I’m not allowed to wear jeans but all my coworkers do, drinking the boss’s fancy water, and more

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

1. Am I allowed to drink my boss’s fancy water in the office kitchen?

My office supplies drinks for the employees, typically water, juice, coffee, tea, ect. These are purchased by the assistant once a month on her company card and stocked in the communal kitchen fridge. Recently, the head manager in the office decided he really liked this fancy water, $3/bottle water that has some additives to help him with a condition he’s dealing with. So in addition to the regular water being purchased, the assistant is also ordering this fancy water online and stocking it in the office fridge. Note that she is using her company card to buy this water, at the manager’s request. The request from the boss is not uncommon; the fridge has iced tea and vitamin water because different people requested it and the assistant opted to buy that too.

I prefer the regular water and drink a decent amount of it during the day. We ran out of the regular water recently but there is plenty of the fancy water in the fridge, so I started drinking that. Now I’m getting comments telling me I shouldn’t be drinking the boss’s water. My mentality is that is’t not the boss’s water because it was purchased with the company card. Just because it was purchased at the boss’s request does not mean the boss is the only one who can drink it. Yet for some reason “the boss’s water” is special? Who is correct here?

Who’s telling you not to drink it, your coworkers or the boss himself? If it’s coming from your boss himself, yeah, that’s obnoxious but ultimately his call to make — if he’s authorized to have the office buy him his own personal supply of drinking water, then it’s his prerogative, although he should realize that the optics on that kind of thing aren’t good. But if it’s your coworkers (which is what it sounds like), I’d assume that they’re just unnecessarily kowtowing to the boss and you can ignore them. To be safe, you could first ask, “Did Bob himself say not to drink it or are you just assuming we should leave it for him?” … but I suspect they’re just being overly deferential in a way that your boss didn’t request and wouldn’t want if he’s reasonable.

2. My boss doesn’t want me to wear jeans even though everyone else does

I’ve been at my job in marketing for almost a year. It’s a smallish media company with occasional but not frequent visitors, and customers basically never visit. When I interviewed, I noticed people wearing jeans when I came in on a Monday, Tuesday, etc. I dressed up anyway on my first day and then asked to make sure jeans were okay, and was told by my boss “only on Fridays.”

I still noticed jeans being worn by other departments on every day of the week. (My department is only me and my manager, and I’ve for the most part only seen her wear jean on Fridays.) I asked others if they had ever been told jeans only on Fridays, and they said no. I still avoided them, since I wasn’t sure. Then a few months later, our president sent out a memo outlining what we can and can’t wear, which said nice jeans without any rips, holes, etc. were fine.

So that’s basically what I’ve been following since, but then today my boss mentioned that while she’s “not going to police it,” she thinks wearing jeans could be holding me back and making me look less professional. I mentioned the email which said they were fine and she didn’t seem to remember ever hearing that. Is there a non-awkward/rude way I can forward her that email to remind her what were told? I do appreciate her honest feedback and of course I don’t want my clothes to hold me back, but others continue to wear jeans regularly and I guess I’m just a little hesitant to eliminate them without a concrete reason. I get the sense this is more about my boss’ personal preference, as she rarely wears jeans.

Well, what do you care about more — getting to wear jeans or having your manager see you as polished and professional? I get that it doesn’t seem fair, if the rest of the company is allowed to wear jeans. But your boss has told you clearly that she doesn’t want your department wearing them (except on Fridays). That’s her prerogative. You can try pushing back on it, but is it really the battle you want to fight, if it means that you win and get to wear jeans but she thinks it reflects poorly on you? (And to be clear, I’m not defending her stance here; I think it’s silly, unless you’re more public-facing than the rest of the company. But it’s her stance, and you can’t change that.)

That said, you could forward her the email from the president and say something like, “I don’t mean to belabor this; I just wanted to share with you where I’d gotten the understanding that nice jeans are okay. If you still want our department to be jeans-free aside from Friday, I’ll do that of course — just didn’t know if you’d seen this email from Millicent.”

3. My client always pay me late

I’m a freelancer doing work for a well-known corporation in my area. I started six months ago and am paid by the hour. I submit an invoice once a month to the department director.

The problem is, out of the six invoices I’ve sent, the director has forgotten to turn in half of them. The first time, she blamed it on getting “hundreds of emails a day” and told me it was my responsibility to make sure I got a confirmation reply from her. The second time, she didn’t say anything beyond “it’s in the mail.” (I discovered it was her mistake when the check came. A photocopied invoice with her handwriting showed she’d turned it in five weeks late.)

90% of my total monthly work is for this corporation, so these checks are my main income. The director’s inattention is affecting how and when I can pay my bills. I don’t want to stop working for this company but I want to come up with a better way to get paid – one that cuts her out as the middle man, if possible! Do you have anything I might suggest to her, or any other advice?

Try saying this: “Is there a better way for me to handle invoices? I know you’re busy, and I wonder if it would make sense for me to send them directly to someone in your accounting office?” (This may not work since she may have to approve them before they can be submitted, but it’s not unreasonable to ask.)

If that doesn’t work: “They’ve been late pretty often, and I do need to get paid on time. Is there something else I can do to make sure they get processed on time?”

And if that doesn’t work: “I need to get paid in a timely fashion. Right now that’s not happening, so we need to come up with a different system.”

You should also try including a due date on your invoices (if you’re not already) and you might consider charging a late fee too (put a notice of it on the initial invoice).

That said, some companies are notorious for doing this to freelancers.

4. Including “acting” in a title

I work for a small nonprofit. My program used to be made up of my boss (director) and me (program analyst). Last month, my boss left to take a different job and I was asked to take on all of his previous responsibilities in addition to my own for the rest of the year. The organization decided to appoint me “acting deputy director” while they try to figure out what they want to do with my program (absorb it into another program, hire someone to replace the old boss, etc.). That decision probably won’t be made for another six months or maybe even longer.

I am much younger than anyone else at the deputy director level at my organization, and I look even younger than I am, so the title boost is a big help in looking credible in front of external partners or clients. But I didn’t know what the norm was for “acting” positions — when I introduce myself to someone new, should I say I’m the “acting deputy director” or just the “deputy director”? What about in my email signature or LinkedIn profile? I don’t want to mislead anyone about my title, but I didn’t know whether it would sound odd to say “acting” in an introduction.

I’ve seen people do it both ways and think either is fine, but if you want to play it safe, include the “acting.”

One other way to do it is this:
Deputy director (acting)

5. When your job forgets to schedule you

A friend went to look at her schedule and realized she wasn’t scheduled to work. When she went into work, they said they forgot to put her on the schedule this week and that they can’t do anything about it, and if she wants hours she will have to ask around. They made notes that if anyone calls in sick to call her into work first. Is that acceptable ? If work forgets to schedule you, shouldn’t they have to fix it?

Legally, you mean? No, it’s up to them unless you have a written agreement to the contrary (which would be unusual). Ethically, they should fix it (she’s presumably counting on that money), although that can get complicated because it means taking hours from other people that were already promised to them. Really, they should just do the schedule correctly in the first place, but businesses with constantly-changing schedules are notorious for this kind of slip-up.

{ 537 comments… read them below }

  1. Laurel Gray*


    A suggestion is to reach out to this director and see if you can get an accounts payable contact to submit invoices. Usually when the person in charge of actually entering a bill/performing check runs gets an invoice in hand, they will track down the proper person to approve it. It is possible this director is readily available to accounting to approve an invoice even though they may sit on your email correspondence. Good luck!

    1. gooseloose*

      I agree. My company is huge on paying its invoices on time. As in, if you turn in an invoice late, or even just too late for the accounts payable to get a check out, its a big deal. Everything gets time stamped. The company sees it as a way of being a responsible corporate citizen, plus down the road, it saves money, since they can often get better pricing since they have a proven track record.

    2. Natalie*

      Yes, as the AP person this is definitely my preference too. And if the big boss still wants to be looped in, you could email it to both of them.

    3. Meg Murry*

      Or if an AP contact isn’t ok, does the director have an Administrative Assistant? Sometimes they are the ones preparing invoices for the bosses final signature and approval, and are good at getting things done.

      Also, have you tried physically mailing an invoice? Preferably with “PAST DUE” in big, bold red letters for the unpaid invoices? I know it’s 2015, but some places just deal better with physical bills – or again, it’s possible the Admin Assistant actually opens and deals with the mail and might get it done. Probably worth the 49 cents to give it a try.

    4. Graciosa*

      I would add that a customer’s payment practices should absolutely be a factor in the rates. If you don’t get this fixed quickly using some of the techniques already mentioned, figure out what this is costing you (both the time value of money from the delay in payment and also the lost value of your time spent pursuing the payment) and adjust your rate accordingly.

      Sometimes, late payment fees will actually speed the payments up, but there are some companies who won’t pay them regardless so that’s why I suggested building it into your rate to begin with.

      1. LW #3*

        That’s definitely a good suggestion for the next time my rates come up for adjustment. Thanks!

    5. LW #3*

      Hi – I’m the one who wrote in about freelancing bills being paid late. I reached out to my director and asked if there was a better way to handle the billing and this is actually the suggestion she came up with. It turns out the problem is she telecommutes, so she’s only in the office a day or two each week. So she waited until she & her boss were both in the office at the same time to hand deliver my invoices to him, then walk it to accounting, then wait for the next check run. A really convoluted and unnecessary process.

      1. Anonymousse*

        I freelanced for many years and had the occasional client who would do this. I would find out who the accounts payable person was and work the problem from that angle. I gave the slow client a week or so at most and then called accounts payable and said, “Prudence, has Lancelot turned in my invoice to you yet?” And if he hadn’t then she would do the following up. That actually usually worked quite well.

  2. Ashleigh*

    Op 2…. I think what you should focus on is that your manager thinks your wardrobe is holding you back. Without speculating further, it sounds like she’s trying to tell you that her definition of nice jeans may differ from your definition of nice jeans.

    1. Boo*

      Yes this was my thought too. It may not be what the manager thinks at all, but she may be trying to help OP if she knows it matters to other important people in the company.

    2. MK*

      Also, sometimes people fixate on one specific thing to get their point across. It’s possible the boss thinks the OP dresses too casually, but doesn’t want to say so (maybe she doesn’t want to offend the OP, maybe she thinks it’s too vague advice). So she gives the no jeans rule to address the issue indirectly.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I agree that this is a possibility. It’s not great communication on the bosses’ part, but might help you get to the bottom of it.

        You can wear jeans in my office almost anytime if they are nice and you look professional. There are certainly people who think that wearing jeans gives them license to wear their newest 5K t-shirt, which crosses a line. What are you wearing on top and on your feet? If you’re going to wear jeans, you need the rest of your outfit to be solidly business casual – blouse, non-athletic shoes, etc. Also, dark jeans help.

        1. ginger ale for all*

          There is also a type of jeans called trouser style jeans that can look a bit classier (depending on the body type) that you can try.

        2. Emily*

          Absolutely. I am a very casual shoe person. I have two or three pairs of heels under my desk, but I can count on one hand the times I’ve put them on since Birkenstock weather (very clean, relatively new Birkenstocks, in one of their more urban/fashionable styles, but still Birkenstocks.) But my beloved Birks are the only part of my “look” that could possibly be perceived as camp counselor attire—clothing fits well and is pressed, hair and makeup done at least a little bit, etc.

    3. BritCred*

      Its also possible that you just don’t look “right” in the jeans compared to others. I know those who really do look scruffy in jeans whereas others look almost smart in exactly the same style. Its a hard line to tow and I’ve had it myself in the past – exactly the same outfit style as others in the office just didn’t look right on me. I was barely 18 and didn’t take it well at the time but now I have a lot more experience I understand and wish it had been able to be put better/heard better back then.

      1. aNoN*

        So much nope to not looking right in jeans. You can get experiment and find the right fit and cut. Regardless, OP, your boss doesn’t think jeans are professional, period. When reviews and promos come around, your boss will have a major influence in what happens to you. Your judgment call but pick your battles.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          The problem is, most people do not spend that kind of time to find the right jeans.

          It took trying on *lots* of different brands and then different styles within the brand to find jeans that look good on me. And my skinny jeans are a completely different brand than my regular denim.

          1. EvaR*

            Yeah, as a plus sized, tall person, it’s really hard to find jeans or even trousers that fit me correctly- they are either too short, bag at the waist, too tight at the hips, etc. Or sometimes, honestly, good plus sized clothing is sold online only or is way beyond my price range. Not that office clothing isn’t worth investing in, but not everyone has a lot of money to go try on a lot of clothing or buy new clothing often, especially if your weight fluctuates or you have a kind of odd body shape.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I agree, because the boss herself doesn’t wear jeans except on Fridays. If she breaks her own rule, I’d think she could be swayed, but she doesn’t.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        In my experience that usually has to do with the top and shoes that go with the jeans. If I wear a polo shirt and Rockports, I can make most (non-ripped, non-faded) jeans look very professional, but I can also wear them with a tee shirt and sneakers and the jeans have a whole different effect. I think some people don’t think jeans go with nice tops, but they really can, even ripped ones look better with a dressy shirt…they’re just not appropriate for most “office casual” environments, no matter what you pair them with.

        You’re right, though, it can also vary from one person to the next.

        1. Melissa*

          Jeans and a nice top is pretty much my daily work uniform (casual/smart-casual office). The top really does make the difference – I don’t wear t-shirts to my current workplace, and I’m usually wearing flat dressy shoes or Keds at least. It looks dressier than a t-shirt and athletic sneakers.

      3. EvaR*

        I sort of have this problem. I try to wear a blazer and a nice dress or something and end up looking like an extra from a random 90s punk-gangster film. One thing that helps is making sure to only try hairstyles that have “messy” in the title, since my hair tends to be messy anyway, and being really careful that all of my clothes are modest- no low necklines, short skirts, lots of big cozy cardigans in winter and fall, etc.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’m not going to presume that the OP isn’t wearing nice enough jeans or the “right” jeans. Especially since her direct manager has always said “jeans only on Friday” and sticks to that rule themselves. And saying, “jeans will hold you back,” is probably shorthand for “I will hold you back.”

      1. Jaydee*

        There are just some people who have a higher standard for office attire. If those people become managers, they will often enforce that standard. My boss is one of them (we don’t even get jeans on Fridays). It kind of sucks if others get to wear jeans more often, but it’s generally not a fight worth having.

      2. Vicki*

        Yes. I would also suggest the OP find out if the manager simply has an allergy to denim, or if she has a thing about pants. (i.e. would black jeans be OK? Khakis? Corduroy?)

        I interviewed once at a company where my job would be system administrator. After a Lot of back and forthing, the hiring manager decided that (big sigh) it would be OK if I wore pants some times because I might need to crawl under a desk.

        This was one of two Command & Control Attitude decisions that caused me to decline the job offer. (The other was that the CEO told me, in so many words, that he believed the company owned an employee’s every waking thought and if we did anything outside of work hours (from consulting to writing a book) it would belong to the company.)

        1. OriginalEmma*

          The hiring manager didn’t want you wearing any kind of trousers at all?! Jeez!

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      It sounds like her definition of nice jeans is only the ones you wear on Friday.

    6. Ad Astra*

      This sounds like a real possibility. While the OP seems to define “nice jeans” as not having any rips, holes, or bleach stains, the boss may have a higher standard. Lots of people would expect “nice jeans” to be in a dark wash, with little or no whiskering, and perhaps in more of a trouser cut rather than straight leg or skinny jeans. If the boss has the impression that OP can’t or won’t meet the “nice jeans” standard, she might be trying to eliminate weekday jeans altogether rather than get into semantics over it.

      I agree with Allison that it’s a silly policy, but I’ll bet it’s not the hill this OP wants to die on.

      (For some reason, I’m assuming this OP is a woman. Imo, it’s much harder to dress up men’s denim.)

    7. WorkingFromCafeInCA*

      One thing OP could try would be to wear jeans on Friday, but seriously dress them up. Like, a blouse and blazer and nice shoes, maybe a necklace, with dark jeans. If she does that for several weeks, she establishes that she knows how to wear jeans that look professional… and maybe eventually she can sneak those outfits in on a Wednesday or Thursday.

    8. Rana*

      I’m also wondering, OP2, what it is about jeans in particular that is appealing enough to challenge your boss over them. There are plenty of comfortable pants that look dressy that aren’t jeans (or sweat pants, yoga pants, or leggings). Or is it just the principle of being allowed to wear them, despite her disapproval?

      I mean, I’m a huge fan of comfortable clothing – it’s a big part of the appeal of being self-employed – but I don’t think that quibbling over a specific form of comfortable clothing is a hill I’d want to die on.

    9. Vicki*

      Or it’s “holding her back” because she has a jerk manager who is going to give her a bad review because she wore nice jeans on a Wednesday.

  3. Festival reality-maintenance*

    #2: while she’s “not going to police it,” she thinks wearing jeans could be holding me back and making me look less professional.

    We ran this past the twin 9000 units back at Mission Control, and they had a couple of interesting comments.

    Comment 1: when she says she’s “not going to police it”? She’s lying. On the positive side: she’s letting you know that continuing to wear jeans will have consequences.

    Comment 2: your boss sucks, and she’s not going to change. But if this the worst she’s got to give you, you should consider yourself lucky. Trust us when we tell you that, compared to the day we get a direct Internet connection, you and the rest of humanity are living on Cloud 9.

    Heh, the twins. They’re such jokers!

    1. Steve G*

      this is sooooo not an indication that the boss sucks! I can’t speak to the location of the job in question or its level of prestige, but even in my middle class circles, jeans at work have always been frowned upon. The only place I’ve seen them is at the very new, very, very young NYC startups I’ve interviewed at. I never understood the desire to wear jeans to work. First of all, they aren’t comfortable. A well fitting pair of dress pants is 100X more comfortable (and “airy” in the summer heat). And they aren’t cheaper (at least not here in NY). A very dressy pair of pants costs the same as jeans here, so why not opt for the more expensive looking item?!

      I also totally missed the cultural reference that said it was OK to wear jeans to a corporate job, and I’m young. My references growing up for what the work world looked like started with moonlighting and dynasty, then Murphy Brown, then Melrose Place, then a mix of Frasier, suddenly Susan…drawing a blank on the late 90s part, but my point is, I don’t know what would make someone of working age think it is a great idea to push to wear jeans to work. I just am not getting it.

      What you wear to work symbolizes your perceived status and what image you want to portray. If you wear a suit every day (or something nice, at least), it says – I want to move up, I am comfortable presenting in front of groups, and representing the firm to the public. If you wear jeans or sweats – it means, I am more concerned about being comfortable and blending into the background than moving up.

      1. Marcela*

        Yes! I’ve never understood people’s love for jeans. They were never comfortable to me, and after some surgery and the scar on top of my belly button, they are directly uncomfortable. I’d pay for the right to never have to own or wear them the rest of my life.

        I met once a professor who dislike them so much as OP’s boss. She had the rule that jeans had to be ironed so she could see a vertical line on them, just as formal pants. Otherwise we were force to leave the class and change. I guess people decided it was more difficult to iron denim than the normal fabric for trousers (I’m sorry, fellow Americans, I still don’t have a full command of the vocabulary about clothes: I hope I’m not talking about underwear somewhere), because pretty soon nobody wore jeans to her classes.

        I’m somehow conflicted about your last paragraph, Steve. I’d rather not to wear a suit every day: too much work. But I do want to move up and represent my “company” (I’ve worked mostly in academia, so I’m representing projects instead of groups or firms). I do believe in dressing for the job in my dreams, so I usually wear nice dresses, mid-low heels, and nice jewelry. I’m usually the best dressed in the room, even better than my bosses, and if I manage to move to the startup area in SF, it seems it’ll be the same thing. In my area, that’s my eccentricity.

        1. Artemesia*

          Ironing jeans? Something no American ever would do — in fact it would be a real insult to say someone was the sort of iron their jeans — with creases no less.

          I love jeans and now that I am retired wear them 90% of the time (black ones that I am deluded in believing look like slacks) but they are pretty casual for most workplaces and when your boss tells you she doesn’t like you to wear them and links it to your career advancement, it really doesn’t matter if you are ‘allowed to wear them’ or not does it?

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            I work with a guy who irons his jeans. We also think he might iron his underwear.

            1. GOG11*

              My grandmother used to “delegate” all ironing to my mom, which included sheets and pillowcases. For that reason, my mother never ironed once she got a house of her own and I never learned to iron.

              For all of my dress clothes, aside from one suit that was very expensive and is dry-clean only, I wash everything on delicate then air dry. Then, if it’s wrinkly, I put it in the dryer with a wet hand towel/dish towel for 20 minutes to steam it out and then I hang everything on hangers (or fold, for some items). I don’t ever have creases, but I also have wrinkles.

              In high school, one of my classmates burned her hand ironing her jeans. It just seems like such an odd thing to do to me.

              1. Myrin*

                My whole family doesn’t iron, either (unless it’s a kind of fabric that needs to be ironed or you immediately see it), but my mum especially is also a super folder (liker seriously, I’ve never seen anyone else who folds things as neatly and efficiently as she does) so it’s actually not needed at all.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                We used to iron pillowcases, but I think it was less about the actual linen than Mum teaching us to iron. I have never ironed my sheets or pillowcases. They just get wrinkled again when I sleep on them.

                These days, I hang stuff up damp and only iron it when it’s badly wrinkled. I have several blouses that I have to iron no matter what, but most stuff is okay with a quick spritz of Downy Wrinkle Releaser and a hand smooth.

              3. Ife*

                Ah, a kindred spirit who washes on delicate and air dries everything. :) The machines are not kind to clothing, especially now that they’re making clothing flimsier and flimsier!

              4. Marcela*

                My mother did the same to me. I had to iron my father’s shirts. Every weekend I had to iron 6, 7 shirs and a couple of trousers, and I hated it. So I decided never to buy clothes that needed ironing. Luckily my husband and I can do it, we work in casual environments. For several years I didn’t have an iron, but had to get one last year, when I started sewing again. I still can feel some of the hate every time I plug the iron, but I can’t fight the basic fact that seams look a lot better when they are ironed.

              5. Cath in Canada*

                My Mum is obsessed with ironing. Jeans, the most casual of casual t-shirts, PJs, tea towels, pillow cases, even socks (not undies, luckily). I rarely iron anything, in part because I was made to spend so much time ironing the whole family’s clothes (and tea towels) growing up. Last time they came to visit I literally couldn’t find my iron, and she made me call a friend to borrow one because she needed one RIGHT AWAY. And then I had to buy a new iron by the end of the day. Sigh… but at least I do know how to do it properly on the rare occasion I need to do it!

              6. Ada Lovelace*

                Ooh my boyfriend won’t let me iron his clothes as a result of his mother not allowing him to iron his own clothes (she preferred her method). I get annoyed because I find laundry and ironing relaxing but he likes doing laundry at 11pm while I’m falling asleep to avoid the people that take up machines and disappear. So in the end he gets to iron everything that had to sit in the bag for two days unfolded -_-

              7. Ad Astra*

                If the wrinkles can’t be fixed with Downy Wrinkle Release or a trip through the dryer, I’m probably better off not owning that item anyway. Ironing is a waste of life.

            2. Bea W*

              I was in a serious relationship with a guy who ironed creases in his jeans.

              It didn’t last.

              1. MashaKasha*

                I thought my dad was the only one who did that. And after your comment, I really really hope that he wasn’t!

            3. Lily in NYC*

              So you’ve met my dad! He ironed his jeans, underwear, handkerchiefs, ties, and I swear I saw him ironing socks once but he refused to admit it.

              1. ginger ale for all*

                My mother finds it very relaxing to iron. She once visited me when she was upset with my father and my clothes never looked better. She even asked my roommate if she could iron her clothes for her. I didn’t inherit that gene unfortunately.

            4. Pinkie Pie Chart*

              My college roommate ironed everything. Jeans, sheets, underwear, shirts, you name it, it got ironed. I finally bought an iron this year after 5 years without one and only so I could iron my cross-stitch projects when I blocked them.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            My boyfriend irons his jeans, but just to get out the wrinkles, not to sharpen the creases. I think he’s crazy, but he’s really good at ironing and I don’t want him to refuse to iron my stuff too. :)

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I was raised by my grandparents, and my grandma had me do the ironing — including ironing a crease into the jeans. Fun times. ;-)

          4. The Strand*

            But black ones do look like slacks! I’m wearing them right now.

            I only wear *blue* jeans on Fridays and the weekend.

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

            Sorry Artemesia, but my stepfather (a “cowboy” from TX) always ironed his jeans WITH a nice crease in them. All of my male cousins that rode horses and worked on the farms and ranches also ironed their jeans. I think it may be a “cowboy” culture thing.

        2. Mabel*

          Regarding the American words for things you wear on your bottom half with two legs (not a skirt or dress): I use “trousers,” “slacks,” or “pants.” I’m pretty sure that “pants” are underwear in the U.K. I’m originally from the west coast of the U.S., so there might be regional differences here, too.

          I looked up “trousers” on thesarus.com, and they also list “breeches,” “britches,” “knickers,” and “bloomers” (I’ve always seen this to mean underwear). They have other words that apply more to specific types of pants: “chinos,” “cords,” “corduroys,” “dungarees,” “jeans,” “overalls,” etc. I’ve also heard people say “khakis,” but since those types of pants aren’t always khaki-colored, I just say “chinos.”

          This reminded me that I know a dog named “Trousers,” which is an awesome dog name!

          1. Marcela*

            Oh, god. So that’s the reason I don’t learn… too many words! Thanks, Mabel, I’ll keep your comment because I’m always making mistakes and forgetting. It doesn’t help that in my office half of the people were American, half British. :D

          1. Marcela*

            Hmm. That’s not exactly true. In my country, law and medicine students are supposed to learn how to professionally dress in school. They have a special class for it, where they are taught about suits, accessories, etc, and they are required to wear professional clothes for exams and special occasions. So I see where this professor got her idea.

            Sometimes I wonder what’s the purpose of it, given that most of the people get the suit requirement in jobs anyway, and doctors are not particularly well dressed compared to the rest. But maybe it’s good to be told about it, instead of making mistakes. I don’t know.

            1. OfficePrincess*

              I have a few friends who were in a Social Work program that required them to dress as if they were meeting clients for most classes their junior and senior years. The thought process was that they would be in the field for their internships during senior year and needed to get it right by then.

            2. AnonaMoose*

              Yup, we specifically grade for it, it’s part of Year 3, called ‘professionalism’ and it’s a requirement if you want to get a letter of recommendation for your internship.

        3. Rebecca*

          I agree completely! I am really loyal to Express jeans because they have a little bit of stretch (usually about 3% Lycra) so they are more comfortable than most jeans for me (without looking like the dreaded “mom jeans”). But I still wouldn’t wear them on a long plane ride.

          My workplace is big on jeans Fridays. I’ll wear my dark wash jeans, but make sure to pair them with a nicer shirt and shoes so that I still look professional. I will not wear them in the summer, they are way too hot for me.

        4. Today's Satan*

          I can’t imagine a professor being able to enforce something like this. Here’s a tip, ego-inflated professor, *I* am paying you for your time, not the other way around! I have hired you to teach me something; you’re not my boss or my overlord.

          1. blackcat*

            I know you don’t mean it this way, but comments like this really get my hackles up as a college instructor.

            The students do not pay me to teach them. My tutoring clients pay me to teach them, and they pay a lot of money at an hourly rate. I will cater to their specific requests, because they are paying me directly. My college students, however, pay the university for the opportunity to attend and participate in my course. The university, in turn, pays me for teaching said course. If a student does not like my course or my classroom rules, they are free to drop the course. That’s the way (most) universities work.

            As such, I am not required to bend over backwards to student whims. I get to set the rules of my classroom. Those rules do not involve a dress code, but they DO involve requiring students to use punctuation and capitalization in emails to me. It’s part of my job to prepare these young people for jobs down the line (the population I teach is nearly exclusively 17-23 year olds). I don’t think it’s at all inappropriate for college instructors to set professionalism rules.

        5. AnonaMoose*

          Well, if you go to the SF startup you’ll likely see a whole lot of jeans. ;)

          ps. That said, I totally dig your project/work/public style and have something similar. Jeans seem to punch me in the gut when I sit down. Since I am sitting down all day, I’m basically overpaying to get punched all day. NO FUN. Today I am wearing a perfectly soft black/white striped cotton skirt to my feet (from Target!) and I am so comfortable I could take a nap. Jeans, plth. Abecedarians!

      2. A Dispatcher*

        I used to be one of those people who never understood the jeans thing, but I lost some weight and now find I think the cut of jeans I wear is more flattering on me than most dress pants, and I am very much a pocket person. Sometimes it’s hard to find ladies dress pants with pockets (the worst are those fake pockets, why dear god why!). I do have to say I am loving the skirts/dresses with pockets trend and wear those all the time now as well.

          1. GOG11*

            I HATE faux pockets. Each pair of dress pants I own has different pockets. One pair has real ones in the back, fake in the front. Another has real (albeit teensy) pockets in the front, and nothing in the back. I look like I’m groping myself when I’m trying to find a place for my phone or keys because I can’t remember which pockets are real and which ones are just decorative flaps. The lies!

            1. Hlyssande*

              My most comfortable (I’ll admit – only comfortable) pair of dress pants has fake front pockets and back packets that are too low on the butt to really be useful.

              But they’re so freaking comfy – no uncomfortable pinching anywhere – and they’re the exact right length for me that I can’t not wear them. Pant length is a whole ‘nother rant, though (I’m 5’6″ and somehow need to wear petite pants to not have 6″ of extra leg past my feet???).

              1. Windchime*

                At least you can cut them off and hem them. Try being 5’11” and finding dress pants that are long enough.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  UGH! I have the exact same problem. Also, it’s tough to find jeans that fit because if you go taller and longer (which usually means bigger), they tend to bag in the seat and gap at the waist.

                  I’m wearing Long Tall Sally skinny jeans right now that 1) fit and 2) look pretty sharp, but they were EXPENSIVE. I can’t afford specialty clothing very often. :(

                2. Nanc*

                  Amen! 6′ here. I learned to sew back in the 1960s (yes, I’m old!). I don’t make super fancy pants/trousers/breeches, but they fit well and they have pockets! For jeans, I go to my local western store as cowgirls like their jeans long!

                3. MashaKasha*

                  Yup! 5’9″ and I only need a 34″ inseam and all dress pants tend to be a 32″.

                  American Eagle jeans come in long and extra-long.

                  My sons each need a 36″ inseam. Old Navy makes that. Luckily, one is in college and the other in software development in Silicon Valley. So they never needed more than one pair of dress pants yet. When they do, I feel sorry for them.

            1. Nashira*

              RIGHT? If real pockets would ruin the line of the pants, doesn’t that suggest the faux pocket line is unflattering as well? The designers don’t even use consistent logic.

              1. fposte*

                Real pockets include two more layers of fabric underneath, though, so there’s a real difference there.

        1. Felix*

          Hear hear! I used to loathe jeans and found them painfully uncomfortable! Then, I lost some weight (25-ish lbs) and now I find jeans the most comfortable. Also there are so many styles! Super skinny, skinny, straight, wide, boyfriend, trouser, pop colours, cropped etc. I also agree that the pockets are highly useful unlike those on dress pants.

          If I’m being honest, I love jeans because I can wear full coverage underwear with them. Women’s dress pants are mostly evil and the fabric requires the wearing of thongs to avoid panty line. I might be alone here, but holy Hannah, I get what I like to call, “Thong Rage” when I have to wear a thong (under that weird unnatural fabric that most dress pants are made from) sitting in an office chair all day.

          1. manybellsdown*

            Heh I’m the opposite. I used to love jeans and I never understood why anyone would choose to wear anything else. Now I prefer stretchy trousers or skirts. And if I’m gonna be totally honest, unless I have more to do than just a run to the store … yoga pants all day.

            1. Robin B*

              There is a company now that sells Dress Yoga pants. Look like slacks but stretchy yoga material. I want to try them.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  I think you have just changed my life.

                  I never wear pants, not since (don’t judge) stretchy stirrup pants went out (stop judging! they were so comfortable!). Leggings look too casual to me.


                  I must try these.

              1. ginger ale for all*

                I have seen the ads for those! I would love to hear some feedback from anyone who has tried these.

                1. DMC*

                  I haven’t tried them specifically, but I have found an affinity for pull up dress pants that aren’t those old “elastic waistband” style. These are comfortable and easy (one even has front pockets). Jeans are definitely more convenient with the pockets (cell phone, cash/credit card), but I also have a small crossbody wallet I use for convenience when I don’t have pockets. I’m sold on the pull up dress trousers (so much so that I sometimes, out of habit, try to pull up or down the regular trousers with buttons/zippers and get annoyed) LOL

              2. manybellsdown*

                I have some wide-legged linen trousers from Old Navy that have a yoga-pant waist. If my shirt covers the waistband, they look like fancy linen slacks. They are my favorite pants.

          2. A Dispatcher*

            Ha! Ditto on the vpl (visible panty line for those unfamiliar with the acronym) issues. I also find that the slightly stiffer jeans fabric tends to hold in the little “pooch” area I still have better than dress pants, even those that supposedly gave the built in slimmers.

          3. GOG11*

            I wear almost exclusively thongs because I can’t find a pair of underwear that doesn’t show under dress fabrics. Luckily, I don’t mind thongs one bit. I also prefer under wire bras, even in my sports bras. I’m an odd one.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I’ve had really good luck with some of the “boy-short” styles!

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I’ve been dying to try those. And I need some new dress trousers–I had to get rid of mine when I lost some weight because they were like wind socks.

                1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                  Me too! Though as I’ve gone down in size, I have had more and more trouble finding dress pants that fit.

              2. Anx*

                Sorry if this is a bit too personal, but by boy-short style, do you mean that you’ve found ones that cover your entire cheeks and are a bit long and then hug the upper thigh?

                I think I’d be interesting in that. I detest thongs. I’d rather have VPL. Hip hugger or cheeky underwear is worse than a bikini cut, because they ride up. At least with bikini cut the panty lines are symmetrical and properly placed.

                1. Rana*

                  I’m interested too – I’ve had good luck with ones cut at “bike short” length, but every “boy short” I’ve tried ends up giving me a terrible wedgie.

          4. eplawyer*

            Faux pockets on pants, skirts or blazers are an abomination and should be treated as blasphemy.

            That said, I actually wear skirts most of the time. Okay, I work from home so I can wear what I want. But when I go to court, I wear skirt suits, not pant suits. Why? In summer, more of a breeze. And you don’t have to worry about heel height. In a skirt, you can wear flats to 4 inch heels (I am short and if there is a bench conference I want the judge to not have to lean over to see me).

            But that is me. I am old enough to remember when women lawyers couldn’t wear pants suits to court. Judges would make them go change. Men could show up in old baggy suits, worn shoes, ratty ties, that was acceptable. but a woman in pants was disreprespectful to the court. So if women want to wear pantsuits that’s a personal choice that I totally support.

            Jeans in court on the lawyers are not likely to happen any time soon.

            1. Markethill*

              In Calgary, Alberta, counsel are allowed to attend in morning chambers in jeans during Stampede (our annual rodeo fair) as long as they go “full Western”: rodeo shirts, belt buckles, cowboy boots, bolo ties, &c.

          5. lawsuited*

            Erm, I definitely wear full underwear everyday with my dress pants, no thongs required. Dress pants are not intended to fit close to the body like jeans – they should skim the body and, in particular, not too closely define the shape of the derriere, making VPL a non-issue.

            1. Laurel Gray*

              “Dress pants are not intended to fit close to the body like jeans – they should skim the body and, in particular, not too closely define the shape of the derriere, making VPL a non-issue.”

              I think this really has more to do with body shape than pants. I have a small waist and big bottom/hips and it is impossible to buy dress pants or skirts that do not accentuate my bottom half. I can size up, even two sizes and it doesn’t look right, even if I get the waist taken in. I’ve found seamless underwear for thinner dress slack fabrics to be a lifesaver.

              1. A Dispatcher*

                Yep – also, movement! Never underestimate what walking will do to show off some VPL that was invisible when just standing there checking yourself out in a mirror. A lot has to do with proper undergarment fit though, just as much as the fabric of the pants. A lot of people tend to wear both bras and underwear that are too small for whatever reason, which only helps accentuate lines.

          6. KT*

            This may be an odd question—but why is VPL so awful? “Oh god, I can tell that woman wears UNDERWEAR”…why is that egregious?

            I have never comprehended this.

            1. The Strand*

              No business got broke preying on the sartorial and cosmetic insecurities of people. In fact, it makes sense for them to invent them. This deal of women shaving their legs and armpits is relatively recent.

              1. Anna*

                The armpit shaving thing came around in the 1920s when Harper’s Bazaar featured a photo of a new sleeveless dress style and the model was holding her arms over head with clean-shaven pits.

            2. A Dispatcher*

              For me personally, I just think it looks sloppy. It’s usually indicative of poor fit, in the same way that seeing bulges from bras is. Or white skirts/pants with colorful undergarments. It’s not like I’m scandalized by seeing the undergarment, it just seems like better choices could have been made.

              For what it’s worth, I feel the same way about men with ill fitting clothing, though usually for them I notice it more with pants waists and belting. Or when they wear shirts that really should have an undershirt without one.

            3. Andrea*

              Totally with you there. I do not care if anyone knows it—I wear underwear! A new, clean pair every day! Crazy, I know.

            4. Chris*

              When I see VPL, it just looks uncomfortable. I will say that I feel the same way about bra straps and a little nipple pokage through shirts. My god, she has nipples!!!

            5. Cath in Canada*

              A friend visiting from the UK once told me I had VPL (which I really don’t care about too much in most contexts). I whipped out my Vancouver Public Library card from my wallet, which says VPL in nice cheerful bright letters, and said “it’s OK, I have a permit”.

            6. Anx*

              I subscribe to this mindset , too.

              I try to wear slimmer, more seamless underwear with dressier pants, but I’m sure that if you look for lines, you’ll see them if I’m mid-stride.

              When the alternatives are expensive seamless underwear, only wearing thick fabric jeans, avoiding cotton underwear, or having to wear thongs, something’s got to give. I’d rather have a slight VPL than wear jeans to some work events, risk infection with thongs/synthetic material, or blow my budget on a few pairs of underwear if I can find cotton, seamless ones.

          7. MashaKasha*

            OMG you’re right! I forgot all about the thongs. You’re right, that’s one evil side effect of wearing dress pants.

            I’ve been wearing skirts and cords to work, which makes things a bit easier.

        2. Rat Racer*

          Someone has to explain the pants pocket thing to me – what would you keep in the pocket of your pants? Men have those big roomy pockets and can keep wallets, keys, cell phones, but no pair of woman’s pants I’ve ever owned would accommodate anything that big. Mostly what I find in the pocket of my jeans: receipts, old shopping lists, occasionally a 1-dollar bill (hooray!)

          1. Chocolate lover*

            I would put my keys and cell phone in my pockets. Not necessarily the same pocket. It’s particularly useful when going to a meeting and not wanting to bring a bag.

            If manufacturers made women’s pockets same as men, I wouldn’t need a bag to begin with!

          2. Hlyssande*

            Wallet, chapstick, phone, keys when needed. Anything a man would put in pockets. I hate purses and I hate having to carry things.

            I am always bitter about the failure of pockets in women’s clothing. Give me proper pockets, please.

          3. Kyrielle*

            I carry my keys and my cell phone (which is an iPhone 6+) in the pockets of my pants.

            I will not buy pants with fake pocket lines or small pockets. I simply will not, because I want to have these things with me and not falling out of ridiculous pocket substitutes. The only exception I’ve made in 20 years has been for interview suits, because the best fit and style and color otherwise was more important than whether I could carry a phone (that I shouldn’t be using during the interview anyway) or my keys in the pocket.

          4. Laurel Gray*

            Team no pockets! The last thing you need if you have big hips is two slant pockets at your sides bulging out giving the appearance that you’re wearing ill-fitting pants. I put everything in my purse.

            1. Mabel*

              This is why I don’t cut the little threads to allow the pockets to open. If I did, I know I would put things in them, and that would not look good. I have a pair of nice, wool dress slacks that have tiny (what I thought were) faux vertical pockets right on the hip bones. It just seems that if there isn’t some kind of angle on the pocket, anything you would put into a completely vertical pocket would fall out, so I assumed they were just a design thing. But then the threads came loose, and they were actually tiny – about 1 inch – “pockets.” I can’t think of anything that would stay put, especially when you sit or walk around. So I’m going to sew them back up because they bulge out a little when I move, and it doesn’t look nice.

            2. The Strand*

              You can buy pants with pockets that are not slanted at your hips but instead a smallish, slim box directly below the waist.

              1. Laurel Gray*

                I buy these when I can find them in the proper fit and length. Wearing a pair of Ann Taylor ones now! :)

            3. Marcela*

              I am team no pockets too, but that’s only from looking at the destruction my husband’s key and wallet make to his trousers. It’s unbelievable, after a couple of days you could sketch his wallet from the discoloration outside the pocket. I love my clothes too much and they are too difficult to hunt to make them suffer that abuse. :D

          5. another IT manager*

            Female person. I ended up learning to make pants because I could not find pants that fit the way I wanted (no duck tail, please) and had useful pockets.

            Right front pocket: phone, ear plugs (for the train or server room)
            Right hip pocket: transit pass, business cards
            Center back belt loop: keys
            Left hip pocket: credit cards, ID, expense receipts
            Left front pocket: Everything else. Today: three USB sticks, chapstick, Utili-key. iPod during the commute.

          6. LCL*

            For work?
            Right front beltloop closest to zipper-company keys clipped on.
            Left front-card key, Personal cell -it’s a smart phone but very small for its type.
            Right front-Personal keys, car key, and company car key, plus assorted change.
            Right back pocket-company cell phone
            Left back pocket-personal wallet. I have always carried a men’s or men’s style wallet, because I am bad with purses.
            Off work-like above, but without the card key or company keys. Sometimes the phones go in a jacket pocket.

            If I ever get a job where I have to wear professional office clothes, I will get a professional looking handbag. A small one. I bought a beautiful Coach bag to wear when I dress up, and it is too small to hold both phones. I think I failed handbag 101.

          7. cv*

            I’m a grad student, and I get super annoyed any time I find myself on campus wearing dress pants that don’t have decent pockets. I need my student ID to get into my lab/office and various other places on campus, and I’ve gotten in the habit of just keeping it in my back pocket so I don’t have to remember to grab it every time I walk down the hall to the bathroom (and if I didn’t have pockets, what would I do with my ID while I was in the bathroom?). Wearing your ID on a lanyard really doesn’t fit the culture, and getting locked out is also a huge pain in the neck, so a pocket big enough for an ID/credit card is key. I also end up carrying a credit card with it sometimes so I can go grab lunch without carrying my whole wallet. In the winter I have coat pockets for wallet, phone, etc. In summer, not so much, so I tend to minimize.

          8. Viktoria*

            Insulin pump! :)

            (Also: continual glucose monitor and candy, if I want to go for a walk or whatever without a purse. Unfortunately I end up having to carry my purse almost everywhere.)

          9. MashaKasha*

            I hook up my key card to my pants pocket… wearing it around my neck gives me a headache.

          10. Ad Astra*

            I can fit my iPhone 6 into most women’s pants pockets. Besides just normal phone addiction, I like to have my phone in my pocket when I count my steps because I’m too cheap to buy a FitBit. I notice my step count is way, way lower on days I’m wearing a dress with no pockets.

          11. Rana*

            I have keys in the right front, cell phone in the right back, tissues in the left front, and wallet in the left back. Given that I usually have my arms full of small child, or am running after said child, it’s great when I can have my hands free.

            (I also have a very small purse for days when I’m wearing something with inadequate pockets.)

        3. Chocolate lover*

          I hate pants without pockets! And while we’re at it, pants without belt loops.

          1. Mabel*

            This might be why some women buy men’s pants – practical things like pockets and belt loops!

            1. another IT manager*

              Yep! If I’m buying casual pants, I shop in the men’s section. Better fabric, better pockets, and (oddly) better fit a lot of the time, except for the length (I’m short, so most pants have about 6″ rolled up at the hem).

              I gave up on buying dress pants and roll my own now.

            2. Rana*

              I really wish I could! It’s hard enough finding pants with the appropriate waist/hip ratio in women’s pants as it is.

        4. Artemesia*

          The main reason I wear jeans every day is that I try to get by without carrying a purse. I can put my little flip phone in my right pocket, emergency meds in the watch pocket, tissues and a lip gloss in the left pocket and a little money in a back pocket tuck my card case in a blouse hidden pocket and I am good to go. The pockets in slacks are not as secure or often don’t exist.

          In my profession I could wear good jeans with a jacket and blouse and be fine — usually black jeans without grommets and top stitching. I understand the comfort and convenience. Jeans are the best garment every designed — they are comfortable, tough, don’t show dirt — heck you can wipe your hands on them without wrecking them and if they get something splashed on them you can sponge them clean for awhile. I love them. But if the boss doesn’t then, there you are.

        5. Ad Astra*

          Quick note about faux pockets: Some of them are real pockets! Many clothing brands sell their dress pants with the pockets sewn closed so that they lie nice and flat in the store, but you’re supposed to take a seam ripper and open the pockets when you get home. I only learned that recently, so I’d definitely suggest checking some of your fake pockets to see if there’s an actual pocket in there, rather than just a pocket-shaped scrap of cloth.

        6. Kat*

          As someone who has put on a considerable amount of weight in the last few years, I can attest to this. Jeans are not your friend when you are heavy.

      3. neverjaunty*

        That depends very much on your workplace. The notion that suits always positively portray ambition and jeans always portray complacency is, let’s just say it’s not universal.

      4. Henrietta Gondorf*

        I strenuously disagree that jeans are somehow less dressy that slacks. It really depends on what you pair it with. Slacks and polos can look plenty ratty (cough, big box store dress codes, cough) and jeans with a blouse and a blazer can look quite dressy.

        1. fposte*

          I think that’s like disagreeing that a tux is less dressy than jeans, though; you may think it, but the cultural code doesn’t agree. (Sure, you can dress other slacks down and dress jeans up, but jeans would require the work to dress up in a way that dress slacks don’t.)

          1. Mabel*

            I agree that cultural norms carry a lot of weight, and sometimes it’s unfortunate. It really annoys me that every time I wear a skirt suit people always comment on how dressed up I am, but when I wear a (nicer, more expensive) pant suit, it’s seen as more casual. This would happen even if I wore the same blouse with both. At first it took me by surprise because – why would pants automatically be more casual than a skirt? Now I just expect it. Bleah.

            1. Anx*

              I think this is regional, too.

              I’m from the NYC are, and pant suits were considered to be pretty normal. I moved down south and began to notice that suits in general were much less common, but when they were worn they were often skirt suits and more showy (less corporate, more realty/politician suits).

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          I think jeans are generally less dressy than slacks, but there’s always going to be exceptions. Sure, I’ve certainly seen dark designer jeans that look far more professional than ill-fitting polyester slacks. But that’s more the exception than the rule.

        3. E*

          It also depends on the color of jeans. Typical blue jeans don’t look as dressy to me as colored jeans. Today I’m wearing black jeans with a tank top and pretty sweater. Looks professional and presentable but doesn’t look like jeans. I tend to be against most dress pants based on my experience with comfort, fit, and maintenance. But I love khakis in varying shades as well as my black jeans. Hoping to have the fashion nerve to wear some colored jeans like green or rose pink, but I am not the best at putting together an outfit without neutral colored pants/skirt yet.

      5. YogiJosephina*

        I don’t know. A boss that passively says, “I’m not going to police this, BUT,” when really she means “I am totally going to police it and don’t want you wearing them” but for some reason won’t be direct about her wishes? That’s a BIG red flag that she’s nothing to call home about as a supervisor.

        Good supervisors who don’t suck clearly communicate their wants and don’t fall into that “I’m not gonna tell you you HAVE to do this, BUT…” crap. It’s passive aggressive at best and indicative that she’s just not that great at managing, at worst.

        1. MK*

          I disagree. Not policing doesn’t mean it’s perfectly fine, it means the boss acknowledges the matter isn’t important enough for her to absolutely insist. It’s not passive-aggressive to clearly state the consequence of dressing too casually: not a formal reprimand, but it will affect the employee.

          1. lawsuited*

            Exactly, the supervisor is doing the right thing by acknowledging that the jeans are not a big enough deal that she’s going to discipline the OP for it, but that the way the OP is dressing (I agree with the comments above that jeans may not be the only issue, the jeans may be one part of a larger problem of dressing too casually) may impact how the OP is viewed for promotions, etc. I think it’s the marked of a great supervisor to clue the OP into some more ephemeral aspects of the workplace culture so that OP doesn’t inadvertently hurt his own chances over something like jeans.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Also, “other people wear jeans” – everyone, or just some?

              Because my current company absolutely allows casual dressing – forget jeans; we have guys in cargo shorts and t-shirts. And that’s fine.

              But it’s not how you dress if you are, or want to be, management. There are probably clueless young guys somewhere who do hope to move up and are emulating the senior technical staff and dressing that way, but the senior technical staff who dress that way *generally explicitly do not want to move into management*. Their dress is no barrier to advancement in a contributor role, which is all they care about; but it would be a barrier to moving to management. In fact, one guy who did move into a management role was explicitly told he needed to dress more formally at that point. (And another guy, we joked he was making decisions and should take over managing and he gestured at his outfit – the aforementioned cargo shorts and t-shirt – and said, “No way, I don’t want it and I’m not dressed for it” – so most of us explicitly do know the line.)

              So, “you can wear jeans” and “wearing jeans is fine and won’t impact your advancement” are also two different statements at some companies. “It doesn’t violate the company dress code” doesn’t equal “people view it with respect”.

              1. IndieGir*

                I completely agree. At my company, we’ve moved to business casual every day, with jeans allowed on Friday. But when you look at the movers and shakers in the company, all of them are formally dressed, every day. Perhaps they wear chinos on Friday if they are feeling wild. To me, that sends a clear statement about what is expected from management vs the rank and file.

              2. MashaKasha*

                Well, did OP say if she even wants to move up? Not all of us do. Maybe she’s like your senior technical staff.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  Agreed, and I don’t, not to management. And if she doesn’t, and understands that, and her manager won’t otherwise penalize her for it, that’s fine. I was illustrating, however, one scenario where “you can wear jeans” and “you can wear jeans and be respected in all roles” are not synonymous. Having permission does not equal it always being the perfectly correct thing to do, was my point.

                  If OP has considered this and is fine with it, great! If not, it’s a data point to consider before jumping forward – to look at who wears jeans, under what circumstances, and whether that limits them. It may just be OP’s boss that has an issue (of course, OP still has to deal with her boss!), in which case OP has to determine whether this is worth it. But it’s also possible that there is a wider cultural issue where *you can* and *you should* are different things depending on your role and goals.

          2. Anna*

            But the manager isn’t really doing that. They’re saying, “I’m not going to police it, but it MIGHT hold you back.” If the president is okay with it, and that’s the actual culture of the company, the only person it would bother is the manager and the manager would be better off saying directly that they don’t like jeans, they don’t think it looks professional, please only wear jeans on Friday. So yeah, it is a little passive-aggressive and isn’t direct in even the slightest bit. It’s the opposite of it, actually.

            1. YogiJosephina*

              Exactly. I’m pretty surprised how many people are defending this/don’t find this indirect.

              If your employee is doing something you KNOW will hold them back even if it’s not TECHNICALLY in the realm of “against policy,” you tell them, straight out, “listen, technically yes, the dress code states you are allowed to wear jeans, but my personal rule for the department is that we don’t. I’ve found that casual dress tends to limit people here and I’d rather not take that risk. We’re going to stick to business casual/business/not jeans/whatever, except for Fridays. Sound good?”

              No matter which way you look at it, the manager is DEFINITELY doing the “well, I can’t STOP you, BUT…,” and that IS passive aggressive. You can definitely argue that it’s not really a hill worth dying on, or whatnot, but it is not direct, clear communication. It’s just not.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          I think some people are deliberately passive-aggressive and others are not quite self-aware enough to know that what they really mean is, “Although I will not send you home for wearing jeans, if you do it on a regular basis, I will judge you for it, and that judgment will color my assessment of you when it comes time to write your review/recommend you for promotion/approve your raise.”

          But I do think that’s what the boss’s statement means at its heart, which is why in OP’s shoes I would start wearing dress pants and skirts or dresses to work.

          1. MK*

            What makes you think she is not self-aware enough to know this is what she means? It sounds to me as if she is pretty updront that this is exactly what she is saying, pretty bluntly at that: “I am not going to punish you for it, but it will color my opinion of you”.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yes, that’s how I took it. The boss is saying that the OP won’t be sent home or disciplined for it, it won’t get her fired, but the boss won’t like it. It seemed like a pretty clear and direct statement to me (and therefore not passive aggressive).

              1. Anna*

                But she’s not saying she, the boss, doesn’t like it directly. The boss (and yes, this is according to the OP’s wording) is saying that it *might* hold her back. Who makes that decision? The boss. So why not just say directly, “I think jeans look unprofessional and I would recommend you not wear them except on Fridays.”

            2. YogiJosephina*

              Because a good manager is not going to let their employee keep doing something that colors their opinion of them in a negative way. A good, clear manager is going to say, “this will reflect negatively on you for me, so don’t do it.” Not, “well, if you WANT to do it go ahead, and like, I can’t STOP you, BUT…” Just say that she can’t do it. Period. Clearly. Full stop. There’s absolutely no reason why the manger can’t just set a concrete rule that solves the whole problem, and that’s thoroughly her prerogative.

              1. MK*

                I disagree that a good manager has an obligation to stop any and all behavior that might reflect negatively on their employees. They are adults who have a right to make decisions about what is important to them and what not; and a boss that tries to turn you into their ideal employee would become abusive pretty soon. The OP has been told pretty clearly what thw dress code is, what their boss expects and what the consequences will and will not be. It’s up to them to decide.

        3. LQ*

          I don’t know, I guess I feel like this is really clear. She’s not banning the OP from wearing them, she’s not going to tell her to go home and change. But she thinks that it will hurt her professional appearance by doing so. That’s really straightforward to me. She’s letting the OP make the decision if it is more important to wear jeans or be perceived as professional. Why do people think the boss is evil in this situation? I wish more bosses were this direct. She isn’t dictating what should happen. She isn’t saying this is the only way things can go or else. She’s giving a nice clear choice and letting the OP make it.

          1. Anna*

            I just don’t understand how, in a company where the president specifically said jeans were okay and where people are actually wearing jeans, that it could be that she wouldn’t be perceived as professional. Unless the president carries no weight or people don’t respect them, or the culture is weird, it makes little or no sense to me that there are two different cultures existing at the same company. The president’s culture where jeans are okay and won’t impact how you’re viewed and the staff’s culture where jeans are unprofessional and wearing them will impact how you’re perceived.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              I think it has to do with job function. In most of my jobs there have always been departments (and marketing is usually one of them) that are held to different standards.

              My job has casual Fridays, but if my boss decided that my team could not have casual Fridays *just in case* a client showed up, my CEO would back her up.

          2. YogiJosephina*

            No one said the boss was evil. We’re pointing out ways that we think she could improve her direction to her employee. That’s all.

            “Hi Jane, I know the company policy is that jeans are okay for work, but honestly, in my personal experience, folks tend to be judged here/held back professionally if they dress too casually. That’s why I’ve made it a rule in my department that we don’t wear jeans, except for Friday. It’s important to me we maintain a really polished image and jeans don’t portray that in my opinion. We’re going to stick to work dress except for Fridays.”

            Is much better than:

            “Hi Jane, well, I know you’re technically allowed to wear jeans, and…okay, I guess I can’t stop you, I’m not going to police you about it, but just so you know, some people might not like it and think you’re not presenting professionally, so…again, I’m not going to stop you and I guess I can’t police it, but SOME PEOPLE (i.e., me) might view you as less professional because of it which could hold you back here. So…just keep that in mind.”

            I don’t know. This might all be because I’m a) from a region of the country that’s SUPER direct and blunt in expressing what they want/need and b) currently living in a region that is extremely, EXTREMELY passive and indirect in how they talk/communicate. So it might just be me that’s struggling with this.

            1. zora*

              yes, THIS.

              I think the boss just needs to decide, are you making it a rule for your department or not? If you are, fine, that’s your prerogative, but be clear about it and in this case the LW should just do it and get over it.

              If the boss is NOT making it a rule for the department, then she needs to let it go. And not even make comments about ‘holding you back.’ It might not technically be passive aggressive, but it’s just annoying. Making vague comments about what things might or might not be perceived as are just pointless.

              1. YogiJosephina*

                THANK YOU. That is EXACTLY what I was trying to convey. Make the rule or don’t make it, but don’t pull this wishy-washy middle of the road because you don’t want to make a firm decision crap. It’s VERY aggravating to work for a boss like that. I know from experience.

            2. EvaR*

              >This might all be because I’m a) from a region of the country that’s SUPER direct and blunt in expressing what they want/need and b) currently living in a region that is extremely, EXTREMELY passive and indirect in how they talk/communicate. So it might just be me that’s struggling with this.

              This is my entire work life. Please just tell me what you want! The worst is people who say stuff like “If you want, you can…(x).” when they mean “I would really like you to do (x).” It’s so hard to tell when things are optional or not.

      6. Hiding on the Internet Today*


        If I could get dress pants with pockets that were worth a damn, and remotely fit me, I might never wear jeans again. That dress pants also seem to be made out of tissue paper and get worn and torn really easily doesn’t help their case with me.

        I thought I hated dressing up, but it turns out I hate not having pockets or clothes that fit. Eshakti.com has fixed both of those issues and now I wear dresses to work, at a tech company where the basic dress code is jeans and snarky t shirts. (My clothes may be holding me back now, as I don’t fit in with my coworkers, but I still wear quirky socks for non management interactions.)

        1. Bea W*

          Same. It’seems not the dressing up I hate but the crappy fit, discomfort, and lack of practicality. I feel awkward and look awkward.

        2. Artemesia*

          good quality jeans are expensive but good quality dress pants are through the roof. I’d like a decent pair of wool slacks that are lined. I went shopping for some last fall and they cost hundreds of dollars a pair. Anything that was near the cost of my very expensive jeans was polyester (nice polyester, but poly nevertheless) Inexpensive slacks are easy to find but they are cheap polyester and they always feel to me like I am wearing a plastic bag — I am now officially too old to wear anything but natural fibers in pants — wool, cotton, linen or silk and for things that are affordable that means nice jeans.

        3. cv*

          I’ve mostly worked in pretty casual environments for several years, with occasional internships or stints in a business casual office, and I’ve struggled to maintain a decent wardrobe of office-appropriate pants the entire time. I’ll try to find something inexpensive and then the hems fall apart and the cloth gets all shiny in no time, or I’ll go mid-range and the fabric is so thin that I feel really self-conscious in them, and since I’m mostly in casual offices I never want to pay $100+ for a pair of pants that might not fit the next time I have a long-term job in a formal office. This season Express decided that they would bring back some mid-weight fabrics that don’t make me feel like everyone can tell what color my underwear is through my black pants, and I bought a couple of pairs, but they have terrible pockets. And I should have gotten them hemmed, but I’ve just been wearing them long and accepting that I look a little sloppy.

          If you get nicer dress pants, not only are they more expensive up front, but you have to pay for and deal with the inconvenience of dry cleaning.

      7. Nye*

        I think this is very industry-dependent. I’m a biologist, and jeans and a tee-shirt or plaid button-down are basically the professional uniform. My boss and our director both dress this way, as do most of the senior staff and PhDs. Here, wearing a suit on a regular basis would be be looked at askance, since dressing up is pretty much reserved for meeting with donors/granting agencies. Suits are terribly impractical if you need to duck into the lab or the field. And pantyhose and heels are forbidden in many labs – sometimes skirts are, too – for safety reasons. One of many reasons I love my field!

        I think the balance is about knowing your workplace. In mine, regular suit-wearing for most people shows you’re out of touch with professional norms and that you care more about appearances than your ability to do your job. (The exception being anyone who regularly meets with donors, VIPs, press, etc. – they dress up in a more typical professional manner.)

        1. Artemesia*

          My son is in a field where you don’t even wear a suit to interview. He just was offered several jobs that pay more than twice what I ever made and interviewed in pants and a nice shirt. He told me that he thought showing up in a suit would actually hurt his chances in his field where NO ONE dresses that way.

          1. T3k*

            This. I absolutely love jeans and refuse to wear dress pants unless I have to (usually special occasions). I’m trying to get into the video game industry where , fortunately, they’re very casual (dyed hair, piercings, and tattoos are acceptable) and everyone in the industry strongly encourages you to NOT show up dressed in a suit as it gives a bad impression that you don’t know what you’re applying for.

            1. TinyPjM*

              this is true! (5+ years in the industry) BUT i would strongly recommend you wear a nicer shirt and at minimum nice jeans (no holes! smell fresh! oh for the love of everything please smell fresh), and shoes that are not dirty/sloppy either. other than that, t-shirts and jeans are pretty standard.

        2. Anx*

          Yes, absolutely to this!

          I do like wearing skirts and dresses (non-flowy) with leggings or cotton tights. I feel like it’s better than flowy pants and shorts (which people wear a lot even if they shouldn’t).

        3. Tau*

          Oh yeah academia, particularly STEM academia. During my PhD, I once thought a senior staff member I hadn’t met before was in fact a janitor or security guard because he was wearing a tie.

      8. BananaPants*

        I work for a Fortune 500 company and we’re allowed to wear jeans on Fridays if we shell out around $2/week toward the United Way campaign. Most of us don’t bother. Otherwise denim apparel in any color is against our business casual dress code – no jeans, jean skirts, denim jackets, etc. What’s annoying is that jeans are allowed everyday wear for most of the rest of the company, so if someone comes for training or meetings they can be in jeans and no one bats an eye.

        We have marketing/communications people who recently moved into our building and they seem to be fine with wearing non-blue denim and sneakers to work which I know none of the engineers could get away with (even if you pay to wear jeans, sneakers are verboten). Dude, the dress code for our building explicitly says “No sneakers/tennis shoes/trainers” – your canvas sneakers are not magically OK because they have a freaking Ralph Lauren polo pony on them.

        1. cuppa*

          We have a lot of people who prefer to toe the line on our dress code, and it drives me a little crazy. Our dress code says no denim pants, so people wear jean-cut pants, or jean jackets, or jean skirts. Or it says no “beach shoes” , so people wear flip-flops with a bow or a rhinestone on them and call them “dress sandals” or whatever. It makes me wish there was more explicit language in our dress code.

          1. EvaR*

            I work really hard to try to be more professional looking that the dress code at any office that I work at, even when I don’t succeed, because I tend to give off a scruffy vibe and I have been a goth so long that it makes me feel awkward to be wearing more normal clothing.

            It doesn’t bother me that other people do things like you described (the shoes one is a big one, our dress code specifically says no sandals with a thong or ugg style boots or tennis shoes, but people wear them anyway and try to say they are “dressy” because of things like that) but it bothers me that I know that because my own taste in clothing is black, or usually vintage inspired, I have to be more careful not to offend anyone. I’ve heard other people attribute this to attractiveness level of employees, but honestly I think it’s just based on the “if someone complains, we will talk to the employee who was complained about” model. We usually have one manager per like 15 people and they don’t have time to go around checking to see if people are following the dress code.

        2. MashaKasha*

          I worked at a manufacturing company where we supported the software that ran out on the shop floor. Everyone kept a pair of steel toed boots at their desk because we could be called into a plant anytime. Of course, everyone wore jeans, given that. Then we got a new CEO and he had the bright idea to ban jeans altogether, including casual Fridays. He did try to do the United Way thing, but people ignored it. Everyone complied with his new dress code all the way up until the day he was fired. People showed up in jeans the very next day.

      9. Tomato Frog*

        I don’t think the question of whether the boss sucks is premised on the issue of whether jeans are great or not. I think the fact that the boss gave the OP a non-specific “Dress more professionally, it’s for your own good” explanation instead approaching the OP about attire issues in a more meaningful way or explaining clearly the results she wanted to see, is a fair indication that the boss may be somewhat sucky. The boss is not necessarily sucky, these things are hard to talk about, but I don’t think it’s a crazy conclusion to reach.

        1. Hlyssande*

          I agree with you.

          It’s got to be really frustrating that the company’s dress code indicates that nice jeans are fine, that everyone else in the company is wearing them with no problem, and yet the OP’s boss will judge the OP for dressing well within the dress code guidelines.

        2. Monodon monoceros*

          Exactly, that would be my problem with it. As long as boss acknowledges, “Yep, I’m telling you to do something different than from company policy” I’m more or less OK with it. It’s inconsistency and vagueness that drive me most crazy in a boss.

        3. Artemesia*

          The statement of this boss strikes me as crystal clear. The OP is not a toddler and doesn’t have to have her clothes laid out. The boss told her that her unprofessional dress will hold her back. She can choose to wear it, but that will be a ‘statement’ to the boss that she is not interested in advancement. Crystal clear. Not passive aggressive.

      10. Koko*

        OTOH, I work in marketing and I’ve never had a job where jeans weren’t OK and relatively common.

      11. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        I’ve never worn men’s jeans, but I do remember when women’s jeans were 100% cotton with no stretch, and depending on cut/body type they could be horribly uncomfortable – digging into your waist, riding up, etc.. A lot of men’s jeans are still stretch-free.

        I hate – HATE – uncomfortable clothes. It ruins my whole day. But my favorite spring-weight, super-stretchy but not skin-tight skinny jeans feel like pajamas. I could wear them every day and often sit around in them long after I get home from work.

        1. Marcela*

          Yes, my husband is very much in love with a pair of Calvin Klein jeans with stretch. It’s the only one we could find.

      12. Mike C.*

        I work a very corporate job, and I wear jeans every day. No one has ever had a problem, and I’ve advanced at a decently brisk pace.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          If I am remembering what you do correctly from previous comments, I think this may have a lot to do with your department :)

          I worked at very, very rigid organization where someone was spoken to for not tucking in their blouse, yet our IT department heads wore jeans and no one said a word.

      13. Sans*

        Right now I work in a financial services company, and they only allow jeans on Fridays (if you contribute to a specific charity, which is stupid but that’s a whole other topic …). But before this, since 1997, I’ve been wearing jeans at work, at two different companies. Neither one a start up. And my friends pretty much wear jeans at their various jobs. Except for more conservative industries (such as financial services) jeans seem to be the rule, not the exception. When the CEO wears jeans and a sweatshirt, then you know it’s okay. And I think that’s a good thing. If your job doesn’t include public presentations, then there is no reason on earth spending money on business casual stuff makes you better at your job. My status at work should relate to how well I perform my job – not what fabric my slacks are.

      14. Stranger than fiction*

        I think you and i are in the minority on this one. I too was raised to dress for success and dress for the job you want not the job you have. I think what bugs the Op is that what’s ok for other departments is not ok for her. I have the same problem where I work but am bugged in the reverse- policy is jeans on Friday but about half the company wears them all week and half of them look like slobs and wear baggy t shirts and athletic shoes with them and that drives me nuts because i take the time to look nice and they look like they don’t care! Also agree jeans aren’t comfortable!

      15. Ad Astra*

        I’ve seen a lot of jeans, especially nicer jeans, in the newsrooms I’ve worked in. For editors and designers especially, business casual was the most dressed-up you’d ever be, and even that felt overdressed. For reporters, it really depends on where they’re going and who they’re meeting that day. Only the publisher wears a suit. Obviously not every office is that casual, but the idea that jeans are never, ever ok for work is something I hadn’t even considered until I switched industries. (I honestly believed jeans were part of business casual until I saw the dress code explicitly forbid them.)

        I also find most dress pants to be extremely uncomfortable. I was going to make it a men’s clothes vs. women’s clothes thing, but Marcela doesn’t seem like a jeans person, so maybe I’m on my own here. Dress pants tend to hit at an awkward point on my waist, and the metal fasteners always dig into me. And if I’m not careful about fabric, you can see my cellulite right through my dress pants. No thanks! I’d prefer jeans (or twill shorts — a girl can dream!) over dress pants any day.

      16. StarGeezer*

        Yes, there are offices where the culture is “wear a suit”. But in this case, the *company president* said “nice jeans” are okay. So, it seems that perhaps this particular manager doesn’t fit the corporate culture.

      17. Melissa*

        My jeans are way cheaper than my dress pants, even in NYC. And some of my jeans are just as comfortable, or more comfortable, than some of my dress pants. It really depends. I have a pair of super skinny jeans on today that are actually not that comfortable, but I have some well-loved bootcut and skinny jeans that are super comfortable. I would agree, however, that my dress pants are on average more comfortable than my jeans.

        Part of the desire might come from not wanting to buy a whole new/separate work wardrobe. I also, personally, just like the way my jeans look. I like to mix it up – one day I’ll wear jeans and a nice top and another day a dress/skirt/dress pants. Cultural fit matters more than exactly what you are wearing, too. In my current workplace it’d be weird if someone showed up every day in a suit; it wouldn’t say they wanted to move up. Even the most senior people in my current field (academia) come to work in grungy jeans and hiking boots.

        I think some workplaces are changing from the 1980s and 1990s standard of wearing suits or skirts/pants and button-fronts to work. It’s much more common to wear jeans to work these days – I have several friends who work at workplaces where they can wear jeans, and I work at one myself (I’m 29 and most of my friends are late 20s and early 30s). My workplace-to-be also has a casual culture, too (tech company, but not a startup). It’s also a cultural thing, and depends on the region. DC and NYC are known for being more conservative work cultures, whereas the Pacific Northwest is known for having a more casual work culture.

      18. EnoughToFeelYourHollowBones*

        The jeans at work thing is a cultural thing, in my experience. I live in Seattle, and unless you work for an East coast-based company, a bank, or in trades, the predominant attitude is that nice jeans are okay. You can’t wear band t-shirts or anything like that, but good shoes, jeans, and top (button down or just dressy) is acceptable.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      What? What? I’m not sure what you are driving at. There are plenty of things in the office that aren’t required but hold people back. Dressing professionally, your personality, doing a passing job Vs an excellent job. This person’s boss has clearly stated her position, which is a good thing. Many bosses leave you guessing or only make broad hints such as “dress more professionally” Vs “no jeans”.
      Look – the person is in marketing and media. They may face the customers. There’s nothing wrong with a higher level of dress if you occasionally face the customer. This is especially true if you never know what day the customer will step in. Different departments have different dress codes. Even different people may have different dress code based on role. I know that as the lead engineer I was expected to dress more professionally than the engineers that worked beneath me. They wore jeans, I got to wear skirts and dresses.
      This is such a small thing. Why push back on it when it actually conforms with industry norms?

      1. Steve G*

        I thought my comment sounded judgy (though I stand by my condemnation of jeans at work), so I am glad we are in agreement….but I must say, I just remembered that I worked upstairs from a big NY PR firm (Maureen Lippe’s, if I can name it) in the late 2000s, and none of the young ladies there were every seen in jeans, they almost always wore dresses or skirts, or dress pants. Its not crazy to not wear jeans

        1. ExceptionToTheRule*

          It really does depend on your job. Get a one where you might spend part of any given day crawling around on the floor or ground pulling cable and laying down tape and it’s a different story. Wearing jeans signals that you understand the cultural norms of your job. Dressing up means that you’re trying to get out of sharing in the dirty work that sometimes crops up.

          1. lawsuited*

            Lol, I wear a suit everyday and sadly it has not managed to get me out of dirty work, including:

            – Climbing up the side of a barn onto a barn roof to take photographs
            – Retrieving 32 banker’s boxes of documents, some of which had mouse crap in them, from a cellar
            – Scaling scaffolding in a 14″ stairwell to take measurements
            – Moving used car parts
            – Moving hay bales

            The practice of law is extremely glamorous.

            1. Monodon monoceros*

              Hardly anyone in my profession dresses up. Usually my standard is to shake off as much pet hair as possible, and not have dirt/food on my clothes (but it’s been known to happen).

              One day many years ago I decided to dress somewhat nicer since I was supposed to be sitting at the computer all day and had somewhere to go in the evening. That is the day that my boss asked me to go retrieve important papers out of the dumpster (the cleaners tossed them overnight). Yep, now I bring nice clothes with me if I’m going out after work.

            2. Artemesia*

              LOL My husband did trustee related work and sometimes had the weirdest activities as part of the practice of law. One day they had to get 150 people in a nursing home fed when a place went bankrupt and the management staff basically abandoned them. It took a couple of days to get people moved properly and for awhile there it looked like the law firm would be in the kitchen before they found some emergency catering services.

          2. Marcela*

            Dressing up means that you’re trying to get out of sharing in the dirty work that sometimes crops up.

            Ehm, no. I wear very nice dresses and heels, and I’ve never tried to escape the dirty parts of my job around computers and servers. There is no reason I can’t crawl under a desk, unplug a dinosaur server and dismantle everything wearing my clothes. Of course, this is not a normal part of my everyday work, otherwise I would spend too much doing laundry. If I am wearing jeans, you can be very sure I’ll bite your head off when you tell me the server is misbehaving, so uncomfortable are for me.

          3. BananaPants*

            It makes me crazy that in my organization engineers can’t wear jeans when working in a test facility where we’re in contact with rust, grease, dirt, grime, paint, etc. We can throw coveralls or lab coats on, but early in my career I ruined many pairs of khaki chinos by brushing up against something (grease + rust is very hard to get out of clothing). I wear jeans ONLY on field visits because I don’t want the technicians thinking that I think I’m too good to get my hands dirty.

            Meanwhile at a sister division’s engineering center, jeans and a tee shirt are de rigeur even if an engineer spends his entire day sitting at a computer running FEA models and never sets foot on a factory floor. We’re stuck with business casual because we’re on the same corporate campus as HQ.

    3. OP*

      To clarify, she didn’t bring up the jeans. She said “dress more professional” and I said, I was under the impression from the presidents email that jeans were allowed now, should I go back to limiting them to Friday’s? And she said probably yes.

      1. MK*

        Specific rules almost always trumps the general one. OP, I think you are clutching at the president’s email as justification to do what you want, but consider that the president wasn’t addressing you. It’s possible that, if they were told of your issue, they would agree with your manager that people in your job should dress more formally. Or, even more probable, they would say that the company dress code is the minimum requiref and each manager is free to set more formal standards for their department.

        1. lawsuited*

          +1. I don’t think wearing jeans more than once a week is worth hurting your relationship with your boss, particularly given the small size of your department. It’s not the hill to die on.

      2. A Dispatcher*

        That may mean she’s talking about more than jeans as well. It could be that she feels your clothing is too casual, too revealing, too “loud”, too many accessories etc etc etc. I have no idea how you dress so it’s hard to say, but I’d try to take an objective look at your outfit choices. Your boss could be totally off base or more conservative than most, but she could also be making a legitimate point.

        1. Sunshine Brite*

          This! I’d be tempted to ask for more specifics since you were the one to jump to jeans. There’s different ways to make things look “professional” and different places have such different standards. I know I could use a step up, but my style is on par or slightly above average of coworkers so it’s not something I worry about right now. The supervisors step up more but they’re rarely in the field now so they don’t have the same concerns as I would when picking outfits (don’t really want to become attached to anything when you might end up sitting on a random floor for 3 hours or find out you’ve been sitting in a random regular chair that’s dual purpose as a shower chair)

        2. Artemesia*

          I would guess that the OP is not wearing crisp dark jeans with a nice blouse and a jacket. And it may well be as you suggest a broader style issue. So reviewing the whole package is a good suggestion. Not wearing jeans doesn’t make the look ‘professional’ — as an expert in dowdy dress I can think of lots of things I wear that would not come across as ‘professionally sharp.’

      3. BritCred*

        Can I mention another thing that maybe off base but hey ho… How does the *quality* of your clothes match up to the rest of the office? I know that was an issue with a few of my blouses – the quality on them just didn’t look good because they were cheap and it showed. Everyone else who wore the same type of blouse had a lot better fabric and looked more proffessional just by being upmarket. I was restricted by the fact I can’t wear a few fabrics without feeling very very uncomfortable so actually changed to collarless tops later in my career. Not too low necked, decent sleeves and the quality in the fabrics weren’t as obvious.

      4. LBK*

        I’ve received this feedback from a manager before so I feel your frustration. If you’re comfortable doing it, I’d just lay it out straight: “I hear what you’re saying, but I’m comfortable with the image and the level of professionalism I’m projecting based on my work and reputation; I’m fine with that speaking for me regardless of what I’m wearing. If your expectation of me is that I dress up, please just tell me directly and I’ll do it, but otherwise if this is just a suggestion then I’d like to stop discussing it every time we meet.”

        1. LQ*

          Whoah, where are you getting that the boss brings it up every time they meet? It seemed to me like the OP was the one pushing the matter of wanting to wear jeans despite the boss having laid out clearly that she doesn’t want that.

          If you bring something up with me every time we talk and I tell you my opinion every time you ask it, you don’t get to be upset I responded to your question.

          1. LBK*

            She hasn’t laid it out clearly, though. She said she thinks it’s unprofessional but then said she’s not going to police it – so which is it? Is she okay with it or not? A response that’s basically “I wouldn’t do it but you can go for it” is not appropriate from a manager.

            1. LQ*

              This is super clear to me. She’s not going to fire the OP because she recognizes it’s not a firing offense. What you are saying is that you only ever want things to be firing offenses or things the boss doesn’t care about.

              This is you can do it, I’m not going to put you on a pip, I’m not going to fire you, I’m not going to start giving you crappy work. But I will take it into consideration when I look at promotions. She thinks it’s not professional so it isn’t something that will help advance her career.

              It’s like you think managers should only give yes/no directives that are do this or you’re fired.

              1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                To me it’s similar to a conversation a boss once had with me about company sponsored events/get-togethers. I loathe going to these types of things, but after skipping one, my boss pulled me aside and pointed out that my absence had been noted.

                He said something very similar to what the OP’s manager said, which was basically, we can’t force you to participate, but it’s something people will remember. Do you want that memory to be positive or negative?

              2. LBK*

                I absolutely don’t think directives need to be “Do this or you’re fired” and I’m not sure where you’re getting that impression. But I don’t understand how something can be unimportant enough to not be a basic expectation but important enough to be worth factoring into promotions.

                I’m actually pretty surprised that most people here seem to have no problem with this – to me it’s no different from a manager who holds exempt employees to a strict schedule and dings them if they’re a few minutes late, which no one here seems to have an issue blasting as unreasonable and unnecessary.

                1. LQ*

                  I actually think it’s very comparable. A lot of people (like you) seem to be pushing REALLY hard that this is a bad rule. But it’s not something the OP has control over. What some people are pointing out is that, much like holding employees to a schedule and saying, you’re welcome to show up whenever you want but being 10 minutes late every day will appear less professional, is absolutely something your boss can say. You are welcome to stomp your feet and complain all day that this is a bad rule. But is this the hill you want to die on. Your boss is giving you the information to make that decision for yourself. Yes. I want to be 10 minutes late. Or Yes. I want to wear jeans every day. And yes I’m ok with being seen as less professional.

                  We aren’t talking to the boss. We are talking to the employee. For the employee we shouldn’t say, it’s wrong and it’s unfair and you should die on this hill. For the employee we should point out that actions have consequences and these are their options.

                2. A Dispatcher*

                  It reminds me a bit of things like “optional” team building exercises, social events and the like. We’ve seen a lot of letters on this here where it’s pretty important to either the company culture or the boss’s preference that these events be attended. Alison’s advice has always been pretty similar: Hey, it may be dumb, but these are the context clues you’ve been given and it’s up to you if you want to suck it up buttercup or stand your ground, but be aware of the consequences of both.

                3. LBK*

                  Fair enough. I think it’s mostly the tone of the other responses that’s throwing me off, which seem more okay with the request than I’d expect – particularly for “voluntary” events, the comments tend to be pretty extreme about how awful those are.

        2. Graciosa*

          That seems surprisingly combative as an approach – especially the last line.

          I can think of two possible ways to look at the boss’ behavior, and two possible responses from the OP.

          Coaching – The boss could be quietly passing on information that is intended to help the OP get promoted. I really hate to discourage this kind of feedback because bosses don’t give nearly enough of it. The way an individual is perceived matters more than most people realize, and those further up on the ladder generally have a much better sense of the obstacles to moving up than those on lower rungs.

          Department Image – The boss could not care a whit about the OP’s career but have very strong feelings about how the department is perceived – especially where marketing is involved. I had a boss who insisted that our team dress to a higher standard than our colleagues for a time – we were a new team and needed to establish credibility. The boss is supposed to be concerned about how the department is perceived.

          Career-focused Response – In either of these cases, the smart thing to do if career success is a priority is to forget the jeans. It doesn’t really matter why the boss cares about this, only that she does, and she cares enough to say so. OP, if you have a long and successful career, you will need to change much more difficult aspects of your work image or behavior in the future. Changing out of your jeans is ridiculously easy in comparison.

          Autonomy-/Fairness-focused Response – There are people who decide that what they wear is an expression of individuality that they refuse to change – or that it shouldn’t matter what they wear because the only fair criteria for judging work performance is the work product itself – or that all this concern about “image” is ridiculous and as long as they meet the minimum standards written in policy nothing more should be expected – or that even though they acknowledge that changing their attire would help their career, it’s simply not worth it to them.

          All of these are legitimate positions (LBK, it sounds like you’re somewhere in the latter camp regarding the proper response) but the OP needs to make this choice consciously. It clearly matters to the boss, which means that it will have an impact on the OP’s career (whether or not it’s an obvious one).

          I do disagree with LBK’s suggested comment, however. The boss has already made her position clear, and this phrasing seems likely to elicit either an argument or – worse, in my mind – a silent decision not to offer this type of coaching or feedback to someone who clearly doesn’t appreciate it.

          1. LBK*

            My issue is that the boss is being so wishy-washy about whether she wants the OP to do it or not. Is it being required? Okay, then say that rather than saying “I’m not going to police it”. If you’re not going to police it then why even say that? I loathe middle of the road responses from managers. You’re right that any of those are potentially valid conversations to have, but the OP’s manager isn’t having any of them. That’s why I would be really direct in hopes of getting a really direct answer.

            1. A Dispatcher*

              There are plenty of things that aren’t required (or on the flip side expressly forbidden) that still can impact how your boss looks at you. There are certainly some things that are black and white (don’t no call no show, get your work done to a satisfactory level, don’t punch your coworkers) but most things are shades of grey.

                1. Colette*

                  If entry level people wear jeans but managers don’t and you continue to wear jeans after your boss has asked you to wear dress pants, shouldn’t your boss keep that in mind while considering whether you should become a manager?

                2. LBK*

                  I’d take into consideration that they didn’t do what I’d asked of them, but as for the specifics? No, I wouldn’t. I think it’s silly to expect people to dress a level up from where they are if they want to be promoted.

                3. Ezri*

                  I noticed that you are only wearing the minimum pieces of flair. Don’t you want to express yourself?

            2. Graciosa*

              I thought it was pretty direct – not policing it means you’re not going to get fired over it. It’s not that big an issue when it comes to keeping your current job.

              Mentioning it means this is information you need to know about how you’re appearing to others (including your boss). You get to make the decision about whether you want to change this aspect of your image and increase your changes of promotion.

              As a boss, I can set standards for my department – and fire people for not meeting them – but I don’t generally force people to try for promotions. I tell them how they can improve their chances, but that choice is up to them.

              Not everyone wants to move up.

          2. LBK*

            (Although I will admit I unintentionally projected my own experience – my mistake on saying it was the boss who was bringing it up since that’s what happened to me.)

        3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Wow…as someone who has had to have the dresscode/professionalism conversation with an employee, I would be pretty taken aback if this was the employee’s response.

          If your manager is telling you that you are not presenting a professional image (especially in a field like Marketing), there is probably a really good reason — to the point that it may actually detract from the work you are doing.

          1. LBK*

            Which I think is BS. I’d prefer that managers respond to judgments about their employees’ appearances by going to bat for those people and saying “Jane is a killer employee that provides excellent service, is incredibly knowledgeable and constantly jumps in to solve problems. She can do all of that in a burlap sack as far as I’m concerned.”

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              Except people make their initial judgements of you in the first sixty seconds. That’s when people decide if you are trustworthy, intelligent, smart…it may not be fair, but it’s how we are wired.

              And if a client/upper management is distracted by someone’s sloppy or casual appearance, nothing I say can about that person’s performance is going to win them over. I’d much rather be straightforward with an employee and say, “you need to present a more professional/polished image at work,” or “I get that IT wears t-shirts and jeans to work every day, but we are not the IT department.”

              Though no longer in Marketing, I work in a similar field where image is important. Why would I not support an employee’s journey forward by telling them what is holding them back? (Which is what the OP’s manager is doing.)

              1. LBK*

                If it’s about a client-facing role, then I’m with you. If this is purely about internal perception, I think it’s ridiculous.

                1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                  But internal perceptions can be equally as important for an employees potential growth.

                  At my old job we had the “pay for casual” model (almost to the point our dress code should just be changed), but senior management was in town, so I had not worn casual (our division head *hated* casual clothes). There was a question about one of our new initiatives and how it was working with a client. My boss asked me to come in and as asked me to bring one of the two teapot polishers working on the project with me.

                  I grabbed my lead teapot polisher because (a) she was the lead, and (b) it was a great opportunity for her to get in front of people up the food chain. Because she was in jeans he sent her back to her desk and had me grab the other writer on the project who was not in casual attire.

                2. LBK*

                  I understand from a pragmatic perspective, sometimes you have to deal with people who care too much about appearance and if they hold the power, sometimes you have to suck it up and do what they ask. But I hope the point of that anecdote isn’t to say that the boss’s actions in that situation were reasonable or how things should work.

                3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

                  I was disappointed for my lead, but I don’t know that I would classify my boss’s actions as unreasonable. He wanted our department represented in a certain way in front of senior management.

                  My purpose in sharing was to demonstrate that internal perceptions can be as important as external perceptions. My attitude towards it is more that, “it is what it is,” if that makes sense?

                  All I could do was share the feedback with my employee and help her understand how our choices can limit us based on people’s expectations.

                4. LBK*

                  I don’t disagree with you or your manager’s actions if you know that senior management is going to judge someone who’s wearing jeans. My issue is with the senior management who wouldn’t want to speak to someone who’s not dressed up. I think that underscores the ridiculousness of this whole idea to me – that for someone who’s high enough up to be making important business calls would rather hear from the person that’s dressed the fanciest instead of the person who’s best suited (heh) to answer the question is absolutely ludicrous to me. I can’t fathom running a company successfully while caring so much about what the person I’m speaking to is wearing.

            2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              But that assumes that your appearance only impacts how you are perceived. The boss may have a legitimate concern about how the organization as a whole is perceived if an employee is not dressed professionally. If you’re sitting in the back room all day, maybe not. But I certainty don’t want the person at my front desk coming in with wet hair looking like she’s about the mow the lawn.

            3. Graciosa*

              I think you’re in the “It shouldn’t matter what they wear because the only fair criteria for judging work performance is the work product itself” camp!

              I hear from that camp a lot (I’ve worked extensively with engineers and have some in my family). This seems to be a group that consistently places enormous value on function and almost none on appearance.

              When I have this discussion with that audience, it invariably comes down to a clash between the way the world should work (“This shouldn’t matter!”) and the way it actually works (“Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does!”).

              The truth is, I can’t send anyone in a burlap sack to present to the C-suite. It doesn’t matter how good she is.

              But I do appreciate the passion with which this camp embraces What Should Be. Applied in other areas, it fuels a lot of progress.

              And I do respect the decision to hold to a chosen standard in the face of cultural pressure to conform to a different one contrary to your values.

              1. LBK*

                That all makes sense to me, and thanks for being extremely respectful in your disagreement (I know I’m a little fired up right now!). For me, this is enough of a sticking point that it would definitely factor in to deciding to leave a job. I think part of it is that the way I dress is a big part of me; I would say that at work I tend to dress a little more flamboyantly than most of the men (brighter colors and tighter fits) and I consider that some means of expressing my personality, so I get easily frustrated when there’s any conversations about appearance and clothing.

                Not to say that chiding me for forgetting to wear a belt one day is infringing on my desire to express myself, by any means, but any time the “Your professionalism is being judged by your appearance” conversation comes up I can’t help but feel paranoid about how else my appearance is impacting my work perception, particularly as someone who holds myself to an extremely high standard of professionalism in terms of the actual work I do.

              2. EvaR*

                I’m in that camp and actually care a lot about appearances, but this strongly impacts my ability to dress the way other people often want me to. I’m mentally ill, and my wardrobe is basically a coping mechanism. It usually involves a lot of black and layers. Because I’m extremely concerned about the environment, I also try to buy items secondhand whenever possible.

                To have someone tell me “It doesn’t matter that your metrics are the highest on the team, we still prefer Jane because she has lower metrics but wears colors and heels.” Makes me feel like I’m being told that being extra good at my job is rent that I pay for being the office freak. If someone explicitly told me that in a role that was not client facing, I’d walk out that day. Although feedback I’ve gotten in the past, like “You should wear a sheer lipstick” or “Buy a blazer to wear to events like these.” was fine, because it’s not personal and was delivered in a straightforward fashion, not in a coded one. For me, I think it’s phrases like “more professionally” or “not fitting with our image” that specifically bother me. Phrases like that seem to imply that you should change everything about what you are doing all at once, or that you should already know what someone else’s weird cultural bias that has nothing to do with your actual job function is.

            4. Ad Astra*

              I would hope that my manager is willing to go to bat for me like that if someone ever makes a negative comment about how I dress, but I’d also hope the same manager would pull me aside and say “Hey, I think you’ll do better here if you dress up more. Have you considered [helpful strategy for looking sharper without overhauling your wardrobe]?”

        4. Artemesia*

          Your boss is repeatedly telling you that you don’t look professional and your answer is ‘I am comfortable that I look professional?’ Wow.

          1. LBK*

            No, that’s not quite parsing what I said correctly – I told him I think my work speaks for itself and I’m comfortable with the level of professionalism that’s communicated by that work. It’s not like I was coming in in ripped jeans and a hoodie in an environment that required suits; at most I’d occasionally run out the door without ironing my shirt or forget to change out of my sneakers when I got to the office.

            Frankly, if another manager is looking at me and thinking that I must not be a good employee because I have sneakers on instead of dress shoes, that’s not a manager I’m too keen on working for anyway.

          2. Sheepla*

            I’m amazed by the conversation on this one. My boss tells me to dress more professionally…I say “okay” and start dressing more professionally. Conversation over.

            As someone stated above, this is so not a hill to die on.

            1. LBK*

              Depends who you are, I guess. Would I get fired or quit over it? No, but it’s also not as simple as just doing whatever you’re told for me.

      5. fposte*

        Seconding the suggestion to ask her for specifics. Not in a “Like what?” kind of way, but in a “I’d like to follow this and could use more specific guidance” kind of way.

        Otherwise you’re going to guess, and odds are reasonable that you’ve guessed wrong.

        1. Sigrid*

          Yes, if her comment was “you should dress more professionally”, I would really strongly suggest you ask for specifics. There may be much more at play than jeans; in fact, there probably is. After you have that information, you may chose to disregard it, but you will need to do so with the knowledge that it will affect how your boss perceives you.

        2. Graciosa*

          Another option is to consider the use of examples. This could be either the traditional follow-the-leader approach (how does the boss dress?) or asking the boss for examples of other people in the company who dress very professionally that the OP could observe and learn from.

          It’s interesting to see that companies do have their own cultures about what signals an executive. In some places, the clothing is casual, but there are key items (briefcase, pen, belt, tie, designer scarf, handbag, shoes) that differ in the upper ranks. It’s not usually all the items listed – the company culture may focus on one. If you notice that everyone in a certain group carries a particular type or brand of briefcase, do not assume it’s a coincidence.

          I’ve worked in more than one very large company where the women executives bonded over shoes. I know that seems stereotypical, but it really happened. Mid-level managers stuck with classic pumps, but the upper level (female) officers wore very expensive, very colorful, very distinctive and very high heels. At LastJob, these were closed toe, but they are open toe at CurrentJob. Gatherings of these executives in the office included reviews of the participants footwear (“I got these at [X] the last time I was in [Foreign City]!”) and discussions of their shoe wardrobes and upcoming designer collections.

          I have remarkably little interest in wearing high heels, and I admit I made a conscious decision not to play in this arena. I distinguish myself with statement bags instead – thus avoiding the podiatrist!- but I knew what I was doing when I made my choice.

          OP, if you haven’t learned out the cultural cues in your workplace that relate to professional image, identify some examples and start figuring it out.

          1. The Strand*

            I am so relieved by your second to last comment. I can’t avoid the podiatrist – I can’t wear high heels – which would limit me in this kind of company. I’m glad you suggested a possible solution: find another way to “signal”. Good advice.

          2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I was given the advice early on of “dress for the job you want,” and often looked to my boss and women at the level above my boss for inspiration.

          3. fposte*

            I love this comment–it’s shrewd and observant and also creative. It’s really worth thinking about this in a lot of workplaces: what is the norm? what’s the done thing among the high levels and high performers? How important is it that I do it, and if I choose not to or can’t, is there another way I can participate?

        3. Stranger than fiction*

          I third the suggestion. Although im mostly in the no jeans camp, I admit they can look professional if put together with nice blazer shoes etc, but 1) your boss is clearly telling you she prefers something else…and maybe the jeans aren’t the issue. The more I think about this, the more im wondering if you’re doing what a lot of younger people in my area do now- which is wearing leggings as pants? They’re everywhere now and I’ve even noticed some stores have replaced the Pants signs with Bottoms signs! They’re not doing it at my work but my boyfriend that works in software often talks about how inappropriate some of the girls look in “painted on” pants, leggings, and jeans at his office

      6. Ad Astra*

        In that case, I think you ought to focus on the spirit of your boss’s message — to dress more professionally — rather than the letter of the law, which apparently allows jeans. My guess is that it’s not really about the denim, specifically; it’s about your overall appearance being too dressed-down. So I would definitely re-examine some of your tops as well, as that’s where I often find myself getting a little too casual in the name of comfort.

      7. MashaKasha*

        Hmm, if I were, in my opinion, complying with the dress code and my boss told me to dress more professionally, I would not try to guess what they meant. I would however ask her if she could be more specific. Maybe I’ve been wearing something that’s too sheer or too low-cut without realizing it. Maybe it wasn’t about jeans at all. “Probably yes” doesn’t sound to me like she was specifically out to ban jeans.

  4. UKAnon*

    #2, I can’t help wondering if this isn’t so much about wanting to wear jeans as wanting to show that the OP understands and fits into the company culture. If it’s a clash between wanting to look polished and professional to your boss or wanting to fit in around your coworkers, that’s trickier. I imagine looking noticeably smarter than everybody else is going to make work-life trickier. I think, OP, you need to ask, based on your company, which is more likely to help your career, and go from there. (If it’s coworkers then forward the email; if your boss, give up on jeans)

    1. MK*

      I think this would apply if the OP was told to wear a suit when everyone else is going with jeans and a T-shirt. I doubt it will make that much difference if the OP simply does away with the jeans, but keeps it casual.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I work in an office where my department is consistently dressed at a much “fancier” level than most others. Other teams completely understand and it is not prevented any of us from fitting in to our company culture or fitting in with coworkers.

  5. Festival reality-maintenance*

    #1: we ran this past the twins, too, but their only comment was that they seldom use water themselves, as it promotes rust. I should probably write that down somewhere, just in case.

    But you did mention that the boss liked this ‘special’ water because it helped him with a “condition he’s dealing with”? Is this an actual medical condition? Or is this a condition that yields to the mixing of this ‘special’ water with a similar amount of bourbon? Either way, I think you’re okay drinking boss-man’s water when the regular water is gone. But if you develop a preference for this particular water – or (perish the thought!) develop your own ‘condition’ – I think you should inform whoever does the buying and stocking of your refrigerator that they need to double down on this special water with its amazing medicinal powers.

    1. MsM*

      If it is an actual medical condition, though – and I think we’ve established that you have to give people the benefit of the doubt on that – it would be highly inconsiderate not to make sure the boss has enough. Especially when unless the tap water is contaminated and there’s no way to get hold of any filtration devices, I don’t know why people are running out of water to begin with.

      1. Nursey nurse*

        I’m unaware of any commercially-available water that treats any medical condition. Bottled water is pretty much bottled water, which is in and of itself unnecessary health-wise unless you live in an area where the tap water is contaminated. My guess is the boss has bought into the alkaline water quackery that has become popular as of late.

        Regardless, if the water is being purchased by the office and stocked in a communal fridge, it’s hard to see how people other than the boss drinking it could be prohibited unless he has said something about it. If he has, well, that’s silly, but he is the boss. Drinking his water is probably not the hill that the OP wants to die on.

        1. Rat Racer*

          Wait – so smart water doesn’t actually make you smarter?! Oh no! I’ve been scammed! So much for treating my stupidity with water…

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            Smart Water does contain electrolytes so if you have a condition where you are using the bathroom too much or sweating too much it can help. I prefer unflavored pedialyte for that but Smart Water sure looks more professional in a meeting than a jug of pedialyte. :)

            1. Heather*

              Maybe the boss saw Idiocracy and totally missed the joke. “It’s got electrolytes!”

            2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              Also, just for reference, Pedialyte is the best for vomiting cats while you’re trying to get to the vet. Unflavored, of course.

              1. Festival reality-maintenance*

                If I were vomiting cats, I think the vet is about the last place I’d be trying to get to.

                I might try drinking Pedialyte, though, because hey – it’s gotta be better than trying to choke up those felines dry.

        2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          Tonic water contains quinine, which is used to treat malaria and can also help with cramps. My dad is on dialysis, which can really mess around with your potassium levels, and he told my dad to keep tonic water on hand in case of cramps.

          It tastes really bad, though, so I can’t imagine that anyone would want to drink it unless required (or, I supposed, mixed with gin).

        3. anonanon*

          I have a chronic bladder condition, and my urologist recommended that I drink alkaline water (in addition to other treatments of course.)

    2. UKJo*

      The thought occurred to me that it might be low-sodium water, as some people with heart or blood pressure issues need to be on a low sodium diet.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Is water* not, by definition, no sodium?

        *bottled water anyway, I understand tap water may contain small amounts of it

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I think there are some French bottled waters with added calcium and/or vitamins, so perhaps it might be something like that?

        2. Jo*

          Nope, some bottled waters can be quite high sodium – it depends on where they are from and what they were filtered through (chalky soil can mean high sodium). I only know this because when my father was diagnosed with high BP and put on a low sodium diet, he was told to look at the constituents on the side of bottled water – you’d think it would be fine but can be really high without tasting odd as it’s not actual NaCl salt!

    3. BritCred*

      I’d be tempted to speak to the person who does the buying and stocking and saying “when the normal stuff runs out is it ok for me to use the special stuff?” Gives them the option of “no, thats the bosses only”, “hmm, I’ll adjust the normal order” through to “Of course you can!”

    4. Ygritte*

      That was my first thought – tbh if I knew someone ordered anything for “a condition they’re dealing with”, I would probably never grab it casually because the regular stuff ran out. I look at it like this – if I knew there were celiacs in our office and we ran out of ‘regular’ treats, I wouldn’t go foraging into the gluten free stuff just because I wanted a snack.

      1. LBK*

        This is exactly my thought – if it were just his preferred brand (liked the taste of Evian over Poland Springs), I’d say it’s fair game, but if that’s the only water he can drink then it does seem a little rude to take it, even if the office paid for it.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Why not, though? At the point at which the office is out of gluten-full treats, eating the gluten-free treats won’t cause any more “harm” to the gluten-free folks than the gluten-full people are already experiencing (i.e. no treats for them)?

          1. Judy*

            Does that imply if the office stocks snacks and I prefer the Popsicles or bags of peanuts, I can’t have them because there is someone in the office who is gluten free?

            1. Judy*

              And this question is coming from someone who spent last week at camp with a bunch of kids, one of whom was gluten free. Our snacks were brought to us in the afternoon, and one of the two choices was always gluten free. We did make sure that the gluten free camper got one of those, but everyone else had their choice. They usually sent 12 gluten free and 12 non gluten free snacks for the 18 of us in our group.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Mine too–it’s pretty presumptuous just to drink the special water because the other ran out. Also, we don’t have any information about why this office is wasting money on bottled water. Is the tap water gross? Are there no filter water cooler options?

    5. OP#1*

      OP for #1 here, it’s a legit but minor and non life threatening medical condition, but the water itself is not doctor prescribed, he just likes it and claims it helps. It has electrolytes and certain vitamins and minerals in it, and it’s entirely possible the water is just a placebo effect for him. While I don’t consider myself a water connoisseur, it doesn’t taste any better to me, I have no preference for the fancy stuff.

      Alison was correct, the boss doesn’t say anything, but the other coworkers do. It’s clear they’re being protective of it to carry favor with him. Yesterday the assistant went to the store and bought more of the regular water, so I’m sticking to that.

      1. AcidMeFlux*

        Think twice about working for someone who’s so stupid that he actually thinks that overpriced designer water will improve his health. And is the tapwater where you work really undrinkable?

        1. OP#1*

          The tap water here isn’t great, there was a national news story last summer about contamination in our tap water, we couldn’t use it for a few days.

        2. Case of the Mondays*

          Replacing electrolytes is actually a legit thing for people who become dehydrated by their medical conditions. That’s why doctors recommend pedialyte for kids with diarrhea. If you can’t eat (or retain) normal food for awhile liquids w/ electrolytes and vitamins sustain you more than straight water. I’ve avoided many an IV by drinking pedialyte, smart water, and Gatorade throughout the day during Crohn’s flares. Regular people certainly don’t need the additives.

          1. cv*

            I have a friend with Crohn’s who goes through cases of vitamin water for this reason. The additives help, but also just finding a flavor she liked helped her regularly drink more liquids overall.

      2. hayling*

        If you can’t drink the tap water, your company should get a dispenser and 5-gallon containers delivered. Buying tons of individual bottles of (regular) water is expensive wand wasteful.

      3. zora*

        I think it’s fine to drink the ‘special’ water, when there is no regular water, and as long as you’re not drinking the last of it. The OP said there was plenty of the special water in the fridge when she started drinking it. I think the coworkers are being silly. It would be different if you are drinking the last of it, and there will be none left for the boss, but this is not like a medical accomodation, it’s just a preference for something in the shared kitchen.

        That said, I like the suggestion of asking the person who orders the drinks “if the regular water is out, is it ok to drink [Special Water]?” because it’s a non-bossy way of letting them know you are out of regular water.

    6. Applesauced*

      ….I’m a regular reader here, did I miss a joke about “the twins” or something?

  6. Sara*

    I’m not sure if there’s a protocol for listing ‘acting’ with your title, but I did get a “lesson” from a manager I worked for on how I should reference her title “correctly”. She explained that since she is already working at the manager level in the company, same level to the role she was acting in, she said to reference her title as manager (acting). Then she explained that if she was taking a step up from her role to act in a position, say, manager to director, then then the title would be acting director. In any case, I do think during introductions, say with a new supplier or making networking connections that relate to the work you’re doing, it is helpful to explain you are acting in the role.

    1. Ani*

      I always understood the acting designation to mean temporary, or filling the role while the organization conducts a search for the person who will fill the role. I’ve never seen and don’t understand the distinctions your manager was making.

      1. K.*

        I agree, that’s how I’ve interpreted acting as well. I have friends in academia who reference “the acting department head” if the previous department head is on sabbatical, for example. I don’t understand this manager’s instructions either.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      Yeah, I don’t see much difference between “manager (acting)” and “acting manager,” but if it floats that manager’s boat, okay.

      Also, on the subject, if I were the OP I’d lobby for “interim” rather than “acting.”

    3. Mike C.*

      Is this like the difference between “half a cup of chopped nuts” and “half a cup of nuts, chopped”?

      1. Loose Seal*

        Well, I’m way late to this thread but I have to respond here. There is a difference in recipes for ingredients depending on where the comma falls.

        “1/2 cup chopped nuts” means to chop the nuts first, then measure out half a cup.

        “1/2 cup of nuts, chopped” means to measure out a half cup of whole nuts, then chop them.

        You can see the difference in the amount of nuts since the first way will get you more nuts in your final dish. So pay attention to how your recipes are written!

    4. Onymouse*

      Was the original title more “filled-out”? I can sort of see this distinction for something like “Manager, Chocolate Teapots (acting)” vs. “Acting Manager, Chocolate Teapots”. It’s not a very strong argument, but the placement does slightly hint towards acting with responsibility of Chocolate Teapots vs. acting in the role of Manager.

  7. Jader*

    #5- I assume this is a retail or service type position based on the scheduling. Does your friend have hours on future schedules? Is she generally valued in her job? In my previous retail experience it was not uncommon for bad managers to just stop scheduling people so they quit instead of firing them.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Ah, the old “ghosting” breakup. Next the boss will be telling that employee “It’s not you, it’s me”…

      1. Windchime*

        Or, “Our shift (date) was great. I’ll call you tomorrow about your next shift (date)!” and then…….crickets.

        My son used to work in a grocery store that did this to him. They just scheduled him less and less until one week he had six hours. For the entire week.

    2. Liane*

      At Lastjob, retail, the schedule was done by computer but it was part of the Assistant Managers’ duties to check and fix it. Unlike many other Famous Retailers, the schedule was done and posted 3 weeks in advance, so plenty of time. Still there were Assts who didn’t bother, unless Store Manager had just gotten onto them about it. But even those Bad Assts, would fix your schedule if you told them, “Hey, I’m getting No/only X hours in Week B” or even “Next Friday no one is at service desk til I start at 10am, 3 hours after it opens. Do you really want me to only do 10-2, which is totally cool to me?”

    3. LQ*

      I had this thought too. It is really bad, but it is also pretty common. If I quit giving people hours then they’ll quit so I don’t have to fire them.

    4. Mimmy*

      I think this happened to a friend of mine who was a teacher’s assistant at a day care. Unfortunately, I think she didn’t help her situation by constantly calling to see when she’d be scheduled.

    5. INTP*

      My retail employer did the same thing. They were so non confrontational I would t be surprised at them claiming they forgot and not informing someone they would not be on the schedule again.

    6. kozinskey*

      Yep, this happened to me at my high school job at a movie theater. I found myself not on the schedule for a few two-week periods in a row, so eventually I stopped checking. I’m still not sure whether I quit or was fired.

      Tbh, I was 16 and full of myself, so I probably wasn’t a great employee. That being said, I don’t think I deserved the ghosting treatment, and an up-front firing & explanation of why it had to be done probably would have been good for me at the time.

      1. Allison*

        I don’t think anyone really deserves to be ghosted, managers need to be upfront with someone when their performance isn’t up to par and they’re being let go. Thing is, I think some managers who do it aren’t even sure they want to get rid of someone.

        1. Robles*

          Yeah, in retail/service there’s not really a benefit to firing someone. If you can fill your shifts with your best people and give your less-good ones 6 hours and keep them on, then that’s a best-case scenario. You still have someone you can call if you need extra coverage or if someone calls out. And if they can’t take the schedule dips, they’ll move on on their own. It’s not great for the employee, but I completely see why employers do it rather than firing someone.

    7. Allison*

      I was fired that same way at two jobs, but they didn’t act like they forgot to schedule me. First time, the manager got aggravated that I didn’t take the hint and spelled it out very rudely when I asked. Second, the manager said they just didn’t have enough hours to go around, and after a few weeks of not being scheduled I just gave up and got another job.

      In the case of #5, it might’ve been an honest mistake, just wait and see what happens in the next couple of weeks.

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. If nobody had specifically said “This is the Boss’s water” then I would assume it was available for everyone. However, the Boss could have his supplies kept in his office for his own use (in a mini-fridge), and that would make it clear it was specifically for him.

    1. AnalyticsChick*

      Some places have weird rules about mini fridges, though. It could also be that the boss is requesting it through whoever orders it but then pays the company back for it. I’ve seen this happen – usually the corporate pricing was discounted so the employee saves some $.

      Maybe not the case here but things to think about.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        If he were paying out of his own pocket for that “fancy” (read: overpriced, overmarketed, slightly supplemented) water, I would think he would put up a sign or something to indicate that the fancy water in the communal office refrigerator was for his use only.

    2. Rita*

      I was going to suggest this. My boss at my old job was addicted to diet coke, so he always had his own supply of it in a mini-fridge in his office, paid for by the office. Mostly it was there because it was easier access – I think if the regular fridge ever ran out of diet coke he wouldn’t mind if someone took one of his (as long as it wasn’t the last one).

  9. TheLazyB*

    #5: Any UK readers thinking ‘zero hours contracts’ and shuddering? It’s all very well enforcing a living wage, but decent wage x zero hours still equals zero pay :(

    1. Blamange*

      Yea my contract currently is 35 hours. But I get more like 30 hours, it’s not a zero hours but it does say on my contract that they can reduce hours or increase hours as the business likes. Annoys me but all contracts in retail now say this.

    2. UKAnon*

      Or ‘flexible hours contracts’ as IDS would have it. Presumably ‘flexible pay contract’ doesn’t have quite the same ring…

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Exactly. Politicians’ spin.

        I doubt many of them have had to scrape by on the minimum wage/living wage/zero hours contracts (apart from TV experiments).

        Sorry, back to my lunch…

    3. Pipette*

      I seriously don’t see the business sense in zero-hour contracts. Presumably, the effort in recruiting, training and administrating those employees is as high as for full-timers, so why spend all those resources on people you’re not planning to get much work out of?

      1. UKAnon*

        You don’t qualify for various legal protections if you’re on a zero-hours contract. There are businesses where it’s genuinely useful, eg when you have off seasons and don’t want to pay full time staff if you only need them half the time. But I’m prepared to bet my first sentence is a large factor for most businesses who use them.

  10. AnalyticsChick*

    Man #2 reminds me of when I worked for this conservative billionaire CEO years ago…. One day the CFO came to work wearing high end designer jeans and a nice blazer and the CEO said to him, “when you’re a billionaire you can start wearing jeans to the office” like you had to earn the right to wear them…

    So at least you get to on Fridays?

  11. Ruth (UK)*

    1. I am a little confused by this. How can you run out of regular water? Don’t you get that out of the tap? I obviously don’t know the country of origin for this letter so apologies if your reason is drought or something like this but since you mentioned you’re also making tea and coffee I don’t imagine this is the case…

    1. De (Germany)*

      In some countries, tap water is chlorinated, which I personally find can make it undrinkable – but then again, I am not used to it. Almost made me ill on my last trip to the US… I suppose there’s filters for this and boiling it for tea/coffee would get rid of most of the taste.

      1. Talvi*

        You learn something new every day! I knew they put fluoride in the drinking water, but I just looked this up and they do indeed use chlorine too (although some cities apparently used ozone instead).

        1. straws*

          To an extreme sometimes. Where I live, we had to put in a house filter. Any time we use the outside hose, we smell like we’ve been to a pool.

          1. OfficePrincess*

            My first apartment after college had the same problem. Taking a shower left me smelling like I had just left the pool. I had to deep treat my hair weekly and it still took months for it to fully recover after I moved out.

    2. Blamange*

      A lot of European countries rely on bottled water because the tap water is undrinkable and unsafe.

      1. TheLazyB*

        Funny this, I discovered when visiting Germany on school trips that Germans don’t drink tap water as a rule, even though it’s held to higher standards than British tap water :)

          1. TheLazyB*

            Without filtering, straight from the tap? Ooooh really? A) I wonder if things have changed since the 90s? B) I wonder if its location dependent? That was the Black Forest and Bavaria. None of the families any of us stayed with drank tap water, it was either filtered or bottled.

            1. De (Germany)*

              Yes, definitely straight from the tap, anywhere I have been so far in Germany – I’ve never actually seen a filter. But well, I obviously haven’t been in every place in Germany ;)

          2. Tau*

            You know, this is the second time I’ve heard the “Germans don’t drink tap water” thing. It really confuses me – I drink tap water and so does basically every German I know? Where is this coming from? Is there some secret anti-tap-water part of Germany I’ve never been to?

            Mind, there are two possible confounds here: one, Germans are unlikely to order tap water in restaurants because it’s seen as extremely rude (took me a while to adjust to being able to do that once I moved to the UK), two, we tend to drink more carbonated water than many other countries and even if you carbonate tap water a foreign visitor may still assume it’s store-bought. (I get the impression home water carbonators are not quite so common elsewhere as they are in Germany.)

        1. Blamange*

          When I have been to Crete, some areas of France,Germany and Greece etc. Italy. Plus tourists are advised anyway to not drink tap water.

          1. Manders*

            Yeah, tourists are advised not to drink tap water on some of the Greek islands. I never had any problems drinking tap water in France, Germany, or in Athens, Greece–but the water did sometimes have a very strong mineral taste that was surprising to me as an American kid.

            The OP posted above about contamination in the local tap water, so it sounds like the office does have a good reason to avoid it.

          2. Marcela*

            Tourists are always advised to avoid tap water but that’s not (necessarily) because tap water is unsafe, it’s to avoid any stomach issues due to the different food and water. I’ve never had any problems with tap water in Italy, France, Spain, mainland Greece or the UK. Of course, that doesn’t mean water is perfect there, but most of the first world have perfectly drinkable water, although it can taste awful.

      2. Marzipan*

        According to the CDC, tap water is safe to drink everywhere in western Europe, though it might possibly be unsafe in some Eastern European countries. I’ll grant you, though, that there are probably many people in western Europe who believe/decide that they can’t possibly drink the tap water – there are some quite powerful cultural influences in play and the idea that you ‘can’t’ drink the tap water is one that crops up with strange ease – plus people who just don’t like the taste (which is often a geographic thing, I think – like, if I go to Manchester I know the water’s perfectly safe to drink but it tastes like it’s been stored in an old tyre, because it’s not what I’m used to).

        1. UK water Engineer*

          Most Eurpoean countries chlorinate to provide bacterial protection for water in the distribution system. This can leave a taste but if you leave the water in the open air in a glass for an hour or so the chlorine will evaporate.
          Malta for one is a European country where people do not drink the tap water as they use desalination and tap water (although safe) tastes of seawater.

        2. misspiggy*

          In our UK office, we were told the tap water was not a drinking supply. No idea why, but it may have come from a tank in the building that could become contaminated. We had a lot of rats.

          1. UK water Engineer*

            This could be for various reasons. Roof tanks are considered to be a risk for Legionella so some may have not drinking water on the taps. Other buildings use rainwater collection tanks for hand washing and flushing the toilets which is another reason the water may be marked “not drinking water”.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I had no problem drinking tap water in the UK, but I ended up buying bottled water on the go occasionally because it just wasn’t practical sometimes to get it anywhere. A lot of the time, I’d get a small bottle and then refill it from the tap before I went out for the day.

        4. Tau*

          I’ve just moved across the UK and already I miss the tap water back in Scotland… here it just tastes really blah, and also is so hard it does terrible things to the tea. I don’t think anyone’s ever de-limescaled the kettle in the office and my tea sometimes has a gritty residue in it – I sometimes ponder sneaking in in the dead of night with a bottle of vinegar, but should probably delay such shenanigans to later than my second week in the job…

          1. Morgan*

            I grew up in the North-East, but I’ve spent the last six years in London and Oxford, and Thames Valley water is just *so bad*. Tastes gross, the tea is weird, and dear god, the limescale. I barely knew limescale was a thing before I moved down here, and it’s the bane of my life.
            The water is pretty near the top of the list of things I miss about the north.

      3. Artemesia*

        So not true at least in western Europe. The tap water in Italy for example is great and people routinely fill their water bottles at public fountains; in France they serve tap water in restaurants to anyone who asks and most locals drink that while tourists pay through the nose. I drank German tap water in the 60s. Nothing wrong with Dutch or British tap water.

        Some people like bubbly water or got used to drinking it in earlier times and so still do and in Italy at least people usually order it in restaurants, but it is safe pretty much anywhere.

        I’ve been traveling in Western Europe for over 50 years, always drank the water, never got sick.

    3. Rebecca*

      We have tap water at work, and once I was rinsing my stainless steel water bottle out, and took a swig from the tap. It was so awful I spit it back into the sink. Imagine taking a drink of metallic chlorine water. Gag! Yes, it’s potable by the water company’s standards, but not palatable at all. Not doing that again. I get water at work from the 5 gallon water cooler bottle instead. I feel sorry for the people in that neighborhood who have to drink that stuff every day.

      1. GOG11*

        I once went to a restaurant in a nearby city (about 50 miles away) and I ordered water with my meal. I tasted it and it honestly tasted like fishy water, like what you’d taste if you accidentally got lake water in your mouth. I said it tasted funny and asked for a new glass. They brought me a new glass, which also tasted funny. Finally, the waitress said, “oh, yeah, the tap water around here tastes terrible.”

        …then why would you bring it to me?! I guess maybe she assumed I knew that and didn’t care until I kept complaining or something, but man, it was gross.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          I have noticed this before in Mexican restaurants in several different states. I’m not sure, but I’ve wondered if they use a different dishwashing soap that tastes funny to me. My husband can taste it too. Maybe I’m “taste-blind” to the standard dishwashing stuff.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          A town north of my hometown had terrible sulphur-tasting water. It stunk, too. I had a doctor appointment there regularly and I hated when I had to drink from the water fountain.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          Vancouver has outstanding tap water, and most restaurants will bring you a glass of iced tap water as soon as you sit down. But one place once brought us salty water! It was really, really strange – it was tap water with a lot of salt in it. We complained and they switched it for normal water, but didn’t explain how it had happened. We’re still speculating now.

      2. simonthegrey*

        I like the tap water fine in the city I live in, but when I visit my friend’s parents in the southern part of the state, their water comes from a well and it tastes so very strange to me that I cannot drink it.

      3. HKS*

        and there’s no reason for the city/municipality to clean it up if “everyone” buys bottled.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      People can be really strange about tap water, at least the ones I’ve worked with! I lived and worked in NYC for a long time– New York has some of the best-tasting tap water in the country. I would get crazy looks when I filled my cup from the tap. We also had a filter on one of the taps, so I would use that to fill my own bottle and I STILL got crazy looks. They thought I was drinking poison, basically. So many people in my office only drank bottled water. I shudder at the thought of all the waste.

      In my new city, the tap water is ok but I don’t love it– we have a filter at home that I use, and at work, the pipes are old and gross, so the tap water is pretty nasty. We get water delivery, and while it’s still technically bottled water, I’m glad it’s not a bunch of bottles piling up every day.

      1. GOG11*

        I read a book about the bottled water industry and apparently Fiji bottled water at some point made disparaging comments about Cleveland’s tap water. So Cleveland tested it. And found e. coli in Fiji samples. Which is what happens when you bottle water without filtering it or ensuring there hasn’t been contamination somewhere in your source. I believe the book was called Bottled and Sold.

        1. Liane*

          And, yes, bottlers of water are supposed to make sure it is not contaminated. And, no matter how pretty the river and spring pictures on the label might be, the source water is generally the municipal supply in the bottler’s location. (from my internship in a water department lab)

          1. SaraV*

            I bought three gallon bottles of water from the big blue box store (their brand). I happened to look at the label, and it said “Source: Municipal Water Supply, Champaign, IL”

            It made me chuckle.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              Ha – yeah, I only buy bottled water if I need the container for some reason – like if I’m driving and forgot a water bottle. And then every time I stop to pee I fill that bottle back up in the bathroom. Without a water bottle, my only other option is something sweetened or flavored, which I don’t want. I buy gallons when I’m camping somewhere that lacks a water source, because I don’t have enough reusable water bottles to transport several gallons. I see it as a way to transport something I need vs. a source of better water.

              I get the arguments about banning individual water bottles for the sake of waste, but if that becomes widespread, I hope that a whole lot more places start selling empty bottles and letting people use the tap.

              1. This is She*

                “And then every time I stop to pee, I fill that bottle back up in the bathroom.”

                Heh heh.

                (I am 11 years old on the inside…)

            2. cuppa*

              Yeah, there’s a brand of bottled water that comes from my municipal water source, and it always makes me laugh!

            3. Chinook*

              “I happened to look at the label, and it said “Source: Municipal Water Supply, Champaign, IL” ”

              There is nothing more ironic then buying bottled water from a big, brand name company that has a tiny source label that basically says it is tap water from the next town over (or better yet, your town). It just feels so very, very wrong.

        2. Bekx*

          Hey Fiji…just because our river caught on fire multiple times doesn’t mean our water is that unsafe. I mean….yeah, don’t swim in Lake Erie unless you want a third limb but still!! ;)

          That being said — I think Florida has weird tasting tap water. At least orlando does.

            1. Bekx*

              I have never heard or seen any…but google says they used to be endangered but now they aren’t anymore? I swam in it when I was younger and never saw any. Just dead fish.

          1. Cath in Canada*

            The only bad tap water I’ve ever tasted in North America was in LA. Nasty stuff – I couldn’t even use it to brush my teeth. Mind you I’ve been spoiled by excellent municipal water my whole life, so I have high standards :)

    5. OP#1*

      The tap water here is not the best, so we have bottled water in the fridge. Unfortunately we don’t have a filtration system in the office, we got a quote to get one installed and it was too expensive.

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        That’s one of those things that makes me shake my head. If it cost $1000 to get a filtration system installed and then $X for filters replaced every Y weeks/months, it’s a one time large cost up front with small maintenance cost for how many years? But if you subscribe to a water delivery service, it may be a comparatively smaller fee to start up, but you will pay that same fee as long as you need water. If it’s a short-term emergency, fine, but if it’s a building that isn’t going anywhere, doesn’t make sense in the long run.

        1. Windchime*

          Before they put the filter on our water line in the kitchen, I just brought a Britta pitcher to work and filled it up at the tap every day. Quick and easy.

          1. cv*

            My boss got annoyed at paying for the water cooler in our tiny nonprofit office that couldn’t really spare the storage space for those big jugs, so we got a Britta container. It was a larger one that had one of those valves on the front at the bottom so it could just sit on the shelf in the fridge most of the time. Worked great.

            Though that office was freezing and I had to start microwaving water for my many-cups-a-day tea habit that kept me warm instead of using the hot tap on the water cooler, which was a mild inconvenience.

            1. Chinook*

              “I had to start microwaving water for my many-cups-a-day tea habit ”

              No snark but really curious – why didn’t you get a kettle? I have never been in a office with tea drinkers where one didn’t magically appear (either from the company or one the tea drinkers). A rolling boil gets better taste than microwaved water.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Because here in the US our tea is made from floor sweepings, so the quality of the water is rather immaterial. :)

          2. simonthegrey*

            We put a Britta pitcher on our wedding registry. I actually like the taste of the water unfiltered where I live, but we got it so our cats and snakes could have filtered water since the water here is very mineral-rich and I don’t want the pets developing kidney stones. I mean, we’ll use it when we have a baby too, but for now our snakes have the cleanest water in the city.

  12. SandrineSmiles (France)*

    I’m so, so, so annoyed with the jeans issue.

    When you see the type of “jeans” that exist right now, I’m sorry, but black skinny jeans can be super polished, depending on the type of top you wear. You can look much classier than in any dress pants that might exist.

    (Says the large girl who prefers jeans)

    I honestly don’t think I could work somewhere where jeans would be forbidden. It’s not like I’d be showing up in pajamas. Jeans can be dressed up quite nicely nowadays!

    1. Lizzieb*

      Well, but she clarified above that the boss said “dress more professionally” and she asked about jeans. I suspect the way they’re being worn is not super polished or the boss wouldn’t be giving this advice.

      1. LBK*

        Some people don’t think jeans are professional at all, no matter how nice they look (this is coming from someone whose industry is notorious for stuffy, outdated dress codes).

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Yes, one of the managers in my company has this opinion as well. It’s completely out of step with our company culture and dress code, but it’s her preference for herself and her team.

        2. Beancounter in Texas*

          I know I’m an outlier on this, but I don’t think that dress has much to do with professionalism. Yes, one looks better wearing slacks, a button-down blouse and sling-backs than clean tennis shoes, jeans and a polo shirt, but I define as professionalism as a behavior, not a dress code. If you dress the Queen of England in a cheap dress from Target, she’s still going to outshine everyone in her graciousness of manners and her stature.

          I’m probably just irritated about my own office, where The Boss wants everyone to dress professionally, yet behaves rudely and very UNprofessionally. I chafe at the bridal that holds to me a “professional” dress code in an office where I have rare (and always scheduled in advance) contact with *anyone* from outside of the company. I believe that a professional office can wear jeans everyday with boundaries in place as the OP’s president outlined.

          1. LBK*

            Totally agreed. Particularly about people who are overly concerned with professional appearance but not so much with professional attitude.

          2. LiveAndLetDie*

            Agreed. I think if I’m excelling at my job, well-respected, doing everything right… my pants should have nothing to do with any promotions that may come out of it. They’re just pants. They have no bearing on my skills.

  13. NJ anon*

    #3 absolutely include someone from accounting when you email your invoices. I can’t tell you how many times we are asked whether an invoice was paid and we never saw it in the first place! Once the bookkeeper has it, she will get it approved and paid.

    1. LW #3*

      Thanks for your suggestion. It’s hard to get that information, though, because I’m not part of the company so I don’t know any contact information beyond the Director and her department. However, I believe we’ve reached an acceptable solution (see comment above).

      1. NJ Anon*

        All you have to do is call the main number and ask for accounts payable. I do it all the time! But glad it worked out. My son freelances as well and I know what he goes through to get paid at times.

  14. dancer*

    #2 it could also be your manager holds your department to a different standard. In my company, the people in the finance and accounting department are not client facing, yet are held to the business casual dress code, so no jeans except on Fridays. Engineering in the other hand, well, almost anything goes… Some of my coworkers wear ripped jeans and t-shirts and no one cares. Its not fair, but sometimes you just have to listen to what your manager says.

    1. Sammie*

      Yes to this. #Terriblecompany used to have “casual friday” for SOME departments–but not others. It was entirely whim and whimsey.

    2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*


      My department is almost always the most dressed up (suits) and then from their it filters down through the different departments to IT (jeans every day, shorts on casual days). Yes, we have a company dress code, but my manager sets a standard for our department based on our work.

      Luckily my boss is a fan of casual Fridays, but if I have anything external facing on a Friday, I am expected to dress up.

    3. The Strand*

      The thing is, is it possible that IT is less respected in some companies because of their lax dress codes (which are very common in that field)?

      1. dancer*

        I’m not sure if it is the dress code. I think some people may tend to see IT as working *for* them, kind of like how some people view their cleaning staff. I think that leads to the feelings of superiority.

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        I’ve always seen it as a sign of how vital IT is to the company :)

        And that people understand that on any given day an IT person could be crawling on the floor trying to get to the back of a server.

      3. CrazyCatLady*

        Eh, it’s a support function.

        Yes, support functions can absolutely be vital (a business might not be able to run without a receptionist), but they’re not actually what the company does. Of course, that’s no excuse for not respecting a person in a support role, but it’s plenty of reason not to focus on that department.

    4. simonthegrey*

      My friend and I work for different departments of the same college. I’m in teaching and tutoring, she works on grant dispersal. My tutoring boss simply told me to dress business casual (Obviously I can wear jeans to teach). Her office has a 2 page dress code because they have some “dress code avengers” who must make everything into a huge issue. Exactly how far below the knee must the skirt go, and what is that measurement sitting vs standing. What color socks are appropriate. What truly delineates a legging from a stocking. It’s crazy.

  15. Sunshine Brite*

    Plus, just because something’s allowed doesn’t mean that it’s done much at various levels. My work seems to be moving to a more and more casual side of business casual and this summer we got an email saying that capris and shorts that went to the knees were ok (flip flops and dressy flip flops still aren’t). I’ve seen (and done) capris but no one’s done shorts that I’ve seen yet. I was kind of hoping someone would because I have a fairly adorable outfit with some, still considering it for our more informal meeting, but I probably won’t.

  16. Christy*

    I find office water politics to be such an interesting and confusing issue. Everywhere I’ve worked in the government has had a “water club” where you pay $5/month for the use of a giant jug of water. (I forget what they’re called–the company delivers a big jug and you put it on your dispenser and you can get hot and cold water from it.) One office had a purification machine installed so their water club is only $1/month. I’m a tap water drinker, but wouldn’t you just buy a Brita if you wanted purified water? It’s such a weird phenomenon to me.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Heh– I wrote above about the weirdness around tap water. I agree with you, I think it’s crazy. I also really, really hate all the waste that comes with it, waste that can be cut down considerably by buying a filter.

    2. water water everywhere*

      I go to meetings sometimes at a certain U.S. federal government office that deals specifically with the quality of American tap water. The tap water there is officially undrinkable because of lead in the pipes — seriously. Anything is possible!

      1. Artemesia*

        I suspect there are problems in many old buildings but this office is sensitive to water quality issues and tested theirs and so knows and lets people know not to drink it.

      2. Chinook*

        “The tap water there is officially undrinkable because of lead in the pipes — seriously. Anything is possible!”

        Around here, the water is often filtered not for taste but to remove the minerals (i.e. miniscule parts of the Rocky Mountains) so they don’t ruin kettles and coffee makers. The lime scale build up can kill a coffee maker within a year if you don’t use some type of filter (or rinse it regularly with vinegar).

    3. Robles*

      Brita needs time to filter and cool down, and needs fridge space. Or, if it’s on the faucet, it’s just never going to be as cold as a lot of people like their drinking water. Plus, on-demand hot water (and it’s typically hot enough to make tea) is awesome. And those companies charge a deposit on the bottles, and recycle them, so overall waste is minimal.

      1. cv*

        On-demand hot water is awesome, but now that I’ve worked a couple of places that have electric kettles, I find that they’re almost as convenient. And more energy-efficient than keeping a reserve of water hot 24/7, I’d guess.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I would be annoyed if I had to pay for water in my office, but I assume that’s a trait of government offices.

      My past offices have all had water coolers, but my current office doesn’t. It has two very nice kitchens, complete with full-size refrigerators, microwaves, and one of the kitchens has what I think are called warming drawers, plus lots of counter space. But there’s no water cooler. :(

      I should probably invest in one of those Britta bottles. I grew up in places with very good tap water, so even the average-tasting tap water available in my current city is sort of gross to me.

  17. Anon1234*

    Repeat after me: sometimes life isn’t always fair.
    It makes life soooo much easier once one just accepts that.

    1. Hlyssande*

      I don’t think there’s any adult on this board who really thinks that life is actually fair.

      However, that doesn’t make it any less frustrating when you’re held to a different standard than other people who are in the same building. Or in the same functions elsewhere.

      When my division moved to our current office, we lost casual everything (except for a few days in summer where you have to pay in to UW if you want jeans). None of us will ever meet customers face to face. At the other division main office in Texas, they’re all casual, all the time. We know it’s unfair, but that doesn’t make it less frustrating.

  18. Anie*

    #2: I used to get so frustrated about the different rules for clothing at my work. All departments are client-facing, to some extent, but every department but mine was allowed to wear leggings. Sounds dumb, but if everyone else but you can do something…suddenly it’s something you really want to do. There was no explanation from my boss besides “no.” And his boss was of the opinion that each department head can make their own rules, above and beyond company dress code.

  19. Bea W*

    #1 I’d have assumed anything in the shared fridge purchased with company money was up for grabs unless the boss or his assistant specifically said not to touch it. I might by choice not go for the fancy water out of deference to someone who put in a specific request for it to help with a medical condition, but I wouldn’t feel guilty or wrong about taking it either.

  20. KT*

    I’m a bit more stern on number one.

    The Letter Write says the water has additives necessary to help the boss’ medical condition–drinking that water and lowering his supply–if it is needed to treat said condition–is incredibly inconsiderate.

    For instance, I have Celiacs and am strict gluten-free. If I eat gluten, I get very ill. My company tries their best to accommodate me when they have company lunches and such by trying to make sure there’s at least one gluten-free option for me on those days (or if they can’t, they let me know in advance so I can prepare my own lunch on those days). If someone decided that they’d prefer, say, my salad versus the normal salad, that means I don’t get to eat that day.

    If that person went “Oh, it’s bought with company money, so it should be for EVERYONE” I would think that’s extremely rude. I have a medical condition, the company is being kind by trying to include me.

    In short, stay off the boss’ water.

    1. Judy*

      I couldn’t imagine taking the only one of something, or one of the last few of something. But if there is usually a 24 pack case of “regular” water in the fridge and a 24 pack case of “special” water in the fridge, and at a given moment there is no “regular” water and 23 bottles of “special” water, I’d take one.

      I would say, if they order a special single serving thing that you can eat, they really should mark it “for KT”.

    2. zora*

      I completely agree with your situation that they should save that for you. But I don’t think that is a direct analogy to the situation the LW is talking about. I think it’s more like, the office gets a big order of breakfast stuff every morning: half of it is muffins, and half of it is fruit (gluten-free). Everyone knows that you are the only gluten-free person in the office, but there is enough fruit for several people. If the muffins run out by the time I get to the kitchen, and there is still a lot of fruit available, I would take some fruit and not feel bad about it. If I got there and there was only a little bit of fruit left, i would definitely *not* take the last of it, I would make sure to leave that for you. I think that is more like the LW’s situation.

  21. Brett*

    #5 Just as a curiosity question… does a mistake like this push towards a constructive discharge? How many such mistakes does it take to potentially constitute a constructive discharge (especially in a row, or on a schedule of maybe 4 weeks instead of one week)? I am thinking about this for the purpose of the OP filing for unemployment. I think in some states, they could even file an unemployment claim based on underemployment for that week they were scheduled for no hours?

    1. Paige Turner*

      I’m also interested in how this works…I’m sure the answer (whether legally or practically) is that employees in this situation are SOL, but I used to work at a big retail store that would drastically cut everyone’s (or worse, just some people’s) hours when business was bad. They hardly ever fired anyone, even for multiple no call- no shows, and they absolutely never laid anyone off. It was a mess because the scheduling was so unpredictable and morale nosedived. Several other long-time employees and I left all around the same time.

      1. Paige Turner*

        Which is to say, I can relate to OP#5’s situation, and I wish their friend didn’t have to deal with that, but I’m not at all surprised.

    2. NJ Anon*

      In NJ you can file for unemployment if your hours are reduced. My husband did it when he went from full-time to 3 days per week.

  22. Observer*


    I’m going to echo a lot of the posters on the issue of your clothes.

    Firstly, your boss does probably have the authority to forbid you to wear even “nice” jeans, although the rest of the company allows it. So, that alone is something you should consider before you respond to her. The others are also completely correct that even if she says to you “OK, you are allowed to wear those jeans”, it WILL hold you back as long as you are in this organization. She has made it crystal clear that she thinks that the way you dress in general, and the jeans in specific show a lack of professionalism, and if you continue to wear them, it will color how she sees you. Beyond that, you also may want to think about how you dress in general. Again, she told you to “dress more professionally” and, from the way you describe it, it may be more than just the jeans.

    Lastly, there I’m trying to understand why you need a concrete reason to give up your jeans at work, and why your boss’ disapproval doesn’t count as a concrete reason. The issue here is not whether her attitude to jeans is reasonable. On the one hand, people do lots of things for reasons that are not all that concrete. That doesn’t necessarily make them bad, inappropriate or even foolish things to do. And, in your case, I’m not sure what you are being asked to do is such a big deal, as you apparently have the ability to follow her rule. So, even if there is no concrete reason for her rule, I don;t understand why you would want to risk making an issue over this. On the other hand, “I know that my boss is going to judge me for this” is about as concrete a reason as I can think of for doing / not doing something.

    1. LBK*

      I profoundly disagree with all of this. If your manager is an unreasonable person, there’s no sense in believing that their unreasonable demands are going to have any long term impact on your career. Even within the specific organization, there’s no other positions in the OP’s department, so it’s not even like she has to play by the boss’s rules if she wants to move around under that boss.

      I also really hate the idea that “because the boss says so” is by any means an acceptable or concrete reason to do something. You should always be willing and able to push back on a manager’s unreasonable requests. There may be occasional situations where it’s better in the short term to just suck it up, but doing that long term will make you miserable and will not be good for your career.

      1. KT*

        So this isn’t really unreasonable…if the boss says “Wearing jeans makes me view you as less professional”, well, I suppose you could press the issue and succeed, but then you’re viewed as unprofessional. She’s giving clear feedback about how the writer presents herself.

      2. fposte*

        And I disagree with your disagreement :-). Assuming it’s actually about jeans (which we don’t know–the OP is assuming and needs to clarify), it’s a single-point request and not a general unreasonableness, and it’s not in the scheme of the world that unreasonable anyway. Jeans aren’t a great blow for liberation that alter your daily existence. I get being annoyed that one unit’s rules are not the general run (again, assuming that’s the case because we don’t actually know it), but everybody’s under rules that somebody else isn’t, and I wouldn’t consider that worth a fight with a manager.

        1. LBK*

          I would say that this particular issue is one that you could just suck up because I agree it’s not *that* big of a deal and because the OP has already pushed back and gotten the same response. But I just fundamentally disagree with the idea that kowtowing to whatever a manager says is the best way to advance your career – maybe the best way to get promotions from people who appreciate submissiveness, but horrid for your quality of life.

          1. fposte*

            I agree with that; heaven knows we’ve seen some crazy and illegal manager demands at AAM.

            But in the grey area–not crazy, not illegal, not hugely demanding, but maybe not totally fair or completely logical–I’d say Be Bossed by the Boss.

          2. Colette*

            I don’t think it’s about kowtowing – I think it’s about knowing when and how to disagree (and being able to assess the consequences of doing so). If I worked for a manager who didn’t allow disagreement, I’d be very unhappy. If I worked for a manager who didn’t like her employees wearing jeans, I wouldn’t consider that a battle I needed to fight.

            1. LBK*

              I elaborated on this elsewhere, but I just want to throw out that it’s not so much about how badly I want to wear jeans (which is almost more punishment than reward during the humid summers here!) but rather the level of attention being paid to appearance and how it’s being used as a proxy for professionalism at a company that doesn’t otherwise seem to care if people wear jeans.

              As I write this, I think part of what bothers me is also following orders of a boss who seems to be out of sync with her company’s cultulre; that makes it hard for me to buy the idea that if there is a professionalism/perception issue, the jeans and/or the OP’s dress in general are what’s making the difference.

              1. fposte*

                I think that’s overreading, though–for one thing, “more professional” doesn’t mean the alternative is unprofessional, and for another, that’s the OP’s linkage and not her boss’s.

                And dress in general can absolutely make a difference. I think people object to dress distinctions because they’re obviously not logical, but neither are most cultural differentiations; language is the same way, but I still don’t want staff emailing stakeholders with “Received ur doc–it’s great uwu.”

                1. LBK*

                  Hmmm, I guess I can’t disagree with the language comparison other than to say that when discussing internally, I definitely do use more casual language than with clients or other external people. Although I suspect I’m an outlier in that I don’t really change the way I speak to someone internally whether it’s a peer or an exec.

                2. fposte*

                  I think some of this is that rare issue where it’s mostly about what it’s literally about–jeans really matter to people, whether pro or con. So comparisons don’t work so well.

                  My current feeling about jeans is that I want grey ones, because I do, and I can’t find nice ones.

              2. Colette*

                I kind of see this in the same category as a boss who isn’t happy if you’re not at your desk two minutes before you officially start, or who hates a particular font, or who prefers you start every email with a salutation. It’s a personal preference, and it’s not a big deal to accommodate.

                Also like those cases, it could be shorthand for something else – jeans are OK, but when you wear them, it looks like you picked them up off the floor and didn’t bother to shower, or when you wear jeans, you wear revealing tops or too-casual shirts advertising beer, or jeans are fine, but the ones you wear are too tight/loose. That doesn’t make it bad advise – it’s not complete, but it sounds like the OP was actually told to dress more professionally, and she jumped to jeans rather than that being the substance of her manager’s feedback.

                I used to work with a guy who wore sweats every day. He’s a great guy who is good at his job, but he’s never going to get a job where he meets with customers or move into management. Perception shouldn’t be the only thing that matters, but it is one of the things that matter.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        I just wrote below about how I lost a job for not taking an unreasonable boss’ opinion seriously and kept wearing what I wanted. It definitely affected my career negatively, and it took me two years to bounce back.

    2. NickelandDime*

      I agree Observer. I wouldn’t die on this hill. I’d also start paying attention to what she/he is saying about dressing more appropriately. These things can hurt you on a job.

      We’ve gone through the Jeans Drama at my current work place. I stayed above the fray by not wearing jeans, and when they finally said, “No jeans,” there was no adjustment for me to make. I knew what was coming.

  23. TracyDee*

    If my direct boss told me to dress professionally, I would not wear jeans. I don’t understand why it is so important to some people to wear jeans to work. A pair of slacks can be just as comfortable.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I do understand that, because that’s an extra expense. Business casual slacks usually isn’t the type of clothing you’d wear anywhere else but to work, because let’s face it, they’re pretty ugly and uncomfortable. And they wear out faster than jeans do, so need to be replaced more frequently! So while the rest of the company gets to utilize their current wardrobe, OP2 needs to splurge on 4-5 pairs of slacks that they’ll only wear to work, and possibly only until they change jobs. Expensive and not terribly fair.

      I was in that situation a few years ago when I went from OldOldJob, that allowed jeans any old day, to OldJob, that did not even have casual Fridays. All of a sudden I had to drop several hundred $$ on a bunch of ugly pants. And then do it again, when the ugly pants stretched out at the knees, faded and showed other signs of wear and tear.

      Not only that, but, unless OP2’s boss provided a reasonable explanation that we’re not privy to, as to why the company dress code does not apply to OP2, this sounds like an arbitrary demand, which to me is a red flag. Again, we don’t know. Maybe OP2 is the only person in the company who needs to meet with executive-level clients every day. Then her boss’s request is justified.

      1. Artemesia*

        You spend a huge amount of your life at work so having a special wardrobe just for work seems perfectly reasonable to me. It isn’t as if you are forced to buy something you will get little wear from as you note yourself when noting that they wear out and you need to buy more.

      2. Ad Astra*

        Yes! My biggest frustration with working in an office with a business professional dress code is that almost none of my work clothes can be worn anywhere else. I feel like I’m living a double life. But I do sometimes enjoy looking so fancy.

    2. Laurel Gray*

      I also just want to add that the work place isn’t like a night club where you wear something and as long as *you* are comfortable and confident in it then it is ok. If the boss has an issue with jeans, you don’t wear jeans and in the workplace, the boss ultimately determines if you look professional/polished.

      1. A Definite Beta Guy*

        that the work place isn’t like a night club

        the boss ultimately determines if you look professional/polished

        These are not universal norms. At my mother’s unionized plant, the union does not feel management has any role in dictating dress code. They expressly defended that right in legal form.

        A shift supervisor who tried to say “well, I don’t police jeans, but I don’t really like it” would be hounded by union stewards until he/she quit.

        This does not make their factory a nightclub. They would likely resent the idea that management dictates are Commandments from the Business Gods or that they are unprofessional for defending their right to wear reasonable clothing.

        1. A Dispatcher*

          Wait, so is there no dress code? Like I could show up in a bathing suit and boo hiss to my manager who has a problem with that because management has no right to tell me otherwise? Or is it a union dictated dress code, or what?

      2. MashaKasha*

        No it’s not like a nightclub, which is why it has a dress code. (As probably does a nightclub, but I digress.) And OP2 just happens to be compliant with their company’s dress code. Isn’t that one of the reasons why the dress code exists in the first place – so employees could have these guidelines in writing, instead of having to cater to the whim of whoever happens to be their boss today? what if OP’s next boss doesn’t like the color brown and tells them that, “I don’t police brown, but you really shouldn’t be wearing it”?

        1. Laurel Gray*

          “I don’t police brown, but you really shouldn’t be wearing it” and “thinks wearing jeans could be holding me back and making me look less professional” are really two different things, the former being pretty unreasonable. I do not think the OP’s boss was unreasonable even though I can understand the frustration.

          And actually, night clubs do have a dress code enforced by the doorman and they too make decisions similar to the OP’s boss. Only you can choose to wear what you want and possibly be denied entry for the night, not quite the same as being sent home, written up, or denied advancement at work. The OP’s thinks the OP’s choice of denim isn’t great for her professional look – without pictures we do not know what is. Just like a doorman at a night club can choose to deny entry to a person and grant entry to someone else wearing the same dress because the overall look is vastly different.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Reading OP’s update above, her boss didn’t even mention denim, and when asked directly about it, said something like “yeah probably”. She did however say that she’d like to see OP dress more professionally. So jeans might not even be the issue here. If the boss said “you cannot wear…” (whatever the company’s dress code is) then I’d still say she’s being unreasonable. But that wasn’t what she said at all.

  24. Althea*

    #1 reminds me of one time I started a new job. I was showed our kitchen with communal mugs, plates, etc. and the system for washing up. My habit is to keep a mug for tea and a drinking glass at my desk. Each day I finish the drinks and leave it at my desk to rinse and re-use without having to go fetch another one every day.

    So all the mugs are different, and a pick a small one because I prefer that. I’m drinking out of it one day, and an admin comes over to me and says, “ah-ha! There it is!” She tells me it’s the CEO’s mug. I say, oh, I’m sorry, it was in the communal mug area. I’ll wash it and put it back when I’m finished today.

    Oh, no, that wouldn’t work. She went and got me a different mug and stood over me while I poured my tea into the new mug, then seized the small one away from me.

    I’ve since seen lots of other people using the mug.

    1. Paige Turner*

      I’m curious to know if this was the only weird behavior from that co-worker and that job, or if the mug incident was just the beginning…

    2. INFJ*

      Yup. I’ve seen coworkers (at LastJob) with less authority than a CEO get possessive over communal supplies.

    3. Tau*

      Woooooow. If you don’t want people using your mug, keep it out of the communal mug area! Otherwise any misuse is really your own fault.

      NewJob has a spreadsheet of all employees’ personal mugs hanging out in the kitchen to prevent these sorts of situations! Also data on how everyone takes their coffee and/or tea – I had to fill out a form my first day of employment so I could get added to the list. Efficiency! (Can you tell I work in tech?)

      1. MashaKasha*

        OldOldJob had an executive kitchen. Under no circumstances were any of us allowed to use the executive kitchen for anything. Emails were sent out to warn us to stay out of it. While it did rub me the wrong way (it being a small company), this is still better than planting a double-secret CEO mug in a communal kitchen and then swooping in on any poor soul who uses it by accident.

        Personally though, I bring my own dishes and silverware, have my own mug, and keep all of it out of the communal area. I’ve had coworkers who’d stick their hand down their pants and root inside their butt crack as they were standing in an aisle or a hallway talking to others. (Yes, coworkers as in plural, one male and one female.) Seeing that turned me off using communal dishes, silverware and plasticware forever. I’m pretty cautious about potluck food or shared food too for that same reason.

  25. MsChanandlerBong*

    OP #3:

    I’ve been freelancing for 11 years, so I say this based on my own experience. I highly suggest you start looking for additional clients immediately. I once relied on one company for about 90 percent of my monthly income, and I was making serious cash for a while. Until the company went out of business. Then I had almost no money coming in, and it was a very rough time for me financially. If you have $20K in the bank, then it’s probably not as important, but I’d recommend looking for more clients (especially if your main client can’t manage to pay on time).

    1. LW #3*

      Thanks for your suggestion. On paper, it makes sense, but there’s no way I can take on additional hours. My week is already maxed out and then some. However, we’re a dual income family so I have faith that we’ll be ok. Or if not, we’ll bounce back.

    2. Splishy*

      This. Your biggest clients are also your biggest risk. If they decide one day to stop using your services or get into cash flow problems you are out a sizable chunk of your income (90% in your case).

      You also see these kinds of problems in towns that depend on one large employer. The company goes bankrupt or the mine closes and *everyone* is out of work, from the direct employees to the diner that depended on the lunch crowd.

  26. Erin*

    #1 – I would avoid drinking the special water for the most part, but you specifically stated that you guys had run out of the normal folk water. In that case, I think it’s fine.

    #2 – Exactly was Alison said at the end – do forward her that email so she knows where you’re coming from, but then leave the decision up to her.

    #3 – I like the idea of charging a late fee. Honestly, I don’t think it would be unreasonable for you to reach out to someone else, ideally above her, if talking to her first doesn’t work. This is pretty unacceptable. I bet the other non-freelancing bills she’s paying are somehow managing to get to the right person on time.

    #5 – No, they don’t have to fix it. Scheduling errors happen constantly in retail, and if your friend wants or needs a consistent schedule she’ll need to get out of that retail environment.

  27. Somewhere Over the Rainbow*

    OP#2 — let it go. your boss has told you not to wear jeans. Don’t wear them. If you push it, I think you will appear unprofessional and possibly like a whiner. If you want to wear jeans, work at the Gap.

  28. Renn*

    All I can say is, if my boss asked for a special item not already stocked to be stocked in part to help treat a condition — and everyone in the office knew this — I believe 100 percent of the employees would let the boss be the one to have that item. Because, BOSS. Yeah go ahead and take as many of those H20s as you want, but don’t think for one second that’s not reflecting on you.

    1. Renn*

      I don’t understand the hills some people want to die on. It’s clearly already reflecting poorly on the OP and upsetting people at the office.

      1. zora*

        I don’t it’s fair for people to judge the OP when the office is *out* of the regular water and there is no other water to drink. I would agree if they just started randomly drinking the more expensive water, but this is different. I wouldn’t judge my coworker for not getting dehydrated at work.

  29. Lily in NYC*

    #2 – Please read my cautionary tale: at my first “real” job, I heard that the #2 guy (not my immediate boss) mentioned that he thought I wore my skirts too short. Instead of taking that to heart, I chose to be offended because his “favorite” wore her skirts even shorter and he didn’t care. So I decided he was just an ass and kept wearing what I wanted. When we lost funding and had to lay off 25% of the employees, my name was on the list even though I got stellar reviews and had just gotten a promotion. The guy who hated my skirts is the one who decided who was getting laid off, and I’m sure he was gleeful when he wrote down my name. Lesson learned the hard way. It doesn’t matter that he was unfairly playing favorites because he’s the boss and gets to do so.

    1. NickelandDime*

      This is unfortunate, but it’s definitely something people need to hear. These things that don’t seem to be a “big deal” can certainly be a big deal. Jeans at work isn’t something to grab a pitchfork over. It may not seem “fair,” or whatever, but why not use the opportunity to build a smart, professional work wardrobe and focus on your performance?

      1. Lily in NYC*

        It sucked because I loved that job and industry, but I know I have no one to blame but myself.

        1. Ad Astra*

          I’m not convinced you’re the only one to blame here. It might have been wiser to adjust your skirts, but 25% is a huge layoff. I bet many well-liked, competent people lost their jobs for any number of reasons or no reason at all. There’s no way to be sure that dressing to please this coworker would have saved your job. Layoffs just suck.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I’m 100% sure it was the reason. My supervisor told me (he was furious because he wasn’t warned because the guy who wanted to get rid of me knew he’d fight it and win).

  30. Anonymous Educator*

    For #2, does it have anything to do with the fact that you’re in the marketing department? Is it public-facing? I used to work in admissions at a school that had a fairly lax dress code for faculty and staff (some of the adults wore shower shoes or “barefoot” shoes to work), but the whole admission office had to be all spiffy, because we were essentially the “marketing” department for the school.

  31. YandO*

    What’s wrong with jeans?

    Well-fitted jeans with nice shirts and a moderate heel look tons better than poorly fitting slacks with washed out old shirt and frumpy looking shoes

    And don’t even get me started on the fact that 80% of people wear the wrong size suit, which to me, looks so much worse than jeans.

    It’s about the image one presents and that image does not depend on jeans. I think people often need rules (like no jeans) in order to avoid being responsible for themselves or for the people they manage.

    I also really dislike when employers don’t trust me to have common sense. I know to dress up for client meetings, just as I knew to wear a suit to an interview. At the same time, I really am not going to be happy if I have to dress up on the days I am sitting at my desk and not a single soul can see or care what’s under the desk.

    To me the biggest problem in the working world so far (very young here) is that employers to do not trust my judgement and that really frustrates me. I don’t need rules to do the right thing. I need guidance and feedback. Those are very different.

    1. NickelandDime*

      There’s nothing wrong with jeans. Nothing at all.

      In the case of OP#2, her manager seems to have a problem with them, and she/he wants OP#2 to dress professionally. The manager seems to have strong feelings on what that is. OP#2 should heed the warning and dress accordingly.

      I understand where people are coming from…but it is what it is, sometimes. We need to eat and have a place to live. Until we win the lottery or open our own companies and write our own paychecks…those are the breaks. Wearing jeans to work isn’t worth risking our livelihoods.

    2. Wilton Businessman*

      We have rules because of that one knucklehead who just doesn’t have common sense and does not respond to guidance and feedback.

      1. NickelandDime*

        Right. Things went wrong with “casual Friday” with folks wearing crazy things like hats and sweat pants and that was the end of “casual Friday.”

    3. Ad Astra*

      Unfortunately, I am the queen of dumpy-looking dress pants and ill-fitting button-up shirts. It took me years of trial and error to get good at dressing for my shape/size/budget in casual settings, but I still haven’t mastered it in the office.

      1. Tau*

        I need to get some short-sleeve button-up shirts this weekend for the office and I’m already dreading it. Why does the standard “acceptably professional” top have to be of a type where it can be near-impossible to find a good fit? Someone tell me, what do I have to do to get T-shirts declared professional wear?

  32. Macedon*

    OP #2 – one of my personal pet peeves involves poorly done up neckties. It irritates me to comical degrees to see a lumpy, slack or negligently folded tie. I have knotted mine successfully for years and can’t for the world of me fathom how this basic skill exhausts the dexterity of many gentlemen I supervise. Being a semi-reasonable individual on most days, I don’t have Words with everyone who incites me unholy tie wrath.

    The main point of this cathartic anecdote being: if you know your supervisor to be relatively sane, trust that s/he’s not bringing up the issue on a whim and that your overall presentation is expected to influence how you are perceived internally or externally. Most decent supervisors us can refrain themselves from letting personal preferences trump commonsense mandates. If your supervisor has given you reason to question him/her otherwise, hold on to your concerns, but act as s/he says anyway. Pick your battles.

    The secondary point being: please knot your ties decently. Think of me. Think of my twitching eyebrow.

  33. Reba*

    OP #3 — when my spouse freelances they use an online service called Harvest (monthly cost is small, and I think there is a free trial period). There may be others out there too. You track your hours with it, and then it generates and sends your invoices to the client for you, *AND can automatically send escalating reminder emails*. Since the major source of stress, at least for my spouse, is nagging people about money, doing it at this slight remove makes the whole thing much more pleasant.

    And second the advice about a late fee. Add it to your terms on your invoices, where it says Net 30 or whatever. Notify your client of the change (i.e. don’t ask, but inform them that you have updated your terms in keeping with the current best practices for freelancers).

    Good luck!

  34. inkstainedpages*

    A question tangentially related to #5 – I have never understood why places (like retail/dining) choose to schedule week by week. Anyone know why they do this rather than having a more regular/set schedule? Why can’t it work more like an office where you have set times you’re supposed to be there every week and then you can ask specific time off or trade shifts if needed?

    My husband works in customer service right now, and it drives me crazy that we can never plan anything because he doesn’t know his schedule until the week before it happens. I wish they would at least create the schedule a month in advance.

    1. LCL*

      Because they are trying to keep labor costs as low as possible. By scheduling as close to real time as possible, in theory the business can more closely match the people on shift to the anticipated customer load. Sucks for the workers. Sucks even worse to be scheduled, work for a half hour then be told to clock out and go home because there were no customers. Or be told to clock out but hang around so you can clock back in if more customers show up.

      1. Sif*

        Bingo! Also, retail/service jobs tend to have high turnover with little notice, so if someone quits/gets fired, the week-by-week scheduling allows for minimal re-arranging. As far as wanting time off, where I work, we can either ask verbally if it’s just for a few hours, and if we want a day or more, we just fill out a sheet for it, and it’s almost always granted.

      2. ginger ale for all*

        “Or be told to clock out but hang around so you can clock back in if more customers show up.”

        Wouldn’t this be illegal?

  35. Splishy*

    Just wondering, how important is being able to wear jeans to work for most people?

    At a previous employer, we did software development (no client contact) with a business casual dress code and jeans only allowed on designated “jeans days”. No casual Fridays – there were only about 3-4 jeans days a year, mostly before long holiday weekends. Most men wore polos and khakis or button down shirt (not necessarily a dress shirt) – no tie or jacket – and slacks. Women tended to wear nice slacks and a nice top. The thing most people seems excited about when the company was bought out was that the new dress code allowed casual Fridays every week.

    Is there really that much difference between khakis and polos or jeans and a sweatshirt with your favorite sports team’s logo on it? I mean, I can understand if you had to wear a full suit every day where casual days are a nice break, but the difference between “business casual” and “casual casual” seems so minimal to consider as part of the perks for employment.

    1. Dang*

      I wonder the same thing. I’m sitting here in a nice skirt that literally feels like I’m wearing yoga pants. I’d choose that over jeans any day.

      But when I started here, they told me it’s casual, people wear jeans all the time, etc. So for the first few weeks/months, I wore jeans every day. But I started noticing that I was literally the least nicely dressed person in the office (even though I was wearing nice jeans/nice tops) so I started dressing better and honestly, I like it. But that’s just me. I had all of the clothes from a prior job, but I could understand not wanting (or not being able to) to incur the extra expense.

      When it comes down to it, though, if my boss made those comments to me I’d probably never wear jeans to work again.

      1. Splishy*

        I had all of the clothes from a prior job

        I went from the employer I described above (maybe on the higher end of business casual) to a much more casual environment. I did buy a few more pairs of nice looking jeans because there are some practical concerns (I’m sometimes out on the manufacturing floor), but otherwise it seems wasteful to not use a whole closet-full of perfectly good clothes.

      2. cuppa*

        Our AC is broken and even though jeans are allowed, nothing sounds more miserable to me today than wearing a pair of heavy jeans. Skirts all the way!

    2. A Definite Beta Guy*

      To me? No big deal. But apparently it’s a big deal to a lot of other people in my office. Not really my place to tell them they are “wrong.”

    3. A Bug!*

      I’m lost on it myself. I don’t find jeans any more comfortable than any of my work pants. Now, sweatpants? I would definitely pay money to wear sweats to work without taking a hit to my professional reputation.

    4. dancer*

      For me, it’s easier to find well fitting jeans than it is dress pants. It also means I don’t need separate pant wardrobes, which saves me space and money.

    5. Tinker*

      Actual physical wearing of actual jeans, or pants on that same level of formality: Moderately important. I have some weird quirks about how my clothes can fit and khakis generally don’t make the cut, wearing things that don’t tolerate moderate physical activity and incidental exposure to dirt gracefully bothers me, and I hate the way I look in “business casual” clothes. Being required to dress a given way at work means that I’m required to dress a given way quite a lot and to dedicate rather a lot of my wardrobe to supporting that mode of attire; consequently, that in itself is a significant quality of life factor.

      Being in an environment where in general the major topic of discussion regards one’s work activities is always what you are doing and nearly never what you are wearing: VERY important. I realize that other people enjoy working in places where image management that is tied to conventional appearance is an important part of the job (for me, image management that is tied to eccentric image is a nice bonus but not strictly imperative), but I don’t. Just these conversations here where the first thing that “professional” means is how you dress, it’s a favor when your company makes you pay money to wear perfectly ordinary clothing items, and where generally the question of jeans or no jeans is worth a lot of handwringing over has a way of frustrating me from just reading it. There’s no way I’d want to work all day at a place that is like that all the time.

      1. Shortie*

        “I have some weird quirks about how my clothes can fit and khakis generally don’t make the cut, wearing things that don’t tolerate moderate physical activity and incidental exposure to dirt gracefully bothers me, and I hate the way I look in ‘business casual’ clothes.”

        Tinker, count me quirky as well. It is nice to know there is someone else who doesn’t like clothes that don’t tolerate moderate physical activity or incidental exposure to dirt. I wear jeans all the time because they are sturdy. Not allowed to wear them to the office (sigh) so I spend the whole day feeling like I’m walking on eggshells. My suits are high quality and fit well, so I suppose it’s less physical discomfort and more anxiety about tearing them up. I get more work done on the rare days in the office when I’ve been able to wear jeans. To me, comfortable = productive.

        Ugh, and no business casual for me, either. I look terrible in it, so go with either jeans or nice suits.

    6. INFJ*

      At LastJob, it was so casual (and night shift) that people could and did wear pajamas sometimes. I like to dress up for my current office job, but my only issue with not dressing casual is that I already own about 15 pairs of comfortable jeans, but only had 1 pair of nice pants when I started my current position. My body type is extremely difficult to buy pants and skirts for (normal weight, but very short and disproportionate), so buying new clothes is exhausting and frustrating. Wearing professinal clothes wouldn’t bother me one bit if I had a more extensive wardrobe.

  36. mel*

    2. Outside of work hours, I pretty much always wear jeans for the sake of convenience, so I’m not really familiar with other “types” of pants, personally. To me, jeans kind of feel heavy and restricting, so I have to assume that other types of pants must feel like bear traps and light your leg hairs on fire if so many people want to avoid them so badly!

    I have one pair of black pants I wear for work that are so light and comfortable I wish I didn’t ruin them by wearing them to work. Grass is greener, I guess.

    5. In the shift jobs I’ve worked, schedules do tend to evolve slightly as people come and go, but it IS possible to settle into a sort of scheduling “rut” in which it’s all the same every week. Friend’s workplace either must be generously staffed or they really just “forgot” meaning “forcing friend to quit instead of firing her”. If it happens again next week, well then…

  37. Wilton Businessman*

    My company is “business casual” Monday through Thursday and Jeans on Friday. I manage a group of IT people within a larger organization. The other managers in the group are lax and let their people wear jeans whenever they want. Some managers even wear Jeans during the week.

    In my group it’s “business casual” Monday through Thursday and Jeans on Friday only. When they wear Jeans on a Tuesday or Wednesday, I send them home to change. I am a prick about it because a Director once asked me why XXX was in Jeans on a Tuesday and I don’t want to have to answer that question unless there is extraordinary circumstances. (XXX was in Jeans on a Tuesday because he had to come in at 2am to bring up a down system and was still there).

    I don’t care what other managers in the group do, this is the way I handle it. I have a lot of Khakis.

  38. Nanc*

    When I worked in higher ed, our department did not allow jeans. We were continuing ed and our director felt we had a hard time being taken seriously by the rest of the campus (even though we were self-supporting and always finished in the black the 12 years I was there) so she asked us to always dress professionally. That said, the day I showed up in jeans because there was a flood in town and I had to wade to my car in my wellies, she was surprised I made it in to the office and didn’t say a word about how I dressed. We were the only 2 who made it in.

    Been in marketing a long time and even if I have no outside appointments, I dress as if I do. Occasionally I do wear jeans but I have the emergency back-up professional clothes at the office just in case. If you like the job and your boss, I would let the jeans thing go.

  39. Oryx*

    The jeans thing reminds me of OldJob where every once in awhile we’d have dress down days where we could pay to wear jeans and money would go to charity. While this was approved and allowed for the entire staff, department heads had final say for their employees and there were certain departments that were not allowed to wear jeans on these days no matter what.

    Like someone else said, specific rules trump general ones.

  40. Ad Astra*

    Is OP #1’s office supplying bottled water for everyone? Why not get some kind of a cooler? Depending on your fridge capacity, it might mean you’ll run out of the regular water less often. It’s also better for the environment and less expensive. It’s weird to me that the company is buying bottled water by the pallet for employees’ daily use because it seems so wasteful.

    As for the special water, I’m getting the feeling that it should be fair game just like the Vitamin Water and whatever else is being stocked at some employee’s suggestion. But, since the boss’s water is part of his strategy to manage a health condition, it’s a good idea to ask. Just say, “Hey, Percival, I know you request [product] because it helps your [condition]. Is that supply for everyone, or just for you?” It also would be kind to make sure you’re never taking the last of the fancy water.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Agreed. At my old job, we had a really fancy water dispenser that hooked up to the tap water, filtered it, and chilled and heated it (respectively, depending on which you asked for). That may be another option – not even a need for a regular delivery service, just periodic filter replacement.

  41. Oui*

    Has no one mentioned the cost and hassle of dry cleaning? I think that’s worth a slight bit of pushback on the boss in OP#2’s case. It’s a fair bit of money and people should definitely suck it up when it’s the whole office but it’s pretty egregious if it’s only OP who has to dress up…

  42. Cassie*

    I really want to work in a healthcare field where I get to wear scrubs – my closets would be so empty and uncluttered! Though that might get boring after a while.

    My take on LW #2’s situation – her boss has made it clear that she prefers jeans to be limited to Fridays. The “I’m not going to police it but it may hold you back” may be a weird way of putting it but I don’t see the point of bringing up the email or what other employees wear – this is the boss’s preference and she has the authority to set standards the way she sees fit. Working at a university, we’re allowed to pretty much wear whatever we want. Some people dress up a little, some people wear jeans and t-shirts. Some departments, like Accounts Payable, have to dress business casual even though they don’t meet with anyone in person (either other employees or outside vendors) – it’s solely because they work in the same building as the university’s corporate/finance/higher-ups so that’s what the bosses decided.

  43. Cari*

    #1 – “$3/bottle water that has some additives to help him with a condition he’s dealing with”

    Are you not able to drink tap water instead of water provided specifically for someone dealing with condition?

  44. Any Mouse*

    The jeans the sounds more like the manager’s preferences rather than the OP not having the right look. I worked for a very large organization and my department at a satellite site. Still in the same town just a different location.

    The organization allowed jeans on Fridays and khakis were allowed during the week. I think the men were encouraged to wear suit and tie but not required.

    Except my section where the Big Boss there expected a level of formality. No jeans at all. Khakis only on Fridays. Men had to wear button down shirts and ties except on Fridays. We weren’t business formal but not not business casual either. It was always referee to as business casual but it wasnt.

    And it could get frustrating having to go to the main offices and see people dressed more casually but it’s what our Big Boss wanted so it’s what we did.

  45. jon vonn*

    #5 is often a way to fire a person, but not get dinged for unemployment. Technically you are employed. This is a trick to get you to leave. IMO do start looking for a new dependable job.

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