should I have to pay for a networking meeting, my job isn’t what I was promised it would be, and more

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

1. My contact wants to charge me for a networking meeting

Is it normal for someone to charge a client for a networking meeting? I’m currently in the process of looking for a new job and setting up informational interviews with professionals in my chosen area. I emailed back and forth with one particular woman trying to set a time to meet, but kept getting responses from her that we needed to reschedule.

As a compromise, we agreed that I should email her my questions. I sent some typical questions I would ask anyone I meet for an info interview (volunteer opportunities, organizations to recommend, other people I should connect with). In response, I received an email from her saying that once again we would have to reschedule. In addition, she stated that because of her limited time, the only way for her to fit these kind of conversations in would be to charge for them.

Am I overreacting in thinking she should have been more upfront about this? I understand that time and information is valuable, but this is the first time I’ve encountered this request in (what I thought) was a more informal setting.

What! No, it’s not normal to charge for networking meetings! Some consultants do charge to spend some time picking their brains, but it’s rare for it to be for this kind of thing — and when that’s the case, it’s stated up-front; it shouldn’t only come out after multiple rescheduled plans to meet. I’d strongly suspect that she doesn’t actually normally charge for this (which is why she didn’t mention it earlier), but she mentioned it in a moment of frustration from feeling stretched too thin. But that frustration isn’t in any way your fault (from what I can see here); if she didn’t want to meet, she should have just told you that originally, or backed out apologetically once she did realize it. Announcing at this stage that oh, by the way, she’d be charging you for a meeting you quite reasonably thought was free is ridiculous.

2. My job isn’t what I was promised it would be

When I was hired for my current position, I was told my it would be mostly writing with some administrative duties. In reality, the job is minimal writing except for tasks that I’ve taken the initiative to come up with myself and mostly administrative…except it feels more like data entry than anything else. My boss is also a micromanager who wants extraneous information just for the sake of having it, which makes my job even more tedious.

When I was applying for jobs (right out of college), I had several other offers, but took this one based on the information I was given, which was for the most part inaccurate. I’ve become bitter and am beginning to lose my patience, but can’t quit as I have rent and other responsibilities. Is there anything I can do? I am actively looking for another job, but for the time being can I speak to my boss about the discrepancies and my unhappiness with the role?

Sure. I’d say something like this: “When I was hired for this job, we talked about it being most writing, with some admin duties. So far, the job has been about 90% admin without much writing. Can we talk about what changed, and whether there’s a way to reshape my work to look more like what we initially talked about?”

As always with these sorts of conversations, you will get the best results if your tone is calm and you don’t sound frustrated or angry. You want to sound concerned and in problem-solving mode, but not in complaint mode. Not that you’re not entitled to be frustrated; you are. But you’ll get better results this way.

3. I’m friends with the vendor who my coworkers badmouth

How do you handle coworkers bad mouthing a vendor for our office whom I am friends with? They all know this person is my friend (out of the office) yet they make comments like, “he’s an idiot,” or “when is his contract over with us?” All I can do is walk out of the room. At one time, it happened during a staff meeting and I had to sit and listen to them say these things. What can I say? Or do you have a better solution than to walk away?

Well, can you honestly present a different point of view? Or is their assessment pretty much accurate? If it’s basically accurate, there’s not much you can or should do; it’s awkward because he’s your friend, but they’re entitled to think poorly of his work. But if you think you have insight that would give them a different perspective, you could say that — like, “You know, I know he talks a lot and can be hard to get off the phone, but he’s actually really responsive to questions and has really been helpful to me in XYZ” or whatever.

4. Can you be fired for working while off the clock?

I work with a long-time (45 years) associate in retail in a large chain store in California. My fellow coworker clocked out for lunch, following the 5-hour rule that our company has, but stayed on the floor doing some recovery while waiting for a customer to return who she had been assisting for more than an hour. Our department manager approached her and asked what she was doing, and she explained the situation — that she wasn’t helping at the register and was doing some straightening while awaiting her customer so she could finish the sale with him. Our manager returned shortly, asked her to accompany him to the stockroom, and told her that it was a “final warning” that she can’t work through lunch. She took this to mean that she would be fired for this. Is it grounds for termination in California for working while clocked out?

Yes, absolutely. (And keep in mind you don’t need specific grounds for termination; you just can’t fire someone for a reason that’s explicitly illegal, like their race or in retaliation for reporting harassment.)

The reason that working while you’re clocked out is serious is that companies are required by law to pay you for all the time you spend working, whether you’re clocked in or not. And if it goes over 40 hours in a week, they must pay you overtime — again, whether you’re clocked in or not. You can’t waive that right. And if your coworker later decided to sue for back wages for the time she spent working while clocked out, she would win and your employer would be fined. So it’s entirely reasonable that they’re serious about making sure that people don’t work while clocked out — they can get in a lot of trouble over it otherwise.

Giving her a final warning over it is an overreaction, though, unless she’s been warned about this in the past (and maybe she has been).

5. Standing desks and meetings

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the new science relating major health issues (mortality, cancer, obesity, back pain, heart disease and fuzzy thinking, etc.) to sitting for many hours a day. I recently reconfigured my desk so that I can stand at it. Still, I am an outlier in my organization and feel a bit uncomfortable, especially when people come to meet with me in my office. Do you have any suggestions for how to still be seen as “professional” in an office desk job setting, while also minimizing sitting for my own health and well-being?

I want to tell you to just keep standing, but I can see how it could potentially create a weird dynamic if you’re towering over someone, particularly during a long conversation. Sitting down for short meetings with others is one option, obviously, but that might defeat the point, so I’m hoping readers will leave other thoughts in the comments section.

{ 213 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    #4: Also, keep in mind that the “5 hour rule” you reference isn’t your companies; it is state law. They have to have you take a lunch break within 5 hours of the start of the workday or else can face penalties of upwards of $200 per pay period per employee.

      1. fposte*

        Ah, I see what you’re saying. What that seems to say, though, is that it’s not the employer’s job to make sure the employee takes a lunch break–but that the employee still must be paid if they’re working and not lunching. The OP’s co-worker was working off the clock–that’s the problem.

    1. Legal jobs*

      My last post In Moderation .so, let me try …

      I don’t think that’s the state of the law after some 2012 decisions

      1. fposte*

        It got more strictly interpreted–you have to be working over six hours to be entitled to it–but it’s still there.

      2. Anonymous*

        The law is still intact; the first meal break must begin within five hours of starting the shift, unless the shift can be completed in six hours. The good news for employers with that 2012 decision, however, is that employers do not need to police employees to make sure they are taking breaks.

    2. Sunflower*

      It sounds like your store works on commission which these laws can make it difficult for certain employees. Maybe your company can come up with some sort of method so if employees are required to go on breaks in the middle of a sale, they can still get credit for it. A lot of the time associates ask me if anyone was helping me out. Maybe you can come up with some sort of system like that so people can still get credit for the sales and not break any laws?

      1. Kelly*

        From past retail experience, it does sound like a partially commission based environment. It could also be a very competitive and shark-like person as well.

        I didn’t work in a commission-based area and I’m glad for that. I don’t think that you are as honest with a person about both the pluses and negatives of a product if you depend on commission. You sell them on the benefits while downplaying the negatives to make the sale. I also think it discourages teamwork and the less attractive and lucractive, but still just as important tasks like straightening and restocking don’t get done as willingly.

      2. KM*

        That’s what it sounds like to me, too — like she didn’t want to be forced onto break before she could close the sale, but she had to clock out because it had been five hours. If the law says she has to break at exactly five hours, then I agree that store policies should ensure somehow that salespeople still get a commission if that happens.

        1. Lynne*

          The associate this incidence references is not on commission, and works hourly like myself. She was just practicing good customer service which she does by nature, and of course, at the urging of our employer. The customer indicated they would return to her as they had made a “connection”, part of the “magic selling” technique taught by our employer. She would have been able to request another associate ring the sale for her, but she is very professional, and it’s just not her way. Our employer had previously (prior to the 2012 ruling) paid employees one hour of their wage if we passed the 5 hour mark before taking lunch, it was a huge deal if we went over. They do not do that anymore, so it is now rarely even mentioned by management, and there is now a much more detailed schedule that prints out specific break and lunch times…most likely to cover themselves due to this issue.

          1. KrisL*

            The tough part is having to mix the great customer service attitude with the laws that were actually probably put in place so that people in her type of position would get a break.

  2. Turanga Leela*

    #5: Use a standing desk for solo work and keep chairs or a couch in the room for when people come in to meet with you–don’t feel pressure to be at your desk when people come by. I worked with a guy who had this setup, and it was totally fine and non-awkward. The amount of time you actually spend standing will depend on how often you have meetings, but it should cut down on your sitting time.

    Also, I’ve heard of people doing “walking meetings” to get away from sitting, but I don’t know anyone who actually does this.

    1. Revanche*

      I’ve done walking meetings with my staff, when it’s just a catching up/one-on-one type of situation, and it’s actually pretty nice. I usually didn’t do more than a couple a day but it worked well for a limited sort of discussion.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        My job is essentially meeting with people (external from my organization). I tried doing walking meetings, but I realized that then you can’t conrol how long the meeting will be: it’s around the lake, or out and back. Also, I definitely can’t focus nearly as well – and can’t take notes. Ugh. I love the idea but it’s never going to work for me.

        1. Jamie*

          This would never work for me, either. The vast majority of my meetings consist of referring to data, specing out issues, etc.

          I don’t have meetings where they are just discussions you can have while strolling. And tbh if someone suggested this for a meeting with me I’d refuse for the reasons mentioned above and I would question their understanding of the purpose of the meeting.

          1. Judy*

            I could only see that for more of a monthly face to face catchup meeting with a manager, not for any project related meetings. My manager schedules 30 minutes once a month with no agenda with each of his employees. More of a “So, how’s everything going?” time.

    2. LAI*

      If you have enough room in your office, can you put a second small table together with your desk in an L? My boss has this setup. Her monitor is on one table and that’s where she works standing up. If someone comes in for a meeting, she can just turn 90 degrees to the other table and pull up a chair to sit with them.

    3. Rayner*

      At my work here in Finland, many of the staff also have this set up – I can think of three off the top of my head that I work with in close association who have an L shaped set up, and some seats in the corner as well, just to make it easier to have a discussion with them. They also have a saddle stool in case they get tired of standing but don’t want to sit all the way down.

      It’s totally cool, and it actually helps keeps interruptions to a minimum – people don’t seem to think they should linger and chat when when you’re talking while standing as opposed to talking while sitting. It’s a pretty neat side effect, because the people who do need to talk to you will take the time to sit in chairs, and talk that way, but long chats will be less likely to happen.

    4. AmyNYC*

      Ah, the “West Wing” style “Walk and Talks”

      As an aside, I finished House of Cards last night. HOLY CRAP. It’s like the West Wing but with sociopaths.

      1. Windchime*

        I’m about halfway through the second season and yes, it’s chilling. West Wing with Sociopaths describes it perfectly.

    5. smallbutmighty*

      My team does walking meetings! I love them. If we are just doing a kind of catch-up, we’ll walk and talk. If we are talking about something substantive while we’re walking, I’ll sometimes ask the person I’m meeting with if it’s OK if I record a voice memo on my phone so I can go back and listen to our meeting and transcribe notes. They’ve always been fine with this.

      I used to go trail running with a guy who was an independent computer consultant, and he’d carry his phone and take calls while he ran. He would do tech support in the middle of a ten-miler in Forest Park. It was crazy. “OK, now I want you to click the ‘not now’ option in the dialogue box, right-click, and choose ‘preferences.’ Now uncheck the LAN box and enter the following eight digits in the . . . ” He was a terrific running partner, knew EVERYTHING about computers, and freely admitted that taking calls on the run was weird and would be potentially irritating to a lot of running partners. I always found the whole thing pretty entertaining.

      1. The IT Manager*

        It does not need a destination mind like that. It can be a walk around the building, block, etc. But basically you say, let’s walk while we talk. Obviously it needs to be a topic where you don’t need or take notes and it works best for two or three people where they can easily hear each other while walking and not facing each other. It can be something that is formally planed to be a walking meeting.

        Alot of times if you plan to meet at the coffee shop, you won;t start the work portion until you get there.

        Sci fi cons are starting to do something like this where fans can sign up for a walking meeting with their favorite author. I think that is usually larger groups than one-on-one in those case.

        1. Sara M*

          Ha! Nice to see someone else who goes to cons. :)

          I never do Strolling With the Stars because I won’t get up that early. But they keep asking me. (I’m a pro.)

    6. themmases*

      I think this is the right approach. Just because sitting all day is bad for you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sit at all throughout the day or take breaks, and talking with colleagues can be a good time for that. Just ask anyone who’s worked retail– standing all day, even with a mat, can also be bad for your back and feet. No one should feel pressure to stand all day, every day at a desk– certainly not with the idea that it’s healthier to do that than to take sitting breaks from time to time.

    7. RG*

      I have a standing desk (which I love and has changed the way I feel about work in general) and I am an outlier, too. I keep a chair for myself nearby in addition to my guest chair. I’ve never had a problem – the people in my office are accustomed to my standing and it really doesn’t come up, other than the people who have questions about what it’s like to stand all day. In fact, most people who drop by stand with me and prefer not to sit. But I do keep the chairs handy, just in case.

  3. Kara*

    #5 – I work in an office with a coworker who sits right by me who stands all day (I don’t know how she does it!). Anyways, I work for a very large company, I think they paid for her desk setup. (they are big on promoting health and wellness blah blah blah). Anyways, she has her monitor elevated, as well as her keyboard, to where to should be naturally positioned if you were to stand all day. She’s kinda short, so it doesn’t look all that awkward. She’s a project admin, and it does not hurt her professionally at all. If anything, i think that the company looks favorably upon her.

    1. KarenT*

      I don’t know how people do it either. I worked retail while I was in school and often worked 9-10 hours on my feet. My back hurt, my feet hurt…it was not good!

      1. Jen RO*

        My back starts hurting if I stand for an hour… a standing desk sounds like punishment to me :(

        1. LisaLyn*

          Yeah, I really do understand that sitting all day (and I think the implication is that people go home and sit, too) is bad, but I also know a lot of people who have jobs where they stand all the time who end up with a lot of issues, too. Maybe we just can’t win! :)

          Seriously, though, in my non-medical professional opinion, I think maybe moving is what’s more important and not staying in one position for a long time.

          1. Cat*

            Wasn’t there recently a study that came out suggesting that short breaks during the workday where you’re walking around were actually more beneficial than just standing? I feel like I read that; it intuitively makes sense, at least (which I know may mean nothing).

            1. Kelly L.*

              I would really rather do that than have a standing desk. I too worked a lot of retail and food service in my past and now I have plantar fasciitis from it. Walking doesn’t aggravate it but standing still does. I love finding an excuse to walk around while working, but no. way. in. Hades. would I want to stand in one spot for a whole workday.

              1. Callie*

                I got plantar fasciitis from teaching (standing all day on concrete floor). Better shoes helped, but didn’t get rid of it completely.

            2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Yeah, I remember reading that too – that standing doesn’t actually do anything, but moving around does.

              1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                I should say, I think having a flexible desk (that allows you to switch between standing and sitting) would be ideal – just to change positions, even if there aren’t any health benefits.

            3. Elizabeth West*

              I hope so, because I sit all day except for getting up now and then. I really don’t want to think that all the working out I’ve been trying to do is just a waste of time.

              I’ve added stairs into my routine; coworkers go up and down a lot. I can only do it twice (three floors) in a session and only twice a day because my knees are shot, but it’s better than nothing.

          2. Jen RO*

            For me, moving regularly is the solution. I have lordosis (so I can’t stand for a long time without pain) and I get muscle cramps of some sort in my neck (so I can’t sit still for a long time without pain). If I am at home, at my computer, I get the worst headaches, because I only get up to pee (sitting -> muscle cramps -> headache from hell). At work, I’m always talking to coworkers and moving around, and nothing ever hurts!

        2. Jamie*

          Sounds like a punishment to me, too. I know there are health risks with sitting too long, but there are also health issues with standing all day.

          It seems the ability to be flexible is key, and not locked into one position all day.

        3. Mena*

          It is punishment to the neighbors, too. Sound carrying over the cubes, ugh. We have them here and I hate them.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Shoe inserts- not the cheap well known name. I went to a shoe/sneaker store and bought the $20 kind.
        So worth the money.
        The next step is to increase your water intake. That will also help to reduce pain.

        It’s not that I had no pain but the pain went from dibilitating (limping, dragging myself around the house after work) to a minimal level where I could go home and do what I needed to do at home. My demeanor improved too because my legs/feet ached a lot less.

        The trick is to keep paying attention to hydration levels and to replace the inserts regularly. Once every 6-8 months seemed to be my magic number.

        Curiously, I heard something about cold floors. Was it here? I cannot remember where I read it. The person’s theory was to make sure your feet are warm. They felt that having cold feet leads to leg and foot pain if you must stand all day. I bought shoes that were a half size larger than what I usually buy. My feet stayed warmer and I could not be sure but it seemed to help with the pain levels.

        I have had to spend waaay too much time thinking about this one because of problems with my legs and feet. Honestly, I do not think I could stand at a desk and work for 8 hours. That sounds brutal. (I do plenty of 12-14 hour days but I can move around. If I had to stand in one place I would probably last 4-6 hours max.)

        1. AmyNYC*

          The water tip is great and it works in two ways. 1 – you’re drinking more water, 2 – you’ll need the restroom more which will make you walk more. Win-win!

        2. Stryker*

          Shoe inserts are magic for back pain. I worked 12 hour shifts in a factory and we weren’t allowed to sit for safety reasons, so inserts saved me so much pain!

      3. Cath@VWXYNot?*

        My boss has a standing desk, and also a tall chair to sit on when he gets sick of standing. It seems to work well.

        I can’t have a standing desk because of the way the office is laid out, but we did just get a standing desk for our “nomad” computer that everyone takes turns using. I aim to stand for at least an hour a day, but sometimes I forget, or someone else is using it when I want to. It’s a good compromise – I don’t like either sitting OR standing all day!

    2. Sunflower*

      In college, I stood all day at my job. My boss bought me a mat but it’s hard to tell whether it helped or not.

      I’m all for promoting moving around but a standing desk could seem somewhat annoying to me the more I think about it. I could see myself slouching over top of the desk. I would more prefer a treadmill desk where I could be moving

      1. veggie*

        Yeah, we had a mat made from flip flop material at the registers when I worked retail (sporting goods/shoe store). Just picked up a similar mat from Home Depot.

    3. Graciosa*

      Your shoes would become very important under these circumstances. I have known female executives who wore very high heels (the oh-my-god what is that doing to your arches and aren’t the balls of your feet killing you kind) and I can’t imagine trying to stand all day in those. I’m not even sure I would want to do it in my typical flats – they’re very comfortable for walking but I think I would prefer more arch support if I was standing all day.

      1. TL*

        I know a fair amount of women who just don’t notice pain in their feet anymore.

        My favorite was a hairdresser who worked all day in 4 or 5 inch heels. She’d been a professional ballet dancer for a while and was totally immune to foot pain.

    4. JustKatie*

      All the people I know who have standing desks have ones that can easily be lowered to a sitting position.

      I’m looking at getting one myself- I drive my husband nuts because when we’re at a party, I’m often standing while everybody else is sitting. I’m also a leg jiggler- I just can’t sit still for long!

  4. Elodie*

    #5. Standing all day if you can do it would be great. But why can’t you just exercise? I workout 5 days a week, I’m skinny, I eat healthy. I don’t care if I sit all day because I EXERCISE! Jeeez people, stop making everything so difficult and do what you are supposed to do: eat right, exercise, and sleep well. SIMPLE!

    1. KarenT*

      If you read up on standing desks you’ll see it’s not about weight loss or weight management. It’s about the fact the human body isn’t designed to sit all day. It’s detrimental to our health, and the effect isn’t countered by exercise.

    2. Jo March*

      Wow. So much hostility and judginess!

      The sitting issue isn’t just about exercise in the weight loss sense, it’s about posture and activity. Sitting all day is pretty bad for you whether or lot you exercise , and whether or not you’re skinny.

    3. Lillie Lane*

      That’s nice, but a lot of people don’t have time to exercise every day. Why not spend the hours at work wisely?

    4. MJ*

      That’s great, if you have the time and the physical wellness/ability to exercise five times a week… not everyone does, unfortunately.

    5. Rayner*

      Oh, the privilege in this short post. Let’s break it down.

      1. Assuming that the question was about weight management, not posture, or improving concentration, or any of the other benefits of standing/saddle stool scenarios.

      2. Assuming that the OP has access to healthy food, and the time,, equipment, and mental spoons to prepare it – see food deserts, and the like to ‘just eat right’. Same with exercise, and sleeping well. Further more, exercise can be difficult in terms of access – live too far away, too expensive to go to the gym – the OP may have a disability or be unable to do exercise five days a week because of it etc.

      3. Assuming that sitting all day is negated by exercise – eight hours a day sitting in a chair is not negated by thirty minutes cardio. There is a long term postural, muscular, and concentration decline that can come from that.

      4. Saying that “I’m skinny” Well, congratulations? What do you want, a medal for rolling the ‘thin gene’ in the genetic lottery? We know nothing about the OP’s weight and mentioning your own weight in this way comes off as condescending, not helpful.

      5. Assuming that the OP is making life difficult for herself by choosing not to do your recommendations (which are trite and cliche), and instead installing a standing desk as a lazy solution.

      I’m tired of people assuming that a) everything’s about weight loss because it’s not (people can be happy and *healthy at any size and any weight), and b) that the solutions are ‘just eating, sleeping, and exercising right’.

      For everybody, that ‘right’ is difficult to find – maybe they need more food, different kinds of food or more exercise, or less exercise, or they need different ones, or maybe they’ve got an underlying condition that makes weight gain/loss hard, or …well, a million other things that can be hard to find due to location, disability, financial situation, whether you have the mental spoons to prepare it…

      Human beings are not machines. Assuming they are, and that it’s the right way to treat our bodies, is dangerous and unhelpful.

      *Note: healthy is not an obligation, and nobody is required to be so, no matter what their size.

      1. Carpe Librarium*

        Ihana, Rayner. You summed it up beautifully. Kiitos.
        (Olen yli vaihto oppilan suomessa, and bugger, minun suomalainen on paska nyt).

        1. Rayner*

          LOL, unfortunately, I don’t speak any Finnish. I’m in the Swedish speaking part of the country – south, Turku, and I only speak basic Swedish.

          Jag är ledsen! Min svenska är mycket dålig, men jag ska försöka svårare imorgon.

        1. Rayner*

          Very welcome.

          Health and weight, either separately or together, are difficult subjects for many people to appreciate ALL the facets, and very often, we can find prejudice and bias in what initially appears to be ‘common sense ‘ or ‘plain speaking sensible advice’. As in this case.

      2. Lalou*

        Jeeez people, stop making everything so difficult and do what you are supposed to do: eat right, exercise, and sleep well. SIMPLE!

        Exactly what Rayner said. And for me, eating right is expensive and time consuming, I work long hours so I don’t have much time for exercise, plus all gyms near me are crazy expensive and I have little space at home. As for sleeping well – that isn’t really a choice that I can make. I can lie in bed for 7-8 hours and try to do everything right and relaxing beforehand but a good nights sleep does not always happen for me. This is not all “SIMPLE”, this is my messy life and I am doing my best.

        1. Juli G.*

          I once read an article about someone who had massive weight loss and he said, “It’s simple but it’s not easy.” That is so true of weight loss and many things in life.

          1. Rayner*

            Dramatic and drastic weight loss is almost entirely unsustainable in the long term. Keeping off more than 10-15 lbs for more than five years is very very very hard. Check in with that guy five years after his weight loss, and then again after ten. I bet you dollars to doughnuts – or granola bars, if that’s you thing – that he regained a vast majority of weight, if not all of it. Or more.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule*

              I lost over 80 pounds once and all it took was a serious injury while I was out exercising that laid me up for years and all that weight came back. Over 10 years later and I still struggle – both with the lingering effects of the injury and my weight.

          2. AmyNYC*

            “It’s simple but it’s not easy.”
            Well put. We all understand that eating less and moving more is healthy, but getting take out and binge watching Netflix is SO much easier.

            1. Rayner*

              Not everybody is so easily affected, though, AmyNYC. Although that can absolutely be a hinderance to improving health (I know I’m guilty of feelign like that sometimes), people have also pointed out below that other factors such as disability, and lack of time which are very significant and harder to overcome can also make it hard for people to live a healthier lifestyle.

        2. Rayner*

          For many people, the case is not that they don’t want eat healthy, or to get fitter, or sleep well – who doesn’t want to sleep eight hours plus a night?! It’s exactly as in your case – something bigger than just a lack of motivation stops them – they live miles away from stores that sell good quality fresh foods, they don’t have the equipment or the knowledge to prepare highly nutritional meals, they work long hours and can’t find a gym that will match them, or they’re absolutely wiped out after a twelve hour day or…


          I’m sure that you know very well how that feels since you’re experiencing it. *offers hugs and tea*

          It’s the galling thing about health and fitness in many Western/Westernised countries now. Because time and money and knowledge is required to do achieve those kinds of goals (ignoring the whole bias in science, lack of supporting evidence for dramatic weight loss, medical bias against fat people, a weight loss industry that adovcates brutal training and devasting medical intervention when it’s unnecessary… I could go on…), the best health and the best fitness, and the best sleep is afford to the wealthier, more advantaged people with exactly those qualities to burn. It’s definitely not a fair playing field.

          1. Ethyl*

            Thank you so much for doing the hard work in here, Rayner. It’s really appreciated.

            And you know….this whole “I’m skinny” as shorthand for “healthy” thing is hitting me pretty hard right now. My partner is going in for a colonoscopy today at age 35 because his mother, skinny her whole life, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer at 42 and passed away when she was 44, still skinny. Nobody thought to look for a tumor when she started complaining about constipation, because she was so young and “healthy” seeming on the outside (i.e., thin). I can’t say how much of her cancer was due to genetics, or to the massive amounts of cigarettes she smoked, or her generally poor diet. But I can say that this idea that thin = healthy is dangerously untrue.

            1. Rayner*

              I’m very sorry to hear about your partner’s mother passing.

              And there are lots of myths about health that are very dangerous and yet are very pervasive. Skinny meaning healthy, for example, so nobody scolds a thin person for eating a whole candy bar in public, but a fat person would absolutely be side eyed or told to “put it away!” But that thin person could be exceedingly unhealthy if that’s all they eat, but nobody scolds them.

              Or fat meaning unhealthy – many people who are fat experiencing discrimination in the medical world, because they’re percieved to be lazy, or that their problems are because they’re fat, regardless of their actual issue. If they have PCOS, for example, or eating disorders, they are much more likely to be disregarded, even if they meet every other criterion, except for the weight.

              Likewise, the highly simplified mechanicised human body myth – it’s as simple as shoveling calories into our body, and exercising to expend them! Uh. Not true. Your body is a complex engine, manipulating the food you put into it in different ways to ensure your survival. Attempting to mess with it in an uncontrolled way, or to what your body considers a detrimental effect (excessive restriction, for example, or lots of exercise with no increase in calories), makes your body adapt again to maintain your current weight.

              Perpetuating those kinds of myths leads to experiences like your family’s, when people who are percieved to be [healthy, thin, fat, unhealthy] are not taken seriously until it’s too late, or until it’s very dangerous.

              1. Ethyl*

                Yup. Bodies are not bunsen burners. It’s unfathomable to me that educated medical professionals still insist on treating them that way. The Fat Nutritionist had a piece a while back about alllll the various things that affect how food is digested, used, and stored. Really illuminating.

                1. Rayner*

                  Oh yay! I love seeing when familiar names pop up on here – the Fat Nutritionist is one of my favourite go to places for facts. :D

                  It makes me sad about how people treat fat bodies. They’re treated as foreign, or unwelcome intruders into the thin!sphere, when in actual fact, all bodies should be welcomed.

              2. Simonthegrey*

                The book “The Power of Habit” also talks about why, even with the best of intentions, it is so hard for many people to make these kind of lifestyle changes. It’s only one small part of what it talks about, but it’s true. I know that for me, it took the ten years from graduating college to now to reach the weight I am at (which is nearly 100lbs more than I was when I graduated). I was too thin in college, but I am definitely overweight and borderline obese now. Why would I expect to lose the 40lbs I need to lose to be back under overweight in a year or even two years when it took so long to gain them? I have to be happy with the smaller changes I am seeing, since they are, overall, more sustainable. If I lose 5-10 lbs over a year, it may not look like much, but if I can keep it off, that’s so much more valuable!

          2. Noelle*

            Your comments on this thread are perfect. I recently started a new job where I am lucky if I can even leave my desk during the day and I really only have two or three hours after work before I have to go to bed. I can pick whether I go grocery shopping and cook, or whether I go to the gym, or whether I read a book. I suppose I could never do anything except work, exercise, sleep, and repeat, but sometimes the book wins.

            1. Sandy*

              Have you considered audio books on the days you decide to exercise so that way you get both? I haven’t tried them yet but I have friends who listen to audio books instead of music when they exercise.

              1. Noelle*

                I have found that I can’t really focus on an actual story, but I do love going to the gym and listening to a good music playlist. Although, I could listen to audio books while going to the grocery store and cooking! I should try that.

                1. Rayner*

                  I like to listen to podcasts and things when I’m travelling, especially if I’ve heard them before. It means they’re pleasantly in the background, but it doesn’t matter if I miss the end or something if someone talks to me.

        1. Rayner*

          It’s very hard for me to restraint myself at times from doing exactly that, when weight comes up at work or at home.

          Ever since I started on my own journey of body acceptance, and understanding, I’ve been reading research and examining the biases that I and other people hold about health and weight, and it’s astounding how much is plain made up, ‘assumed’, or how many ‘common sense’ ideas are actually ideas created and supported by the weight loss industry (and the research they pay for). It’s batty. The technology and the amount of data may have changed but the ideas and the principles haven’t adapted since 1950 and before. It’s absurd.

          I would love to have a little hand out of “common myths and tropes BUSTED” to give to people who try to ‘help’ or ‘advise’ fat/biggr/plus size (insert word of choice here) people about weight and health.

          *so tempted*

          1. TL*

            Ug. Unless specifically asked, the most advice people should give upon hearing a complaint is “Sounds like you should see a doctor for that.”

            1. The Clerk*

              Even that has its own level of privilege, because so many people don’t have insurance, or their co-pay is too high to justify seeing a doctor over something that isn’t excruciating. I figure people do what they can to help themselves and really just want someone else to agree that it sucks.

      3. ExceptionToTheRule*

        What Rayner said.

        Look, Elodie, some of us work from 9am until 11pm trying to keep a roof over our heads and the bills paid or we have kids or others we care for and it’s about trade-offs.

        For example, I can try to get 7 hours of sleep or I can skimp and get 6 and then either make it to the gym in the morning or spend that time putting together healthy meals or you know, relaxing for 5 minutes. But, until science finds a way to alter the space-time continuum, there are still only 24 hours in a day and I spend 15 of them at work.

      4. IndieGir*


        I just cancelled my other reply when I saw you already did all the hard work!

      5. Anonymous*

        “people can be happy and *healthy at any size and any weight”

        Oh I doubt that about health. Skinny doesn’t equal good “good” and healthy people can look “fat” but there are limits to the weight we can carry and be healthy.

          1. Anonymous*

            Oh, come on. I’m all for health at every size but you can’t seriously believe that a statement like “there are limits to the weight we can carry and be healthy” is untrue. You think the rare individuals who reach 500-600+ pounds and become immobilized due to their weight are still healthy?

            1. Ethyl*

              So you evidence is “everybody knows,” and “it stands to reason” and “common sense”? Good to know I shouldn’t take your claims seriously! Ta!

              1. Anon 8:08 above*

                (not anon 9:28, who I agree with anyway)

                There are known connections between obesity and risk for many serious illnesses. Here is just one example:

                Your dismissal of my comment and that of 9:28 does little service to trying to end fat shaming etc – it undermines your credibility. Do you actually believe that someone who is 600 pounds can be healthy? Wow.

                1. iseeshiny*


                  It does make it hard to follow the conversation. I picture Guy Fawkes sitting in an empty conference room, running to sit in different chairs as he debates himself.

                1. Anonymous*

                  And your definition of morbidly obese is? Because if you are basing on BMI, there are a lot of medically healthy, morbidly obese people out there.

                2. Anon 8:08 above*

                  Kerry’s link is great info.

                  Just because there is a lot of bogus info saying thin=healthy and fat=unhealthy doesn’t mean that extremes of weight (in either direction) are OK in terms of health. They can be symptoms of other problems and/or causes of other problems.

                  Someone dissing 5’6″ woman for being 170 pounds should STFU. Someone saying a 500 pound 5’10’ dude probably has problems is making a reasonable observation.

              2. LV*

                I’m pretty sure that *being immobilized by your own body weight* is in itself evidence that you’re not healthy.

            2. Rayner*

              I refuse to engage in a debate about people being healthy when they reach X weight, or Y weight, or when ABC happens, because then you have to draw a line, and nobody can scientifically put a line in there where person is unhealthy versus healthy absolutely and categorically.

              The links between weight and health are not always proven, are often based on flawed science, or often misleading.

              People of all body sizes and shapes deserve respect and dignity. They are not obligated to be healthy. Health is not a moral fact, it is not a requirement in society, it is not an either or thing – “be healthy or I won’t give you respect” – and that includes not making judgements about weight and health issues, perceived or not.

              1. rollcake*

                +1 to everything you’ve said, and particularly for your last paragraph here. Not being healthy (in this case, specifically looking at a person’s weight, but this also extends to mental illness, chronic fatigue, cancer, and all other types of illnesses) does not mean a person is undeserving of respect. People are not obligated to be thin, nor are they obligated to be healthy, but they are still deserving of respect.

              1. Jen RO*

                I can’t really comment on anything, since I’m not in the US, but I have wondered about these things. I mostly read blogs/news/etc from the States, and some of the health issues being discussed are weird to me because they are extremely uncommon here (for example, I don’t know anyone who is allergic to food). It must be something in the environment, and there are a few hypotheses that make sense… too bad they can’t help the people who are already suffering.

                1. TL*

                  I don’t know about RO in particular, but a lot of food allergies don’t come out as OMGDEATH, but present in non-obvious ways. It’s not unusual, for instance, for Celiac’s to be diagnosed past 40 yrs of age, even though the person has probably had it most of their life.

                  Some of the stuff in the US is just awareness, some of it is environmental.

                2. Jen RO*

                  Yeah, some of it is probably just people knowing what to look for – but there does seem to be a large number of life-threatening allergies too, I keep reading about people who could die from peanut residue. That is just something I had never heard about until I started reading Western media. Maybe it’s just misrepresented?

                3. Anon 8:08 above*

                  Some is awareness, some is environmental and some is behavioral. For example, there’s emerging recognition that some advice given to pregnant and lactating women about foods to avoid (peanuts and, I think, eggs) due to fear of allergic reactions by their babies may actually be increasing the incidence of such allergies.

                4. Anon1973*

                  I’m allergic to dairy. It doesn’t mean death. It means that when I eat it, I have a hacking, nagging cough, and sometimes become congested.

                5. De (Germany)*

                  At least tomorrow in western Europe, allergies to tree nuts are common and have been for some time. And tree nut allergies are usually severe. My sister could die from eating walnuts.

                  To name some numbers, in Germany about 2 percent of people have a food allergy.

                6. Jamie*

                  I keep reading about people who could die from peanut residue. That is just something I had never heard about until I started reading Western media. Maybe it’s just misrepresented?

                  I know it’s real and there are cases, but I have never personally known anyone with life threatening food allergies. I know people who get hives, or sinus reactions, but I do think the severe life threatening ones are rare and they make the news because policy decisions based on them go through the system.

                  One thing I read a long time ago, and I have NO idea where I read it or if it’s true, but that AD(H)D is higher in America because the people with the so called “explorer gene” tied to impulsivity and need for new stimulation were the ones who jumped at the chance to emigrate over the ages.

                  Since the criteria has changed over the last couple of decades where it’s not universally considered a defect but rather just a difference it’s possible that it’s just our medical system labeling differently.

                  I wish I could remember where I read that because it was in interesting theory about how it could have increased the AD(H)D pool over here. It’s fanciful, because I’d assume most people who left their homeland did so for reasons other than being bored and wanting some new adventure – but interesting none the less.

                7. Jen in RO*

                  ADHD is interesting to me, because I suspect I might have a mild case of that or something similar. It’s not A Thing here though, so I haven’t mentioned it to anyone, and it’s not affecting my life so I don’t feel the need for medication. If would be cool to find out if I actually do have it (it would explain a lot), although it would probably be detrimental to me to have something to blame. Now I can just yell at myself to stop procrastinating.

                8. Anonymous*

                  Also worth pointing out allergy is used pretty loosely by many people. There’s a difference between an immune reaction against something we eat (true allergy) and not being able to digest it well. Both can cause problems.

        1. Rayner*

          No, skinny doesn’t equal good, but likewise people who are thin can be healthy, and people who are fat can be healthy. Body diversity means that people can come in all different shapes and sizes, and can be perfectly healthy while maintaining that size.

          If you are naturally a size ten, and svelte like a ballet dancer (and all the associated well designed lifestyle etc), you can be just as healthy as someone who is twice or even three times that size who does exactly the same.

          Of course, appearence is not an idicator of health, and shouldn’t be taken as such, and that is just as relevant to thin people as to fat people. You cannot tell how healthy or fit someone is just by looking at them, or even a brief conversation. They can be very fat, and very healthy, or thin and excruicatingly unhealthy, and it’s important to remember that.

          Likewise, it’s important to remember that everybody is their own person, and nobody should enforce their own personal opinion of ‘healthy’ or ‘fit’ onto anybody else, even if they percieve it to be the right thing to do.

          1. De Minimis*

            My BMI is technically obese [barely] but I exercise a lot and have a really good resting pulse rate. My labs are all excellent. I think it’s really more about lifestyle than a number on a scale. I do also try to eat right, but I agree that it’s expensive and a big time commitment, and not everyone can do that.

            I’m concerned about the sitting issue. Hoping that getting up multiple times over the course of the workday will help.

            1. Rayner*

              Getting up to do things rather than sitting down like taking a phone call while standing, or going to see someone in person rather than doing it by phone, doing extra walking if you can – taking stairs, or sending your work to a different printer further away if that’s acceptable in your work place – taking time at lunch to spend fifteen minutes wandering around rather than sitting still, all little things can help.

              You can’t prevent all of those effects, but you can minimise them. You should also think about what’s best for you, and your body, and your workplace – not everybody can do everything. Learnt that one the hard way, myself, to be honest. >.> My body? Not designed for running. XD

              1. De Minimis*

                Sounds like I may be on the right track then…I do try to use a shared printer in the mail room instead of the one at my desk, I throw my trash into a trashcan in our hallway instead of the one nearby [it’s almost a running joke now where the janitor is shocked when I have something in my wastebasket] and I try to walk outside during my breaks. I’ve gotten a pretty late start when it comes to a healthier lifestyle, but I’m hoping I can undo a lot of the damage I did in my 20s and 30s.

      6. ClaireS*

        Excellent response. It’s the assuming that it’s about weight loss that kills me. Not everyone is trying or wants to lose weight!

      7. Anon from Oz*

        Thank you Rayner.
        Elodie – it’s not simple. I’m overweight and if I just ate right, exercised and slept well I’d be skinny like you ? Allow me to tell you why that doesn’t work.
        1. I have a broken neck. Most exercise is difficult and dangerous for me.
        2. I do eat healthy but due to steroid based pain killers and treatments weight loss is near impossible – look it up.
        3. I’m a long term chronic insomniac with the depleted bank account from sleep ‘specialists’ to prove it. The last 2 months I’ve averaged 3 hours/night. I completely understand Michael Jackson resorting to anasthectics to sleep. If I had the money and power I’d get them too. The risks, when you are chronically sleep deprived, are far less relevant.

        I’m sorry but as someone who does their best and is constantly barraged by this “easy” solution I’m exceptionally touchy about it.
        So the next time you see someone who’s overweight remember that you don’t know anything about their life, their issues or what they go through.

        FWIW – I couldn’t stand up all day, but I can’t sit all day either. I have to get up and stretch and walk around at least once an hour.

    6. fposte*

      I also think you’ve missed the actual research findings– exercise outside of work isn’t enough to undo the damage of 40 hours’ work sitting a week. Whether you care if you sit all day or not, it’s making illness more likely down the road, even if you exercise and are skinny and eat healthy. Those are good things,but they’re not magic charms against the bad things we do.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Our biggest problem is the 15 hour work days. People are not money making machines. Not sure when corporate America will figure that out.
        A friend worked for a place where a 36 hour work day was expected.
        And that is going to tear down health quicker than anything else mentioned here. Yet the company is so concerned about health care costs. How ironic that the company cannot see that it is driving up its own costs.

        I rant. Sorry.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Not So New Reader, you “rant” (your word) so much that the hours in your work days seem unusally wrong.

          15 hour work day – does anyone consider that normal?

          36 hour work day? – that would require a time machine of some sort.

          1. Ethyl*

            Depends on the industry. Lots of nurses and doctors are expected to cover 24+ hour shifts in the ER, for example. It’s not unheard of.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Exactly, I’ve know many medical professionals who worked 36-hour shifts and sometimes more and I can imagine there are other occupations where this is the case as well.

                1. Not So NewReader*

                  Yes, that was a tongue-in-cheek usage. What I am seeing is alarming to me.

                  My friend and his group had jobs that involved driving. The long hours are a norm in that industry.

                  So many things wrong with this picture I don’t know where to begin.

                  But I see other people write in here with situations that are equally alarming to me.

            2. A Teacher*

              My sister hasn’t worked 24 hour shifts in the ER, ever. She’s been held over her 12.5 hour shift rarely to do 14 hours but that’s rare. Usually its 12 hour shifts 3 days a week, at least here in the Midwest where I have a sister, 2 cousins, and many friends that work in the profession.

            3. Zahra*

              And yet, these people are responsible for making decisions in some life and death situations. Even truck drivers aren’t allowed to be “on” that long.

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            It’s not necessarily a single job. In this economy, a lot of us are working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

          3. Jamie*

            15 hour work day – does anyone consider that normal?

            At times, yes. I have about 6 weeks a year – spread out – where that is normal due to the way the workload is stacked. And when beginning my career I regularly worked between 12-15 hour days for a good couple of years. I know many people who do that.

            There is nothing abnormal about working these kind of hours.

    7. Sunflower*

      Yikes! I exercise quite a lot and I would LOVE to have a standing desk. I prefer to be moving most of the day as opposed to sitting still- and I’m no exercise or health freak, just someone who can’t sit still

    8. The IT Manager*

      I am going to echo what others said. Scientific studies indicate that exercising for an hour or two doesn’t undo the damage of sitting all day. So your suggestion which you offer so condescendingly is not supported by the data. If you are not going to bother to do basic research to make sure you are right, then you should at least be less insulting in your response.

    9. Anonymous*

      Man it’s so SIMPLE everyone who is dying or overweight is STUPID.

      This attitude is actually exactly the opposite to take if you really want to encourage health and wellness.

      1. Ethyl*

        Seriously. Any time I hear someone say “why don’t you just” I just KNOW what is coming next is probably ridiculous/uninformed/privileged/etc.

        And let’s not even get into the whole idea that there is one way to “eat well.” Well, no. Some people need a high-fiber diet, some need a low-residue diet, some people are allergic to lots of “good” foods, some people can’t digest certain ingredients. It’s not that simple.

        1. Zillah*

          “Why can’t you just” is literally my least favorite series of words ever. I don’t ever get it about my weight, but I do hear it a lot regarding my mental health/ADHD, and it’s both exhausting and really obnoxious.

        2. rollcake*

          Not to mention that demanding people eat “well” assumes that people can afford to buy all the superfoods, organic everything, and all of the kitchen accoutrements they need to prepare and cook this food. It also assumes they have the time to do this before any other responsibilities.

    10. Nikki J.*

      Acccctually if you’ve read any of these studies (which I have a lot) you’d know that despite a regular exercise routine the effects of sitting all day are still an issue. You can go to the gym every morning but if you then plant your booty in a chair for the rest 8-9+ hours of your day you are still at the same risks of the people who don’t work out and sit all day. The sitting/standing debate really isn’t a matter of health it’s the effects on the body since we are humans are not built to sit all day. I work out every morning, walk after work and make a point to use my stand-to-sit desk at least 1/2 the day. After work it’s not couch time either, there is dinner to be made and cleaning to be done. I’m NOT skinny (9 months pregnant, but wasn’t skinny before preggers), I do eat healthy but I do really care if I sit all day.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I’m about done worrying about it. My blood pressure is low, I heal really fast, I am overall pretty healthy. If I drink enough water, eat decent food, and get enough sleep, I feel good most of the time (except when old injuries act up). Stress and worry cause more problems for me than anything else. I’m just doing the best I can with what I have.

        1. Windchime*

          Same here, Elizabeth. Maybe it’s a result of middle age, but I have kind of lost interest in trying to stuff my body into some kind of ideal space that society thinks I should occupy. Could I be slimmer if I chose my diet more carefully? Undoubtedly. Am I so concerned that I’m going to give up Happy Hour or my weekly lunches out with friends? Not so much. I want to be happy, live a happy and healthy life and stop beating myself up over not fitting into tiny jeans. So “reasonably healthy” is what I’m going for now.

    11. Mike C.*

      If you think this is “simple”, you haven’t been paying attention to reality. Health and wellness in the United States is a complicated, interconnected subject.

    12. Tinker*

      The person at my office who is way into the standing desk concept is a hardcore Crossfit / Paleo / etc / etc guy — enough so that I’ve googled things related to Crossfit and stumbled on rants he’s written on their forums (good rants, I should specify). The standing thing is really making the rounds in their community. FWIW.

      1. LV*

        The first rule of Crossfit is the opposite of the first rule of Fight Club – you HAVE to talk about Crossfit all the time, to everyone.

        (At least, going by my experience with Crossfitters.)

  5. KarenT*

    A man in my office has a standing desk. It definitely was a spectacle at first, but he kept good humor about it and was happy to discuss it with people.
    He also posted an article to the outside of his office door that explains the benefits of standing desks. I’ve often seen people stop to read it as they walk by. It’s sort of a win-win for him, as it heads off questions but also dispenses information he is passionate about. 2 or 3 people on my office now have standing desks.

    1. IronMaiden*

      One place I worked had computers on wheels, which could be moved around or locked in place when needed. The desk part could move up or down so the user could stand or sit as they preferred. The drawback was that the computers were laptops with keyboards attached.

    2. KC*

      At my last gig, our desks were bolted into the wall, so we were allowed to adjust them to effectively be standing desks. We were given tall chairs we could use if we needed a break from standing. As a constant fidgeter, I really liked having the option to stand.

      A friend of mine who works for LEGO told me that ALL of their desks are adjustable, so you can either sit or stand at the same work station. She also really likes this about her office.

      1. LV*

        “A friend of mine who works for LEGO told me that ALL of their desks are adjustable”

        Are they… made of LEGO? :D

        1. KC*

          Hahaha! Sadly, I think not. Though there are PLENTY of opportunities to play with LEGOs when you work for LEGO. That much I do know. She loves it there.

      2. Natalie*

        Yes! Sit-stand desks are the best. Not only can you alternate between sitting and standing, you can set the “sit” height at exactly where you want it. I have a long torso so I really appreciate having an adjustable desk.

      3. Windchime*

        We have cubicles that have an L-shaped desktop attached to the cube walls (rather than having legs). Ours can be adjusted either to sitting or “standing” height (if you’re about 5’6″ it would be standing height). Mine is at the taller height; if it was about 3″ taller it would be perfect for standing. We have tall chairs so we can sit when we like.

    3. Anon 8:08 above*

      I was an intern in a place where several people used standing desks. I used to work standing (in a factory, with good ergonomics and a soft floor) and it wasn’t bad.

      But I’d rather sit. I’m notorious in my office for sitting with “bad” posture, but in truth I sit with a huge range of postures, and I think the variety is good. I also am notorious for just taking walks around the office every hour or so – I just get up and do a circuit of our building thinking.

      I think moving around is important and variety of body position is important.

      In terms of posture, mobility, strength, etc, I’m pretty healthy.

  6. Angela S.*

    To OP #4 – there was a lawsuit in Canada (Mississauga, Ontario to be exact) last year in which a former salesperson for Banana Republic sued the clothing company for wrongful dismissal. It was alleged that the salesperson was fired based on her race. It turned out that salesperson worked around the clock, even on lunch break, just like what your co-worker had done, I supposed. Banana Republic came back saying that the salesperson had been given a lot of warning over this before she was fired even though she was one of the best salespersons that location had ever hired. The judge ruled in favour of Banana Republic, noting that the clothing company had never wanted to be responsible for overtime pay.

    1. AVP*

      I wonder in OP’s case if they work on commission?

      I could see if you were helping someone for an hour, they might be buying a lot of stuff, and if you were working on it for a long time, it would suck to lose the commission because you had to go on lunch and couldn’t ring up the sale. But you would think a major retail operation would have a system in place to work issues this this out.

      1. The Clerk*

        Oh, heck no. The store only cares that they get the money; it would benefit them even more if they got to keep the commission too.

  7. EE*

    I had a manager once with a standing set-up. She was the only person in the open-plan office of about 40 people who had it.

    She was however very short, so didn’t ‘stand out’ all that much.

  8. James M*

    OP2: you have my deepest sympathies. I hear too many stories about talented grads getting suckered into a sh!t jobs because of a fancy job title/description. I’m in a similar situation, but I took the job because my options were much worse, not because of pie-in-the-sky promises of publication and profit sharing that have never materialized.

    It’s good that you’re looking for a better job. Good luck!

    1. OP2*

      Many thanks for your support especially considering my frustrations boiled over in the worst possible way today..tears.

      1. Sarahnova*

        Try not to beat yourself up too much that your frustration came out as tears. It does that for me too sometimes – it’s just the way some of us are wired, and it won’t change the way anyone worth knowing relates to you. I hope things improve soon, either at your current job or finding a new one.

  9. LisaLyn*

    OP3, I am in a similar situation. I think I’ve been doing what Alison suggests: being completely honest about this person’s shortcomings (in this case, he can be difficult to work with — especially before you get to know him and get used to his brusque personality), but then causally bring up his good points (extreme talent and experience and that he does actually get the job done). I do get a little irritated when people bad-mouth him, because he is my friend, but I try to remain professional and see their side, because I do understand he can be frustrating. There’s not much else to do, except not take it personally that they are complaining about your friend.

  10. Lanya*

    OP #3, I can’t believe they are saying these things in front of you when they know the vendor is your friend. (Do they treat other people in your own office with the same kind of blatant disrespect?)

    I agree with Alison about sticking up for your friend by sharing some of his good qualities, but in this case I think you might also want to consider using the “When you/I feel” language so that your coworkers understand they are hurting your feelings when they badmouth your friend.

    “When you talk about Joe that way, it makes me feel bad/sad/uncomfortable because he’s my friend. He might not do xyz very well, but he is also really great at xyz.” Repeat as necessary!

    1. The IT Manager*

      I think you may be wrong. I’d welcome hearing from others, though. That script would work for personal relationships, but I think it’s odd to bring up emotions into the office that way. I am a person who doesn’t share my emotions much and think they should stay out of the office. It’s one thing if your feeling were being hurt because you were being insulted (although I would address the insults, disrespect and not the hurt feelings with HR), but ““When you talk about Joe that way, it makes me feel …” sounds like something I’d hear on the play ground.

      I agree with Alison’s answer. If Joe’s insults are undeserved defend him. If they are deserved well I think LW needs to suck it up. I do wonder too something Alison didn’t bring up. Is it happening in order to get the LW’s goat? Are they insulting LW’s friend in order to upset the LW? That puts a different spin on things, but still if the vendor friend is providing poor service what can LW say about someone speaking the truth and complaining about something that impacts their work.

      1. Positivity Boy*

        Yeah, I don’t think “When you/I feel” is really appropriate for the office. It’s meant more for expressing emotions in personal relationships.

      2. Lanya*

        I understand what you are saying, but I think we will have to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t think feelings and emotions can ever truly be left out of the office, because we are all people who think and feel. Most of the OPs who write in are writing with problems related to their emotional reactions to something that has happened at the office, and need guidance on what to do. It’s important for the OP’s coworkers to understand that he is feeling insulted by their actions. If they never know how he is feeling, they may never stop their behavior. It might sound like playground advice, but I think it could be an effective solution. I respect your difference of opinion, though.

        1. Sadsack*

          Is it really important though for the coworkers to know they are insulting OP? Should they not comment on a vendor’s work and the way it impacts their work? If their complaints are accurate, then they should be voicing them. OP can speak up as to the vendor’s good qualities, saying he likes working with vendor because of whatever, but telling coworkers that they are hurting his feelings would be really out of line. There is no reason for the coworkers to stop voicing their concerns over the vendor’s work.

          1. Lanya*

            Wouldn’t you like to know if you were inadvertently insulting a coworker or making him/her feel uncomfortable every time a particular topic came up? I would definitely like to know. I might handle those situations differently with that knowledge.

            It doesn’t sound like OP’s coworkers are making very constructive comments about the vendor anyway, when they are saying, in the OP’s words, “he’s an idiot,” or “when is his contract over with us?”. This kind of complaining just adds negativity. If people have a beef with the vendor and their complaints are valid, they should be documenting their concerns, taking them to the people in charge of that contract, and considering finding a new vendor when the contract is up. No need to keep harping on it.

            1. Positivity Boy*

              I totally agree with saying something, I just specifically think the “when you/I feel” construction is weird to use in a professional setting. I associate it with couples counseling or other interpersonal mediation. OP isn’t in a one-on-one mediation with these people, they’re in a group conversation. It seems more appropriate to bring it up directly the way Alison said, because ultimately the point here isn’t that they’re hurting the OP’s feelings, but that this is unprofessional behavior not suited for the workplace.

            2. Paige Turner*

              I agree, and if my coworkers were complaining like this in front of me about someone who they know is my friend, I’d start wondering about what they’re saying about me when I’m not there. On the one hand, “what other people think of me is none of my business,” but on the other hand, it seems like these coworkers are being kind of rude and unprofessional, and I don’t blame the OP for wanting to (politely) call them out on it.

  11. Sunflower*

    2- I think the best thing you can do in your job is do what Allison said and talk to you boss. Maybe things will change, maybe not. But I think being more focused on your job search is a good idea. Make sure you don’t end up in the same situation. As someone who is struggling to get out of a bad work environment, I’m using my interviews to try to make sure I stay out of a bad work environment. Use your interviews to do what you can to make sure the next job you take isn’t a bait and switch like this one. Ask a lot of detailed questions about day-to-day work and if it’s possible, see if you can talk to people you’d be working with or even better, the person you’d be replacing. Good luck, I know it’s a bad situation to be in

    1. AB Normal*

      +1. I have a lots of friends who fell victim of the same trap (being wooed by a supposedly glamorous job only to find themselves stuck with repetitive work or an unusually low workload that makes them feel bored and underutilized.

      It never happened to me and I suspect it’s because I always ask a lot of questions and if possible talk to peers doing the same type of work, to make sure what I’m being told by the hiring manager matches what I’m hearing from others on the team. You don’t want to leave a job because of this problem only to find yourself in the same situation on the new one!

      1. OP2*

        “Bored” and “underutilized” are great ways to describe my feelings. Most of my day is spent sitting and trying to look busy.

        1. Rat Racer*

          Hi OP 2 – Your post reminds me of the first job I had out of grad school. I was working for a public policy institute at a large university and told that I would be doing grant writing, program design and evaluation, PR and maybe some admin work.

          Admin work I could have tolerated, but my boss had recently started a charter school in inner-city Baltimore and the venture was not going well. She sent me down there every day to substitute teach when her teachers failed to show, and STAND IN HALLWAYS AND BREAK UP FIGHTS. I’m 5’6″ and 120 lbs soaking wet. Not the most intimidating hall monitor. Finding me under-qualified to keep the peace, my boss eventually fired me.

          My point is that it takes a while to find a job that’s a good fit; just keep in mind that you learn as much from the horrible jobs as you do from the great ones. Hang in there…

          1. Paige Turner*

            WHAT that’s insane :O
            Glad you’re no longer working there, and good luck to OP2 as well…

  12. BB*

    5- I wonder if you can have a smaller desk adjacent to you. I would prefer a standing desk but I can see some days where I would just want to come in and sit down.

    I personally love to be moving during the day. I used to waitress and although the days were long and I was usually sore, it made sitting down at the end of the day so much better. I’ve contemplated changing my career for the fact that sitting all day is difficult for me to do.

    Does anyone have a treadmill desk? I’ve considered buying one because I think they’re such a good idea.

    1. VintageLydia USA*

      Part of The Fault in Our Stars but John Green was written at a treadmill desk and he liked it a lot. I was considering getting one for my husband (who works from home and complains about the lack of movement in his IT job) but they’re pretty pricey and I’m not positive it won’t become an overpriced coat rack.

      1. Jamie*

        I’m really uncoordinated, so I can’t imagine being able to type while on a treadmill. Is this something normal people can to?

        I also can’t write while walking – so this could be just me – but it seems like it would impossible to work while actively moving.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I do not disagree; although, I know some people can do it. I think the treadmill must be set very slow for someone to able to read the screen, mouse click, and type while walking.

          That might be great for me during meetings when I mostly listen and watch someone sharing their screen. But when working on spreadsheets, I’d need to have my body still to make sure I could keep track of the rows and columns.

          1. HR Lady*

            My friend had one. I think The IT Manager is right that the key is that it has to be set for a very slow pace. My friend would walk for 3 – 4 hours a day on it, while working, but the walk had to be very slow.

  13. Not So NewReader*

    OP3: I can understand how you feel about your friend being malingned at every turn.

    I have tried a few things and had some success here and there. The
    first thing is try to find out the nature of the complaints. Some complaints are just so the person can hear themselves talk. And some complaints are legit.

    With the legitimate complaints- say to yourself “Can I bridge this gap?” If no, let it go. If yes, build a plan.

    For the complaints that are something close to nothing decide to say something like “That is too bad, I am sorry to hear that.” Then do nothing.

    The whole time look for ways to say positive things about your friend. Work those positive statements into conversation- but do it randomly. Don’t be a steady drone. This will take time. Lots of time.
    You are dealing with a group think thing- and it will take time to erode that group thought.

    Please remember that we are ultimately responsible for our relationships with others. Yes, sometimes you can pave an easier path for someone else, but your friend has primary responsibility for his relationship with your company. If he is, indeed, doing right by your company that truth will eventually win out.

  14. Anonymous*

    #4: Just wanted to mention that California calculates overtime daily, 1.5 after 8 hours, double time after 12 hours. There are state rules more strict than the federal law.

  15. LV*

    I was in the same position as #2 two jobs ago. I’ve ranted about it before in the comments here. I accepted the job offer because I’d been told I would work on big important projects and learn all these exciting marketable skills. Got there to find that they had hired consultants for the big important projects, and had known all along they would do so. My boss essentially wanted someone working underneath her to make herself feel important (she was suffering from the delusion that she was a big fish in a small pond and not getting the respect she deserved).

    All she wanted me to do was send emails and book meetings on her behalf, because she thought having a personal assistant as middle/low-level management when only the C-levels had PAs would signal how amazing she was.

    80% of projects I ended up working on, I got from a coworker in my division whom I begged to let me help him with his assignments because I couldn’t take 8-hour days that contained only 20 minutes worth of “work.” It was so frustrating. It was a government job, so I felt awful thinking about the taxpayer money that was going toward my salary when I was contributing so little to the organization. And I constantly felt that other coworkers who didn’t know the situation with my boss judged me for visibly not doing much. I was SO glad to get out of there.

    1. OP2*

      Any advice for getting out of here? I’m trying VERY hard but also trying to switch industries. HR is apparently very difficult to find entry level roles for people with little to no experience other than translatable skills.

  16. Ruffingit*

    I think if I was OP#1, I’d email back and say something like “As I’m unemployed, I’m not in a position at the moment to pay for your services. Thank you for your time and best of luck.”

    Something of that nature because seriously?? The woman wants to charge for something that is normally free AND she wants to charge an unemployed person? UGH. No. Craft a polite response and move on.

    1. smallbutmighty*

      My guess is that she actually expects and somewhat wants a response like that. I’m betting she is either stretched too thin or simply doesn’t want to do networking meetings, or maybe both, and that she was thinking that after enough cancellations, the OP would get the hint and stop asking.

      It would’ve been way kinder and a lot less weird for her to just say, “I don’t have the bandwidth to meet with you right now, and I wish you the best of luck in your job search,” rather than invent an obstacle for the OP just to get out of meeting.

      (And, honestly, unless this specific woman was really critical to the OP’s job search, i.e., her only contact at the company where she dreams of working or something, she should have taken the hint a long time ago and said something like, “It seems like your schedule is way too busy at this point, and this just isn’t going to work. I’m going to hold off on meeting up with you for now. Maybe we can touch base in a few months when your schedule is more open.” She can follow up later, or drop the thread altogether at that point.)

      1. Chriama*

        I agree. Saying that the only way she can fit this meeting in is if she charges for it is a weirdly indirect way of saying she just isn’t available right now due to her busy schedule. I don’t know if I’d even really want to meet with her at this point. If she’s so uncomfortable saying no she’d rather make an outrageous request than just assert proper boundaries, I don’t know that she’s the best professional resource.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I agree with Chriama that I think I’d dump her off as a possible source of help just based on her inability to appropriately set boundaries and say no.

      2. Ruffingit*

        I would have dropped it altogether long ago also, but it’s unclear to me from the OP’s letter whether the woman was rescheduling all the time or the OP was chasing her down. As in, was the woman setting a time, then rescheduling, setting a new time, then rescheduling, etc? If so, then I can see how the OP didn’t drop her beforehand, but if it was the OP doing the majority of the chasing, then yeah I’m with you on moving on long before now.

    2. HR Lady*

      I agree about OP #1. This networking contact is definitely saying that she just doesn’t have the time (or doesn’t want to make the time). (It’s possible she herself doesn’t quite realize that that’s what she is saying, but her actions are speaking pretty loudly.)

      The OP should gracefully back out at this point: “I can tell that you are very busy and I don’t want to be one more draw on your time. Thank you for your time but please don’t feel like you have to answer my questions. When I sent them to you I didn’t realize how busy you are.”

      (I know that is a little over the top, so it kind of depends on whether you care if she thinks you are gracious and nice or maybe you don’t care. Because you identified her as someone who might someday be helpful as a contact, I’d care what she thinks.)

      1. OP1*

        HR Lady and Ruffingit – Just for reference, I’m actually employed (entry level, part time) but looking to move on. This was a meeting that I had originally set up, and she had rescheduled multiple times. She brought up the idea of sending her questions, which I agreed was a simple compromise.

        In addition to her notice about requiring payment for a meeting after that email, she also offered an option for regular career coaching meetings. I thought this was graceful of her, but I also strongly suspected they came at a price (and I already have a better career coach contact.) I got the impression these types of meetings have become a new side-hustle for her, but at this point I’ve already backed out because I’m simply not interested in connecting with a someone who isn’t able to set boundaries or doesn’t want to make the time for networking (in a communications career, no less.)

        1. Ruffingit*

          Thanks for the extra info OP! This information is making me give even more of a side-eye to your contact. Offering regular career coaching meetings would give me pause considering that she has routinely re-scheduled the original meeting. I wouldn’t have much faith in someone at that point in terms of a more regular meeting schedule as required by career coaching since she can’t get it together now.

          Also, not telling you upfront that she wanted to charge is just screwed up. If this is a side business for her, she needs to start marketing it as such and dealing with it upfront so that if someone contacts her, she would say “I would be happy to meet with you to discuss pricing for my career coaching services” rather than just rescheduling time and time again before finally telling you she wants you to pay.

          This whole thing just gives me an “UGH, you suck” feeling toward her.

          1. OP1*

            Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt after dealing with her. For someone who’s pretty well regarded in the PR community in our city, it was a real “ugh, really?” moment. Eye-opening to say the least! (Or, a lesson in what not to do in the future.)

  17. Elle D*

    #5 – I wouldn’t worry about standing at your desk. We have one manager in our office who is the only person who does it, and even though the rest of us haven’t jumped on board we think it’s cool. If I walk into his office for a quick 5-10 minute catch up meeting, I usually remain standing while I talk with him. If we need to have a 30+ minute meeting, we usually book some time in a conference room so we can both sit or move to a place where we can both stand (if it’s not confidential, we’ll meet in the break room kitchen or at the counter-height work area in our copy room since it allows us both to stand).

  18. smallbutmighty*

    I use and really enjoy my standing desk. It’s actually adjustable and has a tall chair to go with it, so I have the option to sit, stand, and adjust my workstation height. I’d say I stand about half the time.

    Most of my colleagues have the same arrangement.

    My group works in an open plan area, so we don’t typically have meetings here. Some of the managers, who DO have offices, have tall chairs for themselves and then stools on the other side of their workstations (most of them have L-shaped workstations) so that guests to their offices can sort of belly up to the bar. (That’s the general effect.) If it were me, I’d be able to sit OR stand in this scenario, because I’m so short. But I can see having this type of seating being useful to taller folks, who have to think about the weird height differential possibilities.

    As far as I can tell, the research on this type of workstation suggests that it’s beneficial because it encourages movement and changes of position throughout the day. I’ve always been a big fidgeter, and I find that I’m just more comfortable with a desk setup that gives me more opportunities to move.

    1. KC*

      YES! I just finished commenting above that I really liked a standing desk because of my tendency to fidget. Your setup sounds awesome!

  19. A Jane*

    #5 – A couple people in our office have a standing desk, and it’s not too much of an issue. If needed, they adjust the desk back to sitting position and then go back to standing.

    Personally, I find the fitness balls stranger than standing desks. I feel I would just bounce all day.

    1. Sunflower*

      Ooo a fitness ball chair sounds fun. I just searched them and I didn’t even know fitness ball chairs existed!

    2. EricaVee*

      I do the exercise ball thing. It’s been GREAT for my back–pretty much eliminated daily back problems. I highly recommend it with the caveat that unless you’re in a fitness-oriented environment, people will give you probably crap about it. Pretty much every contractor that comes into the office comments on it, and I’ve even had a few rude people kick it while I was sitting on it.

  20. BadPlanning*

    I made the poor person’s standing desk — which is putting my laptop on enough paper reams that when I stand, I can type at it. It’s on a dock, so normally when I sit, I’m using a monitor, keyboard and mouse and the screens are shared. I usually only stand for 30-60 minutes at a time.

    This makes it easy to change when a person comes in. Usually if it’s short, they stand and I stay standing (if I am already), otherwise if they sit in my extra chair and then I sit too. I’m pretty short, so the laptop adjustment works for me sitting or standing.

    I did get questions during the first week and after that, it was normal to people. If people feel uncomfortable when they come in and I’m standing, I haven’t really noticed. I think sitting if they sit helps a lot. Around my parts, a lot of people have an extra chair, so sitting in it is not odd.

  21. Karin*

    #5: I recently got a standing desk, so now about half of us in our office have them. All but one of us have desks that go up and down, so we can sit for meetings if we’d like. In addition, most of us have another small (sitting) table to meet at in our office space if we need to. So office meetings usually go like this:

    If person is unannounced, and I am standing, I stay standing, because I want the meeting to be quick.

    If I am sitting, I just stay sitting.

    If a scheduled meeting, I ask them if they would prefer to sit or stand. I find it is about half and half. If sit, I will either lower my desk, or move to the smaller desk in the corner.

    For any scheduled meeting that will be over, say, 20 minutes, I try to book a conference room or the shared seating area with more comfortable chairs and a large screen TV.

    I see meetings as a nice break from the standing, and goodness knows I need reasons to look forward to meetings. :)

  22. Maureen P.*

    I have a standing desk in my office, and I often having meetings in my office. I let the other meeting attendees dictate whether we sit or stand – by welcoming them in, and waiting to see whether they take a chair or remain standing. They sit, I sit. They stand, I stand. Although the ills of sitting are well-known, sitting for a 30-60 minute meeting is not going to negate the benefits of your standing desk. But I wouldn’t stand while the other person is sitting for a meeting. That is weird (unless you’re writing on a white board or something).

  23. QualityControlFreak*

    I have a seated desk. If I wanted a standing desk, my org would make that happen; several people in our office have them. But I’ve been analyzing my own working style of late, and I realized that I’m actually in motion more of the time than not. I work at my desk, standing at the counter, back and forth to the printer and other offices, and all over the site when auditing or doing safety walkthroughs. I also walk on my breaks. I end my day feeling tired, but not stove up. (Currently dealing with the aftermath of a fairly serious injury, hence the attention to how I do things as my usual routines will need some temporary adjustment while I heal.) So all of this information is very timely and useful to me. Thanks to all of the commenters!

  24. Ed*

    Some folks in my office have fallen for this standing desk gimmick. But they got desks that they can raise or lower. So when you go into a meeting with them, they lower the desk so they can access their computer.

  25. ANON*

    With regard to the standing desk situation: I have a standing desk at my office as well and have experienced the same awkwardness that you mentioned. I expected this configuration to be unususal so I decided to make my desk partially standing and partially sitting. I have 3 surfaces that comprise my desk, so it was simple to only elevate 2 surfaces and keep one at sitting level. This also allows me to switch between sitting and standing since I usually get pretty tired after standing for 10+ hours per day. I would try that if you can, otherwise for longer conversations you may think of meeting in other meeting rooms other than your office. Hope this helps.

  26. Mena*

    #5: my company is now offering standing desks. I wish they wouldn’t.

    Please be very mindful of your speaking voice and telephone habits when using a standing desk. Cubicles are designed with a degree of sound absorption. A standing desk means that you are talking over and above others, and this sound carries considerably. Pleaese do not distrupt your neighbors.

    Thankfully, no one near me currently has a standing desk. I will immediately seek a move if and when this happens.

  27. Joe*

    #1 – I think you should find out what her proposed fee for meeting with you is. Then divide that by the number of times that she’s rescheduled, and tell her that you have a rescheduling/cancellation fee, and that luckily for her, the two exactly cancel out based on the number of times she’s rescheduled so far, so as long as she doesn’t reschedule or cancel again, she’ll break even.

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