coworkers talk about childbirth over lunch, employee is abusing candidate referrals, and more

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

1. My coworkers love talking about childbirth during lunch and it’s grossing me out

My coworkers enjoy talking about childbirth at lunch. It seems like I can’t even eat my lunch without someone discussing a torn perineum. I’ve tried making jokes like “ha ha, I just want to eat my lunch without a side of placenta” but they just keep talking about it. I think because I’m a woman in my mid-20s they assume that I want to hear about this stuff, but the fact is that I find is disgusting. It doesn’t help that we have two pregnant women in the office so everyone wants to share their horror stories.

Should I just pack more snacks and eat lunch later or eat at my desk? I love to talk about weekend stuff, music, pets, anything but bodily fluids and babies.

I think you can ask — clearly and directly and without making a joke about it, so they know you really mean it — if they wouldn’t mind stopping. But if that doesn’t work and it turns out that everyone but you likes the topic and wants to continue with it, then all you can really do is remove yourself from the situation. (That doesn’t mean the topic is polite or appropriate; it’s not.)

So in this case, you could say, “Hey, can I ask y’all a favor? I love eating together and getting to catch up, but I’m really uncomfortable with all the explicit talk about childbirth. Would you be up for reining that in? If not, I can eat on my own — but I enjoy our lunches together so much the rest of the time that I wanted to ask.”

You will probably get some ribbing about this, but they still might agree to cut it out.

2. Employee is abusing our candidate referral program

I work in HR in a recruiting function, but I manage the entirety of the process, everything from resume screening to phone screens to moving people forward, to offers. We promote employee referrals (and offer a referral bonus) and I’m usually glad to get them into our pipeline.

However, we have one employee who loves to send referrals. Rather than referring friends or old coworkers, he “screens” people on LinkedIn who are looking for new jobs and sends them to me. I usually ask how he knows the person he’s referring and the answer is something vague “works with my old roommate” or “found them through their uncle on LinkedIn.”

I recently screened one of the referrals he sent over and didn’t think the candidate was anything special. Very average and not someone I would want to move into the in person interview stage. The employee then came to ask how the screen went and I told him point blank that I wouldn’t be moving them forward. He became very defensive and said that they sounded great when they spoke on the phone and they had a lot of skills we are looking for. I didn’t want to divulge too many details as I felt that would be inappropriate to my candidate, but I simply said that they didn’t have specific skills I was looking for. I also didn’t tell the employee that they aren’t trained at screening people and shouldn’t be attempting to do so. The employee came back again to talk about it and casually mentioned that he thought the candidate deserved “a fighting chance.”

This employee has previously referred people who have made it to in-person interviews and my managers have never liked his referrals. I’m at a loss. Should I address this with him in any way? Can I tell him to back off and stop trying to do my job? Tell them to only refer people he knows very well and can vouch for? I feel like this wouldn’t go over well with him as there are no standards currently in place to be able to refer someone, and I have a feeling he will attempt to skew this as something where I’m out to get them.

You can absolutely tell him to stop seeking out strangers on his own to try to recruit them! He’s not a recruiter, and you haven’t authorized him to do that (and he’s doing it badly).

You can say something like, “Please only refer people who you know fairly well or have worked with. We don’t want you to go looking on LinkedIn for candidates on your own, since you haven’t been trained to recruit for us, and generally you shouldn’t be doing your own phone interviews with people.” (That last part is tricky, because if he had better judgment, it would make sense that he’d want to talk with a candidate before agreeing to refer them. But if he’s just screening random people he seeks out himself, it’s going to come across to them as an interview, and he’s not authorized to interview candidates on your behalf — and he could be saying things that are legally sketchy or otherwise misrepresenting your company.)

It’s possible that saying this will be at odds with how your company handles referrals generally; you may not require others to only refer people who they can vouch for. (Referrals are different from recommendations in that way.) But if he points that out, you can say that’s true, but in his case he’s sending an unusually high number of referrals and it’s taking a disproportionate amount of time to screen them all. It’s not cool for him to try to refer as many people as he can in order to get the referral bonus, which probably what’s happening.

That said, in general it’s good practice to give employees feedback on how their referrals did so that they’re better able to target their referrals in the future and so that they don’t feel like their referrals are being ignored. That might help with this guy — if he sees that he’s clearly referring people who aren’t right — but it also might be too much burden on your time. That’s another reason to tell him to only refer people he actually knows and can vouch for. (To be clear, that’s not a rule you’d want to place on all employees — the point of a referral program is to get more candidates in the door — but it’s a rule for him, based on his behavior.)

You could also loop in his manager on what’s going on. You could even ban him from making referrals at all, but that may get into internal political considerations that I don’t have enough info on.

3. My coworker is visibly uncomfortable around my service dog

I recently started bringing my service dog to work with me. I went through all the required processes with my supervisor and HR, and found out that one of my neighboring coworkers (I’ll call her Carol) is very scared of dogs. I said I was willing to move desks, but they said it would not be necessary. However, Carol avoids me and my dog, and even refuses to walk within a few feet of my dog. If we’re walking in a hallway towards each other, I have to duck behind a wall or Carol gets visibly scared. I would like to help her be more comfortable around my dog, but don’t want her to feel pressured or coerced. Do you or your readers have any suggestions?

For context, my dog is about 65 pounds and tall. So she doesn’t exactly blend in. I keep her well groomed to make sure she doesn’t smell or shed excessively. She’s very quiet and doesn’t make any fuss.

I don’t know that it’s your place to try to help Carol be more comfortable around dogs unless she expresses an interest in that on her own (although I certainly understand the impulse to want to!). But you could tell her that you’ve noticed she’s uncomfortable around your dog and ask if there’s anything you could do differently to make her more comfortable, or if there are any questions you can answer about your dog that might help put her more at ease.

You could also mention that you’d offered to move to a different desk but HR didn’t think it was necessary — but that you’d be willing to bring it up again if she’d like you to.

4. Our new office toilet paper is terrible

The company I work for had a change over in president recently. This president has a much more significant financial background. Computers went from being upgraded on a certain timeline to only if they break and office supplies all got cheap, including tissues and toilet paper.

The toilet paper we now use is very rough single ply, and it’s causing havoc with my body. Over the weekend when I’m not at work, everything starts to feel better, but then I go back at the beginning of the week and it goes back to hellish uncomfortable conditions. I’ve always been super sensitive to things in that area but I’m a loss what to do. I really don’t want to have to carry toilet paper back and forth between my desk and the bathroom in our open office plans. Do you have any other suggestions for what to do?

You can try talking to whoever orders the supplies and asking if it’s an option to switch back to the previous toilet paper, but chances sound pretty good that you’re going to hear no. If it’s truly terrible toilet paper — like less sensitive people are also dismayed about it — then you might have more luck approaching it as a group. (Which will require you to discreetly ask coworkers you’re close to if they hate the new toilet paper too, which is exactly the kind of conversation I would enjoy but you might not.)

But otherwise, then yeah, unfortunately I think you’ll need to bring in your own. Rather than carrying a roll of toilet paper about the office, you could put it in a bag or purse, although I realize that’s still not ideal.

5. Employer has rejected me twice but keeps encouraging me to apply

I applied for a job and made it through multiple rounds of interviews, down to the final two candidates. I did not get a job offer. The HR person called me to tell me that they offered the job to the other person, but emphatically stated that my skill set was exactly what they were looking for and really encouraged me to apply for other openings.

Initially, I thought she was just being polite, but, I decided it was worth giving it another shot. I applied for another job with that organization about a week after being rejected. They contacted me to begin interviewing for the second job (different HR person, who is very new to the organization, and who I don’t think realized that I had just interviewed for the first job). Again, after several rounds of interviews and making it pretty far in the process, I did not get an offer. Again, the HR person called me personally to tell me that I was a great fit for the organization, the competition just was very stiff for that position and that there would be openings posted soon that he “definitely encouraged me to apply for.”

It’s a place I would love to work, I just starting to feel like this is a lost cause. I haven’t been getting any response from other places I’ve applied. This place seems to like me, just not enough apparently. Are they just being polite when they say all this? And is it worth the time/effort to continue to apply for jobs with this organization?

They’re almost definitely not just being polite. Employers are very used to rejecting people and don’t generally go to the trouble of calling someone to encourage them to apply again if they don’t really mean it.

And yes, given the encouragement you’ve received, it’s definitely worth applying again if you see something that looks like a strong match.

I’ve hired people who had applied several times before. Sometimes it’s just not quite the right match, or it was a good match but someone else was a stronger match, but it’s worked out later on. As long as they keep encouraging you in this very clear way, you should take them at their word.

{ 976 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Mike C.

    OP1’s situation feels significantly different from talking about a tv show or hobby because while latter are normal topics of polite and safe for work conversation, the latter (especially graphic descriptions) aren’t usually considered safe for work, let alone polite.

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It depends on the specifics, but in general talking about a medical procedure or childbirth is different than talking graphically about, say, sex. Neither is appropriate at work, but if a group of coworkers wants to spend their lunch time talking about their experiences of childbirth, the OP doesn’t have the same clear standing to insist that it stop as she would if it were sex talk.

      Reply
      1. Beatrice

        I don’t think it is ok to talk about any medical procedure in enough detail that it brings up images of blood and generally talking about any subjects involving genitals can be touchy. For example, talk of experiences about prostate exams might make me a bit squeemish and that I was learning way more than I wanted to about my coworkers.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Maybe I need to reword the answer to be clearer. I’m not saying it’s polite or appropriate or okay. It’s none of those things. But the question for the OP is how much standing she has to push them to stop. If this were something that would fall under sexual harassment or hostile workplace, she could insist on it. But it’s not, and so her options are more limited. She can ask them to stop, but if they choose not to, she can’t require it.

          Reply
          1. Traffic_Spiral

            Yeah. Graphic medical discussions aren’t sexual harassment, but they aren’t appropriate for meal time talk.

            Reply
            1. essEss

              I had this same problem at a previous job. They would go in detail about bodily fluids and sickness. Polite attempts to jokingly ask them to change the subject didn’t work. I finally used my words and stated clearly that these graphic descriptions were causing me to become severely nauseated and I was very seriously struggling not to throw up while trying to eat my lunch in the lunchroom with them and that it was very unfair of them to have these types of conversations around others who are eating. They finally got the message and realized how they were affecting the people around them.

              Reply
              1. Specialk9

                “Hey boss, I’m uncomfortable with how often Jane and Kelly talk about their vaginas. I’ve asked them to stop, but they keep on, after saying that they know I don’t like it. How should I handle this?”

                How I’d fantasize about dealing with it. In real life it would be a fight I wouldn’t take on.

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        2. boo

          If I were the OP I would actually lean on “Ew, medical stuff while I’m trying to eat!” if she’s worried about asking the coworkers to lay off childbirth specifically. I think it is pretty easy to understand someone saying “Please, I can’t eat while we’re talking about blood and afterbirth.” (BTW solid joke on the “side of placenta,” OP, I laughed!)

          Reply
          1. Rhoda

            OP1, how about if you became an overly enthusiastic participant? Ask probing, detailed, intimate questions, “Did you see your mucus plug? What color was it?, I saw an episode of ‘Untold Stories of the ER’ where…, When my friend’s mother had her C-section…, When your water broke, did it just gush out, or did the baby’s head act as sort of a plug and cause it to simply trickle?” There are questions that don’t involve gore; “Did childbirth affect your sex life?, Did you experience stress incontinence as a result of childbirth?, Have you experienced any hair loss?”

            Or bring up other medical issues, “My mother has friends your age whose husbands have started using Viagra, have any of you found that helpful?”

            After all they have apparently made it clear there are no holds barred.

            Reply
            1. Nita

              That will backfire. I suspect OP’s coworkers would be really, really happy to share all the TMI with a fresh listener. They might even start buttonholing OP at the water cooler to fill her in on whatever they didn’t discuss at lunch.

              Reply
              1. SusanIvanova

                +1. I once worked at an office where the receptionist was young and pregnant, and a couple of other women were old enough to have several teenagers. *Every* time I saw the older ones at the front desk they were sharing pregnancy horror stories. It’s like there’s some compulsion to make sure the next generation knows everything the previous generation went through.

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                1. Totally Minnie

                  “Hey, I see that you’re about to go through a medical experience you may be nervous about. Allow me to describe to you all the ways it could go wrong.”

                  I know women have done this with pregnant acquaintances since the dawn of time, but it always just feels so mean.

                2. Cafe au Lait

                  It’s an act of sharing knowledge. I just had a baby. I loved when other mothers shared their stories with me, the good and the bad. It helped me work through the level of intervention I wanted before my labor. After, the stories reassured me because my labor ended up being very difficult and hard and completely unexpected. (As in, I am seeing a therapist for issues surrounding my labor & delivery).

                3. Pregnophobic

                  I sat next to a pregnant woman and she literally told me before she told her husband. I heard absolutely every detail of the pregnancy, constantly heard about her nausea and various pregnancy related issues, then she told me I had a year to find a man and have a baby when I became suddenly single days before my 29th birthday. I have no kids so I was just subjected to horror stories I couldn’t respond to or relate to every single day.

                  I don’t miss her and pregnancy talk makes me queasier than ever.

                4. Rana

                  It’s because the popular impression of pregnancy and childbirth is limited and glosses over the truly unpleasant parts. You get big, you want to eat a lot, some stuff makes you throw up. Then your water breaks, you push and yell and squash someone’s hand, and there’s a baby. The end.

                  When in fact there’s a lot of weird, uncomfortable, and even nasty stuff that happens and it’s perfectly normal. So I think some people are being “helpful” – they were blindsided by it and don’t want anyone else to have that experience – and others are still processing the trauma of all that, because our culture doesn’t give us any better way to acknowledge what a mess pregnancy and birth can actually be.

                  This is an explanation, though, not an excuse. Don’t inflict horror stories on an unwilling audience, no matter the subject.

                5. Liz

                  It’s not quite the same, but when I announced my engagement, several co-workers felt compelled to tell me all about their divorces. More than one person actually said “Not wanting to go through with it is a perfectly good reason not to go through with it.”

      2. Sylvan

        I agree somewhat – I think I would agree more if they weren’t, apparently, getting pretty graphic with it. Nobody really needs to get that explicit about that part of their body at lunch.

        Reply
      3. JessaB

        I have to ask a question I haven’t seen yet, mind I haven’t read but half or so of the thread but, OP is there a reason why maybe they don’t want you at that table? Are they a mean clique who does not like you for some reason? I mean at the point where they’re clearly acknowledging you don’t want to hear this, are they TRYING to get you to go away? And if they are, is this something you want to deal with in a different manner?

        I hate to say it but we’re all discussing whether pregnancy talk is okay at work and not a lot about why a group of supposedly reasonable people (if they’re not ignore me,) is deliberately freezing OP out. They do not get to take the “we don’t know she doesn’t like this,” route, when they specifically TELL her they know she doesn’t. Is this tactic a specific attempt to control the space? And does that change the response to it at all?

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        1. Annabelle

          This seems a little more far-fetched than like, pregnant people and people who have had kids bonding over their experiences and not realizing how uncomfortable it makes other people.

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          1. Just Tired

            This was my experience. Two of my work friends were pregnant at the same time and reading all the same books. We didn’t have a central break area, so it wasn’t a break room conversation issue, but any time they came together, suddenly I was treated to conversations about mucus plugs, losing bowel control when giving birth, etc. I would say, “Nope, I’m out. Glad you have something to bond over, but this isn’t my thing.” When they asked me to go to lunch with them, I would give them a head’s up, “Overly graphic pregnancy conversation will result in me leaving, so if you really want to eat with me, please find subjects we can all discuss together.” Because, frankly, that’s what it came down to in that situation. If they wanted to be a social group, they should be considerate of everyone in the social group. OP’s situation is slightly different. If these aren’t friends of hers, trying to involve her in the conversation, she might not be able to do much to get them to stop talking about it, and is just going to have to change her lunch routine.

            Reply
          2. JessaB

            I only asked because they were specifically saying “we know you don’t like us talking about this,” and then going on and doing it anyway.

            Reply
                1. Nines

                  Got it! Thanks. I was so confused for a bit there. Apparently I did not read comments far down enough/closely enough.

        2. Clisby Williams

          Does everybody eat lunch together? That sounds strange to me. I’m 64 and retired now, and never worked anywhere that co-workers expected to eat together If you don’t like the lunch conversation, eat somewhere else.

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        3. SophieK

          This crossed my mind.

          But I think maybe it’s more akin to my high school Home Ec teacher who announced the first day that she hates it when microwaving is referred to as “nuking.” Guess what word everybody went out of their way to say? And she was a veteran teacher, so the tactical error cannot be chalked up to being new.

          The other possibility is that they simply don’t appreciate the OP dictating what they can and cannot talk about. I used to accomodate requests like this, but one day a co worker who I didn’t like asked me not to swear. I apologized and then went waittaminute. Because this lady did nothing but talk about the contents of her granddaughters diaper and told gross stories about being a janitor at the Tacoma Dome. I asked her why she can talk about shit but I can’t say shit. And she shut up and I permanently lost a fuck thst day.

          Reply
    2. Mad Baggins

      Yeah, I was kind of surprised at this answer too. I would put this more in line with that time my [insert body part here] got infected, what color my poop was, who is going to Hell, and my romantic life with my anime boyfriend in the general “OK to talk about with some of your friends, not OK to talk about at work but won’t get you fired” category.

      Reply
        1. Jennifer Thneed

          I am going to hell. I know that, because, well, I hate to admit it but…

          ….I laugh at my cats when they do stupid stuff.

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        2. AKchic

          When you sit on the throne, it’s a given that you will go there.

          Please feel free to stop by the Throne Room for your welcome hand basket and the wifi password if you happen to visit.

          Reply
      1. Samata

        I guess I am torn on this one. I think it’s inappropriate for work and to discuss around people who aren’t interested…but it’s also lunch. And unless its a working lunch people have a choice about where to spend it I might imagine. So it’s not the middle of the office during work hours.

        If they didn’t take her “hint” before but still continue after she specifically says “I don’t want to talk about this” then they move into bitch territory. I’ve had to start eating on my own because people only wanted to talk about their kids or pets and while an appropriate topic it’s still not always something I wanted to talk about or could even be a part of.

        Reply
    3. Thursday Next

      Agreed. Details about bodily functions, descriptions of medical procedures, or any topic that graphically describes something your body expels or a way in which it malfunctions should not be fodder for mealtime conversation, unless everyone within earshot is an enthusiastic participant. (I’ve given birth to two children and am not squeamish about discussing childbirth privately with people who ask me about it, as some pregnant women do.)

      It’s not limited to childbirth. I will say that the older my parents and in-laws get, the less appropriate their choice of mealtime conversation topics is. I…do not want to hear about their friends’ colonoscopies over brunch. And my kids definitely do not need to know about all the ways bodies can fail, in all the graphic glory grandparents seem eager to share!

      Reply
      1. Sarah M

        I agree, Thursday. I’ve had three kids. The first experience was a horror show (next two were C-sections). I’ve only shared the graphic details with my sister, a few close female friends and only those doctors who’ve needed to know. Everyone else gets the “We almost didn’t make it.” I can’t think of a situation other than a maternity ward where the continual graphic detailing of the childbirth process would be a normal (socially acceptable) conversation.

        OP 1: I hope you can use Alison’s advice to get them to stop. This is really not okay for work.

        Reply
        1. OP1

          They have figured out that I do not like the childbirth topic and now they preface stories with “OP1, you aren’t going to like this story- but …” and they just continue on talking about it.
          I’ve made some comments during their stories like “do we need to discuss this during lunch?” and “I’m sure this is interesting to you but I don’t like talking about this” but they really really want to keep talking about it. So sometimes before I sit down at lunch I’ll ask them “hey, what are you guys talking about?” and if they say “childbirth” or something like that I sit at a different table.

          Reply
          1. Samata

            Reading this after my comment above I think you are going to have to continue what you are doing. In your letter I thought you have-joked your way to saying you were uncomfortable but it sounds like they got the message and are ignoring it. Unfortunately it sounds like they aren’t going to change their ways.

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          2. Samiratou

            OK, seriously, these people aren’t just rude, they’re boring.

            Childbirth is the only thing you have to talk about? That’s maybe a lunch or two worth of conversation, not every damn day. Seriously people, get hobbies.

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            1. lost academic

              Even my mother couldn’t have talked that long and she was a nurse who’d had three kids! (We each knew all of our birth stories in full medical detail)

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            2. RVA Cat

              They’re doing it to get to the OP. Sorry but they are not her friends. The “you’re not going to like this, but…” is the kicker. I hear that same thing all the time when my husband’s family brings up politics.

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            3. Rana

              Seriously. No one, even my very best friends, wants to hear my labor story more than once.

              I suspect they’re acting as each others’ therapists at this point, but, dang. If you’re not over it now, you need to talk with someone trained in helping you process trauma, not your echo chamber.

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          3. Pollygrammer

            Ugh, it actually sounds like you’ve made it about as clear as you can, and your coworkers are just massively inconsiderate.

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          4. Nanani

            I suspect at least some of these people are deliberately using the topic to make you go away. Very high school, but some people cling to those tactics forever.

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            1. OP1

              Eh I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. I think they’re just in that stage of life where they are about to have babies or are nostalgic about when their kids where little. I expect it to cool down when the pregnant ladies are on maternity leave. Also they don’t exclusively do it around me, now that I eat separately more often I’ve heard a few other co-workers comment on how often they talk about childbirth.

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          5. GreenDoor

            Well, there you go. Next time they start in with ,”We know you won’t like this story bu…” immediately cut them off and say, in a quizzical yet pointed tone, “Wait. So you know I won’t like the story, but you’re going to tell it anyway? Huh.” And then just stare until they understand that their preface does not magically undo the fact that they’re doing something they know makes someone else around them uncomfortable.

            Reply
            1. Plague of frogs

              They like gross? Give them gross. Buy some fake blood capsules, and next time they start up, discretely bite one. Stare at them with blood running out of your mouth like Gene Simmons. When they ask you what’s going on, innocently say, “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought you really liked gore.”

              (Disclaimer: do not do this ever).

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          6. AKchic

            Yeesh. How many ways can you describe your labors and deliveries? I’ve had four kids and I don’t need to endlessly discuss them. Move on and find other topics! I don’t know if they are boorish, purposely stuck on reproductive loops, or purposely being catty for some reason, but I would permanently find another table to sit at, bring a book, and pop in some headphones. These people do not deserve your company.

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          7. BananaPants

            So accept that these people aren’t interested in having their discussion topics dictated by you, you’re clearly not into what they’re talking about, and find a new place to sit at lunch. This isn’t middle school, you can decide to dine elsewhere if the lunchtime conversation isn’t to your liking.

            Reply
        2. Grapey

          “I can’t think of a situation other than a maternity ward where the continual graphic detailing of the childbirth process would be a normal (socially acceptable) conversation.”

          Baby showers.

          I went to maybe 3 or 4 as a young adult when my family forced me to go. Never again.

          Reply
      2. Like a Stone

        > I will say that the older my parents and in-laws get, the less appropriate their choice of mealtime conversation topics is. I…do not want to hear about their friends’ colonoscopies over brunch.

        Oh my. This is happening to me, too. My father (mid 60s) described his colonoscopy prep bowel cleanse while we were eating. Apparently it didn’t clean him out properly and he went into detail about having to do another cleanse and reschedule the colonoscopy.

        He described all of this VERY loudly in the middle of a restaurant.

        I find poop funny (because I’m 12, apparently), but I don’t think everyone in a 5 table radius felt the same.

        Reply
      3. aebhel

        Same. I’ve had two kids and I’m not personally that bothered by discussion of the topic, but who on earth thinks that’s an appropriate conversation for lunch at work??

        Reply
    4. Thlayli

      Graphic descriptions of childbirth have been a topic of conversation at every single workplace I’ve ever been in with a pregnant or recently post-partum mother. So while a lot of people do think it’s gross and not appropriate for work, there are also a LOT of people who think it is an acceptable topic of conversation. It’s much more common than you seem to realise.

      Maybe this is a cultural thing, but I doubt it. Some people get grossed out by it here too. My younger sister who does not want kids and is grossed out by even the thought of pregnancy, hates it. But she works with 90% women so she basically has to just put up with it or make a fuss. She has elected not to make a fuss, which is her choice to do with politics in her workplace.

      I work with a lot of men and one of them has a baby on the way and the guys are all trying to gross him out with descriptions of when their wives gave birth, so it’s not just women who do it either. It’s really common.

      Reply
      1. Mad Baggins

        I wonder if this is the kind of thing where, once you go through it, it doesn’t seem that bad/squicky anymore so it’s OK to talk about. I can talk about surgeries I’ve had in detail but I don’t want to hear about anyone else’s.

        (Also by “cultural” perhaps you meant “work culture”? I’m certain this varies by country, and that might be something for new parents to keep in mind)

        Reply
        1. Thlayli

          I said cultural purely because a lot of people on this site are American and I’m not. I’ve never had this conversation in America so maybe it is genuinely considered h acceptable by a majority over there. But I do know of lots of people in my country who think it’s gross and don’t get why anyone would want to talk about it, so I think it probably doesn’t vary all that much by country, within western culture anyway. I haven’t worked in countries outside of western culture but I imagine it would probably be considered very rude in a predominantly Hindu workplace for example (I’m basing this on the fact that my friends auntie was scandalised by me wearing a bikini to a water park near Mumbai). It probably does vary by work culture though.

          I think you’ve hit the nail on the head re why most people feel it’s ok to talk about after they’ve been through it. When you’ve given birth there’s really very little mystery left. There’s a funny scene in scrubs where JD thinks about saying to a pregnant lady “you will pee fart and poop in a room full of strangers, all of whom will be staring intently at your vagina.” That’s not too far from the truth for a lot of births. Once you’ve been through something like that you just lose all inhibition.

          The good news the inhibition eventually grows back. My youngest is nearly 3 now and I hardly ever tell strangers about my private parts any more haha.

          Reply
          1. Thlayli

            Then you would get people saying “are you comparing my child to your dogs poo?”

            I would tread lightly with that one.

            Reply
            1. anon scientist

              That was kind of my point – I assume they don’t want to hear about my gross stuff, I don’t want to hear about theirs either! To me, gross stuff=gross stuff, doesn’t matter who/what it comes out of.

              Reply
              1. Thlayli

                I think if you try that tack you will get plenty of people pushing back on the idea that their baby = gross stuff.

                Reply
                1. Lara

                  Or they’ll start telling you about all the gross stuff their baby does. If you don’t want to hear about childbirth, you really don’t want to get anybody started on meconium poops, baby mustard, blowouts in public, blowouts in car seats, blowouts while nursing, blowouts in bed… and that doesn’t even touch on the emissions from the top end of the baby.

              2. Observer

                Do that only if you want to torch your relationships with a LOT of people. There are plenty of people who don’t find graphic discussions of childbirth work appropriate AT ALL, who would be very offended by this comparison.

                Reply
                1. anon scientist

                  Understood that my comparison was not the best. But the principle stance that I was trying to make was that there are topics that are not appropriate for a general/open/public conversation.

                  And with that, good day to all! Back to work.

              3. Jule

                Nah, people are going to have a different reaction to you…literally comparing a pregnant woman giving birth to a dog excreting feces.

                Reply
                1. Autumnheart

                  More like literally comparing a pregnant woman excreting feces during birth with a dog excreting feces on some other occasion. If someone gets all offended like “How dare you compare my detailed description of my bodily fluids with those of a pet” then that person is part of the problem.

            2. Mike C.

              In the specific context of topics that aren’t safe for work, absolutely.

              Just because some people relish in “the magic of motherhood and childbirth” doesn’t make the graphic discussion of such safe for work.

              Reply
              1. Thlayli

                You are perfectly entitled to that opinion. I’m merely pointing out that it’s sooo common that there are loads of people who do think it’s safe for work.

                I work in engineering so we have pretty filthy conversations – so ymmv. But my sister is a school teacher and she complains about these conversations in her workplace too.

                What’s safe for work seems to depend on the opinions of the majority, and in this situation it appears OP is the only one who dislikes it – so saying “that’s not appropriate” probably won’t fly in this situation. But I’m sure there are workplaces where it would not be considered appropriate. I’ve never personally worked anywhere where it wasn’t a welcome topic though.

                Reply
                1. Mike C.

                  No, it doesn’t depend on the opinions of the majority. I can’t sit at work and talk about how sexy the receptionist is in her figure-hugging dress even if all the other dudes around me vehemently agree, for instance.

                2. OP1

                  I’m not the only person who doesn’t like it. Some of the other more junior women and most of the men don’t like it either. It’s not that I think it’s totally inappropriate all the time, it’s just I don’t want to be around when they talk about it and especially not at mealtimes. I think a bunch of my co-workers just have problems oversharing. One of my co-workers thought it was appropriate to describe to me how she avoided a hangover by making herself vomit. I said “That is really gross, why are you talking about this at lunchtime?” and she seemed startled that I didn’t view her story as funny like she did.

                3. Thlayli

                  You can’t do that because sexual harrassment is illegal. Discussing childbirth is not illegal.

                4. newmom

                  Well, there’s a big range in possible discussions about childbirth. I visited my workplace with my four week old (to say hi and attend a super important meeting). People asked how the birth was. I responded with things along the lines of “Fast, but uncomplicated!” “He came out so fast his face didn’t get smooshed at all!” “Next time I’ll know to head to the hospital sooner so I don’t have a baby in a car!” Stuff to indicate that the birth went fine but was a bit too fast/intense. I see this as not graphic and work appropriate discussion (others may disagree).

                  The “OMG the feeling of my vag ripping apart was the worst” and “I went from 6cm to baby out in half an hour and holy hell that 30 minutes was the worst of my life” and similar was reserved for close friends. I needed to complain about that stuff, but I wasn’t going to share it with coworkers!

                  (Also, I’d never share it with a pregnant woman! The last thing you need to hear before labor is how much it sucks. The only thing I shared with a pregnant colleague who asked was that things were fast, fine, and (mostly) manageable without drugs. I did not add “everything was fine until my vag started ripping!”)

                5. myswtghst

                  “What’s safe for work seems to depend on the opinions of the majority”

                  Unfortunately for OP#1, I think this is the key. As Alison mentioned, if it’s outside the realm of sexual harassment or hostile workplace, even if it seems pretty obviously NSFW, it’s often a calculation of how much capital you have / want to use on trying to get it to stop. If OP#1 has spoken directly to them about not wanting to talk about this stuff at lunch and they continue anyway, they’ve pretty clearly shown they value their ability to talk about gross stuff over OP#1’s comfort, which means this is unlikely to change. It doesn’t mean they’re in the right, but it does kind of limit their options.

                6. Kate 2

                  Mike C is right. Even leaving out talking about people at work, it STILL isn’t appropriate to let the majority dictate conversation at work.

                  Switch out childbirth for people graphically discussing sex and their kinks. Or for their medical procedures and surgeries. Discussing sex is just as intimate as having to hear about a coworkers torn perineum at work, or the color of their sh*t.

                  Just because the majority wants to talk about it doesn’t make it okay to make the minority uncomfortable or disgusted. Really that’s one of the excuses used to defend holding work lunches at Hooters.

        1. Amy S

          I work in an office full of pet owners and this would totally be an acceptable and appropriate conversation to have. In fact, as I type this to coworkers are having a detailed conversation about their cats’ litter box habits. I think it’s a case of know your audience. In the case of OP #1 seems like a majority of people in the office are ok with it. It’s happening in a common space and not near her desk. I think the best option is to just walk away when the conversation turns to childbirth.

          Reply
          1. OP1

            Yeah it’s not that everyone 100% loves the childbirth talk, some of the other more junior women and most of the men don’t like it either.
            But lucky for me that gives me some options for avoiding the conversation.
            I think it’s really interesting in the comments how some people view childbirth as 100% ok topic for work and some view it as totally not ok.

            Reply
            1. Amy S

              That’s good if you have other people around who aren’t into it. I would just work on starting other conversations with them so that you’re otherwise engaged in conversation and listening to the childbirth talk. I am definitely on the side of this being an ok topic if other people are into it as well, but I can see why some people wouldn’t be into it.

              Reply
      2. Bonky

        It is important that pregnant women have people to talk to and are able to share worries, get information (medical professionals are amazingly bad about preparing you for some of what happens, and other women are by far your best source of facts), and normalise what can be a pretty scary time. Some women at work did share things with me when I was expecting my daughter, and I’m very glad they did. Perhaps OP1 could pull back a little from this group until the two pregnant ladies have given birth? The support they’re getting is probably of more weight to them than the discomfort OP1 is experiencing is to her.

        A caveat about very public pregnancy talk. I do have a baby girl now, but for years I thought I was unable to have kids (we had a lot of failed IVF attempts, and actually conceived her naturally when I was 41, when we’d given up on the IVF). Pregnancy/childbirth talk could be very upsetting back in the day, especially when we were going through yet another failed round; I knew which lunchtime groups to take part in and which to avoid when it was necessary.

        Reply
        1. Sam.

          It’s useful to share information, yes, but a group lunch is *not* the place for that unless everyone has specifically opted in. I know there’s a new moms lunch at my office – they get together once a month or so to share experiences, commiserate with challenges as working parents, etc. – maybe OP’s coworkers should consider something similar if they feel they must discuss such things.

          Reply
          1. Sarah M

            Yes, I do think that’s the key: everyone in the discussion opting in. Just loudly sharing it with everyone indiscriminately, whether they want to hear it or not, is pretty rude.

            Reply
            1. Mike C.

              Just because the participants “opt in” does not justify talking about nsfw topics. People can feel pressured to opt in and you can easily be overheard by others who didn’t.

              Reply
            2. OP1

              One lady in particular shares her childbirth story which each and every new female employee (including myself and no, I did not ask her- she just started in on the topic). I get that she had a bad experience and everything that could go wrong did, but I agree that it’s not something you bring up unless you know the other party is interested.

              Reply
              1. Pollygrammer

                That is actually my biggest problem with the childbirth talk you’re subjected to–they would probably be a lot more reasonable about avoiding it around you if you were male. Grrrr.

                Reply
                1. newmom

                  +1, particularly with childbirth.

                  And that’s not helpful. The more bad stories you hear, the more fearful you are, and the more fearful you are, the more likely you are to have complications.

                2. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

                  And c’mon, people who have given birth, at least it’s not an eating disorder or cancer.

              2. Jennifer

                I used to get cornered by a coworker where she’d tell me everything horrible about her pregnancy to make sure I never had kids. There was no need to argue that with me, mind you, I don’t want any, but…argh.

                Reply
              3. swingbattabatta

                I don’t understand this at all. My experience was so traumatic that I really don’t want to talk about it, and if pressed, will say something along the line of “I got sick, but we were both fine in the end”. Maybe it makes her feel better to tell the story over and over again, but I find that to be pretty unusual.

                Reply
              4. LCCE

                It’s possible she’s trying to process her experience in some way by retelling it. It’s not a free pass, for sure, but maybe it could help you understand her a little better.

                Reply
          2. Quinalla

            Agreed, there is nothing wrong with conversations about childbirth, etc. as long as the folks in the conversation are ok with it, especially in a shared lunch space at work. These conversations are important to have, but not everyone wants to participate or even hear a conversation like that and it is presumptuous to assume that just because someone is a women, etc. they are ok with it.

            I too would be more direct with them about it. Hopefully they will stop once they know!

            Reply
            1. OP1

              No, since I emailed in my question I have tried being more direct, but the women who do like this topic do not care that they are making myself (and other junior women, and the men) uncomfortable.
              I have said “does this need to be discussed at lunchtime?” and “I don’t like talking about medical stuff when I am eating” but they still want to talk about it.
              I’v started eating lunch at a different time and I switch tables sometimes if they start up after I join. I know switching lunch tables in the middle of lunch is a little rude but I pretend it’s about work stuff like “Oh, Steve, I didn’t see you come in to the lunch room- let’s sit over there and talk about client X”

              Reply
              1. BadPlanning

                I think that’s what you have to do. Sure it’s a little rude, but it’s rude to talk about gross stuff when everyone is eating and everyone is not okay with it. Whether it’s about a gross infected toe or birth adventure.

                Reply
              2. KellyK

                I want to reassure you that you are *absolutely not* the one being rude here. The people you’re eating with know that this makes you uncomfortable, because you told them, and they’re continuing, even saying “Oh, OP1, we know you don’t want to hear this.” I mean, you’re not stalking off in a huff or rolling your eyes or making snide comments, right? It’s your lunch break too, and there’s no obligation to share it with people who are deliberately grossing you out after you asked them to stop.

                Reply
              3. a1

                I don’t think it’s rude at all. They are the rude ones. They are forcing people to hear a conversation they don’t want to hear. They don’t care at all about what other people want to talk about. If they have no problem running rough shod like this, and don’t care at all about what you want to talk about, it’s on them when you leave. I wouldn’t even make an excuse. I’d just get up. They do not care.

                Reply
              4. TootsNYC

                I’m w/ the Princess: It’s not rude.

                Or, it’s a perfectly acceptable form of rude.

                They know; they are prioritizing their conversation over you. Give them what they want.

                Get up and move when they start. I might even say, “Gross, TMI, I’m outta here.” OR “I only sat with you guys because I thought you weren’t going to get gross again. Bye.”

                Don’t be -nasty- about it, but don’t hide the fact that you’re a little annoyed.

                Reply
                1. Ave

                  I think the proper response really depends upon the impact bugging out will have to her work.

                  For example, when I worked in A&D, one critical group would take smoke breaks together. If you didn’t smoke, or didn’t go out with them, your career would be damaged. They were gatekeepers.

                  If it is a peeer group that isn’t career critical? Not as important?

                  Who is in the group? Anyone important to OPs career? Is the group itself important?

                2. Jersey's mom

                  I’m on board with this. It’s not rude.

                  In fact, this group of women are being rude AT you. You have clearly stated you do not want to hear this discussion. They heard you. In fact, they preface their comments with “Oh, I know you won’t want to hear this but….”. That is clearly being rude AT you.

                  You can certainly take the civilized route of getting up and stating, “As I’ve mentioned, I cannot listen to this type of conversation over lunch”, getting up and walking away. You are not being rude!

                3. Autumnheart

                  Get up and say, loudly enough for the whole room, “I’m sorry, Barbara, but I just can’t listen to yet another conversation about your vagina and placental abruption! I have no idea why you keep bringing it up day after day!” Then sit at another table while a deafening silence falls over the room.

              5. essEss

                I don’t pretend that it’s for work stuff. If they’ve been told that the gory stuff is making you ill and they continue to do it, they need to be aware of the impact that it has on others including that they are forcing people to move to avoid them.

                Reply
              6. Rusty Shackelford

                I know switching lunch tables in the middle of lunch is a little rude but I pretend it’s about work stuff like “Oh, Steve, I didn’t see you come in to the lunch room- let’s sit over there and talk about client X”

                It’s not rude at all, considering that they insist on having conversations that they know you find disturbing. They’re the ones being rude, not you. Next time, laugh and say “Oh, you guys are back on that topic? Guess it’s time for me to go.”

                Reply
              7. foolofgrace

                I wouldn’t even bother with the “Steve” pretense. THEY are the ones being rude. If it were me, I’d get up, go to a different table, and put earbuds or even big-a$$ headphones on and crank some tunes. As I left their table, I would probably say “Sorry, I just can’t listen to this.”

                Reply
              8. Artemesia

                What I find weird is that they discuss is all the time. I can imagine discussing it among women especially soon after and then the other women sharing, but continually? I could have the best theater experience of my life and talk about it all one lunchtime, but then it has been discussed. Or my vacation. Or an incident at my kid’s school. But why would they discuss the same thing day after day? I have had children and one pretty terrifying birth and one easy one and I have certainly discussed these with other women when they were discussing childbirth — but I don’t recall ever discussing all this with the same group of women repeatedly. For this to be the problem it is for the OP this needs to be frequent. How weird is that?

                Reply
              9. AKchic

                It sounds like they’ve created an ersatz lunchtime talk-therapy group, and have roped everyone eating lunch within the same room into this group as a non-optional attendee.
                I can only hope that some new woman is given the sob story and shuts it down spectacularly with “Carol, I don’t care, leave me alone to eat my lunch without the gory details of your vaginal discharge.”
                And seriously, it has been brought up to them repeatedly that people *don’t* want to hear about their vaginal excretions, tearing, labor and deliveries, and pregnancies in general. It’s in the past, they have discussed the events to the point of staff memorization. Management should probably be notified. It is getting ridiculous.

                Reply
          3. CheeryO

            Yes, that would be perfect. Nonstop baby talk is boring anyway, not to mention potentially hard for anyone who would like to have kids and doesn’t, and the birthing details are really TMI for lunchtime. I’d expect it at a work baby shower, but anywhere else deserves a little pushback, imo.

            Reply
        2. Thlayli

          Very good point about it being beneficial for the pregnant ladies. I knew a woman once, born about 60 years ago. Her mother thought she was going to come out of her belly button when she went into the hospital! The last thing we ant to do is go back to the bad old days when childbirth is a hush-hush secret topic and women don’t know what to expect.

          obviously these days it’s very rare for someone to not understand the basic mechanics, but it’s often surprising how little people know about the details. If you don’t know that your perineum might tear, it’s a lot scarier when it happens. And if you know that perineal massage can reduce the risk of it tearing, you might be able to do that and avoid the tear altogether.

          Not wanting women to talk about perineal massage because it’s “yucky” is basically saying “my feelings about what is acceptable conversation are more important than giving you the info you need to prevent your perineum from tearing.”

          By all means ask them to keep the details till after the food has been consumed, or just sit at another table, but don’t tell people not to share useful info with pregnant ladies.

          Reply
          1. Mike C.

            Just because “it’s helpful to pregnant women” doesn’t mean you get to ruin lunch or otherwise create a work environment that’s incredibly uncomfortable for others. No one is generally going to work for the sake of someone else getting pregnancy information, so I’m at a complete loss to understand why work is an appropriate place to discuss these issues publically.

            It’s not work safe.

            Reply
            1. anon scientist

              Totally agree! Also with your comment below. They can find another setting where it is more appropriate. Or just go get a coffee with each other and discuss whatever they want.

              Reply
            2. Lindsay J

              Yeah, I mean, it could be helpful to someone and important for their relationship to discuss options for having enjoyable sex with someone whose penis is rather small, or rather large. That doesn’t mean it necessary or appropriate to discuss it at work.

              Or how they have vaginismus.

              Or, to take this outside of the realm of sex since pregnancy isn’t equivalent to sex- it could be helpful and important for someone to discuss their struggles with anorexia or bulimia. Or how they came home one day to find that their sibling had committed suicide and how you could see their brain through the gunshot wound. Or their struggles with or recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction. There might even be people in at work that could understand and be supportive. That doesn’t mean that work is an appropriate place for that discussion to happen.

              Reply
          2. Nita

            Good point, but lunch really doesn’t seem like a good time to discuss that, because someone’s bound to lose their appetite. Also the chatters are going to have a captive audience of whoever else is eating near them. They can have this discussion elsewhere, people always find a few minutes to chat in most offices. Besides, there are so many other source of this information now… if the chatters think they’re performing a vital public service, they may be giving themselves too much credit :)

            I’m also kind of scratching my head that this seems to be a regular discussion. I would think this topic would exhaust itself after a few days, after everyone has shared their horror stories!

            I think Allison’s advice is sound – all OP can do is ask them to stop, but they don’t seem to be violating any rules, just being really inconsiderate.

            Reply
            1. Rounded

              Aren’t there specifically classes offered by midwives or nurses aimed at preparing women for childbirth? I honestly get so Squamish and can easily vomit at gore or graphic tales during lunchtime and would be pretty upset when my break time is ruined by continually war stories about giving birth. It would affect my work performance so I agree with Alison here.

              Reply
              1. Nita

                Yes, there are classes! I took one at a hospital. They managed to strike a nice balance with getting all the info across without getting really, really graphic.

                Reply
          3. OP1

            They are not exclusively talking about perennial massages or breathing techniques. Actually I haven’t heard those topics come up (yet). To me sometimes it seems like a contest of who had a harder birth like “Oh yeah? Well I was in agony every time my husband drove over a pothole for months! I was bleeding from my V*** to my A***”
            “Oh yeah? Well I was in labour for TWO DAYS before I had an emergency c-section and I could see the doctor lifting out my intestines to be able to get the baby out!!!”
            ps I’ve excluded some of the grosser details from those stories… you’re welcome.
            I’m sure it is useful for pregnant women to hear the stories of other women, but there is a time and a place for such conversations. If I was talking about my period with a group of friends outside of work but I could tell I was making one of them uncomfortable I would change the subject. And I would not talk about medical stuff/body stuff during mealtimes.

            Reply
            1. Thlayli

              Ah, the childbirth pain olympics. Yeah that does get tiresome. I can’t see how they are dragging that out for weeks!

              It sounds like you have other options at lunch though since there are other women and men who don’t like talking about it… so the easy thing to do is just sit elsewhere.

              Reply
              1. Elspeth

                Yeah, but that doesn’t excuse the co-workers’ rudeness. Having such TMI/NSFW conversations often, when others have asked them not to – I mean, really, don’t they have anything else to talk about?

                Reply
            2. someone else was using the same name

              Going to be honest, I don’t have kids and I didn’t know what perennial massages were. My face after Google must have been pretty priceless! I would maybe try to create a separate table with the others who don’t want to hear the pregnancy talk and talk about sports or movies or pets. If you have a couple people joining you, you might be able to tune the others out.

              Reply
          4. Episkey

            Actually, when I was pregnant, I hated this! I do NOT want to hear your horror stories when I’m about to go through the same thing! It just makes me more anxious as a first time mom.

            Reply
            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

              Same!! Like I said in a comment below, my memories of being pregnant or giving birth are pretty rusty, since it all took place in the 90s, but one thing I do remember is that horror stories were THE LAST thing I wanted to hear when I was pregnant!

              Reply
            2. Lindsay J

              Yeah. I have not been pregnant before. And honestly, a lot of these types of stories – plus the stereotype of your life being over as soon as you have a kid – scare me off of wanting to ever have kids.

              It took some of my best friends getting pregnant and having kids, and having relatively normal experiences, for me to reconsider. Like yes, your perineum might split all the way down, but it might not. Your kid may be colic-y and scream and cry all day and nigh, but it might not.

              Reply
              1. Grapey

                I saw “the miracle of birth” video when I was like 10 years old in sex ed and that closed up my shop forever. Guh-ross.

                Reply
            3. CarrieT

              I agree. To all women with birth horror stories – do NOT tell them to first-time pregnant women! Scaring people absolutely leads to worse outcomes in childbirth! I actually had a wonderful, positive birth experience, and I wish that all women could go into it knowing that it has the potential to be beautiful, empowering, fascinating, etc. Pain is made worse by fear and tension, so it’s ideal to go into birth expecting the best rather than fearing the worst.

              Reply
            4. Clisby Williams

              Really! I used to tell expectant mothers the story of my father’s first cousin. She was admitted to the hospital to give birth to her first child, and at some point a nurse comes in, realizes the baby is about to be born, and gets her rushed off to the delivery room. Later, they said “WHY didn’t you call us?” She said, “I kept waiting for the pain to get really bad.”

              Reply
          5. Scarlet

            There is a time and a place for sharing this type of information though. I think all of us here agree on the importance of sex ed, but would it be acceptable for colleagues to discuss about vaginal dryness and the comparative merits of lube brands at the office? I think not. It’s not like the ONLY time people can communicate is at work…

            Also, let’s not forget that this kind of conversation could be upsetting and exclusionary for people who are currently struggling with infertility or who have had a miscarriage.

            Reply
          6. justcourt

            What?! Asking people you’re eating lunch with to not share graphic medical stories is not unreasonable. Asking people to not ask their coworkers to not share is extremely unreasonable, though.

            Reply
          7. Annabelle

            Lots of conversations that are both incredibly work- and lunch-inappropriate would be helpful. I have a handful of somewhat common chronic health conditions and expounding upon my symptoms would probably be helpful to other people with my diagnoses, but that doesn’t make it a totally fine and okay mealtime conversation.

            Reply
          8. Plague of frogs

            This is like saying it’s OK to talk about sex at work because in the past people weren’t properly educated about it. It’s not.

            Reply
          1. Bonky

            As I mentioned above, doctors and medical professionals are kind of rubbish at telling pregnant women about a lot of what happens to your body, and how to mitigate it. I think it’s out of a misplaced politeness, or a patronising “she’s better off not knowing”. And I would have loved time to visit a specialised support group when I was expecting – but I have a very demanding job which meant my ability to find spare time was very curtailed, especially with obstetric appointments in the mix. And as far as I’m aware, outside the UK’s NCT classes (which tend to push a “natural birth” ideology and are surprisingly politicised – not my cup of tea) there’s nothing like that in my area anyway. I was lucky to have good friends and yes, kind colleagues.

            I gather from your username that you haven’t given birth.

            Reply
            1. Gwenhwyfar

              There’s still the option of discussing whether they should get together some *other* time to discuss it, not while I’m trying to eat my food. Sharing information is great, but are you really going to argue that these people do not have access to, say, the internet? Or other women?

              Also, that last add-on about their username was uncalled for. Mike can be a name for someone who can/has given birth. It’s rude to assume.

              Reply
              1. grace

                All of this. I’m just beyond perplexed by the thought that ‘sharing information’ has more weight than someone’s discomfort with a conversational topic.

                There are so many other venues where this topic may be appropriate; lunch at work is so, so not one of them.

                Reply
                1. Tuxedo Cat

                  I agree. I can’t tell but I know in some workplaces, I could literally not be sitting at the same table and still hear the entire conversation. The break room simply wasn’t that large. I suppose I could take lunch to my desk but I still had to microwave it and wait around for it.

                2. TootsNYC

                  yes! OK, so you find out that a coworker might find your anecdotes helpful; you have that convo somewhere more private, even at work–maybe you stop after work by the car for a little bit, or something.

              2. Specialk9

                Who gets information on pregnancy and childbirth from doctors? (What, in the 7 minutes they have with you?) I was glued to Baby Center online, and other online forums. I also really appreciated “Pregnancy Sucks”, because it was funny, and it brought up a lot of weird stuff to expect (and a few things even I didn’t experience, so that was nice!) but not in a complaining way.

                Pregnancy is like this great entry for all the secrets – people pop up to tell you all kinds of awful things about having kids. My brother and his wife (previously all ‘everything is great!’) got gleeful looks when I announced my pregnancy, and spent a half hour straight listing all the ways children ruin one’s life. Thanks guys!

                I had a terrible rough pregnancy and childbirth (like BAD), then several weeks in the hospital, then 2 years recovering. But even I only tell the mildly amusing stuff – weird smell aversions and working through it – or the super high level description.

                I would *not* tell this stuff to a pregnant lady (or if I accidentally did, somehow, to someone not showing I’d reassure them with all the reasons I was high risk and don’t worry you definitely won’t have this happen). Because it’s really cruel to scare people who are likely already scared.

                Reply
              3. SarahTheEntwife

                Yes! I’m pretty open about talking about medical stuff, and have definitely gone “oh, you’re having (procedure/surgery/thing)? I went through that last year; let me know if you ever want to chat” with coworkers. But I don’t talk about it all the time in the lunchroom, because *not everyone wants to know about the contents of my gall bladder*.

                Reply
            2. anon scientist

              There are lots of topics where talking to other people who have had similar experiences would be helpful, but are not appropriate for a group lunch. Should everyone have to hear about my IBS or Crohn’s disease just because I find out my coworker has IBS/Crohn’s, and we want to discuss it but have busy lives and can’t go to an outside support group? Probably not. IBS-coworker and I can take a break together sometime and discuss it without making everyone else suffer through the discussion.

              Reply
              1. Thlayli

                If you and a fellow IBS sufferer are eating lunch together and someone else joins, is it not on them to decide to leave if they don’t like the conversation?

                In this case it seems OP is the odd one out and everyone else is on board with the topic – to stick with your analogy it’s as if OP is going for lunch with s group of IBS sufferers and she is the only one not affected. And up till now it seems OP has not made any real effort to explain how much she dislikes the topic.

                Plus, as I said above, many people would take offence to the idea that talking about defecation is comparable to talking about birth. Poo != baby.

                Reply
                1. anon scientist

                  You also commented above that there are workplaces where you are where a discussion like this is not appropriate so I am confused why you insist that the coworkers should continue to discuss this.

                  And actually if a coworker showed up during my IBS discussion, I would stop discussing the IBS, or tell the coworker that I’m sorry, we’re having a private lunch to discuss private issues. Additionally, IBS and Crohn’s are not all = poo issues either.

                  I think we can agree to disagree whether talking about graphic birth stories is appropriate for an open/public lunch conversation.

                2. Sam.

                  If you set up a lunch time and space specifically to discuss very personal common experiences, I think you alert anyone who wanders in that the conversation is for that specific purpose (or you stop talking about that thing, if that makes more sense). That whole situation is very different than discussing it with a large group of people in a common space who are mostly there for a 30 minute socialization break before they go back to work. Don’t get me wrong: I think it’s extremely valuable to share this information! But you have to pick your setting.

                  I also think it’s also worth keeping in mind that people constantly fixating on a single topic is usually unwelcome, even if it is a topic that’s generally considered SFW.

                3. Thlayli

                  I don’t get what’s confusing? There are some workplaces (like Mike C’s and yours) where talking about childbirth is not the done thing. There are some workplaces (like every one I’ve ever worked in and OPs) where talking about childbirth is accepted and welcomed by the majority.

                  The point that I’m making is not “it’s always acceptable”. The point I’m making is that it’s very common and in lots of workplaces it is acceptable. It’s a “know your workplace / audience” thing, not a “this is a banned topic from every workplace ever” thing.

                  Op has posted above that she has the option of sitting at another table, which is what she’s doing.

                4. Tuxedo Cat

                  I think the point is generally to err on the side of caution. There are tons workplaces where things are acceptable because either everyone is afraid to say something or the norms are off.

                5. TootsNYC

                  I would say it’s not polite to discuss at in the lunchroom at work where people can overhear. If the lunchroom is such that we can discuss it without other people hearing, and then someone joins us, I would say that we should wrap it up and move on to a topic of interest to all of us, and that is not about bodily fluids and bodily functions.

                6. myswtghst

                  Ran out of nesting so this is a response to the responses…

                  We can comment til we’re all blue in the face about how it’s an inappropriate subject for work, but based on OP#1’s follow up comments, it sounds like it’s unlikely to stop or change. So while it might be reassuring for OP#1 to know that people feel for her / agree with her, it isn’t likely to lead to helpful advice, because confronting the coworkers full of righteous anger about how people on the internet agree that their topic of choice for lunch convos is inappropriate is more likely to start drama than it is to make things better (not that I think OP#1 is planning to do this, for the record).

                  You might not agree with Thlayli, but they have a point – if a group of people clearly find value in these conversations, to the point that they continue having them even after OP#1 has clearly stated they’d rather not hear about the topic at lunch, there is probably not much OP#1 can do to change their minds. That means that strategies like finding other people to eat lunch with or leaving when the conversation turns to birth talk are OP#1’s best bet to avoid the topic.

                7. Joielle

                  I have a feeling I’m in a serious minority here, but… obviously poo is not literally the same as a baby, but I think the analogy is still valid. The point is that you can’t talk about things coming out of genitals at work. Or, at the VERY least, you can’t talk about them at work with people who don’t want to talk about them.

            3. Nita

              So? He can still have an opinion about this. You don’t have to be a woman to be able to imagine yourself trying to eat, while someone is loudly discussing how much blood they lost right next to you. I agree doctors aren’t great with this sometimes and that there’s nothing wrong with seeking out support wherever you can find it, but that does not mean the discussion with coworkers has to happen *in the lunchroom at mealtime.*

              Reply
            4. Decima Dewey

              I haven’t given birth either, and I’m a woman. I do have a horror story involving my own birth that I would never tell over food.

              No one wants to hear about what effect my diabetes medication sometimes has on my digestive tract. There’s a time to tell the story of my spectacular case of appendicitis, and the branch potluck isn’t that time.

              Reply
            5. Annabelle

              There are lots of free pregnancy focused groups online that would surely be helpful to people who appreciate these conversations. And there are surely other resources that don’t depend on making one’s coworker’s uncomfortable.

              I think it’s great that we’ve gotten to a point, culturally, where it’s the norm for people to talk about what actually happens during childbirth. But that still doesn’t mean everyone needs to hear it or that lunch in the office is the appropriate forum.

              Reply
              1. CarrieT

                I agree that it’s great that conversations about childbirth are happening, although detailed descriptions of body parts, fluids, and medical issues probably don’t belong in the office lunchroom. Literally every human has gone through childbirth (being born) and yet most people know nothing about it and find it scary or icky. We balk at the unfamiliar, but it’s worthwhile to try to overcome our reflexes. Childbirth is natural, normal, incredible, and absolutely safe for the majority of women.

                Reply
                1. Annabelle

                  This isn’t about the unfamiliar. It’s about being considerate enough to realize that some topics are both incredibly fraught and personal and just don’t belong in some spaces. There’s a massive stigma surrounding menstruation as well, but I choose not to gleefully inform my colleagues about the cysts I get every time I’m on my period.

                  There is a time and place to change the way we talk about or view certain things, and I really don’t think the office break room will ever be that place.

                2. Annabelle

                  I also think it’s telling that the general instinct in the comments is that people don’t want to talk about this because it’s unfamiliar. Realistically, there are just as many people who dislike these conversations because they’ve had a traumatic childbirth experience of their own, or maybe they’ve recently miscarried, or had a stillborn child.

                  There are so many different reasons why someone would rather not talk about this stuff with coworkers. It’s not necessarily just people being squeamish or naive.

                3. Mike C.

                  Again, just because you find childbirth to be magical and full of wonder doesn’t mean I need to hear about it during my lunch at work. Why is this so hard to understand?

                  I don’t subject my coworkers to intense discussions about politics, different genres of trance music, cartoon robots or personal medical issues because as a social animal I understand that these topic bore, upset, anger or embarrass those listening.

                  Why should the graphic details of childbirth be treated any differently? Why force it on other people? Why do I need to “overcome my reflexes”?

                4. MizA

                  Sure, it’s natural and awesome and full of wonder. And it’s supergreat to want to demystify things! But you don’t know if your coworker has miscarried or might be dealing with infertility or might be scared shitless of the birthing process or might just be tired of all the birthin’ talk. Unless it’s a conversation everyone’s buying into, its place isn’t the only shared mealtime.

          2. Health Insurance Nerd

            I agree. I’ve given birth twice and have never felt compelled to share the dirty details over lunch with coworkers. If someone wants to join a moms group there are PLENTY of options that don’t include having inappropriate conversations at work and alienating people who’d rather talk about less stomach-churning topics!

            (I’ve seen a bunch of your comments and people seems to be reacting pretty strongly, but I’m with you 100%)

            Reply
        3. Tuxedo Cat

          There’s other options… They can go grab coffee together, the pregnant people can join a group.

          I’ve gone through plenty of scary things where I could use support (multiple deaths, a traumatic medical incident, being stalked and abused, a sickly partner). It was helpful to talk to others, but I wouldn’t graphically be talking about these things at work.

          Reply
        4. Anon-a-mouse

          Was going to say something similar. Recently I was stuck in the middle of a protracted conversation about pregnancy and childbirth and one of the participants turned to me helpfully to explain what a certain blood test meant. I snapped at her “I know what that is, I’ve been pregnant before I just never ended up with a baby.” Met with dead silence and a change of topic, which was welcome, but I did feel bad for snapping at her.

          Reply
          1. JessaB

            Yes but when you’re discussing something as emotionally and socially fraught as pregnancy you run the risk of saying something to someone who wanted to be pregnant and couldn’t be or who lost a baby or any other number of reasons why a lot of places think this is a bad thing to talk about.

            I am sorry you went through that but your snapping at them wasn’t necessarily a bad thing to do. Sometimes people have to hear that to realise that what they’re saying can be hurtful. And sometimes good, nice people snap at you when you say something hurtful whether you meant it or not. (See standing on my foot meme.)

            Which is why any conversation about pregnancy should be strictly OPT IN and people should be kind about it.

            Reply
          2. Plague of frogs

            I’m glad you did snap at her. People are really, really thoughtless around this. I am childless by choice, and I’ve had a lot of comments made to me that were mildly annoying, but would have been heartbreaking if childlessness wasn’t my choice.

            Reply
          3. MizA

            Your reaction was intense, but not out of line. I’ve been there too. Sometimes people need a little reminder.

            Reply
          4. Like a Stone

            I agree it’s not your fault for snapping at her. But this is exactly, exactly why such topics can be painful and not just unwanted.

            Reply
      3. Shop Girl

        It’s really common in every workplace I have ever worked in. I think the reason is that this is how younger women learn about childbirth, traditionally. Is it still true in the modern workplace? I think wherever women are together these conversations are inevitable.
        I was fortunate (through nothing I did, just pure luck) to have had easy births. I tell my story to expectant mothers all the time because it isn’t all horrible.

        Reply
        1. Q

          No. No, it is not. I don’t want to be taught about childbirth by my coworkers. That’s just creepy and uncomfortable and weirdly maternalistic.

          Reply
          1. Scarlet

            “No. No, it is not. I don’t want to be taught about childbirth by my coworkers. That’s just creepy and uncomfortable and weirdly maternalistic.”

            THIS, 100%. Also, some of us have no plans on getting pregnant ever and do not want to “traditionally learn” anything from their oversharing coworkers, thankyouverymuch.

            Reply
        2. Ave

          Traditionally, we lived on farms or near them. We lived huddled together in cities, Kids were delivered at home. Girls as you as 4 were in the room to help. There was no privacy. So girls saw birth of siblings, cousins, etc.

          There is no tradition of talking about this at work. At least in the USA.
          Unless you consider the past 50 years of women in the workforce long enough to be a tradition.

          I’m not trying to call you out specifically here. However, a lot of things we think are “traditional” are less tha 100 years old as practices.

          We need to be really wary of using words such as traditional, normal, or typical.

          Reply
          1. Thlayli

            I think the point Shop Girl was making is that since we no longer have that sort of community learning outside of work, it is being partly replaced by learning from older female coworkers.

            This is obviously not everyone’s experience, but I personally have had older female coworkers and younger female coworkers and have had this sort of “transfer of knowledge from older woman to younger woman” type conversation.

            I agree with you that it’s not universal, but it definitely does happen for lots of women.

            I’ve worked in high female ratio and all-female workplaces and these types of conversations are definitely a part of workplace experience for a lot of people.

            Reply
            1. Ave

              That well may be, but it’s still not “traditional.”

              That’s a very loaded word. Often used to justify behavior with no other points to support it.

              That’s, all.

              Reply
              1. Like a Stone

                Exactly, it’s also traditional to marry of children in my culture, or to stone gays to death. That doesn’t mean we do that shit here in the states.

                Reply
            2. Autumnheart

              Yeah, now we have the Internet, where we can traditionally learn these things on communities with thousands of members from all over the world, and from actual medical resources like Mayo.org.

              It is patently ridiculous to argue that one “needs” to learn about childbirth from their fellow teapot designers in the office break room. It’s 2018 and we have Google now.

              It’s also ridiculous to try to argue “tradition” about information concerning childbirth when TRADITION also dictates that you don’t gross out your dining companions by talking about bodily functions at the table! Especially not when they have already expressly asked you not to do that.

              Reply
              1. Specialk9

                Especially since the things that people pass on about childbirth and having children is often questionable, to downright harmful.

                Reply
          2. Shakti

            Haven’t women been working forever? I don’t think it’s a in the last 50 years thing. I agree though that learning about child birth from your colleagues is not helpful or appropriate. When I was pregnant I desperately wanted out of all child birth stories at work and in general

            Reply
        3. Pollygrammer

          This is a strange and kind of dictatorial assertion. Not all younger women want to learn about childbirth. I don’t actually know any young women who want to learn about childbirth from coworkers.

          Reply
          1. Jules

            +1. If and when I become pregnant I will be learning from the wise and maternal internet. I’ve worked for years so that my coworkers (male and female) see me and competent and confident. I don’t want want that image replaced by “ignorant and terrified, won’t be able to manage without hearing about my torn perineum”.

            Reply
        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          That was not how I learned about childbirth (and I worked in a team at the time that was 50% women, was the youngest of them all by ten years, and all but one of my female coworkers had kids, so it’s not like I never got an opportunity to learn from them) and I still somehow managed to not screw mine up.

          Seriously, in this age of easily accessible information, why on earth would younger women reach out to coworkers to learn about childbirth? Among other things, I don’t want to know the details of how my colleagues gave birth. Unless they are also my close friends, and want to tell me as a friend.

          Reply
        5. Annabelle

          I don’t think this is typically how younger women learn about pregnancy. Most young people have someone in their life who has had kids, probably more than one person. I learned pretty much everything I know about childbirth from non-coworkers who have children.

          Reply
        6. LCCE

          THANK YOU. We need more women to tell expectant moms that there are stories out there that are not horror stories.

          Reply
        7. Like a Stone

          Traditionally, women did not work outside the home, so there were no workplaces in which they learned about childbirth. They learned the same way we learn about periods, from mothers/sisters/aunts/other relatives or friends. I’ve worked in four different offices, two of which were female dominated, and this was at most an occasional discussion topic.

          Reply
          1. Bleeborp

            It clearly differs by workplace and your definition of “traditional.” I’ve worked in a couple female dominated field and have had many, many graphic conversations with fellow female coworkers about their births. I wouldn’t say that’s the primary way people learn about childbirth of course BUT it is a scenario where I’m around older women that I wouldn’t usually be friends with outside of work but we spend a lot of time together and it comes up and it’s educational in a way (in that they have had children and I have not.) I don’t have/want kids but I find it fascinating and am not easily made squeamish so I always welcome it and would probably be at that break room table savoring all the graphic pregnancy information. Obviously, if you don’t like your coworkers or you are easily made squeamish or just don’t like hearing about pregnancy for whatever reason, you don’t want to encourage this kind of conversation but if you show interest you can “learn” about different kinds of pregnancies and births in a way that I find really interesting. I had one coworker with 4 kids and she had each one differently- epidural not induced, epidural and induced, c section, and no epidural or induction- her insights were so interesting! And I don’t think it’s always inappropriate work conversation just because it involves the body but of course people should be considerate about the people around them and their comfort level.

            Reply
      4. Katie the Fed

        as a recently pregnant woman, this actually drove me crazy. Everyone seemed to want to tell me ALL about their horrible birth experiences (or worse). People I barely knew told me about how they were in labor for 48 hours, how they delivered at 27 weeks, and one woman even wanted to tell me all about her stillborn baby. PLEASE JUST STOP.

        Reply
        1. Bonky

          Yeah – I had one colleague who spent my whole pregnancy telling me about all the terrible things that would definitely, inevitably happen to me, or blight my baby. Another colleague told her to put a sock in it. Most of my workmates were very helpful, though, and many told me things I was glad to learn.

          It’s not just colleagues who do the “dreadful things will happen” thing; it’s women (of my acquaintance) in general; I have no idea why people do it. Men I know have a similar thing, only about parenthood: lots of moaning about how much worse life is with a child. I made a resolution NEVER to do the same. (Helped by the fact that I think life with a child is pretty brilliant.)

          Reply
        2. Parenthetically

          YES. “Oh god, I lost twenty pounds my first pregnancy because I couldn’t keep ANYTHING down! I had a third degree tear! I had to have PT! Diastasis recti! NICU! HELLP syndrome!” and on and on. I want to hear positive stories, if anything, and get a dose of reality from my closest friends ONLY.

          Reply
        3. OP1

          Yeah I’m still on the fence about the whole children vs. childfree decision but hearing these conversations has filled me with dread if I ever decide to take the plunge into motherhood. Having a baby sounds like everything that happens after conception is just plain awful.

          Reply
          1. Q without U

            I wonder what would happen if you said that one day. Do you think it would be eye-opening for them, or would they think you were just joking?

            Reply
          2. newmom

            As someone who has not slept more than 3 hours at a stretch in 8 weeks (5 week old kid + miserable last 3 weeks of pregnancy), I am inclined to agree with you. I also hate people who claim their X week old was sleeping through the night. B**** don’t tell that to a new mom who has a baby who only sleeps 2 hours at a time and only while being held by people.

            Childbirth was fine, though (and I had no drugs). I’d do it all over again just for a single good night’s sleep. I need sleep.

            Reply
            1. Katie the Fed

              @newmom – solidarity! My 10-week old is still waking up 2-3 times a night. The people whose babies slept through the night at 4 weeks REALLY seem to want to tell me about it.

              Reply
            2. Specialk9

              One of my two pieces of advice to new parents is this (which is the opposite of what every parent told *me*, and of what every article I read said):

              You will sleep again. Really. Hang in there, it’s tough, but it gets better.

              The other is that it’s totally normal to *want* to throw the baby out the window sometimes, but the trick is not to *actually* throw the baby out the window. You’re not a bad person or parent, though.

              That’s all I got.

              Reply
          3. Kyrielle

            Well, if it helps: I’ve had two kids. The first one was rough and I suppose I could go toe-to-toe with some of your coworkers if I wanted to emphasize those parts, but I recovered fully and he’s fine and an awesome kid. The second one wasn’t rough at all (and he’s an awesome kid too).

            There are lots of things that can be a problem during childbirth, and if you decide to take the plunge I recommend researching them *because* some can be made less likely and others are more distressing if you don’t know they might happen.

            But it’s not inevitably going to be horrible. Neither of mine were horrible, actually – it’s all in what you talk about. There are parts of pregnancy and childbirth that are unpleasant, but for most people it’s not 24/7 misery, I don’t think.

            Reply
          4. Nita

            It’s not necessarily that bad. You’re probably getting the worst stories, exaggerated for extra effect. I agree with newmom that the lack of sleep afterwards is the worst thing ever, but I won’t give you my horror story here :) especially because after talking to other people, it seems I’ve drawn the short end of the stick and most kids sleep much better than mine.

            Reply
          5. Nanani

            Don’t tell this group your reproductive plans. I have a very strong hunch that the grossness will increase AND you’ll get an earfull on how you’re doing everything wrong.

            Reply
          6. Lindsay J

            Yeah, I commented about this above.

            I’m 32, and only in the past year when a couple of my closest friends gave birth and it wasn’t traumatic and their life didn’t end immediately did I start to reconsider. And yes, I still know it wasn’t all sunshine and daisies. But it was the first time I got an actual balanced picture rather than just the child birth horror story Olympics.

            These types of things put me off of the idea of kids and pregnancy specifically for close to a couple decades. (Like, I think I’ve been hearing about how terrible child birth is from other women since I was old enough to get my period.)

            Reply
            1. newmom

              This is actually something my childbirth class emphasized: the popular narratives around childbirth are really horrific. And that leads to fear/stress, which is known to cause problems in labor. Certain people love to play misery poker (like OPs coworkers), and childbirth really seems to bring that out. If all these people had had kidney stones, I’m sure they’d be constantly sharing those horror stories

              I feel very lucky that all of the stories I heard growing up from the women in my family ranged from “Yeah, I guess that sucked, but so do many medical things” *shrug* to “Childbirth was totally fine, I don’t know why everyone says it’s so terrible.” The women in my family have terrible pregnancies but relatively easy births (despite large babies). And hearing neutral to positive stories growing up helped me in my childbirth. I could have experienced it as terrifying and awful (because it was super fast and no one–not me, not the midwife–was really “in control” of the situation), but instead I came out feeling like it was fine (the brevity of the experience greatly off sets the “well that sucked” aspects).

              Reply
              1. Nita

                That’s very true! There’s sometimes a psychological element to pain, and the worse you expect it to be… so I’m not a fan of the older generation sharing horror stories for this reason too.

                Reply
              2. Ali

                I remember reading a study that found that women that had overly-optimistic or overly-pessimistic expectations for childbirth, tended to have higher incidences of PTSD. The women who had more realistic expectations, basically a good understanding of the physiological process with the knowledge that things could potentially be easier or harder than baseline “normal” births, tended to do the best of all and suffer the least trauma.

                Reply
          7. Sally

            FWIW, it can also be the most wonderful thing! I loved pregnancy and had a very positive birth experience. I’m excited to do it again. I truly believe that more people have positive experiences than negative, but the negative voices are louder. Also, your expectations and your mindset alter your reality. So this perpetual “horror story” dump actually makes the situation worse for future women. We need more positive pregnancy and birth stories out there!

            Reply
          8. Mike C.

            Since no one else is saying it, not having children is also awesome. Do what makes you happy, not what others convince you to do.

            Reply
            1. OP1

              Aw that’s sweet! Don’t worry, I’m as stubborn as a mule so I definitely won’t have kids unless I truly want to have kids

              Reply
            2. Like a Stone

              I have simply never wanted children and never reconsidered. I am bisexual and have dated women who were willing to physically have the child, and I still didn’t want kids. An ex (male) suggested adoption, and I was not interested. Pregnancy/childbirth has very little to do with wanting/not wanting kids, at least in my experience. You’re only pregnant for nine months. You have to raise it for 18 years.

              Reply
      5. Mike C.

        I would absolutely make a fuss if people did this to me, repeatedly until people stopped. I don’t go to work to hear about the bodily fluids of my coworkers.

        Reply
        1. Thlayli

          I think that you are very lucky that you work in a place where the majority of your coworkers share your opinion. If you made a fuss about being grossed out like that in my workplace then some of my colleagues would probably escalate it to make you even more grossed out! But this may be a cultural thing as I don’t think Americans really do that.

          Reply
          1. Tardigrade

            I have worked with RNs and other direct caregivers (am not one myself) who would start discussing the most disgusting aspects of their jobs during lunch, and we set up a hand signal system for when they started doing it and it would remind them to stop.

            If they can be considerate and realize that not everything is lunch table appropriate, then I bet just about anyone could.

            Reply
          2. YuliaC

            Haha that’s exactly what happens when one tries to hush a lunchroomful of (American) med techs talking about childbirth et cetera… They ramp up the goriness and the volume with enormous glee. I’ve seen that at 3 different workplaces now.

            Reply
          3. Augusta Sugarbean

            Maybe lay off the “Americans do this” or “I think Americans must do that”. Generalizations about people in the US, or any other country for that matter, are rarely accurate or helpful.

            Reply
            1. Thlayli

              Well I know from commenting here that most of the people who comment here are not from my country or culture. So when I see people saying “omg that’s so terrible” about something I think is perfectly normal, I’m gonna assume that’s a cultural difference. And it usually is.

              But yes, I should be more careful about assuming that ALL Americans think similarly. As Yulia says above, some Americans also will gleefully try to gross out their squeamish colleagues, so that particular behaviour probably transcends cultural differences.

              Reply
      6. paul

        It’s common and damn annoying. I’m the only male in my office, and discussions about childbirth (and menopause, and PMS) aren’t particularly common but they’re not rare either. I generally shut my door and try to ignore it; I don’t want to hear that my coworker’s vag was messed up after their kid weighed 9.5 lbs or that they’re constipated because PMS.

        Reply
      7. Chocolate lover

        3 children have been born to my female colleagues in the last 3 years, and no one has discussed this level of detail in groups of coworkers, whether it was about pregnancy or any other bodily experience or medical procedure. Nor did mothers in my previous offices. I think it’s perfectly ok for OP to ask them to be mindful of the whole group overall, and also not to discuss it while eating.

        Reply
        1. SarahTheEntwife

          Same here — several coworkers have had children, and I’ve overheard only a few very general pregnancy discussions.

          Reply
      8. OP1

        Yeah, it seems to be that the women who are older and have already had children are enthusiastic participants but the men and younger women in my office are generally uncomfortable with the topic.

        Reply
        1. Q

          I wonder if it’s not because they haven’t had someone to discuss childbirth with in a while? These conversations tend to crop up when topical, and they might be feeling nostalgia or something.

          Reply
        2. Ave

          I wonder if any of these women have ever considered how damaging their conversation is to women or men struggling with infertility, who have lost a child, or people who have to use surrogates.

          It’s pretty clueless.

          Reply
          1. SittingDuck

            I don’t think this is fair. You can’t ask people to avoid all potentially touchy subjects to others – or no one would ever talk about anything.

            I lost my mother as a teenager – it had a HUGE effect on my life – but it doesn’t mean I get upset when others talk about their (still alive) mothers because I realize that having and losing loved ones is part of life, and it is my burden to bear, not to project onto others/make them feel bad for talking about their mothers because I don’t have a living one anymore.

            Everyone has different life circumstances, and telling someone they can’t talk about a HUGE part of their life (motherhood/childbirth) because someone else might not be on the same path, or might be struggling to get to that place is unrealistic. Everyone has things that make them uncomfortable or sensitive -but part of life is learning to life in a world that has these things and still getting by.

            Reply
            1. Annabelle

              You can ask people to avoid explicit medical conversations in the workplace though. Idk why people act as if asking someone not to constantly talk about childbirth or pregnancy is the same as asking them to avoid literally every potentially sensitive subject.

              Reply
              1. Eye of the Hedgehog

                Because the stated rationale to which SittingDuck is responding was not about people being grossed out by medical procedures.

                Reply
                1. Annabelle

                  I didn’t say anything about being grossed out. Medical situations and procedures, pregnancy and childbirth included, can be and often are traumatic. It’s completely rational to avoid talking about specific things you know are fraught so that you don’t inadvertently hurt someone.

        3. SympatheticMom

          I think the psychology here is very similar to people who fought in a war together or something. When you go through something traumatic, you feel closer to those who shared the experience. But if you asked them if they regret it, I’m betting that they would all say not at all. Honestly, personally, birthing was horrible, and the sleepless nights were much, much worse. The horror stories were not an exaggeration, but neither were the stories of the transcendental feeling of love that isn’t like any other, and fundamentally changes you as a human being. It’s this contrast that makes the conversation keep coming back over and over, I think. I am not defending their behavior – I think you’ve shown that you don’t like it, and it’s very bad manners that they keep doing it. I think if you just walked away one day, they might get the hint. They might get seriously offended- ” are you suggesting my children are disgusting?” kind of response – but that’s on them. Or more gently, can you just bring the conversation more towards raising small children, the joys and the difficulties – hopefully less disgusting, and maybe even interesting for you if you’re on the fence about having kids?

          Reply
      9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Wow, that is eye-opening for sure. I’m in the US, in a mostly-male field, and I can think of exactly one time in my 21 years here when my coworkers and I discussed childbirth. It was at an office holiday party, a group of us women were trying to chat amongst ourselves, and the office Casanova kept butting into our circle and trying to join in our chat; until we figured out that saying “so that one time when I was giving birth…” makes him immediately exit the conversation. We used that to run him off. Never had, or heard, any conversations about that in the workplace!

        I have two sons myself, had them both naturally without painkillers (not because I wanted to, there just weren’t any other options), my memories of them being born are pretty rusty at this point, but I guess I could still participate in a conversation about it, I just was never in a situation in a workplace where childbirth was being discussed and I needed to weigh in.

        Reply
      10. bookish

        I think America is pretty terrible when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth stuff, and that attitude probably shows through social situations as well, when people who haven’t given birth think that’s something that’s gross and should be kept private.

        I’m a “no kids ever” person but I wouldn’t mind childbirth talk one bit, I find it fascinating because when I think about it, or hear about the details, I’m always so in awe of people who have done it! Like, it’s terrifying to me but that translates to me being incredibly impressed. If I’m being honest I saw the question and immediately got a little steamed because it seemed misogynist. Frankly it does feel a little bit like… ok so (mostly) women’s bodies creating life is disgusting to you? How do you think you got here? How much did your mom have to go through to give birth to you?

        I get that OP is squeamish about it but gosh I always think it’s best to do whatever I can to support women who have given birth. It’s annoying that they are like “oh OP you’ll hate this but here it is!” and maybe that would require a more serious talk if you really want to keep eating lunch with them (in which case I’d focus on just being too squeamish to talk about body stuff at lunch while you’re eating and maybe frame it as “sorry, this is a weird thing for me, I just can’t eat if people are talking about body functions!” – but also if this is all they talk about… do you really want to be eating lunch with them? I don’t know your office culture etc, maybe you can eat with other people or something if you can’t stand being around them.

        I also… don’t think that they “assume because you’re a woman in your 20s you want to hear this stuff” if you’ve already said you don’t like it? But maybe they assumed it was a safe space to talk about childbirth since they were around women. (Shrug)

        Reply
        1. Lindsay J

          What about supporting the people who can’t give birth for whatever reason, or who lost a child to miscarriage or still-birth or death shortly after birth, or just plain don’t want to?

          Traditionally, women who do not or cannot reproduce have been much more maligned than women who have children.

          Reply
              1. Specialk9

                I’m sorry to hear that.

                I’m an enthusiastic mom – I love having a kid, I always wanted kids. And I am so careful to be respectful of the fact that others may not want kids, or can’t have them, or have complicated feelings or experiences on the topic. I don’t get why this is so unusual.

                Reply
                1. Like a Stone

                  It’s unusual because you always wanted kids. That’s beautiful. Most parents I know tell me “I didn’t want kids until I had them!” etc. as if to suggest not wanting kids shouldn’t be a barrier to having them.

            1. Like a Stone

              Yes, or for a woman with one child to state that she will not be doing it again.

              My former coworker almost died and her son spent two weeks in the NICU (he’s 7 now, and doing well, Thank God). But that wasn’t enough of an excuse for some of our (then) coworkers.

              Reply
              1. Like a Stone

                Thankfully, we both left that workplace. Management was toxic and allowed bullying not just about children, but about other medical issues, religion, even race.

                Reply
          1. Annabelle

            I’ve noticed that a lot of online commenters, in general, not just here, tend to be really unsympathetic to people who can’t have kids. People tend to get really dismissive or kind of angry whenever someone suggests limiting these types of conversations so as to avoid hurting people struggling with infertility. It’s really disheartening.

            Reply
            1. LCCE

              Annabelle, while I get that it is hard for childless couples, it is ALSO very disheartening to hear that we cannot talk about or share a huge part of our lives.
              You may not realize that it very much CAN come off as DON’T TALK ABOUT THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE THEY ARE OFFENSIVE TO ME. And that’s not appropriate, either.

              Reply
              1. Annabelle

                But you can talk about your family without going into details of your birthing experience. I love kids. I worked with them for years. Show me all the baby pictures in the world, but please do not talk to me about your pernieum tearing. I do not want to have that much intimate knowledge about the people I work with.

                Also, as someone who has had a traumatic experience with pregnancy and is actively struggling with infertility, I don’t care a whole lot if preserving my mental health comes off badly to parents. I’m not going to pretend that their is an inherent privilege in being a parent, because that would be silly, but it would be also be silly to act as if our culture didn’t treat women who can and do bare children with a little more respect and deference than those of us who don’t.

                Reply
              2. Annabelle

                Also, if you hear “the people you love are offensive to me” when someone says “I find the topic of childbirth to be a bit too graphic and personal for the office”, then that’s on you.

                Reply
                1. Ali

                  But that’s not what you were saying at all. You’re trying to say that people should avoid childbirth talk because it might offend someone unable to have children. If someone is offended by childbirth talk because they themselves can’t have children, they’re not being offended by the graphic description, they’re being offended because of the emotional issues tied to them being unable to have children. The offense is in the discussion of children/parenting, not graphic medical descriptions. There’s no reason to believe someone who finds it emotionally distressing to hear others childbirth stories wouldn’t also be emotionally distressed by hearing about your kids birthday party.

            2. Specialk9

              Annabelle, yes.

              We parents can expect that you will deal with us having a family, and that you’ll find a way to manage with hearing the routine ‘weekend at soccer games’ stuff.

              But we don’t need to act like having children is a given or a rite of passage to adulthood, and we can take a few seconds to try not to hurt others who may be quietly suffering. Being kind is what we should all strive for.

              Reply
        2. Q

          ….What?

          I don’t want to talk about sex loudly at work over lunch either. That doesn’t mean I think sex is bad and wrong and shouldn’t happen.

          Reply
        3. OP1

          Human bodies are gross in general, I don’t want to talk about any medical stuff when I’m eating.
          I never said that specifically women’s bodies are disgusting- it just so happens in my workplace culture that the women are more open to talking about their bodily functions and the state of their genitals when I’m trying to eat.
          Picture this: you’re sitting at lunch and one of your male co-workers starts to talk to you about ejaculation and you are grossed out but he keeps talking about it anyway.
          I could argue that ejaculation is a necessary part of procreation and that half your DNA came from sperm so therefore you must hate men and their bodies if you don’t like talking about ejaculation at lunchtime.
          But I bet you don’t hate men or their bodies, you just don’t want to talk about some stuff when you’re trying to eat which is where I’m coming from.

          Reply
        4. Specialk9

          “America is pretty terrible about” is a huge wide brush.

          I’d be shocked if you’ve even lived in 15 cities in the US. (There are 35,000 cities in the US, nd that’s not counting the rural areas that don’t quite fit that count.) So even if you had lived in 15 cities, which I doubt, you’d still only know less Stan 0.004% of the US.

          Reply
        5. Bleeborp

          I’ve basically stated the exact same thing in a comment above- I don’t want kids but find the whole process very interesting and not gross or inappropriate for work. I’m a librarian so I’m “bookish” too! I am really free with the fact that I don’t want kids and maybe I get judged silently but the moms I work with don’t care and sometimes I think it’s kind of freeing for them to talk to someone without kids since I am not going to judge them or be like “oh don’t tell me that, it’ll scare me when I give birth!” I do think it depends on the situation of your coworkers -I think people should be respectful of other people who don’t want to hear about it for whatever reason but at lunch it’s optional to sit with these women so if hearing about childbirth is a problem, not sitting with them seems like a fine solution (it’d be different if one could not escape the conversation while it was taking place in their workspace.)

          Reply
      11. aebhel

        Ugh, I’m glad I missed out on that. I work in a female-dominated workplace, but I’m the only one there who has kids, so I got to miss out on the ‘LET’S BOND OVER OUR UTERUS-RELATED HORROR STORIES’ bs.

        Reply
    5. Geoffrey B

      Depends on the TV show. I would probably be more bothered by a blow-by-blow Game of Thrones recap than by most childbirth discussions.

      Reply
      1. Thlayli

        You should check out One Born Every Minute lol – my husband won’t even stay in the room when it’s on haha.

        Reply
        1. Fiorinda

          Or Call the Midwife. For a show with a reputation for being cute and fluffy it goes to some pretty stomach-turning places on a regular basis.

          Reply
    6. Aphrodite

      OP. you are far from alone I suspect. I am a woman who has never had any interest in having children and am now past the age of being able to do so. And that conversation would gross me out to the vomit point. (To be fair, any detailed medical conversation has the ability to do so, but that one? It’s particularly gross to me.) I wouldn’t joke about it at all. I would be dead bang serious when I asked them to stop or I might decide it wasn’t worth it (because it’s only me and maybe ten of them). But I would completely stop socializing with them at all. I’d rather eat lunch at my desk or in my car than hear one word about that.

      People: Medical stuff that gets into any kind of detail should be kept to yourself and any others who you are POSITIVE want to hear about it. If you are not sure, please do not share it, especially at work, and most especially at lunch.

      GROSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

      Reply
  2. Thursday Next

    #4–Ugh, why do places skimp on toilet paper? It’s so essential and rough toilet paper is extremely demoralizing. OP, I agree that you should discreetly poll your coworkers—you wouldn’t even have to get into details; just ask how they feel about the new TP. Chances are, that will elicit some feedback.

    But yeah, if your employer is cutting this particular corner, you may not be able to get much traction in a campaign to switch to a more humane variety of toilet paper. You have my sympathies.

    Reply
    1. Circus peanuts

      Quality toilet paper is important. I didn’t used to think so until I started trying to save money and got the absolute cheapest brand and had to deal with lint butt until the package was finished. I have since learned that a medium priced brand is a good compromise on quality and price.

      Reply
      1. sacados

        Sooo true. One of my roommates used to buy this one particular brand of toilet paper cause she thought it was “pretty.” But it was THE WORST quality toilet paper I have ever encountered in my life, and she just did not get why my other roommate and I were so insistent that it was never allowed in our house again. “But what’s wrong with it? It’s so pretty!” (ugh)
        Eventually we had to just forbid her from ever buying any because she just kept getting that awful stuff.

        Reply
        1. Amber T

          I’ve heard a lot of silly things in my life, but buying toilet paper because it’s pretty is pretty high up on that list.

          Reply
        2. copy run start

          I had a memorable argument with a roommate over TP at Walmart once, completing with snickering little old ladys in the other aisle. We each bought our preferred brand and it was a bit of an arms race whenever the stockpile ran low.

          Another roommate would always go buy the thinnest, cheapest mega pack of TP he could find. I was broke as heck but I always bought the good quality stuff whenever I beat him to the store. Of course the sheer number of rolls he’d bring home meant more often than not, the TP was crappy.

          Reply
      1. me too

        Ha! A former roommate had that hanging in our bathroom. I was so sad when she moved out and took that with her.

        Reply
    2. Artemesia

      I travel a lot and so always have tissues in my pockets; often they come in handy when there is no TP in a public rest room. The OP is going to have to do something like that. Keep a pack of kleenex in the purse or a few folded tissues tucked in a pocket and then no worry about it. Of course you can request a change in supplies but the odds this works seem low and who wants to be the ‘toilet paper lady’ who makes a big fuss at work about toilet paper?

      Reply
      1. Thursday Next

        Making a big fuss isn’t the way to go, for sure! But I think it’s not unreasonable for the OP to try to see how coworkers are responding to the change. If OP is met by shrugs all around, then yes, carrying personal toilet paper is the way to go.

        LW, you can bring partially used rolls from home, to cut down on the bulk you’ll be carrying in your bag.

        Reply
        1. WellRed

          If I walked into my office and said, “Does anyone else hate the new toilet paper?” my coworkers would be likely to all pipe up in agreement and I’d say something to the powers that be. But if they all shrugged, I’d have my answer and find my own way to deal with it.

          Reply
      2. Queen Esmerelda

        Be careful with this; Kleenex is not designed to degrade like toilet paper and can clog toilets/pipes. Signed, woman whose husband is a wastewater engineer and has to hear about this more than she wants to.

        Reply
        1. Cookie

          Clogging the pipes might be the thing that gets through to the business in the end to show that they’re being penny wise and pound foolish.

          Reply
          1. RabbitRabbit

            It will show them that they have employees who don’t understand what gets flushed (or who enjoy committing sabotage), and not that their toilet paper is subpar.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              Not really – If someone doesn’t have a reasonable options, they’ll use what they can. If the employer stopped providing toilet paper, people would do this too. Essentially, what is happening is that the employer has stopped providing usable TP.

              Reply
            2. myswtghst

              Yep. In my experience, this does not lead to better TP, it leads to bathrooms being shut down to be fixed and cleaned, and passive-aggressive signs about what is appropriate to flush. I’ve never worked anywhere that management would have made the connection to the crappy toilet paper they provide.

              Reply
          2. Amber T

            It may be a reason they switched to single-ply in the first place though. My office manager had to listen to everyone complain for months when we switched over to single ply (and she looked for the best quality / most comfortable single ply toilet paper she could) because the toilet paper we had been using was the source of all of our plumbing issues.

            Reply
        2. straws

          This is true. They do have travel packs of toilet paper that are about the same size as the tissue packs, so that might be the best option.

          Reply
        3. Artemesia

          I don’t use it at home, but I don’t care that much about the pipes of people whose businesses don’t provide toilet paper or provide horrifying stuff. The wet wipes can cause system wide problems, but the face tissues, well if it plugs up the plumbing at the company maybe they will get a clue.

          Reply
      3. Chinook

        A trick I learned from backwoods camping is to take a fresh tp roll and pull the centre tube out. This way it is easily squashed flat and into a Ziploc bag (to keep it dry, reduce the space it takes, and keep it from rolling away) while allowing you to pull it out of the centre instead of the outside (which can get dirty when being hauled around). It essentially works like a tissue box but for a much cheaper price.

        Reply
      4. Jerry Larry Terry Gary

        Flushable toilet wipes are quite portable and aren’t as obvious as a roll of toilet paper.

        Reply
        1. Catherine who works for a water utility

          Flushable toilet wipes aren’t actually flushable, despite what the packaging and marketing is trying to convince us of. They do not break down, they do plug up the system, and they are the bane of wastewater collection and treatment workers everywhere.

          Please everyone, do not flush them!

          Reply
    3. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)

      I am forcibly reminded of the time my manager (professional services within a hospital) got an email from the head of the cleaning department saying we were using too much toilet paper, and she needed to do something about it.

      Reply
      1. Espeon

        At Awful Financial Company they were OBSESSED with tp usage. If you went to fetch more for your floor’s bathroom it had to be signed-out by a member of accounts *crying with laughter* Oh and, it was of course the cheap kind.

        Reply
        1. Akcipitrokulo

          *sigh*

          Ours is decent – not luxury, but good enough, and it’s stored in cupboard under sinks in bathroom with expectation if any runs out you grab another roll. It’s seriously not worth upsetting people over.

          Reply
        2. whingedrinking

          I’ve recently moved into my own place after almost a decade of living in large, multi-roommate share houses, and my number one question is “were my former roomies eating the TP or what?!”, since it’s now disappearing at a much slower rate even allowing for the fact that I’m not sharing my bathroom with another person. I still didn’t go as far as the roommate who tried to implement an individual toilet paper regimen where everyone had a designated storage space. She just wound up with everyone taking it from her spot.

          Reply
          1. Oxford Coma

            A girl on my dorm floor in college dried herself with TP after a shower instead of using a towel. You can imagine how fast it disappeared.

            (I didn’t say anything to her, it seemed like a possible OCD situation.)

            Reply
            1. Be the Change

              Only if you haven’t adopted the washable rag + tumbler of water solution. A roll of tp lasts me a month at home. I admit this doesn’t help at work.

              Reply
            2. Pomona Sprout

              Yes, and I would explain why this is, but I don’t want to gross everyone out (like OP 1’s childbirth chatters, lol)!

              Reply
          2. LS

            I thought this too, but not long afterwards my former roommate (and current friends) was finally diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, so she really did need all that toilet paper.

            Reply
        3. Anecdata

          I worked at a place where the extra TP (and soap!!! ugh, I don’t want to think about it), were kept in a locked closet that only the head of accounts was allowed to access. We had an early-morning cleaning service who left before head-of-accounts arrived; so they were only restocked if someone came to the finance dept and insisted (and I don’t want to think about how often I found the bathrooms /out/ of these essentials and wonder what my coworkers were doing!).

          I was in a middle management position and felt like I had a bit of capital to burn so I started digging around for the root of this policy; and no one seemed to really care but no one wanted to risk (Cleaning service says “we’d be happy to restock the tp but the lock is really important to finance dept”; finance dept says “I have more important things to do that manage the tp-closet key, but HR insists on it”, HR says “…I never started this system so I’m not authorized to change it”). When I got to the point where everyone agreed it could be changed, but everyone was worried they would get in trouble if they just did it (“…but would it be okay with the CEO?”); I put my foot down, and said I was requisitioning a week’s worth of tp and soap at a time; keeping it unlocked in a stairs closet; telling the cleaning service where it was; and if the CEO was unhappy, everyone was welcome to blame me.

          And what do you know, the CEO of a multinational company somehow had enough things to occupy them that they never came to complain about the TP Rebellion.

          Reply
          1. Kms1025

            LOL! I was picturing all of these meetings/discussions about TP and soap. So funny :). And all to end in rebellion, “well I’m just doing it!”. So funny….good for you for enforcing some common sense into this silly situation. : )

            Reply
          2. ScoutFinch

            I saw a man making over $100K a year (in the late 1990s) lose his IT job because he got caught stealing toilet paper from the bathroom. Facilities services noted that the bathroom near him was going through MUCH more TP. TPTB pulled up the security cams at the exit doors.

            Reply
            1. Xarcady

              A couple of grad students on work-study jobs at a lawyer’s office were found to be the reason the TP was disappearing quickly. They were on limited incomes, and the closet full of TP was just too tempting.

              The firm gave each of them a $100 gift card and told them to use it for TP only. At least one of them did exactly that. (I know because he is my brother. These days he is a partner in a law firm, and he gives $100 gift cards to all the law student interns each semester, out of his own pocket. He doesn’t tell them why, though.)

              Reply
        4. eplawyer

          I have never understood this. Small business, sure you have to watch every expense. But for a big company, TP is NOT that much of a budget item. If you think you can trim the budget by getting cheaper TP, you are not really helping that much. Cheaper TP is not going to save the company. But good people will leave over this. Stupid penny pinching never goes over well.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            Even in a small business, unless someone is actually stealing the TP, decent stuff is not THAT expensive. Sure, if you go with the “premium” it’s going to cost. But decent? Let’s get real.

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              and the way to mostly stop stealing even in a small company is to get those large roller type dispensers. Slightly more expensive initial expense, but after that it’s really hard to lug around one of those 4 inch core rolls and they do not FIT in a home system.

              Reply
              1. Kelly L.

                Yep. And not by using one of those “low-waste” type dispensers that they put in kindergarten bathrooms. You know the ones that will stop turning if you take more than a square or two? In kindergarten, there’s a reason for it–little kids might play with it and waste it. But it irks me both as an employee and a customer when I run into it as an adult. It makes me feel like I’m being treated like a small child who can’t be trusted to know how much TP I need for the job at hand. And yes, I know there are people out there who mess with TP, but nonetheless, that’s still my gut feeling about it, and it’s turned me off a few businesses.

                Reply
                1. AKchic

                  We got “new” dispensers that only allow you to take one sheet at a time. You have to keep pulling each square individually, and it jams a *lot*. The only way to fix the jam is to alert the cleaning staff. The paper itself is thin, generic and extremely useless.
                  I bring my own from home and keep it in a locker with my other personal items.

            2. Teapot PM

              That is actually why my husband bought the cheap TP from Costco for his business (small business <20 ees) We had bought it at home and it's regulated to the "only use in emergency if all out of others"

              He mentioned that he had to buy that kind for his office because whenever he bought a better kind it "walked away"

              Reply
        1. Thirsty Office

          Your office manager would have a fit in my office. We get a delivery of about 10-12 jugs of water every 2 or so weeks. It’s not uncommon to go through one jug in one day. Everyone was beside themselves the one time we ran out of water before the next delivery.

          Reply
        2. The Other Dawn

          Perhaps they should think about a filtration system. It looks just like a water cooler without the jugs. It’s hooked up to the main water line. We have that at our company and we never have to deal with running out of water.

          We had a water cooler at my last two companies and it amazed me how fast we emptied those jugs.

          Reply
          1. Wondering One

            I’ll second the filtration system. They’re wonderful! Ours also has a hot water option, which is great for making tea, etc.

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              Absolutely on the hot water line. Best thing ever. We actually back in the 70s had a bottled water dispenser that had a hot tap. Wasn’t perfect but OMG for a quick cup of tea? It did work and tea at that company was OMG IMPORTANT, we were a Japanese import house. Tea was bigger than it was in the UK there. And they drank their tea when they only wanted one cup from the cooler hot tap. When they wanted a pot, I made tea (it was the 70s, admins made tea and coffee when needed.)

              Reply
          2. Melissa C.

            We had a fancy filtration water cooler, but then the building changed something in the plumbing and our filter kept getting clogged to the point where it wouldn’t work anymore. Back to the Culligan man…

            Reply
        3. Triplestep

          Well, she’s not completely out of line if people are using it to fill water bottles (especially if they dump and clean their bottles at the end of the day.) I use a water bottle with a filter I can fill at the tap so that I don’t deplete shared water cooler jug in my small department. More for others and guests, fewer requests of someone strong to change the jug, less money spent on bottled water, and better for the environment.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            You’re kidding? Right?

            You can’t seriously mean that people shouldn’t be allowed to drink as much as they need to. Because there is no difference between filling a water bottle and drinking that water and filling up numerous cups and drinking that. For someone who claims to be concerned for the environment that’s actually a BETTER choice because you have one reusable bottle that doesn’t go into a landfill, rather than several cups PER DAY.

            As for requiring staff to provide their own filter bottles so they can drink the tap water, just NO. It’s the employer’s responsibility to provide drinkable water.

            Reply
            1. JessaB

              On the other hand I’ve worked in a lot of call centres, and the general tradition whether it was a sales place, a support place for a cable company, an answering service, an insurance company is that during onboarding EVERY employee got two very specific pieces of company branded swag. You got a weighted bottom, covered cup that you could use for coffee, tea, soda pop, or hot chocolate, and you got SOME kind of filter water bottle.

              The rule was you had no drinks at your desk unless they were in a covered container, so the company bought zillions of the things and made sure you could NOT say “I don’t have one.”

              The swag Mr. B’s company gave out were these steel cold bottles, that I swear you fill one day and 24 hours later are still cold.

              Everyone in the company would come over to me and borrow my personal wite out because I had the pen type and they could write their names on their cups with it. Or I had one of those sharpie paint pens in silver or gold. I finally told the boss to buy me a few of them so I wasn’t running mine out, and if I was doing a training class I’d pass a couple around for people to write on their stuff with.

              But those are cheap in quantity, I mean even the answering service I worked for and we were less than 100 people total when I left, had company cups. Although I left them before the water bottle thing became a common item. He barely made the minimum order to have branded swag done. He finally decided to make a bunch extra and gave em to the doctors front end people that we answered for.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                Well, if you are giving people filter bottles, then sure, make people use those things. I think that’s a great idea. And, even aside from the issue of covered containers, it may be less expensive than a water cooler.

                I like what your boss did.

                Reply
            2. Triplestep

              Nope. Not kidding. If people fill water bottles then dump out the water (or leave and take it with them) it depletes the amount available for consumption in the office. OTOH, if they fill their water bottles instead of refilling cups (who would use multiple disposable cups?) then you’re right – it’s the same.

              I am not suggesting anyone dictate the use of filter bottles. I said I use one because I don’t want to deplete the water cooler jug and there’s more for others. *shrug*

              Reply
              1. Totally Minnie

                I don’t see the problem with people filling their water bottle before they leave. Some people have a long drive home in rush hour traffic, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to have water to drink on the way.

                Reply
              2. SarahTheEntwife

                Are you living somewhere with a severe drought? Or is water otherwise unusually expensive? If not, this seems like a bizarre and demoralizing thing to monitor in the name of cutting costs. Would you also go around and the end of the day and make sure I actually finished my mug of crappy break-room free coffee instead of pouring the last half-inch on my desk plant?

                Reply
            3. Autumnheart

              Tap water is drinkable water practically everywhere*.

              * For the moment. EPA deregulation and other government shenanigans can be a topic for another day.

              It really depends on the size of the company. My office complex houses several thousand people. There are drinking fountains and bottled water vending machines. If people want nicer water than what comes out of the tap, they buy it or bring it from home. No way would it be reasonable to expect the company to furnish water coolers so everyone could have filtered water.

              I think it’s entirely reasonable for a company to expect an employee to bring her own filter bottle if she wants filtered water, same way I think it’s entirely reasonable for an employee to buy her own pop or coffee.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                Well, there isn’t easily available tap water in many offices unless you want to get your water from the bathroom. Also, there are a LOT of office buildings where the tap water really is not drinkable. Despite the EPA, there are still areas where people legitimately don’t want to drink the water (Flint, Michigan is only the most egregious example of the real problems that show up, but it’s NOT the only place with problematic water.) And, even where the water supply is essentially ok, the piping is a real issue. Sure, if you are in a brand new building, you are probably ok, but if your building is older, it’s a real problem.

                Reply
      2. Artemesia

        When I was a child my grandfather, a nasty stingy horrible hold man, made a fuss about our family of mother,father, girl and boy using too much TP when we visited. My mother than insisted that the ‘right amount’ of paper was two squares. 70 years later I still have memories of resentment at both her and my grandfather and a full sense of how stupid that was. Even as a pre-school child I could see how stupid that was. If I had had a situation like this with my own FIL, I would have brought a case of TP on the next visit as a hostess gift.

        Reply
        1. Kittyfish 76

          I remember my grandmother giving me this lesson when I was little, also. Only I think I may have been allotted 4 squares.

          Reply
        2. oranges & lemons

          My grandfather also gave me a two-square allowance but in his case I think it was a joke. It was hard to tell sometimes.

          Reply
    4. Not my real name but close

      I once worked in a large medical clinic that used the cheapest toilet paper ever. It was so awful that it made me bleed. I had no idea why, at first, so I saw my gynecologist and after several visits, she couldn’t find the problem. Only after I changed jobs did it stop. Then I went to a seminar at a hotel where they obviously used the same TP as I started bleeding again.

      Reply
      1. Not myself today

        Years ago, my company changed bathroom equipment suppliers and the new supplier used horrible toilet paper. People started raising it in their exit interviews. The company changed back.

        Reply
      2. SpaceNovice

        This is literally the worst toilet paper horror story I have ever read. I’m so sorry you had to deal with that.

        Reply
    5. Wintermute

      I know more than one person that uses toilet paper quality when selecting business partners. If they’re meeting a new prospective vendor or client or partner they scope the facilities: Having automotive finishing sandpaper in the loo says, in her mind, either your company is penny wise and pound foolish (because they’d save 2 cents a roll at the cost of morale and comfort) or is in dire financial straits and they’re looking at every last cent that can be saved enviously. She’ll never do business with a company that doesn’t have decent toilet paper and feminine hygiene products in the bathroom

      I wonder if the tight-fists that make these choices realize they’re being judged on these criteria and it could be costing them business or opportunities?

      Reply
      1. Triplestep

        This is really interesting! I never thought of TP as a yardstick for evaluating a company, but it’s a valid one (especially in light of many of the comments here.)

        Reply
      2. SpaceNovice

        Oh, I need to remember this tip from now on! I’m adding it to my growing list of things to judge companies by when I interview.

        Reply
      3. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

        They should be explicitly told that those criteria are costing them so they know. It’s good reasoning, IMO, but it won’t change if people aren’t hit over the head with a clue-by-four.

        Reply
    6. MW

      #4’s new president sounds like a dingus to me. “I’ll show everyone how good I am at finances by getting a load of cheap sandpaper in the toilets and letting all our computers fall into complete disrepair!” I don’t think these measures are the sign of good financial sense, but of myopic penny pinching. I’m sensitive to the computer thing because I work in IT and have seen a fair bit of chafing at computers that meet the bare minimum requirements, but reduce productivity because they’re not really up to spec.

      Reply
      1. SophieChotek

        Yes! I was floored when my boss told me he is still using his computer from 2002!!!!! (How does it even work????)

        Reply
        1. Observer

          Well, maybe “use” is too strong of a word. Perhaps it’s more of a desk decoration than a useful tool…

          Reply
        2. SusanIvanova

          About the same as Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss and his Etch-a-sketch. Or a CEO who said he was “running the company” from a particular model of hardware which at the time only existed as a cardboard mockup.

          Reply
      2. Perse's Mom

        Can you explain that last bit to the IT at my company? I’ve had something like 4-5 different PCs since I started at this company ~8yrs ago. I’m pretty sure they just swap out the latest dying machine for one that’s merely *almost* dying.

        Reply
        1. copy run start

          Hand-me-down PCs… gotta love it. I got an ancient creaky laptop that was virtually unusable, an already 2-year-old smartphone and desktop when I started at my company, which was fairly standard for my position. Since moving up the chain I’ve been successful in getting it all replaced but the desktop. New employees aren’t getting desktops and I seriously need a separate laptop for what I do so I’m stuck there, sadly.

          Reply
    7. Trout 'Waver

      I don’t know about the rest of you, but I use much more TP when it’s low quality. I don’t understand how you supposedly save money with the cheap stuff.

      Reply
    8. Calico

      I think the new president is just cheap. I work in finance too, and fully understand the difference between penny pinching and mindful spending.

      Actually we had a change to our head of facilities in my office and she actually upgraded the tp. I find that I use less of the better quality paper (even at home), so it was one of the first things to impress me about her judgement.

      Reply
      1. Triplestep

        Your new Head of Facilities is female, and the OP#4’s new president is male. Not the only thing contributing to their awareness about the impact of poor quality TP, but it’s definitely a factor.

        Related to this, we had OK-quality TP in a former workplace of mine, but the new rolls were impossible to start – the ends of the rolls were somehow glued to the body of the TP, and combined with the shape of the holder (it was the kind that had a cover) you could just not get your hand up inside to really get a grasp on this thing. It was not uncommon to walk into a stall and find a good amount of torn little pieces of TP all over the floor; it only meant that someone had recently had the frustrating experience of trying to start the roll. Seriously, being caught with a new roll had made me late to meetings!

        I knew the Facilities Manger pretty well (we reported up to the same VP) and I asked him if he could ask the cleaners to *start the roll before placing it in the holder*, and described the problem. After all, this would create less of a need to sweep up. It was win/win! Nothing changed. I seriously think that had he been female, this might have been addressed.

        Reply
    9. Justme, The OG

      My workplace has okay toilet paper, but we recently upgraded the soap dispensers and the soap it takes it horrible.

      Reply
      1. BadPlanning

        Our new soap dispenser somehow don’t…retain the soap? You have to pump the soap several times to get it to come out (they are dispensers under the sink). I have checked and they are full of soap…apparently the soap just oozes back to the container?

        Reply
        1. SpaceNovice

          It’s either a low viscosity soap (thin) when a higher viscosity soap (thicker) is needed, the tubing in the new pumps is big enough that it allows the soap to flow back down, or both. So either the product isn’t a good match for the soap dispenser or the soap dispenser has a design flaw. (Places I never thought I’d use hydrodynamics: talking about soap dispensers.)

          Reply
      2. Artemesia

        At a place I worked they decided to use some new eco friendly hand soap. It had a smell that was so horrifying to me that I not only stopped using it (I had purell in my purse) but also avoided using the restroom if at all possible until I was out of the office for lunch. It was clearly a perfume in the stuff but it made my skin crawl.

        Reply
        1. Totally Minnie

          I worked at a place where the soap smelled terrible a few years ago, but someone gave me a gift card to Bath & Body Works that Christmas and they were having a massive sale, so I ended up getting an extra soap dispenser for work. After that, we all took turns getting good soap. Not a thing we should have had to do, but it made our days a little more enjoyable.

          Reply
    10. Irene Adler

      Might seek out another female who is high up in management. They might be receptive to the TP sensitivity and advocate for a better brand. Sometimes it’s a matter of ignorance; your president has no experience with TP irritation issues.
      I’m lucky as the CFO at my work is female. She insists that we have a good brand of TP. In fact, the rolls provided don’t quite fit the holders. But she will not budge. They will provide the good stuff. The other C-suite members don’t have a preference but they will not argue with CFO.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        Eh, men deal with irritation issues too. And a LOT of men have wives, girlfriends and daughters. So it’s not like men as a whole have never heard of such a concept.

        Reply
        1. Nanani

          In my experience, it has not often been the case that the existence of women family members makes a man give a shit. (pun intended)

          Reply
        2. Chinook

          True but it is also possible for a man to go months or years of using the bathroom at work without using toilet paper if they only use urinals at work. For women, we use it every time we go and there are times during the month where we have to use the washroom more frequently for reasons your average man never will (man is it hard to talk about this without getting graphic). There is a very good reason why women care more about quality of tp.

          Reply
        3. Lady at Liberty

          You’d be surprised. My husband didn’t understand the importance of good toilet paper until his first horrible diarrhea attack happened while we were using the cheap stuff.

          He now keeps a weather eye out for sales on the good stuff.

          Reply
    11. fposte

      We’ve been through *two* toilet paper downgrades at work. It’s the state, so it’s not changeable, but yes, it’s demoralizing.

      Reply
    12. Ann Nonymous

      LW should use “disposable wipes”…they invariably clog the plumbing and when they do, it can be mentioned that they are being used because the new, cheap t.p. is insufferable.

      Reply
      1. FoxyDog

        Agreed. As an IBD sufferer, these are a lifesaver at work (we also have crappy TP). If OP is female, the ladies room should have sanitary disposal bins in the stalls so the wipes don’t need to be flushed.

        Reply
    13. Fafaflunkie

      I hear you, OP1. Hence the reason my body trained itself to suppress the need to drop a deuce at work. I’d rather pinch a loaf at a nearby Tim Hortons than at the office, so you can pretty much guess the quality of the butt-wipe there.

      Reply
    14. Lauren

      Honestly, I’d take the toilet around like its a notebook or pen brought to a meeting. If anyone asks, say that “the new toilet paper feels like sand paper – so I’m bring my own. And no, you can’t have any of my stash.”

      If they laugh, let them and play off it – “you laugh now, but you’ll be texting me from a bathroom stall begging for a fix soon enough. Double ply is $1 per square. No discounts.”

      Reply
  3. Beatrice

    I’m not sure I agree on #1. To me, talking about childbirth to the extent that torn perineums come up is the same vein as talking about a surgery or a prostate exam. Both involve bodily fluids and parts of the body that are generally considered private. Many people do not like hearing about bodily fluids while eating and I don’t think it would be unreasonable to ask people to stop talking in detail about their bloody scabs or medical appointments over food.

    Yes, childbirth is a natural part of life and we should feel free to talk about it, but so are a lot of other things that are considered impolite to talk about while eating.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      I agree that it’s graphic (and inappropriate). But I also think that if OP’s coworkers aren’t willing to accommodate a direct request to refrain from talking about torn perineums, then it’s unlikely that OP can change their minds, and it may be less frustrating if OP recategorizes the problem as her coworkers lacking self-awareness about how much they’re droning.

      Reply
      1. Casuan

        …and it may be less frustrating if OP recategorizes the problem as her coworkers lacking self-awareness about how much they’re droning.

        Love this suggestion!
        OP1, if you do ask your colleagues to stop, they might ask why you waited so long to mention that you dislike that topic. I can’t give you suggestions because the responses that come to mind are all a bit sarcastic. They’re true, although I can’t edit out the snark.
        ;-/

        Reply
        1. JessaB

          But you don’t get to call it lack of self awareness when they start out with “OP we know you don’t want to hear this but,” and keep going. They lose the claim to being unaware at that point.

          Reply
      2. Sabine the Very Mean

        I’ve honestly never come upon a situation where I said, “can we please talk about something else?” and the other person/people did not agree to do so.

        OP, assume positive intent and do that! I bet a million they’ll stop until you leave.

        Reply
          1. Gazebo Slayer

            Ugh, my dad used to talk about really inappropriate stuff at dinner and get angry and yell if I told him to stop. Eventually he learned, but it took years.

            Reply
      3. MLB

        There’s probably not much she can do about it. I’ve never been pregnant or birthed a human, and didn’t get married until I was 42, so I was single while most of my close friends went through the marriage and baby years. I was somewhat interested in the conversations because they were close friends and I cared about them and what they were going through, but sometimes it got to be too much. If it bothers the LW that much, she can mention it, but it’s likely that the topics will go back to the stuff that grosses her out because that’s what stage many of them are in at the moment.

        Reply
    2. Totally Minnie

      If these conversations are happening in the break room at the office, could the higher ups institute a “no medical talk in the lunch room” policy? I know you can’t necessarily restrict what people do on an unpaid lunch break, but surely you can set parameters for what’s appropriate on company property.

      Reply
  4. OperaArt

    OP4, look into fragrance-free flushable wipes if you have no luck getting the toilet paper upgraded. You’d still have to carry them with you, but they’re more discrete than a roll of toilet paper.

    Reply
    1. Detached Elemental

      Many flushable wipes aren’t actually flushable. Here in Australia there have been massive sewerage line blockages caused by the buildup of these wipes.

      Reply
      1. Chameleon

        That might cause the PTB to re-evaluate “saving” money on cheap TP if they have to shell out on plumbers instead…

        Reply
        1. LouiseM

          This seems counterintuitive, since one of the many reasons smart businesses prefer single-ply is that it clogs the toilet less readily than its fluffier cousins!

          Reply
            1. Half-Caf Latte

              We take the OPs at their word, though.

              Also the computer repair example supports this being financial and not eco-minded.

              Reply
        2. Elizabeth the Ginger

          They cause problems for the whole municipal system, though, not just the toilet they’re flushed down. It’s not reasonable to punish the wastewater treatment plant workers (and possibly even affect the water quality of the released effluent) because the company is being miserly.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            It’s not about “punishing” anyone, though. It’s about providing usable sanitary supplies. Unless you really want to suggest that people just not wipe?

            If a company is really using bad TP, then there are no really good options, to be honest.

            Reply
            1. CheeryO

              Why not just bring your own toilet paper? There have to be smaller rolls or packs available for this exact situation.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                Because, unlike the tissue packs, they are harder to find, often inconvenient sizes and frequently less discreet.

                Reply
                1. JessaB

                  And expensive unless you buy in bulk, these kinds of things are mostly designed to carry by travellers in countries where they don’t normally supply any outside of hotels designed to serve western patrons.

      2. The Other Dawn

        This is exactly how my former Tenant From Hell massively clogged the main line going out of my house a couple years ago. When Roto Rooter came in to snake it, they pulled out MASSIVE amounts of supposedly flushable wipes. And this was after we both told her many times “absolutely DO NOT flush wipes.”

        Reply
      3. Rod

        Yeah I use “flushable” wipes all the time and I never flush them, I put them in the trash. I know some plumbing systems won’t be able to handle them.

        Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Noooo, don’t flush wipes! They cause massive problems for nearly all wastewater systems and are expensive to fix. A person could easily pre-tear lengths of toilet paper and bring those in (folded to a discrete size) if there’s fear of having to carry a roll of TP with them.

      Reply
      1. FaintlyMacabre

        Yup! I lived in a part of the world where TP is not provided in public restrooms. Everyone just brings some from home, folded up in a pocket or a pouch. Not a big deal, really. Especially since if OP forgets, there isn’t the added stress of no TP, it’ll just be (sorry in advance) shtty TP.

        Reply
      2. Tardigrade

        I’m nesting this question under your comment, but does anyone know why wipe-makers are allowed to label them as flushable when they aren’t?

        Reply
            1. Part-time Poet

              There was a time in the not too distant past when baby wipes were not invented yet. Oh! My! What did parents do then??

              Reply
              1. Falling Diphthong

                Wash cloths. Lots of them. I am not volunteering to launder the poopy wash cloths, not when we’ve decided our butts don’t get that treatment.

                (Baby wipes are usually disposed of with the disposable diaper, or by tossing them in a trash can. Most diapers are changed in nurseries, not bathrooms.)

                Reply
              2. Artemesia

                My kids are middle aged and we had wipes then. There was a time when babies were nested in leaves too, but a while back.

                Reply
                1. Joielle

                  Idk why “a while back” made me laugh so hard, but here I am, trying to suppress a snort-laugh in my office :D

            2. TootsNYC

              most baby wipes are not used in the bathroom; they’re used at the changing table, and they end up in the garbage pail w/ the disposable diapers (or in the garbage pail next to the diaper pail, if you’re using cloth–and some people who use cloth diapers use cloth wipes).

              Some companies claim to have changed their wipes to be more flushable than previously. But I’d still be hesitant.

              Reply
        1. CheeryO

          I’m guessing it’s because they are flushable in the sense that they probably won’t make your toilet itself clog. Whether or not they cause problems in the collection system or at the treatment plant is dependent on the condition of the system, the technologies in place at the treatment plant, the velocity of water traveling through the pipes… it’s probably difficult to say, “No, you cannot call these flushable because they will eventually cause problems somewhere.” It looks like D.C. tried to crack down on the labeling, and the wipe manufacturers claimed it was a violation of the First Amendment.

          Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      I have a distinct memory of a chat here where someone was flushing entire rolls of toilet paper to flood the toilets, and they eventually staked out the bathrooms until they found the miscreant. This took… a lot longer than you would think, given that “assume people will not deliberately flood the bathroom” had failed.

      Reply
    4. Janie

      In defense of not-actually-flushable wipes, IF you are a woman you can just discreetly throw them away in the little box that is usually for sanitary products. This is what I do at work, I have a bunch of individually wrapped ones I bought on Amazon. For men, it would definitely be harder as I presume you don’t have waste receptacles in the stall.

      Reply
  5. TP

    4# – oh man. this is different, but recently i went on vacation and the place where i was staying had TERRIBLE toilet paper. that was one of the reasons I don’t think I’ll go where I went again, though some other stuff factored in too. i have never wanted to go home JUST so i could wipe my ass with my ultra charmin. oh man.

    Reply
    1. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

      I buy the really good toilet paper, so good you don’t need a lot to do the job. Then I got a roommate who used a whole roll every other day. So I bought the generic brand for her and kept the good stuff tucked away for my use.

      Reply
  6. the Viking Diva

    #4 : “…will require you to discreetly ask coworkers you’re close to if they hate the new toilet paper too, which is exactly the kind of conversation I would enjoy but you might not.”
    Alison, this is why we love you!

    Reply
  7. LouiseM

    OP #4, I’m sympathetic to your situation but I’m afraid you will sound like a lunatic if you ask your coworkers to band together and protest the new toilet paper. Even if I agreed with her, I would find it very off putting to have a coworker ask me about my experience using toilet paper. Truthfully, for probably everyone in the office except you, TP quality is just not a big enough deal to justify breaking the massive social norms around discussing something so personal.

    That said, if the toilet paper is really making you so uncomfortable, I urge you to see a doctor. Although many people think of the vagina and vulva as a delicate ecosystem, the truth is they are very resilient and tend to take care of themselves pretty well. This extreme reaction you’re having may be a sign that something is wrong. Listen to your body, OP–just don’t make your coworkers listen to you talk about the toilet paper! Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      Cheap products may have more chemical residue that is irritating. I use baby wipes at home because they are a lot cheaper than the identical product made for adults; the generic CVS sensitive wipes are great; for me the Pampers sensitive wipes are irritating. I assume most people wouldn’t have this problem with them. People have different things they are sensitive too. It doesn’t mean they have a problem — just a problem with the product.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Eh, it’s not a big personal discussion about anyone’s genitalia. It’s just “hey, have you noticed this awful new toilet paper?” followed by “you think we can ask Jane to order the old stuff instead?”

      Reply
    3. Mad Baggins

      I mean, dudes have butts, too. Everyone has butts. Presumably they use toilet paper on their butts. Everyone likes fluffy soft toilet paper on their butt. I don’t think it’s as personal or gendered as you say.

      Reply
      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        Yeah, I found that confusing. I’m not sure it makes sense to assume OP is a woman with lady-part-problems simply because the TP is uncomfortable and sucks? Most people, of all gender identities, prefer not to have to use thin, sandpapery TP.

        Reply
        1. LouiseM

          Not to nitpick, PCBH, but assuming someone has a vulva (which I still didn’t do) =/= assuming someone is a woman or has (yeesh) “lady parts.” Come on….

          Reply
    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Ok, I’m going to out myself as someone who lead a TP revolt… at two different jobs. And I’m fairly certain it’s not what people think of or remember when they think of me.

      At one job, staff responsible for procurement switched to crappy TP without management asking them to do so under the rationale that they were “saving” money. Of course, they did not—we went through exponentially more TP because people just doubled (or tripled) up on the amount they used to reach the ply-level they wanted. After running out of TP multiple times because procurement hadn’t accounted for the uptick in use, I gently suggested that we’d probably save money using a better ply level. Once I made my comment, everyone was bursting at the seams to agree and endorse a better ply. We switched back to a decent TP, and it made everyone much happier.

      At the second job (feds), we were stuck with crappy Kleenex and crappy TP because of stupid rules that I’m convinced are made up about sourcing paper personal care products. We had already gotten in the habit of pooling our money to buy better hand soap, so I suggested we may want to do the same for TP and Kleenex, since both were used by our guests and by staff. Again, everyone was relieved that someone mentioned how much both things sucked, and simply mentioning it made people feel more comfortable about chipping in for the office TP/Kleenex/Soap fund.

      So I think there’s a way to bring these issues up without it getting into TMI territory or without making OP look like the “TP lady.” And if it’s really that uncomfortable, I suspect others are also suffering.

      Reply
      1. Wintermute

        You are awesome.

        And it’s true, if you get 1-ply paper people just USE MORE– it’s the law of ply and demand.

        Reply
      2. WellRed

        I so agree with your last graph, PCBH. This doesn’t have to be a big. thing. I bet most of her coworkers have the same complaint.

        Reply
    5. Perse's Mom

      Yeah, no. Most people have an opinion about the office toilet paper and when the office goes from reasonable-quality TP to (pardon the pun) crap quality TP, people are likely equally dismayed. I suspect OP would get quite a bit of support.

      Also… not so much asking for details on your experience with it, like nobody wants to know how many times you had to wipe with the new stuff vs the old stuff, but a flat ‘it’s terrible and I hate it’ is sufficient.

      Reply
    6. AJ

      I disagree. I think we need to take the OP at her word. Just because she’s sensitive to crappy toilet paper doesn’t mean she has a medical problem. And if her doctor is anything like any doctor I have ever seen their answer will probably be “don’t use rough toilet paper”. Also even if it wasn’t irritating her, it’s not unreasonable to request somewhat decent toilet paper.

      Reply
      1. LavaLamp

        I am actually allergic to certain brands of TP. It’s awful to experience actual hives on your girl parts. I would get a doctors note if I had to. It’s not always an underlying infection\issue. It’s possible to be allergic to toilet paper.

        Reply
        1. AcademiaNut

          I’m actually curious how that would work out, legally. Would ADA accommodation cover require an employer to purchase a specific brand of toilet paper for an employee? Or would they be able to tell you to bring your own?

          Reply
          1. Apollo Warbucks

            It seems like a reasonable thing to accommodate to me. The cost difference would be marginal at best and the inconvenience of carrying your own supplies would be more of a problem.

            Reply
          2. CM

            It isn’t necessarily about what is legally required. Decent employers do want their employees to be happy and if a recent change is causing medical issues may be convinced to switch back regardless of whether or not they are legally required to.

            Reply
            1. Amber T

              The key word is “decent” employer here though. We already have an employer here who thinks its a good idea to buy sandpaper TP and wait for computers to break before fixing them. If it would be legal to tell OP (or the employee in question) to bring in their own TP (which would seem to be cheaper than switching over to better quality TP – and I say “seem to be” given PCBH’s comment above), I don’t doubt they would just “screw it.”

              Reply
              1. Bea

                Oh come on. The op has a cheap boss but even my cheapest boss changed his tune when approached with something like “this change is leading to a problem for me.” I got better pens when I explained the Bics do not fit in my giant lady paws and I actually break a ton of them with my grip.

                We used to just use PCs until they died. With our line of work and the solid backup system it was just fine.

                Reply
        2. LouiseM

          Maybe I’m confused with the nesting, but I don’t at all understand how this contradicts what I said. Being allergic to toilet paper does, in fact, qualify as “an underlying infection/issue.”

          Reply
      2. LouiseM

        AJ, it’s precisely because I took OP at her word that I left this comment.

        Normally if someone used the word “hellish” to describe USING TOILET PAPER, I would assume that they were a) unimaginably prissy and b) exaggerating for effect (like when someone who is afraid of something says they have a “phobia,” or who dislikes a food calls it an “allergy”). But since on this site we take OP at their word, if someone is *this* sensitive to crappy toilet paper, that does in fact mean they have a medical problem. That is in fact the ONLY explanation we can draw, if we really are to believe that the OP is truly having such an awful reaction. See what I mean?

        Reply
        1. Close Bracket

          That’s awfully presumptuous of you. I would say that taking OP at their word means believing that the toilet paper genuinely is terrible and that there is a problem with the toilet paper and *not* with the OP.

          Reply
    7. Yorick

      I disagree. If other people think the TP is bad, they will not find it crazy to ask that it change back. Even if I didn’t mind the new TP, I wouldn’t think it was crazy that other people did.

      Reply
    8. Observer

      Actually, the first thing most doctors will ask you about if you come to them with irritation is how you’re cleaning yourself. Getting irritated by really bad TP is not something most doctors are going to treat – it’s actually generally not a sign of deeper problems, and even if it were it STILL makes sens to to deal with the symptom.

      As for it not being a big deal – maybe to YOU it isn’t but to a lot of people it IS. And the norms are not quite as massive as you make out. I’m not saying that “no one” considers talking about this stuff to be so off limits that you ONLY EVER mention it to your doctor NO MATTER WHAT. But, that’s far from an almost universal “norm”.

      Reply
  8. Junior Dev

    Re: 3, it might make sense to talk to HR about moving to a different desk, not because it’s “necessary” for Carol, but because it makes *you* uncomfortable to work next to someone who is clearly scared of your dog.

    If you phrase it this way, make sure you’re clear you aren’t upset with Carol’s behavior, but instead focus on language like “I want to minimize distractions.”

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth H.

      I think that’s a good point. Clearly it IS pretty distracting for the letter writer – because she’s having to constantly be aware of where Carol is, try to go out of her way to avoid her, etc. It’s thoughtful of the letter writer but I can imagine everyone would be happier with more distance. I would be constantly distracted/feel guilty/be hyper alert of Carol, my dog, etc. if I were letter writer.

      Reply
      1. Clisby Williams

        I agree. If I were Carol, I would have asked to be moved ages ago, because no way would I want to work around a dog. I’m not phobic about dogs, but I’d definitely like them as far as possible away from me.

        Frankly, I don’t care if this is distracting for the letter writer – the LW is the one bringing the dog into the workplace, and he/she is the one who needs to empathize with people who are afraid of/don’t like dogs.
        It sounds like he/she gets this, so proceed.

        Reply
        1. Pomona Sprout

          Seriously, moving Carol would be a win-win. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would just love to work next door to a well-behaved service dog. (I’d be first in line myself.)

          Reply
    2. FieldBiologist

      Yeah, I get the impression Carol doesn’t want to be the one who causes trouble because she’s afraid of dogs… now whenever there’s dogs in the office, I think of that poor person with the allergies who got shunned.

      Reply
      1. Sylvan

        That letter writer was in a “dog-friendly” office populated by jerks, though. The letter writer here is one person working with a service dog when they need to, and they don’t seem interested in pressuring or bullying Carol.

        Reply
        1. FieldBiologist

          Oh no, I wasn’t trying to say OP is pressuring or bullying! My point is, a lot of people feel pressure to like pets even – since she has a phobia, I’m sure she’s had tons of people in her life try to convince her dogs are great. It’s possible she figures she can get by and not cause trouble, and she’s worried about becoming known as the person at the office who doesn’t like dogs.

          Reply
          1. Clisby Williams

            There’s nothing in the letter to indicate Carol has a phobia about dogs – just that she’s extremely uncomfortable around them.

            If Carol had written about this, I’d have told her there’s nothing wrong with being uncomfortable about potentially dangerous animals, or about asking to be moved. Accommodating the LW should not mean refusing to accommodate everyone else.

            Reply
            1. OP #3

              If you’ll read my other comments, I have suggested that I would move desks. HR presented this accommodation to Carol, and she turned it down. If I were your coworker, I would have proposed the same thing, and I am guessing you would accept it.

              Reply
      2. Gen

        I’m terrified of dogs and won’t willingly get in biting distance of them, but I also understand that service dogs have a vital job too do. I don’t want to get close enough to a service dog that my fear will distract it, and I really don’t want to be the person who caused a fuss about a disability accommodation (since I need several myself). So I can totally understand Carol doing her best to just keep away from it and keep quiet about the situation. I would object strongly to being forced into any amateur attempt at phobia treatment. I think that’d make a lot of peoplee uncomfortable unless management insisted or something. Please go back to HR and look at moving desks again with the framing suggested above

        Reply
        1. Audrey Puffins

          I think the idea of the LW asking Carol if there’s anything in particular she can do to help doesn’t necessarily have to be, like, a week of graduated dog-exposure or anything. It could be that Carol is more nervous of dogs that are standing up, so perhaps it might be easier for the LW to simply have the dog sit when they pass each other in a hallway, rather than the LW+dog changing direction to duck behind a wall or whathaveyou. Maybe not a great example, it’s pretty early in the morning here, but even if Carol doesn’t have any suggestions like that, or even any questions, it could – if nothing else – be reassuring for her to hear that the LW is at least aware of and sympathetic to her discomfort.

          Reply
          1. MaHow

            That’s actually not a bad idea. As someone with a fear of dogs, I am more triggered by a dog that is jumping, walking, licking, etc. If a dog is sitting and calm, I’m much more able to deal with being around it because my mind doesn’t automatically envision that dog biting me.

            Reply
        2. LBK

          Agreed – I think Carol is trying to be accommodating because it’s a service dog, but she doesn’t realize it’s not necessarily any better to be blatantly scared of the dog than it would be to just adjust the situation so neither of you have to deal with these encounters anymore.

          Reply
      3. Tuxedo Cat

        I don’t blame Carol for that. People can be strange about dog fears. One of my good work friends wanted to start bringing her dog to work and got permission from our kind but clueless boss; we were not a dog friendly office. My friend and another coworker were talking about the dog and how awesome it would be. When I pointed out that my friend might want to send out a general email, asking if it was okay for the office (allergies and whatnot), the other coworker looked at me like I was the devil. It wasn’t even her dog and my friend knows I love her dog.

        Reply
        1. Mallory

          It’s funny–I am obsessed with dogs (have my own, always have, love him/care about him more than 99.9999999999% of humans) but I do not like having dogs in an office. I find them to be a supreme distraction- ESPECIALLY for people who love dogs and think any moment spent not petting a dog is a moment wasted.

          Reply
          1. Jennifer Thneed

            I just want to bring my cat to work. He’s old, he doesn’t do much, he enjoys sunshine and being petted. He’d mostly just find a patch of sunshine and sleep.

            …oh wait, I *do* bring my cat to work. No, wait, got that backwards. I bring my work to cat. (I work from home 4+ days a week and having my guy curled up on the couch across the room is a big perk.)

            Reply
      4. I'll come up with a clever name later.

        My 12 year old daughter is terrified of dogs but she doesn’t enjoy sharing her fear with others – mainly because so many people fall into one of two categories : they either don’t think that a person could really be afraid of dogs or they think that their dog is the one that will cure her of her fear. I could see her being Carol in this scenario and I could honestly see her quitting her job rather than say something. It wouldn’t surprise me if Carol has entertained this thought. LW, ask for your desk to be moved. I think if you insist both you and Carol will be happier.

        Reply
    3. OP #3

      I offered to move desks at the beginning of all this and Carol said it wasn’t necessary. And so far, the problems have actually most been while I’m walking around with my dog, so now I don’t know if moving desks would help anything. Unless I moved units altogether, and no longer worked with my current unit/department.

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn

        Thanks for clarifying. I got the impression that you asked HR and HR said it wasn’t necessary. I was going to say that Carol is the one who should be asked and that HR shouldn’t speak for her.

        Perhaps the fact that the dog is mobile is what bothers her. Meaning, maybe when your dog is laying down and quiet she doesn’t see it as a threat, but when the dog is walking around it makes Carol nervous because the dog could approach her much more quickly.

        Reply
        1. OP #3

          Yes, I should have been more clear in my letter to Alison. HR asked my neighboring coworkers if they had any issues with dogs, such as phobias or allergies. Carol said she was scared of dogs but that she didn’t think either one of us moving was necessary.

          She has reacted fearfully to my dog lying down, though. So I don’t think it’s mobility that worries her.

          Reply
          1. The Other Dawn

            Ah. OK. I was thinking maybe mobility was the issue. A friend of mine is OK as long as a dog is still and quiet, but becomes really nervous when a dog is up and about. Her thought is that it may pounce on her or chase her.

            Reply
          2. Tardigrade

            You’re a great coworker for trying to make her comfortable, but it’s on Carol to resolve at this point. But I am curious about how fearfully she’s reacting. If she’s causing a scene every time she sees your dog, then that’s probably going to start being a problem for more people than just Carol.

            Reply
            1. OP #3

              Basically running/semi-fainting sideways or going in the other direction. So far it hasn’t caused a scene, but I definitely think it’s within the realm of possibility.

              Reply
              1. Thlayli

                Do you think it would be worth you asking carol again if she thinks moving would be good? She may have been over-optimistic about her ability to cope, and be worried that she can’t change her mind now.

                Reply
              2. [insert witty user name here]

                Oh wow. Semi-fainting is actually a pretty extreme reaction! How has any of this affected your dog? I mean, I know service dogs go through A LOT of training and are generally selected for their calm demeanor and non-reactivity, but they are still dogs and therefore, pick up on things like fear and can react to them accordingly. Hopefully your dog is just suuuuuper chill about the way Carol acts, but it’s definitely another consideration if they are exposed to this all the time. A minor consideration, hopefully, but one nonetheless.

                Good luck!

                Reply
                1. FCJ

                  Depending on what the dog is trained for, this could be really crucial. I have a friend who has a service dog for anxiety and PTSD, and the dog’s training and instincts are to go TOWARD people who are stressed. She’s very well trained and under my friend’s control, so there’s no danger of her physically intruding on people who don’t want her attention, but sensing such a strong fear reaction from someone nearby might distract her from assisting the person she’s supposed to assist. I don’t know and I’m not asking why the OP requires the dog, but if that’s any part of the reason, then your point is even more important.

              3. Ave

                Have you asked her if there is anything specific you can do to make it easier for her?

                It’s admirable that you were trying to ensure that she doesn’t have to deal with your dog. However, it is entirely possible that she is actually trying to face her fears and desensitize herself.

                If you don’t know her preference, don’t assume it. Yes, she may want to avoid the dog at all costs. But she also may want to be around it and try to conquer her fear.

                Don’t assume her best interest. Ask.

                Reply
                1. OP #3

                  I did ask Carol and she said she didn’t know. She just want to never see or get near my dog, but that is proving impractical.

                2. Snark

                  @ OP3 – How frustrating. If someone is reacting that strongly to you, “I don’t know” is not really an acceptable answer when pressed for a workable solution.

                1. Tardigrade

                  Yeah, it sounds pretty scene-ish to me too. And my point in asking was I think Carol does probably need to move desks. I’m not unsympathetic to being afraid of dogs, but she can’t act out a horror movie scene every day; that’s not fair to OP or her other coworkers.

                2. Clisby Williams

                  And this is a sign that OP needs to move himself/herself and the dog away from Carol. Jeez, why is this not obvious? The OP is bringing a potentially (I’m having to restrain myself from saying inherently) dangerous animal to work. The OP is the one who needs to bend over backwards to make sure the dog is not bothering anyone.

                3. OP #3

                  @Clisby Williams, as I have stated repeatedly, I offered to move to a different desk. HR asked Carol if she wanted me to move, and she said no. And I cannot simply move to a different desk without permission, as my work does require me to use certain software that isn’t not easily transferable. Also, you seem fixated on my dog as a threat. I assure you that the fax machine is more of a hazard to my coworker than my dog. She is trained to assist me, and your ableism appears to be clouding your view.

                  Again, I offered to move desks. That Carol refused is in the past, and is besides the point now.

                4. Snark

                  Clisby, you’re out of line. If you perceive inherent danger in a service dog, that’s your business, but such a belief is completely irrational and uninformed – not to mention incredibly discriminatory against the disabled. And Carol was offered the chance to move and didn’t.

            2. else

              Carol might be trying to work on her own fear through exposure? If she thought, “well, maybe if this dog that I KNOW to be well-trained and managed is there, I can reduce my fears”, but it isn’t working well for her this way… I do think that it’s more on her at this point because she’s been offered the chance to move, but it might be good to ask once more, and then just let it go. It has to be annoying and it might unnerve your dog if she’s jumping and skittering every time she sees it, but as long as it doesn’t lead to her actually refusing to work with you or harassing your dog, there isn’t much more you can do without her lead. I think you’ve done all you can try to do, which is very kind of you, as you aren’t obligated at all.

              Reply
              1. nonymous

                yeah but the way to work through that isn’t “force myself to work 2ft away from dog I’m scared of”, it’s “I’m okay with dogs at 2ft for 5min, now try 5min30sec” or “I’m okay with dogs at 20ft, now try 19ft”. Small, incremental steps that set the person up for success. If someone is at the fight or flight stage, they’re pushing it too much. The goal is to start at the “eh, okay” point and move into the “slightly squicky” stage and find the coping mechanisms that will turn this stage into “eh, okay” territory. Rinse and repeat.

                Carol has such a strong reaction to dogs at this proximity, all she’s doing is flooding her own system, and that is not a technique with a good track record for desensitization.

                Reply
      2. eplawyer

        Just out of curiousity – how long has it been? I have a phobia of dogs. But not service dogs because I know reputable ones are well trained. Still a bit nervous but I could cope with a service dog. Also familiarity breeds well familiarity. If this is still fairly new, her brain is still processing that it’s okay to see a big dog walking around. After a few months, her brain will have processed — big dog walking around but nothing will happen to me. It might make lessen her reaction.

        Reply
        1. CM

          I like the idea of having a conversation with Carolyn, and maybe it would help if you explained how thoroughly service dogs are trained. It’s nice to see a problem where both people are doing their best to be mature and thoughtful instead of the usual “my coworker is being a jerk.”

          Reply
          1. Lynn Whitehat

            I wonder if she just doesn’t know it’s a “real” service dog. Now that so many people are ordering “therapy dog” vests from Amazon so they can bring their pets with them everywhere, it’s hard to know which dogs are legit.

            Reply
        2. OP #3

          I’ve had my dog at work for several weeks but there are other service dogs in the office for months. As far I know, Carol avoids those dogs too.

          Reply
          1. Jennifer Thneed

            OP, please stop asking Carol what she wants or needs. Please just *tell* HR that *you* need to move desks. If you’re sitting where Carol doesn’t need to see your dog every day, it will probably be easier for her — and for you too, since you won’t be distracted by her distraction. (And probably easier for your dog, too. Even though they’re trained for calm behavior, they’re still handling a stressful situation.)

            But the hallway thing needs dealing with, and that’s not just your dog, right, but all dogs? Carol maybe needs an understanding with everyone that if she crosses paths with you (any of you), she’ll stand still and quiet and you’ll pass her as quickly as possible. Or something similar. Maybe you and another dog-having person can take Carol out for coffee and a frank (and dog-free) conversation? I think everyone has the same goal here, even if Carol doesn’t realize it.

            Reply
          2. Bleeborp

            Ultimately, does Carol’s reaction cause a disturbance in your work or others? I do feel like even if you move desks you will still be privy to her reactions when you walk around. As a kind person I’m sure it sucks that you see her distressed but if you can continue walking quickly where you need to go, the interaction will be over quickly. It doesn’t seem Carol knows what she needs and doesn’t like being asked- I’m sure she wishes she knew a workable solution, too. If the only way for Carol to not have a negative reaction is to not ever see dogs, there’s no way you can make your dog invisible and it is kind of out of your hands beyond being as considerate as you have been.

            Reply
  9. LouiseM

    Ugh, OP #1, that sounds terrible! Ironically, even though I am a trained doula, I do not enjoy hearing childbirth talk over my PB&J. This reminds me of my old workplace, where I had three coworkers give birth within the span of a year and a half. As someone who has not been able to get pregnant, AND the person who had to pick up all of their slack at work while they each took as much as 12 weeks of maternity leave, you can say I wasn’t thrilled. It was hard not to get a bit resentful after awhile, but I chose the higher road by asking them about their babies and filling them in on all the things they had missed when they were gone. I think they eventually got the hint.

    Reply
    1. Lucy M.

      “AND the person who had to pick up all of their slack at work while they each took as much as 12 weeks of maternity leave”

      Ouch. The maternity leave in the US sucks as it is, please don’t make women feel guilty for exercising their legal right. I understand that having to cover for others for 36 weeks over the course of a year and a half must have been frustrating, but that’s on your employer for perhaps not hiring temps or the like, not on the 3 women.

      Reply
      1. Mary Connell

        Yeah. “As much as 12 weeks.” As if that’s some sort of luxury. A year would be reasonable, like other civilized countries, with employers taking coverage seriously.

        Reply
        1. Julia

          That’s how you get a next generation of workers for the company, after all. And people who take care of us when we’re old and need it (not that I expect my future children to do that, but someone has to work in the nursing homes).

          Reply
          1. TootsNYC

            It’s how you get the next generation of CUSTOMER for the company, and taxpayers for our country. If you want to be only mercenary about.

            Reply
        1. Anonny

          Agreed. As someone who has been trying for a long time and struggling (many failed attempts and some losses), seeing other people leave for maternity AND having to cover for them is painful. It hurts.

          12 weeks isn’t nearly long enough and all women should get longer leaves in the US. But it feels like an eternity to me, sitting at my desk, covering people’s work, wanting nothing more than to be a mom myself and it not happening.

          Reply
      2. Thlayli

        “That’s on your employer for not hiring temps”

        This. So much this. I am on a working moms board and the number of women who have UNPAID maternity leave, whose companies do not hire temps to cover, is astounding. They get so much grief from their coworkers that they feel guilty exercising their legal right to take time off. It’s awful.

        Put the blame where it belongs. If you know in advance that someone will be our for 3 months (and usually unpaid three months) then you hire a flipping temp!

        Reply
        1. Colette

          There are many jobs where temps aren’t an option – because it’ll take too long to train them or because they need special security clearance that takes a long time to get or because they need special, rare qualifications.

          That doesn’t mean that people should avoid taking leave, but temps are not always a solution.

          Reply
          1. Thlayli

            Usually people don’t spend 100% of their time doing those tasks though. A temp cab also function as an additional body in the department to take up the slack on non-expert tasks. So instead of 3 llama experts, you have 2 llama experts and a secretary to help them with all the admin stuff that goes along with llama experting.

            Plus, in this case we are talking about doulas. Doulas are pretty much interchangeable – hence why LousieM can “pick up the slack” for her coworkers. So why not just get another doula in on contract for 12 weeks? Most doulas are self-employed where I live so I can’t imagine it would be all that difficult to find one to cover maternity leave.

            Reply
            1. YeOldAdmin

              Oof, the mothers I know that used doulas did not at all find them to be “interchangeable”. Most seemed set on a person that they trusted and jelled with, so dropping a rando on them would have been stressful to say the least.

              There are just too many factors that we don’t know, for us to determine what her company could/should do. In any case, it doesn’t sound like she is in charge of staffing, so this isn’t her decision to make.

              Reply
              1. Thlayli

                Ok that was bad wording. Doulas are not completely interchangeable, and presumably LousieC’s colleagues don’t take on clients who are due to give birth around the same time as them.

                However they must be interchangeable to some degree, otherwise LouiseC would not be able to “take up the slack” at all. For the parts of the work that Louise is doing, another doula should be able to do.

                This is the case with most work. Some aspects of the work can ONLY be done by the specific person (like the elected representative who wants to bring her newborn baby with her to cast a vote who was discussed on them open thread last week). Some aspects can be done by other people in the specific team, for example using company-specific databases or software, and some can be done by any other qualified person, for example a locum Doctor, pharmacist, midwife or doula.

                In LouiseC’s case there were 3 women on leave within a year, so it wouldn’t even need to be a temp, it would have been better to hire an additional doula for the year to cover the extra work.

                In most countries it’s completely the norm to hire someone to cover maternity leave. Many young professionals work for a few years doing maternity leave cover before getting a permanent job. This is extremely common in predominantly female jobs such as teaching, nursing and midwifery. Though, as I said, most doulas are self employed here as our government-funded healthcare system does not cover doulas. Just Midwives and doctors. So it would be up to each individual doula to organise cover for her own maternity leave.

                Reply
                1. Colette

                  I’m in a country with year+ maternity leave, and I’ve never seen someone get hired to cover. It’s just not an option in the jobs I’ve had – either because of the work or because of the budget. Teams adjust in a variety of ways.

                2. Thlayli

                  That’s bizarre. In my country we have 10 months and many people only take 6 months, but maternity cover contracts are the norm. You can’t expect a 3-person department to work for a year with only 1 or 2 people.

                  Are employers obligated to pay maternity leave for a year where you live? Where I live it’s covered by social welfare and employers don’t have to pay a penny (though many of them do top up the social welfare payment as a way of retaining/attracting staff).

                  If not employers are not legally obliged to pay maternity pay, then the “we can’t afford a temp” argument is a total red herring.

                3. Colette

                  Most of maternity leave is paid for by the government; employers top up. But that doesn’t mean that there’s a bucket of money newly available if someone is on leave – they still have the commitment to the salary on the books, and they may not be hiring for unrelated reasons. They’ve never said they couldn’t afford a temp, but they did move work around, give acting promotions, and otherwise adjust.

            2. LouiseM

              I see that my comment must have been unclear in a variety of ways…I’m explaining more downthread, but here I’l just point out that the work I was talking about was not the work of a doula. That’s a side volunteer thing for me, my day-to-day is completely different. I simply brought up my doula work to demonstrate that I am, generally speaking, comfortable with childbirth.

              Reply
      3. YeOldAdmin

        Who said she was making them feel guilty? She just said she didn’t love hearing about childbirth while eating, as a person who has hasn’t been able to get pregnant, and from several women she had to cover for a large portion of the time. Any one of those sucks on its own, but altogether sucks enough that I’m not at all shocked she wasn’t thrilled.

        No need to nitpick and pile on over the wording commenters use, and certainly not appropriate to insinuate they’re guilting other women in their office.

        Reply
          1. YeOldAdmin

            The nitpicky part imo is determining that because she worded things that way, she is guilting her coworkers, blames them instead of the employer/crap maternity leave in this country, or thinks 12 weeks is a luxury.

            She is allowed to be frustrated (& probably hurt) because the situation sucked on her end. It doesn’t mean she is automatically frustrated with the individuals or taking it out on them. It sounds like she covered the leaves, asked about the babies, and has been friendly with them, so anything beyond that is coming from people nitpicking on wording or projecting.

            Reply
        1. MLB

          “AND the person who had to pick up all of their slack at work while they each took as much as 12 weeks of maternity leave, you can say I wasn’t thrilled”

          She emphasized the fact that they took 12 weeks for maternity leave. That stood out to me more than anything in her statement too. I can understand if she’s upset that she can’t get pregnant while everyone at work around her is having a baby, but bitching about a full 12 weeks off after having a baby is petty and unnecessary.

          Reply
          1. grace

            I took that to mean more that it was up to 12 weeks each — which from any standpoint, is a long time to be covering for coworkers. I’d be pretty resentful personally. Though I notice you left out the part where she mentions she tried not to be resentful and engage them in conversations about their babies….

            Reply
            1. Thlayli

              You’d be resentful if people took 12 weeks off to have a baby?

              You should be resentful… of your EMPLOYER who is forcing you to do the work of two people, not of your colleague who is taking the lowest amount of maternity leave in the developed world.

              Reply
          2. YeOldAdmin

            I took that comment as an explanation of just how much time she spent picking up slack. If she had just said 3 maternity leaves, that could be a whole lot of different scenarios. Covering for one person for twelve weeks, on three separate occasions, is a large amount of time.

            She mentioned frustration in a comment section, not to these women. Telling people they aren’t allowed to express frustration or pain, because it is unnecessary and petty, is not going to do anyone any good and is incredibly unkind.

            Reply
            1. MLB

              I never said people couldn’t vent about frustrations. She put the emphasis on the 12 weeks part, so that’s what caught my attention. To me, she’s basically saying “How dare they take a full 12 weeks maternity leave”, when 12 weeks i not enough time (but that’s a separate issue altogether). If she had to cover for them, and had little to no help, that’s an issue with how her company handles leave, and her frustration should be aimed at the company and not at the women who dared to have babies.

              Reply
        2. LouiseM

          Thanks, YeOldAdmin. I see now that I could have worded my comment better, but I’m still surprised by how many people chose the least charitable interpretation of my words.

          To clarify, I think maternity leave should be a great deal longer and that companies should make it much easier than it currently is for new parents (of any gender) to take leave. The resentment that people were picking up on from me was not directed at my colleagues who were exercising their legal rights, or anyone, really. I was simply commenting that for me PERSONALLY it was demoralizing to never have been pregnant, to be overworked for a variety of reasons, and to then hear my coworkers talking about something I will never experience.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            If you find that people uncharitably interpret your words often, there’s a common denominator there. My impression of your posting style is that you often choose to express yourself in a manner that, if it’s not consciously abrasive and rude, is very easy to interpret that way.

            Reply
            1. CutUp

              No, I think that this comment section is pretty heavily populated by people who take extreme positions (including your positions, ie jumping on anyone who proposes something outside of western medicine as “Woo”). Just because there’s a pile on doesn’t mean that the consensus is justified. I think Louise is a breathe of fresh air and certainly no more abrasive than anyone else.

              Reply
              1. Snark

                Feel free to challenge my posts on topics unrelated when we’re actually discussing them, but you can’t possibly think a gratuitous, snotty personal attack legitimately advances the conversation here and now, can you?

                Reply
          2. 12345

            I understood what you meant. There is a tendency on this board to take someone venting about something here – on a web blog and forum – as a sign they are shitty to the people they work with. I find it weird. But it happens A LOT.

            Reply
    2. Susie Q

      Legally they have the right to take 12 weeks. Your issue should be with your employer not doing the appropriate temp staffing and not with the women taking their legal right. Frankly, 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave feels like the least a developed nation like the US could do.

      Reply
    3. Tobias Funke

      Between “there must be something wrong with your vagina” and “actually took maternity leave, you have really shined a light on how you feel about women. Consider the replies your comments get and take them into account.

      Reply
      1. CutUp

        I don’t think that mentioning that someone is describing unusual amounts of pain is the same as having a sexist attitude. Also, Louise clearly said she makes a point to act professionally and politely to her colleagues. Your inferences are pretty absurd and bordering on thought policing.

        Reply
          1. CutUp

            I agree that the comment about maternity leave is debatable. I don’t think there’s anything sexist about saying pain is unusual. One questionable comment is not a pattern, so there’s nothing to point out.

            Reply
  10. OwlSays

    My coworkers also love to talk about childbirth, and pregnancy, at lunch outings. As someone who couldn’t have a child, ouch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve snuck away and stood around in the restroom for as long as I could, only to return to the table and find the conversation still happening. I’ve never said anything, because I don’t really feel I have any right to. I just try to avoid going to lunch with my department. It’s truly a painful subject and I can’t really deal with it emotionally. I sort of wish people could just talk about work at work, most of the time. Team-building lunches are the pits.

    Reply
    1. Chameleon

      Yeah, when I was trying to get pregnant and had been told that there was no hope of natural conception, that was right when about three co-workers got pregnant and talked about nothing else. It was pretty terrible. (Turns out the doctor was wrong, thankfully!)

      Reply
    2. Amelia

      I’m so sorry, OwlSays. I’m in the same boat, and it is super painful. When I think of all the times right after my pregnancy losses that I put a smile on my face and powered through conversations that were all baby, all the time…I feel like there is an Oscar with my name on it.

      Reply
      1. Julia

        Not an Oscar, a freaking gold medal! I’m very sorry. :(
        I have endometriosis and we’re pretty set on adopting, but every time someone who knows I have problems and take meds asks “are you pregnant?” because I don’t like to mix meds and alcohol, I die a little inside.

        Reply
    3. AJK

      I’m so sorry, OwlSays. It is so hard, I’ve ducked away from many conversations myself. When I was actively trying and going through treatments I shared my cubicle area with three other women, all of them mothers, and it seemed like all they talked about was pregnancy, childbirth, and babies. I thought my head was going to explode sometimes. It took years for me to get to a place where I can sit and smile and nod and not have to escape during those conversations.

      Reply
    4. Ave

      Thank you.

      It’s not just the topic can be gross, medical, or focused on genitals.

      It’s that the topic of pregnancy can be triggering for folks who have difficulty conceiving or who have lost a child.

      Reply
  11. Amy Farrah Fowler

    OP 5 – I soooo feel you. I have been in your situation and it sucks so bad to come in 2nd (or 3rd or 4th). Before I got my current position, I was a part-timer for several years and got through many hoops before being turned down for a full time role about 3-4 times.

    The last time, I wasn’t going to apply because I didn’t feel like I could handle more rejection, but one of the managers reached out and invited me to apply. I’ve been in my role for about 10 months now, and I love it! I’m sorry you’ve been a runner up multiple times, but if you were truly a bad fit, they wouldn’t continue to encourage you to reapply. They want a strong candidate pool and they think you are a strong candidate.

    Reply
    1. OP5

      Thanks, it’s definitely frustrating. Every time I get close to a new job and don’t get it, its such a letdown. Everything that annoys me at my current job seems magnified. It’s hard to go back to it. I had sort of written this place off, but they actually reached out to me again to ask me to reapply, which I ultimately did. We’ll see what happens! It’s nice to hear about it working out for someone though!

      Reply
      1. Katie

        Another note of encouragement: my husband interviewed for a job at (government agency), was shortlisted, didn’t get the job, they asked him to continue applying. This happened about four times. After eight months or so of this, they called him to say that they had an opening that they thought would be perfect for him, and that if a preliminary interview went well, they wouldn’t even post the position publicly. He’s been in the job for four years and loves it.

        Reply
          1. tangerineRose

            I had a co-worker who applied a few times before he got a job – management encouraged him to reapply too, because they wanted to hire him. He didn’t get the first jobs because there were better candidates, but he was still a good candidate.

            Reply
      2. Amy Farrah Fowler

        Yeah, it was really hard for me because I was already part-time at the company and so getting the rejection meant that I could continue in my part-time role, but it was beginning to sour me on the company overall, making me think I needed to get out of the company all together because I couldn’t take the rejection anymore. After the last rejection before I got the position, I told my husband that I wouldn’t apply to full time roles anymore because emotionally I couldn’t handle being rejected anymore. I really think that if the manager hadn’t reached out, I wouldn’t have ended up applying at all, and I would have missed out on a great job that I love. It is so SO SOOO hard during that time though. I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to continue to apply there, and focused your applications elsewhere just for the sheer frustration. But I do hope you get it this time!

        Reply
      3. Artemesia

        If you are getting interviews, you are good. After that it is either small things, or bad luck. Obviously you evaluate your appearance, interview skills etc and work on those, but most of all concentrate on the fact that you are getting interviews and are therefore competitive and impressive. My daughter had a run of luck like this with countless interviews where she was runner up; then she landed a great job that paid about 30K more than her previous job (her company had folded when she was out on maternity leave). Hope your luck changes but know that the fact that you are getting interviews says a lot about what you have to offer.

        Reply
      4. Tad03102

        One more note of encouragement. After my second interview for my current job the recruiter reached out to me and told me I wasn’t going to be moved forward to a third interview. She made it a point to tell me how happy my interviewers were with me, and that the company just wasn’t hiring in my location. I remember the voicemail so well because it seemed like the nicest rejection ever!!

        Two weeks later she called me back and scheduled a third interview and I got the job.

        True to their word though, they never hired anyone in my location after me and the office recently closed.

        Sometimes it really has nothing to do with you.

        Reply
    2. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.

      It sucks from the employer side too! At my last job, I had a coordinator role that has several analogous roles throughout the company, and I found a candidate when I was helping to hire for one of them that was really good, but just edged out by someone else. Since then, I’d referred her to probably 4 other similar jobs at the company; she got interviews for almost all of them, and all the interviewers agreed that she was really good, but she ended up not getting hired again and again (in one case, they ended up promoting internally; in another, they ended up cutting the position, etc). I felt so bad! But, I did keep doing it because I knew she could be a good match. This story doesn’t have a happy ending, at least not yet, but we’re now connected on LinkedIn and growing a professional relationship and hopefully we’ll be able to help each other out in the future :)

      Reply
  12. kas

    #3. I’m afraid of dogs (although I’m usually fine around service dogs) and I don’t think there’s anything you can do to make Carol feel comfortable other than to avoid her.

    I’ve had people try to get me to be comfortable around dogs by trying to get me to pet them, feed them, etc. and I would rather they not.

    I agree with Alison’s suggestions though, I’d speak to Carol.

    Reply
    1. Tau

      +1, as someone else who’s not comfortable around dogs. There are people who think that clearly exposure is the issue and if they pressure me into being around their dog and interacting with their dog I will magically turn into a dog-lover. They are wrong, and the resulting experience is not fun.

      Reply
    2. Sabine the Very Mean

      You’re also extremely sensitive and kind about all of this. Lesser people would be resentful. I think you’re already half way there, OP. Maintain a great attitude about it and you can’t go wrong.

      Reply
      1. NotAnotherMananger!

        Yes, I agree with this! My daughter is (inexplicably) terrified of dogs, and I am always so grateful when people are compassionate and don’t push her rather than insisting said dog is “really friendly!” and encouraging her to interact with it more. We hope that she will grow out of it, but it’s nice to see someone being sensitive to those who aren’t comfortable with dogs.

        I’m not a huge dog person, but, in my experience, service dogs are well-trained and never an issue, behavior-wise. It’s not uncommon to see them on the metro, and they are invariably curled up under their owner’s seat.

        Reply
    3. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

      Just curious – if you do see this… I have a small dog who is extremely calm and non-reactive. Sometimes when I can tell someone has a fear of dogs (usually its strangers – typically a small child with a parent actually, but it’s happened with closer friends/acquaintances as well) I’ll offer to let them pet my dog or bring my dog over to them if they’d like to try petting her, while noting that she’s very calm/friendly. I just like to offer because if the person would like to work through their fears, I know that my dog would be a very good first step.

      I only ask once (I’d never push if they decline), and I never make a physical move towards them until after they verbally agree. Also if they hesitate – I take that as a no and tell them “no worries if you’re not uncomfortable” and move on.

      Do you think that’s ok? I don’t want to “force” people to face their fears – that’s totally up to them and how they want to handle the situation. I just figure that if it is something they would like to work on (I guess I do encourage everyone to work on any fears that might effect their day-to-day life, but do recognize that ultimately its a personal choice) – well I have the perfect dog for it.

      Reply
      1. kas

        I think what you’re doing is ok! When asked those questions my answer is no 99.9% of the time but if asked once and the dog owner drops the questioning, I’m ok with that. I’ve said yes once or twice when the dog was super small.

        I’ve had people ask me multiple times after I’ve already said no or try to inch closer which is not cool.

        Reply
      2. bonkerballs

        Personally, if you were a total stranger, I’d find this off putting. I think a lot of people who aren’t comfortable with/are afraid of dogs get a lot of crap for it. I know I do. From people I know and from strangers. People who absolutely will not take no for an answer, even if it’s just of the variety of showing me pictures of their dog while telling me “no one could be scared of MY dog, he’s the best boy in the whole world, isn’t he so sweet?” And people can get nasty about it. We’ve seen it in comment threads here on occasion. So you may know you’re just giving people a chance to face their fears, and that you’re totally willing to take no as an answer, but *I* don’t know that. And since I’ve already come across to you as uncomfortable or scared of your dog, engaging with you even more about your dog is absolutely not something I want to do. But that’s just me.

        Reply
    4. Half-Caf Latte

      Yes to this. And I do not understand why the near-universal reaction of dog-owners is “you’ll love my fluffykins if you just get to know her!”

      Reply
      1. nonymous

        My assumption is more along the lines of “My dog might like you if she got to know you, but right now she’s kinda scared!” Honestly, someone who is extremely fearful of dogs may unintentionally do something harmful (like offer them a piece of chocolate cookie).

        Even my goober of a lab who thinks most humans are just giant treat & ear rub dispensers doesn’t like everyone he meets. Dogs may be naturally curious and most don’t have any desire to start conflict, but that doesn’t mean insta-friends.

        Reply
    5. HS Teacher

      I’m uncomfortable with certain breeds, but fine with most dogs. I have a beagle at home, but still have a scar from a vicious pit bull attack when I was a child. I am certainly fine with service dogs, but I do hate this trend of people bringing their dogs everywhere. I also wish there were stricter rules about how businesses can handle dogs being brought in.

      I love my dog, but he doesn’t belong at a grocery store or a restaurant, unless said restaurant has an outdoor area specifically for dogs.

      Reply
      1. kas

        I hate that trend too! Years ago when I was interning, I accepted a position at a nearby company and I didn’t know they had an office dog (they didn’t bring it in the day of my interview or mention it). Imagine my surprise when I see a big, black Lab on my first day.

        When my internship ended I had the chance to stay on and I didn’t. I just did not feel comfortable with a dog in the office.

        Reply
        1. Ali

          I absolutely adore dogs and have a couple myself, but I totally agree with you. I’ve worked in offices with people from various African countries where dogs are often carriers of disease or half-wild and can be dangerous, so have fear responses to dogs. I’ve worked with Muslims who do not want to be around dogs for religious reasons. Much as I would love an office FULL of dogs, I don’t think dogs belong in offices because I’m aware not everyone shares my doggie love. For qualified service animals (not “therapy peacocks” or whatever nonsense people are trying to pass off now) accommodations absolutely should be made, but people who just want to bring their dog to work? Nope.

          Reply
  13. Kaleid

    #4 -women often take their purse to the bathroom because they have to carry sanitary products. Just find a discreet looking small bag you can put tissues or a partly used roll of tp in. Put it in your pocket if you can. Most people will not even notice it, or think you are going to the lunchroom, or out on an errand. If anyone does happen to ask, just tell them that it is some personal care items, or a medical requirement, and change the subject. (If your skin is being irritated it is medical- you could get a dermatologist to tell you this, but you already know!)

    Reply
      1. AcademiaNut

        But men get pockets. So they discreetly carry some tissues in their pocket when they go to the washroom.

        Reply
    1. Yorick

      I don’t carry my purse to the bathroom and I’d be annoyed to have to start, especially because the office cheaped out on TP.

      OP4 can carry their own TP, but I think it’s totally appropriate to ask whoever is in charge if they can switch to the old TP.

      Reply
    2. Bea

      I’ve never seen a woman in an office setting taking a purse with her, that would be so odd. You take your purse for safety purposes, you’re out and about in a public restroom. In an office you put your napkin or tampon in your pocket! Or palm it when you have giant hands like me.

      Reply
        1. Pomona Sprout

          Agreed. I’ve always taken my purse to the bathroom wherever I’ve worked. I don’t notice if others do or not, and I don’t care.

          Reply
      1. Bleeborp

        Same, I’ve never seen a woman take her purse to the bathroom. To be honest, I’ve never been sure where other women put their sanitary items- we don’t always have pockets! I put mine in my bra, I have big boobs though, I don’t know if that’s an option for everyone!

        Reply
      2. Ali

        I used to palm my tampon too, until I decided f*ck it, if someone gets offended seeing a wrapped, unused tampon, that’s on them.

        Reply
      3. Teddie Kuma

        I actually have a small soft make-up pouch of sanitary products, not a purse. I have extras in there, since sometimes I’m not sure if I need a full pad or just a liner so I just keep them all in one pouch.

        For TP, though, I really probably wouldn’t care if anyone sees me carrying one to the bathroom. If someone asks I can simply shrug and say, “I just prefer this TP.” and move along. I’ve heard and smelled all sorts of stuff in the restroom, I’m past being discreet – people pee and poop, and we’re all adults. :)

        Reply
  14. Artemesia

    Re referral guy. This is so wildly inappropriate, that I would be discussing this with him immediately after bringing it up with your own supervisor (unless you are the head of HR and maybe even then) and I would probably give his manager a heads up. It should be made really clear that he is not authorized to interview or recruit candidates; he could be doing some major damage with this not to speak of misleading candidates who believe they are being recruited or interviewed. By calling up strangers he is interviewing. I’d be even inclined to ban him specifically from making any referrals in the future. Can’t you imagine a glassdoor review in which his clumsy attempts become the public face of your companies recruitment efforts?

    Reply
    1. Casuan

      Yes, he’s abusing the system & he should be told of this &or restricted.
      OP22, as Alison said, you can definitely tell this employee that he shouldn’t be screening candidates & referring them. In theory, I think it’s practical to update the employee on the referral, however I don’t think that’s warranted in this case because the employee can misinterpret this as validation.

      Reply
    2. Perse's Mom

      My employer has referral incentives – if someone you refer lasts X months in good standing, the referrer gets $. This has backfired multiple times in my department. I’m sure it’s partly because our hiring methods are sub-par (cue: “but he’s so nice!” from my boss about one new hire who took 3x longer to train) but also because a couple of referrers have made promises they had no authority to make (sure you can telework! (in a position that’s not eligible for it)).

      I kinda wish referrals were treated more like recommendations. Might get people to more carefully consider who they refer.

      Reply
      1. Antilles

        Right. It *should* be treated as vaguely similar to a recommendation. Maybe not quite to the same standard, but along the broadly similar. Of course, you’re not a hiring manager and might not be in the best position to completely judge the viability of someone’s candidacy, but…well, you work here already, you should have some kind of idea the skillset/culture/etc that we like here.
        Also, a referral should basically be separate from the hiring process. You gave us the resume, explained the connection, mentioned why you thought he might be a good fit…and then you took a bow and walked offstage, because you have no more lines in this play.

        Reply
      2. LBK

        I’ve always thought of them as the same thing. I guess interpreted literally, a referral is just a neutral passing along of information without any editorializing while a recommendation carries an explicit endorsement of the person for the job, but I think in either case the implication is that you think the person would be a good fit for the job. You shouldn’t even be referring people if you don’t have a pre-existing sense of their qualifications (and I don’t mean skimming their LI page like this guy is doing).

        Reply
      3. Marillenbaum

        I only referred one person for a job (it was my only post-undergrad job before I went back to grad school), but I feel really good about how it worked out. He was a friend from undergrad (the job was at our alma mater) and I’d always had a good feeling about his work ethic and professionalism from when we did theatre together. I told him to apply when a position came open, since he was looking to move back to the area, and mentioned his application to my boss. Apparently, he nailed the interview so hard that afterwards, my boss told me to tell him that “if he doesn’t hear from us right away, it’s just because HR is slow and not that we didn’t like him, because we really really like him!” He started about a month later, and was essentially a model employee until he left to move to Boston with his girlfriend. I feel like going forward, someone has to be another Nate for me to refer them.

        Reply
      4. Ceniza

        I hated my old companies referral incentive. I did phone screens and we had one employee who would refer multiple people every time. They often had plagiarized resumes – he’d submit two candidates with a different first page, but the same second page. The candidates would list his number under a different name as a reference. And he would demand to know why we didn’t move forward…

        I don’t entirely blame this employee. Our company’s hiring practices left a lot to be desired. I’d complete a phone screen and note my concerns (previous employer indicated a lack of professional-level writing, candidates who called me up to 8 times a day to ask about their job even though I was never involved in hiring decisions, candidates whose spouses called me multiple times asking why they couldn’t be a reference when the candidate had no job history) and we hired each of these people. None of whom lasted past four months.

        Reply
    3. One of the Sarahs

      I’m pretty horrified he’s “screening” candidates by phone too – so dodgy in so many ways!

      Reply
      1. CM

        It does seem like that should be a reason to revoke referral incentives for him. Not necessarily say he can no longer refer anyone, but he won’t get anything out of it. Yes this is specifically directed at him because he is acting as a recruiter without any authority or training to do so!

        Reply
        1. Jennifer Thneed

          At the very least, there should be an annual limit on referrals that earn bonuses. (And the bonus should only apply if the person lasts x amount of time, too.)

          Reply
      2. LBK

        Agreed – it would be one thing if he were basically just forwarding LinkedIn profiles along blindly and trying to pass them off as people he had some vague connection to, but the fact that he is basically phone interviewing them before passing them to the OP is shocking. That’s extremely inappropriate to the point that if he didn’t stop immediately I would consider firing him – completely unacceptable to be positioning himself as a representative of the company in that way.

        I think you can be very clear with him that while there aren’t explicitly written rules saying you can’t do this, it’s generally understood that the referral bonus is meant for people who refer candidates that they have an existing relationship with and can vouch for in some way. He’s shown a clear lack of understanding of the spirit of the program and he’s also wildly overstepped his boundaries in terms of contacting people about open positions at the company and as such, he’s no longer allowed to submit referrals. And then it may behoove you to write up some more formal guidelines for acceptable referrals so that you don’t run into this in the future.

        Reply
        1. Reba

          Yes, I think OP2 is right to intuit that the employee will try to do some rules lawyering when their scheme gets shut down (“but the policy doesn’t say X! I’m not breaking any rules!”) But that does not mean that OP2 can’t challenge them and exercise some authority. In case of rules lawyering you can say something like, “we don’t have detailed written rules about this because most people understand how referral bonuses, a common workplace practice, work. You are the only one trying to do it this way.”

          Another tack might be looking at how much time the employee spends on faux recruiting rather than their actual work — AND how much extra work it creates for OP2. Although OP2 doesn’t manage the employee, if it has really become a hassle, and the person has been asked to slow their roll but hasn’t, it could be something to bring up to their manager?

          Reply
          1. Interviewer

            Responding to rules lawyering, if it happens – “Congratulations, you found the loophole. We’re going to close it now, and also, we’re going to make another rule that applies only to you.”

            Reply
        2. Bostonian

          I agree that this is pretty severe. OP should definitely talk to this employee’s boss, too. Reaching out to strangers and doing screening calls for open positions when it’s not his job is wildly inappropriate.

          Reply
      3. Artemesia

        I am sort of horrified that the OP feels any hesitation in putting a stop to this. This guy is a loose canon misrepresenting the company. He has made himself an official recruiter and that is how his referrals are going to see him. He is the face of the company hiring to those people he is interviewing. Just major awful and dangerous.

        Reply
    4. CityMouse

      Agreed with everything here. He can be doing serious damage to the rep of your company because random people are going to think he is working in some kind of official capacity. This needs to be shut down asap.

      Reply
    5. Hills to Die On

      He sounds pretty clueless (telling you the guy just needs a ‘fighting chance’ after you already looked at him—!) and needs to be shut down in no uncertain terms. I would definitely get his manager involved and stop him from doing any referrals at all. He’s being ridiculous.

      Reply
    6. Grumpy

      I wonder if he’s taking money from candidates to refer them and get them an interview.
      By that I mean, I suspect he is taking money from candidates to get them an interview.

      Also, that Kureig ad this morning? It’s covering the articles on the screen and I can’t read them — and I’m in the market for a coffee maker for the office, but it definitely won’t be a Kureig right now. Grr.

      Reply
    7. Naptime Enthusiast

      +1, I tried to post a similar comment but I think it got eaten.

      I had to be trained by HR to do phone screens for potential interns, forget about full-time hires. Behavioral questions to ask, skill sets to ask about, rating system, questions that we CANNOT ask even if we used to ask them or we think they’re relevant, how to avoid answering questions that we’re uncomfortable with. I guarantee this guy is asking all kinds of bad questions, or giving bad answers to very good candidate questions (can I work from home? Sure! Is it a flexible schedule? Absolutely!) without considering whether that’s actually true across the board.

      Reply
    8. Cassandra

      OP2, is there any chance at all that Referral Guy is using your company as an excuse to run the “let’s meet to discuss the opening OH BY THE WAY let’s date” scam?

      This isn’t anywhere near a certainty based on what you’ve said, but it’s an eerie possibility that’s cropped up on AAM before. If you get even a whiff of this, the sooner you shut RG down, the better.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Eh, I think that’s a stretch – given that there’s a referral bonus involved, I think the simplest explanation is just that he’s trying to make money off it by submitting as many referrals as he can. That’s a sufficiently shady behavior to shut it down without having to add a creep layer to it.

        Reply
    9. Jesmlet

      100% would ban him immediately from referring. He’s misrepresenting himself to these randos on LinkedIn for his own benefit. Any other suggestions depend on the structure of the referral program but I would also really recommend putting something in writing about who is being referred. I’d want you to be able to either vouch for them professionally or vouch for them personally for it to count as a referral.

      Reply
    10. kapers

      I come down pretty hard here. He’s presenting himself as a rep of your company, so he could really get your company in trouble (if he asks illegal questions, makes promises, makes financial arrangements; he could also just make you look really bad and damage your company’s public reputation.) It’s also a pretty serious abuse of the spirit of the perk, at least the way it works in every company I’ve worked for.

      An unqualified employee is plucking strangers from the web and setting up his own unauthorized HR department in an attempt getting money out of your company. I’d take the privilege away entirely. It’d be a good idea to rewrite the policy to make it clearer that it’s not to be used in this way, but even absent that, he needs to be shut down.

      Reply
    11. Newt

      My employer has referral bonuses in place, but requires that you refer people you *have a previous, reasonably recent working relationship with*. The idea being that you’ve observed that person in a working environment, have had your work impacted by theirs in some way, and can therefore vouch for them based on direct experience of their quality of work and their preferred office culture etc.

      What the “referral” amounts to is either the applicant putting our name/contact info on their application as a referral and us confirming we agree to act as referral, or us triggering the online job system to “invite” them to apply. Followed by us being asked about the applicant if they’re going to be invited to interview.

      I certainly wouldn’t invite strangers or linkedin contacts, and I absolutely wouldn’t conduct phone screenings! LW is right to be concerned and I really hope they nip this in the bud.

      Reply
  15. Nobody Here By That Name

    #4 This still puts the solution in your hands and on your wallet, but you can get small, portable rolls of toilet paper which might be easier to carry to the bathroom without drawing attention to yourself. Generally speaking they tend to be the size of the core of a regular roll of toilet paper.

    I’m pretty sure the comment system here sends links into moderation, so instead I’ll say if you’re interested you can search for “travel toilet paper”, or “toilet paper to go” to see options.

    Reply
    1. AcademiaNut

      Or when your TP rolls at home get near the end, grab them for work use. For that matter, you could just make little packets of TP that can be discreetly tucked into a pocket.

      Reply
      1. Judy (since 2010)

        For camping, we put rolls into a sandwich ziplock and pull the center cardboard off. You then use from the center of the roll, it takes up less space, and it can flatten out.

        Reply
        1. Marillenbaum

          I buy the rolls that come without the cardboard in the middle–this is because I am lazy, and found I was refusing to change the rolls when I had to pull off the cardboard bit to put on a new roll. Now, no problem!

          Reply
    2. Wintermute

      it’s ALL toilet paper “to go”? one of life’s ponderables.

      But I second the recommendation, bringing your own toilet tissue is really common in some countries, such as Japan, and they sell products just for that purpose, in very nice little packages that range from discreet to adorable.

      Reply
    3. Ann O'Nemity

      I used to go backpacking all the time. You can buy “Tissue to Go” packets that easily fit in your purse or even your pocket! They are small, discreet, and inexpensive. The quality sounds higher than what the OP is dealing with; I remember them being at least 2-ply. I used to buy them at REI, but a quick internet search shows there’s tons of options on Amazon.

      Reply
    4. TootsNYC

      I would be so very tempted to MacGuyver some sort of mini shelf or Command Hook up underneath the sink itself, so no one could see it, and stash my TP there.

      Reply
    5. Anon5

      This is more of a “know your bathroom” situation, but if there are some storage cabinets in the bathroom, you could also leave a roll or pack of rolls in there. Other people may use it as well, but at least you won’t have to carry it from your desk all the time. In fact, if you saw someone taking the good TP from under the sink (or wherever storage is) you could ask them to contribute to the good TP stash!

      Reply
      1. Perse's Mom

        I think if it gets to that point, it’s probably better to ask people to chip in from the start, otherwise you run the risk of people thinking it’s free from some kind-hearted person and then being upset at being asked to help pay for it.

        Then again, based on the description of the person responsible for the change to awful tp, I kinda suspect if he found out his employees were “willing” to pay for their own tp, he’d just stop providing it entirely and let them foot the bill.

        Reply
  16. Espeon

    OP1, I’m with you. I find pregnancy/childbirth stuff just revolting (not to mention boring) and I’d be frustrated too.

    It’s just not polite or appropriate to casually discuss graphic or intimate things at work – unless that’s your job! If these people won’t take you seriously, remove yourself from the situation content in the knowledge that you’re not the problem here.

    If it starts happening during actual work (not breaks) then you can bring it up to your manager – I’ve had to do this previously, because I work with several horrid people.

    Reply
      1. grace

        Oh, come on. There’s a lot involved in childbirth that entails things we generally think are gross or icky or make us squeamish. Just because it’s human doesn’t mean someone can’t find it ‘revolting’.

        Reply
      2. Espeon

        As both a human being and, specific to this topic, a woman, I am perfectly entitled to find all manner of bodily functions revolting.

        And no, I don’t want to talk about urination at work either ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        Reply
      3. paul

        I don’t talk about the epic leak I took first thing in the AM at work either though.

        Or how thick my mucus is because these damn allergies.

        Or my sex life.

        Or any number of other things that are part of being human.

        Reply
      4. Snark

        And being human is, in point of fact, the illusorily coherent experience of a consciousness riding an occasionally leaky, not always perfectly functional wad of meat, gore, stinky things, and things that make embarrassing noises. Human bodies are objectively gross.

        If I were holding a detailed conversation about the precise shade of yellow, aroma, and duration of my morning piss over lunch, that’d be revolting too.

        Reply
      5. Pollygrammer

        I think an umbrella rule that anything involving body fluids is not an appropriate meal conversation is pretty reasonable. Urine, vomit, amniotic fluid, pus, etc. (Ugh, ven typing that grossed me out).

        Reply
      6. Had Matter's Pea Tarty

        As someone with tokophobia – a fear of pregnancy and childbirth – yes, they are revolting and overhearing someone go on in graphic detail about them will make me want to throw up.

        Reply
  17. Stellaaaaa

    OP3: You can’t “get” someone to like dogs if she simply doesn’t like dogs. This applies even more when there’s a genuine fear in play. It may feel like Carol is rejecting an essential part of your being, but it’s not your place to encourage her to overcome a fear just to make you comfortable. After all, your dog is making HER uncomfortable. These are the compromises we make when we want to participate in society. It would be a kindness if you told her you wouldn’t be offended if she moved desks.

    Reply
    1. AJ

      I don’t think the OP is trying to make/force Carol to be comfortable with her dog. The OP’s expectations sound very reasonable – that she understands not everyone likes dogs. It doesn’t sound like she is at all worried about “an essential part of her being getting rejected”

      Reply
        1. Ice and Indigo

          Come on. There’s no reason to assume that Carol has any issue with disability. My son is disabled and I’m a bit wary of dogs; the two have nothing to do with each other.

          Reply
          1. Sylvan

            If it affected your son’s ability to use a service dog if he needed one, well, they would have something to do with each other.

            I have had people visibly upset by my using crutches and/or leg braces. I wish they would try to manage that, but maybe they are already doing what they can. It makes using assistance when necessary more difficult than it needs to be and it makes you feel like just staying home.

            Reply
            1. Ice and Indigo

              I understand – believe me, I know those moments when you feel ‘Why did I leave the house?’ – and it’s really rude of people to put that on you. In solidarity, allow me to say: down with those people. Let us flip them off together.

              That said, I do think there’s a difference between a fear of dogs that inconveniently happens to include service dogs, and a fear of people going round being a living reminder that disability is a thing that can happen to people. Personally, I’ll take ‘awkward clash of difficulties’ over ‘can’t deal with reality and makes that other people’s problem when said other people are dealing with enough challenges already for Pete’s sake’ any day! One is about the disability itself, the other isn’t.

              And since you evidently have enough annoying people to deal with already, I won’t press the point any further; I’ll just wish you a nice day. :-)

              (Oh, and in case you’re worried: if my son ever needs a dog, I’ll just make myself get used to it. Let’s hope Carol will get more used to this one over time.)

              Reply
    2. Sylvan

      It sounds more like OP wants to make the dog less scary to Carol, though, not to get Carol to want to be BFFs with it.

      Reply
      1. Marillenbaum

        Exactly. It sounds like OP is coming from a place of compassion–her coworker is uncomfortable, and she would like to (within reason) ease her discomfort, because it can’t be fun to feel afraid at your desk.

        Reply
    3. Phoenix Programmer

      Oof. This came off a bit preachy. OP needs a service dog and their coworker who sits near them is afraid. It’s a human and thoughtful response to ask “can I help them not be afraid?”

      The answer is of course no but there doesn’t need to be a lecture on the societal contract and not feeling like your core being is rejected. Give the OP some credit.

      Reply
    4. OP #3

      I don’t want Carol to be BFFs with my dog; that could interfere with my dogs’ work, as she is supposed to be focused on me and not other people. My hope is that she could walk by my dog without fear, or at least not react fearfully when she sees my dog lying at my feet.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        Hi! I am someone who is often nervous and uncomfortable around dogs, and I really appreciate the approach you’re taking (a lot of people are all “no my dog is great DON’T YOU LOVE HIM IN YOUR FACE RIGHT NOW,” which is the worst). I think Alison’s answer is good, and if you bring it up by email/phone/im/whatever’s usual in your office, so the dog isn’t right there, that might help too.

        Dogs that are visibly well-trained and under control are wayyyy less nerve-wracking, so if yours is, the problem may go away on its own as Carol gets more used to your dog and gains confidence that it’s safe. (By “visibly,” I mean visibly to non-dog-people, which mostly means leaving people alone, which it sounds like your dog is doing. It’s way easier to have confidence that a dog that’s always by its owner’s side is going to stay there than that a dog that runs up and sniffs you is going to *only* sniff you. My aunt used to have an enormous black lab that was perfectly trained to ignore you if you put your hands behind your back–it was seriously like you just became invisible. I was pretty scared of dogs at the time but I felt very safe around this one.)

        Reply
        1. I'm A Little TeaPot

          this. I’m uneasy around dogs because I can’t read their body language. If I can predict what a dog will do based on past experience, then I know how to deal. If that prediction is “looks at me and wags tail”, then I know the dog is friendly but won’t bother me. That can take some time to develop though.

          Reply
        2. Riding Along

          I’m afraid of dogs and I’m the same as you with regards to calm/well trained dogs being way less scary than, say, boisterous dogs. So, for me a well trained service dog would be something i could cope with.
          However, I am also afraid of bees, and that fear is far less rational. No amount of it calmly minding its own business prevents my fear response around them. it sounds to me like Carol falls much more on that end of the fear spectrum than our experience with dogs so I don’t think any amount of normalising this situation is going to allow Carol to be comfortable around dogs.

          Reply
        1. OP #3

          I’m not trying to control her reactions, but I was wondering if there was anything I could do to help reduce her fear. That’s why I wrote in to Alison. :)

          Reply
        2. LBK

          That’s kind of rude – sure, the OP isn’t under any obligation to do anything about it, but it’s nice and considerate to recognize that some people are uncomfortable around dogs. Is being nice and considerate not worthwhile in your opinion?

          Reply
          1. Stellaaaaa

            OP would prefer that Carol not react in the way that she does. I’m aware that it’s coming from a place of awareness and kindness, but it’s something that OP just has no say in. Carol may not want to become comfortable around this dog.

            Reply
            1. justcourt

              OP3 has responded to your thread at least twice now to clarify that she isn’t offended that Carol is afraid of her dog and that she doesn’t want to control how Carol reacts. OP3 has made it very clear that she wants some suggestions on how to help alleviate Carol’s fear. You’re misunderstanding or putting words into her mouth or projecting. It’s not helpful.

              Reply
              1. Ice and Indigo

                Besides that, the idea that Carol would rather stay afraid than gradually get more used to the fact that this is a safe dog and relax a bit seems … far-fetched. I’m not wild about dogs, and I’d much rather get comfortable, especially with a service dog that’s a genuine necessity for someone. Who prefers discomfort over comfort?

                OP3, you’re already doing the most effective thing a dog owner can do with a dog phobe, which is accept that the fear is involuntary and not get angry or pushy about it. (Rarer than it should be, alas; pushy dog owners can make up a big part of the phobia, as never knowing when you’ll be attacked by a person for being nervous of their dog massively raises the dog-stress: it feels like two potential threats at once.) I’m sorry it’s a problem for you, but you’re being awesome about it, and I hope that Carol picks up on this and starts to relax.

                Reply
        3. Jesmlet

          There are plenty of effective ways to confront phobias – exposure, systematic desensitization, counter-conditioning, etc. OP isn’t trying to control Carol’s reactions, she’s just asking what she can do as a non-therapist to help her feel more comfortable in some way, which FYI is an extremely nice thing to be doing.

          Reply
      2. Clisby Williams

        If you always keep your dog on a very short leash, do your best to put yourself between the dog and any approaching person, never allow the dog to approach another person, and never allow other people to schmooze with the dog so that it gets the idea it should interact with humans other than you, she might be able to deal with it in time.

        However, I vote for moving desks. I would never want to work around a dog.

        Reply
        1. OP #3

          Making demands of how a disabled person must interact with their service dog based on your comfort would likely not be considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

          Reply
    5. Snark

      “It may feel like Carol is rejecting an essential part of your being, but it’s not your place to encourage her to overcome a fear just to make you comfortable. ”

      I’ll do it, then. If anybody is so phobic of dogs that the presence of a tranquil, well-trained service dog causes them visible fear and causes discomfort to the person who needs that dog to function, then I think the phobic person needs to work on overcoming that fear.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        “Could work,” maybe. “Needs to work” is pretty strong. It’s not like you go in, take an anti-phobic, and walk away cured, and it’s not like people have unlimited supplies of resources or have to put treating a phobia at the top of how they use them. Not every problem needs to be solved.

        She gives the dog a wide berth but is okay with a dog in the office (though I’d suggest the OP stop ducking behind walls). She may even *be* working on overcoming her fear–this is the kind of controlled exposure that a therapist could well approve as a desensitization.

        Reply
        1. Lynca

          But she really doesn’t just give the dog a wide berth. The OP mentioned in another thread that Carol runs or semi-faints when they are approaching. That’s a huge reaction that shouldn’t be put on the OP to deal with just because they need a service dog in the workplace.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            I agree it’s not the OP’s problem to deal with. I don’t agree that it’s imperative Carol decide to go to therapy as a result.

            Reply
            1. Snark

              Fair, but it is imperative that Carol stop treating the service dog like Cujo at work – however that works out.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                It’s really not, though. It’s desirable, but it’s also okay if Carol stays scared of the dog and the OP just keeps on keeping on.

                Reply
                1. Snark

                  I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect someone to keep on keeping on with someone visibly terrified of an accomodation they need for a disability. It’s ludicrous to imagine someone running in fear or faining at the sight of my hearing aids, or a prosthetic limb, or a wheelchair, but it has some of that flavor – and I don’t think it’s fair to make a necessary accomodation that big a deal. In effect if not in intent, I think it’s tantamount to harassing OP and the dog.

                2. Snark

                  I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect someone to keep on keeping on with someone visibly terrified of an accomodation they need for a disability. It’s ludicrous to imagine someone running in fear or faining at the sight of my hearing aids, or a prosthetic limb, or a wheelchair, but it has some of that flavor – and I don’t think it’s fair to make a necessary accomodation that big a deal, or more to the point, to treat a disabled person differently and worse in the workplace.

                3. fposte

                  @Snark–but I don’t know what you’re proposing. Is it that Carol be fired for being unable to conquer the visibility of her phobia, which is itself a condition that falls under the ADA?

                4. Snark

                  @ fposte: I…..I dunno. Like I said below, we’ve got kind of an unstoppable force, immovable object thing. I am very not on Team Carol here, and I am angry that OP has to deal with her reactions. But a phobia is covered by the ADA. And she could be reassigned or relocated, but that doesn’t very well help OP.

              2. Susie Q

                Phobias can be classified as a disability that is protected by the ADA. Granted this is on a case by case basis. But phobias are classified in the DSM-V and it would be best to tread lightly as it could cause backlash against the company if Carol decided to lawyer up especially since HR didn’t do something like change desks which could easily be classified as a reasonable accommodation.

                Reply
        2. Snark

          That’s all a fair point, but she did refuse to switch desks, so she’s not actually giving the dog as wide a berth as she could be. And as Lynca points out, her reactions are fairly dramatic.

          Reply
      2. stefanielaine

        I think you probably don’t realize what is involved in “work on overcoming that fear”

        1) Research phobia-specializing therapists in your insurance network
        2) Take time off work to meet with therapists (most people have to try a few)
        3) Take time off work to go to therapy appointments
        4) Expend mental energy at therapy, which leaves you with less mental energy for family/friends/work
        5) Pay for therapy (usually expensive, potentially not covered)

        This is a lot to do so someone can tolerate being close to a dog at work.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          I realize all of that. But at this point, what else is it? Carol refused to switch desks. She refused to acknowledge the problem. Yet she continues to react visibly, which makes OP uncomfortable with her own disability accomodation and leaves her feeling obligated to manage Carol’s emotions, which I don’t regard as fair or reasonable. So Carol needs to either do that, or switch desks, or otherwise manage how she’s dealing with this, because it’s not really OP’s job.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            The OP can decide to stop managing Carol’s emotions. That’s going to be easier for her to choose to do than for Carol to keep her phobia from visibility. I think the OP is a really nice person, and I understand her inclination here, but I think it’s better for her and for Carol if she walks where she needs to walk and shrugs Carol’s reactions off.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              Right – if Carol isn’t actively asking the OP to change anything and Carol has rejected the OP’s attempts to be proactive about changes that might help her, then I don’t think there’s anything more for the OP to do except stop doing Carol’s emotional labor. Everyone actually seems fine with the situation, so I don’t know that anything needs to be fixed right now except for the OP not caring about fixing it anymore.

              Reply
              1. Snark

                I don’t disagree….but. I couldn’t just ignore someone half-fainting and sprinting the other way. Like I said above, that’s super intense.

                Reply
                1. LBK

                  I think part of the point of writing in/having this conversation is giving the OP permission to start ignoring even those more dramatic reactions that might be harder to brush off naturally.

            2. Snark

              I’d agree if we were talking about, like, nervously glancing at the dog and kind of avoiding them in the hallway, or startling when catching sight of the dog unexpectedly. Running away and quasi-fainting is an intensity of reaction that is very hard for most people with functional senses of empathy to just shrug off.

              It’s kind of like the coworker the other day who burst into dramatic sobbing when criticized. It’s possible to ignore and overlook a coworker who gets a red face and leaky eyes when angry or really stressed; it’s impossible to ignore someone being weepy and emotional for hours over a courier signature. Same distinction here.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                I absolutely think it would be better if Carol’s phobia improved, and if Carol were writing in I’d encourage movement toward that. But I think the only viable option in the mean time is for the OP to work on shrugging it off, and I think it’s easier to learn that than it is to overcome a phobia. She really can’t insist that Carol get treatment or that her treatment become more effective.

                Reply
                1. Snark

                  Phrased like that, and as reasonable as you are, I can’t disagree. But I have Feelings about someone being this visibly reactive to a disability accomodation, in a way that has the effect of treating the disabled person differently, and less favorably, than abled folks. It’s kind of an Unstoppable Force Meets Immovable Object thing, because I recognize that phobias are not resolved overnight, but Carol also can’t keep treating OP this way.

                2. fposte

                  @Snark–I definitely don’t disagree with that, and I don’t like it either. But I think this is the real version of that hypothetical question we get asked sometimes: what if somebody had a disability that made proximity to dogs a problem? And I think this is what “working it out” might look like–the OP is uncomfortable with Carol’s reactive disability and Carol isn’t comfortable with the assistance the OP uses, but they’re both soldiering on. I’m reminded of the Israeli writer Amos Oz talking about any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as being not the end of a Shakespearean comedy where everybody’s happy but being a Chekhovian comedy, where everybody’s smiling through gritted teeth. I think we got here a Chekhovian resolution.

                3. Tardigrade

                  Snark, I fully agree with you that Carol should have moved desks (and probably still should move) and that it isn’t fair for OP to deal with Carol’s fear responses and that behavior ideally shouldn’t continue for the sakes of everyone involved. At the same time, Carol isn’t being afraid of the dog at OP, just the same way OP isn’t having a service dog at Carol.

                  It’s, uh, clearly a complicated situation.

                4. Snark

                  @ Tardigrade – Yeah, complicated.

                  Carol IS kind of being afraid at OP3, though, in effect if not in intent – whether it’s a dog or a limb or a chair, a disabled person’s assistive device/animal is an extension of their person. She’s not pointing and laughing, but she is treating OP’s person differently than an abled person, which is why I feel like the onus is ultimately on her, but that doesn’t actually get us anywhere.

                5. KellyK

                  Snark, would it help to view Carol’s phobia as possibly a disability as well? Because it may very well be. (I mean, none of us is qualified to diagnose via the interwebs, but it sounds pretty severe from the OP’s description.) This reads to me less like a situation where a disabled person is being treated badly because of their disability and more like a situation where people with different needs are having those needs come into conflict.

                  In that case, I don’t think it’s the responsibility of one disabled person to seek specific medical treatment geared toward making another disabled person feel more comfortable. It would be horribly ableist to say that OP3 just needs to find another accommodation, or take it upon herself to avoid Carol completely so that Carol can be comfortable. But if you turn that around, it’s also potentially ableist to say that someone with a phobia needs to find some better treatment to make the OP comfortable.

                  If, hypothetically, Carol’s dog phobia were an ADA qualifying issue and OP3 knew for a fact that Carol was doing everything she reasonably could to address it, she’d still be left in the same situation. She’d still be dealing with some very dramatic and unpleasant behaviors, but not be able to do much about them.

                  For that matter, Carol’s *boss* has standing to tell her that turning and running away when she sees OP3 coming is not acceptable behavior at work and can address it that way. (And if it was a disability issue, Carol could bring it up to her boss at that point.)

                6. Snark

                  @KellyK: I see the logic of what you’re saying, but to be frank I just can’t get there. OP offered to move and Carol didn’t go for it, and also Carol hasn’t offered to move herself. If Carol isn’t willing to move or amenable to OP moving, then she’s declined the most obvious reasonable accomodation of her putative disability.

                7. Plague of frogs

                  I’m having a lot of problems with this one. I keep thinking of a friend-of-a-friend who has a phobia of little people. So, OK, it’s a legit phobia, but I don’t think a little person should ever have to deal with it at work (or anywhere, for that matter).

                  For what it’s worth, I think the LW is dealing with this really well, and I feel bad for Carol, and perhaps Carol could be dealing with this better, but I’m not in her shoes so I don’t know. I do believe Carol should avoid LW desk–she *knows* there’s a dog there, so why go there at all?

      3. LBK

        I don’t think most people anticipate seeing dogs in the workplace, ie somewhere they’re forced to be for 40 hours a week. It may have never been enough of an issue before to require getting over it since it’s generally easy to avoid extended encounters with dogs if you don’t own one.

        Reply
      4. Viki

        That’s unfair.

        People who are terrified of dogs (like myself) don’t always need help/work to overcome their phobia. I don’t care if the dog is the most tranquil, well-trained service dog. I got bit by a German Shepard when I was four and since then, I keep the furthest away from any dog. I don’t trust them. For me, and my life dogs are not an issue.

        The OP is doing as best as she can, and Carol is from what I can tell, is doing as best she can.

        People generally aren’t expecting to deal with their phobia at work. Carol and the OP are doing their best, and saying Carol needs to get over her phobia is unkind, unrealistic and not useful here as Carol is presumably not reading this.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          I actually quite disagree that Carol is doing the best she can. Reacting to a service dog to the point of visible, significant fear is not fair to someone who depends on that dog for basic life tasks. It places an implicit onus of emotional labor and responsibility on OP, to the point that she feels compelled to write to an advice blog about how to manage that fear. That’s not okay in my book. My point is not to give Carol advice but that, at some point, the onus is on her to manage her own reactions in a way that’s fair to OP – not on OP to manage them for her.

          And as someone who was also attacked by a dog when I was small and had significant fear of all dogs for quite a while afterward, I think irrational fears of everyday things are both changeable and worth working on. Your mileage may vary and you may agree to disagree, of course.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            We have no idea if Carol is doing the best she can or not. However, the fact that she’s having this reaction doesn’t prove she isn’t doing the best she can–you’re talking as if her going to treatment would mean she’d be fixed by now, and that’s simply not true. (Again, setting aside the fact that not everybody has the money or the time to get treatment in the first place.)

            And just as it’s on Carol to manage her fear, it’s on the OP to manage her own *reaction* to that fear; it’s not Carol’s obligation to make sure the OP doesn’t leap to emotional management.

            Reply
            1. Snark

              Carol placed herself in a Catch-22 – she declined to move. I don’t expect her to be insta-fixed, but if she’s not going to move, and she’s not going to react appropriately to the dog, that’s putting a lot on OP to just ignore.

              Reply
              1. fposte

                The OP has said she doesn’t think moving would help anyway, since the reactions are so frequently when they’re not at their desks.

                If there’s a whole nother floor or building that Carol could have moved to, that’s another matter, but it doesn’t sound like that’s the case.

                Reply
              2. Lissa

                I’m torn about this. I was one of those who had a “huh” reaction to Stellaaaa’s original post because nothing in the OP indicated she blamed Carol in any way so it seemed like jumping to an unnecessary defense.

                I think the only thing, though, that Carol has done “wrong” is refuse to move, which could’ve been because she thought she’d get better with exposure and isn’t, maybe, or lots of other reasons. I don’t think she has more of an obligation to change/get over her fear of dogs just because she has a coworker with a service dog. I understand there’s room to disagree there but – I just can’t get there myself.

                That said, I think at this point that it might be worth figuring out if there’s a way to change the seating arrangements, because what’s going on now doesn’t seem to be good for the OP or Carol…

                Reply
            1. tangerineRose

              Running from dog isn’t a good idea though, and the co-worker might run into problems with other dogs if she regularly does this. The OP’s dog must be very well trained to deal with this.

              Dogs are fast, at least compared to humans, and when someone or something runs from a dog, that usually activates the dog’s hunting instincts.

              Never run from a dog if you can help it. If you don’t know a dog well, don’t run when you’re around the dog (the dog might misinterpret this). Don’t turn your back when you’re close to a dog you don’t know (I was bitten once by a dog when I did this).

              There are a lot of great, sweet dogs out there, and I love dogs, but I am cautious around dogs I don’t know.

              Reply
            2. Plague of frogs

              That’s not really the point. There would be nothing irrational about me, a woman, being afraid of men.

              Reply
    6. TootsNYC

      I agree that this comment misconstrues the OP’s concerns.

      The OP isn’t offended, and she doesn’t want to “make” Carol like dogs.
      The OP is focused on how to ACCOMMODATE Carol’s fear of the dog. The OP is upset ON CAROL’S BEHALF that Carol is as frightened in the hallway, and the OP wants to do any reasonable thing that will make Carol less frightened.

      Our OP is willing to make even more accommodations than she has already made.

      I don’t think our OP deserves this scolding, and I encourage you to read that letter again without this knee-jerk filter.

      Reply
  18. DogTrainerGuy

    For LW #3, I’d give it some time with Carol and bringing in your service dog. I would recommend not doing anything, except to give her some space whenever possible in narrow areas (like you’ve mentioned).

    I don’t know the depth of Carol’s fear. However, I have seen instances where people who aren’t expected to interact or “get over it” do become more comfortable over time with the presence of the service dog. I’ve trained service dogs both for a non-profit org and also working with private owner-trained dogs. The best “remedy” for the situation of someone who is afraid is letting them experience that your dog is trained, unobtrusive, and need not be part of their work day. Typically, this only comes with time – from the realization that your dog won’t do anything, and that they won’t be forced to engage with the dog.

    Reply
    1. Jerry Vandesic

      Time might help, but it also might not. I worked in a dog friendly office, and worked with someone with a dog phobia. Another teammate would bring in their dog, and the colleague with the phobia was often visibly afraid. She tried to give it some time, but it didn’t help. To accommodate the disability, the company offered the teammate with the dog two options: either stop bringing in their dog, or move a different department. He chose to move to a different department.

      Reply
      1. DogTrainerGuy

        That may be so. It may be the case here too. However, service dogs in the workplace behave differently from even well-behaved pet dogs brought into dog-friendly workplaces. They are not remotely comparable.

        Reply
        1. Jerry Vandesic

          But it might not be about the behavior of the dog, simply their presence. A phobia of well-behaved dogs (service or not) is still a disability.

          Reply
  19. Espeon

    OP4: Ugh, cheap toilet paper is such false economy! It really says a lot about a person/manager when they buy cheap tp…

    I’d just bring my own roll, and use the open office plan to my advantage; in a silent protest, I would stride toward the bathroom, quality tp in hand, and trust that it would inspire others to do the same. You would then have your allies for a confident group pushback. You won’t be the only one annoyed by this – but someone must be the first to protest! Display your toilet rolls on your desks! Ham it up, ruin the look of the office with toilet rolls everywhere.

    Alternatively, for a more underhand approach, you could all agree to bring your own tp in secret (keep it hidden), and just get rid of a whole roll (or half a roll or whatever) every single time you use the bathroom, so the company ends up spending FAR more on the cheap stuff than they ever did on the good stuff. It seems like ‘money talks’ with this manager, so exploding their mind like this might be the way to go.

    Fare thee well, intrepid bathroom warrior.

    Reply
    1. AlwhoisthatAl

      Totally agree, just found on Google that they do gold toilet paper at £150 a roll – Tempting to have on display on your desk ! Seriously I would keep some good stuff on my desk and if you ever have visitors, hand them the roll.
      Perhaps even wear the paper Bandolier style like Chewbacca as you head loo-wards.

      Reply
    2. KHB

      I was thinking the same thing, although I’m less shy about these things than some people are.

      I think this is a good application of the principle of “let it be awkward, because you’re not the one causing the awkwardness – they are.” You’re not the “crazy toilet paper lady” – they’re the office that skimps so much on supplies that employees have to bring toilet paper from home just to make it through the day. You don’t have to be embarrassed or ashamed, because you haven’t done anything to be embarrassed or ashamed of – but they have.

      Reply
    3. Not Australian

      I’m not sure I’d be restrained enough for a silent protest, personally. I’d be all “Just taking my own paper in with me, can’t stand the rubbish the office provides!”

      I guess the only real excuse for not having decent paper in the bathroom would be if the plumbing was really ancient or you were in an ecologically-sensitive area, but it doesn’t sound as if either is the case with the OP.

      Reply
    4. Blue Cupcake

      Yeah. Everyone is talking about discretion but I would carry quality TP to the loo with no shame. I bet if others see one person do it, they’ll find the courage to do it themselves.

      Reply
    5. TootsNYC

      just get rid of a whole roll (or half a roll or whatever) every single time you use the bathroom, so the company ends up spending FAR more on the cheap stuff than they ever did on the good stuff.

      Ha!
      This is very subversive.

      (My husband, as a teen, went on a campaign of stealing all the full-size or nearly full-size pieces of chalk at his school, with (he says now as an adult) the intent of bringing the school to its knees. He did it for at least 2 years, and had to get really crafty to keep it up, bcs they started hiding the chalk more carefully. After he graduated, he took the shoebox of chalk out of the bottom of his closet and plonked it on the desk in the school office.)

      Reply
    6. Half-Caf Latte

      This was my first thought. I’d stroll to the bathroom, roll in hand, without shame.

      I have always been more at ease with bodily functions than most people, though.

      Reply
  20. Elizabeth H.

    Re letter #1, I have never had a child but I actually don’t mind graphic discussions of childbirth! Even over lunch! (I’m pretty unsqueamish) However, I’m saying this as context for the fact that OP is totally within her rights to ask not to talk about medical stuff in vivid detail at lunch, as plenty of people find medical related anything unnerving/appetite killing.

    Re. letter number 4, my experience is that toilet paper preference is very subjective. I like cheap toilet paper and hate the soft paper. I also was kind of confused by the new CEO having a more financial background. It just sounds like he is more of a fan on cheaping out on personnel satisfaction, I’m not sure what his background has to do with it.

    Reply
    1. Birch

      Same on both accounts. Re: lunch conversation, I think it’s always OK to point out that the topic is too personal for work, but if you get push back, you gotta deal with your own reaction to it. Same goes for talking about religion, politics, death, money, etc.

      I also prefer cheap TP–I read somewhere that the super fluffy kind isn’t actually good for you as it shreds easily and sticks to the skin. I’m just amazed that any workplace has “good” TP–I’ve only ever had that giant roll of 1-ply locked up in the plastic dispenser, public restroom style! I think it’s cultural, too–there definitely isn’t a huge market for super fluffy TP where I live compared to the US. IMO the whole TP debate misses the point anyway. Bidets FTW!

      Reply
    2. 30ish

      Yeah, the problem is not so much the topic of childbirth as such but the fact that OP is being made uncomfortable.

      Reply
    3. The Other Dawn

      Agree on the TP. Despise Charmin and love Scott.

      As for the childbirth discussion, I wouldn’t want to listen to it. It’s actually not the graphic nature of it, but more that I don’t have kids and never want them, so it would be really boring for me to listen to everyday. I’d probably try to change the subject a few times and if it didn’t work, I’d just pull back from the group.

      Reply
    4. One of the Annes

      Totally agree about the soft toilet paper. However, the skimping on ply is an issue. One-ply is never good.

      Reply
  21. alexa, set timer for ten minutes

    OP2, you have my sympathy. It would be difficult for me to do anything but tell the serial referrer to stay in his lane, full stop.

    You do need to discuss this with his manager – and yours, I think. It’s important that he understand that he cannot contact people on behalf of the company to discuss potential job openings (!!!) for the reasons Alison mentions – it’s also potentially a liability issue for the company. He could be making wild misrepresentations of one variety or another. I think it’s unlikely he is doing something legally problematic, but if you will humor me, a story:

    I once had someone who could not have *possibly* been authorized to contact candidates tell me they needed to increase the number of [protected class] type of people at their company and that they were excited about my skills. My eyebrows were nearly permanently affixed to my hairline after I heard that. I’m still trying to restore them to their original upright position.

    Ideally his manager (or someone above him in the org) needs to explain that referrals are really intended to be people whose work product he is familiar with – and that he thinks it is of the quality that would work in your company (and that the person would also be a culture fit).

    I have reservations about his judgment based on your letter but I do think once the above convo occurs that you should try to give him the benefit of the doubt for a little while (sometimes it takes awhile for feedback to stick), unless there is no change in his referral rate or the quality of the candidates being referred.

    I’m wondering if there is some serious financial problem brewing for him that is prompting this behavior, or if he is unhappy with his compensation and this is how that’s manifesting, etc.

    Reply
    1. Dan

      Yeah, I think the emphasis of the letter is misplaced — the guy can’t be abusing the referral program if he’s never getting any referrals. (I thought I’d be reading a letter about a guy who was getting ten referral bonuses in a year or something, to which I would have said, “lucky dog”.)

      What he is doing is causing all kinds of other problems that need to be quashed. This isn’t about “refer less people, or only refer those you know are qualified”… this is about giving off the impression that the guy represents the company in a hiring role, when he does not. *That* is the behavior that needs to be addressed.

      Reply
    1. MsSolo

      But bin them, don’t flush them! They don’t degrade and cause massive issues for sewerage systems. They’re up there with microbeads for “did anyone actually think about whether our plumbing can deal with these? no? oh well, let’s label them like they did!”

      Reply
  22. MommyMD

    I feel bad for the coworker afraid of the dog and now probably dreading every day at work. I’d tell my manager I want to move to a new desk and make sure there’s no negativity towards coworker. They should accommodate her as well and it’s not on her to warm up to the dog.

    Reply
      1. The Other Dawn

        OP mentioned up-thread that she asked Carol if OP should move her desk and Carol said it wasn’t necessary. I thought the same thing, that HR took it upon themselves to answer for Carol.

        Reply
    1. Nonnon

      OP3 moving to a further-away desk may actually help Carol a little. I have a moth phobia, but I can handle a moth at the other end of the room much better than a moth flying around my head. (That was actually part of how I ‘trained’ myself to be more calm around moths and butterflies – although I’m still not going into the butterfly house.)

      Carol will probably never be a dog-lover, but it’s a lot easier to handle anxieties/fears if you’re not in a constant state of ‘!!!’

      Reply
  23. Akcipitrokulo

    OP4…ymmv, but I’d quite happily display my personal loo roll to and from toilet to let people know it was necessary…

    Quick question – do clients have to use it too? Might be a way into discussion.

    But this kind of penny pinching does not pay off long term.

    Reply
    1. AlwhoisthatAl

      Absolutely ! March proudly down the corridor with your luxury loo roll on show OP, have your co-workers sigh in envy as you display your triple layered, quilted, aloe vera containing perforated squares of bliss

      Reply
      1. Akcipitrokulo

        Make it the highpoint of the day; people on the phones to customers look longingly at the clock, waiting for the break in the monotony that is the luxury toilet paper parade.

        Reply
      2. tangerineRose

        You might want to keep your TP locked up if you’re open about it – I wouldn’t be surprised if others want to “borrow” it.

        Reply
    2. AdAgencyChick

      Ooh, good point. If clients have to use it, one quick, “OMG, the client noticed that we switched to Sandpaper Brand!” in the right ear might solve the problem.

      Reply
  24. Ayla

    I once worked somewhere where we had this exact topic come up. I don’t know who brought it up but one day we had an all staff email about the one ply toilet paper and how they wanted our input on it so they could talk to the building owners.

    I still remember the toilet paper was closer to paper than tissues. You could write on it.

    I used to bring tissues in with me because of that toilet paper.

    Reply
  25. AlwhoisthatAl

    About the toilet paper, I wish I could remember where I had read this, it was an article about an auditor of some kind who checked out companies for their financial stability. One of the main items she would check on a visit were the toilets – if they had cheap toilet paper, bar soap and no sanitary items for the ladies it was a red flag (oops no bad pun intended there) as the firm was obviously cost cutting to the max.

    Reply
    1. Phoenix Programmer

      I have never worked for an office that provided women’s sanitation products and I have worked for some of the most profitable banks in the US. Is that a cultural thing? Also nowhere I have worked has given out facial tissue either. Just TP.

      Reply
      1. hermit crab

        We’ve always had tissues, but not feminine hygiene stuff. Though our current building provides hand lotion – the really nice Aveeno kind! – which is pretty great.

        Also, our office bathrooms are stocked/maintained by building management – the bathrooms are outside of our suite, in the elevator lobby, so they’re not only “ours.” I’m sure that, as tenants, we could push back on building management decisions if necessary but it’d be odd to judge us based on something that was mostly out of our control.

        Reply
      2. Not a Real Giraffe

        My last job (a Fortune 500 firm) provided free tampons/pads in the ladies’ room and it was my favorite thing EVER.

        Reply
        1. Marillenbaum

          They have them in the bathrooms on campus, which is just so smart–in both the women’s and the gender-neutral restrooms (I have no idea about the men’s, but that’s just because I’ve never been in there).

          Reply
        2. BadPlanning

          My company provides them too. I work in a male dominated area so when I interviewed and saw those items provided in the bathroom, it definitely was check in the “good” column for me.

          At one point in budget cutting similar to awful TP, they put up signs that they were going to discontinue the pads/tampons. Then the sign disappeared. I heard through the grapevine that they were not going to put in paid machines and a woman in upper management said, “No way, the items stay.”

          Reply
          1. Plague of frogs

            My first job had them, and it was a big point in the company’s favor when I saw them while interviewing. Not because I use them–I prefer to bring my own–but because I work in a 90% male industry and it was nice to see consideration shown for women.

            Reply
      3. Akcipitrokulo

        We have a cupboard near HR (that isn’t in plain view) where they keep various stuff including tampons and sanitary towels. It’s not meant to be supplying everyone, but there as an emergency – and no-one monitors who’s using it. It just gets refilled if supply gets low.

        It is the first company I’ve worked for that does that, and it is very awesome imo.

        Reply
      4. Rusty Shackelford

        I’ve never worked at, or visited, an office that provided them. I have been to two or three restaurants (in my entire life) that did.

        Reply
      5. Emi.

        I provided them at my wedding reception. I have never expected them at work, and honestly I think it’s a little weird.

        Reply
        1. Close Bracket

          Why is it weird? There is really no fundamental difference between tampons/pads and toilet paper. They are all for absorbing and removing waste that exits the body.

          Reply
          1. Emi.

            I mean, it’s not standard in any environment that I’ve ever been in, so it strikes me as unusual. But it’s also that they come in a much wider variety than toilet paper and many women have much stricter preferences than people do about toilet paper, so it’s less generally useful.

            Reply
            1. Al Lo

              To me, any place that provides them has mostly been for emergency situations, when I care(d — I have an IUD that means I haven’t had a period in 7 years) way less about what it was than I did about having something — anything — available. It’s not about meeting my preferences for my everyday needs.

              Reply
            2. a different Vicki

              I have preferences, yes: but there are a lot of pads, in particular, that I would class as not what I prefer, but much better than bleeding on my clothes or trying to improvise something from paper towels. I might use one of those if I had my period unexpectedly and thus had no supplies handy; it will do until I can get to the drugstore (even if that takes five minutes rather than hours, it’s five minutes when I’ll be happier to have the sanitary napkin in place).

              Reply
      6. AKchic

        I have never worked for a company that provided them either.

        I personally have brought a three-drawer Rubbermaid stand and donated a multipack of tampons, liners and a variety pack of pads for visitors at my last job because we’d have guests during conferences/training sessions who would run out or otherwise need this necessity and there would be none. It was an inconvenience and an embarrassing situation for these women. I chose to alleviate that situation, and it also allowed our female staff to toss in a few personal emergency supplies in the communal bathroom “just in case”. We labeled one drawer “Communal/For All” and then the rest had small containers/baggies with each staffer’s name on it for their personal supplies within the drawer, and the bottom drawer had extra TP, paper towels and soap.

        Reply
    2. aNon

      I worked at a casino and they had them in the single stall restrooms for employees. Such a great benefit on those days I was less than prepared.

      Reply
  26. Leslie

    About childbirth talk: the letter writer says that her colleagues are sharing childbirth horror stories and there are pregnant women in her office. I just want to step in here and say that telling scary stories about childbirth to a pregnant woman is not a good idea. There is a great deal of uncertainty around an impending birth and many pregnant women are afraid of what might go wrong. Telling horror stories to a pregnant woman can make her more anxious than she already is. My rule of thumb is to always talk about the positive around pregnant women. Something along the lines of “I gave birth at that hospital and it was a wonderful experience. I loved the nurses there” etc. Those are perfectly appropriate things to say in almost any context.