should I tell my boss I’m leaving because of his remarks about race, wearing shorts to work after breaking a foot, and more

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

1. Should I tell my boss I’m leaving because of his remarks about my race?

I’ve been at a startup (no HR department) for under a year in a senior admin role and while I love the company’s mission, the CEO/founder seems to have a thing about my race. He’s white, I’m black. Sometime around the 2-month mark, I noticed that a week wouldn’t go by when he wouldn’t reference my race or point out that I’m black. Sometimes it’s complimentary. “Oh black women have SUCH nice skin” to “Can you explain how black women raise their daughters differently?” A few weeks ago, I was asked a VERY personal question relating to my race in front of a group of people who were there for a meeting. I’d stammered out an awkward “I’m too busy to answer that,” but inwardly I cringed and after work I cried.

I don’t want to appear like a job hopper, but my boss’ treatment of me as some kind of black curio has destroyed our professional relationship and has made me feel alienated in the office. Based on some things he’s said to potential clients, I often wonder if I was hired simply because it “looks good” to have a black woman in the office.

After speaking with friends and family, I’ve decided to leave, which will come as a surprise to my boss as I’m always diplomatic and hardworking during business hours. Would it be in poor taste to tell him why I’m quitting or should I just cut and run without ever letting him know how deeply alienated he’s made feel?

It’s not your job to educate him, but if you want to, you should absolutely feel free to explain to him why you’re leaving and why his remarks have been offensive and alienating; you’d be doing a service to future people who come in contact with him and to the world at large. It’s a beyond reasonable thing to share, and there’s a decent chance that he’d be grateful to know, even if he felt embarrassed/mortified/defensive. There’s certainly nothing unprofessional or inappropriate about explaining this; to the contrary, he is the one who has been inappropriate — don’t let that feeling get pushed on to you.

But crucially, I also think you’re under no obligation to take on that task if you’d rather not, or if you’re concerned it will change the tenor of the reference he gives you, or that it will come at any other price you’d rather not pay. You don’t have to take this on as your burden if you’d rather not.

One other option: If you wanted to, you could say something to the board of directors (instead of him, or in addition to him). They might be very interested in knowing their CEO is this big of an ass.

2. My office won’t let me wear shorts while I recover from a broken foot

Two weeks ago now, I broke my foot. Between the crutches and the walking boot I need to wear, I have been having difficulty finding work-appropriate clothing in my closet. I work in a fairly nice office in NYC, but the dress code is not at all clear. On any given day half the men are wearing suits, while the other half are wearing jeans, for example. I wound up resorting to wearing nice (think J Crew, Polo) shorts with button-down shirts for the first week and a half with a few pairs of nice jeans that I can actually roll up to my knee on the right side. I’m wary of skirts and dresses as I find I need pockets and the ability to move my legs freely, and with all the hopping around I don’t want to be flashing anybody.

Yesterday, the elderly woman who is the default HR department told me in no uncertain terms that I could not wear shorts in the office and advised me to buy loose cotton pants (!!!!!!) when I expressed how difficult it has been to find any other option. She also told me that the issue of my wearing shorts was “brought to her attention,” I guess to underline the gravity (??) of my indiscretion, as well as to avoid any personal responsibility on her part.

It is impossible for me to shop anywhere but online (which would mean any clothes I buy would take several days to arrive) and moreso I refuse to spend money on clothes that I hate/would only wear during this period, as they do not pay me nearly enough for frivolous shopping excursions. But at the same time, I don’t want to defy an outright order from the woman who is the co-owner’s sister (ha — did I mention that this is a small, privately owned office where the rules are made up and the laws don’t matter?).

Do you think I have any ability to open a dialogue here? And if so, can you help me with how to do so in a professional manner? What I really want to do is wear what I’ve been wearing and tell this woman to suck it, but I’m trying not to let my frustration and anger dictate my response.

I say this as someone who broke my foot a couple of years ago, but I … don’t think the no-shorts edict is so outrageous. I agree that it’s reasonable to expect your office to relax their dress code for you when you have a bulky cast or walking boot, but shorts really are wildly inappropriate in many/most offices — even in this circumstance. Loose cotton pants don’t seem like a crazy way to go to me.

I don’t want to tell you to spend money if you genuinely don’t feel like you can, but if you’re wearing J Crew and Polo, I wonder if you could just order a couple of pairs from Old Navy or somewhere on the more affordable side? Or, if you really don’t want to or can’t spend the money, just stick to the jeans, which it sounds like you were wearing earlier.

3. Company is offering us the chance to become contractors

My company is offering the “opportunity” to many of its employees (all of whom are at-will, long-term, salaried employees) to transition into becoming independent contractors.

What are the positives and negatives here?

The way the company presents it, the upside to becoming an independent contractor is that you will have “more freedom” to come and go as you please, live out of state, etc. The downside is decreased pay, lack of benefits, higher taxes, paying quarterly estimated taxes, etc. I know that this benefits the company in that it would decrease its monthly costs (benefits, payroll taxes, etc.).

If you choose to become a contractor, they should be raising your rate of pay. Otherwise, it’s a bad deal — as you point out, you won’t be getting benefits (paid time off, health insurance, etc.) and you’ll be responsible for your own payroll taxes. Plus, if you lose the work, you won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits the way employees are. You also won’t have the same job protections you have now; despite at-will employment, most employers still commit themselves to following certain steps before firing an employee (such as warnings), but that’s not the case with contractors, who are more easily cut loose.

Contractors typically get paid more than employees doing the same work for these reasons. You wrote “decreased pay,” so that’s pretty alarming.

You’d also want to find out what else will change if you made the switch. Legally, they’re not allowed to treat contractors the same way they can treat employees (more here). Do they intend to comply with those laws? You’d want to be sure you understand how your job and your relationship with your company change.

But there are benefits too. If they’re really going to give you the kind of freedom appropriate for contractors, that can be a huge perk. How to weigh all these factors is really up to you and depends on how you feel about each of these elements. Just make sure you’re not losing significant money on the deal.

4. Former coworker is constantly reading my LinkedIn profile

I left my old job going on 2 years now. I didn’t leave on good terms with my manager. A few weeks after I left, I updated my LinkedIn with my new job. An old coworker of mine (she was on a previous team, not the team I had left) who is known to be a gossip and brown-noser checked my LinkedIn 6 times within a span of 2 days. I kept seeing her name pop up in my feed as having viewed my profile. I have no idea what she could be looking for. I found this to be rather creepy and just weird. I was annoyed because I know the type of person she is, but I didn’t do nor did I say anything.

Recently, she popped up in my feed again as having viewed my profile. I became really annoyed, and I decided to block her and I did. My question to you is, aside from blocking her from viewing my page and having any contact with me, would you have sent her a note asking what she wanted? How would you have handled this?

Ignore it. Assume she’s being a busy-body and let her read to her heart’s content. It’s weird, yes, but it ultimately doesn’t really matter.

5. Do I need a professional bio?

I am very interested in a position with a great community organization in my area. As part of their application materials, they ask for a resume and cover letter (no surprise there) but, in addition, a separate bio. Is this a common practice and should I have already created a “master biography” to tailor to employers? Also, how in the world does one record their life story in a professionally appropriate, “I have the skill set for this job” type of manner?

No, that’s weird. I mean, yes, go ahead and create one if you want to apply for this particular job, but it’s definitely not something you generally need on hand or something that you should ever be sending out unsolicited. I occasionally have candidates send a bio along with — or worse, in place of — their resume, and it comes across as weird and kind of out of touch.

As for how to write one, I’d imagine that you’re writing a bio for yourself for a conference program or something like that, where bios are more typical. It’s basically a narrative of your career highlights, in third-person format.

{ 565 comments… read them below }

  1. Graciosa*

    I’m stunned that a company presented the “opportunity” to become contractors at a lower rate of pay.

    I suggest you do the math to add up your costs as a contractor – insurance, additional social security, retirement, taxes, etc. – but a quick google suggested that the MINIMUM rate should be 50% higher than your hourly rate as an employee. Personally, I would go higher than that. You also need to be willing to treat yourself like you’re running a business with all that entails – including a marketing for attracting other clients as you’re also giving up unemployment.

    Cutting pay instead of raising it makes me very, very suspicious that this is a ploy to avoid severance / unemployment, WARN act notification of layoffs (or similar notice under state law) or something similar. No one who would try this can be trusted with your professional future.

    There is no way I would avail myself of this “opportunity” although I would certainly start an intensive job search. You’re better off as an employee whether or not you have this job for more than another month or two.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, the whole thing feels incredibly sketchy to me. I would bet dollars to doughnuts that the contractors will just end up improperly classified employee later on.

        1. Graciosa*

          Leaving the contractors ineligible for unemployment and saving the company a bundle –

      1. RMRIC0*

        Based on what the OP wrote I’m sure that they’ll immediately be improperly classified employees. That or unemployed.

    2. Stitch*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t take this unless it was for significantly better pay, or if I were looking to transition out of the job anyway.

      The average large employer spends more than $10,000 each year per full time employee on just *health care*. And that’s not including the extra FICA taxes you now have to pay (7.65%), the lesser amount of job security/unemployment benefits, and whatever else the company offers in terms of benefits (401k match, life insurance, what-have-you). Plus the extra work that goes into being a contractor… ugh, it’s not a pretty picture if you’re looking at largely the same job functions.

      That said, becoming an independent contractor is definitely a viable choice for people transitioning out of the work force or who want more control over their schedule. If I had the opportunity to go as an independent contractor for a 50% increase in rate, I’d probably take it, as I find the flexibility appealing enough to counteract the extra work of being a contractor.

    3. Jerry Vandesic*

      Unless they are offering to more than double your current hourly rate, the response should simple be “no thank you.”

      But regardless of your response, their offer is not a good sign. As others say it could mean that they are hurting financially. I would be more worried that they are willing to break the law and mis-classify you as a contractor. Not good. I would suggest starting to look for a new job.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I agree with Jerry Vandesic, in my sector the consultant’s loaded rate (what the client is actually charged) is often double or higher the salary that the consultant receives, at least in the type of government consulting with which I’m familiar.

      There’s a really good infographic that illustrates the expenses that you have to calculate…it’s aimed at freelancers, but the expenses and how to calculate them would be very helpful for independent contractors, too, I would think. I’ll reply to my comment with a link, but for now you can Google “Infographic: How to Calculate Your Freelance Hourly Rate” (It’s the one on creativelive dot com.)

        1. KToo*

          This is an awesome Infographic. I totally low-balled myself when I worked a side gig last year. This will definitely come in handy the next time around!

      1. Oryx*

        That’s awesome! And a good indicator that my hourly rate is on target. Thanks for sharing!

    5. Meg Murry*

      I can think of one way the OP might come out ahead or at least come close to breaking even – if they currently live in an area with a high cost of living, and become a contractor and move to an area with a much lower cost of living (and therefore lower typical pay rates than they are currently being paid). I live in a lower cost of living area and know a few people that lived in NYC or other HCOL area and became contract employees when they moved to this area (due to a spouse move, or to be with family, etc). They are paid extremely well compared to what they would be paid as W-2 employees with a similar job title here (if they could even find a similar position).

      I think a huge part of this depends on whether the company is actively pushing people to become contractors, or whether they are just formalizing the procedure for how people go from being W-2 employees to contract employees, for examples like people who move out of the area. Pushing people = red flags. Just saying “people have approached us about becoming contractors instead of W-2 employees, so here’s the procedure if you are interested” = less so.

      1. Slippy*

        If they were formalizing the procedure why are they offering reduced rates compared to the employee’s salary as a ‘freedom benefit’. Also if the OP were to transition to being a contractor and did move the moving costs would probably eat up any savings for at least the first year or two. This stinks to high heaven. I hope the OP starts looking for a new job since it is highly likely that employees that do not take the conversion to contractor will be laid off, particularly the higher earning ones.

    6. PEBCAK*

      Just as a point of reference, when a former employer (Fortune 1000, IT-related work) brought me back as a contractor, my hourly rate was about 2.25 times what it had been if I broke down my salary into 2000 hours.

      You should be getting at least enough to cover benefits, payroll taxes, liability and/or E&O insurance, and STILL coming out ahead to compensate for the lack of job security.

    7. OP3*

      AAM’s response and your comments have confirmed what I already suspected – that this was a shady offer that indicates financial trouble and/or the willingness to misclassify employees.

      Thankfully, I have already been looking for a new job for the last couple months. I am exploring opportunities in a different city, so things have taken longer than I’d like. I was already planning to move even if my search is unsuccessful after another two months, since it is always easier to look for a job if you are already in the city.

      I am leaning towards taking the “offer” (after negotiating a significant raise) and moving if I don’t have another job in 2 months. That way I still have an income as I continue my job search locally in my new city. Thoughts?

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        Your risk is that they end the contract, and you are unemployed without any unemployment benefits. You should probably think hard about how stable your position is and whether they will cut it if money gets tight.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, exactly this. In addition to all the other shady stuff, moving employees out of the class of “people who get unemployment when laid off” is what an employer does right before laying people off.

          1. Artemesia*

            This would be my thought. They are not going to maintain these contractors, they are simply getting them in a position to reduce their liability for unemployment and any sort of severance. Once a contractor you are extremely easy to let go. I’d be redoubling my job seeking efforts because I would assume a layoff is pretty much the most likely outcome here.

      2. Rebecca*

        Personally, I’d decline their offer, even if they offered you a larger salary to compensate, because as the others said, you’ll no longer be eligible for unemployment compensation.

      3. Graciosa*

        If you’re trying to negotiate some security into the arrangement, you need to be clear about it and include it in a very tightly written signed agreement.

        But they’re not going to agree to that. A company proposing this type of arrangement is not going to give you either the pay rate a contractor deserves or a commitment for future business. The last is probably to your benefit, because if there is a mutual commitment to future work with financial penalties for non-performance, you won’t be able to get another job.

        Stay an employee, and if you haven’t found a job by the time you’re laid off, you’ll at least have unemployment.

        Also, if you haven’t done it yet, prepare to be walked out at any moment. That means getting control of your money (sock away every penny you can and assume unemployment will not support your current standard of living), identifying your references and work achievements (I assume you have a resume, but you need a bigger pool of accomplishments than you actually use on one resume in order to tailor effectively for each job), and removing anything personal from your office and any technology accessible by your employer’s IT department. If you use a personal device at work, assume you agreed to allow them to wipe it and back up your personal information.

        Good luck.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Would you still be eligible for unemployment if you’ve moved away from where your employer is? Because if she’s not going to be eligible anyway, then taking the contracting route while she looks in the new place could be reasonable.

              1. S*

                Oh, interesting – UK not USA, so asking out of nosiness, but I thought the State law was based on where the employer was, not employee?

              2. LD*

                Yes. I moved away after a RIF and while still receiving unemployment benefits. I still received the benefit while I was unemployed and living in a different state.

          1. LQ*

            It depends, if the OP quits the job to move then they may not be eligible anyway.

            The city that you are located in almost never (in the US) impacts your benefits. (Assuming you can work in that city.)

            But if the company lays employees off then they’d get unemployment and get to move and continue to collect benefits.

      4. Meg Murry*

        I’m confused. Is the “offer”: you can be a contractor if you want, here’s how ? Or is the “offer”: you can either be a contractor or be unemployed, we aren’t going to have W-2 employees anymore?

        I think if you were planning on moving anyway, transitioning to a contractor just before that move would be a good idea, but I wouldn’t change before that unless this is a short time offer and you are 100% certain that you would move out of the area. Otherwise I would stay an employee (while looking for a new job) so that if this job implodes you are still eligible for unemployment.

    8. AnnieMouse*

      There are laws that govern this. It sounds as if this employer wants to avoid paying payroll taxes.

  2. Daisy*

    Could you do leggins and some pocketed shorter dress? Or tuck some thin fabric pants into the boot? My broken foot was in the winter so I wore a lot of tights with my boot and carried a small purse around if I didn’t have pockets and needed my crutches.

    Hope you heal quickly!

    1. Newsie*

      Oh see, I thought OP was a man and in a non-kilt country. Otherwise I would have thought the HR lady would have suggested a skirt or dress herself.

    2. Abhorsen327*

      I was wondering if OP2 could perhaps wear athletic shorts under a pocketed skirt or dress – short enough to not be visible under normal circumstances, but with enough coverage to protect against accidental flashing. I personally love wearing “yoga shorts” under skirts and dresses in the summer – I get the benefits of comfortably bare legs without chafing thighs or any risk of accidentally flashing someone.

      1. Emily*

        I’m like a yoga shorts/cycling shorts evangelist! I read an article a couple years ago about how many minutes of brain space per day the average woman gives up to “body checking” – basically all those times you look down and touch or re-position your hair or clothes to make sure you look OK. I realized that with above-knee skirts I was always worried about them riding up because of my should bag pulling on them, or having to monitor them on a windy day, or being careful about certain movements/positions, etc. So I went out to H&M and bought a bunch of $5 nylon shorts with lace trim in dark and light colors and now I wear them under all my short skirts, and when I put on my skirt in the morning I just forget about it. If I need to get under my desk to pick up something I dropped or if I walk past a sidewalk vent, whatever happens I don’t even have to worry or think about whether I’m flashing anyone! So I can use that brain space to think about my career instead of my skirt :)

        1. Mander*

          It’s mostly a chub rub issue for me but I also wear shorts under skirts and dresses all the time. I like not having to think about whether I’m flashing anyone, too!

          Back to the subject at hand: my husband broke his ankle earlier this summer and had a cast up to his knee for a month. His regular trousers fit over the cast, and he bought a nylon boot-like cover that he tucked his trouser leg into. Perhaps wide-legged or bootcut pants would work for you?

          1. sam*

            Jockey slip shorts. They’ve changed my life.

            They’re basically no-constriction spanx. So thinner/lighter than wearing actual bike shorts under my skirts (which is what I used to do), and significantly more comfortable than wearing spanx (which I save for the minimal number of outfits that actually “need” them).

            In the winter, I just wear tights, but in the summer, these are my go-to under-skirt/dress wear. I usually stock up when I’m near an outlet mall (there’s always a Jockey outlet at an outlet mall, and they often have them half off a the outlet!!), but you can also buy them online.

            I used to never wear skirts. Now I almost never wear pants.

            Also, more and more retailers are making skirts with pockets these days. I refuse to buy skirts without pockets anymore.

            1. Bend & Snap*

              YES! I am a fan of Jockey Skimmies and they come in a zillion colors!

              Don’t get the sweat wicking ones though. I have one pair and they sliiiiiiiiiide down. Like, off.

              1. sam*

                I keep forgetting they changed the name. And agreed – I always just get the least expensive ones, which are definitely not the wicking ones. I

            2. Melissa*

              I feel like these are going to change my life! And I also agree that I don’t want to buy skirts and dresses without pockets these days. I bought a couple of special occasion dresses for commencement week and they ALL had pockets in them. It was glorious, especially since I couldn’t carry a purse!

            3. Nancie*

              Yes! I just discovered the Jockey slip shorts and I love them. They’re opaque and very comfortable.

            4. No Longer Passing By*

              2 new to me products that I absolutely must research and buy: yoga shorts and jockey skimmies. I will be right back….

    3. Marzipan*

      Yeah, #2, I was going to suggest something similar. You said ‘I’m wary of skirts and dresses as I find I need pockets and the ability to move my legs freely’ which sounds like you’re thinking of them as very restrictive, but my experience is that you can find pocketed, wide-skirt dresses quite easily. This is mostly what I wear to work, and I’d be similarly wary of not having pockets, and I have to do quite a lot of dashing about so certainly wouldn’t be able to wear anything restrictive. If you’re worried about flashing everyone, my tip is to just wear something underneath that wouldn’t matter if they see (I tend to wear something like bikini shorts/running knickers, that sort of thing). It’s unlikely that you actually will be flashing everyone anyway, but it’s much less worrying when you know there’s nothing on display if you do!

      1. TootsNYC*

        Or, instead of pockets, you could get a pouch on a belt (google “belt bag,” “purse belt,” and similar), and then you could use any skirt or dress, including those you already own.

        1. No Longer Passing By*

          Googled belt purse…. Interesting…. When did fanny packs come back in style???? Fashion really is cyclical

    4. Coach Devie*

      A flowy dress or two (that can be a staple to your wardrobe after cast leaves your life) with leggings or dark tights to prevent the worry of flashing while struggling on the crutches seems like a good deal. Maybe a light summer sweater (short or long sleeved) with pockets if the dress had none. These can often be found at Target, Old Navy etc… no need to spend too much and it could be something you could add to your wardrobe and wear again, since loose cotton pants definitely feel like a horrible suggestion to you! haha (I probably wouldn’t like that suggestion either) just get a little creative with it. Hope you heal quickly!!

      1. themmases*

        +1, I have a collection of light cardigans that I often wear just because I need pockets. I have the cotton/silk ones from Gap and they’ve held up for at least 2 years so far even though I sometimes dry them. I just got navy, gray, and tan so one always goes with my outfit, and throw it in my bag in the morning. (My office is freezing.)

    5. Confused*

      Is it possible to take the boot off, put pants on, and either tuck pant leg into boot or push them up above the boot? I know the trend right now is toward more tight fitting skinny pants so maybe tucking would be easier then pushing them up.
      Get well soon!

      1. Artemesia*

        Especially in new breaks, the boot doesn’t come off. I had a removable wrist cast for a break and the doc made a particular point that removing it in the first few weeks risked permanent damage.

        I agree that shorts are inappropriate and don’t understand why skirts are not the answer here.

        1. Jeaneane*

          Wait, why are shorts in appropriate, but a skirt appropriate? This has never made sense to me. If the shorts come to the same length as a work-appropriate skirt, they’re basically the same thing.

          I could get (well, sort of) an aesthetic ban, but shorts are no more ‘inappropriate’ than a skirt.

          1. INTP*

            Shorts just have a much more casual connotation than skirts. It’s not about the amount of skin showing (though shorts for women are usually shorter than work-appropriate dresses for women). Kind of like how wearing my workout leggings with a long butt-covering workout tee is not significantly more immodest than wearing my jeggings with a tunic, but I would never wear the former to my casual office.

            1. Jeaneane*

              I really don’t think a pair of nice, pressed, J Crew shorts are comparable to yoga pants. It’s more like the difference between banning ‘jeans’ and banning ‘denim.’ I doubt a casual office would ban a nice denim skirt, but many draw the lines at jeans.

              It seems really odd to declare shorts inappropriate when there’s not really any difference between them and a skirt. Yes, I know, shorts can be shorter than a skirt generally is; but just the blanket “shorts are inappripriate” is weird.

        2. Brandy*

          Because I read it to believe the OP was a male, I can see why skirts aren’t a solution. Also some females just aren’t skirt/dress people. But I do agree shorts aren’t the answer and the OP is making it sound like its shorts or nothing.

          1. V.V.*

            Yup, to a greater extreme, there are women I know that would quit a job on the spot the moment a skirt or dress became the only acceptable wear (and to be fair, some that would quit over pants). To them it would be a humiliation beyond the pale. I understand this OP2 is not taking it to that extreme, but I can see someone having an issue where a skirt or dress wouldn’t be a solution.

    6. Observer*

      It’s not hard to find reasonably priced skirts that are loose and long enough that you are not likely to “flash” anyone accidentally. Since you are talking about a few weeks, I’d probably go with 2-3 skirts. Get something fairly basic, so they can last and be used in a variety of situations.

      I just hopped over to LandsEnd and J.Crew to get a sense of what happens to be available at the moment. I looked only at the sale areas on both sites, since you don’t want to spend a lot of money. LandsEnd has a few skirts that look like they could work in the $15-25 range. J. Crew is much more expensive and has less that I would consider useful in your circumstances. But, bottom line, it’s doable without spending a ton on clothes you’ll never be able to use again.

      1. Skirts*

        I was thinking of this, too- if the OP is inclined to wear skirts. They have ankle-length flowing black skirts just about everywhere.

        1. Hermione*

          Right, but walking in those can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Trying to get around while on crutches in a floor-length skirt, especially since she can’t put her foot down would be really difficult, imo. I think the longest you could go would be knee-length, and it would have to be flowy enough to allow for movement without too much material that she’s going to get the crutches tangled anytime there’s a slight breeze.

          1. Observer*

            You can go a lot longer than knee length, although I would agree that floor length won’t work. The skirts I noticed were around nee length, and mostly a-line or similar cut, so there is enough material to be loose, but not lots of material to get caught. Although, to be honest, if the OP already has a few pairs of pants that work, I don’t see why she doesn’t just stick with that.

          2. Skirts*

            Huh… I wouldn’t have thought that. Maybe we are picturing different things. I was picturing something with quite a bit of flair from the waist outward (like an updated peasant skirt- I’ve seen ones that would be appropriate for the workplace), and I suppose I meant ankle-length rather than floor-length. I certainly don’t want to argue over skirts, though. I guess I’m just coming from a different place.

          3. Melissa*

            Old Navy sells these super comfortable jersey skirts that are knee-length, with fold-down waistbands, for like $20-30. They’re flowy enough to not constrict movement, long enough not to flash anyone, but short enough that they shouldn’t get in the way of the crutches or cast. The only downside is lack of pockets.

            1. Nerdling*

              They are almost perfect for situations like this. I bought three or four that I wore almost my entire pregnancy and still break out just because they’re so comfortable and easy to wear. Doesn’t solve the pockets issue, but I tend to just grab a small crossbody bag for that.

    7. Something Professional*

      I spent most of last year in a walking cast and/or on crutches, and one of the problems with skirts is that the action of using crutches will pull skirts up on both sides (because either the crutches or your arms are brushing across your hips and thighs), resulting in them getting very short very quickly. I wore a skirt once when I was on crutches, and I literally had to stop every few steps to yank it down. So I can see how skirts and dresses wouldn’t be feasable.

      I invested in a couple of pairs of inexpensive, bootcut trousers. They’re work appropriate and if you get ones with a wider boot cut, they will fit over a standard walking cast. I think I got mine on sale at Old Navy for $20 each. Or you can tuck a slimmer pant into the walking cast, although that tends to get uncomfortable as the day goes on. Capris might also be an option? Some workplaces allow them even if they don’t allow shorts, and you can get ones that would hit above your walking cast.

      1. Observer*

        I live in community where skirts for women are the norm and that doesn’t change with cast or crutches. None of the women I’ve known over the years who’ve had to use crutches had a problem with this. Not having been on crutches ever myself, I can’t guarantee the reason for this, but I would suspect that the cut of the skirt might make a difference – a looser skirt won’t need to be pulled down.

        1. Mander*

          Hmm, I’d think the opposite might be true for me. For whatever reason it seems like anything loose always bunches up on me so I’d be more inclined to look for something streamlined and stretchy, like a knit pencil skirt, so that it’s out of the way with nothing flapping around to get caught up in the crutches.

          Of course then you lose the pockets…

          1. Observer*

            Well, you don’t want too loose. I could see some pencil skirts working, as long as they are loose enough to be able to fall. Also, some materials ride more than others.

            I’d probably just go with a belt pouch. That works with pretty much anything.

        2. ScotchBonnet*

          I broke my ankle a few years ago and found skirts by far the easiest choice, both first with the plaster cast and then with the walking cast.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Another possibility is to simply order cheap knit khaki pants from Walmart’s website (or similar), and slit the leg where you need to.
        Walmart has pull-on pants for $5 and $7, in white and black. They have pants made of “suiting” for $12 or so.

      3. INTP*

        Maybe a nice, loose maxi skirt would work with the crutches? It would need to ride up over a foot anyways to be a modesty problem and a looser skirt will just fall right back down after it has bunched up. I also have one of these with pockets.

      4. manybellsdown*

        Old Navy also has some wide-legged linen trousers that have a yoga pant waist. They’re my summer staple, because they’re comfortable, light, and if you wear something that covers the stretchy waist they look quite dressy.

    8. kozinskey*

      I’m wondering what the HR lady would say to capri or mid-calf length pants. I’ve found those at Ann Taylor and the pairs I have are pretty tight to my calf & would tuck in easily, or they could be rolled up.

    9. Graciosa*

      I’ve read a lot of good suggestions about inexpensive ways for the OP to expand her wardrobe while she’s healing – but the OP was pretty clear that she was not interested in investing any additional funds on what she regards as temporary-use unnecessary clothing.

      OP, if that is the case, just keep re-wearing (and rewashing) the jeans as often as you need to get through the next month or so. No, it’s not the most interesting wardrobe, but it doesn’t cost any more and if you had to be stuck with one option for your legs, jeans are at least a basic staple that goes with a lot.

      1. Observer*

        I agree that I would have expected the OP to just do that. But, since she doesn’t seem to see that as an option, we were pointing out ways to get some decent stuff without spending a ton, and that she wouldn’t have to “hate” based on what she described.

      2. Nancie*

        She said NYC — she may not have her own washer/dryer and I imagine even going to a basement laundry on crutches is quite difficult. And sending them out to be laundered would add up quickly, and leave her without them for a day.

        OP2, one thing you may not have thought of is freezing your jeans. If you toss them in the freezer every evening as soon as you get home and pull them out first thing when you get up, they may stay fresh enough for five days at a time, even in warm weather.

    10. INTP*

      Mine was in the summer and my go-to was leggings. For casual stuff I’d just put on workout clothing and hope people figured I’d just come from PT or the gym. For nicer stuff I’d wear a longer top with the legging or a dress over it. The main difficulty was shoes because I needed to wear a thickish soled tennis shoe for my nonbroken foot to be at the right height. I would occasionally wear a Frye boot or ballet flat but the boot was slightly too high and flats were slightly too low and it messes up your hips if you walk a lot in unbalanced footwear. (This might not be an issue for OP if she’s in crutches.)

      I’ve since discovered maxi dresses and jeggings and I think both would work wonderfully in addition to dresses over leggings. About half of my dresses and skirts (maxi and regular length) have pockets, they can definitely be found, it’s quite trendy for dresses to have pockets right now. Just make sure that you have a sock under the walking boot to avoid chafing if you aren’t wearing pants/leggings.

    11. Voluptuousfire*

      Old Navy does have some really lovely soft rayon pants for the summer and they have pockets. Reasonably priced as well. I own two pairs. If the office is a hodgepodge, they should fit in fine.

  3. Stephanie*

    1. Ugh, I’m sorry you went through this. I’ve been the black curio before and it’s not fun.

    3. Errrr, is the company in financial trouble? The fact that they’re not offering increased pay with the conversion raises a Red Army Parade’s worth of red flags to me.

    1. Coach Devie*

      #1 I’ve also been the curio in more than one instance, and being biracial made it even more fun *cue sarcasm* I am sorry you had to deal with that, in what may have been an otherwise rewarding position. I probably would feel compelled to tell him why, but I also firmly believe that the onus is not on your to inform or educate him so only do so if you feel comfortable or that it is something you feel you need to do for your own reasons. Or, as Alison suggested, perhaps even letting the board know in addition to, or instead of him.

      I am all for “teachable moments” but I’ve also found a lot of times privilege, even unbeknownst the the privileged, makes it really difficult to have these moments be beneficial and lead to a lot of stress, and stomach aches and frustration, hurt, anger, sadness etc. I’ve dealt with a lot of that as of late myself and have to remind myself it is not my JOB.

      But personally, in this situation, as long as I didn’t feel he was overtly malicious or threatening I would definitely have the discussion. If I felt he was a terrible horrible person as a whole, I would probably go a step further, for sure, in letting the board know (whether anything came of that or not) and probably posting about it publicly as well (glassdoor or something for instance) reference be damned.

      Good luck!!

      1. Sunshine Brite*

        Ditto, I’ve always tried to just brush since comments off but it has led to decreased participation in opportunities and leaving positions. I hope they do something to retain some new hires so I’m sticking out less like a sore thumb in my current job.

      2. Graciosa*

        Race is such a sensitive topic that I’m a little leery of posting anything about it even on the AAM forum, but this post made me think a bit.

        My general attitude has been basic indifference. I am very much an efficiency nut (INTJ) and pretty lost inside my head figuring out systems and process improvements most of the time. Race just doesn’t really come into any of that, so it’s not something that gets a lot of my brain power.

        Which is kind of what is making me worry a bit. I certainly wouldn’t have made any of the remarks listed, but the comments about a racism “spectrum” make me wonder what you have to do to get on it.

        Is there any insensitivity in *not* ever discussing race? It occurs to me that I have literally never asked anyone of a different race how their experience differs from mine, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing.

        If you asked me what the differences were, I am vaguely aware that some races are more likely to have issues with ashy skin and managing hair (and dear god, no, it would never occur to me to ask to touch it!), including a friend of mind of another race who hated the fact that she could not get her hair to hold a curl with an entire bottle of hairspray.

        After that, everything starts to look (to me) like a matter of cultural norms and personal experience. And I’m not sure whether this is a helpful way to think about it.

        Yes, I’m willing to give myself some PC points in a few areas – although I think it’s more due to the way my mind works than the virtue that results when we struggle to overcome our flaws – but is it really helpful just to categorize this as something we don’t discuss?

        I’m not sure such a discussion could happen easily at work (especially initiated by a manager!) so I’ll turn this back to the OP’s question and ask what type of response people who have had similar experiences would want to hear from managers or colleagues who were present when these kinds of remarks were made? Because I do think these things should be addressed in the moment, and it sounds as if some people in this situation are (understandably) reluctant to address it themselves.

        If I had been there, how could I have helped? And when is staying out of it the best response? It just occurred to me that assuming someone needs support might be condescending – and I’m starting to understand why this isn’t discussed.

        That said, if there is any internet forum where this could be discussed with respect and kindness, this one is it.

        1. Melissa*

          I can’t speak for all people of color, only myself (as a black woman) But in my opinion, unless it’s directly pertinent to the work that you’re doing, then – no, of course there’s nothing wrong with simply not discussing race at all. It doesn’t mean that you’re being insensitive; it doesn’t even mean that you’re not noticing my race. It just means we’re not talking about it, and that’s totally fine.

          What’s actually annoying is when people make a big show of avoiding racial issues or – worse – pretending like they “don’t see color”. Noting that I’m black, shrugging your shoulders, and then completely forgetting about it as a significant issue? Totally fine, and pretty awesome in my opinion. Noting that I’m black and making a point of emphasizing how much you don’t care that I’m black, because people are all the same, man, and are absolutely has no impact on how you see people anyway? Holy suspiciously specific denial, Batman.

          I also personally don’t mind discussing racial issues in the workplace as long as I know the people on the other end are open-minded and willing to learn and check their privileges, if they aren’t people of color. But that’s me. My husband, a black man, would simply prefer not to discuss race at all in the workplace. It’s going to vary from person to person, and their interests and motivations. I don’t mind being the Teachable Moment (as never jaunty puts it, lol) from time to time; other people hate it.

          As for what people can say as an ally, first of all I want to say that I think that if you recognize that it’s a problem anything you say in the moment, even awkwardly, will probably be appreciated by the person in question. (Probably.) You could say something like “I don’t think that’s an appropriate question” more broadly, and then change the subject. Or you could address it directly, even kind of semi-jokingly (“Well, all black mothers are different, right?”) If you were prepared to potentially have a discussion or hurt feelings on your hands, you could even simply say “That’s racist.” I’ve had white friends very matter-of-factly say that during discussions when someone else said something messed up, and it’s definitely a record-scratch moment – but oddly enough, in my experience other white people seem to be less likely to argue with a white person who calls them out on racism.

          I hope that makes sense and doesn’t sound rambly, lol.

          1. jmkenrick*

            >What’s actually annoying is when people make a big show of avoiding racial issues or – worse – pretending like they “don’t see color”.

            Dan Savage makes a parallel point in one of his columns about gay parenting, basically saying, that they’re not asking anyone to pretend they don’t notice that their son has two dads…but if you pull him or his partner aside to reassure them that “oh, of course I don’t see you any differently than any other parents” – what you’re staying is that you see them differently than other parents.

            (He phrases it much better, but alas, I can’t find the link.)

            1. Stephanie*

              And also, “not seeing race” is also a privilege of being in the racial majority. And telling a minority that is discounting a big part of her identity. (Saying this generally and not at you, Graciosa.)

            2. Graciosa*

              Miss Manners did a similar piece once on meeting identical twins. It was along the lines of “No, you don’t have to comment on the fact that they’re twins – they already know – so you might just say whatever you normally say after an introduction.”

              1. jmkenrick*

                @Graciosa Along those lines…oneof my New Year’s resolutions was to try to avoid the conversation “crutch” of commenting on those immediately obvious qualities (e.g.: “Wow, you’re tall!” sort of things). This is partially prompted by my boyfriend being British (we’re in the US) and me getting so bored with the whole “ooh, cool accent, where are you from?” routine. It’s a totally natural thing – no judgement for any people asking that question, I’ve done it before – but the person on the receiving end has invariably had that conversation 1,000 times already. I’m trying to not be the person who contributes to that pile for other people. :) Surprisingly hard with some areas.

                1. Dana*

                  I can’t help but think of Harry Potter and the increasingly boring “yeah, I’ve got my mother’s eyes I GET IT” or even the familiar glance up to his forehead. I don’t really have an identifying feature but some people are probably relieved when you don’t bring it up.

                2. Pennalynn Lott*

                  My real name is the same as the name of a very famous, well-known song. No, you are not being original when I introduce myself and you start singing that song. No, I don’t find it flattering. In fact, it’s very, very old and I’d rather you just didn’t go there, because now I have to make you feel awkward by saying in a best dead-pan voice, “Ha. Ha. That was so original. I’ve definitely never heard that before.”

          2. Graciosa*

            Thank you very much – not only a thoughtful and kind response, but also a bit of a relief. It’s hard to know what you don’t know, although I can apparently get a little wound up worrying about it. Your post was a great help.

          3. Anonsie*

            Noting that I’m black and making a point of emphasizing how much you don’t care that I’m black, because people are all the same, man, and are absolutely has no impact on how you see people anyway? Holy suspiciously specific denial, Batman.

            “I don’t care if they’re [race], I don’t even care about race. It wouldn’t matter if they were white black purple orange or green, I only care about their actions and race has nothing to do with it. I don’t know why people always have to bring race into everything, maybe if you’re always seeing people as being different races then you’re the one who’s racist.” –Liars

            1. Stephanie*

              And it’s almost never* a PoC saying that.

              *Yeah, I wish I could say never. I see those people and it’s like “C’mon, though. For real?”

        2. Stephanie*

          Melissa said it really well (as per usual). I think it would be odd to not discuss race if it was a situation where race was clearly a factor such as the Baltimore riots.

      3. neverjaunty*

        Agree – AAM’s advice on that point made me wince a little bit. It’s not your job to be this dude’s Teachable Moment.

        Also, for crying out loud it’s 2015. If the CEO of a startup company does not know that this crap is unacceptable, then he is well past the age where it’s reasonable for an adult to hold his hand and gently explain to him that people are people no matter their skin color. Maybe some blowback from the board or a couple of EEOC complaints are what he needs to get his head right.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I completely agree it’s not her job. Which part is making you wince — that I suggested it was an option to consider at all? (That sounds snotty; I don’t intend it that way — I’m genuinely interested.)

          1. Aaunty*

            I didn’t read it as snotty :)

            It was the first few sentences, especially the part about OP doing a service to others who come after. Especially since the usual (entirely sound) advice to people quitting a toxic job is NOT to vent at the exit interview or tell Jerk Boss why they’re a jerk. That shouldn’t change when the jerkiness happens to be racism. “But maybe you could educate them, they’re probably not malicious, just ignorant” is a pretty common and misguided sentiment directed at women and people of color in situations like this, and that’s what I was cringing at.

            1. James M.*

              I had a similar thought when reading AAM’s response. As a White Man myself, I suspect that OP1’s boss is quite comfortable with his level of racism and any “Teachable Moments” will have a statistically negative outcome. Specifically, I get the impression that this guy has chosen to place credence in his prejudices, so if OP1 calls them into question, she’ll risk that kind of fallout.

              I think OP1 would be best served by quietly looking for a new job. If her boss remains ignorant that his racism is her reason for leaving, he might be a positive reference.

              Also, the guy’s a creep.

      4. Stranger than fiction*

        How about if Op 1 confides in the office Gossip, if they have one, before she leaves. That way, she’s not jeopardizing her boss’s reference so much, as it would just happen to get back to him.

        1. Graciosa*

          Could be worse, because then he knows – but whatever he might have learned if she said something will be subsumed in “Then why didn’t she tell me to my face?”

          I suspect the resentment at being the object of gossip about something the OP never discussed with him will obliterate any possibility that the boss might learn something from this.

        2. Anonsie*

          They’d have to be extremely, extremely confident that the office grapevine is going to be sympathetic to them, something I kind of doubt. Otherwise it’s going to be people whispering about how she accused the big boss of being racist but he’s a totally nice guy, you know, he’s totally not racist, some people are just sooo sensitive, etc.

    2. K.*

      Ditto re: being “the black one” at the office – it’s a big part of why I was so unhappy at my last job, and why I ultimately wasn’t that sad to be laid off. I was clearly the only person of color many of my colleagues had ever known, and it was exhausting. I fielded my share of inappropriate questions.

      Since there’s no HR departments d thus no exit interview, I might answer the question honestly if asked why I’m leaving – but it’s also not my job to educate people on Why Racism Is Bad, so I don’t know how much of a dialogue I’d encourage. It’s up to you, though. Good luck – and here’s to workplace diversity!

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        The tone I got from the LW about her boss was that she was the first person of color her boss has encountered too. He just sounds ignorant, although I obviously don’t know exactly what was said. That doesn’t make the comments and questions appropriate or okay, but hopefully he will learn from his mistakes if she can politely point them to him. The “when you said”/”I felt this” statements sound fitting. Of course, no obligation. Hopefully she’ll find a workplace that values her for her work, not her looks.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            There are parts of northern New England where this would not be uncommon. I believe I had all of two black people (and they were siblings) in my entire high school and none of the teachers or administration were anything but white.

            1. jmkenrick*

              My mother grew up in Sweden and I don’t think met any people of color until she was a teenager – so it can happen.

          2. infj*

            Hailing from rural Pennsylvania here. I only knew white people until I went to college. I mean, I had laid eyes on people of color but didn’t know any. Not a single one.

          3. Stephanie*

            Best friend from college grew up in a ritzy North Shore of Chicago community. No black people in her high school. I and her freshman year roommate were her first black friends.

            I could see it where I live now (in a suburb of the sixth largest city in the U.S.). My state and city have small black populations that tend to be concentrated in a couple of areas. So I could totally see how one could never befriend a black person.

            1. Stephanie*

              Ah, to clarify…she met people of color but she said her circle was like exclusively white. And this is like 30 minutes outside Chicago.

            2. Graciosa*

              College really drove home the point that other people did not have the same experiences I had, although in my case it was in other areas.

              I hadn’t known people could be casual, not regular, smokers until I had someone in my dorm who only smoked during finals and never at any other time. The same person was also seriously upset that I left my room service tray outside the door of my hotel room for pickup (as instructed). I had to actually take it away from her to prevent her from taking it down to the kitchen herself.

              My mother explained to my teenage self that my friend had grown up in a more rural environment, where the casual-smoking thing was not as unusual but hotels with room service were.

              I sometimes question whether the value of a specific college education (OMG for some tuition rates) is worth it when compared to a less expensive alternative, but there’s a lot of learning that goes on when you share a dormitory with strangers.

          4. Schnauz*

            I’m in my late thirties – grew up in a small town in the Midwest of about 25,000 people. Only a handful of people/families were non-white. Apparently I saw my first black person when I was 2, at the grocery store, and I yelled at my Mom to not let him touch me since he was dirty. I literally thought he was covered in dirt. This very patient man, just told Mom that I needed to get out in public more.

            With today’s internet access, I’m sure a lot of the questions white people have about other races – like hair texture – can be found quite easily but this wasn’t the case when I grew up. My first roommates in college were not white, they were Korean (adopted by a white couple) and African American. I’m sure my black roommate often felt like she was my teachable moment. I hope, not because I was often casually or ignorantly racist, but I have always been a very curious person who is also pretty direct. It’s certainly possible, even today, to grow up in communities of racial homogeneity.

          5. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

            Loads of white people — possibly even the majority of white people — live their lives in such a way that they *don’t* interact socially with POC. Their friends are white, their colleagues are white, their neighbors are white. It’s really not unusual at all, sadly enough.

            1. Rana*

              Yes. That’s a big part of what racial privilege entails – never having to encounter or deal with or think about people of another race if you don’t want to.

          6. Anonsie*

            Coming across people casually is different than actually forming actual relationships with people, not to mention how segregated your average American city is. People create their own little bubbles.

          7. jag*

            It’s not that this guy hasn’t met people of color. It’s that he possibly hasn’t related to any in a vaguely peer-to-peer way in personal or professional life (or, heaven forbid) had a PoC in a superior position to him. This is not that rare in the US – the PoC might be around as workers in restaurants or nannies or whatever, but not people the start-up CEO considers as vaguely peers. Stephanie describes it well.

            Here’s some info on the friend side:

            1. Stephanie*

              Another college friend is black and from Prince George’s County, MD (just outside DC). There are some parts of PG that have fairly affluent black families, including his. Friend tell his roommate he’s from DC and roommate just assumes he’s from a housing project in a rough part of Southeast DC. Friend didn’t get at first why his roommate was asking if both parents were in the picture and stuff and then realized roommate assumed he had some heartwarming, made-for-TV story of adversity on how he made it to our selective college. In that case, I’m guessing his roommate had little exposure to middle-class or upper middle class black people.

          8. hnl123*

            I worked in southern CA in several offices… we had Asians and Caucasians…. for 4 years across different cities, too. Now that I live in Hawaii…. not too many black people I’ve come across different professional settings. So it is possible….

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I don’t think it’s the first black person he’s encountered, ha, but it sounds as if it’s the first black person he’s worked with, as well as several others in that office.

    3. infj*

      I was the white curio at an office in Asia. I dreaded going to that place every single day. I was able to find a new job with people who were more used to dealing with and being around foreigners. Even still, I was the only white person around and had to deal with tons of weird comments, questions, and treatment (for example, my otherwise lovely boss occasionally referred to me as the ‘white meat’). It was exhausting and it’s a big part of the reason that I’m so glad to be back home in the US. I’m so sorry that you have to deal with that in your own country. I’m also glad that we have a national dialogue in place to discuss and address this. Any time I tried to discuss this kind of issue with someone when I was living abroad, it came across as me being a whiny foreigner who wanted special treatment.

      1. Artemesia*

        Most white Americans have simply never had the experience of being the only one. I too have experienced it in Asia; it is a profoundly odd experience the first time you are the ‘only one’ of your kind. When we traveled in China my husband and I were asked to pose with Chinese strangers many times; we were told in one area by our guide that these were rural people who had never seen a white person before. The first time someone waved a camera at me to ask this, I thought they were asking me to take THEIR picture (you know as tourists do, asking a fellow tourist to get their snapshot at the famous site) but no, they wanted me to stand next to the wife so that the husband could get the picture. It was less a big deal, working in Singapore where people are more cosmopolitan, but it still felt odd to be the only white person in the room.

        1. Cleopatra Jones*

          Been there as well.
          When I was in the military (many years ago), I was stationed in Korea. I actually had people openly stare or my personal favorite–walk up to me and grab my arm and try to rub the color off. That was really interesting.
          Personally, the Korean incidents weren’t that big of a deal because many Koreans (especially those in rural areas) had never seen a person of color. So I get the fascination but that’s just beyond ignorant from someone born and raised in the U.S.

        2. jag*

          I’m a black American who worked in China 25 years ago. I lived in a city of millions and am pretty sure there were not more than a few hundred black people there – mainly students from Africa. Plus I traveled to some rural areas where I’m pretty certain that I was the first black person many people had seen in person. One of the funniest times was on an overnight train in Manchuria, near the North Korean border, where this sleepy rural laborer from another part of China asked me if I was Korean (Chinese in that part of the country know what Koreans look like).

          To me it wasn’t that bad, since I was used to being a minority in the US. I can see this type of experience being more new, and jarring to a white American.

          PLUS in the US the racism is rooted in massive institutions that cause negative bias toward black people, even on a subconscious level. There is less of that in China. They look down on Africans quite a bit, and down on African-Americans a bit, but it didn’t seem to be as bad as in the US. It’s one thing to be “the other” and another to be “the other who is subconsciously looked down upon.” I got the tiring curiosity-inspired questions but not people crossing to the other side of the street to avoid me or shop employees following me around thinking I’m a shoplifter. I got that treatment in stories quite a bit when younger in the US. The curiosity stuff doesn’t bother me much.

          That said, that CEO the OP is dealing with is quite ignorant for an American. Annoyingly ignorant. It’s his weakness. I pity him a bit, though it’s disturbing that there are lot of people with power with those attitudes in the US.

          1. Postscript*

            Yes. This. It’s 2015 and the interwebs are CHOCK FULL of information that white people can use to figure out how Not To Be Racist. Or even just to answer their questions about black hair or whatever.

            Good luck OP, and I hope that if you do choose to educate this idiot that he doesn’t find a way to blame his ignorance on you or say you were too sensitive or whatever.

      2. AGirlCalledFriday*

        Yes, I’ve experienced this. It was less a thing while I was living in the Middle East, but it was rampant in Japan. A lot of people were very curious about me, and I would be stared at no matter where I was, or what I was doing. It becomes part of the background noise, and in fact it was difficult to transition to living back in the states and NOT being stared at by everyone.

      3. Anonymous Educator*

        It was exhausting and it’s a big part of the reason that I’m so glad to be back home in the US. I’m so sorry that you have to deal with that in your own country.

        I’m glad you at least recognize that. I can’t tell you how many white Americans have whined to me about how they totally understand racial discrimination because they spent a year abroad in some Asian country. No, it’s totally not the same… at all. It’s horrible. But it is not the same. For people of color in the U.S. there is no “back home” to go to. Back home is where racism is unavoidable. And honestly the salt in the wounds is that America pretends to be a place of equality and to be “post-racial” or some kind of “melting pot.”

    4. Another Job Seeker*

      OP #1, I am so sorry that you are having to deal with this. When I was working in corporate America, I dealt with this nonsense on a regular basis. Racism also raises it ugly head when I attend conferences. I don’t deal with it much at work now (I work at an HBCU). I actually think that telling the CEO why you are leaving could backfire. In general, telling anyone you cannot trust the real reasons why you leave a negative workplace could have negative repercussions. In this case, many well-meaning people are racist but do not consider themselves to be so. He could be very offended by your statements – and might badmouth you to others. He could speak negatively about you and completely twist what you are saying. Additionally, any statements about why you are leaving could follow you in your career (you never know who he might know). And others with whom you work (who undoubtedly see what is going on) might be reluctant to publicly agree with you because he is the CEO.

      Do you know whether professional organizations designed to support blacks in your field have chapters in your area? Perhaps someone in one of those organizations hosts a blog similar to this one. If so, someone who follows the blog might have some insight. If not, you might try contacting the Black MBA Association, the National Society of Black Engineers, Black Girls Code or the Black Data Processor Association. Even if these organizations are outside of your field of study, they have members who have plenty of experience dealing with what you are facing. They might be able to advise you. I hope that you have a better experience in your next position.

      1. rando*

        I agree. People who are the racism spectrum typically hate it when someone points it out to them.

        OP, if you otherwise have a good relationship with your boss and think he would take feedback well, I would talk to him about this issue…after you have your next job lined up. I wouldn’t bring it up beforehand because you need a reference and people talk.

        1. honoria*

          “People who are the racism spectrum typically hate it when someone points it out to them.”
          Brilliant way to phrase it.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I agree, I would be afraid that he would not take it well. I’m white, and I’ve had plenty of other white people get defensive both when I’ve directly called them out on their comments and when I’ve indicated in a very roundabout, non-confrontational way that hey, maybe, just maybe those remarks might not sound great. I can’t imagine how well it would go over from a person of color. It depends entirely on the person, but someone who is liable to get defensive about race will do it no matter how diplomatically you phrase it (as no minority needs me to tell them). It would great for humanity if you did say something, but you definitely shouldn’t feel like you have to. You know him better than any of us do, so only you can decide whether that’s something you want to risk.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I agree, but more for the reason that he’s likely to go “why in the heck didn’t you say something x months ago?” as kind of a knee-jerk, deflective response.

          1. Melissa*

            I think with this guy – who probably thinks he’s being a courageous pioneer in diversity – the reaction is more likely to be along the lines of “But they’re COMPLIMENTS! How could they possibly be racist? You’re being way too sensitive. I didn’t mean it that way, and you’re the racist one for interpreting it that way.”

            …actual reactions I have actually encountered, and a major reason in why often people of color just shut up and leave instead of addressing it head-on.

            1. Rana*

              Yeah, I’ve seen this happen to a friend of mine. When the people being racist are proud of their “openness to diversity” they can become quite nasty to a person of color who doesn’t reinforce that self-image, or, worse, has the temerity to act in any way that doesn’t fit their vision of what a “good” person of color looks like.

        2. Clever Name*

          This is why when I call out other white people who are making racist comments/jokes I say, “I’m not racist; I just say things that racist people say!” That always shuts them down. In my experience, people who are racist, never think of themselves as racist.

        3. No Longer Passing By*

          To follow up with your point, I think that the OP more than likely doesn’t have to address it because other people, like the coworkers and clients in the area, probably felt uncomfortable themselves and will know without asking why she left. I just don’t believe that the boss is that clueless. I’ve been in situations where the shocked silence and stricken looks in the faces of those standing around told me that they either did not agree or were embarrassed themselves that I did not need to say anything at all to educate the person making inappropriate remarks.

      3. Artemesia*

        I agree that this guy does not think of himself as ‘racist’ although he is obsessed with race and thinks his comments are ‘compliments’ e.g. the good skin thing and might very well react badly to hearing the truth. The OP should not take any risks here. He is probably unaware that he does this so often and that he is in fact so fixated on this difference. And yes, he is an insensitive ass.

    5. Ann Furthermore*

      Well, I’m the whitest person on earth, and this entire story makes me cringe. Good lord, how clueless can someone be?

      I would never make any comments about someone’s complexion or anything else like that. I maybe, maybe could see asking about more personal things like cultural differences, but never in a public setting, never in any kind of work context, and only if it was someone I was friendly with. I work pretty closely with some colleagues from India, and over the past year when we’ve been traveling together, we’ve talked about differences between Indian and American culture, traditions, customs, and other things. It’s been really interesting and I’ve learned stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise. Like now I know that if someone from India becomes a US citizen, they lose part of their Indian citizenship and become essentially “3/4” citizens. More rights than someone not born there, but not as many rights as someone who has kept their citizenship. Although that’s not really a good example.

      I’m a volunteer moderator in another online community, and I remember not long after I started there was a discussion about race, politics, and the police. Someone there made some really interesting and insightful comments that I had never thought about, and the subject matter, and the person’s viewpoint, made me wonder if the person who made that comment was a person of color. And the only reason I was interested is because I really like hearing viewpoints from people with opinions shaped by experiences completely different than my own, because I think it helps people understand each other better. But never in a million years would I have asked that person, “Say! Are you black?” Just because it would have been horribly gauche, tone deaf, and clueless of me to do so.

    6. Cleopatra Jones*

      Yep. Been the black curio too as well as the spokesperson for all of Black America.
      The older I get, the more side-eye you are going to get from me. It is not my responsibility to educate anyone on African-American culture. If you want to know that, Google it or hell pick up a book.

  4. super anon*

    2. i find Allison’s answer to this interesting. every office i’ve worked in has considered shorts work appropriate attire. not jean short-shorts or booty shorts or anything, but those to the knee dress pant shorts were acceptable on women, and in my last office the men would wear to the knee khakis and other similar length shorts. i suppose it depends on the office culture more than anything what’s acceptable wrt shorts and what isn’t?

    1. super anon*

      i should add that the offices i worked in were with the government, public universities, and small businesses. maybe norms are different outside of these fields.

      1. hnl123*

        same here. I worked at a University in admin role. Knee length J Crew Shorts were totally OK. SHould memtion it was in Southern CA, where dress typically is more casual.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Really? That’s fascinating to me — I’ve never worked anywhere where shorts, even knee-length ones, would be considered acceptably professional.

      Small businesses can indeed be different. And maybe my view here is particularly D.C.-centric, since we’re a conservatively-dressing town. (Although the congressional buildings are inexplicably filled with interns in flip flops.)

      What do other people say?

      1. Thinking out loud*

        I work for a large company. My office is on the west coast, but we have many other locations. Although jeans are mostly acceptable on a normal day if we don’t have visitors, I wouldn’t ever wear shorts. Some women wear capri pants, which is generally fine.

        1. AcademicAnon*

          I’m a women and I totally don’t get how shorts are not ok but capris are? How is showing ankles any different than showing knees? I’m actually curious and not trying to be obtuse.

      2. Al Lo*

        When I interviewed for my current job (on a warm September day), one of my interviewers was wearing knee-length shorts. I work at a non-profit arts organization, and my day-to-day office wear is often jeans, sometimes leggings, rarely dress pants, fairly frequently skirts or dresses. I can even get away with hoodies if I really want to, although I tend to save those for days when I know I won’t have much interaction with anyone. I could wear bermuda shorts if I wanted to (and occasionally do), but I tend more toward sundresses in the summer.

        I would consider something like the third photo here to be totally work-appropriate — they’re basically capris, but just a few inches shorter. If the same cut of pants were below the knee, no one would bat an eye.

        1. No Longer Passing By*

          I think that length is called “city shorts” and I thought that meant that they’re work-appropriate. I haven’t worn shorts to work so I don’t know.

      3. Stephanie*

        Everywhere I’ve worked (in terms of white-collar office jobs) shorts have been fine, but I’ve been in super casual offices (in the DC area, no less). That being said, I never wore anything shorter than a Bermuda short to the office.

      4. Caroline*

        I agree with super anon. In any of the places I’ve worked shorts would be absolutely fine so long as they were the right kind of shorts. You can get pretty cheap bermuda shorts from Old Navy which are perfectly work appropriate. (I’m in NYC, btw.)

      5. VioletFox*

        I work at a university so we don’t have a dress code as much as “you should be dressed”, so some people do wear shorts when it gets warmer even though I don’t.

        In the general case, I don’t think a conversation about things regarding the broken foot is unreasonable considering it is a temporary thing that will heal on its own, so the shorts to be able to wear the boot for the broken foot would only be temporary too. My view is skewed though by spending over a decade working in academia (IT support staff, not a professor or the like). Depends a lot on the dynamics within in the company though.

        Part of the problem in the particular case seems to be that the office dress code is confusing at best. Wearing the jeans that work is probably the easiest and least fuss-making thing to do.

      6. periwinkle*

        I’m in Seattle. Shorts aren’t universally acceptable but would not look out of place in a lot of local workspaces.

        By that I mean dressier shorts close to knee length. Bike shorts… not so much.

      7. Jen RO*

        Accepted in my office too. I wouldn’t call them ‘professional’, but they are not frowned upon. (With the usual disclaimer of different country, software development, etc.)

        1. De (Germany)*

          Same disclaimer, but with an added “nobody would say anything, but unless there’s a big reason (like a cast…) I wouldn’t do it”.

      8. AcademiaNut*

        I’ve always worked places where shorts are fine. I don’t wear anything much above the knee, for aesthetic reasons, myself.

      9. Something Professional*

        I’ve never worked in an office where shorts would be considered appropriate attire, even if they were Bermuda shorts paired with a nice top. My husband currently has a very casual dress code at his office (he wears jeans year-round) but he said he wouldn’t wear shorts to work either.

        I think this has more to do with the perception of shorts than the shorts themselves, though. All of the offices I’ve worked in would accept a knee-length skirt as appropriate, even without tights or hose. Shorts aren’t more revealing unless they’re pretty short.

        1. MK*

          I don’t think it’s about showing skin, but about being perceived as too casual. Shorts tend to evoke summer vacation/beachwear/sports activity.

        2. Emily*

          Yep – I’ve always called it the “skirt loophole” in the dress code, that men are stuck sweating in long pants all summer while I’m in skirts and dresses pretty much without fail from mid-May to September because it’s way too hot to wear pants and none of my office’s dress codes have ever been OK with shorts (even the ones that have been pretty casual).

          1. Judy*

            In my last company that had a written dress code, it stated that shorts that had a “skirt silhouette” and worn with the hose or tights required of skirts were allowed on women.

            1. Jipsy's Mom*

              I just had the worst flashback to the coulottes I wore in first and second grade. Shorts with a “skirt silhouette” should not be a thing, IMHO.

      10. FiveWheels*

        In my office (a law firm in the UK) the dress code is very conservative – all the men wear suits every day, about half the women wear suits every day, regardless of weather. Above the knee skirts would raise an eyebrow, shorts would definitely be unacceptable. But no-one skills bat an eye if you wore shorts or other casual clothing to accommodate a cast. There’s a big difference between wearing shorts because you think they’re acceptable business attire vs because you have a serious injury.

      11. Ann Furthermore*

        My office is pretty casual. Most days I wear jeans. But shorts would definitely get the side-eye.

      12. Daisy*

        I’ve been able to wear shorts at my 3 jobs since college but they have all be smaller (one was customer facing though). My husband has worked for 4-5 smaller -medium sized companies and at only one was there a no shorts policy.

      13. Oryx*

        I have co-workers get away with pretty short flowy dresses and leggings worn as pant, but shorts would definitely get a serious side-eye.

      14. Phyllis*

        I work in a school district and shorts are fine on days when the kids aren’t in school. If I do wear shorts though, it’s usually on Thursdays (we work 4-day weeks in the summer) and then only knee length khaki, black, or navy blue ones.

      15. BRR*

        I work at a university although the fundraising office which I think is slightly different and we have to wear a tie everyday the students are there. I don’t think women have ever worn shorts and for men that would be a huge no. A couple of the women in the office had a fit when they were told they couldn’t wear flip flops anymore (the super cheap kind). I also can’t imagine going to my local government office and seeing people in shorts.

      16. peppermint*

        I work for a Fortune 500 company in the Midwest. While nice jeans are okay on Fridays (if you aren’t meeting with customers), shorts would never be acceptable.

      17. K.*

        I’ve never worked anywhere as an adult where shorts were considered acceptable, although I was at an agency on a Friday and a few men were wearing knee-length shorts (I was meeting with a female C-level person who was wearing capri pants). Agencies tend to be more on the casual side of business casual though, in my experience, and this was a Friday so people were dressed down.

        It honestly wouldn’t occur to me to wear shorts to work; the last time I did, I was a 17-year-old day camp counselor. I primarily wear skirts and dresses to work in warm weather. I generally favor a shorter short, not a Bermuda one, so maybe that’s why – I wouldn’t wear a miniskirt to work either.

      18. The Cosmic Avenger*

        As a DC-area consultant who rarely is face-to-face with a client, I still am expected to wear khakis in the office most days, and jeans on Friday (no shorts allowed even then). It’s one of the reasons I like teleworking so much, I can work in shorts/sweatpants! :)

        It’s understandable, though, as we may have a government client in the office at any time, although when we’re expecting a big meeting we get office-wide emails reminding us of the minimum standard, so I think some projects are more relaxed than others.

      19. infj*

        IF you ride your bike to my office, you could certainly go around in shorts for a few minutes while getting your things put away, firing up your computer, etc. After that, you better at least put on some pants or a skirt. (for reference, its a small east-cost architecture firm)

      20. AdAgencyChick*

        It was a definite no in my office, possibly becoming a “yes, if it’s 100 degrees out.” Our old CEO was very against shorts, although we had an otherwise casual dress code. Since his retirement I’ve seen them creep in, and no one seems to be getting reprimanded for it.

        I do think that if it’s allowed for women to wear above-knee and/or strappy sundresses, it’s only fair to let the dudes wear shorts (obviously, not when clients are here).

        1. FiveWheels*

          That’s one of the reasons why I’d feel super uncomfortable wearing w skirt or dress to work. To me or doesn’t read as an equivalent level of professionalism as a trouser suit, and if men can’t get a breeze round their legs why should I?

          Notwithstanding that I think shorts would be okay for someone with a cast, an alternative which could be more appropriate is dark coloured track/jogging bottoms. Full leg and dark coloured would read as more formal than knee length and light coloured, and there are pockets.

          Any employer that would object to that strikes me as nuts. My school (grammar school to Brits, I think prep school to Americans?) had a dress code that included 4 hour Saturday detentions for tying your tie at the wrong length, and even they let pupils on crutches wear track bottoms.

      21. Helka*

        My job allows knee-length shorts on days when the temperatures are very high (which is often; we’re in a “six months of summer” area) mostly out of consideration for the folks who take mass transit to work and therefore are spending a certain amount of time either standing outside in the heat or on a poorly-cooled bus. But outside of those specific days, shorts are generally not accepted.

      22. Lia*

        My old boss actually banned flip flops in the office! Loved that guy. We had a lot of interns and he definitely schooled them well on proper dress, interactions, etc. They left after their one-year stints well-prepared for a job in business.

        In my current workplace (university administration), shorts are a huge no. You sometimes see women in capris but they are always secretarial staff, not executive staff. The only people I have ever seen in shorts are maintenance workers or groundskeepers. Some men skip ties on summer Fridays, but that is about as far as it goes.

        To the OP, if pockets are necessary, I’d suggest a smallish backpack to carry wallet, keys, phone, etc.

        1. Joline*

          I often wear my flip flops to work in the summer but have my more work appropriate shoes in my bag. THis morning I realized that I forgot the latter. So I’m awkwardly walking around trying not to make that distinctive “flip flop” noise. Luckily I don’t have to leave my space that often – it’s a secure, internal-use floor – and if I end up with a surprise meeting a co-worker has offered to lend me some fancier shoes.

          1. Beezus*

            Yup, I wear dressyish flipflops to work most days when the weather is nice, and keep a neutral pair of nice pumps in my drawer to switch to the minute I sit down. I have to walk a couple of blocks on pavement to get from my car into my building, and I switched to this after wearing out a nice pair of pumps in less than three months because the soles were really designed for indoor floor surfaces and the pavement chewed them up quickly.

      23. Kara*

        I live in Atlanta and I have never worked anywhere where shorts were acceptable business attire. I can get away with dressy capris (think below knee length) or ankle pants if worn with a nice top and good shoes, but shorts? Never.
        Even in my own business I wouldn’t wear shorts to meet clients – it would come across as way too casual and unprofessional.

      24. AnotherAlison*

        Shorts have never been allowed anywhere I worked.

        I did work next door to an engineering firm that first went to jeans 5 days/week, and then allowed shorts in the summer, and not even dress shorts, just plain old crappy jean shorts or khaki shorts were fine. IMO, it was a slippery slope at that place. Next thing you know someone is in booty shorts or soffee shorts, and do you really want management spending time policing shorts, like high school principals?

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          I think your worry about a slippery slope is unfounded. I’m on the west coast and every place I’ve ever worked, except retail, considered shorts appropriate.

          No one ever showed up in booty shorts.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Maybe it’s better if it’s a norm? People generally understand what’s okay.

            Based on people not knowing that spandex leggings aren’t pants and knowing the difference between a club skirt and a work skirt, I’m not so sure. We moved to a different location, so I don’t know the long-term result of their shorts experiment.

      25. Graciosa*

        I was going to mark myself down as never having worked anywhere shorts would be acceptable in the office, but I pushed to try to come up with a situation where they would have been.

        All I can come up with is running into the office to grab something over the weekend – but they would have to be nice shorts (pleated, a bit formal as shorts go – not running shorts).

        Shorts in every place I have worked have been consistently OMG Not Done.

        1. Judy*

          Even in the most dress code-y office (see above, have to wear hose with skirts), I’d not blink an eye if someone went to the gym after work and then realized they forgot something and needed to grab it.

          The Y was further away from my house than the work I listed above, and before kids, when I was working out at 5 pm many nights, I’d have no problem stopping in at 6:30 when I realized snow was expected, and I really should have taken my laptop home in case working from home was the best option for the next day.

      26. Dr. Ruthless*

        I work at a small (very small) consulting firm, but one of a type where we only meet with clients a few times a year, and NEVER have drop in surprise visitors or potential clients.

        The men in our office wear shorts all summer. One of them wore flip flops with regularity.

        I wore dresses (think cotton, unstructured, just this side of sundresses) for the first few days. My boss pulled me aside and said, “you know, you don’t have to dress up here. You can wear jeans or shorts or whatever… But as I’m saying this, it occurs to me that maybe you like wearing dresses, in which case, carry on!”

      27. Sadsack*

        Not at my business casual corporate office. Maybe a woman could get away with knee length because people here do wear capris in the summer. I have never seen a man here wear any kind of short pants, male bus. casual here means khakis, sometimes jeans. Denim is against policy here, but I have seen men and women breaking that rule.

      28. Ad Astra*

        I have worked in offices where dressy shorts were acceptable on the weekends, or on days when your job required you to be outside for a long time. But these were newsrooms, not traditional corporate offices. Personally, I think it’s a good summer work look for people who don’t deal with customers. But not a lot of bosses agree.

      29. Arjay*

        Nope, shorts are a bright line vihere at our business-casual office in Florida. I see tons of dress codes violations every day, perhaps because we are so casual. Sandals are ok, but flip flops are not. Sleeveless is ok, but spaghetti straps are not. That can lead to discussions over just how wide a strap has to be or whether this fancy flip-flop is really a sandal. But shorts will get you sent home every time.

        The one exception to this in my career is that back in the 80s, these hideous polyester shorts suits for women were briefly popular and briefly accepted as business wear. For those who are too young to remember, it was a business jacket, with matching knee length shorts in the same color and fabric, and you’d usually wear them with hose and heels. Ugh. I’m so glad I wasn’t trendy enough for those!

        1. Beezus*

          We actually still have a loophole in our dress code for those! Shorts are allowed for women if they are to the knee, dressy fabric, tailored, and worn with a matching jacket of the same fabric. I have **never** seen anyone in the office wearing something like that, it sounds awful. (I always picture it in plaid for some reason.)

      30. sam*

        Shorts have never been appropriate anywhere I’ve ever worked. Then again, jeans have largely been verboten as well.

        (Law firms, corporate law offices. The only time jeans were acceptable was when i was working in the suburbs on casual friday, but even then, the fairly dressed down “business casual” of that environment would have never tolerated actual shorts).

      31. The Strand*

        Shorts are worn by men wearing business casual in Australia, as far as their informality I’ve even seen a guy wearing a drover coat over a full business suit, but you’re not going to see a banker wearing shorts on Martin Place (in Sydney’s business district). There’s a distinction also between Bermuda shorts and shorty-shorts.

        I have also seen a professional trainer, at a public institution, wearing culottes in Texas. It would probably be OK, in a business casual office, if they were very formal appearing. Houston and Austin have much less formal dress codes than Dallas, which doesn’t quite get to the same sweaty levels as Houston. Engineers at NASA really dress to this day, like the guys in Mission Control in “Apollo 13” (hey, hey, 20th anniversary!) – short sleeve button-ups with khakis. But people in these cities spend a lot of time in really, really chilled air conditioning so you will see women in particular layering on sweaters and long sleeve shirts, and a lot of jeans, formal pants, long sleeve button-ups in business casual settings – rather than shorts.

      32. Meg*

        I was a federal contractor in Bethesda for a while. Our dress code was described as “summer camp casual.” My boss wore those strappy hiking sandals all the time. T-shirt and jeans were okay. I’m pretty sure I saw staff scientists walking around in army camo cargo shorts.

        Then again, we weren’t not customer-facing. At all. My department made software and web applications for other scientists to use.

      33. Tinker*

        So, I’m usually the voice of Wild West startup culture, but as it happens people tend not to wear shorts that much at my office except incidentally with some sort of reason (about to go to the gym or for a run, bike capris, et cetera). One of the VPs gives them the fisheye, or so I am told. That said, if someone had a cast or foot boot thingy and was wearing shorts, I’m pretty sure that the shorts-wearing would be seen as having an obvious practical purpose and any fisheye-givers would be in the wrong.

      34. Elizabeth West*

        My company (huge company) allows shorts and flip-flops in summer, but you have to pay a charity donation to wear them. Otherwise, they’re off the dress code. We are allowed to wear capris, however, which I could not wear at Exjob (small business).

      35. AMT*

        I think Super Anon was referring to capris or culottes rather than shorts. I’m in NYC and I almost never see women wearing shorts in any of the offices where I’ve worked, but a pair of dressy, tailored capri pants or flowy culottes seem to be as acceptable as skirts or pants.

        1. super anon*

          nope, i was referring to actual shorts (i had to google what culottes were though).

      36. Beancounter in Texas*

        At Dream Job (small business, wholesale/showroom), I could wear knee-length shorts of woven cotton, but not denim shorts. I was a desk jockey and rarely interacted with customers. (I could wear denim jeans whenever I wanted though. The Boss usually wore shorts and flip-flops with an untucked polo or button-down shirt.) Then Dream Job turned into Nightmare Job.

        After accepting my current position, I dropped by New Employer (Old Fashioned small business, real estate) during my last two weeks at Nightmare Job in the middle of August (in Texas). I was wearing a nice blouse, woven cotton knee-length shorts and penny loafers in the 104 degree weather. New Boss commented on it, asking whether I was going to work that day. I was surprised, but grateful I learned he considered shorts a no-no before I officially started employment. I’m still a desk jockey and never see customers now, but dress code is stiffer than Dream Job.

      37. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve never worked in an office where shorts were acceptable. Well, at least not since I worked in the customer service office of a natural foods warehouse, before natural foods were widely available everywhere. So it was kind of a hippy place, and they finally told people that they could wear tank tops, and they could be braless, but they advised against being braless AND in a skimpy tank top at the same time. Anywhere else I’ve worked, though, no shorts.

      38. MinB*

        I’m in an arts nonprofit on the west coast with no air conditioning, broken single pane windows, minimal insulation, and no option to work from home. The office basically turns into a mild oven when the afternoon sun comes around. We’re allowed to wear (dressier) shorts but I’m pretty sure that’s at least partially because we’d succumb to heat exhaustion otherwise.

        My husband works at a major tech company as a software engineer and he only wears shorts and tees in the summer.

      39. Anon-na-na*

        I work at a private non-profit university (East Coast USA) and knee length shorts, the sort made of structured cotton or “dress pant” material are acceptable during the school year, but then again, quite a few people will also wear a t-shirt or polo with our university logo over a pair of nicer jeans and no one will blink an eye. Summertime here tends towards the super casual–flip flops, cargo shorts, sundresses–though I don’t go that far since I answer to a VP (I’d rather wear a long skirt than shorts anyway). Prior to that I worked for a small business, and bermuda shorts with flip flops were common summertime wear.

      40. AnotherFed*

        I’m government, and shorts would generally not be allowed at our office. No one would say anything if you were going to be working outside or in non-AC spaces for most of the day, but if you consistently tried to do it while working in the office, you’d get a reminder about professional dress code.

        If you were obviously in a cast or on crutches, though, you could wear fleece pajama shorts and bunny slippers and no one would say anything about it. When I broke my clavicle, I wore very loose cotton t-shirts for a couple of weeks and it was fine.

      41. SallyForth*

        My organization is currently reviewing its dress policy, which is quite casual. I overheard the conversation that triggered the review. A manager wore a fairly conservative shorts/jacket combo to work, with a silk tank top underneath. However, when she took her jacket off, the look changed, so she was just wearing shorts and a thin tank top and it was totally inappropriate for a manager.

      42. Pennalynn Lott*

        I have worked in San Francisco, Dallas, and Orlando, and shorts have never been acceptable office attire. Even capris would be pushing it. It was in tech, but mostly business/ERP/logistics software (not gaming or consumer products). I got sent home from IBM for wearing knee-length shorts over opaque hose, topped with a blouse and blazer, and it was an in-office, non-customer facing position (inside sales).

        My last position was at a 3D imaging startup and the owner gave me the side-eye when I showed up in dressy capris.

      43. jag*

        I think shorts are on the edge – very formal/dressy shorts can be on the edge of business casual for women. Not quite professional but almost. And I think a reasonable office would allow it for the OP while she has the cast, making it clear it is an exception based on a specific need.

      44. abby*

        I have worked for three small organizations, all based in Southern California. At two of the three, including current employer, shorts were completely acceptable. If we were meeting with outsiders (clients, vendors, etc), then shorts might not be appropriate, but it really depended on the purpose of the meeting.

        The single employer that did not permit shorts had a dress policy that never made sense to me. We never had visitors, and if we did, it was a big deal and everyone knew that visitors were coming. However, we were not allowed to wear shorts or jeans, even though we sat in cubes and worked all day. At the same time, unkempt and sloppy pants seemed to be okay, just as long as they were not denim!

      45. Jo*

        I work in book publishing in NYC. Shorts are no problem for us, and I suspect the same goes for a lot of other NYC workers, based on what I see in public transit and on the street. Rompers, which I’ve seen denounced by commenters on this blog, are also fine. As long as the fabric is relatively nice and the garment isn’t too revealing, shorts and rompers are not considered significantly more casual than an above-the-knee skirt or dress. I’m from the South and don’t recall shorts being a problem when I worked there six years ago, either.

        I have a sister in DC, and after visiting each other back and forth many times, we’ve come to the conclusion that DC professionals are indeed very conservatively dressed compared to other places we’ve lived. I think it probably does give you blinders as to what other equally reasonable people might find acceptable.

    3. MK*

      I hav never seen anyone wear shorts in an office environment. And I think they would look completely out of place in an office where half the people are wearing suits.

      I find the OP’s indignation odd. Every single person I know who has had this kind of injury (myself included) has had to buy, or borrow, a couple of pieces of clothing to accommodate the situation. You don’t need a new wardrobe, just one or two inexpensive clothes that you will want to wear again too.

      1. Rachel*

        Or if you hit up the thrift stores, it doesn’t even have to be something you’ll ever want to wear again. That was my go-to for required ugly work clothes (especially for say, temp work). Spend a couple of dollars, wear it for the thing, send it off back into the world to find a new home.

        1. misspiggy*

          True, but being disabled and only able to order online cuts out thrift stores. It’s a pity, as disabled people often need thrift stores the most.

          1. tesyaa*

            Ebay is the online thrift store. Prices for used clothing are often shockingly low. True, most sellers don’t take returns, but many list garment measurements that make it easier to determine if an item will fit.

            1. Helka*

              For a slightly less catch-as-catch-can thrift store, thredUP is also a good solution.

          2. LizB*

            If the OP does want to go the thrift store route, there are a couple of online options — Twice and thredUp are the ones that come to mind, but I’m sure there are others.

          3. Pennalynn Lott*

            I’m curious, though, how is the OP able to get to work (and, presumably, do things like grocery shop) but they can’t go buy a pair of cotton pants? I shattered my ankle back in the summer of 2001, and by the time I’d healed enough for a walking boot (vs a cast), I could have popped into a clothing store with relative ease, even while still on crutches. I mean, if I could push a shopping cart through the grocery store while on crutches (which I did), then I could absolutely go into The Gap or somesuch and grab a couple of pairs of pants. I would also be able to put on “granny panties” so that my 2 or 3 pairs of jeans that worked with the boot could be worn multiple times before needing washing.

      2. Emily*

        This reminds me of why I grew to hate LOFT, because I used to buy all my business clothes there until one year they hired a new head designer and suddenly in every ad they were showing women at work in shorts!!

      3. Colette*

        There are office environments where suits are rare. Shorts have always been fine where I’ve worked, but I’m in high tech.

    4. Coach Devie*

      While I understand WHY shorts are seen as unprofessional, I think it’s a bit (culturally) funny, because a dress at the same length of longer shorts, would not be seen as such…

      1. MK*

        It’s not about the lenght, it’s about how casual you can go. Much like mid-calf capris are not ok, but a knee-length skirt is.

          1. The IT Manager*

            Because I one point in history, they were only for kids.

            Think Downton Abbey or any period drama (but Downton Abbey is now my go-to period drama). Adults (males and females) are very covered up. Men wear long pants, and women wear dresses. As the 1920s roll around, women start showing more ankle and then leg in their skirts, but the men still cover their legs (and arms, neck). Whereas George (the 2-3 year old boy) wears shorts with a jacket, vest/waistcoat.

            Shorts used to be something for children (boys) because adults covered up. Then as adults started dressing more casually in public and showing more skin they gradually adopted shorts, but shorts (even dressy shorts) still haven’t made it into norms for American/western business dress. They’re still associated with too casual for work. But women have always worn skirts. Social norms changed and skirts got higher, but skirts still remained acceptable business dress.

            1. Ife*

              I was pretty baffled by how prevalent the “omg no shorts, EVER, totally inappropriate” responses are, even though the thought of wearing shorts to work does feel very off to me. I couldn’t put my finger on why though. I was about to throw up my hands and add it to the list of “things I don’t understand about my own culture”/”It’s a non-optional social convention,” but this makes a lot of sense.

              (Although it does move the question back farther — why did adults cover up so much but children could wear shorts? When and why did this start? But that’s another topic. :)

              1. Tara*

                I suspect it’s because adult bodies are considered sexual, (and in that era, therefore sinful/likely to lead to temptation) whereas children’s are not. We still see that today actually– parents will put 5 year old girls in extremely short skirts because there’s just not a sexual connotation to it. A 15 year old wearing the same outfit wouldn’t be allowed out of the house.

                1. The IT Manager*

                  That’s exactly what I think too.

                  I’m not educated on it, but I have noticed Muslim women wearing traditional garb with children of both sexes in western dress. There seems to be age where girls need to start wearing the traditional garb.

      2. kozinskey*

        I was thinking the same thing. I’m 5’10” and a standard suit skirt tends to hit a little bit above my knee, but I would never wear shorts of that length to my (Midwest government law) office. I think it’s pretty arbitrary / based in old cultural norms.

    5. Not Today Satan*

      I’ve never worked anywhere where shorts were appropriate/allowed, and I’ve always worked at places with very casual dress codes.

    6. Katie the Fed*

      If you showed up in my office in shorts, it would be as weird as showing up in a bathrobe or pajamas. It’s just not done.

    7. The IT Manager*

      Wow! Not my experience and my work has been fairly casual. Jeans allowed, but even dressy shorts would seem odd. Khaki shorts do not seem as professional as khaki pants.

    8. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My office is super casual and my boss wears shorts every day once the temps hit 75. I could never do it, but that’s mostly because I hate my legs. I used to work for a huge corporation that prided itself on a casual dress code, but we worked with ad sales and were a little more buttoned up– sometimes people wore dress shorts, and I just couldn’t get behind it.

    9. Lady Bug*

      My husband used to be a buyer/warehouse mgr for an hvac firm and worked in the basement warehouse. He wore cargo shorts all the time, but was told in November he wasn’t allowed to wear them anymore until spring (he’s one of those guys who wears shorts until it’s like 10 degrees, while I look like an eskimo). I thought it was strange that it was only acceptable if it was in season. Trust me, he wasn’t cranking the heat.

      1. TootsNYC*

        He just made everybody else feel cold when they looked at him.

        And, I can see that the impression to an onlooker would be “I’m someone who doesn’t think much about how I look, I like to buck society’s norms.” And that’s not the vibe his employer would want.

    10. la Contessa*

      I could wear shorts to my jobs in retail, but never to any of my professional jobs. It has to do with office culture and my particular role, though–I’ve worked for two government organizations and a law firm, and because I’m a litigator, I have to be ready to jump into court whenever if someone has a conflict and needs coverage. On the other hand, I was just at a deposition where the attorney whose firm it was walked in wearing cut-off, ragged camo shorts, a t-shirt, and a backwards baseball cap. So, YMMV in law, I guess.

      1. UKAnon*

        I’ve heard of a magistrates court that refused to hear a case because the (female) attorney was wearing a trouser suit not a skirt. YMMV may vary across countries as well methinks!

    11. Chocolate lover*

      Not shorts allowed any of my jobs either, including a private university, a finance firm, and a research firm. I could wear jeans and sneakers at the research firm, but never shorts (which was rather silly, considering that some of the senior management when running at lunch and then NEVER changed out of their spandex running gear!) Most offices at my university don’t allow shorts either, though some of them allow jeans and capri pants.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        considering that some of the senior management when running at lunch and then NEVER changed out of their spandex running gear!

        Well, that’s disgusting. Granted, it’s been about 90 F with 99% humidity the last couple days I’ve been running, but I am completely drenched and my clothes are ringing wet. I feel kind of bad when I make/eat dinner post-run pre-shower. I won’t even sit on a fabric chair without a towel. Can’t imagine getting in a coworker’s space all stinky and sweaty.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I keep a t-shirt in my cube that I change into before doing my stair climbing. If I sweat, at least I won’t mess up the shirt I’m actually wearing.

    12. Elizabeth*

      We’re a software company, so there are definitely a lot of shorts here. Some of the guys wear shorts all year round – including in the winter (we’re in New England).

      I don’t wear shorts in the summer though, mostly because the area where my office is located is always freezing with the AC.

      1. Judy*

        Yep, have my cardigan on already, it’s 69 F (20.5 C) on my thermometer.

        Shorts, sandals, sleeveless tops? Who can wear those to an office?

        1. AnotherAlison*

          My office is on a corner with floor-to-ceiling glass windows on two walls, on the east side of the building. It’s like a sauna until the sun moves around to the west.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            (Seriously, so hot. . .Monday mornings are the worst because they back off the AC on the weekends. It was about 95 F yesterday and after record rain, it’s muggy as snot. Three-quarter length button up shirt, full-length pants, shoes, and socks was a bad choice today.)

      2. I'm a Little Teapot*

        *shudders* Why would anyone ever *want* to wear shorts in the winter? I just don’t understand it. My brother used to do that sometimes as a kid, while I was bundled up in full winter gear and still cold.

    13. JB (not in Houston)*

      Wow, I have never worked any place where shorts of any kind were considered even remotely acceptable other than the amusement park I worked at in high school. Do you work in the U.S.? If so, what part?

      1. super anon*

        No I’m in Canada. And these offices were on both the East and West coast. Maybe because it’s winter 11 months of the year, the small shorts appropriate window isn’t long enough to really bother anyone? :p

    14. AnonAnalyst*

      Definitely office-specific. In my last job, the dress code was essentially “nothing with holes in it,” but no one wore shorts and I think it would have been surprising if someone did. It just Wasn’t Done. In my current job, we have a super casual dress code when no clients are in the office (which is most of the time), but people will still give you the joking “wow, you’re REALLY casual today!” lines if you come in in shorts. It’s allowed, but it’s definitely recognized that it’s a really, really casual look for our office. These were small California and north east offices, FTR (just had to throw that in there as anecdata that not all small businesses would find this reasonable).

      TBH, I’m also surprised at the OP’s outrage over this. I’ve had to buy clothes and shoes to accommodate various injuries, so I can relate. It sucks but it’s part of the deal. Pushing back hard against this in most of the offices I’ve worked in would come across as wildly out of touch.

    15. Florida*

      In Florida, I’m sure your boss would allow you to wear shorts. In fact, the rest of the office would be jealous that you got to wear shorts even if it meant hobbling around on crutches. Almost anyone who wears a uniform here (police officers, theme park, grocery store, postal workers) wears shorts in the summer. For non-uniform people, which includes most office jobs, you can’t usually get by with shorts in normal circumstances, but if you broke your leg, most managers here would make an exception.

      I have known situations where people were allowed to wear sneakers (which was against the dress code) because of some sort of disability that affected their feet or walking or something. ADA requires the employer to allow that. Your situation does not fall under because a broken leg is not a disability. I’m just throwing it out there to point out there is room for some medical exceptions in a dress code.

  5. AnnieNonymous*

    I’m more cautious than Alison re: #1. I would say that if you tell the boss that you’re fully leaving due to his racism, you should be prepared to lose that reference. It’s not going to go over well despite being true.

    1. Florida*

      I tend to agree. I’ve always thought exit interviews are a waste of time for the same reason.
      Besides that, I’ve also found it curious that racist people never view themselves as racist. OK, an extremist like a KKK member might admit to being racist, but your run-of-the-mill, white privileged person (which sounds like this is what boss is) will say that he has black friends so how can he be racist? He’ll say that OP is just super sensitive.
      OP, I would find a new job and leave without saying why.

      1. fposte*

        In general, we all view ourselves as having sound reasons for why we think what we do and are as we are. Mean people don’t think of themselves as mean, boring people don’t think of themselves as boring, etc.

        1. jmkenrick*

          One of the principles behind this is called Fundamental Attribution Error. I learned about it in high school psych and it was kind of a pivotal moment for understanding other people .

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          So, how do we know if we’re racist or not? I don’t want to be, but how do I know I’m not?

          1. sam*

            Take it from Avenue Q. Everyone’s a little bit racist.

            It’s more about understanding that we live in a society that systematically stacks the deck for and against certain groups, and recognizing your own privileges (and privilege here is systematic “in-group” privilege, not an individual one that has anything to do with whether you, individually, grew up rich/poor/etc.).

            And not being an overt ass to people.

  6. Sophia*

    1) I think you should tell your boss about how he made you feel but do it with a lot of compassion (I know that sounds odd). Yes, he’s been an ass but it sounds as if it’s coming more from ignorance/privilege – not so much outright malice. Normally I wouldn’t recommend being so sensitive but with all the recent events, I think there are a lot of raw feelings and he could easily react with defensiveness which won’t due any good. I know it’s not really your job but if you do it right, you really have the chance to change someone and his behavior. He probably won’t change but it would be nice if you could word things in such a way that he does and someone else doesn’t have to experience what you did.

    I don’t know if I would say you were leaving over it. When I left my work, I left because the culture was toxic and working with certain people was awful – I let it be known that I had problems with these things but for some reason it didn’t feel right to say I was explicitly leaving over those things. I guess because we’re sometimes expected to be perfect little work robots and any emotion undermine us?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Not every idle curiosity needs to be entertained though. Just because he’s curious about black people (assuming it’s a purely innocent curiosity, but I’m guessing the questions were much more personal and rude) doesn’t mean he deserves answers. He’s not a child. He can read books, google questions, or decide that he doesn’t really need to know, especially from his employee. Isn’t this pretty much why Yahoo! answers exists? He’s repeatedly sending the message that she’s little more than her race, and it’s obnoxious. If she wants to be gracious, good for her, but she’s really under no obligation to give him the benefit of the doubt.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yes, in this day and age there is no excuse for that level of ignorance. There is no excuse for thinking that’s ok. It comes from a place of such immense privilege that we should not be making excuses for him.

      2. K.*

        Agreed. It’s not on the OP to help him be less racist; it’s on him to be less racist. And we live in an information age; there are ample tools of which he can avail himself.

      3. illini02*

        I’m actually going to somewhat disagree here. While I think the CEO of a company asking these things of employee is very inappropriate, I think these conversations themselves are valuable. Me and my Indian friends have had many conversations to learn more about each others backgrounds and culture. Sure, you can google things, but having the conversation is much more informative. So again, while in this particular situation, I think it was all kinds of wrong, I don’t think its a blanket “just google it” to these things.

        1. themmases*

          There is a big difference between having a conversation with your friends and being asked invasive questions by your boss, though. There’s a big power differential there.

          I also think you’re underestimating what you can find by googling. Many people have whole blogs where writing about racism is a major theme, with great comment sections so you can read many different people’s perspectives. Big sites like The Root publish frequently– including highly readable stuff like advice columns– on some of the exact stuff this CEO asked about, like parenting. Between the huge archive, comments, and links, you can get a lot of perspectives on these topics without really having to look very hard. Many of these articles are even discussing common questions people get from friends and coworkers of different backgrounds.

          1. illini02*

            Well, yes, as I said, the work aspect leads to a different level of whats appropriate. But I stand by my statement that having the actual conversation is far better than reading an article and comment boards about it. These articles are written with a certain purpose and agenda. Having a conversation with your friends can lead to a far deeper understanding. Its like why when you take classes in school, they don’t just give you the book and you learn more engaging in conversation regarding these topics.

            1. Melissa*

              Sure, having a conversation can be enlightening.

              But the thing to remember is that these conversations put the burden on the person of color to not only explain themselves and their every day life to other people (who, in this context, are not their friends); it also requires them to be the spokesperson for their entire race of people, who all act different and have different motivations and desires and interests. Like, “Can you tell me how black women raise their daughters differently?” …ummmm, what? There’s no one monolithic way that black women raise children and I couldn’t think of a single thing when I saw that question.

              Also realize that these conversations can be very stressful for people of color, especially if they are the only one. They’re a minefield. I actually LIKE talking about my race and my different cultural experiences as a black woman; I have lots of experience with it, since I do research on racial issues; but still, whenever I’m having the conversation – even with people who I know are not racist and generally understanding – I get this shaky, panicky feeling inside.

              Just because the conversations can lead to a deeper understanding doesn’t mean that you are entitled to them. Sometimes you’ll have to make do with an Internet search/some books until someone is willing to engage in that conversation with you (if ever).

              1. Aunt Vixen*

                Like, “Can you tell me how black women raise their daughters differently?” …ummmm, what? There’s no one monolithic way that black women raise children

                Also, there’s no one monolithic way that white women raise children, which makes this question racist and sexist. Two kinds of ignorant for the price of one.

                1. S*

                  Plus it automatically assumes that black women are “other” – that there’s the way white women do it, which is “normal” and then some strange outlandishly different way that alllllllllllll black women approach things, regardless of culture, economic background, location etc etc. But then that’s privilege, innit, assuming that “we” are default and “they” are different.

              2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                Yeah, like if someone asked me to tell them how white women raise their children, I probably wouldn’t even think of myself as wholly representative; I would think of the stereotypical, more affluent, more helicopter-y, more hypochondriac/safety-obsessed kind of parents. The kind who confront teachers and coaches about their children’s minor incidents without holding their children accountable in the least. I’m not friends with anyone remotely like this, and I guess I got the image from sitcoms about affluent white people, but this is what I’d think someone was asking if they said, “Tell me about white people’s parenting.”

                Tl;dr One person just can’t answer that kind of question for an entire race, and when someone asks them to, it sounds like they’re asking for the stereotype.

      4. Kadee*

        It’s also possible he thought it would come across as if he was open-minded and interested in an employee who has had a different life experience. Certainly he went about it horribly. It sucks to feel you might just be a token rather than a person with inherent value outside of skin tone so my heart is with OP and I’m glad she’s leaving because he broke her trust and he should know that (imo). However, if the situation was one in which he was asking because he wanted to have an open dialogue about race and to make it okay for her to discuss her perspectives as a woman of color by engaging her in these conversations, having a discussion could be helpful to him towards understanding (and curbing) this behavior and learning how it comes across differently than the way he intended to deliver it.

        This is not OP’s job to do but I also think that if I was in the CEO’s shoes, I’d hope that someone would tell me how I was coming across.

        This may read much more in defense of the CEO than I truly feel. I just think that when it comes to race, we sometimes don’t know how to effectively talk about it so feedback can be invaluable.

    2. John*

      Agree with this. Otherwise, I think it will be an emotional confrontation that won’t serve anyone…he won’t learn anything and OP will have damaged herself in terms of future references.

      I think say, “I think you meant well, but this is how it has made he feel” will be much more constructive.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, if I were going to give any feedback, that’s the tack I’d take. I do think there’s a decent chance that he will get it eventually if not right away, but I also 100% agree that the OP doesn’t have to be the one to make him get it or to wait around in the meantime.

    3. TootsNYC*

      If you want to bring it up, I would say:
      -don’t cast is as “this is the single reason I’m leaving”
      -cast it as, “because I wish you so well, I wanted to give you some feedback, because I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be sending the impression that you -are- sending”
      -make it personal, not a societal thing, and focus on how those comments create a personal discomfort for you, and one that you are certain other people of a different race, or religion, etc., would share; you know he wouldn’t want to make people feel that way

      In other words, “here’s information for your benefit,” and not “you’re a horrible person and a racist.”

      1. aebhel*

        I think this is good advice on how to bring it up, if the OP decides she wants to.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Who cares if it’s “outright malice”? It’s not OP’s responsibility to risk a future reference and making an enemy so that she might be able to gently assist her boss into becoming a better human being.

      In previous threads about quitting toxic workplaces, AAM and others have (correctly) been pretty unanimous that there is nothing to be gained by saying at the exit interview why you’re really leaving. The value of that advice doesn’t suddenly change when the toxicity issue is “boss is a racist jackhole”, even if there is a chance his jackholery is out of ignorance rather than malice.

    5. themmases*

      I’m not sure I understand this. While I can think of many recent national (US) events where race is a major theme, I can’t think of any that could legitimately make this white CEO’s feelings raw and justify him making racist remarks to someone who works for him. When I think of who might need sensitivity and understanding around the subject of racism, I think of people who are actually harmed by racism.

      I do agree that with a lot of people, this tactic might work best– in the sense that it’s the least likely to make the boss angry and vindictive toward the OP. If the OP can stomach approaching it this way, where she takes the time and thought and risk to educate her boss while *also* taking responsibility for his feelings, even though he’s the one who harmed her and could still harm her, and she still thinks that’s valuable for her to do, then I’d say that’s really big of her.

      I don’t agree that this approach is the most likely to be educational for everyone, though. Some people (me included) benefit a lot from reading the writing of people who don’t hide their frustration or hurt. Other people, humor really gets through to them. I would say if someone wants to take the time to speak out about racism then more power to them and their approach will probably be valuable to someone. In this situation, with this one person, it sounds like the OP has put up with enough and she should do what she thinks is best for herself.

      1. Aaunty*

        Thing is, though, if the CEO were the sort of person receptive to “hey, here’s why that was not okay,” OP would have felt comfortable pointing things out during her employment. It doesn’t become LESS charged or career-threatening when OP is resigning.

      2. Sophia*

        I think a lot of white people are feeling targeted because of their race right now. I can’t count the number of signs or people I’ve seen that say, “According to white people…”, “White people think…”, “All white people…xyz.” Racial discrimination is happening both ways and I think some people of all races are feeling a lot more judged for their color right now than usual which means all people, regardless of color are being harmed by racism. I could see a white person or anyone else for that matter acting with a lot more defensiveness right now than usual.

        Certainly, it makes more sense for someone who is experiencing racism to need more sensitivity, but really, I think everyone could use some right now. I didn’t say his feelings justify his actions in anyway. Sorry if it came across that way! I meant that his feelings may make it more difficult than usual for him to hear feedback.

        I really do agree the OP doesn’t have to say anything if she doesn’t want to, especially if she feels it might hurt her. However, if she feels she can, she has the chance (however small) to change the world a little bit. I just wanted to give my thoughts on how this might be done more effectively. :)

        1. Sophia*

          Also, wanted to add that I know that black people feel targeted because of their skin color every. single. day.

          I just think things have gotten worse for everyone lately – of every skin color and we should be sensitive to everyone. I don’t say this to belittle the racism that is happening. There are horrific injustices happening in this country. But I think sensitivity all around is called for to change things!

        2. S*

          With respect, as a white person, occasionally having someone assume I’m racist, or coming across a “sh*t white people say” blog is in no way anywhere near anything that the average person of colour has to deal with. I can’t see how any of your examples equate to discrimination at all, and it is weird enough as a white person to see you write that and ask for sensitivity, and think that might justify endless other-ing of an employee just because she’s black.

        3. j.s.*

          Are you really asserting that white people are victims here? Where are the unarmed white people being murdered by people purportedly there to “protect and serve”? Your comment is extraordinarily insensitive and lacks insight and sympathy into suffering that is not your own. Discussion of racism that “goes both ways” is incredibly inappropriate given actual recent events the power dynamic that exists between employee and employer and between white people at large (who, by the way, continue to benefit in millions of small and significant ways from white supremacy even when they don’t consider themselves racist) and black people in this day and age.

    6. Just Another Techie*

      No. No no no. There is literally no way a person of color can possibly approach the “Yo you kind of said something racist” conversation that will not result in the white person blowing up at them. There is no level of niceness, gentleness, or politeness that will prevent this guy from a) feeling guilty and defensive b) taking those feelings out on OP. Encouraging her to be nice enough that he changes his ways and has a kumbayah moment just sets the OP up for feeling guilty or responsible for Racist Boss Dude’s inevitable lashing out.

      Dude has already demonstrated that he doesn’t have the sense god gave a turnip. I mean, I’m latina, and the only non-Asian POC in my office, and yet, the old white dudes I work with have learned enough to not ask insensitive or cruel questions. The old white dudes who are all socially maladept engineers and half of whom have Aspergers have all at some point in their past learned to behave appropriately about race. There is no excuse for OP’s boss; he’s at best completely ignorant and wallowing in his unearned privilege, and at worst deliberately racist.

      As for raw feelings about “recent events” as you so delicately put it, I really don’t see why white people’s feelings would be raw. I mean, it’s not white people who are getting killed. If anything, Racist Boss Dude ought to be more sensitive to OP’s feelings about race, which he clearly isn’t.

      That said, I think it might be helpful to the OP, for her own peace of mind, to tell him about the racist remarks, after she has secured her next position and isn’t dependent on his reference. But only if she thinks it would do her good — emotionally, spiritually, whatever — to say something, rather than keeping that anger and hurt inside herself. She doesn’t owe anyone, not her boss, not her coworkers, not even potential future employees of color, to put herself at risk of harm to her professional reputation or her emotional or psychological well being, if she doesn’t want to.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        half of whom have Aspergers

        That’s an uncomfortably ableist way of making what is otherwise a valid point. (Unless it is a literal statement of fact, in which event I retract my comment.)

        1. Just Another Techie*

          You’re right. I’m sorry.

          To clarify what I meant, a handful of my coworkers have diagnosed-by-medical-professionals disorders that impact social behavior. A huge number have self-diagnosed as being on the spectrum, via internet quizzes or reading Wikipedia, and use this as excuses for their generally boorish behavior (no-showing to meetings; having blatantly bad attitudes in meetings; talking loudly in the middle of the cubicle farm, in graphic physical detail, about their prostate exams; making poop jokes loud enough to be heard in neighboring cubes; you get the picture).

          Anyway, my coworkers’ self-diagnoses and bad behavior was no excuse for me to be ablist too. I’m sorry.

          1. Postscript*

            Love this response. Next time I goof I want to be as gracious as you are about it!

      2. Sophia*

        I disagree with, “There is literally no way..” I look white (..I’m mostly Latina, Chinese and some other things but the whiteness comes through the strongest.) Some things I said to a classmate were pretty insensitive. I said them from a position of privilege (again looking white plus some other things that give me privilege) and didn’t understand how they could be insensitive.

        My classmate was really courageous, went way beyond what she had to do, and let me know how I had been insensitive. She approached it in such a manner that I really felt disarmed and wanted to listen. I’m so glad she did even though she didn’t have to. She really helped all the people I would have inadvertently hurt as well by being so disarming. I think the one story alone shows that it’s possible (even though unlikely) to have the conversation.

        This article is great! She shared it with me after talking to me:

        Not saying the OP has any responsibility to do so and I for sure wouldn’t want the OP to feel guilty if it backfired! You’re totally right she doesn’t owe anyone anything! I just think some really amazing things can be accomplished when courageous people speak up to change the world and I want to encourage that where possible. No fault of someone for not wanting to have this conversation though :)

        Regarding raw feelings, I posted above why white people might feel raw above. I think the first step to changing this country, his recognizing how everyone (even apparent assholes) might be feeling and acting accordingly.

  7. Sins & Needles*


    You don’t have to tell your boss why you’re leaving or why what he’s done has been so hurtful if you won’t get something out of it yourself, like closure, or a sense of “at least I said something. It doesn’t have to be your job to educate anyone. You don’t owe anyone that.

    1. Sins & Needles*

      Maybe I should have added, I’ve had horrible experiences when it was all I could do to get out, only to have people expect me to take on the emotional burden of educating my tormentors about why what they were doing was so wrong.

      This was the first time, after years of reading, I’ve commented. Whatever you decide to do, #1, it’s okay, and you only have to make the right decision for yourself, not your boss, not the job, not people who will work for him someday.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Totally! It’s one of those things that happen–the people who are suffering end up also being given the burden of educating or comforting others.

        But it’s also an alert for those of us who are -not- the “token minority” (or even “a minority”) to speak up when we -observe- this sort of low-level stuff.

        I would bet this guy isn’t a conscious racist–he’s not nasty. He just CANNOT ESCAPE the constant awareness of OP#1’s “other-ness.” And he doesn’t have enough self-control to just shut up about it. To open his mouth and then close it.
        So if someone points out to him, “you know, making that sort of comment about someone’s race/religion/cultural origin/sex/disability is really uncomfortable for that person. It makes them feel like they’ve been erased as a person. I’m betting you don’t realize that–I know you wouldn’t want to have that effect on people, so I thought I’d alert you.”

        The rest of us need to speak up. We can do it quietly and without blame or attack (it’ll be more effective that way anyway). But we need to do it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Absolutely. It’s okay to do if the OP wants but she’s in no way obligated to if she doesn’t want to deal with it. She doesn’t have to bear the burden of educating this guy, on top of the burden of having had to deal with his behavior.

      (Also, yay for first-time commenters who have been years-long readers!)

    3. moss*

      I totally totally agree with this. There are people whose job it is to educate the unwilling. That is not YOUR job, OP1. Your job is to protect yourself.

      I am sorry you are dealing with this.

      1. KToo*

        OP, please let us know the outcome once your decision has been made. As a female and POC I can totally empathize with your situation. His behavior is totally inappropriate.

        Have any coworkers that witnessed that awkward moment approached you?

        Your CEO is an asshat and has created a hostile work environment. Do write a Glassdoor post once you’ve moved on.

  8. Al Lo*

    On the flip side to #5, as someone who works in the performing arts, I’m constantly amazed at how hard it can be to pull bios from people for programs. It’s beyond common to need a 100-word bio for every show you’re in, and it always surprises me when someone doesn’t have it ready. Most professionals have a handful of versions — the 100-word, the half-page version, the credits only, the slightly humorous one, etc. As I think every producer out there has done, I’ve written people’s bios for them when they haven’t gotten them to me by the deadline. I also always reserve the right to edit when they give me too long a bio.

    1. Coach Devie*

      This is why I was thinking they wanted it (not as a condition of hiring) but in the event they did hire, they already had a bio ready for whatever reason it may be necessary for the job or their website or whatever (this of course is making me laugh as I type it because if it is in any way true, it’s still kind of odd and incredibly lazy and presumptuous)

    2. BRR*

      Side story, I used to work for a summer performing arts festival. I pulled a string quartet’s bio from their website last minute because the festival was being run by one director and two students (me being one of them). It was everybody’s first year doing it and we were trying to figure out just how to make the programs. Later a patron complained about the bio as it had some old information. I will take fault for not actually reading the bio completely (just skimmed it), but I thought an artist’s bio from their website would be accurate.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I *always* assume websites are out of date. It’s a lot of work to update them, and it’s totally human for someone to put in all the work to set it up, and then forget to go maintain it.

    3. OP5*

      Hm..I think it would make more sense if I were applying for something in the performing arts. Unfortunately, this job is closer to Case Management than anything else.

      1. Meg Murry*

        I’m guessing it’s for the interviewers’ convenience if they are interviewing multiple people, it’s easier to read a one paragraph bio and say “Oh yes, Jane Smith, the applicant who worked at Teapots Inc and Teapots R Us” as opposed to skimming through all the application materials and saying “Jane Smith, which one was she again”?

        Or since you mention it is a community organization, maybe for the board? When I was recently hired by a non-profit, the executive director and my immediate boss did the interviewing, but the board of directors had to have the final approve my hiring – so the ED wrote up a quick bio to send them as to my qualifications and why they should approve hiring me. I could see it making more sense to have the applicant provide this rather than the interview panel. It’s not a common requirement, but it’s less weird than the applications that ask you to write a poem or other BS, I suppose.

        1. OP5*

          Good point, I don’t think I considered what they may need to provide to the board of directors. That being said – I am very happy that I do not have to write a poem about Teapots = )

      2. Person of Interest*

        #5 – I would suggest looking at the staff page of the organization to see if they have bios for staff, then model yours on theirs. Or look at a similar org if they don’t have bios posted.

  9. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – Buy a seam ripper and open up 3-4 inches of the inside seam of your pants. This gives enough room to get the cast through. If you’re nervous then take it to a tailor, who will also sew the pants back up at the appropriate time.
    The tailor will cost you less than a new pair of pants.

    1. vox de causa*

      This is what I was going to say – we did this for my mother when she broke her foot and it worked a treat.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I’m embarrassed–upstream, I suggested slitting the seam, but I should have thought of the seam ripper, because I’m a sew-er.

      In fact, EVERYONE should own a seam ripper. They’re great for taking off scratchy tags, too.

      1. Joline*

        I think I’ve only used a seam ripper twice in my life – once to actually open a seam and once to try to take out my eyebrow stitches (it was a bad option, but I gave up before I caused myself injury).

  10. Chuchundra*

    OP#2, are your sure that the woman who told you you’re not allowed to wear shorts actually has the authority to make that determination? “Default HR Person” is kind of a nebulous title.

    It might be worth checking with your actual boss as to whether you’re allowed to wear shorts or not.

    1. Coach Devie*

      This is true also… not a bad suggestion. Especially for her circumstances and the brevity of the situation, given that she will hopefully be out of the cast in a few more weeks.

    2. sam*

      She may or may not have the “authority”, but she may very well have been designated by the person in authority to be the messenger. That’s certainly the role that various HR functionaries have performed when speaking to me and my colleagues about similar issues in the past.

      When I was a “temp” at what is now my current permanent job, I tended to dress a bit more casually. When I was offered and accepted a permanent job, One of the HR folks sat with me and went over a variety of HR-related issues, but was also tasked with telling me to make some changes, wardrobe wise (Basically, we have no dress code and the office is business casual, but it’s an unwritten rule that the “E-suite” is more formal – so there was actually nothing wrong with what I was wearing while I was a temp/contractor, but the expectations changed as an employee). This was clearly a message being delivered via HR but from the General Counsel.

  11. Just Me*

    I work for a very very large company and shorts are allowed. Majority of the men wear them several months a year. Most women tend toward capris but some wear shorts also.

    Very surprised you are surprised, Alison. I don’t work there, but Google is pretty well known for relaxed dress code, as are others.

    1. Just Me*

      I forgot to add I have not seen anyone in a suit (at work) in years, even the VPs.

    2. manybellsdown*

      Tech is like a whole different world, business-wise. Instead of “casual Friday”, one place my husband worked had “formal Friday”, where they got dressed UP. Because every other day was jeans and Super Mario t-shirts.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Agreed–I’ve never worked in an office where I was allowed to wear blue jeans (there was one where I could wear black and colored jeans, but not blue) or shorts or t-shirts or anything less formal than business casual. Until I came here, and then I worked in jeans and a t-shirt for ages. When I went abroad, I found myself dressing up a bit more just to run around and it’s stuck, but I still wear jeans. Even so, if we have clients in the office, we’re expected to dress up. We do get plenty of warning.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think the issue, though, is that the OP clearly isn’t working somewhere like that, judging by HR’s reaction. There are loads of places where shorts Are Not Done (see the many comments backing this up above), even though there are also places where it would be fine. If the OP is working at one of the former, the HR person isn’t being wildly off-base.

      1. sam*

        Yeah – if it was an office where everyone (or anyone) else was wearing shorts, then the HR person would have been out of line. if the OP is the only one in the history of ever to wear shorts in this office, then she is clearly outside of the (even informal) norms of the office.

        And if you’re going to do something that is clearly outside of office norms, sit down with your boss first, explain to them why you need this accommodation, and get approval/permission for it or come to some sort of compromise. Showing up in shorts and expecting people not to freak out is not really the answer.

  12. Just Me*

    Can’t seem to shut up but I will add that I do work in a traditional office setting (nothing like retail or hospitality.)

  13. Ive BeenThere*

    I’m not sure why you are going to quit and then explain to the guy why he’s an ignoramus. If you otherwise like the job, it might be worth it to take a shot at talking to him first and seeing his reaction. If there’s a chance he might say, “OMG I can’t believe what an insensitive jerk I’ve been”, maybe you can salvage the situation. On the other hand, if he is a real jerk, then just get out of there. I wouldn’t tell them why, it won’t help. Also, get a new job before you give notice.

    1. BRR*

      I’m surprised that wasn’t a possible suggestion. Just something like, “Sir, I don’t find that question appropriate.”

      If this is the only issue with the job I would start by saying something. Good, smart people can be completely ignorant about things. My dad who is very smart and a nice person asked about my gay wedding who is the bride and who is the groom. I verbally kicked him in the balls and he apologized about it.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’m someone who thinks of the best response – 2 hours later. In the moment I’m more like “ermmm errrr hmmmm arghhh GOTTA RUN!” and then I spend the rest of the day kicking myself.

        OP shouldn’t have to be second guessing herself about her answers or wonder what other idiot questions he’s going to have. It’s not her job to educate him about black people. He can do like the rest of us and google questions we know are inappropriate to ask people, or just assume they’re none of our business. She’s under no obligation to accomodate his social idiocy.

        1. BRR*

          I also fall into that camp as well (recently watched the Seinfeld episode where George goes to extreme length to say a comeback).

          I don’t think the OP is obligated to by any means or that she needs to second guess her answers. It sounds like she’s handled this situation extremely professionally. My point was if the job is good besides this aspect (and I’m acknowledging that the guy sounds like a huge ass) she can call him out on it. If she’s going to say something as she quits, it’s at least an option to say something before she quits.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, me too. I’m usually so shocked at what the person said (even though I shouldn’t be) that my brain can’t even fully accept that it just happened, much less react to it.

        3. littlemoose*

          There’s a French expression for thinking of something clever to say after the moment is over – “l’esprit de l’escalier,” meaning “the wit of the staircase.”

        4. TootsNYC*

          I’m someone who thinks of the best response – 2 hours later. In the moment I’m more like “ermmm errrr hmmmm arghhh GOTTA RUN!” and then I spend the rest of the day kicking myself.

          This is where you consciously plan what you will say–something very short, and that will apply to almost anything. Like my “Comments on my race make me very uncomfortable.” (When he says, “you’re too sensitive,” she can say “Nonetheless–they make me very uncomfortable” over and over.)

          1. DL*

            I had some fun thinking about what I would say if someone said racist stuff to me (I’m Asian). The first time I think I would be like “Omg did you just say something racist to me?”

            “Oh Asian women have such nice skin.” “I know, that’s why we look so much younger than you white people.”
            “Can you explain how Asian women raise their daughters differently?” “Oh you mean you haven’t read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?”

            I would stay if the CEO was the only one who makes racist comments and everyone else understands but can’t do anything about it. But if the culture is such that most of the employees are also racist… that’s when I would leave.

      2. Cleopatra Jones*

        Oftentimes, the problem with that is the person making the inappropriate comments turns it around as ‘why are they so sensitive? It was only a question’. They never understand the level of their inappropriateness. Mentally, they think you are their source for ‘learning about [insert race, gender, religion, or ethnicity here] culture’ and that somehow you should be grateful that someone in the majority is taking an interest in your minority-ness. It’s very dehumanizing when you are on the receiving end of it.

        IME, it will only be a short jump to comments like, ‘you are smart/attractive/educated for a black person’ followed by more overtly racist comments couched as compliments.

        1. LauraIsMyFakeName*

          This is a great way of explaining it. It’s like you’re inconveniencing and hurting me AND I’m supposed to feel grateful for the attention? Um, no.

    2. MsM*

      Maybe the OP feels like someone who would display such poor judgment and people skills in the first place isn’t someone she wants to continue working for. Especially at a start-up, where the wrong remark at the wrong time could cost the company transformative opportunities. Still, if she’s prepared to leave anyway (and doesn’t mind losing the reference if it turns out that nope, he’s perfectly aware this is problematic and doesn’t care), it might be worth considering.

      1. Sadsack*

        Especially considering that she has a strong feeling that she was hired due to her race, she may just want to leave.

        1. Lead, Follow or Get Outta the Way!*

          A company that decided it needed diversity training and more minorities in their office after an email circulated that was apparently racially insensitive decided to implement some diversity training and do more to actively hire minorities. I came in shortly after that situation as an intern and after finding out why I was there was a little bothered by it until one of the other interns told me “it doesn’t matter how you got here, it’s what you do once you’re here.” Sometimes WE have to be the one to break the stereotypes and yes it can be exhausting, but we all have a part to play in breaking down those stereotypes so others behind us don’t have as much of a battle.

          1. LauraIsMyFakeName*

            This sounds really nice but be careful that you don’t spend 20-30 years of your life playing respectability politics in the name of “breaking down” or disproving racist or bigoted stereotypes only to realize that it never ever ends and that you’ll be potentially trapped into being someone other than yourself for the rest of your life.

    3. Three Thousand*

      I guarantee this guy prides himself on how non-racist he thinks he is. Hearing from a black person that he’s a racist will shatter him from within, and he *will* take it out on her. The odds that he will react differently in the moment are so slim that she shouldn’t bet on them.

      Telling him he’s racist as she’s walking out the door might or might not do him any good, and it might end up hurting her, but it might also be worth it in the long run. He will almost certainly blame her at first for being “too sensitive” or something, but as time goes by and he reflects on it, which he will, he might be able to get over his colossal shame and embarrassment and acknowledge that he’s the one who needs to change.

      1. Anon for this*

        I agree. And for those who haven’t experienced racial and/or gendered comments in the workplace frequently, you don’t know just how emotionally and mentally taxing it is

      2. Nichole*

        Agreed-there’s no way this guy considers himself racist. In fact, he may think his comments show how cool and open to racial difference he is, which goes right along with making her the black curio. Based on the OP’s description of her boss, he’s probably one of the people who thinks that not actively disliking black people is the equivalent of not being racist, but lack of basic respect is ok. Over the years I’ve developed an eyebrow raise that very effectively separates people who just made an offensive comment into “not racist, just ignorant” and “obliviously racist.” Apparently only the NRJI group can see it, because they quickly address the inappropriateness of their comment. The OR group seem to be impervious to the eyebrow raise, and I don’t have time or interest to educate them-they can Google it.

        Based on a true story examples:
        Potential Racist: “What are you?”
        Me: *Eyebrow raise*

        NRJI: “I’m sorry-that came out wrong! I was trying to ask what your ancestry is-you have kind of an unusual look, so I wondered…” *trails off uncomfortably*
        Me: *Smiles* “Ok, I get you. I actually get that a lot. My mother is white, my father is black.”

        OR: *waits*
        Me: “I’m not sure I follow you.”
        OR: “Like, are you part Chinese, or what?”
        Me: “No.” *returns to my work*

        I will make time for the NRJI group’s questions because they’re expressing that they are open to change any culturally insensitive programming, and allowing dialogue about race differences is part of that, not just satiating their curiosity. I’m essentially teaching them that it’s safe to discuss race with me, even if they don’t always have the exact perfect politically correct words, as long as they approach me respectfully. I’m literally the only PoC some people in my community know personally, and I don’t mind taking one for the team sometimes if they’re curious. She may have been able to help convert her boss to NRJI eventually (most ORs can be saved if their remarks aren’t actually hiding full fledged KKK style racism, but that’s not really any one person’s job, and it can even take on a disrespectful quality if you assume they’re racist and need you to ‘fix’ them), but it’s sad that he created an environment where she had to choose to either leave or take on a human project just to be free from intrusive personal questions at work.

        1. Melissa*

          I do the eyebrow raise, too. They eyebrow raise is actually useful in all kinds of situations of inappropriateness, not just racial – but it does have a way of winnowing the ignorant from the prejudiced.

        2. Anonymusketeer*

          I do appreciate when people of color are willing to use this eyebrow raise system you’re talking about. Of course it’s not anyone’s job to educate ignorant people, but there are many people out there who would appreciate that subtle feedback.

          I got the impression that OP #1’s boss was trying, in good faith, to be receptive and open to topics like race and culture, but instead wound up sounding like an ass and really hurting his employee. If the OP agrees with my assessment, telling him that his comments made her uncomfortable might save a future employee the same hurt.

          Then again, maybe I’m giving the OP’s boss too much credit because I’m a white person who tries to be sensitive to these things.

          1. LauraIsMyFakeName*

            Or the boss might decide not to hire black people anymore. It happens.

          2. neverjaunty*

            I do not know why you got that impression. Sensitive white people with good intentions don’t make comments about subordinates’ race every single week.

        3. Pennalynn Lott*

          What do “NRJI” and “OR” mean? I tried Googling, but got stuff about League of Legends.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            Oops. Nevermind. I just that it was defined within the comment and my brain had skipped over it. Sorry!

      3. TootsNYC*

        I agree–I bet he doesn’t think he’s racist. And he’s not if by “racist” you mean “someone who consciously and nastily thinks black people are inferior and should be kept down.”

        I think he’s more “hyper race-conscious—he can’t get away from the mental awareness that the OP is “different from him.” And he doesn’t have enough self-control to shut up.

        That’s why I think that he might respond to being consistently met with a mild but stubborn, “Comments on my race make me really uncomfortable.”

      4. Melissa*

        +1 million. I’m not certain whether I would mention this on my way out, but I definitely wouldn’t mention if it I intended to stay. People on the racism spectrum who are super convinced they are not racist often have the worst reactions when you disabuse of them that notion.

    4. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, if you don’t think he’s a jerk, maybe just start saying, every time he brings it up, “Comments on my race make me really uncomfortable.” and stop right there; no need to get into more and more explanation, etc. (that runs the risk of becoming a lecture, which will totally backfire).

      See what happens.

      But it does sound like the OP is just ready to be out, and that would be good for her!

  14. Apollo Warbucks*

    OP#2 I had a similar situation with needing to wear flip flops after breaking my big toe. My boss told me I couldn’t wear them in the office so I said that I would need to work from home or get signed off sick (having decent sick leave meant it would be with full pay) for two months, it wasn’t such a problem after that!

    It’s such a minor adjustment that is needed I don’t understand why anyone would object to you modifying the dress code for a short time, assuming that you are dressing reasonably and the shorts are an appropriate length for the office.

    1. MK*

      I think there is a difference though, when there are options. With a broken big toe, flip flops are more or less the only shoe that won’t cause you discomfort. The OP doesn’t have to wear shorts to accomodate her cast; in fact, she wears jeans, which are fine, half the time anyway.

        1. Apollo Warbucks*

          Shorts may not be a necessity, but if the OP finds it more comfortable I think that should be taken into account.

    2. Cheesecake*

      This is actually the thing that pisses people off and can be last drop if you are already thinking to change employer. Why the fuss when employee is in pain. Ok, if you are in a bank facing clients everyday – this is a problem (that can still be fixed). Otherwise if you dress reasonably- who cares?

      1. MK*

        That works the other way around though. Do you really want to retain an employee who is prepared to leave because they can’t wear their prefered clothing?

        1. Cheesecake*

          I agree but that is not what i meant. I used to work in a company where one office had business casual dress code and the other one across the road had casual friday every day. None of us was facing clients -so no reason for the difference apart from director of 1st office hated jeans. Mine was the first one and it was annoying. Would i live because of this? No. But sometimes when you are already overworked, have crappy salary etc, this little thing – you can’t wear flip flops because of injury – is the last straw.

        2. esra*

          I think there’s a difference between preferred clothing, and clothing that accommodates recovery.

            1. fposte*

              I think that’s the sticking point for me. If it were the only possible accommodation or even the only possible hot-weather accommodation, I’d be indignant, but this is a preference more than a necessity. And yes, I too have done sustained crutches and have worn a white sundress in December as a result.

          1. MK*

            But when there is more than one option that accommodates recovery, it’s not unreasonable to expect you to choose the one that fits the dress code, not the one you prefer.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I wouldn’t leave because I couldn’t wear my preferred clothing.

          I’d leave because my employer had just proved to be a rigid, inflexible organization that doesn’t care about me when I was injured, and who made my life more unpleasant, logistically, than I considered to be reasonable or necessary.

          1. MK*

            My point was that the employer should be glad to see you leave, because your notion of reasonable and necessary doesn’t fit the company.

            1. Tinker*

              So it’s a win-win then! Yay!

              Although I have to say I haven’t encountered that many employers where “not wearing shorts, including when they have a time-limited problem that shorts solve” is actually a hill that their true will was to die on. The world is large and contains multitudes though.

              1. MK*

                I haven’t encountered any employees that interpreted “you need to dress according to the dress code even when injured, since there are reasonable options” as “the company is cruel and cares nothing for you and your pain” either.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Would you have been allowed to wear one of those orthopedic sandal things? (Not that that is an appealing look.)

      Sometimes it seems like the modification is okay if it’s obvious that it’s due to an injury, but flip flops wouldn’t send that signal. Even with a bandaged toe, you could just be overly dramatic about an ingrown toenail from an outsider’s view.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Maybe, but I didn’t have a orthopaedic sandal and I wasn’t going to get one when my flip flops were just as good. It was a small enough office everyone knew I’d bust my toe, and it was a work related accident.

        It’s a fairly formal office so I can kind of see where my boss was coming from but it still annoyed me, a little flexibility is all I was asking for whilst it mended, I didn’t take any time off sick with the injury.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        Haha, when I broke my toe I had a conversation w/ my doc about the same thing. “Why do I need to buy this big blue sandal when I already can wear my sandals? Does it due anything special? Doc – “nope, it just makes it clear you have an injury so it is easier to wear to work or other professional occasions.” Me – yeah, I’ll save my money. If my boss has an issue, I’ll be back for it.

        That said, if I had to do it again, I’d buy it. I was always self-conscious that people didn’t know I was injured and that I was just being lazy or sloppy.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Yeah, I’d like a t-shirt to wear that says “Injured, not just lazy” for when I take the elevator a single flight of stairs.

        2. sam*

          When my stepmother was recovering from spinal surgery, we went to a lecture at the local historical society. We got there late enough that the only seats left were reserved for disabled/handicapped people.

          She had been SO PROUD that she had made it up to the lecture without her temporary cane that she had been given, right up until the point when she had to prove that she was actually still (temporarily) disabled and couldn’t stand for two hours. Needless to say, the ushers saw a lot more of her backside than they really wanted to (she pulled up her shirttail to show off the stitches/surgery site).

    4. Mander*

      Urgh, that reminds me of when I worked in a call centre years ago, and one of the women I worked with had to have some kind of major toe treatment on both feet (can’t remember why now) and was instructed by her doctor to not even wear socks, just Birkenstock-like sandals. One of the other people in the office threw a fit about how unprofessional-looking it was and how unfair that the other employee got to wear open-toed shoes since it was against the dress code. It ended up being a Big Deal with the regional manager having to get involved and tell the other person that it was OK for her to wear sandals and expose her ugly looking toes for a couple of weeks.

      We never saw customers, and never even saw other staff in the building for the most part. The woman who threw the fit about unprofessional dress was constantly wearing a really dated chambray prairie skirt with an extremely threadbare sweatshirt with kittens printed on it, tucked in, and IIRC athletic shoes. This was many, many years before “normcore” so there was no way that wearing a sweatshirt or athletic shoes to the office, even pristine ones, could have been considered a fashion statement. She was just clueless.

      1. Clever Name*

        Wow. Had to google “normcore”. That’s pretty much how I dressed in the 90s.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          That’s pretty much how I dress now. : (
          (But not to work.)

          I mean, I’m not wearing threadbare kitten sweatshirts, just t-shirts, jeans, and running shoes. I went shopping this weekend, and tried to buy something fashionable. Was getting dressed, and my husband is like “Holy High Waist Jeans.” After a couple F-yous, I changed to my normal low-rise boot cut jeans that I’ve been wearing since 2000 and took the jeans back the next day. That was after trying on tons of other pants. And I haven’t bought a new non-t-shirt shirt in forever. I don’t like to shop, but I drag myself out there every couple months just to come up empty-handed. I have a few recent shirt purchases that are kind of trendy, but I don’t wear them much.

          1. LauraIsMyFakeName*

            High waisted is in right now. And if you like them, keep them! Tell your husband to shut his cakehole.

          2. Colorado*

            Ha-ha, yeah me too. Same t-shirts and jeans, almost everyday. Not for work though.

  15. Mrs. Badcrumble*

    For OP#5 — I used to work for an academic research institution and professional bios were required for a lot of grant submissions. You couldn’t just generically say you had a biostatistician, you had to essentially give evidence that you had one and who they were. Since this is a community organization, I’d guess that grants are part of their funding stream and in that case it wouldn’t be weird at all to need a bio. They might even have a template if you ask. It is a little unusual to me that they want it as part of the application materials, but that might just be de rigueur for that kind of organization.

  16. Katie the Fed*

    #2 –
    You REALLY need to tone down the outrage. This is a reasonable request of your employer and your perspective is fairly unreasonable. I’m intimately familiar with broken lower limbs and walking casts – I’ve used walking casts on both legs simultaneously, actually. I’ve also been in a wheelchair for a few months, crutches, etc. There’s no medical reason you’d need to wear shorts. You can wear the boot over tighter pants (I actually prefer that because it reduces the rubbing against my calves) or under loose pants. Gap and Old Navy have perfectly serviceable pants for less than $50 – just get 1-2 pairs and wear them until you’re better.

    If this was really crucial, you should have spoken to your employer ahead of time before assuming it would be ok because there’s no formal dress code. I needed to wear sandals for a time because of bad swelling and I’m still in sneakers for a while for stability. Those are both things I discussed with my employer ahead of time because I wanted to be sure they wouldn’t be issues. It’s generally not a great idea to assume things are allowed and not check.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I agree with this. Frankly, #2 confused me. I was in a boot for 6 months– in NYC– and I always wore the boot over jeans, pants or leggings. It helped a ton with the rubbing, which ended up being more painful than the injury. If you can wear jeans, then do. I was lucky that I didn’t have to get special permission to wear a sneaker on the other foot, but if my employer had said no, I would have found another alternative.

      1. Sadsack*

        I wonder if the OP was ok with jeans at first, but would like a change due to the hot summer weather.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          Light cotton pants would honestly be the most comfortable option. It’s frustrating, but in the realm of indignities related to an injury like that, this one barely registers. :/

    2. Sunshine Brite*

      I think part of it is a reluctance to shop. It sounds like the OP may be a specialized size and I know that when you have to special order things it just feels that much more frustrating.

    3. Ann*

      It sounds like OP #2 is frustrated with her job and coworkers in a lot of other ways, and the shorts issue is just the current way that her frustration is manifesting.

      1. Magda*

        I wondered if OP is reacting (understandably) to the way it was presented. When the dress code issue revolves around an injury, I think “it has been brought to my attention that you are dressing unacceptably” goes down a lot differently than “Hey, I understand that you’re injured and dressing may be difficult, but we need you to not wear shorts.”

        Yes, I know it’s the employer’s right to say it any way they want and bla bla bla suck it up buttercup, but it makes a difference.

        1. Anonsie*

          That was my thought as well. I don’t think the request is outrageous but the way it was brought up is crummy enough that I would be pretty aggravated in the LW’s place as well.

          I do think not allowing preppy shorts but allowing jeans is pretty stupid and they should just cut the LW some slack, but if they’re not gonna they could at least not try to make out like people have been going around getting offended by it. That’s a frustrating shift of agency regardless of what they were telling her. “Well someone brought it to my attention, see, someone complained, so it’s not my decision and you can’t make your case to me because it’s out of my hands.”

  17. MsM*

    #2: How do you feel about skorts? I think I remember seeing something about a recent thread on them somewhere.

  18. Allison*

    1) I wouldn’t trust someone who says/asks stuff like that to react rationally when called out. This guy is practically swimming in his own privilege, and if someone were to tell him his comments were inappropriate (let alone actually racist) he’s likely to either say “huh?? what? what do you mean? I don’t see what the big deal is! I’m not racist, I love black people! I hired you, after all. You’re racist for thinking that’s a problem” OR he’ll nod and say “okay,” then go rant to his friends about the angry black woman who got all pissy when he was just trying to be nice to her.

    Now, I’m not saying there’s no hope for people like that, he may eventually come to learn that his comments toward nonwhite employees are problematic, but it’s gonna take more than one person informing him of this. People don’t typically wise up to their ignorance after being called out by one single person. So OP, you might get that process started by telling him why you’re quitting, but it the short term it may come at the cost of burning a bridge and losing any chance of that guy being a decent reference, so I wouldn’t blame you for deciding not to be the one to start that.

    1. catsAreCool*

      “I wouldn’t trust someone who says/asks stuff like that to react rationally when called out.” This!

  19. Christy Schmidt*

    I left a small law firm 10 weeks after starting. The partner I worked for was Jewish, my last name stamps me as German-American. At first there was nothing, but within 2 weeks he began constantly commenting about my ethnicity, ranging from questions about whether I liked Polish food to whether I enjoyed ordering people around obviously because German people are all like this. He also questioned me about how I felt about Jewish people and did I feel they should be “eliminated”. Do I need to mention my ancestors fought in the Civil War? I took the first offer I got and never looked back. I told him I was leaving for money.

    1. Sans*

      Wow … that’s crazy. Not to mention the fact that a lot of people with German surnames ARE Jewish.

      I’m Jewish, actually. It has NEVER occurred to me to think differently about someone with a German last name (or any ethnicity). My dad was in WWII and actually helped liberate the camps after the war was over and he never had a problem with German people, either. (Well, other than German soldiers during the war …)

      That’s just really bizarre. Heck, why would they have hired you if they have that kind of attitude?

    2. jhhj*

      That’s really weird. I know my grandparents — who were Jews born in Germany and Austria in the 20s — were weird about German-made goods (with, I think, reason), but it’s so unusual in later generations.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        I had a Jewish colleague a few years ago who was my age (so, late 30s now) who said that she would never, ever set foot in Germany, and turned down a chance to go to a conference in Berlin even though it would have been good for her career. We had German colleagues, and she was fine with all of them (and was actually friends with one of them), though. It’s strange to make it so personal, like Christy Schmidt’s boss did…

        1. Anon for this*

          I’m Jewish and I’m uneasy about Germany and unknown Germans. It really wasn’t that long ago that every-day Germans looked the other way while something horrific was done in their names. I think it’s ok for me to be uneasy about them.

          1. MK*

            70 years in the past is “not long ago”? The only people who might have “looked the other way” are the very elderly, and even with them you can have no idea if they were Nazi party members or indifferent/passive about genocide going on around them or simply ignorant people scared out of their minds or opposed to the regime and persecuted for their beliefs.

            If you think it’s ok to be uneasy about people based on their ethnicity because of something their parents or grandparents may have done, I really don’t know what to say. Except that, even in that case, it’s not ok to ask them if they think you should be eliminated.

        2. Jean*

          Hmm. Another Jewish responder here. I simultaneously do and don’t understand this attitude. On the one hand I can understand how people who had firsthand experience of WWII might feel uneasy about people or goods from countries with whom the U.S. was once at war. On the other hand, I was (quietly) offended when extended family expressed dismay that DH and I bought a Honda (the first of many! great cars IMHO). On the third hand I wore German-made shoes for years because they were one of very few brands that fit my hard-to-please feet. And I really appreciated my (also Jewish) friend sticking up for me years ago when the (also Jewish) proprietor of a shoe store gave me grief about wearing said German shoes!

          Sorry to make this a mini-memoir. Short version:
          1) It’s not fair to blame descendants for the sins of their ancestors.
          2) It’s also not fair to blame people just because some of their fellow citizens (in the present or the past) behaved horribly.
          3) I would like to believe that most people in most countries are kind-hearted, non-malicious folks. It may be delusional, but at least it keeps my gastric reflux from getting any worse…

    3. Clever Name*

      This reminds me of an uncomfortable party I went to where one woman (who married into a Jewish family and converted) talked at length how she’ll never visit Germany because of what they did 70 years ago. The best part was when my friend said, “Huh. That’s a really interesting perspective. I’m Jewish and my father is a Holocaust survivor, and we’ve been to Germany many times and love it.”

  20. Allison*

    2) I don’t really know of an alternative, other than what’s been suggested to you, but it’s clear that shorts aren’t going to fly in your office, so I’d stop trying to push for the ability to wear them and accept you’ll need to figure something else out, even if that means wearing something that’s less than ideal for little while longer.

    I know that having a broken foot puts you in a tough spot, and you should get some accommodations to a degree, but getting to wear shorts isn’t (and shouldn’t be expected to be) one of them.

  21. alter_ego*

    I got a second job working in retail that I ended up quitting after 2 days. I told the manager why, that she had made a few comments about why they hired someone as fat as me (not in quite so many words, but “why did we hire you?” and “body type” were used quite a few times). When I told her why I was quitting, she was shocked. SHOCKED. Started ranting about how her employees loved her, they threw here a baby shower earlier this year, she’s a great manager and totally nice and why would I be offended by “People with your body type don’t shop here, I’m not sure why we hired you”. Luckily, I needed neither the job, nor the recommendation, so there were no issues with telling her exactly why I was quitting, but in other circumstances? I absolutely would have said nothing. There was no satisfaction from telling her. She completely rejected what I was saying, and I’m sure that if she even remembers the incident, she just thinks of me as someone too flaky to make it through training. No one is going to have a sudden realization that “Oh my God, I *am* racist/sexist/homophobic/fatphobic/whatever”. They’re going to get defensive, and they’re going to shut down. Hard.

  22. Have courage and be kind in Austin, TX*

    OP #4: Are you sure the same person viewed your profile in multiple days?

    I’m asking because people I know and admire show up multiple times in “people who have recently viewed your profile” for me, but what LinkedIn was doing is keeping a list of people who allow them to disclose the viewer for a period. Not all viewers have setting that allow LinkedIn to disclose who viewed your profile, and I noticed that LinkedIn keeps the one who do for a period in that “recently viewed” list, perhaps to avoid showing lots of anonymous thumbnails for the most recent visitors.

    It’s possible, if you don’t have a paid LinkedIn account (I don’t), that you’re experiencing the same thing, and in this case it’s likely the old coworker may have seen your profile only twice (and you kept seeing the same visit as you checked your history in subsequent days). Disregard my comment if you are actually seeing dates and times of each visit, or the person listed multiple times in the same report. In my case I only see a summary that keeps showing the same person on the list every day I check (reflecting the same visit), until LinkedIn refreshes the list.

    1. Judy*

      Also, if they’re viewing on a smartphone, I tend to “fat finger” the clicks onto someone’s profile quite a bit. As I’m scrolling down the feed, it seems to just randomly click on the profile as I’m scrolling over it.

    2. Hermione*

      If that’s the case though, the alleged busybody isn’t going to notice she’s been blocked for awhile anyway, so it doesn’t sound like it’s a big deal either way.

    3. OP #4*

      OP #4 here. Thanks Alison for publishing my question. I saw the time of each visit. LinkedIn lists the time in mins/hours/days like ‘Mary Smith’ viewed your profile 3h, 4h…etc. Each time it listed her separately at different times. I’m pretty sure she was just being a busy body.

      1. AW*

        In that case it’s probably that people at old job are asking where and what your new job is and she can’t remember off the top of her head so she’s looking it up each time.

        It’ll stop after a few days.

      2. Cath in Canada*

        Maybe she just left your profile up in one tab of her browser, and every time she closes the browser then re-opens the last session it shows up as a new hit?

        (Not that I constantly have way too many tabs open and never get around to reading them before I need to reboot or anything, no, I thought of this answer for entirely unrelated reasons).

    4. charisma*

      I just don’t understand why it matters if this woman, or anyone else, is viewing your profile multiple times.

  23. Yep*

    #4 – I hear you. I see people from a job I left on bad terms checking up on me every now and then. (Mind you I’m not checking up on them.) I try to be amused by it – oh that’s cute, you’re still harping on everything that happened, and meanwhile it’s been years and I’ve moved on.

    But wait, can you really block people on LinkedIn? Do you need the advanced membership to do so?

    1. Abby*

      I don’t think you can. I tried blocking everyone but 1st connections after leaving a toxic workplace and couldn’t find the setting.

      1. Carrington Barr*

        You can, actually.

        Go to the profile of the person you want to block and select “Block or Report” from the drop-down menu at the top of the profile summary.

    2. OP #4*

      I am always amused people have that much time on their hands. Yes, you can block people without an advanced membership. Here’s how:
      To block a member from viewing your profile:
      1.Go to the profile of the person you’d like to block. [Note: After you block someone, you will disappear from the Who’s Viewed Your Profile section of the person you blocked.]
      2.Move your cursor over the down arrow next to the button in the top section of the member’s profile and select Block or report from the list.
      3.Check the box next to Block.
      4.Click Continue.
      5.On the next screen, click Agree to confirm your action.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I’m on LinkedIn a lot for work and it is always giving me a list of people that I may know or that I formerly worked with. If I am just killing time, I just scroll through random profiles out of idle curiosity. It is nothing nefarious.

    3. SallyForth*

      When I was re-doing my resume I checked the job title and job description of the two managers I worked under at a job I left under not so great terms. I wanted to check the phrasing on their profiles for a project we did. After I checked it the second time, I was evidently blocked by both of them, because they didn’t show up on a search.

  24. LQ*

    #4 I would just assume that she went there a couple times and now when she goes to type in linkedin to her browser yours is the first that pops up so she goes with it. She does that a few more times and now her browser is SURE yours is the page she wants to go to when she starts on it. She doesn’t care enough to change it or doesn’t know how. So just shrug and move on.

  25. AmyNYC*

    #2 – Sympathies for the broken leg! I broke mine in college (also in NYC) and getting around the city is TOUGH. As for what to wear, if the jeans are fine, I’d keep wearing them. I’d also reconsider dresses/skirts – spandex shorts or silky shorts-as-a-slip would prevent “wardrobe malfunctions” and be less expensive than a bunch of new pants; to carry stuff without pockets, use a small cross-body bag (it’ll flop around, but this is only temporary). Get well soon!

  26. nona*

    OP 1 – It’s not on you to be your boss’s teacher. Enjoy moving on to a new, better place!

    1. nona*

      OP 2 – Knee-length or longer skirts. Really the best way to go.

      I have a bad knee and wear a brace sometimes that can fit over “skinny” cut pants (it can’t fit under pants at all). Since you’ve mentioned you’re wearing a walking boot, not a cast, maybe a different style of pants could work for you?

  27. Kyrielle*

    OP #4 – it is also possible she’s just doing something else. I sometimes go to a linked profile to mine it for people I may know, or because I’m trying to work out a recommendation. In blocking her, if that keeps her from interacting with you (I’ve never looked at that feature), you might actually have cut out a chance at a recommendation.

    Probably not. But maybe.

  28. Jubilance*

    OP #1 – I wouldn’t try to explain to your boss why you’re leaving. If he’s clueless enough to treat you this way, ask you inappropriate questions, etc, he’s not going to get it when you try to explain to him how his comments made you feel. He’s probably going to get very defensive and try to blame you for being “overly sensitive” and “playing the race card”. Your best bet is to walk away entirely.

    1. Joey*

      There’s not much risk or harm though in sending a well thought out email to him once you’re in a new job. although it’d have to sound well meaning and informative rather than accusatory.

      1. esra*

        If OP wants to do this, then sure. But it sucks to say that she has to watch her tone and sound well meaning etc etc when the boss is the one in the super wrong.

        1. Joey*

          but why wouldn’t you want to if the guy seemed like a nice guy and oblivious ?

          isnt it more effective though to always watch our tone when we tell people they do anything we don’t like?

          1. esra*

            It puts the onus for pleasantness on the victim instead of the perpetrator. Why don’t we put more onus on people to educate themselves?

            1. salad fingers*

              And as Jubilance said, and as people have mentioned above, there’s a really good chance that someone who feels entitled to act this way will be shocked that someone thinks he’s racist and retaliate in small ways that can affect her reputation and chances for a reference. The possibility that saying something will benefit her isn’t enough to risk saying it.

              Also, I’m not a person of color, but I can say that having these sort of conversations with people about gender can be incredibly draining and upsetting, and unless the OP has reason to believe she’ll feel better after talking to this guy, it’s not her job to put herself through it.

              1. Joey*

                Maybe that’s where we differ. i think it will take much much longer to end racism if we wait for people to figure it out themselves.
                Should we have to educate them? of course not. But you could say the same about equality laws? Should we have to force people by penalty of law to treat people equally? If we sit around and wait we’ll be waiting a long long time.

                1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                  Joey, I don’t mean to be unpleasant to you here, but you are actually providing an example of why we shouldn’t expect the OP (or other victims of discrimination/bigotry/etc.) to educate the perpetrators.

                  You’re not someone with any authority over the OP (or any other commenters), you’re a known member of this community, you’re obviously well-meaning and interesting to connect with on these posts. And yet it’s pretty difficult and frustrating to talk to you about this issue: you keep asking for explanations (after they’ve been given), you insist that the OP should take action that you think is best, you push your agenda. That’s exactly the kind of response the OP may want to avoid. It’s not her job to explain this to her boss. It’s not her job to explain it to you, either.

                2. Natalie*

                  This is an individual, though, taking all of the risk without the clout or the safety net of being the state (as in a law) or a huge group of people (as in a boycott).

                3. Joey*


                  I’m sorry it’s frustrating that I disagree, but I’m not insisting anything. I’m just giving my opinion on the right thing to do and the reasons for it. And I really brisk at the thought so many commenters telling the op to duck and run. It seems like so many people find these issues so reprehensible yet feel like it’s someone else’s job to fix them. I totally get not wanting to risk the job that provides the salary that puts food on your table, but she’s already leaving so there’s minimal risk in doing a small deed to make the world a better place.

                4. Anonsie*

                  I’m with Victoria on this one, Joey. I mean, look at what’s happening right now. You’re saying if she nicely explains it to this guy he’ll respond well and agree with her and change his tune. Then when people are nicely explaining right here why that is not how this type of conversation is likely to go and it’s ok for her to just not try if she doesn’t feel up to it, you’re digging in your heels and arguing that we’re all wrong and that our whole perspective is aggravating. Do you see a little bit of a disconnect in your expectation and reaction there?

          2. neverjaunty*

            Seriously, you can’t think of a single reason a person wouldn’t want to send a racist ex-boss a Teachable Moments e-mail?

      2. moss*

        I think the emotional drain of composing that email, trying to hit just the right tone and then getting an unsatisfactory or no answer would be more than it was worth.

        1. Joey*

          I sort of think of it as giving a manager of a restaurant i like some critical feedback. If they’re really interested in fixing it they’ll take it to heart. If they don’t that tells me more about them than the initial issue.

          1. EmilyG*

            I can see why you’re making that analogy, but you’re not trying to make in the world of being a diner after centuries of systematic oppression by restaurant managers. I think you’re underestimating the emotional toll of having to do the work of carefully changing people’s mind for them.

          2. jmkenrick*

            I get where you’re coming from with that analogy, but it’s also worth noting that for a lot of people* you’d have to extend this analogy to giving the manager of every other restaurant you go to critical feedback. And with the knowledge that some of those managers are going to blow up at you and spit in your food.

            *Of course, everyone has different experiences, but depending on circumstances, someone might find themselves in a lot of situations where they have to be the “educator” and that can be really emotionally draining.

          3. aebhel*

            Sure, but the manager of a restaurant is unlikely to be able to torpedo your professional career if you offend them. Depending on what the OP’s field is, here, her boss may very well be in that position even after she’s no longer working for him.

          4. neverjaunty*

            The manager of your favorite restaurant has no power to give you an unfavorable job reference in the future.

    2. The IT Manager*

      LW#1 should do whatever she feels is best for her.

      I do however think that if you did not feel comfortable talking about it with him in the moments or once you recovered from the shock the day after it happened when it might have made a difference in your whole work experience and led to you wanting to stay, then you personally gain little from telling him now. You (possible) educate him and change him and make things better for others in the future which is great, but not necessarily an obligation on your part.

  29. Case of the Mondays*

    For the broken foot, my suggestion depends on how high your cast is. My mom had one up to her knee. She bought a pair of cheap khakis (Kohls I think) and cut off the leg on the cast leg, leaving just enough fabric to tuck it into the top of her boot.

    Also, hiking stores sell pants that look like khakis that have hidden zippers around the knees so you can turn them into shorts. These usually aren’t cheap but if you are at all outdoorsy when healed you would get use out of them again. You could use these and just zip off the leg on the bad leg.

  30. Erin*

    #1 – Other than the racist remarks, is he kind of a nice person? I’m laughing at myself for even typing that sentence out, but seriously. If you think there’s a chance that he’s just totally oblivious – especially since some of the remarks were (arguably) complimentary – then I’d give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he thought he was making you feel more at home, and that you would appreciate him asking questions about your culture (if that’s how he’s viewing it). He may sincerely have no idea what kind of an impact his comments are having. As Alison alluded to, even if he feels a bit blindsided, he may sincerely appreciate tactful feedback on his management tactics.

    On the other hand, if he’s just a big jerk, then all bets are off. Best of luck to the next person in your position, but it isn’t really your problem to worry about anymore.

    #2 – What about a long skirt? Freedom to move legs, no flashing anyone. I feel like you’ve probably already thought of that, though. But yeah, there are definitely inexpensive long skirts you could order online, for sure.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That’s interesting, especially the second article. Re #8) I don’t think of you as Black: of course, I notice when people are different from me (black, Muslim wearing a hijab, etc.) but I never really care that much. I always just talk to everybody the same. I don’t know what that says about me.

        When I was a kid growing up in the equivalent of Mayberry, people made racist jokes all the time, mostly on the school bus. I would laugh because if you didn’t, they would give you crap about it, and I had so many people picking on me for other crap that for a while, I didn’t dare even try to be different. To this day, I cringe when I think of it, and I wish I’d had the guts to say, “Hey, guys, that’s really rude.” I felt bad for laughing so after a while, I just ignored it and stuck my nose in a book. There was so much casual racism it was really difficult to separate yourself from it. Calling them out on it would not have done any good.

        Of course, that changed as I got older and became more comfortable being myself. But I started school in a city with kids from all different backgrounds–the only common denominator was that we were all Catholic (it was parochial school). So when we moved to Mayberry, it always felt weird to me to point it out. Like, who cared? Obviously the Mayberry kids did, but I could never understand why. We had one black person in the whole town, but our parents said “Don’t be mean to that person. It’s not nice.” We had one person who was female and wore men’s clothes (shoes and all) but didn’t identify as male (she went by her given name), and we were like, “What’s going on there?” and it was explained as, “Person likes to wear these clothes and it’s no big deal.” So we didn’t think of it as strange, but I know some of the other people did. It almost seemed like they couldn’t not think of it because it was different.

        I might ask questions about culture if I’m curious and I know the person. Like if they mention a religious holiday, for example–I might say, “Hey, tell me more about ABC Day; that sounds interesting.” I had friends from Iran, Lebanon, and Israel in music school, and we talked about differences in a very open and informative way. But I can’t imagine asking the questions the OP’s manager asked. I wonder if he didn’t grow up the same way I did, but without the added bonus of having the more diverse experience to start.

        I am not excusing him–not in the least. I’m just wondering how this kind of thing happens. It boggles my mind that a person could grow up and not learn a single thing past what they knew as a child.

        1. Jillociraptor*

          I think White people often grow up not really ever learning how to talk about race and difference. We grow up learning that our experiences are “default” and that it’s impolite to highlight differences; we just completely lack a vocabulary and framework for talking about racial differences.

          I honestly feel that for the most part, White people don’t WANT to be racist, and are mortified to learn that their behavior is out of alignment with that desire, but also develop a kind of learned helplessness when it takes a really long time to get it right (which it does).

          I think we can talk about two issues in this letter separately. One is the boss’s POV, and the other is the appropriate course of action for the OP. Based on what OP said about the boss, my guess is that you’re right: he would probably be mortified to know that his awkward way of engaging is actually hurtful and uncomfortable for the OP. He might genuinely want to know that it is. He might also become extremely defensive, or worse. That’s a risk all marginalized people take when they speak out. So to the second point, I think Alison’s advice is spot on: it’s absolutely the OP’s right to say something, but it’s not her obligation.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Agree–especially with the lacking vocabulary. Even if you know someone well and want to ask a question, how do you frame it without sounding insensitive? Is it insensitive to even ask? I say yes on things like skin and hair and such, because please–everybody has hair (unless they have alopecia). And skin. It’s skin. Duh. I doubt very much if anyone of any race appreciates such personal questions. Especially at work!

            As for culture, I don’t mind answering questions about my own, or about Catholicism if people are curious and know that’s how I was raised. But I’ve never had experience past stuff like that or like Buzzfeed posts (“Why do Americans do X instead of Y?”). I’ve never been asked questions based on my actual skin color. And no one has assumed that I’m a certain way because of it, so it’s harder for me to understand it. I’m trying, though, and I always welcome any chances to learn anything anyway.

            I think the manager does need to be schooled, but you and Alison are right–the OP has more than enough reason to say something, but it’s absolutely not her responsibility. She’s already been put upon enough by this junk.

        2. Erin*

          That’s a good point on asking questions about other cultures. There’s an appropriate way to do it, and not. This manager just may not realize this.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        The “10 Things” list is bad, but I’d like to [slightly] defend, “You went to college *where*?” Because I’ve asked that of lots of people from lots of backgrounds when they’ve said they went to Oxford / Yale / Cornell / MIT / Dartmouth / Harvard / etc. And I’ve never meant it as an insult. It was said in the same tone as, “YOU were in a movie with *Viggo Mortensen*??” Not because I don’t think they have the acting chops for it, but because I do’t know any actors, least of all really famous ones that make me swoon.

        So the school thing would be because I don’t know very many people who went to those universities and I’m always a little bit starstruck and want to compare their college experience to my lowly, state-school one. I’m in awe and impressed, and if I’m doing any kind of double-take it’s because I’m doing the, “Wow, I can’t believe I know someone famous / important / super smart!” thing, not because I didn’t think they were capable of crushing it at a prestigious university.

      3. Stephanie*

        I did a tour of the Texas State Capitol (interesting tour if you’re in Austin and need something to do). The tour guide mentioned Barbara Jordan (the first black woman elected to the Texas house) and how articulate she was. I died a little inside.

        1. Pennalynn Lott*

          ::sigh:: Just one more reason (of thousands) that makes me embarrassed of and for my home state.

    1. Just Another Techie*

      The thing about complimentary race-based remarks is that they always have a poison pill inside, and the speaker is almost always aware of it. “You’re so articulate” –> “I was expecting you to be completely illiterate and uneducated, you know, like the rest of your race.” “You’re so clean” –> “I was expecting you to not have showered in weeks, like the rest of your race.” “You’re such a good worker” (to an Asian person) –> “I know I can count on you to do the shit work no one else will, and you won’t bother me for a raise or promotion. Also, you’ll never be creative and innovative like your white colleagues.”

    2. Windchime*

      I know several people who are “complimentary racists”. They truly think they are being nice when they say “nice” things like, “[x] people are so hard working” or “[x] people are always so smart”. I’ve tried to explain why this seems racist to me, but they don’t take my lily-white self seriously; after all, what do I know about racism, having never encountered it myself?

      It seems racist to me; can others tell me if my thinking is correct?

      1. sam*

        your thinking is absolutely correct. “model minority” stereotypes are still stereotypes. They are still categorizing entire classes of people by some sort of “innate characteristics” that have nothing to do with individual persons or personalities. People who fall into those categories can be damaged by those stereotypes for a variety of reasons, including just the basic fact that they’re being seen as a “type” rather than an individual.

        Then there’s the issue of individual people not being able to, or not wanting to conform to a particular stereotype – the asian kid who wants to be a poet, not a mathematician or scientist. Those cultural expectations can be just as damaging, as negative stereotypes.

        Or another one. (I’m jewish, by way of background in saying this). There’s a stereotype that “jews are smart/good with money”. On the surface, this can be seen as a “positive” stereotype, but it stems from a fairly negative history that resulted from jews being prohibited from owning property in prior centuries and being limited to a very small number of professions. Those professions (lawyering, moneylending, etc.) were seen as degrading and degraded lines of work (think Merchant of Venice) before the 20th century, when farming and property ownership because significantly less important to wealth creation. it’s also resulted in some pretty rampant conspiracy theories that led to things like the holocaust.

        not to mention, the first time someone used “jew” as a synonym for “cheap” (not knowing I was jewish), I nearly slapped them across the face.

      2. The IT Manager*

        It is racist because it is painting a entire race with a single brush. And it’s is inaccurate. All the races (white included) have high and low performers. Does anyone ever say: “White people are so smart.” White people are so good at hockey.” (I had to stretch for a sport here.) “White people are so hard working.”? That’s because they are not assuming that every white person is the same like they are in those complimentary stereotypes

      3. Stephanie*

        Yeah, because you’re painting a group with a broad brush and there’s also the implied message of what they’re not with those “compliments.” Saying “Oh, but all Asians are so smart” runs into the issue of the “model minority” as well as implies that Asians can’t be charismatic or creative (Google the “bamboo ceiling”). Or saying “Oh, but black people are so cool and athletic” implies that black people can’t be intellectual (or it’s a surprise if they are). It can be tough if you don’t fit your “compliment” like I did. I am a nerdy, not particular sassy black woman (I’m like a Black Daria at times, really) and yeah…it can be annoying when people assume I am automatically this arbiter of cool (case in point…the hipster glasses trend has been good for me as I had the giant plastic frames long before they were trendy due to my horrible, horrible eyesight).

    3. neverjaunty*

      “then I’d give him the benefit of the doubt” – Why? In all seriousness, why? Who cares if he’s otherwise “kind of a nice person”? Sincerely, I don’t understand this. The CEO of a startup company should know better than to make dumb remarks about a subordinate employee’s race every freaking week for months. Whether he is also kind to puppies and remembers the HR manager’s birthday or tips well at restaurants, or whatever else ‘kind of nice’ means, he behaved inexcusably to somebody who was not in a position to call him on it.

      It’s not OP’s job to look deep into his heart of hearts and, if he is pure and generous of soul, give him “tactful feedback” on the fact that in the 21st century, it’s considered inappropriate to tell the single black employee that black women have great skin or [other remark] on a weekly basis.

      1. Erin*

        I hear you. I’m just a big, big believer in giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. My husband thinks that makes me idealistic and naive, but there it is. If he’s otherwise a nice person, I do think he deserve the benefit of the doubt that maybe he’s just totally oblivious.

        You mention he should know these things in his position, and he should, but maybe he doesn’t. I used to work for 80-year-old farmers and often had to deal with situations where they did *not* know what was appropriate. But often their father’s father’s father went to that market, and I had to respect that longevity and navigate accordingly. Or maybe he was thrown into his position and is trying his best but is in over his head. There’s a million possible scenarios that could offer further information.

        Conversely, maybe not. Only the OP can make that kind of judgement call.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Look, maybe I’m missing something here, but I’m not sure why “otherwise a nice person” means anything here. If he doesn’t know those things in his position, it’s his job, as a grown-ass adult living in the 21st century, to learn them. He doesn’t “deserve” the benefit of being spoon-fed enlightenment by the people he craps on.

          1. Erin*

            Nah you’re not missing something, I think we’re just agreeing to disagree. I guess if you don’t believe whatsoever he could possibly have any other good qualities then your logic does follow suit.

  31. Joey*

    1. Part of me wonders if the offensiveness of the comments were compounded by being the only black girl in the office. I wonder if they would be so offensive if the office were more diverse and the boss made those sorts of comments to other minorities. I say that because I have some friends who when I met them were just absolutely racially clueless and said some really ignorant things. But over time after being in a more diverse area it seems now as though they find humor in their ignorance but also use it as a mechanism to learn.

    1. Joey*

      The key though to that was that we felt comfortable enough with each other to talk about it. Or at least in my case I felt comfortable enough to joke about how racially ignorant their comments sounded.

  32. The Strand*

    OP #1, I just want to reiterate that it is not your job to educate him on his racism, and I am so sorry you have to deal with that behavior. I would talk to someone (such as the board) if you feel up to it. If you have a trusted coworker they might be willing to convey concerns also.

    OP#2, I would head for the hills. If they’re telling you the pay is less, that stinks to high heaven.

    1. Joey*

      1. Why all the “it’s not your job comments”? If people don’t ever point it out when someone does it how will folks learn they’re saying insensitive stuff?

      1. Katie the Fed*

        I’d hazzard that most people have an inkling (or should) that their questions are a bit offensive or intrusive. Some things are just none of your business. I mean, this isn’t first grade when I asked a classmate how she washed her cornrows or whether she got sunburned. THOSE are the idly curious questions of a child. If you’re an adult and still think it’s ok to ask questions like that, that’s on you to figure out.

        1. Joey*

          You’d be surprised at how ignorant and oblivious adults are who have little exposure to diversity growing up.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            I’m pretty sure we’ve had this conversation here before (centered on questions about “how to work with women” or something like that). It’s frustrating to have to talk about this over and over again.

            So, in summary:

            1) Adults are perfectly capable of educating themselves – in fact, I would argue that we’re responsible for doing so.
            2) If someone isn’t educating themselves and is behaving badly, other people who share identity or power with that person (in this case, white people) should step in. The person who is the target of his racism shouldn’t be further burdened with challenging it, if she doesn’t want to take that on. In this case, surely other people have observed his behavior. Why aren’t you taking one of them to task?

              1. Observer*

                Fine. But that doesn’t mean that the job therefore falls to the letter writer who is the victim of racism.

          2. Joey*

            I’ve had co workers just send a spanish speaker to me without knowing whether I speak Spanish. I’ve had co workers seek me out whenever they wanted a good mexican restaurant- and this in a city I’ve transplanted to. I’ve had people assume my first name must be Jose. I’ve had people ask me all sorts of really ignorant and insensitive questions and most of them were well meaning nice people, but had no idea. Unless the person doing it is generally an asshole, what purpose does it serve to let them continue the ignorance?

            1. illini02*

              Exactly. I think too many people are so closed off to having these conversations. I know plenty of well meaning white people, who I’m friends with and I know aren’t racist, that have just said some dumb things. Doesn’t mean they should be shunned by society. I’m a black man, but I’ve definitely said some things to my gay friends or female friends, that in my mind wasn’t bad, but they didn’t see it that way. I appreciated them just letting me know the problem, instead of just stewing about it and assuming I’m homophobic or misogynistic.

              1. salad fingers*

                I think it’s great that your friends call you out (and that you’re receptive), but this is a work environment. To answer Joey’s question, I think the best people to have this conversation with the boss are friends or colleagues at his level or higher. No one he manages or managed have any responsibility to check him on this stuff and potentially deal with the consequences.

                1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

                  Yes. There’s a huge difference between discussing this among friends and doing it to your boss (or, I suppose, former boss who is still on the hook for giving you a reference) where there’s a definite power imbalance in play as well.

                2. Joey*

                  Wouldn’t it be more impactful though coming from the person it most affects andwas directed at? Sure I get it would be even more awkward and difficult having this convo with your boss, but once you quit he’s no longer the boss. And once you have another job the risk of a poor references isn’t as relevant.

                3. Pennalynn Lott*

                  Ya know, Joey, that’s not how it usually works at all. When someone who you (the general you) already consider to be “other” calls you out treating them as an “other”, a common defense mechanism is to “other” them even further. So the black curiosity now becomes the over-sensitive and uppity b*tch.

                  People tend to receive cultural correction better when it comes from within their own “tribe” (be that defined by race, gender, age, social status, business hierarchy, what-have-you). When one of your own calls you out and says you’re breaking the cultural taboos of your group, that has more power than someone telling you you’re breaking the taboos of someone else’s group.

                4. The Strand*

                  About a quarter of the way in, yes, I hear you. Sure, I am ready and willing to put myself in that position of having open, sometimes uncomfortable discussions with many kinds of people on many subjects, but I am choosing to do that in situations where we are speaking as equals on topics we want to talk about – whether it’s race, sexism, the economy, religion.

                  There are many people who would never dream of engaging in prejudiced behavior, who have prejudiced views that come out in conversation. If I want to point out, “Hey, bro, that sounds kind of racist, suggesting that the foreign dignitary from Botswana is a fabulous break-dancer,” instead of “Dude, you’re a racist,” well, one of them is primed for conversation that encourages the person to think about potential prejudice, not a complete sentence that closes the door. And, either one of us can change the subject or step back if a polite discussion of our views goes south into invective-filled spittle.

                  This is not that kind of scenario. First you have the power inequity because this is her boss who is saying creepy, racist things to her, a person who has the power to fire her from her job. She has no choice but to listen to this because he’s above her in the pecking order, when, as said better by salad fingers, this kind of “education” would only be appropriate with a peer. Remember what happened when Google’s CEO was verbally spanked by one of his employees for cutting off the woman he was on a panel with? Are you really suggesting that the writer has the same power you have to discuss prejudice with your peers, with the guy who signs her paychecks?

                  Second, I’ll bet you $25 that “educating my coworkers and managers about my ethnic group” is probably not listed anywhere on her job description, (though I’ll bet that “creating a non-hostile work environment” or the like is probably on her bosses’ job descriptions!).

                  Last but not least, her boss’s overall behavior really doesn’t call for anything other than the one sentence answer: “Dude, you’re a racist.”

          3. aebhel*

            Not really; I’ve met plenty of them. But this is sort of like…IDK, asking a female employee about feminine hygiene products. You may genuinely not know how they work, but you damn well should know that’s not an appropriate question.

            Plenty of white adults are ignorant about a lot of racial issues, but anyone with a modicum of empathy should realize that nobody likes to be treated like a curiosity.

        2. fposte*

          I also think that there’s a 20th-century progressivism that embraced that kind of stuff as being inclusive, and that some people grew up with that message. The guy sounds kind of like my parents and a lot of parents I grew up with, and at the time these would be people who marched for civil rights, voted for non-white candidates, and hired diversely.

          But it’s been the 21st century for a while now, and it’s time he figured this stuff out.

          1. MsM*

            Right. Even if you didn’t grow up in a diverse area, if you’re smart enough to run your own company, you’re smart enough to know that not everyone is like you and that you shouldn’t be treating that as weird.

          2. Anonsie*

            I got a little bit of that vibe as well.

            David Wong said it well, I think, though he was talking about gender it’s true across the board: There are two ways to dehumanize someone, you can put them down or you can put them on a pedestal.

      2. Observer*

        What Katie said. And, also, being a victim doesn’t mean that you now have to take on an additional burden, and on the comes with some risks.

      3. Magda*

        There is a true risk of blowback for the person doing the pointing-out, though (in the form of “why are you so angry/sensitive/looking to get offended?” type of attitudes).

        No one is obligated to take that risk on themselves just to educate someone who may or may not even want to hear it.

      4. Colette*

        There’s a potential cost to speaking up, though, even if we take the potential reference out of the equation. Some people are open to feedback and others will get defensive and attack.

        It’s fine for the OP to speak up if she wants to, but it’s not her responsibility to “fix” the manager.

      5. Natalie*

        Pressuring someone to educate you on your own oppression is a derailing technique. It pushes the focus and responsibility off the person making bigoted statements and onto the person who “has to” educate them if they’re going to do any better. This comes up *a lot* in ostensibly progressive communities, so I think people are making a point to remind the OP that she doesn’t need to do this because she may be feeling some guilt over *not* doing it. (Link to follow)

        1. Katie the Fed*

          The comments and questions about bodies always make me think of Hottentot Venus. It’s this exoticizing of black/minority bodies – just makes me squirmy. Oh, black women have such nice skin? Why in the world would you feel the need to say that?

          1. Melissa*

            I think it comes from “See? I’m not racist! I see being black as a good thing!” Without realizing that it’s the singling out and the stereotyping that makes it racist, not only the valence of the idea.

      6. Just Another Techie*

        Because saying something comes with significant risk of significant harm to the OP. It’s dangerous to say something about racially insensitive remarks to someone like the OP’s boss, because you can’t know in advance if he’ll take it out on you. Sure, he might take in the remarks, realize he’s been a racist dbag, and apologize, or he might decide that it’s the OP’s fault he feels bad, if only she weren’t such an angry uppity black woman, and retaliate, either by making her workplace even more toxic, or giving her bad references, or badmouthing her at professional association events, or god knows what else. And OP’s first responsibility is to herself: to keep herself safe and healthy, and to make sure her professional reputation is sterling so she can move on to better positions, grow in her career, provide for herself & her family, etc.

      7. Becky*

        It’s not her job to serve as some kind of benevolent information-producing resource on demand throughout her entire life and career, on a subject not related to her actual job.

        That applies to the initial questions the boss was asking her, and it also applies to the obligation you want to assign her to educate this iteration of the “Nice Guy”.

        1. Joey*

          Is it better to expend our energy protecting ourselves from an uncomfortable conversation than to expend it trying to make our own and immediate community a better place for everyone?

          1. Magda*

            Joey, no offense, but your responses up and down this conversation demonstrate exactly why people don’t want to engage in these conversations. The way you refer to it as an “uncomfortable conversations,” for example, is belittling the problem and reducing it to a matter of emotional comfort. As others have mentioned, the consequences if the boss gets hostile and defensive could include the boss making her life difficult, giving a bad reference or badmouthing her elsewhere. Those are real-world consequences that go beyond personal discomfort.

            And frankly, even if it were only a matter of personal comfort, it would STILL be completely valid for the LW to decide “nope, not going there.” If you have the personal werewithal to take on a conversation telling someone they f’ed up, good for you! But if someone else doesn’t, I don’t think they really need to be criticized for how they expend their personal energy.

      8. AW*

        If people don’t ever point it out when someone does it how will folks learn they’re saying insensitive stuff?

        That is not her problem. Her problem is that she has a CEO who makes racist comments and she’s fixing that problem by finding a new job.

      9. Emily*

        “It’s not your job,” doesn’t mean don’t and no one ever should. It means, “It’s OK to sit this one out if that’s what you need to do for you.” It means that there will be plenty of opportunities to have a teachable moment, and no one person is obligated to spend themselves to take full advantage of each one.

        1. Joey*

          Id agree in that context , but I don’t think that’s what everyone’s implying. Or at least I don’t think that context is obvious.

          1. Anonsie*

            I think it’s been quite obvious since people have been presenting both the out and possible ways to broach it depending on what she wants to do.

            1. Joey*

              Except it’s been framed as “if you want to”. my opinion is that “you have a duty to the community to”.

              1. Katie the Fed*

                and pretty much nobody agrees with your opinion on this, for reasons that have been painstakingly, repeatedly, laid out.

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  My point is that people have put in a lot of effort explaining to you WHY this is problematic, and you ignore all of it. But you expect victims of racism to convince racially tone-deaf people to change THEIR opinions and perspective? There’s a reason that people ultimately decide these arguments aren’t worth their time.

                2. Anonsie*

                  im not sure why people respond to my comments if its so painstaking

                  Ok. So is there a duty to the community or not?

              2. Anonsie*

                Then no, you don’t agree with Emily in that context, because that’s the opposite of what she and everyone else is saying.

              3. neverjaunty*

                Joey, I’m not sure why *you* are responding when people upthread have addressed many of the arguments you’re raising here. You come across very much as having already made up your mind (that the OP has a Moral Duty to educate this dude, as long as she does so with the perfect tone, of course), and aren’t particularly interested in the experiences of people who have been in OP’s situation.

              4. Observer*

                That’s just the thing. Why on earth is is ti the “duty” of the victim to extend herself to deal with this problem? Even if it’s just a matter of making herself uncomfortable, that’s a lot to ask. Considering that more of ten than not, it’s a LOT more than that, what this reads like is a way to shunt the problem off on the victim rather than the people who are actually misbehaving and the people who have the wherewithal to do something at a far lower risk.

      10. neverjaunty*

        That’s quite a leap, from “the employee whose career is directly affected” to all “people”.

        Lots of other “people” can point out to the CEO that he’s an ass. For example, the other people in that meeting where he flatly insulted the OP. The CEO’s friends. The EEOC, when somebody gets fed up enough with his behavior to register a formal complaint.

      11. catsAreCool*

        The problem with “speaking truth to power” is that power doesn’t always deal well with it, and that can really backfire on the truth speaker.

        Why should LW risk getting badmouthed at future jobs to try to educate someone who should know better?

        If LW was the person in charge, then LW’s job would include telling this guy that what he’s saying is offensive, why it’s offensive, and that he is not allowed to say it at work. But in this case, why should LW risk anything to educate someone who might not take it well?

  33. illini02*

    #1 I’m coming at this from the POV of a black man who, has more often than not been the only person of color (and def the only black man) in my workplace. It sounds like this guy is kind of ignorant, but not being malicious. While its very easy to say what people should know to do and not do (especially at the CEO level) there is definitely a difference between malice and stupidity. This guy sounds firmly in the stupidity category. Because of that, I think if you choose to tell him or not, its fine. However I would advise against going to the board of directors without talking to him first. Only because who among us hasn’t said things that were offensive when we didn’t intend it that way. I definitely have. I would hate for someone to go to my boss about it before even telling me that they found my statement offensive and giving me a chance to correct it. However, if you do choose to just leave without saying anything because you don’t want to burn bridges, I think tats fine as well.

    #2 I’m lucky in that I can basically where whatever I want to work now. But I’ve had jobs that did require a much more strict dress code. I can understand at places where jeans are allowed and shorts aren’t. You can dress up a nice pair of jeans. Shorts are always going to be seen as very casual. If thats the code, then no, you shouldn’t bring it up for a discussion.

    #4. Why do you care. If you have a public profile, people can look. Maybe you are popping up in those annoying emails because you have a new skill or connection, and they are just looking. This is nothing to lose sleep over, especially now that you blocked her.

    1. neverjaunty*

      “Only because who among us hasn’t said things that were offensive when we didn’t intend it that way”

      Setting aside that intent isn’t magic, I really hope most of us has not managed to say offensive things to a co-worker or direct report every week over several months.

    2. Erin*

      Thank you, that’s what I was attempting to say (about the racial thing). Sounds like stupidity, not malice. The OP will have to make a judgement call on which it is.

  34. grasshopper*

    #2, for an interesting solution, try some culottes. They are fashionable this summer and Old Navy has them on sale for $20.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      First the Bath and Body Works 90s scents come back, and now culottes? I’ve fallen through a wormhole!

    2. TootsNYC*

      If you’re googling, other term for culottes are gauchos and divided skirts.
      And then there are skorts (though most of those seem to be very short).

      And if you feel awkward about flashing people, you might like having them ever after you’re healed.

      1. grasshopper*

        Because they fill the void between pants and skirts. All of the convenience of not worrying about exposing yourself of pants with all of the warm weather breeziness of skirts (without the thigh-chafing). Of course, being within this middle ground of being practical means that they aren’t universally flattering (which can be said of many fashions). You just gotta work whatever works for you.

      2. Sins & Needles*

        Everything comes back about every 20 years, ugly things included. It’s just the cycle of fashion.

  35. Sunflower*

    #2- Agree that not being able to wear shorts is not outrageous, esp. when you have other options that work. I also agree that I wouldn’t want to go out and buy new clothes for this. It sounds like there are items that you already own and are able to wear so you might have to resort to re-wearing clothes more often than you originally intended.

    Maxi dresses or dresses with leggings underneath could be a good option. Do you have any friends who are a similar size as you? I’d reach out to them and ask if they could lend you some of their items for the time being. If pockets are that necessary- as cringeworthy as they might be, I think maybe a fanny pack might help you and you can get them at the dollar store. Heck you probably have a friend who can lend you one.

    Sounds like you have some issues with the office overall though. I would sit down with this woman and, nicely, ask for clarification on the dress code. Is it all shorts that are inappropriate or does it depend on length? I used to work in an office where Bermuda’s were fine but shorts anywhere above the knee were not.

  36. LizNYC*

    #2 Maxi & midi (hitting at the mid-calf) skirts are in this year. I’d get three, then rotate as needed. And no one will notice if you wear the black one on Monday AND Friday of the same week.

    1. Sam*

      I’m wearing one today that I’ve gotten so many compliments on…

      $8, walmart. :)

  37. Folklorist*

    #1, I’m sorry that you had to deal with this! What a gross way to run a business. Who actually thinks that’s OK?!?!

    I’m dealing with sort of the opposite side of this (if you can call it that?): I’m a very white red haired Anglo-mutt. There is an older, African-American woman that I work with who is very outgoing and loves to be sassy/jokey with people. She’ll talk all day long about how you never see black people at the pool because black people don’t swim (not true–we both swim at the same place! I see black people there all the time!). And she’ll talk about how she loves tattoos but they don’t look good on black people/you can’t see them (she has several! They’re really cool-looking!) And on, and on, and on in this vein. She’ll also make really personal comments about my looks, hair, body, etc.

    I was raised to believe that you don’t talk about this stuff–you don’t make overt generalizations about races; you don’t talk about people’s appearances and tell them to change; etc. It makes me really uncomfortable, especially when she talks about the general race stuff about black people. It’s like she’s challenging me to confirm that what she’s saying is true, and I always try to point to some way that it’s not (“Oh, I see black people at our pool all the time! We must be going at different times,”) but then I get accused of not having a sense of humor or not seeing the truth or something. I’ve finally stopped talking to her about most things or just try to smile and roll with stuff without agreeing or making generalizations myself. It’s really awkward, though!

    1. Jean*

      You’ve reminded me of an uncomfortable-but-amusing experience my DH and I had many years ago with a neighbor. (Background: DH and I are both Jewish and frankly our appearances meet a number of stereotypical visual requirements. I have a strong nose and thick curly hair, cut short; he has a beard; we both wear glasses.) So anyway, our neighbor starts in on us. Are we Jewish? Yes. (It’s true, and why should we deny it?) Are we from New York City? Well, no. Are we both teachers…? Well, no… By this time we’re just trying to end the conversation while remaining polite!

      Our revenge came later when we told a family member about this encounter. Family member burst out laughing: “My god, they managed to hit all the stereotypes!”

      Okay, enough memoir from moi for one night. :-)

  38. Observer*

    I’m not sure why you are so indignant. Nothing you describe comes close to being a legal issue. Now, if your company really does regularly flout the law, that stinks. And you do need to deal with that. Either report them to the appropriate authorities, or look for a new job, or both. But that has nothing to do with this situation.

  39. jhhj*

    Everyone confused about why shorts seem casual, just look at Alan Cumming’s Tony outfit.

    1. AW*

      I’ve seen women wear “formal shorts” before, but even those didn’t look office appropriate.

  40. Alfredo*

    re: #1…I am NOT defending the boss in this situation. But, I have a question. Why didn’t AAM suggest the letter writer communicate to her boss that his behavior was wrong/hurtful/insulting? That solution seems to be one she regularly offers up. Is this boss’ behavior so far out of line that that option is not a good one here? Again…I am NOT defending the boss’ behavior. And, I think she (the letter writer) deserves to work for a better manager in a better work culture.

    1. Jillociraptor*

      “It’s not your job to educate him, but if you want to, you should absolutely feel free to explain to him why you’re leaving and why his remarks have been offensive and alienating”

      She did, right?

      I think the difference is that it’s reasonable to not have a lot of faith that the Boss is likely to hear this information with an open mind. Definitely people get defensive about critical feedback all the time, but there’s just an important difference between getting pushback from the person you’re giving feedback to on something like “You should do X instead of Y” versus getting pushback on the idea that you deserve to feel comfortable at work. The emotional stakes can be a lot higher.

    2. AW*

      Is this boss’ behavior so far out of line that that option is not a good one here?


      The boss’ comments strongly suggest (if not outright prove) that it is not safe to have this conversation with them.

      1. Elysian*

        And really, even if the OP did have this conversation and it was safe and went well (all unlikely), it sounds like the dynamic between the two of them is just so ruined that OP won’t be able to work productively with him in the future. Even if the boss did a 180 and totally reformed (again, totally unlikely), he’ll always be the boss that said all that racist stuff. I can totally understanding not wanting to deal with even the best case scenario if she tries to talk to him. There is irreparable damage.

  41. BKCat*

    #1 – so sorry that you have to deal with this. I’ve been in your shoes…you don’t have to respond to (or put up with) this kind of rhetoric in the workplace. I suggest making it plain when you quit that you were uncomfortable with the CEOs comments. Either say this to him directly or to someone else in management. I also suggest filing a complaint with the EEOC.

  42. BalticFog*

    #2 I myself hate the idea of buying clothing for 1 or limited number of occasions, but such is life. People gain/lose weight, become pregnant, or just buy unfortunate outfits that they end up wearing only once. Really, it’s not such a big deal. There is Amazon with the 2 day free prime delivery and then there is store pickup when you can order anything online and pick up in store (or have a friend pick it up).

  43. Ed*

    For #3, I would give HR a simplified example and ask if you are correct:

    Jane Smith makes $15/hr as an employee, she pays $220 a month for her share of company benefits as a single person, she gets 5 paid sick days, she gets 10 days paid vacation, she gets all major holidays paid, she gets a company laptop and maybe a phone) and she can contribute to the company 401K. As a contractor, she makes $13/hr, she probably pays more for worse benefits and she loses everything else? Hmm…just so Jane can supposedly be more independent?

    I’ve actually done the same job as both a contractor and employee and I prefer employee. Handling your own benefits and taxes is a pain and contractors always seem a lot more expendable when things get tight. It especially struck home when there was a holiday and I wasn’t getting paid. Most companies are closed so working on the holiday isn’t even an option. And I never took vacation as contractor because I couldn’t afford a week without pay (though that was admittedly my poor budgeting). And we were allowed to “manage” our own work but still had tight deadlines and don’t even think about charging anything over 40 hours or you will be replaced (i.e. you need to work a little for free to keep your job).

    The only thing that would convince me to go contractor is a significant pay increase. This especially works out if you can get on a spouse’s benefits since you typically take a huge hit there. I did it long before Obamacare though so that might make this situation more doable as a single person. I would want a VERY clear definition of how the work environment would be changing. Will you be guaranteed at least 40 hours a week? Can you be forced to work 80 hours a week? How much notice is required by either party to end the contract? I would also make sure you have an actual written contract. I’ve seen situations like this be done on a handshake and then neither side has any protection.

    This sounds to me like a struggling company that thinks they came up with an ingenious idea to turn things around without cutting anyone and losing productivity. Any situation like this needs to be mutually beneficial and it sounds like the company is getting all of the benefits.

  44. ThursdaysGeek*

    #1 – It’s sad that so many commenters say to not talk to the boss, because 1) it’s tiring to always have to be the spokesperson and 2) people so often react poorly to being told they’re saying something offensive.

    What that means, is even though I don’t want to be a racist, I know I will probably say something that offends someone. And they probably won’t call me on it. I wish they would. I tend to be a fairly clueless person, but I am very open to being corrected. Sure, I can go to the internet (what I am doing now), but there’s a lot of bad information out there too, and I need a certain level of knowledge to be able to distinguish good from bad.

    The good news is — I know this group will call me on it, and I can learn here.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I think if you err on the side of treating people like people, and not exhibits at an anthropological museum (“oooh they raise their kids like that?!”) you’re probably not going to be coming across terribly offensive.

    2. AW*

      It’s sad that so many commenters say to not talk to the boss

      You are prioritizing your own bad feelings over maybe saying something racist over both the harm done to the people who heard you say something racist and the psychological toll of confronting someone over it. That in itself is also racist. Imagine someone stepping on your foot and then demanding an explanation for why stepping on feet is bad before they’ll stop. Or them arguing that it hurt them more to find out that you didn’t complain about the time they stepped on your foot a week ago.

      Now imagine the person doing this is your CEO.

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      If your top priority is to not be racist, do some reading with an open mind. The resources are out there. Start with Googling antiracism 101.

    4. Tinker*

      Well, and this is a more appropriate place for it because you don’t pay me the money that I need to not default on my mortgage.

      Unfortunately, I think the problems you cite are more or less unsolvable given that it’s a fairly uncommon (not entirely unknown, but… odd…) case that people come by racism (or other ism) in a way other than sincerely. So challenging them on that necessarily involves breaking some aspect of their worldview, which is something that previously more or less worked for them otherwise they wouldn’t have it, and bad reactions when that occurs (as you say) are a well-established phenomenon.

      I think, even if people improve greatly in their relationships to one another (and I think there might be hope for that, on science fiction time scales) that it’s going to be quite some time where looking for controversial feedback across a power divide is a thing that can be counted on for producing reliable information.

  45. AW*

    LW#1 – This is horrible and I hope you’re able to change jobs ASAP.

    I’m going to suggest staying away from start-ups though. I’m not saying that racism is less likely in larger, established companies but they are more likely to have policies and processes in place to deal with it, including the ability to report incidents anonymously.

    The folks at my current job don’t even blink at my skin color. There are places you don’t have to deal with that nonsense and hopefully your next job will be someplace like that.

    1. Observer*

      On the other hand, if you are at a company where people just are not racist, that’s better than a place with racist people who have “policies and procedures” (which may or may not be actually useful in real life.)

  46. Postscript*

    I’m intrigued that people have at least as much – or more – to say about shorts as about racism.

  47. Treena Kravm*

    For #3, am I the only one who read, “decreased pay” to mean that it’s the same pay, but because the employer isn’t covering their end of taxes anymore, it functions as a decrease in the take-home pay? I would agree that if it were an actual pay deduction, that would be ludicrous, but my thinking was that they’re not going to bump up your contractor rate so that you can keep the exact level of income as an employee.

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