coworker with shingles, telling employees not to have personal conversations, and more

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

1. I’m worried my boss is going to ask if I’m applying for a similar position at another organization

I have been the development director at Organization A for a year. I have a terrible, manipulative boss (our executive director) and the entire culture of the agency is founded on backstabbing and mediocrity. I’m doing my best to get out as quickly as possible. Recently, my mentor, who is an extremely successful development director for Organization B, told me that she is likely to be promoted to executive director, and encouraged me to apply for their development director job when it is posted.

My boss knows my mentor and knows that she may be promoted (it’s a small community). My fear is that if and when that happens, my boss will see the posting for the at Organization B and ask me point-blank if I’m applying. My boss is well-known for giving bad references to people just to sabotage them, and I know she’d see my departure after only a year or so of working for her as ungrateful. What do I say if she asks me? If I were to lie but then ultimately get the job, that seems unprofessional. If I tell the truth, she’ll treat me terribly and make my life a living hell. I’m wracked with anxiety over this (and over the inevitability of her finding out I’m seriously job-hunting). How do you suggest people navigate situations like this?

You say no, because it’s an unreasonable question to ask you. If you end up getting the job, you tell her that you weren’t actively looking when she asked.

If you prefer, you can say something like, “I’m pretty happy where I am, but if I’m ever thinking seriously about leaving, I’ll let you know.” (With a boss like this, “thinking seriously about leaving” can mean “when I have an offer.”)

People who demand information that’s none of their business aren’t entitled to candid answers, especially when you know they’ll handle the truth badly.

(To be clear, I’m a fan of being transparent with your manager when you’re ready to move on when your manager makes it possible to do that safely, but that’s clearly not the case here.)

2. How can I word a sign telling employees that personal conversations aren’t allowed?

I would like to post something in our plant saying “Personal conversation with coworkers during work hours is not permitted.” However, my plant is unionized and anything we post is always felt to be wrong. I don’t want it to sound like they are in prison (which they are not), but there are a few people who come to work to socialize instead of working. How can I word this differently without making it sound too harsh?

You can’t. A rule forbidding personal conversation during work is pretty draconian. Other workplaces manage to allow personal conversation without letting it get completely out of control, and you can too.

The managers of the people who aren’t spending their time productively need to, you know, manage them, which in this case means talking to them directly about the problem, telling them what standards of productivity they need to meet, and holding them to those standards. You absolutely do not want a blanket rule like this, unless you want to be known as a terribly dehumanizing place to work.

3. Coworker might have shingles in an office with immunocompromised people

I learned this morning that one of our partners “thinks he has shingles.” He stated this to one of our staff members and she reported it to me. At first I didn’t think anything of it, other than how uncomfortable he must feel. Then word spread among our small office of 12 people (through the one person he told, not by me) and chaos ensued. I have two employees with compromised immune systems and one self-proclaimed “germaphobe” who also happens to have her first grandbaby due, literally, any day now. She has not had chickenpox and has quarantined herself in her office, requesting that he be sent home or not go in her office until after his doctor appointment (scheduled for tomorrow) when we will know for sure what the diagnosis is. She also suggested I let everyone else in the office know what’s going on, specifically the two with immune system concerns.

I explained to her that I couldn’t require him to leave the office without a confirmed diagnosis from his doctor. I also explained that I can’t discuss someone else’s medical issues with other employees, nor could I force him to talk to other employees about his own health issues. He plans to work here at the office for the rest of today and tomorrow morning until his appointment. Am I handling this correctly?

Why not go talk to the guy? You say that word has spread and chaos is ensuing, so it would be reasonable to (a) ask him how he’s doing and (b) point out that exposure to shingles could be disastrous for some of the people in your office and that it might make sense for him to work from home until he finds out what’s going on.

4. How much notice should you get when you’ll need to travel out of town for work?

How far in advance should an employer notify you of an out-of-town internal meeting? We have always had our annual meeting I can plan for, but now several additional 3-day trainings are being scheduled with a few weeks or a month prior notice. It’s hard to enroll my son in summer programs, buy event tickets, or make advanced plans when I may have to fly out of town. Should I tell them or just suck it up?

P.S. I always accommodate last-minute travel for customers, but I feel like my company should plan and schedule routine internal meetings annually and give us all the dates at the beginning of the year or at least 3 months notice.

Yes, more notice is obviously better when it’s possible — but it’s not always possible. I don’t know what the context is here, or whether they could have let people know earlier (for example, it’s possible they didn’t find out about the trainings earlier, or funding them wasn’t approved, or space in the classes just opened up — who knows), but I wouldn’t assume more notice was necessarily possible. And there’s no one standard on this; in general, it’s wise to let employees know about travel once you know — but in lots of jobs, it doesn’t become known until a few days or a week ahead of time, and that’s sometimes just how it works. It varies.

Regardless, I don’t think a few weeks to a month is outrageous if it was unavoidable — but certainly if it’s going to cause problems for you if it keeps happening, you should speak up. Explain to your manager that it’s causing difficulty, and ask if it’s possible to get more notice in the future. (However, it sounds like this might be limited to just these few trainings and isn’t going to become a constant thing, in which case you might just suck it up and know that it’s going to resolve itself shortly.)

5. Should I ask an interviewer about a lawsuit against the company?

I’m in touch with the owner of a company who is interested in making me a departmental manager. In the process of learning even more about them and their work from various websites and clients, I discovered that they have an ongoing lawsuit as a defendant. It turns out, according to the plaintiff, my prospective company had hired the plaintiff company to perform work on their behalf and then didn’t pay them enough as per the terms of the contract. Is this something that would be appropriate for me to ask about? Also, just wondering if any of your readers might know if this would open me up to any liability as a result of the court case, even if I wasn’t working for the company at the time the contractual issue arose? It would be in Nova Scotia.

I can’t tell you about Nova Scotia, but in in the U.S. wouldn’t be liable for something that happens before you were employed there. You almost certainly wouldn’t be personally liable even if it happened while you worked there. Work-related lawsuits rarely create personal liability for staff (with some rare exceptions, which don’t include this kind of contract dispute), and employers have insurance for this kind of thing. (And I can’t imagine Nova Scotia handles something this straightforward any differently.)

But bringing it up in an interview? I think that would come across as really weird. This is a contract dispute with a vendor. It’s not about employee issues, and it doesn’t sound like something huge that could threaten the future of the company. In other words, it’s not really relevant to you. If it were, say, a class-action suit from previous employees about wages or working conditions or harassment, then yes, it would be your business. A contract dispute with a vendor isn’t (unless your job would be do their legal work or managing their vendor contracts).

{ 429 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    OP2: Why aren’t you focusing on results?

    Lets say your rule were to go into effect, do you realize the amount of time and money it would take to properly and consistently police such a policy? And unlike many other workplaces that could easily get away with just nailing one or two people of their choice with a draconian policy, this is a workplace where employees are actually going to be defended. I mean christ, a manager asking how someone’s weekend was suddenly becomes a form of workplace entrapment.

    Just focus on the results, and hold those individuals and their management accountable.

    1. Min*

      “[A] manager asking how someone’s weekend was suddenly becomes a form of workplace entrapment.”

      Good point!

    2. neverjaunty*

      I suspect this is why OP #2’s workplace has such a bad relationship with the union.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        Just what I was thinking. Anything they post is felt to be wrong….because it probably is.

        1. Snoskred*

          Absolutely – if posting a sign saying no personal conversations in the workplace is the letter writers answer to this particular issue, I’m going to guess all their answers to all the issues is incredibly off base and wrong.

          I’ll also add, I did once have a manager who tried to ban “inappropriate conversations” – she sent out an email. The specific inappropriate conversations she wanted to ban were discussions about her, and discussions about how terrible she was as a manager.

          All it did for her was make her the butt of every single joke. And there were a lot of them to be made, not just about her terrible management but about her trying to control what people discussed. She did not last very long in that role, partly because she was a truly terrible manager and partly because nobody took her seriously again after that email.

          Still, even now, some years later, the coworkers from that job I am friends with on facebook *still* make jokes about this. Still! They even made a facebook account parodying her, it is hilarious. :)

            1. Snoskred*

              Well, that might be an incorrect interpretation, but everyone gets to make their own call on that. :)

              When you are a manager in a call centre, you have to be two things. Very good at managing people, plus, thick skinned. That manager was 0/2.

              It is one thing to do a bad job, it is yet another thing to do a bad job and then demand that nobody can talk to each other about the bad job you are doing!

              1. Just no*

                Just because a job requires a thick skin doesn’t mean the behavior that caused that requirement is acceptable. You could say women need a thick skin in order to make it in a male dominated business, but that doesn’t make the problematic behavior contributing to that excusable.

              2. MegEB*

                The parody Facebook account is kind of mean, tbh (and also against Facebook’s terms of service). I do understand the occasional snarky joke, as I am well-known for my sarcastic sense of humor, but harassing her on social media? That’s straight up bullying.

              3. Moo*

                I agree with Name. That is incredibly petty and actually lowers your credibility about how the actual story played out. Bummer.

              4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Hey, y’all, I put this further down but want it to be seen up here too: I’m going to ask you to move on from this since it’s derailing the rest of the conversation. Thank you.

            2. Yeah*

              Agreed. Jokes in the workplace are one thing (depending how they’re handled). A fake Facebook account to make fun of someone is at a whole different level.

          1. That's not ok.*

            Continue talking about her- not necessarily nice, kind of a herd mentality/bullying thing, but whatever.
            Creating a parody FB- sure sounds a lot like harassment. People with more legal knowledge would know for sure.

            Calling her out on her behavior at work? Acceptable, if done through proper channels.
            Creating an account that may be accessible world wide, crossing over into this employee’s private life? Not acceptable. No matter how angry you are, or how bad she was at work. That’s just crossing the line.

            As unprofessional as she was, the group has made themselves look even worse by creating the account, and at least as much of a hiring risk as she would be.

            1. Snoskred*

              1. They did not use her real name.
              2. They did not use any identifying information.
              3. The only thing this account has ever said is to comment on a private conversation in a private, locked down group of people who were all friends from that same workplace, saying “Are you sure this conversation is appropriate?”

              Which was exactly what she actually did in the workplace, several times butting in on conversations she thought were about her, but were actually not about her at all.

              I’m not sure how you think any of that can cross over into a former employees private life. And to be honest, it sounds utterly ridiculous to suggest it might be a legal case. :(

              1. Just no*

                Perhaps not a legal case but creating a FB page for this seems just a tad over the top. I find it hard to believe there was that much fodder for an exclusive group relating to this single topic even years later. I more readily believe this is a group that is highly focused on trashing others for their own entertainment and it extends way beyond this particular manager. Which is juvenile and sad, and absolutely not something to brag about.

                1. Snoskred*

                  Again, totally wrong, but don’t let little things like facts get in the way of judging us. That’s totes ok! :)

                  It is a private Facebook group which we use to keep in touch, as we all live in different states now.

                2. Just no*

                  Just responding to what you said.

                  They even made a facebook account parodying her, it is hilarious.

                3. Snoskred*

                  Actually Just No, you are making incorrect assumptions about what I said. Maybe you don’t use Facebook yourself, or if you do use it, you are not aware that it is possible to create an account which is completely private, and it is also possible to create a group which is completely private.

                  Anyway, as I said, why let facts get in the way of judging people you don’t even know? Go to it. Have a blast. Enjoy yourself! :)

                4. Koko*

                  It sounds like you were just blowing off some harmless, if slightly unprofessional, steam. Plenty of people engage in such light-hearted behavior to cope with hellacious bosses. You’d probably be embarrassed if you were ever called to task and asked to explain why you thought this was appropriate (oh, the irony), but it sounds like you’ve taken enough precaution that that’s fairly unlikely.

                5. Just no*

                  My last comment simply stated that I was replying to what you said. I was. That is a fact.

                  No need to elaborate on what is possible on Facebook. You made it pretty clear that they made a Facebook account parodying her and that it was hilarious. Your original comment made no mention of it being a group you use to keep in touch and focused only on the *fact* that it was created to make fun of her. Your words, not mine.

                  Yes, I drew conclusions based on the information you provided, not on information that wasn’t even mentioned. That’s kind of how these online conversations go.

                6. Snoskred*

                  Just No said “Yes, I drew conclusions based on the information you provided, not on information that wasn’t even mentioned. That’s kind of how these online conversations go.”

                  I’m sorry. I forgot this isn’t a blog comments area, it is a court where every statement is cross examined! Silly me! :) Had I remembered that, I would have thought ahead to provide all the information which your assumptions have now drawn out of me – and you know, maybe it would have been better for you to ask some questions first, before jumping to the conclusions that you have.

                  I think this is a useful lesson for me – remember to tell the whole story even if it makes comments waaaay too long. I’m sorry that this got so out of hand, my apologies to all.

                  No hard feelings, Just No. Maybe next time, it might be an idea for you stop and ask some questions before you start in with the assumptions and judgments? :)

                7. Ethyl*

                  You may want to stop digging in on this, because you’re coming across increasingly poorly. Creating an entire facebook group/account just to make fun of someone from work is immature, unprofessional, and nasty. Continuing to defend it while belittling commenters here continues those themes.

                8. Snoskred*

                  Ethyl said “Creating an entire facebook group/account just to make fun of someone from work is immature, unprofessional, and nasty.”

                  No, again, please, read what I am saying. We created a private group of friends from that work place so we can stay in touch with each other.

                  I’m about ready to give up trying, because honestly I cannot fight against these incorrect assumptions that have been made and then thrown about as if they are facts.

                9. Anon For This*

                  to Just No: Then you’d be surprised at the fallout from being bullied by a manager. It’s still a topic of conversation by everyone who worked for that manager and although we don’t have a Facebook Page, it comes up in almost any conversation with former coworkers. That manager was toxic and it’s an opportunity for us to share our “war” stories with others who experienced a truly ghastly manager who did her best to gaslight all of us. “No one likes you. You just think you have friends.” “I’ve talked with the VP and you have 30 days to find a new job.” “If you have to ask that question, you don’t deserve the salary you are being paid.” “I’m really surprised…you have your customers convinced you are doing a good job. They actually like you.” (Implication being, “you’re a fraud.”) If a private Facebook page helps them deal with the PTSD of a horrible manager, then more power to them. And I’m glad that you have not had that kind of experience to need the camaraderie of people who understand the experience and can empathize. It can destroy you if you don’t have others who believe you because they experienced it, too. It saved my sanity.

            2. Beezus*

              Holy Hanukkah balls, it doesn’t sound any worse than running jokes here about the truly terrible managers people write in about. I get where you’re coming from, but think about it for a minute.

              We have a VP at my company who is famous, in my old division, for telling a group of tenured, hardworking support staff that a bunch of monkeys should be able to do their jobs. He got called out through the proper channels, but it also became an inside joke for that team, and something they bonded over. They bought either other monkey-themed trinkets, made up simian nicknames for each other, and it’s been a good five or six years, but his statement is still a punchline for that group.

              1. Just no*

                That’s a bit different. That group took a hurtful, belittling comment and empowered it for themselves. The purpose wasn’t to cut the other person down but to build themselves up.

                1. Beezus*

                  As long as there have been managers, there have been people bonding over bad managers.

                  Getting back to the original post and comment, you halt the conversations by fixing the problem and focusing on productivity and results from workers, not by prohibiting them from talking to each other.

                2. Snoskred*

                  Hey, me personally, I like to leave the judging to Judge Judy. That’s what she gets paid for. Perhaps you should change your username to that. ;)

                  But this is partly my fault, because I did not tell the whole story of the situation. My bad, I leave comments here which are too long so I tend to leave stuff out. I should have just sucked it up and told the whole tale.

                  The manager heard that people were talking about a new rule she’d introduced, and instead of asking people why they were talking about it, she chose to send out this email telling everyone they were not allowed to discuss her, the rules she put in place, or any dissatisfaction that they had with her as a manager. Any “inappropriate conversations” would result in instant dismissal of that staff member.

                  She overheard someone having a conversation, assumed it was about her, pulled them into her office, and sacked them on the spot. Did not even let them explain.

                  The union stepped in, and when call centre management (a level above her) found out that the overheard conversation had actually been a phone call with a client, they pulled the tape of the call, and guess what? It was nothing to do with the manager, nor was it anything even remotely inappropriate. Nor would it have been inappropriate had the conversation been about the manager. The staff member was reinstated, and the manager was given a written warning.

                  Yes, “Are you sure this conversation is appropriate” did become a running joke in the workplace. Yes, we did bond over it.

                  She is the one who made the decision to send that email, and she is the one who made the decision to sack that staff member without even taking one single moment to hear her side of the story. Having the decision reversed is why nobody took her seriously after that. This is why it is still a running joke, all these years later.

                3. Snoskred*

                  BTW that comment was for Just No, not Beezus – the one that starts with “Hey, me personally, I like to leave the judging to Judge Judy” :)

                4. Just no*

                  To be clear, I don’t have an issue with employees taking appropriate steps in the work place to handle managers like this. I don’t at all think the solution is to not let them talk. Quite the opposite in fact. My only issue was with the Facebook group which I thought was incredibly unprofessional and off-base, regardless of the managers behavior. And I have made no comments about any other part of this conversation.

          2. Snoskred*

            Please note, this is a private facebook account on a private and locked down facebook group, which we use to keep in touch as we all live in different states now..

            The only thing this account has ever said is to comment on a private conversation in a private, locked down group of people who were all friends from that same workplace, saying “Are you sure this conversation is appropriate?”

            Please do not allow this to derail the comments any further. My apologies that it has managed to derail them in this way.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Or, at a minimum, things are so hostile that management feels everything they do gets a grievance, while responding to any workplace issues with harsh, ineffective rules. It’s a vicious cycle.

          Unions have a saying that a bad boss is the union’s best friend.

        3. Snoskred*

          Please note, this is a private facebook account on a private and locked down facebook group, which we use to keep in touch as we all live in different states now..

          The only thing this account has ever said is to comment on a private conversation in a private, locked down group of people who were all friends from that same workplace, saying “Are you sure this conversation is appropriate?”

          Please do not allow this to derail the comments any further. My apologies that it has managed to derail them in this way.

    3. Karen*

      It’s definitely not something that should be policy but imply it doesn’t impact anyone’s results. It influences mine as the person actually doing their work who can’t focus because Anne spends 20 minutes spoiling Game of Thrones for me while she talks to Katie.

      1. Mike C.*

        I never said lengthy conversations didn’t impact results, I said to focus on results regardless of the cause. that way you can easily and fairly weed out situations where normal people can talk while getting lots of work done while catching those who do nothing but talk.

        1. Ethyl*

          Right. I kind of get the impression that LW2’s solution to Karen’s situation would be a sign like “Employees are not permitted to discuss Game of Thrones during their shift.”

    4. AGirlCalledFriday*

      I have a friend who worked in a place where discussion was actively frowned upon. Every day he would go into work and be greeted by – silence. No one talked much at all. It was very, very weird and most people who could, moved on as soon as possible.

      Most people found ways to communicate – messaging, etc. And they did not respect at all the people who encouraged such a silent, odd workplace.

      1. Clarissa*

        When I first started my old job, I was given an outline of the expectations and job responsibilities. Pretty normal stuff except for one thing: It was made explicitly clear (although I cannot remember the exact wording) that I should not be having personal conversations at work or socializing with other employees and making friends.

        Although I stayed at that job for a few years and did quite well there, my manager was extremely difficult to work with and she was eventually the reason I moved on.

    1. Snoskred*

      How would they know when a conversation was work related vs personal?

      This particular letter is likely to end in a pile on, I suspect. :/

      I’ve just got to say, LW2, These are people, not robots. If you want robots, get robots.

      1. Saurs*

        Mac McClelland worked undercover for a few different Amazon distribution centers a few years back, and at an Ohio-based one, conversation between order-pickers was grounds for termination.

      2. UKAnon*

        I don’t want to add to a pile on, but it also strikes me from what I’ve read on here that it would breach rules about talking about conditions/pay as well? I’m guessing the union would have something to say.

        1. JHS*

          It sure would. First of all, this is a new rule regarding working conditions so management would have to bargain about it with the union because it is a change in working conditions. Second, it is illegal because it interferes with the ability of union workers to discuss working conditions.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Actually, you CAN ban all personal conversation at work, but it needs to be applied to everything. You can’t pick and choose and say discussing weekends is okay but discussing the union is not. You cannot, however, ban people’s ability to discuss wages and working conditions after work hours.

            1. JHS*

              I think the better question is, does the company want to go to arbitration to find that out? I don’t know any union reps that wouldn’t take that one to the bank even to eke out some kind of settlement just before the arbitrator rules.

    2. the gold digger*

      I just watched the movie “Mandela.” Every time he had a visitor when he was in prison, a guard stood right next to him. Any time the conversation turned to politics, the guard would admonish them, “No politics!”
      So that’s how you enforce it. You have one person whose full time job is to do nothing more than monitor conversation. Depending on how many employees you have, you could need a lot of monitors.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        Pretty much. The amount it will cost the company to effectively implement this policy is almost surely more than the amount the company is losing from lost productivity due to chatting.

        But I’m with Alison (and everyone else who’s already pointed this out): why can’t the OP just focus on the productivity problem of the employees who are spending too much time talking with coworkers and actually manage them? Just putting up this sign sounds like the worst possible solution to this problem, both in terms of efficacy and employee morale/rapport with management.

        1. Sans*

          This reminds me of something I saw early in my career and has always stayed with me. There was a manager who was obsessed with people putting in their eight hours. It didn’t matter that they were salaried, or that they did a good job even if they had to leave an hour early once in a while. It was to the point that if you left an hour early, you had to make it up — every. single. minute. of. it. I remember her telling someone “You still owe 15 minutes!”

          15 minutes. I thought: Who really cares if this person works another 15 minutes? They’re good at their job, they get their work done on time, what else really matters?

          Same thing here. What really matters? That they get their work done, right? Would you really care if they were chatting but still did a very good job? So concentrate on enforcing work standards. Talk to the actual people who are slacking off. Don’t make some overall rule that will make everyone hate and resent you, especially when most people are properly balancing work and chatter.

          1. Allison*

            I had a manager do this too. Granted, we were hourly, full-time employees, so maybe in that case there it was important for us to have 40 hours of work and/or PTO a week, but I definitely remember him telling me that I owed him 20 minutes one day. To me, falling short of my 40 hours by 20 mins didn’t seem like a big deal. I didn’t mind being paid a little less, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to me. Also, I was puzzled by the fact that he wouldn’t let me use PTO to cover it. Maybe he felt like I wasn’t working hard enough and needed to put in that 20 mins, but he never told me my performance was sub par.

            In hindsight, I think a lot of this guy’s by-the-books management may have been caused by pressure from upper management. He was young, and new to managing, so it’s possible that either he was afraid they’d come down on him for something small, or they were actually breathing down his neck about every little thing.

          2. Jennifer*

            Hah, we’re not even allowed to leave three minutes early any more. Seriously, you better be here until 5 on. the. dot.

            1. Not Yet Seeking*

              Yeah, about that: Companies that want you “until” never seem to be ok with you walking in the door “at” which makes it basically hypocrisy in my opinion.

          3. Engineer Girl*

            We had a manager like that. No going away lunches because it could cut into work time. No monthly birthday cakes. People started calling him “Darth” behind his back. Even though the company encouraged flex time he demanded that people came in at a certain time and left at a certain time.
            Then his project got behind schedule. When the leaving time came people got up and walked out. They didn’t work extra hours.
            He missed his deadline and was demoted.

    3. The IT Manager*

      This sounds like a factory or some other unionized mon-office workplace where employees don’t need to speak to each other much for work. Could just be a mistaken impression, but a sign instead of an email gives me the impression that these people do not sit at a computer for work.

      Not that this idea is in anyway good, but this may not be the normal white collar office AAM normally gets questions about.

      1. Allison*

        OP did specify it was a plant, so I totally get concerns about productivity or safety. But if OP really thinks talking is causing problems, they should talk to the people who are talking instead of working, rather than prohibit all personal conversation. Working at a plant of any kind is probably rough, don’t make the conditions any worse than they need to be.

      2. Moo*

        I thought that too. And maybe the angle is about safety, as in a construction crew is goofing off instead of watching their colleagues up on some dangerous platform like they’re supposed to. In that scenario, I think a quick staff meeting reminder is sufficient.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          Yeah, I would be more onboard about prohibiting conversations if there were safety concerns, but in that case, it kind of seems like a lazy approach to just post a sign. You would still need to talk to the employees about it, although as Moo said, a quick staff meeting would suffice. Otherwise, you’re pretty much relying on everyone to look around for new signs at the start of their shifts and hoping they notice something different…

      3. aebhel*

        I’ve worked in a factory–a couple of them, actually–and there has never been a one where there was any good reason to ban personal conversations. Penalize people who were talking instead of working, sure, but wholesale banning? Nope.

  2. Nodumbunny*

    Also, maybe the OP of #3 could suggest that the grandmother check with her physician about her concerns? Because her doc is likely to tell her that the best way to protect her grandbaby is to get a chicken pox and/or shingles vaccine herself.

    1. the gold digger*

      Yeah – wanting infected people to stay away from you because you have chosen not to be vaccinated (even if your health would otherwise allow it) is not the solution. You decide not to vaccinate, you figure out how not to be around sick people.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        That’s pretty black and white. There are people who can’t get vaccines, or who aren’t responsive to them.

        My daughter is immuno compromised and while I do everything I can to keep her away from sick people/unvaccinated people (she is vaxxed but still susceptible), someone blithely walking around with a terrible, contagious illness should stay home as a courtesy to everyone else. The solution isn’t to shame the people worried about catching whatever that illness is or butt into their medical decisions.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this. The fact that many people can’t have immunization is a very important reason everyone else should be.

          1. Bend & Snap*

            But your answer also implied that ill people bear no responsibility for not spreading their illnesses.

            1. the gold digger*

              No. The grandmother to be who was not immunized and who wanted the co-worker to be sent home bears the responsibility for this one, not the possibly sick co-worker. If I were her, I would get myself immunized right away because sick people are everywhere.

              Also – unless the person next to me has ebola or something of that ilk, I am not going to condemn someone for coming to work sick if that is the only option he has, especially as I have no immune system problems. Not everyone has the luxury of a lot of (or even any) paid sick time. If someone comes to work with a cold, I shrug and stay away from him. I am not going to tell him he has to compromise his income just so I do not catch his cold.

              1. Anonsie*

                I think that’s a little rough. Keep in mind that vaccinating against this virus is still pretty new, this is really easily something you could have never come across in life and never think about. Unless you are a small child starting school or are over 60 and regularly see a PCP, you’ve probably never had someone suggest you get vaccinated for chicken pox.

                And sure, plenty of people can’t just stay home, etc. but shingles/chicken pox is hardly a “cold” and there are several people in the office who have a good reason to want to stay away from this guy right now. It would be more than reasonable for his manager to try to make an arrangement for him to be away (in a different area or working remotely or whatever) while he waits to see a doctor.

                Out of curiosity, I also checked into how soon after immunization that vaccine actually takes effect, and I actually couldn’t find any answers in the literature. So the simplest solution of “get vaccinated today” is not something I would bank on if I were her.

                1. Zillah*

                  But I feel like you can’t have it both ways: if you’re going to get so freaked out by the prospect of coming in contact with a virus that’s fairly common that you barricade yourself in your office and refuse to come out, particularly if it’s on the grounds that you’re worried about your expected grandchild, it’s also on you to do the due diligence and check into what your options are and how much of a concern exposure to shingles in these circumstances should be in the first place. And while the vaccine is fairly new, it’s been around long enough (and it/the shingles vaccine is advertised broadly enough, IME) for people to have gotten the memo.

                2. OhNo*

                  I’m going to second Zillah’s comment, and add: if this is her response to a coworker with shingles, what on earth is she going to do if her grandchild gets chicken pox? Barricade herself in her house and demand that the child be locked away until they’re better so she doesn’t catch it?

                  If you’re sick, it’s logical to do your best not to pass it to other people. If you’re healthy, it’s logical to do your best not to catch anything.

                  But if you’re barricading yourself in your office and demanding that someone else be sent home from work because you don’t want to risk catching a common illness, you’ve officially stepped outside the logic zone and need to take responsibility for your own concerns, not put the burden of allaying them on others.

                3. Stone Satellite*

                  Just as an FYI, per webmd: “If you’ve never had chickenpox or been vaccinated and you are exposed to chickenpox, being vaccinated right away will greatly reduce your risk of getting sick. Studies have shown that vaccination within three days of exposure is 90% effective at preventing illness; vaccination within five days of exposure is 70% effective. If you do get sick, the symptoms will be milder and shorter in duration.”

              2. Elisabeth*

                Shingles is debilitating if not taken care of, but you can spend the rest of your life in pain because of nerve damage, even if it is treated. Someone who thinks they have shingles should avoid others – there’s too much risk. Sick people cost businesses money, including by spreading things around and making others wick. I get that shingles itself can’t be passed, but the virus can (all it takes is someone itching one of those blisters and getting the fluid on their hands and touching something else), and in a family with folks who are immune-compromised or are taking care of patients, I personally wouldn’t want to be the cause of anyone picking up a disease because of poor planning and selfishness. I’ve been working hourly, so I get the working for income issues completely, but also don’t want someone preventing me from working or spending time with family. I’d be barricading myself in the office on either side of the coin. Work-from-home plans are important, even if just for back up in these kinds of situations.

                1. Anon369*

                  But where do we draw the line? How about cold sores? Herpes? A MRSA infection? A staph infection? A UTI? Should you be required to disclose these things?

                2. Zillah*

                  @ Elisabeth – I totally get what you’re saying, and as I’ve said, I’m sympathetic – but I think that where the line gets drawn is highly dependent on the risk involved. It’s just not practical to say that anyone who has something contagious should quarantine themselves until it passes – where does that leave someone with something like oral herpes? Home until their cold sore goes away? Or someone who’s had mono, who can be contagious at random points long after they’ve recovered? (Damn herpes viruses.)

                  I agree with reasonable precautions, and if you have a disease that’s fairly contagious or come into very close contact with people, you should absolutely stay home. If you can work from home, you should probably take advantage of it even if it isn’t all that contagious. But barricading yourself in an office? To me, that sounds like a knee-jerk reaction based on fear rather than a real analysis of the risk involved in this particular situation – and, in this case, even if the guy does have shingles, he may not even be contagious yet.

                3. mel*

                  Shingles is a wide range of severity. You can have a shingles rash without infectious blisters.

                4. Artemesia*

                  Shingles tends to last a long time and is not contagious i.e. through the air — it is of course communicable on contact with infected sores. I have worked on many occasions with people with shingles and don’t know of cases where they infected anyone further. Making someone stay home for weeks on end till it passes it likely to have an impact on productivity too.

              3. Bend & Snap*

                Strongly disagree. The shingles vaccine is only effective half the time anyway.

                If you have a contagious, miserable illness, you spare the general population your germs. It’s not at all unreasonable to not want to be deliberately exposed to shingles AT WORK.

                1. Zillah*

                  You’re not being exposed to shingles, exactly – you’re really being exposed to chicken pox, which is something that the vast majority of people have either had themselves (even if just sub-clinically) or been immunized against. You can’t catch shingles – that’s not the way it works.

                  Would you react the same way to someone who came into work with a cold sore? Because by the same logic, that’s deliberately exposing you to herpes simplex AT WORK.

      2. Niki*

        She didn’t exactly choose to not get vaccinated. If she is a grandmother she most likely is from a generation where most people got the chicken pox and she somehow never caught it. The vaccine wasn’t even available until the 90’s really anyways. I was born in 1991 and my mother who works in healthcare had me get the shot but most of my classmates did not.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, she might not know that a vaccine is available. But also, if you get the shingles vaccine, do you have to stay away from a baby for a while? I don’t know anything about it either (I had chickenpox).

          1. Girasol*

            There’s a gotcha with shingles vaccine. It’s live vaccine, which means that being around people who have just been vaccinated is a risk to the immune compromised. My significant other is, and his doctors agree that since shingles vaccine is a live vaccine, we have to be separated for three weeks if I get it. My doctor recommends I get it, of course, and his doctors say that me being vaccinated will be better for him too, as long as we’re separated for three weeks after. While most vaccines are not live and are a great idea especially for those around the immune-compromised, shingles is a bit trickier.

          1. Zillah*

            But even if she can’t get the vaccine (and if she can, I have no sympathy for her), there are far more reasonable ways to deal with that than getting hysterical and barricading yourself in an office.

            1. Nashira*

              May I suggest we not call women hysterical? It has some really nasty sexist connotations that it would be better to not perpetuate.

              1. Zillah*

                You’re right – I usually try not to use the word for that reason, but for some reason I slipped today. Sorry!

        2. Nea*

          Anecdote is not data but… it’s never too late. I’m reaching grandmother age and made it through the childhood chicken pox era without catching it. Rather than waiting until I was old enough for the shingles vaccine, I went and got the adult chicken pox shots last year.

      3. Mephyle*

        The use of the term ‘immune-compromised’ points to it not being by choice. I don’t hear anti-vaxxers using that term about people who choose not to vaccinate.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        Op 3 shingles has a very low chance of being spread if the rash is covered and I assume your coworker wears clothes to work. Would you send someone with herpes home? No because unless that person bumps privates with someone else your coworkers aren’t going to contract it

        1. Anna*

          This is what I was wondering; how contagious is it? I would guess it’s not the kind of thing you can spread by coughing or sneezing because it’s from a virus that already lives inside the body so skin to skin contact is probably necessary. Basically the OP needs to get some information and educate the people who are concerned.

        2. manybellsdown*

          I had shingles on my face and in my eye. I didn’t get any rash at all, but that’s an anomaly. You can totally have it somewhere you wouldn’t ordinarily cover.

        3. Loose Seal*

          No because unless that person bumps privates with someone else your coworkers aren’t going to contract it

          So unless there’s a Duck Club at your workplace, you’re ok.

      5. Marcela*

        I agree with you completely. I just want to say I’m always amazed when somebody talks to me about illnesses like they believe it’s possible to completely avoid being around sick people. I just don’t get it: it’s not only that sometimes people have to work while sick because their work conditions means they will get less money if they stay at home; many illnesses are contagious in the first days where there are barely symptoms.

        1. fposte*

          And about one-third of humans endemically carry staph colonies.

          People really aren’t responsible for making sure their diseases don’t spread. They’re responsible for taking basic recommended precautions like washing their hands and avoiding direct contact with infected areas, but I’d say the likelihood of infection has to rise considerably higher than this before they’d be obligated to go home. I think they can be invited to go home, but basic precautions in most workplaces would be sufficient to keep things safe in this situation.

          I worry because sometimes the illness/contagion discussion gets kind of black and white and sounds like they’re dividing the players into criminals and victims. Immuno-compromise isn’t a reason to insist other people can’t be in the workplace–most people undergoing chemo still go to the grocery store, after all, which is hardly a controlled environment. It’s a reason to take care.

          1. Zillah*

            Immuno-compromise isn’t a reason to insist other people can’t be in the workplace–most people undergoing chemo still go to the grocery store, after all, which is hardly a controlled environment. It’s a reason to take care.


          2. Marcela*

            +1 in regard of the division in criminals and victims. A friend of mine has psoriasis, with lesions in his hands, and you would not believe the amount of abuse he gets from people he isn’t even touching! I have a scar from being burned with water when I was a child, and sometimes I get comments from people complaining I’m irresponsible being outside with a contagious disease. Ridiculous.

    2. Michele*

      That was my first thought, too. If she is that concerned, has she been vaccinated? If not, she has a responsibility to herself and her grandchild (who will be too young for the vaccine) to look into it and get it if possible.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Also you have to be 55 or over to get the vaccine at least that’s what my dr told me a couple years ago

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          Nope, it’s aged 50 and up. And that’s the approved “on-label” use. Your doctor could still give it to you if you’re under 50 as “off-label” use. Insurance wouldn’t pay for it, though. (I know this because a friend of mine just got the vaccination last year at age 46).

          1. Nom d' Pixel*

            And that is the shingles vaccine. You can’t catch the shingles, but you can catch the chicken pox from someone who has shingles. Children can get the chicken pox vaccine, and considering how dangerous chicken pox is for adults, the germophobe should look into it.

    3. AGirlCalledFriday*

      You know, with all the discussion about how horrible some illnesses can be and how others are immunocompromised, plus the inability for some to be able to take days off of work…maybe we should be discussing instead the culture of coming into work sick in America? Personally, I think it’s a huge issue. A lot of employers discourage staying home when ill, a lot of employees feel that they may be penalized in some way for leaving – whether its by the company, the culture at the company, or they personally feel they can’t allow themselves the time off.

      When I worked as a teacher in the US, I was often constantly sick. Even when the principal was understanding of sick days, taking a day off could mean a lot of extra work later. When staying home was discouraged at one job, I ended up in the emergency room after being ill for almost the entire year. In the Middle East, taking off for illness required a doctor’s note, and the doctors prescribed a minimum of 2 days off for recovery per note. In Japan (an international school run mostly by people from India) sick leave was granted as a matter of fact, and there was never any issue.

      My experience – mostly with children – was that when a parent didn’t keep their sick child home, other students became sick. If those students were not kept home, more students become sick. Many, many times the entire class becomes ill. Of course I become ill, students in other classes become ill, teachers in other classes become ill. Those children go home and get their parents and siblings ill, elderly grandparents, neighbors, etc. In a very real sense, not keeping your 4th grade child home can lead to the class, the teacher, the class next door, 4 year old Susie and her baby brother becoming ill a week later. Watching it happen is shocking, and it’s completely made clear to me how important it is that people stay home and recuperate when they are sick. I understand that sometimes it’s impossible to do, but people need to be more aware that by making the choice to work when sick, you are literally impacting the health of everyone around you – and not everyone is strong enough to fight it off. You do NOT want to be the reason someone’s elderly parent or young child is hospitalized.

      1. Nashira*

        The culture of working sick in America is honestly sick, in my mighty experience as a person who is frequently ill. Including being immuno-suppressed for a good four months now, woohoo! It is absolutely screwball how some offices (like mine) expect you to come into work to at least schedule a few days off to be sick, even if you have something like the flu and can’t get out of bed. I don’t think it leads to better work… it just leads to butts in seats, at least until someone infects everyone else and half the office is out.

        Or it leads to a butt in a seat where the person is so ill that they make mistakes, in work that often could have waited two or three days for them to feel better, or easily been covered by someone else. It never ceases to amaze me that I work for one of the largest health insurance companies in the US, and we have such a toxic culture towards being sick.

        1. AnonAnalyst*

          This was one thing that I actually appreciated in my last office, as I was having some health issues develop while I was working there that made my immune system really, really crappy, so I pretty much got EVERYTHING that came into the office. There was a culture there that sick people should absolutely not come to work, so if you came in sick, you’d get disapproving looks from everyone until you went home. New people learned pretty quickly that it really was frowned upon to come in sick, which helped keep some of those illnesses that would otherwise end up hitting most of the office at bay.

  3. Nodumbunny*

    BTW – I’m not disagreeing with Alison’s advice. If the guy has shingles, he needs to stay away from others – not cool, dude.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Well, it’s only contagious to someone who hasn’t had chicken pox or been vaccinated, which means most people are immune. It can also last for a LONG time, but his doctor could tell him when it’s likely to stop being contagious. It also depends on where it is on his body and whether he’s likely to touch that skin and them leave the ooze on a person or surface (hands=easy, butt =hard). But in general, encourage people with contagious stuff to stay home and give time paid time off so they can.

      I’m confused about why OP can’t talk to him about going home until the man sees a doctor.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My sense is that the OP, like many people, mistakenly believes she can’t meddle in someone’s health affairs, especially since it’s unconfirmed. But OP, you can totally have the conversation I suggest in the post!

        1. MK*

          Especially since he was the one who made it public in the first place by telling the staff member. Though I have to say, I question the judgementof this individual, who seems to have seen fit to inform the entire office.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Guys if the rash is on his torso and the blisters have crusted over it’s not contagious. And if they’re not crusted yet, people are still unlikely to get it unless he’s rubbing his blisters against a coworker! Please read up on it

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              My understanding is that it can be spread if the person with shingles touches the rash, gets fluid on his hands from the blisters, and then touches someone else. Unless the person is someone who picks at blisters and rashes, my guess is there’s not a very high likelihood of that happening. But the person doesn’t have to be rubbing his blisters against someone else to spread it.

            2. Anonsie*

              The official recommendations is for people with shingles, regardless of the status of any blistering, to keep from having any contact with immunocompromised people.

              1. fposte*

                Usually when medical recommendations say “contact,” they mean direct physical contact–is that the case for this one? If so, that seems pretty easy to accomplish.

                1. Anonsie*

                  Nope, they note in the same paragraph that shingles has been seen to spread between people with no direct contact and cites some outbreaks where the people never came into direct physical contact with each other. It is not entirely clear how many ways it can spread besides the rash (for example, it’s sometimes found in the saliva of a person with active shingles, and there are cases where it’s believe to have been aerosolized) so in the case of especially susceptible persons the general idea is “stay the heck away” since you wouldn’t want to bank on unknown odds there.

                2. outandabout*

                  When I had shingles, my doctor insisted I could go to work. She said that someone would literally have to lick my blisters (ick) during the short time that I was contagious to be at risk. And that by the tine you realize you have shingles, the contagious period was passed. I was skeptical, and worried because my manager was pregnant. But my manager checked with her doctor, confirmed the information and told me to come on in.

                3. Pennalynn Lott*

                  That’s weird, Anonsie, since being exposed to someone with shingles doesn’t give you shingles. It can give you chicken pox (if you haven’t had chicken pox or the vaccine before). So an “outbreak” of shingles would mean that people who had chicken pox years earlier were now experiencing shingles, not that people with shingles gave other people shingles.

                4. Anonsie*

                  @Pennalynn It says outbreak of the virus, not shingles specifically. I worded that poorly, I meant it was a spread of the virus to a number of people from someone who had shingles.

                  @outandabout That’s a big exaggeration about the transmission, it’s definitely easier to spread than that. It’s just really unlikely when you’re talking about normal healthy people or pregnant women who have immunity (which would be most people). But yes, typically they say you can return to work as normal if you feel well enough to do so. The issue here is that it’s already known that a couple of these coworkers are not normal healthy people but at an increased risk that makes the precautions necessary different.

                5. Zillah*

                  @ Anonsie – But I think the thing to keep in mind is that when they’re making official recommendations, they need to cover all their bases, which often means making very conservative recommendations based on the worst case scenario. Doctors who are familiar with their patients and can see the symptoms often have a more measured take because they’re looking at a specific situation instead.

                6. Anonsie*

                  @Zillah I wouldn’t necessarily say that’s true. Recommendations are conservative on the side of evidence, which can go either way. For example, they recommend against vaccinations for shingles under age 50 (or 60 depending on who you ask and how much evidence they find sufficient) because there is not yet evidence of risk and efficacy in younger people. But they also recommend not taking any isolation precautions around healthy people because there’s no evidence that it’s necessary, even though there have been rare outbreaks of the virus in healthy people from shingles patients because the risk is so exceptionally small. You don’t bank on the worst case scenario, there are a lot of factors at play. What is the penalty of the precaution and, if it’s not taken, what is the risk? How severe is the penalty of that risk compared to the precaution? How do you reasonably balance those things?

                  In this case, when you’re talking about people who are specifically susceptible to infection, the risk to precaution weight is shifted. And if the question is “is it reasonable for me as a manager to even talk to this guy about it” based on actual risk, and it’s already known that there are immunocompromised employees that work around this guy, then the answer is definitely yes. Not to send this guy to a sanitorium, but to talk to him and make sure there isn’t a potential issue. Have him bring it up at the doctor’s appointment at least, potentially ask the other employees in question if it does turn out to be shingles.

                7. Zillah*

                  @ Anonsie – I get that. But you’re citing the “official recommendations” as though they’re the end of the conversation, and to me, at least, it feels like you’re saying that everyone who’s gotten advice to the contrary from their doctors is wrong. That’s not really productive or fair.

                8. Anonsie*

                  Ohhhh I see where you’re coming from now, let me be more clear. A lot of people are saying that they were told by their doctors not to bother isolating themselves or avoiding people as a backup that no one in the LW’s office needs to bother worrying about this. I’m pointing out that they were talking about presumably healthy people, because they would of course assume that most of the people you see are not in a special risk category. But we already know we are talking about a different situation because several employees are known to be in a special risk category, so that advice doesn’t apply evenly here as the circumstances are different.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          Yep. You can send an employee home for any reason. I mean, withholding pay for it would be cruel, but sending him home? Absolutely. I traveled to West Africa during the height of the ebola scare last year and I wasn’t allowed back at work until I had called in to our on-staff doctor with my temperature.

        3. Moo*

          Not only that but I know several people with it and they would have LOVED the opportunity to work from home during their outbreaks. It is a fire breathing dragon of a condition and working in conservative clothing can be absolute torture.

        4. Jerry Vandesic*

          I’m going to disagree with Alison on this one. At least for me, you can’t meddle in my health affairs. The first time you bring it up, my response is that I don’t talk about my medical state with anyone but my doctor. The second time you do it I very quickly make you wish that you never brought it up. It’s not polite to stick your nose in other people’s medical affairs.

          1. simonthegrey*

            But if you come in with an illness that YOU have made public (by telling someone in the office), as a manager I would have the prerogative to at least look into it. We’re not talking about an invisible disability, such as if I am asking you about your fibromyalgia. I agree a manager doesn’t have a right to do that. But what you self disclose about a potentially transmissible disease, I can act on.

      2. Kora*

        Sadly this is a myth – while having had chickenpox gives a boost to your immune system against shingles, it’s not a guarantee you won’t get it, and at least one shingles strain occurs only in people who’ve had chickenpox. Also, immunocompromised people can’t take the shingles vaccine. Totally agree with the rest of your comment!

        1. eemmzz*

          +1 my sister caught shingles off of her husband and she’d had chickenpox as a child. It’s no guarantee!

          I completely agree that this guy should have worked at home until he had the all clear. Too many sick people go into work anyway.

          1. Harper*

            Yeah, so did I. My doctor said they are seeing them in younger and younger people. This guy may just not realize the risk or really have them. When I had them, I knew. Googled it before I went to the doctor, even. :D

            1. Michele*

              I want to know why they don’t recommend the shingles vaccine for people under 50. Because it isn’t recommended, insurance won’t pay for it, but shingles sounds horrifyingly painful, and I want the vaccine.

              1. Moo*

                I just learned this a few months ago. Because the clinical studies so far only show the vaccine works for up to six years but is a once-in-a-lifetime vaccine. (!!!!) so if you get the vaccine but weren’t in contact with the virus, then the vaccine shuts down, and then boom you’re around the virus and get infected – you’re now stuck with the virus without any protection.

              2. Jessa*

                Talk to your doctor. You might be able to go through the insurance carrier and get it covered as an exception if you have issues that would make you especially vulnerable to it. You can also call your insurance company direct and ask them how you would qualify for it early because x y z. It IS possible to get things covered that aren’t usually done, and it’s a lot easier to try to do it in advance rather than get permission after the fact. Even though a lot of people no longer have HMO type policies with gatekeeper doctors who have to get pre-approval, you can still go through those processes with regular insurance.

                The only issue is if you actually have a medical thing that puts you at risk vs just wanting it because you’re worried about it.

              3. Anonsie*

                Apparently since shingles in younger people used to be pretty rare, the shingles vaccine hasn’t been heavily tested or studied in people under 50 and most of that was with people over 60, which is why most organizations (like the CDC) recommends age 60 and over and some other organizations think 50 is fine but no one seems to go lower than that.

            2. simonthegrey*

              The son of a family I babysat for got chicken pox at about seven, as one does. Fourteen years later, when he was in college, he came down with shingles. It happens.

        2. Colette*

          I believe the issue is that if you’re exposed to shingles and you haven’t had chicken pox, you can catch chicken pox. It’s the same virus.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            Yes. You would catchi chicken pox. Shingles is a reactivation of chicken pox.

            Also, shingles isn’t horrible for everyone, but when it is, it is THE WORST PAIN IMAGINABLE (first hand experience). I hope this guy doesn’t have a really bad case, but if he does, he will be keeping himself at home with no arguments.

            1. Harper*

              Yes, when I had them, I really didn’t have much pain at all. However, a friend of mine pretty much stayed constantly drugged for a couple of weeks and the pain was still bad. I know I got off easy. But even so, they were uncomfortable, so if he has them, he will probably WANT to stay home.

              1. Elizabeth*

                One of my cousins has had recurring episodes. Each one gets worse, and they get closer together. He has, at different times, had to be hospitalized to be sedated because of the pain.

                He has been told that he has to go a year without an outbreak before he can get the vaccine. He has been trying to do this for almost 8 years without success.

            2. Mockingjay*

              Having experienced it myself, I can pretty much guarantee that the guy would be at home for anything other than a very mild case.

              My doctor did warn me to stay away from all contact with infants until the lesions had completely healed, which I scrupulously observed. (Couldn’t cuddle baby god-daughter for a few weeks. Better safe than sorry.)

            3. manybellsdown*

              My shingles was on my face and in my eye, and before I knew what it was I’d resorted to sticking my whole face under the tub faucet because a torrent of cold water was all that eased the pain.

        3. Mrs. Badcrumble*

          You only get shingles if you’ve had chickenpox. It’s a reactivation of the same virus.

        4. SystemsLady*

          The vaccine for chickenpox is also different from other vaccines and usually doesn’t give you complete immunity (though its duration will be shorter and it will be a lot less severe). I’m not sure if that’s the case for shingles, other than knowing there is a separate vaccine, but since you can catch chickenpox from a person with shingles, it’s still relevant.

          And either way hopefully the pregnant woman has the vaccine.

          1. SystemsLady*

            Slight correction, you are immune with the vaccine, but your immune system still responds to it in an uncomfortable and characteristic way while it’s in your body.

          2. Hummingbird*

            I knew someone who had gotten the shingles vaccine and still ended up with a bout of shingles. It might have been less intense but he still got it.

            1. NotAllCanadians*

              I work in Public Health so I thought I’d chime in – Yes, it is still possible (although uncommon), to get Shingles even if you’ve had the vaccine, however the type of Shingles is different and is not contagious as any point (it is also milder).

              1. NotAllCanadians*

                Specifically Shingles that is caused by the Vaccine (not exposure a decade later).

                Measles is like this too – Some children will get a mild case of Measles after getting their vaccine (which Anti-Vaxxers love to jump on) but it is not contagious.

              2. Moo*

                And the vaccine only works for six years. It’s very easy to get the vaccine and still get it later. Which totally blows.

        5. INTP*

          Important point about immunocompromised people and the vaccine. I get the impression that many people don’t realize immunocompromised people often can’t get vaccinated. I want to say more about vaccination here but I’ll force myself to stay on topic.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Arrgh me too….*restrains self; turns purple*


            Sorry, I caved. >_< I'm done.

        6. Rebecca*

          Yes, my mom has had chicken pox and shingles.

          But I’m confused, when my mom had shingles we did a lot of reading and everything we read said it’s not very contagious? It’s your body’s own immune system reacting to itself. Maybe I’m just not remembering correctly, though.

        7. Pennalynn Lott*

          No, no, no. You get shingles *because* you had chickenpox as a child! The virus (herpes zoster) goes dormant in your system for years, usually decades. Then, later in life, stress (physical or emotional) causes it to reactivate, and it causes some of your nerve endings to become painfully inflamed (and can cause blisters).

          I have had shingles flare-ups. I’m only 48. My first one was when I was 35. And those flare-ups happen because the herpes zoster virus — That I Got From Chickenpox! — stays in my system forever.

          1. Zillah*

            Herpes vaccines are so annoying that way. I caught mono from a friend in high school when it resurfaced years after she first had it, and my partner probably caught it from me years later when it resurfaced after a really stressful time in my life.

      3. Nursey nurse*

        I’m an RN, and just want to weigh in on the medical side of this question. Anyone who has ever had chicken pox can get shingles at any time. This is because the chicken pox virus (varicella zoster) lies dormant in nerve endings for years after inital chicken pox infection and can reassert itself later as a shingles infection. However, shingles itself is not contagous in that you can’t get shingles from someone who has shingles. The virus doesn’t work that way.

        The only time you need to worry about contagion regarding shingles is if the person with shingles is going to be around someone who has never had chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine, as those people lack immunity to varicella zoster and can “catch” it from the shingles patient; however, these people then develop an active case of chicken pox, not of shingles. Also, it is possible for people who have already had chicken pox or the chicken pox vaccine (and who should therefore technically be immune) to still become infected with a fresh case of chicken pox, but it’s really uncommon.

        1. Snoskred*

          Nursey Nurse – so, can I ask, is it worth people who had chickenpox to get the shingles vaccine?

          I had the chicken pox super bad.. :/

          1. Nursey nurse*

            That’s a more appropriate question for your health care provider, snoskred… he or she will know your individual circumstances and give you better advice than I could! Generally, the shingles vaccine is recommended (at least in the US) for people 60 and older as they are at higher risk for complications should they get shingles.

            1. De Minimis*

              I had a doctor who was trying to push everyone to get it, but I think he was just wanting the money [insurance doesn’t cover it for younger people apparently, so most people would have to pay out of pocket for it…or at least that’s what he told me.]

                1. De Minimis*

                  I only saw this guy one time, really didn’t like him….and had a big snafu with his billing office months later. He just seemed shady.

              1. Anonsie*

                I mean, this is a bad idea for other reasons, but if you insurance doesn’t cover the vaccine cost that’s not a charge from your doctor and the money wouldn’t be going back to him. They pay for the materials cost of the vaccine itself and if your insurance doesn’t reimburse them, they have you cover the cost.

                I did once have to literally run away from a doctor the very first time I saw her because she wanted to give me the meningitis vaccine for younger people and I told her my allergies were a contraindication for that one. She said she didn’t think that was true and tried to more or less forcibly give it to me anyway. I did not see her again.

          2. Artemesia*

            The vaccine is designed for people who have had chickenpox to prevent shingles which only develops in people who have had chickenpox. It is not as effective as most other vaccines but the consequences of shingles in the elderly can be so grim that it is worth getting. Our insurance wouldn’t cover it — it cost us $600 for the two of us — but my husband’s father died from complications of shingles — one of those one thing leads to another situation that sent him spiraling down from healthy intelligent 80 plus year old to dementia and death . (which broken bones and surgeries from falls caused by shingles nerve damage in between)

            1. Jessica (tc)*

              My husband had shingles when he was around 30, so we looked into the vaccine, but the doctors and clinics around here won’t give it to anyone under 60. We both had pretty bad chicken pox when we were younger, so we knew it was a possibility, but just didn’t expect either of us to get it so young. (His came on due to stress, because there were a lot of crappy things going on in our lives at that time. Poor guy. He’s so laid back and calm that he never really appears stressed, but the shingles told on him that time. ;-) )

        2. NickelandDime*

          Thank you for this. I’ve had shingles TWICE. (grimaces) I was not quarantined by my doctor. Both times the rash popped up in places covered by my clothing anyway. I specifically asked him the first time it happened if I posed any type of risk to anyone and he said no. I took my medications and went to work. It took a LONG TIME for it to go away, so staying home couldn’t have been an option anyway.

          I feel sorry for the guy in OP 3’s letter because shingles is NO JOKE, but this is why you keep personal information to yourself at work, and hell, if you see and feel something like shingles, you should have ran to the doctor long ago. I agree OP3 should go talk to the guy and urge him to go seek help – the medications really help. And if the guy is offended, he asked for this running around at work telling people his personal business anyway. No one here knew I had shingles. I just suffered silently.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            Ugh, you poor thing. I had shingles in my eye two years ago and it was the worst pain I’ve ever had. And now I look like someone stubbed a cigarette out near my eyebrow and I am missing a quarter of my eyelashes (they will never grow back).

            Anyway, there was a pregnant woman in the office who had never had chicken pox. She sat near me so I warned her and HR when I returned after a week. The woman completely blew off what I said and I was pretty disturbed because she told someone later that she thought I was exaggerating (even though she could see that my face was mangled and I had to wear sunglasses for a few weeks).

            1. Rebecca*

              Ouch! :( My mom got it above her eye (around her eyebrow). Her doctor said if it gets in your eye, you can possibly go blind!

              1. Jessica (tc)*

                That’s where my husband got it! He kept telling me it wasn’t shingles, so one day when I picked him up from work, I made him go to ambulatory care to get it looked it (because I was so worried about it getting into his eye for this exact reason). Sure enough, he had shingles. I think he just was done with all the bad things that were going on around then and couldn’t stomach the thought of one more, but at least this was one that we could start taking care of ourselves.

            2. manybellsdown*

              Oh man, I sympathize because I also had it in my eye. I was lucky (I suppose) because I didn’t get any rash at all. Which is why it was so surprising in more than one way – because varicella zoster apparently doesn’t give me rashes, I also thought I’d never had chicken pox!

              But good lord does it hurt. And my ophthalmologist makes me come in regularly to check it, because it can cause blindness.

          2. KTM*

            Same thing for me – only had it once but the doctor said as long as I had the rash covered that I posed no risk – just to be especially careful around people who were pregnant. It’s not contagious the way chicken pox is which is exactly why I didn’t tell anyone at work because I knew that would freak out like OP #3s workplace. I hear you on the suffering silently.

            Out of curiousity – would you be comfortable telling me what age and how far apart you had shingles? I’m 29 and had it and they said I had a very low probability of getting it again but I’m worried that’s a lot of years ahead of me to not have it come back…

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              KTM – I’m not the person you asked, but I got my first shingles flare-up at age 35. I’m now 48 and have had maybe 6-7 flare-ups over the intervening years. However… I rarely get blisters, and if I do it’s only one or two tiny ones. The nerve pain is the same, the mild flu-like symptoms (aching joints and muscles, fatigue, fever) are the same. And because I’ve had so many flare-ups I keep a full prescription of Valtrex at my house at all times so I can dose up as soon as I feel the first symptoms. Which means I’m only in pain for a few days, not a few weeks. (I also have a ton of hydrocodone leftover from a couple of major surgeries, so that helps too).

              The best thing to do is manage your stress. Get plenty of sleep. Eat well. Learn relaxation techniques. Don’t sweat the small stuff, yada, yada, yada. My flare-ups are directly related to physical stress (not sleeping enough or coming off a bad cold or nasty allergy season) or emotional stress (worried about finances, fighting with Boyfriend, etc.). When everything hums along nicely, I don’t get the flare-ups.

        3. Yep*

          Thank you for clarifying. I have a “compromised immune system,” (quotations because I do technically but I’m doing quite well) and had someone close to me get shingles awhile back – I never thought anything of it. I always try to be sensitive to self-proclaimed germaphobes, but, come on.

        4. AnotherAlison*

          Wanted to add that the people who think they have not had chicken pox should get tested by their doctor.

          I did not have chicken pox and didn’t get the vaccine (I was in public school before the vaccine). When I was 26 and pregnant, the kid up the street (son of *those* people who didn’t vaccinate) got chicken pox and he had been at our house. I went to my doctor and the test showed I had immunity and had had a subclinical case of chicken pox at some point. (My mom was the same way, and my sister had had a wicked case of chick pox, so it wasn’t completely surprising, but it was a big relief.)

          1. AnotherAlison*

            (Oh, and my mom got shingles a couple years ago, so she definitely did have a subclinical case of chicken pox as a kid, too, and I guess not having any actual pox does not prevent you from getting the shingles reactivation.)

            1. Lily in NYC*

              Yes, I’m another one who had subclinical chicken pox as a kid and I still got a really bad case of ocular shingles (and had residual nerve pain for over a year, it sucked).

          2. fposte*

            I was just reading advice that people get the shingles vaccine if they don’t know, because that’s cheaper than titering for antibodies. Don’t know if that’s true, or if so, where it’s true, though.

        5. Bagworm*

          I am not an RN or anyone in medicine but I just wanted to add that when talking about people who can “catch” the virus, it was my understanding that exposing a fetus to the virus could have serious results. When I had shingles, I stayed home because one of my co-workers was pregnant and it just didn’t seem worth exposing her to it (especially since I could work from home). I was also paranoid (probably overly so) about going out in public because I didn’t know who I would expose to it and what their medical history was so, again, because I had the luxury of loved ones who would bring me things I pretty much quarantined myself.

          On top of all that, although shingles is not always super painful for everyone, it was for me (couldn’t even wear a shirt for a couple of weeks and although not explicitly addressed in the company’s dress code, I think it would have fallen into the unprofessional category) and I could hardly imagine wanting to go anywhere until it was at least significantly on the mend.

          1. Nursey nurse*

            It can be dangerous for pregnant women, especially in the second trimester, to get chicken pox. Therefore, if you haven’t had chicken pox or the vaccine, doctors might recommend you avoid people with shingles if you’re pregnant. Some doctors might take things a bit further and recommend you avoid them even if you’ve had chicken pox before due to the minimal risk of reinfection.

        6. puddin*

          Thank you for this comment! I did not know that is how the two illnesses worked. Yeah, I learned something today – first thing in the morning – that means I can home now right? :)

        7. Mimmy*

          Thanks for clarifying. I always thought you have to be quarantined when you get shingles…a friend got them a couple of years ago and she mentioned being quarantined. It could be because her husband had received cancer treatment not long prior to her getting shingles (not immediate, but not years either).

          1. Anon369*

            I had shingles at 22- no quarantine ever discussed by my doc (and my live-in BF was immune-compromised).

          2. Joline*

            I had shingles in middle school (grades seven to nine – I can’t remember exactly which grade, just the school). The doctors were rather surprised. But they still had me go to school with it. I suppose the theory at that point was that people that age either already had chicken pox or were still consistently getting exposed to it anyway.

            I did use it to get out of gym class, though.

            1. CA Admin*

              Same here–I got it in 8th grade after my grandmother died (apparently extreme stress can bring it out?) and I still went to school. My neighbor was an RN though, so we caught it early and I was only stuck taking those giant horse pills for a couple of weeks, instead of months.

              1. Joline*

                My mom’s an LPN. :) Mine wasn’t really painful. Only on my back. And only took a couple of weeks. Sounds like we’re rather lucky. I hope I don’t get it again – it sounds unpleasant from people’s discussions here (and other places around the internet).

            2. Cath in Canada*

              Yeah, I got it when I was about 14. I had no idea you could get it so young! Luckily it was a mild case – I went to school, but was allowed to sit out of PE. Which was just fine with me :)

        8. themmases*

          Thank you so much for sharing this! Shingles and chicken pox are very misunderstood and people tend to really overreact when they hear about it. Although shingles can spread varicella zoster, it is actually less contagious than chickenpox and has a fairly brief window of infectivity. Before the rash has blistered and after it has developed crusts, it is not contagious (hope no one was still eating breakfast!). I’ll share a couple of links in a response.

          Just as an example of an appropriate response to shingles, I had a professor this year who had it. This professor is an epidemiologist with an MD, and I took their class because I am training to be an epidemiologist. Many other people in the class worked in health care (like me) or were also doctors (unlike me). My professor made one announcement after their diagnosis in case any pregnant women or people with compromised immune systems were in the room. Their rash was apparently able to be covered by clothing, and they taught the class for the rest of the semester as usual. We were all fine.

          I can’t speak to the health needs of the people with compromised immune systems in OP’s office, but the self-proclaimed and whatever staff person spread this information around germophobe need to mind their own business. It’s her job to practice proper hand hygeine– the best way to avoid spreading or contracting the virus, and it’s nothing fancy– not the responsibility of all of her contacts to volunteer not to go to work. No one in this office should be sharing private medical information about this partner, who hardly spread it around. It sounds like he told one person!

      4. Anon369*

        Actually, you only get shingles if you’ve HAD chickenpox – it’s a reactivation of the virus.

      5. Bend & Snap*

        That’s not true. You can ONLY catch shingles if you’ve had the chicken pox, and the vaccine is only slightly more than 50% effective. So lots of people are at risk, I would imagine.

        1. cuppa*

          I’ve had shingles, and I was told it was the opposite. You can only “catch” it if you haven’t had the chicken pox, and then you get chicken pox, not shingles.
          Mine were on my back and covered, so I was not a huge exposure risk. However, I work with the general public and HR told me to stay home until my blisters scabbed. I ended up being out a week (I didn’t realize I had shingles at first, otherwise I probably would have been out longer).

          1. Bend & Snap*

            Nope. I had chicken pox then shingles. You can’t get shingles if you haven’t had chicken pox.

            1. LBK*

              I think this is a semantic difference – you can only catch the virus from someone else if you haven’t had chicken pox yet, and then what you get is chicken pox because they’re the same virus. Shingles itself isn’t contagious in the sense that you can’t directly get shingles from someone because you only get it if you’ve already had chicken pox and the virus reactivates.

              So if you’re around someone who has shingles and you haven’t had chicken pox, you’re at risk to catch chicken pox from them because that’s how the virus manifests in first-time infectees. If you’ve already had chicken pox, you’re fine – you already have the virus in you, so if you’re going to get shingles it would happen regardless of being around someone else with it.

              1. Nursey nurse*

                Exactly this! The only caveat is that it’s technically possible, although really uncommon, to get chicken pox more than once.

      6. Sans*

        If you haven’t had chicken pox and come in contact with someone with shingles, you’ll get chicken pox – not shingles. it’s the same virus.

        We had this happen in my freshman dorm. I got chicken pox. A friend then got shingles. We had no idea they were related. Her boyfriend then got chicken pox. His roommate got shingles. We started putting two and two together. I felt like Typhoid Mary.

            1. Pennalynn Lott*

              It has now been approved for age 50 and up. No need to wait that extra decade.

            2. April*

              An important consideration for those considering the shingles or chicken pox vaccine is that the vaccines are made utilizing aborted unborn babies. That is the reason that there is a religious objection to these vaccines and others such as the Rubella in the MMR. Research by Seattle scientists show that this (aborted baby DNA etc.) might be what is responsible for issues such as autism.

              It interesting that Merck first made the chicken pox vaccine, i.e. vaccine for a benign childhood disease. Adults used to periodically get a boost from children who had chicken pox. Theses boosts would keep shingles at bay. It used to be that only the very old got shingles, i.e. no longer in contact with children who might have chicken pox. Nowadays younger people are being afflicted with Shingles. Therefore Merck introduced the $hingle$ vaccine, i.e. their way of making more money. Create the problem and then the solution and be paid for both.

                1. Zillah*

                  For those curious:
                  The lead author of the paper April is talking about is woman whose company (a small biotech startup) is in direct competition with the products that she’s denouncing, and there were some serious issues with her methodology and the conclusions she drew.

                  The CDC “whistleblower” went on to say this in the same press release, right after the section April quoted:

                  I want to be absolutely clear that I believe vaccines have saved and continue to save countless lives. I would never suggest that any parent avoid vaccinating children of any race. Vaccines prevent serious diseases, and the risks associated with their administration are vastly outweighed by their individual and societal benefits.

                  Link to articles about both in a follow up comment.

                1. zora*

                  I’ve been trying to leave this alone since it is off-topic, but I just can’t ignore this.

                  Fetal cell lines DO NOT come from aborted fetuses. They come from donated embryos, most often left over from IVF treatments. Stop saying words just to shock people.

                2. zora*

                  Blerg. Above comment was in reply to another comment that has been deleted. Sorry, ignore.

              1. Zillah*

                April, I’m going to assume the best and believe that this is genuinely what you believe. I don’t want to get into a long, drawn out argument about the subject, because it will derail the thread in a way that’s completely unproductive, but I do want to challenge you on one thing that always bothers me when anti-vaccination people bring it up and that I don’t see challenged enough:

                Let’s say vaccines were all proven to significantly raise a person’s likelihood of becoming autistic. They’re not, but let’s say they were.

                Autism is not a death sentence. Neither is ADHD, which is another thing I hear talked about sometimes in the same context. Many, many people with these conditions lead happy, productive lives. I don’t know anyone with either who would rather catch a dangerous and potentially life-threatening disease than have their condition, and I know many people who have autism and/or ADHD. It’s actually super offensive when autism gets talked about as being a greater evil than health complications or death, because it implies that people who do have autism are somehow defective. It’s a super messed up way of looking at human beings.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Whoa, April, my site is not going to be used for this sort of thing. No more on this please — it’s derailing as well as inaccurate.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            My sister and I went one better. She got rubella, and then chickenpox; then I got chickenpox, and then rubella. All within a week. We had a very fetching combination of red and white spots!

            My poor mum had only just gone back to work full time after several years of being a SAHP, and ended up calling her own mum to come and help out!

    2. Jeanne*

      I am immune compromised and I found my self in this situation years ago. At first I panicked as well. Then I did some research. You are not more vulnerable to shingles because you are immune compromised. My coworker stayed home a little over a week while he felt really awful. Then he came back to work. He suffered for another 6 weeks or so, apparently a bad case.

      Encourage each concerned person to call their doctor. I assume you have health insurance. If necessary, offer to pay their copay if they need to go for an appt. They will learn that the panic is misplaced.

      I’m not as sure for those who never had chicken pox or the vaccine ever. Have them do the same, call their doctor. The danger for the immune suppressed people is much greater actually being around anyone who had the vaccine, chicken pox or shingles, less than 2 weeks ago. It is a live virus and sheds through the skin. However, I never know at church or the grocery store if someone had the vaccine yesterday. Proper hand washing helps.

      1. Anonsie*

        Looking in a couple of the most vetted sources for provider recommendations that I have, immunocompromised people are absolutely more at risk and the official recommendation is to keep anyone with active shingles completely away from anyone who may be particularly susceptible– compromised immune systems, pregnant women who do not have an existing immunity, and infants.

        Conversely, there is no recommendation to avoid potentially susceptible people after being immunized. The CDC says there is no documented cases of a person transmitting the virus after getting that vaccine.

    3. MattRest*

      I had to google this. Turns out what I learned as a kid is not what the CDC now says:

      My biggest takeaway is that it’s not contagious to people that already had chicken pox or the vaccine, despite what I “knew.” My brother and I were kept away from my grandmother when she had shingles, even though we already had CP.

    4. Anonathon*

      Another shingles survivor here! (I got it in my mid-20s, which is fairly unusual.) It’s totally horrid and I don’t blame the co-workers for being nervous, but I just want to push back a little on the idea that you need, say, to self-quarantine if you get it.

      Honestly, I think that shingles panic/chaos may be due to those super-creepy PSAs about the shingles virus already being inside you. But as others said, and as the PSA points out, shingles as such isn’t technically contagious. You get it by your past chicken pox case reactivating. If someone never got chicken pox, you can give that to them if you have shingles. But shingles also isn’t like the flu. You can’t sneeze in someone’s direction and give them chicken pox, plus you’re only contagious during a limited period. (Google “Protecting Yourself from Shingles” and NIH.)

      1. KTM*

        Another mid-20s shingles sufferer here… I did some investigating and it seems like our generation is getting shingles more often because of the chicken pox vaccine. Older generations from us got natural immunity-boosters throughout their lifetime with small exposures to chicken pox from others. Younger generations are getting vaccinated so they don’t get chicken pox (and therefore not shingles either). We are unfortunately in the middle ground where we had chicken pox so we can have shingles later in life but we aren’t getting natural boosters from the younger generation. Guess its for the greater good but shingles SUCKS.

        1. Anonathon*

          Huh! That is both interesting and completely sucky. Like most our age, I’d venture, I got chicken pox in the ’80s along with my entire pre-school :)

          1. blackcat*

            I went to a chicken pox party in preschool. I was 4–apparently the “best” age to get it and a kid in my preschool class got it. So one day, they invited all of the other kids over, and we ate cookies licked by the infected kid.

            Ew…. late 80s sensibilities…

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think one thing people are missing that is mentioned in the CDC link is that the virus is only transmissible when the person has a rash with oozing blisters, and typy come into contact with fluid from the blisters.

  4. Daisy*

    Why can’t you ask him to work at home until he is sure he isn’t contiguous? I would rather even give him a few free sick days then harm other employees. I think with shingles isn’t terribly contiguous but why risk it?

    1. MK*

      I think it kind of depends on the OP’s position. This man is one of the partners, but the OP’s role is not stated explicitly. She mentions “my employees”, so she could be the owner, but she might mean members of her team. Anyway, it’s not clear that she has any authority to tell him to stay home or give him leave.

    2. INTP*

      For that matter, why isn’t he voluntarily going home? He created this chaos where a woman has quarantined herself and others are disclosing immunocompromising conditions and fearful for their health. He should stay away long enough to have his doctors appointment and figure out what precautions his coworkers should take, if any.

      1. MK*

        He “created” the situation? The man got a rash (that may or may not be something contagious) and the only mistake he made was telling a staff member who thought it a good idea to inform the entire office about it. There is absolutely no indication that anyone disclosed their medical condition because of this, and he is certainly not responsible for this coworker’s exaggerated and irrational response.

        1. Zillah*

          Yeah, this.

          Look, I am super sympathetic to people with compromised immune systems, and it makes me crazy when people come to work with the flu or something and get other people sick. However, it’s just not feasible to stay home every time you aren’t feeling 100% healthy, especially if you don’t have a great immune system, and “stay home for two months” is not a realistic solution for many people.

          I’m not clear on whether the woman who hasn’t had the chickenpox can get the vaccine or not, but if she can, that’s what she needs to do to protect her child and grandchild, not demand that everyone else cater to her decision. If she can’t, she and the other two immunocompromised people in the office should be a little better informed about what’s really a pretty common virus that’s not super infectious and which they’re likely to encounter in places other than the office. Hysteria? Not the answer.

          1. Anon369*

            Agreed. There are many, many bugs that are floating around all the time that could harm people, immune-compromised or not. We all need to be practical in our application of quarantines, wash our hands a lot, and take care of our health.

          1. Anon369*

            He “created this situation” by telling someone he was sick. Many, many people wouldn’t even have told, and the risk to the others would be the same.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I don’t think nona was taking a position on the legitimacy of INTP’s comments, just clarifying what was said/meant.

          2. MK*

            Getting a rash is not “sick”. One cannot seriously be expected to miss work every time that happens.

        2. jag*

          I had shingles too – at a mission critical time in my office. No way could I stay away. I told my boss and HR (and several coworkers). It’s not super-contagious. It’s slightly contagious. My doctor never suggested I quarantine myself.

          Actually, work brought on the shingles – my doctor said “Oh, I’ll bet you have a lot of stress right now” and he was right.

          1. cuppa*

            My case was stress-induced, too. I was lucky; I only had the rash about two weeks. But I dealt with fatigue for 2-3 months, and had nerve pain for about a year afterwards. No way I could be out of work for all that time, esp. when I wasn’t contagious (without the rash).

          2. KTM*

            For the record, they told me mine was most likely stress-induced at a time when I had no particular stress whatsoever. Good job, good relationship, healthy hobbies and habits. They told me to reduce stress in my life… I’m like – for the next 50 years? She also tried to tell me that I probably had ‘hidden stress’ I wasn’t dealing with. I’m like ok I came for medical advice not a psychology appointment.

          3. jag*

            I’ll add that I had a version of a different disease that kills lots of people around the world and can be contagious – but I was not contagious according to my doctor. My boss asked me to work from home for a week anyway and then check with my doctor, who said “You’re still not contagious – believe me, if you start feeling like you might die, that’s when you’re contagious. You’ll know. You won’t be able to work.”

        3. INTP*

          You are right, I somehow had a massive reading fail and thought that a) he had told several people and it was not one specific person causing an issue and 2) the immune-compromised people came out with the info after they found out about the possible shingles. That will teach me to make comments before I’ve had my tea, lol.

      2. Observer*

        The guy was an idiot for discussing this with someone. But, it’s not his fault that people are responding like idiots as well.

        I see no reason why he or the company should have to suffer to accommodate the germaphobe, and the others are not at risk as long as everyone uses some basic precautions.

        The CDC link that was posted upthread is useful – and written in clear language, so that any layman can understand it.

        1. Zillah*

          I think calling the guy an “idiot” is a little harsh. I think most of us have mentioned things to coworkers that we’d prefer not be broadcast throughout the office.

          1. Observer*

            Fair point. I should have said “even if you think he’s an idiot, it’s not his fault.”

  5. Aussie Teacher*

    Immuno-compromised people or pregnant women (esp if they are in the first trimester and don’t want to tell people) should absolutely not be around people with an infectious disease. If it’s possible for him to work from home, that seems like the best solution. Otherwise, quarantining him in his office (attend meetings via Skype/phone, have normal office conversations via phone/IM etc) would be the next best thing.

    1. Zillah*

      I think that everyone needs to do their due diligence in keeping the people around them healthy and safe, including staying home when they’re ill. However – and I say this as someone with a very poor (though not compromised) immune system – on some level it’s also your responsibility to protect yourself.

      It’s simply not reasonable to quarantine someone in their office for weeks (or even months) for a host of reasons – not least including the need to use the bathroom. While I agree with you in theory, hysteria is not the answer, and all infectious diseases are not created equal. If we were talking about the measles, which is hugely contagious, I would agree. But shingles? Not necessarily.

      1. puddin*

        I never understood the last minute changes like that. Do the people doing that realize how this increases the cost of travel? Change fees for those who booked and higher fees for those who wait ‘knowing’ that changes happen last minute could all be avoided. Don’t tell me to eat crap food I would not spend my own money on to save a travel buck when meeting changes like this can cost thousands of dollars.

        Pet peeve of mine I guess…

      2. fposte*

        And it’s not spread by miasma. Sure, if I were pregnant I’d probably give the guy a wide berth just because, but it’s not like nowhere at work is safe if he’s there.

    2. Jennifer*

      I think there was an Agatha Christie book based off of this sort of thing. The Mirror Crack’d, I believe?

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes! Even though that involved German measles (I think?), it after reading that book as a teenager, the idea of it stuck with me. Since then, I always diligently avoided pregnant women when I believed I had something contagious.

        1. Sara M*

          Yes, German measles. And the book was based on a true story that happened to an actress.

      2. Marcela*

        It’s even more terrible. It’s inspired on the experience of the gorgeous actress Gene Tierney. From Wikipedia:

        In June 1943, while pregnant with Daria, Tierney contracted rubella (German measles), likely from a fan ill with the disease. Daria was born prematurely in Washington, D.C., weighing three pounds, two ounces (1.42 kg) and requiring a total blood transfusion. The rubella caused congenital damage: Daria was deaf, partially blind with cataracts, and severely mentally disabled. She was institutionalized for much of her life. This was partial inspiration for the Agatha Christie novel The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side.

        I remember have reading somewhere that the fan knew she was sick, and went anyway to meet the actress. It is an horrific tale of selfishness.

  6. Chocolate Teapot*

    4. In our office, I spend several weeks wrestling with the calendar to set our meeting dates, as I know people need to travel, and there are a number of hotels close to the office which fill up quickly.

    However, I know of some people who book their flights and accommodation as soon as they have the calendar, which is all well and good, but then Big Boss might decide to add a presentation to the meeting day which means people have to change their travel arrangements. Also, there are often attendees who suddenly decide to come in person.

    Roll on the day when the Tardis becomes standard transport!

  7. AW*

    People who demand information that’s none of their business aren’t entitled to candid answers

    I want this on a t-shirt.

    LW#2 – Is there a reason you don’t want to talk to your employees? It struck me that in wanting to institute a no talking rule, you don’t actually want to have to tell them the new rule but post a sign instead.

    one self-proclaimed “germaphobe”

    Let’s not pretend that phobias aren’t a real thing and if she hasn’t had chicken pox I get why she’s concerned. Her demands are out of line (I don’t know why she thinks you can disclose medical information) but it’s not like her worry is coming from nowhere.

    LW#3, is it a known fact around the office that two people have compromised immune systems? If so, I’m kind of surprised he didn’t ask you to work from home himself but definitely ask him. Maybe he thought he couldn’t ask for that since he isn’t sure he’s sick yet.

    It turns out, according to the plaintiff, my prospective company had hired the plaintiff company to perform work on their behalf and then didn’t pay them enough as per the terms of the contract.

    Key words here are “according to the plaintiff”. I agree that this isn’t something LW#5 should worry about unless it’s part of a pattern for the company.

    1. INTP*

      It’s also possible that someone calls themselves a germophobe to avoid disclosing an immune condition. There are some that one would certainly prefer not to disclose at work (HIV comes to mind) and some people just have weak immune systems and seem to pick up illnesses easily. I’m on a medication for a non-controversial, boring condition that says I should avoid people with colds due to how it weakens my respiratory immune system and calling myself a germophobe has occurred to me as a way to handle potentially awkward situations if I don’t want to get into details.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, but you can’t hide behind privacy and then demand accommodation. Sure, no one should be forced to shake hands with him (and he shouldn’t be offering to shake hands), but if her quarantine is affecting her ability to do her job, she needs doctor/psychologist support for her actions or she should be instructed to take a personal day if she can’t function normally.

  8. Matt*

    #4: do you absolutely have to attend those meetings / trainings / whatever? What if you request days off early, let’s say, 3-6 months in advance, do they get approved and then later revoked, or are you told frankly that you aren’t approved any vacation earlier because trainings might come up?

    At my place, if I have a vacation approved, it won’t easily get revoked, certainly not by meetings or trainings (for the latter most of the time there are more dates available, and they will book me on a later date if I happen to be on vacation). The only thing that really endangers my private plans are political elections coming up on short notice because government coalitions break up early. I work at the IT department of my city’s government, am responsible for the election software as a developer and absolutely have to be there on election day – usually we know far in advance when those take place but whe had one on two months notice and this forced me to abandon a booked travel-with-concert-tickets … blaaargh. I feel with you.

    1. MK*

      I don’t think the OP is talking about the travel disrupting her vacation, but her plans in general; she scheduled activities on the assumption that she would be home.

    2. jhhj*

      I also wonder what would happen if you said you couldn’t go X night because you had [thing you prepaid for]. As long as this isn’t every single time, I assume that most companies know that sometimes you have reasons you can’t leave town.

      1. MK*

        I don’t think refusing to do it would come across well, but you could discuss just how necessary your presence is. But even then, it would depend. If it was a scheduled summer activity for your kid or the annual weekend trip of your hiking club or some very expensive once-in-a-lifetime event, I think it would be fine. But if it was just a theatre play you bought tickets to, no.

  9. Graciosa*

    Regarding #4, what’s reasonable depends a lot on the industry, company, and specific function. That said, demanding a full quarter’s notice for internal meetings seems excessive to me, and I don’t think it would have been treated as a reasonable request in any of the companies I’ve worked in – although yours may differ. The issues mentioned in your letter sound like the same problems everyone else works around.

    If an employee came to me with this request, I would be very clear that it wasn’t going to be able to do this. I do let people know when I do – but even internal meetings just aren’t going to be consistently set that rigidly that far in advance. Yes, there are a few predictable ones that are set at the beginning of the year, but they’re in the minority.

    If extended notice of all meetings is something you need as an employee, you may need to find a company that is likely to do a good job creating (and sticking to) an annual or quarter-in-advance calendar.

    1. Graciosa*

      Seeing Matt’s note above, I should add that I don’t think there would be any problem at all refusing to give up actual approved vacation time (which is routinely approved however far in advance the employee submits it).

      Honestly, it would never occur to me even to ask. Internal meetings are work events, even if located in another city. People who aren’t working at that time just don’t go. If we waited to take vacation until nothing was happening at work, we’d never get to take it.

      Advance plans could mean a lot of things that don’t require leaving town, so I didn’t assume vacation was involved – mea culpa if vacation travel was intended.

      1. Matt*

        This. Thanks for clarifying this – however I’d always request vacation as early as possible if I have a major private event coming up, even if it’s in my home town and doesn’t involve travel. Of course I know that I’m a spoilt European with five weeks of vacation required by law and usually can afford to take a day off here and a day off there, what might not be the case in the US …

      2. MK*

        However, refusing to change your travel plans for any reason can backfire. In one case I know the company stopped approving vacation time off that was too far in advance.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      Totally. I read the post and thought, “If I got a month’s notice when I need to travel, I’d be delighted to get so much!”

      I think instead of asking for more notice, OP should either make plans and let the chips fall where they may and devise workarounds wherever possible or tell the boss she has alternate plans (if conflicts don’t happen often); or, if conflicts happen more than a couple of times a year, she should ask the boss, “I’ve noticed we have a lot of travel on relatively short notice. How should we handle this to avoid conflicts?” Depending on the company culture, the boss may say, “Of course you should make plans, you can’t put your whole life on hold,” or “You can miss retreats, but never training meetings.”

      But, if there’s a conflict more than a couple of times a year, I would guess that OP’s company simply has a requirement for travel on (not really all that) short notice. And OP needs to decide whether that’s a deal breaker.

    3. Ethyl*

      Yep. In my previous industry (environmental consulting), it wasn’t unusual to get a call on Friday about a week-long or longer out of town job starting on Monday. And once you got there there was no guarantee that it would be only a week — there were plenty of projects that just took way longer than anticipated and we didn’t know until Friday afternoon if we’d be coming back Monday. A month notice for a work trip of known, limited duration would have been a godsend!

      1. Clever Name*

        Dude, seriously. I’m an environmental consultant, and I’m elated if I have a week’s notice for fieldwork requiring travel.

  10. Vicki*

    FYI, the Shingles c=vaccine has now been approved by the FDA for people aged 50 and up.

    And germaphobe Gramdma-to-be should get the chickenpox vaccine. I got chickenpox as an adult from the mother of a child with chickenpox.

    1. Aussie Teacher*

      Exactly. As I understand it (did a quick google), if an adult has already had chicken pox as a child, shingles is more irritating than anything else. But if another adult who hasn’t had chicken pox is exposed to shingles, they can get quite sick having chicken pox as an adult (being exposed to shingles virus if you’ve never had chicken pox gives you chicken pox, not shingles). And if you are pregnant and haven’t had chicken pox before, being exposed to shingles can be serious and “requires urgent medical attention,” according to an Aussie state govt website. I know that pregnancy wasn’t mentioned by the OP as being present in the office, but not everyone is going to announce when they are trying or during the first trimester, and you want to take these things seriously. (Ie someone in the office could be exposed and take the shingles virus home to his pregnant wife).

      1. Duke*

        I had chickenpox as a child and shingles as a 35 year old adult. The shingles virus was the worst pain (on the right upper side of my face and right eye) I’ve ever felt in my life. It took three weeks of bed rest and multiple medications to recover. (And I’ve felt quite a bit of pain over the years–multiple ovarian cysts, kidney stones, scoliosis complications, etc.) It took several days for the blisters to appear and I only ever had a few blisters anyway, so at first the doctors didn’t know how to treat me. In trying to treat the pain, I was initially given a dose of dilaudid and 30 minutes later a dose of fentanyl. Neither had an effect on the pain. I wound up taking a daily mixture of anti-seizure medication for the nerve pain, Percocet, and a sleeping pill, with a onetime dose of a $300 (after insurance) anti-viral to get the shingles out of my eye. Unfortunately, having shingles caused mild nerve damage to the trigeminal branch of nerves, resulting in chronic migraines even though I’d never had headaches before. So not fun!!! Thankfully, not everyone has this response to shingles–most people stop hurting once they blister significantly and some blister immediately without nerve pain, but there are plenty of others who have terrible nerve pain that you wouldn’t wish on anyone.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I never had chicken pox as a child and caught it from my own children. (This was before the chicken pox vaccine was a thing, in my defense, although it had come out about two years prior and if I’d been proactive, we all would have been vaccinated so: not neglectful mother but in the end, stupid one.)

        Anyway: adult chicken pox is a big deal. I was so freaked out when my sons got pox, I called the CDC, true story. This was before a ton of info about Everything In Life was on the internet.

        I did what the CDC told me to do, which was make a proactive appointment with my doctor, before I came down with it. The doctor gave me a prescription in advance and within 1 hour of seeing my first pox, I had the prescription filled and the spread stopped. (It was so weird! The first pox was on my chest and the pox were sweeping up and literally stopped at my neck so you could see the line where the med kicked in and stopped it.)

        Very effective med.

        Can’t speak to the shingles though, thank heavens for that.

        Point is: everybody in this situation who is worried, call your doctor and get the right info. Or the CDC if you’re like me.

        1. GigglyPuff*

          Until reading these comments, had no idea there was a chickenpox vaccine…The More You Know ;)

          1. Bend & Snap*

            I had two rounds of pox as a kid! My daughter is vaccinated and I hope she never catches it.

        2. Jean (aka, for this post, The Frustrated Cartoonist)*

          >I called the CDC,, true story.
          I love it! I’m imagining some random telephone-answering CDC employee wanting to do an eye roll while bellowing “Lady, calling us about the chicken pox is like using an atom bomb on a housefly!”
          (Of course, as long as there’s no video component to the telephone call, it is safe to roll one’s eyes without offending the other party.)

          I’m also imagining many people who work at Official Sources of Information looking quizzically at their telephones while thinking, “and WHO is going to be calling when YOU next ring?!”

          Maybe I just have a strange sense of humor.

          1. NotMyRealName*

            Adult chicken pox is no joke. About 10% of adults who contract chicken pox get varicellar pneumonia, which can be fatal.

            1. TootsNYC*

              and if anyone among those 10% of adults are pregnant women, they have a 40% chance of dying.

              So I don’t think people are being over-the-top to react this way, especially not the pregnant woman. She *can’t* get a vaccine, and the dangers to her child and to her are genuine. The *risks* might be lower than her fear makes her think.

              But just go talk to the guy and find out what’s up. Where’s the rash? Can he cut down on how much stuff he touches around the office?

              1. Zillah*

                But as I understand it, the pregnant woman doesn’t even work at the office! It’s her mother/partner’s mother who works there and is getting so hysterical she’s refusing to leave her office. It’s not clear whether she can get the vaccine or not, but regardless, someone older who’s never had chicken pox should be more aware than this – and if she can get the vaccine, wtf.

              2. Nursey nurse*

                Getting chicken pox when you are pregnant can be dangerous to both you and the fetus. But the response here should really be to tell Grandma to have her pregnant daughter call her OB and ask about the risks rather than have Grandma insist that the guy who might have shingles stay in his office forever.

          2. Anonsie*

            Not sure about when Wakeen made the call, but the CDC does have public info lines for you to ask questions like that now.

            But I am secretly hoping that wasn’t the case at the time and they just called some general CDC number, leading to some poor receptionist setting the phone on their chest and whispering to a coworker “where do I connect someone with chicken pox?”

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*


              Honestly, they treated it as routine question and gave me great info. It was very helpful because I pulled the “CDC TOLD ME I NEED A DOCTOR’S APPT NOW” card to get in to the doctor when the receptionist was baffled that I was asking for an appointment before I had the pox and the “CDC TOLD ME TO TELL YOU TO WRITE ME A SCRIPT FOR (whatever that med was) IN ADVANCE” with the doctor (who was a little head patting about it but screw him)

              My husband thought I was way over the top to call the CDC but, as far as I was concerned, I had biological weapons in the form of small children in my house.

              It worked!

              1. Anonsie*

                I love it. “You gonna argue with the CRC bruh? Are you?”

                I’ve called their public info lines before, they are super helpful and awesome. One day when I grow up I want to work for the CDC *wistful sigh* Hospital infectious disease is cool and all but I bet their epidemiologists see way more interesting stuff.

      3. MsChanandlerBong*

        My mother has had shingles three times, and she was in excruciating pain every time–and she had chickenpox as a child. She said it felt like someone was burning her with hot fireplace pokers.

        1. Nashira*

          Yeah, neuropathic type pain is pretty horrific. I’m praying I never get shingles since I already have neuropathy. Ugh.

      4. jag*

        “if an adult has already had chicken pox as a child, shingles is more irritating than anything else”

        For me it was irritating, but I have a rather high tolerance to physical pain. For some people it is excruciatingly painful.

    2. Toad*

      Tbh you tell some people about vaccines these days that they can get voluntarily to prevent getting them they talk on and on about how they’d much rather get the deadly disease than get vaccinated.

      1. Zillah*

        Ugh, seriously.

        Anti-vaccination people: The nineteenth century called. It wants the medical technology that you’re so carelessly tossing aside, because this stuff is serious business.

    3. KTM*

      My doctor told me after I had shingles to wait a year and then get the shingles vaccine even though I am well under 50. Not sure if they publicize that or how effective it might be against a second iteration, but thought I’d mention it.

    4. Kerry (Like the County in Ireland)*

      Not just a chickenpox vaccine–she absolutely should also get a pertussis booster, and maybe a measles and mumps booster too.

      1. fposte*

        Good point–she’s probably pre-mumps vaccine, too. I was, and I only updated that last year when there were mumps going around campus.

  11. Stephanie*

    #2: OP, are you worried about safety or productivity? I agree with everyone else that adults aren’t going to respond well to not be able to chit chat. Even in my most miserable, low-wage jobs, I could still talk to other coworkers. If you are worried about one of those things, it’d be better to warn about the safety implications of being distracted or focus on productivity (and address those who aren’t productive) than to have a blanket ban.

    1. Cheesecake*

      Excessive chit chat is not the sole root of the problems; it is the consequence because those colleagues are not engaged enough in work/not interested/ do not understand safety implications etc. And this is so easy to solve: talk to those people directly and go on with stronger measures if necessary. It seems like OP is a new manager, because we all know if this ban really worked, it would be introduced everywhere.

      1. De Minimis*

        We used to have a talking ban at a previous job, but we were all doing data entry at workstations and the argument was we might distract other people or ourselves.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Of course a no talking rule also makes it harder to discuss working conditions or unionize.

          1. De Minimis*

            It was just when actually working on the floor, you were free to talk on breaks [which were hourly] or any other time. We already were unionized, the union I guess either didn’t try and fight it or it was determined it was within the bounds of the contract. I know I got called into the office about it once and had the union rep with me.

    2. Harper*

      Yes, I agree. I’ve seen this done again and again, though — institute some blanket, overly restrictive policy instead of addressing the employees who are actually the problem (or addressing the actual, underlying cause). I don’t get that. You end up making good employees angry and in my experience, the ones that were causing the issue (talking too much, etc) continue to do what they were doing. Just be direct!

  12. I see a man sitting in a chair, and the chair is*

    #1: I’m all for truth and honesty, but sometimes it mystifies me why people get hung up about telling a lie. It’s not like one of the 10 Commandments is “Thou shalt not lie.” Nosey people don’t have any special entitlement to the truth.

    WRT OP1, though, I sorta get the idea that the issue isn’t so much telling a lie, as it is telling a *believable* lie. I could be wrong, but given the circumstances, OP1’s boss may not believe a simple “no”.

    So I’ve been pondering alternative answers. I’m not sure any of these are a good idea, but if boss asks “Are you going to apply for that position?”, what about:

    – “I don’t know. What do you think I should do?”
    – “What would *you* do?”
    – “I don’t know. How would you feel about it if I applied? It’s a rare opportunity / pays better / a significant career boost.” (This response is, in effect, striking back with complete and utter honesty).

    I’m just brainstorming here. If she’s truly evil, she might fire you for any of these responses. Then again – would that really be such a bad thing?

    1. Editrix*

      I don’t see any reason to bring religion into it — up to the OP whether he/she wants to lie or not, or for which reasons — but one of the ten commandments does prohibit lying! It’s the 8th or 9th, depending on your religion.

      1. Brightwanderer*

        Not quite – it prohibits “false witness”, i.e. lying to get someone else in trouble or hide your own guilt in a court of law. No word on lying about your intentions to someone who would use your honesty to do you harm.

        1. Allison*

          To be fair, I’m no Bible expert but I think most religious leaders of the Judeo-Christian persuasion (and a few Pagan ones as well) would condemn most lying. White lies, sure, and lies to protect yourself are fine. But lying, especially lying that’s tied to other sins and harmful behaviors, is generally frowned upon from a spiritual perspective.

          Then again, seems like a lot of churches love to help spread medically and scientifically inaccurate information, so what do I know?

    2. Lisa*

      lol, I love these adding this one

      – “Why? (look serious, lean in, and whisper) Do you think I should? (When someone moves nearby, lean back) I’ll look at it later, thanks for the heads up that I should be looking. I wicked appreciate you looking out for me.” (Get up, leave manager bewildered).

        1. Happy Lurker*

          Love all of them. I think I need a place to keep all my favorite AAM-isms. There are just so many!

          1. Lisa*

            Best part is when manager tries to clarify that they don’t want OP to leave. OP can be like ‘ok… I understand’ (wink and walk away).

    3. Raindrop*

      Hi there, I’m the OP. I appreciate your brainstorming! I think the core issue is that the lie might not be believable–my boss knows this soon-to-be-ED is someone I look up to, she knows that I sometimes have lunch with her, etc. The dots seem pretty easy to connect. However, my boss would also potentially interpret an answer like “What do you think I should do?” as flippant or an affront–of course she thinks I should stay. And naturally, I’d prefer not to be fired. Interesting ideas, though. Definitely food for thought.

      1. I see a man sitting in a chair, and the chair is*

        Yeah – there may be no good way to handle this. But I wonder – are there aspects of the new job that are so amazingly awesome (2x the salary, 12 weeks of vacation every year, use of company car and jet, etc) that if you layed them out, even your boss would think you were insane not to take the job? Just a thought.

        But the ED job sounds like it would be really good for you. You may have to simply bite the bullet and deal with whatever nastiness your boss spews, and keep your eye on the newer, better, shinier job in your future.

  13. Panda Bandit*

    OP#1- I know she’d see my departure after only a year or so of working for her as ungrateful

    Manipulative bosses will see a departure after 20 years as ungrateful. You’ve got to do what’s right for you. Apply for this other job and protect yourself.

    1. NJ anon*

      Just say “no.” If op1’s mentor is the one encouraging her to apply, she shouldn’t have to worry about a reference from bad boss.

    2. puddin*

      I agree. My first thought when I read this statement from the OP was, “So what?” If this boss is not someone you respect or treats you without dignity, his/her opinion is of little consequence.

      Yes you want a descent reference, but do not sell your career short. Besides, if you are moving to Company B, they will not need a reference from this boss and hopefully you are at B long enough for A to be a distant memory if/when you move from B.

    3. neverjaunty*

      Right. Also, as Senior Blogger a Green has pointed out, this attitude that you owe your employer “gratitude” for having a job is nonsense. It’s a business relationship. They’re not doing you a favor.

      1. Raindrop*

        Thanks. I’m the OP. I totally agree that I don’t owe my boss or the organization anything other than my hard work while I’m employed there. I just know that argument is something I’ll have to contend with.

        1. zora*

          but the key is you don’t have to contend with the argument. Ignore it. I know it’s hard, but the best thing I did for myself was learn the stoneface strategy for dealing with ridiculous ‘arguments’ like this that are completely ridiculous and not my problem.

          1. Lili*

            I would reply with a vague “Hard to say at this stage, hard to say…”. End of the conversation. And this would not be even a lie!

          2. neverjaunty*

            Exactly this. As a famous political PR guy once said, you always have to respond to the question but that doesn’t mean you have to answer the question.

            I like the “Nevertheless…” or “Even so…” method, where you just repeat yourself but put “nevertheless” on the front of the sentence. That’s a social signal that you’ve heard and understood what the other person is saying, but doesn’t actually require you to explain yourself or in any way engage with their nonsense.

    4. zora*

      Yeah, this was hard for me to get my head around as a nonprofit person, but even nonprofit employers are not putting me first, I have to put myself first. I only finally got it when in the middle of leaving an org under contentious circumstances, my supervisor just straight out said: “zora, you’ve got to watch your own a$$. You’re the only one who can do that.” I still can be a great activist and put the mission first a lot of the time, but I have to make sure I am watching my own back, too. And if a nonprofit as a whole or a specific manager is treating you like crap, you need to learn how to say ‘f–k ’em’ and take care of yourself. It doesn’t mean you care about the mission any less. In fact, you are going to find a place where you can give more to the mission you care about, because you are not burned out and depressed by the job! It feels selfish at first, but really, learn this now. No one else is putting you first, you have to do it.

    5. Buu*

      Yes, also is it appropriate to talk to mentor about this? Since they’d be referring you, you may not need a reference.

  14. Lillian Wight*

    #5 Lawsuit in Nova Scotia: I’m a legal assistant in Alberta – (small world notification: I’m originally from the Annapolis Valley!) and you have no need to be concerned here. For some corporations, these cases are ‘routine’ due to the nature of their business. They’re usually settled out of court and such a suit doesn’t mean your interviewing company is entirely to blame for the situation. It’s as Alison said: unless it’s a suit about employee relations, it’s very unlikely to affect you at all.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Yeah, I was going to say that generally, businesses being involved in lawsuits is NBD. A suit for non-payment can mean anything, and usually means that it was a contract dispute. A well run, reputable business will find itself in lawsuits now and again. It’s just what happens. (And lawyers are grateful for this!)

    2. Claire*

      Love seeing another Nova Scotian on AAM!! Living in QC but moving back to Halifax in August!

    3. Book Person*

      So rare to see the Annapolis Valley pop up anywhere on the internet–I lived in Greenwood for a few years; now I’m “from away.”

    1. Sunshine Brite*

      I hate that. I’ve worked with food and people sick before because there’s no one to cover and supervisors aren’t willing or able to step up and I couldn’t find coworkers on short notice.

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        One of my not shining work moments was to have my dad call my manager to try and figure out what she was talking about because I was too foggy to comprehend what she was saying when I got sidelined by a flu with fever. It was fast food and I naively was trying to call in but I needed to try and call everyone on the list that she gave me. I missed the one person she was working with and she was pissed that I wasn’t trying very hard to contact everyone. I could barely see straight, I didn’t know where I was at on the list. Next time around I tried to get off I got in trouble for contacting some people twice because I was trying to be thorough. It felt like I couldn’t win.

        1. Allison*

          Gah I hated jobs like that, where you had to personally contact people you barely knew and ask them to cover your shift. I get that in jobs like that, adequate coverage is necessary, but it’s 2015, it’s time for more companies to adopt the online swap board. I had a security job where if you couldn’t (or just didn’t want to) work your shift, you put it up for grabs on this web app we all used and someone else could claim it. Of course, if no one took your shift, you were SOL.

          OR, if the store would really be screwed over if one person called out, it may be time to instate on-call shifts.

        2. Graciosa*

          I know that there are industries where this is common, but I find it mind-boggling.

          It places responsibility for managing the store (staffing in this case) on the employees.

          I feel strongly that responsibility belongs with the manager – who gets paid to manage!

          1. Xarcady*

            It stinks for the employee. But in some industries–retail and fast food come to mind–the incidence of call-outs at the last minute is pretty high, and the manager would spend the majority of their time calling employees, begging someone, anyone, to come in right now and work. And with caller ID, most of the employees will simply not answer their phones.

            I think making the employee do all the calling was a hopeful way of having fewer call-outs–making it a bit more difficult to just blow off your shift. I don’t think it works very well in practice.

            My retail job has the on-line scheduling where you can put shifts up for grabs. If you do it as soon as the new schedule is posted, usually someone will take your shift for the extra hours. But if no one does, then you have to call out.

            And since the on-line scheduling keeps staffing as lean as possible, having one call-out messes up staffing for the entire store, and the managers are frantically calling anyone and everyone to get enough people on the floor. We’ve had shifts where the entire department store has 5 employees on the floor, where there should be 9 or 10. And the shoplifters have a field day, because there aren’t enough staff to see what’s going on.

            1. jhhj*

              Given that retail employers know that people often skip shifts, the lean scheduling is a choice they make — they’ve decided that loss due to theft is less than paying employees more.

              1. Allison*

                If the store or restaurant is part of a corporate chain, corporate usually dictates how many hours can be doled out each week, which is usually just barely enough to cover the store at any given times.

                1. jhhj*

                  Which is why I said employer, not manager. Corporate is making the decision that theft is less expensive than employees.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            In food and retail, management pay is often not that much more than employee pay. One place I worked only paid the assistant managers a quarter more an hour, yet they were responsible for doing everything the regular manager did when she wasn’t in.

        3. Michele*

          Fast food managers are the worst. They take that tiny bit of power and try to use it to bully employees with unreasonable demands. They set it up so you can’t win. It should be like every other job–when you are sick, you call in once, and the manager is responsible for finding someone to cover for you. Plus, in most states, it is illegal for someone who is sick to work around food.

  15. Cheesecake*

    OP #2, you are trying to heal a finger by amputating the arm. You can’t enforce something for 100 people just because you don’t want to deal with 2.

    Oh, and keep in mind your chitchat ban will include yourself so you will have to think 5x before saying anything not work-related as, you know, you are the boss who sets great example.

    1. Harper*

      I was trying to say that above, but you put it much more succinctly. Exactly. Just deal with the people who are causing the issue.

    2. Michele*

      I used to have a boss who was on a total power trip. Her default mode was anger, and she would get mad if people had conversations about work-related things, such as troubleshooting a problem. Of course, she was the queen of three-hour lunches and spent half the day either talking to her daughter or telling everyone about her grandchildren.

    3. Happy Lurker*

      Agree that the problem offenders need to be dealt with.

      The first thing I thought of when I read this question was my own experience at the deli department of my local grocery store. The 2 people behind the deli counter were talking so much that they totally got my order wrong…like I asked for turkey, got ham, and was charged for the more expensive turkey. I was totally annoyed because the workers were so involved in their conversation it was like work (and my order) was a background. When I went to return it and spoke with someone I knew I found out the woman who got my order wrong for chatting was the new deli manager. I was fuming! and I got my money back too.
      But that is the kind of situation I assume the OP is talking about. There is a situation that is out of hand and OP is getting frustrated. Good luck OP.

  16. Paula*

    “I would like to post something in our plant saying “Personal conversation with coworkers during work hours is not permitted.” However, my plant is unionized and anything we post is always felt to be wrong.”

    That sign would be inappropriate in any environment – don’t blame the union or union members for thinking that it’s wrong. As others have said — its wrong because it’s a ridiculous thing to request, and impossible to enforce.

    Do what Alison said – actually manage the employees who need help with productivity. This ridiculous sign is not the answer to any of your problems.

    1. RMRIC0*

      That’s the kind of letter that makes you want to peer down the rabbit hole to the real issues of what’s going on. Like if some people aren’t doing their jobs and your first reaction is to post up a sign outlawing personal conversation, maybe you should stop and reevaluate your career? Maybe your first reaction should be to tell those two people to get to work?

      1. zora*

        seerrriously, I am dying to break out the popcorn and get the whole story on this one.

  17. Not Today Satan*

    About a week into my last job, towards the end of the day my coworker and I were chatting and laughing quietly in our private office. (It wasn’t even a “personal” conversation because we were just talking about work, jovially.) A partner stormed in and told us to “PRETEND THERE’S A WALL” between us and not talk.

    He only made eye contact with my coworker as he said it, and if he had looked at me I honestly probably would have told him to screw himself (and quit).

    OP2, if you post that sign I can pretty much guarantee the following will happen: They will continue to talk (are you going to fire your entire staff?), they will feel infantilized and despise you, and since they feel they get no respect from management they will do the very bare minimum that they have to do without getting fired. Trust me–very, very few people take pride in their work and go above and beyond at jobs that don’t treat you like an adult.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, that sign about “no talking” is going to backfire bigtime.

      And the people who do work conscientiously really hate it when they get scolded or penalized because of some “group speak” thing. You know who is talking too much–their manager should just go to them and say, “You are talking to other people too much–it’s distracting them, and it makes me think you aren’t paying attention to your job, which is what we’re paying you for. You need to stop having personal conversations at work. That’s what break time and after hours are for.”

      I personally wouldn’t even worry so much about whether their work is getting done in any measurable way. Managers are entitled to say, “This is the atmosphere we want here, and your actions are working against then, so you need to change your actions.”

  18. Florida*

    #2 – I visited a sweat shop in China for graduate school research. This factory, which made computer monitors, had people lined up doing work that could easily have been done my machine. In China, people costs less than machines. Signs were posted all over that factory that said, “No talk. Just work.” It was beyond depressing. (I wish I could post a photo in the comments.)
    OP, if you treat your employees like kindergarteners who are not allowed to talk in line, don’t be surprised when they act like kindergarteners.
    If you have a few employees who are not productive because of their excessive chatting, deal with that. Don’t punish the whole class.
    The morale problems you create by creating a “no talk, just work” policy will be worse for productivity than any chatter that is going on in the office. I am worried about your employees. Unless you want your office to feel like a sweat shop, please reconsider this policy.

  19. Juli G.*

    OP2, I hope you’ll consider this.

    I was hired for a newly forming team that was 60% focused on a daily task. Our manager did a presentation to the director with the breakdown of how our 40 hours would be spent.

    The director sent her back because every hour was accounted for. He told her we needed at least 4 hours a week unaccounted for – for personal conversations to build relationships with process partners or just because, to be able to check CNN if a celebrity dies, to snag a cupcake if someone puts out free food and to just be humans.

    Just SAYING that was a huge morale booster for my teammates and me!

    1. TootsNYC*

      I’ll join in: Wow!

      That’s amazing. Well, maybe not amazing; I’ve worked with people who would have said this, and I probably would say it as well. I might even put it higher–an hour a day if it’s 40 hours; 45 minutes a day if it’s a 35-hour week.

    2. Meg Murry*

      It also makes good business sense, because if everyone is extended 100% and then there is an emergency that comes up, the only way to cover it is with overtime. It also means that there is no room for people to pick up extras when other people are on vacation or out sick as well.

      Everyone extended to 100% all the time for regularly scheduled work means completely burnt out employees anytime something happens out of the ordinary.

    3. Algae*

      I had a boss that said something similar – he wanted us to be staffed for 80% productivity. It gives people downtime to think/recharge/chat with people and gives time for stretch projects. I always that that was brilliant.

    4. zora*

      “to be humans”???!!?? What?! This director actually thinks the people he hires are humans?! What a Novel Concept! Maybe he could spread the word to the rest of the world???

  20. AvonLady Barksdale*

    I had shingles about 10 years ago, in my mid-20s. When I finally discovered what it was– it started as a large rash on my back that I thought was eczema– my doctor told me that the only person who really needed to know was my boyfriend at the time. Otherwise, localized shingles is extremely difficult to transmit. Someone would have had to rub my naked back with an open wound or something. No one in my work or social circles contracted shingles or chicken pox from me, and apparently I’d had it for at least a week before it was diagnosed (by my physician mother who only works with cancer and AIDS patients, so she FREAKED THE EFF OUT when she saw it, not realizing that shingles is not uncommon in healthy adults).

    That said, I started on anti-virals right away (remember Valtrex commercials, about genital herpes? Same drug, just more of it, which is OMG SO AWESOME when you’re young and single in the city) and asked my team at work about their chicken pox status (they’d all had it as children). So as a patient, it’s important to exercise caution. However, the fact that I had shingles in the first place was difficult and even embarrassing, people tend to over-react, and it’s not hard to end up feeling like a leper. If someone had been concerned about being around me, I would have appreciated a, “Hey, I’m immunocompromised, I’m gonna steer clear for a while,” as opposed to panic.

    A friend of mine had terrible shingles that spread to her face and head. She was on all kinds of anti-virals and steroids and she was terribly uncomfortable but not contagious by the time she was back in public. A woman we know walked right up to her, peered in her face, and said, “That better not be contagious.” Way to be sensitive, lady.

    Besides all of this, fun fact: I actually had shingles twice. Same place. A textbook case the first time around (perfect rhombus-shaped rash, go me), but apparently I didn’t catch it early enough and only managed to make the virus dormant again. The next time it happened, two years later, I felt a bump on my back, my skin hurt, and I ran straight to the dermatologist. Everyone was baffled, but as it turns out, that’s not unheard of, it’s just not common.

    1. NickelandDime*

      See my comment above. I’ve had it twice and I just turned 40. People think shingles is an old person’s disease. Not! And it always shocks me that people get all panicky about things like this, but don’t seem to be concerned about eating fast food every day, smoking, binge drinking, or having unprotected sex.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Not sure that “people need to be sweepingly judgy about different things” is the message you meant to convey?

    2. Colette*

      Yeah, I had shingles in university. It’s painful but as I understand the big issue is when it affects your eyes. Like you, it was on my back and didn’t spread to anyone else.

    3. Bend & Snap*

      I had it in college but it was just a small patch on my back. Still miserable.

      My FIL had it for SEVEN MONTHS. Poor man.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      A woman we know walked right up to her, peered in her face, and said, “That better not be contagious.”

      I would have told her it was leprosy. But then, I’m evil like that.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I probably would have said, “Only to those who get right into my face!” and smiled sweetly.

        The nerve of some people.

    5. Mimmy*

      Now you have me wondering if I’ve had shingles and not know it. I tend to get horrible rashes, sometimes over large areas of my body (about 10 years ago, it was almost head to toe), and would last for several weeks. Each time, we never could pinpoint the cause. It’d always start as one or two small bumps similar to a mosquito bite, then would spread pretty quickly. There was never any pain, but oh my GOD do they itch!!!! Yes, I always went to my primary physician, who’d prescribe cortisone creams and, on a couple of occasions, steroids.

      Probably not, but next time, I’m going right to a dermatologist, not my primary.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Could be an allergic reaction to something. I found out I was allergic to grass after getting treated 2 straight summers for poison ivy with no success.

      2. cuppa*

        Mine looked like mosquito bites at first, too (which is why I didn’t go to the doctor), but the key difference for mine was that they didn’t itch at all, they just hurt.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          I get that when I eat Swedish fish or Twizzlers. Pretty sure I am mildly allergic to the dye.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Your primary can do the same test as your derm, but chances are, if it were shingles, your primary would know right away. The bumps turn into blisters fairly quickly and have a particular look.

        Sounds to me like you get hives from something. I Am Not A Doctor, though!

      4. Bend & Snap*

        Shingles really hurt! You would know, I think. It’s not like an allergic rash.

        1. Mimmy*

          Thanks everybody! I kinda freaked out there for a second because I remember one time I had the rash on/near my wrist, and a coworker said it looked like shingles. But you guys are right…probably some extreme reaction to something in our yard or hedges.

    6. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I had it in college too, back in the early 90’s before anybody really talked about shingles. I only found out what it was when I went for a physical. I’d had the rash for weeks, fortunately it was a very mild case and didn’t really hurt.

  21. Merry and Bright*

    In my experience, if managers think someone is chatting too much in the office they will break it up by asking for an update on a task, or coming up with an ‘urgent’ request.

    But mostly it’s not a problem if work gets done on time.

  22. Eliza Jane*

    #2, I like to call policies like the one you’re considering “corporate conflict avoidance.” You have a problem with a few people. The mature, adult thing to do is sit down with those people and explain that their behavior is problematic. A manager’s job is to do this for all of their people — tell them what needs to be improved and how to do it and what the standards are.

    But those conversations suck, and no one likes them. It’s a lot less uncomfortable to say, “Hey, can we fix this with a policy that we can just post on a wall, removing the need for awkward one-on-one talks about people’s shortcomings as employees?” So you dodge the hard conversation by making a new rule, and then managers can say, “Hey, it’s not me judging you! It’s just A RULE.” And it’s a little easier for them.

    But the splash damage is huge, because every employee is hurt by it. It’s like burning your house down to deal with the spider problem. Dealing with the spiders is terrifying and will take time and effort. Burning the house down is fast and will definitely kill the spiders. But you’re not actually better off at the end of it.

    I would honestly say that you are better off not posting the rule, even IF no one will “manager up” and talk to the problem employees. A few problem employees are not as big an issue as a workplace full of people who hate you. But the right answer is to talk to the problem employees 1-on-1.

    1. Juli G.*


      You know, I just had someone in my office looking for a law or rule to email an employee instead of managing them. It’s incredibly frustrating.

    2. Florida*

      Excellent analogy with the house and spider.

      You are also so right when you say that a few problem employees are nothing compared to an office of people who hate you.

    3. Graciosa*

      I love the phrase “manager up.”

      Yes, dealing with this stuff directly is the JOB.

    4. alter_ego*

      I will say that when my house had brown recluses, burning it down was an option I strongly considered.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Yes, I agree that the spider analogy has problems because burning down the house MAY in fact be the rational solution :/

    5. MegEB*

      Setting your entire house on fire is a perfectly appropriate reaction for spiders.

    6. Marcela*

      After my husband discovered a brown recluse next to our bed, one of the options I seriously comsidered was to get a flamethrower. Sadly, as we are renting, I could only get several gallons of insect killer and spend a week spraying my home.

  23. Eliza Jane*

    #4, this is probably just a cultural mismatch, but the idea of weeks of warning for travel seems like an impossible dream for me. I’m used to a corporate culture where you’re lucky to get one week. I once was told at 2PM on a Thursday that I had a international flight at 8PM that night. I had to race home to pack for a trip of a week and a half and slept on the plane for a noon meeting the next day. For domestic trips, we’d typically nail down the dates during the week before the trip. International trips we usually had more like 2 weeks of warning, but as I said, I have had several go off with just a day or two of notice.

    1. Cheesecake*

      We had a rule that a business trip should be organized at least 2 weeks in advance. But this was in order to save some costs of ordering your plane ticket the evening before. Of course stuff happened all the time, but i believe 2 weeks is ok. Anything more than that seems questionable for me – planning way in advance there is a chance something else pops up down the road. But this is for business trips. Anything like annual staff meeting or training can be organized more in advance.

      1. Eliza Jane*

        Even with training, it doesn’t always work out that way, though. I had training over the winter that was derailed by the crazy snow on location. When it was rescheduled, there was less than a week’s warning. I’ve also been offered training because openings came up in classes with just a small amount of warning. I agree that the ideal situation would be a lot of warning, but 3 months seems like a LOT to expect. I would never really hope for more than a month at the outside, even for big, scheduled events.

      2. Graciosa*

        We have also had the two week rule for the same reason (ticket costs) wherever I’ve worked.

        However the only thing that happened if you booked travel on less notice was that an email would be sent to your manager.

        “Boss, do you know Graciosa booked a trip in violation of corporate guidelines by requesting a plane ticket for a flight less than two weeks out?”

        Well, yes – Boss was the one who told me to do it!

  24. LQ*

    #2 You are in a union environment and it is clearly already us vs them. Stop that. Seriously.

    1. You can still fire people, yes, it might require more work from you (stop talking to people and work!)
    2. Crushing everyone with a “policy” like this will just frustrate your best employees
    3. It’s your worst people who are a problem right? Focus on getting them out. Focus on rewarding good employees. Focus on having conversations to build relationships. (Yes have personal conversations sometimes, it’s ok.)
    4. Your staff are not your enemy, not even the union reps or the people who file 4 grievances a week, it’s your job to find a way to get rid of them, ideally before they become people who file 4 grievances a week.

    It can be hard to manage in this kind of environment, but that just means you need to do a better job, focus on the things that are your job instead of managing someone talking about their weekend, because 3 minutes of that will make them better employees, not worse. Managing someone talking about their weekend isn’t what you need to focus your time on.

  25. Camellia*

    #3 triggered a thought about something – bedbugs. Several years ago we discovered one apartment in our building had bedbugs, when the exterminator came to check our apartment (bug-free, thank goodness, but they were being thorough – thank goodness). The people in that apartment worked at my company. I couldn’t decide if I should inform the company or not so I talked to a very experienced someone and she said, no, if they were dealing with it then don’t report it. So I didn’t, but I still wonder if I should have. Has anyone been in this situation?

      1. TootsNYC*

        You can take them to work–in your tote bag, you clothing, etc.–and then people end up taking them home.

        1. fposte*

          I think AW’s point is that Camellia’s home *didn’t* have bedbugs, so she couldn’t bring them to work.

      2. A Bug!*

        It sounds like the dilemma wasn’t “Should I tell my company that my apartment unit was checked for bedbugs but came up clean,” but rather “Should I tell my company that my coworkers live in the apartment unit that does have bedbugs?”

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Oh, that’s tough. My sister had bed bugs, and her work found out. On one hand, I get why people might want to know (I know I would!). On the other hand…people made her feel really miserable about it and treated her like a leper even though she was already taking care of it.

    2. Natalie*

      People are overly hysterical about bedbugs, IMO. They’re not ninjas.

      Given that bedbugs are nocturnal and don’t live on people (they just stop by temporarily to feed), it’s extraordinarily unlikely that someone would bring bedbugs from their apartment to their job.

      1. Camellia*

        I used to think that also, until my daughter had someone come to her office and she could actually see bedbugs running across their clothing. And I was given to understand that the occurrence at my building was particularly bad so I was concerned.

        1. Natalie*

          Sure, it’s not impossible. But having the bugs running around on your clothes is a really extreme infestation (and you would have known that it had gotten that bad). Bedbugs prefer to live in wood or paper, not clothes, so if they’re living in clothes it’s from a bedbug housing crisis.

          That said, now that I think about it I would probably avoid bringing suitcases or backpacks to work if I had an active bedbug infestation. That’s how they’re transmitted between hotels.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Um, actually they can. In a really bad infestation, they get on EVERYTHING and you can cart them in on your purse, your clothes, etc. That’s why they tell you to put your bags in the bathtub and not on the bed in a hotel room until you’ve checked it for bugs.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        They totally can! Those little suckers can get on your clothes and travel with you.

        It’s AvonLady Has Seen It All Day, apparently, because I also had bedbugs. It was HORRIBLE. The infestation and clean-up were exhausting and stressful, but in New York, one does NOT share that one has bedbugs. EVER. I kept that one a much bigger secret than the shingles, and I only told one friend.

        Shingles? Get some Valtrex, you’re good. Bedbugs? That’s four weeks of laundry hell (I didn’t even know it was possible to do $300 worth of laundry in three days) and living out of bags, plus the fear of them returning that never goes away. I have a bookshelf that still has some of the exterminator’s powder on it, several years and two moves later, just because I’m so scared of those little effers.

        1. Nina*

          I hear you. Once you get bedbugs, you don’t ever forget it. My neighbors brought them in our apt. building and the infestation got so bad, they traveled to the other side of the wall. Which happened to be my bedroom. Called the exterminator and got rid of them after two weeks, only for the little bastards to return a few months later in my living room. And that time, they hung around for nearly three months. Had to get rid of my couch and loveseat, launder everything, and I still look twice at any small bug I see.

          A truly hellish (and expensive) experience. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I think there was a story on here a while ago about bed bugs in an office. I seem to recall advice about keeping a change of clothes in a sealed plastic bag.

  26. Anonymusketeer*

    Allison’s answer to #2 is a lot more diplomatic and constructive than what I would have said. That’s why she’s the expert, I suppose.

  27. Shingles Before*

    I don’t know if anyone has this exactly. I had shingles. I was informed by my doctor that the only way I was contagious was for someone who never had chickenpox before AND (important here) came in direct contact with the shingles on my body. The doctor emphasized a boyfriend who might be touching my skin was at risk (he had chickenpox before) but not a roommate or coworker.

    So the coworker isn’t at risk unless unless she wants to go run the guys open sores. And that would be inappropriate workplace behavior.

    Shingles is in fact the chickenpox virus. It stays dormant in your system, specifically in a single vertebrate in the spine. When it is reactivated (either because of a compromised immune system or stress or other factors) the virus is activated. However, it only affects the part of the body that is run by the nerve in that part of the spine. Hence the name shingles, since those nerve controls along the torso and middle part of the body are stacked like shingles.

  28. Workfromhome*

    #4 I’m not sure about the culture in the OPs company but I can tell you what works for me. I used to travel to HQ 3 times a year for meetings. The schedule was pretty regular Once in July once in Nov etc. Over the last few years I’ve been asked to travel every month sometimes with only a weeks notice. I simply schedule my events as if this wasn’t a factor. If something is “super important” I request a vacation day well in advance. it doesn’t need to be more than one day. Trying to cancel an approved vacation day would be “almost” unheard of. If its only pretty important I try to schedule things where possible on Monday or Friday so that I can say “I have a commitment on X I can come from A to D to X but must be home on Y. If that doesn’t work unfortunately I cannot come.

    So for the OP I don’t think 1 year or even 3 months notice is really reasonable. If you have a months notice that should be sufficient with the understanding that they accommodate crucial events (medical appointments child birthdays etc) . You need to do your own part by letting your company know that “Hey in 2 months on the 12th I have a non optional commitment wanted you to know so I can attend as many fuctions with the company as possible”.

  29. Observer*

    For #2 –

    Your letter provides some of the best justification I have seen for the continued existence of unions. Think about it. You have a problem with a few people on your staff. You can’t / won’t / don’t care to come up with a solution that focuses on the problem. Instead you decide to institute a rule that is draconian and demeaning. The only thing holding you back is the union.

    I also think you need to think long and hard about the culture and atmosphere at your plant. It’s nice that you don’t want people to feel like they are in prison. But, the fact that you felt the need to acknowledge that they are, in fact, NOT in prison raises a huge red flag for me. That people at work are not in prison is the norm, and only the reverse should have to be noted. What is it that makes you see it in the reverse?

    1. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, anytime someone says “not,” they’re automatically consider that “is” is likely or the default.

      “I don’t want a drink, but you should have one; I won’t judge” means “I’ll judge.” Or at the very least, “you should worry about whether people are going to judge you.”

      “We’re spending Christmas with his parents, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy Christmas at your place.” Why is that negative aspect even something you need to mention–unless the possibility of it is looming large in -your- mind? if my kids said that to me, I would know that there is some aspect of Christmas w/ me that they don’t like.

  30. Gene*

    #1, What makes you think he’s not going to give you a bad reference anyway, since he “is well-known for giving bad references to people just to sabotage them”?

    I agree with not telling him, but if, as you say, it’s a small community, you should address this up front with your prospective employer when it comes time to provide references.

  31. Mousie O'Ratty*

    RE: #2, I once worked in a law firm that had the secretarial staff (I was a member) sign in on a sheet every morning, the way people sign in when they arrive for doctor’s appointments. We were forbidden to engage in small talk while signing in. One morning I said “good morning” to the receptionist and got yelled at. Literally yelled at. I quit shortly thereafter.

  32. Karin*

    I know this is an old thread, but I just discovered this blog and am hooked. ;)

    Anyway, I have a Primary Immune Deficiency, and if I found out one of my coworkers came in when they “might have shingles”, I would be Freaking Out. I’ve already had chicken pox, and was nearly hospitalized for that, and then I had shingles several years later. (Yes, I know 17 is young to have shingles.) I work in a school setting, and the school nurse knows my issue and she lets me know whenever anything communicable (above the seriousness level of the common cold…which has in the past led to me getting pneumonia more than once, but I’m reasonable in knowing I can’t freak out openly about certain things) comes into the building.

    Honestly, if shingles came into my workplace? I’d go home or request my supervisor to send the diseased person home.

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