my boss told me “sorry isn’t good enough anymore,” wearing see-through blouses to work, and more

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

1. My boss told me “sorry isn’t good enough anymore”

I have been at my job for about 14 months, and I was a temp here for six months before that. I feel like in the last few months, I have had a major screw-up like clockwork, once a month. Today my boss said, “Sorry isn’t good enough anymore. We don’t know what to do. We need something more from you.”

Last month, I came clean and admitted to them that I have been dealing with anxiety and ADHD issues that I am seeking treatment for (I know it was a huge risk divulging that information, but it was worth it). Today I sent an email to my bosses apologizing again and letting them know I am following a series of “checklists” to keep track of everything. I noted that when I do follow these, my work is considerably better.

I am at a loss as to what to do. How can I stop making screw-ups? How do I get out of my own way? How can I do damage control with my bosses?

Well, it sounds like you’ve figured out that checklist help dramatically — so use those religiously. Beyond that, it’s hard to give specific advice without knowing the nature of the work you’re doing and the nature of the mistakes. If they’re about attention to detail (which it sounds like might be the case), you can also try slowing down, double and triple checking your work, and finding more ways to incorporate checklists.

But I’d also take your boss’s statement as a sign that you don’t have a lot more rope here, or more time — so whatever you can figure out to do, make sure you’re really committing to it. (Sorry if that goes unsaid — something about your statement that when you use checklists, your work is much better made me worry that you’re not being as serious about them as you should be. If I’m wrong, ignore me and carry on.)

2. My manager told me to stop wearing see-through blouses

I’m a secretary in a office. I’ve been asked not to wear tight-fitting skirts and see-through blouses to work because you can see my bra and it’s distracting my coworkers.They are blouses you wear to the office; the fabric is silky polyester. To be honest, I like the feel and look of them against my skin and feel sexy wearing them, and my friends in another department wear them with no problem. Yes, my bra shows, but it’s nothing outrageous. Can one individual manager tell you this?


It’s totally reasonable to tell you that you need to come to work dressed professionally and without your underwear showing. If another manager chooses not to enforce that with their team, that’s that person’s call — but your manager is absolutely entitled to set this standard and enforce it. And once that has happened, refusing to comply is a pretty big deal.

For what it’s worth, it’s generally better for your career if you strive to feel professional at work, not sexy.

3. I’m pregnant and being warned I can’t miss any events on a celebratory work trip

I am a UK-based business development manager for a German medical business. Every year in January, we go on a week’s conference, usually abroad, to celebrate the previous year’s hard work and success. For January’s conference, I will be 26 weeks pregnant. I had a call from my boss’s boss to say that if I felt I couldn’t travel, it would be fine for me to miss conference. However, if I chose to come, I would be expected to join in with all activities and missing anything would be “frowned upon.” She went on to explain that some of the activities involve evening entertainment away from our hotel, with no access to transport for me to return to the hotel early. There are likely to be 3-4 nights in a row with post-midnight finishes.

I said I felt that I would be too tired to attend all evening activities, to which she repeated that missing any of these would be “frowned upon” but “no one would blame me for choosing not to come to conference at all.” I effectively feel as though I have been uninvited from conference due to my pregnancy. Is this discriminatory?

I have no idea what the laws are in the UK since I’m in the U.S., but in the U.S., this would almost certainly be discriminatory, since it would be penalizing you for needing perfectly reasonable pregnancy-related accommodations. I’d talk to your direct manager about what happened and try to figure out what’s going on. And if your pregnancy discrimination laws are similar to the U.S.’s, I’d say something like, “I think we’re in danger of being on the wrong side of pregnancy discrimination laws here — I’m pretty sure the law doesn’t allow pregnant women to be penalized for needing reasonable accommodation for their pregnancies. I’d like to attend, but I want to make sure there won’t be negative repercussions — formal or informal — if I’m not able to go to all the events.”

4. My manager wouldn’t let me leave when my mother was threatening suicide

I got a call that my mom was about to jump off a balcony and kill herself. I told my manager and she wouldn’t let me leave. I walked out, and I got a doctor’s note for anxiety in the meantime. Isn’t her not letting me leave illegal? And also retaliation illegal?

No, it’s not illegal to tell you that you need to stay at work — incredibly callous in this situation, but not illegal.

But unless you have a pattern of unreliability at this job or have given your manager reason to doubt your word, I’d be seriously concerned about this manager’s judgment.

5. Is this an appropriate response to feedback after a job rejection?

I was called for a job interview and, according to me, it went well. But after couple of days I got a rejection email in which the hiring manager wrote that they are pursuing other candidates. I replied back by thanking the manager and asked for feedback. This is what I got back from the manager: “Thank you for following up with me and your request for feedback. We have performed multiple interviews for the management training program and only the candidates with the matching core competencies and career paths are selected to move forward in the process. I appreciated our interview but felt that there was limited front line customer service experience and your career goals are a bit more in line with what you studied in school, which is totally understandable. I do wish you all the best in your career search.”

Should I reply back to the manager? If yes, then what should I write? I was thinking about writing: “Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate the time you took out from your busy schedule to give me feedback about my interview. It is true that I do not have enough front line customer service experience and also I am looking for a career change. But I believe that I can learn these skills and gain experience from your management training program. I also believe that this program is the best and will help me in a smooth transition of a career change. I am really interested in working with your company. “

What do you think? Is this appropriate to write?

Nope. You asked for feedback so you could do better in the future, but your proposed response treats it as an opportunity to push back on their decision and get them to reconsider. That’s not really appropriate; this isn’t about debating their choice or changing their mind. Instead, just send a sincere thanks for her time and her insight.

{ 370 comments… read them below }

  1. Fucshia*

    #2 – You should look into investing in some camisoles — the ones with wider straps and not low cut. Then, you can still wear the blouses you like while maintaining the non-sexy dress desired by your department.

    1. esra*

      Seconding this. You can find lots of great silky camisoles, or even microfibre tanktops that are great under sheer blouses.

      They look great with skinny slacks and a blazer too, if you have to pull away from the skirts.

    2. Mister Pickle*

      Okay, I’ve been working at home for a number of years. And, to be honest, I don’t get out much. So – where is this place where all of the secretaries wear see-through blouses? Is this, like, a California thing?

      1. beyonce pad thai*

        Pretty much everywhere, in my experience! They’ve been popular for a couple years now. I get a lot of my work clothes from H&M, Zara and similar stores – if you see a blouse there (that is not in their very limited ‘work shirt’ section) it’s usually of the polyester see-throughish kind. I used to find it annoying, but now I buy them and wear them with camisoles as suggested above.

        1. SJP*

          Yea im with everyone on this. I wear these blouses as I like the chiffon ones as they hang well and are flattering to my figure but I ABSOLUTELY wear a camisole or something underneith. I’d never dream of wearing them without one!

          But seriously OP2, as Alison said you’re at work to be professional, not feel sexy.
          If they make you feel sexy, great, it’s great that you feel sexy and womanly, but wear them when going out or with friends on your own time not in work. But you’re probably actually damaging your reputation here.. Like, quite a lot.
          You could be the most efficient worker in your whole office, but co-workers, peers and managers would and totally do look down on people who don’t dress appropriately.

          Buy the camisoles, wear some nice slacks/trousers – Fashion websites and magazines have great articles on how to wear fashionable, sexy feeling stuff which is chic and elegant, while still looking professional

          1. snuck*

            I agree SJP.

            And OP2 remember… if you want promotions or pay rises or professional development that are based on your skills you can’t complain if they don’t come through if you are at work to be sexy… unless you are in an industry that promotes and sees that as a hirable skillset (which I doubt given your manager’s request).

            My inner feminist rages when I see stuff like this – a manager or coworker who has raised this because it’s too distracting, remembering news articles of women who have been told they are too sexy for their jobs (and lost in court over it) etc. The reality is that until we change a lot of the social structure we live in (it’s happening, slowly!) we need to realise that there are times and places that this isn’t ok – and it’s not fair but it’s the way it is. There are people who can’t handle the distraction, and there are others who will discriminate against you etc. Just like you’d tone down flamboyant hair or cover full sleeve tattoos of tweety bird you might be wise to tone it down a little – anything that stands out too much and draws too much attention to itself is actually trying to not fit in.

            That and I still have a passionately near hate memory of working with a woman who wore tight skirts and see through blouses and had completely inappropriate ideas about her presentation at the workplace that spiralled into affairs with the bosses and all manner of horrendousness. By all that’s smoky and disasterous that was a nasty situation and I still can’t bear to think about what a horrible woman she was. Her dress sense was the external message about a lot of who she was on the inside – a woman who was deeply insecure and determined to succeed by any means at all, including pretty much selling herself. That was six miserable miserable years that culminated in a wad of ‘proof’ (of the relationship between her and managers) on a managers desk and a quick offer of very generous redundancies (not me, but I watched with bemusement).

            1. Rose*

              I’m very much s feminist also, but I honestly think it can be distracting just for being inappropriate. It’s like coming to work in a huge Mickey mouse sweatshirt in a corporate environment. (Something my real, live coworker did). You just look at them all day wondering what they hell they’re thinking.

        2. Raine*

          Okay I’m in Washington, D.C. and going to disagree with these responses indicating this is universal, because not only is it not the norm here, I can honestly say I’ve never seen a professional woman wearing one of these blouses where you can see her bra OR her camisole (which is really just underwear, too). And I would assume if a woman did wear something like this she’d be sent home to change that same day and/or risk losing her job, it would stand out as that (deliberately) unprofessional.

          1. Christy*

            Yes, but I would say that Washington DC is particularly conservative when it comes to workwear. (saying this as a DC resident)

          2. Karowen*

            See, I don’t really view a cami as underwear – like you said below, perception is everything. To me, camis are just nice tank tops, and something I would wear on a normal day out – the only reason I wouldn’t wear them to work (without an overshirt) is because their straps are too skinny to be within dress code. I wear them all the time with sheer shirts, though.

            1. L Veen*

              I don’t view camisoles are underwear either. I wouldn’t wear them to work because the AC is always cranked up to the highest setting and I would slowly freeze to death. But outside on a nice summer day – no problem.

              1. Kelly L.*

                There are tank top camis and underwear camis, IMO. It depends on the material and the detailing. I have some that are a sturdy polyester, no lace, not low cut, etc., and they’re as thick as some of the shirts I wear them under. They would be wearable on their own (maybe not to work, because spaghetti straps, but for a casual occasion) and no underwear shows through them. There are others that have plunge necklines, lots of lace, are see-through, etc., and that’s different.

                1. fposte*

                  Definitely agree–it’s the tog, not the title, that matters here. It doesn’t matter if it’s sold as a camisole, a tank, or a sleeveless top–it matters if people read it as underwear or not. The manufacturer’s intentions for the garment are irrelevant to where it’s acceptable.

            2. Connie-Lynne*

              The whole point of camisoles (at least the wear-under-a-sheer-shirt kind) is that they are clothing that is appropriate for other people to see, unlike a bra. Sure, technically it’s still underwear, but it’s specifically underwear that is meant to make other clothing socially acceptable in public rather than the boudoir.

              1. MissDisplaced*

                I wear these type of sheer blouses often and I also feel they are appropriate IF worn layered with a tank, plain cami, or light t-shirt under it, OR under a blazer or jacket. If you can see the bra or bra straps then something is NOT office appropriate OP. Many, many blouses and shirts are this way nowadays and I likewise have many, many tanks and camis in my wardrobe to make them workable! LOL!

        3. Bee*

          I don’t wear them because I had a memorable sheer shirt/bright bra accident in high school, but these shirts are outnumbering opaque shirts. Many of them look normal until you try them on. And they can look pretty and perfectly fine for work – you just need to be careful about the layer under them.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I had a memorable event with a shirt I didn’t know was sheer and a white bra in a fluorescent light rock display. That was a display I left immediately, before someone else came in.

          1. Eliza Jane*

            Seconded. All I want is non-see-through blouses which are not sleeveless, not terribly low-cut, and which have some degree of drape, since stiff blouses make me look like I’m wearing a paper bag. That rules out around 95% of what’s out there.

          2. AnotherAlison*

            And the t-shirts, too! I live where it is hot and humid in the summer, and I don’t want to layer my t-shirts, but most of these are see-through now.

        4. KH*

          I hope it’s not sexist to say so, but maybe these thin tops are the reason all the women in my workplace complain that the temperature setting on the thermostat is too cold and the guys think it’s too warm! :-)

      2. Beezus*

        Midwest here and have never seen it, either. Our officewear scandals tend to be around wearing leggings as pants and wearing boldly patterned tights paired with too-short skirts.

        In general, anywhere you work, it’s best to stand out for your work and not your daring wardrobe.

      3. Mena*

        No, this isn’t common at all. I live/work in Boston. Very not cool and not how to be perceived as effective in the office.

    3. Bea W*

      Coming here to say exactly this. It could be the managers in the other department don’t have an issue with it, but #2’s manager does, or maybe the friends are wearing camis instead of just bras. In any case OP, you’re stuck with whatever your manager says is appropriate. It doesn’t matter what flies in another department. Your friends aren’t working for you boss. Get some camis. You can still wear your favorite blouses and look great.

      On a side note – WTH is up with the trend in see-through tops?! I see so many blouses I really like, but they are really too sheer to be worn without wearing something under them, and it’s not even limited to blouses. I have Ts that are like this. I’m a modest dresser in general and like to keep getting dressed in the morning when I’m still half asleep as simple as possible; so I’ve found this frustrating. I absolutely love the 2 tops I got from Stitch Fix last month, but they are both too sheer to just wear alone, and require a layer underneath. I didn’t want to give up my beautiful new tops. So I invested in more camis and am embracing the sheerness. The only real downside is that now I have more things to keep track of in the laundry. :D

      1. Tris Prior*

        I notice that with sweaters too! I live in a cold climate – sweaters should be warm, not transparent?

        I always figure it’s to make us buy more, because you have to layer them to be warm and decently covered.

            1. Chinook*

              I am glad that I am not the only one to notice this. I spent last weekend at the mall trying to find a pair of dress pants that were neither paper thin nor “skinny” to no avail (anythign with a lining cost minimum $250). The tops were also of either flimsy material or sleeveless. Don’t the buyers realize that not where in Canada is this stuff reasonable to wear from November to March?

              1. Ella (from Finland)*

                Very very NORTH here as well.
                Merino wool is my best friend and it looks posh, not grandma style. Polo neck top, I love you!
                (and it goes nicely under some sleveless dresses).

              2. Tris Prior*

                I’m lucky that I can wear jeans to work. I wore dress pants the other day and I about died of cold. (and they are too skinny to wear leggings underneath, which is my usual solution.)

                It’d also be great if sweaters covered the waistband of one’s pants. Maybe it’s just me. I’m longwaisted and sweaters often stop above my pants waistband.

                Fortunately I live in a city that has excellent resale/thrift shopping and I found some actual warm wool sweaters for cheap. One even covers my upper thighs! I wish they still made them like this. sigh.

              3. Joline*

                I’ve invested in some merino blend base layers. They’re thin enough to fit under a lot of pants and I use them as leggings if I’m going to wear a dress. (I’m in Edmonton)

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I hate that too. I went looking for a little black dress for fancy (that’s typically the only time I wear one, except for skating) and NONE of them had sleeves. Or they had those awful cap sleeves that nobody looks good in. I finally found something at Macy’s that fit and looked fabulous. But boy did I have to dig.

              I don’t like my upper arms, plus I have a big old tattoo on my left bicep and I don’t want it hanging out at work or when I’m out. (It needs a touch-up anyway.)

              1. Bunny*

                Going to agree with everyone’s comments that the professional-wear that’s available right now is limited and awful – especially sucks for me at my size, because there are a handful of places I can get clothes from and almost zero choices for blouses, trousers and skirts that are smart, not-sheer, professional and not covered in superfluous rhinestones and animal print.

                But for dresses with sleeves, have you looked up eshakti? You can get a dress tailored to your measurements for not much more than off-the-rack, and you can customise sleeve, hem and neckline on a lot of the dress options.

            3. Kristin (Germany)*

              I heartily endorse this comment! What on earth is up with so many sleeveless or barely-there sleeves on cold-weather dresses? I could always wear a cardigan or blazer with a given dress, of course, but I don’t WANT to have to do that every time. It’s almost impossible for me to find a nicely-cut, professional dress with sleeves long enough that I can throw it on and be done with the layering.

              1. CdnAcct*

                I hate this trend, but I’m afraid it’s here to stay, because no/cap sleeves are one more way for clothing companies to save money on both design (one less measurement to worry about) and fabric, as well as making anyone who lives in cool climates buy more layers. I started wondering this almost ten years ago when I noticed the trend in wedding dresses, which are the most custom pieces of clothing many women will ever wear, but which are now 80% strapless (even one less measurement not to worry about, the shoulders!)

                If you can’t tell, this is one of my sore spots…

                1. fposte*

                  Yes, I agree. The more popular inexpensive clothing is, the higher the price we have to pay for anything beyond the most simply reproducible designs.

                2. dragonzflame*

                  Also, it’s because sleeves are hard to draft and fit properly. That’s why wedding dresses are usually strapless nowadays – makes them very easy to alter. People won’t buy a garment if it doesn’t fit, and leaving off the sleeves increases the range of people who it will fit.

                  The sheer fabric? Cheaper than opaque, I’d wager.

                3. Diet Coke Addict*

                  Actually, sleeved wedding dresses are coming back in a BIG way. After Kate Middleton got married in a full-sleeved wedding dress, dresses with cap sleeves, short sleeves, and even long full sleeves are becoming increasingly popular. My dress had sleeves when I got married this year (short sleeves), and lots and lots of brides I’ve seen are starting to wear sleeved gowns. When I was working in bridal retail, we got TONS of requests for sleeves, and manufacturers were coming out with all kinds of sleeves.

                4. Rose*

                  I have to say I love this trend for the same reason you hate it! I’m 25 and rowed through highschool and college. My back, shoulders and upper arms are huge compared to my chest and waist. Sleeveless tops eliminate the terrible feeling of straining shoulders and too sleeves. my shoulders need a large but my waist needs a small. Alterations take an insane amount of time and money.

                  A nice shell fits better, and I can wear it in the summer solo or in the winter with a cardigan. Plus, it helps me feel less deformed to not have to alter every single thing i own!

            4. abby*

              Well, I am in southern California where it never gets cold and I despise sleeveless for work clothing. One, most people have the A/C on and it’s cold inside. Two, some of us like to cover to protect from the sun. Three, I just don’t like my upper arms. ;)

      2. SJP*

        I wear a tank top underneath as it’s obviously not underwear –
        Plus its nice and long so it isn’t going to ride up and reveal my bum if I bend over (haha)
        So it’s so obviously not underwear it means you can still wear shear/chiffon/thinner blouses without showing your bra..
        Your right Bea, you have more laundry to track and keep clean at the same time as you wanna wear the blouses but it’s worth it

      3. Megan*

        I absolutely hate this trend – and it seems like all of the stores in my price range are still obsessed with it. The tops tend to look baggy on me and the clingy feel makes my skin crawl.

        Surprisingly, Forever 21 had some really nice work appropriate sweaters last week that were not sheer or baggy or drapey at all.

      4. aebhel*

        That makes me nuts, too, because I really hate shopping for clothing and this trend means that either I have to do twice as much shopping to find something that isn’t see-through, or I have to buy two (overshirt and cami) to get anything like normal coverage. So annoying!

      5. Cassie*

        I’ve noticed a trend that a lot of tops tend to be very thin (if not see-through, you can see the outlines of undergarments) – is it because consumers want cheap stuff and manufacturers have to find a way to lower cost (so they use thinner fabric)? I shop at cheap places so I kind of accept that, but I see lots of people (who shop at more expensive retailers) who have the same problem.

    4. Emily*

      Exactly what I came here to say! Those sheer blouses are indeed meant for offices, but they assume you’re wearing a cami underneath. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to add an accent color to your outfit.

      1. Nashira*

        Indeed. I have a magenta sheer shirt that I can vary the look of quite easily, depending on what color cami/nice tanktop I wear underneath it.

    5. AIP*

      And flesh-coloured bras. They are especially useful under light-coloured moderately heavy blouses.

      *admission: I love a sheer blouse/top, but always worn with flesh/appropriate coloured bras AND camisoles, despite being a very conservative dresser. They don’t look remotely sexy on me, so it is technically possible.

  2. Liz*

    I think camisoles can help add modesty to already professional tops, but I’m less sure about how they would look under a sheer blouse – it feels to me like your underwear would still be showing at work. Am I off base?

    1. Newsie*

      Not necessarily. I have some wide strap camisoles that look not like underwear. Also, this sounds gross but I promise it’s not – you can get flesh-colored ones. (Even in Spanx, which hi, I enjoy sometimes.) Covers up, not visible.

      1. Bea W*

        Yes, it totally works. I say this as someone who is really uncomfortable with revealing clothing. If you have the right camisole and pair your top with the right skirt/pants and accessories, it looks classy and professional. I also think the style of the blouse matters. The blouses I have actually cover everything (not low in either the back or front or sleeveless). It is just the fabric is sheer and requires an under layer.

    2. Artemesia*

      The boss really doesn’t want to have this conversation again. I sure wouldn’t just substitute one type of underwear for another under the same sheer blouse they find unprofessional. A sheer top is just not a professional look especially when the OP has been told it is not professional.

      If a camisole has been worn all along perhaps the talk would not have occurred but it is not time now to sail as close to the line as possible.

      1. KarenT*

        So much this. Your boss told you to stop wearing sheer shirts so stop wearing sheer shirts. If you feel sexy in them, wear them after work and on the weekends.

      2. kozinskey*

        Yeah, I am a big fan of camis under *everything* at work, but I don’t think that’s the solution here. Buy some cardigans, blazers, button-down cotton shirts, and slacks. Go uber-conservative with dress for a month or so, then slowly start cycling the sheer stuff back in under an outer layer and with a cami. Sorry OP, but you’re going to need to spend some time rebuilding your reputation at work if your dress was outrageous enough to get a talking-to over.

    3. INTP*

      I think they help if the issue is the neckline possibly dipping too low or the top being inadvertently sheer, like so many shirts are these days (seriously, is it possible to get an opaque top that isn’t black?). If the blouse is quite sheer, though, it can look intentionally sexy (with any tank top) and verging on underwear showing (with a spaghetti strap cami).

      1. MK*

        I think the real problem here sounds that the OP is dressing intentionally sexy, not simply wearing things she likes that happen to be sexy. It’s possible that her manager’s issue is with how she dresses in general and they just pinpointed those two things (sheer tops and tight skirts) to be specific. In my experience, a manager won’t make an issue of, say, a sheer or low-cut top worn with a conservative suit, or a tight skirt with a modest top or even the occasional sexy outfit, if the employee dresses professionally most of the time. From the OP’s comments, it sounds as is she is going for a sexy look in general, so it’s worth readjusting her attitude towards her professional wardrobe, not just trying to comply with the letter of her manager’s advice.

        1. Cheesecake*

          The “sexy” bomb dropped by OP means somethings else than “i like to dress in sexy clothes”( my opinion!). I also “feel sexy” when i wear high heels, but it is more towards: i look great and it makes my day better.

          But i agree with you: us, ladykind, can’t wear short tight skirt and a see-thru top together. In general too much is too much, at work it becomes waaaay too much.

        2. Celeste*

          I agree with this. The OP wants to be Sexy Secretary, but her boss doesn’t want that in his office. Dial it down if the job is important to you. I think the choice of wording about distraction was poor, but the bottom line is you are not meeting expectations in sheer clothing. An alternative if this is the hill you want to die on, is to find a secretarial job in a less conservative office.

        3. INTP*

          I totally agree in this case. I was just expressing that I think that camisoles can help with sheer tops in some cases (like “you can kind of see my bra in the right lighting” cases). She does need to wear much more conservative tops now to show that she takes the request seriously, especially if (as I suspect) she may have been a little defensive in the initial discussion. It’s a matter of showing respect to her coworkers. (Not because it’s a woman’s job to make sure men are not distracted but because if your coworkers express discomfort with your totally optional display of sexuality in the workplace, you should cut it out.)

    4. Sandrine (France)*

      Yeah, user CupcakeCoverTops on Youtube has that (you can add .com to that name and it takes you to the actual website) . That could help too. They’re basically half tanks that prevent you from having a zillion layers but keep the modesty. If I read that correctly haha.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I love these under deep-V sweaters, but it’s still going to look a little odd under a sheer-ish top, IMO.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          Eh, those are cute but pretty pricey for a half camisole! I say go to Old Navy or Forever 21 and get camisoles for $3.50 and cut them to make them like that. If you can sew, you can easily hem them to make it sit properly.

    5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      My signature style is Artsy Matron, not even close to Sexy :p, and I have a sheer blouse/camisole combo I wear in the summer. It’s just something different. I have a couple sheer blouses and I use them in situations where a younger version of me might have gone sleeveless, but I’m not about rocking the upper arms at my age.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        This is totally my look, too! It was accidental, too — I looked in the mirror one morning and was all “hey, I look like an Artsy Old Lady, maybe that’s why people keep asking me if I’m an artist.”

        Then my mom pointed out that when I was a little girl, I always said I wanted to grow up to be an Art Lady. Woo-hoo, forgotten childhood goal achieved!

      2. Emily*

        I realized with gratitude somewhere in my mid-20s that sleeves were the main difference between dresses in the “juniors” section and dresses in the “misses” section.

    6. Natascha*

      For sure! I live in a warm, humid climate and my choices are often limited to a very thick blouse which leaves me extra sweaty and gross during the commute, or a thinner sheer one where you can see the outlines of my bra through them. I find wearing one of the thinner blouses and a thin, but solid and non sheer camisole works well.

    7. KayDay*

      I really like the sheer blouses that are popular now and have two that I wear frequently–I always wear a camisole underneath. I guess if I had a more conservative office I could wear a tank top with thicker straps instead. I think it looks completely normal (and most of the sheer tops I have are dark enough and loose enough that the details of the camisole aren’t super-visible–like I have to look rather closely to see the exact line of the strap). Although my perception might be off since I wear camisoles almost ever day under pretty much everything and therefore might just assume its normal because I normally do it. Most people I see wearing sheer blouses are, I think, also wearing camisoles, but as I mentioned, it’s hard to tell for sure.

      Incidentally, when I moved to Europe, I noticed that it is more common to wear just a bra underneath and not a camisole, compared to the U.S. I was quite surprised the first time I noticed, but you do have to be rather close (in most cases) to tell.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I haven’t worn a true camisole in years, but I do wear tanks. A few years ago, people starting layering thin tank tops to get more color, and you can still get those tanks, which look great under sheer tops, v-neck sweaters, etc. Lord & Taylor makes really good ones– relatively thin, colorful, some stretch, not too expensive. I am on the larger side with boobs to match, so these tanks have been my lifesavers.

      I also have a couple with lace at the neckline, so while there’s a smidgen of “camisole” to those tops, they really don’t look like underwear at all.

      1. fposte*

        I’ll have to check L&T–I have these brilliant tissue-weight tanks I got from J. Jill years ago that just slide in even under close-fit dresses, and I wish I’d bought a dozen of them.

    9. MissDisplaced*

      I think the trick is that they are plainer (no lace or bow details that mimic lingerie) or thicker fabrics like cotton. I’m a fan of the tanks and camis at Target for layering.

  3. Dan*


    You don’t say what you’re schooling and previous work are in, so this is going to sound vague. You’re best bet is to figure out why that hm thinks your career goals are in line with your education, and how you can answer differently for the next career switch job interview.

    AAM is right, the best response to that email is “thank you.” Remember, in thier eyes, this isn’t about you and what you want, this is about them and what they want. And, they have much better insight to that then you do.

    1. Raine*

      Most employers (outside of seasonal and some service-type jobs) really don’t want to get the sense that a potential employee really has no interest in the area and is at best going to see the employer as a transitional one. And OP was actually basically going to flat-out say that in the proposed response!

  4. K*

    #2 – Save the sheer blouses for going out afterwards. Unless your job is lingerie model, no one wants to see your underwear at work.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      +1. I shouldn’t be able to see your underwear at work unless your job requires showing your underwear.

      1. KarenT*

        + 2.
        I’m an old fuddy duddy at heart (my 60-year-old mother often tells me, her 30-year-old daughter, that I’m a prude) but I just don’t see how anyone can possibly think that sheer shirts are appropriate for the office. And I see them all the time in my office, though thankfully always with camisoles and never with bras.
        I actually have a couple that I like, but I wear them when I go out for drinks with friends, not in the boardroom.

        1. tesyaa*

          Age has nothing to do with whether someone’s a prude or not. Someone in her 60s today grew up in the swinging 1960s, so it’s not like all older people date from the Victorian era.

    2. GrumpyBoss*

      Completely agree. Some women struggle with what is appropriate to wear to work, but this is so blatantly NOT appropriate. I cannot believe OP doesn’t already understand this.

      1. Liane*

        I am wavering between “doesn’t already understand this” and “understands this very well but intends to do it anyway.”
        My workplace recently changed it’s dress code, so I bought a couple nice white blouses that were a little more see-through than I wanted for work, which seems to be all that’s there, even though I would be wearing something work-required over them 90% of the time. My first thought was “I only have 1 camisole in a color suitable to wear under a white blouse, so better grab a second on the way to the register.”

          1. Dmented Kitty*

            Late in the game, but this is exactly what I was picturing for the LW. I know there are blouses that have a hint of sheerness to it, but I have seen magazine pics or even just online websites showing this style — and sometimes people wear very contrasting colored bras underneath (e.g. a white sheer blouse with a lacy lilac bra underneath).

            I sweat a lot on hot days so even wearing something like this with just a bra would make me really uncomfortable because everything would just be clinging to me.

      2. KayDay*

        While I am in 100% agreement that the OP should definitely not wear the sheer blouses to work since her boss has specifically said not to, but I don’t think sheer blouses are “blatantly NOT appropriate.” I see people wearing them to work all the time ((usually) with bras covered!). It’s certainly something that might not work at places with more conservative dress codes, but I don’t think they are completely inappropriate everywhere.

        P.s. for the record, I am referring to this item of clothing:

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m afraid it doesn’t shock me too much. I’ve worked with women who were more concerned with looking “on trend” than on looking professional, especially at evening work events. If it wasn’t the clothing, it was the makeup. Most of us would do a touch-up or simply put on makeup before these events, but some of my colleagues would spend a good 20 minutes in the bathroom with a giant color palette. The overall attitude is, “I look hot and I feel hot, so whatever I’m wearing is totally appropriate.”

      4. Bea W*

        #1 – I can commiserate. Once I was able to get treatment for the ADHD, things were a lot easier for me, and my manager noticed the difference (and I didn’t even fess up!). I had been struggling for a long time, and making more mistakes (at work and at home) was what finally drove me to get evaluated. That had a unintended side-effect of also reducing my baseline anxiety level. I have been treated for that for 20+ years, and have never had 100% relief. The best I could do was get it down to a manageable level. Oddly adding a stimulant to treat the ADHD took care of that and the anxiety was gone and I felt calm, but that is how our brains work. I’ve been able to reduce the dosage of the meds I was taking for anxiety and depression. Can’t come off them entirely because my depressive symptoms come back and I feel like I’m ready to start biting off heads, but I am now on very low doses.

        1. TheOtherLiz*

          #1 – I, too, have ADD. It makes office life difficult. I take Ritalin, which helps me a lot, but I also have to go the extra mile to manage. I get bored with coping mechanisms quickly, so while a small dry erase board checklist is great for a couple weeks, I soon stop using it. What has worked for me – in addition to Ritalin – is a healthy dose of self-love. I remember confessing my distracted work habits to a psychiatrist once, and she said, well honey, everybody wastes time on the internet at work. Don’t be so hard on yourself. That was such a relief to hear. Yes, I still have to work to be better at office life, but a healthy dose of self-love and self-forgiveness is my #1 way of dealing with my ADD. I’m almost 30 and I was diagnosed at age 12, so I’ve had more than half my life to observe myself and understand some of my tics. That means that when I realize I haven’t looked at my dry erase board for days, I switch to post-its or calendar reminders, until that gets boring, then I pull out the dusty dry erase board again. Since I get bored easily I don’t hate myself for that – I just adapt my response to my own impulses. When I’ve forgotten to refill my Ritalin prescription (which in my state you can only get a 30-day supply, and need to pick up in person, because clearly those who make these laws have never had to deal with ADD themselves) I treat it as a challenge to focus by sheer willpower until I can pick up the new month’s supply, instead of berating myself for being forgetful. Life isn’t fair – we are expected to perform exactly the same as people who don’t have ADD. But! We also get lots of benefits that people without ADD don’t get. We tend to be more creative, more able to dabble in many different interests, more likely to speak truth to power (sometimes that can be foot-in-mouth). Take the good with the bad, and accept two things: 1, that you have ADD and will be grappling with it your whole life; 2, that you are still expected to play on the field with everyone else, usually without any handicaps, whether you think it’s fair or not. I’ll tell people professionally that I have ADD, but I make a point to tell it in the context of positive or neutral things – like, my desk is chaotic but it helps me to see everything on display, and it’s part of my ADD. Or, I play 7 instruments – bouncing around learning new things is part of my ADD. It’s not framed as an excuse, but if people recall my saying it they might give me a little forgiveness for being late to meetings or losing my notes.

      5. Kelly L.*

        I got a spidey sense of the letter being written more by a fantasist (in the Letters to Penthouse vein) than someone who really does this.

        1. Clerica*

          That would be a pretty tame fantasy. It’s not like she wrote in about having sex with the CEO in the supply cabinet, or coming into work in pasties and a G-string.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Assuming the fantasist was actually a lady and not a wishful-thinking dude. (I know, I know: take OPs at their word.)

      6. aebhel*

        This. I’m pretty easygoing about fashion in general (I wouldn’t blink at a tank top or cami), but if your underwear is showing at work, you might want to change your wardrobe.

  5. Dan*


    I’m a dude, and if I can see your bra at work, I’m going to wonder why you want the whole office looking at your bra. That’s not the kind of thing you want people wondering about.

    1. MK*

      Honestly, the only part of the manager’s instruction that I found objectionable is the ”distracting your coworkers” thing. The OP’s coworkers are adults, living in a world that is bombarding them with images of naked women. If they cannot concentrate in their work simply because the OP wears a sheer top, it’s their issue, they need to improve their concentration.

      ”I expect you to look like a professional during working hours” is reasonable. ”’Don’t wear X, because it distracts Tom, Dick and Harry” is completely out of line.

      1. Jessa*

        This. Dressing appropriately is one thing. Making the OP responsible for the reactions of adults is another. One is an appropriate boss thing, one is crossing a line that shouldn’t be crossed – which is you don’t tell the person to change their clothes, you tell the reactors to change their reactions. Normally.

        However, separate to that issue, there is an appropriate dress line at work and the OP should stay on the proper side of it.

        The reason is that it’s inappropriate is not that others are “distracted,” but that at work you dress nicely. The distinction is hugely important (n.b. recent issues in schools where girls were told to change their looks not because their looks were really bad but because “boys would get distracted,” instead of telling the boys to quit harassing the girls. )

        1. Andrea*

          I totally agree. I think that “dressing nicely” gets interpreted in different ways by different people. A lot of people where I work do I on “dressing up” when they are new to work. This usually means more revealing clothing that might be parts of going-out outfits, sometimes mixed with dinner-with-your-parents clothes. At work I usually explain it to new staff as: coverage matters (if you have a sitting job where people approach and are standing you need a pretty high neckline, also if your job is physical or requires bending then your bum shouldn’t be exposed). Also, fabric matters – a thick plain cotton is not a “dress up” fabric but is often ok in business casual offices. Fabric colour is not a free pass either – if sweat pants are not allowed in the dress code then yoga pants aren’t allowed either even if the “cut” is different and more fashionable.

          1. Arjay*

            True story – we had a young woman show up wearing shorts for a regular work day at our business casual office. When her manager pulled her aside to ask her why she was wearing shorts, she said, “Oh, but they’re khakis!” They’re khaki-colored shorts. Shorts is still the part where the problem is.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Not sure that the only source of distraction was her physical appearance. People could be distracted because they are talking about how “today’s outfit” is not business attire and no one else dresses like this, etc. The boss could have understated the nature and frequency of the running commentary to protect OP.

        I think the fact that the boss said something indicates the situation needs her attention. There are different ways of looking attractive. OP, I think aim for a look where you feel attractive as opposed to sexy. I see lots of women in nice outfits, hair/make up done very well and they are truly beautiful women. Likewise, with men. I see men that have put time into selecting a suit- the garment hangs nicely and fits appropriately across the shoulders, the pants are the correct length, etc. In both cases, people look sharp and look very nice, which is attractive.

        1. L Veen*

          “People could be distracted because they are talking about how “today’s outfit” is not business attire and no one else dresses like this, etc.”

          In this scenario they’re getting distracted by their own immaturity and inability to resist gossiping instead of doing their work. If I had a coworker who wore sheer blouses or other inappropriate clothes to the office, I would certainly notice it, but I would get on with my life and focus on my job instead of trash-talking her with others.

      3. CheeryO*

        I feel like sometimes “distracting” can be a nice way of saying that other people are noticing something that is out of place in a professional setting, and that the thing that is out of place should be taken care of. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the men of the office are so entranced by the visible bra that they are getting distracted from their work.

      4. Observer*

        They may be bombarded with pictures of naked women – but not while they are at work, by and large.

        Also, I suspect that the manager wants to stay a away from a “why would you care argument” and so is bringing up the potential distraction issue. And, I’d be willing to be that the the “distraction” the manager is worried about is not that guys are going to have a hard time keeping their mind on their work because she is so gorgeous. Far more likely is he (or she) is concerned about gossip and other negative responses from staff, or possibly the image she presents to outsiders, even if it’s not an officially customer facing position. I imagine that her supervisor wouldn’t want to tell her “you’re a major source of gossip in the office” or anything like that. That’s awkward.

        But, I agree, he should have just left it at “This is unprofessional and needs to be changed.”

      5. Raine*

        Oh, I totally read that as office-speak code for “This is coming from on high, upper management is pressing me to tell you to cut it out pronto,” not, “There are a bunch of people distracted by your see-through shirts.”

        1. fposte*

          That’s my take. It would be better if the supervisor hadn’t tossed the other people into the mix, but it’s a mild wrong-footing; the important thing is that the OP get the message and knock it off.

      6. Kat M*

        I get distracted when people are out of dress code, men and women alike. I worry that their lack of professionalism reflects poorly on the rest of us.

        We have enough to worry about. Keep your underwear to yourself.

        1. loxthebox*

          Yup. There’s a guy in my office who wears his jeans too low and I see his boxers… Really don’t need to see that and super unprofessional.

    2. Clerica*

      I’m going to wonder why you want the whole office looking at your bra

      This is barely a half-step up from “She asked for it; look how she was dressed! She wanted to make me lose control.”

      1. aebhel*

        Not really. If he was saying that it would okay to harass her over her wardrobe, maybe, but if you’re intentionally wearing clothes that show off your underwear because it makes you feel sexy, I’d be kind of wondering the same thing.

      2. AnonCan*

        Yeah, I agree. I don’t think the poster meant that it would excuse action (comments, taking pictures or other gross behaviour). As a straight female I would wonder why my coworker would want people she is not intimate with to see her bra. For many people bras are sexual. And especially since the OP said she liked feeling sexy why would it be weird for others to interpret this style as sexual? Again not excusing action or behaviour but people are going to have their thoughts.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Completely agree. I have a coworker who’s in a professional position, and in her late 30s, who wears nothing but skin tight tops with plunging necklines and short skirts. When I see her, I think, “Why does she dress like she’s going on a date at work.” I really do wonder why she dresses this way.

      3. Ludo*

        No. Even. Close.
        First, the OP outright says she wants to feel sexy and likes that she feels like she looks sexy. It is not appropriate, in the vast majority of workplaces to seek to appear “sexy.”

        Second, showing your underwear at work, and your coworkers wondering why on earth you would want them to see this, is not, never, no way close to a predator claiming their victim “wanted it” based on how they were dressed. It just isn’t.

        Victim shaming is a very real thing and your comment helps make it ok for people to pretend it isn’t, because you are lowering the seriousness of it. Stop.

      4. Observer*

        I’d say a totally different universe, actually. When you display something, it usually means that you want people to see it, or even look at it. It doesn’t mean you want them to trash it, take it or touch it. People understand that, when it comes to just about anything else. Why would it be different with underwear?

  6. INTP*

    #3: This is a bit off-topic since the OP is not in the US, but I’m curious. Under US law, could the employer claim that allowing the OP to not attend the conference IS the reasonable accommodation as long as they insist that there’s no work penalty for skipping? I’m assuming that since it’s a “conference” they’re technically considering it work and not a reward, bonus, etc. Does the law require that you be able to participate in activities to the full extent that you want to participate if the employer prefers to stop requiring them rather than have you do them with accommodations?

    Also, it’s odd that they would be so determined for the OP not to be able to skip late-night partying, unless there are weird clients involved who would be put off by anyone bowing out early. I wonder if they want to force all employees to engage in this and are afraid that when the OP skips out with her good excuse, other tired employees might take advantage of the opportunity to share her cab? Or is it only a ploy to make her back out – but in that case, why? They don’t want a sober person around for whatever is going to happen?

    1. Jen RO*

      I’m trying to figure out how this part of Alison’s response would work in practice: “I’d like to attend, but I want to make sure there won’t be negative repercussions — formal or informal — if I’m not able to go to all the events.”

      Say the events involve clients. Say the clients will frown upon a pregnant woman not drinking and partying. Say the clients refuse to work with her anymore. What does the employer do? Lose the contract? Try to force the client to work with OP? I read the manager’s words as a well-meaning warning – yes, OP can do whatever she wants, but it *will* have consequences. Not every consequence can be controlled by a manager. I would appreciate such a warning immensely.

      1. INTP*

        Yeah, I think this could range from totally reasonable to egregious discrimination on the company’s side depending on what the motivations are. It’s hard to know without knowing exactly what goes on during these trips. OP says it’s a celebratory trip but also describes it as a conference, so there could be networking and client entertaining involved.

      2. beyonce pad thai*

        I’m having a hard time imagining a client who would refuse to work with a pregnant woman because she wasn’t drinking and partying.

        1. Raine*

          A lot of this doesn’t make any sense. OP works in a medical business. I think we’re missing some key information maybe?

        2. INTP*

          Cultural variations came to my mind – for example, I’ve been told that in Japanese business culture you have to keep up with the drinking of the highest level person at the table and it’s disrespectful not to do so just for the sake of your own health. I’m not sure what sort of lenience pregnant women get, though. Or some heavy-drinking groups just get really weird about anyone not drinking. I’ve been in many situations where even the DDs were pressured to have at least one or two. It’s unreasonable of course, but many people get away with being unreasonable in situations where they have the money.

          I suspect that even if this is an issue, though, that it’s less about one pregnant woman leaving early or not drinking and more the concern that other employees would also take the opportunity to do the same. Tons of people are “too tired” to pull many late nights in a row, especially with drinking involved and waking up for conferences the next day. I’d get sick, exhausted, and unfocused very quickly in that scenario and would be pissed if fatigue was considered an acceptable excuse for a pregnant woman but I was required to stay out and sacrifice my health.

          1. shellbell*

            Are you suggesting that Japanese business customs require heavy drinking from pregnant women? You know this is false and ludicrous right?

            1. INTP*

              No – I’m suggesting that (as explained to me by a professor of Japanese culture, at least, so maybe this is dated info) sometimes requires drinking heavily and/or staying out late, if the senior person in the group chooses to do so. As mentioned in the post, I’m not sure how the etiquette accommodates pregnant women. I assume no one wants pregnant women to drink heavily but there may be a more rigid convention than “Don’t drink if you don’t want and leave the party whenever you feel like it” like that you stay home if you can’t drink, or you don’t have to drink but you must stay out late, or something else.

              1. amaia*

                Japanese business customs -traditionally- wouldn’t allow a woman, particularly a pregnant one to hold a position of any importance or upward mobility. You’re meant to be an admin until you marry and then quit to have babies, the end.

                Yes, things are slowly changing, but this is actually one of the issues facing women in the workplace in Japan- so many business relationships hinge on the old boy’s club going out for drinks together.

          2. Observer*

            Tons of people are “too tired” to pull many late nights in a row, especially with drinking involved and waking up for conferences the next day. I’d get sick, exhausted, and unfocused very quickly in that scenario

            I think the scare quotes in your response are unfortunate. As you point out, this can have a real impact on people’s health, and can have a negative effect on people’s ability to function effectively. That’s not excuse making.

            But, I think you are probably correct about what the issue is. And, as I said elsewhere in the thread, I think it’s stupid management. It’s also likely to come back to haunt them eventually.

      3. nep*

        Perhaps I’m missing something — do you really think clients/anybody would frown on a pregnant woman not drinking and partying?

        1. INTP*

          I doubt it would happen like that – “That pregnant woman is not drinking. I won’t work with her.” But if networking, bonding, and deals are happening during the post-conference partying and the OP isn’t there (as the OP focuses on being expected to stay out late and doesn’t say she’s expected to actually drink), her absence could cost her some potential clients or the opportunity to maintain relationships with her existing clients. The impact to the company is the same.

      4. Natascha*

        If a client gets their panties in a twist over a visibly pregnant woman not drinking and refuses to not do with business with them anymore, than I think the problem is with the client. I know a few rather unreasonable people and I don’t think any of them would actually get in a snit in this situation if they were clients.

      5. Observer*

        Actually, in the US, it MAY be possible that the employer is out of luck.

        I do know that employers are not legally allowed to discriminate against other protected classes based on customer “demand”. For instance, someone cannot refuse to hire a given ethnic minority because clients “don’t like” dealing with them.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        If coming was mandatory for all employees and people were warned they could get written up or fired for not coming then it would be an accommodation to excuse the pregnant employee and for her not to face any sanction for missing the event.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Even if it was an accommodation, I don’t see the problem with her skipping the late-night activities. She’s presumably coming to the conference to participate in as many activities as possible. Wouldn’t the daytime events be valuable to her professionally, as well as to clients? I think the employer is being too rigid on this.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            I agree with you, there is no reason the employee couldn’t skip the late night activities and still attetnd the day time events.

          2. INTP*

            I think the employer is being too rigid unless there is some not mentioned reason for it to be a valid concern, like weird clients who want the whole team out partying with them. I was just speculating on the legality of the whole thing. There’s a huge divide between what is unreasonable, unethical, unfair, etc and what is actually illegal.

    2. MK*

      My feeling is that the boss’ boss doesn’t want the OP to come, either because they think a pregnant woman will be a hindrance to all if them having a great time or for some other reason (perhaps they want to bring someone else in the OP’s place), but they don’t want to outright say so for fear of falling foul of pregnancy laws or sounding like a jerk. I read the entire conversation as an attempt to manipulate the OP into ”voluntaliry” bowing out of the trip: saying that they don’t have to come, but if they come they have to do everything, which makes little sense, painting the planned activities as difficult for a pregnant woman to deal with, saying skipping socialising wil be ”frowned upon” (by who?), ect.

      1. BritCred*

        I get a feeling of “Well YOU won’t be any fun to be around….” especially if they have a lot of partying events in mind.

      2. Artemesia*

        This. They don’t want her to go. Maybe it is HER they don’t want to go, or maybe it is anyone who would be a buzzkill by not drinking and partying late into the night. But they clearly don’t want her to go. I’d probably choose not to go, but if the OP wants to go or feels it would be a career hindrance not to go, then pushing back on pregnancy discrimination would be the approach. The boss sounds like a jerk — or it is a workplace that forces employees to do a lot of nonsense as part of team building or training and doesn’t want anyone with an excuse to not comply.

        1. Raine*

          Yeah but also, OP describes this as a week-long conference. In addition to not knowing UK law, it’s really unclear to me what exactly the management is afraid the OP won’t engage in — actual conference work? And couching that by mentioning oh yeah, and the entertainment side will go long into the night? Anyway, it seemed to me when I read it that this is a working conference.

      3. catsAreCool*

        “My feeling is that the boss’ boss doesn’t want the OP to come, either because they think a pregnant woman will be a hindrance to all if them having a great time or for some other reason ” I agree!

    3. Zahra*

      I wonder what the protocol was for the last few years (and for other attendees). If it’s the first time this mentioned to anyone and if people who missed events last year aren’t getting the same warning, there’s something fishy going on here.

    4. Emily*

      “I wonder if they want to force all employees to engage in this and are afraid that when the OP skips out with her good excuse, other tired employees might take advantage of the opportunity to share her cab?”

      I think this is the most plausible explanation. They think if OP wants to call it a night and watch TV in her hotel room by 9pm every night, everyone else will want to do that too and all their fun team bonding experiences will be ruined because they don’t want to deal with people being upset about the pregnant woman getting “special treatment.”

      1. INTP*

        Yeah. Frankly, I’d have a hard time keeping up that schedule too, I’d be exhausted and probably get sick, and would be pretty pissed if “I’m tired” was considered an acceptable excuse from a pregnant woman but not the rest of us.

  7. Puffle*

    #2 there’s a time and a place for everything. I would save the blouses for outside of work for now. Maybe when sufficient time has passed, you can start wearing them again but with another layer underneath- a thick-strapped camisole or a t-shirt.

    As a general rule, I think most offices would expect you to dress in such a way that your bra is never visible. Whether or not you agree with it, that is the expectation. I understand that in your view your outfit is “nothing outrageous”, but honestly what matters more in this particular case is your manager’s view.

    Also, you talk about your friends wearing similar outfits, but that’s not the greatest tack to take. Forget what your friends are wearing in other departments. What matters is your department and your manager. If you take the “But Catrin in marketing wears the same things and she gets away with it!” line, you risk sounding childish and argumentative.

  8. Jen RO*

    #2 – I fall on the more lenient side in the clothing AAM “debate” (I have no problem with sandals, sundresses, even bra straps)… but a sheer blouse that you can see the entire bra though is a big no-no in any office, even a casual one. I work in a software company where pretty much anything goes, but I would also talk to an employee who wore see-through clothing.

  9. INTP*

    #5: Another issue with the response is that it focuses entirely on what the position could do for you rather than what you could do for the position when it should be the other way around. ( This is something that’s often not made clear to people when they leave the academic world where wanting something really badly and fitting it into your future plans often IS an effective argument for why you should be chosen.) Maybe I’m misunderstanding due to the lack of full context but what I’m reading is “No, I don’t have the same relevant experience as many other candidates and yes, I plan to transition out of your industry, but you should have considered me for your training program because it would be a good stepping stone for me right now.” Remember that employers are just trying to find the people it makes the most financial sense to invest in (in this case, ones that already have some experience and will stick around with the company for awhile), and explaining why you are one of these people is the only argument that will work most of the time.

  10. Far East*

    #3 Are you sure that you can fly at 26 weeks?
    Since you would be “abroad”, am guessing that you need to take a plane, and the company will be liable for air travel insurance, and the airline most likely will NOT let you into the plane.

    And “partying” till the wee hours is not something to be taken lightly when you are pregnant. You knew it is a “work” event, so you would be expected to participate in ALL activities, regardless of your physical situation.
    This is going to sound harsh, and I don’t have any other way to say it;
    Have you looked at it from the boss’ view?
    Seems to me that boss’s boss is simply being realistic; and you are going to be high-maintenance attendee.

    The key question is… TRANSPORT being a major concern.
    They can’t get you back to the hotel, so are you prepared to pay for your own, even if you can actually find it?
    Secondly, insurance coverage for a pregnant attendee is higher.

    I have had to organize company events with pregnant attendees and they are a night mare for logistics… so please consider it seriously whether you should be on the road at 26 weeks pregnant (that is around 6 months).

    1. Andrea*

      I also organize events that include pregnant people, and sick people, and other people and I haven’t found it to be that big of a deal. Can’t the participant just decline events as needed? I’m sure she is well aware of any physical limitations and wouldn’t be considering the trip if she can’t participate.

      1. SJP*

        Sorry but why should the participant have to decline to go?! The OP says that it’s to celebrate the previous years success and hard work and she has been a part of that..! Just cause she is pregnant doesn’t mean that she shouldn’t go!
        The company should stop being asses and accommodate her way of getting there! Like someone else said, she can get the Eurostar, it’s cheaper and no doubt safer for the OP to take! Plus they should just pay for her taxi’s back to the hotel when she doesn’t feel she can attend the night events anymore.

        Why just cause she is pregnant should she have to bow out of fun activities to celebrate hard work and success when she helped in that success! Gah!

        The flight would be like 2 hours maximum i’d say.. Im UK based and flying to Germany would be doo-able at 26 weeks and often people do!
        I feel for this poster cause it just seems they’re trying to manipulate her into bowing out of these celebrations cause they cannot put the leg work in to reasonably accomidate her! And if it were too far to cab back, she can just skip that nights activities and stay at the hotel!
        OP, please don’t let them talk you out of going until they’ve explored all options of getting you places/back earlier!

        1. Colette*

          Sorry but why should the participant have to decline to go?

          It looks to me like Andrea was suggesting that the OP skip specific events (for example, an evening out) as her health requires. That’s quite reasonable.

          1. Andrea*

            Thank you, that was what I was intending to say. I was also trying to clarify that most event planning professionals are actually used to this and a pregnant person isn’t any different than a diabetic or someone else who’s physical limitations are hidden. I am surprised by the idea that this is a problem for some planners, I’ve never encountered it. It also feels needlessly gendered since it’s not being lobbied at men with visible physical limitations (old, tired etc)

        2. Raine*

          I’ve never heard of purely celebratory activities as opposed to work repeatedly phrased as a “conference.” And the OP’s clients are a German medical business. Nothing is jibing; I really think we don’t quite have all the information here.

          1. Diet Coke Addict*

            I almost wonder if there’s a translation issue involved–a celebratory trip is usually not the same as a conference, and I wonder if someone, somewhere is conflating the two and causing issues.

            1. Emily*

              I used to work at the US office of an international organization headquartered in London. Once a year, we went to London for a week – we spent a day tabling at a major conference with our English colleagues, 3 days at a resort conference center brainstorming our strategy, and 2 days doing fun activities. It was definitely work + celebration rolled into on – once we’d already flown to London why not make a fun trip out of it and really get a chance to bond with our counterparts who we only see in person once or twice a year.

    2. Robyn*

      You can fly at 26 weeks. Heck, my Sister in Law flew at 33 weeks, from London to San Francisco.

      All it takes is a doctor note saying you’re fine to fly.

      It’s really not that hard.

      And UK law is basically the same as US. It’s discrimination.

    3. Sandy*

      I have yet to see an airline that prohibits flying at 26 weeks.

      As a general rule:

      -every airline is different. Google the airline you are flying + pregnancy and you see what restrictions your airline has.
      -Most require a doctor’s note after 30 weeks, unless you are pregnant with multiples.
      -Airline prohibitions on flying generally kick in after 34 weeks (again, with an exception for multiples), but I’ve seen them go as high as 38 weeks.
      -it will usually come down to how your doctor feels about you flying *in your particular circumstance*. Every pregnancy is different, so airlines, in my experience tend to defer to your doctor.
      – depending on the airline, you may need a doctor’s note dated the day of travel, up to 48 hours before travel, or up to a week before travel.

      On a side note, some airlines who shall remain nameless require you to travel with a note from your husband giving your permission to fly with “his” fetus… Nearly coughed up a lung when I discovered that one on a recent business trip.

      1. llamathatducks*

        What?! Would you mind sharing what airline that was? That sounds pretty terrible and I’d appreciate knowing it for future trip planning.

        1. Sandy*

          Unless you’re planning on flying to the Middle East anytime soon, I doubt you’ll run into it.

          *bangs head against wall*

        2. Katie the Fed*

          If I had to guess I’d say Emirati, Qatari, or Saudi airlines. Too bad because they have the nicest coach class :/

          1. Vladimir*

            Yes it is crazy, but I do not think that it is Emirates or Quatar Airilines (at least I hope so), these fly all over the world so the risk of running into them would be quite high. Saudi airlines are of course different matter. Even worser, Saudi women do even need written permison from their guardian to travel out of the country, all the time, pregnant or not (crazy country as far se women rigths and human right in general go).

          1. Ludo*

            I laughed. Not because it was funny (it so is not) but because it is so unexpected that someone would actually *say* this so outright.

      2. Ludo*

        There would be no words to express my anger (no, anger isn’t the right word … lividness?) if I had to have a letter from my husband to travel with HIS fetus (HIS FETUS!? HIS!?). I would probably find myself imprisoned over my outburst.

        Gives me an eye twitch just thinking about it.

    4. MK*

      If the problem was that the OP would not be allowed to fly, why not simply say so? I find it highly suspicious that the boss is piling on problems on the OP, some of which sound like excuses (where is this conference happening that the OP can’t get a taxi back to the hotel when she feels tired? If they are hiring cars, why can’t the OP be driven back and then the car return for the rest of the team).

      Also, I find the ”you knew it was a work event so you had to participate in ALL activities”, especially since this is the socialising part we are talking about, implausible. At all conferences I have been at, no one was absolutely expected to participate in every social event. Sure, you shouldn’t disappear in your room once the work was done or be antisocial, but I find hard to imagine anyone so insane that they would be offended (!) if a pregnant woman skipped the bar-crawl.

    5. UKAnon*

      No need to fly necessarily =) It’s perfectly possible to go UK-Germany by train/Eurostar in a few hours, and there’s a good chance it will work out more cheaply as well. As for participating in everything, not necessary at all, and it’s perfectly reasonable to ask not to certain things. It may be reasonable to ask you to therefore fill in your own time/make your own way to the next venue etc, but missing it with a good reason shouldn’t be a problem in the slightest.

      1. Still in the UK*

        The OP doesn’t say that the conference will be in Germany, just that the company is German-owned and the conference will be abroad.

        1. UKAnon*

          Ah, touche! My assumption. If they’re staying in Europe at all, though, trains are likely to be as quick and possibly cheaper, so still no need to fly necessarily.

          1. Carrie in Scotland*

            Depends where in the UK the OP is. If they are in London, fair enough – but anywhere else in the UK – Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Scotland – it will be time consuming enough to get to London! (Trust me, I know – an extreme case because of where I live, but it takes me a minimum of 7 hours to get to London by train) But even taking the Eurostar will involve changing trains somewhere (Paris? Brussels?) in order to get to Germany and then it depends on where in Germany – it’s a large country. It sounds exhausting enough for a non-flier, train traveller person (me!) let alone a woman who is 6 months pregnant.

            1. UKAnon*

              Could go Newcastle to Amsterdam and thereon in the continent :-)

              I do appreciate the irony that it’s the getting round the UK bit that’s trickiest btw. Trains here are the worst!

              1. Carrie in Scotland*

                Sure, you could do. I forgot about the ferry. Still takes a long time though!
                Yes, our trains are pretty bad. I love European trains :)

              2. Chinook*

                “I do appreciate the irony that it’s the getting round the UK bit that’s trickiest btw. Trains here are the worst!”

                I hate to say it but you have no idea what bad train movement is. Come over to Canada where the only trains to get you across the country use the original tracks from when they were first laid over 100 years ago and take approximately the same amount of time (took me 3 full days from Edmonton to Toronto, 12 hours from Vancouver to Edmonton). And, in most cases, trains are not an option. I would pay good money to take one from Edmonton to Calgary (3 hours by car) and many would love one to get get them anywhere north rather than risk the roads (because air travel is either not an option or super expensive.) Even in the cities with public transit, it is usually buses with one or two train lines (with one or two exceptions).

                I was green with envy travelling in Japan and England with the ease of getting around on public transit. With a little planning, you could get most places without a car.

                1. Cath in Canada*

                  I love long train journeys – the first time I came to Vancouver was by train from Toronto, and I’ve also done San Diego-Vancouver – but I agree that they need to be much, much better here before they’re a realistic option for non-train-geeks like me. There’s a twice-daily train from Vancouver to Seattle and Portland, but it takes a lot longer than driving and it leaves at really inconvenient times.

                2. Tau*

                  I’m European and once took the Seattle-Vancouver train when I went to Seattle for a conference and wanted to visit a friend in Vancouver beforehand. It was a… rather bewildering experience. (Why does it take longer than the bus? Why is getting on the train a similar process to airport boarding? Why are people waving at us as we pass? Why on earth is the train stopping at traffic lights?!)

                  I took the bus back.

                3. Ludo*

                  I’d like to introduce you to Amtrak in the western US if you think your trains are bad. They use freight tracks and guess who gets priority if both a freight train and a passenger train need to use the tracks? Hint: it isn’t the humans.

                  My most recent train was 17 hours late because of almost constant delays due to the freight company deciding their trains had higher priority. If there are no delays, the train ride is usually 12 hours.

                4. catsAreCool*

                  I took a train once. It took 11 hours to take what would have been an 8 hour drive, and it left at about 2 am. It stopped all the time. I liked the idea of being able to take it easy in a train instead of constantly watching the road while driving, but this was ridiculous. This was Amtrack, in the US.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                At least they’re accessible, for the most part. In the Midwestern US, I have to drive three hours just to get to a station. Years and years ago, you could ride trains to smaller places, but they’re all gone and there’s nothing now but motorways. I LOVED not having to drive in the UK, even when I had to grab a bus or walk to/from the station. Loved public transport. Coming back, the first time I had to drive to work made me cry.

                1. UK Anon*

                  See, I hear all the time about how much better the US is able to run a train service than we are! I think the main problems we face are:
                  a) People are more and more being priced off the trains, and most fares rise by substantial amounts year on year even though they’re supposed to be regulated
                  b) The reliability is awful, about three quarters of train journeys I take seem to be delayed, late or cancelled (and see overpriced above, just to add insult to injury!)
                  c) Overcrowding. A rush hour train leaving London won’t have room for people to move as they’re standing up, it can get horrendous.

                  Not to downplay the problems facing US or Canada =) But it’s becoming more and more of a Thing over here; we look at the Continent and get train envy.

                2. Ludo*

                  UK Anon, the northeast US has a GREAT train system. It is efficient, on time, and well covered all over the map. The rest is a hot mess.

          2. Jen RO*

            Europe is a big place :) It would take days to get from England to Romania by train. The more you travel to the East, the slower the train gets!

    6. Artemesia*

      26 weeks is just past ‘half way’ — airlines have never barred pregnant people at 26 weeks from flying. In a normal pregnancy this is not an issue; if her doctor was advising her not to travel because of problems in the pregnancy that would be another issue.

  11. Sandrine (France)*

    OP 2 : The workplace is not the place to feel sexy.

    You should never be ashamed of your body, that’s for sure. But there’s a time and place for everything, and your job isn’t one of them as far as sexiness goes. As much as I hate to say this, what if other people think it’s sexual harassment to be exposed that way ? (I know, I know)

    1. beyonce pad thai*

      How would it be sexual harassment? (not asking in a snarky way, I’m just don’t see how. I agree that it’s not a professional look for a conservative office.)

      1. nep*

        Same question — how might it be sexual harassment ‘to be exposed that way’? Do you mean, others in the office could say they’re being harassed by having to see a coworker’s underwear? Not snarky here either — just curious about your view.

        1. Sandrine (France)*

          Oh well I’m not in the US anyway and I just realized the grammar in my last sentence doesn’t even make sense. Oh my u_u .

          This might seem weird but in a very, very bizarre and twisted kind of way, constant exposure might drive some people to think it’s done on purpose to… ah, I don’t know, annoy people or try something with them ? Sorry, my mind isn’t clear today. I’ll see if I can make it clearer in my own head later xD

        2. Colette*

          How would you feel if one of your coworkers walked around completely naked?

          That’s really the issue here – her coworkers could easily feel uncomfortable that they’re seeing parts of her body that they would prefer not to see. Whether it rises to the level of sexual harassment, it’s still sexual (based on the OP’s comment that it makes her feel sexy) and inappropriate.

          1. Chinook*

            I wouldn’t call wearing “sexual harrassment” but it absolutely made DH uncomfortable when his female coworkers in the military chose to wear what he termed “bar clothes” (tight, see through, what many women would wear to the bar to attract male attention) on days they got to wear civvies. Not only was he stuck wearing a tie while they got to wear whatever they wanted, he said he had a hard time trying to figure out where to look (especially because he was taller than them so making eye contact meant looking down). He understood that the women enjoyed wearing clothing that made them look and feel female but he said that it was also more comfortable to work with them when they were in uniform because there were no longer distinctions between the men and the women. (He also mentioned that none of the military men knew what to say to these women about their clothing without making it sound like discrimination or harrassment, especially since their female supervisor also dressed like this, making it look like it should be acceptable and that the men just needed to get over themselves.)

            Also, while I understand that the men are responsible for not being distracted, when a woman wears something that is designed to make them look sexy, doesn’t that imply that they want others to look at them that way? If so, isn’t this sort of like setting up bright flashing lights and then telling people to ignore them? Sure, you eventually learn to ignore them, but isn’t it easier to turn down the brightness instead?

            1. MK*

              No. To begin with, wearing something sexy does not mean a woman wants men to ogle her. Secondly, it’s not a valid argument that it’s easier to restrict women’s personal freedom than to get men to behave like adults.

              1. Observer*

                I don’t buy it. If you are not interested in people looking at you, you don’t dress in a way that says “look at me.” And wearing clothing that is overtly sexy DOES say that. The analogy to flashing lights is right on here – You may not intend those flashing lights to be distracting, but they most definitely ARE.

                I’m not, by any means, suggesting that dressing to be looked at means that someone wants MORE than to be looked at. And I certainly do not think that women need to dress like old-style nuns to be taken seriously in the work place.

                But, if you dress like a “hot mama” you are going to be seen that way. And, by the way, if you dress like a “hot dude”, then you are going to be seen that way, as well. (And while that doesn’t have quite the same negative cultural repercussions, I don’t think it’s going to do most guys any good in most business environments.)

            2. Diet Coke Addict*

              Yeah, no. It’s not actually that difficult to hold men to a standard that says “don’t ogle.” It’s not. Men being uncomfortable with the way a woman is dressing need to solve their own problems. If a woman is wearing something patently unsafe–four-inch spike heels on a machine-shop floor–then it should be addressed from a safety standpoint, but otherwise, if the COs are OK with it, the men need to learn to be OK with it too.

            3. neverjaunty*

              He couldn’t figure out out where their eyes were because he was taller? Civilian dress code allowed casual for women but required ties for men? Confused here.

      2. INTP*

        Well, if a man in my office insisted on wearing thin nylon shorts or spandex or some other type of clothing so we could all see the outline of his junk more clearly, or something else that put his culturally sexualized parts on display for everyone in the office to see, that might be cluelessness but it could also be seen as sexually aggressive (a way to make women look at it whether they want to or not, the same underlying motivations as a subway flasher). Women would not be unreasonable to feel violated and disrespected. While I don’t think it’s productive to act like responses and assumptions about these things should be 100% the same for men and women given the enormous differences in sexual aggression, the social acceptability of revealing outfits, etc, I also think that if I’d feel that way about men in certain clothing then it’s perfectly possible and valid for men to feel that way about women in certain clothing. Obviously, I wouldn’t consider an accidental display of bra strap or boxer waistband harassment, but the intentional displaying of the full bra under a sheer shirt could be. It’s a display of her sexuality that the coworkers can’t opt out of witnessing.

        1. anonForThis*

          I agree with INTP.

          I’m a straight woman, and this conversation is bringing up a time when I was talking to a co-worker about work and suddenly realized how low her top was. I was thinking “I don’t want to see that.” It was uncomfortable.

    2. majigail*

      That’s an interesting slant, I was more worried about her being harassed. However, you can draw the parallel that a woman regularly showing her undergarments at work is equally harassing as a man putting up a picture of a Victoria Secret fashion show in his cube. I feel like it’s a stretch, but one I could get to with compelling enough argument.

      1. snuck*

        I worked with a woman once who dressed like this. And it was bordering on (probably could have been painted as) harrassment of men. She would change her shirt in her office (which had a glass wall, with a frosty mid strip knee to shoulder height), she would wear minis for group activities (ugh I hated those) and then change back into slacks, which was pretty darn awful because she’d always be the one to volunteer to climb on the chair to stick the balloon on the top of the tree or whatever (see why I hated these!) … we were in a very male heavy industry with traditional engineering types. She was a manager. An awful one.

        She also did things like wear sheer shirts super crazy tight (over her perma-protude plastic surgery nipples) and loose waist bands with gstrings. She was a winner.

      2. INTP*

        Or draw the parallel of a man who intentionally wears clothes that put his sexual parts (as defined culturally, I know breasts are not primary sex organs) on display, forcing everyone to see whether they wish to or not, because he enjoys making women look at them. I know it’s a more dramatic example than what the OP is probably doing, because there’s more grey area in the revealing-but-acceptable clothing category for women, but the same principle. I don’t think all women who wear overly revealing clothing should be charged with sexual harassment (they’re probably just clueless about what is acceptable) but do see how people could feel violated by it.

    3. Jazzy Red*

      Not sexual harassment; more like exhibitionism (“look at me – I’m so sexy”).

      For the OP, that’s all they will think about her. Not as an excellent worker, or a good candidate for promotion, or as someone to mentor a new worker. Just as someone who dresses inappropriately for a business office.

      Someone above said the boss doesn’t want to have this conversation again. OP, you need to pay attention to that. It might be your one and only warning. Save the sexy look for after work.

      1. Bee*

        I agree. I don’t know to word this well, but it’s sexual behavior that coworkers don’t want and can’t get away from. Definitely not okay – if it’s being done on purpose.

        LW, if it’s an accident, you have my apologies and advice on skin-colored bras and camisoles. :)

  12. Bend & Snap*

    I went to our user conference a 5 hour flight away at 24/25 weeks. It was nbd. The show was 5 grueling days but I skipped all the night events and it was fine.

    I’m really surprised anyone would try to discourage a pregnant woman from an event because accommodations just aren’t that hard. And re: transportation are there no cabs?

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      Yep. My coworker went to a major conference at 7 months, with a 7-hour flight. She wasn’t too happy about the travel, but same: skipped the night events of partying/drinking/etc., and was just fine. She even managed to live with no transportation by using a cab, and somehow none of our clients were offended, put out, or left us.

    2. the gold digger*

      Yes, unfortunately, there are places in the US where it is very difficult to get a cab. I almost missed a plane for a work trip once because the cab I had ordered the night before did not show up at 5:30 a.m. as requested. I had to drive to the airport and pay for parking and run into the airport. Lesson learned: I never counted on getting a cab again.

  13. LawBee*

    oh, #1, I got a sympathy tummy ache reading your letter. Buckle down with the checklists. Don’t apologize any more, because that’s only going to hurt you; the best thing you can do for yourself right now is try and fix the problem.

    #2 – you can look attractive and still look professional. Save the see through blouses and tight skirts for after-work fun, and dress appropriately for your current position.

    #3 – I am mystified by that phone call. What job enforces after-hours partying? What if someone who isn’t pregnant bows out of the late-night events because of being ill or super tired, is that even allowed? I would definitely want to know what was going on here.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Not enforces, but perhaps industries like PR, banking, advertising (where you would shmooze the clients over drinks & dinner). Admittedly, my knowledge of these industries comes from books & tv so might not be accurate….;) although someone at work was at a dinner last night with people who were funding their project (I work in academia)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        They could do some schmoozing at lunchtime. Presumably people will be eating lunch. And there are other ways to accommodate–they could have a quick drink (the OP without alcohol, of course) at the hotel before going out and then she could go to sleep. Every hotel I’ve ever been in has a bar or is near one. As long as it’s non-smoking that should be fine. I think they just suck–it’s not that hard to accommodate her.

    2. Bea W*

      I wonder if #3 was the company trying to get her to voluntarily bow out rather than telling her outright they didn’t want her to go, maybe for fear of having that look discriminatory. So they’re making it untenable for her attend by requiring she attend all events if she does choose to go.

  14. Amy*

    #2 if the blouses are barely see-through, wear a bra or camisole the same color as your skin tone. If they’re seriously see-through, that’s a total no-no in the workplace unless you’re a hooker. Ditto with very short skirts.

    1. fposte*

      She’s been told not to wear just a bra under the blouse, though–still doing so, even if she changes the color of the bra, is a level of defiance that’s asking for trouble.

      1. Arjay*

        The only exception here is if she’s wearing say a black or red bra under a white blouse – contrasting colors in a way that is obvious visible. It’s possible a skin-toned bra wouldn’t be visible, depending on the sheerness of the top.

        1. fposte*

          Nope, no, nyet. Not now. You’re thinking about whether a look might be okay, and the question here is no longer the look but the response to the direction. She’s been told to quit. She has to quit, not play around with rules-lawyering. She can’t wear a sheer top over a bra regardless of the bra’s color.

        2. Aisling178*

          She’s been told not to show her bra at work. Fashion doesn’t matter here. There are no exceptions.

  15. GreatLakesGal*

    I recently worked with someone for whom there was clearly a cultural mismatch between US office norms and her preferred clothing style. I’m talking jaw-dropped, eyebrow-raised gaping when she entered a room.

    However, she was also a superstar performer who generated revenue at exceptional levels, and did so reliably, month after month.

    After a while, we all got used to the spit-take effect and got on with things.

    But unless #2 is performing at that level, I read that she is being told to radically change her style, not simply wear more conservative undergarments. That it got to the point that she needed to be spoken to indicates that she is not paying enough attention to office norms.

    1. Artemesia*

      No one wants to have this conversation so it is almost always someone who is drastically inappropriate who receives this warning. I have been dragooned to have this talk with employees because my male superiors didn’t want to do it and I was the highest level woman in management in the division. It is no fun. I would have advised firing the women involved if they had just slightly adjusted their clothing without addressing the issues of professional attire. It is no fun and no one wants to have to do it twice or pick at it constantly while the employee works on what they can get away with. Dressing professionally is not a great mystery. Someone who can’t look around and notice what the office norms are is likely to be a less than stellar employee in other ways. (although the example of the superstar who dresses like a hooker suggests there are exceptions.)

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’ve actually now had this conversation with several people and I think the key is to not make it Such A Big Deal and to do it as early as possible. If you treat it with the same level of concern as something stuck in their teeth, that’s about the right tone for the first discussion. Like “oh! you know, your blouse is actually really sheer. I hate it when that happens! Would you like to borrow a sweater to put over it for the rest of the day?” and then proceed from there.

        80% of the time that works well.

        But…I once had this discussion with a new employee who wore a sparkly halter top her first day. I said “oh, you know, we’re a pretty conservative office – do you want to borrow this blazer to wear over it?” and she said “oh no, I like this outfit” so I just said “well, it’s more appropriate for an evening out than the office – we dress much more conservatively here and I strongly recommend you cover your shoulders and back in the future.” She sort of got better.

    2. the gold digger*

      I was at my company’s factory in Venezuela (obviously, years ago) and was shocked to see a woman come into the office wearing a sheer white blouse and a black bra. I turned to the plant manager and raised my eyebrows and he just shrugged.

  16. GreatLakesGal*


    As you describe it, and from your boss’s words, I have to say that it sounds as if they are laying groundwork for letting you go.

    You are being told that the types of mistakes you are making not acceptable, that your chagrin is utterly beside the point, and unless something radical and transformative happens ( this would be the “something else” they need) they will have to let you go.

    I realize that sounds harsh. But realistically, 20 months in a position means that basic job functions should be at the level of automaticity and mastery, ie, you should have the daily, weekly and monthly details down cold if this is an entry-level or junior-level position.

    As another poster alluded to above, you may want to consider if this job is right for you.

    1. majigail*

      Agreed, once monthly major mistakes are really problematic this far in to a position. By saying “We don’t know what to do,”your boss is basically telegraphing that there won’t be more training to correct you and it’s on you now. Know that they’re serious no matter how likeable you are and no matter what a good job you do the rest of the month.
      Keep going with the check list- religiously.

        1. DrJulieSunny*

          I haven’t scrolled to the bottom yet to see if anyone else replied to OP #1 but I hope if anyone has, they’ve been more encouraging/empathic …. I completely understand what these commenters are saying, and their points are definitely valid from the business standpoint; from this particular individual’s standpoint, it is probably not what the OP needs to hear.

          (I’m going to take a guess, OP #1, that you are already being really, really hard on yourself, expecting others to do the same or worse, and/or you’ve already heard/thought that you’re a major screw-up, something must be really wrong with you, you’re a failure, lazy, etc. As someone who has worked with individuals similar to the OP (e.g., co-workers and clients), I suspect you’re feeling the debilitating impact of really negative self-talk and have taken any harsh – or even just innocuous – feedback and your self-esteem and confidence are suffering, which may be a much bigger contributor to your struggles at work than you may think. I really think you’d be amazed at how much better you could perform at work if you weren’t (understandably) freaking out about your job security, your competence, etc, and watching your self-esteem drain out of you. I wish there was a magic wand to make it all go away. Since there isn’t (if there was, I’d want it too), there are definitely things you should seriously consider doing that really really can help you.

          Psychotherapy with a good, well-trained psychologist is crucial. Also strongly consider consulting with a psychiatrist (this is one of those times when a specialist is probably very important) about medication treatment. Some additional resources:

          2) “You mean I’m not crazy, lazy, or stupid?” by Kate Kelly & Peggy Remundo
          3) “The Disorganized Mind” by Nancy Ratey

          Also, I don’t know if this is possible for you at this time, but if you can, consider taking a brief leave from work to focus on being healthier, managing your anxiety, and learning very helpful coping skills for ADHD and your particular difficulties. It can – and WILL – make all the difference in the world.

          You already know all the bad things and possible consequences and all of that about your situation. It’s time to focus on lowering the volume on those things you already know and turn the volume up on more encouraging, helpful, and also realistic voices. ….

          I truly wish you the best of luck. You WILL get past this, I assure you.

          1. Zahra*

            I didn’t like #2 all that much, since I was a high performer in my pre-grad school years. I much preferred “Driven to Distraction” and “Delivered from Distraction”.

            Good luck, OP, I know it isn’t easy (I do have ADHD too). I often bribe myself with something fun (but I won’t set goals for a full day of work. I respond much better to a half-day deadline.). Another strategy, when my inner voices are rather negative, is to become my own cheerleader, regardless of how fake it may sound at first. Reminding myself that I can do this, that I can be terrific at it will often motivate me enough to get going.

          2. TheOtherLiz*

            Yes, yes, yes. I’ll second the recommendation for “You Mean I’m Not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?” – a really super helpful book.

  17. Rebecca*

    #2 – I think I can safely say that your coworkers don’t want to see your bras. I would guess that 99% of your coworkers don’t want to your underwear during working hours. So please, stop, and listen to your manager.

    As an aside, a few years back, a young lady was hired at my office. She sat on an exercise ball instead of a chair, and frequently wore sheer cotton gauze skirts, no slip, and thong underwear. To my knowledge, no one ever talked to her about her apparel choices, the men passed pictures of her around on their cell phones, and it was just nauseating for most of us all the way around. She left after a year or so. Whether it was right or wrong, no one took her seriously.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Well, that’s kind of crappy. She might not have realized she was flashing people. Slips are pretty foreign to youngsters too. I think it’s terrible nobody clued her in – there’s nothing wrong with saying “hey, that slirt’s pretty see-through” or “careful how you sit on those exercise balls – don’t want to flash anyone!” And the men passing pictures? Disgusting and they should have been fired.

      1. Diet Coke Addict*

        Uh, yeah. Regardless of what she was wearing, the fact that men in your office were sending around pictures of her flashing people? That is truly disgusting. Good heavens.

        1. Arbynka*

          I know, right ? Sadly that behaviour – taking photos of others so you can make fun of them/humiliate them is not that uncommon. There are website devoted to this. People of Walmart comes to mind. And I see pictures like that on iFunny fairly often as well :(

            1. catsAreCool*

              I haven’t been on the people of walmart site, but I hate the idea. Plenty of people shop there because that’s all they can afford. It doesn’t seem right to make fun of people who can’t afford more. Of course plenty of people who shop there can afford to pay more but don’t want to, but still…

      2. Artemesia*

        I agree the men behaved badly. There is no way the woman in question did not know exactly what she was doing. Exhibitionism is rarely unintentional. I learned that as a kid when the distinguished doctor of our acquaintance always sat on the edge of the pool displaying his junk which ‘accidentally’ escaped the mesh bathing suit lining and so was visible in his swim shorts leg. People who repeatedly expose themselves intend to do so.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I really disagree with this:
          “There is no way the woman in question did not know exactly what she was doing. Exhibitionism is rarely unintentional. ”

          If you’re young and new to a professional environment you really don’t understand these things sometimes. Like crossing your legs when you sit if you’re in a skirt, wearing a slip (seriously, I don’t even own a slip), or other norms that more experienced people take for granted.

          Even people who do know can have malfunctions – I’m particularly well-endowed in the upper regions and shirts can migrate and inadvertently show too much cleavage, and don’t even get me started on the gap in button-down shirts.

          If someone said something to this woman and she continued to dress that way, then I’d agree with you. But I go with not attributing to malice that which can be explained by ignorance.

          1. Bea W*

            Do people even wear slips anymore? When I was growing up, women always wore slips under their skirts or dresses, and that is the way girls were taught to dress. Slips were an essential undergarment. I don’t see that now. The only slips I own date back to my teens.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I think most business-wear usually has built in lining.

              But I think this is part of the problem. There’s such a glut of cheap clothing now, and young people especially who have grown up on H&M and Old Navy are used to buying more cheaply made clothing that lasts a season or two and then toss and replace. So people aren’t shopping for quality, and may not even know to look for nicely tailored clothes that are properly lined.

              Add to that the fact that there aren’t that many stores for women’s business clothing that doesn’t look all stuffy and like something Madeleine Albright would wear and it’s really not all that easy to shop for clothes for your first job at 22 or so.

              Personally, as a professional woman I think it’s my responsibility to try to mentor and help younger ones (if they need it or are receptive). I’d far rather have the uncomfortable discussion of cluing someone in than have them be the subject of ridicule if they can avoid it.

              1. Raine*

                And I think there might be distorted concepts of what constitutes career-wear due to the fact that not a lot of the popular stores with college students and 20somethings are really interested in the real-world version anyway. I mean Victoria’s Secret catalogs actually used to have a section of seriously laughable “work” outfits.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  And TV characters, and magazine models in workwear articles, are often dressed in things that wouldn’t fly in a regular office, but might be where someone would get their ideas about what to expect.

                2. Katrin*

                  I’m 23 and recently had a great interview for a position that would require me to wear more business professional clothing, though it’s not quite corporate enough to call for wearing a suit everyday. I searched “work outfits” on Pinterest to get some ideas and I think I considered about 3 in every 50 images to be the kind of work appropriate that I was looking for. Most were either so casual I was dubious about their appropriateness for even business casual (it seems that a blazer or pencil skirt instantly says “office” to many people, but when they’re paired with ripped jeans or flashy 5 inch heels I have my doubts…) or looked like some idealized editorial version of workwear for a fashion magazine that wouldn’t be realistic in most offices. It can be hard to find guidance for this kind of thing if you’re just starting out!

              2. Chinook*

                Sadly, lined anything seems to be out of fashion this year. Or atleast that is what I learned when I tried to find decent dress pants at our local mall with 100+ fashion outlets.

                1. fposte*

                  It’s not that they’re out of fashion, it’s that they’re above the mall price point. Mall clothes (especially outlet malls and cheaper takes like Nordstrom Rack) are generally about cheapest production possible, and linings zoom up the production cost.

            2. Diet Coke Addict*

              You can still buy slips–not many people do, but I have a couple to wear under particularly thin skirts and dresses or to prevent sticking or weird bunching. Department stores are the best for them.

            3. Felicia*

              I’ve never worn a slip and I only know it as something my grandmother would talk about. (I’m 24). Most business appropriate skirts don’t need one and I primarily wear pants (as do most women in places i’ve worked), so i can see not knowing that’s a thing. I certainly wasn’t taught to dress that way. I believe my mother was, but dismissed it as old-fashioned when she was in her 20s.

              1. Connie-Lynne*

                I’m in my 40s, and I can still remember my Mom’s frequent insistence to me as a teenager that I had to wear a slip with _everything_, especially when I started working in offices.

            4. Chinook*

              True slips, I find, are acutally quite hard to find, especially if you want something that isn’t also a body shaper or super expensive. I have had to settle for Walmart or remembering to go to one of the department stores (and they don’t often have them anymore either). When my grandmother died, my aunt offered me her slips (which she hadn’t worn in a few years) and I jumped at the idea of wearing a dead woman’s clothes because they were good quality and of the type I could never find (i.e. no scratchy lacy and decent straps).

              1. Kelly L.*

                Yes! I remember an arduous scavenger hunt a few years ago when I bought a white dress and just wanted a plain white slip to put under it. I didn’t need a shaper–I liked the fit of the dress just fine without it, and I didn’t want to spend that kind of money. I finally found one at Sears for about 15 bucks…after looking fruitlessly at a bunch of other places.

              2. Jen RO*

                I just managed to order a slip last week! It’s the body shaper variety (because it was the only one available), but it was on sale and it’s seamless and I can finally wear one dress that looked OK online, but see-through in person! I’ve been looking for a slip for a year and this is the first time I managed to find one. (My mother still has hers, but they are not seamless and they showed through the dress.)

            5. Nina*

              Anytime I wore a dress or a skirt as a kid, my mother made me wear a slip. This was in the late 80s, early 90s.

              But I also thought it was some random invention by my mother, because to this day, I didn’t know of any other kid who wore one.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I remember my mom would make me wear a slip sometimes if we were being really dressy (also 1980s). If I wore a dress/skirt to school, she made me wear a pair of shorts under it. I felt really grown-up when she finally started letting me wear dresses without shorts because I was old enough that she trusted me not to flip upside down on the monkey bars or something. (Ha, I was afraid of heights enough that I never did that anyway!)

            6. Karyn*

              I tried to find a slip at Target the other day and they had ONE. ONE!!! I don’t want a long cami/tank. I want a full freaking black slip to wear underneath a sweaterdress!

          2. Kelly L.*

            The thing that’s tripped me up occasionally is different lighting. Sometimes something is opaque in the soft light in my house and more see-through in the glaring light of work.

            The pics were definitely not OK!

            1. Katie the Fed*

              Black knits are notoriously dangerous for pictures too – you can look totally covered but a flashbulb makes you look like you walked out in a sheer dress.

            2. Felicia*

              This is how I ended up in a see through skirt at work – it’s not at all see through in the light of my house, but it is in the harsher, brighter lights at work…for this particular skirt you could also only see certain cuts and colours of underwear through it, but not all of them.

              It’s so easy to be accidentally see through.

              1. Tia*

                Princess Diana got caught out by this before she got married. The press persuaded her to pose with her back to the sun and her modest, opaque skirt went see through.

    2. Elsajeni*

      Wow. That is nauseating, that everyone in your workplace apparently thought it was fine to secretly take pictures of someone accidentally exposing herself and pass them around.

      1. Rebecca*

        Not everyone thought it was OK. To clarify, it wasn’t all the men, but a few of them who got a big kick out of this. None of the women did, and most of the men had issues, but no one in management addressed it, as is their style. That’s a big problem where I work.

  18. Not So NewReader*

    OP #1. I would expect a boss to say something like this after a few substantial screw ups. It’s good that you are seeking outside help and at some point that help will kick in and make a difference in things for you.

    Alison is right in that all the checklists in the world are not helpful if the list is not used consistently. So, I am thinking that it might help to think about your motivation for using the lists and your motivation for doing better on this job.

    Although the boss’ message was not easy to listen to, it is a compliment in a way. He feels you have it in you to do the job. This happens. People can watch other people work and KNOW that they will succeed at the job- they can just tell. Please don’t second guess him, he is complimenting you, in his belief that you can, indeed, do the job. Work on believing him.
    The next way he complimented you was he initiated this awkward conversation in order to turn your situation around. Think about being a boss and you have to tell someone to pull it together. UGH. Hard conversation, right? So why would you do that for someone? Some reasons could be that you like the person, you think they are a good addition to your crew, you see that they have the capacity to master the work.

    Back to motivation. We all need to eat, so we need a job. Next step, do you want this particular job? Do you like the job, the people, the company? (If you hit two out of three here you are doing VERY well.) Think of it this way: The things you do here to teach yourself to remain on track and work accurately are life-long lessons. This is not a waste of your time, you will carry the things you learn about yourself through out your working career.

    One thing I have done that has helped me, is I promise myself never to make the same mistake twice. I am chuckling- my boss recently said “you never make the same mistake twice.”( NO, I come up with all new ideas for making mistakes, each time I make a mistake. Shaking my head sadly.) She went on to say that it is inherent in our work, that if you are trying to do things you will make mistakes, for certain. She’d rather have me keep trying to do all the different things I do and we will just deal with the fallout when I mess up. So short version, promise yourself never to make the same mistake twice.

    I use a lot of memory triggers. When I see x that is a reminder to do y. I never had over completed work without double checking it. Yes, it takes longer in the short run, but it saves a redo which takes a very long time. And there are times when I can check something against something else and verify that they two match up the way they should. This cross-checking is very powerful because you will find buried mistakes that might not be noticed for a while. It’s a really good way to cover your butt.

    Just from reading your letter here, OP, I think you have enough going right that you can find your path through this and you can land in a good spot.

    1. snuck*

      Finally an OP1 comment!

      I was going to say similar to the OP… I have managed staff who made a lot of errors and I got sick of hearing the “whoops sorry!”.

      This might sound harsh OP1 but it’s not meant to, as much as be an honest thought. Have you looked at the industry you are working in (and the job role) and thought through if it’s the place for you? If you are in something that demands very high levels of accuracy and detail then it might not be a good fit for you, all the checklists in the world won’t help if you don’t follow them, but also if the end result of you not being accurate could be very dangerous (ie medical information) or embarrassing to many (eg payroll, website work etc) then you might want to consider taking your skills to an industry or role that is less pressured?

      I’d hate it if I had to explain to a bunch of random employees every week or two that their pays were late (and all the late fees and rent/mortgage payments etc delayed) if my staff member made small mistakes, or wrong and had to be corrected, or had to spend hours myself looking through journals and fixing accounting errors or had to explain to a committee why the data entered into a system didn’t reflect what was on the original paperwork. I’d be looking to replace said staff member promptly. And it sounds to me like your manager is getting close to that point with you.

      If you feel this is the case with you – that your industry is intense (or job role) then it might be time to start looking for something else that uses those same skills sets but doesn’t have the intensity. This is said with kindness, ADHD isn’t something that you can just fix with a magic pill or a two week course of antibiotics, it’s for life, and with the other stressors in your life it’s probably going to take a while to get back under cover/control.

      In my mind part of being a professional in any role is recognising your own limitations and doing the best you can to minimise them, if they still impact your work then why not be professional and excel at something similar that doesn’t clash with your weakness.

      1. Small Creatures Such As We*

        I think that this advice is on the right track, but that a bit of background on ADHD might be relevant here. Despite its name (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), the current research on ADHD focuses on how its core deficit is DIRECTING one’s attention/executive-functioning (things like organization and planning, shifting tasks, remembering details when on the spot; I’d link to a definition here, but I don’t want this post to be held up in moderation).

        People with ADHD can be high-performers when doing something that they enjoy/are interested in, and they can often perform well under pressure and deadlines (that was the only way I ever used to get things done–I had to amp up my anxiety/wait until the deadline was nearly there before my brain would say “ok, this thing is finally important. Let’s do it”). The part of a neurotypical person’s brain that says “ok, I don’t want to do this tedious/boring thing, but I’d better just get it done” is just extraordinarily hard to activate when you’re ADHD. A less “intense” job could actually be worse for the OP if the job is more boring.

        As background, I went to grad school to become an academic (experimental psychology, ironically), but am now using the statistical programming/coding I learned in grad school as a programmer (I think this can work really well for ADHD people who can hyperfocus easily). I have to be precise and accurate, because my code fails if I forget a semi-colon or comma, fail to think through all of the IF…THEN…ELSE logic, or don’t fully handle errors. However, there’s immediate feedback when I am inaccurate/imprecise and I LOVE the puzzle of figuring out how to code something that handles all of the likely permutations of one problem. Plus, I work for a consulting company, so once we code a solution to a client’s problem, we move on to the next shiny! exciting! challenging! problem that needs to be solved. In academia, the ADHD was, without question, a disability that meant that I would always perform below my abilities. Now that I’m a programmer (and in the right position, which I found with the help of this blog!), I can see the strengths that it’s given me.

        So to repeat what snuck said–OP, would there be ways to shift you shift your skills into something that works better with the weaknesses AND strengths that come from ADHD? Finding something that is intrinsically interesting can be especially important when you’re ADHD.

  19. Elkay*

    #3 I wonder if this is a UK/German thing. Germans can come across as quite abrupt to Brits, we’re the masters of the unspoken meaning whereas the Germans tend to just come out and say it. I don’t think it’s fair but at least you know where you stand. Another plus to this is you can present the legal side quite factually without treading on toes.

    1. De (Germany)*

      ” we’re the masters of the unspoken meaning whereas the Germans tend to just come out and say it. ”

      Oh, wouldn’t it be great if that were true…

    2. snuck*

      I have to admit I’m left wondering why the OP wants to go… and assume she went last year so she knows what it’s going to be like?

      Personally I’d bow out graciously and appreciate a quiet week in the office to get everything done. Unless there’s major wheeling and dealing in promotions etc going on at that week (and the OP wants to be part of that cycle right now when a new baby is about to hit – which face it – is a major life direction change if it’s a first – it really changes your headspace at least for a while) then why not let it be and enjoy being out of the pressure and the social faux pas nightmares for a week? (If the OP wants to grind the promotional trail then why is she unsure, she sadly is going to have to choose between being very tired and bright and perky and available at all these events, or quietly sitting back and going back to the hotel etc under her own steam and hoping that no one really does hold it against her.)

  20. Maggie*

    It is surprising how many female staff think nothing of showing their bras in the office (or other workplace) but who would casually show their knickers or boxers? Underwear shouldn’t be on show at work. It is not a good look, especially if you want to be taken seriously.

  21. Apollo Warbucks*

    #2 Please just cover you underwear in the office it’s not a big ask.

    That said I really dislike the fact that you’ve been told you’re a distraction to your co-workers, people should be able to contain themselves, I’ve seen a few news articles recently talking about the disproportionate impact of school dress codes on female students and some of them started #IAmMoreThanADistraction on twitter.

    1. Observer*

      Well, it depends on what the supervisor meant by “distracting”. Perhaps he means that she’s just providing too much gossip fodder – and possibly even with language that he’s concerned will come back to haunt them (eg “what’s that **** wearing today?”)

      And, given that the LW seems to be a bit argumentative about the matter, it could also be that the supervisor was trying to preempt a discussion about “nut why would you care about this”.

    2. Raine*

      Yea, I said it above, but I really thought that was office-speak for “Top management has noticed and told me in no uncertain terms to talk to you and take care of this” and not “Your coworkers are distracted.”

  22. Observer*

    To #2 -Re the clothes.

    Several posters have already mentioned that the way people see will be negatively affected by the way you are currently dressing. What you may have missed is that this kind of thing could haunt you for a very long time, even if being a secretary is not where you expect to stay, career-wise, in the long term.

    If people develop the idea that you are “the bombshell that is more decorative than useful in an office” or “slept her way into the job.” or any other negative (and unfair) stereotype, it’s going to totally color how people look at you and your work, and how they talk about you to others. They may never say those things to others, but it will affect what they do say, and how they say it.

    This means that not only will you be less likely to progress in THIS job, but even if you switch careers or go to different employer it could be a problem. Because the kind of negativity this kind of thing engenders crosses lines of different careers.

  23. Bee*

    #2: I think I know the type of blouse you’re talking about. They’re work-appropriate and pretty, but you have to wear a camisole under them.

    If it’s only the color of your bra that’s visible, like it would be in a thin T-shirt, try a bra that matches your skin.

    1. Diet Coke Addict*

      They’re quite common–I found a number searching almost at random on Ann Taylor , J Crew and the Limited

      None of which are particularly dedicated to the young-person market, even.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Note that most of the descriptions say that the blouse is intended to be worn over a layering piece.

  24. Bea W*

    #4 – You probably already know this, but any threats of suicide should be taken seriously and the first thing you do is call 911. Please do not try to handle this alone. I hope your mother can get the right help.

  25. Katie the Fed*

    #5 – I want to second/third all of the advice telling you not to respond like that.

    You actually got something that most candidates claim to want – detailed feedback on how you could be a better candidate. A lot of managers don’t like to give feedback like that – precisely because people then turn around and argue with them. I almost never give feedback anymore because so many people treated it like an opening salvo to a negotiation. It’s not.

    Just thank them and roll with it :)

    1. fposte*

      Yes, I was thinking the same thing–that’s an answer that will make it less likely future candidates will get any feedback at all. (It will also make them be absolutely convinced that not hiring you was the right thing, which isn’t your goal either.)

    2. some1*

      +1. They made their decision. If you think they were wrong about the reasons, use that to sell yourself in your application materials and interviews from now on. As in, “here’s how my skills translate to front – line customer service.”

  26. HM in Atlanta*

    Re #4: This is a rare issue where refusing the leave without discussion, could be illegal (and retaliation could be illegal too). It depends on the size of the employer (in the US). At my current employer, this could fall under caregiver leave in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and/or FMLA.

    The ADA only requires 25 employees (not 25 FTE, just heads on payroll), employees don’t have to request it by name, and the employer is required to enter into an “interactive process” with the employee. The onus is entirely on the employer as well, so just shutting down the employee like that is bad.

    This is just Federal. Depending on the state, there could be more stringent laws as well (California comes to mind). There’s no agency to report violations to, so the OP would have to get an attorney (although California, Atlanta, etc. have boards that can review complaints).

      1. HM in Atlanta*

        I’m particularity knowledgeable about this piece because my company had to Pau a BIG award for not complying with accommodations for caregivers (not settlement, but award from the court).

        It’s important to consider, especially when you have adults who are caregivers for their parents or adult children or are in loco parentis (spelling).

        Most ada guidance is around accommodations for the disabled employee, but there’s a lot more to it.

        1. fposte*

          I’m with Mimmy in being curious about how the ADA fit in there. Can you give more info? I know the ADA isn’t just limited to the employee, but I didn’t realize there would be an expectation of leave for a disabled relative–was the issue that there was an asymmetry of leave policies and it was thus discriminatory, or was it straight out that the ADA entitled the employee to accommodation in the form of time off?

            1. fposte*

              Thanks. I found that, but wasn’t sure that the OP’s case would be a disparate impact thing. I guess it gets pretty complex when you get into real-world situations.

  27. ArmaniGlasses*

    For #3 I don’t understand why this person would even want to go? They are basically giving her a free pass to stay home and relax instead of galavanting to another country pregnant. All I really hear is that they want to go on a free trip without participating with the company. It seems that it is already made-up in her mind that she would not participate in events and if I were the boss I would not want her to go knowing she will end up not attending most things. Although they are celebrating, by having employees attend all events it is still somewhat company focused. I have had “mandatory corporate celebrations” where I didn’t even want to be there regardless of the free food and “celebratory” atmosphere.
    Management probably wants everyone to attend every event because they possibly have had people in the past come to the trip then decide to do their own thing on the company’s dime. I don’t find this discriminatory (I’m a woman BTW), I find this common sense. Why go knowing that you would probably end up in the hotel most of the time? Unless I am correct in my assumption that you basically just want to go on a free trip when the latter option of staying home (without repercussions) which is the ‘reasonable accommodation’ option they are giving you is perfectly fine and most likely BETTER for you and your unborn child.

    1. Zahra*

      Just because some people may be more comfortable staying at home and be very happy to get a free pass, a conference like this is a very good opportunity to network with colleagues and clients. Women are already at a disadvantage in the professional world. I would totally understand that someone would really like to go as a “good thing to do for my career” as well as “yay, I get to meet my clients face to face!”.

      OP, do you know who went last year and if some of them decided to skip some evening activities without repercussions? Can you ask them if they got the same warning for this year? Did anyone skip because of sickness, for example? If so, you do have a case to make to your employer about falling afoul of discrimination laws.

      1. ArmaniGlasses*

        I’ll have to respectfully disagree:
        “She went on to explain that some of the activities involve evening entertainment away from our hotel, with no access to transport for me to return to the hotel early. There are likely to be 3-4 nights in a row with post-midnight finishes. I said I felt that I would be too tired to attend all evening activities, to which she repeated that missing any of these would be “frowned upon” but “no one would blame me for choosing not to come to conference at all.””

        She basically said she knows she won’t be able to participate in the most evening events. What if there really is no way to offer transportation back to the hotel? What if offering that transportation is out of the budget? What if others want to go back to the hotel and feel discriminated against if she gets to go back but not them? Who has time to pause events to find her a ride back? If they have cabs is she even comfortable going back to a hotel alone, pregnant and in a foreign country? What if she gets sick? What if there’s a pregnancy related emergency? It seems like an absurd hassle to have her go. Not to be rude but I would be EXTREMELY ANNOYED if I were the manager and she decided to go knowing the hassle etc. Plus how is she meeting clients if she will be in the hotel most of the time which brings me back to my original conclusion that it is not about clients but about the free trip.

        1. Colette*


          Most conferences don’t consist of evening events – it’s entirely possible that the OP will still be putting in 12 hour days.

          It seems unlikely that the company is having multiple evening events in the middle of a forest somewhere – they’re probably at local restaurants or bars, where transportation is entirely possible. And I see no reason why they couldn’t say “Hey OP, since you will probably need to leave early, here’s how you contact our transportation company”.

          What would they do if someone got the flu or food poisoning? Would they drag them to the evening events and prop them up in a corner? Probably not. They should offer the OP the same courtesy.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Wow, seconded. You are inventing a lot of worries to make this ok. Pregnant women are not actually made of glass.

        3. catsAreCool*

          “Who has time to pause events to find her a ride back?” She’s pregnant, not incompetent, You make it sound like she’s totally helpless.

    2. MK*

      The OP didn’t say she wouldn’t participate in the events, just that she would be too tired to stay to the late-night socialising till it’s over. Also, it’s not a given that she will get the week of at home; they might well do expect her to come to work.

      1. ArmaniGlasses*

        I would like to go back to the possibility that people in the past might have come to the trip then do their own thing, like leave early then boss’ found out later that they were actually sightseeing etc. In this case if this is a rule for everyone to attend every event then I can still see why they would opt for an attend every event or don’t come standpoint.
        But we also can not assume that there will be extensive daytime activities etc. I am just going by what information is being given. But I would like to assume if the boss says there will be no transportation then it literally means there will be no transportation. For all we know they are using a charter bus (very expensive) that drops them off and picks them up and in case of cabs I wouldn’t even take a cab by myself at night in the period let alone pregnant in a foreign country. Just looking from the boss’ standpoint I can see how they would be annoyed if she decided to go knowing she will be tired as she said.

        1. MK*

          The information being given is that this is a conference/work trip. I don’t think you are being logical in not assuming there will be daytime activities; I have yet to hear of a work-related trip that means allowing the employees to do what they want all day and have scheduled events in the evenings.

          Also, I don’t get why you are so ready to assume the manager’s word is gospel. It might help to remember that it wasn’t the OP who raised the issue, asking to skip some activities; this person called her and pretty heavy-hanedly tried to get her to bow out of the trip. I wouldn’t say it’s out of the question that she exaggerated the transportation problem.

          By the way, the only pregnant person’s behaviour you get to manage is your own. What you feel comfortable doing or not is irrelevant.

    3. Clerica*

      Wow. Um, since this is a yearly event to “celebrate the past year’s hard work and success,” the problem with wanting a “free trip” is…what, exactly? She’s objecting to entertainment with post-midnight finishes. I’d object to those, and I’m not pregnant. Daytime stuff, she’ll do.

      the latter option of staying home (without repercussions) which is the ‘reasonable accommodation’ option they are giving you is perfectly fine and most likely BETTER for you and your unborn child.

      Wow, patronizing? It would technically be better for her and her unborn child if she quit work and stayed home in bed, but I doubt that’s happening. And if she was there to do the work for 25 weeks, she gets to be there for something that sounds like it’s meant to be a reward. Not “Oh, we didn’t care about your safety for the 25 weeks leading up to this and won’t care about the 10 weeks after that, but you shouldn’t come to the conference. For your child’s sake.”

      1. ArmaniGlasses*

        Possibly I am coming off as callous but I am just looking from the boss’ side of things and companies don’t usually care if one feels they are entitled to a free trip because of last year’s work, they usually justify trips or celebrations with the fact that certain things will be mandatory.
        Therefore follow the rules or don’t go is what makes sense to me.

          1. ArmaniGlasses*

            The trip is not explicitly for a “free vacation”. Nowhere does it say that. If that were the case there wouldn’t even be events to attend. It would just be a free-for-all with no hobnobbing with clients.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I’m referring to your insinuation that it’s entitled to want to be rewarded for last year’s work. The trip is to reward people for last year’s work.

              1. ArmaniGlasses*

                When I said: “companies don’t usually care if one feels they are entitled to a free trip because of last year’s work” I am speaking to the fact that although it is a celebratory occasion it still comes at a price of having to attend the mandatory events with “entitled to a free trip” meaning attending the trip without full participation, in which if the person is not able to engage in full participation (because of a known issue) but still wants to go BECAUSE they feel they ‘earned’ the ‘trip in itself then at that point they are not doing what’s best for themselves or the company and they are acting in an entitled manner (in my opinion).

                The boss basically and indirectly said: On the trip we have mandatory planned events from A-Z. We do not have the tools to deviate from thorough plans nor is it okay to skip out on events to chill in your hotel room. If you know you won’t be able to participate fully then possibly you should stay home as this trip is not mandatory for you and you will not be penalized for not going. You will however be penalized (frowned upon) for going and causing a lot of hassle and confusion when it could have been avoided.

                1. Observer*

                  The idea that they really need to have events that end past midnight several days in a row, and that they have no tools to accommodate anyone who has an issue with this assumes incredibly poor management.

                  This is a *conference* which means that there will certainly be day time events – events at which people will probably be expected to be reasonably alert and focused at. Expecting high or even good quality results from forcing people to be “on” for 15 hours a day is hardly reasonable.

                  And if this workplace has any level of diversity of age and stage, pregnancy is probably not going to be the only issue that’s going to create issues for people with this kind of schedule. Failure to find a way to deal with reality is a really, really bad idea.

                2. catsAreCool*

                  “The idea that they really need to have events that end past midnight several days in a row, and that they have no tools to accommodate anyone who has an issue with this assumes incredibly poor management.” This!

      2. Zahra*

        And staying in bed, isn’t the best thing either, because it leads to more intra- and PPD. Ideally, you wouldn’t be too stressed, you would exercise, but not too much, eat well, but in reasonable quantities, gain weight at a steady rate (you know, the one that fits perfectly in the charts, when most people gain weight by fits and starts), have good posture, go see the chiropractor, the doctor, have a doula and have a textbook (or faster) progress during labor, which will occur at 40 weeks, exactly. The ideal pregnancy doesn’t exist for most people.

        1. ArmaniGlasses*

          I must admit I am one of those “crazy women” that doesn’t want kids so I am not sympathetic to pregnancy issues, therefore my viewpoint would come from a place of observation and not emotion.

          1. HM in Atlanta*

            If you want to look at this without emotion, decide if you would keep the same stance for someone attending the conference in a full leg cast. It’s a temporary situation that could cause problems in the same situations. Do you call and preemptively warn that person that if he comes to the conference, cast or not, he’ll be expected to attend everything, no going back to the hotel early if he’s in pain or exhausted?

            1. ArmaniGlasses*

              Once again not to be callous but I also would insinuate the person in the cast to not come as well as still find it annoying that they would attend anyway knowing it would be at a discomfort to themselves and additional planning for others (the transportation).

              1. fposte*

                You know you’d be in legal hot water, though, right? Suggesting to disabled employees that their presence would be inconvenient and that they should stay away from work events is not well received by the EEOC.

              2. Kelly L.*

                So then how would you feel about a permanent disability that would cause discomfort at the late-night events or require more logistical planning re: transportation? And if you feel differently, why so? You’re coming pretty close to implying that anyone whose transportation requires more planning should miss any such trip, and that’s both illegal and prejudiced IMO.

                1. ArmaniGlasses*

                  I am speaking to temporary disabilities. If an employee has a permanent disability then of course that would be accommodated. I would never insinuate to a person who is disabled outside of their control to not come BUT if it is a temporary disability in which a person has a serious injury (broken leg) I would think it absurd for them to take a long plane or train ride, walk on crutches, leave things early etc. BUT if this were a person who is an amputee then I would never suggest that they stay home.
                  Short term (temporary) disabilities and long term disabilities are two different situations in my opinion.
                  In a short term disability (broken leg, recent eye surgery, etc.) I think it is perfectly reasonable to insinuate one to stay home to recuperate. If it is going to strain the person and it is a short term disability then going should not be a priority.
                  In a long term disability this is something a person has to live with or has lived with their entire life therefore they should be accommodated because they are merely living their life to the best of their ability and not making decisions to attend events on the fact that they just “really wanna go”.

                  (thanks for the discussions btw)

                2. Zahra*

                  Actually, short term disabilities (such as pregnancy) are covered in the ADA in the USA. If you would make an exception for a permanent disability, but not a temporary one, you’re illegally discriminating.

                  Now, I don’t know what the UK law is on that particular point (or my Canadian province’s law, either, which just shows how much American groups and forums I subscribe to). It would certainly be interesting to check.

                3. Zahra*

                  Also, discrimination based on gender may be an issue here as well, since pregnancy is something that is particular to women. In Canada, discrimination cases because of pregnancy or breastfeeding have been tried under the gender discrimination clause of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                It’s only a discomfort to them and additional planning (read: a perfectly legal and simple accommodation that results in the boss not being a d!ck) if you plan on FORCING them to go to late-night events.

                I’m sure there are plenty of activities she can participate during the day. And I’m beginning to think you’re spot on about your own biases. You might want to try and examine the situation from another perspective.

                1. ArmaniGlasses*

                  I concur about the biases but I am also starting to believe I am correct about the biases of others.

                2. ArmaniGlasses*

                  @Zahra I am also unsure of UK laws. I don’t even know if they consider pregnancy to be a disability there. The only information I know of is
                  ‘An employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ to avoid you being put at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people in the workplace. For example, adjusting your working hours or providing you with a special piece of equipment to help you do the job.’
                  This can be quite vague in the context described by #3 as it says that a workplace has to accommodate you to be able to do your job not accommodate you to be able to leave a “social yet professional” event early on an overseas trip so that you might be able to attend the trip to begin with.

            1. ArmaniGlasses*

              I did highlight that I was one of those “crazy women” who does not want kids. I did not say a “normal woman” that does not want kids. lol

              1. Hlyssande*

                Not wanting to have children is not ‘crazy’ in any sense of the word. It just means that, like many other women, you have no desire to have children. Just because society doesn’t see it as the norm doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly common.

          2. neverjaunty*

            You are coming across as arguing from nothing BUT emotion. Nobody said anything about whether you should or should not want kids. Good grief, pregnant women are not being pregnant AT you.

            OP is not presenting any problems that a reasonable manager could not address.

            1. ArmaniGlasses*

              I must disagree and do not feel that I am arguing. I felt the conversations ongoing to be mutual discussion amongst all. I was merely suggesting that although it is only my opinion that it might be skewed due to not being a mother myself as others often used references to pregnancy experience that I do not have in their opinions and feedback to my comments. I also never even really notice pregnant women nor care to think their “condition” is at the detriment of myself, I can not even recall the last time I have even seen a pregnant woman. My viewpoints are based solely on the facts provided and with the admission of myself, they possibly comes off as callous and unsympathetic to others who resonate more with OP as I resonate more with the boss’s viewpoint.

              1. Observer*

                You could have fooled me.

                You are, in fact, making statements and suggestions that cannot be supported by the facts.

              2. fposte*

                Thing is, I’m coming at it from the boss perspective and I think you’re *under*thinking as a manager :-). You have to make sure your approach is legally compliant, for one thing (as noted upthread, it’s not likely to be); for another, you need to think not just about this event but about your long-term workforce and relationship with your employees. This is not just a question about how this event is handled; the consequences will affect employee retention, productivity, loyalty, candor, etc. Nothing in a workplace happens in isolation.

                That doesn’t mean you can magically make accommodations appear if they’re genuinely not available, but it means it’s almost certainly worth the effort to consider finding a way to make this possible. If I have a good employee who wants to do her job, I want to make that possible, not make it difficult.

                1. ArmaniGlasses*

                  Possibly I am making a lot of assumptions because I am assuming that the manager already checked out to see if there were possible accommodations and had already determined it was not possible.

              3. PoorDecisions101*

                As a non-pregnant non-drinking person (health issue) I’d be pretty annoyed and kick up a stink if I was told not to go to a work conference because I would be a buzz kill. Totally valid to like sleep and after dinner and it’s 9-10pm and everyone else wants to keep on drinking to bow out and see them the next day.

                I’d be assuming that’s all the OP would be after and there are plenty of non pregnant people who would expect the same.

                1. ArmaniGlasses*

                  UK law states:
                  Health and safety for pregnant employees
                  When the employee tells their employer they’re pregnant, the employer should assess the risks to the woman and her baby.

                  Risks could be caused by:

                  heavy lifting or carrying
                  standing or sitting for long periods without adequate breaks
                  exposure to toxic substances
                  long working hours
                  Where there are risks, the employer should take reasonable steps to remove them – eg, by offering the employee different work or changing their hours.

                  If the employer can’t remove any risks (eg by offering suitable alternative work) they should suspend the employee on full pay.

                  The employer DID offer an alternative of not going on the trip because they could not offer transportation that would limit the amount of working hours that would cause her problems. Seems they did follow the law. It clearly states she can be offered an alternative (not going) or be suspended with pay.

              4. neverjaunty*

                You seem really eager to make this into some kind of dispute between Team Pregnant Lady and Team Boss. Why?

              5. catsAreCool*

                As a manager, I don’t think I’d need every single person to be at every single event, especially the more bar-related ones. If this is a celebration, shouldn’t it be actually fun? Maybe something where people have a chance to sit and rest whether they’re pregnant or tired.

                Seems to me that forcing people to attend either everything or nothing is going to be bad for morale.

          3. catsAreCool*

            Nothing wrong with not wanting kids, but there might be something wrong with your expectations under the circumstances. To expect a pregnant woman or someone with a broken leg to miss all of the fun when they can enjoy some of it seems unfair.

    4. Maxwell Edison*

      This conference sounds like the ninth circle of hell (especially as much of it seems to fall under “enforced gaiety”). I would count my blessings at being given a way to get out of it.

      1. neverjaunty*

        I wonder if it’s even true, though, that everybody has to be partying after midnight four nights in a row and any absence is “frowned upon”. I’ve been at conference where there is a lot of evening activity and, you know, after a couple of nights of that, people just aren’t going to be functioning well during the day, pregnant or no.

        Seems more like Boss’ Boss is making it up in order to persuade OP not go, for whatever bizarre reason.

    5. catsAreCool*

      “a week’s conference, usually abroad, to celebrate the previous year’s hard work and success” sounds like fun. It doesn’t seem fair that she’d have to skip the whole celebration because she can’t attend all of the events.

  28. Joie de Vivre*

    #2 – Dress code issue

    As with almost all clothing questions, what is appropriate varies from office to office. In my office, the only time a sheer blouse would be acceptable would be with a tank underneath and a blazer on top. Even then it would be on the risqué side.

    In this case, however, OP doesn’t need to wonder if it’s appropriate or not. She’s been clearly told that it isn’t acceptable. As a manager who has had to have these uncomfortable discussions as employees adapt to a more formal environment, I would not be happy to see the blouse coming back into the office, just with the addition of a camisole.
    It would make me wonder if the employee was serious about continuing to work in this environment.

  29. Mena*

    #2: No, they are not blouses that you wear to work (even though you may think so because your friends wear them). Feeling sexy in the office should not be your goal; doing your work well is the goal. This isn’t establishing your credibility as a professional woman – your boss is telling you it is a distraction – this is very important feedback.

    #5: You (rightly!) asked for feedback and your received feedback. This isn’t an opportunity to open a dialogue. Consider the input and move on. Good luck.

  30. L Veen*

    I find it surprising how many readers are saying that a sheer blouse WITH a camisole or tank top underneath would still be too revealing for work.

    For example, looking at the young woman in this picture: What exactly is so scandalous about her outfit? Unless your cami/tank top is really, really low-cut, the only part of your body being “exposed” is your arms. Where do you guys work where that would be considered showing too much skin?

    1. fposte*

      It depends whether the underlayer reads as underwear or a top. Basically, if you can’t wear it on its own, you can’t wear it under a see-through top, either.

    2. HM in Atlanta*

      The sheet top in your example is more akin to the function of a cardigan than a blouse. It is never expected to be worn on its own. A tank or shell would make this work; an undergarment-style camisole would not.

    3. MK*

      I think most people said this in the context of the OP’s situation, which is that she has already been reprimanded for the sheer tops. Theo one you linked would be fine in most professional environments, but if the OP has worn the top without the camisole before and, after being warned not to wear it, comes to work wearing it with the camisole, her manager might feel that she didn’t take their warning seriously or that she is trying to get around it by making the minimum changes.

  31. aebhel*

    #1: My sympathies from a fellow ADD sufferer. My advice is to be absolutely religious on the checklists, and stop apologizing. Own your screw-ups, sure, but honestly at this point it sounds like AAM is right, and you don’t have a whole lot of rope left, so do your best not to make mistakes. Harder than it sounds, I know, but there it is.

    I’ve also found that an old-fashioned paper calendar can be really helpful. I always forget to check Google Calendars, and I tend to leave my phone in my locker, but a paper calendar that’s sitting on my desk is unavoidable. Also: keep your desk fanatically organized. I think people with good focus and memory can get away with having a messy desk, but if you’re already prone to distraction, having a clean desk is a must.

    Go slow, but don’t procrastinate. A lot of mistakes can be made if you’re rushing; if you have time to double-check your work before submitting it, that can help a lot.

    Good luck…

    1. SallyForth*

      I second the advice on a paper calendar. I use month-at-a-glance with brief notations. It’s not just the notations, it’s seeing the relationships and relative fullness of upcoming days. My electronic calendar has all the details.

  32. TheExchequer*

    #4, I hope things are better now. Also, I hope your manager gets coal in his or her stocking. Seriously now.

  33. SallyForth*

    #2 See through blouses.
    I’ve made it through my whole career on the “dress for the job you want” premise. I work in a setting where you wouldn’t expect trendsetting attire (library management) but the directors have fabulous style (they are all runners, too) and wear formfitting clothes. I follow their lead and often listen to tips on where they shop.

  34. AnonCan*

    I don’t think dressing however, whenever you want is a personal freedom. I also would find it inappropriate for the guy with a ripped chest and a six pack to wear his shirt unbuttoned in the office. Overt sexuality just doesn’t belong in most office settings. Most people are sexual, and while obviously we dont act on those feelings, it doesnt make someone a bad person to notice when someone else is purposefully putting sex out there.

  35. Lola*


    The problem with #4 is that it seems almost fake? It’s not but it’s so extreme that I think that a manager might honestly not know how to respond. Did this happen more than once? I don’t know. I’m not saying the manager shouldn’t have let the LW go, just that I think I would be suspicious that the LW was misrepresenting what was happening or it might just feel like emotional blackmail.

    Honestly, the LW’s mother sounds abusive and controlling (leave work or I’ll kill myself) and my guess it that this might have been the straw that broke the camel’s back for her workplace.

    1. fposte*

      Though “Leave work or I’ll kill myself” isn’t how the OP presented it–she got a call about her mother on the balcony. It didn’t say it was from her mother, and it didn’t say that the demand was she had to leave work or else her mother would kill herself. It could easy have been a panicked neighbor saying “Please come help your mother.”

  36. Kerry*

    #4, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I had a situation like this with a parent-in-law years ago. It’s very tough. I hope both you and your mom are getting what you need, and I’ll be thinking of you.

  37. culver01*

    Hi all, I’m the OP of number 3 – buzzkill pregnant lady, if you will! I must say, I’m overwhelmed by all the responses and advice here, I never expected this to start such a debate, so thank you to everyone who has commented. There are a few things people seem unclear on so I’ll add a bit more detail:
    1. The conference is a work colleague only event – there are no clients attending to schmooze.
    2. The conference is in Tenerife, a 4 hour flight from the UK. 26 weeks pregnant is the optimum time to fly according to NHS guidelines
    3. The agenda involves business specific activities between 8:30 and midday, with afternoons off. Business meetings continue from 16:00-18:30. Coaches leave for evening entertainment (dinner, drinking etc) around 19:30. They won’t return until after midnight.
    4. I have made it clear that I will attend all daytime scheduled business activities but wish to opt out of evening meals, which will mean no added pressure on the company to get me back to the hotel early when I’m tired.
    5. The company, like lots of medical/pharmaceutical ones, has a culture of “enforced fun”, ie join in and be seen to be having a good time, and don’t be a party pooper.
    6. Last year’s conference was in Mexico. I wasn’t pregnant and can assure you I had lots of fun and more than my share of tequila – I am not a party pooper type!

    I’ve since had another discussion with my boss’s boss and she has (kind of) changed her tune. She says that she understands where I’m coming from but “you know what the board are like and how they perceive people not joining in”. I asked her outright if she felt that attitude ought to be challenged (I’m certainly not in a position to do it but she is) and she couldn’t answer me. I felt bad for backing her into a corner as I believe she sees my point but is too much of a coward to challenge the board.
    Finally, I have made my decision to GO to conference, however I am still uneasy. My boss’s boss has said she will speak to the board to tell them of my condition IN CASE I plan to skip any evenings out. She went on to say that since afternoons are free, as long as I made the most of that downtime and rested in my room, I SHOULDNT NEED to miss any evenings out.
    SO, I still feel uncomfortable but will keep a log of everything and will consider my options after conference if I find I’ve been judged unfairly.

    I hope the feedback and extra info is helpful – thanks again for all the advice!!

  38. Small Creatures Such As We*

    OP #1: I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I could have written your letter a few years back, so I’m going to blather on for a while about what’s worked for me. Take what works for you and leave the rest. know that ADHD makes it especially hard to implement the very coping strategies (e.g., checklists) that help it the most. If there are particular things that you’re having trouble with, perhaps you could reply and people here could brainstorm strategies with you?

    Outside that–is there anything you can do (including skimming an ADHD at work-focused self-help book for strategies) to make it easier to keep up with your coping strategies? This could be things like always keeping a notebook with you to jot down anything you suddenly realize needs to be added to your to-do list; taking notes during larger meetings/one-on-ones with your manager so you don’t zone out AND you don’t have to rely on remembering all the details of what was discussed; or, if you get overwhelmed by large tasks or procrastinate on starting them, breaking down a large task into a series of smaller, manageable things, then work backwards from the final due-date to give yourself a due-date on each small task. Usually, you need to estimate how much time each small task will require, then as you do it, write down how much time it actually took you. People with ADHD typically underestimate that time, but you’ll get better with practice–or at least learn to double your initial estimate. :)

    If you don’t already know, anxiety+ADHD is a common mix in adults, especially those of us who weren’t diagnosed until adulthood. You say you’re pursuing treatment–does your doctor have the experience to discuss with you about why that needs to include stimulant medication? I know it’s counter-intuitive, but when you find the right stimulant class/dosage for you, you will feel both focused and CALMER. I did a lot of research/had a really hard time finding the right medication because my heartrate is already fairly high and the stimulants increase it slightly, so here’s what I’ve learned (I hope it helps someone here).
    * People often find that they either prefer Ritalin-type meds (e.g., Concerta, Daytrana, and I think Focalin) or Adderall-type meds (Vyvanse is in this same class). You have to find this out by trying them–my younger sister much prefers Adderall to Ritalin; I feel calmer/less anxious ON Concerta than off it, while Adderall just makes me feel like I drank too much caffeine and I hated HATED *HATED* Vyvanse. How you feel on day one of a stimulant is NOT how you’ll feel on Day 7, Day 14, etc, so hang in with it and start with a low dose. If you consume any caffeine, you may need to/find that you CAN reduce your caffeine intake as you ramp up your stimulant (and caffeine often has more peripheral/anxiety-producing effects than the stimulant medication, so win/win).
    * (Per my much-missed psychiatrist who is now cross-country)–if you drill down into the clinical evidence for Strattera (the most common non-stimulant ADHD med), then you see that to be effective, it needs to be combined with a stimulant. Stimulants have the strongest experimental evidence for reducing symptoms (I use my coping strategies, take fish oil every day, etc., but I have learned that nothing really gels unless I’m taking a stimulant).
    * Roughly 30-50% of adults with ADHD also report experience sleep-related disorders, and sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep only make ADHD-like symptoms worse (and I’ve found the same to be true for my anxiety). An ADHD treatment plan needs to address any sleep issues. Progressive-relaxation/guided medication MP3s for insomnia can be really useful if you have trouble focusing enough/shutting down the monkey-mind so that you can fall asleep (I went through a half-dozen before I found one I liked, but it was a lifesaver–I still need nightly medication to stay asleep, but I’ve got a long family/personal history of insomnia).

    I really hope that things get easier for you, OP. Good luck!

    1. Jamie*

      People with ADHD typically underestimate that time, but you’ll get better with practice–or at least learn to double your initial estimate. :)

      A thousand times this. I know I do this, I know I’m wrong, but my internal estimates seem so right and of course I can accomplish anything in a 15 minute window. :)

      I just accept that I have no ability to estimate time or sense of direction and so I double (or triple for longer tasks) however long I think something will take me and never attempt to leave my desk without a GPS.

      I want to co-sign everything SCSAW said about the right meds can decrease anxiety. I thought I had anxiety issues as a separate thing and was going to deal with them as soon as I got the right ADHD med happening but turned out the stimulants killed my anxiety. It was a symptom of always being clenched and worried if I was forgetting something, and working so hard to redirect focus – once that became easier I became calmer and a good mood became the default. Who knew?

      (Still not a fan of new people or transitions unless they are my idea and within my control – but it’s just annoyance not anxiety.)

      And YES to the difference in meds. I’m not for one second saying everyone with ADHD needs to be medicated, but many have found a lot of success with them but it is trial and error and there do seem to be 2 different camps regarding reactions. I have family members for whom ritalin works really well and it didn’t have much effect on me – but Concerta? My god, it was like taking a PMS on 11 pill every day. Everything pissed me off all the time – slight improvement in focus but mostly I just focused on how much everyone sucked. One of my family members has a similar reaction to Adderall – but Vyvanse/Adderall is so smooth and just super effective for me. And no one finds the right med/dosage combo right out of the gate – it takes a couple of months to try different things to see what works but if medicine is something one wants to pursue it’s important not to lump all in the same simulent bucket. There are very different individual reactions.

      ADHD on reddit has great tips for work stuff – some of them may be mine, who knows, but there is a lot of good advice in the archives. And a lot of rambling because we don’t have to pretend to be like the regular people, there. :)

      FWIW even though I am pro-med for myself I dealt with ADHD as an adult for decades unmedicated and built a pretty successful career (relatively speaking) by creating my own kingdom of organizational systems and mental gymnastics so I am actually far more detail oriented than most people, even without meds. Because it doesn’t come naturally to me I had to built it, maintain it, and adhere to it religiously. So if the OP is still reading it’s doable – we just have different hurdles. But remember, everyone has hurdles – at least you know what yours are.

    2. DrJulieSunny*

      Thank you, Small Creatures Such As We….Nice job! Thank you for taking the time to research and understand your difficulties and then write such really helpful, concrete, personal experiences . I found them super validating. You’re so right about the medications and the differences in how you might feel on day 1 vs day 14 (been there) and Strattera, for example. Personally, I’d be thrilled if an effective non-stimulant medication could be included in the list of options for ADHD, but I’m still holding my breath.

  39. That Marketing Chick*

    #2 – Why would you think sheer blouses are appropriate?!?! Silky camisoles should be worn underneath these types of blouses. That way, there’s no line of demarcation that can be seen. Try going that route.

Comments are closed.