl-something to get anything done in Emacs — what are they talking about here?

            It sounds like the refusal to take classes is a big problem. I don’t know Word very well at all, I’m a LaTeX girl, but when I really need to do a big project in an Office application or an Adobe program I have found a structured online class pretty helpful because I don’t even know what I don’t know.

            Reply
          2. LCL

            I never thought of not using the file menu for all those functions. I like it because it is clear what you are doing, and my brain works better with words than pictures. I’m older than Gen X and mostly self taught, for what that’s worth.

            Reply
      2. Elizabeth West

        I’d be lost if I had to work on a Mac. Granted, I could learn it, but not in time to get up to speed on a new job. I avoid any where Mac use is spelled out in the job posting. It’s just not necessary for what I’ve been doing.

        Reply
      3. sap

        Yeah, but… When #1 asked stuff like “have you tried Googling it?” Jane seems to be replying “I don’t know how to Google computer problems.” Which doesn’t make her bad or stupid or too old or anything, but it does make her pretty computer illiterate by reasonable standards, particularly if the thing she needs to Google is “how do I start a new spreadsheet excel” which will get you an answer to BOTH creating a new worksheet and creating a new file, with video guidance for both, within the first 5 results. That’s how you’d ask that question of a person, so it’s not like this is one of those cases where knowing how to Google well is an artform that not everyone has–this is “I don’t know how to use a search engine, at all.” In today’s workplaces, that’s just not computer literate.

        Reply
      4. MM

        Huh. I grew up using Macs but have had to use Windows for work here and there, and while I definitely don’t have the same level of skill and dexterity when using a Windows computer, I don’t think the two interfaces are all that different when you’re doing basic word processing, spreadsheets, and email (which is all you need for many office jobs).

        Reply
    3. MLB

      While she may have a lack of knowledge with MS Office (or computers in general), she also sounds unmotivated to learn. I would be more willing to help someone who takes initiative to learn something new, than someone who expects me to do it for her, or doesn’t get her work done because she doesn’t know how.

      Reply
      1. Pollygrammer

        This seems like the more significant problem. Jane seems borderline-deceptive to me–she should know that constantly relying on other people for her work means she’s not qualified for it, and she should be making every effort to remedy that!

        Reply
    4. Ennigaldi

      I’ve done those temp office tests more often than I care to remember, and they’re always on like Office 97 and only allow you to do things one particular way (i.e. not with all the shortcuts I regularly use in Office products from the current century). So even as a heavy user, I got like a 60% on my first try!

      That said, I agree with MLB that the LW’s helping with ad hoc tasks is probably contributing to some learned helplessness in Jane.

      Reply
    5. Scarlet

      Hum, no, it really sounds like someone who is computer-illiterate. When you’re unfamiliar with a specific programme (esp. when it’s one as generic as word processing), you’re slower but you can definitely find your way around it if you’re reasonably computer-literate. I have no IT background at all and I often have to learn how to work with new software. Most of the time, it’s not that hard provided you know how to use a computer in general.
      I’ve trained computer-illiterate people before and you can quickly see a difference between someone who’s not familiar with a particular programme but who basically knows what they’re doing and someone who just has no idea how to use a computer.

      Reply
  15. kas

    #5 – Please continue passing on positive feedback. I worked in a call centre once and it was always nice to be recognized. Customer feedback was also added to our reviews so it was nice to have positive comments in there. I ask to speak to managers when the service is great. However, lately I haven’t done it as often as the wait times to speak to a manager are crazy sometimes. I once waited on hold for almost 10 minutes and couldn’t bring myself to hang up as the customer service rep seemed so happy that I asked to speak to their manager to compliment them. I think I’ll start emailing from now on if there’s an option to email.

    Reply
  16. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter

    #1 I think it’s a really good point that this person needs to learn the logic of the system as a whole. I also know a Jane (in my private life, not work) who has learned some quite difficult individual things on the computer but struggles with some very basic things. Her job rarely requires her to do new and unusual things on a computer so she usually does fine because she has memorized the normal computer things she needs to do, but if she needs to do anything outside that she’s lost – which leads to really weird “how can she not know THIS when she regularly does THAT” situations. Things would get so much easier if she had a basic understanding about how things in general work, even if it would involve learning things she doesn’t need regularly. So I think finding time to learn the basics properly once would be a very good investment for the future. It would also help with the fear “Janes” often feel when doing computer things, the feeling that something may break or get lost at any moment.

    Reply
  17. Observer

    #2 I’m highly skeptical that you really can’t put a modesty panel on the desks because of the cable routing.

    Does your boss have someone above him? Do you have HR?

    I agree that this should be approached as a group. If you don’t get anywhere, you may make the the point about sex based discrimination – you’ve got a male supervisor deciding that “the ladies” are just “over-reacting” (and perhaps enjoying the view a bit too much.) I’m not saying that the manager is actually “enjoying the view”, but if anyone thinks that it’s not possible, they’ve been living under a rock.

    Don’t present this as “we want new desks” but “we need this problem fixed.” If you get push-back about needing new desks, don’t engage. “We don’t care whether you fix these desks, or get new ones but we need some sort of modesty panel.” Lather, rinse, repeat….

    Modesty panels are standard on office desks, including desks that are used for computers. So, if THESE desks really cannot utilize a panel, whoever purchased them did a very bad job. That’s not your problem, but it might explain why your manager doesn’t want to deal with it – he doesn’t want to show that he made a stupid decision.

    Reply
    1. Wendy Darling

      I mean, the time-honored solution to “but cable routing” is “then cut a hole in it”. The idea of a modern desk not being able to deal with cable routing is ridiculous — I’d be gobsmacked if they didn’t have SOME provision for getting cables to where they need to go.

      But seriously if they don’t, someone in management needs to find someone with a hole saw and get cutting.

      I did once have a desk where my cable routing solution was, necessarily, “all the cables hang over the front of the desk”. It was the desk built into the wall of my college dormitory, which was built in the mid-60s, and was better suited to a manual typewriter. A few years after I moved out facilities cut holes in all of them. For cable routing.

      Reply
    2. AJ

      +1 – There has GOT to be a contractor/carpenter in the area that can make simple panels that can be cut with a scroll saw to conform around the plugs. There was a suggestion about using cloth, then a comment that cloth might be a fire hazard. There has GOT to be cloth treated with flame retardant (like what couches, etc are made of) available online. How about all people in need of new desks offer to SHOW the manager what the problem is if he does not listen to the group’s request? (Wear bike shorts, etc that day of course) and be clear that crossing legs/ankles all day is NOT option – suggest he try crossing his legs all day. If none of this works I’d be personally tempted to make my own panel out of poster board until the problem is fixed. You could even write something snarky on it – “a penny for peeking” etc.

      Reply
        1. Emi.

          Ugh, this reminds me of an anecdote in “The Lost Art of Dress” about a boss in the 60s who said the female employees were only allowed to wear miniskirts if their undies matched. UGH DUDE.

          Reply
        2. Lady Phoenix

          what if all the women wore boxers underneath their skirts that day? Like the really silly kind with hearts or shit emojis and other garish boys undies.

          Reply
    3. A Girl Has No Name

      This. Either cutting a hole in the desk to rout the cables (if one isn’t already built in, as this seems standard these days), or getting the type of panel that “hangs” from under the desk (basically, attach a panel to the front underside of the desk with hanging hooks – there may be a slight gap between the panel and the desk to accommodate the hooks, but not enough to actually show anything – this is what we have in one of our meeting rooms and it works great).

      Reply
    4. Luna

      Yeah as soon as I read the part about the manager being one of the only men I had an immediate UGH reaction. Not saying it’s deliberate, but the manager probably isn’t concerned about this because 1) it doesn’t impact him; and 2) he doesn’t mind the new view.

      Reply
    5. OP2

      True on so many levels. Smallish company with no proper HR and no one above the boss in question. We have a plan to approach as a group about this concerns. It leaves everyone vulnerable, not just to be gawped at, but to those who me accused of gawping.
      Side note, boss kept his old desk. Complete with modesty panel

      Reply
  18. Observer

    #1 One point you should make to Jane – she says that she doesn’t have to time to take some training. But, it’s taking more time for her to keep asking for help than it would for her to take the training.

    Also, you should be explicit with her that she needs to spend some time and head space on the logic of the system, not just specific tasks.

    This is IN ADDITION to talking to her manager. Not in a “Jane is awful” but “Jane lacks some skills the she needs, and the best thing we can do to get her up to speed is to get some training for her.”

    Reply
    1. L

      something i don’t understand about the “i don’t have time” excuse is that if you’re training…that is what you’re supposed to be doing and that is what your time is FOR. granted it sounds like she’s out of the ‘training’ period now, but if she’s not capable of independently doing her job, then she is still technically in training mode. Also, it totally depends on the workplace, but professional development is sometimes built into your job as something you will occasionally get to do/have to do.
      At this point I don’t think it’s about convincing the employee to take these courses. I think it’s a matter of explaining to her that her lack of computer knowledge and ability is impacting her ability to do her job and therefore her employment and development depends on this.

      Reply
    2. J.

      I’d also add, Jane is probably thinking of this as something she has to make personal time to learn outside of her usual work hours and doesn’t want to do that for something she doesn’t like. But this is part of her work and is a work problem! By getting her manager involved, it may be possible for her to make time for this training on the clock, as it should be. A daylong class or even a several-week community education course would probably be a worthwhile investment of time if it’s part of a regular workload, not on top of it.

      Reply
  19. Tuesday Next

    Hi OP2, yes. This is a real problem. In the few cases where I’ve been in an office without modesty boards, people have been uncomfortable and complained about it.

    Suggestions that you should wear thick tights and keep your legs crossed are impractical and go way over the line of how far you should go to adapt to your working environment.

    You could try arranging your desks so that they are face to face up against each other. This is how the desks are arranged in our huge open plan office. You can only see under someone’s desk if you crawl under the facing desk which doesn’t happen too often.

    Or arrange them in staggered groups of 4 so that you are not positioned directly opposite a colleague.

    If you aren’t allowed to do this, buy a giant shopper and position it in front of you so that it obscures the view. You don’t even ever have to take it home.

    Ideally though, this problem should be solved by the company. Your manager is being a jerk.

    Reply
    1. Pomona Sprout

      Agreed, with all of this.

      I also have a problem in general with the mind set of “X has never bothered ME, so if someone else is botheed by it, there must be something wrong with THEM, not with X.” No, just no. Among other things, that kind of attitude can can lead to an atmosphere in which people are reluctant to make suggestions for improvements and constructive changes, much less ask for help with something that is causing them difficulties, because they figure they’ll be made to feel like it’s they who are defective. I’ve worked in places like that, and it can really mess with your mind.

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth H.

        I am in the US and I think it’s a fairly generic term! It means a reusable tote bag/shopping bag. Sort of like the ones you get from IKEA. But you can get nicer looking ones/taller ones also.

        Reply
        1. Kate 2

          Never heard of “shopper” being for a bag, not a person. Do you feel comfortable giving the region? I’m in the U.S.

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          1. Elizabeth H.

            I live in Boston. I think I may have picked it up from magazines or eBay or Poshmark or NYT Style section or GOOP or something like that though – there are a lot of styles of things (clothing type things mostly but household stuff too) that have specific names that you might never know unless you are an avid online shopping website reader.

            Reply
  20. Myrin

    #3, I actually think it’s fine in such a situation to answer his “this interview was basically a waste of time and they almost certainly weren’t going to hire me” with a friendly “Well, in that case, thanks so much for telling me beforehand!” and leave. However, that’s just me and depends entirely on your own personality and whether you have some other ties to or interest in the particular company you’re interviewing at.
    Alison has two letters with a much more nuanced answer in her archives, if you’re interested: here and here (although it’s been a while so I don’t know if maybe she’s changed her stance in the meantime).

    Reply
    1. Morag

      But Jane is a good employee with an otherwise good attitude. For someone who’s trying, and it sounds like she is, but overwhelmed, it’s worth having a conversation with her manager. This is something a manager can easily fix.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        I agree with talking to the manager, but there’s no indication that Jane is a good employee. She’s not sulking that she’s failing at a pretty key task, but it’s still a pretty key task.

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      2. Important Moi

        I don’t doubt Jane is a good employee. She has the werewithall to not tell her boss she’s overwhelmed. To me that detracts from some of the “good.”

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      3. Temperance

        I don’t understand how someone who can barely use a computer or complete her tasks without a lot of hand-holding is a good employee.

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        1. NicoleK

          The Jane I work with barely knows how to use a computer. She is good at parts of her job. However, she’s personable, knows how to leverage her resources, and is able to convince people to help her mitigate her deficiencies.

          Reply
        1. Jesca

          Well now to be fair, the employer did hire her without vetting her skills – or clearly even recognizing that these were important skills they actually needed for this role. Now they have the responsibility in management to bring her up to where she needs to be in that regard. Also, we don’t know what this person was hired for. Her other skills may be needed and be very on par, and she just did not have to use basic programs to the extent this place needs her to.

          As far as OP, they just need to take it to their manager and be done with it for now. Management needs to know this is an issue, and actually OP is the one here being remiss in not pointing it out. As far as calling the other employee anything? That is unhelpful and speculative in regards to her broader skills in her role.

          Reply
          1. Jesmlet

            We don’t know that though. I’ve never been given a typing test but typing has always been a necessary skill of all my jobs. The extent that it’s vetted is they ask my proficiency level.

            Management does not necessarily have the responsibility to teach someone a core skill that they should’ve had prior to coming in. She has a desk and works in an office. There’s an implied understanding that she’d need to have a level of knowledge working with basic technology. If they wanted to, they’re more than welcome to just fire her, but it’d be nice if they told her she had to go to a computer class instead. With that said, if I was her manager, I’d tell her she needed to do it on her own time and dime.

            OP, just tell her manager and wash your hands of it all.

            Reply
            1. Jesca

              Nope, I disagree. The OP needs to tell the manager that training is lagging behind and that the trainee seems to struggle with X and Y. It is the manager’s place to determine anything else.

              And this has come up here time and again, but yes if you hire someone without vetting, then the appropriate thing to do is re-calibrate and not blame the