how many interviews do employers conduct for one position, should I warn my boss before I shave my head, and more

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

1. How many interviews do employers conduct for one position?

I had an interview this morning, and towards the end, when we were going over the hiring timeline, the interviewer mentioned that they had to reschedule a bunch of interviews yesterday because of the weather and she had some more this week. I know these are vague terms, but it sounded like a lot of people. It got me curious — is there a ballpark number of candidates or percentage of applicants that hiring managers will interview for one position?

It varies by the position (and to some extent, by the manager and company). But for a straightforward position that the hiring manager knows she’s going to be able to fill pretty easily, interviewing three to five candidates in-person is pretty typical. For harder-to-fill positions, it can be fewer than that (when there are fewer strong candidates to pick from) or more than that (when a lot of candidates are good enough to make it through the initial screening but not well-matched enough to get an offer).

But that’s for in-person interviews. Smart managers will do phone interviews before those — usually 10-20 depending on the position, and again it can vary pretty widely based on the factors above.

And that’s for a single slot. If you’re planning to hire several people in the same role, you’d often want a larger pool of phone and in-person interviews.

2. Should I warn my manager that I plan to shave my head?

Next month, I will shaving my head as part of an initiative to raise money for cancer research, and I am seeking advice on how to navigate this with regard to the workplace.

For context, I’m female and work as an assistant to the managing director of a very small company and also complete occasional reception duties and administrative support to the office at large. I am a student, so I do this part-time during the semester, and full-time the rest of the year.

Is shaving my head something that I should be discussing with my boss beforehand or is it fine to go ahead and do? Is this something that a boss would even object to? Honestly, I have already decided to participate, regardless of my boss’s response. So, my concern is that if I “pretend” to ask permission, am turned down, and then do it anyway, that that would reflect more negatively on me than just showing up Lex Luthor-style. Do you have any advice?

Whether they’ll care or not will depend on the office. Some offices would care across the board, others would only care for public-facing positions like receptionist, and some wouldn’t care at all. Personally, I’d mention it beforehand so that you know if it’s going to be an issue or not — as in, “I want to let you know that I’m planning on shaving my head as part of a campaign to raise money for cancer research. I assume this is okay, but I didn’t want to just surprise you with it one day.”

If they have a problem with it, then you’ll hear that and be able to decide what to do (which includes the option of saying, “Since I’m committed to doing this, what’s the best way for us to proceed?”). But I think you’re better off knowing in advance if that’s the case.

3. My manager is bringing up my family commitments in my performance evaluation

I have a question about how far is too far when dragging family into things. One of my children was born with a severe birth defect and my wife stays home to care for 2 of our 3 kids. Since she’s often at appointments and therapies, I take our oldest son to pre-school, which is very close to my job. I arranged this with my manager, as it would make me 30 minutes late to work in the morning. The agreement was that I would work through lunch to make up the time, which I do. On my performance evaluation, my boss’ boss gave me a low mark for communication, writing “Personal obligations have kept x from interacting informally with his co-workers.” Is this too far?

In another instance, my son with the illness also caught the flu and spent days in the hospital. He was in considerable pain and discomfort. My job was having a large fundraiser on a Saturday and I got no sleep caring for my son the night before. Still, I showered and dressed at the hospital (at 5am), then drove an hour to the event. I worked very hard that day (for 9 hours), only to go home afterward to change and go back to the hospital. 2 weeks later, two of our directors called me into a meeting to discuss the event. I was told that several people gave negative reports about my “lack of energy and enthusiasm.” I apologized and explained the situation, noting that one of the directors knew about my situation. The answer I received was, “Well…perception is everything,” and they continued their criticism. Too far?

I don’t know, because I’m not there to see the stuff they’re commenting on. It’s possible that they’re being ridiculous, but it’s also possible that a reasonable manager would be concerned about the things they’ve raised. I don’t know which it is. But I do know that they’re telling you pretty clearly that this stuff is an issue for them. From there, you need to decide if it’s something that you can or want to change, and if not, whether you’re willing to live with it potentially holding you back there (or worse) or whether you’d be better off finding a job that looks on all of this differently.

Do keep in mind, though, that this isn’t about whether it’s fair for them to judge you on family commitments; it is fair for an employer to judge you on how present you seem at work. What’s at question here is just whether they’re applying that in a fashion that most employers would find unreasonable.

4. I don’t want my old coworker to be above me at my new company

After a decade at my current company, I applied for and was offered a job at another company in an industry I have always wanted to work in. The role is a two tier promotion with a generous compensation package. Now a colleague of mine, who I have been friends with for years, is thinking of applying as well. (This is a new team that has a lot of openings.) The issue I am having is that he would be applying to a role a tier above the one I just received.

We have both been in the industry the same amount of time, but I tried out multiple job paths during my time and he took the straighter narrower path. Therefore, he ended up at a higher position than I did at this point in our careers. I felt that this new job was a chance to bring myself back on par with my peers, even put me a little ahead of them. I don’t even know if he will get the job, but I can’t help feeling a bit deflated even though I should be proud of my ability to land this lucrative role.

Am I just being petty? Assuming he gets the job, the career person in me says I should put it aside, focus on my new role, impress the hell out of them and compete on my own merits while laying aside personal pride.

I don’t think you’re being petty, but I do think that you’re being … unproductive where your own interests are concerned. It’s always a little weird when a peer is suddenly above you, but there’s nothing you can do about it if it happens. Don’t waste the energy stewing over it; if it happens, it happens and you’ll adjust to it eventually. More importantly, you’re not in a race with this guy. You were happy with your new job before this happened, and you acknowledge that you took a path that means the job you got is an excellent leap forward for you. So why does this guy’s own, separate path matter? Keep your eyes on the path in front of you, and run your own race.

5. How to withdraw from a hiring process

I went for an interview today. After much consideration, I decided not to continue to be considered further. The problem is, I’m not sure if the company will ask me for a second round of interview or not. So, I assume it sounds pretty stupid to email and tell them I don’t want to be considered for the application, when they might not want to move me into the second round?

The manager did say she will arrange me to talk to someone from management when he returns, but nothing concrete about whether this will take place was mentioned. From her words, does that mean that I’ll move on to the next interview?

Also, how should I draft the letter about me not wanting to continue with the application. Should I include my reasons or can I just mentioned I don’t want to be further considered and thank them for their time? I feel very bad and guilty about rejecting them.

There’s no way to know if you’ll move on to the next interview or not, but it doesn’t matter. If you’re sure you’re not interested, email her now and withdraw, so that they don’t make decisions (like rejecting other candidates) on the assumption that you’re taking up a slot in their pool of finalists. Just email her and tell her that you appreciated the chance to talk but you’ve decided to pursue other opportunities and wish them the best of luck in filling the role.

And don’t feel guilty. Companies reject candidates all the time, and they’re used to candidates withdrawing or rejecting their offers too; it’s just business. It’s highly unlikely they’ll be thinking about it five minutes after receiving your email.

{ 361 comments… read them below }

  1. MR*

    I’m sure I’ll get trolled for this, but people still shave stuff for cancer? It’s not as though people getting cancer is a secret.

    I’ve lost several family members to cancer, but it’s something that has received billions of dollars for research and will receive billions of dollars in the future for more research.

    Personally, I just shrug at anything that has to do with cancer awareness. I’m sure I’m not the only person, but I feel that it’s something that has far eclipsed anything that any one person can do to change now and in the future.

    1. Stephanie*

      I can see your point, especially with something like breast cancer that’s gone from an awareness campaign to a marketing campaign.

      Maybe the OP is trying raise awareness for a rarer or less publicized cancer?

        1. Anonymous*

          Thanks for posting that, it sums up what I wanted to add here better than I could. My husband is a cancer researcher. It’s sad how misleading the idea of a cure is, and I strongly recommend reading some background on what cancer actually does if people are not familiar. Most cancer research focuses on trying to figure out what different cancers do so they can be treated more effectively, but that’s a far cry from a cure.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      That’s short sighted thinking, because every dollar raised is an extra dollar for research. The day they find the cure and even the prevention at 100% is the day that they don’t need any more money.

      And as far as “only” one person? Well, I can only help one person out of millions when I support a hungry child in Africa. But for that child, it makes a difference. So yes, to “only” one – one person at a time.

      1. Anonymous*

        ” every dollar raised is an extra dollar for research.”

        Really? Doubtful in most cases, and even if it was true, it isn’t good practice in nonprofit fundraising – some money _should_ be spent on oversight, management, communications, and fundraising fundraising themselves (10% to perhahps 25% is reasonable). Perhaps they have another donor covering that overhead, so the 100% of the headshavers’ money does go to research.

      2. Hmm*

        Every dollar raised is an extra dollar that goes to paying the mortgage on the cancer charity CEO’s Mercedes, Chanel shopping trips, and outrageous homes. Even the small “cancer charities” have this shit going on. Open you eyes, love. “Awareness” groups are ALL about paying 1) salaries for the higher ups and their friends (hire at sickening rates as “consultants”) and the 2) naive, confused 20-30-somethings who think they’re “making a difference.”

        1. Artemesia*

          I personally know of a non-profit in my old home town — not cancer, but one of the ‘children’ ones — that pretty much had as its primary mission providing 6 figure incomes for the founder and his wife, their children and daughters and sons in law. Almost nothing went ‘to the children’. They got exposed when their employees were filmed stealing donations to use personally. (I guess they figured they might as well get in on the gravy train as well.)

          Almost none of the high profile media blitz type non-profits make much in the way of actual impact on the cause.

          I do research those and target my giving to a handful of agencies with real bang for the buck like our local rescue mission and our local food bank and the local planned parent fund that actually finances care for women without other resources.

    3. Grace*

      @MR: I agree with you about the head shaving for cancer silliness. I have the same problem with a domestic violence fundraiser in my community where politicians dress up in high heels to “walk a mile” for victims. I did something better than a pair of high heels: I changed state law for victims.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        A state law can’t be changed without awareness and support. It’s silly to think that only one approach will work on a multi-faceted problem. Multiple approaches (coordinated) will get you more bang for the buck than any one thing. It’s great that you helped change the law. Helped – as in you couldn’t possibly have done it yourself. Please don’t put down the efforts of others to promote yourself. If these “politicians” aren’t hurting the cause they shouldn’t be denigrated.

        1. Zillah*

          Agreed. If that’s all they’re doing, yes, that’s a huge problem, but if they’re also challenging/changing laws, creating programs, etc, that’s a different story, and I don’t think that participating in awareness programs as well is a terrible thing.

        2. Anon*

          Yes, but how many people wear pink once a year and how many years has that been going on? And in all those years, there has been little to no improvement in breast cancer treatment. I get your larger point, but at some point we’ve all heard of cancer.

          1. Anonie*

            Not true at all. There has been major advances in breast cancer treatment. They have not found a cure but they have found better and more effective ways to treat breast cancer. Many lives have been saved because of breast cancer research.

            1. Emma*

              Cancer researchers, correct me if I’m wrong, but I recall from my public health studies that yes, people are living longer with breast cancer (for example)…but only because we’ve made such improvements in detection. The end point hasn’t correspondingly moved to the right. Tricksy hobbitses.

              1. fposte*

                Actually, I think it’s the other way around–early detection is turning out to less of a holy grail than promised, and the gains are coming largely from improved treatment. One perception challenge is that people whose cancer is detected early tend to fit a narrative of being “saved by early detection,” when often they’re detecting tumors that wouldn’t be lethal if detected later or aren’t even totally agreed upon as malignant.

                1. TL*

                  This is the debate I was talking about in the comment below (but it’s awaiting moderation.)

                  It’s really nuanced. Catching cancers earlier is best – the later stage it’s caught in, the less successfully we can treat it – but at the same time, we need to distinguish between early stage cancers that are going to grow and/or metastasize versus small growths that are going to stay small growths.

                  This is a big debate in cancers that can and often are caught early but not in cancers that are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms and are often not diagnosed until later stages, such as lung and pancreatic cancers, which have the lowest survival rates and worst prognosis.

                2. fposte*

                  Though I should be clear that it seems to be a lot more complicated than that, because different breast cancers appear differently, grow differently, respond differently, etc., so it’s tough to make general statements about what works with “breast cancer” generically.

                3. fposte*

                  Ha, TL, I have stuff in moderation too.

                  Did you see the cheap electronic device by the 16-year-old that apparently can detect pancreatic (and maybe kidney? There was one more) cancer in the early stages? Beats a Whipple any day.

                4. TL*

                  It’s the B-cancer! Catches me every time.

                  I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t really looked into it though it’s certainly promising. (IIFC, it hasn’t been put in front of the FDA yet for approval.)

                  But there’s a lot of really cool and promising stuff out there! It’s just going to take a decade or three for us to know if/how well they work and start implementing it.

              2. TL*

                Depends. If it’s caught in Stage III or IV – well, the survival rates haven’t changed that much for any cancer (and nearly any cancer that’s in Stage IV has a less than 10% survival rate.)

                So early detection has been a big help – catching cancers early means they’re treatable and with much less invasive/harmful treatments. (Caveat: there’s a huge debate here in the medical/research community wrt to prostate and breast cancer that I’m blatantly ignoring.) I think for breast cancer, 5 yr survival rates have gone up – but probably not if you look only at people diagnosed at later stages.

                But there are treatments that have made a huge difference for a specific cancer – tamoxifen, for example, has greatly lengthened the life expectancy/decreased recurrence rates for breast cancers with a particular estrogen receptor mutation.

                Overall, our detection/diagnosis of cancers have gone up, in part because of rising rates and in part because diagnosis techniques have gotten better. For some cancers, we’ve developed remarkably successful treatments; for other, early diagnosis has made a difference in the cure rates; for others, the prognosis has not changed since introduction of chemo/radiation with an understanding of how they work.

                1. fposte*

                  I was alluding straight on to that big debate. I think that it’s an important one, and that there are some way overdue changes in US medicine generally in examining its interventionist practices that it’s related to. I loved the Choosing Wisely report last year and I hope that it has real impact.

                  I’m an allopathic person, not a skeptic, but general medical practice has so little to do with actual empirical data that it makes me crazy in principle and more so when people have to suffer and pay as a result of it.

                2. TL*

                  Yes! It’s a hugely important debate but more than I wanted to get into in that post.

                  To be fair, medicinal practice does tend to follow the empirical data – it’s just a few years to a decade behind it. For, perhaps, good reason.

                  Have you read They mostly critique alternative medications but they also have some really excellent articles critiquing medicine as it’s practiced today and one of the regular contributors is a surgeon specializing in mammary oncology.

                3. fposte*

                  I love that blog–I haven’t been there in a while because it’s so easy to disappear down it.

                  I think in my smallish-town medical experience the research doesn’t really tend to affect practice until it becomes a big national initiative or a doctor there champions its findings or follows it in practice–therefore it’s mostly new doctors who bring the changes in. We’re near enough large cities that we get some great surgical fellows and such, but for less common non-surgical stuff, I go out of town.

            1. Anna*

              I wish I could remember the name of the documentary on pinkwashing. It was so good and it really made me think of how the fight for better healthcare for women has gone from a political fight to a fight for market shares.

        3. Grace*

          Engineer Girl,
          Thanks for your post. To be clear, I didn’t “help” change the law. I did change the law for high risk crime victims in my state (after I was a crime victim and savagely beaten by a stranger). There’s nothing funny about violent crime and to have some ludicrous pr gig of people walking around in high heels I find in stunningly bad taste like it’s some junior high pep rally. (And no, I’m not promoting myself. )

    4. Marie*

      I always thought the shaved hair was used for wigs for people going through chemotherapy. If it isn’t, then I’m with you that it would do just as much good to donate money privately.

      1. De*

        For that, between 20 and 30 centimeter of hair are used. Most women who do that just go from shoulder length to short hair.

      2. Jade*

        It would do just as much good – but the whole point is that she is shaving her head to raise the money.. maybe from people who wouldnt have donated otherwise.

      3. en pointe*

        I can’t speak to other campaigns but for the one I’m doing you have to organise the hair donation yourself. (It’s easy, there’s a long list of places that take donations). But your hair has to be a certain length, healthy and not artificially coloured. Mine is a huge mess of blonde curls so I’m hoping it will be useful for a wigmaker. Not to mention, it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for me – much more manageable!

        As for donating privately, I think that’s a reasonable comment but it’s going to depend on the resources of the person in question. Personally, I’m 19 and a student, so the amount I can (hopefully) raise far outstrips the amount I could afford to donate.

      4. Katie the Fed*

        Actually, most hair donations (Locks of Love, etc) are for people with alopecia, not cancer. A lot of people donate to Locks of Love thinking it will be made into wigs for children with cancer but it’s not. It’s still a good organization though.

    5. OP #2*

      To be honest, I agree with EngineerGirl that this is short-sighted.

      The point is that it’s not just one person but a whole group of people; those shaving and those donating. And it’s worth noting that a significant part of those “billions of dollars for research” that you mention come from fundraising efforts like this.

      I do see where you’re coming from about awareness – I think we’d all agree that everybody’s pretty aware of cancer by now and most of us will have known multiple people affected by it.

      But, frankly, I’m not trying to raise awareness, I’m trying to raise money because money is what pays for research and support for patients and their families. (Though I realise, to some extent, they go hand-in-hand).

      In Australia, the main organisation that tackles blood cancer is the Leukemia Foundation, which derives half their annual funding from the event that I am doing – The World’s Greatest Shave. And then there’s other fundraisers, major donors etc. throughout the year. As someone who lost my dad in my mid-teens, we would have fallen apart without the financial help we received from that specific organisation (we uprooted from Kununurra (outback) to the city for treatment).

      So, cancer fundraising is certainly something that I support and, in this instance, am partaking in.

      1. Helen*

        I think you’re awesome. In my office I would warn people that I would be shaving my head by sending an email or putting up a poster about the event in case people want to contribute! You know your office better but have you considered this? Good luck :)

        1. Chinook*

          I was wondering why the OP didn’t think of advertising, passively, in the office for her fundraising campaign.

          As for why do it, around here it is done to show support for someone getting treatment, to raise money for the costs associated with treatment (even when medical costs are covered, there is still loss of income, travel expenses if you live out of town, etc). I think judging why someone is choosing to raise money is only important if you are trying go decide if you want to donate.

        2. OP #2*

          We have a no-solicitation policy which I would like to respect, but thank you for the thoughtful idea.

          Also, I do know how to spell leukaemia, I promise. :)
          Screw cancer, maybe I’ll shave my head for an edit button instead.

          1. books*

            Fabulous sense of humor OP! Another suggestion would be if your boss in uncomfortable, to wear a wig/scarf in the office. Obviously, it’s going against the purpose of the head shaving, but if it’s going to save you a job (that is full time when you’re not in school, which is huge to hold on to!) it might be a path to take.

            1. OP #2*

              Ah yes, it appears that is actually the American spelling so, if anyone asks, I was thinking of you guys :)

      2. Anon*

        Which orgs are actually spending that money on scientists and labs and research rather than getting football players to wear pink wristbands? A whole lot of folks have been burned by major charities when they realize the only thing they spend money on is “awareness” and nothing else.

        1. Chinook*

          Terry Fox Foundation does minimal promotion and has annual runs that supports all cancer research. It is Canadian based but the runs are done internationally in September wherever there is a Canadian expat community.

        2. monologue*

          donating directly to a hospital research Institute is sometimes a little better. They still do marketing though. When my mom died last year we decided to direct those who wish to donate to the cancer centre where she was treated. They do no reasearch there, just treat those that are already affected. I do science research, and while cancer research is definitely moving along, I wanted to recognize the place where my mom was treated and help support those that are already sick today. Not the only way to donate for sure, but a possible alternative if you’re sick of the cancer machine. I’m in Canada though, maybe American hospitals are not as fun to donate to since they hose patients, idk.

          1. Anonymous*

            Marketing is essential. Would you rather give $100 of which 100% is used for research or of which 80% is used for research and the rest helps raise another $100 of which 80% is used for research?

            The problem is when too much is used for marketing.

        3. One of the Annes*

          PANCAN gives a significant part of its donations to research on pancreatic cancer treatments. The research is discussed in its newsletters. (It also provides support and information to families dealing with the cancer, including helping them to find appropriate clinical trials if they want.)

        4. Natalie*

          In the specific arena of breast cancer, a great alternative to Komen is the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. They have good ratings and a solid reputation.

        5. Jubilance*

          One org that gives a ton of money to actual research is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Their fundraising over the last 20 years has directly funded research that has gone to treatments for blood cancers, treatments that are saving lives.

        6. fposte*

          Aside from the individual suggestions, it’s worth checking sites like Charity Navigator to see how a particular charity does on that. A fair amount of transparency is available these days, so there’s no reason to let the bad apples spoil the bunch.

        7. annie*

          American Cancer Society is my cancer charity of choice. They do not focus entirely on research funding as they also provide services (like rides to chemo, free wigs, 24 hour hotline for questions, support groups, quitting smoking programs, housing near hospitals, etc) and education, but they do a ton of research funding. I had the opportunity to go to an event where one of the researchers spoke about the work he is doing and it was one of the most moving experiences of my life because it really showed me the actual impact of my fundraising. Coincidentally, this particular researcher is actually a survivor of childhood cancer. Because of this experience, I recently enrolled in a 30 year study that ACS is conducting, so now I am literally a part of the research too!

          That said, as others have noted, its unlike there is going to be one magical cure-all, and so until the day we have a cure for every type of cancer, I think its useful to also put money into funding early detection programs, education on how people can reduce their risk (everyone knows stop smoking, but now they’re finding obesity is also one of the other major risk factors in my types of cancer), and services and support for those going through treatment.

        8. TL*

          And you can always write a letter to your representative letting them know you think that funding for the NIH and NSF are vitally important and should be increased, as that is where most cancer research funding comes from.

          (Unless you live in Texas, in which case write to your state representative about funding for CPRIT and also tell them to clean up their act and keep everything aboveboard.)

      3. Kelly L.*

        I think people are being critical because here in the US there are some organizations that have put a bad taste in people’s mouths–they raise all this money for “awareness” but all the money goes right back into their own organization rather than to any research. It’s sort of a revolving door of money going right back into their own coffers. It sounds like your org is different, so good on them. :)

        1. some1*

          That was my first thought. I refuse to give a dime to anything with anything that org’s name attached, and my mom is a cancer survivor.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yup. My grandma died of it, and my mom really latched onto their whole schtick and always wants me to be as devoted to them as she is, and I haven’t got the heart to tell her I can’t stand the org or its M.O. or its politics. She’d take it as not caring about the disease itself, and that’s not the case at all.

            1. Natalie*

              It’s a fairly minor thing, but I’m always annoyed when I run out of some baking staple in October, since my only options in the store will be Komenized.

        2. Yup*

          There’s also often a fundamental misunderstanding of what awareness/advocacy efforts are all about.

      4. Katie the Fed*

        I’d rather sponsor someone doing this than someone who wants to run a marathon and comes up with a cause for soliciting donations as a secondary thought. I know, I know, I’m turning into a bitter old lady but I’m getting a little tired of being asked for money by friends wanting to run marathons or other races.

    6. monologue*

      for many women, (and anyone else too, but this is especially hard on those with long hair) losing their hair is a huge thing. I understand your point about awareness, but women walking around with shaved heads is a good thing in general for society. We unfortunately are still not at the point in cancer health care where no one loses their hair anymore.

    7. Graciosa*

      I think part of my reaction to this is colored by the bizarre (to my mind) assumption that the head shaving is necessarily connected to donations. Really? No one could donate – or be persuaded to donate – unless OP #2 shaves her head?

      This feels a little group-think to me, and this particular group decision does not impress. I donate quite a bit to various charities and causes, but never because of the state of a scalp.

      1. Del*

        The thing is that sponsoring-type fundraisers like that do actually bring in a lot of money. Maybe it’s because they personalize things a bit for the people making the donations, I don’t know. But it works.

        A friend of mine does a similar sponsored activity to raise money for local animal shelters, and they bring in a ton of donations every year.

        1. OP #2*


          Are they gimmicky? Yes.
          But they’re also fairly harmless and they DO work.

          Both Movember and World’s Greatest Shave raise a ton of money every year (at least where I’m from), and I don’t think we can reasonably expect charities and non-profits to give up fundraising campaigns that work just because they’re kinda bizarre.

          And, yes, I do realise the whole ‘shave your head for cancer thing’ is cringe-worthy to some people. Heck, it’s a little cringe-worthy to me if I’m brutally honest. But it’s also a relatively simple and effective way for me to raise money for an organisation that I will be grateful to until my dying day.

          So, sign me up.

          1. Anna*

            You’re donating your hair too, though, so it’s not an end with out a point, you know? The last time I saw the a head shaving thing that was worth mentioning (and seriously, I’m not knocking the OP for doing this) was an 8 year old boy who shaved his head for his best friend.

            I’m less offended by the head shaving or hair dying than I am with the Org That Shall Remain Unnamed and their “awareness” campaigns. If you can go to ANY website and see their logo and branding on a special pink item, it is no longer about awareness for the disease or the cause and more about awareness of the org.

            1. Stephanie*

              I do kind of have fun (and also cringe) at the pink-branded items every October. Worst I can recall is a pink Smith and Wesson handgun.

              The Society of Women Engineers has its annual conference in October/November. What always drove me nuts was the amount of pinkwashing at the career fair. Doubly so, between the “Women looooove pink!” implication and chemical manufacturers talking about a cure for breast cancer (when their products could very well be the cause).

              1. Jamie*

                I have issues with that foundation and it pisses me off that they’ve co-opted pink…because it’s by far my favorite color and now I can’t get pink office supplies without having to screen out their stuff.

                (We’re painting this spring and I’m trying to sell the husband on a soft powder pink for the bedroom. So far, no deal (he accused me of trying to turn our home into Barbie’s Dreamhouse – I wish!)…I am convinced if the world had more pink I’d be less grouchy.)

                1. Stephanie*

                  I love pink, too, but it being the Breast Cancer Color (TM) is a bit problematic. For one thing, it feminizes breast cancer (men get breast cancer too!) and infantilizes it like it’s this semi-harmless disease.

      2. Judy*

        You could then add that to any of the fundraisers. Maybe people shouldn’t walk in the relay for life, because no one could donate if people don’t walk around a track for 24 hours? Bake sales for school? People should just donate the money. We did dinners at our church to raise money for our Habitat house sponsorship. Maybe people would just have donated anyway?

        1. annie*

          Good point, and I also think, as a Relay for Life participant, people may discount the emotional impact this may have on the participant. I started Relaying because cancer killed nearly everyone in my family, and there is nothing I could do about it. I am certain that it will one day kill me too, because of how pervasive it has been on both sides of my family tree, although I hope not for many years. Raising money is healing and helps me feel like I’ve taken back a little bit of that control, and Relay specifically provides for a time of rememberance of those lost, as well as connecting with other families who have been through the same thing, which I think is valuable.

          1. Judy*

            yes, I’m one of the ones that the phrase is “when I get cancer” not “if I get cancer”. Lost 3 of 4 grandparents to cancer, both my parents have had it.

            I also enrolled in the ACS 30 year study last year.

            I have also donated blood and tissue to (gasp) the Komen Tissue Bank.

      3. Colette*

        I’ve donated to friends who are doing a walk or some other activity for charity. I would not donate if they just said “I’m collecting money for charity X”.

        I donate to other charities of my choice without any gimmicks/fundraising events, but if someone wants me to donate to a charity of their choice, there needs to be a specific reason.

      4. fposte*

        I understand what you’re saying, but I think it’s also kind of like saying that I don’t donate to the Salvation Army because of the noise of the bell. Maybe, but the fact is that donation drive gets a significant amount of income, so apparently not everybody has the same donation patterns and impulses.

        I also think that the fact that this is in Australia, where most of us don’t live, makes it a little harder for me and maybe you (not sure where you are) to comment on the cultural viability, since different places can have very different prompts and reactions.

      5. Christie*

        I have shaved my head for a pediatric cancer research organization called St. Baldricks Foundation. Of course shaving your head isn’t necessary for the donations! I raised over $800, but the real reason I did it is because they bring out local children that have or have faced cancer. These amazing little kids get such a kick out of all these adults (especially the ladies) shaving their head! It was so fun for them and such a feeling of solidarity in the community! It wasn’t about the money for me, that was just a bonus, it was about the kids knowing they’ve got a community around them that care. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and have a lot of respect for the OP.

        As for her work issue. I bought a wig, nothing too fancy but it did look real (as long as nobody got too close!) to wear when I felt my shaved head would be a distraction for work (ie. meetings, working with the public, etc). Otherwise, I rocked my shaved head with pride!

      1. OP #2*

        Thank you! I’ve literally been itching to correct that but was concerned about about being interpreted as snarky because I’m the OP for the question.

        You are my hero.

    8. TL*

      Hi! Cancer researcher here – a lowly tech, not a Ph.D but still.

      Actually, science research in general is underfunded (at least in the US) and the funding climate is only getting worse. Which makes fundraising for research through non-profits, though not without their own special considerations, important. And while, yes, everyone knows that cancer happens, most people don’t know very much about it at all. So awareness is important.

      Also yes, all the research has really helped a lot. Breast and prostate cancer have seen a giant surge in survival rates (there’s some early detection debate going on there, but even without that, we’ve seen a hell of a lot of improvement), and common childhood cancers, like ALS, have also seen a huge increase in survival rates in the past thirty or forty years.
      Unfortunately cancer is a hugely complex group of diseases and though there’s a lot of promising work done, the variations between types of cancer are so big that the successful treatments found are often only successful in one type of cancer – and that can be as specific as one type of breast cancer and not another. So: money and awareness – but mostly awareness of why we need money – are still needed.

      1. Joey*

        Yeah, although it feels kind of hard to swallow giving away money that will be used in part to create solutions that are a cash cow for the makers/providers of the product.

        1. TL*

          I personally would rather people bug their representatives about better funding for the NIH and NSF, but you take what you can get.

      2. snarkalupagus*

        I just signed up today for a head-shaving fundraiser, one of the bigger ones here in the US (St. Baldrick’s, represent!!). For me, as a person who is not a cancer researcher, it is a way to make a difference. Gradations of difference are just splitting hairs. As TL points out, even incremental progress is still progress; I’ll take increased survival rates as movement toward eventual elimination of all of the ugly tentacles of that particular monster, even if it’s happening slowly, one tentacle at a time.

        It’s not silly to want to help.

    9. Ruffingit*

      I tend to agree with your view. I started growing my hair out in January 2012 so I can chop it and donate it for cancer wigs. I’m doing that through Pantene Beautiful Lengths (

      I think that does more than the whole solidarity through shaved head thing myself because it’s actually helping someone with cancer feel better about their appearance. I’d suggest the OP donate her hair (if she’s able to do so) rather than just shave it off.

  2. MovingRightAlong*

    I realize that (in regards to OP3’s question) an employer can target anything for criticism that doesn’t fall under legal protections, but the first comment in particular seems pretty out there. If an employee makes an arrangement with his/her manager, it seems unfair to hold that arrangement against the employee. If it isn’t working out, of course the agreement should be revisited. Waiting to bring it up in an official review and framing it as a failure on the employee’s part strikes me as passive aggressive or back-stabby. And really? “You don’t hang out with us at lunch anymore?” I haven’t been graded on lunch since kindergarten. (And even then, I’m not so sure.… I knew all my shapes and colors, though.)

    1. en pointe*

      I agree but it sounds like the arrangement for the OP to start late and work through lunch wasn’t actually known to their boss’ boss (who made the comment on the performance evaluation).

      Perhaps, the OP needs to raise this and check that everybody who needs to be aware of the arrangement is indeed aware of it (assuming that his manager still approves). Otherwise, he could continue to be unfairly criticised based on already-approved behaviour.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Actually, though, I wondered why LW3 brought this up in this in this way. Is there a correlation between working through lunch and interacting with co-workers? I don’t necessarily see it. It seems to me that there are likely lots of other opportunities to interact informally with co-workers during the day other than just lunch. It’s possible the boss is being a jerk and he’s talking about lunch breaks and after work and weekend things, but maybe the LW is not interacting with co-workers at all except when needed to for work reasons. Maybe he seems stand-offish and not a team player perhaps because of family pressures or perhaps because he is just a formal guy who doesn’t quite fit in.

      And for part 2, whatever the reason, valid as it was, you showed up for a big fundraiser and did not make a good impression. Your reason why was way more laudable than someone who was out drinking and partying the night before, but it leaves the same impression that you were not enthusiastic about the fundraising which could hurt the cause. Perhaps you should have not gone and taken a sick day to care for your son. Perhaps you should have gone, but explained the problem and tried to work the fundraiser from the background where your energy level wouldn’t be noticed. Perhaps you should have tried to sleep at home that night in order to be fresh for work if it was that important for you to do this event well. (That last one might well be impossible for caring dad, I know.)

      I cannot be sure from your letter, but I kind of get the feeling that you are asking for special treatment because of special circumstances which you (rightly) prioritize over work. That’s fine for you to do it. But if your prioritization of your family over work are is hurting your ability to do a goof job, your job has the right to look for someone else who can do a better job than you. Maybe your current job is not a good one for someone in your circumstances because it demands too much of your time and energy to do good work – more than you can give.

      1. Judy*

        If this OP is in the US and eligible under FMLA, it might be good to get an intermittent leave approved. One of my co-workers was dealing with her husband’s cancer treatments, and was just planning on using comp time to manage transporting him to his appointments. Someone suggested that even though she wasn’t going to take “leave” she might be well served to have the FMLA on the books. It’s quite possible it saved her job, because there was another employee at the same time going through chemo, who also used comp time and vacation time to manage his appointments, but never applied for FMLA. He was put on PIP for “missing work”, although he did recover from the PIP after he was done with the chemo.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Well, it sounds like the employee should have chosen to call out FMLA instead of just comp and vacation time.

            1. Judy*

              The philosophy was that the company didn’t want to have to judge chemo vs someone joining a competitive clogging team, so if you wanted the circumstances taken into account, you needed to have the doctor’s signature.

              I think that if they worked it out within the available vacation and comp time, it shouldn’t matter why.

              1. fposte*

                Wow, I’m wondering if the company screwed up there–my impression is that it’s their obligation to raise FMLA whether the employee does or not.

                1. Anna*

                  It is their obligation. We just went through all the training. As soon as a manager knows of a medical issue, it’s up to them to get the paperwork started. After that, it’s up to the employee to finish the paperwork and turn it in to HR.

        1. Jubilance*

          I know someone who worked at a company that had the outdated “10% of the people don’t get a raise” philosophy. A person who just completed chemo was told they weren’t getting a raise because they were out of the office a lot…due to their chemo treatments. Uhh, thanks?

          1. EngineerGirl*

            Whoa. You can’t be penalized for taking FMLA. If that’s the case the person needs to revisit with their manager and raise it as a WE need to help keep the company compliant issue.

            1. fposte*

              Joey’s the one who’s really on top of this, but my impression is this is getting into a grey area where the individual situation matters. If it’s established that other leave without pay will affect eligibility for merit increases at that organization, I believe it’s kosher for FMLA leave to as well.

            2. Joey*

              Ah, but you can. For example if you don’t hit your annual sales target because you were on FMlA the company doesn’t have to give you the commission/bonus.

            3. Ruffingit*

              Was the person in Jubilance’s story using FMLA though? Whatever the case, it stinks that the person was penalized for being ill, but we can’t say that they were penalized for using FMLA because we don’t know if they were doing that. Jubilance, was the person using FMLA?

        2. Liane*

          The second employee may not have realized FMLA could be taken intermittently. I didn’t know that until our son* was in & out of the hospital his first year due to a congenital condition, but HR and others at work told me so I could get it. Very highly recommend this for our US readers. Was going to do this during my mom-in-law’s final illness to spell my husband but, alas, she wasn’t with us that long.

          *just turned 18 & been healthy ever since!

          1. JoAnna*

            My son has a congenital birth defect (bilateral clubfoot), and I was granted intermittent FMLA leave after I returned from maternity leave in case I needed to miss work due to his semi-regular orthopedic appointments. It’s more of a “just in case” thing, as I don’t expect him to need an excessive amount of appointments (and his surgery happened while I was still on maternity leave), but it’s good to have that “buffer” just in case.

          1. KellyK*

            Yeah, I agree. Good luck defining what counts as “family.” I don’t have children, but I have a husband, parents, and a brother, any of whom might get sick or become disabled and need me to help with appointments or care.

            1. Brett*

              There are pretty solid legal definitions on what constitutes “family” thanks to domestic violence laws.

              1. NylaW*

                It also includes parents, but not parents-in-law and not children over 18 unless they are not able to care for themselves.

                This is just what is required by law. Employers can extend benefits to staff who don’t actually qualify and for family members that are not specifically listed as immediate family.

        1. BCW*

          Nope. That becomes a whole issue in itself, because who gets to judge what is a family? Everyone theoretically has a family (parents, friends, pets, etc), but I assume the family you speak of is spouse and kids.

      2. Elle D*

        My immediate thought regarding point #1 was that since the OP is arriving late, he isn’t milling about the coffee maker in the morning making small talk with co-workers, and since he’s working through lunch he is missing out on lunching with them as well. This seems like an incredibly silly thing to criticize someone for, but that’s how I took it.

        I think the issue of the fundraiser is a different story…it sounds like the OP was a key enough player that his behavior was noticeable to others, and he may need to re-evaluate whether this type of role is right for him given his family situation.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          That’s the way I took it too. I once had a manager who didn’t seem to realize I even had responsibilities other than socializing with my co-workers. I can still hear her in my mind, “you’re so QUIET!” (imagine Fran Drescher’s voice and you will pretty much have it.) Some managers are just like that.

      3. ScaredyCat*

        I’ll apologize in advance for sounding insensitive, but…

        my boss’ boss gave me a low mark for communication, writing “Personal obligations have kept x from interacting informally with his co-workers.”

        I don’t see any mention of this interacting needing to happen during the lunch break. I would also assume that this communication that is missing should be happening for work, not idle socializing near the water cooler.
        Perhaps the boss was just hazarding a “guess”, regarding the reason behind the OP’s lack of communication.

        As for the lack of enthusiasm for the fund raiser. You have my complete sympathy OP, I can totally understand that you were not at your best. Unfortunately, the company cannot offer this same excuse to his clients. Like the IT Manager said, perhaps you should have explained the situation to your boss, and asked to work from “behind the scenes”.

        I’m so so sorry for what you’re going through. And it’s no wonder that you’re not managing to do your best at work. Unfortunately, your bosses can’t just nod and smile at the prospect that from time to time you’re going to “mess up”.
        Either try to have a talk with your bosses to change your responsibilities so you’re not interacting with clients so much, or… look for a different job.

        In any case, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you.

        1. ScaredyCat*

          Oh wait… nevermind, I missed the “informally” part from the first issue. Please disregard that part then.

      4. MovingRightAlong*

        That’s a good point, I let myself make that connection between lunch and the comment on the evaluation. From the way the letter is written, it certainly sounds like the OP made the same connection. It would be worth clarifying with the boss (if it wasn’t made specifically clear) what prompted the comment and ways to fix it.

        I do agree with the below comment that, if a reasonable solution can’t be worked out, it might be time to look for a more flexible work place.

      5. Bwmn*

        I read this very similarly that perhaps this job and the OP’s current life priorities just no longer mesh. There are a number of jobs within the fundraising (and greater nonprofit) realm that don’t have as frontal a role.

        While others have said that the reason for lacking energy at the fundraiser was understandable – the result for the employer was the same, a subpar performance. It may also be that in such situations, instead of the OP just “soldiering” through – talking the situations through with his boss might have been better. At my last organization where I was the only fundraiser we had a major donor site visit happen right at a time when I was deathly ill. Our Executive Director still wanted me there, so we discussed how I could best be present given my health. Some of my duties were reassigned, others lessened, etc. – but as the face of all prior communications I was still there to give the impression the ED wanted.

        Either way, it sounds like the OP’s personal needs and the employers just aren’t meshing. Maybe having another discussion about what can/can not be expected is worth having with the boss/boss’s boss is worth it. Or that time may just be better spent looking for a new position.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Making an arrangement that is approved as being good enough doesn’t mean that it solves the problem though.

      If this lack of communication is a problem, and the boss seems to think it is, then it remains a problem even if the arrangement was improved. They told OP that coming in late and working through lunch would be OK to keep his job, but they don’t have to give you high marks on something you’re not doing if you’re not doing it.

      (I do have a lot of sympathy for OP in this situation, and obviously you need to prioritize how you need to prioritize.)

  3. Elise*

    #2 – I think that whatever way the company would treat an employee with cancer who shaves his or her head is the same way that the OP should be handled if she is to shave her head.

    There are plenty of other reasons other than cancer why women shave their head.. alopecia being one of them.

    1. Graciosa*

      An interesting idea, but you are ignoring the element of choice. The OP did not lose her hair due to a medical condition beyond her control – she is making a decision. Depending upon your viewpoint, she either deserves the credit or must accept the responsibility for that choice.

      1. OP #2*

        Oh, I actually do agree with you and the other commenters who have mentioned the element of choice. I should make it clear that I am prepared to accept any adverse consequences that may come out of my decision because it is that – a decision. (That said, I’d still really like for there not to be any.)

        1. OP #2*

          Actually, one amendment; I probably wouldn’t be that accepting if they actually fired me. I’d probably be pretty pissed off. And sad. But I’m fairly certain they wouldn’t over something like this. Sorry if that makes me less reasonable.

    2. BCW*

      That sounds good, but it really is a choice vs. a medical condition. Its like if you have a condition that discolors your face vs. getting a tattoo on your face. I personally have no problem with facial tattoos, but if a company is against it, I can see it, whereas I would be bad for someone to not hire someone because of that medical condition.

  4. Chuchundra*

    OP#3, I don’t know if the criticism is “fair” or not. I mean, we can’t really judge fairness without more information.

    But the message that your employer is sending you is loud and clear and it’s “Eff you and your disabled kid”. It’s clear that they don’t intend to cut you any more slack due to your personal situation. In fact, it’s more likely than not that they’re building a paper trail so they can fire you.

    Also, I don’t know where you work, but I’d seriously consider the fact that your management is made up of aliens or replicants. The normal, human reaction to “I was up all night at the hospital with my sick kid” would be something along the lines of “Oh god, you should have told someone so we could have covered for you”.

    I’d suggest that you brush up your resume and see if you can get your managers to take a voight-kampff test.

      1. Ella*

        I agree. Their attitude sounds inhumane. And working on a Saturday even…
        They should have covered for you.

        1. Mary*

          The score for communications being low is very petty. Is this the most important part of your communications within your work environment? Do other not go for walk, run errands, stay at their desk during lunch? You cannot be the only team person not available for valuable “non-core” communications with your team during non-working times. However I think the managers position is that he is unhappy with your current work arrangement and is demonstrating this by scoring you low at your review, but is not coming out and saying this directly. So you can either

          Take the criticism and suck it up and live with the low score. And if a manager sees a low score in one area then he may look for furthers areas in the future.

          Ask how can you be a stellar employee in communications and carry out all the recommendations of your manager which would probably include you changing back to your original working schedule and paying a babysitter to drop your oldest child.

          Or just ask your boss straight out, is my change of working time affecting how you perceive my effectiveness, do you want me to change back. And if he says yes, then just change back to the normal working hours.

          The comment by the directors is more worrying I think. It is their feedback from the event that your performance was not up to an acceptable level. I would think they didn’t want to hear any excuses – no matter how valid – and it may be an indication of their future intentions for your position.

          If I were you I would stop all mention of your family at work. If you are receiving criticism and it is due to your family commitments then I would not offer that as an excuse but rather ask “What do you want to see from me in future? What elements do you want me to improve and what is your expectations”? This may change their perception of someone whose home-life is dragging them down to someone who is willing to accept criticism and work on improving.

          Ultimately you need to decide if a company with this type of culture is they type of company you want to be working for in the long term.

          From what you say I think your company suck but it is giving you a wage presently so you need to deal with their culture.

    1. Colette*

      It’s possible that the OP’s management is very sympathetic, but the OP is actually not doing what they need him to do in that job.

      If I call a plumber and she doesn’t show up because her child is in the hospital, I can be very sympathetic to the fact that she has a family crisis, but when it comes down to it, I still need my plumbing fixed.

      1. The IT Manager*


        I thought Chuchundra seemed to be taking a “the company is evil stance” without any consideration that the employee might not be meeting requirements.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. I don’t think we have nearly enough information to conclude that the company is in the wrong here. It’s entirely possible that they are, but it’s equally possible that the OP isn’t doing what the job reasonably requires. We have no way of knowing.

        1. GL*

          And it’s not like it was “Hey, we’re letting you go because you’re not meeting expectations.” They’re giving him feedback and probably hope that he can make adjustments.

          I know it’s really hard when you something’s wrong with your child, but I would encourage OP to consider if he’s taking too much on at home. When your kid is sick and in the hospital, yes, you want to be there, but you have the option of letting the nurses take care of him since that’s what you and your insurance are paying them for. Try to make arrangements to have another relative stay when you have to be at work the next day if you can.

        2. Hooptie*

          I’m curious what the employee’s back up plan is/was. Since he may need to ask for help or coverage with little to no notice it is, at least in part, his responsibility to present a coverage plan to his boss for these kinds of situations.

          I am all about flexibility, but at some point the employee must step up and not expect me to find coverage solutions – it is what I pay them to do.

          And now that I think about it, maybe the lack of informal communication with co-workers is preventing him from developing relationships that would open the door to working out a back-up plan?

      3. 400boyz*

        Perhaps people should stick to the facts in the letter and what the OP is asking about which is the low mark for communications. Why assume that he is not doing his job, and that somehow he is getting low marks on COMMUNICATIONS because of other factors.

          1. 400boyz*

            I guess in those jobs it’s critical to interact informally with co-workers, huh. Maybe the OP is an NBA player or some other professional sports player. Never thought of that.

        1. Jamie*

          How crucial communications is is very position dependent.

          If you’re in PR or marketing or any forward facing position being subdued at a fundraiser is a big deal – and if it’s integral to your job to be communicative and enthusiastic then that’s a problem.

          Not that I don’t have tremendous sympathy for the OP, because I do, I’m just addressing the general point about communications being either trivial or crucial and the answer is, it depends.

          If it were me and my role in the fundraiser was to make sure the projectors were working, laptops had connectivity, and all the IT stuff was managed I can’t see anyone giving a crap if I was not my usual cheery enthusiastic self as long as everything worked properly…because I am clearly behind the scenes. Someone who was forward facing wouldn’t have as much leeway.

          I really don’t think we have enough information to know if the bosses are being overly critical or not.

          1. Bwmn*

            I think there’s also something to say about reading a letter like the OP’s, and then taking the things that we identify with the most and inflating them to be more or less important. Having worked as a fundraiser, I read the letter as though the OP were a fundraiser and am inclined to initially respond in that way. Therefore being low energy would be a much bigger deal than if the OP had a different position.

            What I think is clear from the letter is that how the OP is functioning “normally” and what management want isn’t syncing up. Whether another discussion about with management about work/home life balance will help or not is unknown. But if the critiques are fair or not is not clear.

            1. Jamie*

              Absolutely. With most letters if I don’t make a conscious effort to read it objectively I will always see it through my own lens and have a bias toward whichever position is most familiar to me.

              Definitively a danger of putting too much of ourselves in the story.

        2. Colette*

          We can’t answer that question, because we’re not his manager. His manager is telling him that he’s not hitting whatever the mark is in that company, and the OP should be very focused on changing if he wants to keep his job.

    2. Joey*

      I’m curious, do you think all employees should get “slack” at work when there is a good reason?

      Because if you do that’s certainly an honorable and sympathetic stance, but how are you supposed to run a business when things don’t get done or don’t get done well at work? Its easy to say someone else can cover, but there are endless personal issues that affect everyone that seem worthy of slack. Think about childcare issues, car problems, relationship problems, health problems, money problems, legal problems. When employers can’t/won’t bend its usually not because they don’t think the issues are legit or worthy of slack. Its because the boss’ job is to run the business efficiently. When work isn’t getting done for whatever reason they need to take steps to get the business back on path. Cutting people some slack is reasonable in most businesses-it’s extremely difficult to find anyone who will never need some slack. But there comes a point when it becomes too big a burden on the business (obviously the breaking point is different for different jobs and companies). Its usually not a “screw your situation”, it’s usually more of a “sorry about your situation, but we can’t wait any longer for you to resolve it. the work has to get done.”

      1. NylaW*

        Agreed, and it’s a sad situation when someone trying to do the right thing by their family ends up not being able to do right by their job. We just don’t know enough about this situation to say whether the manager/company are justified in what they are saying or if they are just being jerks.

      2. Colette*


        And in this case, it looks like the OP has needed slack for quite a while, and will continue to need slack. There’s a difference between asking for slack because a child is in the hospital, and asking for slack to take your child to school. Both may be reasonable requests, but eventually the sheer number of requests adds up to more than what is reasonable.

        If the OP needs slack to take his child to school, that might mean that Coworker A needs to be in on time every day. If that’s the case, what happens when A has transportation issues one day, or breaks her leg, or has a sick family member? The OP should have some slack – but not so much that there’s none left for anyone else.

      3. Mike C.*

        When it crosses that line, expectations should be made clear, both in terms of specific deliverables and how those deliverables will be measured and judged. This is the job of management. From there if goals are met then there’s no problem, and if they aren’t then there are specific plans of action, up to and including leaving the job.

        Actually, that should happen anyway, but you understand what I mean.

        If all the OP is getting back is “you’re bad at small talk” and “you didn’t have enough energy”, then I’m laying this at the feet of management. The OP thought s/he was doing everything that was needed and found out too late that this wasn’t the case. A bad review should never be a surprise.

        1. Bwmn*

          If the long and short of the critique was “bad at informal communications” – then that is unclear. Is it small talk? Is the OP coming off as unapproachable ? Is the employee coming across as rude? I had a friend once heavily criticized for how she was conducting email correspondence at work. That her assumption of “this is a short and to the point, efficient response” was reading to her colleagues and clients as rude to the point where clients were complaining.

          But I think that “you didn’t have enough energy at the fundraiser” is pretty direct. For someone who has worked a number of events like that, if I got that critique I would know exactly what that meant. Being “on” at an event is not something with strict quantifiable measures. Being approachable and engaging is worth way more (and not exactly measurable) than saying you shook X hands and gave out Y business cards.

      4. Dan*

        Yeah… I had a “relationship situation” crop up that caused me to get really distracted at work for awhile. Thankfully, it happened right after we got a major deliverable out the door, so the distraction wasn’t really noticed.

        However, if it got to the point where I was missing deadlines, well, I didn’t want to put myself in a position to see how nice (or not) the company would be. ‘Cause at the end of the day, as you say, work still has to get done.

      5. Joe*

        Yes business should run based on human needs. Yes, employees should be valued, nurtured and respected. Yes, society need to reevaluate its insane pursuit of profit for greed’s sake. Sociesty falls down when we crush people because they or their loved ones get sick .
        In this day and age, why shouldn’t business use technology to further the happiness of the worker- REAL MANDATED flex time, remote work unless the person is working an assembly line, legally protected sick time… Employees pay taxes to bail out corporations, companies are obligated to work for us.

      6. aebhel*

        I do think employees should get cut some slack. Not an endless amount, no, but there seems to be this culture in a lot of businesses that the dedication must be very one-sided. It works out beautifully for employers, because in this economy most people are willing to put up with a fair amount of crap rather than quit, but that doesn’t make it decent, right, or fair.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Some things can’t be covered by just some random person. If OP was, say, the lead fundraiser and this is a major event, then you can’t just pull in some rando to talk to those donors/investors. And if those donors/investors can tell that that event is the last place you want to be, you could be doing thousands of dollars in damage to the organization. If attending that event and getting dollars out of investors is part of the job, then in the example OP gave, they failed in a major, major way.

      (I’m not saying OP did; obviously, we don’t have all the info. But I can easily imagine situations involving major fundraising events where pretty much any excuse other than actual looming death would be inadequate).

      (I’d also argue, in response to your comment, that your “humane” response touches on something very important: if the correct response was to tell someone *before* the event, then not doing so, whether or not there was coverage available, could itself be a major enough issue to warrant a knock on a review.)

  5. Marie*

    Re LW4:

    There’s a guy I went to school with who took the ‘straighter, narrower’ path to a career in law. Now we work together. He’s a mid-level director and I’m an associate. Does it bother me? Not at all! I spent the in-between time having fun with my life: backpacking around Europe, studying impractical but really fun things, meeting a great guy, dating and getting married. This guy works until 2am every day, lives on takeouts, and still lives with his mom. I like him, but no way would I trade places.

    Carolyn Hax gives some great advice about jealousy: don’t be jealous of someone unless you would trade your entire life for theirs. Their higher level at work (or whatever the jealousy-inducing aspect is) came with some sacrifices that you may not have been willing to make.

    1. MissM*

      Watching a peer progress at a different rate is an absolutely common experience. After all, every corporate CEO was at one time starting out in a peer group with a lot of other people at the same pay grade. There will always be some people who move farther ahead. It’s really disconcerting the first time you find yourself with a boss that is 10 years younger than you. All you can do is make the best decisions you can for yourself, and don’t worry about anyone else.

      1. Windchime*

        I’m in that situation now for the first time ever, and yeah I was a little nervous when he first came on board. But then I realized that, once you get into mid-life, everyone is a grown-up (or should be) and age just doesn’t matter so much. He’s a great boss and we are all a bunch of grownups, trying to do our jobs as best as we can. The end.

    2. monologue*

      this is a good way of thinking about it. Somestimes I slip into the ops way of thinking, but it’s true, these are never people I would switch lives with.

    3. OP#4*

      OP here, I totally agree. My feelings are unfounded, I think it is really anxiety associated with starting a new role after 10 years at my current company. This person may not even get the job and if he does it will probably be good to continue to work with him. By focusing ahead and not looking at the wall I think I would be better setting myself up for success.

    4. Dan*

      You know, it’s funny. Refer back to the “what you make” thread, and there are some people who don’t feel all that great about themselves.

      You can have my $90k salary, but then you have to take my $90k in student loan debt, and the COL that comes with living in the DC metro area where a run of the mill apartment 20 miles outside the city center runs $1300/mo.

      I’m not complaining in the least, but I hate it when people look at a single number in that equation and think I’m living high on the hog.

      I’m lucky, I don’t have family that thinks they’re entitled to my earnings, so I think the person I hate the most is my dear old Uncle Sam. Earn a lot of money? Pay lots in taxes!

      In my first job out of school, I was making $70k, with a federal income tax bill of $1000/mo. I never figured out how 47% of this country pays no federal income tax and yet merely having a middle class job obligates me to pay $12k/year to the man.

      1. fposte*

        Most of the people who pay no income tax make under $16k per year; that’s how. As you say, you probably don’t want to trade.

        1. Dan*

          Where did you get that number? Wherever the source, out of context it’s misleading.

          Consider a married couple with two children, filing jointly. The first $28,000 in combined earnings is not taxed, period. Then, throw in the EITC and child tax credits, and that family can probably push $40k before writing a check to uncle sam.

          It’s really, really hard to make statements about individual wages in many contexts because so much of the statistics discuss “household” income. And children (who in and of themselves generate no income) have a significant impact on the taxes owed by their parents.

          Come to think of it, I’m really curious about the methodology of these studies. When I file my taxes, I do include the W2s from my spouse and me, but all the numbers I fill in on the tax forms are aggregate totals. And again, throw in kids (which I don’t have) and I’m really curious how they get from “the family tax situation which we work out with the IRS” to statistics about individuals.

          1. Natalie*

            A small portion are households making $40-50K with deductions. A full half of the people who pay no federal income tax are households making less than $27,000. For a family of 3 or 4, that’s quite a small paycheck, particularly considering they are not exempt from payroll taxes. Single people wouldn’t be included in this number because they do pay federal income taxes at that income level.


            1. Dan*

              And 39% of people paying no federal income tax make more than $50k or less than $10k. That’s a good chunk. To be making $10k, you’d have to be making minimum wage and working less than 26 hours per week. NOBODY is supporting a household as a single wage earner on that kind of dough.

              There’s something I don’t get with respect to your $27k figure. The math they use indicates they are discussing people with “dependents” and who do NOT get child or EITC credits. Who are those dependents, and what role should they play in tax policy?

              So one thing is true: You *can’t* extrapolate $27k into supporting a traditional family of four (ma pa and the kids) because at that income level they’d qualify for EITC and child tax credits, which would put them into a different statistic, which represents 15% of the 47%. So if you’ve got dependents at that income level, but no EITC or child tax, then you’re talking about adult dependents.

              1. Elsajeni*

                I don’t read that article as suggesting that everyone in that under-$27k group has dependents — only that, once their various exemptions and deductions are factored in, which may include exemptions for dependents, their income ends up low enough that they owe no taxes on it. I also don’t see it saying that people in that category didn’t receive child tax credits or EITC — the 15% category is, I think, people who would have owed income tax if not for those credits; people in the under-$27k category wouldn’t have owed anything even without those credits, but still might receive them.

                1. Dan*

                  Fair enough, but that puts you in “refundable tax credits” territory, which means the earned income is a bit misleading, because uncle sam threw some juice on top.

          2. fposte*

            It’s pretty readily available, since these are figures cracked annually. Here’s one from a couple of years ago:

            Additionally, you misstated when you said “47% of the country pays no income tax”; as your subsequent comments make clear, it’s not 47% of the country, it’s 47% of the tax returns filed. It’s therefore not misleading to note that the majority of those filers exist in the lowest quartile–it’s just keeping with the same statistics that got your original 47% figure.

            It’s true that there are plenty of people outside of that quartile who pay no income tax as well, but they are not just the plurality but the majority.

        2. Sharm*

          And they still pay sales tax.

          But sure, screw those darn takers, they do nothing to contribute to our society.

          1. Dan*

            Hold on. One thing I always hate about the FEDERAL INCOME TAX discussion is that somebody always wants to twist it around and claim that the person who said it says the 47% pay no tax at all.

            Guess what, that year I paid $11k in federal income tax, I paid all of those other taxes too! Why do I deserve to pay so much when so many pay nothing?

        3. Natalie*

          IIRC, they also still pay into Social Security and Medicare, which comprised nearly half of my federal withholding on my last W2.

        1. some1*

          Just as an aside, the states that collect less income tax just make up the difference with receiving more fed tax dollars.

          Don’t kid yourself that whatever state you live in does more with less.

          1. Dan*

            I’m not sure that they get more fed tax dollars, but I do agree with your larger point — they just find other sources to collect the money.

            I live in VA and have a 5% (or so) state income tax rate. But I also pay personal property tax on my vehicle to the county every year. It’s not an income tax but a quasi wealth tax, as the more expensive your vehicle, the more you pay.

            1. Stephanie*

              It decreases, though! And VA’s assessed value of my car was way lower than the blue book value, so that made the bill hurt a bit less. I do remember I got some kind of tax abatement one year.

              Just be glad you don’t have to pay the car tax all at once when you register. This is how Arizona does it.

          2. Emma*

            Correct! As a former resident of a very densely populated East Coast state, I paid a lot of taxes. I just moved to another state with no state income tax, but who receives more than they pay out in federal subsidies. It’s nice to finally make back what I’ve contributed!

          3. Stephanie*

            Well, that and states usually compensates other ways. Texas, for example, has no state income tax, but has relatively high property and sales taxes. My parents are itching to sell their rental property to avoid dealing with the tax burden during retirement (in addition to other reasons). It’s a modest SFH in a middle-class suburb.

            Also, higher sales tax is regressive.

            1. TL*

              Yup. Texas also has a lot of oil money and corporate taxes coming into the state.

              (And Texas doesn’t put a sales tax pn foodstuffs/groceries – there’s some weird laws there, so junk food gets taxed but fresh food doesn’t or something like that.)

              1. Stephanie*

                I think it’s “luxury” items. So potato chips would get taxed, but eggs wouldn’t.

                After I gained a bunch of weight sophomore year in college, I had my Come-to-Jesus fitness moment and got on a kick to eat better. I made a challenge for myself to buy groceries without paying sales tax (i.e., meaning I bought actual food vs. potato chips).

                1. TL*

                  Oh, that’s an excellent idea! (Well. I make it my mission in life to eat as unhealthily as my stupid food allergies will let me but I still have a disgustingly healthy diet.)

                  I like it because it is somewhat of a progressive tax.

      2. Rachel*

        47% of the country gets enough tax breaks to pay no federal income tax. That means they’re making very little, and get the earned income tax credit and other breaks.

        Meanwhile, most of the credits in our tax system actually benefit the middle class, and if you ever, say, buy a house, the tax credits you’ll get on your mortgage will be a greater dollar amount than that low-income person’s EITC. So. I wouldn’t complain too much about paying more in taxes than some of those people are living on, in the same metro area as you.

        1. Dan*

          I think they make more than most people believe. $40k in middle America isn’t bad. Below average, but not bad. And some places are down right cheap to live in.

          Those that live on less than I pay in taxes have real problems, but I’m not really thinking about them, believe it or not.

          1. Anonymous*

            The problem with a lot of this discussion for everyone from lower middle class to, perhaps, fairly rich people is the lack of security.

            My wife and I just are just about in the top 10% in the US ($250K/year). We live somewhere very expensive but I can’t complain – we’re doing great. Totally fine.

            BUT we’re not that secure. We have a lot of retirement savings and a lot of equity in our home, but if one of us got a debilitating illness and the other happened to lose his/her job, we could be in big trouble. And that’s happening. I don’t mean to sound whiny, but we save far more than our peers and still could go bankrupt with some very bad luck on the health/job front.

            People making half, or a fifth of what we do, are in a really tenuous situation.

            1. Dan*

              You realize a family making 1/5 of what you do makes the national median household income, right?

              I make 1/3 of what you, but I don’t describe my situation as tenuous. It’s also fair to say that income and COL play into decisions people make with their lives. If I had a stay at home spouse, two kids, and a half million dollar mortgage, yeah things would be more tenuous.

              While my jury is still out on Obamacare, I absolutely hate the fact that health insurance is tied to my job for exactly the reasons you state.

              1. Anonymous*

                “You realize a family making 1/5 of what you do makes the national median household income, right?”

                Yes, that’s why I picked that value and not a quarter.

      3. JoAnna*

        I make over $40,000 per year, but roughly half of my net salary each year goes to daycare expenses. After daycare I make less than minimum wage. (But what I makes helps pay some bills, such as student loan payments, so…. sigh.)

  6. OP #2*

    I wrote in regarding shaving my head.

    Thank you for answering my question. I can see why mentioning it in advance would be a better course of action.

    I also appreciate the phrasing suggested, as I was unsure how to frame this in a reasonable way without actually “asking permission” for something I’m already committed to doing.

    1. Judy*

      I’d say it might be good to have flyers ready, or even posted in the breakroom. A co-worker once shaved her head for support of a friend going through chemo. The office was very much abuzz with many people asking me if she was sick herself.

    2. MaryMary*

      You may also consider offering to wear a scarf (or maybe a hat, if it’s a casual environment) for the time when you are acting as a receptionist.

    3. MovingRightAlong*

      It sounds like you have the benefit of taking part in a well known event, so the idea of shaving your head for a fundraiser won’t sound completely outlandish, whatever your boss may think of it. Good for you, I’m sure you’ll rock the new look.

  7. KayDay*

    #1: at my small non-profit, we aimed to interview 5 people for most positions (the actual range was 3-6). We did phone screenings for anywhere from 6-15 people. (Major exceptions to this were when we created a new senior-level position and when we hired a new CEO; the entire process for those positions was different).

    #5: Just send them a polite note saying that after the interview you do not feel like the position is a good match for you and therefore you would like to withdraw. If they didn’t want to bring you back, you are on the same page with them, so it’s not presumptuous at all (and they will probably be happy they don’t have to send an awkward rejection email.) And if they did want to bring you back, they will appreciate that you were upfront with them sooner rather than later.

    1. Youth Services Librarian*

      I had an out of state interview a few years ago and after the interview decided it wasn’t what I wanted. The director had asked to continue the interview via phone and I called her back when I arrived home and politely said I didn’t think it was a good fit and I was pursuing other avenues.

      Oh boy. She interrogated me! Wanted to know exactly why I wasn’t interested in pursuing the job, what didn’t I like about it, etc. etc. I just kind of mumbled that it wasn’t for me or something although I really wanted to say that telling me the previous person in the position had “lorded it over other staff and you won’t be doing that, the circulation staff have been here for years and are my priority” isn’t exactly conducive to to me wanting to work there! Plus, I found the town horribly depressing even after a one-night stay and couldn’t imagine living there.

      1. Artemesia*

        Just out of grad school I was offered what looked like a dream job as a result of a recommendation by a guiding light in my field (not at my school.) I was flattered to have been recommended and a somewhat naive job seeker. It would have involved my husband uprooting his career — and I figured I only had one of those cards — his career is not mobile.

        Something about the place just set off my spidey sense. Everything looked fabulous on the surface but after flying to the city and going through the process and being told I was to expect an offer, I called and withdrew. Got some attitude about wasting their time and money.

        A friend of mine whom I later recruited to my organization took the job. It turned out that all the fancy pert charts they showed us about the big projects were fake; they had alienated the organizations they needed to work with (e.g. they offered someone in one of the orgs a job with the project, that person resigned their positions and then was told ‘the money isn’t there for this position.’); and the topper — it turned out the president of the organization had been embezzling.

        It would have been a complete disaster if I had uprooted my family for that — and I would not have had the personal skills to cope with the political disaster locally at that point in my career. Dodged a bullet. And learned to trust my instincts.

        You discovered by this woman’s response exactly how good your instincts are. Congratulations.

  8. Hugo*

    #3: Welcome to the American workplace, where your JOB must take precedence over everything else in your life. No wonder American kids are obese, at the bottom of the charts in education, and are more prone to violence than any other children from industrialized nations. It’s because their parents are always WORKING and barely have the time or energy to raise them properly; and when they do, they are chastised as NOT being team players. How DARE you care for your child when the company MANDATES communication with your co-workers and a chipper attitude at ALL external events.

    I agree with a previous poster, if this negativity from your employer continues, get OUT of there. That’s what I did after 8 years working in the JOKE of corporate American hypocrisy. I migrated to the government workforce where I have a more interesting job than ever and have the time to enjoy my life and family. Best of luck to you, and always remember what’s most important. My advice is to put on a serious face and do your best where you’re at now but start looking HARD for a job that treats you and your family like PEOPLE, not as impediments to their business.

    1. IndieGir*

      Well, I can see this both ways. I had a co-w0rker who had a nasty divorce, and we (the company & department) were very supportive. We were still supportive 2 years later while the divorce was still raging and the employee was chronically late because of issues with child support and depression (his and his family’s). We were feeling markedly less supportive 5 years later after his output dipped down to ridiculous levels as he struggled with CPS (one of his children accused of molesting another), his son’s autism/general major personality disabilities, and his angst over the fact that his ex wife was now marrying a transgendered man (yes, this is all true). My point being that while we were all trying to support his very real problems everyone else had to pick up the slack for him while he did about 25% of the work of everyone else and moaned all day. (Lest I seem like a heartless cow, just want to put it on the record that his children had and have my utmost sympathies. The only one in this story who came out acting like a decent human being was the transgendered step-parent, and unfortunately, he had no grounds for getting custody.)

      Now, I’m sure that the OP is not at this level of craziness yet. But our situation didn’t start out there either, it slid there slowly, and the OP may be showing the stress at the office a lot more than he thinks. I would recommend the OP have a talk with his boss about specific issues — for instance what does the boss mean about “interacting informally with his coworkers”? If he means you should go out to lunch with them, yeah, that’s a bullcrap issue. But maybe he means that every time someone comes by to say “hi” you are so stressed and busy you are unapproachable and off-putting and people feel like they can’t interact with you. Likewise, it probably would have been best if you had just not attended the fundraiser — that is one place where it is reasonable for your employer to expect you to be happy and perky, even if you justifiably feel like crap, because it is such a high visibility event.

      It may be that the OP does have to leave and find a job that by its very nature is more flexible and where these sorts of issues won’t matter. But I don’t think its fair to automatically knock the corporation for not treating him like “PEOPLE”. In my case, it was 7 other “PEOPLE” who had their lives disrupted for (by the end of it) over 10 years because someone else always had to stay late, take the rush case, do the meeting, etc. because his life was a disaster.

      1. Cat*

        I’ve experienced this too. Okay, not that level of drama, but it is entirely possibly to be both sympathetic to co-workers who are going through something and also frustrated that you’re picking up a lot of slack. Over time, the balance shifts from the former to the latter, and it becomes harder to keep it in perspective. It can also create a temptation to roll your eyes every time said co-worker is late or absent or distracted, even if you wouldn’t do it for a different co-worker who was late/absent/distracted for the same reason on that particular day. That’s not great, but it’s hard not to fall into that trap.

        Of course, we don’t know if that’s going on here. But it does seem at least possible.

      2. NylaW*

        I’ve been through this type of situation, though with significantly less drama. I feel that at some point, after a reasonable amount of time has passed, even if there’s still drama and crap going on in your life, you have to find a way to work it into your life and let it be this thing you deal with personally that you try to keep separate from work. It can’t be a crutch or an excuse for not doing things you can reasonably be expected to do and constantly let your work fall on other people. If it does, you have to understand that as much as you have a right to some understanding about personal or medical issues, your company and coworkers also have a right to get the job done. There’s a point where reasonable accommodation may start to become unreasonable.

      3. Ann O'Nemity*

        At some point, being family friendly to one employee becomes family UNfriendly to the other employees expected to continually cover and pick up the slack.

      4. annie*

        Add me to the chorus of people who have been in a similar situation – mom with health issues going through nasty divorce, two kids with health issues, crazy ex husband, etc. She was always calling in sick, leaving early, bringing the kids to work with her. You have sympathy, but at some point the constant inconveniences bring you to a breaking point because regardless of whatever this week’s emergency was, someone still needed to show up and unlock the doors in the morning. This was my first job in high school, and it was a good lesson for me as a teenager in being compassionate towards a troubled person and also learning where the boundaries were on how far you can expect others to carry your workload.

      5. Bwmn*

        I think it’s also possible to see management in this situation not being the “bad guys”. Instead of just showing up in the OP’s office one day and saying “you’re entirely unapproachable and low energy at all times, you’re fired” – they’re giving the OP a heads up on things that have to change. Maybe there are a few staff that need to interact with the OP, but have been scared off/brushed away and it’s a much smaller social outreach that needs to be done.

        Similarly, things like hospital stays and high profile work events -it may be 100% reasonable for the OP’s family to think of better contingency plans. What other family/friends can stay with the child in the hospital in such a situation?

        Also – maybe this is just the wrong job for the OP given his family demands. Either way, management have opened up a conversation and it’s not something the OP just has to take silently.

    2. BCW*

      I think thats harsh. I mean even when co-workers have returned from maternity leave, I’ve been sympathetic to the needs of a new child, but if I’m working significantly more than you and we are supposed to be a team, well at some point I’m going to get annoyed. Not at your kid, but the fact that you clearly aren’t handling your job duties. I get cutting people some slack, but work still has to be done too.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, the fact is that it’s not some faceless evil “employer” who does the work somebody under stress doesn’t get to; it’s the other employees.

        I don’t have a good solution here, because serious chronic/longer-term illness in a dependent is something that requires a considerable amount of time and effort, and if we could create a system where carers could get support from people who are actually there to provide that support, that would be excellent. It’s just not what we’ve got.

      2. Mike C.*

        If you’re working more, that’s an issue for management, not the coworker. If it’s the case that someone cannot handle their duties, then management needs to hire additional people to cover. No one else in the working relationship has that ability.

        1. IndieGir*

          What if they can’t afford it? And even if they can afford it, why should they have to? I’m all for employers being understanding of personal crises of short duration (6-9 months would be my personal tops), especially if the employee has previously done a good job. But at some point, its not fair to expect an employer to be paying for someone to produce 70% of the required work load, when all the other employees are producing 100%.

        2. Joey*

          Hiring additional people is only the answer some of the time as you know most personnel budgets don’t support an endless stream of extra people to cover work that’s already been budgeted for.

      1. Hugo*

        To all who responded supporting the company over OP #3, no where did he mention that other employees were picking up his slack. He had arranged the late arrival with his boss and worked through lunch to make up for it, and since he was not able to engage in interactions with his coworkers during lunch he was chastised for it. So, BIG DEAL, he didn’t take part in small talk during lunch, whoop-de-do. Who cares. Second, the man went out of his way to make it to some silly event while his child was sick, pulled extra hours, and then returned to the hospital. He has proven to be a dedicated father AND employee, yet some corporate blowhard had the nerve to say that he (and, apparently others according to a later post from #3) did not seem “present.” In other words, this man has been putting MORE effort into work than his co-workers, but was ridiculed for being otherwise.

        1. Joey*

          With all due respect the amount of effort he put forth is secondary to the results he actually achieved.

  9. Feed Fido*

    #3 Your post, to me, is a rhetorical question.Of course they are unreasonable. Dinging you on: Informally communicating with co-workers? I know “people skills.” Oh and maybe its the WORK load that keep you….working. Your “infractions” are 1. approved by manager (coming in late, working through lunch) and so small as to be insignifigant. And the rest, they are out of line as far as normal expectations of human beings- even a loner get sicks and can’t function.

    But knowledge is power- start looking for a new job ASAP.

  10. Is This Legal*


    I never understood why a company would care how a woman looks . I think it’s professional to wear long hair or shaved head. I guess this is the type of company that will not allow “some women” to wear dreadlocks. I don’t see the unprofessinal arguement in this. Let me hear the company’s arguement.

    1. Mike C.*

      Because society as a whole treats women as sex objects and they’re held to much higher standards of care and beauty than men are. Tell me, do you think a man would be approached by his boss if he decided to shave his head?

      1. Jamie*

        A man wouldn’t have the same issues as a woman with the head shaving because a man with a clean shaven head isn’t that unconventional, but it is fairly rare in women.

        The same way I can come in with my hair in a Gibson tuck (thank you open thread for teaching me that), or long and curled, or in a barrette, or whatever and no one thinks twice but a man with one of those hairstyles would turn heads.

        Men and women have different hairstyles that are considered the norm because of the habits of the majority.

        I’m just saying people looking askance at a woman with a shaved head isn’t necessarily sexism, unless they wouldn’t look twice at a man with a chignon or a blue mohawk.

        This is about convention and not sex appeal in most cases – yes, women may be held to a higher standard in general and I will not argue that the messages we get about our looks are very different than those given to men – but the vast majority of women won’t be in Maxim and we still get jobs and function in society.

        My work would certainly be surprised if I came in with a shaved head tomorrow, but that’s not because anyone here thinks my hair is sexy…it’s because it would be something unusual and that’s part of the problem. When you have a forward facing position like receptionist if the culture is conservative enough that that would be a distraction or constant source of conversation that’s an issue.

    2. Anonymous*

      But only straight, shoulder length, naturally coloured (other than grey, eew!), and frizz-free hair can be considered professional.

      1. fposte*

        I’ve been laughing at the current run of commercials, where an array of real women who’ve been satisfied customers testify to the service’s benefits. And there’s like eight of them, and every one has long hair.

    3. Graciosa*

      Companies have images, and can care about them as much as individuals do. This is especially true when, as in this case, the position includes receptionist duties. The first impression of the receptionist is often the first impression of the company.

      Can you seriously not understand why IBM might not want goth girl or the tattooed wonder at the reception desk? Really?

      It’s interesting to me that many people consider this only from the individual’s point of view. The arguments tend to be focused on individual self-expression – the individual should be able to choose the face / image that he or she presents to the world.

      Perhaps we might consider allowing the company the same privilege?

      1. Anonymous*

        She’s not goth girl or the tattooed wonder, she’s their current receptionist just with a shaved head.

        1. Graciosa*

          So you think that a company can care about its image with respect to goth elements or tattoos, but cannot care about a shaved head? Or is it the fact that she is already employed (not as their current receptionist, by the way, but her job does include receptionist duties) and that they have somehow forfeited the right to care post-hire?

          Can you understand why IBM might have a problem with a current receptionist who decided to go punk?

          If companies are allowed to care about their images – and I think that they should be – it’s just as presumptuous to dictate their choices as it would be to dictate to another individual.

          1. Anonymous*

            Your example is just so useless. Why are we bringing up goths and tattoos when that’s not even what’s happening here.

            1. Graciosa*

              I was trying to explore the issues – which is kind of what we do here. I can understand if it’s not something that interests you.

              1. literateliz*

                We had one of those! And an editorial assistant who not only shaved her head, but dyed the remaining stubble bright green. This is mostly irrelevant to this discussion but it makes me really happy to work here.

          2. Windchime*

            Would that same company have a problem if the receptionist was a male who decided to shave his head? Not a male goth or a male Hell’s Angel, but just good old Dennis who usually has hair but has decided that he wants to shave his head. I think that is the point that some are trying to make. Women are held to a different standard.

              1. Liane*

                A close family friend who works as a Claims Analyst for an insurer had, until a couple years ago, thick waist-length hair, usually in a tail. (yes, I envied it) Had it when he was hired, too. Granted, he isn’t out front and the workplace very casual, but AFAIK, his bosses had no issues with it, other than being as surprised as my family when he cut it, and donated it to Locks of Love!

                As for tattoos, the Very Big Company where husband and I work has a dress code banning “distracting or offensive” but no one has gotten talked to about theirs, not even the ones with visible lower-back art (2 violations ); nor the female cashier whose tat clearly began somewhere within her cleavage. (rolls eyes) This doesn’t mean I am anti-tattoo-at-work: there are 2 good managers who have extensive arm tattooing, one a woman and that’s fine.

              2. Windchime*

                Amazingly enough, I used to work with a guy who had long hair *and* a mohawk! Yes, it was shaved like a mohawk and then long, down his back. He wasn’t front desk reception, though. :)

            1. Anonymous*

              This is perhaps way off-topic on the appearance comments, but to me, as a client or customer of a business, I find people who look sloppy or dirty really off-putting, but almost anything else is OK as long as it looks well put together. It can be strange, but as long as it doesn’t give me an impression of laziness or lack of rigor, I don’t mind much. Neat mohawk – cool. Dirty looking hair in a traditional cut – not so good. If someone looks like they take care of themself and care about their appearance, that’s a win.

      2. Joey*

        Oh please. That’s the same justification people use to illegally discriminate or discriminate based on things that have nothing to do with job performance like hiring the hot, fit person.

        Besides, I’ve seen plenty of people working for professional companies in customer facing positions with dreads, tats, weird piercings, etc who are fantastic at their jobs. In fact, I’ve seen plenty that blow plain janes/joes away.

          1. Joey*

            Is it reasonable that people believe a customer will be freaked because it’s been an issue? Yes

            Is it reasonable that people hypothetically believe that a face tatoo will scare their customers? No

              1. Joey*

                Oh I agree its reasonable relative to what other companies do. But on its own its unreasonable because it’s probably based on nothing more than assumptions, prejudices and ignorance.

          2. Mike C.*

            There are plenty of places where customers might be freaked out if the person has a scar on their face, is wearing a headscarf or has a slight accent. Those customers need to join the rest of us here in the 21st century.

      3. Mike C.*

        Those expectations are often incredibly sexist and racist, and completely out of line. The image of a company is much, much less important than the damage it does to society as a whole.

        And if IBM can’t handle a woman that doesn’t conform to Mad Men’s definition of femininity, then they need to build a bridge and get over it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But it’s not the company’s mission to change society on this stuff. It’s not crazy for them to want to take a relatively safe course on this stuff.

          1. Joey*

            But it is, isn’t it? If you believe in small government employers should be the ones taking the lead on this stuff, not legislators.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote on this in a past thread on a similar topic, because I’m lazy:

              It depends on what your mission is. If your mission is to make the largest profit possible for your shareholders (within legal limits), then it would be irresponsible to permit personal appearance choices that alienated customers. If you’re a nonprofit and your mission is to spread a particular message / change laws / etc., it would be irresponsible to take on a secondary mission of promoting acceptance of tattoos at the expense of your primary goal, unless your donors are aware that they are donating to that cause as well. And so forth. (I once had to tell someone who was an excellent candidate that I wouldn’t be able to hire him unless he was willing to cut his hair, which was about mid-way down his back. I have zero problem with long hair on men, but the question wasn’t my personal preferences, it was the impact on the job/employer. In this case, the job was working on a political campaign that was already saddled with stereotypes about being an issue for liberals/hippies/etc, and the organization was committed to presenting a very mainstream, middle-America, professional image to counter those stereotypes.)

              But I think it’s likely that this will simply change as social norms change. It used to be shocking for women to wear pants, and many offices didn’t allow it. That’s obviously not the case now, because workplaces have followed along with social norms as they’ve evolved. I’d imagine the same will be true with things like shaved heads.

              1. Bwmn*

                Your comments about nonprofits really spoke to me given a place I used to work. It was an organization that provided services to a population that spoke language A and then had to interface with bureaucracy that spoke language B. The organization only hired native speakers of language A to work directly with clients and only hired native speakers of language B to work directly with bureaucracy. The reason was that speaking language A with a B accent (or vise versa) could negatively influence the results.

                Now a secondary mission could have been getting A speakers and B speakers to trust one another more – but as that could have been a completely different and complicated mission, those were the choices made.

              2. Joey*

                Wait. So you don’t want the govt regulating this stuff but at the same time its irresponsibly of companies to want to do the right thing if it interferes with their mission. Doesn’t that perpetuate the idea of taking advantage of every loophole imagineable without regard to ethics and integrity?

                If that’s the case how are these wrongs supposed to be righted?

                1. Joey*

                  I hope you’re not advocating to just sit and wait until it becomes acceptable to hire people only based on job related criteria.

                  When it comes down to it I think its a managers role to push for this stuff if the company’s philosophy isn’t sound.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I personally don’t see the fact that you might not be hired as a receptionist if you choose to have face tattoos or a wildly outside the mainstream hair style as a major injustice that we all need to work to right.

                3. Bwmn*

                  In a perfect world rights could be addressed in their entirety. One right would not have to be valued over another right. But most nonprofits work in a limited scope. They have limited funds and know they work in a space where they can see limited results. Choices are made, and in my organization’s case choices were made by board members representing groups A and B. But if you feel entitled to make a sweeping judgment based on my very limited example – go ahead.

                4. Joey*

                  I would think most people would consider hiring decisions based on looks a pretty big injustice. Too fat, too ugly, too ghetto, too plain, etc all fall in the same boat.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But it’s generally considered reasonable consider professional appearance in hiring decisions. The issue is just how you’re defining professional appearance. (But most people agree it’s reasonable to take appearance choices like slovenly dress into consideration.)

                6. Joey*

                  I don’t know if you’re aware but deciding not to hire someone because of an accent is illegal. Being a non profit isn’t justification to illegally discriminate.

                7. Anon*

                  Wait, hold on. Joey, are you advocating that business should be progressive and advocate for change?

                  Aren’t you the same person who said that marijuana shouldn’t be legal and didn’t think people should advocate for change?

                  But pushing for people to have tattoos at work is ok? Just as long as is it’s something you support I guess…..

                8. Anonymous*

                  To be fair, anon, having a tattoo doesn’t affect other people whatsoever. If there is a dress code from the tattoo’d person’s employer that forbids tattoos because it goes against the image they’re trying to project, that’s one thing, but otherwise there’s nothing that would affect other people in the tattoo’d person’s vicinity.

                  MJ is often smoked. Alcohol shares a lot of the problems with MJ (high vs. drunk, irresponsible use, whatever), but the thing that bothers me the most about MJ is that I can smell it everywhere. I hate the smell, it bothers me, and I can’t avoid it as soon as I leave the house. I’m all for “your body, your choice”, but I admit this part about MJ bothers the hell out of me. If the combustion method for MJ wasn’t so popular I might not be so peeved about it. I wince at how much more of that stuff will be in the air if it becomes legal. At least for alcohol I can’t smell it unless I’m right up in the person’s face.

                  (Tobacco is similar, and I have a similar beef with tobacco. I find the illegality of MJ vs. the legality of tobacco to be completely baffling, but that’s another discussion.)

                9. Joey*


                  I’m for both actually. I just don’t advocate using it while its illegal. And I don’t think its an important enough of an issue to justify using it while its illegal or protesting the consequences if you get busted.

                10. Joey*

                  Anon, I didn’t fully answer you. Yes, I think business should generally be progressive. And I think that if businesses preach less regulation they have the responsibility to show they can and will do their part to solve society’s labor and business problems. When they won’t or say they can’t i think they have no justification to oppose legislation that attempts to fix it.

                11. Anon*

                  Responding to Anonymous at 4:04pm.

                  Let’s take a paragraph from your rant and change the wording from “MJ” to “tattoos”:

                  “but the thing that bothers me the most about [tattoos] is that I can [see them] everywhere. I hate the [sight], it bothers me, and I can’t avoid it as soon as I leave the house. I’m all for “your body, your choice”, but I admit this part about [tattoos] bothers the hell out of me.”

                  Let me clarify that I am not trying to argue whether tattoos should be allowed in the workplace or whether MJ should be legal. I am trying to point out the hypocrisy of Joey’s comment that “hiring decisions based on looks [is] a pretty big injustice” (a practice that is currently legal in most contexts) and we should not “just sit and wait until it becomes acceptable to hire people only based on job related criteria” compared to his feelings that people should not advocate to change MJ laws because “I don’t think its an important enough of an issue to justify using it while its illegal or protesting the consequences if you get busted.”

                12. Joey*

                  Whoa anon,
                  I never said people shouldn’t advocate for the legalization of pot (I think they should). I just don’t think its important enough to advocate for it by breaking the law. There’s a difference. And for the record I’m for legalizing pot.

                  I’m not getting where I’m a hypocrite

                13. Joey*

                  And for the record I think you’re a less effective advocate if you’re a user. I think people who have less of a vested interest in the outcome are more objective. It would be like asking me whether I deserve a raise when I’ve already budgeted for it.

                14. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But that’s like saying that gay people are less effective advocates for gay marriage than straight people, because they have a vested interest in the outcome. Or that librarians aren’t as effective advocates for literacy programs.

                15. Joey*

                  You’re right But those to me are without question the right thing to do. Pot to me isn’t as black and white.

          2. MovingRightAlong*

            I have to disagree here. If a company chooses to reflect society’s prejudices, they are passively advocating an unjust society. While I would support an individual in making a choice to play by the rules (ie. don’t shave your head if you can’t stand to lose your job), I can’t support the company that forced that choice.

            1. fposte*

              But what are we calling “prejudices” and what are we calling “social conventions” here? There’s no logical reason to require somebody to wear a shirt and shoes–are you prepared to support companies that force people’s choices on that?

      1. Graciosa*

        I really don’t see it as defiant, nor do I believe that only long straight hair is professional (I certainly wouldn’t qualify if that were the test!) and that this is somehow tied in to gender discrimination (?). I see it as a style and image choice.

        If we have to have a gender discrimination discussion, maybe we could bring shaving of facial hair into it? I think it was around last November that there was a movement for men not to shave to raise awareness of health concerns. There are some jobs that expect men to present a face to the public that is clearly clean-shaven, so this might be a comparable scenario for discussion purposes (setting aside reasonable religious accommodation for beards for the moment).

        Mind you, I personally had the same reaction to this idea that I had to the raise-money-for-cancer one described by OP#2 – this is not the type of activity that’s going to persuade me to donate money to anything. It strikes me as both useless and silly, but also fairly harmless.

        On the other hand, if an In-and-Out burger restaurant objected to a sudden (non-religious) decision to grow facial hair because employees are required to be clean-shaven, I could understand an image argument from the employer.

        1. Mike C.*

          I don’t find “what about the men” arguments to be particularly convincing because we men don’t have to deal with these issues on the daily basis that women do.

          1. BCW*

            I’ll agree that men, on the whole, aren’t objectified in the same ways. But to say that a company doesn’t care about the appearance of their male employees is ridiculous. There are plenty of hairstyles, colors, piercings, tattoos, etc that a company would have just as much of a problem with a guy having as they would a woman having, especially in a public facing position.

            1. Anonymousss*

              And clothing as well. Do people really think most companies would be okay if their male employees came to work dressed in a skirt or dress?

      1. OP #2*

        Yes, thank you for this.

        In all fairness, I haven’t mentioned it at work yet so obviously don’t feel comfortable lambasting the company. However, I agree with you in theory, and if my boss reacts negatively (without a good reason) I will totally jump on board that train.

        Now that I am equipped with what to say, I will broach the subject and update you guys for sure.

    4. FiveNine*

      When I was an intern in NYC at a magazine, I dyed my hair dark. Not some crayola color, I just wanted to try being a brunette. My manager literally stopped in her tracks, grasped at hear heart area, and then turned around and went into her office, the shock of the overnight change was apparently that much. I’m not making an argument for or against — all I’m saying is, the reality is that a woman overnight shaving her head and going into any kind of office less conservative than journalism is still probably going to cause at least some minor waves.

      1. some1*

        About 5 years ago I had my hair cut from waist-length to chin length and got a similar reaction at work.

      2. Stephanie*

        At OldJob, same thing happened to me. I had like shoulder-length braids and showed up on a Monday with the haircut in my Gravatar. I thought my boss was going to have a heart attack.

        I tried once or twice to explain that like half of the braided hair was fake to no avail.

        1. Jamie*

          I don’t know one woman who has had a drastic hair change (nothing unconventional, just a big change for them) who didn’t deal with the shock and awe at work.

          And weirdly enough – men WAY more than women will comment. A couple of weeks ago I went 2 shades lighter and put some long layers in – only lost a inch or so off the length.

          It was the topic of conversation all day long – and only one woman…men telling me I changed my hair (yes, I was there, but thanks for letting me know), men telling me it looked nice, men telling me it made my face look brighter – men notice hair even more than women do.

          Oh and weird aside, a couple of years ago I started using a new moisturizer and I liked it, but boy was I shocked when two men asked me if I was using different make up because I looked so much brighter and more alert.

          The hell – of course I was half offended because I always assume that telling me I look nice now means I looked like crap before, but I won’t change moisturizers. It works.

          1. CC*

            I think a lot of men have been taught the stereotype that all women, regardless of the relationship between them, will be horribly offended if they don’t notice a haircut or other change in appearance, so they make a point of being seen to say something. Because clearly appearance is the only thing all women care about. Or something?

            (If this was a continuing topic of discussion with the same people repeatedly, as opposed to a day full of single instances, then I’m not sure what’s behind that.)

            1. Jamie*

              That makes a lot of sense. No, a day full of single instances has always been my experience – I work with a lot of men.

              I never thought of it as being social conditioning, but I bet that’s exactly it. Just like while we’re all equals they still stand back to let women go through doors first.

              We’re all creatures of habit.

              1. 22dncr*

                And in my experience working with 200 Mechanics it took them almost a month to figure out I’d changed something about my hair permed and streaked it. Then at another job there were the software Engineers that thought because I’d been wearing my hair up for the summer that I’d cut it all off! Gotta love em.

              2. Anonymous*

                I’m a guy and whenever a woman at my office changes her hairstyle significantly (or gets it colored) I say something once (almost universally “Your hair looks great”).

                I hope that isn’t offensive.

    5. BCW*

      I think you are looking at this very narrowly. There are plenty of companies who also would have problems with men’s appearance. If as a black man with dark hair, I decided to dye my hair platinum blond, and I was the first person people saw, yes, many companies would have a problem with it. I know plenty of places who have limits on how long a guys hair can be. Even the type of facial hair you have can be an issue some places (think a guy not shaving for a month and having a scraggly beard).

      Its not JUST women that companies have an issue with how they look. Also, as people mentioned, depending on your role and how public facing you are, I don’t see it as a problem.

  11. monologue*

    op2, I think you should be able to wear your hair however the f you want at work, but if you’re client facing, I think you should ask your boss and/or review the dress code. When I was younger I used to shave my head, and even now I still wear short haircuts with shaved bits. The first time I shaved my head, I didn’t do it for cancer, I did it because I’m gay and wanted to. I totally lost my first part-time job over it. They knew they couldn’t fire me, so they just took me off the schedule. If you really need this job or can’t get another one quickly, definitely ask your boss first.

  12. books*

    #1 – Probably also depends on level of position. We interviewed 10 for an entry level position, but it was part of a bigger screener. Had three for another position which was looking for a little more experience, and we had winnowed that down from 7 phone screens.

  13. CancerBald*

    This may be an unnecessarily bitchy comment, but …

    I have cancer. I am a woman. I am bald. I wear a wig to work because I got tired of the sympathy/pity in people’s eyes and just wanted to seem “normal”. When I see a woman WITHOUT an illness intentionally go bald, it just seems to me that she is trying to draw attention or sympathy. Most people who see her will assume she is ill.

    When I first lost my hair, my daughter wanted to shave her head in solidarity. I did NOT want her to do this; the last thing I want to do is imagine someone I love with this horrible disease too. Your intentions are good, and I hope your fundraising goes well – is this for St Baldricks? – but I think there are better ways to go about it.

    1. Windchime*

      Thank you for sharing your perspective. I haven’t ever thought of it this way; I’m sure the last thing that these well-meaning individuals would want is to cause pain to those they are trying to help or support. It’s good to see it from the other side. I wish you well in your recovery.

    2. OP #2*

      No, it is actually for an Australian organisation called the Leukaemia Foundation.

      I didn’t find this bitchy at all, by the way.

      Honestly, I don’t really have any other response expect to say that I appreciate hearing your perspective. It is definitely one for me to think about and be aware of so thank you for sharing it.

      All the best for yourself and your family.

      1. BadPlanning*

        I think you’re in for an interesting personal social experiment!

        At my job, if I were to shave my head, I would warn my coworkers just so they didn’t have heart attacks from surprise (I am female and have long hair) when I came in sans hair.

  14. Brett*

    #1 I think of the candidate selection process like the peloton in the Tour de France. If the peloton is stretched out with noticeable gaps, then you end up with different times for different riders and you can break the apart.

    If there are no gaps though, then the entire peloton gets the same time even though the first rider is, in reality, considerably ahead of the last rider. That is how it is with interview candidates. If there is no definable cut line, then gives you enough candidates, then you end up accepting a peloton of candidates who have some variation from top to bottom, but not enough to make a clear cut.

    This goes double in the public sector, where often a clear legally defensible cut line is mandatory to exclude candidates from the first round of in-person interviews.

  15. Just a Reader*

    #2 a noble cause for sure, but if you’re a student, you are probably going to be thought of as the woman who shaved her head first, and for your work second.

    Does it suck that people care what a woman’s hair looks like? Yes. Is it a reality of today’s workplace? Yes.

    There are so many other ways to raise money. Just my 2 cents.

  16. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – your story breaks my heart. From where I sit (which is admittedly probably a very skewed place) it sounds like you’re trying really hard to balance workplace obligations with your family ones, and not really getting any recognition for that.

    Can you go back to your manager and ask for more specific insight into what good “informal interactions” with coworkers would look like? What is it he wants you to be doing that you’re not doing? Is the problem that you’re working through lunch instead of socializing with coworkers?

    Maybe it would help if you gave your manager some idea of when the situation might improve, if you have any idea. He might have thought this was just going to be a short term issue and doesn’t understand why it’s still going on.

    I’m sorry you’re in this situation between work and family – it sounds very tough. If you can’t get resolution at work you might want to look elsewhere.

    1. Just a Reader*

      This is good advice. The OP may be plowing through his work and not picking his head up to talk to people in a place where socialization is valued.

      That was me in my last job. I had a lot to do, didn’t want to work late, and taking 1+ hours out of my day for a stupid ice cream social wasn’t happening.

      I kept getting complimented on my work and reprimanded for not being social/approachable enough.

      The job I have now is different–everyone sweats 9-5 and then we all go home. The end. It’s a friendly workplace, people have coffee together, etc. but the value is placed on the work and not the face time.

      Maybe a change of culture is in order.

  17. Jessica*

    #2. I’ve seen a few comments urging OP #2 to reconsider shaving her head to raise money and suggesting that she look into other fundraising events to raise money. I think it is unfair to assume that the OP didn’t already think very hard about this specific fundraising event and charity and that she didn’t already look into other events to raise money. As OP #2 says in a thread at the beginning, this particular charity helped her family during a difficult time and she wants to give back. I think it’s unfair to judge the way she decides to go about giving back and I think it is unfair to assume that she didn’t think it through enough.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      It’s been interesting to me because I didn’t really know people had such strong feelings about it!

      I think cancer charities in general evoke strong reactions

    2. some1*

      I don’t have an issue with the LW’s choice, I just have an issue with any charity that expects people to raise money by doing something they otherwise wouldn’t. “Yeah, I know cancer/heart disease/MS/AIDs is terrible, but I’ll only give a donation if someone shaves their head, runs a marathon, or changes their FB profile to the org’s logo for two weeks.”

      1. Cat*

        I think it’s more complicated than that, though – people aren’t like “oh, I didn’t care about this, but I’ll pay for so-and-so to run a marathon!” It’s more subtle than that; a combination of “oh, this is a good cause among many good causes, and it’s also clearly important to someone I know, who is making a point to bring it to my attention through this personal sacrifice, so maybe this is a good place to put my money.”

        And, in the end, a donation is a donation regardless of the motives.

        1. Elsajeni*

          It also often means that there’s a specific goal you can help someone work toward (they might have a target number, or maybe you’re donating via their personal donation page and making their stats go up vs. just donating through the organization’s website, or whatever), and that the person doing the fundraising feels less like they’re begging from their friends because they’re actually doing something in exchange for that money.

      2. Xay*

        The point is to raise visibility of the cause and a key part of that is asking people to do something they ordinarily wouldn’t. Most charities and non-profit groups do this in some form or fashion – case in point, every color in the rainbow has been grabbed by one group or another for awareness ribbons. I don’t really see the problem with this – sometimes you have to market your cause to raise awareness and funds.

  18. Yup*

    #3 Do their comments reflect the culture of the firm? It sounds to me like you’ve been doing all the right things (meeting your obligations, communicating with your boss, coming up with solutions). So I wonder if the management is one of those rigid, everyone-in-lock-step corporate cultures where you’re expected to show up pressed and polished at 7 am even if you have a bleeding head wound sustained from the hurricane that’s whirling outside. If that is in fact their outlook, then unfortunately you’re probably being penalized for being human in an automaton culture.

    But they seem pretty open to other employees who have health concerns, family considerations, etc., then it might be a matter of the upper level bosses not being aware of your arrangements with your boss. If that’s the case, then you could present it as, “Boss, I’m concerned that Director A and Director C are getting a negative impression of me as a result of the personal demands on my schedule. Is there anything I can do to show them that I’m committed to the work and making good use of the accommodations you’ve provided?” Also – make sure there’s documentation of praise for your work from colleagues or clients. Be sure that complimentary emails etc make it to your boss (either as part of your review or elsewhere) so that multiple parties are expressing their delight at your ongoing awesomeness.

  19. AmyNYC*

    #5 – Most people are understanding and perfectly fine with withdrawing but I’ve had one potential employer take it really personally.
    I could tell during the interview this wasn’t the job for me, and emailed when I got home. I have three or for back and forth emails from the employer telling me how I was making a mistake not accepting their offer and was derailing my whole career. Fun.

    1. some1*

      It really sounds like a Win-win to politely withdraw from the process. Reasonable employers will appreciate your courtesy, and the unreasonable ones will cement your decision that they aren’t someone you want to work for (though it sucks that you had to deal with that email attack.)

    2. 22dncr*

      Egad AmyNYC – I had one of those too! Totally rejected me for a previous job and then contacted me for a very similar new one. When I told him I didn’t think I’d fit because I didn’t last time (thinking I was doing him a favor pointing this out) he went off. After 4 exchanges I realized he was one of those that HAVE to have the last word so I made sure I did (; Took 3 more emails but I nailed it. This was the HR head too! Could only imagine what it would be like working there and having to deal with him.

    3. Colette*

      Looks like you dodged a bullet there. But one picky point – there didn’t need to be a back and forth. After you withdraw, they can only argue if you argue back. Withdraw, then don’t respond to any negative e-mails telling you you’re making a mistake.

      1. 22dncr*

        Colette – appreciate the thought but you didn’t see the emails. Yes, I did have to respond because of the industry and area. Not responding would have potentially hurt me more long term. It just got to the point where it became obvious he was reaching and just wanted the last word.

      2. AmyNYC*

        I was trying very hard to reply just with “thanks for the advice, but I’m really sure this isn’t the right company for me” Lather, rinse, repeat.

  20. Sascha*

    OP #5 – I wanted to say thanks for actually taking the effort and thought to withdraw from the process! As someone who does hiring, I greatly appreciate it when a candidate sends a nice email to say they have reconsidered and are withdrawing. I’ve encountered a lot of people who just drop off the radar when they decide the position isn’t for them, and we’re stuck with days of trying to get in touch with candidates and figuring out if we should still consider them. In a few instances, my boss (the actual hiring manager) has called people to verbally offer them the job, they asked for a few days to think about it, then disappeared completely. So please don’t feel guilty – your desire to communicate this is appreciated and the right thing to do.

  21. Dave*

    I am curious why you state that “Smart managers will do phone interviews before those.” I like to skip the phone interview as many people (across experience levels) do not seem to interview as well on the phone as they do in person. I would rather bring a marginal candidate in and be sure of them than eliminate a perfectly good candidate because they sound odd over the phone. All this is based on very limited hiring experience, but the approach seems to work for me.

    1. Just a Reader*

      Phone interviews can help you vet skills and experience. you can remove the personal element if you want to. But you don’t want to get someone in for a management interview and find out that “managed back-end processes and team work product” means checking the burger to make sure it has mustard on it before he/she hands it over the counter.

    2. Joey*

      Well I look at it this way. I use phone interviews to determine who on the surface looks like they will be best able to DO the job in my environment. I would never want to waste anyone’s time with an in person if there’s a basic reason the person can’t do the job whether its a missing skill, salary, whatever. I only bring in people who I’m reasonably confident could DO the job in my environment. Then the in person becomes more about details and who is going to compliment the team the best.

    3. Yup*

      As a candidate, what I like about phone interviews is the opportunity to find out about any show-stoppers before moving any further in the process. Finding out that the job is actually located in suburb B instead of city A, or is commission-based rather than salaried, or requires a lot of travel that wasn’t clear in the posting, and so forth.

      1. some1*

        Truth. I went to a first interview that was in-person only to find out that the role would have been a step-down for me.

    4. some1*

      I think you can eliminate the “phone awkwardness” by scheduling the phone interview in advance. If the candidate has notice and time to prepare and they are still awkward on the phone, either you aren’t a good interviewer or they aren’t good at interviewing.

      1. Joey*

        I do it slightly different. I offer the choice of doing the phone screen now if the person has time or scheduling it for later.

    5. Joey*

      The problem with not doing phone interviews is that you’ll find yourself doing many more in person interviews that could have been avoided with a few basic questions over the phone.

    6. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because it saves a huge amount of time for you and the candidate. You can find out in 15 minutes if there are obvious deal-breakers before spending an hour with them (and before they take time off work and go through the stress of preparing for an interview, only to discover fairly quickly that it’s not a good fit).

      1. Stephanie*

        Ugh, this. I got called into an in-person interview for the first round, only to drive an hour to find out the job was a terrible fit. The interview ended up lasting all of 20 minutes because we both realized how horrible of a fit it was.

        1. Dan*

          Were you employed at the time? I’ve found that when I’ve searched while unemployed and no offers on the table, I’m not picky during the phone process.

          1. Stephanie*

            Nope! Which is why I found myself driving across the metro area to do this.

            But still didn’t change my mind that I should have had at least a perfunctory phone screen to actually confirm I could do all the specific manufacturing processes they wanted (or that they could indicate they were willing to train me).

            Making it worse, my eyeglasses snapped in half while I was driving to the interview (I was switching to sunglasses for driving). I’ve got a pretty strong prescription (around -8.00D in both eyes), so I’m pretty much blind without my glasses. I didn’t want to have some Hangover Chic look and do an entire interview in sunglasses (or squint the entire time), so I had to call to reschedule so I could get my backup pair.

            So…there was all that drama for me to show up and find out I wasn’t what they wanted. I feel like a lot of hassle (on everyone’s part) could have been saved could have been avoided if they just did a phone screen to confirm that they really wanted someone that didn’t require a ton of training.

            1. Dan*

              I’m a mathematician, and one of the things that I keep forgetting is that the standard deviation for employment experiences in my field is rather low. I mean, they’re almost all the same, and when I have offers to choose from, it’s between good and pretty good. Or I’m being really picky about certain things. In my niche, all pay is “about the same.” Sure, there’s going to be a difference of a few $k, but it won’t be wide. Both times I was on the market, the two offers I got were within $2500 of each other. Oddly enough, my current employer is a non-profit, and actually pays better than the for-profit competitor that I turned down, and another one that I got laid off from.

              Compare that to the legal field where one can make $30k or $130k with the same credentials and experience.

              So yeah, for me the phone is rarely going to tell me that something is a complete waste of time.

        2. HR Courtesy*

          Yes! For phone interviews. When I’m wearing the recruiter cap I use this time and method to clarify and expand on the position and note anything that could be the deal breaker. This is essentially more screening than interviewing and assures the hiring managers have the best fit in front of them.

          A recent job I filled involved a 6:30 AM start time, great for some, a deal breaker for others. There was also some B2B collections, a potential stopper too. And yes, I do schedule the phone calls ahead of time.

      2. Dan*

        At my last job, I had a quick phone screen with the HR person. It was *really* quick.

        The next thing I know, they’re asking me to *fly out* for a face-to-face, without even a phone call with the hiring manager. I had no jo at the time, so I was all for it, but I was still a bit un-nerved that they didn’t want to call me first. Now, I should say that I had a domain background that the company really, really liked to see in applicants but didn’t find nearly as often as they liked.

        I did ask the manager why he didn’t call me. He told me that with my resume, there was very little that would have caused him to NOT bring me in for the face to face, so he didn’t want to waste the time.

        And TBH, without a job (and no offers on the table either) I’m not sure what I would have learned from that conversation that would have caused to decline a face-to-face either.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That’s a hiring manager who has never had the experience of seeing a fantastic resume, calling the person, and learning that they have a major interpersonal deal-breaker (like an inability to answer direct questions, apparent insanity, or so forth).

          1. Dan*

            Well, I guess I should have said that I met one of their analysts at a conference and chatted for about 15 minutes, so that probably waived the need for them to screen out the major stuff over the phone.

            And I tend to work with a lot of PhDs who don’t know how to get to the point quickly (ie answer direct questions) and have enough personality quirks that we’d have nobody on staff if we screened on that basis :)

  22. A Jane*

    #5 – After my first in-person interview at a company, I also debated removing myself from interview pool from a culture & fit perspective. I decided to not send anything as I figured that I haven’t been in enough in-person interviews, so my perspective of things may be off.

  23. R*

    OP #2 – I am a St.Baldrick’s shavee as well, in 2012 and again this year. The first time, I let my clients know (I was consulting with elementary schools at the time) and I was surprised by how supportive they were. I was even more nervous this time, as a new faculty member, but again, positive response when I explained both the reason and the specific charity. The shaving event is a blast, and I am glad I participated, but I have never felt real attached to my hair, and have almost always worn it short. They were thankful for the heads up. Be prepared for people to think you’ve been ill when your hair starts to grow in, and buy a cute hat.

    The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long, healthy lives. They have already raised $1 million this calendar year , and nearly 80% of funds raised goes to programming (Charity Navigator gives them a 59.7/70). I am not a pink ribbon kind of person, but St. Baldricks is an excellent example of a volunteer nonprofit.

  24. OP #3*

    Hey all, thanks for the comments! A bit of updating:

    – My review and scores from my direct supervisor were very good, it’s just the one that director stuck in there that stunk. Come to find out she gave a similar comment to several people, even going as far as telling some people who to eat lunch with. Unfortunatly I was the only one to have my family mentioned. Either way, I often communicate informally with my co-workers, I just can’t have lunch with them. I’m just going to let it go.

    – The other situation got interesting. I felt a responsibility to call all my volunteers and thank them for working the event and to apologize if it seemed I wasn’t myself that day. I got nothing but positive feedback. Then I spoke with my manager about it and he hit the roof. He wasn’t told about my meeting and wasn’t invited to it. He said I did great work and didn’t hear complaints from anyone, and he can produce several people who agree with him. In fact, he brought up an example where I was helping with the auction check in: an elderly woman came to sign in and I greeted her and said, “Ok your auction number is 92 for your birth year…have fun, young lady!” and she laughed and thanked me. My manager went to speak with the directors, both of whom came to the event several hours late and only stayed for about 30 minutes. The following day one of the directors caught up with me in the hall and said, “We discussed our meeting and we feel the real issue is that you didn’t bring in enough items for the auction.” I produced documentation that showed I brought in the 2nd most in the whole organization (2nd to my manager) and told her, “Maybe you guys need to decide what, for sure, to criticize me on, since it’s been changing daily. I have shown that I’ve worked hard on this project.” She replied, “Yes, and we realize that.” I indicated that’s not the impression I got and it never came up again.

    I do have intermittent FMLA, but my employer has a pretty clear unwritten rule that you don’t miss events under any circumstance.

    The sad thing is, I work for a healthcare provider. I can’t imagine how they treat families. Needless to say I’m job hunting!

    1. IndieGir*

      Thanks for the update — that clarifies a lot! It sounds like you are doing a great job and that there is just one evil nitwit who needs to have the stick surgically removed from her nether regions. It sounds like you handled it brilliantly and professionally.

      I’m not at all surprised to hear this is a healthcare provider — someone I love works for a healthcare provider, and it seems like the industry standard there is to treat their employees like crap. One of his co-workers was hospitalized with the flu and was still required to work on medical records from his hospital bed because it was still his turn on call and there was no on there to cover for him. . .

      1. Us, Too*

        It doesn’t sound like just one person. OP refers to 2 directors calling him into a meeting. There is something systemic going on here and I’d worry that OP is being blacklisted or singled out for some reason that they can’t disclose (hence the absurd, non-factual allegations being lobbed at him).

        I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist, but something is amiss here.

    2. AnonHR*

      Glad you hear you have the backing of your direct manager. While a job hunt is probably in order considering how ridiculous the upper management is being, that kind of support from your boss can be very valuable, and it may be worth considering sticking it out if you will likely continue to need the leave you have under FMLA, which you wouldn’t be eligible for at a new job for a year. Either way, all the best to you!

      1. Dan*

        I got laid off two months ago. My immediate project lead was never consulted, and the manager above him fought and fought. (The PL would have fought like heck, too.)

        Point is, some decisions are made so high it just doesn’t matter who is going to fight for you.

        And when asked why I was laid off, management had a different BS answer depending on who asked.

        Not like I cared that much… company was going downhill, and I effectively got a 22% raise by jumping ship.

        1. Ruffingit*

          This is a good point. Unless the person fighting for you has CEO or owner after their name, it often doesn’t matter if the higher-ups want you out.

    3. Us, Too*

      I would be job hunting as well. It sounds like your boss is happy with your performance, but that the people above/lateral to him have some mystery issue with you or your performance. That kind of disconnect is typically not good for your long term career options at that org. :(

    4. Us, Too*

      I just can’t seem to let this go in my mind. This is just so strange. Have you had any kind of personality conflicts with your critics? Also, what has your boss done now that he realizes this is happening to you?

  25. Lily in NYC*

    #2 – Just show up shaved and tell them you had a massive lice infection. I guess I’m kidding.

    #4 – Alison was very diplomatic with her response and you are being petty.

    1. Vancouver Reader*

      You may feel that #4 is being petty, but it’s a very normal reaction. There’s a book called “The Joy of Pain” which talks about schadenfreude which is what the OP’s feeling.

  26. anon-2*

    Yes, people do shave their heads for cancer awareness, to solicit pledges, and so forth.

    Rather than shave my head, my wife and I volunteer to work a major event for a cancer research/tertiary care hospital. I take a vacation day and we do that. The staff and my manager is aware that we’re doing that.

    I let it sit at that. And I privately make a contribution. I try NOT to bring it into the office, because they have enough causes that they’re supporting.

    But please don’t scoff at these efforts by people, OK?

  27. AB Normal*

    LW #3: Based on your examples of things you got criticized for, I think that in your case it does make sense to “bring family” into the matter.

    Here are some suggestions that might help, if you decide it’s worth to stay at your current company and improve the situation:

    1) From time to time, invite some coworkers for a quick coffee break, so you can interact “informally” with them like your manager expects. Mention it’s a pity you are never available for lunch, and without getting into too much detail, the reason why.

    2) When you have to be in an event and are feeling tired, or have to arrive late or leave early because of family issues, make sure you briefly mention the situation, and apologize. “I’m sorry for not seeming very energetic today; I just came from the hospital where my son is staying. It’s all under control, but a sleepless night can definitely take a toll!”

    (I’m assuming most people aren’t aware of your situation, and bringing it up in a quick mention could go a long way toward creating goodwill among colleagues and managers. It will clarify that you appearing unengaged is not because you don’t care, but rather because circumstances cause you to be less available for social interactions than others are.)

  28. Ruffingit*

    I may get flamed for this, but here goes:

    We (general we, not necessarily people here) often turn on employers as being unfeeling asshats in situations such as OP #3 describes, but I just want to say that employers (and I am not one, just a regular old minion here) have needs and things they must accomplish. Sometimes those things just don’t mesh with the personal issues of the employees, in which case the employee needs to think about making a change rather than asking the employer to accept the problem and deal with it. Short-term issue, sure. But in OP #3’s case, he has a child with a severe birth defect and it sounds like that’s going to be an on-going thing. How much can you ask your employer to deal with there before you have to say this just isn’t working out?

    Also, while the OP might want to be with the child in the hospital (and this is where I may get flamed), if he knows that he has a big work event the next day, go home and get some sleep so you can do the job that’s supporting the family. It’s one thing if the child is on his death bed, but it’s quite another if he’s in the hospital and will be there for awhile. I’ve been with both my parents through serious, long illnesses and several hospital stays, but I still had to manage my employment so I could provide for myself. Sometimes that meant going home from the hospital so I could be ready for work the next day.

    So yeah, putting on flame retardant suit here, but it seems to me OP #3 needs to be looking at a longer-term solution here that involves switching jobs to something more flexible rather than asking if his employers are being fair.

  29. Anonymous*

    OP#2, a variation might be to draft an all-dept/all staff email alerting everyone to the fact that you will be shaving your head as part of cancer support program (perhaps adding that this one helped your family) & take that to your boss to confirm that it passes muster & doesn’t violate the no solicitations rule. Let your questions be about how best to communicate it ahead of time, so folks aren’t caught unaware or concerned about your own health. Let your boss bring up any “image” concerns about your doing it. And I’m glad to hear you’re doing this in your summer; it’d be less comfortable in serious winter weather.

    1. Tinker*

      ” it’d be less comfortable in serious winter weather.”


      I kind of accidentally shaved my head a couple weeks ago — usually cut it with clippers anyway, hence one would guess correctly that it’s already pretty short, aaaaaand… forgot to put the guard on and shaved a skunk stripe up the back of my head.

      When one has done that, pretty much the only viable alternative is to make like Sheryl Sandberg and “lean in”. So I’ve been rocking the mostly entirely bald look lately, at about the same time that the temperatures around here have taken a MAJOR dive. Oops.

      I love my hats. Love love love hat.

      Anyway, I sure as heck did not send out a department wide email explaining that I shaved my head as a tribute to the absent-minded. A couple people commented, I delivered explanation per above in tones of humorous anecdote, issue done.

      Of course, this sort of thing is not so far out of my already established persona, and I work in an infamously indifferent environment regarding such things, but even still I’m kind of “eh” about treating the length of one’s hair as something one has to explain at great… well, length. “Yep, shaved my head for charity.”

    2. OP #2*

      Thanks. This is definitely worth considering, particularly the parts about framing my approach to my boss in terms of communication, and also ensuring that others aren’t caught unawares / don’t develop misplaced concerns.

      I don’t think that I would actually send out an all-staff email but even just mentioning it in a low-key way around the office a few times behorehand would probably do the trick.

      Also, agreed about it not being in winter! Though, Australia never really gets that cold anyway.

  30. Joe05*

    The question about shaving your head really struck a chord. I am a guy with pretty long hair, but when it’s time for a haircut I just shave it off and let it all grow back. Maybe this is an affectation on my part, but whatever, it’s what I’ve done for 10 years.

    I have never really given much thought to how this looks at work. I have a very public-facing job but I don’t think my hairstyle makes that much of a difference. It’s not like I am surgically removing my nose; I’m just getting a perfectly normal buzz cut.

  31. Joe*

    What bothers me, and strikes me as really odd, why do good businesses purchase and maintain the best resources to get the job done, but fail to see that employees, as human beings, have physical and emotional needs. Almost every person will face tragedy and sickness yet we allow our businesses to treat us, employees, like robots. Management are human beings so why the hold others to ridiculous standards is beyond me.

    It’s like hunger games every day, yet we all die and suffer more or less based on how we treat one another.

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