fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Brushing your teeth at the office

I recently got Invisalign treatment for my teeth that require me to take very strict care of my oral hygiene, such as brushing my teeth after every time I eat. However, my office only has public bathrooms, and I don’t want to unintentionally gross out other people in the office (though I realize many people may not mind). Do you have suggestions on taking care of these requirements in the office?

I don’t think you really have much choice, other than to simply go for it and brush your teeth there. I mean, you can’t really erect a cone of invisibility around you while you do it. I say, do it and own your awesome oral hygiene. If anyone acts grossed out by, act like you’re disgusted that they’re not doing it.

2. Punished for not attending a meeting?

I am told by my employer that I must attend a meeting at work. I also just had a dental problem arise, requiring me to need an extraction. The soonest appointment would be during said meeting. I am told that unless I’m on FMLA, I will get written up for not being there. Can they punish me (write me up) for missing the meeting even though I have a valid reason for missing the meeting?

Sure. They can punish you / write you up for pretty much anything they want — missing a meeting, brushing your teeth in the bathroom, not shouting “show me the money” every hour on the hour, or anything else, as long as it’s not based on your race, religion, disability, or other protected class, and as long as it’s not retaliation for engaging in legally protected activity, as well as a small number of other legally protected things.

What you’re asking is if it’s fair. Maybe, maybe not. On its face, it seems unfair. But it could be fair if it’s a crucial meeting that can only be held at that time, or if you have a history of missing meetings they want you at.

3. Leaving just before I’m scheduled to get a bonus

My current company is soon going to give out last year’s bonus. If I get a new position with the company I’m interviewing with now, it means I might have to leave before receiving the bonus, which is a very generous bonus. Since the bonus is for last year, I’m thinking I’m still entitled to it, no? Or does my current company have the right not to give it to me if I leave? If this is the case, is it appropriate for me ask the new company to delay my start date and discuss the bonus situation with them?

If it’s written into your contract as something you’ve earned, then yes, generally they’d still need to give it to you. But if it’s not, then it’s at your company’s discretion, and they could indeed opt not to give it you since you’re leaving. (And that’s not uncommon. While you see it as a reward for work well done, they often see it as an incentive to stay. If you’re leaving, there’s nothing to incentivize.)

You can certainly explain the situation to the new company and ask to delay your start date by a small amount of time. (Some companies will solve this by giving you the bonus money themselves, if you’re valuable enough. Don’t count on that though.)

4. Interviewer opened by asking what questions I had

I had an in-person interview on Monday and a phone interview today (with two separate, unrelated companies). Both interviews started with me being asked if I had any questions. I always thought that came at the end of an interview (and indeed, in both cases I did get the chance to ask questions again at the end). This seemed unusual to me, though, and I feel like I fumbled a little trying to think of appropriate questions to ask before the position was even discussed — is this a new standard interview practice? What kind of questions do you think I should have asked?

Some interviewers do that. I’d start with broad questions — “Why is the position open?” “What are the most important things you’re looking for in the role?” “I’ve read the job description, of course, but I’d love to hear you describe the key pieces of the position as you see.” Etc.

5. Reapplying for a job when you previously withdrew from a hiring process

I interviewed for a very large nonprofit about a year and a half ago. They liked me enough to ask me to come back and meet with the CIO. I declined, however, because the position as it was described in the job listing was different than what was described to me in the interview. I had a series of really nice emails back and forth with the hiring manager at the time letting her know why I was declining — both the difference in how the job duties were described and that it seemed to be a really high-stress environment with high turnover.

As it turns out, I have been laid off from the job I accepted with another organization and I see that a very similar position to the one I interviewed for last year is now available. The hiring manager I spoke with last year is no longer with the organization and all the people responsible for this current job listing are not people I interviewed with, most were not at the organization at the time. As the current description reads, it does seem like it would be a good fit for me. I’m a little concerned that this might be mis-advertising, like it was last year. How do I address this in the cover letter? Do I mention my previous interview?

I’d simply say that you spoke with Jane Smith about a role last year, but ultimately decided you were interested in something more focused on X, but that this new position really interests you. No need to go into further detail than that.

6. Science grad applying outside my field

I graduated as a neuroscience major with the full intention of going to dental school but am seeing things differently now since graduating. I never thought about going into business, sales, marketing or any related field during my undergrad simply because I never had any exposure to that arena as a science major until I started job searching and now I’m realizing how interested I am in this field and wish I had known sooner!

I’m going to a job fair at my university, read your job fair post and did my research and there was this health insurance and benefits consulting firm that specializes in tech startups (which I love) and prides themselves in being the most up to date on what is going on in the benefits sphere through extensive research (which I also love). I was really looking forward to talking to them and to have a contact to refer to in my cover letter, but they canceled. So now I’m wondering, how can I standout now to them? Especially as a science major who has just recently found out more about this field but can really see themselves enjoying this area of work.

Well, you stand out the way you always stand out: by being a well-qualified candidate and having an awesome resume and cover letter. However, you have something going for you that you should make sure to emphasize: You have a science background that a lot of their applicants probably don’t have. Use that. Talk about what that would bring to the role that would help you do a great job in it. That’s something that legitimately could make you stand out from other candidates, because lots of people won’t have it. Good luck.

7. Telling a company about their poorly written emails

After going through a few interviews with a company, then informed me that they decided to go with another candidate, and told me to apply again in the future. They have now sent me this form email asking for feedback about the hiring process, in the form of a survey.

When they scheduled my second interview, an email I got was just awful — lack of punctuation, bad grammar, the works. The email was so poorly written that I almost contacted the recruiter to ask her if my interpretation of the email was correct. If I tell them about this, I don’t want the criticism to burn any bridges. Other than this email, the hiring process was fine. I was thinking I would just not complete the survey, or complete it and tell them what they want to hear (I know, the opposite of the point, right?). If I don’t complete the survey, will I seem disengaged and be a less attractive candidate next time around? Does it matter? What do you think?

Well, while they really should know about this, it’s not your responsibility to inform them — especially not at the possible cost of harming your relationship with them. So I wouldn’t raise it.

And I doubt they’re paying attention to who did and didn’t complete the survey when it comes to future hiring, so I wouldn’t worry about that.

{ 136 comments… read them below }

  1. Erika Herzog*

    1. Brushing your teeth at the office

    i recently worked with someone who brushed their teeth after eating meals. sort of scary impressive — and she had gorgeous teeth.

    one thing that i noticed she did was she had her dental stuff in a cute kit she took with her to the bathroom, so it was very low-key the way she did that.

    1. Heather*

      I brush my teeth at work after meals too. I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste and floss in my make up bag in my purse. I had no idea that this was even an issue. Why would it be?

    2. Anonymous*

      I posted a comment once about a woman who full out brushes her teeth in the office bathroom with only 2 sinks 6 times a day when there is a private bathroom available. I guess I’m the only person who finds it strange. Well me and the person who posted a sign saying , “please use private bathroom for teeth brushing.” I just started using a different bathroom because her elbow was too close for comfort and sometimes I had to wait in line due to teeth brushing

      1. Mimi*

        I freely admit to being grossed out by the few people in my office who brush/floss their teeth in the bathroom. But you know what? It’s their business, and I’m a big girl, so I just don’t look as I walk past. Problem solved.

      2. Lily in NYC*

        #3 – I really doubt you will get your bonus if you quit. I’m talking from the perspective of bonuses in the finance industry. That’s why so many people wait to quit until right after bonus season – they know they have to wait or else they won’t receive it.

    3. Anonymous Accountant*

      I have clear braces on top and traditional metal on the bottom. My dental stuff is in a cute, small cosmetic bag and I just do what needs done, lol.

    4. BeenThere*

      #1 You will probably find others in the same boat as you in your office. When I started having to brush my teeth all the time at work, due to Invisalign, I would find other women on my floor doing the same. It actually became a networking opportunity as wed all discuss the stages we were at with our treatment.

    5. Kelly L.*

      To me, it’s no big deal at all as long as it’s in the bathroom. I know a woman who uses Brush-Ups at the table in restaurants–YUCK. But in a bathroom, who cares. It’s probably the least gross thing that will happen in that bathroom during the day. LOL

    6. Kelly O*

      I brush my teeth at work too. No biggie, for me at least. I clean up all the stuff out of the sink. I have a cute little bag I keep stuff in, and it’s tucked in my desk drawer all the time.

      (And I have to say I guess I don’t get grossed out by doing normal hygiene stuff in the restroom. That’s why it’s there. Clean up after yourself and please don’t try to talk while you’re doing it. Those are my only two personal rules.)

        1. Kelly O*

          Nope, that’s not me. (too much needed dental work to get a “gorgeous teeth” comment.)

          But I will say, if you don’t already, sign up for the Target freebie packs, because those bags are awesome for this kind of thing.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I brush my teeth after lunch too. I forget where I read it–thinking it was Miss Manners, perhaps–but the general consensus was if you rinse out the sink after you’re finished, it’s fine. It’s much more gross thinking about all the people who don’t wash their hands after using the toidy!

    8. Sharon*

      I didn’t realize it was unusual to brush your teeth at work– I’ve always kept a toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss in a cosmetic bag in the employee bathroom, and I’ve never been the only one at work who does. Even though I don’t brush every day, having the option is a lifesaver when lunch is something that lingers.

      As long as you’re not leaving splats of toothpaste spit to crust in the sink, what’s the problem?

  2. PEBCAK*

    #6: My first thought was that canceling a career fair appearance is a bad sign. Then I thought maybe that’s reading a lot into it, but even if it is, try not to get your heart sent on a single company, one that you haven’t even had two-way contact with yet.

    1. OP from #6*

      Thank you for commenting! Definitely good advice cause that’s very true about not getting too set on one company. From their website I just really enjoyed their own innovative approach to how they communicate with their clients to fit their clients’ needs best. That’s what drew me to them, but undoubtedly still keeping my options open :)

  3. Chloe*

    #4: I had that exact experience, and I wish I’d read this advice first! I did have questions but felt weird launching into them right at the outset (in fact the first one on my list was about the process following the interview so not such a great question at the beginning of the interview). I was caught off guard so I said “yes I have a few questions but we might end up answering them as we go through the interview so could we come back to them at the end?”. There was an awkward pause from the surprised looking HR person, while the hiring manager started at the desk, then HR person recovered and moved into the interview. I immediately wished I’d just asked any old question, because it seemed like it I’d breached some major protocol. But it can’t have been too disastrous, I got the job anyway.

  4. Mike Lewis*

    Re “Telling a company about their poorly written emails”, I would say that the hiring process was fine although I did have some trouble understanding the email setting up the second interview. I wouldn’t go into details. It’s up to them to retrieve it from the archives and find out why.

    1. danr*

      How about a job ad with typos. The words are spelled correctly, but they don’t make sense in context. If I get an interview, I’ll find a way to bring it in obliquely. There are also typos of a similar type in the website. Again, I’ll make a reference to them as a followup to one of my related skills.

      1. Lynn*

        Really? I don’t think I would bring this up if I were applying for most jobs. Maybe if I was applying to work in HR itself, or as a copy editor. But for most jobs, it seems like you would be considered a nit-picker to show up at the interview and say “I couldn’t help but notice your job posting said ‘fast-placed environment’ instead of ‘fast-paced’, and asked for ‘5 yards experience’ instead of ‘5 years'”.

  5. Anonymous*

    I’ve seen lots of people who brush their teeth at work, so I can’t imagine it’s that big a deal. However if you are worried about it, you can use Colgate Wisps which are tiny waterless brushes. We used then during a 10 day power outage when we had no running water. They arent as good as fully brushing your teeth, but if you are doing full brushing/flossing/etc the other times of the day they will suffice.

  6. Noah*

    #1 – I’m in the middle of Invisalign right now. I’ve brushed my teeth in some strange places, and I do feel awkward at times brushing my teeth in a public restroom. However, I’ve never had anyone say a word about it and very few have even given it a second glance. The harder part for me is figuring out how to discreetly remove the trays before eating. On the plus side I have lost weight because it discourages snacking.

    1. Kou*

      Same! I do go to the bathroom to pull the aligners out most of the time, also so I can rinse them before putting them in their case.

      Alas, I thought I would lose weight, but instead my habits have changed from gradually eating throughout the day to stuffing myself two or three times, which has actually made me gain.

    2. twentymilehike*

      I’ve brushed my teeth in some strange places,

      I got a chuckle out of this as it reminded me of a certain time in my life … in college, due to a very awkward situation, I ended up living in my VW beetle for a month. It was definately weird trying to get used to brushing your teeth by the side of your car with a bottle of water LOL

      OP, when you feel awkward in the public restroom, just picture poor college me in the school parking lot with a bottle of water and a tooth brush looking like a homeless hippy and hopefully you’ll feel more at ease :)

  7. AdAgencyChick*

    #3: I’ve never heard of a company that *didn’t* stipulate that bonuses are to be paid to current employees only. (At many companies, this even applies to referral bonuses — if you refer a new employee and you leave before s/he’s been there 3 or 6 months, you don’t get paid anything!) Typically, once you quit, there are quite a few things your company does to keep you happy that it will stop doing the instant it knows you are leaving. (I once quit a job where I had been verbally told I had earned a certain number of days of comp time for all the nights and weekends I had been putting in — but when I resigned, that wasn’t in writing, so they refused to count the comp days and told me I had a vacation deficit that they were going to dock my last paycheck for. Nice.)

    Do you know the exact date on which you’ll receive your bonus? If so, I’d negotiate with the hiring company so that your date of resignation is a few days after you receive the bonus (this allows time for the check to clear) — add two weeks to that so that you can give proper notice. If they won’t do that or if you don’t know exactly when your bonus will be, you’ll have to pick a date and decide whether or not you can risk losing the bonus. You may also be able to negotiate a signing bonus with the new company if they’re keen on having you start right away. In my experience signing bonuses have disappeared lately, but you can make a case that they’re causing you to lose income and see what they say.

    BTW, the same company that docked me vacation after I’d worked all kinds of overtime (not PAID overtime; I was exempt)? A couple of months before I quit, another employee resigned by EMAIL, giving one week’s notice…right after bonuses were paid out. In hindsight, I can’t say this company didn’t deserve it, but don’t do it this way if you can avoid it!

    1. A teacher*

      You must have worked where used to work, I was a 1onth employee that was paid over 12 months (large Midwest physical therapy company). Not only did they deny owing me money they’d been pulling from my paycheck, they told me I took a day more of vacation than I did–even though I had two days of pto to compensate for the vacation time, and they held part ofy 401k until a year later…oh and no bonus that was in the contract and bad mouthed me around the company for resigning. They also tried to blackball me, which didn’t work.

      They now wonder why I won’t recommend anyone to work there and because I have enough connections my former supervisor tries to play nice but she’s just fake.

    2. Julie K*

      A long time ago I had a job that I just couldn’t stand (actually the job was OK, but the manager was a nutcase). Anyway, I heard from everyone else in the office that they usually gave out great bonuses to everyone at the end of the year. I really wanted to get out of there, so found another job that was scheduled to start in mid-October. I disliked my then-job so much that I left knowing I was leaving the bonus behind. On the bright side, my new job had a company retreat to Vail scheduled for two days after I started, and that was a LOT of fun. It was a great way to meet co-workers from around the country, so later when I talked to them by phone, I knew them a little, and I could put a face with the name.

  8. Jesicka309*

    OP #1 When I had my wisdom teeth out I was brushing my teeth in the office, and going to the bathroom every two hours to rinse my mouth out with salt water and use a syringe to clean out the holes. That’s much worse than what you’re suggesting, and my work dealt with it.
    No one would complain if you were a diabetic injecting in a bathroom. It’s your health that’s important here! I say go for it and keep those teeth squeaky clean!

    1. KellyK*

      Sadly, a friend of mine with diabetes does get dirty looks injecting in a bathroom—people apparently think she’s a drug user or something.

      But nobody *reasonable* will have issues with either!

      1. Stacie*

        Unfortunately, people with needle phobias can (have issues with it). My boyfriend walked into a public bathroom where a diabetic was injecting and passed out right on the floor..

        1. KellyK*

          Ooh, yeah, I forgot about phobias. Thank you for pointing that out. I mean, phobias themselves aren’t reasonable, but that certainly doesn’t make people who have them unreasonable people. (I used to have a phobia of bats. Now it’s ticks and poisonous snakes.)

          I should’ve phrased that as “nobody reasonable will begrudge you the ability to take care of your teeth or get your meds.”

    2. Anonymous*

      I knew a person who pricked her finger then squeezed blood out of it to test it… At the lunch table.

      1. Kou*

        Every diabetic I knew growing up would do that at the table they’d just eaten at, and the rest of us just shrugged it off. I always thought, well, they have to do it. It didn’t occur to me until just now that it is kind of weird.

        1. AG*

          Yeah but I think there is a difference between a kid doing at a lunch table and an adult at a restaurant!

      2. Rana*

        I’d be okay with it if they did it discretely, in their lap under the table. (Heck, I’d probably not even notice.)

        I personally wouldn’t care if they did it in plain sight, but it seems easy enough to be low-key and unobtrusive about it.

  9. Jamie*

    Until it came up here in a recent thread I didn’t know brushing teeth at work was something that bothered people – it never bothered me and I’m annoyed pretty easily.

    IMO of all the things people do in bathrooms it’s pretty low on the scale of grossness – do what you have to do.

    1. KayDay*

      I actually am a little weirded out by people brushing their teeth in public bathrooms (I mean, ick) but at the same time, it’s definitely low on the scale of things that weird me out and I’ve even had to brush my teeth myself a few times when I had either a mid-day dentist appointment or a big meeting after eating an onion and poppy seed bagel.

      for the OP: I would just try your best to brush your teeth when there aren’t a lot of people in the bathroom so you aren’t hogging the skink space and/or spitting next to people who are washing their hands. It’s not like you really have a choice in the matter, so do what you gotta do.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree with keeping the space used to a minimum – and definitely cleaning out the sink when done. I don’t like to see my kid’s toothpaste blogs at home – and I love them.

        It’s so weird that it’s a perk, but one of the best things about my workplace is the private bathroom (meaning individual use – not that it’s just mine. THAT would be awesome) shared by only myself and the four other women in the office. I’m spoiled as we each have our own drawer in the vanity for personal items. Saves having to drag our purses in there all the time.

        1. Sascha*

          One of the ladies set up a cabinet for us in our bathroom with a little box for each person. I love it. Never have to worry about not having supplies.

          1. KayDay*

            I have always wished my office would do something like that. Given that one needs to use the bathroom for things (other than peeing) quite a bit throughout the course of one’s career, it makes sense to have a place there to store toiletries.

            1. Sascha*

              Yes, although she provided the cabinet herself and all the plastic boxes out of her pocket – it was not something our office provided, but at least they gave approval for it. But I don’t think it cost her much, she got the cabinet at a garage sale and the boxes were cheap.

      2. Ellie H.*

        I think that this and the other behaviors described in this thread fall into the category of “problems caused by the existence of other people.” Not anything anyone can or should do other than ignore it.

    2. Anonymous*

      I’d put it in the category of applying full makeup. It’s just weird (to me) and takes up too much space (in my specific office bathroom lay-out) as I can’t really take a step to the side of back when I feel “space-invaded.” As I have mentioned, I use another bathroom.

      1. fposte*

        What I mind is standing next to it, if the sinks are close. If you’re applying makeup you’re not going to spatter on me, but if you’re brushing your teeth, it’s a certainty.

        1. Anonymous*

          Well in my mind, I am imagining the same arm motions to apply mascara or tousel hair. I’m just trying to wash my hands and be outta there in peace.

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s just a question of where your squick lies. I’m not thrilled to be elbowed, but I’m particularly unhappy to get saliva spattered on me (it doesn’t help that I really loathe mint and just about everybody uses mint toothpaste).

            1. fposte*

              To be clear, I’m not objecting to people brushing their teeth in the bathroom–I think it’s fine. I just will wait to wash my hands.

            2. KayDay*

              Just out of curiosity, if you loathe the mint, what flavor toothpaste do you use? I’ve never seen regular tooth paste in any other flavor.

              (fwiw, I always make my dentist break out the kid’s flavoring at my dental checkups and get raspberry or something like that. But I use normal mint at home).

              1. Sascha*

                There is “plain” or “regular” flavor paste out there that is not minty, but it’s not baking soda either. This is what I get for my husband who has a mint allergy. Crest used to make an orange flavor that was quite nice (once you got used to it lol), but they discontinued it. Some brands offer cinnamon, too.

              2. fposte*

                Organic brands like Tom’s of Maine usually have some non-mint flavors, though if you want fluoride, which I do, you have to check carefully to make sure you haven’t organicked yourself out of that too.

              3. Heather*

                No mint for me either. Yuck. Crest sells a regular tasting toothpaste. That’s what I use. It’s Crest Regular Paste.

                1. fposte*

                  At least on the U.S. website, the regulars are all a form of mint now anyway–there’s wintergreen and peppermint.

                1. fposte*

                  Unfortunately, I’ve discovered I’m one of the people who cinnamon oil is too strong for–it gives me sores and irritation. I’ll look for the Crest Regular Paste sometime (though I get wary because of how many times something that doesn’t admit to being mint secretly has mint).

              4. Julie K*

                I don’t like mint either. I use the Arm & Hammer Complete Care with baking soda. It tastes better than actually using baking soda, and it doesn’t taste like mint. (Good to know I’m not the only person who doesn’t like mint.)

              5. Rana*

                I’ve seen some organic ones that are anise or ginger flavored. They don’t appeal to me, but they might be an option.

            3. Anlyn*

              I don’t mind the taste of mint toothpaste, but I don’t like the smell of mint toothpaste. I think it brings to mind the smell of bad breath and mint failing to cover it up. So I don’t really like it when people brush their teeth at work, but I realize it’s a reality for a lot and ignore it as I can.

            4. BW*

              My squick is eyes. Applying mascara and eyeliner makes me cringe, but I’ve never been spattered on by a tooth brusher.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Our bathroom has five or six sinks; I go to the one on the far end, next to the paper towel thing in the corner. That way I can do it out of the way and clean up as fast as possible.

          At OldJob, there were only two sinks, but there were only three women in the whole company. It was almost like having a private bathroom.

  10. BW*

    1. I think more people do this than you realize. It’s not been unusual in my experience to walk into the bathroom and someone is brushing their teeth. It’s a bathroom. That is where most people brush their teeth and perform other hygiene type activities. It’s certainly not grosser than what people are doing in the toilet. Just be kind and rinse the toothpaste spit down the drain before you leave.

    2. Dinging you for missing a meeting on account of a health problem is a donkey butt move. They may just be taking a hard line up front to get people to attend. If you end up going to the dentist instead, you might want to have him/her write a note as documentation that the procedure was necessary to have done ASAP. I guess you are stuck having to decide if your dental issue is enough risk to your health that you absolutely need that appointment and can’t take a later one. This sucks, and I know if I got punished for missing something account of a serious health issue, I’d be all over whoever I needed to defend myself to with a doctor’s note.

    4. Did we interview at the same place? :D

    I have never encountered this before except from one brilliant and eccentric hiring manager in a start-up. It was an initial phone interview. It totally threw me off guard. I don’t remember how I responded. I do remember telling the recruiter afterwards that the interview “started backwards”. I’ve never encountered this since, but it took me so by surprise it’s the first thing that comes to my mind about that interview, that and the guy was a dead ringer for Santa Claus. Good luck with your job search!

  11. Ash*

    “cone of invisibility”

    Someone is a D&D nerd! ;)

    I agree with Allison. Working for local government, you always have shared bathrooms, and I have always worked with people who brush their teeth in the bathrooms after lunch. It’s not a big deal unless you’re making nasty horking sounds when trying to spit or something.

  12. B*

    #1 – Not a big deal to brush your teeth. I have seen people do it all of the time and never thought twice about. Except, when they did not clean up after themselves. The most annoying/disgusting part is seeing toothpaste in the sink and on the counter. As well as the person who takes over the whole small counter with their stuff.

    1. Liz*

      And the person who leaves the tap running at full blast while she spends 3 minutes brushing her teeth and walking slowly to the paper towel dispenser so she can turn the water off again.

  13. Darcy*

    #3: Some states have laws that do not allow employers to place active employment restrictions on bonuses earned. (Indiana is one). There is case law in other states that calls bonuses earned over a specified time period “earned income” and requires it to be paid whether or not you’re still employed. But most states don’t require this and most employers do have that restriction on the payout. Check your state law, although fighting this in court probably wouldn’t be worth it so it’s probably just easier to stay until after the bonus payout.

    1. Jamie*

      Do those laws differentiate between contractual bonus payouts and discretionary bonuses?

      When I was on a contractual bonus plan it spelled out how much it was, when it would be paid, what my metrics needed to look like to earn the full amount and the percentage increments below that determined by metrics, and how the pro-rating worked if you worked less than the full 12 months. (Less than 12 months and you got nothing. But once you’ve passed your first anniversary you’d get the year prorated should you leave.)

      In an instance like that absolutely it’s legally binding – because I had paperwork which showed it was part of the agreed upon compensation package.

      But discretionary bonuses – I don’t know how they could possibly enforce that? You can’t prove what they would have chosen to give you – unless everyone at a certain level got the same amount.

      1. Judy*

        At my current company, we have a bonus target %, which is by level, 10%, 15%, 20% on different responsibility levels (probably more for executives). You then get your personal multiplier (depending on your annual rating), and a company multiplier (same for everyone, based on overall outcomes). I got my bonus statement at the end of January from my boss. The payout is April 2. If you leave the company before Dec 31, you don’t get it in the next year for the year. You do get it if you leave after Dec 31 but before the payout. The risk for us is leaving before they’ve given you your final rating, you could end up with a lower rating than you would have gotten, but that’s hard to prove. One friend turned in his notice the first week of January last year, and his year end review discussion had implied a “2” rating out of 5, but he got a “3” rating. (2 rating = personal multiplier > 1 maybe 1.25 or 1.5, 3 rating multiplier = 1)

        1. Judy*

          These aren’t part of a contract, they’re part of the “total compensation package which could change at the companies discretion”.

  14. Natalie*

    #6 (Science Grad) – my knowledge of this is admittedly based entirely off of the show Better Off Ted, but I believe there are people who sell lab equipment and supplies? I also know, through having relatives in the field, that there are people who sell dental supplies. These both seem like rich potential job markets for you given your background.

    1. KT*

      #6- I also graduated with a B.S. in Neuroscience in 2008. I don’t blame you for wanting to work in sales & marketing! I work for a renewable energy start-up company, and my boss really liked that I had a organic/general chemistry background!

      FYI – I previously worked for a neurology department at the #1 medical school in the US. It was horrible. Don’t do it. They underpay you, and they will work you to death! I know this may seem a bit dramatic, but honestly go into business. It’s where the money is.

      1. OP from #6*

        @KT That’s amazing to hear! I had a lot if self doubt wishing I maybe had minored in econ or communications but seeing how it worked out for you gives me hope :) How did you approach the company that you work for now? Thank you for the input!

    2. OP from #6*

      Definitely! I have a sales background too (retail) and am definitely motivated by working on a commission type basis while being able to apply my science background. But, most positions that I see want X amount of years working in medical or science related sales specifically so I run into the issue of how to get my foot in the door…

  15. fposte*

    On #2–you say the “soonest appointment” would be during that meeting. When’s the second soonest? It’s one thing if you’d have to wait two more weeks to get the procedure done; it’s another if you could have it later in the day or the next day.

    1. Anonymous*

      Perhaps OP is in pain? Or the office is really booked up? I made an appointment for a filling and they offered 2 days from then or June.

      1. fposte*

        Being in pain doesn’t mean “can’t wait until later in the day,” though. And as I said, if this is the only spot for weeks, it’s a different thing. It would be foolish to get yourself locked into a “my physical care should matter more than anything else!” point of indignation if there’s a way to attend the meeting and get the procedure done in the same timeframe.

        1. Rana*

          Though if it’s really bad pain, I can’t imagine the OP will be in good shape to pay attention during a meeting.

          1. fposte*

            But then they’re not really in shape to be handling their other work in the meantime either. Obviously we don’t know the exact situation, but it’s not been considered an emergency, most non-emergency dental situations aren’t work-preclusive, especially with the help of medications, and some things that cause a need for extractions aren’t particularly painful in their own right. I still think that there’s a reasonable chance the boss is a jerk, but I’m not seeing a pending extraction as a reason not to go to meetings.

    2. Kou*

      Dental offices are the worst about having insane availability in my experience. It’s always like, “We have a cancellation tomorrow morning at 7am or you can be here next season.”

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, that’s my experience too. I had to cancel a regular cleaning & check-up because I was taking a class for work that afternoon, and the next available appointment was six months later! I guess when you’re scheduling everybody’s next appointment (for six months from now) when you see them, you get booked way in advance.

    3. Rana*

      One thing that the OP could do is see if their boss would be okay with them skipping a morning or afternoon with little notice if something earlier opens up. It’s probably not likely, but if the boss is willing to be flexible in that way in order to guarantee that the OP’s at the meeting, the OP could let the dentist’s office know that they’d be interested if any last-minute cancellations open up.

  16. Ann*

    #1, Everyone in my office brushes their teeth after lunch, everyone. No, I don’t work in a dentist’s office; I work with foreign diplomats. I believe the toothpaste in their country doesn’t have fluoride in it, so people are much more militant about brushing after they eat. Most of the people have a little carrying case like a makeup or pencil bag. I never found it gross (of course, my family used to go camping every summer. There are few places more icky to brush your teeth than a public campground bathroom).

    I am just a little confused by all the people who are squicked out by the teeth-brushers. Are you grossed out on their behalf, because a public bathroom seems an unsanitary place to brush your teeth? Or, are you grossed out by the act of their teeth-brushing and you having to see it?

    1. Heather*

      Yeah, I don’t understand the issues with teeth-brushing. Wouldn’t you rather see someone brushing their teeth than have to smell their breath after they had a big garlicky lunch?

    2. KayDay*

      I’m grossed out on the toothbrusher’s behalf. I don’t think I could brush my teeth while someone was going to the bathroom. There have been times when I’ve had to brush my teeth in the bathroom and I made sure it was empty and it still had an ick factor.

      It also can be a little bit annoying when someone is taking up the sink for two full happy-birthdays with their elbow sticking out and making it difficult to wash your hands next to them. And then spitting next to you. But that aspect is both fairly minor and easily avoidable if the tooth-brusher is courteous.

    3. Kou*

      Some places, people just consider brushing your teeth after meals the same as washing your hands after using the bathroom– you have to do it to be clean.

      One project I was on overseas I was specifically warned that I needed to have a toothbrush and past on me at all times and brush after eating or people would think I was gross. After lunch everyone would go to the bathroom and brush their teeth, but they were private bathrooms so sometimes you had to wait a long time because everyone had to brush.

    4. Rindle*

      I admit I’m grossed out by public bathroom tooth brushing. I don’t blame people for doing it – I admire the dedication to dental hygiene – but that doesn’t stop me from squicking about someone spitting repeatedly into a sink where I have to wash my hands. And flossing inevitably causes flecks of food to fly about. Now that I think about it, I’d feel a lot better about it if the brushers/flossers in my office used Clorox wipes to clean out the sink and surrounding area after doing their business.

      1. Rana*

        Maybe you could talk to the person who orders supplies about putting a container of wipes in the bathroom for that purpose?

  17. Laura*

    Science Grad-

    Many of these consulting firms (I work for one) prides itself on hiring science grads to work in the consulting/business/finance field because we need that expertise. I was one of them. My whole company is PhDs or those who have a bachelors, wanted to go to med school, and decided on business. I use my science background a lot, but I am a in a business/finance/strategy role. I LOVE it. No need to position yourself differently for these firms. They expect to hire new grads with little experience in business but show a strong academic background. Healthcare or Life Sciences consulting firms rely on people like you and would be interested. Of course, for many of the top consulting firms, it does require a perfect transcript from a Top 25 school, but of course there are exceptions.

    1. OP from #6*

      That’s fantastic! Such a relief to hear that I’m not alone and your own first-hand experience of how you’re still able to use your science background AND most importantly you enjoy it as well :) I’m curious to know, what do you enjoy most about the consulting firm that you currently work for? In terms of work environment, client interaction, and skills you use on a daily basis.

  18. Lana*

    #1 – don’t give it a second thought and brush your teeth whenever you need to. I have regular braces and I couldn’t care less about what anyone thinks about them. I also need to brush my teeth in the public bathroom sometimes – it’s very normal.

  19. bo bessi*

    OP6 – I have a degree in Microbiology and started out in marketing before the job I have now, which is hiring architects and other designers. I’ve found that there are a lot of transferable skills that you get from a science background. Think about how much critical thinking, analyzing data and problem solving you’ve done while getting your degree. Those are things that will be helpful in almost any position!

    1. OP from #6*

      True, true. Looks like I just need to work on selling those transferable skills when applying to companies. Thank you for the advice! :)

  20. Katie the Fed*

    Posts like #2 often make me suspect there’s a lot more background to the story. Not to say that they’re NOT being unreasonable jerks, but usually this kind of thing comes about after a pattern of behavior.

    1. Tasha*

      Sometimes though if you are a good employee, your manager’s unreasonability doesn’t show up until you have a health issue that needs to be taken care of during business hours. Some managers just treat any deviation from their schedule as you are being a “problem” and should be reprimanded as such regardless of how good a worker you are.

      1. K*

        And the fact that this is the kind of workplace where you get “written up” for things provides some circumstantial support for that, I feel like; that is usually the type of thing you see in places like call centers, that are notorious for churning through their employees.

      2. Kou*

        Absolutely. There are a-PLENTY of people who don’t really seem to believe that people aren’t always healthy and sometimes need to see doctors and take it as a character flaw. You never know who they are until you get sick and are suddenly on the receiving end of nasty judgment.

        1. fposte*

          Yep, that totally happens, and I’ve worked with them. However, I’ve also known people (and covered for people) who’ve prioritized some personal things over work and specific aspects of work in a way that is a problem for their supervisors. No idea whether this is such a situation or not, but they’re out there.

  21. biograd*

    #6 – Science Grad

    Take AAM’s advice to heart “You have a science background that a lot of their applicants probably don’t have.”

    I remember as an undergrad in biology, our department career center was focused on getting students jobs specifically in biology research. I had no clue what my options were at this point – I knew I didn’t want to work in a lab nor did I have the desire to go medical school or graduate school. I’ve learned that business, including the tech field, love and need more individuals with a science background. Although I’ve never had to explain electrochemical signals to clients, here’s a few ways I’ve leveraged my science background:

    – Being comfortable with new technology:
    While studying biology, you get exposed to many different complicated tools and computer programs. As businesses continue to get more complex, they’re going to need individuals who can understand their applications and know how to use them.

    Also, if you did your data analysis and calculations using Excel, you’re a step above many applicants already. Simple things which you may already know in excel (I’m talking filtering, array tables, etc), are going to help you get things done faster.

    – Having a clear thought process when solving issues:
    I find myself unknowingly using the scientific method when solving problems at work issues. (No, I don’t formulate my hypothesis into an if-then statement!) But often times, when someone is coming to me to help them resolve a problem, rather than run around and test 10 million things, I breakdown the issue into smaller parts. When your boss is asking for a clear explanation of why something didn’t work the way it did, you’ll find yourself explaining the situation in these terms and you’ll look like a rock star for explaining things so clearly and methodically.

    – Writing:
    One of the reasons I chose biology as a major was because the thought of writing long papers was not appealing to me. The joke was on me because I ended up writing tons of 2-3 page papers for all of my classes. But I’ve found at work that these short papers have helped me become an efficient writer. I can get the point across in a format that is easier to digest.

    Those are my thoughts and hopefully you’ll find them helpful in your job search.

    1. OP from #6*

      This is amazing! Very inspiring. Love the way you broke everything down, makes so much sense and I totally get what you mean! Nice thing about the consulting firm I mentioned I want to apply for actually has you write reports so I was like ahh amazing.

      So really specific question, in my cover letter do I need to say something like “despite majoring in x, I can bring x skills that a person with a degree in x would not have”? Or just go ahead and mention the skills I can bring because of my unique science background without mentioning the comparison?

      @AAM if you have any thoughts that’d be awesome too.

      Thank you, thank you :)

  22. fishy*

    #1 – Awkward is washing your lunch dishes in the bathroom when there’s a kitchen just across the hall.

      1. class factotum*

        When I temped at the World Bank, I more than once washed strawberries for an at-work, funded by your tax dollars, complete with hard liquor retirement party in the ladies’ room. (The party was not in the ladies’.) After living in South America for two years, where I once found my cleaning lady cleaning my toilet with my vegetable brush, I was not that squeamish, but I thought preparing food in a public bathroom was a little gross.

  23. Karen*

    #1 – INVISALIGN!!!! I started Invisalign treatment last year literally at the same time that I started a new job. So I was super nervous that I was going to be making a scene of sorts. No way! One of the things I was most surprised by was how many people do brush their teeth after lunch! I ended up brushing my teeth 3 times a day at work because I had a morning snack, lunch, and an afternoon snack. No one ever thought it was weird, in fact – a few people who saw the invisalign were like, “oh cool! i was thinking about getting invisalign!”.. conversation starter. and new friends made. :-)

  24. Victoria Nonprofit*

    Re: #4 – Back when I used to hire, I would always start by asking if the applicant had any questions. My interview intro would go roughly like this:

    “Thanks so much for coming in. As we discussed before, I’m thinking that this conversation will take about an hour. I’ll start by telling you a little bit about the organization and the position, then I have some questions for you and I’m sure you’ll have some questions for me.

    Blah Blah short description of org, explanation of my role, discussion of position…

    Do you have any questions you’d like to ask before we get started?”

    1. OP #4*

      See, that I wouldn’t have found unusual. Both of these were along the lines of, “Hi, I’m Sue, I’m the VP of Chocolate Teapots, thanks for meeting with me. We’ll go over the position details in a minute, but do you have any questions to start?” I ended up pulling out questions that I’d normally ask at the end such as “I understand this is a new position, can you tell me what led to its creation?” but it just struck me as odd. Your intro makes more sense to me – you gave some details about the company and position before asking.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit*

        My thinking was to give them a chance to ask any questions they’d like to hear the answer to before they start giving me information. Like “It sounds like there will be some fundraising involved with this position. Can you tell me a little more about what kind of work that would be?” so they know whether to highlight the volunteer grantwriting they do or the fundraiser gala they threw for their college club.

        For what it’s worth, the “blah blah intro to the organization/position/etc.” was usually, like, two or three sentences. “What we do is develop and manufacture chocolate teapots. The person in this role will work closely with the Director of Teapots to develop a new product to meet the needs of caramel lovers.” Stuff they should know from the job description and reading the website, but giving them a hook to ask any clarifying questions.

      2. Angela S.*

        In the last few weeks when I was interviewing people for a job opening at my workplace, I started a few with asking the candidate questions. My purpose of doing this is to see if the candidates have done their research to know enough the company. It always impress me to see a few who have questions about the workplaces and the job openings. They gave me the impression that they already knew the jobs they were applying for.

  25. bluefish*

    I know most people would disagree with me, but I actually find it rude when people brush their teeth (or apply their makeup, etc.) in the common, work bathroom. When I have to “USE” the bathroom, I want as much privacy as possible. If someone else is in a stall I always make sure to go to the bathroom, wash my hands, then leave immediately so that if the other person needs privacy they can have it. I hate when I’m trying to go to the bathroom and someone is just sitting in there brushing their teeth or brushing their hair or something. While it annoys me, I do understand that most people do not feel the same so I’ve learned to accept that certain people will always be brushing their teeth in there.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yes, you’re right, lots of people don’t fee the same way. So it doesn’t seem rude to me at all: they’re using a space with a mirror and sink. That’s the place for it.

      1. fposte*

        And that’s the crux, isn’t it? Those are all normal things to do of a workday, and better in the bathroom than in the corridor.

        1. bluefish*

          I’m probably the only person on the planet who thinks this, but I actually think if you must brush at work the best place would be in the kitchen sink. It just seems yucky to brush your teeth while other people are using the toilet. I’m a bit of a weirdo, but I don’t even like to inhale when I’m in the bathroom and someone else is using it. I do realize that my opinions on the matter are unusual. Just thought I’d share.

          1. twentymilehike*

            I actually think if you must brush at work the best place would be in the kitchen sink.

            Its funny you say that! I have brushed my teeth in my kitchen sink and it feels really weird, but in a public restroom it just feels dirty. I clean the kitchen sink at work, so I think that I think that because I know how clean it is v. not knowing what’s going on in the bathroom since makes me more prone to want to also use the kitchen sink. I’ve also been in a few public restrooms where I’ve seen (and *gasp* participated in) women peeing in the sink (In all fairness, all of these women were drunk, myself included … so that hopefully doesn’t apply to work places, but it does color my picture of public restrooms).

    2. Lily in NYC*

      You would lose it if you worked in my office! We used to have someone that regularly pooped on the floor. That was bad enough. We have another person that leaves footprints on the toilet seat. She’s accustomed to squat toilets and somehow manages to squat with her feet on the actual seat. Now we have someone that shaves her armpits at the sinks about once a week. It is so weird. I hate our bathroom.

    3. Rana*

      I guess I’ve always figured that the stall is what provides the privacy. But then I’ve spent too many years sharing bathrooms to be bothered if someone can hear me at my business.

  26. girlreading*

    #1- I think just get in their, brush your teeth, and get out as fast as possible. I used to work somewhere where several offices shared one bathroom on the floor. One woman went in every day after lunch (not always the same time) to brush and floss and freshen her makeup. It drove me and others in my office crazy. After lunch, sometimes people have to do their business if you know what I mean. It’s already awkward enough in a public bathroom, but then you have someone who goes in there, takes up the sink area and spends twenty minutes doing all this. It gets annoying. I definitely feel for you and Invisaligns are NOT cheap, so you want to take excellent care of your teeth. Just be sure you’re considerate to others and don’t take your sweet time.

    #6- it’s all about selling your transferable skills. And you mentioned you love the tech start up- mention that in your cover letter in a genuine way- not so professional that it sounds robotic. I’ve gotten way more responses sending my cover letter to an industry I love but have no experience in since changing my cover letter to sound more like me instead of the rote professional jargon (per AAM’s advice).

    #7- if you do take the survey, be honest. I’m sure they all vary, but as an HR professional, I’d want honest feedback on the interviewing process from candidates in order to adjust it as needed to make it a positive experience. Whether or not they’re hired, you don’t want candidates leaving the company with a bad taste in their mouth. I wouldn’t want positive responses when something is negative. I wouldn’t be upset with the candidate, I’d feel they were honest and assertive.

    1. OP from #6*

      Thank you for the feedback! So true, tone is definitely everything especially since startups are so laid back. Made this feeble mistake of sounding too too professional at the beginning of my job search and got the good ol’ “we don’t have a position that aligns with your professional background” auto reply lol. Seeing the light now and starting to implement this in my cover letters now!

  27. Elizabeth M*

    This post just inspired me to brush my teeth in a public bathroom! I’m at the airport, on a layover, and as I was sitting here reading I became more and more aware of my teeth!

    I don’t really get the grossed-out feeling some people here seem to… but maybe I brush my teeth more neatly than some people? You can’t even see into my mouth while I’m brushing. What *was* gross was that while I was brushing my teeth, several people washed their hands – and none of them took more than ten seconds to do so. Some of them didn’t even use soap, just dabbled their hands under the water for about a second and then grabbed a paper towel!

    1. Rana*

      Agreed. If I’m flossing it can get sort of gross, but just brushing? I guess there’s the spitting part, too, but this sort of spraying flecks, elbow-waving stuff people are describing strikes me as a bit over the top.

      I don’t mind people not using soap, because they’ve found that it’s the rubbing that does most of the work, but ten seconds is nowhere near long enough!

  28. Kou*

    #1, I’m doing this right now! In my mind, brushing my teeth is probably the least gross thing that happens in a bathroom. I have wondered if people found it rude, though, I don’t have any other options so I do it and people can deal.

  29. The B*

    Don’t worry about the teeth. My boss takes his toothbrush to the bathroom every day.
    I’m now having to floss and brush at my job because of some teeth issues, but you’ll live.
    The thing I can’t stand is people who can’t walk to the kitchen, so they toss their leftover soup in the bathroom sink. I don’t like staring at noodles. Yuck.

    1. Rana*

      Yeesh. If it can’t go down the drain, flush it down the toilet! It’s no harder than dumping it down the sink.

  30. OP from #6*

    Thank you Alison for posting my question! Your advice and everyone else’s has been super insightful! I’ll be sure to follow up with how things turn out.

  31. Maggie*

    Brushing your teeth at work, no biggie in my opinion. I did work with one lady who would eat her lunch in the bathroom though. That was odd.

  32. Anony*

    Re: 1. Brushing your teeth at the office

    Guilty! I have the Invisalign too and I first felt uncomfortable brushing my teeth in the bathroom but then it was like whatever, oh well, it’s good oral hygiene. I do try to do it discreetly though or when no one is in there if I am lucky. I try to do it real quick though, not like spend 5 mins or so doing it. I did notice other people starting to do it after I started it!

  33. OP of Question # 3.*

    I went back and read on my company bonus policy and it explicitly stated it that to qualify for bonus:
    A) you will have to be employed/on the books on the last day of last year, December 31.
    B) you have to be active on the day bonus is paid out.

    Looks like B is open to interpretation and unless I plan my notice of resignation only after bonus is being paid out (can come off as deceptive), they can define being “active” however they see fit. So I guess I should just try to delay my start date if all possible and if this is not feasible, just move on and count my blessings.

    Thanks all for you comments

  34. Boofer Lepard*

    I brush my teeth @ work. I have to do this. I have PERMANENT (for Life) wire retainers fixed to the back of of front teeth, major food trap. I also have to wear plastic retainers .
    You seriously thing I am not going to brush after a meal and put the plastic on top? ewww
    I don’t want to have gum disease.
    I also clean the sink and the tap after I use the work bathroom.
    Tell my periodontist,my hygienist and orthodontist how wrong. They will think you an idiot.

    I had braces for four years before the retainers that was so fun and I had to brush @ work then too.

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