my mentor keeps delaying our meetings, can I ask coworkers to use deodorant, and more

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

1. My mentor doesn’t stick to our meeting times

I am an intern at a software company and I am assigned a mentor. It was clear in the first month of working here that this person bit off more than they can chew in terms of what the responsibility entails, even though I am quite good at working independently. I have received a couple of apologies from my mentor about them being busy.

We have a weekly check-in at a time they chose. Recently, I have been getting messages five minutes before we are supposed to meet about postponing a meeting for an hour, half an hour etc. This demonstrates that my mentor doesn’t respect my time. I am trying not to rock the boat as I want a job here after my internship since I care about the company, and I like the work. What should I do ?

It doesn’t demonstrate that your mentor doesn’t respect your time; it demonstrates that your mentor is busy and is judging (possibly quite correctly) that they need to prioritize other things. Don’t take it personally or read anything negative into it; that’s likely to put a chip on your shoulder that won’t be helpful to you.

Also, it doesn’t sound like they’re canceling the meetings, just delaying them by an hour or so. If that’s the case, they may figure that it’s not affecting your work that much — or that the value to them of getting that extra hour is more important to the company that the inconvenience it’s having on your schedule (which is often going to be the case when you’re an intern). If it’s not having a significant negative impact on your work and you’re just annoyed at the principle of it, the best thing you can do is to just roll with the time changes and be flexible and accommodating — both because of hierarchy and because this is someone carving out time to help you. If it is having a significant negative impact, then you could say, “It’s tough for me to push these back because of X — is there a weekly time that would work better for you that we could plan on instead?”

2. Can I ask coworkers to use deodorant?

After months of hormone treatments for infertility, I still have no babies, and instead have developed a heightened sense of smell and an INTENSE gag reflex. This lovely side effect has created some interesting social dilemmas; I have two associates who don’t seem to believe in deodorant and during recent visits with them, I have had to literally hold my breath for fear of gagging or vomiting in front of them. I am not interested in letting them know about my fertility treatments, but I need some type of resolution. I cannot be this uncomfortable around my colleagues. Are there any ways to tactfully explain a gag reflex without explicitly telling people they stink? Can an adult ask another adult to use deodorant in this instance?

It would be unkind to tell a coworker that they smell to the point of making you gag without acknowledging that there’s a medical cause for it on your side. You don’t need to reveal the fertility treatments, but if you want to address it, you do need to acknowledge that something medical is going on. For example, you could say, “I’m having a medical treatment right now that is doing strange things to my sense of smell, and I’m finding that I’m highly sensitive to some people. Would you mind if we held our meetings by phone for the next couple of months while I’m dealing with this?” (I don’t love this wording, but I think there just might not be great wording for this situation and there’s no way around the fact that it’s inherently awkward. If anyone has better wording, please suggest it in the comments!)

But if you’re the only one who thinks they stink, I don’t think you can really ask them to use deodorant just on your behalf. (The exception to that would be if you’re very close to them, in which case the relationship might allow it — but I suspect you wouldn’t be asking me if that were the case.)

3. Can I ask for a phone interview before I come in for an in-person interview?

Background: Applied for a job in the same city, same field I am currently in. First stage of interview process was video, where I had to record 30-second answers to 12 questions. Second stage was a written interview where I had an hour to mock up a digital plan for a client. Now they are wanting to bring me in for an in-person interview.

Is it weird to request a phone interview between these stages? I still don’t know if I want to move jobs to this company, and after several weeks I’ve gotten no sense of what the role would actually look like or the company’s actual culture. I feel like a 30-minute call could alleviate these concerns before committing to a half day of interviewing in person.

If you weren’t local and would have to travel, yes, absolutely. But because you’re local, it’s harder to justify. It sounds like they do first interviews in person, and it’s hard to say, “no, change your process for me.”

You’re not wrong that they should give you a chance to ask your own questions before investing the amount of time they’ve already asked you to invest. But it’s so routine to do first interviews in person that you risk coming across as … not difficult exactly, but not willing to play by pretty normal rules.

That said, are they asking for half a day, as in four hours of your time (as opposed to something like two hours and you’re factoring in travel, changing before you return to work, etc.)? If they are, that’s a big enough chunk of time that you could say something like, “I’m really interested in talking with you, but because my work schedule is pretty packed right now, would it be possible to first do a quick 30-minute call to learn more about the position and the company and make sure it seems like a strong match on both sides?”

4. When should I remove internships from my LinkedIn?

I’ve been wondering recently when it’s appropriate to remove internships from my LinkedIn page. I’m in my late twenties, graduated college five years ago, and have had two serious full-time positions since graduation. I completed about five internships while in college that are still listed on my page. Since I can no longer say I’m a “recent” grad (I assumed being out of college longer than I was in takes me out of that group), I’m wondering if my internships from more than five years ago look a little out of place/unnecessary. But since I’ve only had two full-time jobs since graduation, if I removed them would it make me look like I have even less experience?

Actually, for LinkedIn, I don’t think you necessarily need to remove them at all, unless some of them were really short.

But for your resume, it depends on how long those internships were and what you achieved at them. In general, though, I’d say that you definitely don’t need all five to stay on there and it probably makes sense to just include the one or two most impressive (meaning the most substantive and with the biggest achievements, with some weight given to length and recency — and some weight to prestige too, if any of them were for particularly prestigious organizations).

{ 393 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Sami

    OP#1– One of the best tools to have in life is flexibility. Of course, it’s not always possible, developing the habit of rolling with the punches will make your life easier. Good luck with your internship!

    Reply
    1. LouiseM

      So much this! OP, you will shine like a star if you show that you are flexible and have a great attitude.

      Reply
      1. Penny Lane

        OP #1: Being so busy that you have to change meetings at the last minute isn’t evidence of “having bitten off more than one can chew.” It’s completely normal status quo in the working world, where people are busy because they’re working hard and have a work ethic. You will be in for a rude shock if you think that the real world of work is made up strictly of meetings that begin and end exactly at the designated times with never any delays or reschedules.

        You’re also very off in your interpretation that he doesn’t value your time. He tells you that he has to reschedule, he apologizes (which is the polite thing to do) and then he follows through and actually has the rescheduled meeting. He doesn’t blow you off.

        Finally, you say you’re “very good at working independently” so … demonstrate it by having the calmness and patience to say “no problem, just let me know when you open up!” and then continuing to work independently until such time as he frees up.

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        1. designbot

          Right, here’s what not valuing your time would look like: he *wouldn’t* reschedule, he just wouldn’t show. Or he’d show half an hour late with no warning. Checking in with you to say that there’s been a delay and could you please push the meeting is actually incredibly respectful, showing evidence that even when he’s in the middle of other things that are running long, his commitment to you is on his mind.

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          1. c

            I have been wondering at what point this sort of behavior IS generally considered disrespectful. At my last job, people would run late/reschedule all the time and I didn’t think it was a big deal. At my current job the process is more that an internal meeting will be put on the calendar, and when the time rolls around we sit and wait for the most senior person involved to collect us. Sometimes they are in a meeting, and sometimes they are at their desk working on things. This waiting period is anywhere from five minutes to two hours. A common example is that we will have a meeting scheduled for four, and at five thirty the senior person will go home, at which point the meeting is implicitly postponed for an indeterminate time.

            This drives me batty, but am I being unreasonable?

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            1. Snark

              This would drive me fairly batty too, because it seems like rescheduling and postponing are just SOP, and because entire groups of people are being inconvenienced for some indeterminate and lengthy period of time. That strikes me as fairly different than if someone is just in a busy period and postponing the lowest priorities for an hour or two.

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            2. designbot

              That would drive me batty too, though my office’s culture is prone to it to a lesser extent. Here’s what we tend to do, that maybe you could try. First, there’s an implicit understanding that we have two types of meetings—meetings that Need To Happen that a senior person happens to be invited to, and meetings where getting the senior person’s approval is the entire point. For the first type, we just have the meeting, and either they turn up or they don’t! For the second type, usually the second most senior person in the meeting pops over to the most senior person’s desk and says something like, “Hey Bob, did you still have time to meet about the llama festival?” And Bob either says no I need to push that, or he’ll be reminded that we’re waiting on him and say, ‘give me ten, I’ll come find you’ and we meet in 10-15 minutes. Another thing that can make the latter situation easier to navigate is to schedule fewer people in the meetings with the most senior people, making it middle management’s job to wrangle their feedback and impart it to the team, so that the entire team’s schedule isn’t spending hours(!) in limbo.

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        2. Snark

          To expand on this: not valuing your time would be something like, say, leaving you sitting in a meeting room waiting for them for half an hour, or arriving to a meeting unprepared to discuss your work, or giving you vague and unclear direction. Those would all represent genuine inconveniences and impositions that would have the effect of actually wasting your time, and you don’t suggest they’re doing any of those things. They’re letting you know they need to reschedule, apologizing, and proposing a time at their earliest convenience. Unless your time is actually and actively being wasted – not just rescheduled – you need to turn the indignation down a few notches. This is standard operating procedure for the working world, not because people bite off more than they can chew but because mid-career professionals juggle a whole bunch of competing priorities.

          And hat you need to understand, OP1, is that these little update meetings are not highly competitive priorities. In a work day filled with tasks that are urgent, or important, or both urgent and important, your meetings probably rate as important but not urgent – and frankly, probably not at the very top of the “important” list. That’s no slight on you, but intern work is usually not mission critical, and interns are usually not net producers for an organization – they derive more benefit from learning the ropes than the org does from employing them. Mentoring you is important, but it’s also not top priority. You should probably expect that if a major project meeting or even a good run of productive coding or whatever runs long, your mentor isn’t going to jet before wrapping up.

          Reply
          1. Nita

            This is all true, but I find it a little odd that the mentor is regularly rescheduling standing meetings with five minutes’ notice. Of course last-minute meeting changes happen to everyone. However, if this is a regular thing, the mentor should see it coming by now and should be planning ahead a little more. Of course it’s not meant to be disrespectful, but interns are people too, and presumably OP is also putting their work on hold to come to the meeting… unless we’re assuming that their only job is to sit around and wait to be mentored.

            Maybe the mentor needs to give a little more notice they’re too busy for the meeting. Maybe it should be made bi-weekly, or just cancelled on some weeks, if it’s not that important and they’re slammed with other work. Maybe the time needs to be changed, since something regularly cuts into this one (are they supposed to get out of another meeting right before?)

            Reply
            1. kay

              Interns are obviously people, but as this person is a mentor and not a manager it doesn’t seem out of line to me that meetings with the intern are probably very low down on their priority list. The fact that the meeting might get pushed by a half hour to deal with a meeting with a client, or a call, or finishing a task makes sense to me. It’s much less likely that the intern is working on something so time sensitive that they can’t find something to do for the interim half hour than the mentor needing to do something at that moment. Unless the meetings are in a coffee shop or something and the intern is stuck outside the office waiting for prolonged periods

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            2. designbot

              But as long as there’s not something completely outside the norm here, like the intern works in a different building and has to cross campus to get to the mentor, or the mentor is rescheduling to times outside of normal business hours, or he’s delaying some bigger process that will have real impacts, he’s just using the time that the intern is already dedicated to being at the company slightly differently than she originally expected. Big picture, intern expects to be at work during this time doing her job, and that’s still the case. Unless

              Reply
    2. Thlayli

      Most fields require some flexibility. It’s really really common for meetings to be rearranged, especially 1 on 1 meetings. I’m well established in my career and I frequently have people changing meetings with me, or me changing meetings with them. As Alison said, it’s not a sign of lack of respect, it’s just a sign that people are busy.

      OP you will look very entitled if you demand that a busy senior person prioritise their meeting with you over other work.

      Reply
        1. KL

          I think that’s a bit harsh. It sounds like OP is just inexperienced and needs to readjust their expectations.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            If they do choose to make a stink about this, then I think they’d be putting any potential job offer in jeopardy.

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            1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.

              Yeah, I agree. It’s harsh advice for sure, but not getting along with your mentor because you think they’re wasting your time and they think you’re entitled is a fast track to a milquetoast reference and an inability to get hired at the company full-time. OP, you have the power to switch up this whole dynamic, and not only build a great relationship with someone who is dedicating time to helping you out, but to learn so much more than you would otherwise.

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          2. Observer

            Harsh – but true. I have no doubt that if the OP makes an issue of this to the mentor, tht’s going straight to HR with an addendum “Very entitled special snowflake! Thinks she’s good at being independent but needs all sorts of hand holding. Do NOT hire!”

            Reply
      1. Mookie

        It’s really really common for meetings to be rearranged, especially 1 on 1 meetings.
        […]
        OP you will look very entitled if you demand that a busy senior person prioritise their meeting with you over other work.

        Yes. If you’d like to be hired at this company, LW, you’re going to have to adjust your expectations. Under the circumstances of your internship, the boss is the one that sets precedents and standards. I’d reconsider your belief that they are overwhelmed or aren’t doing their job by prioritizing other tasks and functions over you. This is an exceedingly normal practice between managers and their reports and it is rarely, if ever, a personal slight.

        Reply
        1. Falling Diphthong

          Yes. OP doesn’t mention something like “I have to have them review this work so I can turn it in to someone else at 1, and they keep moving the meeting to 4,” in which case it would be fair to ask about some prioritizing.

          Even between closer ranked people, if your only job is this–you aren’t like the freelancer giving weekly blocks of time to a bunch of different people–then “Can we move back the Vicuna meeting an hour; I have to fix this Sheep thing” is a pretty normal thing to hear.

          Reply
      2. MCMonkeyBean

        Yeah, my manager has a one on one meeting setting up with me at a scheduled chunk of time, but that’s just so there is something on the calendar. We almost never actually meet at that time. She constantly moves it around and that’s not a problem for me. The important thing is that you need to be allowed to say if a time they move it to doesn’t work. I’ve asked to push it myself a couple of times when I had too much on my plate. Or she may occasionally message me during out super busy times and be like “is there anything you want to discuss with me today or should we just cancel this week’s meeting entirely?”

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      3. Adlib

        Honestly, I appreciate if people give me even 5 minutes notice that they’ll be late or have to reschedule. I’d rather have that happen and have an open spot on my calendar than getting on a Skype call to wait for 5+ minutes while they don’t bother to tell me they’ll be late. This is when people are not respectful of your time (barring any work emergencies, that is).

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        1. Amber T

          Lol nothing beats sitting around for 10 minutes waiting for someone to show up, only for you to go and find them and them to go “oh, are we meeting now? Can we meet in an hour instead?” (I’m the low ranking person here, so the most I can say is “sure!” But ugh.)

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          1. Marillenbaum

            I see you’ve met my boss! I’m a graduate assistant (at least until graduation next Saturday, WOOHOO!), and while we had a standing meeting at the same time every week, my professor routinely just…didn’t show. He’d either be late (up to an hour), or just cancel office hours and not tell me, leaving me waiting. My attempts to make things easier (like, creating a Google Calendar event so he’d get a notification, or offering to move our meetings to a different day, or just emailing in the morning to confirm we were meeting) were pretty fruitless, because he insisted he’d just remember, and also rarely answers his emails. There are things I really like about the guy, but MY GOD he drove me batty.

            Reply
      4. LBK

        Yeah, especially as an intern you don’t really have much capital here. I would strongly discourage saying something about this unless it’s affecting deliverables for you, which I’m assuming it doesn’t since it’s a regular check-in and not a meeting about a specific project. I know I personally would not take kindly to an intern trying to juggle my schedule for me when, frankly, I have more important work to get done than they do.

        Reply
        1. Snark

          Even if it is affecting deliverables….I dunno. I’m assuming a lot here, but I generally assume they don’t give mission critical stuff to the interns, and if you have to hang out for an hour until your mentor can review something, it’s still not the end of the world and should be received with equanimity.

          Reply
          1. LBK

            Sure, obviously the context would still matter, and I’d agree that for the most part an intern project is probably going to be lower than any other project. But where there isn’t even a specific need for these meetings to occur, it’s definitely lowest priority IMO.

            Reply
      5. Dust Bunny

        My issue with this is that the mentor chose the time and is then waiting until the last minute to contact the LW regarding need to push the meeting back (anbd presumably agreed to be a mentor in the first place), and it’s apparently happened repeatedly (so it’s not like the mentor can’t predict it) so, yeah, I actually do think this is kind of disrespectful of the LW’s time. If other responsibilities can’t be moved, this should also be a non-movable event *at least some of the time*. Or maybe this person needs to not be a mentor any more. Or needs to pick a different time, maybe early in the morning before things have piled up that could push it back.

        Any time you volunteer/agree to do something for/with someone, choose the time, and then never manage to keep your own schedule, you’re being careless with that person’s time. If you’re too busy to commit, then bow out. If you think you’re not, then that event needs to be a priority once in awhile.

        Reply
        1. LBK

          Recurring meetings in general tend to be lower priority meetings and, frankly, a check-in meeting with an intern is just not going to be a high priority if there’s pretty much anything else that’s going on. Hell, I’m the senior member of my team and even I know that if my boss or grandboss gets caught up in something, my one-on-one is the first thing on the chopping block for their schedule. You just have to roll with it. The fact that the mentor chose the time doesn’t really mean much because schedules are unpredictable – you can’t really know that you’ll have nothing else more urgent at 2pm next Thursday.

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          1. One of the Sarahs

            +1. As long as the one-to-ones are happening, the *when* can’t be a priority, when there are business critical things happening.

            I completely get that if the OP is internal-facing, and getting on with tasks, they might not appreciate the wider pressures the mentor is on. But, for example, if the mentor took a phonecall/was in a meeting with their boss/team/colleagues that needed time-specific follow-up actions, it’s far better to delay the intern and put the actions into motion, than keep to a schedule just for the sake of it, especially as OP isn’t saying there are wider implications than OP feeling disrespected.

            Reply
        2. BananaPants

          So, it’s likely that the intern’s mentor was volunteered to mentor them – in engineering/tech internships, “mentor” is a very common term for what is really a supervisor. I’ve been a mentor for 3 interns now and each time I was told, “You will be mentoring the intern this summer.” I didn’t volunteer for it, and it’s on top of all of my normal responsibilities. If I have a critical meeting with a senior manager, you’d better believe my intern’s weekly check-in is getting shifted by an hour because of it. Hell, I’ll tell him why and will even bring him along to the meeting if I can, but I have to prioritize.

          To be blunt, LW1 doesn’t have the organizational clout to view this as “disrespectful” of his/her time. They need to stop with the entitled attitude.

          Reply
          1. Snark

            Yup. An intern is, generally, a net recipient of institutional knowledge and time. They don’t contribute as much as they get in terms of learning and professional advantage. That’s fine, and it’s expected. But saying “you don’t respect my time” comes off as demanding of even more time and energy than they’re already getting.

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          2. smoke tree

            I think it’s a little harsh to call the LW entitled at this point. It sounds to me like they’re pretty green and don’t have much of a sense of how their mentor’s schedule and priorities work, but hey, they did write in for advice before saying anything about it. And they are wise enough to realize that speaking up could damage their reputation. If the LW isn’t used to office work, they are probably applying personal standards to this, so I think it’s understandable why they might be annoyed at first–if a friend routinely reschedules with only 5 minutes’ warning, that’s pretty rude. (That said, LW, you probably will come across as pretty entitled and/or naive if you complain to your mentor about this!)

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          3. Colin

            We need to drop this word “entitled”. Someone is not “entitled” simply because they feel slighted that the person who is mentoring them is not making time for them. They are asking for some basic decency. That’s not “entitled”.

            Usually people who say “entitled” use it to mean “I think this person who wants something that I have personally decided they do not deserve”.

            Reply
            1. Nita

              +1. We’ve had several interns here in the last few years, and no one would think of calling them entitled for expecting basic decency that’s extended to the full-time employees. Which doesn’t mean not pushing back meetings at the last minute, necessarily – that happens all the time. It’s more the way this seems to be a repeated, preventable thing that could probably be avoided by making the meeting less frequent, or just giving more advance notice. If you’re pushing back a meeting by an hour, you probably know more than 5 minutes in advance that something major has come up and will take a lot of your time.

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            2. Observer

              Well, in this case, the intern IS asking for something that they cannot reasonably expect. The mentor IS making the time, just not as predictably as the intern would like. And, as others have pointed out, that expectation is simply not realistic.

              Reply
        3. ErinW

          I am the scheduler for my boss, and also the person in the front office who greets her guests. I routinely tell them, “she’s running 5 minutes/10 minutes late today.” If it’s more than 10, I try to catch them on the phone in their office before they leave. If pushing back can’t work, we reschedule to another day. It’s not that these meetings are not important to her, but it’s that she gets caught up in that cycle of one meeting runs a couple minutes late, the next five minutes, the next ten. Or sometimes she starts on time, but it’s not a 60-minute problem, it turns out it’s a 74-minute problem.

          It’s like how they say you need to schedule doctor’s appointments first thing in the morning before they get off schedule. OP1, maybe you should ask your mentor if they can meet at 8:30 or 9:00am! That might solve it.

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        4. Lindsay Geee

          But like some people have mentioned, the mentor may have been volun-told that they would be mentoring the intern. Maybe the mentor has a lot of time-sensitive stuff, or other meetings that are set in stone in his calendar, and this time is the ONLY time that he can theoretically meet because they’re busy. Aspects of your role don’t get removed for the 6 months you are mentoring the intern. He still has all of his other job responsibilities, which don’t go away when he becomes a mentor. So assuming he shouldn’t be mentoring due to their busyness is kindof ridiculous- because it may not be their choice either way. And saying the standing meeting should be non-movable some of the time is just unrealistic given how working goes- stuff comes up and interns are not that important in the grand scheme of the company functioning/products being delivered/projects being completed etc.

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        5. KM

          Agree. I think it’s rude to schedule a recurring meeting at a time you chose and then repeatedly flake on it at the last minute. Doesn’t matter if the meeting’s with an intern or anyone else — at a certain point, if you keep dumping someone for whatever else comes along, it sends the message that they’re not important. As a manager myself, I’d say that even “low priority” meetings can become high priority meetings if the consequence of ditching them is breaking trust with the people involved or causing a morale hit to your team.

          I would actually encourage the OP to tell their mentor whatever it is that’s bothering them — “I feel excited for our meetings because I want to share what I’ve been working on and, when you move them, I feel disappointed because it makes me think that you’re not interested in talking to me” or whatever it is. If the mentor responds in a hostile, aggressive way to a perfectly polite assertion like that, then this isn’t somewhere the OP or anyone else should want to work. If the mentor cares about the other humans in the building, hearing that constantly moving the meeting is making someone feel bad will lead to finding a different solution.

          For what it’s worth, I’ve been working for a long time and I’ve never had any issue showing up for the meetings I’m booked into — to me, that’s part of your responsibility when you agree to go to a meeting in the first place; you try to show up. If you treat meetings as something optional that you can just dump or push back for whatever reason, it’s not really a meeting. It’s going to somebody’s desk when you have a free moment.

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      6. Snark

        Not just entitled – out of touch with the fact that their mentor is also an individual contributor and perhaps manager who has a full plate of higher priorities than checking in with an intern. The entire point of an internship is to groom potential candidates for entry-level positions, so those candidates already are aware of the norms of the company and field and have some basic skills under their belt. This would be tantamount to announcing that one hasn’t picked up any of the soft skills and norms.

        Reply
        1. Colin

          “and perhaps manager who has a full plate of higher priorities than checking in with an intern”

          Then perhaps, if they don’t have the time, they should see if someone who does have the time can be the mentor to this intern. And if that’s not institutionally possible, reconsider having interns at all.

          Most view interns as cheap labor, but the internship is meant to be beneficial to the intern, sometimes even at the expense of the business.

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          1. One of the Sarahs

            I disagree that internships are meant to be beneficial to the intern at the expense of the business, and I don’t understand why that should be – can you explain more?

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            1. CdnAcct

              If it’s an unpaid internship I believe interns are not supposed to do anything that makes value for the organization. If it’s paid, it’s a different story, they can be treated as any other short-term employee.

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    3. Flexibility's the name of the game

      OP1, yesterday, another person and I had a meeting scheduled with my boss, who’s the company’s managing director. Ten minutes after the start time, he called to say he was running half an hour late. He actually turned up an hour late.

      The two of us at the meeting didn’t assume he didn’t value our time, because he’s made it very clear to both of us how much he appreciates our work. We assumed he was dealing with something that couldn’t wait. We just got on with it and dealt with as much of the meeting’s work as we could without him.

      I’m telling you this to let you know this happens even when you’re at a senior level in a company. Senior people just have to juggle their time, it comes with the territory. Don’t take it personally!

      Reply
      1. Elemeno P.

        Yes, this. I have a standing weekly meeting with a VP that he often cancels or moves last-minute. He’s just super busy! My coworker and I take bets before our meetings about how late he’ll be this time.

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        1. Dust Bunny

          This would piss me off, honestly. He’s busy, I’m busy, we’re all busy, but I showed up on time, anyway, didn’t I? I’d ask for a different meeting time.

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          1. laylaaaaah

            The difference being (for my friend, who was in a similar position as her mentor was also THE CEO OF THE MULTINATIONAL CORP WE WERE WORKING FOR while she was a first-year grad scheme worker) that what you’re busy with will probably have less of an impact on the company than what the person you’re meeting with is doing. In my current position, if my boss is away meeting with a bunch of VPs and I’m spending the day doing basic admin work, my boss’ meetings take priority. If my friend was doing sales work and her mentor was off running the whole entire company, then running the company took priority. That’s just how it works.

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            1. laylaaaaah

              (In retrospect, I maybe used more all caps than I needed to. But I think my point still stands. I’m usually all for egalitarianism, but the world will usually carry on turning without a lower-ranked employee- especially an intern- around for five minutes.)

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          2. Thlayli

            “We’re all busy but I showed up on time, didn’t I”

            If you are on time for every meeting that just means you work in a role where you don’t have any urgent stuff cropping up at last minute. Many many jobs are not like that. I missed 45 minutes of a meeting I was supposed to be chairing today because another project had something urgent going on.

            I asked my boss whether it was more important for me to chair the meeting or deal with the urgent issue on the other project. He chaired the meeting and I dealt with the urgent issue and joined in after 45 mins.

            It’s totally normal for things that are higher priority to take precedence over things that are already planned. That’s normal in many many jobs.

            Reply
      2. Turquoisecow

        None of the meetings at my company start on time. It’s mostly because once you get to a certain level, your day is filled with meetings. (My boss, a senior director, is in meetings so much that it’s hard to find her without scheduling something.) And a lot of meetings require high-level input! If you have an AM meeting you’re likely to start near the scheduled time, but if you have an afternoon meeting, the accumulation of multiple late meetings makes those meetings even later.

        If the following meeting is with a VP, or the previous meeting is about a serious thing, our bi-weekly team meeting is likely to get pushed back or even just cancelled. No one is really insulted, it’s just the way things work out. When you’re under deadlines and you have a lot of important meetings, it just happens that some things that are lower on the priority list will get dropped. (It also might be that she over schedules herself for meetings or attends meetings she doesn’t necessarily NEED to be in, but I don’t know her schedule well enough to say that).

        Reply
      3. Robin Sparkles

        Yup – this is the norm. I find senior leaders to be far more OK with people being late to meetings. I am sometimes late and I HATE being late but it’s just how it is. Especially when I am back-to-back with meetings – I have to stop and chat after the meeting to debrief (where the real work happens oftentimes) – then walk to the next meeting. I work in a large hospital so that walk can take 10-15 minutes. So there I am 30 minutes late and it’s not at all out of disrespect. If I can – I always tell the meeting organizer that I am coming from another meeting and everyone is fine with it.

        OP -this is so common across various industries that I agree that you will look very out of touch and entitled if you come across to your mentor the way you are here. Best you learn to roll with it now and if you need to meet with your mentor – ask them if there is a better time.

        Reply
    4. Lynca

      Agreed. When you are too rigid then work becomes inevitably harder. I have a lot of younger employees that think everything has to be cookie-cutter and that feel when I cancel meetings/appointments/etc. it’s a huge inconvenience.

      Reply
    5. Also new to the professional world

      Agreed! OP I’m very new in my field (under 1 year) and although sometimes stuff annoys me about how other people operate- I think giving superiors the benefit of the doubt is huge. I see my boss maybe 1 or 2 times a week, either in meetings or in passing. Sometimes I don’t see her at all- because she is busy as hell. I get that you’re being mentored, but assuming the meetings aren’t critical, work-approval type stuff- you’re being done a favour. Internships are times to learn about your field as well as how to be professional. The way you worded some of your letter came off as entitled, I’m not saying you are, but it sounds a little ‘chip on the shoulder’ already. I’d say just change your mindset that your weekly meeting time are a suggestion, and expect that they may change by a bit.

      Reply
    6. another STEM programmer

      I had a mentor who would often cancel meetings last minute, but he was also very open to unscheduled, drop-in meetings when I needed some quick advice. If your mentor similar? Maybe rather than scheduled meetings, the two of you can work out something that fits better with your personalities and needs.

      Reply
    7. theInternOP

      Hello, I am the OP.
      Thank you for all your advice. I will let go of certain expectations and be more flexible. I am trying to navigate this environment for the first time. I also think this has something to do with the fact I am an engineer and pretty mechanical as it is, I could benefit from relaxing about these things in other aspects of my life. I am having a hard time with nuances.
      To the people calling me entitled: That was not necessary, but time will tell if it was helpful. I reached out because I needed help. We could be more discerning in our outrage, especially since I couldn’t lay out my entire story on here for the sake of brevity. I contribute a lot where I am, and I deeply care about my work.

      Reply
  2. compte

    LW2 elects to pursue purely optional medical treatments, then wants to ask other people to fix a problem she’s created for herself without disclosing it? Yes, please do meetings by phone.

    Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      That’s a little unkind. Fertility treatments are optional, but the ability to conceive/have children is different from other kinds of “elective” treatments. It’s true that OP should focus on what they can change—as opposed to trying to change their coworkers. But we don’t need to shame OP for the advice to be effective.

      Reply
      1. LouiseM

        +1. This is pretty harsh, and there are also plenty of other medical conditions nobody would call “elective” (like migraines, or side effects from chemo) that lead to hyperosmia. It’s really nasty and unhelpful to characterize this as “a problem she’s created for herself.” Would you call pregnancy a “problem she’s created for herself”?

        Reply
        1. many bells down

          Yeah I intermittently have a medical issue that makes my sense of smell pretty sensitive. Sometimes I can’t even stand my own husband’s sweat. Fortunately it happens pretty rarely, but it’s not something I “opted” into.

          Reply
        2. Observer

          Actually, I’ve actually heard people say stuff like that. So, I’m unfortunately totally not surprised that someone would blow the problem off as something she “created”. Of course, it happens to be that not being able conceive is actually NOT something this couple “chose”, so it just adds a layer of ick.

          Reply
          1. Oranges

            Adding another level of ick of those types of comments is that no birth control is perfect. So the female might actually have been trying NOT to get pregnant. It’s “ick” all the way down on those types of comments.

            Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      The advice really doesn’t change whether the treatments are optional or not, so please let’s not derail on that point. Either way, it’s unkind to tell someone they smell if you’re not going to explain that you have a medically heightened sense of smell right now.

      Reply
      1. Fiennes

        Thank you for this. When it comes down to it, lots of medical treatments are technically optional; this does not make them illegitimate or frivolous, and certainly not less deserving of ordinary courtesy and compassion.

        Reply
        1. Seriously?

          Yep. I had “elective” surgery to remove my gallbladder. Technically I would not have died if it didn’t get removed, but my health improved tremendously.

          Reply
        2. pancakes

          That isn’t what anyone said, though. One commenter said fertility treatments are elective, which they are. “Elective” isn’t synonymous with “illegitimate” or “frivolous.”

          Reply
      2. Mom MD

        Unless they are known stinkers and the bain of the office. Then it’s fair game to bring up hygiene. Light scent that would not bother most people, no.

        Reply
      3. OfCourseIt'sCashmere

        I respectfully disagree. Wearing deodorant falls under the the framework of basic hygiene. Especially in the age of open floor plans, it’s important that people don’t smell like B.O.

        Reply
        1. Luna

          But does the LW actually know that they don’t wear deodorant? It is possible to wear deodorant and still smell sometimes (especially in the summer). Since the smell doesn’t seem to have bothered LW until she started these treatments this does not seem like a case of the coworkers having worse than usual hygiene.

          Reply
            1. laylaaaaah

              Exactly. In that case, I’d say it’s a sensitivity thing, or perhaps they’re wearing shirts which pick up more sweat than usual (I know a lot of mine do, but you wouldn’t be able to smell it unless you were literally looking over my shoulder, or you had a super sensitive nose.)

              Reply
          1. bookish

            Yeah, this reminded me of the past letter where the LW’s coworker kept badgering her about her strong fragrance even when she had taken so many precautions to not wear or use anything remotely scented. Then it turned out the coworker was pregnant and it was her heightened sense of smell. I definitely think it’s possible that these coworkers are using deodorant and smell perfectly fine in general, but the medication/hormones the LW is on are making them smell super strong to her and – like with the past letter – it may be that even if she did try the tactic of asking them to do something about their scent, it wouldn’t work, and they wouldn’t be able to tell when they had a scent that would trigger the LW’s gagging. Working separately and over phone or chat seems like the best bet for everyone.

            Side note: my wife can’t wear deodorant because it gives her cysts. I think she manages to get away with not smelling despite this (maybe it’s a fun genetic thing like how she also has super light body hair and doesn’t have to shave her legs as militantly as I do) but anyway I thought I’d throw that out there!

            Reply
            1. Anonymoose

              “maybe it’s a fun genetic thing like how she also has super light body hair and doesn’t have to shave her legs as militantly as I do”

              Oh, that’s me too! I find that deodorant actually lasts about 72 hours on me. And I barely use it unless I’m suffering in the heat, but can get away with not using it depending on the type of soap I use and making sure I’m totally exfoliated in that area. I also have the light colored/sparse ‘elective’ hair (as opposed to not elective, like my vast amount of hair on my head). Is your partner Norweigan by chance?

              Reply
              1. Cactus

                Don’t know about bookish’s partner, but…I’m Norwegian, and I also have very light-colored hair on my legs (while the hair on my head is just a shade away from black). I do wear deoderant, since I live in a pretty humid area and can’t stand sweat (though I’ve noticed that I sweat much less than a lot of other people I know). I’m very lucky in this regard.

                Reply
        2. Iris Eyes

          There are a lot of people who choose not to wear deodorant for a lot of reasons, like trying to protect their mental health or allergies or sensitive skin or maybe they just don’t sweat enough from their armpits to justify the danger/expense. Americans have this abnormal preoccupation with humans not smelling human (abnormal historically that is).

          Reply
          1. Temperance

            There’s nothing “dangerous” about wearing deodorant, and it can be purchased for under $1. It’s not expensive. I’m not sure what you mean about mental health, but nothing in deodorant causes psychological issues.

            Not having strong body odor is part of the social contract. While sure, some people don’t smell bad and can get away with it, they’re in the small minority.

            Reply
            1. carla

              I have extreme sensitivity to artificial scents (which do usually contain chemicals that are harmful to humans), and yes, the smell of a strong deodorant could give me a panic attach (a psychological issue). More and more research is showing that personal care products are harmful both to humans and to the environment. Choosing to wear deodorant is a personal choice, but 100% not required for basic hygiene.

              Reply
              1. chomps84

                It’s not really a personal choice for people who smell bad when they sweat. I agree that it’s not essential to health the way, say brushing your teeth is, but it’s still required in order to be accepted in most places in our society.

                Reply
            2. Musereader

              You say there is nothing dangerous but it gave me a rash and swelled my lymph nodes to the point that I though I had cancer, I think that my need to not be in pain lets me out of wearing deoderant

              Reply
              1. In the provinces

                I also had that rash thing and also was afraid I had cancer, to the point I sought out a doctor, who reassured me on that point. There are perfectly good, odor-killing, non-toxic alternatives, like baking soda.

                Reply
              2. designbot

                Same! I’ve found that I can wear some, but not the antipersperants that are the most effective and that other people consider the norm. There’s only a couple brands of un-scented, aluminum-free stuff that I can handle, and I know they’re less effective but I do what I can and don’t worry about the rest.

                Reply
            3. Environmental Compliance

              There’s plenty of medical reasons (allergies, for one) people may not be able to wear antiperspirants or deodorants, especially the ones only costing a dollar (in all seriousness, I have never seen a deodorant stick under $1, even the generic ones are like $5 here!). I have a couple family members who can’t use traditional deodorants because of pretty severe allergies. They have to use nontraditional methods that just don’t work as well.

              Heck, I am a sweaty, sweaty woman, and the clinical strength stuff for women doesn’t really always work for me. I’ve tried a ton of brands. It’s not cheap in the slightest. Nor would be the doctor visits to figure out what the root cause is. College was real fun when I had no choice but to walk to class and had to spend an extra 10 minutes in the bathroom trying to secretly wash my pits and then put on another layer of deodorant 20 minutes after I showered, since I couldn’t afford the good stuff that at least works for half a day.

              That all being said, it’s a little silly that deodorant is being jumped on, because there’s a lot of different causes for BO. Maybe they have a crappy home situation that they can’t/don’t feel like they can get out of, and the smell is sticking to their clothes. This is actually something I’ve run into before more than once.

              Reply
              1. soon 2 be former fed

                I use one dollar deodorant, name brand, but I’m a helluva discount shopper. Uncleaned clothes worn one time too many can also stink. Even eating certain foods can cause odor. Folks working out at lunchtime can cause a problem too. Excess armpit hair will hold odor, deodorant or not.

                Daily bathing, with antibacterial soap under the pits and in the underwear area, and clean clothes will go a long way to avoid body odor. If you tend toward a stronger body odor, bathe in the morning before work, some folks are ripe by noon when they bathe the night before.

                I have a low tolerance for office stinkies.

                Reply
                1. Environmental Compliance

                  I bathe twice a day, and clothes only get worn once. I also won’t work out before work or at lunch like a few people at my old office used to, because I knew it wouldn’t do anyone any favors. I do know how to keep myself at a high cleanliness level.

            4. Anxa

              I bleed, that gets infected, then that smells far worse than BO.

              Yes, there are deodorants out there that probably work, but they cost far more than $1 and it’s a gamble. Plus things change.

              The unscented deodorant I use really doesn’t do much. My pits still smell up close, but I think that has more to do with damp fabric than sweat. Coconut oil feels fine, never gives me a problem, but isn’t really as effective during my period (my sweat is …sweatier then). I’ve tried. I do what I can to reduce the issue, I’ve asked 2 clothes friends obsessively if I smell for the first few weeks I went off antiperspirant and fragrance, but I’m so nervous about trying new products. Armpit rashes are pretty painful.

              Reply
        3. kay

          A lot of people choose not to wear deodorant. It doesn’t mean they’re not clean or that they smell at all. Deodorant is fairly new from a societal standpoint and a lot of people don’t like it or have environmental/health concerns about using it. Wearing deodorant is not synomous with personal hygiene

          Reply
          1. soon 2 be former fed

            Sociology aside, daily washing of stink-prone areas, with or without deodorant, will make a difference. I don’t think a person with good hygiene will stink.

            Reply
        4. Observer

          It’s worth noting that not only does the OP not know that the CW’s are not wearing deodorant, but also that deodorant has limited effects. Underarm sweat is NOT the only source of BO.

          Reply
    3. Sylvan

      This is going to go well.

      Anyway, if they “don’t believe in deodorant,” I can’t blame OP, whether or not she has a reason for being sensitive.

      Reply
      1. There All Is Aching

        OP #2 said that the people she has an issue with “don’t *seem to* believe in deodorant,” so it sounds like she’s only guessing based on their strength of their odors to her relative to other people. In which case, we might consider that she may not be the most reliable judge of that given her heightened state of smell.

        Reply
        1. Lynca

          Yeah I currently have a heightened state of smell from pregnancy. I am not a reliable judge on what an acceptable smell is. I had things that never bothered me before start to make me nauseous.

          Reply
        2. Sylvan

          She’s a better judge of the people she encounters in real life than I can be through the internet.

          Reply
          1. Seriously?

            But I think the question is whether she noticed a problem before she gained a heightened sense of smell. If not, then she really shouldn’t say anything. Also, she doesn’t know whether or not they are wearing deodorant. They may sweat more than average and the deodorant is just ineffective.

            Reply
            1. Sylvan

              I’m not really sure that any of that changes anything here.

              Maybe deodorant is ineffective for her coworkers. Maybe they can’t wear it for a medical reason. Maybe they have a deodorant phobia. Maybe their body odor only bothers her because she’s particularly sensitive right now, and it used to be unnoticeable. Maybe their body odor bothers her more because she’s sensitive right now, but it used to be a problem, too, just a smaller one.

              Reply
              1. Luna

                I think it absolutely changes things. It would make it even more unkind for the LW to tell them they smell unusually bad when that is not really the case. If she didn’t notice it before then the problem is clearly with her medical treatments and not with the coworkers.

                Reply
        3. LBK

          Yeah, I am a very sweaty person so sometimes even if I’m wearing deodorant it doesn’t work especially well. Someone with a heightened sense of smell would probably not be able to be around me on 85F+ days like we had yesterday!

          Reply
          1. Penny Lane

            Then you need to find another solution, because if someone “can’t be around you” on a warm day that’s a problem. I’m assuming you’re in an office job, not doing physical labor where it would be unreasonable to expect someone not to be sweaty.

            Reply
            1. LBK

              I said someone with a heightened sense of smell, if you’d care to engage in some reading comprehension for once instead of just being abrasive as usual. I’ve tried pretty much every form of deodorant that exists but thanks as always for your very helpful advice/judgment.

              Reply
            2. Delphine

              There are reasons some people may sweat more than others, even when they aren’t doing “physical labor”–sensitivity to heat or medications they’re taking, for example.

              Reply
          2. vis

            LBK, I hope you disregard Penny’s comment. You in no way should have to cater to those with a medically induced heightened sense of smell.

            Reply
          3. Temperance

            I have the same issue, and in a pinch, I’ve used hand sanitizer to kill the smell. Probably TMI, but it might help.

            Reply
            1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

              Yeah, isopropyl alcohol is effective at killing the bacteria that cause BO. Interestingly, if you’re using it from the bottle, it’s also better to use the 70% concentration instead of the 91% (both are readily available around here) — the 70% takes more time to evaporate because of the increased water content, which gives the alcohol more time to do its thing and kill the bacteria.

              Reply
              1. Just Employed Here

                My inner teenager is thinking “if 70% alcohol is better, 40% vodka must be excellent”…

                Reply
              2. Observer

                Well, it works if your BO is caused by bacteria, but for a LOT of people BO is not about bacteria, especially if you limit it to underarm bacteria.

                Reply
                1. Anxa

                  Oh yeah. The things that make my sweat smell seem to be hormoonal (first day of period) and anxiety (I have a phobia and if I start passing out I get very embarrassing sweat).

                2. Observer

                  If you’re still reading…

                  To add to what Anxa said, pregnancy hormones, digestive issues, and certain diets are among the other things that can cause BO.

            2. HannahS

              I’ve done the same, on the few days that I’ve been in a huge rush and forgotten to put on deoderant. And I am SWEATY. I just ducked into the bathroom upon noticing and then again about four hours later, and wiped under my arms with some hand sanitizer on a piece of toilet paper. I wouldn’t do it every day, for the sake of my poor skin, but it’s a fantastic solution in a pinch. It takes care of the existing smell, and I found it actually lasted as a deoderant for a few hours—my guess is that it kills off a lot of the bacteria that are causing the smell.

              Reply
            3. LBK

              Thanks for the tip! Fortunately my office borders on arctic when the A/C is pumping so it’s usually not a huge problem unless I take a long walk at lunch or something, but something good to stock at my desk just in case.

              Reply
            4. bookish

              I’ve totally used hand sani in a pinch when I forgot deodorant! I guess it like, kills the smell bacteria. My coworker and I spent 90% of lunch yesterday on a long rant about how hard it is to find the “right” deodorant.

              Reply
          4. KTZee

            DC? I reapplied my clinical strength deodorant three times yesterday and still had to change my entire outfit when I got home before going to choir because I was stanky. I suspect this is one of those problems where if you haven’t lived it, there’s a tendency to believe there’s a simple solution if only us sweaty people just cared enough. I don’t like being sweaty, and I really don’t like being smelly. I use a very strong deodorant that works pretty well (and boy, does it cost more than $1!), and I keep a stick at my desk to reapply during the day if needed, and I carry a spare shirt in my purse, but sometimes I’m still not fresh-smelling at the end of the day. It’s not something I’m doing “at” other people, and I would be much happier, too, if there was magic 100% effective deodorant for full-body application.

            Reply
            1. Idyll Wyld

              Would you mind sharing what kind of deodorant you use? I’ve been trying to find something. I’m not particularly sweaty/stinky, but I do notice an odor by the end of the day that has “broke thru” my deodorant.

              Reply
              1. LF

                Hi! I know you were asking someone else, but I wanted to jump in this thread somewhere and recommend a deodorant I stumbled on last year: Schmidt’s.

                It’s a “natural” deodorant (and kinda pricey), and it is *amazing*! I wanted a natural deodorant that didn’t suck, but it actually works BETTER than my conventional stuff (Dove). I am super, super sweaty and don’t shave my pits, and it has made a world of difference. I sound like I’m selling it! I’m just still amazed at how well it works (especially last summer!).

                The only problem I have had with it is you have to soften it with your body heat (hold it in your pit for like 10-20 seconds). If you don’t, it can be a little rough on your pit. I didn’t do it at first and was wondering why just my right pit (the one I do first) was itchy. I do it now, and it’s not an issue anyway (and I’m sooooo happy)!

                Anyway, I know different things work for different people, but it’s been great for me.

                Reply
                1. Anxa

                  I have this and I want to like it, but my pits don’t warm it up most of the time. I’m hoping it works better this summer when my apartment is warmer, because I can’t stand the dragging feeling.

    4. Artemesia

      Compte — she isn’t getting plastic surgery here to have fatter lips; she is desperately trying to have a child. To call such a thing ‘elective’ in this dismissive way is deeply insensitive.

      Reply
    5. Mom MD

      Would your advice and tone be the same if she were pregnant? Because with all the methods of contraception out there, pregnancy is elective too. Kind of harsh.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        I like to think of it as “not getting pregnant is the elective.”
        Reproduction is the default state; interfering with it (via medications or devices) is the choice.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          (And of course, sometimes the default setting is wonky or ineffective, and not everyone gets to use it. But, if you do nothing, and you have sex, you could end up with a child. You have to CHOOSE and then ACT for contraceptives to work.)

          Reply
        2. Luna

          Okay so that is actually really offensive, and is no better than what the original commentator said. Fertility treatments *are* elective, but that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with electing to use them or that people deserve any unintended side effects that the treatments cause.

          Reply
          1. Robin Sparkles

            I don;t think Toots meant to be offensive. She is correct that in nature and biology- the default state is to get pregnant. The elective parts are both trying to “affect nature” (I am not liking the wording but I don’t know how else to get my point across) – whether that is undergoing fertility treatment or using contraceptives.

            And off subject from your comment – The term elective is rather broad IMHO – there are elective procedures that can seriously affect quality of life and I wouldn’t view them as elective as say – collagen injections to plump your lips or breast enhancement. A good example is breast reduction – that is elective- yet I see that as a huge quality of life improvement for many women.

            Reply
            1. Luna

              The original comment that Compte made was rude and unhelpful. But I don’t understand why people have the need to try to deny that fertility treatments are elective, especially to the point of making further offensive comments. It’s really insensitive to the LW (and others) who are undoing fertility struggles, and also smacks of the sexist view that women exist just to produce babies. Using contraceptives is a choice, having sex (protected or not) is a choice, and fertility treatments are a choice. None of these choices are bad or better than other choices, but none of them are “default” states either.

              Reply
              1. Lehigh

                +1

                Women are not by “default” pregnant. Suggesting that we are is very weird. Sex is a thing that people do by choice, not by default, just like using contraceptives is.

                Reply
                1. TootsNYC

                  Absolutely. I agree. Sex is also something people do by choice.

                  But WHEN people have sex, if they don’t want to risk having a child, they have to take an EXTRA step.

          2. TootsNYC

            I wasn’t talking about fertility treatments at all.

            I’m just really opposed to people acting as though birth control is the default; it’s not. It’s a conscious, deliberate effort. “You chose to have children” some people say (frequently this comes from people who don’t want to have children)–OK, maybe, but the REAL choice is to use birth control.

            It’s a perfectly reasonable choice. But don’t kid yourself about whether it’s a choice.

            I think it’s also reasonable for people to choose fertility treatments when the “default setting” isn’t working in their case.

            Reply
    6. WannaAlp

      She in no way shape or form chose to have the unfortunate effect on her sense of smell, nor did she choose which co-workers she was going to react badly to.

      Not that she doesn’t deserve consideration if she had chosen those particular side-effects, but hopefully underlining the lack of choice makes it more obvious that compassion is in order. All round. The co-workers didn’t choose this either.

      Reply
    7. McWhadden

      Technically, all medical procedures are optional. Doctors can’t force you to have procedures that will save your life. A person doesn’t *have* to undergo highly doctor recommended chemo treatments for cancer. Chemo also makes some people sensitive to smell. Would you feel the same way?

      Reply
    8. Johan

      Most offices I’ve worked in literally mention deodorant and sometimes showering/grooming basics in the written onboarding materials (maybe in the handbook on the dress code or somesuch?). I understand there’s a recent trend away from deodorant (green reasons, hipster reasons, or just personal preference) but honestly, deodorant is not at all outside the scope of what many employers lay down in writing as their basic expectations, so I think this is a little harsh to the OP.

      Reply
    9. Ted Mosby

      This is pretty aggressive. It’s not clear for the letter that this is all OP. It’s very possible that these people actually stink and only now is it causing OP to almost puke, which is a hygenie/social issue they should be addressing. Why assume the worst in people and act snotty?

      Reply
    10. PersephoneUnderground

      Wow. AAM- this (the comment by compte) is so very harsh and disrespectful, and it’s directed at the OP (as well as at anyone else pursing fertility treatments) that I’m surprised you haven’t removed it. It’s directly attacking the OP for a personal medical problem that is known to be very painful emotionally. I have never had to struggle with infertility myself, but this is a comment I could have done without seeing myself. What happened to respectful commenting?

      Reply
      1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels

        She’s not an AI that can spend 100% of her time just monitoring blog comments, you know. Her book also came out this week, so she’s even busier than usual.

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Very much this, thank you! Also, when I originally saw it last night, there wasn’t a whole string of replies to it, but it had been called out as unkind and I asked that we not derail on it. That reply may be buried now in the string of other comments that arrived after it, but it’s there. (And sometimes I think it’s useful to leave these threads up when they’ve garnered good replies that explain the problem with the comment, since that’s an informative thing for other people who might have thought something similar to the original harsh comment.)

          Reply
          1. Persephoneunderground

            I know you’re busy, just thought explicitly flagging it might help, especially as you’d already seen it and posted a comment but not removed it. I haven’t seen your reasoning for leaving up problematic posts as you explained here before. Also not sure why the below commenter finds this funny- I value the respectful comment section you maintain and appreciate the work you do to keep it that way.

            Reply
  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, I would say you’re highly sensitive to smells that a person wouldn’t necessarily notice, so you’re trying to minimize your face-to-faces with folks. That way it doesn’t have to be about individual people (downside: you’d likely have to try to talk to folks whose smells don’t bother you by phone, too).

    Reply
    1. LouiseM

      I’m wondering if it’s best not to mention smell at all. It seems like the coworker could easily read between the lines and assume that *they* are the smell in question (although you’re right that making it a blanket thing might alleviate some of the uncomfiness).

      Reply
      1. Willis

        Yeah, I wonder if the OP could get away with telling them something along the lines of that she’s taking a new medication that’s affecting how she feels, so sometimes it’s easier for her to talk by phone rather than meet in person. It’s vague, but I probably wouldn’t think much of it if someone told me that. Of course if it’s an open office or small company where it becomes obvious she’s just applying this to one or two co-workers, might not work as well.

        Reply
        1. Elemeno P.

          I like that wording. You’re not lying (it DOES affect how you feel!) and you’re also not telling the person they smell, either directly or by implication.

          Reply
          1. Anon Marketer

            +1 on this. As someone who has overactive sweat glands and has to wear men’s sport’s deodorant, I feel for the people she’s upset by, to be quite honest. Sometimes despite your best efforts it leeches into your clothes too. Plus, you can use the blanket statement for people who usually wear too much perfume or cologne, too. (And then there’s still the fact we don’t know whether her co-workers may or may not actually be using deodorant or not…)

            Reply
        2. Dust Bunny

          I’d go with this, that she (implied) doesn’t always feel well. If she mentions a heightened sense of smell, they’re going to know that she thinks they stink.

          Reply
        3. TootsNYC

          I think it’s OK to say “some smells,” because that implies some perfumes and even b.o.

          She could even say to the office at large, “I’m on a medication that has ramped up my sense of smell, and so some perfumes and even body odor really hit my nausea button. I can’t always predict when it will happen, so I’m going to try to do things by phone, or sit across the room. Please don’t be offended if I seem to be leaning away–it isn’t you, particularly; it’s the meds. And if anybody wants to help by being extra vigilant with deodorant or going perfume-less, I’d be really grateful.”

          Reply
          1. many bells down

            I like this because it really could be anything. Laundry detergent, hair product, the breath mint co-worker just ate, anything. I had a day where I kept getting random whiffs of something disgusting, and eventually I realized it was a new product I’d used on my hair that did not react well with my own chemistry or whatever. Smelled fine in the tube, was gross on my body.

            “I’m on a medication that’s making me unreasonably sensitive to smells and scents some days, so I’m going to stay clear of people for a bit.” That way, you’re taking your reaction on yourself. It’s not your fault that you’re sensitive to smells, but it’s not theirs, either.

            Reply
            1. Johan

              I think both of these posts are fantastic. And yes, I’m not even particularly sensitive to smells but know that sometimes things suddenly smell overwhelming — things I like, even! — like a coworker’s french fries, or the smell of coffee, etc. It must be an awful thing.

              Reply
            2. Oranges

              Now if only I could state this when I get my period. Randomly right before my period I’m hella sensitive to smells and it sucks. Thankfully it only lasts around three days.

              Reply
              1. Star Nursery

                I noticed that, too. And it seems that my nose is a bit more sensitive around the time I ovulate too.
                Then I’m usually bummed because I thought it must mean I was preggo. But it didn’t.

                Reply
          2. SarahTheEntwife

            Agree! And unless you’re only/primarily sensitive to body odors (which could absolutely be the case, but most people I know in this situation became sensitive to pretty much everything), if someone has a naturally stronger body odor putting on more deodorant might just result in the LW gagging on artificial Fresh Mountain Breeze instead.

            Reply
          3. Star Nursery

            Ha! I like this message and similar suggestions. The LW has a super sensitive nose right now. It’s a good idea to approach the conversation that you are having an extra sensitive nose rather than attacking the smelly people. First your nose super power might mean you are smelling way beyond what’s normal and come across kind of harsh plus they might be wearing deodorant and /or have health issues which cause them to sweat more.

            I don’t have a strong sense of smell however Mr Star Nursery has a super sensitive nose (and allergic reactions to chemical perfume scents). We purchase/use ‘unscented’ everything (detergent, lotions, soap, cat litter, cleaning supplies, etc.) and I have given up wearing perfume. He even had allergic reactions to the scent of my new deodorant (patchouli scent). He always commented he didn’t like the scent and he was having allergies, it was just if he caught a whiff when I first put it on.

            Generally I avoid aluminum in deodorant (the non aluminum options aren’t as strong, I admit) but I have tried a lot of brands. Daily hygiene includes bathing in the morning, applying deodorant, I’d still find myself stinky mid/day… Even when I did buy brands with aluminum in them. On worse days I changed my shirt half way through the day and again as soon as I got home change again. Plus I keep extra deodorant and wipes at work. Hygiene and deodorant were not my issue though…

            Two things helped me the most: 1) Reducing the stress in my life including changing my job and 2) reducing intake of Caffeine. I didn’t know caffeine could make me sweat.

            I preferred meetings over the phone because on worst smelly days I didn’t want others to smell me and I’m so much already embarrassed.

            I still like hearing ideas that others have tried although at this point it’s not as much of a problem. Since I’m a lot less stinky now adays (less stressed and way less caffeine).

            Reply
      2. Karma

        Perhaps if it were framed as just smells in general, not necessarily good or bad, it could come across a bit better. I’m very sensitive to perfumes as well as food smells and bad smells like BO, bin smells, the cat litter, etc.

        Reply
      3. Vesty McVestPants

        I agree with the folks suggesting that you explain you’re sensitive to smells in general rather than people. I also think it’s ok to let them know it is a temporary side effect due to medical treatment. If you must meet with them in person is there a large, well ventilated meeting room you can go to? Or someplace outside? My office has a large outdoor dining area that is really lovely this time of year.

        Reply
      4. Em

        Yea, that’s what I was thinking. If someone says “I have a heightened sense of smell and can’t meet with you in person anymore”, that seems pretty obvious that you smell.

        Reply
    2. Sarah

      I’d honestly blame it on their soap or something similar.

      “Hey, coworker, I’m so sorry – I’m on a medication that is doing some weird stuff to my sense of smell and I don’t know if it’s a certain brand of soap or shampoo or something, but I’m really struggling with in-person meetings right now. Is there any way we could do meetings by phone for a little while until this gets sorted out?”

      Reply
      1. KellyK

        I like this. It blames the medical issue without disclosing what it is, and it doesn’t imply that the coworkers are stinky. Perfect.

        Reply
      2. Kate 2

        Ah, but then they might change the products they use, trying to be kind and helpful, and what will OP tell them then? Better not to make it about a single person, just make it a blanket “all smells” thing.

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          See, I tried to leave it broad enough that it could be something multiple people use – and then if they offer, a simple, “No, I’d feel terrible asking you to change something when this will pass and there’s such an easy solution!”

          Reply
    3. Lauren

      OP should just come out and say – “literally everyone smells like very bad BO to me and since wearing nose plugs isn’t a look I want to go with around the office (just yet) and spraying fabreeze on everyone I interact with isn’t the most friendly option, I’m trying to limit in-person interactions while I’m going through this”. OP should prob tell a manager and HR too so they know this is an accommodation that you are asking for. If a doctor’s note is needed, the doc can say “Employee is on medication that drastically increases her sense of smell to the point of extreme nausea. WFH may be necessary on occasion; however, patient indicates body odor is a primary trigger. Switching to phone calls from in-person meetings would be an ideal accommodation for this patient while she is being treated.”

      OP can say this in a general team meeting too, because its a normal thing to have a medical issue and need an accommodation.

      Reply
    4. Anon.

      I’d suggest taking a lesson from the Renaissance. Those paintings where they always had a hanky? They hid lemon peels in the cloth, and when the smell got too bad, they took a hit of lemon. I’ve actually done this and it works.

      Reply
      1. bookish

        When I was a 13 year old nerd deeply interested in the Renaissance I made a pomander (by sticking a punch of cloves in an orange and then probably wrapping it in aluminum foil to make it look like it was cloaked in a silver orb) as if I needed something to sniff because of the smells in the air lol. I wonder if any smells would help the LW’s problem at all if just any scent will do it. I know when I’ve been nauseated strong smells can be a nightmare. I do think a freshly-cut citrus fruit or a good natural peppermint scent can sometimes be soothing though. Also fresh air if an open window is an option.

        Reply
  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, it can be so difficult to be the junior person on the team. But it’s really important to assume good intent, or at least non-maliciousness, when you’re being mentored by someone more senior. Folks up the chain oftentimes have more demands on their time, and they may have to prioritize at the last minute or with very little time to adjust. Your mentor isn’t blowing you off, which suggests that they do value their time with you and are making an investment in your development.

    But it also means that you’re going to have to be a little more flexible and understanding when meetings get moved at the last minute. And if a move does affect your work, you can always write back and suggest a different time. But definitely don’t stew in your feelings of being disrespected.

    Reply
    1. Amber T

      This is great advice, and thank you for being kind and understanding. I feel there was a bit of a pile on above with “how dare OP1 not understand how offices work!” No one comes into the work force knowing how things work 100%, and besides, every office is different (one upper management guy is a stickler for starting on time, so if he has a meeting coming up, the prior meeting must end in time, regardless of what it is. Most management play it by ear and figure out prioritize).

      Reply
    2. Lynn Whitehat

      Yeah, I see how a young person could feel this way. If OP#1 was raised the way I was, that Decent People Honor Their Commitments, it could seem like their mentor is being irresponsible by blowing off the appointment they made. But internal meetings in offices generally aren’t binding in that way, especially 1-on-1s to just chat about how things are going.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        also, Decent People can Honor their Commitments even as they break them! How? By making an apology, and clearly changing the plan. Hopefully in time enough that it doesn’t impact the person they’re “letting down.”

        Reply
    3. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius

      I agree with Princess Consuela. I am not an intern but am a young professional who is still learning that my superiors do not mean it personally when they delay meetings with me. I read somewhere recently that we can respect people in two major ways — as a person, and as an authority. OP1, I am sensing that you are reading your mentor’s meeting reschedules as lack of respect of you as a person, but what you might need is to learn how to respect their authority instead in these instances.

      Like I said, I am also new to the workforce. Every time I feel like somebody is wasting my time, I have to actively remember that it is not because they think of me as lesser, but it is because they have the authority to do so. It’s a real struggle but I feel like that mentality has helped me a little bit, and I hope it might for you as well.

      Reply
    4. Arjay

      Yes, over time you start to learn the meeting culture and to go with the flow. When I first started going to meetings, I’d show up 5 to 10 minutes early, which I now see is generally ridiculous. The previous meeting would still be going on in the room, and everyone else showed up 5 to 10 minutes late because they were coming from a different meeting that ended at the top of the hour. I also often get *invited* to meetings 5 minutes after they’ve begun when they realize they failed to include me or could use my expertise on the topic. I can’t always make it if it wasn’t on my calendar, but I’ve adjusted my expectations to not be offended by the late invitation.

      Reply
  5. FTW

    OP1: in 5 – 10 years, you will look back on this with a different perspective, at least I know I did. I used to laugh these people off as flakey, but now I’m that person.

    What it comes down to is that if I have a client that showed up late to a meeting, but still needs a full 30 minutes, something might need to get pushed. If a meeting with a VP turns into an extended working session, something might need to get pushed.

    If your mentor is never rescheduling, or only giving you 5 minutes out of 30 as they run through the airport, that is an issue and one that you should raise with them on how to work together differently.

    Reply
    1. Naptime Enthusiast

      This. I remember thinking as an intern that my mentor didn’t care, but that was definitely not the case – he was working 50+ hours/week on top of mentoring me, and sometimes we had to wait a few hours to review my work. It sucked because I felt like I was sitting around not doing anything during those times, but it was about prioritizing.

      Your mentor is apologizing to you for having to move around your meetings, but the best way you can respond to that is by being gracious and patient. If you’re the intern that comes across as high maintenance or not understanding office norms then it can really hurt you, but if you’re flexible and otherwise polished they will remember that positively.

      Reply
    2. AnotherAlison

      Well. . .yes and no. My manager (a VP) is very much a people pleaser personality style. He accepts meetings that leave him double- and triple-booked, and is often late to one-on-ones that he schedules (not one-on-ones for mentoring, but for actual work purposes). I’m a busy manager, too, so while I understand these things happen, I think that some people consider it a badge of honor to have too many meetings and always be running 10 minutes late. If someone is late to every meeting they have, every day, I think they need to look at how they are scheduling and managing.

      Reply
      1. Adlib

        “… I think that some people consider it a badge of honor to have too many meetings and always be running 10 minutes late.”

        I know a few people like this. Boy, is it frustrating.

        Reply
        1. Dust Bunny

          Being constantly late and overscheduled is, in fact, disrespectful of other peoples’ time, as well. People like this always seem to think it’s only about them.

          Reply
      2. Snark

        You’re not wrong, but I think the majority of professionals tend to be a lot more defensive of their time than that, and are generally late for understandable and acceptable reasons.

        Reply
    3. Free Meerkats

      And the rescheduling goes both ways. When I was doing a presentation to our new acting Director about who we are, why we’re here, and what we do, I expected it to last about 30 minutes. When he was asking so many (good) questions that it was obvious we were going to go an hour or so, he called and pushed a meeting with the Mayor back a half hour.

      Meetings get pushed back a lot for a lot of reasons.

      Reply
  6. Names are for Chumps

    OP #2, You could try a medical examiner trick, Vicks vaporub inside the rim of your nose. Or, what I do, put my fave hand lotion (B&BW, Orange & Ginger) just b4 I have to be around unpleasant smells.
    Works like a charm!

    Reply
    1. bunniferous

      Don’t put Vicks in your nose. Accidentally breathing it in is very dangerous. Under the nose is fine, and an excellent idea!

      Reply
        1. DoctorMD

          Uh, good for you? It can lead to chronic pneumonia if the petrolatum is inhaled, however, so definitely not a good idea to place it inside the nose.

          Reply
          1. MicroManagered

            They’re not talking about caking Vick’s in your nose to the point where you could inhale it. A little dab just under the nostrils is a time-honored trick for cops going into crime scenes.

            Reply
          2. Seriously?

            That could only happen if you put a glob of it in your nose. If you just rub a little in your nose (like lotion) so that there is no petroleum left to inhale, you should be fine.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              is it even possible to inhale petrolatum? It’s very sticky; do pieces of it flake off and travel on the air currents past the little hairs in your nose and into your lungs?

              I always thought “breathing it in” was the point of Vicks–the vapors, anyway.

              Reply
        2. Kate 2

          Agreed. People have been doing this for decades, as long as Vick’s has been around. My relative, who used to be a dental hygienist used to do this when working on patients with gross mouths, her colleagues did too.

          Reply
    2. Karma

      Actually this reminds me, I wear a perfume necklace every day. It’s a pendant with a little felt pad inside it that you put essential oil on. You only put a small amount on it and your body heat warms it a little so it releases scent. It has saved me from some extremely uncomfortable rides on public transport crammed in next to someone wth BO.
      Perhaps OP could get one?

      Reply
      1. Shop Girl

        Oh god my asthma kicks in at the words “essential oil”.
        If it’s just enough for you to smell great

        Reply
        1. Karma

          I have asthma too, in addition to a very sensitive sense of smell and an awareness that the essential oils I like may not be loved by others so I’m very careful to only use a tiny bit of it.

          Reply
      2. Quickbeam

        They also make personal diffusers…they are like pens with a cap, you can inhale it and then cap it up. I work in aromatherapy and they are great for people who get value from essential oils but who work in a scent free environment.

        Reply
      3. Haligolightly

        Please don’t wear EOs in the office. It’s remarkably unfair to those of us with allergies/asthma who have no option but to either suffer or take sick leave (and potentially develop a reputation as being unreliable due to absences that we can’t control).

        Reply
        1. Bea

          That can be said for any scented item including deodorants…it’s why many v offices are scent free. So I’m wondering how well it’ll go with her colleagues if they’re are allergic to antiperspirant or sensitive to it. Sometimes a very clean person smells bad to a sensitive nose, I’ve had a few clean individuals who didn’t cover up their natural scents and my nose was like “ewwww”.

          Reply
        2. Rosemary7391

          Is it really that common? I absolutely wouldn’t wear EOs or perfume etc if I worked with someone for whom that was a problem, just like I’d leave out the nuts if I worked with someone allergic. It just seems a little overkill to not have them in case a new coworker comes in with an allergy. (I work with the same people every day).

          Reply
          1. Kate 2

            It really isn’t that common. And quite frankly someone with that level of reaction would be almost completely unable to leave the house.

            Everyone wears scented shampoo, conditioner, soap, detergent, a lot of people use scented deodorant, lotions, perfume. Smoking, pets, etc.

            It’s extremely difficult to find scent-free products, never mind in an ordinary big-box grocery store, and usually very expensive when you do.

            Not to mention, alluding to our other LW’s coworkers, some people have to use extra heavy duty deodorant, some people use scent to control anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD.

            It’s really not fair to place the needs of 1 person over so many other people, especially when some of them probably have medical needs too, that they are reluctant to share, lest they be labeled “crazy”.

            Reply
            1. Kate 2

              ETA If you really, truly need scent accommodations, and have been diagnosed, there are many good workarounds that don’t involve forcing your coworkers to buy expensive scent-free products that might not work, or disclose their medical conditions. Fans, an air filter, scent-free meeting days, moving a meeting to a room with windows that open, etc.

              Reply
      1. Chocolate Teapot

        The trick I tried (which worked on a visit to the Paris sewage works*) is to spray perfume on your collar, so you can take a sniff whenever necessary.

        * Yes, I know it sounds like a strange day out, but it was quite interesting.

        Reply
        1. Jules the 3rd

          When we left the sewage works, my husband gave me a high five and complimented me on my ability to find interesting things to see.

          Reply
      2. Stacy

        A little strategically placed peppermint oil works wonders! My neurologist taught me that trick when I kept getting triggered so badly (ironically by someone’s essential oils!) I kept having to leave work with migraines.

        Reply
    3. LF

      That’s a great idea! I had a problem with some super stinky animal work at a previous job. I applied Burt’s Bees lip balm (the original, which is peppermint scented) under my nostrils. It worked pretty well!

      Reply
  7. Kc89

    #2-I sympathize, I have a new co worker who smells like a high school boys locker room, he fills the whole room up with that lovely odor

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      His manager should deal with this. There is no excuse for letting one person’s terrible hygiene make everyone else uncomfortable. I have had to do that a couple of times; it is not fun. But it is the responsibility of a manager.

      Reply
        1. Musereader

          A daily shower and clean clothes don’t eliminate everything, I physically cannot wear traditional deodorants due to the pain that aluminium causes me, I have a shower every single morning and wear new clothes every day and found some non aluminium containing deodorants in a health food shop and still got a talking to about being a little stinky when I have come back from a 10 minute walk in the sun.

          Reply
          1. Nanani

            When I read that description I assumed it means “he smells like an entire shelf’S worth of Axe body spray.

            Reply
          2. Not a Morning Person

            FYI, most deodorants don’t contain aluminum. It’s the common active ingredient in antiperspirants, but not deodorants. That is if you are selecting the deodorant-only option and not the antiperspirant-deodorant option. It might be worth asking a pharmacist about options.

            Reply
            1. Musereader

              Pretty much all deodorants are antiperspirants to the point that though I know there is a difference they are interchangeable at least in the UK market. hence the health food shops as the one and only *actual* deodorant without antiperspirant I could find made me smell worse

              Reply
      1. soon 2 be former fed

        The best manager I had dealt with this directly. She was tactful, but felt it was her responsibility to address a very bad smelling coworker, not the rest of us. She smelled his stink too and knew the serious offensiveness of the problem. She never shied away from thorny issues and actually earned her big bucks. In thirty years of federal service, she is the only good manager I have ever had, and we remain friends to this day.

        Reply
    2. JSPA

      While it’s not the first thing that springs to mind, some body odors can be genetic or disease-related. I worked with a guy who had Trimethylaminuria. He was very aware of it, and actively managed it (showered three times a day, changed clothes, watched his diet) so it wasn’t a problem–but that’s what it took, for it to not be a problem. (Between extreme protein fad diets and the rise in diabetes, there are also more people with the detectable smell of ketoacidosis, but that’s less of “old wet socks gone fishy” and more of “overripe apples and nail polish remover”–and by the time you’re oozing it from your pores, you’re in pretty bad shape.) If dude doesn’t seem to have other grooming / hygiene issues, keep an open mind about medical problems.

      Reply
      1. Vesty McVestPants

        +100 Body odor can be a result of many things, not just poor hygiene. I’d be careful about making assumptions about other people’s situations.

        Reply
      2. SoSo

        Oh yeah, the Keto smell can be overwhelming even if you aren’t sensitive to scent. My sister does the diet and it’s very strong. She tries to keep it at bay, but still- sometimes it can’t be masked. My hormones also make my nose go haywire for about a week each month and I get really sensitive to smells like OP does, and I can’t stand to be around her for those days. It’s a good thing that she’s my sister and I know what the cause is, because if not I would have assumed it was terrible hygiene habits. I still use the “sorry, I’m really sensitive to smells right now and I feel a little queasy… I’m going to need to step out.”

        Reply
    3. KAZ2Y5

      I hope he doesn’t add Axe to the smells! Said in sympathy from the parent of a former teenage boy.

      Reply
      1. Seriously?

        Because cologne is the same as showering, right? I have asthma that is triggered by cigarette smoke AND perfume and I had a tough time convincing my boyfriend that if the smoked and then sprayed on cologne to cover the scent, it actually made me more likely to have an asthma attack.

        Reply
      2. AnotherAlison

        I still have one teenage boy at home, but he hasn’t hit the Axe phase yet. I kind of miss the grown & gone one, even with his sweaty clothes/gym bag-smelling room and Axe spray.

        Reply
      3. kc89

        honestly I think it’s body odor+axe, that’s what gives it that unique locker room smell ugh lol

        Reply
  8. Aphrodite

    OP #2, how do you know they don’t use deodorant? Did you notice a smell from them before you began your treatments?

    Reply
    1. Steph

      I think that is an excellent question.
      If someone is pungent enough to make a person with a sensitive sense of smell actually gag, I think it’s highly likely they are not popular, odour-wise, in the workplace anyway. Perhaps bringing it to their attention would be beneficial for other colleagues, also?
      I’ve been in a position where I have been mentoring students during placements who they have been quite offensive to the nose – like, my car still smelled days after (and we worked with special needs newborns, who really shouldn’t have had their senses bombarded with any smell but their mothers’). I didn’t address it at the time because I didn’t know how, and now those students are off working and I don’t know how their odors are affecting their patients, colleagues or their careers.

      Reply
      1. Sylvan

        I agree with you.

        I don’t smell much. I try to not smell bad, and I really do try, but sometimes I learn after, like, YEARS that something I thought had no smell is actually noticeable. I’d rather have a really uncomfortable conversation than keep unknowingly smelling bad.

        And nobody wants to force a coworker to spend every conversation with them trying not to barf!

        Reply
      2. Savannnah

        Strong smells (perfume or natural) should be in most clinical placement dress codes or professional codes. I’ve had to take medical and nursing students aside plenty of times to discuss their various smells. If I’m aware of it, their patients could notice as well. Unless the student themselves has a medical issue, its usually promptly dealt with as long as your feedback to the student is professional. Being able to point to the dress code, which could be your offices or the sending school, usually gives you great coverage for this type of feedback as well.

        Reply
  9. Caledonia

    OP 2 -some people don’t use deodorant due to chemicals or use an alternative which may not be as effective.
    I don’t think asking them to use something they don’t wish to is something you can do (particularly if the above is true) but by all means, try to limit your interactions by phone, email or perhaps sit further away from them at a meeting table with an open window/air con.

    Reply
    1. carla

      As a side note, most deodorants shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. It would be unfair to ask people to wear it, knowing that it’s actually harmful and something OP probably shouldn’t use if she does get pregnant.

      From The Bump (a well-known pregnancy website): Look closely at the label of your favorite deodorant now that you’re pregnant. You want to steer clear of parabens, which are preservatives that have been linked to birth defects. And anything containing synthetic fragrance is definitely questionable. Other ingredients to stay away from in your underarm products are PEG 20, propylene glycol, triclosan and sodium benzoate.

      Another big issue with deodorant (especially the kind that’s an antiperspirant too) is that the aluminum-based compounds that prevent you from becoming a sweaty mess are believed by some to be potentially cancer-causing. More research needs to be performed on the subject, but that’s pretty scary! The major problem with that? The aluminum really works to keep you from sweating! We tried out a bunch of different natural deodorants on the market and are sad to say it was tough to find anything that kept us as dry and smell-free.

      Reply
      1. CoveredInBees

        Ehh, I wouldn’t rely on The Bump for medical advice. Their science-communication skills tend to be “skim the title of a paper and grab clicks.” Deodorant is fine during pregnancy unless you’re eating it, which is a different issue all together. After 3 pregnancies and lots of time obsessively combing lists for what to do/ not to do, this is literally the first I’ve heard of no deo during pregnancy.

        Reply
  10. okie dokie

    OP1 – maybe see if it’s possible to schedule first thing in the morning over coffee – that way they won’t have gotten started with stuff and less likely to need to postpone.

    Reply
      1. Just J

        Following up on my two-word post above: I am that manager who is working 50+ hours weeks and has too many projects to juggle. I also am currently mentoring someone and I feel awful when I cannot give them the time they need and have to ask to reschedule. I say this because I know that me being over busy is then impacting the intern’s flow-of-work and flow-of-learning. But as others have posted, I am usually taking care of things needed directly by my clients and my bosses. And these must take priority.

        The idea of a first-thing-in-the-morning meeting over coffee is great. I love scheduling short meetings for first thing in the morning as I can get them knocked of my to-do list and then I know my intern is set for the day.

        BTW, one last thing, do ever hint to your boss that they have “bitten off more than they can chew”. Work is assigned. Your boss may have simply been assigned too many projects by their bosses. THAT is a common, common thing in my industry. Hence the 50+ hour weeks.

        Reply
        1. Willis

          Yeah…the “bit off more than they can chew” part stuck out to me too. It kinda sounds like OP thinks they’re getting a sub-par intern experience because of their mentor, but it may have been assigned, voluntold, or a situation where the company has trouble getting people to act as mentors cause everyone is busy. I wouldn’t assume this person is a bad mentor, they’re just busy and have higher priorities, which would probably be true for most senior folks. Its just the nature of this set up.

          Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          the biggest problem with “biting off more than you can chew” AT WORK is that it can be less “my eyes were bigger than my stomach” (so I put more food on my own plate) and more “Mom, I can’t eat that much, I CAN’T clean my plate!” when your mom scoops out the portions for you.

          Reply
      2. Observer

        I agree with everything else you said, but this is a bit iffy – remember, the OP says that the mentor was the one who chose the time.

        The only thing I might suggest is something along the lines of “I noticed that you’ve had to push back our meetings a few times. Would it be more convenient to change the meetings to first thing on the morning?”

        ie No complaints, but a suggestion that might be more convenient for the mentor, but put in a way that is not whiny, demanding or implying that the mentor is at fault here.

        Reply
  11. Quoth the Raven

    OP#1: I wonder if the main problem here is the fact you are only told about the delay five minutes before the actual meeting time, which can be very frustrating because by that point you’ve already wrapped whatever you were doing up at the very least, and possibly have invested time in getting to wherever you’re meeting your mentor. The delays are also short (30 minutes to an hour) which also means you are possibly “stuck” without being able to do anything else in the meanwhile (too little time to go back to work, or go eat, for example). With that, I see where you’re coming from with feeling your time is not being respected, although chances are as it’s been pointed out he can’t drop what he is doing at that moment.

    If this is the case, maybe you can ask your mentor to let you know sooner if he has to delay your meetings, if possible? It might not always be doable, but there’s also a good chance he knows way earlier than five minutes before your meeting that he won’t make it.

    Reply
    1. Artemesia

      A mentor is doing you a favor. I think this kind of ‘reminder’ etc just comes across as high maintenance. If it were more egregious i.e. not actually taking the time to meet, then it is worth addressing it, but otherwise you are at his convenience and you don’t want the impression he has of you to be that you are high maintenance, rigid and a pain to deal with. You are hoping for a reference one day after all. I have learned the hard way that when a reference says someone is ‘rigid’ or ‘needs a high degree of certainty’ or for that matter ‘has very high moral standards’ to stir clear of hiring them as they will be difficult to work with. Those things are all code for PITA.

      Reply
      1. Quoth the Raven

        Favour as it may be, I think there’s a very big leap from asking (not demanding, asking) if it would be possible to be informed ahead of time to being a pain in the ass, specially if it is happening constantly or if the delays do have an impact on OP’s work. I’ve mentored before, and I at least wouldn’t think less of someone who brought this to my attention respectfully.

        Now, if OP reminded her mentor constantly, or did it angrily (which admittedly the tone of the letter does read as such), or was otherwise inflexible to reschedule or failed to understand if told it’s not possible to let her know ahead of time, then yeah, I’d totally agree with you.

        Reply
    2. SoSo

      I would disagree that there’s a good chance the mentor knows “way earlier” than five minutes before the meeting that it will need to be rescheduled. I myself have been in countless meetings that are on track to finish at the scheduled time, but something will come up in conversation with three minutes to go that needs to be addressed before the end of a call. Conversations get off track, things take longer than expected, and some problems need additional input before the meeting can wrap up. I’m not even an intern but if I tried to make that request it would end up with me getting a stamp on my forehead that said “I’M DIFFICULT.” Not to mention that as an intern, your time is not as valuable as someone higher up. You’ve likely got less work and less urgent priorities, and it would be easier for the intern to wait/reschedule than for the mentor to cut out of an important conversation for a 1-1 catch up meeting.

      The reality of working in a business with upper level coworkers or management is that they’re busy, and you just have to deal with that sometimes. I’d say that 50% of my meetings get delayed or rescheduled because of it, and the best thing that OP can do is to not take it personally and move on.

      Reply
    3. Penny Lane

      “If this is the case, maybe you can ask your mentor to let you know sooner if he has to delay your meetings, if possible? It might not always be doable, but there’s also a good chance he knows way earlier than five minutes before your meeting that he won’t make it.”

      Absolutely not. That would be tone-deaf and high-maintenance. The intern needs to demonstrate flexibility and with a smile. It sounds like this is just standard-issue busy person juggling a lot of things who may indeed just find out 5 minutes prior that he has to go take care of the Llama Grooming issue today.

      Reply
    4. BananaPants

      Intern needs to suck it up and deal. They’re low in the pecking order, and complaining about this is not going to go over well.

      Reply
    5. nonymous

      If OP1 just wants to accommodate these delays, she should look for the kind of lightweight tasks that will be reasonable for a 20 min space. I personally find reading an article, triaging emails or taking a short walk around the building grounds to be reasonable. This is a good chance for OP to learn about pacing herself to deal with ebbs and flows of a particular workplace, not necessarily a bad thing.

      Reply
    6. TootsNYC

      Instead I would say that if this is part of the problem, maybe the intern (with those “I can supervise myself pretty well” skillz) could develop some tasks that can be done in that time. Or some thinking/strategizing/organizing what I want to say activities.

      Reply
  12. CatCat

    For #2, I wouldn’t even mention smell. “I have a medical situation where I can suddenly become extremely nauseous and sometimes gag or throw up. Until the situation is resolved, I’d like to conduct as many meetings by teleconference as possible. Thanks for understanding.”

    Reply
      1. Kate R. Pillar

        I like this wording!
        Potential downside I see is that people might assume that the “medical situation” causing nausea is pregnancy, making inquisitive looks and questions more likely at a time that OP is probably very sensitive to them.
        This could probably be avoided by saying “medical treatment” instead of “medical situation”.

        Reply
      1. Artemesia

        but it suggests pregnancy and pregnancy rumors for someone dealing with infertility are uniquely painful.

        Reply
        1. Grapey

          Sometimes you’ll have to pick your battles. If I were OP, I’d personally rather have some coping methods on hand to deal with very expected triggers vs making people feel self-conscious about being stinky when I’ve never said anything about it previously. That’s something people will remember for a long time.

          Reply
    1. Yvette

      Maybe substitute “treatment” for “condition” so as to make it sound less like a pregnancy?

      Reply
    2. WeevilWobble

      The only downside is the person will 100% assume she’s pregnant. And that rumor might spread. Which could lead to some heartbreaking conversations if treatments are unsuccesful.

      Reply
    3. CM

      This is excellent because it’s all about OP#2, and not about something wrong with the people she’s meeting with.

      Reply
    4. Rusty Shackelford

      This might work if you’re willing to use it on every person you meet with. Otherwise, the problem-causers are going to notice it’s just them.

      Reply
  13. bettercallsaul

    LW1: learn flexibility now and assume no ill intent from people unless they prove otherwise. You will save yourself a lot of stress.

    Reply
    1. SpaceNovice

      Assuming no ill intent is definitely a good piece of advice for life in general. It’s also been true about 90% of the time for me.

      It’s okay to be frustrated, OP! That’s normal. But you will have to be flexible. Your mentor is making sure to at least tell you in advance, even if it’s only a short time before. Sometimes when you’re working, you get into a groove and don’t want to interrupt it–which I suspect is what is happening here. The reason why your mentor asks YOU to adjust the time is because it’s a 1-on-1, and you’ve shown you’re fine with accommodating.

      It’s actually a bit of a compliment! My brother has asked me to move times we hang out multiple times due to work or just being tired, and he does so because he knows I understand. He can’t ask others the same because there’s either too many people involved or they’re high maintenance.

      Reply
  14. Feotakahari

    There’s a flipside to #2, since some medical issues prevent the use of deodorants. I do think meeting by phone is the best option for everyone.

    Reply
    1. Mom MD

      A person who cannot tolerate antiperspirants because of a medical condition needs to be aware and wiping under the arms mid work day.

      Reply
      1. Justme, The OG

        We don’t know that they aren’t. All we know is that their smell is bothering OP1 due to her medical treatment.

        Reply
      2. Bea

        That’s completely untrue, you’re taking it to an extreme here. If it’s always the case that you’re to be in guard for your medical issues effecting others, someone with a hyper sensitive nose needs to just plug it when they don’t like the scents. Come on. Be an adult.

        Reply
    2. Pollygrammer

      This. At the moment, there’s a mostly-remote coworker in my office who uses some kind of strong medicated cream that makes my throat feel like it’s on fire if I’m around it too long. I would absolutely never ask her to lay off it.

      Reply
  15. attie

    Re “if you’re the only one who thinks they stink”, how would you even know that? Hold a poll around the office asking everyone “hey, do you think Jane smells?” That seems very kindergarten-ish.

    OP2, you have my full sympathy. I have a naturally very sensitive nose (no pregnancy required), and a colleague at a previous workplace managed to flood *his entire office* with his bad breath… it would assault you as soon as you opened the door! I’m so glad I’m out of that place.

    Reply
  16. Mom MD

    You are an intern and there to learn. Be flexible. You have no authority and your boss has actual work to do. I knew as an intern in my field I was at the bottom of the pole and accepted it. Your lucky you are probably not in a field where wrath can be the consequences of getting out of line.

    Reply
  17. Mom MD

    Dear gagger: I feel for you. I was beyond nauseous for all my pregnancies and six months after. You can’t ask someone to talk only by phone implying the scent of them makes you sick. A trick that got me through was putting just a dab of Vick’s in my nose with a q tip where it was not seen and it completely blocked most smells. Most people won’t notice at all and if someone does you can just say your allergies are acting up. Good luck.

    Reply
  18. carlie

    OP #2 could also blame other things. “I’m on a medicine that makes me highly sensitive to smell, and I think I’m reacting to whatever detergent/fabric softener combination you use.” This does run the risk of that person asking around and finding half the office uses what they do, but might deflect the bad feelings (and maybe make them examine their hygiene practices?)

    Reply
    1. JSPA

      It might make them use LESS soap, detergent and deodorant, which would be counterproductive. Lies are complicated. Best to avoid.

      Frankly, odor hypersensitivity is something most people will have encountered in coworkers, due to pregnancies, chemo, etc. As low person on the totem pole, I once had to switch desks with someone who needed to be farther away from a non-movable odor source, and we were also asked to a) not eat at our desks, b) use deodorant and c) avoid strongly scented deodorants and and other personal care products for “as long as needed.” The only other option was coworker puking in our trash cans (if she made it that far), so it was not a big “ask.”

      This is a case where a broader request is probably going to go over better than a request that’s limited to the BO of two individuals. And that’s actually a good thing! If the treatment hormones are doing such a number on you, an eventual pregnancy is not unlikely to do same (or more so).

      Reply
      1. JSPA

        Everyone smells–that is, everyone releases a variety of molecules to the air that are detectable by the nose. (Or as Samuel Johnson would have it, we all stink.) Almost everyone smells–in the original sense of the verb, i.e. everyone has some ability to detect various odors (though this varies widely).

        Being notified of a special circumstance, being told that EVERYONE must be extra careful because of someone’s excess sensitivity, says exactly zero about whether or not a particular person’s standard hygiene practices are up to standard.

        For that matter, being told that one’s personal cloud is distinctive is the sort of feedback that helps careers. It certainly can be done rudely. But it need not be.

        Reply
    2. Observer

      You’re assuming that the CW’s hygiene practices need changing. But that may not be the case.

      Reply
  19. drpuma

    OP3, it sounds like this company -is- showing you their culture, and so far you’re not much of a fan. If I were you, I would flex my network to see if I could talk to a current employee about their experiences. Is the organization extremely top-down and hierarchical? Do managers not prioritize feedback? Could your role be remote, or do a lot of their employees work remotely? At the very least, you can ask at your in-person how well the hiring process represents their normal workflow.

    Reply
    1. Lily Rowan

      Yeah, I just want to echo that the hiring process can be indicative of what the workplace is like in general, but it isn’t necessarily. I’ve worked at a number of places where HR processes were way more cumbersome than the rest of the operation. (And others where they were exactly as cumbersome!)

      Reply
  20. Project Manager

    My last boss’s boss placed a very high value on punctuality. He actually did leave meetings with customers or higher-ups to get to his next obligation – even if it was with someone lower down the totem pole. He also started and ended every meeting he ran on time even if it meant rescheduling a topic to next week or a special session. And he made decisions – no dithering. Man, I miss that guy. (I mentioned once that I appreciated his punctuality, and he explicitly said it was because he did, in fact, value my time.)

    This attitude toward punctuality is very rare, however, especially where I work (this man stood out all the more because most people where I work are 5+ min late to everything, and I’ve often been kept waiting for an hour or more by a higher-up). So yes, OP, you are going to have to be flexible. But when *you* are the big boss, you can start a culture change by modeling punctuality!

    Reply
    1. Beth Jacobs

      He sounds awesome!

      But it’s not something that can reasonably done in every role and industry. If a client is paying you a couple of hundred an hour for an urgent project, it’s simply not feasible to turn it down to meet with an intern. Do that a couple of times and not only will you be out thousands of dollars, but you’ll also lose a client.

      We don’t know whether OP’s mentor is just bad at managing his time or he’s right to prioritize other commitments. And from an intern position, it really isn’t OP’s place to judge that. The outcome is the same and Alison’s advice works regardless.

      Reply
      1. Project Manager

        Yeah, he could get away with it because of his role and because of how our customer interactions work (our customers are internal, and he was not the primary interface with them anyway). I am definitely not in a position to leave a meeting with a chief engineer or a customer.

        Reply
    2. Dankar

      I think it’s so interesting how different people are when it comes to work styles. What you’re describing would drive me nuts! I need a little flexibility in getting to and from meetings (since advising sessions and team meetings are like 60% of my day), and there’s no way I would want to schedule another meeting to cover a topic we didn’t get to. Just thinking about doing that makes me feel antsy!

      The ability to just make a decision and proceed sans-dithering would be really valuable, though.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Same. If I’m at the tail end of resolving an issue and I need the meeting to run 5 minutes long so I can wrap it up, I’m staying rather than chopping up my workflow and having to come back to it later.

        Reply
  21. Morag

    OP 1, I’m hope you’ve got the concept by now, but people have been gentle and a bit subtle with you, so I’m going to be a little more blunt. Your mentor’s time is much more valuable to the company than yours is. Your time has very little value in the whole scheme of things. So, no, your mentor isn’t disrespecting your time – you are disrespecting theirs. So if it takes an extra half hour or hour of your time to get 15 minutes of their time – that’s about right.

    Reply
    1. Susie Q

      I completely agree. I managed our interns last summer. I had managed to schedule a meeting with them and the president of our company (which is a big deal and never normally happens). Unfortunately we had to reschedule the meeting at the last minute due to a meeting between him and a director of a federal agency (one of our biggest customers) went longer than anticipated. All the interns kept complaining about wasting their time and how their time was valuable. I finally had to say “Your time is incredibly less valuable than the company president’s time especially when he is meeting with such an important customer”. The entitlement drove me crazy because I went out of my way to arrange this meeting and it was just being delayed by half an hour.

      Reply
        1. Lynn

          Is it logical to assume that an intern’s time is worth the same as the president of the company’s? To assume they are equivalent is, in my opinion, entitlement. It does appear to be coupled with inexperience, but it’s something we’re seeing with younger workers.

          Reply
          1. Murphy

            No, but nobody likes having their time wasted (even if there’s a very good reason). They’re interns. They’re there to learn, and this is one of the things they need to learn. To brush it off as “entitlement” rather than an important teaching moment does them a disservice, I think.

            Reply
            1. Falling Diphthong

              This is one of the reasons that Alison stresses the importance of work experience–that you learn norms. A teacher being 20 minutes late to class and a veep being 20 minutes late to the intern meeting aren’t terribly analogous, but that’s the experience they have to draw on at that early point.

              Reply
              1. Baby Fishmouth

                Yes, exactly! When I was a student the ‘rule’ was that if a teacher was more that 15 minutes late, class was cancelled. No idea if it was even a real rule or not, but it still hammered in the fact that it was a HUGE DEAL for somebody to be late to things.

                Reply
          2. fortunatelyjenkins

            I would mostly ascribe it to inexperience, to be honest. If you asked whether an hour of the CEO’s time was worth more to the company than an hour of an intern’s time, I’m sure most of them would see what you were getting at – but new workers might not think to frame it in that context without prompting. If you’re used to the workplace it seems obvious, but I’m sure we can all remember being new to work and not quite getting something. If someone’s not used to thinking in terms of productivity per billable hour, or doesn’t understand the impact of that senior staff member’s work, they’re likely to use the rules of good manners that they have been taught growing up – which state that punctuality is important and keeping someone waiting is disrespectful. Since everyone should be treated with basic respect, even the most junior worker in an organisation, they feel slighted.

            Reply
            1. Naptime Enthusiast

              This is perfectly stated, especially the rules of good manners. I was taught growing up that when you make a commitment, you stick to it even if something else comes up later. That’s obviously not applicable to work situations, but until you actually see this in practice at work and understand it’s not about wanting to reschedule or cancel, it’s a hard pill to swallow.

              Reply
            2. epi

              Definitely. I thought the OP’s comment about respect for their time sounded like good advice, misapplied. I’m not sure I would have had that insight about anyone’s chronic lateness at that stage of my career, right or wrong. I just would have felt annoyed.

              It’s a good thing for the OP to be thinking about what they need to be happy at work– as long as they avoid making personal judgments about people who work differently and realize that it may be years before they can have it their way.

              Finally, just a thought that in my first job, many of my first impressions of people above me were right. But I was rarely good at grasping the nuances that would let me talk about it credibly, and there were many details in which I was wrong, so I’m glad I still kept my opinion to myself at work. And even some overall bad bosses were able to help me sometimes so it was worth having rapport with them.

              Reply
            3. PersephoneUnderground

              I think that’s the thing- in everyday life, of course my time is just as valuable as someone else’s- especially in American culture we have a very strong sense of egalitarianism.

              So if someone thinking from a social perspective (because they are new to the work world) were asked “whether an hour of the CEO’s time was worth more to the company than an hour of [their own] time” they would say no, they are worth the same! That isn’t entitlement, it’s self-respect and a lack of understanding of the context of the question. They’re thinking that one’s position has nothing to do with how much their time is worth, which is true in social situations (think of how much we hate people who cut to the front of a line because they think they’re important than everyone else).

              It takes teaching and experience to learn that in a work context a CEO’s time actually *is* more valuable than an intern’s, and that isn’t an insult to your worth as a human being just a reality about your positions in the company. It’s a big shift that very often has to be taught, so it’s a jump to call the question itself entitled.

              Reply
          3. Naptime Enthusiast

            Assuming that an intern’s time = senior person’s time, yes is entitlement. But not understanding priorities is a normal thing that interns learn throughout their internship, and sometimes that priority means that someone else or another task needs to wait. And to be fair, some people that have been in the workforce for a long time STILL don’t understand priorities. I read OP’s letter as the latter, and she was feeling down that she is not important and worthy of her mentor’s time.

            Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          I feel like the current crop of college students / recent grads (disclosure: I have two of them) have been primed to perceive disrespect or exploitation. They’ve read all the negative stories about rude bosses, etc., and that’s what they think everything is.

          I can so see my own kid thinking this way.

          Reply
          1. Observer

            You may be right. But, that’s no favor to anyone. I TOTALLY agree that young people should NOT be fed a line about how they have to “pay their dues” by enduring abuse and toxicity. But, going from there to what the OP is doing is just going to harm people like that – smart people who have out-sized expectations often run into problems.

            Reply
    2. MLB

      This 100%. But even if LW wasn’t an intern, this will happen from time to time with everyone. I used to be a Business Analyst and scheduling meetings was the hardest thing to do with everyone’s schedules. I have one guy I work with now who is often double and triple booked for meetings, so he has to prioritize what he attends. There are many factors at play here, but the bottom line is that the LW needs to understand that this is how things work sometimes, be flexible and not take it as a personal attack assuming their mentor doesn’t value their time.

      Reply
    3. Environmental Compliance

      +100

      An intern is there to learn about the industry & how offices work.

      Plus, I found it strange that OP1 said that their mentor obviously “bit off more than they can chew”. Often where I’ve been before the interns are assigned to people. Their mentor may not have asked to be in charge of the intern(s) and instead was just given the responsibility. Now the person has to do their normal 40+ hr workweek AND keep track of & assist an intern. In the grand scheme of things, of course the intern is going to end up not necessarily being the highest priority.

      Reply
      1. Phoenix Programmer

        But that’s a bad internship set up and from the students perspective looks very much like the “manager can not handle the program which is very true if it’s just been tasked on to a full time job. In some ways managing interns is harder than managing this employees because you are dealing with 1) no business world experience at all. 2) University requirements and check ups 3) often very little control of which interns are assigned to your area 4) extremely steep firing criteria that you have to be able to justify to the school. On top of all the normal responsibilities of managing. It is not something to take on lightly.

        Reply
      2. Phoenix Programmer

        My interns are my priority but they are unpaid and tied to school credit so we have a high standard to keep receiving them.

        Of course occasionally an urgent issue will crop up and I shuffle items but it’s rare and when it does happen I explain to the student what happened so they can LEARN how priorities work.

        Reply
        1. Environmental Compliance

          Not saying it’s not bad, but it’s pretty common. Not all internships are tied to school credit – I’d argue that a large chunk of them aren’t at all. The intern needs to learn that not everything is tied back to her internship & is a personal issue directed at them – sometimes people are busy and it really has nothing to do with the intern. Saying that the manager ‘bit off more than they can chew’ is a little naive on the intern’s part.

          Reply
          1. Phoenix Programmer

            Many places do this with managing as well. It’s a terrible set up though. You can’t be an effective manager if it’s considered “extra” to a full time role.

            Reply
            1. Environmental Compliance

              Again, I’m not disagreeing, but if it’s how the company/org is set up, that’s how it’s set up, and there’s not necessarily a whole lot a generic staff member can do to change it. If the intern decides to tell their boss that they have “obviously bit off more than they can chew”, it’s not going to do anything to their working relationship. Is it a crappy situation? Yup. Is the intern going to need to learn flexibility & use that independence that they have? Yup. Sometimes situations aren’t optimal, and those involved need to have a level of understanding (on both sides) of how to make it the best they can.

              Reply
        2. TootsNYC

          I explain to the student what happened so they can LEARN how priorities work.

          In fact, if the intern can keep from sounding peevish, this could be an excellent opportunity!

          When I had an intern, I dragged her/him everywhere with me, explaining as we went.
          In a situation like this one, if I couldn’t have my intern there, I would absolutely explain what I had been doing instead, and why I’d decided to push our check-in back, and what the goals for the interruption were, etc.
          Less for “I want to justify why I was late” and more, “here are all the thought processes on business goals and priorities; insider info on processes/departments/people; possible outcomes or problems…”

          So our OP#1 could say, “May I ask about your other meeting? What was the goal, or what kinds of things does that person do?” I’m having a hard time coming up with wording–but basically, ask about the business processes, not about the scheduling decisions.

          “You said you were meeting with Procurements; how often do you have to be hands-on with them? Do you get involved deeply, or does the department? How much expertise do they usually have in the needs of our department? At what point in the process do you usually have to meet, and why is that timing most effective?”

          Or, “could I ask you to walk me through your earlier meeting, and what you were able to accomplish, or not?”

          Maybe start by just bringing up that same sort of thing apart from any rescheduling, and then it won’t seem like you’re trying to make them justify why they changed the schedule, and more like you are trying to get info from them all the time.

          Reply
    4. Sarah M

      The tone of the letter reminded me a bit of the Infamous Intern Letter that went viral a year or two ago (though it was nowhere near as gobsmacking).

      OP1, if you can read it, it’s an excellent example of how *not* to be – both in behavior and in the sense of righteous entitlement displayed by the newly fired intern that wrote in. S/he had absolutely No Idea why they’d been sacked. Again, what you’re talking about is nowhere near that level of obtuseness, but it might help you recalibrate your expectations in your own situation. Any displays of entitlement on your part will only hurt you. Best of luck with your internship.

      Reply
    5. Phoenix Programmer

      I disagree that the intern is disrespecting their mentors time. When you manage interns (and I do) you understand that they are below entry level and need help learning these things. If you can’t handle mistakes like this work have and aplomb you should not be managing interns.

      Also I have managed several new interns over the past couple years and entitled they were not. Most of them are so terrified of being labeled entitled that they do not speak up for very normal asks. I have had to train them all to be more forthcoming.

      Reply
      1. Phoenix Programmer

        Ugh swipe is not liking me this morning. *Can’t handle these types of mistakes work grace and aplomb.

        Reply
      2. Observer

        I don’t think anyone is saying “all / most interns are entitled”. But they are saying that this particular one does sound entitled.

        I don’t know if they are entitled or just clueless, but if they make an issue of this, it IS going to do them damage.

        Reply
  22. Naptime Enthusiast

    OP4: It’s a good idea to keep all of your jobs on LinkedIn in case you ever need to recount your work history, even if you decide to hide some of your outdated positions. I’ve had to list all of my jobs and addresses in the past 10 years for a background check, which was a PITA but having LinkedIn helped trigger my memory for some of them.

    You can also do this with a word or excel file either.

    Reply
    1. Amanda

      The experience I gained from a part-time job at a bank during college and an internship with an investment firm was the deciding factor in getting me my last job, 10 years after I graduated. Of course, I mentioned it in my cover letter instead of my resume because it was relevant to the job duties, but depending on who is doing the searching and how, don’t discount what experience/accomplishments might tip the search in your favor. Prune the paper, not the digital!

      Reply
    2. Amber T

      It’s funny because I was just looking at my LinkedIn profile (for the first time in a long time) and was wondering if it needed to be trimmed down. I’m not looking for a job so it’s not really an issue right now, but I still have a bunch of college stuff on there. I’m still in my 20s, so it’s not that it’s super old, and I’m only on RealJob#2 (and quite frankly, I’m not 100% sure I’d list Real(Toxic)Job#1 on a resume). So I guess it stays for now. At some point, I guess it’ll get too long and cumbersome.

      Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      actually, you SHOULD do this in a file you yourself own, and you should print it out every time you get a new job.

      Because LinkedIn may not be around forever, nor may Google Drive, and your computer hard drive might die.

      Reply
  23. Murphy

    OP#1 I actually just wrote Alison about something kind similar! Without getting into specifics, I’ll just say that being postponed by a little bit really isn’t so bad! It could be worse. I can understand wanting to have more notice, but we’ve all been stuck in a meeting that we think is about to end, and somehow keeps on going, so he may not always be able to give it.

    Reply
  24. Llama Grooming Coordinator

    LW1: I’m…agreeing with everyone on the flexibility.

    I get it, it stinks to have changes sprung on you! I’ve dealt with that myself with meetings being switched around and all of that. A lot of times, my managers will forget to do something, or push around a meeting. And…honestly, I don’t always handle it that well. But in the end, it seems as if your mentor is making time for you when she can, and you have to give her credit for that.

    I think the main issue you’re feeling – and correct me if I’m wrong – is that she’s rescheduling with five minutes’ notice, which…is not ideal, but might just be the nature of her job. Maybe she’s like me and really needs to finish something before she can move on to something else. Maybe she really is just that busy. I don’t know her work life. But again – she’s actually offering to meet with you and setting up a secondary time, which is more than the client who flaked out on half his meetings with his consultant (which was a letter either earlier this week or late last week)!

    Finally – to be blunt about it, your letter comes off entitled. (I’m not the first to say this. I probably won’t be the last.) Forgive me for reading between the lines a little bit, but the way it’s written conveys disdain for your mentor’s abilities – you say that she “bit off a bit more than she could chew” (which implies that you don’t think she can handle a mentorship), and that she “doesn’t respect [your] time” (as if your time as an intern is more valuable than her billable time), among other things. Dude, she actually got hired there and the company trusts her enough to have her show you the ropes. I’d err on the side of assuming that the company and your mentor know what they’re doing. And I’d really make sure that your contempt isn’t showing because that is not a good look.

    Reply
    1. Boredatwork

      +1 to this. I’m seeing this more and more with the next batch of interns and I’m an evil millennial!

      Reply
    2. Observer

      Good point on the contempt. Even if the attitude is not full blown contempt, it’s coming off that way. It’s certainly clear that you don’t have a lot of respect for your mentor, although you expect a lot for yourself. That’s likely to come through and it is NOT going to help your cause.

      Reply
    3. TootsNYC

      I have a kid this age.

      One thing I’m seeing is that many kids this age seem to be programmed to be very self-protective and to push back against being exploited.

      I think that’s an offshoot of things like:
      -abuse of interns (I’m in publishing, and this has been very, very prevalent in our industry in recent past years)
      -underpayment and overloading of workers

      Reply
  25. Boredatwork

    OP #1 There’s a saying in my profession, you can teach anyone to do accounting but you cannot teach someone to have a good attitude. Having a positive attitude, being flexible and agreeable are the main things we judge interns on.

    Your mentor is respecting your time by notifying you that they will need to push the meeting. They could just not show up, swing by an hour later and expect you to drop everything for that meeting. It’s also very likely someone higher up than them is the reason they had to reschedule.

    Also, sometimes you have to realize that when you’re a summer intern, nothing you’re given to work on is really that important, and like Alison said, you mentor is probably appropriately prioritizing their work.

    Reply
    1. Phoenix Programmer

      Yes very much to the second paragraph. You will probably have bosses who instead of texting just don’t show up until 20 minutes later. Even in that situation you have to roll with it.

      Reply
  26. CTT

    OP #1, I had a very similar experience last summer while clerking at a law firm. I had a project mentor who bit off way more than she could chew, and since she was supposed to check in on my work, it was really frustrating having to wait on her to move on to the next step. But as annoying as it is, it’s really a grin and bear it situation (unless her delay is going to cause you to miss something else work-related, in which case you can push back/reschedule it yourself). Also, remember this when you get into this field full time and are thinking of taking on a mentee! I have a running google doc of things to remember when I start working, and because of my experience, one of the items on there isn’t to volunteer to be a mentor until my third year.

    Reply
    1. Curious Cat

      At an old internship, I also had a similar experience of a mentor who took on too much and she was only an entry-level associate (although she also ended up leaving the company 3 weeks before my internship ended & I had to take over all her work while they began looking for a replacement). Definitely a grin and bear it situation, we all start at the bottom of the totem pole, but making good impressions and being grateful for the feedback your mentor is providing will go a long way.

      Reply
  27. CM

    OP#1, you’re learning an important lesson about how companies work. There is a hierarchy — even at “flat” organizations — and your time is valued more the closer you are to the top. But that’s not something to get upset about. It makes sense that people who are more senior, and have more important decisions to make, should prioritize how they use their time, even if the result is the people who are more junior are inconvenienced. Be gracious and grateful for the time and advice that your mentor is willing to give you, and you’ll make a strong impression as somebody who they want as a future colleague.

    Reply
  28. ExcelJedi

    OP#3: This company really isn’t respecting your time at all. To expect so much (how many hours have you put into this post-application, between the video and the project?) without even talking to you says that they don’t see applicants’ time as valuable.

    Unless I was desperate for a job, I’d be willing to walk on this if they didn’t accept a request for a phone interview – that would tell me everything I needed to know about the place.

    Reply
    1. Luna

      I think demanding a phone interview for a local interview is not a great look, but I do agree about the pre-interview work. I cannot stand when companies want candidates to put all that time and effort into tests/projects before they are even willing to speak with them about the job. That seems way worse to me than the issue of whether an initial interview is in-person or by phone.

      Reply
  29. Boredatwork

    OP#2 have you thought about a more Victorian solution? If these interaction are brief, maybe spraying some perfume or an essential oil on your wrist (something you like that’s strong) and basically using it as a mask? You’ll look funny, but coupled with Alison’s “medical” explanation, it might work?

    Good luck with the fertility treatments!

    Reply
  30. CM

    OP#5, once you’ve been working for a while, I don’t think your internships from college matter much — unless, as Alison said, they are particularly prestigious or the work you produced was especially impressive. You could also consider combining them into one category rather than listing each as its own separate job (like “Marketing internships: Company A (2010), Company B (2011), …”)

    Reply
    1. AnotherAlison

      I interviewed a guy this year who graduated college in 2008, and had a job from 2000 (high school) to 2008 on his resume. It was not a relevant internship, but I can understand why he had it on there–it was his longest job, and he did some computer networking support and training. But, my coworker and I both kind of shook our heads at that. It wasn’t really relevant to our job (electrical engineer for power) & he had 6 lines for it. One line would have been fine, and I wouldn’t balk at someone having a complete job history, even if I personally removed any pre-graduation jobs after graduation.

      If you keep internships on there, keep them brief. Even if it was prestigious at the time, some of that prestige fades after a while. I think it’s similar to awards. If you win a prestigious college award, great, but if that is still the highlight of your resume after 10 years, then maybe your career didn’t really live up to your potential. (I say that as someone who peaked in college!)

      Reply
    2. Amanda

      I said this in reply to a comment above, but I had the opposite experience: The experience I gained from a part-time job at a bank during college and an internship with an investment firm was the deciding factor in getting me my last job, 10 years after I graduated. Of course, I mentioned it in my cover letter instead of my resume because it was relevant to the job duties, but depending on who is doing the searching and how, don’t discount what experience/accomplishments might tip the search in your favor. Prune the paper, not the digital!

      Reply
      1. AnotherAlison

        I curious about this. Was what you did in the intervening 10 years not relevant, or it was relevant, but the internship and part-time work were the icing on the cake that set you apart?

        I know it can happen, but I’m also thinking of a candidate whose resume I received who had interned with my company and then worked in another industry for ~3 yrs. The 3 yrs isn’t relevant, but the internship isn’t quite enough experience for what I need for an experienced hire.

        Reply
      2. McWhadden

        Similar experience. I worked in a hotel in high school and college. I’m now a lawyer. Normally the hotel job wouldn’t make it on my resume, of course. But I applied for a government legal job that involved a lot of interaction with the public. In a more friendly way not a litigator way. It definitely helped.

        Reply
  31. HR Recruiter

    # 2 I’ve never undergone fertility treatments so I don’t know specifically what you are going through. But I had HG with my pregnancy and any smell made me so sick and the only way to stop it was to go to the ER for fluids. So I understand smells! I found a smell I could tolerate. Literally the only smell in the entire world I could tolerate was Life Saver Mints. I would keep them in my pockets. When I had to pass a kitchen, talk to a smelly person, go to the bathroom, etc. I would grab a mint and sniff it and then proceed and keep meetings super short so the mint smell didn’t have time to wear off.
    As far deodorant, as the others have mentioned I don’t think you can ask them unless they have always smelled. Its not fair to tell someone they smell when you’re the only one that can smell them.

    Reply
    1. BadWolf

      When I’m fighting a migraine, some smells definitely trigger gag or near gag reflex to me. Things that would normally not bother me — either because I didn’t smell then or if I did, it didn’t bother me. Or the difference between “The smell of banana peels isn’t so great” vs “I’m going to hurl if we don’t get rid of that banana peel.”

      Reply
    2. LM (Letter Write #2)

      Thanks for the suggestions, that is a great one! As a side note, they have always smelled, just within range of tolerable office discomfort levels. It’s just now my smell superpower is making this BO hard for me. I don’t think I’m the only one to have noticed, but I’ve never brought it up to anyone else before out of politeness.

      Reply
  32. Oxford Coma

    Unless you work at Jane’s Teleportation Depot, days full of meetings are doomed to fall behind when everyone schedules them on the hour. Even high schools allow 2-5 minutes for passing through the halls. One manager at my company overrides the Outlook presets to schedule his meetings from X:03 to X:57 and it is a huge help. I wish everyone would copy him.

    Reply
  33. Not a Mere Device

    LW2: It’s also possible they are using a deodorant, but not an anti-perspirant (because some people get rashes from the aluminum compounds that work as anti-perspirants). Embarrassment aside, if I got a request like yours, I might switch to a scented deodorant, rather than the unscented one I use now, which I suspect would make things worse for you.

    Whether or not you wanted to disclose why you’re now more sensitive, “please stop wearing perfume, I have a medical problem” is something a lot of people would accommodate. “Please use something that has the side effect of giving you a painful rash, because I have a medical problem,” isn’t. On the other hand, if I was using a scented deodorant, I’d be open to something like “I’m sorry, the smell of lavender bothers me, can you please use a different deodorant.”

    Reply
  34. McWhadden

    I think it’s better to keep all your positions on LinkedIn if you want to link with anyone who worked there. LinkedIn is still a networking site not a resume. They may not quite recognize your name until they see you worked at X.

    For the intern, there’s really nothing you are doing that is more important than what your mentor is doing. I’d really, really just suck it up and let yourself be annoyed internally.

    Reply
  35. Bea

    I wouldn’t take on telling your co-workers directly about your reaction to their scent. This is a delicate subject that can spark extreme backlash and has lead to lawsuits on both sides. Instead you need to loop HR in. Let them know you’re issue and have them do the talking where necessary.

    They could be very understanding and accommodating if you ask or they could think you’re bullying them for some unknown reason. They may have their own medical issues that need taken into consideration as others have mentioned.

    This is dicey and less than “Hey Rita, fish smells make me throw up.” It’s up to management to make sure these sticky points are handled and documented appropriately. That and at very least alert them that you want to approach them so when a pissed off person storms HR saying Number Two said I’m stinky and need to shower more, I shower every day and do wear deodorant, what’s her deal? They aren’t blindsided.

    As co-workers we want to talk to each other like adults but due to so many regulations this has gotten both sides all kinds of messed up. It’s up to the company to have policies and enforce them and accommodate medical issues in the end.

    Reply
    1. Lindsay J

      Do you have links to any information about these lawsuits?

      Because I’m having a hard time imaging the cause of action for “my coworker thinks I smell bad” unless it was part of other pervasive behavior that, taken as a whole, resulted in a hostile work environment due to race or disability or similar.

      Reply
  36. laylaaaaah

    OP1 – something I’ve found really helpful in work and personal circumstances is the ‘Factor 5’ response to someone doing something which is vexing/unhelpful. Essentially, you imagine two scenarios:

    – Factor 1, the worst case scenario.
    ‘My mentor thinks I’m not important and is disrespecting me by pushing our meeting times back every week.’
    ‘My boss hates me and thinks I’m not good at my job, that’s why she keeps hovering over me and checking everything I do.’
    ‘My partner didn’t ask me how my day was, that means they don’t care.’

    -Factor 5, the best case scenario.
    ‘My mentor is going above and beyond to make time for me in her busy schedule, even if she has to move it around a lot.’
    ‘My boss wants me to do an amazing job, and thus wants to make sure everything I do is perfect.’
    ‘My partner thought I needed some time to myself this evening, that’s why they didn’t talk to me as soon as I got home.’

    Then you get to Factor 3, which is somewhere in between, and most likely to be true.
    ‘My mentor is super busy, and I’m probably not the highest thing on her priority list, although she is still trying to carve out time to meet with me regularly.’
    ‘My boss has noticed I’ve made a few mistakes recently, is anxious I won’t make them again, and will back off once my performance improves.’
    ‘My partner has had a really busy day, and forgot to ask how mine was because they were too busy collapsing on the sofa.’

    I’ve found this really helpful for calming down any overly-anxious/negative thought patterns in my life, perhaps you will too!

    Reply
  37. Clever Girl

    LW #1: No. Do NOT tell your boss they have “bit off more than they can chew”. Don’t even draw that conclusion whether you tell them or not. You’re an intern and you don’t know this person well and you have no idea how much they can chew. It’s not your place to make that observation just because of a few delayed meetings.

    Furthermore, internships are not jobs. An internship is as much (or more) about the intern learning and benefitting from the experience as it is about the company benefitting. Treat it more like school in that sense. I have managed interns (and no I didn’t bite off anything, I was told to manage them) and it’s generally a huge time sink with little benefit. Most of the things my summer interns spend the whole summer on, I could do in a couple weeks. Many times I think about how much easier it would be to just do it myself. I let them do it because it’s a learning experience for them, and I coach them and guide them through it. “Your time” is not as valuable to the company as the time of an actual employee, because the company is expending resources to educate you, and you need to respect your mentor’s time and appreciate the learning experience you are having. Frankly, whatever you are working on that gets interrupted for a meeting that is then delayed is likely not important enough for you to make the request to have more notice about the delay so you’re not disrupted. If you want a job in the company, you need to learn to respect the people who are senior to you.

    Reply
    1. Clever Girl

      And since you said you worked at a software company, just in case you are a programmer, please remember that your ability to code doesn’t make you a genius or a God. I work in tech and I’ve worked with WAY too many 20-somethings who are good at computers and accustomed to being “the smart one” who have a very overly-inflated idea of their own abilities and importance. Don’t be one of those people. Good people skills and the ability to get along with people are very important in your career and I highly recommend putting effort into developing them.

      Reply
      1. LBK

        Oh god, yes. How long do computer skills have to be relatively commonplace before developers stop thinking they’re all geniuses just because they know how to code?

        Reply
        1. Environmental Compliance

          When I used to teach gen chem at a large uni, I would have my students raise their hands if they considered themselves ‘proficient’ in Excel. Nearly all of them would raise their hands. Then I’d give them a very basic assignment – entering in a small X/Y data set and making graphs with trendlines. They would have to make the right kind of graph, calculate the average & standard deviation, and report the trendline equation. It was a little disheartening to see how many of them struggled doing it in Excel and instead did it by hand.

          Reply
  38. nnn

    Potential strategies for #2:

    – Depending on context and personalities, it might be easier to privately tell your manager that you have a medical situation where certain people’s natural body odours are nauseating to you (you might not even need to name names) and you’re trying to avoid being physically close to them. Then maybe you could work out a solution with your manager covering for you a bit. For example, maybe you could work from home for medical reasons, thereby making it make a lot more sense to meet by phone? Maybe your manager could assign you to a special project that takes you away from the tasks that involve meeting with these colleagues

    – Could you meet with these colleagues outdoors, like on a coffee shop patio or something? If you live in the northern hemisphere, you have the excuse that it’s starting to get warmer (which is easily expressed as “It’s so nice out! It’s a shame to stay indoors on a day like this!”)

    – As others have mentioned, the odour might be happening despite the colleagues already using deodorant. So if you do opt to pursue a deodorant-related line of inquiry, you need to think about what your next step will be if they are already wearing deodorant.

    Reply
  39. Rick

    Op #1

    “It was clear in the first month of working here that this person bit off more than they can chew in terms of what the responsibility entails”

    I’m going to take you at your word on this. It’s true that being a mentor to an intern involves a lot of responsibilities that someone in a pure technical role might not have received training on. They typically:
    * Make you feel welcomed
    * Assign tasks
    * Provide guidance on your work output
    * Train you on company processes and work norms
    * Provide feedback on your professionalism
    * Objectively assess your abilities so they can advocate for hiring you
    * Advocate for how awesome it is to work for the company

    If you feel that some of these responsibilities are lacking, then it puts you in a difficult place, because you don’t want to (and shouldn’t) prescribe what your effective boss should do. Really, this is no different than having a manager who doesn’t stay in touch with your work.

    There are a couple of techniques you can try.
    * Use another form of communication. Maybe your mentor will respond better to you putting the content of the check-in in an email.
    * Solicit feedback from another employee who seems interested in helping you and has the time.
    * See if there’s something you can do to remove a burden from your mentor. Maybe there’s a busy work task that would free up a lot of her time.
    * Journal all of the work you’ve completed and contributions you’ve made to the company. This will make it easier for you (or your mentor) to advocate for you.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    1. BananaPants

      I’d laugh my tail off if an intern tried to trumpet their contribution to the company. Our intern projects are always “nice to have” things that aren’t program-critical; the sort of thing that an experienced engineer would be able to finish in maybe 1/10th the time. It has to be easy enough that an undergrad can do the work, and

      Also, it’s tiring when people assume that engineers lack soft skills, or that those skills require some sort of training.

      Reply
      1. Clever Girl

        When I started managing interns I learned that certain intern contracts (such as the one we have) actually stipulate that the project the intern works on can’t be something that someone else would be doing if the intern weren’t there. So it has to be a “nice to have but this has been on the back burner for years and no one has gotten around to it” type projects. I’m not sure what the purpose of this rule is, but it really does put intern’s work into perspective.

        Reply
      2. AnotherAlison

        I had an intern assigned to a real client project last summer. Well, a couple weeks before the deadline, I went to speak to him on Monday morning, and he was MIA. Turns out that week was “internship trip” and he wasn’t there all week. Didn’t tell me anything about it. Then, he had to finish the official intern project when he got back, so I had to do it myself. He definitely got the feedback from me about communicating with your PMs. I had been out of the working with interns game for a while, so it was enlightening.

        Reply
      3. Rick

        Yes, trumpeting her contributions without solicitation will leave a bad impression, but she should still be prepared to talk about her contributions if it comes up. Frankly, I’d expect that to be a regular part of the weekly check-in. If it’s not, then I recommend her keeping track so she doesn’t forget. Maybe it will come up in an exit interview, or an informal check-in from the intern coordinator, or at least she can put the highlights on her resume. I’ve definitely seen this benefit full-time employees who were doing work that wasn’t noticed.

        Yes, I find all stereotypes are tiring, including the one about engineers not having soft skills. Fortunately, that’s not what I wrote. Mentoring is a pseudo-managerial role that’s often placed on people without managerial experience or training.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          yeah, Rick didn’t say “trumpeting.”

          I agree with him–and I think that’s a useful list. Sometimes you have to make it easier for your boss to do those things on the list–so having a comprehensive list of what you’ve done, and bringing it with you and saying, “I wanted to get your feedback on these,” is a way to create a framework in which your boss can educate herself about what you’ve done.

          Reply
        2. Curious Cat

          I totally agree that the intern should be keeping a journal of her work, it’s good for her purposes to look back on later and remind herself what she did at the beginning & also especially useful if she’s trying to get a job with that company to showcase all the projects she’s worked on (Heck, I still keep a Word doc of all projects I’ve worked on broken down by quarter for my end of year review).

          Reply
  40. Delta Delta

    #2 – I haven’t read all the comments, but did want to share an idea. Perhaps a wide email to all your colleagues that says “hey, I’m having some medical testing done, and for some reason it’s messing with my sense of smell. I find I’m reacting very strongly to (fill in some smells here, including body odor).” Then that way people don’t feel singled out and they might also stop microwaving fish.

    Related – I worked with a woman who could not handle the smell of popcorn while she was pregnant. People made popcorn anyway. She barfed in their trash cans. They stopped making popcorn. That was some serious bluff calling right there.

    Reply
    1. Not a Morning Person

      Oooh. That reminds me, not because of anything she did to coworkers but what she had to do to survive while pregnant. My sister had a strong aversion to pizza when she was pregnant with her first. She couldn’t even be in the room with the tv on because the occasional pizza commercials would trigger the same response as the smell. And she loved pizza, and went back to being able to have it after she gave birth. But while she was pregnant, she practically had to become a hermit, avoided the cafeteria at her work and avoided the break rooms. Food wasn’t allowed in the lab where she worked so that wasn’t a problem. She also didn’t go out with friends, avoided almost all social events, and spent a lot of time in her bedroom while she was home. It was quite a challenge for her.

      Reply
  41. CoveredInBees

    OP2 you have my sympathies. You’re already going through a difficult time and people are unknowingly making it worse. For me, it was the pop corn that the CEO’s assistant made every afternoon. It was basically her only pleasure in a rough job and I also didn’t want to disclose why her comfort food made me want to puke, so I started drinking A LOT of strongly-scented herbal teas. This had the bonus of being portable and things like peppermint and lemon-ginger are great for settling a queasy stomach. I also found some great non-caffeinated chai blends.

    Reply
  42. boop the first

    2. Deodorant doesn’t work for everyone. It’s possible you’ll plan and work your way up to a confrontation only to discover that they already wear deodorant.

    Reply
  43. LM (Letter Writer #2)

    BTW, for everyone saying, “Oh, LW2’s colleagues don’t actually smell normally, she only smells them rn bc of the heightened sense of smell”- that’s not it. They have BO normally, but I have been polite and tolerated it.

    It’s only now with the smell superpower that things have really gotten worse. Thanks for the interact-by-phone suggestion, the mass email to everyone suggestion, and the “Victorian” option to carry my own good-smelling substances around. One of those has GOT to work for me….

    Reply
    1. CoveredInBees

      I promise I have no financial interest in Stash Teas, but their Spice Dragon Red Chai tea is wonderful both in smell and taste. Also, no caffeine so you won’t end up with the jitters if you drink a lot of it. Best wishes!

      Reply
  44. Leslie knope

    Why are the comments to OP1 so harsh? I’ve never seen people so eager to chomp at the bit to an intern, of all people. I’ve seen much worse OPs get treated with kid gloves. How bizarre.

    Reply
  45. MamaGanoush

    OP #1, you might also identify someone else at work who can be an additional, informal mentor. Pick someone who is doing work you’re interested in, or who has had an interesting path to their job, or who just seems approachable. Ask that person if you could get coffee or have lunch together every so often to talk over doing that job, how to get to that job, how to be a professional, etc. You’d be getting a different perspective and you’d be getting some individual attention. I’m always flattered and happy to oblige when one of our graduate interns or newbie hires asks me to do this. (And we have mentors formally assigned to interns and new hires, newbies and interns are scheduled to spend time with everyone in the office, etc. If your office doesn’t do this, you yourself could do coffee/lunch with each person in turn.)

    Reply
  46. jody call

    no – people don’t respect an intern’s time. from a productivity standpoint interns have a negative contribution. they usually suck at what they do and they spend other people’s time as well. the point is to learn and make a good impression. grow up.

    Reply
  47. MollyG

    #3 I am surprised there have not been more comments about about your question. I think you can absolutely request a phone call. So far the company has been disrespectful of your time and they do not seem to think that interviewing is a two way conversation. Going in for an in person interview can take quite a chunk of your time, especially when you have a busy work schedule. If they will not give your the respect that you deserve to speak to you before you commit more time to the process, then you should decline the in person interview and tell them why.

    Reply

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