asking my boss why he’s disengaged, telling a coworker not to use Comic Sans, and more

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

1. My boss seems disengaged — how can I ask what’s up?

My manager is in a remote location from me. Recently he has become disengaged. He no longer reaches out or responds to messages on a timely fashion. When I’m able to get him on the phone, I do have his full attention and we have a healthy dialogue. But after the conversation, he goes back to silence. There have been some changes above him that I know he isn’t happy with, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he is looking for a new job. But paranoid me needs to make sure that I’m not the problem. How can I ask him if our relationship is OK without coming off as needy?

There are certainly some work relationships where you could just ask that straight-out — as in, “Hey, we hardly ever talk anymore and I’m wondering if I’m the problem.” But if you had that relationship, you’d probably just plunge ahead with that and wouldn’t be asking about it here.

Given that, I’m not sure that the right approach is to ask about the relationship. Without more reason to think that you’re the problem, it does risk coming across as overly needy, especially for work. Instead, I’d just name the specific behavior that’s concerning you, give him the benefit of the doubt about the cause (for instance, assume that he’s busy), and then ask if there’s anything you could be doing differently to help the situation. For instance: “Hey Bob, I noticed we’re not as in regular communication as we used to be. I’m guessing that you’re swamped. Is there that I could be doing differently that would be helpful on your side?”

All that said, if you know intellectually that you’re not the problem and this is just about assuaging anxiety, then I’d just let it go. (And I’m all about assuaging anxiety, but if it’s truly about you and not about the situation, you’re better off forcing yourself to back off.)

2. My boss sizes me up every day

My boss is the HR director at our company and she’s not the easiest person to talk to. You’d think that being in HR, she’d know how to interact with humans but that’s not the case.

How do I approach her when it comes to her sizing me up every day? I’m talking about a straight up and down look at me while saying absolutely nothing. Not even a smile, compliment or anything. It’s obvious she doesn’t like what she sees, but how do I go about telling her that it makes me very uncomfortable and puts down my already very low self esteem? Should I email her once about it? Schedule a meeting (probably only to have her yell at me that I’m doing something worthy of her actions)? When I see her do it, it just makes me want to scream in frustration and say “WHAT?!”

Well, first, I wouldn’t assume she’s looking you up and down because “she doesn’t like what she sees.” Some people do this just as a way of processing the other person’s presence, or because they’re interested in what people wear. Some people are also oblivious to the fact that their quick scan of other people reads as uncomfortable scrutiny. So you might be reading more into it than what’s there (although maybe not; it’s certainly possible that you’re picking up on a critical vibe).

So ideally, I’d let this go if you can stand to. But if not, don’t schedule a meeting or send an email about it; that will introduce way more drama than is needed. If it bugs you enough that you feel you have to address it, the way to handle it is to say something in the moment about the behavior but without accusing her of anything. For instance: “Is something on my outfit? You’re looking me up and down.” It’s the same principle as saying, “Is something on my shirt?” when someone is staring at your chest.

(It’s also kind of similar to the answer in #1 above, actually.)

3. Telling a coworker not to use Comic Sans

Someone on our partner team used Comic Sans font in an official computer record that many people from all over the business may see. This person is at a higher level than I am, but not in my management chain, and my team is in charge of these records. So I fixed it, and I need to alert him that he really shouldn’t use this font (he’s in India – I have no idea if he has a notion of American typography zeitgeist). How do I phrase this?

“Just wanted to let you know that I changed the font in this document from Comic Sans. American culture is rabidly anti-Comic Sans (there are even whole websites devoted to attacking it), so I went with the less controversial Arial. Thought I should flag it for you!”

4. I’m earning less than our team’s contractors

I work for a very well-known tech company that routinely makes the “Top Companies to Work For” lists and is, to put it mildly, rolling in the dough. I mention this because our department, traditionally, is ridiculously underpaid. There are 10 of us in this department, all doing the exact same job (except the 2 new hires, who are in contractor status and don’t have the same authorization levels we do), for what I thought was roughly the same pay. Turns out, I was wrong. The contractors are both making more than I do, by a pretty substantial amount, and that’s after the 33% raise I got when transferring from contract to full-time one and a half years ago. (I know that sounds like a lot, but I was just barely scraping by before, and with the health insurance premiums, I’m only coming out about 5% ahead in take-home pay…so I’m still just barely scraping by, but now I have health care.)

I don’t really think I can say anything about this, since it’s not anything against me that they happened to go with a contracting firm that apparently had more pull with our employer, but I’m feeling a little undervalued and, if I’m honest, kind of ripped off. I’m also frustrated at myself because I feel like I should have negotiated harder when the time came to convert my contract, but I was told at the time that what they were offering was the absolute top for this position. It’s not really enough to live on without a second income, but I’ve been persisting for the sake of the health insurance. So, is there anything I can reasonably say that won’t make me sound like I’m whining about how life isn’t faaaaaaaiiiiir?

It’s pretty normal for contractors to make more. It’s because they don’t get benefits (which can account for a sizable portion of an employee’s costs). It’s not really a useful comparison because of that; your employer presumably pays for you to have paid vacation and sick time, health insurance, retirement contributions, and other benefits that the contractors aren’t getting.

5. Should I let my references know every time I apply for a job?

I’m currently applying to jobs very selectively, as in maybe 1-2 jobs per month. Considering that most application systems require that I submit reference contact information at the application stage, how do you suggest I keep my potential references informed that they might receive a reference call? Should I email them every time I list their name on an application or can I assume that once they okay me using them as a reference, I’m good to go for a few months or so?

The latter. No need to alert them every time; that’s going to be too many interruptions and too much for them to keep track of (even at only 1-2 month), and statistically speaking, you’re unlikely to be invited to interview for the majority of jobs you apply for, so you’d be loading them up with a bunch of unnecessary information.

Plus, even though those application forms are asking for references at the start, those employers are still highly unlikely to CHECK your references until late stages in the process. They’re asking now so they have them on file (which is annoying and silly), but they’re not likely to use them until after you’ve been interviewed.

{ 258 comments… read them below }

  1. kacey*

    Additionally, most contractors don’t have taxes taken out of their paychecks. I didn’t when I was contracting, and then had to pay them myself each quarter. It adds up to a little more than 30% of the total pay. So, they are probably really making the same as you when you factor that in, and they don’t get benefits.

    1. Zillah*

      Yeah. I’ve been (illegally) classified as a contractor in the past, and that was the worst. OP, they’re probably not in as good a position as you think they are.

    2. Sarahnova*

      What kacey and Alison said. Contractors are customarily paid a much better day rate than full-time staff for this reason; they are functionally self-employed and must pay their own taxes plus pay for all benefits. It sounds like the OP may have been underpaid for contracting before, but that is no longer a solvable problem, & a salary case should always be made on the basis of “what I am worth because of what I contribute to the company and standard market rates”, not “what my peers get paid”.

      1. Judy*

        From being a software company, I would guess they would be people who are employees of a “contract house” rather than an independent contractor. The company pays the contract house, and the employees are W2 employees of the contract house. The contract house handles the payroll, taxes, etc. Some contract houses offer insurance, 401k, but that varies.

        I would ask the OP how they know what the contractors make. If they saw the budget line, that’s most likely what the “contract house” gets paid, which is usually 35-40% more than what the contractors take home.

        1. Bea W*

          Not always. In my field contractors may be associated with an agency and that may take care of the taxes issues, but they still don’t get benefits like health, 401k, PTO, holidays, parking/transit subsidies etc. They definitely do not get severence when let go.

          1. Meg*

            It depends on the contracting company. My client doesn’t pay my benefits – if I don’t work for whatever reason, I don’t bill for my hours. My contracting company may provide PTO and benefits (In my last three contracts, I received PTO, benefits, 401(k), transit allowance (when I was a federal contractor in DC).

            But I don’t discuss my benefits with my client. They don’t know/don’t care if I’m getting paid or whatever – as long as I’m not billing for when I’m not working. They also don’t know how much I get paid (my director at the client site does, because he was the one who approved my billable rate)… which surprises me that the OP does.

            1. Bea W*

              My company doesn’t seem to work with any of the agencies that offer benefits. I’m guessing maybe the overhead charge is less. None of my co-workers have benefits of any kind. Many of them work on holidays while the rest of us are off because otherwise they lose a day of pay. They’re the lucky ones. Not all managers will allow contractors to continue to work from home when the office is closed.

              My last employer did not allow contractors to stay in the building without a regular employee (preferably a manager) present. If everyone in the department left early before a long weekend, the contractors couldn’t stay and lost hours. Apparently there was an issue with one person that precipitated that policy, and my last employer dealt with it in the most dysfunctional way possible by punishing everyone.

        2. RG*

          Yes, this is my husband’s situation. Although he does get benefits from his contracting company, his salary is a small fraction of what his company earns from his contract work.

    3. CAA*

      There’s a terminology problem here. The OP uses the term “contractor”, but she’s describing someone working for a “firm”, i.e. a staffing company, on a contract-to-hire basis. She’s not talking about an actual 1099 contractor who has to pay his own self-employment taxes. These “contractors” are W-2 employees of the firm that contracted with the OP’s company to provide new staff, and they have regular taxes taken out of their paychecks. If their employer (the staffing firm) is large enough, they are also covered by ACA laws, FMLA laws, etc, so they may be getting some benefits. (I am assuming they are in the US, hence the references to 1099, W-2.)

      The thing we don’t know is if the OP is referring to the amount these “contractors” take home as their pay, or if she’s referring to the amount that her company pays their employer for their services. If it’s the latter, then typically that number is about double the amount that the “contractor” receives because it does include costs for taxes, benefits, overhead, profit, etc.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I know in government consulting, the government pays a “loaded rate” that includes the employee’s salary, but also covers a portion of the company’s overhead for that employee (HR, accounting, payroll, benefits, rent, IT, etc). I’m not usually involved in that side of it, but IIRC usually you take home about 2/3 of your loaded rate, so the contractors may be taking home the same amount as the OP.

        That is, assuming that CAA is correct, that the contractors are employees of another company, and the OP saw the amount being paid to that company, not a contractor’s actual paycheck.

      2. Bea W*

        Even though they are attached to a staffing agency, some fields commonly refer to these people as “contractors”. The company has a contract with the agency to employ that specific worker who has been interviewed and chosen by the hiring manager. We actually do have people who have come to us independently rather than through a staffing agency, and those people are managed by a staffing agency chosen by the company. That agency handles the contracts, negotiations, pay, and letting the person go if we decide not renew a contract.

      3. OP#4*

        To clarify, I’m talking about employees who are working for a staffing firm on a “temp-to-hire” basis, not self-employed contractors who use a 1099. It’s how this company finds almost all of its lower to mid-level employees. You start off with a contracting/staffing firm for a 12-month contract, and then at the end of this contract you might have a chance to become a “real” employee with a significant pay bump.

        And yes, I’m talking about their take-home pay. I heard this figure because one of them was crabbing about how little they were bringing home (and how much she was looking forward to her raise when she got hired on as a “real” employee) and all I could think was “Dang, that’s more than my salary *now*!”

        It’s a petty thing to worry about, but it stuck in my craw just the same.

    4. AVP*

      Also, they’re paid more because of the tenuousness of their positions – it’s convenient for companies to be able to lower headcount easily if they need to, and contractors are aware that they may be out of work for a healthy chunk of the year, so they’re paid accordingly for their flexibility.

      1. anita*

        But this is overlooking the fact that OP was presumably doing similar work as a contractor, for 33% less – so they’re making 33% more than she was for the same work.

        1. Judy*

          It truly depends on how the OP knows what they are paid. If she saw a budget item, she’s probably seeing the rate that the staffing house is paid, not what the employees are paid.

    5. Vicki*

      I want to ask the OP: how do you know what the contractors are being paid? And are you sure this is what _they_ are being paid or what a contracting house is getting for their services?

      1. OP#4*

        Idle water-cooler discussion. One of the contractors was crabbing to me about how little her takehome was and volunteered the figures. I just made sympathetic noises.

  2. Noah*

    #3 – Am I the only one that always wants to use Comic Sans just because so many people have an abnormal hatred of it? I don’t particularly like it, and I think it looks a bit immature in most cases, but it just doesn’t both me all that much.

    1. James M*

      Feel free to use comic sans… if you’re filling in speech bubbles or captioning a graphic novel. Using comic sans in a workplace document is like wearing clown shoes to a company event.

      1. LittleT*

        @James: At my last job, every year when we received the printed version of our annual performance review, it was written in Comic Sans and light blue color, as well!

        It was hard to take the feedback seriously when it felt very jokey with that font.

    2. Stephanie*

      Yeah, it usually looks out of place, but I don’t have this visceral reaction to it anymore just because it’s so common. It’s like the Nickelback of fonts at this point: people seem or hate it because they’re supposed to.

            1. LBK*

              I imagine you flying into a screaming fit of rage, ripping the poster off the wall, tearing it in half and taking out a chunk of it with your teeth.

        1. Stephanie*

          Haha, ok. True. It’s just that it’s as clichéd as the font/band itself to complain about the font/band.

          1. fposte*

            I’m with you. Throw in Twilight for added measure. I’m sure somewhere Buzzfeed or somebody has done a list of things that people are supposed to hate without thinking about it.

            1. Stephanie*

              Twilight is terrible, but it does seem snobby to rail on the terribleness past a certain “I don’t care for it” point. It’s not like I read exclusively Tolstoy. Only thing that bothers me about Twilight is message it’s sending to its targeted audience. Telling teens that that’s a healthy relationship really bothers me (and I know as a teen I wouldn’t have been mature enough to understand why it wasn’t).

              1. fposte*

                The thing is, I work in youth literature. That’s rampant in the literature (my impression is there’s no shortage of it in adult literature either), and there’s a lot worse than Twilight, both in that aspect and in style. So Twilight-bashing seems to be based more on its popularity to me than its content.

                1. Evan*

                  I absolutely agree it’s rampant in teen literature; it drives my teenage sister crazy. But, I think that because of its popularity among both teens and adults, Twilight gets to take the brunt of criticism. And it’s not too unfair – for all that dozens of other books do the same, it does praise unhealthy relationships.

                2. Anx*

                  I am not a fan of the series because of the content and message to it’s particular demo, but young girls and women receive twisted messages from high-brow or cooler media on a daily basis, too.

                  As someone who works in youth literature, do you ever feel as though anything that’s popular with teen girls, regardless of content, is likely to be maligned by society?

                3. LBK*

                  Agreed with Evan – sure, there’s a lot of trash out there that sends horrible messages, but most of them aren’t selling millions of copies and their adaptations aren’t making a billion dollars at the box office. Twilight gets bashed proportionately to its level of fame.

                4. Hillary*

                  I didn’t find the story of Twilight particularly bad (I read some pretty trashy sci fi and fantasy to relax), but the grammar and style were too awful for me.

            2. Omne*

              When I think of Twilight I think of the irritating fluffy werewolves.
              Now the Underworld series knew how to do them right.

          2. C Average*

            Yeah, what IS that? It seems like there’s this whole category of stuff that you’re supposed to actively dislike (Nickelback, comic sans, the word “moist,” clowns, etc.). I am utterly indifferent to the things on this list. They’re not important things. They don’t matter enough to deserve my wrath. And I’m gonna keep feeling that way no matter how many people gripe loudly about the awfulness of these things.

            Now, there ARE plenty of trivial hills I’m willing to die on. I find Beyonce’s music terrible, and it makes me lunge for the radio dial. I will defend the Oxford comma against all combatants, armed or otherwise. Ketchup has no place in any respectable cuisine. I don’t expect everyone (or even anyone) to agree, but I have strong feelings about this stuff.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, “moist” and clowns, good examples! I think there’s a bandwagon effect, and then it becomes some arbitrary boundary marker.

            2. chewbecca*

              I’m with you on the Beyonce front. I just don’t get it. Which makes it hard to read buzzfeed because every 5th story is about how fierce she is.

            3. Mary (in PA)*

              The Oxford comma isn’t trivial. It is Very Serious.

              I would be delighted to fight alongside you; I gladly pledge my sword, my shield, and all my red pens in service of such a cause.

        2. LCL*

          All of Nickelback’s sins are absolved by the awesomeness of their song that is ‘Rockstar’. Song is so hot I used the chorus as my ringtone on my last personal phone.

          1. JMegan*

            I had this exact conversation with my boyfriend the other day!

            1. Yes, Nickelback are generally terrible, but no more so than a lot of other bands out there, so why the massive hate for them in particular.

            2. Rockstar is an AWESOME song.

          2. Nancie*

            Thank you! I always feel so torn when people bash Nickelback. On the one hand, I’m barely aware of 99% of their music. On the other hand, Rockstar is great.

        3. Wren*

          I am coming out of the closet today. I like every Nickelback song I have heard. That is a relatively small number (maybe 5) but I really, really like those.

    3. GrumpyBoss*

      I am completely neutral in the comic sans camp. I do tend to root for the underdog, especially when it seems that the severity of the offense is significantly less than the reaction it gets from people.

      I wouldn’t want comic sans used in anything a customer saw, but if people want to use it for internal communications, I couldn’t care less.

      1. Kai*

        Yeah. I’m not a fan of comic sans, but people’s over-the-top irrational hatred of it seems awfully silly to me.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        There’s an argument to be made, isn’t there, that whether or not you personally care that much about Comic Sans, at this point it’s so widely considered unprofessional that the perception matters just as much as anything else? I mean, you might not have a problem with giving everything a pink background and a flower border either, but you’d know that enough people would find it unprofessional that you’d tell a colleague not to do it on documents that you were ultimately responsible for (as the OP is in this case). This seems like the same thing to me; it’s not about Comic Sans, exactly, but rather about the OP being responsible for these documents and not wanting something in them that will scream “unprofessional” to most people.

        1. bwds223*

          What is an appropriate way to communicate that the font is unprofessional in a more “this is what the world thinks” way, rather than just my own views of the font? (Or that my perception is just a generational thing, as I’m a generation younger than he is.)

          I once mentioned to my boss, “Oh, Comic Sans is associated with children… and so it’s fine for a preschool to use it, but it comes off unprofessional otherwise”–but he responded he likes it because it looks casual and laidback. I don’t think he gets to what extent it is unprofessional and I’m not sure how to convey that in a humble way. I’d like to create a style guide for the organization, but I doubt I’ll get to that anytime soon–and that’s a much bigger project.

          Next time he uses it, how do I go from “let’s change the font [in this one instance]” to “can we discuss never using Comic Sans in any publication because it is considered unprofessional [insert proof of claim]?” He’s very amenable most of the time, but I tend to avoid conflict/awkwardness so I don’t think I’ve done the best job explaining my thoughts.

          I guess this is part of a bigger question–with higher-ups, how do you share (and back up with legitimate proof) that “such-and-such” is widely considered “x” (x being unprofessional, wrong, not a good idea, etc.)? And should you even try if the opinion of your entire office is counter to what is the mainstream? (talking about professional standards here–not illegal actions, etc.)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            “I think we should change the font, since Comic Sans is generally considered a font that shouldn’t be used in professional communications. It’s typically held up as the iconic example of a font that workplaces shouldn’t use.”

          2. Jillociraptor*

            “Most people view Comic Sans as too casual for professional documents, and actually many really hold it in contempt. We should change it to Arial.”

            If they reply that they it’s laidback and fun, maybe something like, “Might be true but we should use a neutral font so the focus is on our content.”

            If your whole office is into Comic Sans, there’s only so much you can do. You can tell them that the whole internet blows up all the time about hating Comic Sans, but if they’re not concerned with how their work is coming across, they’re just not. You could maybe include a few links to comment sections blowing up with apoplectic hatred of Comic Sans?

    4. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      It doesn’t bother me either. Especially for internal communication, does it matter?

      I’m trying to imagine the reaction this manager in India is going to have when he gets the OP’s email with the corrected document. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve read on here before that hierarchy is taken much more seriously in India than in many American companies. I’m not convinced it’s worth it for the OP to possibly step on a a higher-up’s toes over something that seems pretty trivial to me.

      I mean, you could always just fix it to have it look consistent with your other documents and just not send him an email about it? I doubt anyone would give it a second thought.

      1. misspiggy*

        Yes. I work a fair bit with senior people in India, and I don’t think being pulled up in writing would go down at all well. I’d just leave it, and explain if asked by him.

    5. Tara*

      It’s one of the easiest fonts for people with conditions like dyslexia to read, so I’m a big fan of it. The workplace is probably the one place I’d say it’s better not to use it, because there is a non-professional vibe. Other than that, I feel like it should be more widespread, not less!

      (And people with such strong reactions to it baffle me. It frequently comes across a bit snobby.)

      1. KayDay*

        I didn’t know that about comic sans being easier for people with dyslexia to read! Thanks for mentioning it.

        1. BRF*

          It’s a common claim, though the evidence is not actually hugely compelling. And is mostly anecdotal, from my reading.

          Those who argue for it say that the “handwriting” style makes letters more distinctive, so making it easier for dyslexics to distinguish them. The letters n and m, for example have different styles of descenders. Letters which are mirrors in many fonts, e.g. b and d, are also more distinctive.

          I work with dyslexic students a lot, though, and they don’t seem to find it particularly helpful, so mileage may vary.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        The only research I’ve seen on this shows that Helvetica, Courier, Arial and Verdana were the best fonts for dyslexics. NOT Comic Sans.

      3. Anx*

        I don’t have dyslexia, but I struggle tremendously with reading on computer screens and keeping my place in long texts. I print stuff out in Comic Sans sometimes just because it’s so easy for me to read in certain contexts.

    6. KayDay*

      I actually came here to say the same thing. If I’m ever put in charge the first thing I am going to do is write every official document in comic sans, just to piss people off =P (okay, maybe not actually do it, but I will definitely dream about doing it.) Like you, I don’t really like it (actually, I used to really hate it, back in the day (i.e. 15 years ago, maybe) when it was more prevalent than it should be in email) but the anti-comic-sans hysteria has gone a little overboard.

    7. Liane*

      I like Comic Sans, but then I like unusual fonts of all sorts. But I don’t use them on work documents. I use it for personal notes that aren’t going to someone else.

      But I am amused at the amount of griping people do about it. And like a couple other posters it makes me want to annoy the Anti-CS crowd by using it. Hmm being in a position to insist people use it might be fun. (Would that get a boss in the running for AAM’s annual Bad Boss award?)

      1. Frances*

        Yeah, I’m kind of a typography nerd, but I don’t *hate* Comic Sans, I just don’t think it’s an appropriate aesthetic for professional documents. At a previous huge employer, I once discovered that the Legal Office’s page on our internal website was written in Comic Sans. It did not exactly inspire confidence.

        I did, however, once put my foot down when I was asked to replicate invitations for a fancy fundraising gala and discovered the previous year’s version had been printed in Papyrus.

    8. HeyNonnyNonny*

      I don’t love or hate Comic Sans, but I do have strong feelings about consistent formatting across official records. They can all be in Comic Sans, as long as they’re all the same!

      1. Anx*

        I have strong feelings about this too. I understand sometimes Word is being wonky and maybe your tab lines aren’t consistent, but I really appreciate a uniform aesthetic. What if I told you that I have a few sheets of paper in my binder for classes sampling the alignment of the different 3 hole punches around campus?

        Or that I reformat my instructor’s powerpoints so they are more uniform looking and take out some of the clip art and remove the backgrounds?

    9. JayDee*

      I don’t have particularly strong feelings toward Comic Sans. It doesn’t belong in external work documents. If you want to use it for the potluck sign-up sheet or to remind people the west parking lot is being resurfaced next Tuesday, go ahead. In fact, when you put it this way: “American culture is rabidly anti-Comic Sans (there are even whole websites devoted to attacking it),” it almost seems silly that as a nation we can’t agree on things like universal healthcare, but we can all unite around hating a font.

      All that being said, everyone who files court documents in Courier is dead to me. Only Times New Roman and Arial are allowed. We aren’t using typewriters anymore. Our documents should take advantage of properly spaced fonts.

      1. UNtern*

        everyone who files court documents in Courier is dead to me. Only Times New Roman and Arial are allowed. We aren’t using typewriters anymore. Our documents should take advantage of properly spaced fonts.

        This, times 1,000.

      2. LBK*

        Oh god, I hate Courier for anything but a document where even spacing is useful. People who write emails in it should have their internet privileges revoked.

    10. Sadsack*

      I once took a philosophy class that used a text book that was written by the professors – the entire book was in comic sans font. It was murder on the eyes to have to read page after page.

    11. Cajun2core*

      Can someone please let me know what is the problem with Comic Sans? I really don’t see what is wrong with it. I will admit that I am male and have absolutely no eye style what-so-ever. I am also a fan of Courier which to me is the easiest to read.

      If someone were using a font like “Algerian”, Free-style Script, or Kristen ITC, I could understand those being a problem because those are not easy to read. To me there is not that big of a difference between Comic-Sans, Ariel, and Garamond (the official font of my workplace). They are all easy to read. Now if someone did something in Wingdings, then that would most definitely be a problem.

      1. Cajun2core*

        In reading other comments, I see someone mentioned papyrus. I will agree that is a difficult one on the eyes. Yikes!

      2. Kristy*

        The problem isn’t really the stylishness of Comic Sans, just that it is not appropriate for professional documents. As someone above said, that doesn’t mean it can’t be used for potluck sign-ups or other, not so serious, internal documents.

        I am in marketing, so maybe I’m just nit-picky, but the typeface used should reflect the tone of the message whenever possible. For many of us, it’s just hard to take Comic Sans seriously.

        1. Cajun2core*

          Kristy, please let me know what is wrong with the stylishness of Comic Sans. If it were called “News Sans” but looked the same, do you think people would have the same reaction. What makes it “unprofessional” or “not serious”? Am I missing something? Is there maybe a fact that I don’t know like it has a reputation for being used in Comic Strips/books and that makes it unprofessional?

          1. Cajun2core*

            Edit: I just realized Kristy said that the problem was not stylishness of Comic Sans. However, I am still wondering why it isn’t appropriate?

              1. Cajun2Core*

                Thank you. I think I found the answer I was looking for. Most of the articles just stated that it wasn’t designed to be a formal font or it looked childish (which I couldn’t really see). However, in the last article (huffington post) they have the comments:

                “Lines are crooked, and angles of vertical strokes vary greatly — the lowercase “g” leans to the right compared to the lowercase “j” which leans to the left — as you would expect from a child’s handwriting.”
                “The unified appearance and clearness of the font is based on repeating familiar established forms. The look and feel of Comic Sans is like that of a rough and cute (childlike) handwritten typeface.”

                Okay, I can see this and understand this a little bit more. Thank you for clearing that up.

      3. Cajun2Core*

        Thanks to everyone for replying. I could not see what was “unprofessional” about it. However, the links that Alison provided helped answer the question.

        ““Lines are crooked, and angles of vertical strokes vary greatly — the lowercase “g” leans to the right compared to the lowercase “j” which leans to the left — as you would expect from a child’s handwriting.”
        “The unified appearance and clearness of the font is based on repeating familiar established forms. The look and feel of Comic Sans is like that of a rough and cute (childlike) handwritten typeface.”

        Now this makes me wonder, why do people not like Courier New?

    12. Amanda*

      I don’t necessarily have a problem with it but the development director at our nonprofit uses it. She is SO picky about so many other formatting and grammar things that it constantly baffles me to see emails from her. I can’t believe she adjusts her font internally v. externally, which leads me to think she uses it with donors. I really can’t figure out a way to tell her not to use it, since she’s very picky about lines of authority as well and we are in different departments and she’s at a higher level than I am.

    13. Jillociraptor*

      Nope. There is little that irritates me more than people being needlessly self-righteous about something so profoundly inconsequential. Don’t like Comic Sans? Think it shouldn’t be used in professional communications? Great! Give that feedback directly when that’s in your lane. But when you feel that zing of superiority every time the topic comes up in any context? Take a deep breath and cool your jets.

    14. Vicki*

      I love Comic Sans. The whole “I hate Comic Sans” argument stems from the original creator saying it wasn’t really meant as a finished font and he’s not happy with the kerning and such. Deep philosophical font design issues. Bah.

      As a friend of mine said, it’s a happy font. It’s excellent for informal writing.

      I wouldn’t use it in a book or a formal whitepaper, but seriously? There are better things to argue over.

      If you really care that deeply, make sure your company has a written Standards and Guidelines for Documentation policy.

    15. Jazzy Red*

      I like Comic Sans, but not for anything professional. I use it once in a while for my own stuff at home. It was not one of the two “official” fonts that our company used for documents, but I did use it as my email font.

      I had no idea that people hate it so much.

    16. Callie*

      When I taught elementary school I used it for a lot of student-facing materials and environmental print, because we were told that it is easier for students with dyslexia to read (though I later discovered that the research on this is inconclusive). I also liked that the letter shape of the a’s and g’s are the same as those in printed handwriting, which helps young students. But I never ever used it for materials that were sent to parents or colleagues.

  3. A Dispatcher*

    #4 Are they actually taking more home at the end of the day, or are you just going by what they are being paid, which as mentioned likely does not have tax or anything related to benefits taken out yet?

    However, regarding Alison’a answer, it sounds like OP was a contractor with this company previously, so he or she probably has a pretty good idea of what the comparison would be between her full time pay and benefits vs the contract position (unless, as mentioned, OP is only hearing the gross number and mistaking that for net and/or OP isn’t aware how much higher his or her own gross probably was if it was filtered through a contracting firm).

    1. Stephanie*

      Hmm, OP probably does have more information about contractor vs employee rate, but it’s still hard to boil benefits down into an amount for comparison. Plus, contractors definitely get treated like second-class citizens at some companies (my old government agency had pretty strict rules about contractors not being able to participate in social events or the agency services). There are probably intangible, unquantifiable benefits to being Giant Tech Employee vs Giant Tech Company Contractor. And if the employees are independent contractors, self-employment taxes are no joke.

      1. Meg*

        When I was a federal contractor for a government agency, I was allowed to participate in social functions (my contracting company had a lot of contractors at that agency anyway), but I wasn’t allowed to bill for my time there. As far as services, my company tried their best to match them, and they DID match federal benefits – and the best part was that I wasn’t subjected to the DC general schedule for pay (with all those pay grades and scales and whatever). My pay rate was pretty cushy as a contractor, and I received benefits and such, enough to live in Silver Spring without a room mate.

        But yeah, if they are independent contractors (which, honestly, I’ve never seen a Giant Tech company hire independent contractors – they opt for employees/subcontractors of a contracting company), then I can see them significantly more to cover fees and whatnot.

        More than likely, the contractors have great representation by their company who negotiated for a higher wage.

    2. Juli G.*

      I was also wondering about this. If someone looked at contractor pay for our department in my documents, they would see bill rate per hour. Depending on the agency, the contract house is getting 30-40% of that.

      1. Bea W*

        It really makes me question whether or not shifting more and more positions to contractors is really that cost effective. I know on my projects assuming everything else evens out the turn over and inability to attract people with the skills and experience we need is probably costing us more $ than if we went back to more regular employees. Plus they are hourly, which means on a practical level we’re never getting more than 40 hours/week because OT is of course not approved.

        1. Stephanie*

          Hmm, no clue. But probably the upside for the company is that they can easily staff up or down and outsource paying payroll taxes, benefits, unemployment insurance, etc to the contract house. They could also dismiss easier and just say “We’re not renewing your contract” versus going through a defined PIP process. But in the long run, yeah, doesn’t seem worth it.

          1. Chinook*

            As someone who is a contractor in a department that is 80% contractors, I can tell you that it doesn’t save the company money overall. What it does, though, is allow for the money to come out of a different silo that is controlled by a different person. If my boss wants to create a new staff position, she will have to make a business case to TPTB (in a different country and who are the main shareholders) and they have been told that only 20% of the positions will be accepted (even though our workload has tripled in the last year). But, to hire a contractor, she just has to make room in her budget next year and justify the budget increase (which is easy because our workload has tripled). The decision to increase her budget, instead of HR’s budget, doesn’t go as high up the food chain and stops at someone who actually sees her employees working at full tilt and the benefits that the contractor brings in.

            I know this because this is the second year they have attempted to make my position a staff one and there is a legitimate business reason to do so (as in I am not project based and the work will not go away in a year) and possibly even a legal one but TPTB are the ones who get to decide the budget for salaries.

            1. Bea W*

              It all comes out of the same bucket for my group, at least from my manager’s point of view. We were “acquired” a few years back and the preference of the parent company seems to be to outsource the heck out of everything. We had whole functions eliminated and either fully outsourced to another company or transformed employee into contractors who then had to negotiate the terms of their contract through an agency in order to keep their jobs.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      I dont think that the op wanted contractors to be treated badly, but was upset they appeared to be making more money for the same job, on the face of it that’s not unreasonable, but like others have pointed out there are a number of reasons for the disparity in pay.

    2. LBK*

      I don’t see anything at all in the letter or the response that indicates that sentiment. Could you explain?

      1. Dan*

        The OP discovered that a whole class of people at the company are making more than s/he is. It’s reasonable to conclude from the OP’s letter that s/he thinks they should be making at least as much, if not more than, this group of people.

        1. Evan*

          … which means that OP doesn’t want to be treated like a second class citizen herself. She never said she wanted the contractors to be paid less than her.

        2. LBK*

          For one thing, I don’t know that “class” is really the right word for this situation. That kind of implies something innate and unchangeable to me, which being a contractor isn’t. But that aside, “Why is my coworker making more than me?” is an extremely common question on AAM. And why shouldn’t it be? If they’re doing the same work, it’s completely reasonable to be miffed at someone making considerably more than you, whether they’re a contractor or not. I really think you’re reading something into the OP’s letter that’s not there at all.

    3. OP#4*

      Why do you assume that I assume that contractors should be treated as second-class citizens? It’s a rather unkind assumption :)

      I assure you, as someone who got their own position through the same mechanism, that I *do not* assume that.

  4. Joanna*

    Ooooo! OOOOOOoooooooo! I totally clicked on this for the Comic Sans question. I’m in my 2nd year of graphic design and this is something we discuss pretty frequently in classes. OP should hope that this dude from India doesn’t decide to start using Papyrus. :)

    1. Frances*

      Hee hee, see my comment above. Sometimes around here we talk about “choosing the hill you want to die on” and I once decided the hill I wanted to die on was insisting that we not print fancy invitations to a fundraiser in Papyrus. (I won, though so it was all good.)

      1. JMegan*

        Oh, now I have to stand up and defend Papyrus! Again, not for work, but I can absolutely see myself doing an invitation in something like that.

        But on the other hand, you probably feel more strongly about it than I do, so I would let you have your font choice and go pick a different battle. :)

          1. My Fake Name is Laura*

            Really? What are they? People always default to this argument but they never, ever, EVER list them off the top of their head.

            My problem with the Font Wars is that for the vast majority of people who create documents that have no formal design education or training, the fonts you see listed in Word are the ones you use. You’re going to spend maybe 20-30 minutes on it? Most people are not searching the internet to download free, “better” choices when they have to make a sign for the break room or whatever. And not every business has a budget for a graphic designer or even understands the need for one – especially small business owners.

            If I could recommend anything to design educators, it would be better communication with clients regarding stuff like this, so they can learn how to better persuade clients and help them make good business choices without the whiny, frequently snobbish statements about how bad XYZ font is. Maybe a basic business class added to the mix so you can discuss ROI and why money & time spent developing your visual branding is critically important to the bottom line. (In a way that shows the client that you’re there to help them succeed rather than get them to spend money on stuff that isn’t important while making them feel incompetent.)

    2. Mephyle*

      I’ve heard a little bit about the Papyrus hate, but never seen an explanation. To the uninitiated, it doesn’t look different from other fonts that are a bit elegant, a bit casual: for an invitation for a slightly casual semi-formal event, say. Can someone in the know explain?

      1. esra*

        It’s completely over-used. Even the original creator acknowledges that the typeface has been way overdone.

        There are so many other options out there that are more subtle and elegant, why settle?

        1. Mephyle*

          I don’t understand that. Times Roman and Arial are used far more than Papyrus, and I don’t hear complaints about overuse about those fonts. It must be something about the overuse of the particular aesthetic that Papyrus has, so what’s wrong with the aesthetic of Papyrus that it shouldn’t be used so much?

          1. DeAnna*

            I’m with you. I prefer Arial over Times, so when I use that whenever I can. Papyrus is my go-to for fun, non-work related items. I can’t work myself into a froth over people’s font choices, as long as they don’t make me translate Wingdings.

          2. esra*

            Display faces like Papyrus tend to be much less timeless than typefaces like Times Roman and Arial. There are many complaints over each of them being overused, and you see a lot more Calibri popping up than you used to.

            Papyrus is garish, with too much emphasis on rough edging of the letters, and because everyone has seen it everywhere (especially condo developments and movie posters), it just feels tired.

            DaFont and FontSquirrel are just sitting there, waiting to give you lovely typefaces.

  5. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Ah, comic sans.

    I did a presentation at a conference once. In the run up my direct supervisor told me to use comic sans. I then posted my slides to the collaboration message board for further comments.

    Influential researcher said in a message for all the world to see: ‘Comic sans? Really? Use a professional font, like arial.’

    The resulting conversation between my supervisor and the researcher was very fun to watch.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        It was just general name calling (how dare you question my decisions?! etc.) from my supervisors side and bewilderment from the researcher.

        Since my supervisor was a bullying witch I kept the comic sans. She made my life difficult enough as it was.

        She was rather surprised when I quit because according to her ‘we got on so well’…

        It was one of those is this really the hill you want to die on moments.

  6. Artemesia*

    It is really important not to be someone on the job who begs for reassurance. This is a very common cause of lack of respect for an employee. Alisons suggestion for 1 to obliquely approach this works. For the ‘sizing up’ situation in 2 the worst possible thing is to put insecurity into an Email — in fact an email or letter is the wrong approach to any sort of confrontation whether it is with one’s MIL or boss. Doing this will create a reputation you will never live down in that job.

    1. fposte*

      I also think, as Stephanie intimates below, that it’s treating a business situation as a personal one. Absent legally problematic behavior, our feelings are generally our own to manage in the workplace. Seeking a behavioral change because of how a behavior makes you feel comes across as professionally naive, regardless of what the actual feeling is.

    2. D*

      I won’t be talking to her about it. I’ve actually just been giving her more compliments when she does this to me. In hopes that her criticizing attention will be diverted from me.

      1. Artemesia*

        It sounds like pretty annoying behavior. I think you can do a ‘oh is there something on my blouse?’ kind of query when she does this to point out to her that you notice the glance, but other than that, sounds like your approach makes the most sense.

  7. Stephanie*

    #1 – Yeah, don’t ask if the “relationship is OK.” That is veering into “Are you avoiding me?” territory.

    1. Artemesia*

      LOL. “Do you love me, do you really love me?” doesn’t work in a personal relationship either. It really is a disaster in a professional one.

  8. GrumpyBoss*

    #2: I’m a strong believer that nothing good can ever come out of discussing pay with your coworkers, and this is an example why. There are only 2 possible outcomes to your question: scenarios like this where you feel upset that you aren’t making more, or a confirmation that they are making the same or less than you. Neither one addresses your problem: that you think that you are underpaid for the work that you do. There are many ways to start the compensation discussion with your manager. However, going into the conversation with, “Why do I make less than my coworker” is the least effective way and will just put a manager on the defensive.

    In summary, there is zero value in discussing this with your coworkers. All this angst you have you brought upon yourself.

    1. Zahra*

      Actually, I think discussing pay allows you to make sure no discrimination is going on, as well as help you do a quick research as to what your company pays relative to the market rate. It doesn’t preclude doing more research outside of your organization to make sure what the proper market rate is.

      On top of that, make sure that your company isn’t included in the ones involved in wage fixing and non-compete agreements *between employers* not to poach employees (Apple and Google, among others, were part of this). Such tactics severely hamper the market rate to be truly representative of the value you bring to an organization, as well as limit your moves for better salary.

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        I think I make a distinction between transparent pay and discussing pay with coworkers. I think it can be very hard to compare paychecks with coworkers without someone taking it personally.

      2. Mints*

        Yeah, I think there’s a difference between posting salaries in like a huge database that lists everyone from executives to interns, and asking someone how much they make. The first is important to monitor discrimination and salary trends. The latter is awkward to do in person

    2. the gold digger*

      If you don’t discuss pay with co-workers – or with other people – then how do you know what the market rate is? I think everyone should know how much everyone else makes. I also think employers should be able to justify why Lucy makes more than Sally and Linus.

      I am very honest about my salary to my friends. I want them to be able to use my information to their benefit.

      1. JC*

        I used to be a federal employee (and my husband still is one), for whom salaries are public information and posted on a public website. I agree that knowing everyone’s salary can be a good thing in the sense that it makes it easy to spot possible patterns of discrimination, and makes it easy to know when you should be speaking up for more money.

        But now that I work somewhere where pay is not public, I like it much better. Knowing other people’s salaries sometimes made me unhappy about my own when I otherwise would not have been; I would expend my energy feeling petty about small differences in salary that ultimately did not matter much. I am happy to not think about that now.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          In one job*, knowing each other’s salaries helped us all clearly see a new pattern of discrimination against me. Before, it was somewhat nebulous. Once we compared salaries (which had been fairly close), it became obvious that the woman in the group wasn’t wanted. We all left.

          *Pay wasn’t public, but we all worked on payroll, so it couldn’t be a secret from us. We didn’t look up each other’s pay, but we did talk about it, especially when there were other vague indicators of a problem.

    3. Artemesia*

      Saying to your boss ‘I need more because John gets more (or John, Charles, Wakeen and Bill all get more) is a loser BUT KNOWING that all these guys doing the same work are getting more is useful information to you in planning your campaign for more money. The prohibitions in the workplace of discussing salary are designed to weaken employees.

      1. Payroll Lady*

        I would have less of an issue with “discussing” salaries, if that is truly what employees did. Most times, employees compare their NET pay and want to know why, if they are suppose to be making the same as John, why is their check less. They are making the same, however their tax situation may be different which will, of course, cause a different net pay. Unfortunately, this happens more often than not, and for a payroll person, can be a huge waste of a day explaining this to several employees.

        1. the gold digger*

          Really? I don’t even know what my net pay is! The money is sent straight to my checking account. I have never bothered to calculate net pay after deductions, probably because it would be too depressing to know how much of my money does not stay with me.

  9. Cheesecake*

    Strange to read a comment about human interaction from a person who wants to organize a meeting about “why do you look at me like that???”. Some people are totally weird and majority have a weird thing or two going on. That doesn’t mean you need to keep thinking about it and make assumptions – it is actually very tiring. I would under no circumstances write an email about it or organize a meeting (both outrageous), nip it in the bud if it is truly annoying. When she “checks you out” ask “Oh, do i have a stain or something?” or “Did i forget my skirt today?” to provoke an answer and then see where it goes.

    1. D*

      True. I’m just at wits end. Battling depression and I’m trying to see that she’s not doing this maliciously. I truly hope she’s not. There are still plenty of other factors that I could go into regarding this. But who really wants to hear my complaints.

      1. Kristy*

        I totally get this, especially while battling depression. Try to keep reminding yourself that it’s her, not you (easier said than done, I know). When you’re in a better mental space, it’s completely possible that your reading on the situation will be different. Even if your perspective hasn’t changed, in my experience, you’ll be able to communicate it better.

        Good luck on your battle with depression!

    2. D*

      She places it in the exact moment where I can’t break the conversation just to ask her something like that. I’ll just deal with it. Thank you for comment.

      1. fposte*

        Do you mean other people are talking while she’s looking you up and down? Then that’s an out to ignore it entirely–look at the people who are talking.

        1. D*

          And I do – still doesn’t help my thoughts afterwards and the constant run to the restroom to check what’s on me.

      2. Windchime*

        I have a longtime friend who does this. She has always done it and I honestly don’t think she is even aware that she’s doing it. Because I know her and I’m pretty sure she has no ill intent, I have just learned to let it go.

      3. themmases*

        You have my sympathy, D. I have major depression and one way that I can tell that I might be starting a recurrence is that I start to have an overwhelming feeling that people are staring at me or sizing me up.

        That doesn’t mean this person isn’t gazing at you in a rude or pointed way, or that you can never tell reliably when someone is staring at you. It’s an incredibly upsetting feeling and it can be hard to get people to take seriously– either that someone really is staring at you, which sometimes they really are especially if it’s just one person– or that it feels terrible whether you are mistaken or not. I even had trouble getting therapists to understand how upsetting this experience was for me.

        I have never confronted anyone about it, mostly because I tend to experience this feeling when I’m out walking somewhere so I’m definitely not going to start interrupting strangers on the street just to tell them to quit staring! I deal with it by checking a mirror immediately before doing the activity that triggers me, so I know there is definitely nothing wrong with how I look. Then as I start to feel this, I’m able to remind myself that: a) this is a symptom that I don’t feel all the time, so it’s probably not true, and b) if some of these people are staring, that is definitely a personal problem of theirs, not mine, because I know for certain there is nothing wrong with how I look.

        Personally I would let it go until after your depression is treated. If you’re feeling better and still get the sense that this person is sizing you up, or you hear from a colleague you trust that she does this to others, then I’d feel more comfortable making a casual statement like AAM suggested. This is a totally innocuous thing to say that shouldn’t offend anybody if they weren’t really staring, and if they were, they now know they are not being subtle enough about checking out other people’s outfits. Most people would stop after that.

  10. Beyonce Pad Thai*

    # 2 I would forget about the contractors and advocate for a raise, if you can argue you deserve one! Since your last one was a year and a half ago, it seems like an appropriate time to bring it up again.

  11. sr*

    I have a feeling #3 is actually going to boil down to a technical error of some kind. Maybe the font he’s using in India is not installed on this users computer (or any computer in the company other than his, or any variant thereof) and for whatever reason your computer is diverting instead to Comic Sans to compensate. I wouldn’t be shocked if you get a response saying he’s using something strange like “Calibri (body) II” on his end.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I was coming to say this as well. I wouldn’t call him out on Comic Sans, since that might not be what he used – I would instead say something about changing it to be consistent with the rest of company communication. Maybe mention something about the font he used not being available on your computer, if you think that would help in future.

      I hate the fact that Comic Sans is the default for a lot of “that font isn’t installed on your computer”. Who made that decision?

    2. AVP*

      Oh, that’s true – I thought the receptionist at my company was reformatting documents that I was sending her, and changing the font, and my boss got testy with me about her doing that, so in the heat of the moment I turned to her and said “whhyyyyyy do you do this you know he likes Avenir light!” Um, it turned out we had wildly inconsistent versions of Word and that it looked fine on her computer. Ooops.

  12. nep*

    #2 Size her up back.
    Seriously — disregard and move on with your day. Don’t allow yourself to be so heavily affected by the odd actions of others. Sure — easier said than done, but really it’s about changing your mind about whether to allow it to get to you.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I really hope OP is so affected because of existing not great relationships with HR Director, so everything HR Director says or does is irritating. But if OP gets worked up by odd actions in general, well, life on this planet will be very very difficult.

      1. Juli G.*

        They mentioned having “very low self esteem”. That’s probably something to seek some help with so OP can feel more confident with minor issues like this.

        1. nep*

          Yes and yes. Sounds like there are some pre-existing conditions — both within OP and regarding the HR director’s disposition. The OP can’t worry about ever changing the HR director’s people skills — not his/her problem; but could use this as one occasion to get at some of his/her own issues.

      2. KJR*

        I have no problems with self esteem but a daily once-over by my boss would not sit well with me either!! It’s just weird. Maybe some of us are thrown off more by odd actions in general. Interesting to think about. I think I would definitely approach it as suggested by others, “Is there something on my shirt?” or something like that.

      3. D*

        It IS because of existing not great relationships (which in fact everyone but 2-3 people are experiencing with HR)

        But life on this planet is difficult anyways.

      1. nep*

        Of course I was being facetious with the ‘size her up back’. Point was about working on not letting others’ odd (even socially inept) behaviour so heavily affect you. Best wishes to you as you work through this.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      That’s what we used to do with one former manager (my boss’s boss). She looked everyone up and down every single day – we knew she was really, really into fashion and that that was the reason (and also she was a genuinely nice person), but it was still disconcerting – so we just started doing it back to her. I don’t think she ever really noticed, because to her it was just a normal thing to do, and it provided some comic relief for the rest of us.

  13. FX-ensis*

    Re: Disengaged manager

    Not your place to question, or ask IMHO. He could be depressed, for all you know. Or suffering from other personal/health issues. You could ask in a soft way why he isn’t responding as quickly, or even make it a joke if needs be, but then his issues are such. It would be inappropriate of him to ask you the same, no matter if you report to him or not.

    Re: Comic Sans

    I’m not American, but then I do agree with them here. I hate “fun fonts” in formal communication. I even detest serif fonts generally (I know Comic Sans is sans serif but I’m going on a tangent….) It just sends an inappropriate tone, and there’s a time, place and context for all things.

    Re: HR Director

    One way could be to say lightheartedly “Do I keep something out of place on my clothes? Just noticed you keep looking up and down.” I agree with Alison that an e-mail or meeting for something this small is silly. And as she’s your boss, then some tact is needed (it should be needed in all interactions, but still she has power over your work performance, a co-worker cannot). But out all guns blazing is not wise, and not very emotionally intelligent. You also cannot read her mind, so it may not necessarily be she detests you, or thinks you look bad.

    1. D*

      Thank you – I obviously DO NOT want to talk to her about it since I don’t think it’ll really change anything.
      I’m sure she’s unaware of this and I just need to buck up and deal with it.

      I’d gladly do so if I could….

      1. nep*

        And you have been bucking up and dealing with it up to now, no?
        I hope you’ll find some peace in this situation. All the best to you.

    2. Stephanie*

      I had a boss who was pretty disengaged (and he was remote, so that made things even more challenging). Turns out he hated the job (and was actively searching) and his dad was in hospice. When I learned that, it all made more sense.

  14. GreatLakesGal*

    Re: Comic Sans

    In my prior incarnation I specialized in remediating dyslexia, and this was news to me, so I did a quick scan of the research.

    There is some very weak research that some people who identify as dyslexic find some sans serif fonts easier to read.

    There was a spate of popular publicity about this 5-12 years ago, but despite catching fire in the popular imagination, ( and some textbook manufacturers)this line of research has not really born much fruit.

    This is because dyslexia is not primarily an issue with vision, and I have a particular beef with the myth that people with dyslexia ‘ just see words backwards.’

    Anyway , what weak evidence there is suggests that OP and OP’s colleague can be just as accessible in Helvetica or Arial.

  15. Jake*


    I’m not sure what is worse, a disengaged boss or one who is too busy to actually manage. In either case I have not found a solution to this problem, which is unfortunate because all managers go through bouts of one or the other. Hopefully this is temporary for the op’s manager.

    1. Joey*

      You can’t “fix” your boss. You can only control your own actions. That means transferring, putting in for a promotion or otherwise getting out from under a crappy boss. Although I think an underrated solution is waiting it out- as in waiting for your boss to leave. Of the crappy bosses I’ve had I don’t think any of them lasted longer than 1-2 years. Either they left because their life was miserable from all of the problems they didn’t fix or they saw the writing on the wall. Maybe I’m just weirdly patient. Either that or just a big thorn in the side of a crappy manager.

  16. Militant Intelligent*

    This. My new boss and I can’t seem to connect/click. I can’t figure it out! I want to have a good relationship with this person, but when you push sometimes the opposite happens. Does not help that she was in love with my predecessor and my personality type is the complete opposite. What’s a person to do? No matter what I do or how hard I work I get the deep feeling she just thinks of me as “meh” despite my attempts to be sociable and polite.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I used to have a boss, who was not a bad guy, but we didn’t click. He was way much to himself and everything i did was a “meh”. I doubt he disliked me. He is just an extreme introvert.I just lived with this, until the assignment was over. I very much feel for you; i don’t know what would i do if i was in a permanent role with him as my permanent boss. Honestly, i would quit, because if you don’t click with the boss – this is one thing, if s/he doesn’t recognize your contribution no matter what – you will keep running into a wall.

      1. Militant Intelligent*

        thanks for your insight. it’s not so much about my work product IMO, but interpersonally. i worked way too hard for this, to get this job, and to be at this company than to give in so easily. it is a bummer, but it is what it is. i’m prepared to make the most of it, to be on point professionally and make efforts to connect with her, but most of all, to make it work for me. i think she misses predecessor, but i guess i can’t worry about that. i’d love any tips on what to talk about when you’re getting to know a manager, but without getting too personal. i remember asking about her weekend – rebuffed!

    2. brightstar*

      Does this “meh” feeling extend to your work product or just when you try to be sociable? And do you have concrete proof of this or is it just a feeling? I wouldn’t advocate quitting if you feel you can be successful in your work.

      1. Cheesecake*

        Well, i didn’t really mean quit company entirely, it is possible to work things out, move to another dept, etc. That is if boss’s boss knows how great you are. If not, then chances will be limited, as boss thinks “meh” about you and passes this further. But i agree, is “meh” about your work or about your effort to socialize?

    3. C Average*

      I can so relate. For a long time I thought I hated my job, but then I realized I’m pretty happy at my job when my manager is on vacation. There are aspects of her work at which she’s very capable, and I can objectively admire her work in those areas, but we are very different personality types and it’s a struggle to coexist. I’m looking hard for something new. I agree that these personality things generally aren’t fixable.

    4. Joey*

      Lay low. Do your work well, make at least some efforts to click with her (or at least fake it), do what she says exactly the way she prefers it to be done, and save your energy for a boss that believes in you.

    5. krisl*

      I wouldn’t worry so much about clicking as about being someone that the boss knows gets work done and gets along with others. If the boss is even reasonably businesslike, she’ll appreciate that you contribute to the bottom line and aren’t high maintenance. Even if you’re never really friends, that’s usually enough.

  17. Not So NewReader*

    #1 and #2. Totally agreeing with Alison’s excellent advice. Some things are “in the moment” issues, meaning you deal with it when you see it happening.

    Glaring HR boss may not even realize how she comes across. I find that when I start thinking a person does not like me it’s time for me to do a self-check. Typically, what I find is that I have not worked on my opinion of the other person and I have let my opinion of this person backslide. Basically, the behavior is my own opinion coming back at me, if that makes sense. I suggest to the OP that you try to find something the boss does well and focus on that. Even my worst bosses had one or two things they did well, although it took a lot of thinking on my part to figure out what those things were sometimes. Figure out what she does well and dwell on that. Probably your own body language will change and, in turn, her body language will change. If we are uncomfortable around certain people, they can sense that and they become awkward in some manner.

    For OP 2, I have used “are you okay?” to kind of shake up a disconnect like what you are talking about. It doesn’t work all the time, but some people catch on that they need to “come to” and face mundane matters surrounding them. It can look something like this: “I sent you an email on Monday regarding X, Y and Z. I have not heard back from you and I was wondering if you are okay. Is there something additional I can help you with?” What I like about this, is that it shows that I know I am talking to a fellow human being, first and foremost. And it is a gentler, thoughtful way of saying “I cannot proceed on X, Y and Z without you, I need your inputs.” It shows respect but it gives people plenty of space if they prefer not to mention the matter that is consuming them. You can repeat this process with variations as needed. I have had times where I needed to say it more than once in order to be heard. Since your boss is conversational when you finally do get a hold of him, I would assume the problems have very little to do with you.

  18. Christy*

    Hi all – I wrote the Comic Sans question.

    I don’t have a particular hatred for the font, but to me, putting it in an official work record is kind of like wearing flip-flops to work or something – nothing inherently wrong with the choice, but it can send the wrong message in a work context.

    I think this person probably cut and pasted from yet another document – there was a lot of unusual formatting that isn’t typical in these records. (And that’s part of the issue – as HeyNonnyNonny said, we try to keep the records consistent and typically remove any formatting so everything uses the default font of the program.)

    I already fixed it, and given some of the cautions here, I might let it go unless/until I see another instance. I do love the script you gave Alison – you’re the master of the “cheerful matter-of-fact” tone!

    1. Frances*

      If it’s a formatting issue, phrase any instructions you might give in that light. “In the interest of consistency, please don’t use any special formatting or fonts as it’s easier to process in the system,” or something like that. That way you don’t even have to wade into the comic sans battle.

  19. Allison*

    3. Aaaah, Comic Sans is the worst! I loathe any use of that font outside of actual comics.

    4. Contracting isn’t ideal for most people financially. No health insurance, no 401k, and a crazy high tax rate. Last year I set aside 45% of my income for taxes. But for me, the worst thing about being a contractor is no PTO, no vacation, no sick days, and no paid holidays off like employees have (and often take for granted). If you ever take a day off during the week, whether you’re taking a trip, have the flu, or it’s Christmas day, you don’t get paid. The extra money you make when you do work is supposed to give you a little security so you can occasionally take an unpaid day off and still pay your bills.

    1. LBK*

      Well, you don’t actually pay a different amount in taxes as a contractor necessarily, but you notice how much you’re paying more because you have to withhold it yourself. Most people don’t really think about the percentage of taxes taken out of their salary because they never see it unless they review their paystubs obsessively (like me).

      1. the gold digger*

        I think about my taxes a lot. When I got my first paycheck for my first job out of college, I was expecting $20,000 divided by 26 (for 26 pay periods). Man, was I shocked and disappointed.

      2. AVP*

        I think depending on the state, there can actually be a higher rate, or maybe you get saddled with the part of your taxes that your employer pays for you? At least, I’ve heard this from many people in New York City and I’m hoping someone here will tell me it’s not true, because I think I’ll need to go freelance at some point and I’m dreading having to deal with this stuff!

        1. LBK*

          I couldn’t find anything specific in my search just now but as far as I know you aren’t liable for any taxes for the company that you’re contracting for when you’re an IC. Someone with much better knowledge of corporate and payroll taxes should step in here and clarify, but in my very basic understanding, the breakdown of the taxes is different since nothing is withheld or handled by your employer, but your overall tax burden shouldn’t be any higher. If anything it might end up lower, since you generally provide all your own equipment and office space and those can lead to higher business expense deductions.

          1. Allison*

            There is a 15% self-employment tax imposed on independent contractors and freelancers, since there’s no employer paying the payroll tax on that income. You are right that you can write more stuff off as business expenses, as long as you document it well, but it doesn’t always balance out.

            That said, it was nice when I found out that the 45% of my income I put away for taxes was way more than I actually needed to pay (I forgot to factor something in when determining my income bracket) so I ended up with a nice financial safety net that I’ll most likely invest eventually.

          2. Chinook*

            In Canada, atleast, if you are self-employed (which you are as an independent contractor) you are responsible for both the employee and employer portion of payroll expenses like employment insurance (if you want it and meet the criteria), Canada Pension Plan and something else that I can’t remember. You also have to start collecting and submitting GST (though you do get rebates on GST paid for business expenses) on the invoices to your clients.

            As well, you are treated as a vendor, which means you are not guaranteed payment of your invoice in a timely manner in the same way you are with payroll. That means you risk your invoice getting lost, coded incorrectly to be paid Net 30 instead of Net 1 or outright rejected because the information you entered personally into the vendor informatin is deemed incorrect by a faceless body in another country who can’t read the invoice you sent electronically (all three of which happenned with my first invoice). In other words – living paycheque to paycheque is not as doable when you are a contractor and you need to have savings to fall back on in the short term.

            1. Allison*

              Oh yeah, this was a concern for me in my last job as well! I didn’t have “payday,” I would submit my invoices every couple weeks and they’d take *roughly* 20 days to pay me, according to my records. Sometimes more, although sometimes they would lump two invoices into one check if there was a delay. But yeah, it was always a little worrisome not knowing when I’d be getting my next paycheck.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Although if you’re truly an independent contractor, you do pay more taxes — you’re responsible for the piece of the payroll taxes that your employer normally would pay on your behalf. It’s a lot. (Of course, it’s often offset by how many business expenses you can claim.)

    2. Meg*

      That’s only if they are independent contractors.

      Contractors in the tech industry tend to be subcontractors – employees of a contracting company – who is eligible for benefits through their employer (the contractor, not the client). I’m a contractor/employee of a contracting firm – and I receive a paycheck with federal and state taxes deducted, benefits, and eligible for 401(k) and PTO and holidays after 1000 hours. I receive a W2 at the beginning of the year, and I don’t file 1099s, and I’m eligible for unemployment as well.

      When it comes to taking time off though, I will usually work 40 in 4 days if I want to take off a day, or stretch it out and work 10s for a while to pad my check to take time off.

      1. Allison*

        I’ve done both. I was independent at my last gig, and taxes were a real pain to file, but this contracting job has me payrolled through a 3rd party vendor, so taxes and benefits aren’t an issue, but paid time off is still nonexistent. I definitely try to put in extra hours to compensate when I can, but there are definitely weeks where 40 hours isn’t happening. Granted, I’ve only had one job with paid time off, and it only lasted 9 months, so I didn’t exactly get used to it then. But man would it be nice to have at least a few paid days off around Christmas.

    3. Chinook*

      “But for me, the worst thing about being a contractor is no PTO, no vacation, no sick days, and no paid holidays off like employees have (and often take for granted). ”

      This for me is huge. When I calculated how much I wanted to charge as a contractor, I took my ideal take home pay, doubled it (to cover taxes, healthcare, etc), and the divided it by the number of days I thought I would work rather than the number I could work. That meant dividing it over 48 weeks instead of 52 to account for stat holidays, sick days and vacation days (all things that would be paid if Iw as an employee). As a result, my daily rate is higher than if I was an employee with the same take home pay (which would be spread over 52 weeks).

  20. AH*

    #4 – Please do not make a thing out of the contractors “making more”. As a perennial “contractor”, it’s a huge pain in the ass to be a contractor and after taxes, you end up making less. Basically, the government classifies you as self-employed, so you have to pay your own taxes AND your employers. BUT, contractors are NOT ELIGIBLE for ANY benefits should they lose their job. Not only are the contractors taking home less at the end of the day, they also have no safety net. If you lose your job, you would be able to collect benefits. The contractors would not.

    1. Meg*

      That’s only if they are independent contractors.

      Contractors in the tech industry tend to be subcontractors – employees of a contracting company – who is eligible for benefits through their employer (the contractor, not the client). I’m a contractor/employee of a contracting firm – and I receive a paycheck with federal and state taxes deducted, benefits, and eligible for 401(k) and PTO and holidays after 1000 hours. I receive a W2 at the beginning of the year, and I don’t file 1099s, and I’m eligible for unemployment as well.

        1. fposte*

          Could you be a bit more polite, please? Meg is including useful information in spots where it’s relevant and in response to different posters.

  21. HRC in NJ*

    Imagine if the Declaration of Independence was written in Comic Sans. Bonus points if the writer had used emoticons!

  22. soitgoes*

    I gotta defend the HR person in #2. We all have reflexive little quirks that read weirdly to others. I have a habit of tilting my head and looking up when I’m trying to remember something complicated and then process my thoughts into a single sentence (apparently this is a scientifically recognized “typical/normal” thing to do, but even if it weren’t, it’s just something that happens when I’m thinking). Sometimes people get mad and accuse me of rolling my eyes at them. The rub is that those accusations only come out when they’re already looking for a reason to lecture me. If you’re honing in on someone’s minor habit, I think it’s time to think about what your real issues are with that person.

    1. LBK*

      I don’t think it necessarily has to do with the OP’s actual issues with this person – she states herself that she struggles with low self-esteem, so I think she’s probably more susceptible to reading innocuous actions as judgments (as Alison says).

      1. D*

        Thank you LBK – My original email was written in frustration to Alison. I don’t know what to do and I try to get over it. It doesn’t bother me when I don’t pay attention to her. But when I HAVE to talk to her and that’s the FIRST thing she does as if she needs to evaluate the way I look in that moment… it just makes me feel worse. You’re right, I am battling something far more serious inside and I understand that I need to “fix” me before I can try to even suggest that someone else needs to change. Forgive me for sounding so rude and ugly about her.

        1. fposte*

          D, you’re being really hard on yourself here. You don’t sound rude or ugly about her; you just sound distressed. And I think we all understand the way that can make interactions with people difficult. I wish you a smoother path going forward.

          1. LBK*

            I agree completely – I didn’t read anything about your letter as coming off as ugly or rude. And I absolutely didn’t mean to imply judgment of you in my comment. I feel a lot of sympathy for you. I’ve dealt with a lot of self-confidence and self-esteem issues that have hurt me emotionally far more than I even realized. After almost a year of therapy now I’m a lot better. I would sincerely recommend looking into it for yourself, it’s awkward at first and can be painful to try it out but once you force yourself to look for help the benefits are amazing.

        2. Kai*

          For what it’s worth, D, it would make me feel bad too. I don’t have this happen to me on such a consistent basis, but every once in a while someone looks me up and down in that way and it’s just soooooo awkward. It sounds like it’s just a weird tic with your boss, but I completely see where you’re coming from.

          1. AthenaC (used to be AC)*

            I did it once, about a year ago, to a coworker, and I didn’t even realise I had done it until I realised I made her uncomfortable! And I had no idea how to apologise. I’ve just let it die, but now I’m super careful.

        3. soitgoes*

          Aw, I certainly didn’t mean to put you on the spot :)

          I was more accurately trying to say that just as you feel insecure and take things personally, so do the people who have those quirks. As someone who wants to like and be liked by other people, it gives me pangs of insecurity when a natural and neutral action is perceived to be malicious. However you feel when you see those actions, that’s how those people feel about those actions. You can’t help feeling insecure; some of us can’t turn off our quirks.

  23. Southwest*

    #1 – Similarly, my boss is completely disengaged and very open about it. He is unhappy with our department and actively looking for another position. He has pretty much stopped going to meetings for the projects that he leads and instead makes me attend.

    Believe me, I know it can be hard to continue to do good work when you’ve mentally checked out, but it could do a lot of harm in the meantime before you find the new position. I’m thiiiis close to landing a new job myself, but I haven’t just thrown my hands up in the air and given up.

  24. Meg*

    #4 – Finally, a question I can provide additional feedback for!

    I’m a software engineer under contract. There’s different contractor statuses though. One is independent contractor – that’s where you are working out your contract with the client directly. Freelancers are independent contractors.

    The other kind of contractor is one through a firm, a contracting company. It’s kind of like a temp agency, except it’s not. These kinds of contractors can last years and and years and you don’t typically get pulled off a contract before it ends, barring budget reasons – if they can’t fulfill your contract. Many contracting companies will provide benefits (I’ve worked for three different contracting companies in the last three years, and I’m 3 for 3) and some will even provide PTO/vacation/sick/holiday pay. You receive a paycheck with taxes and everything else deducted because you are considered an employee of the contracting firm. Client pays the contractor based on your billable rate agreed between the three parties, and the contracting company pays you. OP, you said you were a contractor before, so some of this may be familiar.

    I did freelance/independent contracting for a few years to get my foot in the door – build up a portfolio and all that jazz. Then I became a federal contractor – I was an employee of a contracting firm, and they matched federal employee benefits except for retro-pay, so if the government shuts down for two weeks, federal employees get retropay for those two weeks. Federal contractors do not.

    Then I went to financial industry, and new contracting company. Benefits were less than what I was receiving as a fed contractor, but it was something, and I was covered without looking for coverage myself. Due to budget cuts, I got laid off, BUT my contracting company had negotiated a severance package since it wasn’t performance-based. Even as a contractor, I was eligible for unemployment benefits because I was not classified as self-employed.

    Third contract is with a national nonprofit, and my contracting company offers benefits and stuff, 401(k), PTO, holidays, etc (benefits after 45 days, 401(k) and PTO/holidays after 1000 hours).

    In the tech industry – contractor doesn’t mean self-employed. I mean, technically, we’re sub-contractors. A company gets the contract and hires me as employee to fulfill it. I still get W2 and not 1099s, still get benefits, still eligible for unemployment.

    As far as why the contractors are making more per hour? Their benefits may not be the same as yours, but they also may have better negotiating skills, or a skill set that is desperately needed, or may be under crunch time to get a project completed by a deadline (my current scenario). I’m being paid hourly with no limit of billable hours per week because they only did 4 sections of the project in 6 months, and want the other 30-32 sections done in the next six months. I was able to negotiate the absolute highest in their range for contractors because of my skill set.

    The downside to contracting though is that you only get paid for when you’re working on the project. My lunches aren’t paid, and if the client throws a shindig during work hours, I’m welcome to attend, but I can’t bill for those hours. Also, there’s no lengthy termination process for a contractor, and you’re not obligated to renew the contract once it’s been fulfilled. When you hire a contractor, you’re hiring for a specific task, not really a position, so you don’t necessarily get everything the position entails. If the client decides that they want you to fulfill a specific position instead of a specific task, you are usually converted to a full-time employee – common for tech leads and management positions.

  25. louise*

    #3 Comic Sans – I’d been communicating with a sales rep earlier this year who I had an unusually good rapport with. We’d been making grammar and punctuation jokes (he’s on team Oxford comma!) and generally getting along so well. In addition, his company definitely brands itself as hip and with-it, so I was shocked when I got my first email from him and the signature was Comic Sans! It just didn’t fit with what I already knew of him.

    I emailed him back. “I have to give you a hard time: are you using Comic Sans on purpose for your signature?? If not, you need to know that’s what Outlook is displaying it as! And if you’re using it on purpose, I shake my head and mutter to myself.” and I attached a screenshot.

    I figured I’d give him the benefit of the doubt that he was using some exotic font that I didn’t have and my trusty Microsoft products were just interpreting it as Comic Sans. He emailed back that Comic Sans was NOT what he was using and thanks for the heads up! He changed it to a traditional font and looks like a legit professional now. So it got me wondering how often it really is Comic Sans in the original document? I’ll never know.

    1. Aam Admi*

      I receive dozens of contracts from our vendors. One particular company has their contracts in all caps and reviewing them gives me migraines. I was planning to speak to the company’s contract admin about it.
      While reviewing at one of their older contracts for some information, I re-formatted one paragraph to Arial font for a better print out. The ‘all caps’ miraculously disappeared. That is when I realized the company prepared their contracts in ‘Imagio’ font which made them look like capital letters.
      Now, as soon as I receive their documents, I change the font to Arial and re-save. That is a lot easier on my eyes and brain than the Imagio font.

  26. Mimmy*

    I always chuckle whenever I see discussion about Comic Sans here. I sit on an advisory council of a county department, and the admin assistant of that department writes ALL of her emails in CS. When I first applied for appointment, I wasn’t sure how seriously I should take her because it just seemed so unprofessional to me. Now, two years in, I’m used to it now, but I still sometimes wonder what other recipients think, particularly any agency directors.

  27. JMegan*

    #5, I have been to an annoying number of interviews lately where they ask me to bring references to the interiew. And I have been alerting my references each time, by emailing the job description with a “just a heads up, this is what’s happening” kind of email. I do this because if I’m in an interview, there’s at least a chance that they actually will be calling my references, and probably without alerting me ahead of time.

    Now, we’re talking five interviews since last October, so it’s not a huge volume of email. And even so, I’m trusting that they have a folder called “JMegan – References” or something in their Outlook, so they can just dump my emails there until they’re needed.

    I don’t do this for every application I send, because as Alison said, that’s a lot of email for potentially very little result. But I would definitely do it once you have an interview, just so they’re not caught completely unaware when someone does call.

    1. Puddin*

      After the interview I would send the job description to the references if it is a job you are eager to pursue. This can give some background to the reference on what talents and skills of yours to emphasize, as well as gives them a heads up about a potential reference call.

    2. OP #5*

      I’m actually a little concerned that they’ll call before the interview because I’m only applying at local school districts, and some of my references are from a previous school that I’ve worked for. It’s kinda a small community, and I know my old school asked around within the county before calling someone in to interview. But Alison’s advice makes a lot of sense! Thanks again for answering my question!

  28. D*

    I’m the one that wrote about the HR boss.

    Forgive my question and please do not assume that I am just attacking her.
    I need to fix me. Thank you all for letting me know that I do.

    1. JMegan*

      I think it’s a valid question. Sometimes the problem is legit with the other person, and sometimes it’s all in our own heads, and it’s not always easy to tell the difference. I often use the internet for sanity checks like this one, just to get a feel for other people’s opinions.

      Also, everything is worse when you’re struggling with mental health issues. You have my sympathies on that one.

    2. Cheesecake*

      We attacked you a bit here, but don’t get us wrong: if something annoys you (it might not be the look, it might be HRD talks too loud) – you need to tackle it. Just do it on the spot, never wait and then write an email about it or do a dedicated meeting. And obviously never attack, because you really don’t know what the person meant by “checking you out”. You need to make it seem like it is no big deal.

    3. krisl*

      Don’t beat yourself up. That sounds very uncomfortable. I would try to assume that she does this to everyone, and it’s just one of her quirks.

      I hope you feel better soon!

  29. Jessica*

    I’m kind of surprised at the answer to #2. Maybe it’s all in my head but I’ve never had anyone look me up and down like that without it seeming overtly a) sexual or b) contemptuous. It doesn’t seem like it’s something it’s easy to do by accident.

    1. fposte*

      The thing is, even if it is contemptuous, you’re not going to change it by telling your boss it makes you anxious. In fact, you probably can’t change the way your boss physically looks at you at all. So you can draw her attention to it in case it’s unintentional (or trying to remain unnoticed). If you’re concerned that the boss doesn’t think much of your work, that’s what any professional conversation should be about, not about the way she looks at you.

      1. fposte*

        Again, you’re being hard on yourself in a way that makes me sad. Worrying about an interaction with your boss doesn’t mean something is wrong with you. We pretty much all do it, even if it’s only sometimes.

        1. Kristy*

          +1! D, please be kinder to yourself!

          It’s not that anything is wrong with you. She’s doing something that would be disconcerting to many people, and that’s totally a “her” issue. At this point, though, “playing dumb” is the best approach, either through feigned obliviousness, or asking if there is something wrong with your outfit.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        FWIW, I think it is a good question. It’s not in our genes at birth to know what to do when a person is glaring at us. I had an aunt with a strange neighbor that would stare and stare at her. As time goes on, that can really wear a person down. She had planned on moving anyway, so when she finally moved the problem was over. But this went on for a very long time.
        It’s also true that most of the advice here tells the LW to change what they are doing. Why. Because we can’t change the offender. Although, heaven knows if we all could fix a bad boss/coworker/subordinate for anyone, we would do it in a heartbeat.

      3. Stars and violets*

        I’m late to this so I don’t know if you’ll still be reading, D. You said upthread that you are depressed. I empathize because I’ve been there and I know how you feel. It may be that this woman is contemptuous of you (sounds pretty contemptuous to me) but when you’re depressed everything is like sandpaper on rubbed raw skin.
        Don’t be hard on yourself. Easier said than done, I know, because when I’ve been depressed I hate myself and I’m convinced everybody else does too, but things will feel easier if you give yourself a break. Please get some professional help.
        All the best.

      4. krisl*

        I think there’s something wrong with HR, but like fposte said, you can’t change other people, just the way you deal with it.

        For the depression, therapy and/or medication can be really helpful.

    2. Jessica*

      I’m just saying if she really is giving you the old up and down the way that I’m thinking, that’s pretty unprofessional behavior on her part. I had a supervisor at a temp job who used to do that. She did it because she was a horrible person who enjoyed making others feel bad, not because there was anything wrong with me.

      Not saying this is necessarily the case here, but -food for thought.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right on, Jessica. OP’s solution maybe to look for a new job to get away from a toxic boss. No way to know for sure. OP, there’s plenty of books and websites that talk about toxic bosses, maybe if you read a little bit on the topic that would be helpful for you. I have found it comforting to know that other people out there have seen the same behaviors I have seen and been equally repulsed by the behaviors.

    3. Cath in Canada*

      I had a former boss’s boss who did it to everyone every day. She was just really, really into fashion and clothes – nothing sexual or contemptuous about it (although as someone who is really, really not into fashion, I’m sure she didn’t think much of some of my efforts…)

  30. TP*

    #2 – The woman who heads the department I work in does this all the time. She actually looked me up and down when I came in to interview with her (should have taken that as a sign!). In any case, she kept doing it to the point where I too thought there was something wrong with me, but realized after asking around, it wasn’t just me. We think she looks at what we’re wearing and perhaps doesn’t realize how she’s doing it. She is in general pretty awkward. I’ve come to ignore it and not take it personally.

  31. Willow+Sunstar*

    The company I work for uses Calibri on its web site, which is similar to Arial. I agree that Comic Sans looks unprofessional and should be only used in comic books or web sites geared primarily towards children. Or, perhaps, save it for the “Who took my lunch out of the fridge?!” signs.

  32. Alternative*

    I’ll admit it, I have an irrational dislike of Comic Sans. I think it’s hideous and childish and unprofessional. I you use it, I will think you are clueless and take you less seriously. It’s the font that Dolores Umbridge would use. It’s the font of people who are not tech savvy and who send debunked conspiracy theory emails and chain letters. Sorry. Just try to imagine an important and highly successful person using it…nope.

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