employees who take double lunches, nicknames on resumes, and more

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

1. When we have lunch events, an employee wants to take a second, personal lunch break afterwards

Is an exempt employee entitled to an additional hour of “personal” lunch time if they participate in a company-hosted function such as a picnic or other celebration? These events are never mandatory and often run over the allotted hour for lunch, but we have an employee who insists that she is still entitled to an hour for her “personal” lunchtime. Any information you can offer is appreciated.

Well, point out to her that exempt employees aren’t entitled to any lunch hour at all. While some states do require specific breaks for non-exempt employees, no laws require that for exempt employees. So if she’s arguing this from a legal standpoint, she’s wrong.

Beyond that, if you don’t want her taking a second lunch on those days, tell her that. Be very clear with her about the fact that invitations to voluntary events held over lunch are invitations to spend her lunch break engaged in that activity, and that if she feels she will need a separate lunch break afterwards, she should decline the invitation. That said, there’s an argument that since she’s an exempt employee, you should let her manage her own time and not nickel and dime her over this kind of thing. And who knows, maybe she wants to attend these events as part of your team, but also uses her lunch time to run errands, recharge by herself, or some other perfectly legitimate reason. But it’s really your call, and which way I’d lean would depend on how strong a performer she is overall.

2. Using a nickname on my resume

When I was applying for my current job, I filled out my resume using my “brand” name, the name I am commonly known by professionally, instead of my legal name; think “Peggy Olson” instead of Margaret Olson. On the official application form (which accompanied my resume) and my hiring paperwork, I used my legal name, because it’s my legal name. The person who referred me for the position told me the other day that he had a really hard time collecting the referral money, and he was told it was because of the mismatch – their computers couldn’t accept that the “Peggy Olson” who was referred was the same as the Margaret Olson who was hired. The HR rep framed this as being my fault.

Is this unusual? It was my understanding that resumes and cover letters should use your brand name and not your legal name in cases where they are different. All of my references, my LinkedIn page, my publications, etc are under my brand name. Is this just a peculiarity of this employer, or did I do something wrong?

You didn’t do anything wrong. Resumes aren’t formal legal documents that require your birth name; it’s completely normal to use the name you commonly go by. In fact, it can be problematic if you go by Peggy but put Margaret on your resume; references may have no idea who this “Margaret” is that the reference-checker is asking about, and you can arrive for your first day at your new job to discover “Margaret” has been used for your email, business cards, and computer login.

This HR rep is being ridiculous. Not only did you not doing anything wrong, but they should be able to find a way to get the referral bonus to the right person. They’re not at the mercy of their computer system for that.

3. Should I tell colleagues that I’m on a medicine that’s making me woozy?

I have chronic migraines that have gotten worse in recent months. Yesterday, I left work early to take an emergency doctor’s appointment after a 4-day migraine – I couldn’t take it anymore. My doctor put me on a medication that he mentioned may make me feel woozy for a few weeks – I took my first dose last night, and boy was he right! I’ve been feeling hazy all day at work – having trouble coming up with words, having difficulty focusing on the computer screen. I called my doctor’s office and they confirmed that once I adjust, the symptoms will go away.

I’m not sure exactly how to approach this – I have a “manager,” who functions more as an adviser (though she is on vacation for the next two weeks and the symptoms may be gone by the time she’s back), and my day-to-day work is coordinating logistics for four different project management teams. I generally need to be pretty sharp in order to keep everything straight, since I’m working with so many different people in different time zones. Part of me wants to give my project managers a heads up, but I don’t want to draw attention to something that may not end up affecting my work. I plan on keeping detailed lists and calendar reminders, and working extra hard to keep things organized while I adjust to the new medication. What would you recommend?

Personally, I’d be comfortable telling people I work with closely, “Hey, I’m on a medication that’s been making me feel a little woozy at times; I’ll be fine in a few weeks, but I wanted to mention it in case you notice anything strange.” That shouldn’t put anyone off. You’re giving them a head-up to explain something that they might otherwise wonder at, and you’re telling them it’s going to be short-lived. I’d rather have them know what’s up than notice something and draw their own conclusions.

4. Asking about a raise that my boss suggested a few months ago

I started working for a small business in January. I am the second most senior employee after the owner/boss. My boss keeps me informed of all aspects of the business, so I know that the business is struggling a bit financially. We are waiting for several payments that may take weeks or even months to come in.

In May, my boss told me that I was doing really great work and he was very impressed with how quickly I had jumped in, taken on new responsibilities, formed relationships with our customers, etc. At that time, my boss told me that he would give me a raise at the beginning of June. We didn’t talk specifics about how much of a raise at the time, but I was certainly happy to hear his good impression of me.

Now, it’s the beginning of August and there hasn’t been any raise nor any mention of it since May. I normally wouldn’t be afraid to bring the topic up again, but I know (and my boss knows that I know) what the business’ financial situation is. Is it okay to bring up the raise when I know money is tight right now? Should I bring up the idea of a raise, but ask my boss when he would be able to actually start paying me more?

This is a little bit tricky because you’ve only been there eight months, and normally I’d say not to ask about a raise until it’s been a year. On the other hand, your boss brought this up on his own and gave you a specific timeline. I think it’s reasonable to check back in but without pushing the issue. I’d say something like this: “We’d talked in May about revisiting my salary this summer. Is that something it still makes sense to talk about?”

That said, this depends on how tight things actually are. If things are truly dire and the owner is worried about having to lay people off or make painful budget cuts, it would look tone-deaf to bring it up right now, and in that case, I’d give it a little more time.

5. If not a functional resume, then what?

I know you have strong opinions against functional resumes, so I’m wondering what other advice you’d give to someone who is trying to get back into her field after having to take survival jobs to get by. I have an MA in policy and have done policy work in the past. This is what I am trying to return to. Unfortunately, during the recession I have had to take unrelated, lower-level jobs to pay the bills, and I don’t want that to be the first thing the resume reviewer sees or what they focus on.

How do you suggest shaping my story on the resume to play up my relevant experience front and center, instead of distracting with the more recent survival jobs? I’d rather have someone be annoyed with my resume format but notice my skills and experience than dismiss me entirely off the bat because they only scanned the first two, unrelated job titles.

The problem with functional resumes isn’t just that they annoy hiring managers (although they do) — it’s that they make you more likely to get rejected because it turns your resume into a mess, where it’s not clear what you did when or for what employer, and it screams “I’m trying to hide something.” In most cases, I won’t even follow up with someone who has a functional resume, so don’t think it’s just something that mildly annoys employers but doesn’t ultimately affect your chances.

Instead, I’d kick your resume off with a section titled Relevant Experience (or even better, get more specific — like Policy Experience or whatever else fits) and then follow it with an Other Experience section, where you can put the survival jobs. Good luck!

{ 249 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    #3 If you don’t give people a heads up about a drug reaction that is this dramatic and likely to affect performance, you will be subject to rumors about substance abuse (or if you are old, about Alzheimers). I don’t see any alternative to being matter of factly clear about it. And once rumors fly, they are hard to fully stomp out. You need to frame this right away as a headache med that you are adjusting to — this reduces the likelihood of rumors about your health or worse your possible substance abuse.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      What Artemesia said.

      When my doctor put me on Topamax for my migraines, I initially didn’t say anything. Then I realized it really did make me stupid and forget words. The forgetting words effected my job, so I had a conversation with my boss about it and that was that. Most people already knew I had terrible migraines.

      From my experience, if your doc put you on Topamax – the woozy goes away, but the stupid part doesn’t, just FYI.

      1. the gold digger*

        What I liked about Topamax is that it completely killed my desire to eat. After just a few weeks, I saw my abdominal muscles for the first time in my life.

        What I didn’t like about Topamax was that it did nothing for my migraines. (I hope it works for OP! I finally discovered that caffeine is the main contributor to my headaches.)

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          Good old Topamax. It worked on my migraines and the appetite suppression was a bonus, but I could not get past the pins-and-needles feeling in my extremities. Feeling like you’ve got fuzz stuck to your nose and chin 24/7 is extremely distracting. I lasted about 6 weeks and then gave up and went back to Excedrine.

        2. Mike B.*

          One thing about Topamax, though, is that it’s sometimes prescribed off-label for the treatment of alcohol addiction.

          So it’s probably better not to volunteer what medication you’re taking, lest you kick an altogether different hornet’s nest.

      2. Anon for This*

        +1 for this. I’m on Topamax, and the woozy is gone but the stupid is still here – it’s a trade off between not being able to function at all because of crippling migraines 10 days a month, or not being able to do simple math in my head, not being able to come up with words as easily as I used to, forgetting things, etc. It’s absolutely affecting my job and I have been ignoring it, hoping it will go away but I think I am going to say something to my boss about it based on this question and comments here.

    2. Anon*

      I agree with this.

      Also, I’m an advocate for medical privacy, and I don’t think you’re obligated to share more information, but in this case I would even specify “I’ve just started a new migraine medication. My doctor said that the first couple of weeks it might make me woozy, but that these effects will wear off.” Migraines are pretty harmless compared to other conclusions that people might draw, like that you are on narcotic painkillers and may be a drug addict, or that you’re on such strong medications because of a severe illness like cancer, or less dramatically that you’re going to be on a medication that will continue to affect your work for the for the foreseeable future.

      1. Chinook*

        Can I also add that, since you know the wooziness may affect your job function, letting people know that it is temporary and that you know it may happen may make it easier to bring up any mistakes or errors. It may even mean showing you plan to mitigate potential errors by creating checklists and checks/balances before anything goes out the door.

      2. Valar M.*

        Migraines are a chronic condition though, and I’ve found quite a few employers that get annoyed with them because they can’t “see” a migraine and if you are a chronic sufferer there is no end point to the illness. So I’d still say OP needs to tread carefully.

  2. Chris*

    This seems like something that might vary from manager to manager. Every manager I’ve ever had, I would absolutely tell them. “Just so you know”, etc. Better that than have them notice something and think you’re on illegal drugs, or lazy, or whatever. But YMMV, depending on the boss.

    I like Alison’s solution to this problem. I mean, it’s your resume, you can add sections if they make sense, and this seems like the perfect scenario to do it.

    1. Artemesia*

      I liked that advice as well. A resume is a marketing tool and if you have a scattered work history, dividing between experience related to the job and other experience is the perfect solution. You are still using chronological job history just organizing it slightly differently. And then of course with the irrelevant jobs, framing them in terms of skills and accomplishments with an eye to those that may be useful on the new job.

  3. Jessica*

    Re #1: I’m a non-exempt employee, which my boss frequently forgets to account for. I’m often (every couple of months) asked to attend a departmental lunch or event that goes through lunch in such a way that the expectation is that our whole office will attend. I’m the only non-exempt employee. I want to make sure I’m getting the break I’m entitled to, but I also feel awkward that I’m always having to say to my boss, “So, because I went to this, I will be leaving an hour early and have someone else cover the phones for me” or “Just checking that you want me to go to this and take my break later?” and then my boss is invariably surprised, having forgotten that I’m non-exempt. If I voluntarily choose to attend something over lunch, I’ll still mark that time as my lunch break on my timesheet, but for these other times I feel like my boss is getting irritated that I’m insisting on taking another break when a particular lunch is more or less mandated. Am I in the wrong here? Anyone have suggestions?

    1. Sourire*

      Not sure on the legal aspect, but I never would have even thought to ask for another lunch on top of special-event type lunches. We never did any work at these lunches though, so maybe I would’ve felt differently if it had been something involving a conference or presentation of some sort. In NY, I believe the rule is that you must be relieved of duties for it to count as the required meal break, and I’m honestly not sure if a company sponsored, voluntary event meets that standard or not.

      1. the gold digger*

        The problem is that even for voluntary events, it is not looked upon well to skip it. I hate lunch meetings because it means I can’t go to the noon class at the Y. I resent having to use my lunchtime for the company. I think everyone – exempt or not – should get an extra hour off when there is a company event at lunch.

      2. Willow Sunstar*

        I have always been told that when we go to a special-event type lunch at my current company, that it replaces any lunch break we would have had. However, if the special-event type lunch goes longer than we would normally take a break for, say if we would usually take a half-hour lunch, we don’t have to stay for the extra time.

    2. Anon*

      How would you or your employers feel about you not clocking out for these lunches? You wouldn’t get your break, but at least you’d get paid for the hour. This is what I did when I had a job with a time clock, and everyone knew about it, and nobody cared/they all did it too.

    3. Angela*

      The answer to this is going to depend on your state. In Indiana, anyone age 18 or over is not required to be given any sort of break/lunch. I don’t know many employers who actually attempt this – most seem to realize that employees need these recharge periods. On the flip side, if your boss is requiring you to go to this lunch, it would be something that here we would be required to pay you for as all hourly employees must be paid for all time we are requiring them to be in the building or at any work function. If it was framed as voluntary, then we wouldn’t have to pay you and it would be considered your unpaid lunch period. So the real question is if your boss is saying the activity is mandatory, does the boss want you to leave early or is he/she willing to pay you for the extra time?

      1. Taz*

        The majority of states don’t give “meal breaks” but are required to give a break after more than five or six hours of time to hourly workers.

      2. Anon*

        Even if the state is not required to give break times, though, they are obligated to pay a non-exempt employee for that time if the lunch is required. If they don’t allow the extra break, they’re paying an employee overtime for attending a work lunch, which most employers would not want to do. So no matter the state law, they can’t just ignore the fact that a non-exempt employee is on the clock during their normal work break, but they can choose to deal with it in different ways.

      3. Jessica*

        They’re not willing to pay me for the extra time, which means I should leave early, but I have to bring this up to my boss every single time because it’s never remembered/accounted for ahead of time. That’s what I’m struggling with.

    4. Sophia*

      Yes… this happens to me as well. The thing is – I HATE having lunch with my co-workers. I really need to have my alone time every day. So when my boss forgets I’m non-exempt and makes it a “working lunch” or a “required” (or at least heavily implied as required) department lunch… I feel like I can’t speak up or else I’ll be seen as petty. But when I’m forced to eat lunch with my co-workers, I feel very much like I’m not getting paid to do work (yes, to me, it is serious work to have to make small talk with co-workers at lunch) PLUS I get to feel extra drained and not get the things done I need to get done.

      1. U Snooze U Lose*

        Oh and I’m sure your co-workers just LOOOOOOVE you too. But come time for company layoffs, guess who’ll be the first to get canned for “not fitting in” or “not being a team player”…obviously it’ll be YOU, and not those co-workers you “HATE having lunch with” and are “forced to eat lunch with”. So have fun with that (while you’re still employed)!!! Cheers

        1. Liz*

          That seems a rather harsh response, and not in keeping with the spirit of this forum. Having worked in a dysfunctional, poorly run company , where I had to sit very close to my nasty boss in an open space plan, last thing I wanted to do was have to sit in the lunch room with him too.
          And it wasn’t really lunch. We were still required to answer the phones, etc. and when he was done eating, he expected everyone else to be too, even if we were trying to help someone over the phone. Not everyone is an extrovert, and depending on the line of work you are in, lunch may be the only time to regroup and organize the rest of the day,

        2. OfficePrincess*

          Wow. Harsh. Some people are more introverted than others and are exhausted after being “on” for hours at a time and really do need to be alone for a bit to recharge.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Your tone is way out of line for the way we speak to each other here. This is a different pocket of the internet, where commenters are able to address each other with respect, even when we disagree. Alison’s environment allows for open discussion.

        4. Red Librarian*

          That was completely uncalled for. Nowhere does Sophia indicate that it has anything to do with her co-workers on a personal level or that she’s not a team player — she specifically says its because she needs her alone time. As a fellow introvert who gets drained from social interactions (and also hates small talk) I completely sympathize. Having to constantly talk and interact with people for 8 hours a day can take a toll on some of us.

        5. Cari*

          Your that person in the workplace no one likes, who can’t understand why, aren’t you. Projecting much?

          Some folks need time to recharge after periods of social interaction, even with co-workers who are generally easy to get on with. This *is* a thing. It can take a lot of mental energy to engage in even small talk with co-workers (or anyone), energy that may be better used doing what they’re actually paid to do (work). Have some empathy before putting fingers to keyboard in future.

          1. Sophia*

            Ouch. That kind of hurt.

            And yes I agree that I think that person was just projecting. In all actuality, I’m well liked at my work place and people want me to go to lunch all the time. I’ve been told I’m one of the most friendly, outgoing people in my organization and everyone is comfortable asking me for help and a conversation.

            Just deep down, I’m an extreme introvert. And I would much rather be alone than with other people. (To give you an idea, I go to the mall, movies, and restaurants alone – and generally get a lot less enjoyment doing those things with friends.) That friendly outgoing person I am for 8 hours of the day takes a massive effort although no one would know it. I very badly need my hour alone each day. And yes, I know that to be successful professionally, I just have to suck it up and deal with it. And I do. In fact, we have events where I have to be “on” for 64 hours in a 4 day span and I survive.

            Here, on this blog though, I feel comfortable enough baring my introverted sole in hopes that a boss reads this and realizes that some of us need an hour to re-charge.

            But ouch! Thanks for saying something guys.

            1. Liz*

              Please don’t let one hurtful response discourage you from posting. I am glad you shared. I have learned, and continue to learn, a lot from this blog, and really appreciate the input from everyone regarding work issues and how to handle them. I hope that in the future some people will think twice about how their comments may come across before posting.
              Have a good rest of the weekend.

            2. Rose*

              I always feel like the only one who feels that way! I’m not shy in the least, I talk a lot, and I have an easy time making friends, but deep down I am very much an introvert who needs a LOT of alone time. I only find time with other people relaxing if it’s my family or one of my very closest friends. Even though I like my coworkers a lot, a “working lunch” is totally exhausting.

              When I try to tell people, they look confused and say “but you’re not shy!”

          2. Chinook*

            There are also jobs that are highly interactive and require a break throughout day in order to stay sane. I was a receptionist at tax time for an accounting firm and if I had been required to interact with coworkers during my break, I couldn’t have handled it and would have needed an “extra” lunch just to recharge. It was also the only time I would call people to remind them to give me my coffee break coverage because every other AA was “too busy” to be bothered to release me for a pee and sanity break (I was averaging 150+ calls, 20+ visitors and courier visits a day).

        6. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I have nothing to add since others have already said it for me, but yeah, that’s totally out of alignment with how we talk to each other here.

        7. Willow Sunstar*

          Some people have annoying co-workers. I have one who asks a lot of personal questions, and I have to keep deliberately giving vague answers to him. He insists on oversharing in IM. One of my friends thinks that’s his way of hitting on me. I hope not. So because of that, I do eat by myself most of the time or with co-workers from my previous team.

          I’ve never been accused of not fitting in. They don’t seem to care at my company, as long as you get you work done and attend the mandatory company picnic/Christmas party every year.

          I am also very introverted and require a recharge time, especially after dealing with my nosy co-worker’s questions all morning long and trying to tell him that he should be working instead of IMing me about my old jobs (that were, btw, 7 years ago and are unrelated to my current job) or about what I learned in my 4-year college (that was in the latter half of the 1990’s). Why he seems obsessed with these details about my past, I don’t know, but it’s very odd and I don’t want to encourage him.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Wow. That’s not just annoying, that’s obnoxious and possibly creepy. You don’t HAVE to keep giving him answers at all, vague or otherwise. “Sorry, Bob, working on something right now.” “You know, Bob, I really don’t want to answer those questions.” Block him on IM if you can. Repeat until he gives up, and if he doesn’t give up quickly, that’s when to involve management.

            1. Willow Sunstar*

              The problem is that he is my co-worker, so if I block him on IM, I may get in trouble. Also, he sits right across from me, so he will just walk over to my desk. I have continued to use the “I’m busy” but he can hear if I’m typing or not, so I have had to find something else to type on if I actually have downtime. Part of the issue is that it’s a new job and he’s new, so he doesn’t have a ton of things to do yet. But he needs to spend his time understanding his job than asking me personal questions about my past career/schooling/etc.

        8. Darcy Pennell*

          In all sincerity, I would love working with Sophia. We could commiserate over being compelled to chit chat during time that we’re supposed to have to ourselves. And even if we got snarky, I think we’d be nicer than you were to her.

      2. Isabelle*

        I feel the same way as you Sophia. When we have visitors in the office, we sometimes have to have both lunch and dinner with them and I am completely drained at the end of the day.
        It’s that feeling of having to go for 12+ hours without any kind of break from work at all. Eating with colleagues, and especially visitors, is work and not a break to me. I can’t relax and it doesn’t recharge my batteries at all.
        By the way, most of my team hate going for work lunches/dinners – even the ones who are not introverts.

      3. Rebecca*

        I feel much the same way. There’s a small group of us who meet after hours and go to a tavern for food and drinks, but we have similar interests and hobbies outside of work. I dislike having to go to lunch with the whole office. My manager thinks this is a wonderful thing to do, me, not so much, but I keep my mouth shut, smile, and pretend I’m in the dentist’s chair and it will all be over soon. In my case, we don’t get the choice to opt out of “forced fun time”.

          1. Rebecca*

            Yes, but she just frowns at me and says “that’s not an option”. She runs our office like a kindergarten classroom. Same thing with working from home. I’d love to do it, I’m a good candidate and using Alison’s tips, laid out some good points and asked if I could try. Answer? No. I can’t trust everyone in the office to work from home, so no one can work from home.

      4. Cari*

        I used to love that about my old job, that I didn’t have to socialise with anyone for a long amount of time. I did some cover hours in another department for a few hours a few days a week more recently, and just couldn’t keep it up. Thought my co-workers were great, my people (geeks :)), but it quickly became exhausting doing the hours in a little office with them, especially on top of my main job elsewhere. Fortunately my department are mostly cliquey and anti-social, so there was no worry about forced social lunches and events to eat up valuable social interaction units, better spent on the customer facing aspect of the job.

        (I can totally recommend working in IT, particularly non-regular working hours, to anyone looking for a less socially demanding job.)

        1. Windchime*

          I second the motion. My IT department is full of introverts. We are all very friendly, work well together, and even occasionally eat lunch together, but we also have long stretches of time (sometimes hours) where everyone is working quietly at their desk, not talking.

      5. AtrociousPink*

        Wow, I could have written this comment! Lunch with coworkers, especially when it’s in the office, is definitely work for those of us who need that midday hour to decompress. (Not to mention, there is seldom any healthy food offered.) Is there any way a non-exempt introvert could diplomatically speak up about what is essentially an hour of unpaid overtime? I know, first world problems, a whole hour where I don’t get my usual fine wage! But still….

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Okay, Jessica, I’ll tell you honestly that your approach strikes me as a little small. I don’t think you’re wrong, and I think if you want to stay in the same position that you have with that company for an extended time, setting your own boundaries around how deal with the employee required lunches can serve you well. It’s better to be proactive and clear vs not being that way and sitting around pissed off/feeling taken advantage of.

      Pulling another team member to cover phones for you so you make sure you get the break that you’re entitled to is a real statement, especially if it’s because you are leaving an hour early.

      If you were asking me how to advance in your company, I’d tell you “don’t do that”. This is once every few months. You can justify to yourself that free lunch is free lunch and it counts as your break. OTOH, if this is the role that you want and you are setting the terms for how you are willing to work, and people accept this it’s your deal.

      (A better way to play it is not leaving an hour early but still needing your break to do “necessary errands” or somesuch. That stands out less.)

      1. Jubilance*

        Ehh, I see another side to this. Some states have really strict rules about non-exempt employees and making sure they are paid for every minute they are working. So if she was required to attend a lunch event and did not get her employment-law mandated lunch break, the company could get in trouble here. Or she could be entitled to overtime pay if she doesn’t take that hour unpaid break and ends up with more than 40 hours for the week, and that may not be something that the company may want to pay. They may have rathered that she leave early or skip the “mandatory” event because she is non-exempt. So yeah, it would be great if she could be more of a team player, but her non-exempt may mean that her hands are tied on this.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          I was thinking of it as a celebratory/social lunch vs a working lunch. If somebody attended our company picnic and the said “I have to leave an hour early now, John has to cover the phones for me” that wouldn’t go over well.

          If it’s a working lunch, I change my answer.

          1. Chinook*

            I agree – working lunch is very different from a social lunch. Providing a free meal and a place to socialize, that is social. Have a mandatory lunch ‘n’ learn, and that is work and, when I was the receptionist, I have asked for a half hour break, which required coverage, instead of my full hour as a compromise and added the other half hour to timesheet.

      2. soitgoes*

        It really depends. I live in a state where it’s required that a 30-minute break be given for every 8 hours worked. Unfortunately, a lot of companies who keep their employees non-exempt really nickel-and-dime their employees when it comes to clocking in and out for these breaks. If she’s not clocking out for these required lunches/meetings, she has to be allowed to leave 30 minutes early.

        But since the commenter’s boss is surprised by the request (as in, s/he probably would have paid out for the 30 minutes of overtime), I’m of the thinking that it’s the better long-term move to enjoy the free lunch and the extended amount of time during which I’m paid to not do much.

    6. Elysian*

      Why do you feel you are entitled to a break? Are you in a state that requires breaks for non-exempt employees? If so, which state? Are you worried about getting paid for a working lunch, or are you concerned that your boss isn’t following the law by not letting you have a duty-free break, or is your concern something else?

    7. Traveler*

      I’ve been in this boat as well. I never asked for a second break or to leave early because I feared that would come across as greedy. The only thing I made an issue of – was that if it ran over an hour that I be paid for anything beyond the hour, and my boss was always okay with that. I just didn’t think it was fair for me to have to work late for something “fun” I was being made to go to, while all the exempts went home.

      I really do hate this in general though. I even enjoyed some of the lunches, but I really wanted my break time to decompress.

    8. A Bug!*

      I just want to point out that it sounds like what you’re describing is a very different thing from the OP’s. It sounds like you’re describing a “working lunch,” in which case I don’t think it’s out-of-line for you to treat it as time spent on the clock. However, if it’s possible, I’d suggest you try skipping the personal lunch while also staying clocked in for the working lunch. (Check the laws in your area to make sure that’s legal.)

    9. Julie*

      I’m the same way. I’m part of a business development team but I’m also an admin so I have to be in charge of all the hospitality during the lunch too. If I have to sit for an hour and learn new tips for approaching clients at a working lunch while being interrupted to put out more waters and I have to wait to eat since I need to be able to answer questions during the presentation or deal with a spill, I really feel like I deserve that extra “real” lunch hour, whether back-to-back or at the end of the day.

      I’m also the only non-exempt on my team and even in my office so I feel like I’m getting docked. If I do work it all, then I get HR calling me and stating I need to log it as overtime. No matter which choice I make I feel like it will hold me back in someone’s eyes and to work an extra 2-3 hours a week off the clock feels like I’m effectively demoting my own worth.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Lookit, you can’t pay non-exempt people in food.

        I know this sounds like the opposite of what I said to Jessica, but what threw me in Jessica’s post was announcing she was leaving an hour early and getting somebody to cover the phones for her. That’s an aggressive way to address an occasional situation — which is fine as long as the impression being left is understood.

        If you are the only non-exempt, it is so possible it’s never occurred to your boss. Can you just ask, what would you like for me to do so I can either have a break or get paid for the time? If you are literally working the lunch, as in working to even provide and serve the lunch, it seems so crystal clear this ain’t no break.

    10. Anon*

      Legally you are in the right – if you’re in a state without required break times, your employer could just keep you on the clock for that time instead of allowing an extra break, but that would result in overtime and most would probably just want you to take the break.

      From the other perspective, though, I can see why some of the exempt employees might bristle at it. They’re thinking “NONE of us really WANT to be there and we all give up our breaks for it because that’s just part of having an employer” and are not amused that someone is getting an extra break or extra pay out of it. Even in hourly jobs, I’ve always accepted it as just one of those unfair things and never asked for extra pay/breaks BUT I’ve never been in a situation where it was explicitly mandatory, just that I’d literally be the only person choosing not to attend and my reputation would be affected accordingly. However, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t entitled to those things, and anyone who is seriously bothered should remember that they probably get perks that you don’t.

      Finally, as a fellow introvert I’d like to thank you for standing up about these things. Maybe if employees don’t make it so convenient for employers to just require crap like this over a lunch time and expect the employees to give up their breaks voluntarily, employers will learn to schedule it at other times. I don’t have a very social job right now but when I did, I was truly EXHAUSTED by lunch time to the point where I would silently freak out when a coworker asked to tag along on errands or join me for lunch, let alone if I had to have lunch in a room full of them.

    11. Jessica*

      Wow, lots of opinions on this one. Glad I checked back.

      Because my boss never remembers I’m non-exempt, and frequently asks my exempt coworkers to work long hours, weekend events, etc. (or makes passive-aggressive comments when they try to leave at a normal time), I feel like I have to set some sort of boundaries on my hours or I’ll end up working a lot of time I’m not recording on my timesheet. (My boss has made it very clear that I am NEVER to work more than 40 hours in a week because he does not want to pay me overtime — if the choice is between working extra hours or changing my schedule to leave early one day, I am to change my schedule.) The fact that I live right by work and sometimes attend evening events with my spouse (an exempt employee for the same organization) also contributes to the blurring of what is and is not work time.

      If something is voluntary or is a celebratory lunch where we’re not actually doing work, of course I will mark that as my normal lunch break. But every so often I’m asked to attend or work at trainings that are long but include food. So do I just make arrangements to leave an hour early at the end of the day, or do I pick an arbitrary hour in the middle of the day as my “break” even though I never actually got a break?

      As a few people brought up, I am most definitely an introvert, so having to work a full 9 hours with no time to myself is draining on me and not something I want to set up an expectation that I’m happy to do it every month or two while “pretending” on my timesheet that I got a break in the middle of the day.

      1. Just Visiting*

        If you don’t mind my asking, what do you do at your job? I’ve had jobs where I was the entry-level person (because those are the roles I want), and whenever we had trainings or presentations me and the receptionist and other entry-level, non-exempt employees were allowed to sit out because the things being talked about didn’t apply to us. At my last workplace there were a lot of legal trainings (like two or three times a month) and the entry-level employees were allowed to grab a plate and eat back at our desks.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        And, that completely changes my response. As I said somewhere else, I was only thinking of social/celebratory lunches, not working ones.

        The reason I didn’t think of working lunches is that working lunches are obviously work, I don’t see how a boss would be surprised that they didn’t count as break, and should of course be paid.

        1. Jessica*

          Some things can have blurry lines. If everyone is required to go to a departmental beginning-of-the-year luncheon where half the time is listening to the higher ups make motivational speeches, is that considered a working lunch? Or is that really my break? This sort of things happens more than once a year in our organization, which is why I’m trying to nail down how to define it.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            It depends on what you want to come out of it. The person on the other side of this thinks that they are buying you a nice lunch and saying nice things to have a positive workplace. If you say “okay, I sat through all of this and now I gotta leave an hour early just to recover”, you aren’t marking yourself as someone who wants to move ahead. Whether that is work or not is more your call than anybody else’s and you’re calling listening to their nice talk and eating their food with them work.

            I don’t disagree with you! I am the worst at wanting to sit through things like that and you can be sure I don’t conduct any.

            If you are happy in the job you have and are doing a good job, a sane boss isn’t going to be like “oh we gotta replace Jessica because she hurt my feelings over my motivational speech”, but it doesn’t leave a good impression for moving ahead.

            Regardless, I appreciate people who set their own boundaries and are clear about them vs people who go along because they won’t speak up and then let resentments build up.

      3. Elysian*

        I think for working lunches you need to frame it as a “how do you want me to handle this:” As your boss, Would you rather I record this training as overtime because it goes through lunch, or do you want me to take a break later in the day? Put it on your boss to decide. If he out-right tells you to making the training as your break just so he doesn’t have to pay overtime, that’s against the law. AAM has lots of advice about how to handle that, which generally starts by assuming that your employer just doesn’t know the law on this issue. You might start with something like “I don’t think we’re actually permitted to do what you’re proposing, because the law has clear standards about work time that needs to be paid.”

      4. Anon*

        I think that in those situations, unless you have a very strong preference one way, it’s best to ask your boss what works best for that day. “I’m non-exempt, so I’ll need to be on the clock for that lunch meeting. Would it work best for everyone if I take a lunch break right after at 1pm or if I stay at my desk for the afternoon and leave an hour early?” This way you’re showing that you are still team/work-oriented even if you aren’t playing along to the extent of willingly working unpaid hours. That’s just the ideal way to handle it though, not the only one – if you are truly mentally exhausted and you really want a break after the lunch meeting, it wouldn’t be bad to take a break, in my opinion.

        1. Jessica*

          This is the best response I’ve seen so far. Thanks! I like framing it as “What is the best time for my break?” Where I’m still struggling, I guess, is that asking a question like this can sometimes be met with a reaction like, “But we’re feeding you, why do you need another break?” I end up kind of awkwardly saying, “Well, I don’t know how to fill out my timesheet. Where in this two-hour lunch event should I say I had my hour break?” I don’t want to constantly jump to the legal stuff because I feel like that’s seen in my organization as being petty unless it’s something that’s considered really serious.

  4. Chloe*

    #2…slightly depressed at the use of ‘brand name’ instead of ‘nickname’. Maybe I’m old school, but I’m finding the idea of a personal brand hard to swallow. We are people, not products!

      1. JB*

        That’s a little strong.

        I get what OP#2 is saying. In a lot of fields, your reputation will extend outside of your office, and what name you go by professionally will be the name everyone in the field knows you by. It’s not the same thing as a nickname.

        Beatrix Potter might go by Trixie to her family and friends but be known professionally as Beatrix. After she marries William Heelis, maybe she takes his last name in her personal life but not work. So in professional circles, people know her as Beatrix Potter, but in private life, she’s Trixie Heelis. Beatrix Potter is not a nickname, it’s her professional identify. Calling it a brand may sound gross or gauche to you or others, but it’s not an incorrect description. The word “nickname” is not at all accurate of what the OP is talking about here.

        1. Anon*

          How come it can’t be called professional name then? “Brand name” sounds like something a very corporate-y jerk would use.

        2. Anon*

          To me, “brand” has a connotation of fakeness, of corporateness, of vapidness. And I am a millennial, though an old one. “Professional name” doesn’t have that connotation. If OP2 doesn’t believe “brand name” has that connotation, then by all means continue to say it. But this is the first time I’ve seen it used to describe a human being’s name and sorry, but I got a whiff of science fiction dystopia off of it. I hope it doesn’t enter common usage.

          (P.S. I am the Anon you’re responding to, but not the Anon who called OP2 a jerk. I don’t think she’s a jerk, but I stand by my belief that the term “brand name” used for human beings is gross.)

          1. Call me Heinz*

            I’m 38, and I completely agree. I would find it extremely strange and fake if someone used this language around me.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Actually, would both you and the other Anon pick a user name? It makes it much easier to follow the conversation when people use a consistent name and I strongly encourage them here. Thank you!

          3. JB*

            I heard it quite a bit in some fields. Maybe your uncomfortable with it because it’s not familiar to you. If you don’t like it, be glad you don’t work in one of those fields. But you’re saying negative things about the OP for something that isn’t that big of a deal. The fact is, in some fields, your professional identity is like a brand.

          4. Lisa*

            I don’t think OP is a jerk or its gross just a way of how certain industries work now and she is prob just used to saying it like that.

            I am in the marketing world where a brand name is necessary. People are hired based on whether they have a presence on social media, write articles related to our industry, and otherwise attend marketing group functions in our area. I hate it, and I feel like it is forced because twitter and ‘being on’ do not come naturally to me. I like other stuff on linkedin, and will follow people on twitter, but my brand is weak and needs a refresh every time i look for a new job. Some agencies want people that are actively writing about our industry and on social media, but I am working and have a personal life and being on / creating a brand in my industry can be a full time job. Just reading those articles of other people takes up to 2 hours a day for me, and I can’t imagine writing on top of that. But I am one of those people that hates booze cruises which are wrapped into ‘networking activities’. I would rather go to a full-on conference with sessions and lunch and learns than deal with making sure my instagram acct has a pic of me at the latest event.

            As for OPs friend, I think the company is trying to find any excuse to not pay up. This is a lame excuse and not OPs fault at all.

    1. OP 2*

      Part of the reason I’ve always heard of it as a “brand” name is that it encompasses more than just a nickname for some people — for instance, if someone changes their name post-marriage or post-divorce, they sometimes continue using the earlier name as their professional identity, or someone may go by A. William Wagner professionally, while their nickname is actually Artie in personal life.

      Also, though — it is a sort of brand for me. I participate in a lot of online communities, have a blog, attend conferences, etc, all under “Peggy”. Rebranding isn’t as simple as changing what people call me, and if my nickname changed in my personal life (I decided I preferred Meg, or what have you), I would still go by Peggy for my professional persona.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Uggg! I agree with Chloe. It a nickname or go-by name not a brand name. I find a person calling themselves a brand like a object needing to be marketed is very objectifying, also seems like someone being fake and hiding their true selves underneath their marketing materials. I don’t care for this new job hunting jargon and strategy. Obviously you do OP2.

        I would refer to something similar as a person’s reputation. Obviously you want a good one and can do things to repair and build/re-build a reputation without the being so sales-y and referring to yourself as an object to be sold.

        Obviously you do OP2.

        1. Traveler*

          Disagree. There are lots of people out there – where their name or their nickname is a “brand”. You trust what they put out because you trust that person’s business abilities/opinion etc. It’s how you know someone in the public sphere and understand their brand. Some people need a level of separation between who they are “out there” and who they are privately.

          1. Nichole*

            While the idea of people as products is definitely icky, I perceived a brand in the sense the OP described it as distinct from a nickname. Names have connotations that can be leveraged for business purposes. For example, ‘Marge’ may draw up a different mental image than ‘Maggie,’ even though there may be a Margaret attached to either one. You can prefer Maggie stylistically and go by it socially while still preferring the connotations Marge carries to be dominant in your professional life. In that case, ‘Marge’ really is more brand than identification; the ‘real’ you is Maggie, with Marge used as part of an image you’re projecting to give others a shortcut to understanding your preferred professional persona.

        2. OP 2*

          I think of it more as acknowledging a reality that exists, whether we like it or not. For public figures (actors, politicians, athletes, writers, etc), we all acknowledge the public brand. It’s why Miley Cyrus tried so hard to shake her good girl image — she was rebranding, trying to change her demographic appeal to a new group of people. It’s why writers will often have multiple names if they publish under different genres. If I am a chocolate teapot manager, and I want to shift to managing medical supplies projects, I’m going to need to similarly rebrand.

          I don’t see why acknowledging that I’m selling something — namely, my expertise, experience, and labor — is objectifying. If I weren’t “being fake and hiding myself” at work, I’d be using swear words and talking about controversial politics and religion. Most people compartmentalize and take what we need for work, leaving aside the parts that will harm them. I’m just doing it deliberately and with attention to how it positions me.

          1. ArtsNerd*

            I get it. Had I written the letter, I think I would have phrased it differently, but I totally understand what you were going for and why.

          2. Erica*

            I had a similar visceral reaction. Nothing to do with you, good on you that you can do this well, but I personally hate the idea that my every move is part of “branding” nowadays. Actually, thinking about this has led me to a personal insight: as someone who loathes “selling myself” with every fiber of my being, I would probably feel a lot better if I could use a totally different stage name at work, completely separate from my personal identity. I’m not bragging about Erica, I’m bragging about Shazam the Magnificent! I’m not being rejected, Shazam is! This would make the job search process feel much less filled with painful judgments about ME as a human being.


          3. MK*

            However, public figures (actors, politicians, athletes, writers) in this day and age are not just selling their expertise, experience and labor, they are selling themselves. Who they are is sometimes just as important as what they can do, sometimes more important, which is where objectificayion enters the picture; that’s why it doesn’t feel off when their professional persona is called a brand. I don’t think it’s “a reality that exists” to refer to non-public figures this way.

          4. Programmer 01*

            I absolutely understand. One of the choices my spouse and I had to make when we married was whether or not there would be name changes. Our industry relies heavily on accredited work, and if you change your name you tend to lose all of your credentials. Most married couples in our office have not involved name changes precisely because of this — and because, quite frankly, they deserve the recognition themselves and not just as so-and-so’s spouse. Our creative director and programming director are married but you would never call our programming director so-and-so’s wife or Mrs so-and-so. Someone would smack you if you did.

        3. Cari*

          I don’t see why OP #2 is getting this sort of reaction. How do you all feel about big name chefs, hair stylists, fashion designers etc. whose names have become a brand? I mean, they’re not objectifying themselves; they’re taking an “object” e.g. line of hair products, clothes, food, and making it *more* human, less faceless corporation, by putting a real name and face to it. It feels like the opposite of what is being said in the objections to OP #2’s use of the term.

          1. Erica*

            How I feel, honestly, is that I would never in a million years want to be them! I like my privacy. Not because I want to do something nefarious, but because I want space to just be me, without having my every move judged and scrutinized. Making your name a brand, like Beyonce, means 100s of shallow gossip articles about what you wear, where you eat, how your hair looks on a given day… to see if it measures up to brand consistency. That’s pretty much my idea of hell.

      2. MK*

        Not the point of this thread, but changing what people call you is anything but “simple”. A school friend of mine did this, when she turned 18, she asked everyone to start call her by a different nickname. Of course everyone respected her choise, but my tongue still stumbles when I say her name and it’s been almost 20 years.

        1. Felicia*

          I always have trouble calling someone anything other than what they were first introduced to me as. Of course I will try to respect peoples preferences but it’s hard to think of people by a new name.

        2. Anon*

          I went by my first and middle name growing up (as someone once told me, “All good southern girls need a double name…”) but I got tired of explaining to my teachers that I go by both names and decided to just go by my first name on the first day of sixth grade. The prospect of explaining to 6 teachers in one day was just too exhausting, lol.

          I was 11 then and I STILL get called the double name (or my nickname that’s based on my middle name) by all of my family members and anyone who has known me for years. And even weirder, my first name alone still doesn’t even feel like my name to ME. It just feels like something I go by in impersonal settings like work and school, like when people immigrate and choose an “American name.” Names are weird.

        3. afiendishthingy*

          Yeah. My legal name is four syllables and extremely unusual, and 99% of people call me a shortened version. I have on occasion tried to go by either my full name or a different shortened version (the last two syllables instead of the first two), but have realized that can really only happen organically — someone finds out my full name, is capable of pronouncing it, and prefers to call me that, which I like, or goes for the alternate nickname on their own.

        4. Elizabeth West*

          It IS hard. When I went to college, I stopped using my first name and started going by Elizabeth or Liz. It took my family a long time to stop using the first name (I eventually just stopped responding to it). But my legal name is Firstname Elizabeth Lastname, and that’s what my doctor’s office, later schools, and anyone official calls me.

          I still hate it, and I’d like to change it–either just initial it or drop it completely. If I ever get married *Lord please* I’ll just do it then.

        5. Lisa*

          Yes, I have a cousin Bethy, who is now Liz. Her brother was Richy, then was Dick. Oh, and Emily is now Peter. Still call them all by their first nicknames / names when we talk about being kids though watch my tongue extra when around Peter’s friends who have no idea what his female name was.

      3. Anon*

        I get what you’re saying. For a lot of people, the nickname is also something that for whatever reason sounds more professionally desirable, so it IS a type of personal branding. The full name may carry connotations of age (older or younger), socioeconomic status, or ethnicity that someone doesn’t want front and center on their resume. It’s actually pretty common for people to have a resume/work name that they don’t even use socially.

        And if you work for money, you’re selling something anyways. Branding doesn’t mean that you’re an object to be sold any more than, say, Coca Cola paying attention to branding means that Coca Cola wishes to be sold itself, as in acquired by another company. Companies brand to sell products and services and so do people. But I’m a millennial and maybe there is a generation gap about the acceptability of this concept.

        1. Erica*

          Yeah, but Coca Cola doesn’t go home at the end of the day and goof around with its friends, fall in love, make mistakes, go on adventures, get embarrassed, etc. Coca Cola doesn’t have an identity outside of its identity as a product or company. Human beings do. So to me what’s grating about thinking of your own name as a “brand” is it feels like all those other aspects of being a human are being erased in favor of value to the marketplace as your only identity. Or even worse, that you have to be constantly monitoring and censoring everything you do as a person to conform to your “brand identity” with no room to just be off the clock.

          1. Cari*

            Even people whose brand is their name have other, more personal, names (or totally unrelated handles) they go by when they’re goofing around with friends, falling in love, having adventures etc. I seriously doubt Jamie Oliver’s nearest and dearest see only his chain of restaurants and cookery books when they have him over for a cuppa, or John James Sainsbury’s (Sainsbury’s, formerly J. Sainsbury, for an example that shows personal name as brand is *a lot* older than the comments here lead to believe (1869 :D)) saw only groceries when he’d come over for family christmas dinner…

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I am agreeing here. I hate the idea of being equal to a box of cereal.

            Also, I am concerned about the concept of developing two personas- one for work and one for home. This concern may or may not apply to everyone or I could be way off base as to how this plays out. But I think that it’s more important to build a set of values that carry me through my home life and my work life- a consistency/continuity sort of thing. Focusing on developing one’s brand could possibly detract from developing oneself as a well-rounded person.

            In short, branding seems to be about “What will others think?”. It has a fad or tendy feel to it. “My brand is that I keep my word” vs. “I keep my word.” The latter seems to be the more powerful statement in my mind.

            1. Ruffingit*

              Yeah, agreed. I don’t see it as having two separate personas in terms of how I operate at work and how I operate elsewhere. I just follow the required social contract if you will that I will not do certain things at work that I might do with friends. I will not joke around and use bad language with my boss when I might do that with friends. I will not share intimate details of medical issues with my co-workers while my best friend and I have done that for years. But to me, that’s just part of being a professional in the workplace. I don’t think it makes me a different person. I carry the same values to work that I have at home. Values are the same, behavior is a bit different due to what is expected or appropriate in a workplace, but it doesn’t change who I am fundamentally.

            2. Just Visiting*


              Also, I’m a writer (like, published and everything) and I find that the writers who make a big deal over their names (either pen or real) being their brand are also the ones who write the most vapid crap you can imagine.

    2. Vicki*

      I was going to say, it never occurred to me that “Vicki” was my “brand name”. It’s just my… name. It’s the name everyone calls me (except the IRS and my bank.)

    3. just a gentile*

      A name you’re consistently called professionally, or in your entire life, is not a nickname. Nicknames are names used to express familiarity, affection or sometimes ridicule.

  5. Student*

    #5 – Many technical fields now use a “skills” section on the resume to summarize technical competencies that can get easily overlooked in the traditional “employment experience” section, but are relevant to the position (programming languages, familiarity with research techniques, experience with relevant tools). I don’t know if this will translate well to your field or not.

    If you do this, it has to be short, and it has to be organized enough to not be a blinding wall of text. Then, you have to try to make sure those skills are backed up in the rest of your resume as much as reasonable That way, people can say, “Oh, she says she can program in C++, I wonder what kind of work she’s done in it?”, then look it up with a fast search in your resume and read about whatever you did. Then they can gauge quickly whether you ahve the depth of experience they’re looking for.

  6. Fucshia*

    #2 – I would say that you did wrong to put a different name on the application. If you are known by your nickname at past jobs and with past references, that is what you want them to see. If you feel you must put your legal name, also put your nickname. Something like Margaret “Peggy” Olson.

    1. OP 2*

      Well, the application had a field for “preferred name”, and I put Peggy in that field. But the official application included things like clearance for background checks, educational history, and so forth, and most of the official records are under my legal name, so it’s important that they have that.

      1. HarperC*

        I think you did everything you could/should/any reasonable person would want you to. I think the HR person was either having a bad day or, my guess, doesn’t know the computer system well enough to get around anything that is even slightly different than the “norm”.

      2. Fucshia*

        If they had a preferred name field, then that was the right place for Peggy. My reading of the letter had been that Peggy was not on the application at all. That should have solved their confusion.

      1. Cog*

        Genuinely curious — what do you prefer instead? I’m in the awkward middle of changing my name where the legal paperwork hasn’t gone through yet and there’s about a 50/50 chance that anyone a prospective employer talks to won’t know the new name, and the two names are not even sort of alike. (I’ve alerted my probable references, but if they call via the receptionist instead of the direct lines, the receptionist won’t know, etc.) When they ask for my legal name I obviously give it, but it’s not really right on the resume. I settled on heading my resume with John “Cog” Doe for now, but if there’s a better way I’d love to hear it; I find it a bit less than aesthetic too.

  7. Anonobot*

    #1: I really don’t understand the whole “working without a lunch” concept. How are you supposed to work eight hours in a row with nothing to eat?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In this case, it sounds like they’re eating lunch during the company event — the event is centered around food in some way (picnic, etc.). But also some people eat at their desks while they work — I rarely took a real “lunch” in my last job because I preferred to just eat at desk while I continued to get work done. That’s not ideal if it’s being required on a regular basis, but some people really do prefer it. (For me, my brain tends to get into work mode and turning that off for a whole separate lunch break feels unnatural, especially when there’s pressing stuff going on.)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I rarely leave my desk for lunch, but I HAVE to take a brain break at that time. Although, I’ve been known to eat and continue to work and then take my break and goof off or write for an hour.

    2. Katriona*

      It’s not uncommon in retail, IME. During a “slow” period I sometimes had to work 10-hour days with no break (not even to sit down for a minute) because we were so understaffed that there was no one else to cover the register. Eventually it started impacting my health so badly I had to quit.

      1. Chinook*

        I am so grateful for the laws here that require breaks every 3-4 hours because I once worked a 5 hour shift for a manager who didn’t know the law and kept two of us on the floor the whole time (not even a water or pee break). I spoke up after and got an apology (and time added to my paycheque) but it was not comfortable or enjoyable.

      2. Anonobot*

        IMO, managers responsible for these types of conditions forfeit their privilege to two weeks notice (or any notice, for that matter). In this situation, you should have the right to quit any minute of any day. And I’m sure that’s not uncommon in practice.

        1. Katriona*

          In that case I actually gave them a month’s notice and offered to help train my replacement, but they never hired anyone and last I heard still hadn’t filled the role (I was a department manager). But you’re right, at that store getting any notice at all was fairly unusual.

    3. Ruffingit*

      I’ve done that and it’s not ideal, but it can be done. Right now, I get a 30-minute break, but taking that is near impossible given the nature of our work so I often heat something quickly in the microwave and come back to my desk to eat. However, I’m going to start eating at my desk for 10 minutes and then spending 20 minutes in my car listening to music on my kindle or catching a quick nap or something because I have found that I really need the break, especially given the stressful work environment I’m in just by the nature of the job itself. I need the time.

  8. Juli G.*

    #2 I have to defend the HR person here. If they actually said “fault”, then they’re rude.

    But having been in an HR operational role, I cannot tell you how many times I have wasted hours looking for an employee in our computer system who insists their name is Heather Mitchell. There are three Heather Mitchells in the system but neither of them match her birthdate. “Could she go by a different name?” I ask.
    “No, Heather isn’t a nickname,”insists the referrer/supervisor/HR generalist.

    When I finally admit defeat, inevitably someone comes back and says, “I guess her real name is Francesca.” No trace of the name Heather in the record. I also would get a lovely snotty sniff from the requester about how long it took to find – clearly I should have figured that out on my own. This happened weekly.

    Now in the example, I guess there is a logic to that nickname but I think in the younger generation, people aren’t familiar with Peggy=Margaret.

    Our organization does an application to collect your info upon hire. The operational HR group never sees your resume, may never even see you so if your legal name is the only thing on there, they’ll never know.

    1. De (Germany)*

      Peggy is a usual nickname for Margaret? Wow, I had no idea, probably because of not being a native speaker.

      1. Liane*

        Yes, I am young enough that I only know it because as a child we had a couple much older friends of the family and distant relatives who used Peggy. Meg and Daisy are also nicknames for Margaret. I have no idea how any of these nicknames came about.

        1. StarHopper*

          Back in the day, there were lots of people running around with the same name, so they got creative with their nicknames. ‘Margaret’ is derived from the Latin word for ‘daisy,’ so you have Daisy as a nickname. It was also common to change the first letter of another nickname to make a new one, so you got to Peg from Meg, or Dick from Rick.

          1. StarHopper*

            And in writing that, I just realized that Maisie was originally a nickname for Margaret! (Rhymes with Daisy.)

        2. The IT Manager*

          I know Peggy is a nickname for Margaret, but I’m middle-aged now. I did not know Daisy was. Margie is a very obvious nick name for Margaret that you left out, but a childhood friend’s mother was called Margie so it sticks with me.

          But mostly now Margaret is very uncommon name for people younger than 45 or 50, right?

          1. Leaveittobeaver*

            I have friends whose youngest daughter is a Margaret. She’s in elementary school and they call her Greta.

          2. Windchime*

            Yes, it’s pretty uncommon for younger people. I have a son in his late twenties who went to school with a Margaret, but she was the only one as far as I know. I went to high school in the late 70’s and didn’t have any Margarets or Peggys in my class.

            1. Judy*

              My youngest (8) is a Margaret that goes by Meg. There is another girl in her elementary school that is Margaret that goes by Megan.

              But my Margaret was named after my Grandma. (And Meg Murray from Wrinkle in Time. lol )

          3. JoAnna*

            Margie is a more common nickname for Marjorie as opposed to Margaret, but it could work for both.

          4. Margaret*

            I’m late to this party, but I am a 35-year-old Margaret. It is a common occurrence when I introduce myself that someone says, “I have a grandmother named Margaret!”, to which I reply, “So do I.” I go by Margaret, and always have. While I didn’t love it as a teenager (I desperately wanted to be a Lauren), as an adult, it’s nice to be a Margaret in a sea of Jennifers and Jessicas (no offense to the many lovely Jennifers and Jessicas out there!)

            There are a gazillion nicknames for Margaret. Others not mentioned here: Madge, Marnie, May, Greta, Gretel, and Gretchen. Many of the nicknames evolved into given names over time.

            I wouldn’t say it’s a very uncommon name, it was ranked around number 100 when I was born. It was number 3 at the turn of the 20th century (hence all those grandmothers!), and it’s currently ranked around number 180.

        3. Tina*

          Don’t forget Maggie. I’ve worked with several (traditional-aged) college students in the past 5-10 years who’s names are Margaret and go by Maggie. But it is a lot less common than it used to be.

          1. Kat M*

            I used to assume all Maggies were Margarets, until I started running into Magdalenas and Magnolias too. (Love them all, and Maggie is a great nickname.)

          2. Anon55*

            My middle name is Margaret and my first name is equally as traditional. I have yet to meet anyone with my first name who isn’t at least a grandma and my name isn’t part of the hipster comeback of older names nor one used in GoT. But I’ve never had to use my last initial to distinguish myself from eight others with the same first name in school or at work so there is a benefit to having an older name. Plus it hasn’t been infiltrated with yunik spellings like Mackenzie, Mckenzie, Mackenzi, Mackenzee, Mackinzie, plus about 30 more versions.

      2. Felicia*

        I think it’s because there are not a lot of younger people in North America named Margaret, it was much more popular like 50 years ago and now it’s an unusual name to give children. So if younger people know a Margaret they probably don’t know more than one. I only know Peggy is a nickname for Margaret because I’ve read it in a book. The only Margaret I know is friends with my grandmother, and I don’t know her well enough to call her Peggy. Also a family friend just named their baby Margaret, but that baby will be the only Margaret in her class for sure.

        1. Trixie*

          And isn’t it often Margaret Mary or Mary Margaret, who then go by Peggy? Had an old friend named Peggy in phone/customer service and each time she dealt with another “Peggy,” there was always discussion of, “Are you a Mary Margaret or Margaret Mary?”

          1. Sarahnova*

            The use of “Mary” as a legal (but usually not used) first name is also a Catholic tradition, where children are supposed to be baptised with the name of a saint (and sometimes given a “baptismal name” purely for this purpose). Half of Ireland, IME, seemed to be named Mary Actualfirstname or John Actualfirstname for a long time. My husband has a “baptismal name” which isn’t part of his legal name at all.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          My godmother’s name was Margaret, and an aunt goes by Peggy, but I actually don’t know if Margaret is her legal name. I should ask my dad.

          I’ve seen a trend of people going back to older names. For a while, it was names that almost sounded Colonial or Victorian, like Abigail. I wonder if these names are going to make a comeback too. If so, we might see a resurgence of some of the less common nicknames as people try to be original.

        3. Judy*

          As I said above, my Margaret who is 8 is a Meg, and has another girl at her grade level at school that is a Margaret, but the other girl is a Megan.

        4. Kelly L.*

          Plus, along the way some people just liked the name Peggy in itself, and so I know some Peggys who are legally Peggy and not Margaret at all.

      3. MK*

        I am not a native speaker either and I only knew because it is relevant to a plot point in an Agatha Christie novel. I knew my addiction detective fiction was beneficial to my cultural education!

        As others said, I think it’s a bit old-fashioned, both as a name and a nickname.

    2. OP 2*

      I can believe that’s been an issue, but in this case, every time a human being looked at the application, they told the person who referred me, “Yup. I see her. You’ll be getting a check,” but the computer system choked on it.

      Now, my name isn’t actually Peggy, but I chose it deliberately as an analogue: it’s not as simple or common as “Jen” for “Jennifer”, but it’s not an bizarre example: I’ve met several other people with the same name, and it’s always as a nickname for the same common name.

      However, in this case it wasn’t that the HR folks couldn’t find the link, because they could, whenever they looked at the files. Their computers just wouldn’t handle the fact that my resume had a different name from my legal hiring paperwork and allow them to cut the check.

      But the language of “fault” suggested to me that the resume-nickname was a bizarre thing they’ve never had to handle, which seemed weird to me.

      1. the gold digger*

        A few years ago, I applied for a job and got it. On the reference authorization form, they asked if I had been known by any other names. I had – by my maiden name. I listed the name and then, in the section where I listed my references, I wrote an additional note that the references would not know me by my married name and to be sure to refer to my maiden name.

        I spoke to one of my references later and he told me that the reference checker kept asking about Gold [marriedname] instead of Gold [maidenname]. I don’t know what else I could have done to make it clear that I was known by another name. I think the reference checker was just dumb.

        1. doreen*

          Oddly, when I got my current job I had the opposite experience. I was in fact never known by any other names ( not even personally) , but since the background check wasn’t completed until after I started work and had filled out insurance forms, etc, the person conducting it insisted on listing my husband’s last name as an “also known as” on the paperwork. He apparently couldn’t comprehend that a married woman might never use her husband’s name.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              When I got married, my bank would not allow me to keep my maiden name on my checks. I said “WHAT?” I was informed that I was free to take my business elsewhere.

              Eventually, I did. And my husband left that same bank, also.

              1. Valar M.*

                What?? My bank still allows me to cash checks that have the wrong last name on them since my husbands elderly female relatives refuse to accept that I haven’t taken his name.

              2. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

                Oh man, that bank’s mind would have been completely blown by the fact that my husband took my name.

            2. Ruffingit*

              Agreed. Not quite the same thing as the name deal, but I once toured a gym I was thinking of joining and the pushy salesperson asked me if my husband was OK with me joining the gym. WHAT?? What does my husband have to do with that choice? It was just weird. Didn’t join that gym of course and I complained to the higher-ups about it.

            3. doreen*

              Whoops- thought I mentioned it was 20 years ago. It was offensive but I would have been happy if that was the most offensive thing I encountered entering a male-dominated field back then.

    3. fposte*

      Okay, but that’s a flaw in the system, not a flaw in the human beings with names. What you’re describing is a common way people operate. If the system isn’t set up for a common way people operate, that means the system needs to be corrected, not that people need to make sure they only use names that fit the system.

      1. Erica*

        +1. Good design starts from what observations of what people actually do, with multiple rounds of user testing to make sure all scenarios are covered. Unfortunately most HR systems are the polar opposite of good design.

      2. soitgoes*

        I agree, and at some point a good HR person should learn work it into her process to ask about nicknames if the right files aren’t coming up. It doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do, and it actually strikes me as being a legitimate part of the job.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        I had a person come in and tell me her name was Donna Jones. I looked through the system and could not find her. I double checked. No luck. Come to find out her name was Donna Abernathy-LaPlant. Confusingly, she was also in the system as D. Labove-Schmitt. [Fake names used here, of course.]

        I never once expected the computer to sort this out for me. Part of my job is to compensate for the short-comings of the system and add that human touch. I hear a story like OP’s and think to myself “If that HR person does not want her job, I’d take it.” Figuring this stuff out is not a bother to me. It seems pretty basic to the work place.

    4. Brenda*

      This situation sounds ridiculous, but I also encounter it frequently. I work in a university and spend a lot of time looking students up in the system. It happens much more often than you would expect that someone says their name is “Miley Cyrus”, and when I can’t find any Miley Cyrus in the system, I ask them if there’s any other name that might be there. No, definitely not, it’s definitely only Miley. Okay, then, can I have their student number? And when I look up their student number it says “Hannah Montana”. Oh, well, yes, that’s my legal name, they say.

      What part of “Is there any other name you might have?” did they not understand?! And it actually happens more frequently with English and American students than with students from countries where having different names or lots of names is more common, and frequently with older (“mature”) students.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Probably they’re not understanding the party where by ‘any other name’ you mean ‘their legal name that nobody ever uses’. Instead of fuming at the students, why not start out asking them “Okay, I don’t see you in here – do you have a different ‘official’ name that it might be under?”

      2. Jennifer*

        Oh, I spent a month looking through MICROFILM trying to find a guy’s name. Because instead of being Bob Smith, he was Bob Fancy Long Name Smith. And I just knew that I was going to get into whopping trouble if I couldn’t find proof of this guy’s graduation. Fortunately his lackey eventually was all, “Well, he might be under Fancy Long Name Smith….” I shudder to think of how that could have gone.

        I also love having to look people up by name and then there are 100+ people with “John Lee” in the system. And I have no way to tell them apart except by looking at every single record. For 100+ tries.

  9. Red Librarian*

    I wonder how much of the resume-nickname has to do with how familiar the HR people are with Peggy/Margaret as a traditional pairing. Like, they used “fault” only because it wasn’t something they’d heard of before so it sounds random and made up. I’d be curious if a guy came to them and it was a difference of “Robert” and “Bob” if they’d be able to connect the dots, but if a guy came in with “John” and “Jack,” they’d have a similar reaction to Margaret and Peggy.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          No, your comment still makes sense. Some nicknames aren’t that common, or aren’t as familiar to younger people even if they’re aware of the full name.

  10. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    #1 is interesting to me because we have a lot of lunches. A lot of lunches. We keep free food flowing during busy seasons both as a divisonal reward for a good sales day prior and also as convenience to busy people who then don’t have to think about what’s for lunch.

    During other seasons, we have a lot of working lunches for smaller groups (marketing primarily).

    In addition to that, we have 2x to 3x per year company wide events on the line of company picnic during working hours.

    How do I handle what people do about additional break time? I don’t sweat it. If somebody was set to abuse the situation, that would become clear. (Example: sit at company picnic for 1.5 hours, then run out for lunch for another hour. Or, sit down to eat free busy season lunch with co-workers for 40 minutes, then run go out for an hour, habitually. None of those are mandatory sit downs. It’s just the food that is free.)

    But, nobody does that in pattern that has ever come to attention, and failing coming to attention as a pattern, I’m way too busy to care.

    Regarding working lunches: I mean *working* lunches. This is lunch, in a conference room, with a vendor, working the entire time. The only thing that makes it lunch is the food. A non-exempt employee absolutely should take a personal lunch break in addition and an exempt employee should do as they feel necessary. Working lunches are 1x to 2x per week for a couple of months in the off season. That’s too much to expect people to always give up their personal choices for breaks.

    1. Rebecca*

      I like how you handle that. I’m non-exempt. My manager thinks it’s fun to take the entire office to lunch, off site, several times per year. Let’s say it takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. I document 1/2 hour out time for lunch, and the rest is paid, at her instruction (my lunch break is 30 minutes). Other times, she wants to have what she calls “lunch and learn”, where lunch is brought in and we are required to eat together in the conference room and talk about work related things. But I’m still expected to take 1/2 hour lunch off my time card. This is where I disagree. If I’m in the conference room, eating lunch, even though the company has provided it, and I’m talking about work, it’s work, not an unpaid break. Thankfully this happens a few times per year. If it started to happen more frequently, I would start to balk at the forced fun time and lunch and learn meals.

      I value my lunch breaks too. I leave my desk and go for walks, outside, sometimes with a coworker and sometimes without. It gives me time to recharge and get through the rest of the day.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        There’s a mental trick about free lunches.

        A divisional lunch costs me about $800 and a smaller, working lunch costs me about $150 on budget. The trick is that, as nice as a nice lunch is, you can feel you are doing more for the employees than the value is being received in return. After all, an employee can do a pack lunch for $3. If you give an employee a lunch but then require that they work through their lunch, just because you gave them a lunch they didn’t even ask for, well, that’s how we got the expression “no such thing as free lunch!”, huh.

        I think somebody like your boss means well . She’s taking budget money and doing something she believes is nice for the people she works with. She just hasn’t thought through rest. I’ve thought through the rest because it’s something so common for us.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          “The trick is that, as nice as a nice lunch is, you can feel you are doing more for the employees than the value is being received in return.”

          YES, THIS. I’m an introvert, and I eat Paleo on top of that. So when I get requests for lunch meetings, I always groan internally, because the meeting organizer seems to think I should be excited about giving up my alone time for a sandwich (nope, won’t eat it, although if they provide a salad I will take the innards of 2 sandwiches and put them on a salad) or pizza (nope, DEFINITELY won’t eat it). I would much rather pay my hard-earned cash for a bread-free meal that I can eat with no one bothering me.

          For the OP: You say the lunches are truly optional. Does that mean you truly wouldn’t consider this person “not a team player” or otherwise put a strike against her in your mind if she decided to start skipping the lunches? If yes, then I think you’re in the clear to tell her she can have free lunch or personal time, not both (and make it clear not only that “the lunches are optional,” but also “I will think no less of you if you bow out”). If no, then I’d let the extra breaks go, especially if this employee is otherwise a good performer.

          1. Laura*

            Oh goodness yes. We have people in my office who can’t eat the free food at some lunches. These are sometimes lunch ‘meetings’ and then they show up, sip some water (or soda, if they can have that), attend the meetings, and then go eat.

            The optional lunches, people who can’t eat them either skip or – if they’re social types – bring their own lunch out. (And optional lunches generally include the option to grab the food and return to your desk.)

            But we’re all exempt, and no one makes much of a fuss. And for the lunch meetings where we truly need to attend, some attempt is made to get something for everyone. I usually end up with a sandwich or salad if it’s a pizza thing, for example.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Right on. There are certian foods that lend themselves well to a buffet style and can sit for a long time with no heat or refrigeration. Narrowing the choices down even more some foods are not meant for larger groups (prep time, expense).
                This means the free food is usually a huge bunch of carbs. I won’t eat that because this is how I chose to help my health, it’s a personal decision. By 1;30 I am getting super hungry and not really concentrating on anything that is going on.

      2. Willow Sunstar*

        This is what I would have to do at my company also. However, we would get in trouble for taking another break in addition to a working lunch. You have to know your company.

    2. Julie*

      This is exactly how I handle my situation. I do view working lunches as working. Honestly, just schedule your meeting whenever and don’t make me have to eat during lunch if you have such a problem paying me for my time. I also have to take the time to order and prep the lunch for the whole team which takes away the fun of it.

  11. MT*

    #3. If your company provides sick time, take a sick day when the symptoms are effecting your work. I would def tell a manager about it.

    1. Artemesia*

      This sounds like a drug that will make her ‘sick’ every day she takes it and that has to be taken continuously to work. She can’t take a sick day for symptoms because she is talking about weeks of symptoms.

      1. MT*

        If their symptoms make their so unproductive, then they need to stay home. That is what sick time is there for. Also if their symptoms greatly increase their likely hood of a trip or a fall at work, then she needs to stay home. If they are woozy and hazy and they get hurt at work, the employer is liable.

        1. MK*

          I would imagine that the OP’s doctor will have given her the relevant information about how active she can be while under the influence of the medication. Also, nothing the OP said implied that she would be completely unproductive.

        2. Jennifer*

          Yeah, but if she is going to be woozy for weeks on end, she can’t stay home for that long. No job is going to be okay with that.

  12. Sarah*

    An option is to create a Selected Career Highlights section under your main career profile section
    – A title at company, led team to x
    – As x at x, ….
    – etc.

  13. Seal*

    I am a woman who has gone by a nickname since birth, the result of having the same name as my mother and grandmother. Even better – my given name is not one that has an obvious derivative (i.e. I’m not a Margaret who goes by Peggy). This used to cause great consternation while I was in school, since I was always listed by my given name on class rosters; asking to be called by my uncommon nickname usually created confusion and embarrassment. I’m sure there are people I grew up with who only know me by my given name.

    Once I got to be an adult, I finally decided enough of this BS and started insisting I be called by my nickname, period. I insist it be used on department directories and rosters, I use it on my business cards, and always use it on my resume. I travel fairly frequently for work; if someone else makes my travel arrangements I ask that they use my given name and explain the nickname situation. Most people are totally fine with this. In fact, the only time anyone ever insisted on using my given name in a work situation was an a-hole coworker who was harassing me; he was disciplined for his actions.

    As a manager, I am super-sensitive about making sure people are called by their preferred name and that names are spelled correctly. An I intended consequence of having a nickname, I’m sure.

  14. Jake*

    If you’re worried about an exempt employee’s lunch break, you probably already have bigger fish to fry with that employee.

  15. OP #5 here*

    Thanks for taking my question – I feel lucky! I hadn’t thought about being “not perfectly chronological” with my chronological resume, but it makes sense and it’s good to know that pulling the highlights out won’t be perceived as cheating.

    1. Anon*

      For what it’s worth, as a recruiter I was never bothered by not-perfectly-chronological resumes. What is important is that the reader can see when and for how long you used all the relevant skills and performed the relevant job duties. As fair or unfair as the general public might consider it, dates are relevant. As long as I could easily see that information, it was fine, even if the most recent experience was at the bottom. (This is common for recent graduates who may have a jumble of related experience from class projects/volunteering/internships but their paid jobs are all unrelated.)

      If there are no dates at all, or they are difficult to find or it’s difficult to tell which experience went with which position, I am not going to call you unless I just have nothing better to do (unlikely). Usually, missing or obscured dates means that someone is trying to hide 10+ years out of the industry, not just a few survival positions. You run the risk of making people jump to conclusions that are worse than the truth if you are not very transparent about dates on your resume, at least for the last 10-20 years.

  16. Wren*

    letter #1 reminds me of a situation that my coworker and I have discussed and figured that it’s just something we have to suck up: basically, a couple of times a year, our boss and his wife will take us out to lunch. When this happens, we’re typically gone from the office for 2 hours. So not only do we not get any personal time that our lunch hour usually affords us (we’re both pretty introverted and prefer to spend it quietly alone,) if we want to leave at the same time we normally would at the end of the day, we’re forgoing an hour’s wages.

    As I said, we’ve come to the conclusion that we just have to suck this up.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      When I had babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, my husband traveled a lot for business. Running errands during the day was the ONLY way I could keep the household running. Being trapped in the office all day would have thrown a serious monkey wrench in the works, and the fact that I wasn’t paying for the food wouldn’t begin to balance it out. Because we all know the lunches are basically mandatory, even though they don’t say so straight out. Thank goodness my employers never nickel-and-dimed me about it. It’s not about the food, it’s about having one hour a day to call your own!

      1. JC*

        I was put in a similar situation when my daughter was first born. I depended on my lunch hour to pump. It was very stressful when something came up to prevent or delay that (for those who haven’t been there, not pumping at the right time can be extremely painful and may lead to complications). Because the office was very male-dominated, combined with the fact that I was very new to the situation, I wasn’t comfortable discussing the issue with co-workers. When there were clients present I used to try and quietly sneak out while they were eating and return before actual work picked up again. My boss eventually asked if there was a medical issue. Apparently another employee also required a separate break to attend to a completely different health-related issue. I’m not saying that I think this particular employee’s behavior is implicitly justified, just that there are sometimes underlying issues that people either don’t know how, or are uncomfortable with addressing.

  17. Darcie*

    #1 Some people need time to recharge after social events before they can be productive again. When you’re at a company function you’re “on” and not really resting, so I wouldn’t call that a lunch break.

  18. books*

    Re #4 – I’ve only worked for large (ish, from about 250 to 1200) person companies, and I’ve never not had a situation of performance reviews on a set cycle w/everyone else in the company. Is this unusual? (Do people at other large companies not have this?) Or is it more likely that larger companies have performance review cycles, and it is smaller (like what size?) companies where you can ask for a raise whenever it seems appropriate?

    1. Judy*

      3 F50 companies here, and the reviews were like clockwork with a schedule published by HR. By like clockwork I mean they were all done the day before the review was due on the schedule.

    2. Alone in the Office*

      I haven’t had a review in four years. It’s in the employee handbook, but it still hasn’t happened. I’ve asked my supervisor for one repeatedly, but it still hasn’t happened. Consequently, I haven’t had a raise in four years, either.

  19. Anon*

    #1 At my last job what they called a “lunch break” was a meeting in the middle of the day at which work was discussed and food was eaten. Occasionally other topics were discussed, either football or Weight Watchers (neither of which I was interested in) but that was just a minute or two and then back to work topics. Attendance was NOT optional. If you needed to run an errand or do something else or just wanted to eat lunch elsewhere, you were “spoken to” as if this was an offense as serious as lying or stealing. It was bizarre and I have never had anything like that at any other workplace. It wasn’t a break but an additional mandatory daily meeting. I was so happy to get out of there !

    So I don’t think double lunches are OK on a regular basis but I do think people should have a real lunch break and not forced to spend their lunch break with co-workers. Thus employee may not see attendance as really optional and that’s why she’s objecting/asking for a second lunch.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I do understand why they say you have to attend. It’s definitely a working lunch. The use of the word “break” was a misnomer though; you’re not getting a break. I don’t think there’s anything wrong/illegal with that (as long as non-exempt employees are paid for the hour). You are getting to eat, no problems; you just don’t get a break in middle of the day. Some people might like that/wouldn’t mind especially if it means you can leave an hour earlier at the end of the day.

  20. soitgoes*

    Has the HR person in #2 ever worked with a woman who goes by her maiden name professionally but has a different married name? How does any decent office/HR software not account for something like this? Sounds like someone’s first week on the job.

    1. the gold digger*

      In the US, I think your paycheck name needs to match the name at the IRS (ie, it must be your legal name). I go by my maiden name but my legal name is my married name. So for payroll, I was my legal name, but on my email and for all other cases, I was my maiden name – I just had to tell IT what my preferred name was for setting up my email.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Am I the only person who does the opposite? I’ve seen the maiden/married thing mentioned here frequently, but I’ve never seen anybody who does what I do (which, seems natural to me).

        I’ve never changed my legal name, through two marriages. I’m Jane Smith legally, always have been always will be. I appended my married name socially, including at work, so my known name is:

        Jane Smith Jones (no hyphen, but the Smith is always there).

        It’s a modular method that, bonus points, has never required a name change document. Caused me problems one time when somebody at work made a plane reservation for me without telling me first. Jane Jones doesn’t fly after 9/11.

        1. soitgoes*

          I just don’t see why there has to be a rule one way or the other. I have a friend who started a business before she got married (the gist of the company name is Jane Smith Publishing). I’m pretty sure she legally changed her name after getting married, but it would be ridiculous to suggest that she stop going by Jane Smith professionally. Additionally, I doubt her clients care about writing checks to her using her married name. People have a pretty natural understanding of these things.

          Don’t even get me started on academia, particularly when it comes to publishing.

          I actually kind of worry about these things sometimes, since I don’t have a particular stance on changing my name after marriage. I have no great attachment to my own last name, so I’d take my husband’s name if I liked the aesthetics better. I’d hate to think that I’d give a computer system a conniption by making my name prettier.

        2. Ruffingit*

          I didn’t change my name either with my past marriage though I’m still considering doing so for my current marriage. In my past marriage, I was known socially with my ex-husband’s last name, but I never legally changed it. I had no problem with that.

        3. doreen*

          I’ve never changed my legal name , but I don’t add my married name at work. Which has never required a name change document- but also means that reservations are always made in the name that’s on my driver’s license, that no one is looking for DoreenJones in the email directory when it’s listed as DoreenSmith, etc ( for a variety of reasons mainly having to do being a large government agency that gets sued a lot, email addresses and display names on computer entries are the name used on HR documents)

          This probably has a lot to do with my age ( I’m 51) , but I don’t understand why someone would choose one last name as their legal name and use a different one for work and socially. I understand using different names socially and professionally , and I understand using a former last name as a middle name ( Jane Smith Jones where the legal name is Jane Jones) but I actually work with a fair number of people who prefer not to use their legal names and I’m wondering what the reason is for choosing a legal name that you don’t (or rarely) actually use. I really am curious- and this is about the only forum where I feel comfortable asking.

          1. Just Visiting*

            I’ve heard that some women want to have the same legal name as their husband so that everyone in the family has the same last name. Also, sometimes it makes the in-laws happy which can be important. This might be an older-generation thing. I didn’t change anything and I think it made my in-laws a little sad at first but they also understood that this is how things are done now for many people. Had we been planning on children, one of us (probably my husband) might have changed our name legally so everyone matched, but we’re not.

          2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Heh, well I’m 53, so it’s not generational with me.

            There was zero chance of me ever changing my legal name . In addition to failing at conceptualizing why I would want to change my legal name, my father died when I was 5 and I was his only child. I’m (my first name) (his last name) until they bury me.

            Adding our family name onto my name socially and professionally just evolved. It helps that I, my late first husband and my 2nd husband, all have short last names (6 letters in each one), and my first name is also 6 letters. My name evolved like this:

            Jane Smith
            Jane Smith White (during first husband, first kid)
            Jane Smith (back to this after first husband died but 2nd husband to be & I were living together for 5 years, not yet married)
            Jane Smith Jones (after 2nd husband & married and he legally adopted the kids)

            I answer to any name, but with the Jane Smith as a constant, I’ve never had any confusion (save that one bad plane reservation).

          3. the gold digger*

            I don’t understand why someone would choose one last name as their legal name and use a different one for work and socially.

            I have no philosophical problems with name changing and changed my name when I got married. It wasn’t until after I got married that I realized that I really missed my maiden name. It also wasn’t until after I got married that I understood how truly vile my in-laws were. So my desire to keep using my maiden name was mostly because it was MY name but also because I want nothing to do with my in-laws.

        4. the gold digger*

          Am I the only person who does the opposite?

          My sister just got married. She is using her husband’s name socially but keeping her maiden name legally, mostly because she is a nurse practitioner and does not want to go through the hassle of changing her name on all her licensing, but also because her husband’s ex and she share the the same first name and my sister has no desire to get mail or hassle for being Samantha [husband’s name].

          PS I have changed my legal name back to my maiden name. It has made my life a lot easier and will have the additional benefit of really ticking off my husband’s parents when they find out.

          1. Chinook*

            I have to ask – how did you legally change back to your maiden name without divorcing? In Canada, outside of Québec, your proof of name change is your marriage certificate and whether or not you invoke the change is up to you. In Québec, though, it is not and you need to apply to the court, even if you were married out of province. This leads to an odd problem where my credit cards with a national bank and my federal passport didn’t match my drive’s license and I couldn’t change my federal id or credit card without divorce papers. Moving to another province, I just showed my driver’s licence, my marriage certificate and explained “Québec” to get all my id under the same name but would have been unable to get it back to my maiden name.

            1. the gold digger*

              I had never changed my name on my passport, so at Stephanie’s suggestion, I took my passport to the social security office (I am a US citizen) and they changed my SS name back to my maiden name.

              Then I took my new SS card to the drivers’ license office and got a new DL in my maiden name.

              In the US, the passport, the SS card, and the DL are all pretty much acceptable as proof of identity, so now I am set for changing any account names back to my maiden name.

              Even if I had not been able to take this route, I could have gone to court for a name change. That would have been a big hassle, though, and would have cost me court fees, so I am very glad it worked out the way it did.

    2. Cari*

      On the software front, the software industry is still pretty male dominated, would that be one possible answer to your question? ;)

      doreen’s comment further up shows the idea a women may *never* use her husband’s surname is alien to some men (though fwiw, some women too), and I know of men who can’t grasp or accept the idea of women keeping *their* name professionally, post marriage. And even if it did occur to the developers, it isn’t unlikely they would consider that catering to (what they could believe is) a small subset of women is not worth writing all that code for. Video game developers seem to be pretty good for that line of thinking…

  21. soitgoes*

    Oh and for #3, I see nothing wrong with saying, “I’m on a new migraine medication and it makes me woozy sometimes.” If you’ve ever mentioned migraines before, I doubt anyone will give it a second thought. I certainly wouldn’t.

  22. Steve G*

    It’s surprising and a bit sad to me how many people commented that they feel exhausted by going to lunch with their coworkers or bosses, and also how many people say they need alone time in the middle of the day to recharge. Unless you work in customer service, don’t most jobs already require you to be alone (even if there are other people in the room, you aren’t really talking to them..)?

    I could never work somewhere where I’d rather be alone than with my coworkers. And while one of my boss’ isn’t perfect lunch company, if I can use it as a chance to try out a restaurant I’ve been meaning to try, then it makes it a plus.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re reading that as people disliking their coworkers, when in actuality they simply sound like introverts — and the definition of introversion is that socializing drains you (even when you like the people you’re with) and recharge by being alone. You, on the other hand, sound like you’re probably an extrovert. Just two different types, no commentary on the pleasantness of the coworkers in question.

      1. HMV*

        This. I am in introvert, and I need time away from even my husband (and I like him, obviously). He gets bored and antsy if he’s just sitting around whereas my perfect day would be lounging. I’m actually looking forward to him starting school again next week so I can have a little more time to myself on the weekends.

    2. Ruffingit*

      I’ve had only one job in a 20+ career that required me to be alone and not talking to others. Most of my jobs have been interaction heavy in that I’m on the phone with people, talking to people, handling people’s issues with other people and so on. As the years have gone by, I’m finding that I really need that lunch time to recharge and not deal with anyone or anything. And, as Alison pointed out, it’s not about liking alone time more than you like your co-workers, it’s about NEEDING alone time to recharge. It’s a commentary on a person’s energy level, not their like/dislike of co-workers.

      1. Steve G*

        Oh…I’m wired differently I guess. I like to invite coworkers to lunch and sometimes pay if I want to try an expensive restaurant they wouldn’t want to go to otherwise, just so I don’t have to go alone. I spend hours staring at spreadsheets so NEED social interaction to recharge! And sometimes even if it’s not with someone I’m crazy about, I’ll invite them – because doing math all day and not talking to anyone about what you may have discovered or what problems you encountered is stressful and isolating.

        So the OP’s question really surprised me because I didn’t know people even thought like that.

        1. Just Visiting*

          Introversion: it’s more common than you think! Roughly 25% of the population, though it is a spectrum. I’m extremely introverted so even when I have a more solitary job (luckily most of my jobs have been solitary), I still just want to get away from a place that has people in it and go sit in a park or something.

        2. Anonymous Educator*

          You’re definitely an extrovert. One way to think of the introvert/extrovert spectrum is as quotas. Everyone has a quota of alone time and a quota of other-people time. Introverts have a much higher quota of alone time to fill and a much lower quota of other-people time to fill. And extroverts, vice versa.

    3. Jessica*

      I am an introvert and I answer phones all day. If I’ve had a particularly tough day I might want to spend lunch along or with my spouse or coworker-friends to be able to process/vent, but either way I need time when I’m not “on.”

    4. MK*

      Steve, I think the people who like or don’t have a problem with spending lunch with co-workers are probably the majority; they are just not motivated in commenting in this thread, that’s why it seems as if everyone is complaining about it. Also, the frequency/obligation might be an issue; like you, I love socializing with my co-workers, but then I do two thirds of my work at home. If I was required to have lunch with co-workers three times a week every week, I probably would find it exhausting too after a while.

      Quite apart from the extrovert/introvert thing, one issue with these lunches is that, in my experience at least, they are not breaks from work, because work is still the main subject of discussion. I personally don’t mind at all, because I don’t need to pause in the middle of my work, it even throughs me out of balance sometimes. But some people really need to take their mind of work for a while to recharge and it’s difficult to do during lunch with co-workers or even worse during working lunches.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Agreed wholeheartedly with this. I absolutely NEED to have a little break time from thinking about, discussing, or doing any work because the work I do is very interaction intense all day long. I need that pocket of time to breathe and if I’m lunching with co-workers, I don’t really get that time. Now, that is not to say I don’t go to lunch with co-workers because I have. But if it was three times a week or something like that, I would go nuts.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      If you’re in management or aspire to be in management, it’s a good thing to look around and see how other people choose to use their time. Understanding that excellent employees are wired differently helps keep you from making ham headed decisions that interfere with them being able to do their best.

      I never take a lunch. Never, never, never. I have a flow. I need my flow. Do not screw with my flow. Eat at my desk, get a new keyboard every few months from IT because I’ve completely trashed mine.

      Some employees take a lunch by themselves, on premises, alone with books/Kindles. Some employees have lunch buddies where they go out together frequently. Some employees use the time to work out in the gym or go on walks. Some employees use the time for errands, especially working parents who really need that hour to get things done they can’t otherwise.

      Almost nobody is wired like me. I can only think of a couple people out of 100 who, left to their own devices and without any external pressures or obligations or norms, need to follow that flow through the whole day with no interruption.

      It’s a mistake to put a value judgement on someone else’s process. The only question that matters is, how is it working out for you?

      1. Ruffingit*

        Thank you for being the kind of manager who gets that not everyone works the same way nor should they. It’s so annoying when people think that their way is THE way and everyone should follow that path. Different people, different needs. Nice when someone gets that.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Eh, you know, people value judge my no lunches and my lack of socialization during lunch. People value judge how little vacation I take and how many hours I work each week. I don’t take it on board but I’m not immune to picking up on it.

          It takes merely opening one’s eyes to see that different people need to operate different ways to have a good result, in way that makes them happy.

    6. Anon*

      For many of us introverts, just other people being in the same room can be energy-draining in a way that is hard to describe to anyone who can’t identify. When I had roommates, sometimes I would wait until they went to bed to cook and eat dinner just because I didn’t want to be in the same room with anyone. And it wasn’t them – it’s just that I never fully relax until I’m alone.

      Also, I’ve had one job where my work duties were solitary, but my coworkers were chatting all day long, there was a radio on, people were singing and asking me why I wasn’t singing…that was draining and I had to be alone or with one of a couple of fellow quieter people at lunch. I couldn’t even have music on in my car when driving home from that job, too overstimulating, it had to be silence or NPR (technically talk but different enough from the inane banter I listened to all day long to be soothing). And I actually liked those people and I miss working with them! It was just tiring so I needed my breaks. I love my mother and I adore my grandmother but I couldn’t sit around listening to their most banal thoughts for 40 hours a week without preferring a break in the middle of the day.

      1. Anonymous*

        Dude, yes. Since getting married, I’ve learned to really value the evenings that my husband is away. It’s not that I don’t enjoy spending time with him, but it’s crucial for me to have some time to myself to fully relax.

  23. Cassie*

    #1: Going to lunch with my bosses (professors), either with just them or with them and their students, can be exhausting. I’m not a sociable person and feel like I have to be “on” during these lunches. Luckily, they don’t occur often. On top of that, I sit in a cubicle where I am subject to noise all day long, plus interruptions from my bosses, coworkers, students, etc. Lunch (when everyone else leaves for lunch) is the only time of the day where I can sit at my desk and not be disturbed, which is why sometimes I take lunch slightly later than everyone else.

    Regarding paying non-exempt employees for working through lunch – we have a regular lunch meeting for faculty and one of the secretaries is required to attend and take notes (she also sets up the room, makes sure the food is delivered, etc). As far as I know, it doesn’t appear that she gets to take an hour break at a different time. I doubt she’s getting compensated for working during the lunch hour either, so I think our dept is violating labor laws… I don’t know if she is aware of her rights. I also attend the lunch, but I am not required to – my boss invited me a while back and because I like hearing about stuff, I go if I’m not too busy. So I don’t feel entitled to a “lunch break” in addition to this lunch meeting.

    1. MK*

      You could quietly ask if she clocks out during this hour; if she is obligated to attend and is taking notes, it would be wierd to have her clock out for the meeting, just because she is also eating at the same time.

      1. Cassie*

        We don’t clock in or out to keep track of our time – we just fill in our timecards with the number of hours worked each day.

  24. LittleBit*

    #5 – would a cover letter be an appropriate place for OP to tactfully discuss the temporary career detour, while expressing excitement to return to their preferred field?

  25. Kellye*

    “Well, point out to her that exempt employees aren’t entitled to any lunch hour at all. While some states do require specific breaks for non-exempt employees, no laws require that for exempt employees. So if she’s arguing this from a legal standpoint, she’s wrong.”

    This is incorrect. Minnesota requires employers provide all employees a meal break if the employee works for at least 8 consecutive hours.

  26. Bea W*

    #1 Depends on state law. MA says 30 minutes break for anyone working at least an 8 hour day. It does not specify exempt vs. non exempt.

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