tiny answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Can I be fired for refusing to sanitize my hands?

I work for a global nonprofit. Due to the flu epidemic happening nationwide, my job has now mandated that we sanitize everything in our offices, including its workers.The top officer conducted a conference call with all upper management, explaining that we desperately need to prevent any occurrence of sickness in all our locations. There was an emergency staff meeting at my office, at which I was not present because I was with a client. Later, I was told that all staff must start by wiping down all surfaces with disinfectant. We were all provided with portable hand sanitizer that we are expected to clip to our person and keep with us at all times. Each client should sanitize their hands as they enter the building. Anyone with even the slightest symptoms of sickness should be sent home immediately. Today, I was told that as we arrive we must sanitize our hands and sign in to say we have done so. Anyone not adhering to this rule is subject to immediate termination.

Can they really fire me for not sanitizing my hands? I personally believe that by over-sanitizing we also kill the good bacteria in our bodies and therefore hurt our immune system. On Friday, I explained this to the meeting facilitator and mentioned that I would be sure to wash my hands with soap, take my vitamins and do everything I could to keep my immune system healthy.

In the big scheme of things, our organization oversees many group homes for foster youth and these types of precautions may be standard to keep those children healthy. I understand and recognize that, but I do not work with or ever have access to those children and am willing to participate in the guidelines but just not at the extreme they are mandating.

They’re being ridiculous, but yes, they can fire you for refusing to comply. You can certainly make your case to them, and could even try bringing in a doctor’s note supporting your stance, but ultimately it’s their call how strictly they want to enforce this policy (as doctor’s notes don’t bind them to taking any action).

2. Can I get this probationary period eliminated?

In a recent phone interview for a job, the HR person mentioned the new hire would be required to be on a 3-months probation period before he/she could become a permanent employee. I am a permanent full-time with my current employer, and my employer offers equivalent or even better benefits than the company I was applying with. The probation seems too risky for me, even though I know I will do my job well if given the chance. I heard that in probation, if the manager doesn’t like you he/she can fire you because of that. I am leaving my current employer just because it does not have the same opportunities in this particular region.

Do you think I can negotiate with the hiring manager or HR to reduce the probation period or eliminate it? If I can, then how? Is it normal to ask for it? I just don’t feel very secure, as I will have to leave my full-time for something even not guaranteed.

Probation periods are really a bit of a sham — because you can be fired for any reason at any time even when you’re not on probation. Generally companies use probation periods to avoid going through the typical series of warnings that they’d do before firing a longer-term employee, but they’re not legally required to do those either. No law requires that you be warned before being fired at point in your employment, so the difference in risk between a probationary period and a non-probationary period for at-will employees isn’t very significant.

In any case, these probations periods are very common, and it’s unlikely that a company that uses them as a matter of course for all new employees will agree to eliminate it.

3. Should I let my manager know I’m dealing with miscarriages?

I am about to have my third miscarriage in less than 18 months. Each one necessitates doctor appointments, ER visits, and time off work. I went to a specialist in a town three hours away to get some answers, which generated follow-up appointments that require me to miss a day of work each time. I feel I have been missing quite a bit of work to deal with this. My manager is quite understanding and has never asked what sort of medical appointment I am going to. I have been told by my OB that the third one will inevitably happen. Should I tell my manager what is going on, i.e. that I have been having miscarriages? Or just leave it as the generic doctor appointment and ER visit?

I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Whether to share what’s going on with your boss is entirely up to you. If you’re comfortable sharing it and might even feel more comfortable if she knows what’s going on so that you don’t need to worry about her wondering what’s going on, then have a quick talk with her in confidence. But if you prefer, it’s also fine to say, “I”m dealing with a medical situation that’s requiring a lot of follow-up” without giving any more details than that.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. What does this mean?

I recently had an interview that I think went amazingly well (everyone was energetic, we went over the allotted time unknowingly) and I have a great feeling about this. At the end of the interview, I met with the HR upper management who told me, “There’s only one other candidate but there’s a possibility that we’re just going to open a second [job title] position.” How should I interpret this?

You and one other person are both strong candidates, and they’re considering opening a second slot. Take it at face value; it means exactly what it says.

5. Managers think I’m younger than I am

I changed careers in my mid-twenties. I have about 6 years of work experience, but it was sporadic and in different industries. So at 30, I’m the oldest person in my current role by about 3 years. Some people in my role are as much as 8 years younger than me. I look and feel very young for my age as well, and I think because I am in school part-time (MBA) and I look young, managers mistake me for being the same age as many of my colleagues. I am agitated, however, by the constant reference to my maturity and how I do so well for being in a junior role. Examples: “I’m impressed by the maturity you show for your age,” “That’s a very mature thing for you to say,” and my favorite, “Oh wow, you live on your own? Not with your parents? Isn’t it scary being on your own for the first time?” Mainly these comments come from my managers, who are 2 years older than me. There is also constant reference to their families and marriages and how “one day” in the distant future I will have that. My instinct is to point out my age, but I bite my lip because I feel like however I bring it up I will seem catty.

My concern is that this is impacting my potential for promotions because the managers see me as a relatively immature, junior person all around. I know that sounds strange as they’re telling me the opposite but my impression is they only say it because they believe I’m so young.

That’s incredibly weird even if you were 23. Who talks about age and maturity so much? However, it’s also slightly weird that you haven’t corrected them when they’re talking to you as if you’re a pre-teen.

In any case, the next time it comes up, just respond, “I’m 30.” Problem solved.

6. I have a bad feeling about a new job, but I don’t know why

I’ve been through a number of interviews with a well-established and well-known company in my region. I’ve been told to expect an offer within the next week. My problem is I can’t shake this feeling that taking this job would be a mistake. I can’t pick out any one reason why though. I feel qualified for it, it will be more money than I currently make, and the people seem friendly enough. Have you or your readers ever had this problem? All I can figure out is that its just fear of the unknown that comes with a new job.

Sit down and really try to figure out what’s giving you a bad feeling. Don’t try to rationalize anything away — just figure out what’s not sitting quite right with you, whether you think it’s warranted or not. Bad feeling from the manager that you can’t explain? Unsettling feeling about the office environment? Worry that the work isn’t quite what you want to be doing? See if you can’t pinpoint where the uneasiness is coming from, even if you don’t understand why. If you can nail down the source, take that seriously — your unconscious might be picking up on something worth paying attention to. And if you can’t come up with anything, spend some time contemplating just how scared of the unknown you might be — does that seem like what’s happening here? Or does that not quite resonate?

I’m a big believer in listening to your gut (unless your gut has a bad track record), but see if you can figure out what your gut is responding to.

7. Making suggestions for an organization’s work in a cover letter

Would it come across as way too presumptuous to make suggestions for a way an organization could improve in a cover letter? In my case, I have experience in social media, and am applying for a position that would be partly responsible for managing the organization’s social networks. Is it okay if I simply said, “In fact, I already have a few suggestions on how [organization] could grow their presence on Twitter”? Or is that too critical right off the bat and something I should save for the interview (if I were to get one..)?

That’s not really critical at all — it’s just saying that you can help them do something that it makes sense someone in that role would be helping them do. Critical would be if you wrote, “Your Twitter presence is piddling and needs serious revamping” or “I can tell you haven’t paid much attention to your Twitter account.” Don’t do that, but what you’re suggesting is fine.

{ 146 comments… read them below }

  1. JessA*

    Number 1 – flu:
    Why didn’t they offer to give people flu shots? Personally, I think this would have been much more effective than sanitizing everything. One more thing about hand sanitizing gel – if you use it frequently it can severely dry out your hands and make your skin crack leaving you vulnerable to germs, infection, etc.

    1. BW*

      That’s what I was thinking – either offer flu shots or encouraging employees to get them. I am surprised they hadn’t been offered, even to the office workers, by a company deals with direct care of children.

      Wiping down surfaces won’t stop airborne virus. I’m surprised people going to the extreme of having everyone sanitize everything didn’t hand out masks. :-p

      Whoever made these decisions isn’t familiar or chooses to ignore the CDC recommendations – hand washing with regular soap unless it is not available and coughing and sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve and not your hands (or just not covered at all). You might try one last stab at educating them with these materials.

      Hand sanitizer is incredibly drying. Keep some hand lotion with you to use as well.

      On a related note, I’m rather annoyed with the media and consequently our mayor who bought the hype around this year’s flu. There’s been all this talk about 700 confirmed cases in my city and OMG STATE OF EMERGENCY! 700 cases, while much higher than this time last year is still 0.001% of the population. Seriously? No wonder people like your employer are instituting mandatory sanitizing.

      1. fposte*

        But it does mean it’s a notable strain on emergency services–ERs are really struggling in places. And calling it that generally means the mayor has some extra latitude in what he can do about it in authorizing funding and requiring action.

    2. Kelly*

      Agree with the over eager application of hand sanitizer. Depending on how dry the air is in your workplace, that plus the constant use of hand sanitizer will dry out your hand and skin.

      My personal opinion is that any workplace that has significant contact with the public should pay for flu shots for all of their employees, especially those in hospitals and retail. I’ve gotten lucky – I have never had any of the various nasty flu strains, but have been close to people who have gotten infected. I was in the “target” age group for H1N1 (20s) and waited to get my shot until later. The side effects of that one for younger women are interesting. There have been some studies that really haven’t gotten reported in the media that if you were infected with H1N1 and had issues with your reproductive system, having that flu made those issues worse.

      I work with two or three people who believe that hand sanitizer is the cure for everything. I don’t agree with them. I think that overuse of hand sanitizer has lowered the capacity of our immune systems to accept the good germs that help our bodies build up some immunity to the nastier ones. The smell of hand sanitizer also bothers me, as well. I’m not exactly looking forward to when she feels the need to disinfect everything that people touch. I’m hoping our supervisor shuts her down and has a chat with her about her overzealous use and waste of sanitizer.

    3. Anonymous*

      This is just a NASTY year for the flu, which isn’t helped by the fact this year’s flu shot isn’t a great match for what’s going around, so I understand encouraging the use of hand santizer, but not requiring it. I have a bad reaction to most alcohol based hand santizers, so I usually avoid them, but I also wash my hands multiple times a day. (If you haven’t already got the flu shot, it’s still worthwhile to get the shot, as any reduction in the change of getting the flu is still worth it).

      I got the flu shot this year, and in previous years when I got the shot I didn’t get the flu. This year however I got the flu, as did a lot of people at the university where I work. AND the university offers free flu shots to the students and staff, so a lot of people got them. I spent a WEEK so fatigued I couldn’t do anything, including watching TV or reading books or blogs.

      This year is also bad for people who have other health problems having complications from getting the flu. I have a relative who ended up in the hospital on a ventilator and is in currently in rehab, and that person also got the flu shot. A lot of people in the hospital or in rehab with that person, also got their flu shot.

      1. Laura L*

        I’ve actually heard that the strain that’s going around is in the flu shot (H3N2). But I’ve also read that there was an outbreak of that strain about ten years ago and it was really bad. This is just a worse than normal strain.

        I’m not sure why someone who got the shot would get the flu, though. Maybe you got a different strain or a mutated version that was different enough from the vaccine that you go sick.

        1. Andrea*

          I got the flu shot, and also got the flu. The CDC says it is a great match to this year’s strain, but it is also only about 67% effective. I was just one of the lucky 33%. I’m still glad I got the flu shot.

        2. Andrea*

          Also, the flu shot is effective two weeks after you get it, so you can still get the flu in that window of time too.

  2. Sarah*

    Please listen to your gut! if you have a ‘bad feeling’ about a job listen to that small voice within. Sometimes, you just have to survive and pay your bills, but the times that I took a job where I felt that sinking feeling of dread have without exception ended badly – and usually not very long after taking the job. I think the longest I have lasted was 14 months and the shortest was 5 days. I finally had the courage on that short one to just walk into my boss’s office and say it wasn’t a good fit and thank you very much for having hired me.

    It’s really hard – especially in this economy – to turn down a job but as I look for work now I am trying to be patient and stay open to the best fit I can find. I want to be successful in my work and part of that means finding the best fit for who I am and what I have to offer.

    1. Anon*

      I had an interview last week. People seemed nice enough, everything seemed organized and professional…But I didn’t like the way the interview was conducted. They came in as a panel (not a problem for me) and no one had my resume, nor did they ask any questions about my past work experience. Lots of behavioral questions that didn’t ask for examples of work that I did. I was in there for an hour! It was bizarre. I think I did well with what I could, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. Yesterday I got the rejection call and honestly I was relieved. Something didn’t feel right. Perhaps they already had in mind who they wanted, or was going about finding someone new the wrong way. But I didn’t come away excited about that job. And getting rejected didn’t bother me one bit.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is why I was so leery of the company that told me they were going through bankruptcy. Alison said that many companies go through that and come out fine, which is good to know. But there are also looming federal charges, and the fine could wipe them out. That scares me so much, you don’t even know.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Keep in mind, though, that you could take it to get money coming in and something on your resume, but keep looking for something else (a legitimate choice given their situation). That way you’re no worse off than you are now if something bad does happen to them, and potentially further ahead than you otherwise would be.

    3. anonymous*

      Agreed. We are more than just our conscious thoughts. Clearly, something in the environment or something that you saw or heard but did not register is bothering you.

      I’d say to hold out for the next opportunity. AAM’s advice was spot on.

      I know this, because I’m currently trapped in a job I took 11 years ago “because I needed the money”, and I regret that decision every day!

  3. Amber*

    #1 “I personally believe that by over-sanitizing we also kill the good bacteria in our bodies and therefore hurt our immune system.” You are sanitizing your hands, not your whole body. Unless you’re putting your hands in your mouth, I don’t see how this affects your immune system. But regardless, even though the new rules at your work seem rather stupid, this probably isn’t worth the fight. Why not just play along and after using the sanitizer, simply go to the bathroom and wash it off?

    Most knee-jerk rules like this end up dwindling pretty fast. The flu season doesn’t last forever and others at your work probably won’t follow it as well because people don’t like to have their health micro-managed.

    Just play along, wash it off and let it go. Is it really worth your job?

    On a side note I once worked at a company where one department was sick for months because the sick people would come in for work and people who shared cell phones and ipads (gaming company) wouldn’t sanitize their hands before/after using them. I’d rather be in your situation then back there where I got sick, got better then immediate got sick again because of co-workers.

    1. JT*

      On #1, can the OP offer to wash his/her hands with soap and hot water when he/she arrives and several times a day? That is very effective, or possibly more effective.

      1. BW*

        S/he did offer that, but it seems that isn’t good enough? I was unsure from the question what their response was.

      2. Long Time Admin*

        If they change the policy for the OP, then the policy pretty much ceases to exit. They’re not going to do that.

        OP, just go along with it for now. It won’t last forever, and you can always put hand lotion on after you sanitize. That’s what I do.

      3. Victoria HR*

        Normal human beings *should* be washing their hands with hot water several times a day as a matter of course, just from using the restroom (although we all know that there are those that don’t).

      4. Vicki*

        Yes, but then she’d have to lie because they require her to sign a form that says she sanitized.
        If you don;t want to lie, dribble out a minimum amount of sanitizer, wipe it off, sign…
        And then go wash your hands unless you used your own pen to sign with!

  4. Chloe*

    #6, do you know anyone who works there? Maybe check your networks and see if you can find a connection who does or used to work there, and that way you can get some inside information about the culture, the stuff you won’t find out about from the people you’ve interviewed with.

  5. alice*

    #3 wow, that comment about living on your own? That is just ridiculous. I’m turning 23 in April and I’ve lived alone for the last 5 years! Definitely say something, though, if you’re concerned. Like AAM says, just a simple, “actually, I’m 30” or something should do the trick.

    1. Sharon*

      I suspect the living on your own comment was a cultural difference between the OP and whoever made the comment. I was asked that once also, but it was from a coworker in my case – an Indian girl slightly younger than me. In her culture, girls stayed with their families. We had a nice conversation about it. She not only had never lived alone, but never slept in a room alone either.

      1. Anon*

        I worked in a mainly Hispanic environment and it was the same thing. If you are a young woman, it’s expected that you either live with a male partner (married or not-the people I worked with were OK with long term unmarried partnerships) or with your parents. I went to school miles away and started supporting myself while still in college and, with the economy being what it is, people are shocked by my own independence.

        Of course, even if people are surprised, I’ve never had people react to me in such a condescending manner. In OP’s case, I’d say tell them you’re 30 and see what happens.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I’ve dealt with this one, too. I generally say, “I’m older than you think I am. I have a kid in high school.” Then people say, “What, did you have him when you were 6?” Then I politely say something like I just have good genes, when I’m really thinking that they are a rude idiot.

      1. Piper*

        I’ve dealt with it, too. I’m in my mid-thirties, but most people who meet me think I’m somewhere around 23-25, which is nice, but not when it happens in the workplace.

        At my current job, I had particular issues with one person treating me like this was my first job (despite the job being pretty far from entry level) and trying to micromanage (even though they aren’t my manager and have no place doing this). It become so bad that my actual manager had to put this person in their place and let them know that I actually have more than 10 years’ experience. Right after that, I saw that the person had been checking out my LinkedIn profile. She’s pretty much backed down at this point.

      2. anonymous*

        “Oh. It must be the witchcraft!” tends to shut them up pretty fast, too! ;)

        I look youner than I am, and that’s a joke I actually use with friends and other people who know me well.

        1. FreeThinkerTX*

          I’m 46 and am told regularly that I look like I’m in my early 30s. When someone compliments me on my youthful appearance and/or “great skin”, I reply with one of two stock answers, depending on the audience:

          (1) “Thank you; I’ll be sure to pass the compliment along to my parents for their genetics.”

          (2) “Maybe it’s Maybelline.”

  6. JT*

    Sorry that this may sound harsh, but question #4 reflects badly on the OP. The statement is clear. The OP should understand it.

    1. Mrs Addams*

      I don’t think it reflects badly on the OP. How many times as AAM answered similar questions in the past? A lot of people try to read too much in to statements made by hiring managers/HR teams when they’re interviewing for a position. It’s natural – you don’t have a lot of information to work with so you analyse every last detail trying to work out “what it means”. Of course, in the majority of cases it means exactly what is said, but it can be difficult to remember that when you’re caught up in the jobsearch.

      1. fposte*

        I think a lot of times it’s not that the person doesn’t know what it means, it’s that they think it’s bad or good news but don’t want to believe it until somebody backs them up.

  7. ah*

    #6 – I was just in this situation! I’ll add my voice to the chorus of go with your gut. Last month I interviewed with an organisation that does fantastic work and would have really boosted me up the ladder career-wise. Given the pay scales NGOs operate on here (I am in South Asia), it was also an amazing compensation package, and since NGOs here often have a reputation for being disorganised and often unprofessional, this organisation was a real gem – very very professional all the way. On paper, a no brainer for sure.

    I was lucky enough to be balancing two offers simultaneously and my gut feeling was completely with the other job, which I took. I spent a lot of time looking at both as rationally as I could but in the end, when I realised they were pretty equally balanced, my gut won out. I’m also terrified of the unknown, but I am so overwhelmingly happy to be where I am right now, despite how much there is to learn.

    I’d second Chloe’s suggestion to talk to people who work there. It can’t hurt. Good luck!

  8. Not So NewReader*

    OP #6. I recently got a new job where I was not having nagging doubts- or a negative vibe. What a difference! My previous job left me with knots in my stomach from day one. Three years later those knots were STILL with me. Yes, please do pay attention to that knee-jerk reaction. This is something out beyond “new job jitters.” With this new job, I could see once I learn the job, I will be okay.

    Two things jumped at me when I read your description of the job. First. you don’t sound excited. Do you feel like you are moving toward something? Is there a purpose in taking this job other than a pay raise? The second thing that hit me was the part about the employees seemed nice enough. OP, typically, people are on their best behavior during interviews- it does not get better once you start the job. This leads me to wonder about the culture of the company. Could it be that the niceness is a forced type a niceness? Perhaps they are basically an unhappy lot.

    That nagging doubt could be something as simple as a gut feeling that says “I can do better than this.” Are they showing any excitement about getting you on board? Do you see where you can help them? Do you see where they are going to grow you?

    I remember when my husband took one particular job that went well for him. He came back from the interview and said “The people are so smart and everyone is so professional.” He was able to give this concrete example of why he was excited about the job. He noted other things that were industry specific- they do X well, they pay attention to Y. Where X and Y were matters that made a difference in his workday. It worked out very well for him over the years.

  9. BW*

    #5 – I’m also surprised you haven’t corrected people who make those kinds of comments. Speaking up is the only way to set people straight and stop them. I usually say good naturedly “I’m older than I look.” and/or “I’m (age older than 30 lol)”.

    Ten years from now when you are 40 you might find it more amusing than annoying, but it’s definitely annoying, especially when people assume you live with your parents…or maybe that was just me, because I left home ASAP because my family was totally farked up and have been living on my own since 18. Getting the “Do you live at home?” question was totally annoying because my “home” had been the same apartment by myself for years, and uh…DUH…yes! I don’t live in the office. Where do you live? *facepalm*.

    1. Piper*

      Agreed. I’m always quick to correct people who come right out and make a comment about my age. But sometimes, (as in the experience I mentioned in the comments above) when someone is implying that they think you’re younger than what you are by the way they act and by backhanded comments, that isn’t always an option. But for OP #5, I’d say it’d be pretty easy to say something like, “Oh, I look younger. I’m actually 30” or whatever.

  10. Jamie*

    #2 – Every company for whom I’ve worked used probationary periods and IME they’re not negotiable.

    You mention being a permanent employee after 90 days which leads me to believe that you’re doing your probationary period via a temp agency – which is common in my industry. This is to test people out before they are officially on the books so if they aren’t a good fit and it’s immediately apparent you aren’t dealing with UI or any complications of firing.

    The other probationary period which is common is you’re on the books right away, but it’s 90 days before benefits kick in. Insurance, 401K, holiday pay, vacation accrural, etc. That’s so common IME I thought that was standard everywhere, but maybe not.

    The only thing I’ve seen negotiated successfully a couple of times is if people do the 90 days through the temp agency to come on with holiday pay and vacation accrual starting immediately. I’ve never seen anyone budge on the other stuff – but perhaps other people have different experiences.

    I can understand that it’s scary for you to leave a “direct” position in working directly for an employer (I don’t like the word permanent – because nothing is) to going into a probationary period – but spoken or not there is always probationary period with a new hire where they are scrutinized to see if it was a good call bringing them on and you can be fired immediately without any official trial period.

    1. class factotum*

      That’s so common IME I thought that was standard everywhere, but maybe not.

      When I worked for a health insurance company, the only customers that had waiting periods were ones with high turnover, like retail. That is, they didn’t want to put anyone on the insurance who wasn’t going to stick around. But I never saw it for professional positions.

      I was really shocked when I started my new job last summer and discovered there was a waiting period. I’ve never worked for any other employer that required one.

      I think it is mean and cheap of them to do it.

      1. Jamie*

        I learn so much here – it’s easy for me to assume things are standard just because they are in my industry (or my experience) and it’s great to learn others operate differently.

        I don’t have benefits through my company, but I’d be shocked to have them offered immediately and I always wondered how prohibitive that was to changing jobs if you (or a family member) had a medical issue where you really couldn’t go uncovered for 90 days.

        1. Elizabeth*

          A lot depends on how a given employer has structured their contract with whomever is providing the insurance.

          My employer’s contract has health insurance start the first day of the month after you’re employed, so if you start on January 2, or January 31, you get coverage on February 1. We’ve been that way for as long as I’ve been working here.

          My husband’s employer has coverage start the day employment starts, and they cover the employee’s portion for the first 2 weeks.

        2. KayDay*

          fwiw, My first job had a 90 day probationary period; I know a few other people who had them, but more of my friends got benefits immediately. It wasn’t a big deal at the time since I already had an individual health insurance policy, but if I were changing jobs now I’d be really annoyed that I would have to get an individual policy for 3 months during the probationary period. My current job didn’t have a waiting period for health insurance, but it did for 401(k) contributions.

        3. class factotum*

          Jamie, the practical solution to that is you take COBRA from your previous employer, but as you probably know, that can be very expensive.

          With my new job, coverage started the first of the month following 30 days. My husband was negotiating an unpaid leave of absence from his job. I think they continued my husband’s insurance without charge to him (the benefits of being a good engineer in a field where it’s hard to get people, as opposed to being me, a dime a dozen MBA), but we were going to have to pay my full premium.

          My company would not yield on the waiting period (actually, they can’t, as it is in the contract with the health insurance company) and would not give me a signing bonus to pay for my insurance with my husband’s employer. I finally negotiated a $1,000 a year increase in my salary to cover that one month of premium without even paying attention to the fact that I was going from an insurance plan with a $25 copay for office visit and for drugs to a plan with a $2,500 deductible.

          I will not make the same mistake again.

          (I did, however, get almost all the vacation days I wanted – up six from their standard offer.)

        4. Elizabeth West*

          Every job I’ve had (office) has made you wait at least 90 days for benefits. Vacation is up to a year before you get any. There are a couple of jobs I put myself out for, including a state position, where the benefits kick in fairly soon. I’m hoping for one of those. I really REALLY need to go to the dentist and eye doctor.

          1. Natalie*

            This may be totally unhelpful depending on why you need to go the dentist, but when I paid for cleanings with cash I found a dentist that was affordable and understanding. The cost for cleanings (not xrays) isn’t too bad and cleanings are helpful. They also used to triage my cavities (my tooth enamel is terrible) – I told them how much I could spend and they filled the most important cavities up to that limit.

            If you need something more involved, a dental school may provide cheaper care.

            1. Rana*

              Agreed. I’ve mostly paid for my dental care out of pocket; unless you’re talking fillings or surgery, it’s not too bad. You might also look into self-insuring for dental only; generally those plans are a lot cheaper than full medical. (My current plan is about $140 a year.)

      2. Long Time Admin*

        The world’s largest retailer has a probationary period of 6 months, even at the home office. Yes, for 6 months you work without insurance, 401k, etc. You pray that nothing happens to you during that period, then you get your insurance coverage, 401k, and one week of vacation.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A lot of probationary periods still give you benefits during that time; it’s just a more extreme version of “at-will.” For that period, they exempt themselves from following their own policies for discipline and termination; for instance, if normally they warn you and put you on a 30-day performance improvement plan before firing you, on the probation period they’d skip that and move straight to firing. (However, since those policies are totally up to the company and not required by law, it’s not significantly different; either way, you’re still at-will.)

      1. Natalie*

        It’s probably not super common for readers of this blog, but those probationary periods can make a real difference in a union environment. My partner is halfway through a probationary period in a university job covered by AFSCME, and his bosses keep a close eye on new employees as it’s a fairly involved process to let someone go once they are fully covered by the collective bargaining agreement.

        1. V*

          Yes, this. I’m one month away from completing my 6-month probationary period at my university job and they love me, thankfully. :) On the flipside of that, I work with someone who has been there for 15 years (and gotten a raise every year) who would give a whole new meaning to the word lazy if she wasn’t too lazy to do it, and if they were to decide today that they wanted her gone we’d be looking at about 18 months.

      2. Chinook*

        I have found in Canada that employers use the probationary period as a time to make sure you were the right hire and,according to law, don’t have to give you notice (but neither does the employee ). Usually benefits start after 90 days but I find that you can negotiate that they waive the waiting period, especially if you are currently employed elsewhere.

        1. RF*

          In Germany, probationary periods between 3 and 6 months are normal. Usually, during that time, they can fire you and you can leave with a notice period of two weeks, after that it’s often one to three months. Also, in many companies you can’t take vacation days during that period, but your leave has accrued when it’s over.

          1. IT_Person*

            Very similar to the UK then –
            Convention is that there will be a probationary period of 3-6 months where both the employee and the employer can leave on 1 week’s paid notice. This is considered normal, although the notice may also be 2 weeks. It’s also fairly common for the week not to be worked if for example an employee hasn’t passed probation (you’re “paid off”). Then after the period the notice changes to a month either side, and then in bigger companies this can go up to 3 months notice either side with increasing service.

            The minimum required by law (in vague-ness) is that the employer can give you 1 week’s notice for anything up to a year. After this period they have to prove that they’re actually removing you for a proper reason, and go through either a proper redundancy process or disciplinary process.

            So a probation period is extremely important in that you effectively get an informal “ok, I’m not going to get fired if I do my job well” sense of security. It removes the nagging doubt.

      3. Snow*

        Is there a law that prevents probationary periods to go forever – or at least more than six months? I once worked for a company with a shady CEO who a) didn’t want anything but 1099 contractors (who worked full-time and had FT duties), and b) wanted new hires to do a probationary period of AT LEAST six months. It just doesn’t sound right to me.

        1. fposte*

          Not as far as I know, unless you’re in a union or otherwise subject to a contract that might prevent it. It’s not a way around any legal obligations anyway–you can fire somebody when you want even if they’re not on probation, and you’re not required to provide them with benefits. This just makes people less likely to argue about it.

          The 1099s are another matter; while I’m not familiar with the requisite standards, I do know that some companies use that status for employees who don’t meet it and can get into trouble as a consequence.

          1. Jamie*

            Right – the 1099 thing has nothing to do with being on probation. That has it’s own regulation.

    3. Vicki*

      My very first job out of grad school wanted to put me on a 90–day “contract” (no benefits). I negotiated for fulltime from the get-go. That was before the dreaded At Will Employment era began.

      NONE of my my employers since that time wanted to start with a “probationary” period. I work in the SF/Silicon Valley tech industry for employers in Fortune 500 Tech or (big/small) BioTech.

    1. Jamie*

      Yes – my thoughts are with you #3. That’s such a difficult thing to endure and I hope your boss is understanding should you choose to share this with them.

    2. J.B.*

      I am so sorry for your losses and I hope you get some answers. I did tell my boss about a miscarriage and D&C because of needing to be in and out for a bit. Most people will be sympathetic and offer the help you need. They will probably not think about it nearly as much as you, just understand when you’re out why you’re out. (What I mean is, months later it will still be on your mind but not theirs.)

      If you talk about miscarriage you may also be surprised to find out how many others have gone through it.

      1. Jamie*

        Most people will be sympathetic and offer the help you need.

        This. Although I would never suggest someone tell their boss unless they are 100% comfortable (there are jerks out there) you would be surprised how many people understand and that understanding can extend to being less than peppy around the office during certain times, etc.

        This isn’t like being out sick because of some routine thing – there are emotions and hormones involved and a little understanding can go a long way.

      2. ThatHRGirl*

        #3, you may be eligible for an FMLA (or even non-FMLA depending on what the company offers) intermittent leave to deal with the appointments and any time off for recovery that this may cause. It is fairly easy to certify and then you may miss time and not worry about it. It might be worth asking a trusted manager or someone in HR.
        I am so sorry you’re dealing with this as well and I hope you are able to get some answers.

  11. Jamie*

    #1 – this will be unpopular and while I think it’s a silly thing to try to enforce – I see their point.

    Yes, hand washing is by far more effective, however it’s also a lot harder to enforce. Even the CDC recommends hand sanitizer as part of a regime for trying to prevent the flu if water is not immediately available…and personally if I had to have someone micromanage my hands I’d rather sanitize them at the front desk than have someone follow me into the bathroom to watch me wash.

    The wiping down of surfaces and sending people home is reasonable to me. Why they didn’t offer flu shots, as mentioned up thread, is beyond me. That would have been my first thought.

    I also would have gone with mandatory masks before hand sanitizer, but that’s me.

    And they aren’t asking you to do it continually – just as you enter the building.

    Personally, I wouldn’t plant my flag over this…but I’m a fan of hand sanitizer out of habit and while once daily shouldn’t be an issue – if you are worried about dry hands either wash immediately or become a hand lotion devotee.

    I don’t understand why the OP mentioned that she doesn’t have contact with the kids they serve, so this won’t keep them well. Keeping your co-workers well is just as important. This flu is particularly bad this year – I got it before Christmas and I’m still not back to normal. I’ve been doing everything humanly possible to avoid spreading this to anyone – I would prefer to just buy a hazmat suit and be done with it.

    1. Reeya*

      “I don’t understand why the OP mentioned that she doesn’t have contact with the kids they serve, so this won’t keep them well. Keeping your co-workers well is just as important.”

      This x 1000.

  12. Regular Poster Anon for Comments*

    #6- Absolutely listen to AAM. Wish I’d have trusted my gut 2 years ago when I took my current job. I was unemployed and feeling desperate.

    My family kept saying I didn’t seem excited and honestly, there was just something about the job that I couldn’t put my finger on. If only I’d have listened to my gut which kept telling me to keep looking!

    Let’s suffice to say my gut was correct and I should’ve run, run, run! I can’t go into details on here about why but will say that within 3 months of starting the job, another intense job search was launched and has been going on ever since.

    1. Jen in RO*

      On the other hand, I started my job three years ago with zero enthusiasm and today I love it! It goes both ways.

    2. JP*

      Agreed with wishing I’d listened to my gut (and the universe!) I once had a job interview where the coffee jumped out of the cup holder on the way to the interview and stained my suit. Then the computer crashed while I was taking my placement test. Then, after all of that, my email selectively malfunctioned when they were emailing me my offer letter and it never arrived…even after she sent it three times! Somehow, after all of that, I took the job. I hated the thought of the job, but was unemployed and desperate.

      I knew I was in for a rough journey when, on my first day, I said to a co-worker, “Boss seems nice…” and she flinched and changed the subject. Three months later, Boss was openly mocking me for how little money I made (she set the scale, then denied cost-of-living raises) and telling my coworker that she should sign up for Survivor, because maybe then she’d lose some weight.

      I started fantasizing about getting into car wrecks on the way to work just so I wouldn’t have to go in….

      That’s a VERY long rant just to say LISTEN TO YOUR GUT!

  13. Anonymous*

    #3… Been there, done that, got the t- shirt. It sucks. And that’s from the husband’s perspective. When my wife and I were going through this, we had no kids at the time and it seemed like we’d never have any. I shared with my bosses so they knew what was going on. Without exception, all were extremely supportive. Never had an issue with taking time off to support my wife.

  14. KayDay*

    #1 – saninazi: First of all, this line, “my job has now mandated that we sanitize everything in our offices, including its workers.” made my morning. Also, this is crazy! Not so much the part about sending sick workers home, I like that, but forcing you to sanitize your hands? It seems like they are treating the employees like the youth you serve. However, I also wonder if maybe there is an employee with a compromised immune system or something like that which has led to these measures? It might be worth asking if something like that is going on. Also, will they let you wash your hands with soap and water instead? That’s actually more effective than hand sanitizer. If you can’t get them to change, I suggest you get a big jug of lotion and a big tub of yogurt.

    #3 – miscarriages: You have every right to say you have a medical issue that is requiring the appointments without giving further details. However, if you are close to your manager and want to give more details, that is fine as well. Sometimes, it’s simply easier to say what’s happening outright than to try to keep it a secret. But it’s completely up to you.

    #5 – 30 going on 13: WTF! My first thought was exactly what Alison said, those are inappropriate things to say to a 22 or 23 year old. I couldn’t afford to live on my own at that age, so I had roommates, but I also would not have thought it was weird for someone to live alone. Maybe letting them know that you are actually 30 will get them to stop acting surprised that the adults they hire are, in fact, adults.

    #7 – suggestions when applying: hmmm, I would be a bit more cautious when doing this. Keep the focus on you, but instead of focusing on past accomplishments, you say what you could accomplish if given the job, but avoiding the suggestion that the organization is doing a bad job.To me, the phrase, “I have a few suggestions…” sounds a bit presumptuous for a cover letter. Instead, I would say something like: “[I am an awesome tweeter…] For example, in the case of XYZ Corp, I could grow your social media presence by [specific step 1] and [specific step 2].”

    p.s. I’m out of coffee this morning. I’m sorry for the typos/anything that doesn’t sound like English.

    1. Jamie*

      The problem with hand washing – while it’s more effective if you do it properly – too many people don’t.

      We still have a sizable percentage of people who do not wash after using the bathroom. What are the odds that these people will get up to wash after they’ve sneezed or touched a door handle? And of those who do wash not everyone does it for the full twenty seconds it takes for it to be effective (singing happy birthday twice.)

      So while hand sanitizer isn’t better than a proper hand washing, it is better than nothing – which is what the alternative is for a percentage of the people with whom you work.


    2. Kou*

      That was my first reaction, as well– maybe someone (or even more than one person) in the office has a compromised immune system and could easily be seriously hurt or die from catching something like the nasty flu going around this year. They wouldn’t tell people that to protect that person’s privacy, most likely.

      I work in a hospital so the idea of gelling your hands at every opportunity is pretty ingrained in me, and anyone refusing to do it in that setting would be out the door for obvious reasons. If you’re talking alcohol-based sanitizer then no, it’s not creating superbugs and killing your immune system. Those risks really only exist with antibiotic-based sanitizers, and even then it’s not extreme enough to kick up a fuss if using it means protecting someone else.

  15. Sasha*

    #1 – It’s like if my mom ran an organization. That would be the first rule.

    #3 – I’m so sorry, OP. My sister went through a very similar situation, so while I don’t know the heartbreak firsthand, someone I love does. It sounds like your manager is an understanding person, and because of that, I would inform her. However, it’s totally your call. I’m very, very private with my life, especially medical situations, but if I had a manager I really trusted and felt comfortable with, I would tell her.

    #5 – I used to get this at my work often. Used to. I just kept on correcting them. It’s annoying, and stupid, but you just have to keep at it, and they will eventually remember that you are not 22.

  16. Anon*

    #3-I’m so sorry. I had my 4th miscarriage in October. I would encourage you to share the details with your boss. The doctor appointments, tests, re-tests will take away time from the office. Not that they wouldn’t be understanding with the “I have a medical condition” reason but the details might encourage more understanding. Plus, it will help them in understanding the emotional strain this puts on your life. You can’t discount the emotional toil this takes on your life. I know telling my boss really helped me to drop the guilt about missing so much work.

    And good luck at all those appointments. We went to see a fertility treatment doc after the 4th and are encourage with what we are finding.

    1. Chinook*

      I want to echo letting your boss know if your confident that they aren’t an idiot. I have never been in your shoes but I see this as not only a medical issue but your boss needing to see that this is an emotional one as well and needing to know that any “odd” moods (I.e. Tearing up for no noticeable reason) could happen and are exploitable. Not only would you be going through hormonal changes, but you are dealing with a loss.

  17. Anonymous*

    #6 – I had a bad feeling about a job and took it anyway – and it turned out to be a disaster. On paper it all was good but something was off.

    After the dust settled and I looked back at it, I realized what had put me off was the hiring manager – we had worked together briefly several years earlier and she approached the interview process as “I already know you, I know you can do the job, you’re hired” and she actually seemed a little annoyed that I wanted more details than that. Again, that sounds good – no lengthy interview process, I’m just hired – but in reality, what was off about that is that the time we worked together was very limited and I didn’t feel like I really knew her or her work style from that limited exposure so how could she know so much about me to know that I was perfect for the job? As it turns out, I wasn’t perfect for the job and she and I were incompatible in our working styles.

    So as AAM said, give it some thought and see if you can articulate what is resonating with you. It could be that you’ll be able to pinpoint something or maybe it will turn out that you are just nervous about change and it’s manifesting as a “bad feeling” (I’m not super easy with change so I have to watch for that myself). Good luck!

  18. B*

    #3 – I am so sorry for your loss.

    #6 – listen to that gut!! Yes, try to pinpoint it so you are clear but it is telling you something. Twice I didn’t listen and one turned into a disaster that I left after 2 weeks (found out afterwards that once a week at least someone else was always leaving). The second time is now. I took it because I desperately needed a job. But that has not stopped me from looking either. If you do not feel this is the right opportunity and you are not desperate you don’t have to take it.
    Just try to figure out what the issue is so you can be sure.

  19. Anonymous*

    5) Is it possible that you are presenting as less mature than you are? It doesn’t excuse the excess of comments, but perhaps there is something to it that you don’t notice, that doesn’t involve how you look, but in acts, speech, etc.

    1. JamieG*

      OP is getting comments about how mature she is for her age, etc. That seems like something they wouldn’t say if she was presenting as immature; her managers would probably just write it off as her being the age they think she is.

      1. Jamie*

        I know someone who gets this all the time and it’s just so rude. She’s made a name for herself as an engineer in a male dominated industry so people are surprised by that and then when they see that she’s in her 20’s they seem shocked and have to metaphorically pat her head.

        Sometimes I wish people would understand it’s okay to have an unspoken thought, sometimes.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, so much support on that last statement! I cannot believe when people seriously say “I’m just saying what everybody thinks.” One: you’re almost certainly not, because I almost never was thinking it; two: did it not occur to you there’s a reason that everybody else realized they should keep that thought to themselves?

      2. Anonymous*

        I may have read that wrong – in my experience/area/region, “mature for your age” is not often used positively at this point in life. I do agree that many thoughts can be left unsaid!

      3. Elizabeth West*

        That may be true, however it could be the way she looks overall. OP, do you like to wear trendy clothes? Your dress, hairstyle, etc. may be contributing to a very youthful appearance. When people look younger than they are, they sometimes have to dress and style themselves a bit differently to appear more sophisticated. I’m not saying you’re showing up in jeans and flip flops, or anything like that. And I really don’t know how you dress; it’s just a possibility. A lot of young teachers have this problem with not dressing like students, but not looking frumpy either.

        It’s very rude of them to comment on your age, no matter what it is. That should have no bearing on your ability to do a job. And your home life–who you live with, etc.–is none of their business!

  20. Cruella DaBoss*

    #1 Bring a note from your doctor (!!) that you are allergic to hand sanitizer! Then they have to consider provisions.

    Hey, it’s a thought

  21. Anonymous*

    I don’t use sanitizers either. You can empty the bottle and fill it with water. You do owe yourself and others a duty however so you should double your efforts in keeping yourself clean. Frankly, I’d rather companies employed someone to sit in the lavatories and enforce a ‘wash your hands before leaving’ rule.

      1. Editor*

        I would rather bathrooms were stocked with unscented, lotion-free soaps that didn’t trigger my skin allergies. Sometimes in strange places I just rub my hands together under water as warm as I can get it if I don’t have soap with me and can’t use what’s supplied.

        I wish soap manufacturers made dry packets or leaves of soap so I didn’t have to carry around a small bottle of liquid soap in a plastic bag. I do get tired of carrying three pairs of glasses in hard cases, extra tissues, soap, the hand lotion I can use, and all the rest of the usual purse stuff. It weighs too much.

          1. FreeThinkerTX*

            Replying to my own reply, because I’ve been mulling this over for a few days:

            There’s no need to spend extra money to buy manufactured soap leaves; just make your own! Earlier today I ran a bar of soap over my cheese grater and got a pile of little curls of soap. I put that into a Mentos tin. Then I tested to see if the little curlicues would dissolve properly. I found that using just one curlicue did the trick: plenty of suds, and the whole piece dissolved.

  22. Anonicorn*

    #5 – I have dealt with a similar situation, so I understand how frustrating it is. We have two semi-recent employees who are both about 22 and fresh out of college. This is literally their first post-college job. I am 29 with several years’ experience but fortunately/unfortunately look quite young. (My braces don’t help. I never had them growing up but absolutely need them now.)

    My 60-something manager lumps the three of us together. I understand it from her perspective–comparatively we’re all still kids. But a 7 year age gap and 5 years of career experience, in this case, is a world of difference. She doesn’t do it often or maliciously, but I do worry that it could hurt my potential for advancement, so I often purposefully say things like “this process worked for us in my previous position” and that type of thing. I agree with AAM; definitely address those comments.

  23. Ali*

    #6 I feel like I am dealing with right now. I was recently promoted at work after making conscious efforts to improve my performance, and to boot, I was going to get a decent raise. I am still in training for the new job, but yesterday, I felt a little on edge/anxious when I woke up. So far, I’m sticking with the notion that because I’m not working on my own yet, maybe things will be better once I am done training and this is just nerves.

    I really want this to work out because of the raise I got, though, so we’ll see what happens. Right now, though, I will definitely keep paying attention to my intuition.

  24. PPK*

    OP #1 — It sounds like their trying to meet hospital requirements where you have to sanitize going into every room. The foam stuff they used at the hospital that I was visiting a lot for a family member wasn’t so bad. I was putting it on my hands at least a half dozen times a day and suffered no immediate ill effects (and I was washing with soap and water in the restroom, of course). Not sure what type of sanitizer they want you to walk around with!

    You could go at it another way — be an advocate for hand washing and a hand washing initiative — the cheesy signs that remind you how and when to wash your hands and plaster them all over. My favorite hand washing sign ever was a picture of a forest with a raccoon “washing” its hands and foods. Implying, of course, if raccoons wash their hands, then you should too. Provide them with a link to the benefits of hand washing and how soap works. I know that sounds stupid, but with the aid of soap, you really do wash the bad stuff away (vs. killing them).

    1. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, I tried the hospital stuff when a family member was in the hospital, and it really is a not nicer and less drying than the commercially available kind. The kind that’s in most workplaces has my hands cracking before a day is out. If people don’t want me spreading germs, making me use a product that results in bleeding is probably a bad idea. ;) OP, if you can’t find another solution to this, find a lotion you like and use it by the gallon.

    2. Anon*

      Ugh. A pet peeve of mine is the use of sanitizers in hospitals. Sanitizers don’t kill some of the most dangerous pathogens, including c. difficile. Only handwashing is effective for this, and bleach with a 5-10 min dwell time. Wash those hands!

      1. fposte*

        People in the medical field do struggle with this one, because it’s tough both timewise and physiologically to wash before every patient contact. Hopefully someday we’ll have a better solution, but in the meantime sanitizer at least minimizes the spread of some stuff.

  25. ExceptionToTheRule*

    Oh, OP #5, I live this every day. I look young, I’m still single & I don’t have kids. After 16 years with my present employer, it’s become clear that I never age.

    One of the guys I work with called me “kiddo” last night. That got a “sweetie, I’m older than you” response. If I could have, I’d have patted him on the head.

    1. Snow*

      I got “kiddo” from a man three years older than I. People are always amazed that I’m much older than I look. And when I hear comments assuming I’m in my early 20s, I just say “that was MANY years ago.”

      1. Jamie*

        I get kiddo all the time – and while I often hear people are surprised at how old my kids are (did you have them in grade school – yeah okay) I think that’s something people toss around to women of a certain age when they are reaching for a compliment.

        Women will say cute shoes, or I love your hair cut – men have to tell you you still look 13. I don’t know why.

        But seriously, I’m in my 40’s and I get kiddo at least once a week – but from men old enough to be my father so it really doesn’t bother me.

        I got “are you the IT girl?” from someone my son’s age once and that didn’t go over well.

        I guess my rule of thumb is that if it was kindly meant and you’re old enough to have been an adult when I was a girl it doesn’t phase me.

        1. Lulu*

          Ok I know I’m seriously sleep deprived when I read that as “Are you the It Girl?”, as some kind of Clara Bow reference, and thought “No, she’s That Girl!” (per your sunglasses-on-the-head comment the other day) Both of which would actually be kind of cool comparisons to have made, but probably not what you’re looking for…

  26. Janet*

    For #3, I am very sorry – you have my condolences.

    I experienced once miscarriage while I was working and I did tell my boss and I regret it. I had stupidly told a few co-workers I was pregnant (I know, I know, terrible idea before 12 weeks) so when I lost the baby I had to tell them about the miscarriage. Well, someone spread the word – like told everyone – and before I knew it I had a vendor e-mailing me her sympathies. Now, granted, everyone was fairly nice about it – offering sympathies. But there was quite a difference to me in the three people I worked very closely with knowing about my business and 15 people including vendors that I only spoke with on the phone knowing about my business. It was a little difficult to deal with.

    And to go one step further – although I could never prove this and maybe it was in my head but telling my boss that I had a miscarriage gave her the heads up that I was trying to get pregnant. So as soon as I told her about this, she seemed to know that I would (if all went well) one day soon be leaving for maternity leave and having to take a lot of doctor’s appointments leading up to it. I was pulled off of one global trip for a large project and just kind of felt “Mommy tracked” at the office.

    So I would take Allison’s advice and tell her that you are experiencing some health problems that require follow-up and additional testing.

  27. fposte*

    On #1: are you talking an antibiotic substance or an alcohol-based sanitizer? An antibacterial agent isn’t going to help with flu virus and it will contribute to resistance. An alcohol-based sanitizer functions much like hand-washing with soap–they both kill microbes (it’s not just washing them away, it actually does kill them) without promoting resistance. Obviously killing microbes however you do it is going to change the microbial population on your body, but there’s over a century of evidence to suggest that washing your hands is better for you than leaving your microbial load undeterred. The sanitizer does seem to need to be at least 60% alcohol to work, so if it’s under that they’re probably not deterring much. Oh, and on the surfaces? It’s apparently easier to catch flu from virus load on objects and people than from airborne transmission. Reports differ from claims of 8 to 48 hour survival of the virus on hard nonporous surfaces.

    I think they’re overdoing it, but they’re not wrong about the underlying principles.

    1. Anon*

      The alcohol-based sanitizers don’t kill some of the most pathogenic bugs – c. difficile, for instance. Handwashing is really a better option generally.

      1. Jamie*

        Sure – but for the people who don’t wash their hands (or wash them properly) it’s still better than nothing.

        And there is a percentage of adults in every workplace who do not wash. So for those who have to interact with the non-washers it’s better than nothing.

      2. fposte*

        Right–or E. coli or norovirus, which is why handwashing is particularly preferable if you’re working with food. But they are actually quite good with the flu virus, which is the element in question, and, as Jamie notes, they’re optimal in a situation where hand-washing isn’t possible or likely.

        Oh, and they’re apparently superficial enough that they don’t tend to disturb the deeper layer of endogenous bacteria, so your hands repopulate their own supply pretty quickly.

  28. Hannah*

    #2 — At my last job, I had something similar happen. I went through the interview process, and was offered the job via a telephone call. The HR person said they would email me the offer letter.

    When I received the letter, it stated I would be considered a “temporary” employee for the first 3 months, and then may be brought on permanently, if everything worked out.

    Looking back, I should have realized this was a red flag right away, because nothing about this was ever mentioned in the several interviews I had. They also wouldn’t allow me to have any details on the benefits they offered (health/dental insurance, PTO, etc) because they said while I was a temporary employee, all that “didn’t apply” to me.

    I was not working at the time, so I accepted the job anyway. They did hire me on permanently after the “temporary” 3 month period, but then I STILL had to wait through the regular waiting period for health/dental/vision insurance because they used the date from when they hired me on “permanently” as my official hire date (though I had already been working there full-time for 3 months).

    I’m fairly certain they did this as a way to delay adding people to their benefits package.

  29. Stella*

    #5 – I also look young for my age. At one point, I was in a junior position when I was 32. My supervisor was younger than me, and she often teased, “don’t swear, you’ll hurt Stella’s young ears” or “I’m turning 30 this year, you’ll understand soon” and other such comments. I found it amusing and telling about her personality. It didn’t bother me enough to correct her; I tended to focus more on my work. After a few years she found out how old I was and she was mortified. She even apologized.

    1. Jen in RO*

      Maybe I’m missing some context here, but you worked under this supervisor for a few years and you never corrected her on your age? Why? Maybe my office is weird (it might be, judging on the recent conversations about not making friends at work), but I know my (close) coworkers’ dates of birth, names of boyfriends, names of relatives and so on.

      Of course you’re not obligated to disclose anything, but I would be uncomfortable knowing that my manager misjudged my age so much. I’d be doubly uncomfortable thinking about how uncomfortable *she* would be when she found out her jokes were way off!

      1. yasmara*

        Jen, your office *is* weird! Ha – I don’t have any idea about my co-workers’ birthdays and only vague ideas of their families (i.e. someone mentions an event for their kids/grandkids). Then again, I work for a very large company & I’m an INTJ & I work in a stand-offish midwestern state, so I probably would never think to ask!

        1. Jen in RO*

          I also work in a pretty big company and I don’t know these details about all my coworkers, of course. I know them about my team of 5 and I have several other people from other teams as friends on Facebook.

          Then again, around here it’s completely normal to put your date of birth on your CV and it’s not uncommon to ask/be asked, since there’s no laws (that I know of) regarding age discrimination.

      2. Stella*

        We had a good relationship. We joked. It just wasn’t that important. And yes, while she was mortified and she did apologize, later she joked about that, too.

        This was at a very large company and other than an occasional joke, we tended to be very work focused putting in 60-70 hour weeks. This particular supervisor worked every day from 9 am to midnight. Yes, I’m serious. We didn’t really discuss our personal lives.

        1. Jen in RO*

          OK, that makes sense. Our environment is more laid back so we have time to discuss our personal lives.

  30. Kristoff*

    #3 My wife went through something similar a few years back. (Hers involved a series of ectopic pregnancies instead of miscarriages but the end result was the same). She was unemployed at the time but discussing the situation with my management really helped to secure me a certain flexibility with my leave so that I could be there for her at appointments and such. Obviously this is from the husband’s perspective so it is not the same but I think if your management understands what is going on that they will be more than willing to work with you and help you all they can. I hope things get better for you and I am deeply sorry for your loss.

    I’m 29 and for the past 5 years I have been the youngest person in my office. While I’ve never had anyone show suprise that I don’t still live with mommy and daddy, I get lots of little comments all the time. Generally these are in the form of me still being young and that I should have more energy than anyone else here. The comments about age affecting my work stopped long ago as I quickly rose to the specialist level above those that are both older than me and have been here longer. So beyond the fact that 30 isn’t all that young just do your best to show that age shouldn’t have an affect on your employement. Only your performance should.

  31. AG*

    I totally sympathize with people thinking you’re younger than you are. How annoying! I agree that these people are rude and that she needs to speak and up and remind them that she’s older than she looks.

    However, without knowing the OP, the question makes me wonder a teensy bit about how she is presenting herself. You don’t have dress like an “old lady” but some people in their 20’s (myself included) have trouble transitioning to more age/work-appropriate clothes, hairstyles, makeup, etc. I’m not suggesting that she is wearing Hello Kitty hair bows and tutus to work, but this might be an opportunity to reevaulate her style/presentation to help reinforce her maturity.

    1. Jamie*

      I’m not suggesting that she is wearing Hello Kitty hair bows

      Not that there would be anything wrong with that…

  32. Lexy*

    #5 I also switched careers at 30 to a position normally held by 22-25 yo’s. So many of my supervisors were younger than me. Now it helps that I’m married. There’s also this thing people do in my area where when you meet someone who is from here you ask them what high school they went to… it’s a whole elaborate choreographed dance that always ends with you knowing how old they are and how rich they were growing up.

    Them: So, are you from around here?
    Me: Yeah, I lived on the coast as a kid but we moved here when I was in middle school
    Them: Oh yeah? What part of town?
    Me: SE, you?
    Them: Yeah? I’m from [neighborhood]. Did you go to [only HS people know in my neighborhood]?
    Me: haha, no I went to [Shadier HS], what about you?
    Them: Oh, I went to [nice HS], what year did you graduate?
    Me: Oh, I’m old, I graduated in 1997.

    So then everyone knows how old you are but you haven’t told them. This conversation always happens within a few hours of meeting someone. If people aren’t from the area it stops pretty early.

    1. Lexy*

      There was one amusing interaction I had at a national training. There was a person from a different training for people a couple levels above us but from a different entity (I work for a huge global organization made up of 4 also huge but slightly smaller entities). We were at the bar waiting for the bartender and he was chatting with me and another woman. I don’t remember exactly what the context was, something about trying to get the bartenders attention, he says “oh, I’ll show you how it’s done” to which I replied (good naturedly) “It’s cool, I think we can handle ordering our own drinks” and he said “well, you’re first years, you haven’t been drinking at bars as long as me” (thinking we’re both 21ish). I said “How old are you?” Him: “I’m 27” Me: “I’m 30, So I’ve got at least 3 years on you, I think I’m good”

      It absolutely floored him and was hilarious. Literally the only time that someone acted like it was surprising that I wasn’t 22.

  33. Jen*

    #6 I think the problem here is like the reviews you read online for hotels/restaurants – often the only comments you get are negative, and that sort of experience urges people to speak up. So the many comments here saying trust your gut because of their personal bad experiences might not be a true representation. I know that I would probably respond with my own example of trusting my gut if I had one but not if I had ignored a few uneasy feelings at a job I now love. Just wanted to point out that the stories and examples in these comments might seem to support the OPs worries but there are probably some equal stories out there to support the other side.

    1. fposte*

      I did like that Alison urged the OP to be aware if this was anxiety about change. It wasn’t clear from the query if the OP had gotten serious with any other workplace in this round; if not, that’s even more reason to think about whether change itself is threatening. (And I don’t think that means you have to push through it–if change really is difficult for you, that’s worth acknowledging and thinking about what you’d have to get to make it worthwhile.)

    2. anonymous*

      If you read the COMMENTS on those sites, for both the good AND bad reviews, though, you can pick out trends. Sure, more unhappy people are likely to write reviews, but some happy people do, too.

      A site I frequently use asks for pros AND cons, so I read ALL of the comments. You can really get a good feeling for the undercurrents of a company that way.

  34. Anon*

    #5-I too get the “you are so young” comments. I know I look a solid decade younger than my age (30). I had one person straight out ask me if I was old enough to do this job. I have about a decade of experience in my field. Most of the time I laugh about it and look forward to it being a good thing when I much older. I will correct people, if needed or if it gets excessive. I try to look my age as much as possible. I’m short (4’11”), so I’m in heels always. Suit it up. Appropriate jewellery and makeup. It all helps.

  35. Michele*

    #3-I’m so sorry you’re going through this!

    One option (I didn’t get a chance to see if anyone wrote this earlier) you may want chech with your HR Dept to look into applying for intermittent leave of absence. One of our staff had a similar situation where she was undergoing IVF, but had miscarried a couple of times. She applied for and was granted the leave of absence to cover sick time for appointments, ER, etc., while not being penalized for excessive absenteeism.

    Good luck!

  36. mel*

    The age thing is amusing. I’m 27 but a lot of people think I’m 16. Or at least they did, it’s been a while since I’ve been a “new” person.

    We have new management, which is always a bit frustrating. The fact that I look young, and I am still stuck in the lowest level position after five years means that the new management tends to ignore my existence entirely. On one hand, it’s great because their expectations of me are so low that they just leave me alone. On the other hand, it’s lousy because anything I say has little to no value so they pass on to the men to get the answers they want.

  37. Elizabeth West*

    #3 miscarriages

    I am so sorry you are going through this. *HUG* You certainly don’t have to tell the manager what is wrong. I can understand why you wouldn’t want to tell your boss and risk being asked about it all the time, either. It’s a very painful thing to deal with. What Alison suggested is excellent.

  38. Liz in the City*

    #6 I’ll add to the chorus that’s saying don’t ignore this feeling–even if it’s for an established company with a good track record. I interviewed a year ago for a position I was a finalist for. I didn’t end up getting the position, but I wasn’t too upset because my gut told me it wasn’t the right place for me despite the pay bump, title bump, connections I’d make, etc. A year later, that division has been sold and all of those people are out of work. The main company is still in good standing, but I would have been SOL.

  39. Anonymous LA*

    #5 Depending on what field you are in, being thought younger—while *also* being thought (as you seem to be by your colleagues) as super-professional, capable, responsible and mature—is basically THE KEY to longterm success. Think fields like media, PR, advertising, fashion, entertainment, etc. I agree it’s annoying to have your presumed-age be commented on so much, but you should consider yourself fortunate—so long as you are perceived in the above-mentioned ways.

    I know because I’m one of these people. I look at least 15 years younger than my age (um, naturally!) and since I completed my BA at 26 and MBA at 38, people use those dates to guess my age. I look the part, which means I’m not going to miss out on work opportunities,—and won’t be dealing with the same level of age discrimination for a while, well past the time my age peers, when I might be job hunting for something new in a few years.

    I have several friends my age (who look the age, if not older) who’ve lost jobs in recent years, senior roles, and finding it impossible to be hired because of the presumed salary/seniority demands of folks of our age and stature. Whereas, I went from being the youthful wonderkind to the youthful (but not so young!) exec. Because of my projected youth, even when some may discern my actual age (I never lie about it; just don’t advertise) it still reflects well, because they are like “Wow, what’s your secret?”

    Use it to your advantage, to be seen as the young hi-potential, super-professional go-getter (rather than merely typical or average of your age.) You’ll be the one getting offered promotions, being snatched by the competition (if you want.)

  40. Sarah*

    I have been reading these comments and wanted to add another rub to the ‘trust your gut’ question. I am new to my field altho I used to work in it many years ago. So not completely new, and I do have good previous experiences. The challenge for me has been to find the balance between wanting to gain new experience, be in an environment where I have a good chance of being successful and simply wanting to survive and pay my bills. The last one is the hardest to fight, and in my fear of economic insecurity I have wanted to jump at anything that seems remotely do-able no matter how uncomfortable the situation. Now – having left a position that I knew going into was going to be almost ‘not do-able’ based on information I gained at the interview, I am forcing myself to step back and be patient and to carefully screen the interviews. Yes, I want to work and to work in my field but I would rather work at Home Depot and feel good about myself and then wait for the right job in my field than to jump into another poor fit just for the sake of something on my resume, etc.

    It’s really hard to wait – to step back and sort things out and then be patient but I feel in the longer run it will be better that I was judicious and held out for the best fit than to have to keep explaining to employers (and myself) all the jumps I might have made. In this economy, it has been a hard struggle for sure.

  41. RecentGrad*

    #1 You could squeeze out the hand sanitizer and rinse it out. Then you fill the bottle up with your favorite clear soap and water and squirt that on your hands when you sign in. You could use a wipe to remove the soap at your desk. It may be sneaky, but hey you are sanitizing right? In general I just don’t like the forced health care initiative.

  42. Pamela*

    #5. I was just asked the other day by someone who just met me, “So, which high school do you go to?”

    I am 29.

    It’s great to look so young, but yeah, not when you are searching for a job. I just had an interview for an IT support position and being a woman and looking really young (therefore appearing inexperienced) may not have done me any favors. I wish I could have casually stated my age somehow in the interview. ::sigh::

  43. Jim*

    “I personally believe that by over-sanitizing we also kill the good bacteria in our bodies and therefore hurt our immune system.”

    This isn’t true. You should comply with your employer’s request. The ‘good bacteria’ live in your gastrointestinal tract, not on your hands, so unless your employer expects you to apply the sanitizer rectally…

  44. DailyReader*

    1. Can I be fired for refusing to sanitize my hands?

    That is ridiculous! A few years ago I had extreme eczsma with my hands (I was under specialist care to find out what was causing it – some days my hands were so swollen and sore I could not move them without being in incredible pain) which meant that I had to be extremely careful what I put on them – otherwise I would have been in incredible pain throughout the day, this mean that the antibacterial/sanitizer gel was a no-no. What do they do with people who have skin conditions on their hands? I am very interested to find out.

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