coworker is constantly coughing and blowing her nose, legal names and job applications, and more

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

1. My coworker is constantly coughing and blowing her nose

My coworker who I share an office with has been sick for the past month and a half. She hates going to the doctor or taking medicine, but finally went a week ago and got some antibiotics and cough medicine. The cough medicine has codeine in it, so she can’t take it during work hours. The antibiotics don’t seem to be helping. My issue is with her constant cough and nose blowing. It’s the long, gaspy Grandpa-type wheezing cough, and honky blowing nose that sounds like it’s out of a cartoon. Both VERY LOUD. She will even go to the restroom, get tissue, and bring it back to her desk, then blow her nose. When she blows her nose, she places the used tissue on her desk, uses no hand sanitizer, and continues her work – spreading these germs everywhere.

I asked my supervisor if she could say something, and she said she couldn’t do anything but I could email our office nurse. I did so, and we actually had another coworker email her last week about this issue also. The nurse said she had spoken to her, gave a phamplet about spreading germs, gave samples of hand sanitizer, but couldn’t tell her to to go to the restroom to blow her nose because it is a “common sense issue.” She told me that office mates usually are comfortable enough with each other that I could ask her to stop blowing her nose in our office. But I’m not that comfortable with her, which is why I turned to my supervisor for help in the first place. I feel like my supervisor thinks I’m being petty, but I wonder how she would feel if she were put in my position. We also work in a home health and hospice facility, so you would think this sort of thing would be stopped immediately. I am at my wit’s end about where to go from here. It’s to the point I am considering finding another job because this happens every time she is sick. This has just been the longest time because it took five weeks for her to go to the doctor. Am I being petty? Should I have to sit and be uncomfortable and grossed out in my workspace?

I totally get why this is distracting and grossing you out. But there’s really nothing that can be done about the cough and the fact that she has to blow her nose; she’s getting over an illness, and this comes with the territory when you work around other people. (It’s almost certainly worse for her than it is for you though, which could be useful to keep in mind.)

I would guess that your manager is declining to get involved because she can’t reasonably order someone to stop coughing and blowing her nose, and may not be up for micromanaging adults on precisely where and how to blow it.

But there’s no reason that you, as a coworker, can’t at least address the dirty tissues by saying something like, “Jane, would you mind putting tissues in the trash right after you use them to lower the chances of spreading germs?”

Of course, that’s only going to take care of part of this, and I get the sense the noise is bothering you more. And I agree that noise of any kind is distracting … but only you can decide if it outweighs the major hassles and impact on your career of changing jobs over something like this. (Keep in mind, though, that you could easily run into the exact same problem at the next job!)

2. Do I have to put my legal name on job applications?

I would like to know if it makes any difference whether you fill in application forms with your legal name vs your nickname/preferred name? My official legal name is a Chinese name, and most people butcher it or get confused when attempting to say it. I’m also self-conscious about it because some people have an innate bias against employing people with VERY ethnic-sounding names (and I’m not talking about something simple like Mei or Li). I’m actually born in the USA and I clearly have full citizenship, but people are surprised and ask why I have a Chinese name. It’s extremely annoying, and I don’t want to have to explain my parents’ choices.

I’ve been filling out my applications with my preferred name, and my resume uses my preferred name, but now I wonder, do some employers attempt to do background checks on me? And if they can’t find a background because I used a different name, does that affect my chances of employment?

It’s true that putting something other than your legal name could cause problems with a background check, but it’s also true that there’s still plenty of unconscious bias around that employers often don’t even realize is factoring into their thinking.

While the standard advice is usually to put your full legal name on an application form, I really don’t think it would cause issues if you just gave the employer a heads-up once you were at or nearing the background check stage. (Background checks are usually done at the very end of the hiring process, not early on; employers wait until you’re a finalist since they’re time-consuming and expensive.)

And people asking why you have a Chinese name suck.

3. How will my 17 vacation days at my new job work if I’m starting close to the end of the year?

I just got a job offer and have 17 vacation days. My job doesn’t start until mid-October. I’m eager to start the position however I wouldn’t want vacation to go to waste. Are vacation days for a 12-month period? Or valid until the end of the year and another 17 vacation days given at the beginning of the next year?

It’s up to your employer, but most companies handle vacation per calendar year. However, it’s very, very likely that those days are going to be prorated. If you get an annual allotment of 17 days and you’re only employed there, say, 12 weeks this year, that’s 23% of the year and with many companies that would mean you’d get 23% of that annual allotment — meaning four days. Another common arrangement is that you don’t get all 17 days on January 1, but rather accrue a piece of that per pay period; for example, you might accrue one-third of a day each week you’re employed, which would total 17 by the end of the year.

But regardless of all of that, you really don’t want to start a new job and take 17 days off (nearly a full month of work days) in your first three months.

4. Staffing agency re-listed my new job

I just started a three-month contract position with a new company. I have the position through a staffing/temp agency. I’m working directly under the company’s CEO for this special project. He seems to really like the work I’ve done so far and I am interfacing well with the other employees I have to work with on this project. Nice place, good atmosphere, been getting along with coworkers and I think I picked up on their software and (sort of specialized) industry quickly.

I received a call from my contact at the staffing agency. He called to see how I felt about the new job. He said they told him they really loved me over there and felt it was a good fit. I said I felt the same way. So all is good, right?

I’m way ahead of schedule on the project (much to the CEO’s delight) and I don’t think I’ll be there the whole three months. My contract specifically says the timeframe is “until the project is completed” not a length of time, so I figure I could work myself out of a job in a month. So, I start checking out the job listings for a similar job, figure I will send out a few resumes and cover letters while I still am pulling in an income and suddenly I see a listing for… my job! The position I have now was re-posted by the staffing agency the Saturday after my first day. It’s been about two weeks since then. Is the staffing agency just covering their butts and trying to have a pool of candidates in reserve? Is this something to worry about?

There are lots of possible explanations for this, such as that it’s for a different job than yours or that it was simply re-listed by mistake. But why not just ask your agency and put your mind at ease?

5. Reapplying for a job I was rejected for previously

In April, I applied for a job position within a company. I got up to the second interview with the hiring manager, but unfortunately I couldn’t pass the aptitude test because I wasn’t prepared enough at that time.

So I been applying for the same position again repeatedly since then, but I been declined for the first interview because they said I don’t meet the job qualifications, which I don’t think is the case because I was qualified for the same job position a few months ago. Would it be a good idea to contact the recruiter who I spoke to first and ask for help, since she reviewed my qualifications on the past?

I think this one is gone. When they told you that you’re not qualified, they meant based on what they know of your candidacy now, which includes the earlier interviews and the aptitude test. They’ve gotten to know you a bit and rightly or wrongly made the judgment that you’re not right for the position. I would stop applying for this one and move on.

{ 302 comments… read them below }

  1. Charby*

    Letting go of a job that you’ve made some progress on is one of the harder parts of the progress. It’s easier to forget about a job where your application just fell into a black hole but when you actually made it to the interview stage or the testing stage before being rejected it’s like the whole “the one that got away”.

    It’s definitely important to move on though. Applying over and over (and being rejected every single time) can start to wear on your self-esteem too which can get in the way of you kicking ass on an interview for another great job sometime down the line.

    (From the employer’s perspective — they may not want to give everyone second chances on the test even though they know that some people flub it because of an anxiety issue rather than pure lack of ability; if they did that, it would probably take up so much time that they could never give new applicants their *first* chance.)

  2. pony tailed wonder*

    LW1 – Why not get her a ‘gift’ of a bottle of hand sanitizer that she can keep at her desk? Just tell her that you see how miserable she is and that you don’t want her picking up additional germs because you care about her health. Chances are, she will get the hint that you don’t want to pick up her germs. Coat the message in sugar and see if she swallows it.

    1. snuck*

      I would find that really passive aggressive… I’d rather someone just say to me “Look you seem really ill, can I help out? And by the way do you mind if you blow your nose and put your tissue straight in the bin, I’m trying to avoid catching colds for personal reasons right now”… and be up front about it.

      People don’t know what your story is. I don’t want colds because my son has serious asthma and severe allergies which means he can’t have the flu shot. Every cold here results in doctors visits and prescriptions and blood oxygen monitoring. No one at work would know that.

      1. Zillah*

        I agree. I’d be really bothered if someone broached the topic with me in that way rather than just being upfront.

      2. Charby*


        Though honestly, does anyone need a reason to avoid a cold? Colds pretty much suck for everyone; someone who currently has a cold is acutely aware of how unpleasant they are and they should be able to understand without any context why someone would rather not catch one.

      3. MashaKasha*

        Most people would guess it, though, because a lot of us have family members who we cannot afford giving our colds to. In my case it was my elderly parents who came over to my house every day (My mom’s immune system has gotten much worse in her 60s, and my dad had cancer for the last 5 years of his life.) No way could I give them a cold. There was one Typhoid Mary coworker to whom I didn’t say anything, and now wish I had. Since her, though, I grew up and stopped being afraid of saying, I’ve got a family situation where I really cannot be contagious. Can you help?

        I think it would be totally OK for OP1 to ask up front if her coworker can throw the tissues in the bin and use hand sanitizer. It’s a reasonable request.

        1. harryv*

          If I were her manager, I would ask her take sick leave if the coughing and sniffing is a cold and is contagious.

          1. MashaKasha*

            My last two jobs have had a policy where you pretty much have to WFH when you’re contagious. You manager will send you home if you come in. We used to have massive office-wide cold and flu outbreaks before this policy, and it’s gotten a lot better after. I do understand that not everyone can WFH, but for those that do, it’s a good solution.

    2. Not Today Satan*

      I don’t really see how that would help. An infectious person who’s sneezing and coughing a lot is pretty much always going to have germs on her person. And I hope that she’s not infectious anymore, what with how long she’s been sick and that she’s taken antibiotics.

      1. Not Today Satan*

        Not to mention, there is no evidence that hand sanitizers reduce the risk of getting sick.Last year the FDA was considering taking them off the shelves, but I don’t know what happened with that.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          Anecdotally, I’ve been bathing in hand sanitizer since my immuno compromised daughter was born and I’m getting sick a LOT less. Like a fraction of the contagious crap I caught before my obsession with hand sanitizer.

        2. Natalie*

          I think you might be thinking of triclosan, which is in antibacterial soap. Alcohol gel hand sanitizer are effective against most diseases. (Not norovirus, oddly.)

        3. blackcat*

          It’s my understanding that the FDA was considering taking hand sanitizers with some particular anti-microbal chemical off the market because it’s been shown to have some bad side effects.

          Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are really fine and are highly effective at killing most germs. And they’re very safe–at worst, they dry out your hands (which is why lots come with Aloe or something else in them).

          I err on the other side as Bend & Snap–I found that after my first year of teaching (when I was always sick), I NEVER got sick. I just waded in all the germs. Embraced them. And my immune system was stronger for it, I think. That said, I was probably a carrier for all of those illnesses, so it’s not a good strategy if you’re around someone with a weakened immune system. I have the attitude that a certain amount of exposure to illnesses is healthy, particularly if I can get only low-level exposures. This is how live vaccines work, so it makes sense to me.

        4. fposte*

          The FDA did push earlier this year for a reinvestigation into all kinds of hand sanitizer, but that wasn’t a consideration of taking them off the shelf, it was a consideration of the effects on users of a substantially greater exposure since the stuff was first investigated @40 years ago. CDC still recommends it though makes it clear it’s inferior to soap and water.

          1. Bostonian*

            This makes a lot of sense, actually. People who work in a health care setting are now being told to use the stuff *constantly*, like before every patient appointment and before entering any hospital room. And that’s been really good for keeping germs from spreading, but it does seem worth at least looking at whether it’s posing any risk to the health care workers, either from the stuff itself or from the commonly added moisturizers.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, it didn’t occur to me until I read that and then it seemed obvious–the stuff is being used really differently now, and that’s a heck of a lot of exposure.

      2. Cruella DaBoss*

        A chronic cougher may not be “infectious.” Seasonal allergies also cause mucus production and cough. If this has been going on for a month, it very well could be allergies, as the average cold lasts seven to ten days. Obviously this person has been to the doctor, who prescribed what was necessary. I am sure that this person does not like the coughing and nose-blowing anymore than the OP.

        1. la Contessa*

          Exactly. Some people just cough for weeks even after they aren’t contagious anymore, every single time they are sick. It’s the post-nasal drip causing “tickly throat,” as I call it. My sinuses hate me, I’m very familiar with the three-week cough (it’s been going on my whole life, so yes, I named the various parts).

        2. Erin*

          As a chronic cougher myself this occurred to me as well, but I think the OP made it clear this woman is sick sick – she’s admitted to hating doctors and medicine and avoided going, letting herself get worse. I don’t think it’s an allergy or asthma kind of cough.

          1. Cato*

            Well, doctors can’t really do anything for a cold. Unless the cold is caused by an underlying immune disorder that needs treatment.

        3. MashaKasha*

          Generally speaking, yeah a person with a cold is only contagious for a period of five days or so. But this person has been prescribed antibiotics by her Dr after she’d been sick non-stop for five weeks. Wouldn’t that mean that she was contagious during those entire five weeks? The Dr. wouldn’t prescribe her antibiotics if it was an allergy, would he?

          After a day or two of taking the antibiotic, though, she shouldn’t be contagious anymore, no matter whether she’s sneezing or not.

          1. Log Lady*

            The Dr. wouldn’t prescribe her antibiotics if it was an allergy, would he?
            Yes. Antibiotics are over prescribed. A lot of doctors will prescribe their patients antibiotics because they ask for them, thinking they will make them feel better. If she just had a cold, antibiotics wouldn’t do any good anyhow cause it’s a virus. This is one of the reasons we’re seeing multi antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria, because of the misuse and over prescription of antibiotics.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule*

              Untreated allergies can cause sinus infections that need to be treated with antibiotics. I was diagnosed with serious environmental allergies last year after I sought treatment for hearing loss. My allergies had led to a sinus infection that I’d unknowingly had for over 6 months and the mucus from the sinus infection was causing my hearing problems. It took mega doses of the antibiotic that’s used to treat the Plague to kill my infection.

            2. Just another techie*

              I’ve never experienced that. In fact, I’ve been berated by doctors for coming in and asking them to do a culture to determine if my illness was viral or bacterial. Whole long lecture about how colds and allergies can’t be treated by antibiotics, people like me were the cause of MRSA, blah blah. Insisted most strenuously that they just take a throat swab and do the culture and what do you know? One time I had strep, which is bacterial, and which can become deadly if left untreated, and the other time I had a bacterial sinus infection that cleared up after a week on penicillin. (Nevermind that antibiotics pumped daily into food animals do far more to speed along bacterial evolution of defenses against antibiotics than occasional mis-use in humans.)

              1. Log Lady*

                You can type ‘over prescribing antibiotics’ on google and find plenty of scholarly sources that show that you’re experience is anecdotal. There is evidence that it’s a trend that doctors do this, that doesn’t mean that every doctor does it every time.

                And yes, using antibiotics in food is dangerous as well, but they are both hurting us.

              2. Ad Astra*

                I think a lot of doctors have started to swing the other way with antibiotics, which is probably what you’re seeing. I get sick so rarely that I can count on one hand the times I’ve used antibiotics, so it’s still pretty easy for me to convince my doctor that I need them for a sinus infection or an ear infection. But my friends who get sick more often describe experiences closer to yours.

                It sounds like your real problem, though, is that you have one of those doctors who’s really bad at listening to what patients are telling them.

          2. Koko*

            A ton of doctors admit that they prescribe unnecessary antibiotics to appease miserable/pushy patients to demand to be given “something.”

              1. Broke Law Student*

                We probably have superbugs mostly because of prophylactic use of antibiotics in farm animals: (I know that’s a tangent, but it makes me so mad–I think it’s hard to force people to change behavior to prescribe antibiotics less and for those on them to actually finish them when they take them, but we could legally force factory farms to stop using unnecessary antibiotics on their animals, and it would help SO MUCH)

            1. Frances*

              You don’t even need to demand them! I often get sinus infections in the winter. Luckily for me, they’re pretty mild and can be managed with sudafed. I’ve never had to seek care for them. But one time I went into the Dr for an unrelated concern and walked out with an Rx I didn’t need and didn’t ask for. I took it anyway because Dr knows best, and that’s how I discovered I have a sulfa allergy. So much itching!

              1. Ankh Morpork*

                Ohhhh – I feel you. I have a sulfa allergy too – and I have been through that twice. Once when I was a kid and they discovered my allergy – and again a few years later when the Dr. decided that I had outgrown my allergy and gave it to me again. I HAD NOT outgrown it. Now when I get sinus infections they give me plague medication. Which is unsettling but WAY better than the sulfa.

              2. Renee*

                I have a sulfa allergy too. I’m curious — do you all also have an intolerance to NSAIDs or Aspirin? I have both and I’m curious if they are related.

          3. Kyrielle*

            Depends on what’s setting her off. If I get a cold, after the cold has left, my sinuses stay full. Often I can clear this out with decongestants (which is what’s usually recommended by the doctor if you go in right away for suspected sinus infection), but sometimes the infection sets in really well and I have to go to the doctor. I describe to them what I’ve done and what’s going on, and they give me a prescription for antibiotics.

            Meanwhile, I have a cough from the post-nasal drip. (I don’t usually have to blow my nose much, but that’s me – other people do get that.)

            It’s also possible she’s dealing with allergies that spawned a sinus infection.

            The sinus infection may need antibiotics, but it is not itself contagious, even before them.

            1. Mabel*

              For anyone with congestion and/or allergies, I highly recommend using a neti pot. I know it seems weird (even though my doctor recommended it multiple times, it took me quite a while to try it myself), but it can really help! I use one every day, and my sinuses are almost always clear, even during season changes. Google “neti pot dr. oz video.” Dr. Oz talked about neti pots on an Oprah show, and they had someone demonstrate it. After I saw the video, I thought, “I can do this,” and I bought one.

              1. Renee*

                Adding xylitol is also helpful. It destroys biofilm and makes the neti more effective. You can buy premixed packets of saline with it added, but it’s a lot cheaper to buy the xylitol separately and add it to your saline.

          4. Observer*

            No. Doctors prescribe antibiotics for a lot of situations where it is not necessarily warranted. In this case the doctor may have figured that this is not a cold that’s going away after 5-7 days, since it;s lots longer than that so let’s prescribe JUST IN CASE. But, the fact that it doesn’t seem to have helped indicates that anti-biotics may not have been the right course anyway.

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

            Antibiotics and/or steroids can also be prescribed if your allergies have led to a bronchial infection caused by post nasal drip. The antibiotics are for the infection which is not contagious. I usually end up with a bronchial infection once or twice a year when I don’t take my allergy meds as often as I should during allergy season. Sometimes it takes 2 prescriptions to get it to clear up so this is definitely a YMMV.

        4. Abyssal*

          I doubt that someone with seasonal allergies would have been prescribed a codeine cough syrup. I had that once when I had bronchitis (which lasted three months!) and it’s pretty heavy duty stuff.

          1. MashaKasha*

            Good point, and isn’t it a controlled substance as well? I’ve only been prescribed it twice in my life. Mixed it with red wine one evening by accident and slept through the next 24 hours – was only able to wake up for five minutes to call in sick, and fell asleep again as soon as I hung up. I doubt that a Dr would be giving that stuff out like candy.

          2. Bostonian*

            I went in to the doctor recently with a cough, among other symptoms, and left with a prescription for codeine cough syrup and antibiotics because it turned out I had pneumonia. I never took the cough syrup because I couldn’t afford to be totally knocked out, but my first thought was that this coworker’s cold developed into pneumonia over the course of the month.

            1. simonthegrey*

              I was given a prescription for it once for a deep chest cough that lingered and I couldn’t sleep through. Of course, I have a reaction to codeine and didn’t fill it (the pharmacist keyed on it, contacted the doctor, and figured out something else) but sometimes it can be bad enough.

          3. Observer*

            It depends on how bad the cough is – if it’s a really bad season the cough could warrant it. Also, bronchitis can be non-contagious but still need that level of cough medicine. The one time I was on a codeine based cough medicine I was not on anti-biotics. No bacterial infection but my cough was loud enough to wake up the rest of the house. And I couldn’t get a wink of sleep because of it.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            Bronchitis certainly fits the bill for her symptoms. And the cough lasts FOREVER. And you do need antibiotics much of the time for it. I haven’t had it in years, for which I am profoundly grateful!

          5. Ygritte*

            It isn’t really that heavy duty, if I remember right you can buy it OTC in Australia and UK (also possibly Canada, but if I remember right it has to be mixed with certain other ingredients to make it harder to abuse).

            1. BeenThere*

              Yeah Australia has two predominate preparations that are OTC, you need to present a drivers licence though as people were abusing it even with the preparations. One is 8mg codiene with 50o mg of acetaminophen and the other is 12.8 mg codiene with 200 mg of ibuprofen.

          6. INTP*

            Seasonal allergies can lead to bronchitis. I get bronchitis with almost every cold or horrible allergy outbreak, and even after it seems to have cleared my dry asthma cough is worse for months.

        5. Ad Astra*

          That’s my thought, too. I can understand why the OP is concerned about her coworker spreading germs, but we don’t even know if this coworker is contagious.

          Yes, it’s rude when people come in to the office knowing (or suspecting) that they have a contagious illness. But it’s also rude to treat anyone who coughs or sneezes in your presence like a leper. If the supervisor doesn’t think it’s a problem, all you can do is continue looking out for your own health by washing your hands, eating right, getting plenty of sleep, etc.

          And feel free to wipe down some surfaces. You’re far more likely to catch something from touching stuff than you are from breathing near a sick person.

        6. Sibley*

          I have allergies, asthma, and sinus issues. I cough, sneeze, and generally sound horrible year round. Ironically, I’m much worse at the office. I really wish someone would outlaw all perfumes from everything – soaps, lotions, everything.

          No, there’s nothing I can do. Trust me, I’ve tried. If you don’t like it, then stop using smelly stuff that makes me sneeze. Which would be anything and everything that has a scent.

          1. INTP*

            I’m the same way. Don’t you love when someone gives you that grossed-out-but-trying-to-hide-it look and asks if you’re getting sick when you are sneezing, rubbing your eyes, and blowing your nose because of THEIR perfume? Some day I’m just going to blurt out “Nope, it’s the smell of you that’s making me sick, no germs, don’t worry.”

        7. CAF*

          This. My husband has a lingering cough for 4-6 weeks after a cold, way past actually being sick. But it sounds like the person in the OP’s case is more actively sick and using tissues.

        8. INTP*


          I have cough-variant asthma. I didn’t even know such a thing existed until I was 28, and was promptly diagnosed. I cough a little all the time, and after a bad cold or allergy outbreak, I might have a severe cough for two months. Many doctors knew about my cough and assumed it was just from my allergies and sinus issues. Before that I spent years as the person everyone thinks is spreading germs (and in school, as the person the school nurse accused of coughing on purpose to disrupt the classroom and get sent home). I even got snarky comments about whooping cough from a coworker with an infant at home who apparently thought I was part of that epidemic. And I get that maybe it’s disconcerting and annoying to listen to, but it’s even more annoying for me. I’m not sure what I can be expected to do to ease the burden on my coworkers – I can’t just leave the workforce and live on disability so no one has to hear my cough.

        9. Brandy in TN*

          exactly. my allergies act up while Im in my office so I blow my nose, sneeze (and im no dainty sneezer) cough, etcccc…… Sometimes if my foods too hot it makes my nose run. It happens. If this is the worst thing at your job count yourself lucky.

        10. ThursdaysGeek*

          My sister got a cough about 5+ years ago, and it has never gone away. Doctors have checked for all sorts of things, and they’ve found nothing wrong: she just coughs. It’s worse when she gets cold. Nothing she has tried taking will make it stop. So she keeps coughing. Every day. All the time.

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      Op said the company Nurse gave the coworker some sort of pamphlet about spreading germs, as well as some hand sanitizer samples, though.

    4. INTP*

      I think it’s pretty clear what the message is – I wouldn’t call that coating it in sugar. I would know exactly what message was being conveyed (I’m grossing you out and you think I’m germy) and wouldn’t take your concern for my wellness at face value. Maybe I’m a special case because I have cough-variant asthma, so I cough for at least a month after every cold due to the bronchial inflammation, and I’ve already fielded my share of passive-aggressive comments from coworkers who assumed I was coughing due to an infection, but I think most people would not take this as some helpful, kind gesture.

      Also, hand sanitizers have harsh chemicals that some people try to avoid. I’m not going to use something with triclosan, and I won’t use the alcohol-based ones in the winter when my hands are already super dry – cracked skin is not going to help me avoid a cold!

  3. Lou*

    #1 I understand it’s annoying but there’s only so many finite sick days a person gets, people tend to gripe and moan when others are off sick for flu and colds, and colds linger for a long while after sometimes.

    1. snuck*

      I am in week four or five (I’ve lost count) of a simple cold that turned into bronchitis. My doc wouldn’t give me the correct medication for it so I coughed like nobody’s business for a couple of weeks.


      1. Artemesia*

        Almost always ‘colds’ in their 4th week are no longer contagious at least by coughing — icky and annoying and of course leaving disgusting bacteria laden tissue about and not sanitizing is terrible — but the coughs of bronchitis rarely are contagious.

        1. snuck*

          Ayup. I wasn’t contagious past the first four days (when the slightly runny nose dried up)… it’s a leftover of my childhood asthma that these things sometimes turn into bronchitis for me… and my new country doc (country Western Australia, 2hrs from the nearest city, rarely well qualified docs) wouldn’t give me the standard medication – a steriod puffer – instead he suggested sleeping tabs so I’d sleep through it :/ With a 2yr old and an Autistic child in the house (he knows this, he cares for them too) I’m not taking sleeping tabs for a cough!

          1. SystemsLady*

            I was going to say bronchitis is almost always viral and can’t be treated with an Rx, but then I saw you were talking about this! The puffer’s pretty nice to have – even just albuterol helps. Can’t imagine going through bronchitis again without it. Hope you feel better soon!

            (Incidentally and ironically, I used to get bronchitis every single year as a child, and every single year it was the rarer, bacterial kind. So while it sucked they were at least able to give me something that would fight the disease. And while I don’t get it anymore, it’s the reason I have this weird pseudo-asthma [I say that because the “attacks” I have are transient and not ever life-threatening, just annoying] as an adult.)

          2. BeenThere*

            Internet hugs, you have my sympathies! I grew up with an Autistic cousin (would babysit him) and lived in a rural area of Australia, so I understand a little bit of what you are going through. I’ll bet there are no bulk billing doctors either.

            Now I’m in the states, luckily have excellent insurance and am getting everything taken care of that I should have decades ago. I finally have real migraine medication, am slowly getting all my teeth fixed and regular skin checks.

      2. Erin*

        ^I get bronchitis at least once a year and have also dealt with not having proper medication. Oh my God with the constant coughing. I feel for you!

    2. Lanya*

      This. I just had a sinus infection in my lungs for 5 weeks. I had been on antibiotics and wasn’t contagious anymore, but it took my lungs a very long time to recover. I felt bad coughing all of the time at work, because I’m sure it was annoying for my coworkers. But I would hate to think any of them were so annoyed that they would consider getting a new job over it!

      1. Windchime*

        I’m assuming that you didn’t leave snotty tissues lying around, though? I’ve had long, lingering coughs and bronchitis before and it’s not fun. But if I had to do a big, gross nose-blowing, I did it in the bathroom. I don’t think the OP is talking about getting a tissue and discreetly taking care of a sniffle; it sounds like she’s talking about the big, gurgle, extended blowing. (Sorry to be so gross). So yeah, I think that six weeks of that could wear a co-worker out, especially if the office is littered with used tissues and co-worker is touching stuff after an extended nose-blowing session.

        1. The One Grossed Out*

          Windchime, that is exactly what it was. Not a small sniffle. This is a big production she’s got going on here. I have dealt with this before with her- chalked up to her “hay fever” – but it usually never lasted more than a day or two. But as a mentioned in my comment below, everything is loud with her- the coughing, the sneezing, and blowing of the nose. It’s almost overexaggerated, if you will!!!

    3. Not Today Satan*

      I have a cold this week and felt guilty taking off two days! I hate that colds aren’t considered “real” illness.

      1. Nashira*

        Uggggh yes. I can dislocate my jaw coughing, because I’m special, plus coughing triggers my debilitating facial pain. But so many people go “it’s just a cold, suck it up”. It makes me want to do an irate Muppet flail sometimes.

  4. Erik*

    #3 – I’ve seen companies be flexible (within reason of course), especially if a vacation was planned before they were hired. At my last company, one person was hired but had a couple of weeks vacation planned.

    I had some experience with this with a contract gig many years ago, where the contracting firm didn’t tell the client that I had a vacation planned. I ended up having to tell them myself and explain everything when I realized that they didn’t tell them. They weren’t happy about it but they appreciated me coming forth.

    1. Stranger than fiction*

      I’ve never worked anywhere that just handed you the vacation upfront, you always have to acrue it. And often, you don’t begin acruing it right away, it kicks in later whenever your other benefits do, 30, 60, or 90 days later. I’m sure Alison is right that there’s companies and industries that do it that way, I’ve just never experienced myself or known anyone that has.

  5. snuck*

    #5… sorry OP… but I think you need to let this one go.

    If you need to do a lot of prep for an aptitude test it will often show up – they are looking for someone with the skills that have become naturally second nature and easy, well practiced by the sounds of it.

    1. SystemsLady*

      Hey, some people really do have test anxiety, especially when it’s thrown on them in a job interview, despite being perfectly capable of the content on the test outside of that scenario.

      Agree the OP needs to let it go, but let’s not be implying they aren’t good enough at their field just because of a test score.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Yeah, the employer should have warned them there’d be a test, at least. But clearly they’re looking for some special combo of skills and personality they don’t think the Op has, so maybe she doesn’t want to work there anyway.

  6. Scotty_Smalls*

    Yeah, sorry to say #5 but it might be better to look elsewhere for a while. I flubbed a test for a county position (nonsensical math I swear) and the rejection email said the results stood for 6 months. I think that would be about the amount of time when you could reapply as well.

  7. Amy*

    #1, is it possible your coworker may have a chronic illness causing all the coughing and sneezing? I mention this because I have Cystic Fibrosis which causes me to cough and sneeze every day until the end of time. It flares up sometimes and causes weeks of increased symptoms before returning to more of a baseline. None of what I have is contagious to people who don’t have CF, and I try to be respectful about the noise, but unfortunately it’s unavoidable. If I were to leave my desk to go to the bathroom every time I need to blow my nose or cough I would never get anything done!

    The noise is something I’m pretty self-conscious about it, particularly since I otherwise look pretty healthy and don’t tell coworkers about my disease so it basically just looks like I always have a cold. I have gotten comments like, “You’re always sick!” or “Have you seen a doctor?”. I respond with assurances that yes, I see a doctor (though not necessarily for every flare up depending on severity), and I try to let them know (without going into any details) that this is a long-term, non-contagious condition. Nonetheless it can still feel hurtful and embarrassing to be on the receiving end of thinly veiled disgust over my respiratory symptoms.

    I only bring this up as something to consider, since your coworker is frequently ill and she may not be comfortable sharing the whole story (if there is one). Even if you’re confident it’s just a passing illness I think the “grin and bear it” approach (and maybe some earplugs?) is most compassionate – I’m sure she doesn’t want to be coughing and sneezing any more than you want to hear it.

      1. Aam Admi*

        I too have chronic asthma cough. The latest flareup started six months ago and just seems to be getting worse every day. I have been going to the GP almost weekly – trying out new drugs and doing tests to determine if there is a GI problem. We sit in open cubicles at work and I am embarrassed and frustrated about this cough. My coworkers know that I have been seeing a doctor. There is nothing we can do to fix this problem right away. But I have a responsibility to make sure I do not spread germs and reassure them that I am not contagious.

    1. Bend & Snap*

      I had a couple of years of chronic sinus infections and always made sure to let people know I wasn’t contagious. It seemed to help the social piece.

    2. The One Grossed Out*

      Amy, I don’t know if she has a chronic illness. I think she was diagnosed this time with bronchitis, hence the antibiotics. I understand weeks of coughing may follow bronchitis. The coughing really isn’t that bad now. It was the outrageous, loud, snotty bubbly 3, 4, 5 times in a row blowing of the nose that was my issue, along with the used tissue that was placed on her desk and used a number of times before being thrown away!

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        If you aren’t touching anything on her desk, the tissue on the desk versus in the trash in the same office space is really the same thing. If the tissue is touching things that you also have to use, that is a very different story.

      2. Elder Dog*

        She’s trying to save tissues. She doesn’t have enough. You said she would go to the rest room to get one. That’s weird. Maybe she’s trying to save money or there’s some other reason she doesn’t have enough tissues.

        I’d have bought her a box to put on her desk and made sure the trash can was well within her reach when I gave it to her. If there’s some odd rule about not having things like that on your desk where you work, that’s something you could ask your manager and the nurse to get her a pass for.

        1. Anna*

          Or she isn’t sure where to get more tissues in the office. I’m very careful about tissue use when I’m running low, and using a tissue more than once isn’t really that crazy.

  8. Stephanie*

    #1: I’ve been that coworker before. If I don’t really rest when I get a respiratory illness, I get post-nasal drip like whoa. Trust me, your coworker is probably more miserable than you are and feels self-conscious and crappy that she sounds like she has a thirty-year-two-pack-a-day sounding cough.

    It sounds like your coworker can’t do much more than wait it out at this point, especially if your company’s sick leave or workload won’t allow for a lot of days off. Since that’s the case, perhaps you could offer to grab her tea or water?

    1. Nina*

      Post-nasal drip was my first thought, too. It would certainly give the appearance of still being sick even if she isn’t anymore. I call it the “morning cough” because it usually starts around 9am and tapers off around noon. If her bronchitis/cold is hanging on like that I’m sure that she’s going through her own personal hell with it.

      That said, leaving sodden tissues around is pretty gross. I would mention tossing those in the trash since they can spread germs.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Yes, exactly. Post cold drip is gross, but I’m not aware of anything that can be done for it.

        And allergies–I’ve mentioned before that while I’m not allergic I am sensitive to dust, and my boss thoughtfully put me at a desk beneath a shedding, dusting bit of ceiling. Consequently, I sneeze a lot. No, I was not allowed to move to another desk or bring an air purifier. One of my coworkers went to my boss and asked “FDCA sure seems to be sick a lot! Is something wrong with her? Can you ask her to stop sneezing all the time?” And my boss really did ask me. (At which point I was not very nice about pointing out the horrible conditions.)

        My point being, sometimes there is nothing you can do and sniffly people are everywhere. But going behind someone’s back rather than speaking with them directly is a move that is almost guaranteed to put you in their bad books.

    2. miki*

      Pseudo-ephedrine (Sudaphed PE) works wonders on post-nasal drip. You can get it in generic form as well (some $3-4 at Walmart, Meijer pharmacy), it does require to show your ID to get it though.

      1. la Contessa*

        The Target generic works very well. It doesn’t stop my post-nasal drip (nothing does but tea, cough drops, and just waiting the three weeks until it’s over), but it does instantly minimize the symptoms when I’m actually sick. I had an ear infection once, and I could literally hear the medicine working in my ears within 5 minutes of taking it.

      2. Vanishing Girl*

        Actually, Sudafed PE is the kind with phenylephrine which doesn’t require an ID check. It also doesn’t work for about 40% of people.

      3. Meg Murry*

        It works great on post-nasal drip, but it otherwise makes me either a drugged up zombie or super super super hyperactive – and I never know which it will be until I take it. And sometimes it makes me puke, for extra funsies.

        I’m one of the lucky ones where the medications to treat colds often wind up with other side effects that are as bad or worse than the cold. Glad the medications work for some people, but they often just move my misery from one symptom to another. Some days I’m willing to roll those dice, but usually not for a work day. So glad the drugs work for you, but don’t assume they will work miracles on everyone, especially an office mate.

        For me, the only thing that works is to take Benedryl (if I think it’s allergy related) or a sleeping pill, or just plain nothing, and stay in bed for 18 out of 24 hours for at least 2 days. That usually takes care of the worst of the symptoms, and then when I go back to work I am far less of a miserable ball of sick than the people that tried to work through the cold/flu.

        1. Becky*

          Yup, same here — anything with a decongestant turns me into a zombie, with bonus light-headedness and nausea. I’m stuck with ibuprofen and lots of rest and fluids. Really frustrating for myself and others when we’re on a deadline. :(

      4. Kyrielle*

        Sudafed, not Sudafed PE – the latter is phenylephrine.

        And pseudo-ephedrine is not buy-able in all locations under the same rules. Some require ID. I don’t know if any states still don’t (a few years ago, some did not). However, in Oregon, they require a doctor’s prescription. I need to pay a $25 co-pay plus the cost of the medicine to get it. (Unless I’ve already been in recently, then my doctor can just prescribe it without having to see me again.) Or make a two-hour road trip to Washington, where they’ll still let you buy (with ID) if you’re from out of state (at least for now).

        1. GH in SoCAl*

          Keep driving to Canada, where there are a variety of over-the-counter cold & Sinus pills with Pseudophedrine in them. I stock up whenever I’m there. :-D

      5. Sibley*

        It works, to a point. If you over-dry your sinuses, it’ll actually make the post-nasal drip worse.

        Also, you can become “immune” to decongestants over time. Meaning, they do squat.

        1. Stephanie*

          Or rebound effect. Medicine works, wears off, and the resultant congestion is even worse.

          When I lived in a house with giant radiators, I had post-nasal drip all the time until I got a humidifier (and drank hot tea by the gallon).

    3. Cheesehead*

      When I had a cough, post-cold, that just would NOT go away (after 5-6 weeks!), I finally went to the doctor and she told me something surprising….she said the cough was coming from slight reflux, so I should take ranitidine (acid reducer, like zantac). It worked! And then I realized that yes, the cough was worse after eating, when my stomach was producing more acid. Then later, I was talking to my nephew, and he was told/prescribed the exact same thing for the same reason….different doctor in a different state. Best thing is that it’s over the counter and not expensive.

      1. Windchime*

        Yep, I was told this too and it’s true. I’m not able to take the medication that was prescribed because it gave me really bad vertigo, but now that I am aware, I’m more careful about what I eat (and when) and I think it has really helped.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I have this too–I wake in the night coughing sometimes. It helps if I don’t eat or eat very lightly before bed. Sometimes I have to have a snack because if I go to bed with an empty stomach, then it does other unpleasant things.

      3. Ezri*

        Me too! I had cough that lasted for months, and it was usually worse after eating and in the mornings. No phlegm, no sniffles or sore throat, no fever. One morning before work I coughed hard enough to throw up, and my husband harassed me into going to the doctor. Since going on acid reducers I haven’t had a cough at all.

    4. Koko*

      I had a similar story in college. I got a respiratory illness that turned into a cough that lasted for months. I had a morning class where for the first month of the semester I had sat in the same seat in the front row three days a week. (I like to sit close to the front both because I have poor eyesight and because it was an early AM class and it’s easier to stay alert in the front.) Then one week I came in and another girl was in my regular seat, so I just sat one row back, directly behind her. And this went on, she was always getting there ahead of me and sitting in the seat I had originally staked out, so I kept sitting behind her because it was the closest seat to the one I’d gotten used to.

      One day she whirled around and went off on me for how I always sit behind her and cough the whole class and it’s disgusting to listen to. I was so annoyed – what did she want me to do? She could have stopped sitting in the front row if she didn’t want me to sit behind her. I had no way to stop coughing and there were no other front row seats available so I was always going to be behind someone. I told her as much and pointed out that I’d sat in the front row for the first month before she started sitting there. The next class she was sitting way on the other side of the room. Problem solved.

    5. Hlyssande*

      This is totally me this week. I stayed home Monday but clearly haven’t rested enough – I have been dripping like a faucet since then and utterly exhausted.

    6. LizNYC*

      #1 I’ve been that coworker too. And worse, it was in my first few months on the job, so I hadn’t accrued any time off yet. I apologized to everyone around me since I was coughing and honking all day (and if I went to the bathroom to blow my nose every time, I would have been there all day). I did use hand sanitizer because I like it, and I made sure to dispose of my tissues. But, seriously, if she’s on antibiotics (and it’s a virus, which does nothing) and it’s been awhile, it’s probably not contagious. And she’s definitely more miserable than you.

      So you don’t go crazy: plug in to earbuds, white-noise machine or noise canceling headphones. Listen to heavy metal music or really great choral music until she’s better (on your own headphones). Make sure you leave your office during lunch and take mini breaks here and there to escape with your sanity intact. Keep your vitamin C levels up, get enough rest, and maybe offer your coworker a throat lozenge or hard candy (that can help me when I’m coughing from a cold or allergies).

      1. The One Grossed Out*

        Great response LizNYC!! Thank you. I posted below my comment from what happened when I talked to her yesterday. I am definitely taking my lunches away from our office and the mini breaks are greatly helping me with keeping my sanity!!

    7. Stranger than fiction*

      Self conscious people don’t leave their snot rags all over their desk, though. And chronic bronchitis isn’t accompanied by runny nose is it? I always thought it starts in the sinuses and works its way down, so by that time the nasal part is relatively cleared up. I could be wrong on that.

    8. Chinook*

      “If I don’t really rest when I get a respiratory illness, I get post-nasal drip like whoa. Trust me, your coworker is probably more miserable than you are and feels self-conscious and crappy that she sounds like she has a thirty-year-two-pack-a-day sounding cough.

      It sounds like your coworker can’t do much more than wait it out at this point, especially if your company’s sick leave or workload won’t allow for a lot of days off. Since that’s the case, perhaps you could offer to grab her tea or water?”

      This is me right now. Luckily, I work alone in an office and I have made a point of staying away from every colleague who has a child under 2 (especially the one with a newborn). I have taken a few days off when my brain wasn’t functioning but, as a contractor, I don’t get paid sick leave and it is hard to justify to myself to take time off when it is just a cough (even if my cough’s are loud enough to startle pets and small children in another room). If someone offered to get me tea or water, I would feel awkward because I am trying to stay away from them. And, if I did stay home until this went away, I could easily be gone for a couple of weeks and that would mean none of the invoices sitting on my desk would be processed (then can cover when I am gone for a week but not more).

  9. TheLazyB (UK)*

    My office doesn’t have bins under desks so when I blow my nose I have to walk to the kitchen (30 seconds, which multiplied up over a day is lots). Drives me crackers.

    1. Artemesia*

      It would take me one day to have decided to bring in a paper bag to serve as a waste basket. Surely no one with a cold walks to the kitchen every time they use a tissue.

      1. TheLazyB*

        Which I usually do. Thing is I don’t need to every day, and I don’t necessarily know when I’m getting a cold. And I bet many people just leave the snotty tissues till they next go to make a drink :(

          1. TheLazyB*

            Not allowed. Also, I don’t have a desk and my locker is barely big enough as it is. Don’t get me started :)

            1. MashaKasha*

              What on earth? Sometimes this site gives me a new appreciation for the jobs I’ve had.
              Why in the world wouldn’t a waste bin be allowed??

              1. TheLazyB (UK)*

                To encourage us to recycle.

                I don’t know.

                It’s not like we have recycling bins under our desks instead!! We do, however, have hand sanitiser EVERYWHERE.

                1. Come On Eileen*

                  Ugh. That’s so dumb. Our office really encourages recycling, so each us us has two bins under our desk — a larger one for recycled paper, and a smaller one for trash that hooks onto the outside of the larger one. Visually, its an instant cue that you need to decide if the thing you’re getting rid of is trash or can be recycled.

                  But yeah, we still have trash bins.

                2. MashaKasha*

                  Is that how they recycle at home? did they just get rid of their trash bins there, too? and how does it help recycling? I have no idea what some people are thinking.

            2. Kyrielle*

              Ugh! That is terrible. You could maybe keep 1-2 plastic grocery bags wadded up tight in your locker, and pull one out if you need a “temporary wastebasket” for a day unexpectedly? But ugh. I’m sorry you have to deal with that situation. :(

        1. Merry and Bright*

          Same here. No desk bins. I do try to keep a bag or two for issues etc but there is always the day you get caught out. A number of my colleagues either sniff all day so don’t use tissues (ugh) or pile the dirty tissues on the desk (more ugh).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            What the heck kind of job do you guys do where there is no bin!? Assembly? A clean room? Handling aliens? Portals?

            “Please do not throw used tissues through the portal. Thank you.–HR”

            1. Merry and Bright*

              In my case, a government agency. It is big on recycling, clutter-free offices and hot-desking (the “no desk” part). Oh, and tiny lockers too – mainly to keep your laptop in. We have just moved to a new building where all the above have been stepped up.

              I like it there but it is a teeny bit like another world at times!

              1. TheLazyB (UK)*

                Starting to wonder if we work for the same org. Three initials, first one repeated at the end?? You moved on 14th?? If so, I was in your office onThursday last week :)

                1. TheLazyB (UK)*

                  I’ll be there on 13th October. If you figure out who I am, do say hi! And, err, don’t tell my boss I post here ;)

                2. TheLazyB (UK)*

                  I work in the office where the customer service section is but not in that directorate, also not in operations. First name starts with B.

                  I used to be in a facebook group where if you suspected someone else of being a member you did jazz hands, but i dont wanna walk around the office doing jazz hands!! Also i just posted a couple of weeks back about being paranoid someone from work would turn up here. Hee :)

                3. TheLazyB (UK)*

                  Also also, it is cracking me up that we’ve never even suspected this but suddenly we figure it out from talking about bins! Hehe

            2. Claire*

              I work at a bank and we have no desk bins. Garbage goes in the bins in the kitchen, paper goes in our secure recycling bins which go for shredding on a regular basis. I assume they want to avoid confidential information being scrunched up and thrown in hundreds of non-secure bins.

    2. Cruella DaBoss*

      You don’t have a waste basket at your desk? If it were me, I’d invest in a small, cheap waste basket for just this reason.

  10. Stephanie*

    #2: IME, usually if you’re getting to background check stage, there’s a separate application where you’d list a lot of the stuff you wouldn’t list on a more general job application or resume (like seven years’ of residence history, etc). I’m guessing that’s where you’d list your legal name versus what you go by commonly. On a resume, I’d just list what you preferred to be called.

    1. Bagworm*


      I’ve always had to give permission for background checks. (I’m pretty sure it’s not required but seems to be pretty standard practice in my experience YMMV.)

      Also, if you used your preferred name with previous employers, they may not know (or remember) your given name, especially if it’s been a while.

      1. Karowen*

        In the U.S., you 100% have to give permission. OP1, On the off-chance you get asked to sign the forms and they don’t ask the additional info that Stephanie talks about, you can certainly tell them your full legal name then.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Just to be clear — you don’t need to give permission for a reference check. You do need to give permission for some elements of a background check (which looks at a much wider range of things).

    2. De Minimis*

      Came here to say the same thing….any time I’ve had a background check it’s been a separate application and they always have a place to give your birth name if it is different from the name you go by.

      1. Mabel*

        I used to think that I had to put my legal name on my resume, and it was a big hassle when I started the new job, and they had set up my email using my legal name (which I don’t go by). After that, I started using my nickname on my resume (and I think I read in AAM at some point that this is fine to do).

  11. UKAnon*

    #1 I have a permanent snuffle just because, and I really do sympathise with your co-worker here. I know the noise can be horribly distracting (trust me – I know – being self conscious of a sniff is a thing) but I also don’t have the time to go to the bathroom and get a tissue, and blow my nose, quite literally every other minute. At this point your co-worker won’t be contagious from the cold (I believe you’re most contagious in the two days before most symptoms develop?) and so that really won’t be germs that she isn’t breathing into your shared air anyway. I get why this bothers you, but trust me, so does she.

    1. Traveler*

      Right. When you have a cold or allergies, and it lasts weeks like OP is describing, you can’t run to the bathroom every time. Its just not practical.

  12. LSP*

    #1 – I sympathize. You are not petty. My coworkers and I have been experiencing something similar for 2+ years. Every. Day. Every 13 mins. Truthfully, this person’s hacking and constant phlegm don’t bother me, but it drives one of my teammates batsh&t crazy. It was brought up and our manager literally said the exact same thing AAM said, except with attitude and without the helpful phrase, haha. It’s a fair question to ask and I was hoping for a different response, but I guess it is what it is.

    Your coworker is being gross and that honey badger don’t care. Lo siento

        1. Meg Murry*

          Please not Lysol in the vicinity of the hacking cougher without talking to them first – getting a lungful of atomized Lysol makes me hack and cough for a solid 2 minutes, I seriously can’t breathe around that stuff. Diluted rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle or clorox wipes kill the germs just as well, without making the coughing fits even worse.

          But in your own office/cube not shared with anyone else – Lysol away, preferably at the end of the day.

          1. fposte*

            And I would say if you’re the cougher and don’t want Lysol, it’s a good strategy to bring in what you *do* tolerate for people to use. Otherwise people will bring what works for them.

            1. Meg Murry*

              Fair enough. I can’t tolerate Lysol, and I will ask people not to spray it in my vicinity, and then I’ll either bring in an alternative or ask the office manager if we can stock a few bottles of something else instead. Or worst case, ask if they can wait and spray the Lysol when I’ll be out of the room for at least half an hour, and use the least scented variety possible.

              Not trying to make this a “not everyone can have sandwiches” case, but for some people with asthma, spraying something in the air can make it worse. Again, back to the “talk to your office mates, and offer to move the trash can closer to them rather than passive-aggressively spraying a cloud of Lysol” approach.

              1. fposte*

                Sure, there are lots of things that can be a problem for other people, whether it’s coughing or sanitizing. I’m just saying that if you’re doing something likely to elicit a response, you’re likelier to get the response you want if you make your desired response known and easier.

                1. Cat*

                  I don’t know – this seems like a pretty far out thing to anticipate to me. I work with several people with asthma and allergies so there’s a lot of coughing and nobody has ever sprayed lysol around them and I can’t imagine that they would because that seems obviously counterproductive. At a certain point, you have to assume your co-workers aren’t idiots.

                2. Koko*

                  I’m with Cat here. I just…don’t use aerosol sprays. And I don’t encounter many people who use them…I guess I know some people who keep one in their bathroom for stinky poos, but I’ve never seen one in the workplace for germ purposes. It wouldn’t even occur to me that I needed to provide an alternative until the first time someone assaulted me with one.

                3. fposte*

                  I haven’t known anyone who sprayed an aerosol spray around a cougher either. I think we’ve got a nomenclature problem–if you guys are using “Lysol” to mean specifically the aerosol spray and not Lysol disinfectant generally, then I agree. But if you mean disinfectant generally, then I think you provide your own in self-defense.

                4. Meg Murry*

                  Yes, I was referring to the Lysol aerosol spray, and I have been in offices where people would just spray them in the air like crazy, either after someone who had been sneezing left their office, or in the bathroom if they walked in and it smelled. I get it, I don’t want to smell poo either – but now I’m in the next stall smelling poo (because Lysol doesn’t make the smell go away) and stinky fake flowers as well, and hacking up a lung because I can’t breathe.

                  I’m not sure which makes me choke more, Lysol or other more generic air fresheners. Probably the Lysol, because it makes such a giant diffuse cloud.

                  But if you want to disinfect your desk, phone, doorknob, keyboard, etc, I’m not stopping you – I’m just asking that you not use an aerosol to do it until clearing it with the rest of the people in the room.

            1. Ezri*

              Yep. Earlier this year I had a cold that lasted a couple of weeks. I made a point to clean down my station with disinfecting wipes every day I was audibly sick.

  13. English girl*

    1. Reminded me of something… When I was 18 and at uni I had to take a flight to the states where my family lives (my parents moved to uk before I was born and I grew up here). It was the first international flight I had taken alone.

    The day before I started getting ill. During the trip ot got worse. My first leg of the journey was a series of train journeys as I live a long way from London but was flying from there. I had developed a very chesty cough as well as developing stomach cramps etc. On a two hour train journey, a woman I don’t know stood up and demanded that I shut up as I was being obnoxious etc and couldn’t I go do that somewhere else. It’s hard to explain how it made me feel when I felt sick and was also scared about getting my way through the airport and on the flight etc.

    I’m not saying your work situation is like this. But it sounds like your colleague is ill for long enough but not badly enough that she cant (afford) to take the time off. Sometimes when you’re feeling sick you cope as best you can. It’s awkward when you feel awful but have to get on with things in your life

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      Agreed. I spent a few years as a software consultant, on the road every week. I got horribly sick while away from home one week, and when I flew home for the weekend I had a terrible cough and had to keep blowing my nose. I tried to be considerate of the people around me and I used the airsick bag to collect my used tissues, which I disposed of when the flight attendant came through to collect trash, and I put it in the bag myself so she wouldn’t have to touch it. But still, I’m sure other people on that plane were griping about the woman on their flight who was hacking up a lung.

      After that experience, I’m now more sympathetic to people who are flying when sick, when I wasn’t always before. Because even when you’re sick, you still have things to do and places you need to be. And who knows what those might be or what else someone might be going through? I’d feel pretty awful if I gave someone attitude for taking a flight when they were sick, only to find out they were flying home because their mother had passed away.

      1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

        Once I was running to make a connection and caught some spit in my throat (in that way when you’re running and slightly panicked) and had a coughing fit while handing the attendant my boarding pass. I got on the plane with residual coughing and some woman leaned over the back of the seat and dropped a handful of lozenges in my lap and hissed “it sounds like you need these. Use them.” It was bizarre.

        1. misspiggy*

          Very rude. But I get so sick from my frequent work travel that I shudder every time I hear a persistent cough on a flight, particularly if its owner isn’t doing everything they can to stifle it. Just can’t stop thinking about all that grunge going round and round the air conditioning system…

      2. TheLazyB*

        I wonder if it’s someone with a genuine phobia of sick people? But even so, the onus was on her to move, not to have a go at you. I would have cried in your shoes :(

    2. JGray*

      Honestly, I don’t even have words for people screaming at sick people or giving you lozenges. I can understand the LW frustration with her coworker for taking so long to go to the doctor especially once you realize it is more than a cold BUT its possible that since the coworker is sick a lot the thinking was that it was like something else she has had before. I used to get sinus infections a lot (I have a deviated septum, which makes me more prone once I get a cold but since I have been dealing with them for 20 years I can kind of head them off now) and so inevitably that means you blow your nose a lot. I used to have people say all the time gross stop blowing your nose so much – my reaction was always umm would you rather that the snot just pool on my desk as it runs out my nose(!). People have weird reactions to others being sick sometimes. I think at this point it is really on the LW to do what she can which means speaking up and start a conversation with the coworker. It would not be out of line to just say I can’t get sick so I am going to wipe down my space (and anything shared such as a phone) with Clorox or Lysol wipes. Try not to attack the coworker just be sympathetic and understand the coworker probably doesn’t like being sick anymore than you like her being sick.

        1. GH in SoCAl*

          I offer people cough drops if I they’re coughing, because I carry them and I know not everyone does. I hope no one thinks I’m being snotty about it. Oh dear.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*


            Sorry, but the pun was way too good not to mention!

            I was on a plane a year or 2 ago and there was a girl sitting across the aisle who might be described as having spent the entire flight performing a cough symphony. I was applying my posh l’Occitane lavender hand disinfectant gel and it still didn’t help. I resorted to a liberal spread of Vicks vaporub when I got home, but I caught the cold too.

  14. TT*

    #2 – if you’re going for a job with security clearance appearing to lie like something about your name will have your application rejected outright.

    that said, a ‘normal’ job probably won’t care

    1. Charby*

      Not necessarily. At least in the United States, the job application form and the e-QIP (the Office of Personnel Management’s standard set of forms used for security clearances) are often separate documents. The job application form is usually a lot shorter and less invasive which makes sense since the clearance process is too expensive/time-consuming to do before you decide on a candidate. There are also distinctions between the way the forms are treated; for example, most job applicants can indicate that they don’t want their current employer contacted, but that’s not permitted for the clearance.

      If that’s the set-up that they have, the OP simply has to make sure that their legal name is the one they use on the e-QIP/SF-86/whatever their company or agency uses (and any other background check materials of course).

      (And if there are any agencies that use the same form for both, shame on them.)

    2. dancer*

      I think that’s too strong of a statement. In my industry we often need clearance, but many of my friends use their western name on their applications. They provide their legal name for the background check.

    3. AnotherHRPro*

      In my experience, as long as you explain prior to the background check stage you are fine. If you bring it up, it will not have the appearance of a lie.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      For something like that, you would be providing a LOT more information than just your name. Social Security number, driver’s licence, addresses for the last ten years (or life), etc. etc.

  15. Dee*

    On #4…i have a long term contract through a recruitment agency that had my resume from a former posting they put up. I don’t believe they really had that former posting as it was magically filled the day it went up (i think they were data mining) . The long term contract i had was a shoe in as i was known to the company and team, the recruitment agency received the job and contacted me and i got the job BEFORE they actually posted it. Yet, they still posted the ad and the ad keeps being renewed. I think they’re trying to get resumes for their database for future roles (which is how they got mine originally). So OP i really wouldn’t worry about it!

    1. TootsNYC*

      Yeah, I think it’s very probable that the agency is making sure they have a nice pool of candidates for “your” job.

      And, it’s a good opportunity to use their client’s dime to pull in lots more resumes in general.

      You should also directly contact the agency and say, “I saw you posted something that looks like my job. I want to officially apply for it full-time!”

  16. Another UK Anon*

    #2 In the UK it’s becoming more common to have a box for ‘name’ and a box for ‘preferred name’. As someone who goes by my middle name, I find this very helpful!

    That said I’ve never found this a problem in places that don’t do that – I just put the name I use on my CV and cover letter, and when asked to provide ID/national insurance/etc I just clarify with HR.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Oh, I would love that. I have to put my legal name on forms and such, and everyone defaults to my first name, which I don’t use. If there’s room, I put First Name Middle Initial Last Name and then in brackets, Preferred Name. If not, then it’s First Initial Middle Name Last Name.

      I pretty much do what you do when it isn’t feasible to put the preferred name. But then I still get called in by my first name (like at the doctor’s office). And when I received a recognition plaque at work for my first year of service, it had my first name on it. Sigh….

    2. TootsNYC*

      At my company, if you put your full legal name on the application, that’s what your email address will be. which is a major pain if you’re Mary but go by Marisa; or Brendon Giles Smith and go by Giles.
      And they won’t let you change it, and they don’t ask you ahead of time.

  17. BRR*

    #3 Your vacation time is going to be company specific. How you accrue it, if they roll over, and how much you get depending on when you start.

    If you get some or all of it now and you lose any left over at the end of the year, I think you’re going to have to eat it since you just started (possible exception with the holidays but keep in mind even then it’s culture specific).

  18. KT*

    For #2, I have a fairly pretentious first name (like “AnastasiaMarietta Lannister”). I work in a fairly creative field, so my stuffy sounding name was off-putting for some employers. As an experiment, I used my nickname “Ana Lannister” on my resume–and I got ten times more calls.

    No one batted an eye at me using my nickname and my formal name on the application/background check consent forms…I think they understood no one wants my first name :)

    1. JGray*

      I think you are right. I used to work with two people that went by their middle names. I only saw one of the persons resumes which listed the preferred name but I didn’t actually realize that person went by their middle name until we hired them. And I probably would not have known at any time if it weren’t for the email requirements of the organization- the format was (think John Smith is and it had to be your legal name. So when I had to provide these peoples email I would have to say “Julie” email is is actually For one of the people it wasn’t an issue but the other person was out in the public so I would have to explain that so and so legal first name is this which determines the format of their email.

  19. Guera*

    “It’s almost certainly worse for her than it is for you though, which could be useful to keep in mind.”
    Thank you for saying this! I went through a period of having a hacking, uncontrollable cough and I shared an office with someone. She would sometimes make comments and I would say “Trust me, this bothers me more than it bothers you”. My doctor and I finally figured out I had asthma and we were able to get it mostly under control. Coughing and blowing your nose incessantly is not something that people take pleasure in to the annoyance of others. It’s not like she can quit whenever she wants. I went though A TON of over the counter cough medicines…trying different ones…to no avail. My advice, if you can, get some headphones and be sure to take care of YOURSELF (frequent handwashing, hand sanitizer, whatever).

  20. TheLazyB*

    Always find it interesting that most US employers run leave by calendar year. Most UK employers (at least that I’ve worked for) run it April-March. Avoids the rush on leave when you’ve also got the run up to Christmas.

    1. YWD*

      I’m in the US. Ours is fiscal year – October to September – for US employees but some other countries run calendar year.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ours is too–July to June. It sucks because you can’t roll more than a week of PTO, so any long summer holidays (with or without kids, who are not in school) have to be taken before then. Grrr.

    2. Meg Murry*

      In academia in the US, it usually resets sometime in July or August.

      Most places in the US do it according to their fiscal year, however they have defined it. So while the majority of companies have the fiscal year as the calendar year, I have seen some April 1st, July 1st and September 1st resets. But January 1st is the most common.

      I know one company that does everything on your work anniversary (or the 1st of the month after your anniversary) – annual reviews, raises/bonuses/cost of living increases, vacation re-ups, etc. It kind of makes sense on one hand to have everyone spread out throughout the year, but I could see it being horrible on the keeping track/paperwork end for the admins.

      But getting back to the OP – many companies don’t let you use any vacation in the first 60/90 days, 3 months, or 6 months, or some horrible places even a year – so you might not actually have any vacation at all to use this year. Rather than speculate, can you follow up with HR and ask how the vacation will work for this calendar year? Many companies will also cover this kind of thing with you during an orientation, but not all – so if you don’t have it figured out before you start, go ahead and ask in the first week. But yes, chances are you won’t have 17 days to use from starting in mid-October until the first of the year, most companies pro-rate the first year.

    3. Ruth (UK)*

      Our leave runs on the calendar year but we are encouraged to arrange as far ahead as possible for when we want to use it. Also, we can mark ahead in the year dates we want off for next year (eg I can ask now for time off in Feb 2016) so it’s blocked off on the calendar but then fill in my holiday hours form when I receive it in January…

    4. Carrie in Scotland*

      My past annual leave:
      Academia (at least the 2 I’ve worked in!) run October – September.
      Local council job was January – December
      Some retail was the tax year, April to March (which also was true for my old local NHS region but not sure if it’s NHS-wide)

    5. Koko*

      Ours runs calendar year, but we have a decent amount of rollover (equivalent to whatever you accrue in a single year, so 3 weeks for junior employee and 5 weeks for senior staff) so there’s no rush on leave at year-end.

      You’d have to barely be taking any vacation for at least a few years to get anywhere close to the rollover cap, and someone who has taken 2 vacation days a year for the past 3 years isn’t the sort of person who suddenly feels like they need to cash out their extra vacation before they lose it.

      1. Bagworm*

        I agree that they normally aren’t but the last place I worked had several people that were at that point where they had to take at least one day a month (or a few of them more than that; one who had been there > 20 years had to take a day a week to not lose PTO) and it was crazy to me that they felt absolutely compelled to take those days even though it often just meant they worked 50 hours in four days (or worked the weekend when they’d normally be off). I never really understood it.

        I think it’s more common to meet the cap when you’re somewhere that lumps together vacation and sick time (as this employer did) and my boss always said they should just think of it as losing sick days instead of vacation and maybe then it wouldn’t seem so bad.

    6. BRR*

      I’ve worked at two employers. Both having fiscal years from July-June. One reset vacation time based on fiscal year and one by calendar year.

    7. Ad Astra*

      My company makes us accrue time off, so it doesn’t really reset. There is some limit to how much you can carry over, but it’s a pretty high number. All of it’s based on your start date, though, so those who are in danger of losing unused time don’t have a mad rush at the same time of year.

      Every other company I’ve worked for does in January 1 through December 31, though.

  21. hbc*

    #3: Please listen to Alison. The reason so many companies have complicated rules in place is because people violate the clear spirit and intention of more general/generous policies. So even if you get all 17 days and they don’t roll over, just use a reasonable percentage. You don’t want to be the new hire who’s never around, and you *definitely* don’t want to be the person who inspires HR to rewrite the rules.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      17 days is 2 x 5 day work weeks plus 2 days…out of 260 work days (but I didn’t take into account Christmas or New Years/Thanksgiving/Labor Day etc so say 255 work days a year) isn’t that much. 17 days is less than 2 a month. I’d hardly call it being “never there”.

      1. Bagworm*

        I think they just meant they would be “never there” if they tried to take 17 days between now and the end of the calendar year.

    2. Ad Astra*

      I would be shocked if this company didn’t prorate vacation days based on when someone started. And I’d be pretty surprised if they didn’t also have a 90-day waiting period before allowing PTO and other benefits.

  22. Nobody*

    #3 – Congratulations on the new job! Every employer has its own vacation policy, so you’ll have to find out what yours is. I can understand why you might not want to start asking about vacation on your first day, though, so a good place to check is the employee handbook (or the company intranet). Also, there’s a good chance your vacation balance will show up on your paychecks, so once you start getting paychecks, it might become clear whether you have 17 days right off the bat, or a prorated 4 days, or you’re earning 1/3 of a day per week, etc.

  23. Traveler*

    but couldn’t tell her to to go to the restroom to blow her nose because it is a “common sense issue.”

    Common sense, contrary to popular belief, is taught and wrapped up in cultural and social norms that are learned. It doesn’t just magically materialize out of thin air.

  24. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

    I differ with AAM on this. I had an employee who refused to her sick time, and never went to the doctor (she was single, no children, and was up to 25 days of PTO each year) and in an open office floor plan, I would get complaints.

    HR gave me permission to send her home on days she was sick even if she didn’t want to go (if I sent her home I never had her use PTO). I bring this up because an employee shouldn’t be sick for five weeks before seeing a doctor.

    And I’ve had that conversation with employees about proper disposal of tissues, it’s gross and it seems like a common send topic, but some people don’t always get it.

    1. Traveler*

      Is it possible she couldn’t afford to go to the doctor? I had plenty of times, especially when I was younger and single, that I didn’t go to the doctor because between copay, lab fees, and medication costs it was prohibitively expensive. There was no point in going because I couldn’t afford it – and after copay and lab fees I didn’t have the money to pay for the medication to alleviate the illness. Not only that, but in my experience if you just have cold like symptoms doctors will often just tell you to come back in a few weeks because they can’t prescribe anything for it. It was just the usual ibuprofen/fluids/cough medicine routine.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Because she had asked me some investment questions, I knew money wasn’t an issue. Like, “my savings account is overflowing with all this cash and I don’t know what to with it” questions.

        I honestly think it was a long the lines of, “if I don’t acknowledge my illness, I’m not really sick.”

        There was an incident where she was trying to work with the flu and visibly shaking. After she threw up in the bathroom I sent her home.

    2. Cat*

      Someone who is coughing and sneezing for five weeks almost certainly isn’t contagious in the later stages and it really isn’t anyone else’s business whether she sees a doctor or not. Nor is it an employee’s business to tell all her co-workers precisely when she’s visiting her doctor or how she’s treating her illness.

      The noise is annoying but that’s why we have noise-cancelling headphones.

      1. Koko*

        Yep, and as Alison often points out, sending people to the doctor for a simple stubborn cold contributes to healthcare shortages, making it harder for very ill people to get in with a doctor, and drives up the cost of healthcare for everyone as a result.

        But NTDYLF’s actual directive was spot-on – she (he?) sends her home, not to the doctor. Rest (both more sleep and moving around less when awake) and fluids are what these common illnesses respond to.

        I love that so many jobs can be done remotely now because it so handily solves this problem. You get an extra hour of sleep because you don’t have to commute, you are moving around less inside your own home, and you have all your popsicles and juice and water and cold medicine easily at hand, and you aren’t bothering anyone. And of course, aside from all the sniffling and coughing you’re still perfectly feeling up to doing your job.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          Exactly. It’s amazing what a few days of rest can do for a person with a cold.

          I highly encourage my employees to completely disconnect when they’re sick and to work form home on day 2-3 to make sure they are getting the rest they need. It’s good for them and it’s good for their teammates.

    3. Chriama*

      Wait, so if she came in to work sick she got to go home without using PTO (presumably then able to hoard it for vacation or paid out at the end of the year) while employees who were respectful of their coworkers had to use their days up? Sounds like a good way to punish the responsible employees.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Well, our PTO/vacation wasn’t paid out at the end of the year and you could only roll over 1 week, so even with taking time off in December, she usually lost 3 weeks vacation. And, from what I understand, still continues to lose it even now.

        It was either let her sit at her desk sick or find a way to make her go home. Considering it was her teammates who were threatening to go home if she didn’t, this was the best solution.

  25. Ani*

    Everywhere I’ve worked with paid vacation required you to be on the job 3 months before taking paid time off anyway.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Same here. My current job, you couldn’t take any vacation for the first six months. The one before it, two months. etc.

      17 days is still a lot, and if they let OP3 roll over some of 2015’s days into 2016, it’ll be a pleasant bonus. Also, if OP3 is starting now, they’ll be able to take some of their 17 days around the holidays and make a nice long Christmas/New Year vacation of it. The management will probably be ok with that, since most of Op3’s coworkers will likely do the same. (Unless the place has a vacation freeze around that time for business reasons, of course.)

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      Most companies have a “3 month” rule for new hires. I would expect that in the OP’s situation they told her how many days she is eligible for annually and did not get into all of the policy specifics. Each company has different rules on this, and they will most probably have a policy or procedure document that the OP should take a look at once she starts.

    3. Not Karen*

      We have PTO which accrues at 11 hours per two-week pay period. As soon as you accrue PTO, you’re allowed to take it. Of course you’d probably be frowned upon if you left for two weeks only four months in.

  26. Erin*

    #1 – I’m admittedly as non-germaphobe as they come, but I have to say I think you’re making too big of a deal out of it. You’ve already done what you can do to address it – going to your higher ups. At this point, I would just steer clear of her as much as possible – concentrate on using hand sanitzer yourself frequently, instead of trying to get her to do that. You can’t control her behavior, but you can your own, and all that.

    Use headphones if that’s possible, to combat the noise. Or honestly, just try to ignore it – probably easier said than done I realize, but I have a coworker who clears his throat constantly and I don’t even hear it anymore. When I first got hired it was like, oh my God! That it is so loud, and frequent! But now it’s just background noise.

    Also, not that this is terribly comforting, but there was a recent OP on here who wrote in about a coworker who never washed her hands after using the restroom. Alison linked to a study on how many people actually do this – I think it was 28%.

    People are gross, whether you’re seeing it in front of you with your coworker or it’s behind the scenes. You’re out there, in the world, interacting with these people. These things are bound to come up.

    1. fposte*

      And with that recent research about our own personal microorganism clouds, we’re giving as well as getting anyway.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      The OP actually has not done the one thing she really can do and that is talk to the person. She should do it with empathy and compassion but it is very reasonable to ask her to throw her tissues into the trash so that germs aren’t spread. I would not assume that sick co-worker is refusing to blow their nose in the bathroom. They may be blowing it there AND at there desk. After all, if they have a very runny nose it may not be practical to go to the bathroom every single time you need to blow it.

      1. dancer*

        Yup… it doesn’t seem practical to ask someone to leave their desk everytime they had to cough or blow their nose.

    3. Koko*

      The hand-washing study reminded me of a radio ad I heard last week. It went something like, “According to recent research, 7 in 10 Americans admit to using their smartphones while driving. Scary, isn’t it?”

      And I remember thinking, “Well, damn, if 70+% of drivers are doing it and we haven’t seen a huge spike in traffic accidents and fatalities since the proliferation of smartphones, then it can’t really be that dangerous!”

      1. Kyrielle*

        Not necessarily! How often do those 7 in 10 Americans do it?

        If 1% of Americans do it all the time, 9% do it once a week, and 60% have done it once or twice in the last five years…then it could still be plenty dangerous. It’s not hard to get lucky occasionaly, after all.

        Also, how do they use them? I sometimes use mine while driving, hands-free because I can talk to it, to call or to send and receive texts (which can be done with voice command). I use it to give me driving directions (which I set up while parked, so I’m just listening).

        1. Koko*

          Haha well the radio ad didn’t go into detail, although I did go home and do some Googling that night and found this:

          The study summary above notes that it’s possible that cell phone usage IS dangerous but the rise it’s causing could be offset by other things that are working at odds with it to make driving safer. But as yet there’s no scientifically sound causal link between cellphone usage and accidents.

  27. Tanith*

    The little video advertisements on the right hand side of the AAM site are making it very difficult for me to make comments or read the comments, because they “jump” my page up to their location every time they re-start. Has anyone else experienced this problem? Right now I am using Firefox on a Mac. I have been experienced this last night and this morning.

      1. LabTech*

        It also does this in Internet Explorer. (That’s the only web browser on my instrument’s computer, but it works out because I shouldn’t be spending too long on AAM in the lab anyways.)

        1. Windchime*

          It was happening to me yesterday when I was at work, using IE. After a couple of times, I just clicked the ad to get the URL and sent that to Alison. And like LabTech, I then shut down my browser and got back to work because I had already been on AAM too long!

    1. Not me*

      Yeah, common problem. AAM generally doesn’t run this type of ad but sometimes they sneak in anyway. Email the URL that the ad would to direct you to* alison at askamanager dot org.

      *I don’t use Firefox, so this might not work, sorry. In Chrome, you can right-click on an ad and then select “Copy link address.”

    2. Bio-Pharma*

      Nope, it happens on Chrome for me… I tried right-clicking to get the URL (and email alison), but I found it difficult (flash settings?) and couldn’t find the info on the “How to Comment” page…

    3. Kyrielle*

      If you install a Flash-blocker, those annoying little beasts won’t load. I hate to do that to Alison, because I want her to get ad revenue, but I find that with the Flash-blocker, ads *other* than videos load fine. (Sadly, this means I’m blocking non-auto-play videos, which I’d be fine with them displaying, but….)

        1. Kyrielle*

          Phew. Thank you!

          Slight terminology: an ad-blocker will block all ads; a Flash-blocker blocks flash (and provides a way for me to click to run it if I want to, in the case of the one I use). So at least some of the ads are still displaying…. :)

      1. Sweaty*

        I’m using Firefox and having no such issues, but I have ABP, although it’s disabled on this website because like you I want Alison to get the ad reveue.

  28. Jennifer M.*

    #2 – I had a friend who had a Chinese first name but went by an American name so always filled things out with an initial for her first name and then the American name – similar to “H. Maria Chen”. So the element of the legal name (the H) is in there but it implies that when they called her they should ask for Maria.

    1. MashaKasha*

      I like this! You can probably even have your name legally changed (all it takes is 100-some bucks and a bit of hassle) and make the American name your middle name, while keeping your first name intact. Then you could put H. Maria Chen on your application forms and it won’t be considered lying.

      1. Sweaty*

        Yeah this is what my friend did, except she did Maria H. Chen (not her actual name, just going with your example) as she was born and had grown up in Canada and the US and connected more with the western name.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I was going to suggest this as well for the applications as well, or to see if there is a section on it for “any other information” or “other names”.

      I got married directly after college, and so all of my work experience, references and college records were under my maiden name, but my married name was now my legal name. So if there was a section on the application that allowed you to provide “any other information” or “additional information” I would write something like “references prior to [date] and college records will be under Margaret Maidenname, not Meg Murry”.

      I think if the applications are just a generic one page that accompanies the resume, OP should be ok using her preferred name, but if they are the long, complicated ones that include spaces for references, etc, she should find a way to include her legal name on there somewhere if at all possible, because that might be what a company uses for a background check. But unless OP is applying for a job that requires security clearance (and probably not even then) most people aren’t going to try to do any kind of background check before an interview.

    3. Ama*

      I have several colleagues with Asian names who go by Americanized nicknames, and many of them write their name on formal documents as First (Nickname) Last, so it’s clear that they go by the nickname but that it’s not officially part of their legal name.

  29. Katie the Fed*

    1 – if it’s been going on that long and she’s been prescribed antibiotics, it’s probably not contagious. But yeah, that’s gross. I would probably just say “ewww can you please throw your used tissues away?”

    2 – Seriously, people ask you why you have a Chinese name? Uh, what do you think? Ha. Although I do have a friend whose parents were hippies living in India and gave him a very Indian name…he’s a nice white/Jewish boy. I would put your nickname and then clarify later that your legal name is such-and-such.

    3 – Why not just ask them how it works?

    4 – probably not a big deal, just ask

    5 – it’s not for you to decide if you’re qualified. Unfortunately, you don’t get a vote in this – time to look for another opportunity. Sorry :(

  30. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

    #1 is making me so self conscious right now, but my early season cold has only been going on for 2 days and I’m throwing my tissues out and using hand sanitizer but gosh now every time I snuffle and wheeze I want to crawl under my desk.

    Which to be fair I wanted to do anyway. Crawl under there with some blankets and soup and come out in 6 days or so…

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      I hope you feel better! I’ve had what I believe is a mild cold for 3 days now. This post has also made me very conscious of my cough and sniffling. And I would love to curl up in the corner with a blanket and soup right now.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I got really, really sick on a trip to south america last year. Like, on an antibiotic IV for pneumonia for several days sick. When I was well enough to fly home, I was coughing CONSTANTLY. I felt like such a dirtbag, and I knew people were looking at me with disgust. But I couldn’t help it!

      1. Windchime*

        My son got a migraine years ago when he was flying between countries in Europe. As soon as the plane started to taxi before takeoff, he started throwing up but of course he had to stay seated. So he endured the embarrassing, miserable experience of throwing up in an airsick bag in front of a bunch of strangers who didn’t speak his language and probably thought he was contagious.

  31. Viva L*

    #1 – is there an extra office or cube she could use that separates her for the time being? I’ve seen that suggested here in the past and it’s a pretty good one for constantly sick/wracking cough type situations.

    I also think you need to speak up about the dirty tissues – that’s fair game.

  32. Allison*

    #5, it’s kinda normal to get rejected from a job you want, and feel you’re qualified for, due to a mistake made in the process. It’s not fair, but you don’t normally get a second chance to prove yourself. Move on.

    You really shouldn’t re-apply for jobs you’ve already been rejected for, even if the role’s been open for a long time and you figure they may be desperate enough to reconsider rejected applicants like yourself. You might think they’ll see your application and say “oh yeah, I remember them! let’s give them another shot” but in reality the likely reaction will be “this one again? we already interviewed them! did they forget?”

    1. fposte*

      Do you think there’s been a mistake in the process, though? I think it’s just that the phrasing has confused the OP, not that they’ve misread her qualifications.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think especially when you’ve been rejected for an aptitude (and not just edged out by someone who mad skillz or a better interview), you need a substantial increase in that aptitude that’s externally observable.
      Like, you’ve been working with that skill for a year more than when you first interviewed.
      Or, you took a training class and then used it on the job for 6 months.

      Something that an outsider would see as a strong indication that you have grown significantly.
      And you need to make that your major selling point: I am not the exact same candidate as before; I have qualifications that did not exist at that point.

      Being “the exact same candidate as before, only not nervous or ill-prepared this time” is not enough.

  33. HM in Atlanta*

    I have a huge number of people who we hire with one name, and then we do their background check under a different name. Some are related to traditional names from other cultures, some are because the person really doesn’t like their legal name and picked a new name to be known by, etc.

    I would actually rather you put your ‘go by’ name on your resume/materials. That way, nothing gets set up in our system with the ‘wrong’ name. In the US, we have a separate application for the background check, and that’s where both your full legal name and your go-by name would be listed. For teams in other places around the world, we spell out the places where we need your legal name versus any other name.

    1. Ad Astra*

      You know, for as common as it is to have different names because of adoption, marriage, immigration, or whatever, people still have a strangely hard time wrapping their heads around it. I tried to go by Firstname Maidenname Lastname at work and people lost their minds. And none of the forms have room for my two middle names. People are weird.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        It is often problematic from a technology and reporting standpoint. Many HRIS systems do actually allow for legal name (required for payroll and taxes) as well as a nickname. However, many reports and system generated reports just pull legal name. It is actually a pain when I’m trying to find information on “Nancy Smith” but don’t realize her real names is “Nacypants Smith”.

  34. TS*

    #2 – My legal name is Chinese too, but I use my English name for almost everything including my CV. My legal signature uses my English name too. I’ve never run into any problems with it (in Canada), everyone seems to ‘get’ the situation and usually I just put down my legal name for my direct deposit forms, etc. and there are no questions asked. Sometimes to be safe I put “Chinese first name (English first name) Last name” or “English name Chinese name Last name” (even though my Chinese name isn’t legally my middle name) so that both names are on file and anyone referring to my profile will see that I’m associated with both. It’s never been an issue; I think most people who look at it will understand from common sense. I’ve also seen plenty of forms that even include a “Preferred name” field.

    1. TS*

      To be clear – I use only my English name on everything where I know they basically just need something to call me by (I work in a field with various levels of security clearance but an interviewer usually doesn’t need all my legal details up front), only my legal name on everything that I know will absolutely require it (banking details), and then sometimes I use both for less strict documents where I want to ensure both are on file, like HR profiles or if I’m filling out a chart at the doctor’s.

  35. Ad Astra*

    Maybe I’m just blessed with a robust immune system, but… Why are people so concerned with other people getting them sick? Like I said upthread, it’s rude to come to work when you know (or suspect) you’re contagious, but it’s also rude to assume someone is contagious and treat them like a leper. I once had a boss who said “Don’t come near me!” when I had an ear infection, and it felt pretty crummy.

    There’s a lot you can do to keep yourself healthy, and there’s almost nothing you can do about sick people existing in your world. I can understand why you might give a hacking coworker the side eye, but the magnitude of people’s concern about potentially sharing a space with a sick person really puzzles me. Not just on AAM, but out in the world, too. People seem panicky.

    1. fposte*

      It’s interesting, because I have a similar reaction as you but different takeaways. I agree that we’re pretty much ateem with germs in our lives, but I don’t think it is automatically rude to come to work when you have something infectious–colds would be a good example of that, or staph carriers–and I don’t blame people who want to keep a wide berth from me when I might have something, whether I do or not.

      I don’t mean it’d be cool to exclude people from a meeting because they threw up from chemo or that you should be mean about it in any situation, but when we’re talking an actual infection, whether bacterial or viral, we as patients don’t have a ton of info as to how genuinely infectious we are at a given moment anyway. So if somebody just wants to sit a chair apart from me, I don’t think that’s hugely unreasonable.

    2. Nina*

      It’s been discussed numerous times here that getting sick time is a nightmare in the US for a lot of people, so that’s a valid reason. Some people get panicky because if they get sick, they don’t have any time off for recovery and they’re forced to drag themselves in to work.

      And then you have folks who aren’t that concerned about getting sick themselves, but they have family members with compromised immune systems. Last year, my mother caught bronchitis from me, and while I recovered in a couple weeks, she developed pneumonia and was sick for three months.

      I hate being sick, but the risk of my mother being seriously ill is a much bigger problem. Some people probably go overboard with the “stay away from me” mentality, but I can understand why they do.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Oh yeah, I’ve definitely been in situations where I had to come to work sick, and I’ve definitely been too poor to see a doctor. (Even now, I’m too cheap to see a doctor if all he’s going to tell me is to get some rest and drink lots of fluids.) So maybe my lack of concern really is just coming from a place of “immune privilege.”

    3. neverjaunty*

      Certainly there’s no need to be rude to sick people just because they’re sick, but you really can’t imagine why other people are so concerned about getting sick? Because they have a chronic health condition. Because they don’t get sick leave. Because they get sick leave and they’ve used it all up. Because they have family members who have immune system problems. There’s certainly not much you can do to keep sick people existing, but is it that hard to understand why somebody might be concerned that maybe Wakeen should stay home instead of coughing and sneezing all over the break room?

    4. Anon for this*

      I took medication that suppressed my immune system for years, which meant I got almost every single cold that went around the office, only that I didn’t feel like crap for two days, I felt like crap for at least a week. I am also recently pregnant and directly got a bad cold with a fever because someone came into work sick. One week later, I still have a temperature – I have a history of miscarriages and now I am worried sick.

      The reason people are “panicking” is because not everyone is “blessed with a robust immune system”. Imagine having someone at home who is undergoing chemotherapy and thus has pretty much no immune system.

  36. The One Grossed Out*

    Hi all! First of all, thank you to Alison for posting my question and answering! And thanks for everyone else for the comments. I actually did end up confronting my co-worker yesterday. She went to the restroom, came back to our office, sat down, and BLEW HER NOSE! I finally got up the nerve to ask her why did she just blow her nose in our office when she was just in the restroom? And she said she went to the restroom to use it, and her tissue was in our office. I told her that blowing her nose like that was very distracting not to mention laying the used tissue on her desk was unsanitary. She didn’t say anything to me, and we didn’t really speak to each other the rest of the day. SHE DIDN’T BLOW HER NOSE THE REST OF THE DAY THOUGH! At least, not in our office. I’ve tried to make small talk with her this morning, but it seems she’s still a little miffed by my comment. I’m sure things will “blow-over” (no pun intended!) and maybe now we all can put this behind us!! Thanks again!

    1. The One Grossed Out*

      To be clear, yes this was unsanitary but it was the sounds and noises she was making that was the worst thing. I guess I’m just one of those people that the gurgly, bubbly sound of snot just makes me cringe. And it wasn’t just one blow- it was 3, 4 or 5 at a time that were loud and almost obscene sounding. I think she is loud with everything like that- her nose-blowing, coughing, even her sneezes are also outrageous and everyone in the building can hear them. It’s also not that I don’t like this person- we are actually really good friends, I just wasn’t sure how to approach this subject with her. I had tried humor, kind of joking about it- but obviously she didn’t get the hint and it didn’t help. Thanks!

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        I’m glad you talked to her about it. And I do hope this “blows-over”. haha

        Some of us are just very sensitive to specific noises. For me, it is chewing. I can NOT STAND hearing other people chew food. I actually often have to walk away from people because of it. But I realize that this is MY ISSUE. Not the person chewing. While I think it is reasonable to ask your coworker to try to not blow her nose near you, also try to realize that this is more of you issue than a her issue (please note that I am not saying this is completely you).

        1. The One Grossed Out*

          Thanks HRPro! I did try to think about those things. I am definitely OCD about certain noises- candy wrappers, for instance drive me nuts, as does the sucking of the teeth noise!! But I just don’t see how you can sneeze, cough or blow your nose THAT loud and not think of those around you! Thank you for your input!!

        2. ancolie*


          The absolute worst for me is when someone is eating/chewing and they make this weird little sub-vocalization? Almost like a quiet “mmmff mmmff”. OMG that instantly makes me start to emotionally Hulk-out and I have to tamp it down. I feel like such an a-hole because what? how DARE they … chew their food?

      2. Allison*

        I’m a loud sneezer too, and I hate to say it, but the sound someone makes when they sneeze isn’t something they have much control over. It’s not like burping! I’m not sneezing loudly on purpose, and I hate that my sneezes are disruptive, but I sneeze loudly because that’s how I sneeze. Best I can do is work from home when I have a cold.

        It would be nice if your colleague blows her nose in the bathroom, but if someone’s sick they have to blow their nose a lot, and that’s a lot of trips to the bathroom!

        Some noises bother me too. I can’t stand when people stand right behind my desk and talk at length about some issue they’re dealing with, and that hissing sound people produce when they whisper drives me insane. When I work from home, I effectively trade office noises for the constant sound of trucks – garbage trucks, recycling trucks, delivery trucks, trucks trucks trucks all the time! But, sadly, there’s only so much I can do about noise that bugs me.

        1. fposte*

          Sneezing vocalization is a habit rather than innate, though, so it is changeable if that’s what the problem is. I’m a vocalizing sneezer myself, but once you get the hang of not making the noise, it’s not that hard to avoid.

      3. Ad Astra*

        My husband has loud, almost violent sneezes, and when he blows his nose it sounds like he’s playing the trumpet. So I feel your pain.

        In the next day or two, it might be a good idea to sweetly ask your coworker, “Are you feeling any better?” That way she knows that you actually do care about her general well being.

    2. Erin*

      Even if she’s a bit miffed I’m sure you feel much better after speaking up. Sometimes people don’t get the hint and you have to spell it out, even if that’s a bit uncomfortable.

      And I’m glad to read it was more if a noise issue than a health issue for you, for a variety of reasons. Hopefully she’ll get better soon and all will return to normal!

  37. Observer*

    For all the people prescribing for #1’s co-worker: You need to keep in mind that all of your suggestions might work for you, but that doesn’t mean that it will work for the co-worker.

      1. Observer*

        There were two subthreads where this came up.

        This one ( was mostly about how to approach the coworker, but there was some of that.

        This is the one that really got me going, though. Someone pointed out that there is often not much you can do for this type of cough, which is a really good point. Others, however, seem to disagree. I could have responded to each recommendation, but the whole thing was just not appropriate, imo.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Still not seeing it :) I saw people making suggestions to Stephanie, not the OP, but Stephanie seemed fine with it, and general discussion about how to handle cold symptoms (not directed at the OP). I very much agree that it’s not helpful to try to prescribe for OPs (or in this case, the coworker), but I’m not seeing that in this thread.

          (I don’t mean to start a thread on whether or not this is happening; just wanted to share that I’m not seeing anything I’d consider problematic.)

  38. ITChick*

    #2 – There are 3 industries I know of where a background check will happen way before the offer stage, and potentially even before you’re called for a phone interview. Those are education, healthcare, and government. Certain things on your record automatically disqualify you from being able to be employed in certain jobs in those areas. I work in healthcare and we background check once a phone interview is scheduled, prior to the interview. That way if something comes up, no one’s time is wasted. We also ask upfront for your legal name and separate that from your “preferred name” which I am starting to see more and more at least in my industry. Our application also asks you to assert that we won’t find these disqualifying things on your background check and allow us to do one. I think this is a know your industry thing.

  39. hjc24*

    OP 1 – If it makes you feel better (ha), germs are more commonly transmitted via hard surfaces (doorknobs, etc.) than via the air. Unless your officemate is coughing and sneezing directly into your face, you probably aren’t going to catch what she has from that method. You’d be more likely to catch it from touching things that she has touched after blowing her nose without washing her hands. So, if it’s possible to orient yourself so you’re not facing her, and are careful about washing your hands a lot or using hand sanitizer (the alcohol-based kind, not antibacterial) before touching your own eyes, nose and mouth, you’re probably well-protected.

  40. Manders*

    OP, is your work dependent on the phone, or can you use noise-cancelling headphones and a white noise generator? I have huge issues with getting distracted by the sound of coughing and sniffling, and my last two officemates have had chronic respiratory problems. Finding a way to block out the noise has saved my sanity.

    (And I totally feel you on the frustration about sharing an office with a coworker who won’t go to a doctor–coworker #1 was the same way, and every cold turned into months of hacking coughs. They weren’t contagious but they were extremely gross to listen to.)

    1. The One Grossed Out*

      Manders, I’ve tried the headphones, unfortunately I can only wear ear buds and in one ear, as I need to be able to hear and answer my phone in case it rings. Things are already going much better today. No sneezes, the occasional cough (which is quieter) and I’ve been making small talk to kind of smooth things over. Things *almost* seem back to normal!

  41. Anna*

    #2 – Interesting side note that just came up this weekend for me. I was at a convention and asked an artist to draw something for me, which happened to be Star Wars related. The artist then mentioned that he had just noticed the Chinese name his grandfather had given him was the Chinese equivalent of Skywalker. Best name ever or best name ever?

  42. Case of the Mondays*

    Since a lot of people posted about getting bronchitis here, I figured I’d post the one weird thing that actually stopped my cough when prescription cough medicines didn’t – whiskey. It didn’t have to be enough to have an intoxicating effect. Even just a few spoonfuls in a cup of tea did the trick for hours. I told me doctor and he shrugged and said “safer than codeine. Whatever works.” I was concerned about being seen at work w/ booze though (I was adding some to my tea every couple hours, but again, less than half a shot.” I told my boss and he said “whatever stops the cough.” It worked great. Months later I had another cold and he popped in my office and said “please pick up some whiskey at lunch. You sound awful.” I was so happy to have a boss that supported my alternative cure.

    1. Bagworm*

      That is nice with your boss. I’ve found whiskey to help me, too (hot toddy anyone?).

      Unfortunately, at my employer we can’t even have unopened bottles of alcohol in our cars if they’re in the parking lot. Really awkward when, after an event, they were trying to get rid of a bunch of bottles of extra wine that had been donated (the donor asked them to give the extras to staff). The big boss said she wouldn’t be checking trunks but I thought it was a good time take advantage of scheduling flexibility and scoot on home.

  43. Nelly*

    Chinese name – ask them why they have English names.

    Or, if it’s Abraham or some other bible related name, ask them why they have Arabic names.

    Maybe it’s just me, but that would make me very confrontational.

  44. Going Blue*

    #5 I think that unfortunately when employers design aptitude tests, especially in certain professional specialties, “aptitude” can be conflated with “industry-specific knowledge.” So if you’re asked to do a “basic math” test that depends on you knowing by heart some specific fact like the melting point of chocolate or something, it seems weird and unfair to be told you don’t know basic math. Especially if the next job posted by the company needs “basic math” for something other than melting chocolate. But I don’t know that there’s a productive way to tell the company that their aptitude test doesn’t measure aptitude.

  45. Experience*

    For the person complaining about their coworker coughing and blowing their nose. While its not acceptable to leave your dirty tissues around has it ever occurred to you that maybe your coworker has allergies paired with bronchitis or even asthma, and yes a sinus infection can trigger a runny nose and a bad lingering cough. Not everyone is lucky to avoid allergies, and while it’s annoying to you, believe me it’s probably more annoying to your coworker for having to go thru this. Don’t be so judge mental a lot of times people suffering from sinus infections don’t know and think it’s just a cold.

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