my boss keeps rotting food in our shared office, my performance review mentioned that I pee a lot, and more

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

1. My boss keeps rotting food in our shared office

I just started a new job, which I was thrilled to get and have really been enjoying so far. I share an office with one person, who is my immediate supervisor and is training me. He’s been training me well and he’s a really nice guy, but there’s one big problem: when he brings lunch to work, he doesn’t take his leftovers home. As a result, there are at least five or six large Tupperware containers under his desk, containing food in various stages of decay. The smell is, as you might imagine, pretty intense.

He’s had this office to himself for the last year, so I think he’s probably been doing this for a while and doesn’t notice the smell anymore, but I can’t not notice it. I’m obviously not okay with rotting food being kept in our office, but since I’m brand new and this guy is my supervisor, I have to admit I feel a little weird about calling him out on this. Do you have any guidance or a suggested script I could use to try and get this taken care of?

Eeuuww.

You can actually be pretty straightforward about this! As in, “Those Tupperware containers are starting to smell pretty bad! Any chance of moving them out of here?”

If you feel weird because he’s your boss, you can always open with “I might have an unusually sensitive sense of smell, but…” That’s not necessary and it’ll likely go over totally fine without that, though.

2. My performance review mentioned that I pee a lot

So I’ve been at my job for a year, I really like my job, and I just got through a glowing performance review where I got the maximum possible raise. The one piece of feedback I got was I seem to be in the restroom a lot and people have talked about it/noticed. This is a ticket-driven position and I crush all the metrics, so it’s clear I’m making up the time I’m away from my desk.

Anyway, the reason I’m in the bathroom is a minor congenital defect that makes it so it’s hard for me to fully relieve myself, so I’ll often have to use the restroom again an hour after I last went. My boss is a good guy and framed the restroom feedback as more something to be cognizant of than any kind of actual criticism. I guess at this point I don’t know if it’s worse to be the guy that goes to the bathroom a lot, or the guy that’s bad at going to the bathroom. There’s not really anything my boss could do to squelch gossip other than say, “Well he’s got a medical issue” and then obviously a private thing would be less private. I feel like it’s best to let sleeping dogs lie on this one, but am I potentially jeopardizing myself by not laying out that this is a real thing diagnosed by a doctor and that I legitimately need “needs to use the toilet a lot” as a reasonable and protected accommodation?

If you’re comfortable with it, I think there’s potentially benefit to letting your boss know that there’s a health issue in play. You don’t need to give him details, and you can specifically say that this isn’t something you want shared with others, but if this is getting mentioned in your review, I think it’s worth saying, “Just so you know, this is a medical thing. It doesn’t sound like there’s any need for me to formally request an accommodation, but I can do that if it’s the kind of thing that otherwise might come up in feedback or an evaluation in the future.” The subtext there is “because this is not something I should hear about again.”

But frankly, it’s ridiculous that this was mentioned in your review at all. If it’s not affecting your work (and clearly it’s not), it’s no one’s business how often you’re in the bathroom. Ideally your boss would be shutting that talk down when he hears it, by saying something like, “We don’t monitor people’s bathroom usage here, and Bob’s work is excellent.”

3. How can I ask to move back to my old job?

I had been working as, let’s say, a llama groomer, which I loved, for a little over two years when my director, Ned, told me that he was moving me to my group’s “sister team” that does, for example, llama taming. (These are made-up examples!) I had been doing some backfill duties for a few months when that team was shorthanded, but I wasn’t looking to make it my permanent job!

Ned is great, and I’ve enjoyed working for him, so I tried to be optimistic and put on a happy face for his sake, even though I’m not remotely interested in becoming a llama tamer. He even mentioned that he would move me back to my old team (which is always hiring) if I didn’t enjoy it. Long story short, I’m already so done with this job. I don’t like the work, and frankly I miss work that I used to do. I’m starting to get anxiety about going to work, which never happened in my old position. It feels like I’ve been demoted, even though I know he moved me because he likes my work.

How do I tell Ned that I’d really like to move back to my old job? I’m afraid he will tell me that he needs me more on my new team (probably true; he has big plans for that group) and that I can’t move back for another year. I also won’t be able to get a job elsewhere in my (very large) company without getting his and my new manager’s approval.

If Ned is indeed great, he will want to know that you hate this and want to move back! In fact, he even told you that he’d move you back if you don’t like it. It’s possible that that’ll turn out not to be true, but you should at least try taking him at his word and telling him how you’re feeling before you conclude anything. (If I were Ned, I’d be horrified to find out that you were miserable and worried about telling me!)

As for how to do it, just be straightforward! You could say something like, “You asked me to let you know if I ended up not liking llama taming. I’ve tried to give it a shot, but it’s really not for me. I loved my old position and I miss it. You mentioned you’d move me back there if I ended up wanting that — and I do. Can we still make that happen?”

If he asks if you can stick it out for another year, say this: “I’ve tried to stick it out, and it’s really not working well for me. My strong preference is to move back soon.” You could even add, “I don’t think I could commit to another year” — which raises the prospect that you might end up leaving entirely without coming out and saying it (and it sounds like he wouldn’t want that).

4. Can I be reimbursed for parking when I have to bring my car in for a work task?

I work for an urban university, where there is no free parking for employees and annual parking passes cost upwards of $800 per year. Many of my colleagues live in the suburbs off of public transportation lines, so by default buy parking passes to get to work. I have intentionally chosen to live on a bus line so I don’t have to drive to work.

Recently my boss has asked me several times to do things that require driving and parking on campus (picking up award plaques, delivering food for students, etc. all in the middle of the day or during business hours) and parking for the day is upwards of $10 a day. I took this job with the expectation that I would not have to drive anywhere for work-related reasons. I only drive if I have to leave during the day for a personal appointment, and this was not listed in the job description. Is it unreasonable to ask to be reimbursed for parking costs? I’m concerned my colleagues will think it’s not fair since they are expected to pay for their parking permits out of pocket.

Yes, it’s reasonable to ask about this. Your boss may just assume you have a car at work with you and doesn’t realize that you’re incurring additional costs when she asks you to do things that require driving. You can say something like, “I don’t normally drive to work, so when you ask me to do things that require driving and I have to bring my car in, I end up needing to pay for parking on those days. Since I’m only bringing my car in to do a work task, can I submit my parking expenses for reimbursement on those days?”

It’s not unfair to be reimbursed for an expense that you’re only incurring because of a work assignment.

5. Am I calling my manager too much?

I had a restructure in my office and my supervisor has moved offices. When we were in the same office, it was not uncommon four or five times a day to check in with her either in passing or seeing if her office was open. Mostly these were small clarifying points or every once in a while to chat out a task we were working on that came up. Nothing ever took more than two to five minutes.

Now her office is located in another part of town. She has said she is free for phone chats for any small thing. But I noticed at first I was calling three to five times a day for small things, which I imagine would be annoying (and that doesn’t take into account the times I call and she doesn’t answer because she is on the phone or in a meeting). With missed calls, I may be calling her seven or eight times a day to get answers on things. I tried to limit my calls to once a day but found that it is hard for me to get through my small checklists I make in in under 20 minutes, which still seems like a lot of time each day. She says a one-hour weekly meeting isn’t necessary.

I haven’t received specific feedback that I am bothering her too much. But I want to be respectful of her time and new role. I am trying more to send these small questions and clarifying points as emails, but I wonder how much time is too much for phone call check-ins during a day? Should it be less than the in person check-ins we used to have?

It’s true that the phone can seem like more of an interruption than stopping by in-person does. I’m not sure exactly why that is. Maybe it’s because in-person, there are visual cues that tell you if the person is interruptible. Or maybe it’s just dropping by seems more like “I was walking past your door so I might as well tell you this two-second thing,” whereas calling means “I could have emailed you this but I chose to pick up the phone and interrupt you with a call.” Laying it out like this, I’m not sure it’s strictly rational.

Anyway, this depends on your manager’s preferences, and those can vary from person to person. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be interrupted by multiple phone calls a day and would want you to use email for more things and/or save everything up for one daily call (and one 20-minute call would be way preferable to me than five separate shorter calls), but it’s possible that your manager is totally fine with the calls and prefers the system you’re using to any of the alternatives. The only way you’ll know, though, is to ask her. So: “Now that we’re not working in the same space, what’s the best system for me to use for the small things that come up during the day that normally I would have dropped by your office about? Would you rather I save things up for one daily call, which might take about 20 minutes? Or is it easier for you if I use email unless something requires real conversation with back-and-forth? Or do you want me to stick with what I’m doing?”

As one general guideline, though, I wouldn’t call her — or anyone — with things that are straightforward, non-urgent, and won’t require back-and-forth to hash it out. Unless she’s just not an email person, email almost always makes more sense for things like “the printer says we’re on for Thursday” or “can you approve this price quote” or other low-key things that don’t require interrupting someone for an answer right in the moment.

{ 455 comments… read them below }

  1. Hills to Die on

    When Alison was younger, I wonder if she ever had any idea how much she would be discussing pee with strangers on the internet.

    1. Polyhymnia O'Keefe

      It reminds me of a comment by Frank Warren of PostSecret — of all the books of anonymous secrets that he’s curated, he could fill an entire one with variations on “I pee in the shower.”

      1. KayEss

        I worked with a guy whose idea of an icebreaker was to straight-out ask everyone he met (the mailman!) whether or not they pee in the shower. He kept a running tally. I think he might have asked me when I came in to interview. (Taking that job was a mistake.)

        1. Mercedenne

          I mean, it’s a great ice breaker if you want to be known as the weird guy in the office who always asks about pee. If that’s what he was aiming for, he certainly got it.

          1. RVA Cat

            Not a good strategy if you’re a British intelligence officer working on a secret dossier though….

          2. Mutt

            “If that’s what he was aiming for” … I pee what you did there.

            Wait I meant see. Obviously.

          1. Polyhymnia O'Keefe

            (Yours, too, Guac Bob, but that was intended to be a response to Katherine Vigneras, whom I would have dearly loved to see in concert!)

    2. Friday

      Or poop. I legit didn’t know that office poopers were a Thing until I came here.

      I want to say that the vast majority of sane people don’t want to or care to notice their coworkers’ bathroom habits, and OP’s workplace is a super nutty outlier place full of insecure busybodies. OP is a high performer after all, and this whole “we all think she pees too much” is standard-issue office bullying, which OP’s boss stupidly listens to and goes so far as to put it in her review.

      1. SignalLost

        I actually think noticing other people’s bathroom habits is a sign of a completely dysfunctional corporate culture. I work for a company with exceptionally strict pay rates – everyone st my level who has been there as long as I have makes the same as I do. I’m a top performer in the role, based on multiple managers’ feedback, and yet my ability doesn’t net me extra pay. I’m paid exactly as much as the person who hired in the same day who cannot do everything I can do. And boy does my facility notice bathroom breaks. It’s frequently brought up as a source of irritation with mid-range performers, and the context is always that so and so is always in the bathroom and we get paid the same. If my company went for a skills-based pay rate, I think those comments would end immediately.

        That doesn’t account for the true weirdos, like the woman who was appalled someone was pooping (the horror!) in a workplace bathroom, but I really think in functional workplaces you wouldn’t care who was using the bathroom and when, and I also think that dysfunction is caused not by the employees but by management. The makeup woman from earlier today should, in my opinion, be in a disciplinary process if she’s using her paid time to dick around in the bathroom, and her manager is not encouraging appropriate cultural development by ignoring it. People get resentful of that kind of discrepancy. (It’s one of the reasons I’m a fan of disclosing accommodations whenever possible or comfortable.)

        1. Mad Baggins

          This is a good point. Caring about non-work-related things like exactly who is following the dress code to a T and how many minutes people spend doing what in the bathroom–this is probably more a sign of general resentment and feeling like your hard work/following the rules is not rewarded.

        2. Harper the Other One

          I think you’re onto something here! In functional workplaces someone might be concerned that you’re all right but they wouldn’t consider going to the bathroom in and of itself a performance issue.

        3. Johan

          The OP wrote: “This is a ticket-driven position and I crush all the metrics…”
          This means that the employer almost certainly monitors (electronically) every single second the employee is on clock, including minutes/seconds in the restroom (sorry Alison), minutes/seconds on every single call, minutes/seconds late, minutes/seconds on breaks. It’s the reality for so, so many non-office jobs these days. I know it sounds Orwellian but it exists.

          1. SignalLost

            Yes. My job is one of those. Most roles are very closely monitored by the company, and you can get an automatically-generated writeup pretty easily. It’s still possible to exploit the loopholes in the system enough to use the bathroom in a way perceived by coworkers as unfair. In an ideal world, none of that would be happening, because honestly, it shouldn’t matter as long as you’re doing your work.

          2. Colette

            Not necessarily. It sounds like you’re thinking of it as a call-center job, but there are a lot of jobs where they measure output but not time. Someone in IT, for example, might take cases as they come in, but do them at her own pace and manage her own time during the day. So she could do more cases than others on her team, but still attend meetings and go to the bathroom without anyone monitoring it.

            1. Specialk9

              Yeah that’s how I’ve seen ticket systems. They track ticket completion, but not necessarily any of those other personnel tracking things.

            2. Rachel01!

              2. My performance review mentioned that I pee a lot

              I’m wondering if this was written on the evaluation itself? or was stated verbally?

              I had a job as a temp one time where I was canned for going to the bathroom (taking breaks too much). I was also being sent on errands by my co-workers to pick up their lunch, etc. I thought nothing of going to the snack room to get a soda or a snack. I wasn’t taking breaks, but when they sent me for lunch I left 15 minutes early, because otherwise I would just be eating a sandwich in the breakroom. Nobody bothered to tell me that I was being monitored that closely.

              The two old bats in the office used me and I got burned.

              OP — I would almost be tempted to do the ADA accomdiation to cover your rump. If you are meeting your goals it shouldn’t be a concern. I wonder if the lower performers were the ones complaining. They got called out on their numbers and pointed at the OP thinking that there numbers had to be lower …. redirect the attention elsewhere.

              1. Violet Rose

                Oof. I had a boss (who I’ve posted about before; this is the guy who joked about ritually sacrificing me to the eclipse) who was convinced that EVERY SECOND NOT WORKING was a second spend ROBBING HIM PERSONALLY. It was a startup, and he was funding most of it out-of-pocket, but I could never quite convince him the productivity cost of me holding in my pee versus me taking frequent trips to the bathroom (he also didn’t believe they were for the purposes of using the bathroom, but that’s another story).

                1. ThatAspie

                  Wow, what a loser. What on Earth did this guy imagine people were doing in the bathroom!?

          3. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand

            I used to work collections, and my employer was like that. We had to make and receive X amount of calls per day (which I always exceeded), but towards the end of my employment there, in an effort to boost productivity, any time we walked away from our desks, we had to switch our phones to a code that would monitor how long we were away. The codes included a lunch code, a bathroom code, a meeting code, etc. I have #2 problems, and if I have to go #2, it takes me at least 30 minutes to go. The first time my boss mentioned that I had been in the bathroom for 30 minutes one day, I was pretty well checked out. Luckily, I found a new job not long after that.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              It could also be jealousy on OP’s coworkers part they know that OP crushes the metrics and instead of them working harder to be equally good they are trying to knock OP down a peg or two.

          4. CoveredInBees

            In the late 90s and early 2000s, I worked for a company that placed high level programmers in longer term (1-2 yr) positions building software that would then be taken over by the company’s staff. We had to drop a lucrative client because they micromanaged our programmers like this. Performance reviews were at least monthly and looked at metrics measuring number of keystrokes and time away from keyboard. None of the programmers would work for them despite getting paid above average there.

            1. Jadelyn

              …judging your programmers by “number of keystrokes” is a great way to get bloated, buggy-as-shit code.

              1. Pebbles

                I am a programmer, and if I was being monitored like that I’d write an auto hotkey script to take care of that metric for me while I was away from my desk. If the company was able to separate that out from actual hotkeys, then I would be producing the most verbose comments code has ever seen.

                1. Violet Rose

                  “Here is my clean, efficient, bug-tested code. And here are 947 lines of comments explaining, IN DETAIL, what each function does, starting with the importance of commenting your code…”

          1. SignalLost

            Trust me, I am actively looking. My job is horrible and too poorly paid to actually live on.

        4. Guacamole Bob

          Totally agreed.

          The exception to this rule is that some of the questions come from people in offices where the layout makes other people’s bathroom habits super noticeable. Someone sits right outside the poorly-ventilated, not-soundproof bathroom and it just makes things awkward for everyone, both the person sitting there and the people walking by who feel observed. Most of the time everyone acting like adults keeps it from being an issue, but that sort of setup can still be irritating. Larger offices with normal layouts that have bathrooms that are off a hallway or something and where it’s not as obvious where people are walking to and from are much better.

          1. Gatomon

            Ugh yes, I’m next to the toilets. I hear many things I do not want to hear due to poor soundproofing (and the door being spot-on to my ear.) But I also don’t make comments about it to coworkers or management.

        5. BlueWolf

          Yeah I know someone who has gastrointestinal issues and his supervisor basically said he thought he was masturbating in the bathroom because he was in there so long (rather than, you know, using the bathroom for its intended purpose). This place definitely had its dysfunctions.

          1. Specialk9

            Holy cow. Omigosh.

            Well now we know something about either the boss, or a prior employee.

            1. CmdrShepard4ever

              I think you need more than one person for a club, on the other hand maybe I’m wrong and a person can single handedly create their own club.

        6. Temperance

          FWIW, I had a colleague who didn’t wash her hands after loudly pooping. She would also take cell phone calls while like, farting away in the bathroom. I don’t think it was dysfunctional that we all noticed it, because the behavior was so rude and shocking.

          1. Boop

            Ok, people who talk on the phone while in the bathroom are terrible. Also, super weird to hear someone having a one-sided (loud and unimportant) conversation in a stall.

          2. SignalLost

            But that’s different. I definitely was aware that the CEO at my previous employer didn’t wash her hands, but that was from actually being in the bathroom at the same time. I’m talking about the act of noticing (and caring) that someone is using the bathroom often, and not because you’re in there with them.

          1. Ego Chamber

            Pretty much every comment you make just confuses the hell out of me. Attending to a medical issue in the workplace bathroom = time card fraud. Christ. You must be a joy t work with. :(

        7. A Nickname for AAM

          It’s also a sign that someone is disliked.

          I worked with someone who was unduly…unpleasant. She was difficult and rude to work with. She’d stonewall projects for stupid reasons. She liked to tattle on people’s minor infractions to the Boss to get “extra credit.” If she decided to be friendly, she did it in a way that involved stalking and pestering Person A while ignoring Person B entirely (because she’d decided Person A was her friend and got all of her attention and Person B was Not Her Friend And Deserved Nothing.)

          She was also unattractive, wore the same few outfits every day, and had some gross bathroom issues that meant no one wanted to use the restroom after her. This was noted, and widely mocked.

          However, there were plenty of other people in the office who were unattractive, wore the same few outfits, and had embarrassing medical issues! No one noticed, or commented, because those people were decent people who treated others with respect, and people returned that respect by turning a blind eye to their outward eccentricities or foibles.

          1. Triumphant Fox

            Did we work at the same place?! I agree with this completely. Woman who was generally terrible to work with and just pretty unclean was kept at a distance and people regularly commented on her smoke breaks (though those literally took up 3 hours a day – we timed them a few times and then gave up). While that office was so fast-paced that people’s absences were generally noticed, we regularly took coffee breaks across the street to keep our sanity and as long as our work was done, everything was fine.

        8. Boop

          “I actually think noticing other people’s bathroom habits is a sign of a completely dysfunctional corporate culture. ”

          I BEYOND agree with this comment. I think it’s incredibly rude, pointless, dysfunctional, and bullying when people notice/comment on bathroom usage or other personal matters that are NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. Discussing who the bathroom pooper is behind their back (note: it’s healthier to go than hold it in, so if you gotta go at work…), talking about who didn’t flush, etc., is a type of passive aggressive and bullying behavior that really grinds my gears.

          Grow up, people. We all use the potty to do the same types of things. Let’s stop shaming people for natural bodily functions done in an appropriate setting.

          …I did not mean to get that worked up…

        9. Hey Nonnie

          It is seriously creepy that anyone is keeping track of anyone’s bathroom breaks.

          It’s not even weird to pee once an hour or so during the day. That’s MY average, and I don’t have any medical condition, I just a> drink coffee in the mornings, and b> hydrate myself really well throughout the day, coupled with having highly efficient kidneys.

          I’m with everyone else who finds this questionably invasive that they care enough about this to even bring it up. If it’s not affecting your work, so what? (And if it is, it’s the productivity that’s the issue, not the bathroom!) What other private things are they going to try to insert themselves into, I wonder?

          1. SignalLost

            I agree that the OP shouldn’t have to deal with this. However, at my highly-specific workplace, it actually does matter if someone is taking excessive breaks, beyond the dysfunction: we work to very tight, very busy deadlines, and if someone’s always in the bathroom … they are being paid not to do their job, and now I have to do it. Literally, there are some deadlines that, if we miss them by as little as five minutes, everything goes to hell, and the company may face financial penalties from their contractors. But again, my workplace is BEYOND dysfunctional.

      2. FaintlyMacabre

        In an old office, we had a renegade pooper who left feces outside of the bathroom. I was half horrified/half relieved to read on this site that there are other creative defecators out there. Kinda yay?

      3. tink

        I literally only notice my workmates are using the restroom if A)I need to use the restroom and both are in use already or B)I need to get them for a specific work reason but they’re not available.

    3. Mookie

      Well, it’s a change of pace from discussing toilet duties with your direct co-workers, I guess.

      It’s not a dysfunctional* workplace unless someone plays bathroom monitor and loops everyone else into their fetish.

      That multiple co-workers are actively discussing this with the LW’s boss is icing on that particular urinal cake.

      *though it sounds like this one functions fine otherwise, though I do think the boss should have pushed back against this criticism rather than pushed it onto the LW himself

      1. AlexandrinaVictoria

        At a former job, the bathroom was right by the HR office. They counted the number of times I went to the bathroom per day, and reported it to my boss. So there’s that.

          1. AlexandrinaVictoria

            My manager actually asked me not to drink anything during the work day.

            1. Engineer Woman

              Wow. While you’re at it, might as well not have lunch – save that time and eating might trigger a bathroom visit also… unbelieveable that someone could actually ask an employee not to hydrate themselves during the workday.

              1. AlexandrinaVictoria

                After thinking about that for a couple of days? “I quit.” :-) There were other issues, too, of course, but that was really the final straw.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever

                  Good think you quit, you shouldn’t have to deal with that kind of cr*p at work.

                  I’m sorry this is my last one.

            2. Aiani

              I am so unbelievably angry at your former manager. Not drinking enough liquids can lead to so many health problems. That is really awful!

            3. Totally Minnie

              Because they think you’ll be more productive if you’re about to faint from dehydration?

              1. feminazgul

                Based on the way companies like Amazon operate, it seems to be a common sentiment!

            4. essEss

              And hopefully you pointed them to Osha recommendations about hydration and bathroom breaks in the workplace!

              1. AlexandrinaVictoria

                There was also a factory floor at this workplace (sewing) and the workers got written up if they used the bathroom any time but during breaks. These people really had a thing for urination!

            5. anycat

              i worked at a company where people making cold calls were told not to drink too much during the day because bathroom breaks were time away from phones. (hint – run).

        1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

          Ewwww… I had two different (reception type) roles where I faced the women’s bathroom. I just sort of naturally (not purposefully) picked up on certain people’s habits, but I so did not want to have that info in my brain and I considered it “confidential” info – not to be divulged except in life or death situations.

        2. Bea

          Wtffff I’m across from the restroom and would quit rather than clock who went in and out and how long.

          What do they even get done wasting time on spy missions

        3. Thornus67

          I worked for a company that worked a lot with unions, representing them in a variety of matters. The receptionist usually went to the bathroom around 5. One day, a co-worker came in at about that time to socialize. He started joking about her bathroom routine then said he thinks she should have to clock out when going to the bathroom.

          Another support staff would stand outside the single occupancy bathroom and keep knocking/calling the occupant’s name if a client called the occupant while was using it.

          I was also reprimanded for lowering the lid when flushing.

          It was very dysfunctional.

      2. Only here for the teapots

        My partner worked 911 dispatch. Alone. With no bathroom in the dispatch office. Dispatchers were expected to radio a cop (on a frequency also monitored by non-LEO personnel and anyone with a scanner) to come ‘relieve’ them, but if the cops on duty were busy or didn’t like you, oops! no bathroom break. Gods forbid you had a stomach-related illness etc. Dispatchers worked out their own illegal and unapproved solution, but are always at risk of being disciplined if caught.
        It wasn’t until we consulted an attorney (there were multiple egregious things happening there) that we found out the union had bargained away rights to any kind of breaks & the contract superceded state law. Years later the problem is till ongoing.

    4. The Foreign Octopus

      This does make me wonder if people noticed my bathroom habits at my last place of employment in the UK.

      At 3pm, envy day, I’d get up from my desk to go to the bathroom. I did this because it was the perfect time between the end of my lunch and end of my day and I got a quick five minute break, sometimes ten if I made a cup of coffee.

      I’m now wondering if there were raised eyebrows in the office. At least I’d be remembered as a punctual pee, I suppose.

      1. Kat Em

        I don’t know about pee, but some people are incredibly punctual poopers. I used to work in a daycare, and I had one toddler who would poop between 4:05 and 4:15 every single day, without fail. For someone who could neither use the toilet nor tell time, it was kind of impressive.

        1. Amy Farrah Fowler

          I think that kid will have a Sheldon-esque bathroom schedule in his/her adulthood.

      2. Branzino

        When I worked retail, I had the incredible ability to need to pee exactly one hour after finishing my lunch – which happened to be exactly one hour before I was supposed to go on my 15-minute break. I’d have to beg my supervisor to let me leave the floor to go to the bathroom. She’d always crinkle her nose and say, “Can’t you hold it?” I wouldn’t be asking if I could… Once I moved out of that particular department, I was free to go pee any time I wanted.

        1. Totally Minnie

          I hate when people think they have the right to ask a grown adult if they can hold it.

          1. bookbot

            I remember being about 5 years old and a teacher told me to hold it, so I willfully peed in my chair in protest.

            Sorry, for the gross story. Likely this form of protest wouldn’t go over so well as an adult.

        2. Kate 2

          Oh man, this is every retail place I have ever worked. As though we aren’t human, just robots who shouldn’t have to pee.

        3. CmdrShepard4ever

          I used to work retail as well, I won’t say where or else I might have a bulls eye on my back. But when I worked the floor I never needed permission to leave and use the bathroom. I imagine if I was in the bathroom for a really long time over 10 minutes or so a manager might have a problem. But I did always fear being called on the radio while in the bathroom. I think it might have happened a few times but usually I was fine.
          It was harder when I worked the cash registers. But as long as it wasn’t during a rush I could turn off my light when I didn’t have a line and use the bathroom, if there was a rush I could ask a supervisor to cover me for a few minutes while I went to the bathroom.

          YMMV based on the store and managers, but I worked at 5 different stores of the same chain and never had an issue.

        4. SignalLost

          Our busiest bathroom run is between 2pm and 2:15. :) My facility encourages hydration, so 2pm is the “drinking problem” run. It’s not uncommon for me to drink three to four liters of water a day at work.

        5. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          When I worked retail it never even OCURRED to me to ask my managers for permission to pee, because I was a grown ass woman. I always tried to wait for a slow moment, but regardless, I *told* them when I needed to use the restroom, and then did so.
          What a petty little power trip to lord over someone, making another adult ask or beg for perm to relieve themselves!

    5. Shreksays o

      #5. Get skype or some other I’m im program. Perfect for the small touch base convos.

  2. Alianora

    #2 – I am another frequent bathroom-goer, although it’s not exactly a medical issue for me — I just drink a lot of water. I’d be pretty weirded out if I found out my coworkers were talking about that behind my back.

    1. Alianora

      Also, I’m curious to know what the best way to handle it would be if OP was like me and didn’t have a medical issue that would merit accommodation? Stop drinking as much water?

      1. Mark132

        Anything but drinking less water (unless you want to, of course). Why would anyone need any accommodation to pee once an hour. It’s more than I go, but I don’t in anyway see it as excessive, unless every bathroom break takes 30 minutes or so. I would be tempted to take the offensive, ask what the companies policy is on excessive bathroom breaks. Make them justify it.

        1. Batshua

          When I’m properly hydrated, I pee every 15 minutes. At work, I go maybe twice a day on a bad day.

          Of course, if my /gut/ is acting up, I can end up taking a 15m bathroom break. Because my position is front-facing, I now time my bathroom breaks to try to keep them at 5 minutes or less.

          That might be the one thing I do not like about my job.

          1. JessicaC

            I was a bit confused by the transition from “I can take a 15m bathroom break” to “Because my position is front-facing” haha. It wasn’t until I got to the end of the sentence that I realized you meant that your work position involves interacting with customers.

            1. Specialk9

              I was imagining a toilet out in the open, with them straining while making eye contact with customers. It was that mix of awesomely awful until I realized my mistake.

      2. Loose Seal

        Every time I see this issue, I’m reminded of every teacher friend I have saying that they don’t drink anything during the day because they don’t have time to go to the bathroom. They can’t step out of class and leave the kids unsupervised and they have to monitor the halls between classes and the cafeteria and/or playground during lunches and recess.

        Reason #42,687 why I couldn’t teach: I like drinking water too much.

        1. A Teacher

          Oh I go just about every passing period. Yes, it has been commented on and my old boss told me “you don’t neee to go that often, no one does.” When I asked her if she wanted a note from the doctor, as I’m prone to bladder infections and carried a bathroom pass throughout high school, she backed off.

        2. Parenthetically

          Oh yeah, this is totally a thing among teachers. My now-retired public school teacher mom got one chance during her planning period to go to the restroom — a four-minute passing period (during which she inevitably was answering questions/herding kids/helping a 6th grader with their locker/doing sundry other things) was just never enough time.

        3. Oxford Coma

          Same in my family/friend group. Teachers are perpetually dehydrated. Even if they have a free period, they almost always get assigned a coverage/duty.

          One male relative (who has since retired) worked in a very old school in which his storage closet was an old unused photo developer’s room. He confessed while a bit tipsy one time that he was so glad to have that, because he could lock the closet door and pee in the sink.

          This is how we treat the people who educate children.

          1. Rusty Shackelford

            It’s how we treat children, too. Through much of my daughter’s school years, she literally did not have time to go to the bathroom between classes. And I guess her teachers weren’t sympathetic because they were having the same issue themselves.

            1. Hlyssande

              I remember in 7th grade, they justified the extremely short passing periods by making us walk down the hallways to “prove” that it only took 30 seconds to get to your locker and do locker stuff, so obviously you had more than enough time to get to the bathroom too.

              1. Rusty Shackelford

                Yes, I remember one meeting where the teacher told all of the parents “your kids are complaining that they don’t have time to go to the bathroom, but I’ve gone from here to the bathroom and back in less than four minutes, so they have time.” Okay…

                1. Did you do it between classes, when the halls and stalls were full?
                2. You do understand that students will get out of the way for a teacher the way they won’t clear a path for other students, right?
                3. Did you also go in the opposite direction to a locker to get books for the next class during that same five-minute period, since the students aren’t allowed to carry backpacks to class so they have to go to their lockers frequently?
                4. If a lot of kids are complaining, maybe it’s because it actually is a problem!

                I mean, I have a lot of sympathy for teachers. A lot. But this attitude of “it’s not a problem for me, a competent adult, so it couldn’t possibly be a problem for your little 13-year-old who’s trying to open her persnickety locker, avoid the crowd of bullies in front of the bathroom, remove her feminine hygiene product from its hiding place somewhere on her person because she’s not allowed to carry a bag, get that changed out, and then get to class in four minutes, and if every kid in my class complains about it, it’s because they’re all a bunch of whiny slackers” is just beyond frustrating.

            2. Wednesday

              Yep. My sister and I developed “bladders of steel” from holding it for 9 hours or longer. Granted, we were only drinking 8 oz of milk at lunch, but still. No wonder we often had UTIs.

            3. many bells down

              My daughter had to be hospitalized before the school would give her a 504 plan for a medical problem. I made them put that she was allowed “free access to the bathrooms at any time, without asking permission” in there. I would have thought that throwing up in the teachers’ trash cans would have been sufficient, but there we go.

            4. You don't know me

              I went to a pretty rough high school and they ended up locking all the bathrooms except the ones next to the cafeteria (which also happened to be by the security office). If you had to go and it wasn’t lunch time, you had to get a pass from your teacher and get hassled by security if you were in there more than a few minutes.

            5. nonymous

              oh goodness, I remember having food poisoning once, which was of course was when the teacher made me stand at the front of the class while she lectured everyone on planning their bathroom breaks. Like lady, if you send me to the principal for this I’m totally going to make you look at the evidence.

            6. Kate

              Yeah, they locked the bathrooms between classes in my school district, so you had to ask a teacher in class to use the bathroom.

            7. Paige

              See, this I just don’t understand. I had way more sympathy for my students because I knew exactly what they were going through. As long as the student wasn’t asking to go to the bathroom every single day/didn’t routinely take 10+ minutes to go, I had no problem giving out bathroom passes. No one can focus on a lesson if they’re too busy focusing on holding their bowels in.

            8. Kate 2

              Yes. I had the same problem when we started switching classes. But even before that, in 3rd grade for example. I had a really mean teacher. She treated us wanting to go to the bathroom as something suspicious. I peed my pants multiple times that year. It was the really bad, had to see the doctor, MULTIPLE separate bladder infections that finally made my mom realize that something bad was going on at my school. When she asked my teacher and found out she wasn’t letting me (and other kids) go to the bathroom she was FURIOUS. She ordered the teacher to let me go to the bathroom whenever I wanted to or she would raise h*11 and take it as far up as she had to.

            9. Oxford Coma

              I got detention every day for the first two weeks of my freshman year of HS, because I couldn’t get to first period on time. Homeroom was set up by last name, and those of us with A-C names were tucked in the far corner of the school. My first period class was in the exact opposite corner of the school, as far away as was possible. Even running and shoving people out of the way wouldn’t get me there on time, much less stopping to pee.

              My dad flipped his lid when he found out I was getting in trouble, and gave the administration a tongue lashing. They ended up wiping my record clean.

            10. Only here for the teapots

              My auto shop teacher made people use a piston as a bathroom pass. Ha freakin ha.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

          Side note: the way the letters have been trending lately, I might need to change my username again soon!

          Actual reply: wow, then I could not teach either. I don’t do well with being dehydrated. It gives me migraines. Wow, that is terrible. If it’s any consolation, my kids told me when they were in high school that they had no time to use the bathroom either, because there were only 5 minutes between classes, and they were not allowed to carry their backpacks with them, so they had to use the 5 minutes to run to the locker and get the books and the notebooks for the next class. Guess I could not be a high school student nowadays, either.

        5. Middle School Teacher

          Teacher Bladder is a thing. There are days when I get home and go to the bathroom, and realise, I haven’t gone since I got up at 7 am.

        6. bookbot

          I used to be a public librarian and we were so short staffed that i was usually the only person in our entire department on desk for the first 4-5 hours we were open. I tried calling other departments for breaks, but would routinely have to wait 20-30 minutes before the manager would send someone over, because no one wanted to work in the children’s department. Sometimes there was just no waiting for backup, so I would run to the nearest patron restroom and pee as fast as possible, hoping no managers happened to stroll through and see that I’d left the always busy department unattended. After a few years I got a job at a small library in a neighboring town that was adequately staffed. It was a pay cut, a longer commute, and the schedule was worse–but being able to pee whenever I needed to was such a huge boost to my mental/physical health that it didn’t matter. Having supportive management and a small administration really helped too.

      3. Kate

        I also drink a lot of water (I can never seem to stay hydrated), and I’ve been jokingly called out on how much I have to use the bathroom, once because I had to leave during this guy’s 3-hr presentation, but it was 3 hours man! Sometimes I’m inclined to explain the importance of proper hydration. But in all seriousness, it’s pretty weird for adults to monitor each other’s bathroom usage, so if it came up in a performance review, I’d first want to know why I was being told this. Like, I can see if you work in a call center or something, frequent bathroom breaks could cause you to be missing calls. But if the reasoning was just that people were talking about it, I might respond with, “Wow. It’s a little weird that people are so interested in my bathroom habits.”

        1. many bells down

          I don’t buy a drink when I go to movies anymore, because if I drink anything at all I won’t make it to the end of a 2.5 hour movie. I pee right before the previews start and sometimes I still can’t make it. I thought I was going to explode toward the end of “Last Jedi.”

          1. Lora

            Yeah, I am not sure they do this on purpose to force people to watch movies at home on Netflix / Amazon / BluRay or whatever, but that is the end result. If movies don’t go back to being 1:30 – 1:45 again, they need to start having intermissions.

          2. Yorick

            I always have to go during the movie too. I use RunPee and when I check it before the movie to see when to go, my boyfriend is so annoyed. “But you just went to the bathroom.” Well, I don’t know, I might need to go at 1 hour 40 minutes when the app is saying it’s a good time!

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

              My last ex never complained about me going once during a movie, because he always went like three times. The advantages of dating men in their 40s and up!

              I didn’t know about RunPee, thanks for the info!

            2. CMart

              I had no idea that a service like RunPee existed and I cannot express the magnitude of my love for you for bringing it into my life.

            3. CmdrShepard4ever

              I need runpee, except I would use it to get refill on my large popcorn and drink, my partner defiantly needs it for bathroom use.

          3. essEss

            I have publicly called for punishment for the people that created the Lord of the Rings movies. I was DYING when they had the big waterfall scene shortly before the end of the movie. I swore I was going to burst but didn’t want to miss the very end of the movie.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

              As a part of “showing me America”, my then-boss took me to see the Titanic when it came out. It was the worst! Three-hour movie, non-stop running water throughout the last 1.5 hours.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

                  I was doing stuff in the bathroom before it was cool on AAM!

            2. Ego Chamber

              Confession: I’ve never seen the end of Kill Bill Volume 1, because when I saw it in theaters I went to the bathroom right at the end—that last fight scene was clearly the midpoint of the film, damn it—and whenever I’ve watched it on Netflix, etc, I just haven’t fully paid attention all the way through.

          4. Classic Rando

            I’m the same, can’t make it through any movie if I get a drink to go with it, must pee before it starts. When I went to see Hidden Figures, I was running late, so I only had time to buy my ticket and find a seat, and about 10 minutes in I started to feel the need.

            I was really annoyed a few months later when I found out the “walking a half mile to the segregated bathroom” plot was invented for the film so Kevin Costner could do something vaguely heroic. Unnecessary white savior narratives and constant reminders about my increasingly full bladder are both really upsetting.

              1. Classic Rando

                Yeah no, the real Katherine Johnson just ignored the “whites only” signs and went where she pleased.

              2. WolfPack Inspirer

                In the book, Johnson says she just used the white bathrooms. She also didn’t get into Mission Control at the end – she was at her desk with the other low level engineers and pencil-pushers and they all watched it on tv. The director added those two scenes to allow modern white viewers to have a character to identify with so they didn’t get upset at all the whites being racist (or simply following the rules) the way they actually were at that time.

                1. Kate 2

                  I mean, there were allies back then too. Like the white Freedom Riders. Esp that one guy who got off the bus first so the crowd would go after him and give the others a chance to escape. He was nearly beaten to death.

                  So, yeah they added some people and changed things a little, but it is supposed to be a dramatic movie and not a documentary. And it got a lot of people interested in the history of POC and WOC in NASA. I don’t think the producers or writers did anything wrong or shady.

          5. Bowl of Oranges

            There is a website/app called RunPee that tells you the best time to go pee during movies – like when there is a lull in the action. It also gives you a recap of what happens during that scene. It’s amazing.

          6. Elizabeth West

            This happens to me. I’ve been known to skip my morning coffee if I’m going to a show early in the day—I like to go on Sunday morning when everyone is in church. I was so upset that I had to get up during my first viewing of Infinity War. Luckily, I only missed a short conversation and the person sitting next to me was kind enough to catch me up when I got back. I didn’t have to pee the second time.

            I remember when there were intermissions, but you had to leap out of your seat and run like the wind to get to the bathroom the second they started, or you’d end up waiting in line and missing part of the movie. Cinemas don’t give a two-minute warning light flicker the way theaters do.

        2. Luna

          Not only all all his coworkers monitoring his bathroom usage, but for some reason they felt the need to complain about it to his boss! Like, what?! I do not understand this in the slightest. Also, how does anyone know how often this person is in the bathroom unless they are also in the bathroom at the same times?

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

            I have been really wondering about that myself. Monitoring a coworker’s bathroom use? Who has that kind of time?!

      4. Mom MD

        Avoid all caffeine. It’s a diuretic. Practice holding for ten minutes longer in increments for bladder training. Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. No sugary drinks.

    2. Roja

      Seriously though. I’m a freelancer and one of the key perks is being able to pee whenever the heck I want to (which is super often, alas, at least during standard work hours). Being constantly miserable from a full bladder is one of the things that terrifies me about switching to work in an office. People wouldn’t be able to not notice, and it’s embarrassing, but that’s just how it is. I wholeheartedly sympathize with OP2!

      1. Cheapskate

        I wouldn’t let that be the sole factor in not taking an office job, though. I’ve never had anyone make an issue out of how often people go to the bathroom. I work in an office where people regularly take off to meet clients, work from home, change desks, or take a call in one of our meeting rooms. It’s impossible to keep track of each other. If anything, people comment on how little I seem to move from my desk during the day. And I pee a lot.

        1. Roja

          Oh, it’s not the only factor. In fact, it’s really, really unlikely I’ll ever have a “proper” office job, as I teach dance and sitting in an office full-time is kind of antithetical to the point of the job. I mix that with freelancing as an transcription editor online, which works well for my schedule. But every so often I think about working in a different field, and this is one of the things that I do really appreciate about freelancing. I can eat and use the bathroom whenever I want and no one cares. And at least when teaching, the classes aren’t longer than 90 minutes! And in the studios I teach in, I could set the class a task and run to the bathroom if I was really desperate.

      2. Specialk9

        I have something like IBS, and go to the bathroom a LOT. Nobody even remotely notices or cares. My one accommodation is to go before a meeting whenever possible, to avoid having to leave midway through or be squirming and distracted.

        I have worked in dozens of workplaces. I think your concern is overly strong. I suspect it’s one of those internet things, where you hear a lot about something so assume it’s virtually universal, but it’s not.

        1. General Ginger

          I have had more than one coworker/supervisor who were/are obsessed with monitoring others’ bathroom habits. To be fair, my job is dysfunctional in multiple ways and I’m doing my best to get out.

          1. Specialk9

            I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I totally believe you, and that sucks. I’m saying that choosing one’s career path based on this fear is not warranted. There are 1000s of reasons people write in here, but it would be unreasonable to think that every problem is universal, even if a bunch of people also have had that experience.

            As a parallel, I’m in a religion that is 3% of the world population (Jewish), but on the winter holiday decoration threads we are vocal far above 3%. It would be easy to assume we were more like 10-30%, and have your mental map of the world skew a bit.

            1. General Ginger

              Oh, absolutely, I don’t think this is a reasonable fear to have re: careers! It just really sucks when you happen to encounter that at multiple jobs (my previous job was NOT dysfunctional except in this one way, while the current is Banana Crackers in a number of ways).

        2. Free the bladders

          Exactly. I have a coworker who has some kind of gastric sensitivity — possibly Crohn’s or IBS or something — which I’m only aware of because I can hear their restroom use (small office, small space.) I don’t care, and neither does anyone else. That’s basically the only time I’m even noticing that someone is using the restroom at all (and even then it’s mostly receded into the same background noise as the printer) aside from the room being occupied when I need it.

          I’m not sure anything would register as unusual if my coworkers or employee used the bathroom every 15 minutes, so long as those were brief breaks.

      3. Bagpuss

        I do think it depends on the office. Where I work, no one would comment at all. They probably wouldn’t notice, but the certainly wouldn’t comment.

        1. You don't know me

          I was nervous when we fist switched buildings and I found out I would be at the back of a row of cubicles. I was going to have to walk past 11 people anytime I wanted to leave my desk. No one cared.

      4. Nanani

        Nobody notices us freelancers’ bathroom habits. Except the cats, who are duly concerned.

          1. EmKay

            Oh, seriously. I never close the door, except when I have guests, and when that happens they scream bloody murder.

        1. Pebbles

          Not a freelancer, but when I’m home my cat is always concerned about my bathroom habits. She could be at the top of her cat tree and I could be anywhere else in the house, no problem. Once I head to the bathroom though, down the tree she comes, and either sits outside the bathroom door waiting for me to finish or sticks her paw under the door to let me know she’s there.

    3. Specialk9

      OP, I think you should ask your manager directly to take your medical conditions off of your performance review.

      Then find a delicate way to tell the manager that you expect them to manage their own damn people. That manager went won’t by 1) allowing their people to gossip openly about each other, 2) allowing their people to tattle to the manager, 3) passing on gossip to you, and 4) putting medical gossip in your flipping permanent record!!!

      Please note that the above is not the tactful approach I was talking about.

      A tactful approach might be something like “I’d like you to take my medical condition off of my official performance review. In my case, I could get an ADA accommodation if I wanted — though I’m sure you understand that this is very embarrassing and unrelated to the quality of my work, and so I didn’t previously.

      But more generally, I’m worried that we may get in trouble for chastising employees in their permanent records for their medical bathroom habits. That seems like it could cause some medical and legal issues.

      More generally, I’m wondering what your role is when my coworkers gossip about me.”

      1. KayEss

        Definitely also make clear that you are absolutely NOT consenting to having your boss disclose your medical conditions to your gossipy coworkers in the interest of “clearing things up.” The role of a manager in this situation is to tell these busybodies (pissybodies?) that this is absolutely none of their business and an inappropriate topic for discussion and complaints, unless they raise a genuine work-impacting issue.

      2. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day

        Yeah – I’m a bit worried for the OP (though I’m definitely bringing some baggage to this). My last boss loved to bring up her own personal issues with me/my behavior as if someone else had complained about the issue. So I’m pretty leery when things are brought up in a “hey , *I* don’t think it’s an issue, but Jack and Jill have mentioned not being able to rely on you due to frequent bathroom breaks. But really, *I* don’t care at alllllll” kind of way.” Ok – so if you don’t care why is this being brought up? She was just very conflict avoidant and never wanted to be seen as “the bad guy”.

        Really – I only see two possibilities here and neither are great:
        1. Boss is the real person with the issue about the frequent bathroom breaks (in which case the OP needs to get out ahead of this)
        2. Boss truly does not have an issue with the bathroom breaks, but is not a great judge of what constitutes appropriate feedback – which could lead to a whole host of issues (would they have your back if one of the complainers went to upper management about the bathroom issue or something else equally as petty? will they be able to give you appropriate feedback to enable you to move forward with your career goals? are they able to accurately assess situations that unfold in front of them?). Hopefully this was just a one-off, weird thing, but I’d keep an eye out for similar issues.

      3. MF

        I like this script a lot and agree that the employee needs to shut this down in a gentle and polite way. The fact that the manager raised this issue in a performance evaluation shows really poor judgment.

    4. Sparky

      I have a coworker who drinks A Lot of water – she brings a jug and refills it at least once during the day. So she naturally steps out of the area a lot. So when you see her going, it makes sense. My suggestion would be to keep a water jug on your desk and sip on it – even if you don’t actually drink a lot – and people will put the two together and over time it the image becomes ‘drinks a lot => pees a lot’.

    5. Strawmeatloaf

      Same here, and usually it’s only after I’ve had a mug of water/tea that I really have to go. Guaranteed 4x every 10-20 minutes after it. Then I’ll be fine for a few hours. Just goes straight through me, even when I’m a bit dehydrated.

      It sucks.

      1. Julia

        Same! And then I can never fully get it all out in one go (#TMI), so I go a LOT. I also drink a lot because I feel dehydrated easily and have trouble breathing through my nose/post-nasal drip, so my mouth is often dry.

        I still think I’m more productive than the people who go for a smoke every hour, constantly look at their loudly beeping phone, or who do whatever else. Isn’t there a recommendation for moving a bit every hour anyway if you’re in a desk job?

    6. TheHamsterGirl

      I’m wondering if maybe they’re thinking he’s not actually using the bathroom.
      A speedy, ticket based environment + high performer + very frequent bathroom trips = movie definition of someone using cocaine.

      Obviously that’s not what OP is doing, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s where some of the gossip was coming from vs. just “wow he pees a lot”

      1. Ego Chamber

        Do people really still do blow in the office bathroom? I’m living out in meth country, and most of the people who spend too much time in the bathroom ’round here are drinkers—not high performers though (the high performers are usually on adderall). #callcenterlife #yourbankhiresaddictstomanageryouraccounts

    7. Totally Minnie

      I’m on antihistamines that make my mouth feel dry, so I’m constantly drinking water. My bathroom breaks are about an hour apart. And no boss I’ve ever had has felt the need to comment on it, not even the boss who tried to call me on the carpet for too many sick days when I’d already disclosed a medical condition.

    8. TardyTardis

      I always had to go about an hour after I got to work (that’s when the morning meds kicked in), but nobody ever talked to me about it (especially since some days I processed over 1000 invoices). Since that was usually when I’d gotten through printing and sorting a bunch of them (our supervisor didn’t believe in processing them when they came in as pdfs, since they had to be initialed off, and then rescanned etc.), as far as I can tell people noticed and didn’t care.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, a person drinking the recommended amount of water every day would have to pee every 1-2 hours, also. Or someone with a small bladder. Or a pregnant person at a certain stage in their pregnancy. Or any of a number of very reasonable reasons. It’s insane that this is in your performance review.

    A big part of me doesn’t want you to have to disclose that you have a medical issue because it’s not affecting your work/productivity, and more importantly, it’s none of anyone’s business. What if you got up every hour to stretch/walk, as is recommended by ergonomic experts? Or if you went to grab coffee from the kitchen? These are extremely normal and reasonable tasks, and I think it’s worth pushing back with your boss and asking him to shut down the whispers. It’s ridiculous that people are even paying attention to your restroom usage.

    1. sacados

      Yeah.
      I wonder if the boss subscribes to the notion that performance reviews shouldn’t ever be 100% positive things –there are a lot of people who feel that it’s not really productive unless you also give at least some kind of constructive criticism or something to work on for the future. In absence of any other *actual* criticisms of OP’s work, it’s possible that’s why the boss is passing on something that he otherwise would have deemed not relevant to a performance review.
      In which case it might be a good idea to just tell the boss that it’s a medical issue, without elaborating — just to make sure that this doesn’t keep coming up as a criticism when there’s not any other negative feedback to give about OP’s work.

      1. BRR

        Ugh my performance review included two critiques because my manager felt that people don’t like when there’s nothing under areas to work on. 1) A critique that made it seem like there was a huge issue with the overall quality of my work. I asked him to reword it so that it didn’t seem like my work was awful. 2) to word my emails nicer since while they weren’t rude, they were direct and not overly full of pleasantries. He said he wasn’t even going to bring it up originally because he thinks they’re fine and a couple people are just sensitive.

        I would have been happier with nothing under areas to work on than non-actionable items.

        1. Specialk9

          That’s terrible. If you’re still in the review, could you ask if your areas for improvement could be changed to public speaking, or networking, or mentoring? Because those are clearly positive and universally applicable, and yet give the manager something to write there.

        2. Shreksays o

          Ugh. Nothing worse than a manager who think she their job is to find and correct faults. It’s not. A managers job should be to help strengthen your performance. If you are a strong performer, this may mean helpi g you build new skill or gain new experiences that give you a deeper understanding of you job/work/company’s goals.

        3. MysteryFan

          Back in the “dark ages” I worked for a boss that was a fan of “Management by Exception”. I don’t know if that was a real “thing” back in the late 70’s, but anyhow. He was only interested in whatever errors (exceptions) that he could mention, so in one review, I was Sooo happy that he had to just puff his pipe, and mutter “No Exceptions…” .. He didn’t seem to pleased either! hahaha…

          1. Lora

            It’s still a real thing, particularly in Germany and Switzerland. Used to have a Swiss boss who did this, he had a terrifying monobrow that threatened to swallow his glasses frames. Think Thufir Hawat, but a monobrow, and he would wiggle it around when he was very excited.

            I did actually hear everything he said, but only because it was horrifyingly inappropriate on many levels. He liked to compare various business processes to different items of lingerie. He was a learning experience. Mysteriously, he is still employed…

      2. Mookie

        Oh god. If that’s his reasoning — I must introduce some manner of negative fedback into an otherwise glowing review — he’s not trying hard enough or is out of his league. Almost without exception, even the best employee can accomodate some area that needs improving or sharpening up.

        He’s letting the LW’s peers dictate to him a core function of his role? Maybe he’s not cut out for this.

      3. Sam.

        Ha, my ex-boss was one of these people. The one year she did my eval, she included some very vaguely worded criticism about working with a team. I didn’t understand what she meant, so I asked for an example. She was like, “Oh, there was a meeting back in November where you got a little snippy with Bob.” November was nine months prior. Nothing had ever been said about this, and I had literally no recollection of this event and no idea what she was talking about (and therefore no idea what I should’ve done differently). She included this completely unhelpful, unactionable critique in the eval because she didn’t believe in all-positive reviews but didn’t have any other constructive feedback to give. She wasn’t actually a terrible supervisor, but she wasn’t useful, either.

      4. SpellingBee

        I was just reminded of the manager who commented in my performance review that I “didn’t use the dictionary enough.” Apparently she thought that in a memo I typed for her I had misspelled a product’s brand name, which wouldn’t have even been in the dictionary, plus I had actually spelled it correctly (this was pre-internet days so no just looking it up online). Of course, this was also the woman who had the policy of up to 15 minutes overtime in the afternoon was “casual overtime” and you didn’t get paid for it, but if you were even one minute late in the morning that one minute’s pay was taken off your paycheck.

    2. London reader

      Most days I only need to go every two hours or so. But I have such strong periods, partly due to a medical issue, that during days 2-3 of my period, I need to go to the toilet more than once per hour. Thankfully I work for sane people and no one has ever mentioned it.

      1. WS

        Same! It helps to work in a largely female workplace because almost everyone has had a heavy day some time, and many of the staff have kids, so nobody is weird about bathroom use even though we do usually need someone to cover when we’re there. Then again, bathroom pooping outrage person was also female, so maybe not!

      2. LDN Layabout

        Yup. I’m the same, even though the rest of my team is practically all men, no one’s ever mentioned anything.

        (Not even the slightly hesitant ‘oh god please let nothing have gone wrong’ walk after a period sneeze… /tmi)

        1. Pebbles

          I know this walk quite well and you have my sympathies. Thankfully my all-male team has said nothing either.

          Solidarity!

      3. Specialk9

        I hear good things about the various period panties. Might be a good backup to other methods.

    3. on the road again

      In my old workplace, I sometimes did hiring for positions in which there could be no bathroom access for up to 2 1/2 hours. At the interview stage, I would mention this so that candidates were aware of it before accepting. In an emergency situation it would be possible to get someone to a restroom, but someone who needed to “go” every hour would not be capable of doing the job. If someone developed an issue later, our only method of accommodating would be to shift them to another position in the building. Even then, I wouldn’t see it as a “performance issue.” No one develops bladder issues on purpose. Just offering this comment to say that there are some jobs where a need for frequent bathroom breaks would be problematic. But a regular office job with normal restroom availability is not one of them.

      1. the Viking Diva

        True, no one develops bladder issues on purpose. They *can* develop bladder issues by having to hold their pee! How is this legal?

        1. Transit worker

          I don’t know what on the road again was hiring for, but this sounds pretty normal for bus drivers. Many bus trips are about an hour each way, and some of them don’t turn around at a place anywhere near a restroom. There are contractual provisions about how often the drivers get breaks and where, but 2 1/2 hours between bathroom access points seems pretty typical from what I know of the industry.

          I’d guess a lot of field positions are like this – UPS and FedEx drivers, postal workers out delivering mail, utility crews, landscaping crews, etc. Obviously some people are able to handle it, while others shouldn’t take that kind of job. But what’s the alternative to just warning people about it up front and providing reasonable breaks as best you can?

          (Maybe it’s not a surprise that women have been slow to enter some of these fields – at least the men have an easier time peeing outside somewhere in an emergency?)

          1. Myrin

            Yeah, that didn’t seem outstanding to me at all, but that’s probably because of my hiking instructor friend, another friend’s forester dad, and my miner ancestors.

            1. You don't know me

              Good point. I used to work at a small business and in the summer we would offer the refuse workers cold water and a chance to take a break in the air conditioning. It never occurred to me to ask if they wanted to use the bathroom.

            2. nonymous

              wasn’t there an “undercover boss” episode where the woman had a can she carried around? She explained that the guys would just go in the weeds/bushes, but as a woman she couldn’t be that unobtrusive. And her route didn’t go by any public facing businesses. There was a recent “This American Life” episode that was similar.

          2. Classic Rando

            In a past life I (cis woman) had a seasonal job maintaining state parks and boat launches. 90% of the job was driving around mowing lawns and picking up trash. Most of the locations didn’t have any kind of bathroom, some had gross porta potties, some had wolf spider infested outhouses, a lucky few had compost toilets, and like 2 had actual bathrooms. I definitely memorized the location of every “donut shop” along our routes, for reliable access to air conditioning and mostly clean bathrooms.

            1. TardyTardis

              I would have carried a roll of toilet paper with me anyway and memorized the location of some friendly bushes . Forest Service shacks are not always your friend.

          3. Lindsay J

            Yeah, a lot of the truckers/delivery people that come to us are grateful that we can allow them to use the restroom, get a glass of water, and hang out in the air conditioning for a few minutes. A lot of the facilities they deliver to don’t or can’t accommodate them like that.

          4. JustaTech

            I work in clean-room manufacturing and while there are no rules that say that you can’t go to the bathroom, it’s such an ordeal to get out of the clean room, get checked for microbes, get out of all the fancy gowning, get out of the clean side of the facility and off to the bathroom, and then back again that many people have told me they don’t drink anything before going in for a longer process (2-3 hours).

            There isn’t a good way around it.

    4. nonymous

      If OP is on a call system, it might just be a code she’s entering to indicate unavailability (so that help desk calls don’t get routed to her when she’s not there). And then if the report metrics would show number/duration she is using each code. Obviously her boss should have ignored this line in light of other performance metrics, and my benign explanation would be that the boss had been taught to look at this number to gauge if someone is deliberately shirking (but honestly, other numbers would be down too). But it doesn’t mean that anyone is particularly paying attention to when OP is walking to toilet.

  4. MK

    #4, another option might be to simply state that you don’t bring a car to work and ask your supervisor how you should be transporting whatever they need you to ferry around. I say this because it might be easier to get reimbursed for taxis than parking, as there is a perception that you would be paying for parking anyway. And it might make sense to do this, depending on the relative costs of parking vs. taxis.

      1. Jemima Bond

        It is, and if you get push-back with “but can’t you use your own car?” then there may be a few reasons why not – perhaps you really hate driving in city traffic (which is why you take the bus) or (to save money although this isn’t their business) your car insurance doesn’t cover you for business use, only personal.

        1. You're Not My Supervisor

          I actually wonder how accommodating they would be about hating city driving. I myself have driving-induced anxiety and I avoid city driving when I can, but I’ve always wondered if that would be an acceptable thing to raise if I was ever in a situation like this

          1. MK

            Ι would avoid the appearance of asking for permission to not bring a car; unless it was specified upfront that the job requires a car, it’s not up to the employer if you don’t have one and why not. “I don’t drive to work”, end of discussion.

            1. Luna

              Exactly. Especially since this is in an urban area, I’m sure there are plenty of other university employees who not only don’t drive to work, but don’t have cars at all.

          2. Kittymommy

            This reason wouldn’t fly with places I’ve worked. The response has been to basically duck it up for the day/task.

            I actually think stating you don’t drive to work due to the cost involved with parking is a perfectly sccrptable reason

    1. Competent Commenter

      Other options might include using Uber or Lyft and being reimbursed. And at the university where I work staff members can check out a car from the pool for work trips. My colleague checks them out for donor visits if her car is unavailable. She gets mileage and parking reimbursed if she uses her own car.

      1. Trout 'Waver

        I was going to suggest this as well. Many universities have a motor pool for tasks just like the ones OP#4 mentioned. If they’re public universities, they must put at least X miles per year on the vehicles or the vehicles get reassigned to other departments. You might actually be doing your department a favor by taking a motor pool car, if they’re available.

        1. Rock Prof

          They might also have a temporary parking pass you can toss on your car when you’re doing these tasks. My university doesn’t have a fleet (we have to go through a rental agency), but we do have lots of those permits.

          1. Anon E. Mouse

            Yeah, we have permits like these too, called runner permits, that departments can get to give employees who are using their personal vehicles for department business.

            Your department might also be able to get prepaid parking tickets (depending on how parking is run where you are). We have them here and basically it lets you park, then they give you a prevalidated ticket that you can use with yours to get out. Saves having to go through a reimbursement process and they can have a supply for all sorts of things

            1. Cassie the First

              Our university will allow employees who don’t normally drive to work, to be reimbursed for parking and/or allow the employee’s dept to pay for a daily parking permit for the employee. The university is strongly trying to get students, staff and faculty NOT to drive to work – there simply just aren’t enough parking spots on campus (parking permits cost about $100 per month, and students are having to park way on the other side of campus because there are no permits left for the closer lot).

              The daily parking permits aren’t discounted for the departments, though. They have to pay the regular $12 per day.

    2. LQ

      Agreed. Taxi, lyft/uber, car pool, public transit, parking costs (even if someone already drives sometimes there is an additional fee for leaving and coming back to some parking lots in urban areas, or for leaving outside of a specific timeframe, so it may be something they already do for others who do drive anyway). They are all options. And I think giving the boss the option of which one they want to pay for.

      I had a job where most of the time it was public transit (it made sense for that specific job for other reasons), and sometimes a local car sharing service that we subscribed to as an organization (like a zipcar) and the company just got billed for that as long as I noted what the trip was I didn’t even have to worry about it.

    3. Seriously?

      Or they may ask a coworker who does drive. There are lots of possible solutions and it is likely a problem only because the boss doesn’t realize the OP takes the bus.

    4. gsa

      #4 should be reimbursed for parking AND mileage, though I agree taxi/uber/lyft is probably better and easier, since you dont have to walk to the car with what stuff needs ferrying…

  5. Allison

    #5 – does your office have an instant messenger client? I found that works best for those in-between quick questions… the person doesn’t need to interrupt what they’re doing, but it’s more casual than an official email.

    1. mary

      This was going to be my suggestion as well. I work in a different office from my boss and many of my coworkers, and we all use IM for this type of little question or mention.

    2. AcademiaNut

      This seems like an ideal use for something like Slack – brief, non time critical questions and comments. We use it for discussions on international projects, where people are on different continents. I like Slack in particular, because I can log out when I leave work, without it overlapping with stuff I use outside of work.

      1. KayEss

        Be careful with that… some people perceive texts as inherently demands for instantaneous attention, and do NOT appreciate non-emergency work-related texts. But it should be pretty easy to suss out whether your boss would find it appropriate, if it isn’t already clear.

        1. LBK

          Yeah, there’s definitely a cultural element to texting. My department generally limits our work texting to those who have work phones and use IM for everyone else (and if you get a text on your personal phone, that does mean it’s urgent).

    3. General Ginger

      This was going to be my suggestion. Slack is perfect for this kind of thing.

    4. The Other Dawn

      I was going to suggest that also. I’d be really annoyed getting multiple calls a day. If it’s time-sensitive or something that is just easier to do on the phone, fine. But something that isn’t critical and is just a quick question? Nope. IM or email me. I find that on the days when I get multiple quick calls (from different people), it turns out to be a bigger time drain than if I had the same amount of emails. Sure, the calls are quick, but I then have to remember where I left off on my work and get back into the frame of mind.

    5. SpaceNovice

      Yes, this would be my suggestion. They interrupt a lot less and give you a written record of what you’ve asked in the past. If your company doesn’t have an IM option, they need to get one! It sounds like this is a perfect case for IM usage.

    6. JessicaTate

      Very strong ditto for me. When I supervised a remote team, I would describe Skype (our preferred mechanism; but Slack and others can work too) as the equivalent of popping your head in my office if we were in the same place. You can get that same instant response / back-and-forth answer about something quick if I’m interruptible; if I’m busy, you’ll either get ignored for a while or a “in a meeting, will ping you afterward” message. And if that exchange made me realize we needed more depth, we’d pick up the phone.

      I guess your manager has to be comfortable with Skype/Slack/whatever. But it was SO much more natural.

    7. TardyTardis

      Slack is a huge help, and I enjoyed using it when I worked during tax time this last year. “Can he really deduct that? Ok, cool, did not know that…”

      1. OP#5

        Thanks all – my boss is being very relaxed and tells me not to worry much about my calls. But I think this is all great feedback for my own professional development. I think increasing email output and IM usage may be good to try.

        It really is an adjustment from seeing her everyday and being able to do chats as needed. I think Alison identified the difference well about why calls feel more intrusive.

        Thanks all

  6. BRR

    I would love to eliminate feedback that’s brought up so someone is cognizant of it but isn’t actually something to work on. What is the LW supposed to do with that information? My anxiety-driven brain would be stressed out.

    As much as I hate to say this I’d say it’s a medical condition if you’re comfortable with that. If not, you could always go with the good ole “is there a concern about the number of tickets I’m working on?”

    1. Thursday Next

      Yes, this is a sticking point for me. How could LW be expected to do anything at all with this? It seems like slipshod management in two respects: putting a non-actionable item on the review, and not shutting the comments down in the first place.

      Even if there was no medical condition in play, I think the manager has a responsibility to let his reports know that discussing other people’s bathroom habits is inappropriate. And LW’s metrics are excellent! Which manager shouldn’t have to cite to nosy coworkers—but could, coldly.

      I actually found myself wondering if there was some jealousy driving the comments. It sounds juvenile, but reporting on someone else’s bathroom habits *is* juvenile.

      (Unless they’re hogging three sinks for an hour.)

      1. Thursday Next

        I was under the assumption that this was part of *written* feedback. If it was just oral, then I can understand why the manager might want to share perceptions, as they can affect advancement. LW then has the opportunity to say, “Actually, I have a medical issue, which I can document with HR if necessary.”

      2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

        It sounds like the OP might work in a call center. When you’re ‘supposed’ to be at your desk, on your phone, 100% of the time, people notice when you get up.

        I don’t agree with complaining, just I do understand how it looks the way it looks to the OP’s coworkers.

    2. Yorick

      There’s a perception that OP is away from his desk too much. While he can’t change how much he needs to go, it’s possible there’s something he could change. Does he do other away-from-desk tasks at the same time, so the bathroom break is long? Or does he do them separately, so that he goes away from the desk more often? Maybe try switching that up. Maybe coworkers feel he’s unavailable when they need him, so it could help to add an inbox or a board so people who come by can leave a note, or to seem extra available while at your desk by not using headphones, etc.

      1. Let's Talk About Splett

        This was my take on it, as well. People are talking about the fact that he is away from his desk a lot because it affects them, not gossiping for no reason.

        1. Yorick

          They may just be busybodies who notices he’s away a lot, but maybe it actually affects them. And they probably don’t care that he’s in the bathroom those times, unless they’re really awful.

          1. Anna

            If it affects them, then that needs to be the point of the feedback. That wasn’t the point, though, so no.

  7. Namelesscommentator

    OP4 – I’m in a similar position and it was no question that I be reimbursed for parking (30+ a day, depending on which garages are full), and total mileage into the office. I also charge the time driving adds to my commute (not much, but potentially a ton if I get stuck behind an accident).

    You could frame it as a needing a heads up when a car will be needed. My boss knows that I’m happy to, but that I need a few days of lead time to plan my commute. Build in the assumption that the costs will be covered when you ask.

    “I don’t typically commute by car, so can you give me a few days lead time to plan when I have tasks that require it? Can you also point me to the right forms for parking and mileage reimbursement?”

    1. Namelesscommentator

      Want to clarify that I wouldn’t submit an expense report without clearing it with the boss first (especially if it’s more than a few miles)… I just said to my boss “because I pay for a monthly transit pass I’d prefer to be reimbursed for all of the driving, including from my home, should I clear that with finance?” But that was six miles (six slow, congested, f’ed up miles) and all within the city.

    2. persimmon

      At the very least, with some thinking ahead you and your boss might be able to cluster these tasks together so car days are kept to a minimum.

      1. OP #4

        That was me – I appreciate the consensus on this! I think I’m just anxious because there’s already some ill-will in my office about travel for work duties and I don’t want people to think I’m getting special privileges. The last time I drove, though, the parking validation didn’t work and it ended up being a huge hassle, of course, so I’m getting more reluctant to take on driving duties that aren’t absolutely necessary (for example: now I just try to order food that can be delivered for student events, rather than pick things up even if it costs more, ’cause *shrug* why not?)

  8. Loose Seal

    I am saddened that Llama Groomer is made-up. I was envisioning a llama with a Standard Poodle show cut.

    1. Daria Grace

      Llama costume competitions are also a thing. There’s a few good mini documentaries on YouTube

    2. Llama Grooming Coordinator

      To be fair, poodle show cuts are actually going out of fashion now. The Chinese crested look is the new trend.

  9. Anon For This

    OP2’s letter is weirding me out because we have a male coworker who goes to the toilet an awful lot and it’s been noticed and commented on purely because he’s actually a work-avoiding*, misogynistic arsehole, who thinks he’s the bees-knees because he hits the metrics (we pretty much all hit the metrics every time, it’s not that hard). The managers disagree with him but he doesn’t hear it because it doesn’t fit in with the image of himself he has to cling to (ie; he *thinks* he gets glowing reviews because he ignores all criticism). Tl;dr we were all done with him a LONG time ago. It’s one of those rare occasions where the difficulty in firing people here in the UK is an annoyance for all involved. He’s also been here a year.

    Sorry if you’ve got an Evil Twin here in the UK OP2!! As long as you’re not this guy you don’t deserve that level of scrutiny!

    * So the constant toilet-going could likely be just another way to avoid doing his job.

    1. Genuinely can’t remember the name I’ve used,

      If he’s only been there a year, the management could dismiss anyway. It’s not strictly ‘right’, but employment protections don’t kick in for another year.

      Not for nipping to the loo though. That would be as bonkers as OP2’s boss, who should tell the ridiculous people who have mentioned this that they clearly don’t have enough to do and he’ll fix that for them.

    2. JV

      It’s not hard to fire someone in the UK!

      (disclaimer: it can be very hard to fire someone in certain companies or organisations, for a variety of reasons, but a fair dismissal is very easy to arrange – it’s just not as easy as doing it in the States!)

      1. .

        It can be difficult to fire people in the UK. I saw HR documents at my last company where some one was fired for a committing drink driving offence on company time and in a company vehicle and the decision to fire them was appealed to the employment tribunal as not enough consideration had been given to their personal circumstances or the possibility of reassigning them to other work that did not involve driving. The tribunal ruled in their favor and they returned to work at the company.

        1. Specialk9

          I’m so fascinated by this sub-thread. So with all of these (mostly amazing as a worker / likely annoying as a manager) job protections, do you guys in the UK stay at jobs a lot longer than in the US? I recently heard a statistic that the average worker in the US stays in a job for 3 years.

    3. LDN Layabout

      Is he’s been there a year then how wasn’t this caught during his probation? Or did he manage to keep it together until he got past it…

    4. Bagpuss

      If he’s only been there a year then he can be dismissed for any non-discriminatory reason. Employment protections don’t kick in until you’ve been employed for 2 years.
      And even then, a person can be dismissed for poor performance, or for disciplinary offences .
      If he is misogynistic, now does that manifest, and have any of his co-workers made formal complaints?
      As a manager I have had a situation where there was someone where we were really struggling, because none of the people who were complaining about their behaviour were prepared to raise it as a formal complaint, and that tied our hands, because you have to have a fair disciplinary process where the person knows what they are said to have done, and has a chance to put their side forward. We did explicitly explain to people that if they refused to make a formal complaint we couldn’t take any formal action, but you can’t make people go on the record if they don’t want to.
      Since this person always behaved around managers, it made it very difficult for us to go down the formal disciplinary – > dismissal route.
      (In the end, they left because they had a row with a co-worker and handed in their notice. I think they were expecting us to beg them to stay, and were somewhat taken aback when we accepted, and then said no, when they asked to rescind their notice, a week later)

    5. Rachel

      I’m not seeing the connection between the fact that you don’t like him and it being okay to scrutinize his personal bathroom habits.

  10. Usernames are hard

    #3 He said he would move you back if you wanted, so I’m wondering why you’ve got so anxious that you’re telling yourself a story about how he won’t? It is ok to just ask!

    1. Letter Writer Who Hates Her New Job

      Hi! I didn’t put all of this in the letter, but Ned has huge plans for my new group. He inherited it about a year and a half ago and has been looking to completely revitalize it. He doubled the amount of people in it, hired a new manager, and has this huge roadmap for stuff we’ll be doing that the group has never done before. When he told me he was moving me he told me that they “need my brain power” over there and he “has been trying but couldn’t find anyone else.” My new boss calls me a “rockstar” (sigh) and tells me how awesome I am pretty much every chance he gets.

      They really, really want me over in this new group and have told everyone in our large department that they’re excited about my move (and pretty much everyone outside of our team is also excited). I think Ned’s reassurance that he would move me back was in good faith, HOWEVER I think that due to internal politics he’d lose some face if he moved me back to my old group three months in. That’s why I was so worried about it.

      1. Trout 'Waver

        Is there any chance Ned is cross-training you for a leadership role? Ned may be succession planning so he can move up.

        1. Opting for the Sidelines

          Yes, this is a case of needing to talk to Ned. No good manager is going to want to see his people unhappy. (And Ned does sound like a good guy.) So, bring it up. If he is cross training you for something, then you will find out and can decide if this is something you want to do. If the cross training isn’t there or it isn’t something you are interested in, you can help Ned figure out a solid plan of how to transition yourself out.

        2. LQ

          This was my first thought too. Either training for leadership role or possibly trying to do a radical culture shift of the other group with infusion of a rockstar.
          I would definitely talk to Ned about this. Sometimes understanding what the goal of being there is can help and you might be able to stick around and accomplish some of that. And if you think that’s not going to happen you can be frank about it with Ned because he likely wants to know. Definitely go talk to him.

        3. LBK

          I wouldn’t necessarily read that much into it; I do think there’s plenty of cases where this kind of move would be truly what it’s advertised at face value. When you’re planning rapid expansion of a team, it makes sense to want your best, most adaptable, most creative people there to support that growth, with no ulterior motive.

      2. Namast'ay in Bed

        Thanks for adding more information! I think you’d be in a good place to bring up your unhappiness in a “could we discuss the big picture here” kind of way. If you’re miserable and Ned has bigger plans for you (like Trout ‘Waver suggested), this would be a perfect opportunity for him to share them with you. Maybe if you think of it as more of a discussion about the overall future success of team and project at large, and how things can proceed to put you and the team back in a good place, which it sounds like something Ned wants and is open to, rather than “oh god I’m abandoning ship and messing things up for him”.

        (Not that you should have to frame your own needs as something that is beneficial for the team in order to ask for them in the first place, but this may help if you’re like me and have to play mental gymnastics sometimes in order to voice your needs!)

      3. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

        I’m agreeing with the others. You and Ned need to sit down and discuss the role, plans, and a possible exit strategy for you back to your previous role. It sounds like Ned has a lot of plans that are in the early stages of execution in the Llama training group. Now is the time to for you to find out how all of those plans relate to you.

        I’m going to ask a couple of questions here, and by asking these, I’m in no way indicating that you should stay in the new group just giving you a chance to possibly think in a different direction. And I’m not necessarily expecting you to answer here, use these as a thought exercise if you want.

        How much of your unhappiness is the job and how much of it is trying to settle in to a new group/job that is going through a lot of change? I ask this because it can be really unsettling to move into a new group that is in upheaval and that can color the perception of the new job.

        How are you with change normally, some people love it and adapt very quickly and others take time to regain comfort? Is this something you might eventually settle into?

        What do you like most about your old job, what did you like least?
        What do you like most about your new job, what do you like least?
        Are there things on your list that overlap? Things that are fundamentally different? Things that will never change?

        What would you like for your future, are you interested in advancement? Expanding your old role, staying relatively in the same position? Which job/department would help you reach that goal?

        At the end of the day, you should enjoy what you are doing, if that doesn’t happen in Llama training than talk to Ned and be open about it. On the other hand, it might be a good time to evaluate your goals and to see if this new job might be a good step to achieving them as a means to an end. I’ve held a few positions that I wasn’t exactly thrilled with, but I used them as stepping stones to get to where I was aiming for.

        1. LQ

          These are really good questions. I got moved about a year ago into a role that if I’d taken at face value I would have found excruciatingly boring, dreaded in a deep deep way, and would have made way more complicated than it needed to be. But as soon as I got through sort of the initial this is aweful and I started to figure out what the real underpinning of it was, eh, I spend 3-5 hours a week on the role that I’ve been placed in and the rest doing way more interesting work that frames long term success for the organization as a whole. My boss thought he was upfront about this all along but he speaks in metaphors and broad sweeping structural ideas and is deeply indirect. So it took me a while to realize what I really needed to be doing.
          (All that said, if I sat down with him and said, please put me back in my old role he would be a little disappointed but would absolutely do it.)
          Talk to Ned!

    2. Hey Nonnie

      Am I the only one who thinks it’s really weird when managers offer you a promotion (or even just a lateral move) without even asking you about it first? How would anyone know what a person’s career interests/aspirations are if they don’t ask? What makes them think just guessing is appropriate?

      Happened to me too, early in my career. My manager called me in for a 1-on-1, and then laid out how they were promoting me into something like DB admin and would be paying for me to take classes on SQL and wasn’t it great how supportive they were of my career development? I got VERY confused, due to being completely blindsided, as well as having zero experience or interest in databases (I was basically doing administrative and research related work). I blurted out something to the effect of: “that doesn’t sound very interesting, do I have to?” My manager handled it pretty gracefully, to her credit, but to this day I just can’t understand why she didn’t just ask me what I was interested in doing first, rather than spending time creating a position for me that I was never going to want and presenting it to me as a fait accompli.

  11. Mark132

    @ LW#2, maybe your boss can issue bathroom punchcards, good for four potty breaks per day. /s

    It may be worth it to get this documented with hr. This stuff can come back again year after year. Since this is a genuine condition, deal with it hopefully just once.

  12. JanetInSC

    LW#2: Depending on where you work, gossip can be deadly. You should not have to reveal any medical condition, but it would be preferable for you boss and colleagues to think you had a prostate problem, instead of a coke habit. (It’s an extreme example, but who knows what people are saying?) I would offer a vague medical reason and maybe bring a note from a doctor to put in your file. (I’m a retired teacher, and bathroom usage during class (especially repeat visits) was a no-no; a doctor’s excuse would get everyone off your back.

    1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      Not even that far fetched! Not a work situation, but my husband and I had a roommate last year that assumed became I sniffle all the time and have bizarre sleeping hours that I was a cocaine or speed addict. No, sorry, I just have lifelong chronic health issues that include severe allergies (under Dr care + on multiple meds, still sniffly) insomnia, and a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.
      That this person has a rare, severe, painful, disabling, and sometimes life threatening chronic health disorder, and has had to deal with the prejudice of medical personnel who assume he is “drug seeking” when he’s ended up in the ER during acute flare ups, even when he’s brought medical records & other documentation from the specialists who treat him, makes the irony absolutely delicious.

  13. Mad Baggins

    OP#2 If I were you, I’d ask exactly how your bathroom breaks will affect your performance reviews, since your performance itself is so good. Boss will probably say they don’t, since you got the highest possible raise and all. And then I’d say dryly, “Good to know, guess I’ll keep on playing Candy Crush on the toilet 6x per day.”

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice

      I know it’s not funny, but I have just had a tea: screen related accident at your use of the term ‘I’d say dryly’ in the context of bathroom breaks.

    2. sacados

      Ngl, I do occasionally sit on the toilet playing Candy Crush during work.
      I mean… other people take smoke breaks! I figure I’m not wasting any more time than they are

      1. Zaphod Beeblebrox

        Ah yes, reminds me of the days when smoke breaks were allowed, but minesweeper breaks were not.

      2. LBK

        I’m truly awed by the people that bring an entire newspaper into the bathroom with them. How long do you intend to be in there!? I assume they aren’t reading it front to back, but still. And what’s even weirder is I’ve occasionally found one left in the bathroom when, I presume, they finished their reading and just couldn’t be bothered to throw it out on their way out. So bizarre.

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          I figure they left it for the next person to read?

          I still laugh about the time – nearly 40 years ago!- that we visited my dad’s sister during one of our family vacations, and she was talked about the advice her doctor gave her to take the entire Sunday times into the bathroom with her and not get off the toilet til she’d read the whole thing.

      3. essEss

        In the old days, I temped in a government office that had gotten their first PCs recently. The manager of the department spent the entire day, every day, playing solitaire on the computer. When someone said anything, she would claim she was learning how to use the mouse on the pc…. for months.

        1. Specialk9

          I mean, that really was the whole point of Solitaire… But wow on milking that situation!

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            Was it really? I had NO idea!

            *MIND BLOWN*

            I grew up in a computer literate household, as my dad was (and mom had been) in the aerospace industry & used computers in his work, and we had PCs from when I was in middle school, starting with the good old Commodore PET. Using a mouse was old hat before I’d ever played a second of solitaire or minesweeper, I just figured they were there for minor entertainment purposes only.

      4. TardyTardis

        I probably shouldn’t mention that a Tungsten E-2 PA with a lot of books on it fits better in a pocket than most phones do. Admittedly, I actually got through bits of The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire while babysitting the printer (and discovered I really didn’t care about the Persians after a while).

    3. LBK

      FWIW it doesn’t sound like it really did affect his performance review; the boss very clearly framed it as a perception thing, not a performance thing. I am curious what he’d say if the OP brought up the medical issue as Alison suggested. I do think it’s probably good for the OP to know that it’s being noticed in case he was thinking it was flying under the radar, but I think the appropriate course of action here is for the boss to be prepared to shoot down people who raise it going forward and not to ever bring it up to the OP again. He’s been made aware, it doesn’t need to be reiterated (if the boss truly doesn’t think the OP needs to change anything about what he’s doing).

  14. Teka

    Am disappoint that #2 was not #1 but maybe that would be a little on the nose. Stay strong OP! Sometimes there is a freedom in being able to say “Yes, it’s a medical thing, it’s unavoidable.” As long as coworkers aren’t wondering where you are, you should be able to use the facilities at your discretion.

    1. Competent Commenter

      The other reason I think it’s good to explain that it’s a medical condition if OP is comfortable with it is that it might help educate people that medical conditions may be at play in this or other work situations so back off and have some empathy!
      I had an employee with a colostomy bag (not noticeable but he mentioned it to me) and I would have come down like a ton of bricks if anyone thought he was spending too much time in the bathroom.

      1. HR is Fun

        I came here to say the same thing as Competent Commenter. Those of us with healthily functioning bowels/bladders often forget that sometimes other people don’t have the same situation. I had never heard of Crohn’s disease until I was working in my first HR job. One of our 17-year-old employees had it, and he was very worried that he might not make it to the bathroom before he had an embarrassing accident. Wow, did that change my perspective on bathroom breaks. So I agree that the OP — if they feel comfortable saying that it’s a medical condition — could be helping others in the future by educating managers.

  15. Mad Baggins

    OP#1 I don’t have anything to add to Alison’s excellent script but I am groooooossed out by your boss. To get to the point where you don’t notice rotting food in your office?? Does he live in a trash can like Oscar the Grouch??

    1. Bagpuss

      It may depend a lot on his sense of smell. There are various medical issues which can mean someone has no, or very little, sense of smell. So it is possible that he doesn’t realise, and thinks that as it is in tupperware it isn’t making a mess so is not a problem.

      That doesn’t mean it *isn’t*, a problem, of course, but it could be quite easy for him not to notice it was an issue.

      That said, I agree with Alison that it is totally fine to raise the issue and ask that he deals with it.

      1. irene adler

        I’m surprised that housekeeping hasn’t brought this up. Or, many places have vermin control people who periodically inspect the facility to remove (or at least point out) potential vermin-attracting items.

      2. MeridaAnn

        I have congenital anosmia (born without a sense of smell), and I live in constant fear of doing something stinky that I don’t realize stinks. I know the obvious ones like not microwaving fish, etc., but I also feel like at least every month or so someone comments on the smell of something that I didn’t know have a scent.

        In theory, he should be able to make the correlation that old food would stink just because of how people talk about smells in general, but if he does have anosmia or another condition that limits his sense of smell, I could feasibly see him thinking that having the tupperware sealed should mean that the smell is trapped inside. I was recently very surprised to discover that the cashier at the grocery store could smell the bagels I was buying through the bag – I assumed that the plastic bag would block the smell!

        If it would me, I would definitely want you just to say something like, “Hey, I’m picking up a bad smell from those old tupperware containers. Would you mind taking them home or cleaning them out each day instead of leaving them overnight?” I’d always rather have someone tell me so that I can fix it instead of making people uncomfortable without having any idea that I’m doing it.

        I am pretty comfortable now discussing my lack of smell and I try to be proactive in telling coworkers and friends that I won’t be offended if they tell me something smells, that I really just have no idea, but up until a few years ago, I didn’t even have a name for not being able to smell, and I was a lot more hesitant to bring it up (and I’m 28 now, so for most of my life I didn’t know how to talk about it).

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          I have a friend with congenital anosmia, and she has always been hyper vigilant about making sure there are no bad smells around her, even asking her mom to sniff her pits if she might have reason to believe she has BO.

          I also remember a friend of mine, years ago, who lived with his grandmother, who had lost her sense of smell in an accident when she was young. He considered it an advantage as he could smoke pot when she was home and she never knew the difference. X-D

      3. Kate 2

        Agreed. I have a few chronic ear/sinus conditions, depending on the day I can’t smell at all. I tell people this, when they ask about why I am always “sick” (runny nose, coughing, etc). So I really appreciate it if people tell me when something stinks, because a lot of us actually don’t have working noses. : )

        1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          Sometime in the last year I was reading a short story by an author I love, in which one of the characters was vividly describing the remembered scents of their childhood- food, their mother, etc.

          It made me realize that I don’t have any of those kinds of memories, because I had such bad allergies and sinus issues as a kid that I couldn’t breathe through my nose most of the time, and the few smells I *do* remember- cut grass or woodsmoke- are hated ones because they were triggers for severe allergy or asthma attacks.

          Well, except for the distinct combination of smells that is Disneyland, but that good smell memory was one that was reinforced by many, many trips there as both a child, teen, and adult.

      4. Mad Baggins

        I think even if he has no sense of smell whatsoever, he should just know not to leave old food lying around in an office. That just stinks (no pun intended) of the kind of lazy bachelor who doesn’t understand you need to use soap and sponges when washing your coffee cup. As irene adler pointed out, it’s not just the smell, it’s the adult skill of how to store food and clean up after yourself.

      5. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        And also, people can get used to living around just about any smell, for various reasons- think about people who live near slaughterhouses or paper mills. I’ve met extreme hoarders who have no idea their house stinks & cant understand why anyone else thinks it does, and even just people who smoke, or have animals, don’t always realize that the smell can be obvious or overwhelming to others, even when it is mild.
        And even if none of that applies in this case, or his sense of smell is perfectly normal, people react to smells differently and this could be a category of scent that he doesn’t notice as much or he doesn’t react strongly to.

    2. BadWolf

      Where I work, we have custodial staff to empty garbage cans. They used to empty office/cube garbage 2-3 times a week. During a money crunch, they reduced to one time a week. I’m pretty sure the only reason they didn’t get rid of office/cube clean out (or reduce the frequency further) was because people would toss in food waste/wrappers in their office garbage and leave it until they were delicately stacking items at the top of the can. Even though we have a large hallway garbage that is emptied daily.

      Sigh.

  16. Boy oh boy

    LW1, I wouldn’t soften it by mentioning your “sensitive sense of smell”. That just leaves him a way out to think it’s just you being fussy. I would ask politely— Perhaps mention that he might not smell it as he’s forgotten or got used to it? — And if he doesn’t deal with it after a reminder, can you possibly get your upper manager/custodial staff/cleaning/health and safety involved? It sounds like it would attract vermin and disgust any clients or visitors. You should NOT have to work somewhere that smells like a bin lorry on a hot day.

    My first boss left a Tupperware of mouldy pasta remains on his desk and even I – the shyest person ever! – had to say something. He’s probably just got used to it and will do something if you ask.

    1. Thursday Next

      Agreed on not softening in this case.

      But I wouldn’t make reference to the supervisor’s sense of smell at all—it doesn’t matter why he’s doing it; you don’t want to give him any chances to sidetrack the discussion.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        Agreed- even people with a perfectly normal sense of smell can react differently to different scents or categories of scents and there’s no use getting into an unproductive discussion over something that can be so subjective.
        Just name the actual issue so it can get resolved.

    2. grace

      Yeah, seriously, literally everyone who can smell and/or cares about cleanliness will have a “sensitive sense of smell” on this one dude. It’s moldy food – that’s gross. Just tell him that it’s molding, does he want you to throw the Tupperware out or is he planning on taking it home. Or something to that effect.

    3. Engineer Woman

      I feel for OP. It’s your supervisor and you would think no need to ask for normal behavior like throwing away moldy food containers. A direct request sounds reasonable but this case is tough.

    4. Lora

      I’m having flashbacks of a high school roommate / exchange student – she came from a very urban part of a country where kitchens (including fridges) weren’t common in apartments, and the school was in a fairly rural part of the US. We had to show up to the cafeteria at exact mealtimes (like 6:30 – 7:15 for breakfast, 12:15 – 1 for lunch, 6 – 7 for dinner and you had to sign in to prove you were there), and if you missed the time window, you didn’t get fed. There was no food delivery available, and we were only allowed to visit the one pizza parlor in town 4:45 – 6pm if we had good grades. She had grown up with noodle stands and street food on every corner, whenever she wanted it, at all hours, and her parents were wealthy enough to have servants clean her room for her. She hoarded all kinds of food in our room and didn’t understand that anything was actually perishable and needed to be thrown away, or even how throwing away things worked – someone else had always done it for her. Multiple teachers and dorm mothers had to explain these things to her, with translators, but in the meantime you could smell weeks-old food all the way down the hall.

  17. Ruth (UK)

    5. I agree email Vs phone can just be very personal when it comes to preferences. I know my boss gets a very high volume of emails and manages a few inboxes (for reasons I won’t explain here) and often prefers me to ask her in person or call with certain types of queries. She’s about 8 rooms down the corridor from me and often calls my phone about things too.

  18. Tau

    OP2 – it’s probably good to keep in mind that with your boss on board, he doesn’t have to divulge the fact that a medical condition is at play to
    A) make sure this sort of thing doesn’t affect your performance reviews
    B) shut down any coworkers he hears talking about this (see Alison’s scripts).
    It shouldn’t be a choice between accepting this showing up in the performance review and having everyone know you have a bathroom-related medical issue.

  19. LDN Layabout

    OP5: Is IM an option in your office? It’s in that inbetween space between phone and email and can be good for quick questions like this.

    My manager literally sits opposite me and when I can see he’s stressed or focused, I might IM him vs. trying to talk to him since it’s easier to ignore an IM.

    1. Xarcady

      This. My supervisor sits in the cubicle next to me, and we ask questions back and forth. But he works from home one day a week, so we IM on those days. Email for longer questions/issues or for something that he might need to save, like client requests. I also have his cell phone number for emergencies, but I’ve never had to use that.

      We use Skype and I find it useful because I can see if he is calling in to a meeting, or away from his desk at home for a bit.

  20. Triplestep

    #2: I think it’s a stretch to say that “Frequent Urination” was intended as feedback during the review. I am pretty sure the manager just felt it was an opportune time to bring up the fact that others perceive the LW as taking a lot of breaks.

    How often do we see Alison advising people to take seriously their manager’s feedback about perception? That’s all that was happening here. Because even if LW is crushing the ticket metrics, perception can impact opportunities at work. ‘Course in this case, the person hearing that feedback can’t do anything about it, so the advice stands in that respect. But – headline notwithstanding – it wasn’t meant to be an admonishment about anything biological and likely didn’t factor in on any kind of evaluation score.

    1. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)

      There are places where toliet breaks are monitored, like call centers and schools, where it’s not weird at all to have a toilet policy. What happened to the OP it’s super icky, but sadly not that uncommon.

      1. Downwardly Mobile

        If the LW’s bathroom breaks were monitored, I’m guessing it would have been included in the letter. It’s an important piece of info to leave out.

    2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      But the proper way to handle that wouldn’t be to bring up the number of bathroom breaks LW takes and how it appears to others, it would be to tell the nosy coworkers to mind their own damn business.

  21. Madame Secretary

    #4 – I work with a person who commutes by bus. I drive to work and pay to park. I and my coworkers are beholden to her bus riding in ways people don’t consider. Often, it happens that she can’t stay late to finish her work because she has a bus to catch, so that work falls on others to complete. It causes a lot of resentment. If I were OP”s coworker, I would be very annoyed if I found out she was being reimbursed for parking for doing work tasks that are normal parts of her job. I would also be peeved if, because the boss declined to reimbues her for parking, that another employee who does drive to work would have to assume those tasks she can’t do because she doesn’t drive. OP made this a lifestyle choice for herself and her peers shouldn’t suffer for it, so that should be kept in mind.

    1. Zaphod Beeblebrox

      That’s not what’s happening here. OP is being asked to undertake a task that incurs a cost she wouldn’t otherwise incur. Therefore she should be reimbursed.

      1. Washi

        Agreed. And if the other driving coworkers are asked to complete work tasks using their personal vehicles, then they should also be reimbursed for parking and mileage on those days, so there really shouldn’t be any reason for ill will.

        1. essEss

          Exactly! Anyone doing errands requiring a vehicle must be paid for the charges incurred (including mileage, parking costs, tolls (if unavoidable), etc…). If you normally drive to work then you aren’t incurring extra parking fees but if you don’t normally drive to work then the errand is causing extra fees and should be reimbursed. A company *could* be nitpicky and claim that if the worker normally commutes to the office by transit that costs $5 and now the worker has to drive in that day and incurs a $10 parking, then they only reimburse the extra cost to the worker.

      2. LCL

        I think it’s a little pushy to ask. I think what Alison said is spot on-boss probably doesn’t realize OP takes public transit, so doesn’t have a car available to do the tasks that require a car. People who drive sometimes need to be reminded of the limitations caused by using public transit. I am totally pro transit, but I recognize that the limitations involved in using transit are different than the limitations involved in driving a private vehicle, and we all need to gently speak up when we are affected.

    2. Liane

      “Doing work tasks that are normal parts of her job”

      The last line of the OP’s letter explicitly says that it’s not in the job description, therefore driving around doing errands IS NOT a normal part of her job. It sounds like you have a different problem; if your coworker’s commute or hours are legitimately creating problems for you doing your job properly (vs. you just don’t like it) the AAM archives have scripts for bringing it up.

      Also, though I am sure you didn’t intend it that way, your wording (e.g., “lifestyle choice” ) comes off as classist, which is not professional.

      1. LCL

        Sigh. Not everything is about classism or privilege. Sometimes transit riders aren’t able to stay late, many places run commuter routes and service drops off drastically after commuter hours. So a 20 minute time delay can result in an hour wait for the next bus. A car driver commenting on this, without understanding the peculiarities of the local transit system, is an opportunity for education not a lecture about classism.

        1. Specialk9

          Right, not everything is. But that definitely was. “Lifestyle choice” about taking the bus? Yeah, most people in buses are rolling in dough. (/s)

          1. Kate 2

            s/ Yeah, the bus is soooo fun! I ride it even when I don’t have to. And that’s why I get groceries via the bus. Because hauling a weeks worth of groceries in a granny cart is the best thing ever!!! Forget my Rolls Royce, I’m always taking the bus! /s

          2. LCL

            Many people use transit because it is more convenient for them. When I think of someone who uses transit, I don’t think poor, or wealthy. I think someone who lives in an area well served by transit, who works bankers hours.

        2. essEss

          In our area, at some points of the day if you miss the current commuter train it will be *2 hours* before the next one

          1. Jaid_Diah

            Half an hour for me. and right now, due to some stupidity drama in my unit, I can’t duck out five minutes early to catch the train I normally do.
            Another girl decided to get in fifteen minutes of comp time a day instead of hanging around the train station for the full half hour, when her boss got picky about it.

      2. Taralegal

        It’s hardly classist. I used to take the bus myself and I learned it didn’t work out well with our work environment.

      3. OP #4

        It would definitely be different if my job description (and what I was led to believe when hired) said something like “pick up food at 10am for students so that they’re given some sort of incentive to study for an exam” but it’s a vague “arrange and plan for review sessions before exams.” Which could totally be done via A) ordering food for delivery instead, or B) doing it on a weekend (which then I’d be happy to do – free parking on the weekend!) or C) after business hours (also free parking! and could go home and get my car) … so I think I just need to push for those things to happen. The students got used to a certain way of having things done for them by my predecessor so it’s taking awhile (and a cohort to graduate) to change the privilege…

    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      Your comment is rubbing me the wrong way in a lot of ways, but I’m going to focus on this one tiny piece.

      The decision to drive/not drive is not always “a lifestyle choice”. A lot of people cannot drive for medical reasons. Additionally, assuming that everyone can afford to own a car is exceptionally privileged.

      1. ElspethGC

        Not just owning a car, but paying for daily city-centre parking. There are plenty of people who can just about afford basic insurance on a dodgy seventh-hand car for travelling to places that public transport doesn’t cover, but who can’t afford the extra expense of daily parking so instead take public transport.

        It’s just…taking public transport is *good*. It saves money. It’s good for the environment. It frees up parking for people that actually need it. You can use your commute for other things. Even if you can easily afford everything that comes along with regular car use, those are all considerations. If you have good public transport, why *wouldn’t* you use it?

        1. Parenthetically

          A huge cosign on your second paragraph. I’d also add — money spent on public transit infrastructure is egalitarian, because it has the potential to benefit every demographic in a city, and particularly to make better jobs accessible to people who are underemployed. I want to see greater equality in my city, therefore I use public transit.

          1. Julia

            All of yours and Elspeth’s comment.

            Plus, if OP could use public transport, but didn’t, and then took someone’s parking spot, you can bet that person would complain “why can’t OP take the bus?”

            1. LDN Layabout

              I think the huge equivalence between ‘being an adult’ and ‘driving’ in the US plays into attitudes about public transport (let alone the class, racial etc. components).

              I know as someone who lives somewhere where driving to where I work would be seen as idiotic, it can be a strange thing to understand.

              1. OP #4

                This is so true. My family and friends back home (in a small town where there is no public transportation) find it sort of bizarre and “lower-class” of me to take the bus, but here it is seen as a bit more cosmopolitan and hipster :D

      2. LCL

        EVERYTHING a human decides to do is a lifestyle choice. The factors driving the choice are as varied as the individuals making the choices.

        1. Jesmlet

          Sure, technically choosing between having a car and eating is a choice, but considering one might die if they chose to by the car instead of food, I’m not sure if we should really be describing it that way. She says it’s not always a choice – sometimes factors are outside of your control.

        2. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius

          Ah yes. To paraphrase Karl, “People make their own lifestyle choices, but not in circumstances of their own choosing.”

    4. Llama Grooming Coordinator

      That’s a little harsh, I think (I say this as a commuter). I don’t know where you live and your work hours, which would affect things – but in quite a few urban office jobs, service is fairly frequent during the day. (In my area, there’s multiple routes that each run 3-5 times per hour.) Obviously – and especially if you’re in the US – this is not the case everywhere. But often it’s not the case that someone absolutely HAS to leave at X time in order to be able to get home.

      More importantly, is her work that time sensitive that it needs to be done that same day?

    5. KFC

      OP is already paying for whatever bus pass their city requires for a daily commute. The random parking days are an additional cost on top of their typical transportation costs.

      So sorry you have to be beholden to your inconsiderate bus riding coworker’s ways. I’m sure she loves dealing with your resentment on top of the joys of public transit.

      1. OP #4

        I’m laughing because I’m actually there earlier and leave later than most of my coworkers :D the ones who drive usually have pretty strict “must leave at this time” schedules for day care pickup, kid’s soccer games, etc. There’s a pattern with entry-level/recent grads = tend to live downtown or take the bus, those who are older/have families/can afford a house in the burbs = drive in.

    6. Knitting Cat Lady

      Commuting by public transit is not a lifestyle choice. There are plenty of people who can’t afford a car or can’t drive for various reasons.

      And OP is asked to use her private vehicle for work tasks. Even if it were in her job description she should be reimbursed for gas, mileage *and* parking.

      Also, people can’t stay late for plenty of reasons.

      A bus to catch? A later bus could mean not getting home, picking up a child somewhere, missing an appointment…

      I live in Germany. Many of my colleagues commute by public transport or bike. If everyone would come by car the parking space wars would be epic. The various companies share about 1000 employee parking spaces. There’s about 4000 people working here.

      And I prefer public transport for driving.

      If I’m on various trains and buses for an hour I can do things like read, crochet, sleep… and come home relaxed.
      If I’m stuck in traffic for an hour I come home cranky.

      1. LCL

        Everything a human decides to do is a lifestyle choice. The consequences of making some choices can make one’s life extremely bad, and some choice are barely workable. I think the phrasing ‘lifestyle’ is getting people’s backs up. Take out that word, and yeah, we all decide to do things a certain way for reasons that work best for us.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady

          The way ‘lifestyle choice’ is used makes it come across as a pejorative. And it’s often used as a stick to beat marginalized groups.

          And the opening comment of this thread reads as very judgemental and hostile to me.

    7. Miles

      I also had pause with #4. It didn’t bother me, but, I don’t think it would be likely or fair for that employee to be reimbursed. I was also confused because the math didn’t add up for me. When I worked in child-care (low paying) in a city (expensive parking), parking was $7/day, $140/month, $1680/year.I didn’t understand how it could be $800/year but $10/day unless they have really excellent monthly/yearly discounts. However, this is beside the point.

      I wondered if it would be better received to decline these additionally job duties: “I prefer not to drive to work and take public transit instead. I am not able to do xyz.” At my previous company it would have been a hard no to reimburse one employees occasional parking cost, but would have been completely understood that if people chose not to drive, they couldn’t do driving related tasks.

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        When I worked in child-care (low paying) in a city (expensive parking), parking was $7/day, $140/month, $1680/year.I didn’t understand how it could be $800/year but $10/day unless they have really excellent monthly/yearly discounts.

        The OP works for a university. The universities I’m familiar with sell an annual parking permit, but also provide a metered garage or lot for people who need to be on campus for one day. One really has nothing to do with the other, thus the price differential. It may only cost $1 or so per hour, but obviously the OP isn’t going to park there for an hour – if she has to drive her car to work, she’ll have it there all day long.

      2. Environmental Compliance

        When I worked for the state, who had at least 5 parking garages in the capital city I worked in just for them, and there were NOT parking wars….just before I left that office, they were bumping the employee cost up to $50 per day *unless* you filed the paperwork for reimbursement (several pages, needed a specific one person’s signature, which could not be substituted). Couldn’t get the signature? Sucks to be you.

        At another state’s capital where I went to grad school, parking in the cheap garages was $20/day and often was jam packed and you would have to go to the more expensive options OR use the free parking where you have to leave and move your vehicle every 2 hours or risk a ticket, which was a crap shoot anyway because there simply just wasn’t enough parking.

        At my undergrad, the cheap parking was $2000 per year. The parking lot on campus was $5000 per year.

        Parking often just doesn’t make any sense between lack of space, ridiculous payments, and oddly complicated hoops to jump through. For the LW, it may be that there are multiple garages, the ones that are $800/year may be meant to be reserved for those who have passes, and therefore daily is more expensive, and the ones that are $10/day are meant for daily use (maybe it’s downtown by shopping/restaurants) and so it’s $10 to encourage short term parking. Who knows.

        1. University Parking & Transit Person

          Speaking for my own department/university, we make the shorter periods of parking (semester or daily) cost more than an annual permit so that we can reduce the amount of work required to sell a permit. But then, we’ve had 3 positions removed from our office through realignment of accounting functions, so we have about half the number of people available to do the work, too.

          1. Abby

            +1. An annual parking pass at my urban uni is $1710; one-off parking is $12/day in the uni garage or $1.25/hour at the city meters. We also subsidize transit passes or bike expenses to encourage non-car commuting (in a coastal US metro with some of the best transit in the country).

        2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

          $50 per day?!?! Wha wha WHAT? Who on earth can afford $1000 a MONTH for parking?!

          That would be half of my husband’s take home pay. That’s almost half of what rent costs on the 5 bedroom house we live in, in the suburbs of Los Angeles, where housing costs are out of this world. Who in their right mind thinks that is OK? Don’t they realize that can cause a real hardship on their workers?

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

            I should say 1/2-1/3 of his take home pay, depending on how much overtime he gets, which is *still* NOT OK.

      3. MCL

        I work at a university located in the downtown area of a small city. Our yearly parking pass rate is way cheaper than hourly parking, if you compare cost per hour. I don’t find OP’s description to be off-base. And if I were requested to bring in my car for a business related reason for more than just a few minutes’ worth of picking something up, I would absolutely request parking and mileage reimbursement. I commute by bus so I don’t have to incur those expenses, why would I subsidize my employer for them.

        1. University Parking & Transit Person

          Definitely! If you compare our annual rate to the hourly/daily rate, you’d spend it in only 30 days of parking. This is why I went ahead and bought a parking permit for all 8 years I didn’t actually own a car. I borrowed other cars enough to make it worthwhile, price wise. (Also, pre tax deductions save more money.)

      4. Jesmlet

        “At my previous company it would have been a hard no to reimburse one employees occasional parking cost, but would have been completely understood that if people chose not to drive, they couldn’t do driving related tasks.”

        Same. I don’t get my occasional $28 round trip train ticket into the city reimbursed when I have to work out of our other office and the regular city commuters don’t get reimbursed for their discounted monthly tickets either. Why would we? It’s part of my job, and even if it wasn’t originally discussed, job descriptions change all the time.

        With that said, I do think it’s reasonable for OP to ask. I just also think it’s reasonable for her manager to say no, or hand over those tasks to someone else.

        1. Specialk9

          I have always gotten any non-typical commuting for work reimbursed. I didn’t realize it was controversial.

          1. Jesmlet

            Maybe I’m just the anomaly then? If I were traveling on a plane, obviously that would be reimbursed but a single trip to NYC every other month definitely wouldn’t be.

    8. Yorick

      Remember that learning to drive as a teen in most parts of the US requires parents who are 1) able to afford a car and 2) involved enough to take you to practice driving and to the DMV at least twice. I never learned to drive because of #2.

    9. Yorick

      Also, lots of drivers feel they have to leave at 5:00 (or whenever) on the dot: people with kids to pick up, people with long commutes, people who have to deal with traffic, people who are hourly, people who think about work as hourly even though they’re exempt

    10. sapphiredragon

      I don’t even own a car. I haven’t owned a car in over ten years. I would have no way of doing these tasks without use of a taxi or ride share service. I wouldn’t even feel comfortable with a rental car or borrowing a co-workers car to do these tasks because I drive so infrequently that at this point I’m no longer good at driving and moderately afraid to drive. If these tasks were in my job description, I would not have been able to accept the job.

      I’ve had to decline to work an annual conference on the other side of the city from me because of my lack of car. I’ve told my employer that I’d be happy to work the conference if they would reimburse my hotel on site or a $75+ Uber twice a day or figure out a way to allow me to arrive late and leave early after dealing with 2+ hour commutes on the commuter train each way. They keep deciding it would just be better to have someone else work the conference. I’m not buying a car for a 4 day conference once a year.

      1. Yorick

        And it’s not “making your coworkers suffer” to have them do tasks that they are capable of when you aren’t capable of them

    11. Decima Dewey

      I take public transit. After a certain time in the evening, the routes that take me home go from two or three times an hour to once an hour. Miss a bus, I have to hang around until the next one comes. That’s a piece of the puzzle, true.

      OTOH my coworkers who drive to the branch have to move their cars every two hours if they don’t want to be ticketed. I don’t have to park a city bus or move it every two hours. That’s another piece of the puzzle.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        At one point in my life, I was reliant on public transportation to get to a job I had been hired at when I had a car. The normal drive was ~15-20 mins freeway, or ~30-40 mins streets, but the bus trip was ~1 1/2 hours to get there, and *3 1/2* hours to get home, which almost entirely consisted of waiting at unprotected bus stops for 30-60 min because the bus I needed to catch there was scheduled to leave mere minutes before the bus I got there in arrived and I’d have to wait for the next one, and at the first one I had to call ch after work, the stop was both isolated & poorly lit. Also, if I missed that bus, there were NO OTHERS after it, and literally no other bus route I could take to get home, and that bus came *so close* to my end work time it was entirely possible for me to miss it if it came a few minutes early or I got off a few minutes late. (I lived in county A, and worked in county B, hence the awful coordination of bus routes.) My SO did not drive, so for the year or so it took for me to become mobile again, one of my parents (who I did not live with) had to pick me up & take me home on the days I worked, something they weren’t real happy about (despite being awesome, kind, retired, and very generous, and I can’t say I blamed them!) and honestly, as an independent adult in my mid 30s, neither was I.

        I also had to deal with things like one or more of the buses I took to get to work changing its scedule or route with zero advance notice (pre smart phone, and pre cellphones being affordable for everyone) or changing in such a way that my options were to arrive at work 1+ hour early every day (which my boss did not want to pay overtime for) or arriving 15 minutes late every day (which he also did not like, but couldn’t do much about if he wasn’t up for option 1.)

        I had another job some years previously, at another time I ended up without a car after I had already gotten the job, where I had no problem taking the bus to & from work, it was a reasonable time for the distance, and I had no issues with the schedules but during lunchtimes I was screwed. This was a high end, appointment only veterinary hospital/boarding/grooming facility, and as they took no walk-ins, they closed during the extremely long lunch break (it was 1.5 or 2 hrs) but no one was allowed to remain in the facility during that time except occasionally a vet or the office manager. The office was situated in a suburban area that was zoned for horses, and there was NOTHING in walking distance at all, and no place outside the facility I could sit- at all- and eat while I read a book or something. To take the bus home for lunch would have taken just long enough that I’d have to pretty much turn immediately around and take the bus back, and since I couldn’t afford to eat out pretty much *at all* at the time, there was no other place I could really take it even if it was close enough to get there, eat, and come back.
        Occasionally the office manager needed an extra hand during the time we were closed, and I’d volunteer to be the one who worked through lunch, getting paid while I ate my sandwich, but that wasn’t often. Once or twice a week my folks would come pick me up & we’d have lunch at their house, but I couldn’t expect them to do it all the time, and I eventually just had to quit because it wasn’t sustainable. And I hated that- I loved the job, the pay was decent, and I’d been struggling to find work before I landed it.

        But hey! I guess it was a “lifestyle choice” to have had bad luck with cars, or be born with invisible & (at the time) undiagnosed disabilities that made it difficult or impossible to find different work where I might have had less financial issues, or to have gotten work in places that public transportation sucked, or where the only options I had sometimes inconvenienced others.

    12. Kate 2

      “Lifestyle choice” Whoa! Holy class privilege Batman! ; )

      Seriously though, not all of us, even in seemingly well paying jobs can afford a car.

      Car itself, insurance, license fees, gas, parts, parking, etc.

      I work a job that pays a decent amount over minimum wage, but taxes take 25% of my income, after taxes 50% goes to rent (and I live in a govt rent controlled building), 25% goes to my student loans, and I have to feed and clothe myself on the 25% left over, pay for the legally mandated health insurance, and save so that if an emergency comes up (as they have and will for all of us) I can pay for it and still afford rent.

      A car is simply not possible for me. You might think, as my coworkers do, that I make plenty of money, but they all have spouses and don’t have student loans, so they have double the income and fewer necessary expenses.

      TL;DR Please don’t assume you know what your coworkers can afford.

      1. LCL

        You are choosing to make this about class privilege. It’s not. It’s stereotyping to believe transit riders are poor, and car drivers are well to do. The commenter was griping about the effect her coworker’s commute choice had on her.

    13. scorpysuit coryphefuss arterius

      People are also beholden to others’ car-riding in ways people don’t always consider.

      1. OP #4

        The OP here (a little late to the party – I forgot this was actually being answered! – and hope I’m replying on the right space in the thread?)…

        So yes, an annual permit is $800 for employees – if you’re just parking for the day or a few hours and don’t have such a permit, you have to pay the guest/hourly rate which is way more.

        Re: the job description and if they’re included or not, I think that’s where I was struggling because it’s sort of gray. For example, one of my job duties is to “plan and organize review sessions for students before major exams.” My predecessor (I took this job in November 2017) would do things like reserve them a room near where they lived at 5pm and pick up food for them from a takeout place. Or go deliver them groceries from a local groceyr store during business hours. So they got used to this sort of luxury (I don’t think students should get food at all provided by a university before an exam and they should be able to study on their own but I digress…) and then there were some expectations that I’d do these things. I’m trying to move to get these things either where the food can be delivered, or where driving doesn’t need to happen. Another example – we had some plaques ordered for graduation. My predecessor told me it was totally fine to order them with a week’s notice, neglecting to mention that would require driving to pick them up (whereas if they were shipped, and my department wouldn’t GAF about the cost, they would have had to be ordered earlier).

        Re: the other employees and if they get reimbursed for mileage and whatnot.. also sort of gray. Some of my coworkers drive to other universities for recruitment and college fairs, I’d assume they get reimbursed for that or get a fleet vehicle. I do have one coworker that has an annual pass, who when we have meetings on the other side of campus (about 2 miles), will actually drive the 2 miles and park in a guest lot and pay the hourly rate. She outright told me “I would NEVER dream of asking to be reimbursed every time I go to a meeting” but that feels somehow different because we have a free circular bus that goes around campus that anyone can ride, and runs every 5-10 minutes? Some of them will also go run errands during the day to get snacks for students, etc., but again, don’t ask for reimbursement – but maybe that’s different because they’ve already paid for the spot as part of their regular commute?

        I feel like the best solution is to just try to avoid driving and on the less-than-frequent occasion that it’s absolutely necessary, ask for the reimbursement. The reimbursement itself though is of course a lot of shenanigans when you’re a government employee and it feels like you do two hours of work to get $5 back.

    14. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      You sound incredibly salty about something that for one, is none of your business (how your coworker gets to/from work) and two, is either a problem unrelated to your coworker’s transportation schedule (if she is a slacker/work shirker in general) or not her issue to solve (if your boss is assigning more work than can be finished in a typical workday), both of which are issues that management needs to solve.

      Would you be as resentful if your coworker drove, but had to leave on the dot to pick up a child from school/day care; a spouse or SO from work; medicate a themselves/a family member/a pet; work a second job; or any other time-sensitive endeavor?

  22. Llama Grooming Coordinator

    I swear I didn’t write letter 5 four years ago and just sent it in now.

    But…yeah, multiple times a day feels like a lot to me! But that’s partly because I am terrible at the phone and I would just prefer to hash things out over email or IM. (But also, you admit to calling her about once an hour on average per workday!)

    But I don’t think that’s the major problem, LW5. If you need to personally check in with your boss multiple times a day about tasks, that sounds like you’re very unsure in your job. Either you’re lacking confidence in yourself, she’s not providing adequate direction and wants you to route everything through her, or (most likely) some of both. If you can, make sure that you have instructions on how to handle common situations that you call your boss about.

    And if she is actually super okay with being called that often…I’m pretty sure your boss is an alien from outer space, but hey, that works for her.

  23. Frances

    OP 4: Does your university have a fleet service of some sort? Sometimes larger organizations will have a few vehicles on hand that employees can use for work purposes. You usually just have to get approved to drive a work vehicle and then reserve one for the days you need it. It might be an option for you if your boss says “no” to the reimbursement.

    1. OP #4

      They do but the amount of hassle to reserve it, re-fill it with gas, take pick up the car and bring it back to where it lives (almost two miles from my office) is not worth it :S

  24. V

    I have a question around LW4’s letter, and perhaps my knowledge is antiquated and US-specific (possibly even to my home state), but…

    Are there regulations around using your personal vehicle for work purposes with regard to car insurance? I’m willing to bet that LW4 likely doesn’t have a commercial policy on their car. If LW4 was to get into an accident while performing these tasks on behalf of her employer, how does that suss out?

    I’ve always been incredibly hesitant to use my personal vehicle for work purposes because of this. I also had a job when I was in my early 20s that required delivery drivers to carry million dollar commercial policies on their personal vehicles, since they were being used for the work being performed (food delivery). Incidental work tasks in personal vehicles may not be an issue, though, I’m not certain. But I do know when I call and speak with my insurance vendor (usually when moving/updating address for the policy, etc), they *always* ask if any of the cars are being used for work purposes.

    Anyone have clarity on this? Anyone working in the insurance industry out there, reading?

    1. CDM

      The standard personal auto policy in the US not only covers employees for work use of their vehicle (with standard exclusions for food delivery service and optional but common exclusions for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft) but the personal auto policy also provides coverage for your *employer* for their liability for your business use of a vehicle.

      Good employers who expect employees to use personal vehicles in the course of business will also have a commercial auto policy in place that includes coverage for the employer’s liability for hired or non-owned vehicles used in the course of their business. Many of those policies have an endorsement that also covers employees as insureds under that policy, but that is not a part of the standard commercial auto policy. Hired and non-owned auto coverage is included on almost but not all commercial auto policies that cover vehicles owned by a company, and hired and non-owned auto policy coverage can also be purchased by companies that do not own any vehicles – either as a commercial auto policy, or as an add-on to their general liability coverage.

    2. CDM

      As for physical damage, if you have a comprehensive or a collision claim while using your personal auto for business use, the claim is treated the same way as a claim during personal use. Your personal policy is primary, and you are on the hook for the deductible if you claim through your own coverage. If you don’t have comp or collision coverage, your employer’s commercial auto policy might or might not provide secondary physical damage coverage.

      1. V

        This is great information. Thanks for clarifying for me! Sounds like my exposure to it fell under one of the exclusionary categories, and not the norm for occasional work-related use. I work in health care these days so my knowledge of auto insurance beyond my own personal policy is pretty weak.

    3. MLB

      I don’t think this is an issue with car insurance. She specifically said that she took the job knowing she had public transportation available to get to work. My guess is that it costs less to do that than pay the money for a parking pass each month (I know where I live it’s crazy expensive for parking in the city). She just needs to make sure her boss is aware that she doesn’t drive to work, and incurs an extra expense when she’s asked to – it’s definitely a legitimate request to be reimbursed…shouldn’t make a difference that most others drive and already pay for parking.

      1. V

        I do believe that LW4’s claim is a legitimate claim, I was just wondering about car insurance as it relates to using a personal vehicle for work-related purposes. As stated above, my exposure to commercial policies falls under an exclusionary category, hence the need for a commercial policy in those instances, and not in LW4’s.

      2. CDM

        OP4 absolutely has a legitimate request for reimbursement for the extra expense incurred on the days when she drives to work solely for the convenience of her employer.

        There are recurring comments in this forum claiming employees don’t have coverage on their personal auto insurance for business use of vehicles, which is untrue, in most cases, in the US.

        I appreciated the opportunity to clarify. It’s always a good idea to read your own policy, as some carriers use non-standard policies and non-standard endorsements.

      3. essEss

        In my situation, I live a block away from my office. I am in a large urban city so I don’t need a car so I don’t even own one. I made sure when I took my job that it didn’t require the use of a car. If suddenly they started requiring me to run errands, I would have no choice except use taxis/uber/lyft/public transit or rent a car. All would be out-of-pocket expenses to do work duties. I don’t pay to do my job…. my job is supposed to pay me. My employer is responsible for reimbursing those expenses. On the other hand, if my job duties had stated that I need to have transportation to run errands when I took the job, then I might be on the hook for those costs because it was part of my agree-upon job requirements. If it suddenly became a job requirement that I run those errands on a regular basis, then I’d have to consider negotiating for higher pay (to cover my out-of-pocket transit expenses) or decide if I needed to look for a new job and let them know that I was going to have to do that.

      4. OP #4

        Yep, over $800 depending on the lot for an annual parking permit, vs. $36 for an annual unlimited bus pass!

  25. Argh!

    In my first full-time job I was very enthusiastic, happy to be professionally employed, and constantly looking for things to do. In my evaluation, my supervisor mentioned my energy and output (also saying it made my elderly coworker & another, who was frankly a dolt, look badly by comparison)… and the next comment was about how often I go to the bathroom.

    I asked if he was suggesting I was on drugs. Oh, no no no no…. just an observation. So, even though my output made others look bad, going pee made me look bad? That was just so stupid, and questioning him about what he meant by it made him back off of it. I told him I have a small bladder. (If I’d really wanted to embarrass him I could have described the female problem that also made me use the bathroom more than post-menopausal old women!)

    That was decades ago and I still remember it like it was yesterday. It still makes me shake my head.

    1. Specialk9

      Oh, gosh, sorry, I thought I was supposed to get as much work done as possible. I’ll do my best to follow your instructions to work less. Would you like me to do 50% , or 75% of my current work? You didn’t want me to do 25% though, right? That seems awfully low.

    2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      I don’t think I would have even made the connection between energy + bathroom usage, but I would have been questioning him on both counts because I would have found it so puzzling. Huh? How is it my problem that my coworkers don’t perform as well as I do, and what does the amount of times I use the restroom have to do with, well anything?

      I once had a boss ask if I was OK because I was using the restroom more than usual one day, and she was worried I was sick (no, just menstruating, makes me have to poop like crazy), but that was out of concern and also a boss I was comfortable talking about things like that with.

  26. Parenthetically

    Oh gods, #1 is bringing back some memories. OldBoss drank tea constantly. Our offices were in a slightly ramshackle building with slightly water-damaged floors (we were in the process of cleaning/fixing it up). Somehow he decided that because the floors were in bad shape, it didn’t matter if they got tea on them. So he would just take his teabag out of his tea and fling it into a corner. The accountant (the only other woman in the office) went in once with rubber gloves and picked them all up out of sheer disgust, whereupon he cracked that now he really didn’t need to clean up after himself because she was there to do it for him. They were old friends, and she LIT HIM UP about his misogynistic expectations toward the women in the office and double-dog-dared him ever to joke about the women in the office cleaning up after the men. To his credit, he apologized meekly and managed to hit the trash can after that.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD

      …there’s so much I could comment on, but what springs to mind first is god, I really hope he didn’t take sugar or milk in his tea…

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

        All I can think is “letting teabags rot in a corner =/= getting tea on the floor”

        What bizarre reasoning!

    2. General Ginger

      Somehow he decided that because the floors were in bad shape, it didn’t matter if they got tea on them
      That is… very interesting logic.

          1. Myrin

            At least nobody’s going to pay attention to the frequency of his bathroom visits that way!

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

          When I first started reading Parenthetically’s post, this exactly where I thought it was going. I was very relieved (no pun intended) to get to the tea bag part.

      1. Specialk9

        Teabagging one’s floors is just as gross as any other teabagging.

        Also, little about the US Tea Party movement was funny, *except* having old white people refer to themselves as Teabaggers. Oh lordy, get thee to Urban Dictionary!

  27. Gerry

    #2. I was once told in a performance review that I yawned too often. I resisted the urge to reply that maybe my work is too boring.

  28. bohtie

    OP 2, I have a similar problem — congenital defect plus kidney issue that means I have to pee at least once an hour pretty much like clockwork. If I’m not, then it almost certainly means something is wrong and I’m about to get very sick, or I’m not drinking enough and will be dangerously dehydrated in no time.

    It rarely comes up at work, but when it has, I usually just say “I have a kidney issue” or “Yeah, the doc says I gotta drink 3+ liters a day.” A lot of people have had infections, stones, etc. so that usually leads to an “aha” moment and they don’t bug me again. I have one *very* nosy coworker, and I finally just snapped and told her, “I have a birth defect in my ureters and if I don’t go to the bathroom regularly, I get hospital-level kidney infections and blood starts coming out of places there shouldn’t be blood,” and she was so grossed out she never brought it up again. (This is not necessarily a tactic I would recommend for most people, but her reputation for nosiness and my reputation for oversharing collided.)

    The worst is when they constantly ask if I’m pregnant because I’m fat and pee a lot, but by the sounds of it, you don’t have to deal with that one.

      1. Environmental Compliance

        +1

        Which is how one of my male coworkers got a lesson on how tampons actually work after asking me a couple too many times on why I needed an actual bathroom when out doing field work instead of just finding a tree.

  29. Miles

    I have a question re: #2. I tried to read all the comments on it, and actually searched the site to read about 4-5 other posts on it, and now I think I’m crazy! The basic question I have: Is it really NEVER okay (or appropriate or healthy) for someone to ask about someone’s bathroom usage?

    I’m on a team with 8 other people. For 7 of those people, I have no idea what their bathroom habits are. I assume normal. However, I have 1 team member, lets call Gerald, who takes (5-6) 20-30 minute bathroom breaks a day. He’s been on my team for a year, and this has been going the majority of time. I don’t think I intended to notice. A weird workflow quirk of ours is that we have to print a lot for our role, and the printer is located across the building. We also have an open floor plan with desks that are very close together. Because of this, you pay attention to who has gotten up, because often you assume they went to the printer. This is also why I am not generally aware of others bathroom habits; People often go before they grab the printing and thus no one knows (or cares) if they were at the bathroom. However, Gerald will often disappear for 20-30 minutes, and may or may not bring back the printing with him. I’m obviously not positive he is in the bathroom because I don’t check, but we’re a small office with limited rooms, so I often grab my printing and water from the kitchen and will notice he is in neither of those rooms. Additionally, he does always bring his phone with him, and will update his social media during these extended breaks. Finally, we are non-exempt (hourly) employees whose role is task based: we all do the same job duty and pull from the same queue, so a missing coworker does affect the rest of us.

    Several employees on the team have noticed, and it’s gotten to be so extreme that other employees in the room who are not on the team also notice. Our supervisor, Fergus, is off-site so he has not noticed, and it’s a weird thing to make him aware of. Fergus has also made a comment to me about not worrying too much about other people, so I’ve been hesitant to bring this up.

    I share this story because it seems more extreme to me, but maybe I am crazy? I will brace myself for your comments :)

    1. Washi

      Fwiw I don’t think it’s wrong to notice that your coworker goes to the bathroom a lot, or has been sick in the mornings and maybe is pregnant, or maybe has a crush on another coworker. What is wrong is 1) spreading rumors or gossiping about them, 2) letting that affect your perception of their work, 3) conducting a diy investigation into their habits to determine if you are correct.

      In your case, taking 5-6 20-30 minute bathroom breaks is definitely noticeable, but unless it’s affecting your work, it’s not a good look to bring it up, imo.

    2. College Career Counselor

      This is less about where Gerald goes and what he does while there (bathroom, social media break, smoking, working on his manifesto) and more about how this behavior impacts YOUR work. If his absence makes the work go longer, then I would raise that issue with Fergus, not what you suspect the reason for it is.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        Gerald is slowly copying his manifesto onto the walls of a conference room in ink that only shows up under ultraviolet light.

    3. Rusty Shackelford

      It doesn’t matter *where* Gerald is going – he could be taking a smoke break, he could be chatting with a friend on the other side of the building, he could be using his cell phone in a stairwell. The issue isn’t where Gerald is going, the issue is that he’s disappearing, and it’s affecting how much work the rest of you have to do. *That’s* what you have a right to bring up. Not the fact that he’s in the bathroom.

      1. Ama

        Yup. I recently had to point out to my direct report (who is fresh out of college so there’s a lot she’s learning about working norms) that when she knows we have a meeting scheduled at 10:30, if she really needs to step out at 10:29 she at least needs to give me a heads up that she’s doing so and not disappear for 15 minutes when I’m waiting on her. But this is not related to her going to the bathroom or the amount of time she spent in there, it’s related to the fact that she should have communicated to me that she needed to push our meeting back, not leave me waiting for 15 minutes with no idea where she was.

        If Gerald is consistently nowhere to be found when people need to check in with him or he’s holding up deadlines because he’s not completing his work in a timely manner, those are the issues you bring to your supervisor.

    4. MLB

      If something a co-worker is doing is affecting your ability to do your job (i.e. creating more work for you, keeping you from getting your work done, etc.) it’s ok to bring it up to your boss (although if your boss is competent, he/she has probably noticed his absence already, key word being competent). But the what, where and why of his frequent trips away from his desk is none of your business.

    5. KellyK

      It is more extreme, and it sounds like he is affecting your work. It might be legitimate to take your phone to the bathroom if you know you’re going to be in there for a while for…legitimate bathroom reasons…but it’s pretty clueless to be updating social media that your coworkers can see during that time. (If I had to bet one way or the other, I think it’s more likely that he’s goofing off than that he’s legitimately using the bathroom that much.)

      I think since your boss already mentioned not worrying so much about other people, the most you can do is point out what effect it’s having and ask how he’d like you to handle the additional work.

      I think that it’s appropriate to bring it up to a supervisor when it impacts you, and it’s appropriate for a supervisor to bring it up if it’s resulting in work not getting done. Disappearing for 20-30 minutes 5 or 6 times a day is anywhere from an hour and a half to 3 hours during the day. That’s a lot.

      1. LCL

        Your IT people may be able to reconfigure the office WIFI so it doesn’t work in the bathroom area. If user has to pay for his own minutes, his voyages may decrease. Or not. You really can’t be minding this yourself.

  30. drpuma

    OP4, would it be feasible for any of your car-commuting coworkers to do the tasks that require driving? As you say, they’ve already got a parking pass. That way you wouldn’t have to move your car or worry about being reimbursed.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

      It’s not reasonable to shift your work to someone because they have a car. Presumably her boss chose her for these tasks for a reason. If I were, say, a graphic designer who drove to work and an admin asked that I handle all the pick-things-up tasks because she takes public transit, I would be pretty frustrated.

      Actually — I just realized that I’m struggling with this right now. A colleague of mine, the executive assistant to the VP of our vision, takes transit to work. As a result, it’s difficult for her to get in early enough (~6:00 a.m.) to set up for some of the meetings she’s responsible for staffing. As a result, I’ve had to come in to make coffee/set up the room/greet folks at the door/receive the catering order, etc. for some executive-level meetings related to the programs I manager (meetings I otherwise wouldn’t attend). It sucks.

      1. Kate 2

        I mean, they are asking her to do really basic deliveries and pick ups that anyone could do. I don’t think it would be wrong for a coworker with a car to be asked to do them instead.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever

        I actually don’t think it is that unreasonable to ask if other people with a car can do it. It seems like these errands are few and far between/sporadic so as to not be a critical part of the job. If running these errands are a critical part of the job a car/fleet should be provided or parking needs to be paid for. If this is the type of job that needs a car that should have been stated in the job description and as part of the terms of employment.

        In regards to your particular situation I am assuming it is difficult for the EA to get to work on public transit due to it not running as much that early and not that the EA just isn’t getting up early enough. I imagine that the 6 am meetings are not the norm, if they are then the EA needs to be told that getting there at 6 am is a critical part of the job and they need to find a way to make it work. But unless the job inherently requires a car such as door to door salesperson, an employer should not dictate how you get to work, if they want to require a car then they should at least pay for parking/mileage.

        If you are normally already there at 6 am it sucks but I don’t think it is a big deal, I have certainly done things that are way outside my job description on occasion and I have become or office IT person even though I am not in an IT position or field. If you are not normally there at 6 am and have to get there early to staff the meeting than yes I agree you should not have to do it and a solution should be worked out between the company and the EA.

        1. OP #4

          My office is sort of interesting in that everyone else I work with (without going into too much identifying detail) works for one particular program and I work for a different, but related program – I am the only person that works for that program there, so I think there’d be a little lack of collegiality there. My direct supervisor is a faculty member who DOES drive into work and sometimes when he’s made these requests I’ve contemplated just saying “maybe YOU could do that, then?” And actually, a few weeks ago, when he wanted to get a very specific item for an event that could only be found at a hardware store, I did say “isn’t that right where you live? maybe you could pick it up on your way home sometime?” and it worked! It was literally an 80 cent item. I think this is also all tied up in the faculty/non-faculty atmosphere of a college campus and being treated like an administrative assistant (not my role at all) and that complicates things…

  31. MCL

    OP4, does your university have a fleet pool? I share a car with my spouse who needs to take our car for his commute daily, and I take the bus. So I use our fleet pool if I need to drive myself to a meeting, for example, which I expense to my department. Not sure if that would be easier for you?

  32. Rusty Shackelford

    #4, it sounds like your boss is making these requests ahead of time (i.e., “I need you to pick up award plaques on your way in tomorrow”), because otherwise, you wouldn’t have your car on campus. Is that why you feel like you can’t say anything? I assume if your boss said “I need you to go pick up lunch for some students right now,” you’d have no problem saying “I don’t have a car here.” So, just do that, even if you’re asked to do something at a later date. “I don’t usually drive to work, so I won’t have a car here on Friday. Should I call the motor pool/arrange for a cab/whatever other option is available?”

    1. borednerd

      Second this.

      Also does your boss know you don’t typically drive? because if most people are driving to your location, it might not have even occurred to them that having a car on site is an extra step for you/ incurring extra costs.

      May also be a good idea to look up your universities policy on mileage reimbursement because you may have your answer spelled out for you there.

      1. OP #4

        He does know I take the bus. I think he thinks it’s either not a big deal because of his position/driving is a given for him, or I’ve been a little too acquiescent and not pushing back on it, because my predecessor would do these things all of the time. Between when I submitted this question and now we had a sit down for my six month review and had a hard talk about how just because so-and-so did these sorts of things, does not mean I actually am required to do them – that person chose to do them because they were fun to them. I think I’m more so nervous about what my coworkers would think if I was getting reimbursed for stuff (they have a different supervisor).

  33. Gotham Bus Company

    For OP2…

    This sounds like “face time” (i.e. physically being at your desk) is more important than actually getting the work done. (“How does Bob get a glowing review and a raise when he’s away from his desk so often? Meanwhile, I’m at my desk all day and nobody says squat.”) The fact that it showed up in your review suggests that your boss is at least partly guilty of that thinking as well.

  34. University Parking & Transit Person

    OP4 – I’m now going to out myself as a 20-year veteran in my university’s parking department… If you are at a public university, this may fall under state and federal laws that govern income-taxable benefits. For this reason, at my university, a department may never ever buy parking for an employee for any reason. Just an FYI!

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials

      Interestingly, at my state U, there is a loophole – the service permit. Departments can purchase service permits (typically 2-hour parking pass for special service permit spots) to be used by faculty/staff, although in order to be approved, you have to submit a justification for why the bus lines etc. don’t fill the need. We have two permits.

      The way staff uses the service permits makes me crazy. They are intended to be used for faculty who need to hop over to campus to teach a class, or just for a quick meeting or drop off/pick up. We are in an off-campus location and have extremely cheap parking ($10/month!). We have several staff members whose job includes recruiting study patients in the hospital, and they all ask whether we can get another service permit, or get one for longer than two hours. No, we aren’t going to subsidize your parking. If you need to be on campus multiple days per week for multiple hours each day, you get to pay for campus parking like the rest of us, or take the bus.

      1. University Parking & Transit Person

        We have this — it is called a “departmental pass” and it is used to *upgrade existing parking permits*, not provide parking if you don’t have it.

        Faculty and staff here also abuse this exactly as you describe and it drives. us. crazy.

      2. OP #4

        We do have a service permit and that’s been suggested, but it’d still require me paying to park the rest of the day when I’m not doing the drop off (since it’s got a limit as you noted).

  35. LBK

    #5 – I think the only thing I’d add to Alison’s suggested language is framing it with “I’ve noticed that since we’re no longer working in the same office, I feel like I’m calling you a lot.” I think that more directly sets her up to clarify whether she’s bothered by the volume of calls – she may respond that she hasn’t even noticed and you’re totally good, or that may open the door to her making a more specific suggestion about what she’d prefer instead (eg sending emails, IM if you have it, a single 20-minute daily catchup, etc).

    I just feel if it’s positioned the way Alison wrote it without specifying why you’re raising the issue, it’s easier for the boss to simply accept the status quo without really thinking about what she’d prefer.

    1. Ali G

      I agree with this – also I think setting 1-2 check-ins per day would be helpful and the OP should make a list of the things she needs help with and save them up. Not call every single time she has a question – even if that means something doesn’t get finished in the order she wants to work on them.

      1. LBK

        I think that’s also something she could include the conversation – assuming the boss asks her to limit the number of conversations as the solution, the OP can ask how she wants to handle cases where she needs the manager’s input on something before it can move forward. I don’t know if this is an official signoff situation or just asking for feedback, but if it’s the latter maybe the boss is expecting that the OP will just trust her own judgment at this point and move things along without her, or maybe as part of the change in their working structure it’s just accepted that some things will bottleneck and take longer and that’s okay.

        1. LBK

          (And I say this as someone who relies on feedback from my grandboss to move a lot of items forward but can only usually get on her calendar once a week to do a debrief – we generally end up doing a mix of email, running things by my direct boss/a peer instead of with her, and just trusting my judgment enough to know what I can reasonably assume about her input to take things forward without actually asking her.)

  36. Mr. Bob Dobalina

    OP#2: I would be pissed about this, and I would not let sleeping dogs lie. Your manager showed poor judgement bringing this subject up during a performance review. I think you should address this again with your manager and say “Since this was significant enough for you to bring up during my performance review, I want to fully address it.”
    Tell your manager that the frequent bathroom usage is due to a medical issue, and as AAM suggested, ask if it requires a medical accommodation, and if you should discuss it with HR. I would even comment “I am uncomfortable that other employees are talking about my bathroom habits, and I hope that’s not acceptable behavior.” At that point, your manager is on notice: it is your manager’s job (or HR’s job) to handle and respond appropriately to the other employees when they “tattletail” on what they perceive as a problem, but is none of their business. (By the way, other employees have probably imagined all sorts of reasons that you frequently go to the bathroom: you are taking personal calls, you are goofing off on social media, you are taking drugs, etc.)

  37. clow

    For OP2 I don’t understand why this is even something the boss brings up as feedback. Even without a medical condition, which OP should not have to disclose, if people actually drink as much water as they are supposed to, most people would go to the bathroom every 1-2 hours. I know I get migraines if I don’t drink enough, and if I drink enough, I will use the bathroom once every hour. Why is it that the corporate world always punishes people for actually beings human beings and not machines? OP, I feel like your boss should be shutting these people down, not validating their crappy behavior by bringing this up during a performance review. I’m sorry you work with people like this :(

    1. MF

      Yeah, not all feedback needs to be passed on to your direct reports. There’s really no benefit to the employee when a manager passes on feedback that is silly or baseless.

    2. EddieSherbert

      So much of this!

      I was going to say… I probably pee 5-6 times a day for a normal 8 hour work day simply because I drink a lot of water and I don’t think it’s weird.

      It’s been mentioned a grand total of once in the several years I’ve been here – when a coworker commented that they think I drink “about as much water as they do” when we were both at the water cooler and then saying “I bet you pee a lot too.” (yeah, he’s not the most socially-savvy person!)

  38. Squeeble

    In addition to everyone else’s support for OP 2, I just want to say that peeing once a hour is like…not that out of the ordinary??? I am pretty much on that schedule and I don’t have a related health problem, I just drink a lot of fluids. I can’t imagine caring about such a thing.

    1. BadWolf

      There definitely days when I’m at about once an hour. Don’t they recommend moving every hour if you have a desk job anyway?

    2. The Other Dawn

      I think some people care because they see it as someone trying to avoid work, waste time, whatever. I used to know a few people that think like that. Every time someone got up, no matter what it was for, they’d be asking, “Where is John going? He’s NEVER at his desk! How many times does he need to pee??” Stuff like that. Meanwhile these people who are so worried about what others are doing are also the people that are busy playing Angry Birds on their phone with the volume on full blast, and wandering around the office to chat all the time.

      And there are certainly people who are constantly up from their desk, in the bathroom, whatever, because they actually ARE wasting time, but I don’t think that’s really the norm. At least in my experience anyway.

      1. Goya de la Mancha

        I feel like this is something that people are more likely to notice if it’s affecting their work. Like if I have to interact with John on a frequent basis for our job and he’s “always” in the bathroom – it becomes frustrating for me that I can’t seem to get a hold of him. Or if John is the receptionist and every time he’s away I have to cover the phones/customers for him, those things start to pile up and stand out.

  39. AnonToday

    With regards to #4, I feel like there was a letter recently where someone wanted to know if it would be appropriate to ask for pet care reimbursement for a travel assignment for work, and Alison said that it wouldn’t be, and sometimes you just incur costs due to your job. Why would this be a different situation?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Jobs generally pay for transportation expenses incurred as part of the work. If the OP did drive to work every day, she could file for mileage reimbursement for these errands. In her case, the expenses are higher because she’s also incurring parking. Same thing as if she drove every day but was sent on an errand off-campus and had to pay for parking there.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever

        I know for tax purposes mileage reimbursement can not be counted from home to the office. But what about in a case where someone has a monthly unlimited transit pass so to drive in to work it is putting extra miles on a car that someone would not normally incur in addition to the parking. Could someone ask to be reimbursed for the mileage from their house to the office in that case?

        1. Namelesscommentator

          I have explicit approval for that, but I get the full federal rate so don’t do anything with my taxes… But i am doing a massive favor to my job when I drive in (giving them the opportunity to only pay mileage/tolls/parking rather than rental/tolls/parking/gas, so they were more than happy to accommodate. This is probably something where he the culture varies heavily by city though. Only crazy, or crazy-rich, people commute via car to where my office is.

    2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone

      I do think there’s a bit of a difference. The cat sitting was a personal incidental expense whereas the parking fee is a direct expense. Parking fees while on company business is a typical reimbursable expense. So if the OP had to park in a fee lot while running errands, that would be

      I’ll concede that the parking for the day gets a bit fuzzy, but I don’t think it falls under the cat sitter category.

    3. KellyK

      I think the distinction might be between costs that are an expected part of the travel for *everyone* (transportation) and costs that are a result of the travel only because of lifestyle (pet-sitting or childcare costs).

      Companies don’t necessarily pay mileage for quick trips during the day the way they would for a longer trip (although it’s reasonable to ask), but I think that’s largely because the dollar amounts are pretty small. If the standard for mileage is fifty cents an hour, a five-mile round trip is only worth $2.50 (and is probably a small enough percentage of their usual travel that it costs the employee less than that in gas and maintenance).

      But with parking fees that are upwards of ten dollars, that $2.50 becomes $13 or $15 a trip, and that’s a dollar amount where it makes more sense to ask for reimbursement, especially if it comes up often.

    4. Namelesscommentator

      Because the cat wasn’t owned for work, but the car is being driven to work explicitly for work purposes.

  40. l8rg8r

    LW #5 – I had kind of a similar problem. I worked in a different building than my manager when I was new to a management role myself, and I was constantly emailing or texting her questions. She (rightly) noticed that this was probably related to anxiety and lack of confidence on my part, and encouraged me to start writing down all those “little” things and then send her 1 email (or even better, wait until our weekly 1:1). And you know what? I started to realize that I could problem-solve the majority of things on my own, or that what felt time-sensitive wasn’t actually time sensitive. It was a great confidence booster that was pretty simple to do!

  41. Bad Bladder

    Shoutout to LW2! I have vesicoureteral reflux, so I feel your pain. It is absurd for this to come up in a review, though, medical condition or not. I have another coworker I am always running into in the bathroom who is a triathlete and obsessed with hydration. It’s weird not only that people care, but that they noticed in the first place.

  42. Sara without an H

    OP#4, check with your department’s administrative assistant about getting some kind of guest pass when you need to bring your car on campus. Most universities that I’ve worked for guest or vendor parking passes at no cost to the department.

  43. DaniCalifornia

    For OP#2…that seems ridiculous. I hope your boss realizes how bad it was to bring that up, even though it was letting you know others were discussing it. He should be the one shutting down any talk like Alison said.

    But it got me thinking. While I have no issues at my current job with how many bathroom breaks I take, what would you do if your boss was ridiculous about the bathroom but you technically didn’t have a medical condition? I had my gallbladder out and even though it’s been a year there are still some digestive issues going on. Is not having an organ a medical issue that you could get an accommodation for? Current job does not care and has never indicated they care (like it should be) but I would be pissed if I had to prove that I needed extra/longer/more bathroom breaks for lack of an organ.

    1. Yorick

      Yes, I think not having a gallbladder would qualify as a medical reason you need frequent bathroom breaks. Your doctor would likely be willing to send a letter.

  44. LadyKelvin

    #4 We have several office locations in town for our company. Mine happens to have free parking (yay!) but on days that we have to travel to one of the other offices for meetings or trainings we absolutely can get the cost of parking reimbursed. It is a typical business expense.

  45. Thunder Hammer

    OP1, just throw out the containers, he clearly doesn’t care. If he wanted them he’d have taken them home.

  46. Still Learning

    I’m embarrassed to say that I did bring up a bathroom schedule with someone I was supervising a few years ago because she took bathroom breaks immediately after arriving at work, ten minutes before lunch, ten minutes after lunch, and in the ten minutes before we departed work – and after my check in conversation with her, and her wtf response, I felt petty and have tried to be less ridiculous about this. In that situation, I relied on her to cover the front desk / phone, so it was really noticeable that she’d walk in then right out again, but still learning…

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