naked work retreats, singing coworkers, and other delights of the workplace

It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Our team retreat included a naked sauna trip

I work for an international NGO, and I’m the only woman on a team of 12, mostly North American employees. We recently held a team retreat in a country where gender roles are behind the times.

My director, who is from the country where we were, announced that one of our team-building activities would be a trip to the sauna – men only. I objected, and he grudgingly said I could go, but my colleagues would all be naked. Feeling very uncomfortable, I opted not to go, and some colleagues stayed behind with me so I wouldn’t be sitting around by myself all night.

I’m still feeling bothered and excluded (It doesn’t help that my colleagues had a fantastic time and can’t stop raving about it). Do I just let it go and chalk it up to cultural differences? If I do choose to deal with it, how can I do so sensitively and professionally?

To some extent, this can be part of the deal with traveling to countries with different cultures; they have different norms that will govern. However, if your organization is headquartered in the U.S. or another country where gender-segrated work activities don’t fly (let alone nudity among coworkers), your manager or someone else in a position from authority from a region with the same cultural norms as ours should have addressed this. If that didn’t happen, it’s worth advocating that this be handled differently in the future — but beyond that, I think you’re best off chalking it to cultural differences. (And yay for the presumably male colleagues who stayed behind with you.)

2. At what point do cover letters get read?

At what point in the applicant screening process do cover letters get read, if at all? I slave away on crafting my cover letters, especially for jobs that I really really want, and I know it’s better to submit one than not. I am just wondering if it’s even being read at all or if they decide whether they like you or not before even considering looking at your cover letter.

It depends on the employer. Some don’t read them at all, and others do. You can’t tell from the outside which hiring manager will and which won’t, so you should assume that they all do and include a good letter. As for when in the process they’re read, generally in the initial screen, either right before or right after the resume.

A great cover letter won’t (generally) make up for a resume that severely lacking, but when there are dozens or hundreds of candidates who are all about as qualified as you, it can be what gets your application pulled out for an interview.

3. My sister’s boss is demeaning to her

My sister is currently working as a cashier at a fast food chain and has been employed in this position for about 6 months. She recently divulged that her manager has been making what I consider to be degrading and inappropriate comments to her. To be more specific, he says my sister “rides the stupid bus,” as well as refers to her as “Ms. Frizzle, driver of the Magic School Bus.” The other day, my sister overheard her manager call her “Ms. Frizzle” to HIS boss.

Obviously, I am upset by this, but I’m 99 percent sure that there is nothing I personally can do (right?). My sister herself is very shy, and adverse to confrontation, but is there any advice I can give her to help make this situation better?

Lovely. Your sister’s boss is clearly an ass, and his own boss clearly doesn’t care (and thus is probably a bit of an ass as well). I’d encourage your sister to realize that your boss is the problem, not her, and to change jobs … and to see this as a lesson in getting herself out of bad situations.

4. Coworkers won’t stop singing and shouting

I work on a production line with 20 other people. We work in a space with lots of machines running with a lot of background noise. There are 3 guys who at any time will break into singing, whistling, and shouting at each other. This can last from 30 minutes to more than 2 hours without stopping on any given day. They will repeat the same tunes day in and day out.

This has a huge effect on me and some of my coworkers, but others don’t seem to mind. They have been asked to stop, and their answer is that they’re only having a laugh. Management doesn’t want to help. What can be done in this situation?

Well, probably nothing, it sounds like. You’ve asked them to stop and they’ve refused, and your manager isn’t willing to tell them to stop … so it sounds like this is part of the work environment there. Which would mean that you’ll have to decide whether it’s a deal-breaker for you or not (or whether you can wear headphones or otherwise block out or distract yourself from the noise).

5. Boss scheduled me for Christmas Eve, after approving me to be out

I work part-time in a position that would normally be full-time (I’m a graphic designer and there’s a lot of work around here). Since I receive no benefits, I must work extra hours to make up for holidays and vacation days. With all the winter holidays and my need to focus on night-time grad school for a whole week, I created a schedule for the next three months. Boss took a close look at it and approved it two weeks ago.

Today, however, he said he’ll “need” me to be on “standby” on Christmas Eve and the day before that, which I’d clearly marked as vacation time. I told him I could not work those days because I’d be with family, and he went on about how I’m not showing loyalty to the job. Meanwhile, I know I am an asset to the team and there is a very large demand for my skills at other potentially more pleasant workplaces.

This is the second time a manager of mine has reneged on his approval of my time off over Christmas. Having managed people myself, I can’t imagine being so crass. What is the appropriate response?

I don’t think “crass” is quite the word you want…? In any case, this does suck, but the reality is that sometimes people are indeed needed to be available on certain days. Yes, he shouldn’t have approved the time off before he was sure, but sometimes things do change — and he’s at least giving you two months notice (which doesn’t help, of course, if you already made plans to be out-of-town). Your can tell him that you made unbreakable plans after he approved the days off earlier and see what happens … but unless this is part of a pattern of disrespect or sloppy management, I’d try to just work it out. However, if you’re sufficiently unhappy with your manager, there’s no reason that you can’t explore one of those “potentially more pleasant workplaces” as an alternative.

6. Did I destroy my chances by sending in a new application?

I recently noticed a typo from when a I applied for a job a week ago. I decided to clean it up and re-word the whole thing and send it again. I hadn’t heard anything in a week, so I figured that I don’t have much to lose as I suppose I won’t get an interview anyway. By doing it, have I destroyed all of my chances of getting the job or have I improved my chances?

Well, it’s sort of weird to submit a whole new application just one week after your first one. It’s likely to look like you didn’t realize that you’d already applied. If you want to correct an error, the best way to do that is with a follow-up email (if their system allows it; if not, you need to just let it go).

In general, don’t draw any conclusions just because a week has gone by since you applied for a job. Hiring takes a long time, often months.

7. Coworker with shingles

I have a coworker who came to work with shingles blisters and is refusing to cover the blisters . My managers are refusing to do anything. There are people who work with her who are pregnant and are now furious with her. I am a high-risk patient and am very angry with her for what she did. I work at an amusement park. How can someone be so dumb?

How people can be so dumb is a question I’m not qualified to answer. But your managers should have asked your coworker to cover the blisters to help prevent transmission.

{ 196 comments… read them below }

  1. Verde*

    @ #4 – I spent a couple of years in a warehouse/line environment and that singing and hollering (and rubber band fights and other goofy stuff) is what got us through 10-14 hour days/7 day weeks over the holidays. But, I also recall how loud we were and that it could be irritating to the folks on the edge of the work area. Until we were told we couldn’t wear headphones anymore due to safety regulations (gotta be able to hear that approaching forklift), we all pretty much wore them and listened to our own stuff – especially if we were doing solo work in the shelving areas. However, if you’re allowed to wear noise-canceling headphones, or any other kind, that can really help.

  2. Been there/done that*

    #6 Don’t fret. I did the same thing last week. I used AAM’s advise tailored my cover letter and resume. Unfortunately in my excitment about the job, I didn’t proof read very well. I found several mistakes and was devasted. My mom actaully suggested I resubmit. I did, with a letter explaining why. So, I felt I blew it and moved on. Yesterday they called me for an interview. So good luck to you! You may be surpised how it works out for you!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the key there, though, is that you explained why you were resubmitting. If I understand the OP correctly, she just resubmitted without explanation, which is what makes it a little weird.

        1. matt*

          I actually asked the question, I am sorry I might not have explained myself well. When I say resubmit all I did was update my profile which had the question inside it. (if you get what I mean) The system supposably makes the changes from my profile reflect in the submission I already made.

          Sorry if I am confusing you.

          But yes, I will see if I can contact them directly explaining why I am correcting, next time I make an error.

          As for how long it takes, thank you for bringing me back to reality. When I wrote the question a week felt like ages. Sorry.

          1. Anonadog*

            I’ve done that before (updated an online profile with a new version of my resume after applying for a job). If the system lets you do it, it’s probably okay. There’s a chance you can update it multiple times before someone even sees it. It worked fine in my case – I got a phone interview.

            1. Elise*

              Many apps with closing days are like this. You can edit until that date and no one even looks at it before then.

      1. fposte*

        I’ve had a couple of resubmissions. Generally I assume they’re just a result of record-keeping errors–that they don’t realize they already submitted. I therefore wouldn’t circulate the new application materials instead of the old one unless there was an explanation from the applicant that it was meant to do that.

        1. Ellie H.*

          Really? That seems a little counterintuitive to me; if I had received a newer version of what looked like the same application materials, I would definitely default to using the newer version in case there were changes I didn’t notice (unless the older version had been sent before a posted deadline and the newer version missed that cutoff or I otherwise felt there was a reason to not accept a revision, which I can definitely see being perfectly justified). Even if the person forgot they had already submitted, which does seem a little disorganized, they could have updated their resume or added a new reference or something in the meantime.

          1. fposte*

            Then they need to say that that’s why they’re resending. We’ll have already disseminated the original copy and possibly started considering it, and I’m not combing through a second sending to figure out whether something has changed or if this is somebody who just forgot where they blasted their app (which is usually what happens with a double sending).

            Basically, it’s chasing after something already on the conveyor belt, and I’m not going to do that unless you let me know that there’s a reason.

            1. Ellie H.*

              Oh, sure – if you have already disseminated it and started reviewing it then of course it makes perfect sense not to suddenly replace it with newer materials. I just thought you meant that, if you received a “newer” version prior to circulating the application/reviewing it/processing it as an application, you would ignore it and always use the first version.

      2. Karl Sakas*

        When I’ve seen candidates re-submit in the past (maybe 5%?), I assumed they were applying so many places that they’d forgotten they’d already applied. The “re-submission, no explanation” was typically from candidates with a fairly generic application (e.g., they didn’t customize their cover letter to the company or position).

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh, I did what the OP did, for a job I REALLY wanted, and forgot both times to include my SS# on my resume (it was a city job and you had to, or they would delete you immediately). I didn’t realize what I had done until applications closed. By then, it was too late. I felt awful, especially after I contacted someone I knew who used to work in the department and he spent an hour coaching me on what to do. *facepalm*

      I consoled myself by thinking that it would have sucked (sometimes crazy hours–it was in the police department), and besides, I’m making more per hour now than I would have then anyway.

  3. abankyteller*

    #3: It always makes discouraged to hear about people like that in the workplace. Talking about a “short bus” like that is inappropriate beyond words.

    #7: If someone knowingly exposed me to singles while I was pregnant, I would be LIVID. I can’t believe someone would be so selfish. I’ve never had shingles but I understand they are pretty contagious and extremely painful. If you have shingles yourself, you know how painful it is; why would you want other people to experience that?

    1. Been there/done that*

      well said abankyteller on both points.

      Having a disabilty is challenging enough without ignorant people making it it even harder for LW sister. I really hope the LW and family is encouraging her to pursue other employment. Thats unacceptable to treat anyone that way.

      1. abankyteller*

        I hope she pursues other employment too!

        I just realize I mistyped, and that the LW said “stupid bus” and not “short bus”. I’m not sure which is more offensive. They both just make me really sad.

      2. Daisy*

        Is the sister disabled? I thought the boss was just calling her stupid? (I mean, not that that’s OK, but am I not understanding some reference?)

        1. some1*

          The reference is that (at least when I was growing up) kids with Down’s Syndrome and other disabilities rode a school bus that was shorter than a regular-size school bus that was called a short bus.

          The boss is either making fun of the LW’s sister because she *does* have a mental disability or implying that she’s unintelligent enough to seem like she does. It’s neither here nor there, really, because either scenario still makes the remark offensive.

        2. The Sister*

          No, my sister does not have any disabilities — but I didn’t really think that made a difference in this case. It’s just as inappropriate either way, IMO.

    2. Liz*

      Can some one explain the shingles thing? I know shingles is a virus with a nasty rash, but why is chicken pox so nasty to children? According to the webpages I checked its chicken pox that effects the child, not shingles, and you can catch chicken pox from shingles only if you haven’t had it before?

      1. Katherine*

        If a woman contracts shingles or chicken pox while pregnant, it can cause very serious birth defects to the baby, which is why pregnant women are encouraged to get vaccinated for chicken pox before getting pregnant and to avoid exposure during pregnancy.

        1. Carlotta*

          Well it sounds gross anyway but I didn’t know there was a vaccine for chicken pox, only measles (also extremely dangerous if pregnant) and any of these are a lot more serious as an adult anyway. Is there one? (I admit I’m partly interested because I’ve never had any of these!)

          1. Elizabeth*

            Yes, a chickenpox vaccine was introduced sometime in the ’90s. According to Wikipedia, the death rate from chickenpox/shingles has, as a result, dropped from 100-150/year to under 10/year.

            1. Carlotta*

              Good news! (Well, for me anyway. I suspect you don’t get it here in the UK unless you’re pregnant and haven’t had it)

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I had shingles in my eye/face two years ago – it was the most painful experience of my life and I am still missing most of my eyelashes on on eye.

        There are a lot of misconceptions. First, shingles are not dangerous around a pregnant person unless the person has never had chicken pox.

        Anyone that’s had chicken pox can get shingles; most people are elderly when they get it (I am young). You can’t catch shingles from someone else who has shingles. But there is a small chance that a person with a shingles rash can spread the virus to another person who hasn’t had chickenpox and who hasn’t gotten the chickenpox vaccine.

        1. Jamie*

          My husband got it young also – he was in his late 20s. His covered his body from top of head to soles of feet – really rare – and was out of work for 8 weeks.

          Even seeing the commercials makes him shudder – my mom had a more mild form (compared to his – limited in scope) and even she said the pain was worse than childbirth and even worse than her cancer and recovery from surgery. That is nothing to mess around with.

          I am not sure when the chickenpox vaccine became available to us shortly after my daughter brought it home from pre-school (she’s now 20) and all three kids and I had it at the same time. I was 29 and I was hit far harder than the kids. I had issues with fevers and overall just much sicker than they were. It’s different when you’re older.

          But yeah – if someone at work was knowingly exposing me to shingles – I would have to deal with that immediately.

          1. Natalie*

            I had a co-worker once who was on her 4th pregnancy at the time I worked with her. She apparently developed shingles during every pregnancy and said it was the worst part of the entire experience, up to and including childbirth.

          2. voluptuousfire*

            Yikes. Worse than childbirth? I had it in my late 20s and I found the pain to be pretty bad but worse than childbirth? I feel so bad for your poor husband. :/

            1. Jamie*

              I don’t know if it’s worse than regular childbirth because my mom was one of the lucky ones who really did think contractions were “uncomfortable pressure.” She had a ridiculously high pain tolerance (and never had a pimple in her life and had perfect hair no matter what…not sure she was fully human) but she was brought to her knees by shingles.

              My poor husband will appreciate the sympathy – it was 20 years ago and he still visibly winces at the name. He’s got pretty bad scarring in some places due to the blisters – which isn’t too common. Seriously, shingles scares me more than most medical things so it was very cool to read here today that you can’t catch it directly.

              Makes me want to google all the other things I’m scared of and put them in perspective.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          My mother has had shingles–all three of us kids had chickenpox at the same time, at 9,8, and 4, respectively. My sister and I were so covered we couldn’t sleep but fitfully for several days, and poor Mom ran back and forth between us. I feel bad, like it was our fault she got shingles AND no sleep. :(

      3. Lily in NYC*

        I had shingles in my eye/face two years ago – it was the most painful experience of my life and I am still missing most of my eyelashes on on eye.

        There are a lot of misconceptions. First, shingles are not dangerous around a pregnant person unless the person has never had chicken pox.

        Anyone that’s had chicken pox can get shingles; most people are elderly when they get it (I am young). You can’t catch shingles from someone else who has shingles. But there is a small chance that a person with a shingles rash can spread the virus to another person who hasn’t had chickenpox and who hasn’t gotten the chickenpox vaccine.

        1. Natalie*

          “First, shingles are not dangerous around a pregnant person unless the person has never had chicken pox.”

          Just FYI, it’s possible to get chicken pox more than once – for whatever reason not everyone develops full immunity. It’s rare, but I’d say anyone with shingles should cover the sores just to be on the safe side.

          1. LizNYC*

            So true, especially since my grandmother had shingles roughly a dozen times in her life — to the point where her doctor presented a paper about her since she seemed unable to build a lasting immunity to the virus.

            1. Anonymous*

              Yes, your grandmother could have had singles over and over. That is quite common, because it is the reemergence of the chicken pox virus that remains dormant in your body. But she didn’t catch that from anyone, it was because she had chicken pox in the past and the virus remains in your body for life and can come back as shingles. Because shingles can come back several times, and esp as you get older, drs often recommend seniors get vaccinated against shingles. It isn’t 100% effective, but can help lower the occurances.

          2. CF_programmer*

            It’s pretty rare to “get” chicken pox twice. Actually, the Varicella virus is a lot like a condo in LA, once you have it you will never be rid of it. (old epidemiology joke!). You may think you got it again, but it’s just active again. The virus goes dormant in the dorsal nerves of the spine. In time of stress to the immune system, it can become active. That’s why shingles generally occurs along the spine. You never become “immune”, it’s just dormant.

      1. Anonymous*

        Umm. Everyone may want to google shingles. You”get” shingles if you have ever had chicken pox and as the mayo clinic says “Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus — the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you’ve had chickenpox, the virus lies inactive in nerve tissue near your spinal cord and brain. Years later, the virus may reactivate as shingles.”

        You cannot “give” someone shingles. However, there is a chance that if you have shingles, and someone hasn’t had chicken pox and they are exposed to your open shingles sores, you could give them chicken pox. And of course, if you haven’t had chicken pox, they can be a big problem for adults and especially pregnant women. Although some adults have not had chicken pox, if you are pregnant –or want to become pregant–and you haven’t had chicken pox your dr usually vaccinates you.

        Again from the Mayo Clinic:
        Are you contagious?

        A person with shingles can pass the varicella-zoster virus to anyone who isn’t immune to chickenpox. This usually occurs through direct contact with the open sores of the shingles rash. Once infected, the person will develop chickenpox, however, not shingles.

        Chickenpox can be dangerous for some groups of people. Until your shingles blisters scab over, you are contagious and should avoid physical contact with:

        Anyone who has a weak immune system
        Pregnant women

        Obviously the coworker is being kinda crappy, especially if they didn’t ask their coworkers what their chicken pox exposure was. However, they aren’t “highly contagious” as people are saying and if you haven’t had your chicken pox vaccine, get it, and if you are a senior, get the shingles vaccine too! Even if you have had shingles once, you can get it again. The shingles vaccines isn’t 100% effective, but it helps!

        1. Amy B.*

          Well said. Although covering a shingles rash is recommended, the excruciating pain that comes from anything touching it sometimes causes people to not do so. Not to get gross here; but unless the rash is oozing (it is crusted over) there is no danger. This is a lose/lose situation. If both sides had a little compassion for the other, and an open dialog, maybe this could be a win/win for all. But isn’t’ that the way most problems work?

          1. Anonymous*

            Exactly. I had shingles recently when my coworker’s wife was pregnant and we were in a small office. I asked my dr what the risk was. The Dr. said as long as everyone has had chicken pox and I had started the anti-virals, the risk was nil.

            So ask and be compassionate for your coworkers. Shingles can last a looooong time (and come back over and over) and can be very, very painful. My mother still has nerve pain 2 years later after her outbreak.

            1. LisaLyn*

              I’m sorry your mom is still having issues. I had a mild case so I can only imagine. I had a friend who had them much worse and she was off work for four weeks because the amount of pain meds she had to take to deal with it made her pretty much unable to focus, let alone drive. Just a horrible time!

        2. TL*

          not everyone who gets the chickenpox becomes immune – I had it somewhere between 5-7 times as a child. Most people do, of course, but not everyone.

          1. CF_programmer*

            Truly a medical miracle! No, actually, you still have it. This virus is closely related to cold sores. You know those happen over and over again. Same thing here. Shingles is the recurrence of the original pox.

        3. fposte*

          But let’s also remember that the words here are “physical contact.” Mayo isn’t saying that being on the same office floor is a risk, or even that there’s contagion risk from fomites.

          1. TychaBrahe*

            Given the number of people who admitted to not washing their hands in a previous discussion, I’m just going to assume they’re the same thing.

            1. fposte*

              But unless you’re holding hands, the fomites are key, and none of the reports are suggesting that they’re significant sources of infection.

        1. fposte*

          Though that’s German measles, not shingles, which I believe is considerably more dangerous in utero.

          1. ChristineSW*

            Yup. If a pregnant woman gets German measles, the baby can be born with heart defects and other disabilities. I have personal knowledge of this.

      2. BGirl81*

        I thought of that too! I believe in the book it was German Measles (or Rubella), but STILL. Who does that?! If only Miss Marple was really around to shade people – she was so good at it haha!

        1. abethg*

          Seems likely that the novel was based on the sad experience of Gene Tierney, who had German measles during her pregnancy and gave birth to a disabled daughter. Years later, she met a fan who told her that she’d once sneaked out of quarantine for German measles to attend a celebrity appearance by Tierney during the relevant time period. Tierney did not murder the fan, but you can imagine that the impulse would’ve been there.

    3. Bea W*

      No need to be LIVID, certainly not any more so than anyone coming to work with the flu. I’d be more livid in that case, because flu spreads like wildfire and changes every season. The virus that causes shingles is really low on the transmission index.

      1) People who have either had chicken pox or been vaccinated against chicken pox are protected. This is most of the US population. I can’t speak for outside of the US.

      2) Transmission of the virus that causes shingles requires coming into direct contact with fluid from the blisters. It is not casually transmitted like a cold or flu virus.

      3) When transmission does occur, the infection causes chicken pox, not shingles. Shingles is the result of a re-activation of the dormant chicken pox virus, which is harbored by anyone who has been infected with chicken pox. The reactivation is not caused by coming into contact with someone who is infected. It is something that happens independently within your own body.

      1. Jamie*

        There are a lot of people, though, who are adults who never had chicken pox as kids. I didn’t until I was 29 – and I had 3 kids by then. Had I been exposed while pregnant I would have been livid – because I was horribly sick with when I got it and I can’t imagine having to go through that while pregnant with limits on medication, etc. Not to mention fear for the baby – I ran between 102-104 when I got it and that’s not good for a baby in utero no matter what the cause.

        If you’re saying it’s not as easily transmitted as a cold or flu then yes, there is comfort in that. But people certainly have a right to be very upset at exposure if there is a chance given how serious it can be for some people to get chicken pox when they’re older.

        The majority of people may be immune – but there are some who get it more than once and I know at least 8 adults who never had it…and a lot of adults don’t go in to get the vaccine.

        1. Katherine*

          I would have been furious, too. I did get vaccinated against chicken pox, but when I was pregnant they took my titers and discovered I was not immune to it. So I had to be nervous about the possibility of being exposed to it, especially in my area, where not vaccinating is popular.

    4. Anon*

      Okay this was always sort of a funny in our school district. Because short buses were used for disabled kids. But they were also used for activity buses AND for transporting all the super genius kids across district to special classes.

      So we called them the special buses. Because well.. they were special.

    5. Vicki*

      Technically speaking, shingles is not contagious. You can’t “catch” shingles.

      However, if you have never had chickenpox, contact with someone having a shingles outbreak could cause you to contract _chickenpox_. Chickenpox, as an adult, is not a fun thing.

      If you are not at risk for chickenpox, the person with shingles is not a risk to you. (Unfortunately, you may be at risk for chickenpox and not know it. I was. I caught them “again” when I was 30.)

    6. Elaine*

      Shingles is not that contagious.

      You have to rub your skin directly on the other persons’ shingles blister, and you will only contract anything if you haven’t had chicken pox already, or the varicella vaccine. Hopefully the pregnant women have their vaccines up to date.

      Also, by the time the blisters are scabby, there is no risk of transmission. But yes, it’s helfpul to keep the blisters covered, but it’s not like coming to work with the flu.

      1. Jamie*

        That link also says wash your hands often to prevent spread of the virus. The inference I gather from that is that you don’t have to touch the blister directly, but someone can touch their own blisters and touch others and common objects.

  4. Seal*

    #1 – One thing I hope to never, ever see is any of my coworkers naked for any reason – men or women, singly or as a group. I’m sure they feel the same about me.

    1. chikorita*

      Lol, yes. Even though I live in a country where public (single-sex) bathing is popular, I don’t want to see any of my coworkers naked.

      1. Lacey*

        I once had a job where both my boss and I cycled to work. We would both use the work shower when we arrived and change into work clothes. I would make all and every effort to avoid being in there at the same time as her because she had NO embarassment AT ALL. I would shower and then dress in the cubicle, making sure there was no chance at all of her seeing me naked. But she was perfectly happy to stand naked, dry herself right in front of me, bend over and get her stuff out of her locker….oh my, I’m actually cringing remembering it now, 7 years later.

        I mean, great for her that she was so confident and all, but really, too much for me to deal with.

        1. LisaLyn*

          Ha! My really good friend bikes to work and I guess the men’s showers do not have stalls, so that is his greatest obstacle — fearing who he is going to see naked every morning. :)

          1. danr*

            For guys, the first group shower after gym is an experience. The first time I saw individual stalls for showers was in a newer dorm at college. The older dorms had the open showers. It was a men’s college at that time.

    2. Anon*

      Amen to that. In addition to nakedness, I don’t even want to see my coworkers in bathing suits, which almost happened when some of them suggested we go to a water park for ‘team building.’ No thanks!

    3. Jamie*

      One thing I hope to never, ever see is any of my coworkers naked for any reason – men or women, singly or as a group. I’m sure they feel the same about me.

      There isn’t enough THIS in the world to express my agreement with this sentiment. Just…no.

  5. chikorita*

    #1 I know there are cultural differences at play here, but I feel that a team-building activity that excludes a member of the group isn’t team-building at all… and also poor planning. I don’t really understand why you’d plan a big team retreat like this and then leave someone out- what, then, is the point of even having the retreat?

    Depending on company culture, you say something like, “I had a good trip, and I liked xyz [if, of course, there was something you enjoyed]. However, I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t take part in every activity. Next time, would it be possible to have only activities that everyone can do together?”

    If that’s a no-go, you could suggest other options, i.e. “If there’s an event that not everyone participate in, could we perhaps have an alternative option that people can choose?”. For example, have the sauna activity, and also something else everyone can do.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d actually call out the gender thing more explicitly, because “activities that only men can do” is more egregious than “activities that not everyone can do.” (The latter isn’t good either, but the former is worse.)

    2. op 1*

      Thanks, that’s a good suggestion! I don’t think this specific situation will recur, but if this is how my director thinks, I may need to avoid being the odd (wo)man out again in the future.


    #2 I hate doing cover letters. I do have a few that are generic but cover a lot about my experience that would pertain to a job. Most jobs in my industry are are very much alike and the job postings are very similar thus one of my cover letters will usually handle it. Occasionally I will need to do some tweaking of my cover or resume.

  7. Jennifer*

    Mrs. Frizzle is not an insult. The woman is a teacher who somehow manages to take a bunch of kids and a school bus into space, into the sea, volcanoes, the entire body….She ain’t dumb :P But yeah, time to quit.

    The coworker with the noisy work atmosphere has my sympathies. I now realize that my coworker who blasts the same country radio station for 9 hours a day (and it plays the exact same songs every day, and the same shitty City Slickers-esque bad commercials every day for hours) and I’m the only one who doesn’t “like it” is nothing compared to that!

    1. Jessa*

      If however the boss is saying “Stupid bus” as was mentioned by the OP, the boss is not smart enough to realise that Miss Frizzle is not an insult and probably intends it to be one. Therefore it’s an insult. It’s all about intent.

      1. KayDay*

        Ha, that’s just what I was going to say. I LOVED the magic (note: magic =/= stupid….and who would think otherwise?) school bus growing up. The OP and her sis have every right to be upset, because it was intended as an insult, but he basically compared her to the most awesome science teacher in the world ever, who has become an icon for people who grew up int he 90s. So um, terrible choice for an insult.

        That said, what a jerk and a terrible, horrible manager for (attempting) to insult his employees like that. I hope the OP’s sister is able to find a job working for a normal human.

        1. Rachel*

          I’m glad someone mentioned this. Yes, in this context it was clearly intended as an insult, but this boss doesn’t seem to realize that “Miss Frizzle” is a compliment to most.

          The guy reminds me of Biff Tannen, actually. (You know, “Why don’t you make like a tree and get out of here.”) The “stupid bus” thing sounds like he’s trying and failing to make a short bus joke. Christ, this guy can’t even get his juvenile insults right. Sounds like a real gem of a human being.

        2. The Sister*

          Thank you for this! I was really hoping to get something to say to my sister that would “lessen” the blow. This logic is perfect. Thank you so much!!

      2. A Bug!*

        I agree. It’s tempting to try to take the power out of an insult by framing it in a different way, and that can work for some people, but when you’re addressing someone about their harassment, it can come across as dismissive of the person’s feelings.

        When this boss calls OP’s sister “Ms. Frizzle”, he’s not saying “Hey, you’re quirky and awesome”, he’s saying “You’re stupid and weird.” If the OP’s sister can soften that impact by reframing it for herself, then that’s good, but that doesn’t change the hurtful intent of the boss’s words.

  8. Rayner*

    To be honest, regarding the shingles thing, I’d go ruddy loopy on the selfish co-worker who came in with the blisters. Unless the business was literally dying, and could not physically go one day further without them, there’s no excuse in the world that justifies exposing people to such a dangerous illness.

    Especially since there are people who are vulnerable to do it in the work force. Man, that is /tacky./

    1. Rayner*

      Uh….brain…. tacky was not the word I was looking for. /Morally wrong/ and /terrible/ would be better.

      Bad brain.

      1. Anonymous*

        Um. Sorry to be the one to tell you this, but if you have ever had chicken pox, you will be the one who “exposes” yourself to shingles.
        Shingles is the reemergence of the dormant chicken pox virus later in life. You can’t get shingles from someone. And believe me it SUCKS and hurts. I had it in my mid-20s.

        1. Anon*

          Well… you can’t get “shingles” from someone but shingles is contagious in that you can get chicken pox. Babies, children, or adults who have not had chickenpox would need to worry being around this person.

            1. Jamie*

              The CDC advises that those with shingles:

              Keep the rash covered.
              Do not touch or scratch the rash.
              Wash your hands often to prevent the spread of varicella zoster virus.

              Until your rash has developed crusts, avoid contact with
              pregnant women who have never had chickenpox or the varicella vaccine;
              premature or low birth weight infants; and
              immunocompromised persons (such as persons receiving immunosuppressive medications or undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant recipients, and people with HIV infection).

              So they are saying avoid pregnant women who don’t have immunity, but that same caveat isn’t there for the immunocompromised.

              And the caution about hand washing does lead one to believe it could be spread by one touching oneself and then other things/people. And as someone else just mentioned, a lot of people admit to not washing their hands.

          1. fposte*

            They wouldn’t, though, unless “being around” means something other than what it sounds like. Though it’s possible to get chicken pox from shingles, it’s apparently pretty tough and involves more direct access than merely sharing an office. Tycha’s co-worker is more endangered by people with colds and flu.

            1. Elaine*

              Agreed. CDC guidelines embody an abundance of caution, but shingles is very difficult to spread without skin-to-skin contact. And, my doc told me it was fine to go on a long flight when I had an outbreak, on my face, which was difficult to cover.

              Of course, I work in public health, so I washed my hands often, but even my infant son didn’t get chicken pox, though before I knew it was shingles I’d hug him, cheek to cheek.

  9. Tori*

    For the shingles, are you sure she’s still infectious?
    I’m not a doctor but I’ve had shingles. Once the medication kicked in and the doctor said I was no longer infectious, I went back to work. It took much longer for the blisters to physically heal though. So I was out in public with blisters, but I wasn’t infectious.

    1. Tori*

      I just Googled this quickly, and it seems that once the blisters have scabbed/crusted over, you are no longer infectious, which matches up with my experience. So it depends what stage her blisters are up to.

    2. evilintraining*

      Shingles cannot be passed person to person. However, the virus that causes chicken pox/shingles can be passed by this employee to someone who hasn’t had chicken pox.

      1. Elaine*

        Yeah, but not once the blisters are crusty, or if the worker is on antivirals. Shingles is not contagious to anyone in these cases.

  10. Jen in RO*

    “We recently held a team retreat in a country where gender roles are behind the times.” I don’t live in Finland or Russia or wherever this sauna thing took place, but this sentence annoyed me. Considering that we (AAM commenters who live outside the US) refrain from commenting on negative things that we see about the US, it would be really nice if others could refrain too. Of course the OP might not be a regular reader, but this blanket statement irritated me. You’ve met one stupid manager in a country and you concluded that everyone there is sexist? How is that different from “fat Americans who eat McDonalds all day and drive around in SUVs”?

    1. Sissa*

      I’ll have to +1 this. Considering that Finnish society is just about as gender equal as it gets (even the language doesn’t have separate gender pronouns), saying that gender roles are behind the times sounds hilarious and ignorant at the very least. Finns are weird, withdrawn people yes (with their highly inappropriate sauna habits) but please refrain from judging cultures you probably know next to zero about. :)

      1. Lacey*

        I wouldn’t assume this happened in Finland, just because it was a sauna. Lots of countries have saunas! (But I kind of agree with the general point you make, because I think non-US commentators bite their tongue a lot when it comes to some of the employment laws in the US, myself included).

        1. Bea W*

          According to my friends in the Netherlands, if you go to a spa or sauna, bathing suits are considered unhygienic and usually not permitted. Everyone goes naked.

          This has led to some embarrassing incidents for them traveling outside of the Netherlands.

    2. Op 1*

      Hi, OP1 here. I’m trying not to name the specific country here, but it’s a society that’s well known for bad behavior towards women (and gay people, and non-white people and…). It’s not an assumption based on this incident, but on my familiarity with the place.

      The manager isn’t a representative of that culture, but his ideas of what’s appropriate are shaped by it.

      1. Jen in RO*

        I wrote a long comment but in the end I deleted it since I think I understand what you meant now. Local culture is a valid explanation of the director’s behavior… but still, a person with that level of responsibility should know better (or at least bother to learn about his employees’ culture). However, if this didn’t strike him as problematic, I doubt anything you say could make him change his mind (and it would probably get you labeled as the whiny American – unfair, but likely… and, as a culture, Americans are much more assertive and direct than Eastern Europeans/Russians, which can and sometimes does come across as being rude ). I wouldn’t say anything directly to him.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          I can attest to most people from Eastern European countries not being as outspoken as Americans – at least women. I’ve spent part of the year working on a large software implementation of my company’s subsidiary in an Eastern European country. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done software demos, virtual working sessions, and so on to show them how things in the system worked, asking at the end of each one, “Does this make sense?” and “Do you think this will work for you,” and “Do you have any questions?” The answers to these questions were always, without fail, “Yes,” “Yes,” and “No.”

          So there I’d be, thinking we were making great progress. Then a few days later they would tell my boss (or someone else) in another meeting that I was not attending that what I’d done made absolutely no sense, or they’d had no idea what I’d been talking about, or that what I had proposed would not meet their requirements.

          I cannot tell you how frustrating that was. Because you know what? If I ask you if you understand something, and you say yes, then guess what? I’m going to assume you understand. If you say you don’t have any questions, I’m going to move on to the next topic.

          1. Jen in RO*

            It’s not just women, it’s everyone, and it won’t change substantially any time soon. During communist times it was a *very bad* idea to stand out, so you just tried your best to be quiet and hope to be overlooked. I don’t remember much of the communist period, but my parents did, and raised me accordingly. I know it’s stupid, but I would never speak up during one of your demos, unless we were in a small, close-knit group. In my ex-company, all managers who came to Bucharest from the US/Western Europe were surprised to see that, after an hour’s presentation, not one of the 300 people had any questions. Of course we all did, we just did not want to ask them in front of the other 299! It probably doesn’t make sense to you (rationally, it doesn’t make sense to me either), but that’s the way things are.

            If you have to do demos like these in Eastern Europe, I’d suggest asking for additional feedback through e-mail… it will probably yield more results if people don’t feel put on the spot.

            1. Ann Furthermore*

              Thanks for sharing your point of view – very interesting. I’m still working with this team, so I’ll keep what you said in mind.

              The team was very small, even if we weren’t close-knit. We were all very clear right from the start that the only way these implementations work is if we have open communication between everyone on the team. Plus it was all women (one guy, but working on a different part of the project) so I thought that any intimidation or concerns about men in positions of authority (if those mindsets even exist in that part of the world – I don’t know that they do) would be minimal.

              In addition we also told the users that this was our first foray into launching this software in Eastern Europe, and that we were relying on their expertise to make sure we would be in compliance with their local statutory regulations, and so on.

              And we all stressed that questions were welcomed, at any time, in any form — during a demo, during a meeting, or in email if something occurred to them later, and so on.

              Even with all those reassurances, all I ever got were nods and smiles, and then talking behind my back later. I tried everything I could think of, but nothing helped. I have *never* done so much hand-holding on a project like this, and I couldn’t get any of the users to meet me halfway — or even a quarter of the way. I can usually figure out a way to get along or work with just about anyone, so this was very, very frustrating for me.

              1. Jen in RO*

                I can imagine it’s frustrating… do you know if these people have worked with foreigners before? Unfortunately some people (at least in Romania) seem to be very intimidated by the thought of talking to someone from Foreign. Probably another remnant of communist times. I know I’m repeating myself, but that period really messed up a big part of Europe and the differences in mentality are obvious once you start talking to people outside of the former Eastern Bloc.

              2. Jen in RO*

                Oh, and if you’ve been working with them for a while now, in a small team, reassuring them the whole way, and they *still* won’t say anything – maybe there’s more here than just cultural differences. Is there a local manager acting as a liaison between you and the team? Maybe they’re getting conflicting information (where I work now, there’s a lot of “we – local team – know better than management – in the US – so just do what we tell you”).

                1. Ann Furthermore*

                  Well now it’s interesting that you ask that. One person in particular never says anything in meetings, but then goes to the regional director with her concerns, and then he tends to intervene on her behalf. Maybe that’s part of what’s going on too.

            2. hamster*

              I find this quite untrue. I am also living the magical RO, former eastern block and so on. I never run into the issues you mentioned. At meetings and demos, i sometimes run into audiences that will not stop asking useless questions just for the purpose of hearing themselves speaking . I for myself have never had any issue speaking up in front of A-a group and B-somebody from foreign. Maybe it’s a age thing ( i’m 25) maybe it’s the fact that for a while i worked in customer technical support .

              1. Jen in RO*

                I’m 29, so I don’t think it’s an age thing… maybe my ex-company hired a bunch of very shy people? :) But really, I think it’s pretty common for people not to speak up, at least at lower levels (managers don’t get to BE managers unless they speak up). At work, I didn’t meet people who were intimidated talking to foreigners, but a lot of my friends are.

        2. Bea W*

          I notice this in general with my international groups. The Americans are all very vocal and tend to dominate the discussion. The non-Americans are quiet, and speak up less. My co-workers are almost all women, with a sprinkling of men. The Americans are all women, all from the urban north east, and all very vocal.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            I’ve found that the Germans — men and women — are pretty forthright and outspoken. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy working with them in general: nothing is left out, and are not shy about letting you know their feelings about something, or if something is not working, and so on. You always know where you stand, and no time is wasted trying to figure out what someone *really* meant when they said this or that.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I was just going to say, my music chat room, which though based here in the US, has many international members. We have quite a few Germans and they are NOT shy about speaking up. They are pretty good about asking if they don’t understand something the Americans are discussing. Of course, it also depends on the individual and his/her personality. But most Germans I’ve met, online and off, are pretty friendly and talkative. :D

              Same with our Dutch friends; several are admins on the site and they aren’t shy either. Of course, it’s an English-only chat, and they all speak it pretty well. The only people who are hesitant are the ones who aren’t great in it, but we encourage them as best we can and help them if they want.

        3. op 1*

          Thanks, yes, that comment was unclear in the original post. I don’t expect to change him, and I didn’t want to go to another country and raise a ruckus because they don’t do things the way I would. I just want to do the same fun stuff my coworkers do, preferably while clothed.

    3. Anonymous*

      The OP didn’t say what country they went to, but there are *definitely* countrie that the majority of people would say are “behind the times” in gender equality…say the ones where women can’t leave the house without a man, can’t drive, etc. … Not saying that she went to a country that extreme, but I just wanted to point that out.

    4. EngineerGirl*

      You’re off base. There are several countries where women are not considered equal to men – if not legally then culturally. It’s caused problems for me in the past because men from these countries have a very hard time takng direction/correction from a woman. The issue is real. Women are not true equals In many countries – it is naieve to think so.

      As far as saunas go – they are also prevalent in eastern counties (Korea, Japan). The OP never mentioned which country.

  11. en pointe*

    #1 – Not going to lie, I can’t imagine anyone genuinely having a “fantastic time” in a naked sauna with their coworkers – at least not the North Amercian people for whom it’s presumably not a cultural norm.

    My guess is that those coworkers who stayed behind with you were secretly glad for the excuse!

    1. PPK*

      I was thinking the same — some of those guys were more than happy to stay back under the guise of not leaving the OP alone.

      I’ve been to saunas in Japan. They are quite nice. However, this was with fellow female students. Not coworkers (and certainly not mixed genders).

    2. Anonymous*

      “I can’t imagine anyone genuinely having a “fantastic time” in a naked sauna with their coworkers”

      Your imagination is too limited.

      “at least not the North Amercian people for whom it’s presumably not a cultural norm.”

      OK, at least you’re somewhat aware of the limits of your experience.

      1. en pointe*

        Well yes, I think cultural context has an influence on how everybody views the world.

        Although, FWIW, North America itself happens to be beyond my experience.

        1. Anonymous*

          “I think cultural context has an influence on how everybody views the world.”

          Which means I can easily imagine people feeling about things differently than I do.

          1. en pointe*

            Of course, but applying mainstream North American cultural norms to what the OP states is a predominantly North American team doesn’t seem all that inappropriate.

            Not really sure what your point here is…?

    3. TychaBrahe*

      There are subcultures of Americans who wouldn’t have a problem with it. Many people are routinely naked with others: athletes, soldiers, naturists, plus many rural people (mostly men) who skinny dipped as children and young adults.

      1. Xay*

        The ladies at my local YMCA don’t mind being naked in the sauna and they are all-American Southern ladies.

      2. Elaine*

        My husband is a soldier and he rarely spent time naked with other men in the shower, and was uncomfortable when he got stuck showering near his expose-everything-confidently boss. ;-)

        1. AGirlCalledFriday*

          Having lived in Japan for awhile, I have to say that one of the highlights was public saunas and hot spring baths. The first time is a little awkward, but then you realize that no one cares and you get over it pretty quick.

  12. German Chick*

    All “sauna cultures” I can think of right now (Finland, Russia, Scandinavian and Baltic States, Switzerland, Germany, Turkey), either have mixed saunas or separate ones for men and women. It should have been easy for the director to set up two events: one for men and another one for women to include all members of the team in the experience. The fact that he did not makes me think this is not about cultural differences but about keeping male privilege.
    This being said, even though I enjoy traditional saunas, I would not like to go there with my colleagues.

    1. German Chick*

      (Or may be it was not about male privilege, just him being thoughtless. Either way, not very nice…)

      1. en pointe*

        In this instance the OP is the only woman on a team of 12…. would make for some pretty lonely “team-building”!

        Agreed on the thoughtlessness bit though.

        1. German Chick*

          True, good point. I guess, the director could have arranged a visit to a nice sauna just for her. Would have been even nicer cause she could have had the experience without having to be around any colleagues naked.

          1. en pointe*

            If they really had their hearts set on the sauna then that seems like the way to go!

            That said, I would hope that companies would avoid any team-building activities that involve excluding or segregating one employee (or a larger minority for that matter).

          2. VintageLydia*

            Though he would’ve been better off by coming up with something else entirely. It’s not the fact that they got to do something interesting and she didn’t. It was that she was purposely excluded/made to feel uncomfortable as the only woman on the team at a so-called “team building” excercise. Something like that absolutely needs to be inclusive. At best he is thoughtless, though I’d guess he is more than a bit sexist. Even if he isn’t specifically thinking “I want to exclude OP because of her gender” the fact he never considered it a problem until it was brought up (and the solution he came up with wasn’t much better) says a lot about how important he sees her relative to the rest of the team.

        2. Jen in RO*

          I thought about this too – maybe the director thought “well she’ll be uncomfortable with us, and lonely without us… we just won’t invite her at all!”. Not OK, obviously, but also not sexist. He should have just found another activity that everyone could participate in.

          1. TL*

            I think it is sexist, in that he thought of a team-building exercise and didn’t think it was important to include the only woman. I doubt it was “thoughtless” as he did say at first she wasn’t able to come – he didn’t forget about her; he just didn’t think she was important.

            1. Jen in RO*

              Well, I assume that if it was a team of women and one lonely guy, the same would have happened – the person without a “pair” would have been left behind. Same for five drinkers and a non-drinker, three smokers and a non-smoker… and so on.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Right, but you don’t do team-building activities that leave out a gender, and particularly not considering that there are well-known problems in workplaces with women being excluded from “boys club” type activities.

                1. Jen in RO*

                  Of course, I said that the director’s idea was stupid, but I just don’t think we can conclude it was necessarily motivated by gender. He’s probably an insensitive jerk who figures that the feelings of one person don’t matter if the other people are having fun. (And he’s also very out of touch for inviting a bunch of non-locals, men or women, to a naked sauna, which is as far as you could get from their culture. I wouldn’t be caught dead in one of those, even with close female friends.)

            1. Jamie*

              Of course it’s sexist. It’s the same as if they wanted to go to a restricted club and leaving behind the one person on the team who is a minority not allowed in.

              It’s exclusionary and totally sexist, imo.

              1. A Bug!*

                Yeah, I also consider it sexist, even if there was no specific intent to exclude OP when the activity was selected.

                We can approach it logically and still reach that conclusion. Here are the facts that we know from OP’s letter:

                A. The director wanted a ‘team-building’ activity.
                B. The director selected an activity which by nature excludes OP.

                Logically, if the director considered the OP to be part of the team, he would not have selected an activity that would exclude her. It might have been a simple oversight on his part, except:

                C. When brought to his attention, he made no meaningful effort to include her.

                Instead, he only reluctantly offered to include her in the sauna trip, but made it clear to her that she would not be welcomed because she is a woman.

                I can’t really see how that’s not sexist. Maybe you think it’s okay as long as the intentions were good, or that it’s a cultural difference that has to be respected, or that it’s not a big deal in any event, but I can’t see how you can claim it’s not gender-based exclusion from a company activity.

        3. op 1*

          Right! It would have been a nice thought, but way worse from an inclusiveness point of view. A big flashing sign that says “you’re not welcome on this team”.

  13. Lindrine*

    #4 – I would start my own singing and shouting group. Maybe a rousing rendition of all the songs from Disney’s Aladdin or some classic hits. Anyone for Rockin’ Robin? You could make up your own team cheers when you met a production milestone! I am being a bit tongue in cheek here but I also think a dose of their own medicine may be in order. I understand it’s annoying. I sat across the cubicle wall the first few months at #currentjob from a guy who played really annoying songs and sang along to them. There was no changing this. I just had to buy some headphones and get used to it.

    1. Trillian*

      Or encourage expansion of their repertoire. Highlights from Les Miserables, “Va, pensiero”, etc – can’t think of others off the top of my head, but there are centuries years of up-the-workers, down-the-establishment, come-the-revolution songs to make management twitch.

    2. Another Emily*

      I wouldn’t get into a noise-making contest (which is what it would become) with noisy people. You know the saying, “Never get into a fight with an idiot. First he brings you down to his level, then he beats you with experience.” I think this applies here.

  14. Anonymous*

    #7. Coming to work with shingles is a really terrible thing to do, but I’ve worked in some really terrible places. I’ve seen someone with jingles be fired for staying out “too long” (a week), a lady got demoted for bringin her husband to chemotherapy 2 times a week (she lasted for a month after the first week), someone got shot and was fired, one was in the hospital with a collapsed lung from pneumonia and was fired. The person might not have had a choice. As long as they weren’t rubbing themselves all over and keeping to themselves I don’t think it’s that bad. It’s hard to get chickenpox without direct exposure.

    1. LisaLyn*

      That’s a really good point. There are places where the culture is that you are either there or you are fired. You don’t always have a choice.

      Hope you were able to move on from those terrible places!

      1. Anonymous*

        Totally. I’m now in higher ed, it’s like vacation compared to my old place. I rarely take a day off because it’s so pleasant to be here (and I also have some old job ptsd). Once I came in 15 minutes late after my car wouldn’t start and I emailed my boss, left a voicemail for her, then got to the office and declared I would make up the missed time by staying late. She just looked at my like I was crazy, told me to relax, and grab a coffee to calm down.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Oh man, I just got the giggles so bad I had to leave the room. I pictured someone with little bells sprouting all over them instead of blisters!

      Best typo ever.

  15. LOLwhut*

    5- A part-timer is expected to show “loyalty”? Yeah, no. Your boss is an idiot, and if your skills really are in demand, it’s time to think about moving on.

    It’s not even so much about the Christmas scheduling (which sucks), but a job that employs you part time, with no benefits, and still expects “loyalty” is just screwy.

    1. Meg*

      I was just thinking this. The employee is expected to show loyalty by changing her holiday schedule, but heaven forbid the employer show any loyalty by providing benefits of any kind.

  16. Robin*

    My doctor and pharmacist said shingles are not contagious unless the person never had chicken pox as a kid.

  17. Natalie*

    Perhaps this is besides the point, but what on earth is the possible benefit to having a graphic designer on standby on Christmas Eve. Are there a lot of holiday related graphic design emergencies?

    1. Lindrine*

      But…there might be a design emergency! They might forget the hex code of a color or mix more than three fonts together on a flyer! How will they make their logo bigger without her on standby? Though actually it is potentially possible if it is a website roll out or similar. I had to burn some oil right after Christmas due to an RFP deadline.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Sadly, this isn’t that uncommon in my industry, since we are very heavily regulated by the FDA. If the FDA pulls the trigger on an approval on December 23rd, then it’s very possible there will be graphic designers (and copywriters, and account executives) working like mad on Christmas Eve so that the client has their deliverables ready on 12/26. (Yes, you can prepare materials for the approval ahead of time, and of course you do, but until FDA gives you final language, you’re not done — you have to make revisions very quickly and run them by the legal people before they can go live.)

      I’m sure there are other areas of advertising and communications where clients might make a demand like this, unfortunately.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Depends on the business. Newspapers & television stations employ graphic designers and need someone on staff on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

    4. Anonymous*

      On earth, here are some industries/activities that could be busy at that time.

      Advertising. Journalism. Retail or events with a lot of signage. Client services where you’re pitching to other companies all the time. Companies serving clients, customers or partners where Christmas is not an important holiday.

      Just a few I can think of. There are surely more.

      1. Natalie*

        Busy, certainly, and thus working. That’s different than “standby”, which typically suggest some sort of unexpected, urgent graphic design need.

        In my industry we have maintenance staff on call on holidays, but they only work for an actual emergency – flooding, fire, security issue.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          Yeah, the standby thing is the worst, but unfortunately it does happen in my industry because there’s a government entity involved. If the regulators decide to approve your product on Christmas Eve Eve, then BAM! Everybody has to start working like mad. But if they decide, for whatever reason, to take a few extra days, then you’re off the hook.

          (Probably the most bloody annoying aspect of medical advertising)

    5. anon*

      I was wondering this too. “Quick! We got Christmas cards from a ton of people/organizations we didn’t send any to! Whip some up for us STAT!”

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        One year our art director sent the Christmas cards to print with the phrase “Season’s Geetings” on them. Nobody noticed until they came back from the printer.

        THAT was a design emergency.

  18. Anonymous*

    #1. Did he actually say the trip to the sauna was intended to foster team-building or was it merely a trip to a cultural event?

  19. squid*

    As a person who enjoys saunas (but not from a country with sauna culture), it’s less traditional but not outrageous to use the sauna while wearing a bathing suit. I’ve done this with friends. Still probably wouldn’t want to with co-workers …

  20. PPK*

    On OP #4 — I was thinking the OP should have them switch to Sea Shanties and everyone can sing along. I’m thinking of the Big Bang Theory episode where Penny starts Penny Blossoms (flower barrettes) and they’re trying to fill orders and singing to organize their work. It’s a lot more funny than my description.

    1. Jamie*

      If Leonard just hadn’t offered next day shipping…

      I work in a factory and while there is some shouting to get someone’s attention at times, I can’t imagine the kind of deliberate and consistent yelling/singing the OP is talking about. I get that some people like that, but people’s need to not be bothered by excessive and optional noise trumps the other’s right to make said noise.

  21. Bea W*

    #7 – Get the facts about transmission of shingles.

    The virus that causes shingles, which is the same virus that causes chicken pox, is not transmitted through casual contact. The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters. It is highly unlikely anyone in your typical workplace would be coming into contact with this fluid, and as long as the blisters are intact, there is no fluid to worry about. It is better of course to keep the blisters covered, but unless these things are actively oozing and vulnerable co-workers are all rubbing up against the infected person , the risk is low.

    The people at risk for transmission are people who have never had or been vaccinated against chicken pox. If a pregnant woman has had or been vaccinated for chicken pox, she’s already protected. There are very few people out there who have not already been exposed to chicken pox or the vaccine. The vaccine is now routinely given to children as part of routine vaccinations. For people in the US who are older, most of us had chicken pox as children.

    In the case this virus is transmitted from a person with shingles to a person who has no immunity against chicken pox, this person is likely to develop chicken pox, not shingles. This is really bad for adults. Chicken pox is one of those infections where the younger you are, the milder the illness.

    Look, it would be really awesome of your co-worker to cover-up, but chances are better than good, you’ll all survive despite her refusal to do so. Antiviral medications are now available that shorten the course and severity. Shingles is very painful, and it could be that covering certain places is either more painful or not practical. For instance, if it’s on your face, that’s a lot harder to keep covered than if it’s on an arm.

    So give this woman a break. She’s already really uncomfortable, and unless you all plan on spooning naked with her at her desk, the risk for transmission is really low for people who have not been previously exposed to chicken pox either through infection or vaccination.

    1. Jamie*

      The virus is spread through direct contact with fluid from the rash blisters. It is highly unlikely anyone in your typical workplace would be coming into contact with this fluid

      I’m curious as to how long the virus lives on surfaces? If you touch an open blister and then the copy machine, or doorknob to the washroom, can it be transmitted that way? Of course people aren’t going to actively touch someone else’s blisters but is it something that dies immediately outside the body or can it live for a while?

      Because if someone has a bad cold I”m not touching their mucus directly, but I don’t want to touch a doorknob they’ve used after they’ve sneezed all over their hands.

      I’m not being germ phobic – I’m genuinely curious – because I don’t know much about this.

      It’s good to know you can’t transmit shingles itself, but as you mention chicken pox is no small thing if you’re an adult and even worse if pregnant.

      1. fposte*

        The hospital approaches I’m finding state that the precautions of using gloves for direct examination and for handling linens and gowns that have had direct skin contact are sufficient prevention. Shingles is much, much less contagious than chickenpox–even getting chicken pox from direct contact with the blisters is described as “very rare.”

        So you’re probably in more danger from somebody with a poxy kid at home than somebody with shingles in the office.

  22. Anony1234*

    #5 – In my retail job, allegedly there was a notice that came out of cooperate about not allowing anyone to take Christmas week or any other week that included a holiday off for vacation. From what I can tell, this is a recent notice from cooperate. But somehow, my coworker is being allowed Christmas week off. However, what I am getting at is some companies are not allowing vacation time during holiday weeks and even if it’s not your day to work, you might be called in to help with the extra volume of work the holiday might impose.

    #7 – A coworker came in with shingles about a month or so ago. It didn’t cross my mind that he was contagious, but then again, even though I saw the scabbed blisters, I didn’t realize it was shingles since I had never seen them before. Now after reading some comments, I am ticked off he came to work and potentially exposed the rest of us to it. Granted, I did have chicken pox as a kid so I probably already have the dormant virus, but still… And that’s pretty sucky of OP #7’s boss to come in around pregnant women knowingly with the shingles virus already erupted.

    1. Anonymous*

      Shingles cannot be passed directly from person to person. The risk is that the shingles virus can be passed to a person who has never had chickenpox or the chickenpox immunization (or who has had one or the other but due to immune-suppression is still not immune) and that person can develop chickenpox.

      If the blisters are crusted over (probably what you mean by scabbed) the risk of virus transmission is extremely low. It’s when they are open sores that the risk is greatest.

      In the UK we don’t vaccinate against chickenpox but there is a shingles vaccine available to older people to help protect them as they’re most at risk of complications from shingles (and one of the most at risk of catching it to begin with).

  23. academicland*

    For #2, I can say what I personally do because I have to serve on search committees for many different types of jobs at a college. Our rules are that we cannot interview someone who does not meet the minimum qualifications posted in the ad, so the first thing I do is flip to the resume, see that those qualifications are met, and then read the cover letter carefully. If the cover letter is clearly a generic one, that moves the candidate lower on my list of people to interview. I know that it is a lot of work to customize a cover letter to the job posting, but a lot of our applicants have won an interview by what they wrote there. I definitely want to see that effort, and that’s your chance to sell yourself for my particular posting (rather than giving general qualifications about yourself). Just my 2c.

    For the shingles, well whether it’s harmful to others, I think it should be covered just because of the gross factor. I had some burns in a visible area and I assumed since they were gross, no one really wanted to see them. Especially for folks that work with the public. Ew.

    1. HR Competent*

      “first thing I do is flip to the resume, see that those qualifications are met, and then read the cover letter carefully. If the cover letter is clearly a generic one, that moves the candidate lower on my list of people to interview.”

      Same method from a private employer. The cover letter can be the big tie breaker.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      At the restaurant I worked at in CA, my boss sent someone home once for showing up with this really amazing road rash. She had been involved in a scooter accident and was okay, except her face and arm along one side were covered in huge scrapes. While they were open sores, she had to stay home, and until they healed up some, she wasn’t allowed to work out front. But this was pretty extreme (it looked worse than it actually was).

    3. Anon*

      But one of the common places shingles outbreaks will occur is on the face/head (the other place, your trunk). So covering up the rash if it is on your head/face may not be an option.

      And when I had shingles, it was limited to my stomach, but it was very very painful to have anything touching it.

  24. Hooptie*

    #2 – if I DON’T get a cover letter I don’t read the resume. If someone can’t take the time to tell me why they would be a good fit and why they want the job, I can’t take the time to figure it out based on their resume. Please don’t stop writing your cover letters!

  25. RLS*

    #6: I don’t really have any advice for you but I’m in a pretty similar boat! I applied for a job with a company I’d applied to previously, and very long story short I accidentally ended up applying with old information for a job I wasn’t interested in. I immediately emailed the contact, submitted the “real” application I wanted to submit, and haven’t heard back, but it’s really all you can do.

    We’re human! We make mistakes :) And if an employer would throw you out of the running because of a typo or re-submitted app because it wasn’t omgperfect!!! the first time… screw ’em!

  26. LD*

    #7 – Maybe someone already answered this; shingles are not contagious. The rash can be gross in appearance, but you can’t catch shingles from another person. It is a virus that lives dormant in your system in anyone who has ever had chicken pox.
    Chicken pox is contagious, but not shingles.

    1. VintageLydia*

      People keep saying that, and though technically true, the virus that causes both diseases is contagious no matter in which form they manifest. Not everyone has had chicken pox or had the vaccine. And even if you had, there is no guarantee that you actually developed an immunity against being reinfected. Look, if your doctor says you’re no longer contagious (after the blisters scab over) then live your life. Do what you do. But people are right to be nervous unless they know for sure. Especially those who are pregnant, have small children who are not vaccinated, or especially those who are immunocompromised. No, it doesn’t spread as easily as the flu, but chicken pox is a BFD when it is contracted, especially in adults.

      1. fposte*

        Though it’s considerably less contagious as shingles, apparently; in fact, it sounds a lot less contagious than the staph that about 1/3 of us carry colonies of, often unknowingly, and which you can’t expect people just to stay out of the workplace from.

        I don’t think people should be wandering around the workplace with open weeping sores from anything just for civility’s sake, but this isn’t like sending your chicken-poxy kid over to play with the neighbors without letting them know.

        1. fposte*

          Okay, now a different source, NIH, is saying that people with shingles are “very contagious.”

          The problem is there’s no decent data in all this about actual transmission rates.

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