lying about employment dates, changing out of biking clothes at work, and more

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

1. Biking to work and changing clothes when I get there

I am soon to start a new job (my first office job with smart clothes required). The workplace is three miles from my home. I don’t drive and there is no direct bus (I’d have to take two separate buses and it would take close to an hour). However, I love to cycle, and want to make this my method of commuting. I live in a place where rain is pretty commonplace, and in order to look presentable at work, I would need to cycle in appropriate waterproofs and change at work (also, I am a woman who would be predominantly wearing skirts/dresses for work, which aren’t very practical for cycling).

I am a perpetually early person so I’d probably be arriving about 15 minutes before the expected start time and I imagine there wouldn’t be any clients around. I am not sure what is the best way to ask my new employers about the situation – I need to know if there is somewhere to change and to keep wet clothes, but I don’t know if it is going to be at all acceptable for me to arrive at the office in casual clothes and then change into work clothes. I don’t want to make a bad impression by asking about something that might be unacceptable and as this is my first corporate job I’d really appreciate some advice.

It’s probably fine, and even if it’s not, it’s not going to come across badly to ask. (A lot of people bike to work, so it’s not like you’re asking if you can, like, ride a pogo stick around the office.)

I’d wait until you start and then just ask your manager what she thinks. Say something like, “I’d love to ride my bike to work, which would get me here a lot faster — but I didn’t know if it would be strange to change out of biking gear and into work clothes when I arrive. I’m usually an early arriver so I don’t think many people would even see me before I changed. Do you think anyone would have a problem with that?”

2. My manager keeps sharing personal information about my coworkers

My manager doesn’t keep personal information or conversations with his staff private. He gossips about us with our coworkers and insists on including these personal conversations in our team meetings.

To give a few examples, he produced and discussed my coworkers’ personal goals during my private yearly review. (We had to define new goals, and plans for achieving those goals, for the next year. He wanted us to include goals related to our personal lives or aspirations. I declined to do so.) When another manager had a complaint about one of my coworkers, my manager announced this in our team meeting, naming the coworker but not the complaining manager (and then said he would tell the coworker what the actual complaint was afterwards). He also discussed a coworker’s medical history with me in detail, when I expressed concern that the coworker – who had a history of pnenomia – might have caught the flu rather than a simple cold. I tried to turn back to my computer and work, but he continued to talk at me (and ask me questions to try and keep me engaged with him).

In each case, I have tried to tell my manager that I feel this is inappropriate and that it makes me uncomfortable to hear this discussed because it doesn’t involve me. But he won’t hear of it; he states that as he is the manager, he decides what is acceptable and whether it involves me or not. Is he right?

Legally? Sure, no law prevents him from doing what he’s doing. There are no privacy laws that would prevent any of this (even the medical stuff; the main law that governs medical privacy — HIPAA — applies to medical professionals, like doctor’s offices, but in most cases not employers). But in terms of ethics or just generally good management? Yes, he’s overstepping boundaries.

That said, you’ve directly asked him to stop and explained why, and he’s told you in pretty strong terms that he intends to continue. You can continue saying “I’d rather not hear personal information about Jane” and “I don’t think Bob would want me to hear these details,” but beyond that, this is the category of “your manager is a bit of an ass, and this is part of the package of working with him.”

3. Can my cover letter give the times that I can be reached?

Is it appropriate to say the following in a cover letter since I can’t receive calls at work? “The best times to reach me are before 8:00 am or after 6:00 pm at (xxx)xxx-xxxx. I can also be reached via email at or on my mobile phone at (xxx)xxx-xxxx.”

Well, you’re asking people to contact you outside of their own normal work hours, so you’re basically asking them to work when they’re on non-work time (and possibly even to work overtime if they’re non-exempt). Some people won’t mind that, but it’s not going to be realistic for everyone. It’s also a little unclear from the wording whether the before 8/after 6 thing only applies to that first phone number, or if it also applies to that second number and the email. (If the mobile number is exempt from the time restrictions, then just give the mobile number and not the other one.)

I think your best bet is to assume that employers will reach out to you during business hours because that’s how the business world tends to work, and just be vigilant about monitoring your voicemail and email and get back to them as promptly as you can. That said, if you really want to, you could say something like, “It tends to be easiest to reach me by phone before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m. because of my work schedule, but if you reach out by email, I’d be glad to schedule a specific time to talk!”

4. Will lying about my employment dates be a problem?

How critical in the employment verification process is the accuracy of dates to the recruiters, when they’re getting ready to make a offer?

If I tell an employer on my resume and in the interview that I’m still working a contract job that actually ended last month — for the sake of not having any gaps in my employment — and if the start and end dates are fluffed by a few months, will this be critical in my potential to have the offer extended?

It’s very likely that it will be a problem, yes. Because it’s a lie, and while a few months might not seem like anything that anyone should care about, evidence of integrity (or lack of integrity) is very much something that employers care about. Demonstrating that you are a truthful person who operates with integrity is far more important to most employers than whether you had a gap of a few months.

(In fact, gaps of a few months are basically a non-issue, unless they happen to highlight that you left the last job because you were fired or under other problematic circumstances … but since it was a contract job, that’s probably not an issue.)

5. My coworkers keep pressing me to take an expensive vacation

Like the letter-writer last week who wanted her employee to take a week-long vacation, my manager and coworkers have been pressuring me to take a week off. They mean well, as my workload earlier this year was overwhelming and they are concerned about me getting burned out. I have taken a day off here and there, but I’m getting the feeling that this is not enough. My coworkers keep pressing me to “get away from it all” and go to places like Alaska or Costa Rica or Hawaii. While I’d love to go to any or all of those places, I don’t have the money to travel right now. My husband is unable to take time off and I don’t have a car, so even if I took a week-long “staycation,” I would be stuck at home and seriously bummed out because I couldn’t go anywhere. I work from home, so it would also be difficult to feel completely separated from work for a week.

How should I respond to the constant suggestions that I travel to exotic locales?

“It’s not in our budget.”

Or, “Sounds great, but it’s not in our budget.”

Or, “I know you mean well, but it’s not something I can afford.”

Or, “If you’re footing the bill, yes!”

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. Nelly*

    3. Had the same issue, but made a joke out of it. “I can’t take calls at work (Librarian! Shhhh!) but feel free to call and leave a voice mail any time.”

    1. Anon for this*

      Did this work? This seems problematic to me if you’re applying to another librarian job since it calls on an old stereotype librarians are still trying to get away from and it is possibly not true (I don’t know anyone who is at the front line all day). I understand wanting discretion or not having a private place to talk but this would turn me off as a hiring manager.

      1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

        For some of my coworkers, they are pretty much stuck on some desk all day ( might be a rotation between a few work stations). If they are not on the desk, they are generally in a meeting. Their break times change from week to week, which they likely wouldn’t be able to predict much more than a week or two in advance.

        Point is, I think it depends on the job someone is seeking. Some places are very old school (current job), while others are far from it (old public library job). If it is obvious that one’s current job is very reference heavy, then it’s less likely the hiring manager will think it’s weird. Especially if the job the applicant applied to is a reference position. I think the same would go for shelving.

      2. Librarosaurus*

        Oooooh…this would annoy me (as a librarian and someone who hires librarians and library staff) exactly for this reason. I would assume this candidate was stuck in an outdated view of librarianship…sorry!

  2. Stephanie*

    #3: I’ve thought about this, since I work at night and am not always awake during business hours. I figure if someone does call and I’m asleep, I can just call back with a message with my availability. I figure no reasonable recruiter/potential job is going to ding me if they can’t get me at 9 am.

    #4: I think an interviewer would get that a contract gig ended. I wouldn’t worry too much about the gap, especially if you clearly indicate that it was a contract job.

    1. Ops Analyst*

      #4- it doesn’t specifically say this but I actually read this question to mean they were already in the verification stage. No evidence of that I guess but if she is then it might be too late. Two thoughts about this…

      1) they may not even verify current employer beyond a recent pay stub and one from a month ago will probably be ok. This is what I had to provide at my current job and they didn’t look into the job I had when they hired me at all. But OP, if this was just on your resume and you never specifically said you were currently working there you could try saying that you didn’t realize you submitted a resume that said the job was still current. I know, more lying, not a great idea and doesn’t promote integrity, but hopefully OP will learn her lesson here and people need jobs so I wouldn’t blame her if this is what she had to do at this point.

      2) I have a decade of contract jobs on my resume with many gaps. When I didn’t write they were contract jobs it looked like I was a job hopper but once I specifically noted it I have never had a problem. I’m in a permanent job now and the gaps weren’t even a question that came up. I don’t think you need to worry about it so just be honest going forward and add that it was a contract position in your resume.

      1. The Strand*

        2) is priceless info. Some of us had to learn it the hard way. If you are forced into an online job/resume tool, make sure you emphasize somehow that they are contracts, in the way that you organize them one after another and name them.

    2. Kalli*

      I actually lost out on a job because they called me at 10am and I could only get back to them at 1pm by reason of being asleep with a migraine.

      Terrible workplace averted, but still, it was demoralising as all get out to be told ‘we don’t normally have this much trouble contacting junior staff’ when I got back to them ASAP. I did tell the recruiter that I wasn’t very happy and they needed to be careful to not set up a disability discrimination case (nicely, of course). So, it does happen.

  3. Liz*

    #1 – Just don’t follow the example of one of my colleagues, and leave your cycling gear hanging in the ladies bathroom all day. It’s not as cute as she thinks.

    1. BRR*

      I’m curious if there would be a good place to leave wet clothes. I know my experience isn’t universal but I’ve never worked or been in an office where there was a place to put wet clothes to dry (I don’t consider the bathroom an appropriate place).

      1. Urban_Adventurer*

        I’ve been hanging mine in an old closet. I work in a hundred year old building so it’s full of little nooks that no one uses.

      2. notfunny.*

        In my cubicle, I have two hooks on the side of the fake wall and then some magnet hook things that go on the side of the drawers under my desk. When it’s rainy, my rain jacket, helmet and rain pants go on the cube hooks and any wet socks, gloves, hats, etc. are hung up under my desk. I do change almost every day but that’s personal preference I think.

        1. TCO*

          I also hang anything damp under my desk or spread it out on the floor under my desk in a corner where it’s not noticeable. If needed, I aim a little fan on it for a while to make sure it’s dry when I leave. I wish I could more easily dry out my sports bra when it’s sweaty, but I can at least usually discreetly hide it under/behind something to get it a bit of air circulation.

          1. JennyFair*

            If it helps, I hang my bra on the same hanger I use for my shirt, and then put the shirt on the hanger over it. They always dry out, even on really hot, sweaty days.

            I hang that hanger and the hanger with my skirt/bike shorts on over-the-door hooks that I have put over the edge of my desk, which has weird half-walls around the top. I use the wall-side of my desk so they hang between the desk and the wall, so it’s fairly discrete, which is good, since I’m the receptionist :)

    2. Lady Bug*

      I have a little bag that is designed for wet gym clothes. I drive to work, but go to the gym 1st and leaving my gym clothes loose in my gym bag for 8+ hours made my car smell horrific. Now my car smells fine. It was $7 on Amazon, called a wet yoga bag or something like that. It easily fits pants, top, sports bra, socks, tank top with room to spare, so it might work to keep any potentially smelly clothes stored safely for the day

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I just leave my clothes in my gym bag in my car. Guess it depends on the gym bag, but mine is kind of coated on the inside, so the stink stays in the bag and doesn’t seem to attach to the bag, either. The only problem I have is the perma-funk on my shoes from sitting around wet all day.

        1. Beancounter in Texas*

          I use wet bags by Planet Wise for soiled cloth diapers & they hold the stink in. But the clothes will be wet at the end of the day too.

          As for perma-funk on your shoes, AnotherAlison, Poo-Pourri has Shoe-Pourri for odorous shoes. I use their products for bathroom visits (ahem) and for stinky diaper pails.

      2. VintageLydia USA*

        I think the problem is she’ll need to put the clothes back on at the end of the day to go home and they need to be dry for that.

      3. Rebecca*

        This is what I was going to suggest, there are lots of products out there for storing wet/sweaty clothes. One of my running buddies does long-distance relay races and she says she will put her sweaty clothes into a big Ziploc with a dryer sheet.

    3. Nina*

      I was reminded of a previous letter when the OP’s coworker was leaving his damp swimsuit thong on the doorknob so it could dry out. No, thank you.

  4. Cambridge Comma*

    #1, perhaps you are slightly overthinking the cycling? It’s a very short ride. I used yo have a similar commute, and it it isn’t cross country, I’m not sure you need to change clothes. Just take the ride a bit slower to avoid sweating, and it it’s raining, wear a waterproof jacket, which wouldn’t need special changing arrangements or explanations. If you’re wearing a skirt or dress, put on a pair of leggings (not sure if leggings are called leggings in the States, I think you call them yoga pants? ) — of course, this will be less comfortable than the gear you wear when cycling as your hobby, but focus on the commuting aspect, not the sport. Perhaps have an emergency outfit at work in case you get soaked, which can also come in handy for other reasons such as coffee spills or wardrobe malfunctions.

    1. Just Visiting*

      Yeah, three miles is nothing. Once she gets into the rhythm, it won’t even take the OP fifteen minutes. I wouldn’t bother changing for that, changing would take longer than the commute! Men’s boxer briefs are also really good under-skirt garments. Ride at a leisurely pace, swab some deodorant under your armpits when you get to work, and you’ll be fine. I’ve been bike commuting for over four years and have always worn the same clothes on the bike as at work and my commute is twice as long as the OP’s (extra set of clothes at work is a good idea though).

      I also wouldn’t ask permission to ride because on the off chance that they DO have a problem with it, well, there goes your easy bike commute.

      1. the gold digger*

        I have to ask this, because I have seen women do this in the locker room – not washing after working out but just putting deodorant on top of their sweat.

        Does this actually work for anyone? The sweat is already there. Does applying deodorant after the fact help? I wouldn’t think it would.

        (Related question – all of you who put your deodorant on after you have put on your clothes – how long does it take to dry? Doesn’t it get on your clothes?)

        1. Rebecca*

          I do this all the time, with things way sweatier than cycling. Shake out my hair, slap on some deodorant, wipe off with a washcloth, and go. I’ve had friends “check” me and never had any issues with stink after putting on clean clothes.

        2. fposte*

          Sure, presuming you’re using something that decently works as deodorant, because it’s curbing the bacteria that make the funk. It’s not the salt water itself that’s the problem.

        3. Liza*

          Gold Digger: It works for me, at least if the deodorant is also an antiperspirant.

          Just Visiting: Eh, I disagree on your fifteen minute estimate. I bike three and a half miles to work, and what with traffic and stopping at lights, it takes me about half an hour. (Biking home is sometimes as short as twenty minutes, because traffic patterns are different at that time of day and I’m not trying to avoid getting sweaty.)

          1. Honeybee*

            I think it depends. I used to bike almost 4 miles to school and it only took me about 20 minutes once I got into the rhythm of it, but there were hardly any traffic lights along the way and lots of bike paths.

        4. Kyrielle*

          And, if you’re one of those people who sweats a lot and you want to look less-sweaty – just keep a thing of baby wipes at work. Baby wipes are amazing for a quick clean-up. (So are the expensive exercise wipes, I assume, but since they’re basically the same thing, I don’t see the point in paying extra for them.)

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This is what I do, for use after stair climbs. They’re super cheap and work exactly the same. If it’s really hot out, I might have a tiny Secret in my tote bag, and I have a fan under my desk to cool off with after I sit back down.

          2. pugsnbourbon*

            I work in a job where I might get super sweaty and then have to be presentable for a meeting. These Ban Refreshing cloths have been a lifesaver – the scent is not overpowering and they alleviate that “swamp” feeling. They do contain alcohol, so be wary of using on any freshly shaved regions.

      2. Dynamic Beige*

        Yeah, three miles is nothing. Once she gets into the rhythm, it won’t even take the OP fifteen minutes.

        I don’t think it’s sweat the OP is worried about, but rain. If she’s in Seattle, for example, it rains a lot and she would need some sort of rainsuit to stay dry on a bike.

        OP, I would just ask on your first day. You can’t be the only person there who bikes or has biked in the past. If it’s a rainy place, they should be used to needing a place for boots/umbrellas/raincoats.

        1. Nicole*

          I bike commute in Seattle and if you have fenders, you really don’t get as wet as you’d expect, especially for 3.5 miles. A breathable raincoat will be fine 99% of the time. I too started bike commuting worried about where to change but soon found it easier to not change most of the time. I work with some people who change and while we have a locker room, many choose to just change in a bathroom stall.

          I agree that it’s not worth asking about – it’s your commute! Some people drive, some ride the bus, you want to bike. Would anyone ever ask for permission to drive to work?

          1. bike commuter over ten years*

            Also, it did doesn’t make sense to ask on the first day because you will bike to get to work on that day. You could ask where the best place to change or hang up wet gear is, but don’t ask permission to bike!

        2. Cath in Canada*

          Climate and terrain are huge factors. Riding to work in Glasgow and then Vancouver (both very rainy, very hilly cities) was totally different to riding to school in my very flat, relatively dry home town.

    2. Panda Bandit*

      Leggings here look to be the same as leggings there. Yoga pants can be form-fitting but I’ve also seen them with a much baggier cut.

    3. Avocado*

      Leggings are called leggings in the US; yoga pants are something different (usually looser-fitting.) And then there’s yoga leggings…

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Ah, I thought you called leggings what we call footless tights. And then I probably don’t know what yoga pants are, although I like to imagine that they are a nice big comfortable pair of granny knickers.

        1. Lai*

          Yoga pants can look very similar to leggings, or can have a looser fit. Yoga pants are also usually made of a thicker, athletic-type material, made to be worn in public (as opposed to leggings, which are thin material and should only be worn under a skirt or dress – although I know not all Americans agree with me on that one!)

          1. Ellie H.*

            Some leggings are more like footless tights, some are thick enough to wear as pants – they’re not all thin.

            1. UK Curious*

              Gotta ask what’s the difference between tights and pantyhose?

              A Longtime ago found myself in an amateur theatre production, with mostly American folks, which asked everyone to get tights for the show – I came in what I thought were tights (thick wooly pantyhose) whereas everyone else had leggings.

              Now you guys say leggings, tights and pantyhose. When is one not the other? :&

              1. StarHopper*

                Leggings are footless and can be thin or thicker, but not sheer.
                Tights are footed and opaque.
                Pantyhose is footed and sheer.

                And yoga pants (the best of all pants) are stretchy and form-fitting, but much thicker than leggings or tights. I like them with a boot cut.

                1. Ife*

                  Also, at least in my area, it’s not wrong to call pantyhose “tights.” Pantyhose is just a more specific word.

                2. the gold digger*

                  Pantyhose are the item that always snag the first day you wear them. The more flattering they are – ie, the more sheer they are, the more likely they are to snag. It’s like the furniture manufacturers are in collusion with the pantyhose makers. The underside of your desk or of the table in the meeting room always has rough patches or exposed bolts and that’s what your leg hits.

                  If you want not to spend ten dollars a day on hose, then you wear really ugly, thick tights.

                3. Chinook*

                  Also, tights are often thick enough to keep you warm under a dress or pants (instead of long johns) while pantyhose (or “nylons” up here) are more about smoothing out the colouring of your legs and give no warmth.

                  The one thing all three have in common is that they are not acceptable to be worn without something covering your butt.

              2. Dynamic Beige*

                Where was this? I wonder if this is some regional variation like pop/soda/coke.

                In Canada, tights would be like you describe, thicker than pantyhose and opaque often coming in colours that are not skin toned (orange, red, brown, green), I used to wear them a lot when I was a kid. Pantyhose are sheer/translucent. Leggings would be form fitting jersey (t-shirt material) or spandex with no feet in them/ending at the ankle — although I am old enough to remember stirrup pants. Yay 80’s! Yoga pants usually are not as close to the body as leggings, at least all over and the material is thicker. You could still do yoga in leggings, I think that yoga pants are just another marketing tool. I mean, it’s not like they had them in India 5,000 years ago.

              3. Pinkie Pie Chart*

                I’m going to put in a plug for my favorite, favorite place to buy tights and leggings.

                They sell tights in 50+ colors, and do leggings, socks, shoelaces, body stockings, fishnets, gloves, leotards, etc. And they sell things in Big Girl sizes, so I can get awesome colored tights which don’t shred the first time you put them on.

        2. Ad Astra*

          Imo, “leggings” means the fabric is thick enough that they could be worn as pants (though plenty of people think you shouldn’t). “Tights” means they’re thicker than panty hose, but not thick enough to be worn on their own. And yes, “yoga pants” would be slightly looser than “leggings,” though still pretty form-fitting.

          1. Rebecca*

            Haha, on Facebook under “religious beliefs” I have listed Leggings Are Not Pants. I have strong opinions on the matter.

          2. simonthegrey*

            I wear them as pants. Not even ashamed. Of course, I wear a longer shirt with them and it’s usually for costume wear, but….yeah.

    4. Chocolate lover*

      Not everyone can “avoid sweating.” In warm weather, I sweat profusely just from commuting on public transportation and walking 10 minutes to and from the train station. I wear one set of clothes to work and change when I get there. I stick the clothes in a bag in a desk drawer during the day.

      Maybe it’s because I have my own office and/or because I work in a university, but it wouldn’t even occur to me to ask if there was a problem. I walk straight to my office, shut the door and change.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        It’s humid in my city, so just putting my daughter into her car seat before work makes me drip sweat at 7:30am.

        1. Sweaty*

          Humid here too. For most of summer, I sweat walking into my building from my car. I sweat just going out onto my porch or driveway. I walked over to my neighbors house and boom, sweat. And I’m not really a sweater – my brother for example sweats like 10x as much.

          I have bike commuted before but it works best for me in like March/April and mid-September onwards. I do not brave the winters. I enjoy riding, but thank goodness for my car.

    5. Bostonian*

      This really depends on climate, and on the person. I had a similar commute and any time it was less than about 80 degrees I was fine without changing, but I’m a relatively non-sweaty woman in a mostly cool climate. Also depends on hills and whether you’re riding in traffic that controls how fast you’re comfortable going.

      Even if you don’t usually change, I would recommend getting a pair or two of quick-drying workout pants or rain pants of some kind for days when it’s really raining. I didn’t usually take clothes to change when I got to work, but there were a couple of times I misjudged the rain and ended up soaked from thigh to foot, and that was no fun. Fortunately it was usually because I hadn’t looked carefully at the weather for the afternoon on a morning that looked clear so I’d get soaked on the way home, which meant I could just hop in the shower and change right away.

      1. Bostonian*

        Also, around here biking is common enough that I’d phrase the question on the assumption that it’s fine – asking whether there’s a recommended place to park your bike or where you might be able to store a change of clothes (if your desk/cube/office won’t work). If you phrase it too deferentially it makes it easier for the employer to say no, which isn’t ideal.

        Also check with your city transportation department or local bike advocacy group if you have any trouble with your employer about it – a lot of places have programs that encourage bike commuting that you could point to.

      2. mskyle*

        Yeah, I bike just under 4 miles to work, and although I am fortunate enough to have shower and changing facilities at work I really only use them a few weeks a year (like, this week and last week, for sure). If you’re used to cycling for exercise it does take some effort to learn to not push yourself to the sweat point, but if you don’t have a lot of hills, the weather is reasonably cooperative, and you’re in good shape it’s usually doable.

        Also changing into a skirt from shorts or leggings is just about the easiest thing, and really won’t take you any more time than peeing. Much easier than changing from one pair of pants to another. If you want to wear skirts, just bring the skirt and wear whatever you’re going to wear on top and whatever’s comfortable on the bottom, then put on the skirt when you get to work.

        My problem lately (in this hot weather) is that I will wear a shirt or (sportsy) dress with built-in bra on the bike, and then realize once I arrive at work that I have no bra to wear under my work clothes. Oops!

    6. Artemesia*

      It isn’t as if the OP has a real choice either. She can’t drive and buses are not convenient so she either walks or bikes. I wouldn’t approach it with ‘mother may I’ but rather with ‘I need to cycle to work as there is no reliable bus service, I will arrive early and change into work clothes. Is there a back door I could use rather than entering at the main business entrance?’ What is she going to do if she asks cringingly ‘is it all right?’ and she has an inconsiderate boss who says no? This is a situation to frame as a choice of how to handle it rather than may I do it. And I would think a case of body wipes would handle the lack of shower facilities. It is not a long and grueling ride so that ought to take care of the sweatiness and a decent gym bag will take care of the icky clothes lying around — she just has to do laundry every evening.

      1. Beancounter in Texas*

        Agreed! Don’t ask for permission; approach it as though it is perfectly normal for anyone to bike to work and you just need to make sure that you can avoid clients.

    7. TCO*

      I bike four miles each way to work and am usually sweaty when I arrive, at least in the warm humid summer weather. It’s not a difficult ride, I don’t go exceedingly fast, and I’m in good shape–but I’m just a sweater. Since OP is an avid biker I’m assuming she knows her own needs around changing clothes.

      Most days I completely change clothes when I bike in, and I really need to because I’m sweaty. Sometimes I’ll bike home in part of my work outfit (dress pants, etc.) if it’s cool out and I don’t need to worry about looking presentable when I get home.

      When I get to work I just duck into the bathroom right by my office’s door, clean up with baby wipes, change my clothes, put on a bit of makeup, and fix my hair–it all takes about five minutes. My coworkers occasionally see me coming in but they’ve assured me I never look/smell like I was biking once I change for the day.

    8. Anonathon*

      Ditto. It’s definitely good to plan, but you may not need full-on bike gear for this trip. Especially if you leave early and don’t need to book it. I’ve commuted by bike to nearly every job and it varies. My most recent commute was a couple miles, mainly flat (and downhill on the way there), and I just wore work clothes + sneakers. If the weather was lousy, I’d put on a waterproof top layer. That said, I also had a commute that was 5.5 miles and 90% uphill — that one definitely required an outfit change.

    9. AnonAcademic*

      I commute about 7.5-10.5 miles by bike round trip most days (bike .75 miles ->20 min. train ride->bike 3-4.5 miles to office depending on which train stop I’m coming from). I don’t wear special clothes other than leggings under my skirts and generally sleeveless tops. I do get slightly sweaty (there are some hills on my route) but all it takes is 5 minutes in the bathroom cooling off, adjusting my hair/makeup as needed, etc. and I’m fine. I do use a makeup setting spray so that my makeup survives the ride (Urban Decay All Nighter). I love my bike commute, it’s one of the things that attracted me to take my current job :).

    10. JennyFair*

      I have to disagree. I bike 3.25 miles to work in about 21 minutes, and most definitely need to clean up and change most days. People perspire different amounts, and weather also has quite an impact.

  5. Blurgle*

    OP #1, I can’t imagine any employer worth working for who would say no to this. It’s win-win: they have a free parking space and you get to save money and time. Some insurers also reward companies that promote healthy living.

    I do have one suggestion: keep an extra outfit at work if you can. You don’t want your backpack to spring a leak on the wettest day of the year, but that’s invariably when it happens.

    1. notfunny.*

      Also helpful for days you forget something .. Like pants (trousers). Or the times when you spill something…

    2. Adonday Veeah*

      Personally, I think you should just do it, without asking. I’m guessing that if you are at your desk at the appropriate time, in the appropriate work clothes, nobody is going to say anything, or probably even notice. Why bring attention to it by asking? If someone says anything after the fact, address the actual issue (wet clothes in the bathroom or whatever) and move on. You are a grownup and responsible for getting yourself to work on time. It’s none of their business how.

    3. Ella*

      Seconding extra clothing. Even just an extra pair of socks and (if you have a discreet storage space) underpants. You won’t need them for 364 days of the year but on the 365th you will feel like the most prepared awesome person.

  6. Nobody*

    #3 – It seems kind of presumptuous and maybe a bit high-maintenance to put that information in your cover letter. Most employers understand that people are working at their current jobs during normal business hours, and will either contact you by e-mail or leave you a message if they don’t reach you on the first try. If they’re interested in interviewing you, they won’t mind waiting a few hours or until the next day to hear back from you. You should be prepared to figure out how to make time during normal business hours (e.g., use PTO or go somewhere private during your lunch break) because some employers may not be willing or able to come in early or stay late to interview you.

    1. Amber*

      Agreed. Actually when I’m submitting resumes I intentionally don’t answer my cell phone (unless an interview has been scheduled) that way any recruiter calling will leave a message and I’m not put on the spot and can call them back when it’s good for me.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yes. No one is expected to pick up the phone immediately. I typically email to arrange a phone call, but if I were to call without an appointment, I’d expect to leave a message. It’s a little weird to take up space in your cover letter giving the employer permission to contact you and telling them when they are free to do so. Since you’ve applied, it’s assumed that they have your permission to call and email. If you are contacted and start the hiring process, it’s reasonable to tell them a little about your schedule then.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Well, yes, it’s putting the onus on the potential employer, but I believe the OP had the goal to not miss calls or not have hiring managers feel that she is not reachable and get frustrated.

      So I think the OP could rephrase it, saying something like “Please note that I am often unable to answer the phone from 8am to 6pm, but I do monitor voicemail, and I will respond to messages as soon as I can.” However, I think Alison’s suggestion is better, to not say anything or to just suggest email as a better method of contact.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wouldn’t put that; I think it’s a distraction.

        If you are monitoring voice mail and will call back quickly, they’ll find out that this is true when you actually do it.

    4. Ad Astra*

      I used to put this information in my cover letter when I worked non-standard hours, because it was useful information that was contrary to what you’d otherwise assume (and because iPhone’s “do not disturb” function hadn’t been invented yet). So I’d say “I’m available any time on Wednesday or Thursday, or we can work out a time to talk in the early afternoon any other day.” Now that I work 8-5 and M-F, I wouldn’t bother including this.

      1. De (Germany)*

        I put this in my cover letter because my field of work (research & development) means I am forbidden from taking my cell phone into work at all and either need to leave it at home or in the car. I could not even call anyone back during business hours unless planned in advance. Since I applies to similar jobs, hiring managers knew the problem, though.

  7. UKAnon*

    #1 – I’ve always just changed in the ladies, kept a carrier bag in my rucksack so the wet clothes smell can be contained and then washed cycling gear in the evenings. That way you can work around pretty well any environment. Enjoy cycling!

    #2 – Totally inappropriate, but I would be so tempted to just respond every time with increasingly wild and inappropriate stories about “family” and “friends”, mainly just to see how grossly inappropriate I could get before he stopped repeating things to others.

    1. Beancounter in Texas*


      Back in the 50’s or 60’s, my grandfather had a party line – a private line wasn’t available – and there was a known gossip who’d hang out on the line to eavesdrop. Knowing this and wanting to discuss private business matters with his CPA over two hours away, my grandfather pre-arranged with the CPA to add three zeros to any numbers they discussed over the phone. So if they were talking about a couple of thousand dollars, they’d say a couple of million dollars. The catch was that they’d talk in the millions so much that it’d be too juicy not to share, but nobody would believe her either!

  8. Merry and Bright*

    On #2 I love UKAnon’s suggestion!

    When a colleague tells me personal stuff about my coworkers it makes me careful about what I pass on about myseļf, if I know that person is so indiscreet.

  9. W.*

    In relation to #4 is it worth putting (contract work) after the job title or (fixed term) for clarification?
    And would this be something terrible for me to do? I had a job for a number of months that ended before I expected it to, and my manager later agreed to say it was an end of contract rather than I was let go (there was no warning and they liked my work.) Should I put (fixed term) after my role? Although I still think it looks bad that this fixed term role wasn’t renewed, I’ve explained in interviews that the focus of the job wasn’t something that was the bulk of their sales so it as sort of an experiemental role. Or do you think it’s better to be truthful and say it wasn’t a great fit but they were impressed with my work and said they’d give me a good reference.

    1. Merry and Bright*

      I think you would be fine listing your contract as just that, even if it did finish early. Sometimes contracts just do. I have a contract on my CV which finished early because funding for the project was withdrawn early. I think if you volunteer too much information it can look like you have something to hide – and it sounds as if you don’t especially if you have a good reference. You can also explain briefly if you are actually asked.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      Yes. I eliminate applicants for job-hopping all the time (before a phone screen) but short term contracts don’t count. Please, please show on your resume that it was intended to be short term. Same with internships, etc.

      1. T3k*

        What about if the person was laid off? I’ve read not to put on your resume that you were laid off (even if it was no fault of your own) so right now my resume looks like I’m job hopping because I was at my first job for only 7 months, though I’d been planing to be there at least a year, and current job only 5 months (long story short, took it because I was laid off so suddenly, I needed some job, even if it paid in peanuts).

        1. TootsNYC*

          When I looked like I was job-hobbing (lots of layoffs, reorgs, startups folding), I *did* put the reason for my leaving.
          September 2005–July 2006: Teapot Assistant, Greater Teapots (company folded)
          August 2006–June 2007: Teapot Associate, Normalized Teapots Inc. (department reorganized)
          August 2007–December 2998: Substitute Teapot Coordinator (maternity fill-in)

          I got interviews with that. I don’t know if it helped, but it sure didn’t hurt.

          Once I had a job that lasted 3 years, I took it off.

  10. TT*

    #2. I am in a similar situation. I’ve learned to tune her out and keep any personal details very vague. Last thing I want is to be the subject of her gossip.

    1. Artemesia*

      My last boss was like this and early on since I was sort of his right hand person, I thought he was just being very open with me his confidant. I soon realized that he was just gossipy and so became careful about what I shared with him. Always assume a gossipy person will gossip about you.

  11. Staycation*

    #5. I think your co-workers are trying to let you know that your unwillingness to use your vacation time is troubling them. Why, I can’t say – but they might perceive burnout in you that you don’t see in yourself. They are wrongheadingly steering you to choices you can’t afford, and Alison has some great responses to that. But a staycation would be too depressing? Really? Have you really given the staycation idea a fair shot?

    1. SystemsLady*

      If you’ve got extra vacation time that you won’t be able to use on an actual vacation any time soon, I’m confused about that as well. Time off is time off!

      My husband has trouble getting time off, too (his next opportunity will be after my PTO resets), and the recent staycation I took was extremely relaxing.

    2. Chocolate lover*

      As someone with twice as much vacation as her husband, who often can’t even use the time he does have, more than a few days completely by myself would make me miserable and I wouldn’t enjoy it. And I love having alone time, but a whole week at once? That’s not enjoyable.

      1. Doreen*

        I’n in the same boat. I wouldn’t enjoy going away for a week without my husband-but a week where I spend just as much time with him as usual and do whatever I want to during the day (reading, tv, at the beach 20 minutes from home) doesn’t really have a downside.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Maybe the OP could take a day here and there tacked onto a weekend, or whatever her husband has off. That way they could at least spend some time together and she’d get a break as well.

    3. Valley*

      Yeah, nothing wrong with a staycation. Sleeping late, watching TV all day with maybe a few household projects here and there – it’s all good!

      But I do hate when people who can afford expensive things assume everyone else can too. Some people really have no clue how others live.

      1. anonanonanon*


        I have an acquaintance who frequently says she’s “soooo poooor” but then just booked a trip to Costa Rica and is going off to her family’s vacation house in Canada later this month. And then she makes comments about how no one else she knows goes on vacations like this and it must be “so boring” to stay at home or go to the local beach instead.

        People who don’t blink an eye at paying for expensive vacations – let along the expensive flights to get there – rarely seem to realize that a lot of other people can’t fork over the money for the same type of vacation.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I actually have to remind myself of this. My husband and I are lucky because he traveled a lot internationally in a previous job so we have TONS of frequent flyer miles. I can’t remember the last time we paid for an international flight. And if we get free flights, we can usually do the rest pretty cheap because we travel to cheap places and are pretty frugal. So I have to remember that this isn’t the same for everyone.

      2. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

        And some people don’t really have that much, but are extremely passionate about seeing the world, so they scrip and save in most areas of their lives and are really strategic about booking travel to make it all work. There are definitely ways to get around on a budget, but even then, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of daily sacrifices that most people don’t want to do, because to them travel may be nice but it’s not a priority, and that’s okay! It’s okay to prefer a life with little to no major travel but full of smaller luxuries you can appreciate on a more regular basis.

        But there are people who’ve been bitten by the travel bug, really enjoy travel, and their lifestyles revolve around being able to take that next trip, and they often forget that not everyone’s as passionate about travel as they are.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Reading this, I’m thinking of the Buzzfeed post about the couple who quit their jobs to travel and then posted, “Hey, it’s not all glamour; we take odd jobs here and there to pay for stuff and sometimes it’s down to scrubbing toilets. But this is what we want so it’s okay that we have to do this.” You make compromises to do what you want to do.

          Also, off-topic, but I love your username. XD

        2. JMegan*

          Actually, “it’s not a priority for me” might be a good answer to the office busybodies. If they ask why not, you can say “because I have other priorities.” Don’t elaborate, just repeat “other priorities” until they give up and go away.

          Or you can say “why do you want to know?” either before or after talking about your priorities, and force them to either explain that they’re just being nosy or give up and go away.

          Ugh, office busybodies. Seriously, why is it so hard for some people to MYOB?

          1. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

            I’ve heard that advice given a lot, with regards to other things, and it does make sense in a lot of scenarios. Because it’s true, if you care about something you’ll make time for it, or you’ll carve out room in the budget. To an extent, anyway. I wouldn’t say “I don’t have time to clean my room,” I say that having a tidy bedroom isn’t a priority. But I can’t imagine turning down an invite with “I’m sorry, your birthday party isn’t a priority” without hurting someone’s feelings, although I wouldn’t say I didn’t have time or couldn’t afford it, I usually either give a very specific reason or I’m super vague with “I can’t make it.”

            But in this case, it’s totally legit to say that travel isn’t a priority. That said, even if OP can’t afford an extravagant trip they should still take a week off and either find somewhere local/inexpensive to go, someone to visit, or something fun to do at home for a week. There’s a huge spectrum between a week in Paris and a boring week at home.

        3. simonthegrey*

          This was me in my 20s. I went all over Europe, took a trip to Hawaii with a friend, spent a summer on a beach in the south…but I had no savings and I worked whatever job I could take. I drove an ancient car and lived in the tiniest postage stamp of an apartment. I wasn’t married and had no kids, so that was my life. I haven’t been overseas since I turned 30, and the last long trip I took was my grandmother’s funeral, 17 hours away. If travel is what people want to spend their money on – more power to them! I just don’t think everyone has to travel to be happy.

      1. catsAreCool*

        Good for you! I’ve love staycations. I can sleep in, stay up late, go to my favorite stores during the day, maybe run just a few errands that I’ve been meaning to get to.

    4. Shan*

      Some people don’t really enjoy staycations, and I’m one of them. I’m single and live alone, and there’s nothing appealing about being alone at home all day for several days. A day or two is nice, but after that, I get stir-crazy in my tiny city apartment. There’s lots of fun touristy things to do in and around my city, but it gets kinda pricey, and I’d rather save my money for a fun weekend.

      I take a day or two at a time for a few long weekends rather than an entire week off, because that’s when I’m able to go visit family, hang out with friends, take a weekend trip to a nearby city, etc. Sounds like the same is true for OP. They don’t even have a car so they would be literally staying home all day, everyday, for a week, and I don’t blame them for finding that boring and saving their days off for vacations that would be more enjoyable for them.

      I do think OP should consider that they may be burning out and make some kind of plans to relax, even if it’s just a Friday-Monday weekend trip, or day at the spa.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I don’t like them either for the same reason, unless I have a bunch of projects I want to do around the house. I’ve taken Friday off so the Labor Day weekend will be four days for me. I wish I had somewhere to go, but since I don’t, at least I can get stuff done. It’s stuff-chucking time, in preparation to paint some rooms that REALLY need it.

      2. LBK*

        I take a day or two at a time for a few long weekends rather than an entire week off, because that’s when I’m able to go visit family, hang out with friends, take a weekend trip to a nearby city, etc.

        I’m confused why you can’t do this on a staycation? You don’t have to pick one activity that has to last the whole week – you can go visit family for a day or two, spend a day or two lounging around doing nothing, go to a museum one day, etc. I think the biggest factor is making a plan just like you would with any other vacation except the plan revolves around doing things locally/in your house. You don’t have to leave your time completely open-ended.

        1. Jesse*

          Yeah, exactly. That’s my favorite kind of week off — a couple of days out of town, a couple of days at home with plans, a couple of days with no plans!

    5. T3k*

      If the OP is anything like how my mom and I are, a staycation won’t really feel like a relaxing time. I’m the type that’s always on the move (I get it from my mom) so when one of us is sick, we’re a nightmare because after a day or two laying around the house, we both are like “I want to do something, give me some work to do!” and try to find something around the house to do when we should be in bed. I can only think of one time my mom took a week off and stayed home (like the OP, can’t afford to go anywhere) and she only did it because she felt she needed a break after completing her degree while working full time. But otherwise we go crazy if we don’t have any work to do.

    6. TootsNYC*

      Have you really given the staycation idea a fair shot?

      Yes–is there not a week when your kids are off school (if you’ve got them)?

      If you did a little research, are there not activities you could do with them? Go see a local museum; hike a local trail?

      The true staycation is not hanging around the house doing nothing–it’s planning vacation-type things to do that you don’t normally do, only it happens to be at home.

      Or make a plan to do a project–want to build a picnic table? Want to sew a T-shirt quilt? Plan the project; do the same amount of planning you’d do for a week in Hawaii–research what you need, plot out which day you’ll do what. The get up bright and early every morning and go to it!
      Sure, it won’t be “leisure,” but it WILL be “away from work.” It’ll be really different. And that will refresh you.

  12. BRR*

    #3 Are you unable to call back during normal business hours at all? I’d probably just leave it out anyways though. I don’t think recruiters expect candidates to always answer (or if they do they suck).

    #5 If you feel weird to talk about money you could also say your husband can’t take the time off. Although it’s really annoying your coworkers are suggesting (perhaps the word insisting is better) you spend thousands of dollars on a vacation.

    1. Jennifer*

      I’ve been called at my work number because they could look up my work number, even though I didn’t give it out. I actually thanked an HR lady for NOT calling me at work and she was baffled.

    2. I am #3*

      Thank you Alison and everyone for your helpful responses. I can’t receive calls at work, but I’m able to respond to voice-mail messages during my break. I was under the impression that if you don’t pick up immediately when a potential employer calls it means that you aren’t serious about the job. I’m so glad to hear that this isn’t the case. I’ll just include my cell number from now on and monitor my voice-mail. Simple!

  13. Sigrid*

    Q: My coworker keeps riding a pogo stick around the office, is this legal?

    A: Yes, but it’s really annoying. Talk to your boss to get it to stop (unless you’re in a Silicon Valley tech company, in which case it’s probably part of the “culture” and you’re just going to have to deal with it).

    …..Sorry, I was amused by Alison’s example.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I’ve never thought to use “ride” with a pogo stick. Still laughing. Not sure what verb I would use, though…pogo sticks are unlike anything else.

      1. Phlox*

        I took my pogo stick on a family walk when I was a kid, turns out it has too much up movement, not enough forwards and I had a hard time keeping up with the grandparents. I’ll stick with biking everywhere.

        In terms of biking to work in a rainy city, it might be worth looking into a cleverhood. Great way to wear work clothes and stay dry! But the change technique is also common. Maybe feel it out for the first few days and then follow the lead of other coworkers. That way you can scope out bike racks, places to store your gear, route and morning routine. Give it a shot and adjust from there. Congrats on the new gig and the new commute!

    2. Alston*

      Hmm, not sure I’d recommend this mode of transport.

      Couple years ago I broke both arms on a pogo stick just bouncing down my driveway.

      I do however know two people with trampoline standing desks.

      1. DMented Kitty*

        What in the what? Trampoline bouncing desks? I’d get carsick trying to type in an email.

        Unless you’re just kind of doing a “vibrating” bounce – but I can’t even.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          After breaking my arm really badly when I was seven (fell off a pony and then spent three weeks in traction in hospital), I wasn’t allowed one of those, or anything else in the “fun but dangerous” category. I borrowed my friend’s all the time though. Awesome toy – I wish there were adult-sized versions!

    3. AnonAcademic*

      “unless you’re in a Silicon Valley tech company, in which case it’s probably part of the “culture” and you’re just going to have to deal with it”

      Ha, it’s funny because it’s true…the number of 30 and 40something dudes on motorized razor scooters and skateboards in the Bay Area is definitely a cultural difference. Living outside NYC, scooters and skateboards were considered fairly juvenile modes of travel akin to riding a tricycle to work or something, and would raise eyebrows at any mainstream/corporate job. Here it’s like “look at my wheels!”

    4. Cristina*

      Excuse me, but here in Silicon Valley we ride razor scooters around the office, not pogo sticks! (You think I’m kidding…)

  14. NDQ*

    I used to think the capacity to maintain confidential information was a hallmark of managers and HR personnel. I know better now. In my current position, I’ve discovered the worst gossips are those privy to sensitive information.

    I don’t play the information game with them and when they make jokes about people’s ages or disability (!), I send the person a polite email that essentially says “between you and me, when you do (blank) you put our government agency at risk of (blank), which would be terribly embarrassing. Since you are entrusted with everyone’s most private information, we need to feel confident you are maintaining that trust.”

    The effect of an email in government is that it creates a public record. It has also worked to end the joking with the HR reps, but the manager is a different story.


    1. LBK*

      I’m not sure I’d go the email route – I suppose the record for government purposes is somewhat worthwhile but I’d read that email as really confrontational, not polite, and it would be pretty out of line to send to someone you don’t have authority over. I think that conversation would work better in person where you can make sure you’re using the right tone.

      1. NDQ*

        Yes, it’s a big part of my job to ensure the agency isn’t violating laws, rules and regulations. Everyone gets the talk in person when they are hired and during regular training. The polite part of the email is that their supervisor isn’t copied.

        The agency board of directors has a low tolerance for anything that wastes taxpayer funds and paying private attorneys to defend federal charges isn’t in my compliance budget.

        I don’t believe this works at all in the private sector, but government work is weird in every way.


  15. JV10*

    #1, since I don’t use paper, I use my (closed) file cabinets to let my clothes air out from my 4 mile ride. I disagree with everyone saying to wear your work clothes because even though it’s not a lot, you WILL sweat and it will probably rain. My bigger issue is storage for work clothes. I like to have a week’s worth of clothing in my coat closet, but it barely fits without wrinkling. I guess that’s a nice problem to have since I actually HAVE a coat closet, but it’s still a pain.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      The sweating issue also depends on the climate (and terrain). Sometimes in the summer I am almost instantly sweaty when I go outside. There is no way I could ride a bike for three miles in the summer without sweating.

      1. AnonInSC*

        That was my thought. As my username implies, I’m in South Carolina. We’ve had the hottest summer ever. A half mile commute in 100 degree weather with 90% humidity would be too much in work clothes!

  16. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP#2, here’s a variation that might be harder for your boss to dismiss: “Please don’t tell me personal information about Jane. I feel very uncomfortable hearing it, and I’d be very upset if someone was talking about me like that.” That last part puts the boss on notice that, no matter how much they might enjoy the gossip, the person they’re talking about would probably also be offended. It’s also harder for them to argue with that phrasing, as they have no say in whether someone is upset or uncomfortable.

    1. Mephyle*

      I like that – it also puts the boss on notice that you wonder whether (or suspect, or assume) she talks that way about you to others.

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      Well, if you’re already in a bikini at work, changing into work clothes would seem like a good idea. :)

  17. LQ*

    #5 If you want to go for anther tact you can emphasis the random days off.

    “I love a good long weekend, I’ve got another coming up!”
    “Or taking a day in the middle of the week is best, bonus Friday!”

  18. coffee or tea*

    #1 – your employer shouldn’t have a problem with it. My bike commute distance is fairly similar to yours and I also wear skirts and dresses to work. I’ve found that wearing leggings rarely works for the types of outfits I need to wear so I need change at work. I try to keep an extra change of clothes and shoes at work just in case, along with baby wipes and deodorant. If you’re fortunate enough to have your own office you could put a command hook on the backside of your door and hang your wet clothes up there. That way they are out of everyone’s way and can dry.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – “Fluffed?”

    No. It’s dishonest, plain and simple. I consider even a whiff of lying grounds for throwing out an application – if you’ll lie about something small, what else would you lie about?

  20. Ad Astra*

    OP #4, how many days are you willing to take off at once? These people have some valid concern about your risk of burnout, but I can understand how a week-long staycation without a car wouldn’t be relaxing for everyone. A four-day weekend might satisfy your coworkers, though.

    Also, would a less-exotic trip be in your budget? What about taking a long weekend to visit friends or family on the other side of the state? Or a few days at a nearby lake? I know sometimes budgets are so tight that any travel at all is out of the question, but it’s not clear from the letter if that’s the case.

    1. Naomi*

      Yeah, OP 5’s husband not having time off would still be an issue, but I was also going to raise the possibility that OP could take a less expensive trip. Rent a car, find a nice B&B somewhere not too far away, and take a few days off. You might be able to find a way to get a few days of relaxation (and get your coworkers off your back) without blowing tons of money on airfare.

      1. TCO*

        I wonder if a volunteer project/event (even a remote project from home) could be another affordable way for OP to get some time away from work without feeling bored and isolated.

    2. Shan*

      I agree with you! I mentioned above that I don’t like long staycations because I’m single and live alone, and that would mean I’d be alone for a week and bored out of my mind. And I’m pretty broke, so I can’t really travel either. The best use of vacation time and money for me have been long weekend trips to nearby cities. I’ve had a few really fun vacations to NOLA, Dallas, and Austin, and when I go with friends I usually spend less than $300.

    3. OP#5*

      Thanks for the suggestions. My husband and I were able to fit in a long weekend last weekend to visit my family (they live 13 hrs from us). I may also rent a car to make a little trip to see a friend a few hours away! Not having many friends and family nearby make plans a little more difficult.

      1. JMegan*

        On the other hand, not having family and friends nearby might make it easier in some ways! Because then you could do more of what you just did – take a longish weekend and go somewhere *just* outside your normal range, that you wouldn’t normally go to otherwise. It works especially well if these are people that your husband wouldn’t mind not seeing, like your great-aunt Ethyl or your best friend from college.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I suggested above that if your hubby does have some time off, you could take the day to coincide with his, so it wouldn’t be boring to sit around. That way you could hang out together and still not have to be stuck at home for a week.

        I had friends whose spouses worked opposite schedules (days/nights). I don’t know how they did it–they hardly ever saw each other. Plus working nights is bleah.

  21. anon for this*

    re: #1

    Every morning as I walk to work from the train I see this guy totally stripping down on the sidewalk after riding his bike. First he takes off his t-shirt and puts on a button-down, then he takes off the large nylon shorts he wears over his biking shorts and puts on pants. I really wish he’d just do all this at the office! But apparently this is an acceptable work-around if they say no.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I feel like he has to arrive at work with a stink on him because there are important steps he’s missing between taking off the biking clothes and putting on the work ones.

    2. Windchime*

      I can’t imagine walking around all day wearing bike shorts under my pants. That sounds extremely uncomfortable and sweaty.

  22. AVP*

    re #4 – I’ve seen someone have an offer pulled due to this sort of fibbing.

    On a reference check that was of the “just checking boxes” sort, the HM kept telling me how happy he was to be working with my old employee, and then he read off the dates on her resume and I was like, huh? No, she didn’t work those months, she left in February, not August….it turns out she wanted less of a gap so she had given herself an extra six months of employment with me. And didn’t tell me, so I was obviously really surprised to hear that in the reference check and it showed. She did not get the offer after all.

  23. LBK*

    On #2, maybe I’m not fully understanding but those don’t sound like egregious examples to me? For the personal goals, unless they were really private goals, I don’t see how it’s out of line to give some examples of what a coworker said if you’re struggling to come up with ideas. For the medical issue, it sounds like you’re the one that brought it up, so I’m not clear how engaging a conversation based on a subject you raised is a violation of privacy. The public announcement of the complaint I suppose I’ll give you, but I’d still question how it was raised.

    My point being, I wonder if your calibration of “private” info is maybe off a little – not every single thing about your coworkers automatically defaults to confidential, especially if it’s work-related like a customer issue or a career goal. If you’re confident that these are oversteps of boundaries on your manager’s part then certainly Alison’s advice is good, but maybe feel out if your coworkers feel as violated by this before assuming they are?

    1. Kyrielle*

      I read it as being about *personal* goals because of the parenthetical: “(We had to define new goals, and plans for achieving those goals, for the next year. He wanted us to include goals related to our personal lives or aspirations. I declined to do so.)”

      Honestly, I’m pretty sure any manager asking you to define goals related to your personal life is already stepping over bounds…but then it sounds like he shared some of those. It’s possible they were really innocuous (because I think most people, if pushed to this, would pick innocuous things!), but….

  24. NY*

    #3, why give your home number at all? Just include your cell phone and if you can’t answer it at work, let the person leave a voicemail. I have always just included my e-mail and cell number on my resume and let them contact me that way–it works fine. If you step out for lunch you can call them back. I find a lot of people these days e-mail first anyway. Good luck!

  25. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    #4 – I got dinged on something similar once. My resume said my position ended in August and they came back and asked me because my employer said it ended in June. It was a teaching position and though I wasn’t “working”, I was still getting checks from them. It was my first year teaching, so I didn’t know I shouldn’t list it that way. I just told the company that I was continuing to be paid through the summer for work the previous school year and it seemed to clear it up.

    But what you’re proposing isn’t just an honest mistake, that would be lying on your resume. I don’t think most people would want to hire someone who lies on their resume. They would forever be wondering what else you were lying/had lied about. Just put the correct dates and list the position as a contract job. Contracts come and go a lot more fluidly than most jobs.

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve been working in education a long time (including teaching), and I don’t really see what’s wrong with how you listed it. Every teaching assignment I’ve had has a been a full-year teaching assignment. Just because classes end in June doesn’t mean my employment does. If they start me at the end of August, I end at the middle of next August, not June. Seriously, I can’t believe someone “dinged” you for that. I’ve worked in public ed, private ed, teaching, non-teaching, and hiring for schools… I see nothing wrong with you listing employment until August in this situation.

      1. TootsNYC*

        but you aren’t really an employee during the summer, are you? You’re just getting your checks on an artificial schedule.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          I disagree.

          I’m an employee when on parental leave or out sick or on vacation or on sabbatical. Why am I not an employee during the summer? If I leave a school in June and the school pays me until August, and the school wants me to come in for a debriefing meeting in July or some other random duties, I’m not going to say “Well, I can’t do that. See—I’m not actually an employee anymore. You’re just issuing me paychecks on an artificial schedule.”

          1. blackcat*

            Oops, that’s what I get for taking too long to click back over to this window and post.

            Yes, what Anon Educator said is exactly right. Even when I left my old job, the school asked me to come in through mid July for various things. The school year ended in June, but my contract said I was still an employee.

        2. blackcat*

          Depends on the school system; teachers are more likely to have actual contracts that spell this out.

          When I was at a teacher, I was on a “10 month” contract, with dates something like July 15th-July 14th. The term “10 month” meant things to in terms of the benefits structure (particularly vacation–“10 month” employees got school holidays minus 12 designated workdays + 1 personal day and 10 sick days. “12 month” employees–mostly staff & administration–got 15+ vacation days and 15 sick days), but not in terms of actual employment. The contract dates were also the start & end of benefits, so I consider them to be my dates of employment for purposes like my resume.

      2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        I was applying for an education-related job (but not in a school). I was surprised when they called me back to ask about it, but my explanation seemed to satisfy them.

      3. Judy*

        I don’t know how primary and secondary schools are, but my husband teaches at the university level and his contract is a 10 month contract. He gets the choice of being paid over 10 months or 12, but the contract is specifically a 10 month contract. If he chooses to teach during the summer, he has a different contract that covers that time.

        If he chooses to be paid over 10 months, he pays for his insurance for 12 months over 10 months, but the insurance ends if he doesn’t sign the next years contract at the end of the year and he gets refunded the premiums. He changed universities this year, and was on my insurance all summer, because his old university ended his insurance the day grades were due, and the new one didn’t start insurance until the fall semester began.

  26. Jen*

    The bike thing is interesting because I popped on here today because my boss keeps riding his bike to work (about a 4 mile bike ride) and he changes his clothes and doesn’t shower and it stinks. I don’t even think he realizes it stinks but it really really really stinks. I had a closed office meeting with him last week and I was having to breathe into my hand because the sweat smell was making me feel sick to my stomach. I think he thinks it’s not a problem because he’s changed clothes but he really smells. And his clothes smell even from the bag that he keeps them in. I can’t handle it and was considering asking a question here about how to deal with it.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yikes! That sucks. Do you have a good relationship with him where you could tell him that you’ve noticed that he seems to have an odor even after changing clothes? I’d be mortified to find out, but I’d rather know than not know!

        1. TootsNYC*

          This is what I’d take to HR. If there’s no HR, then I’d figure out who the most reasonable and respected person around is, and ask them for help.

        2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

          Maybe you could mention it to your boss’ boss? Or a male coworker with a good relationship that could speak to him?

    2. Sweaty*

      Yes that sucks. It kind of sounds like he’s not showering on a daily basis? I mean like, I’ve never met anyone who smells THAT bad if they’ve showered right before the ride, basically in the morning before commuting (which most people do regardless of their commute mode). Like I have been on group rides and even with multiple people actively sweating the smell is never as deadly as your boss’s. Your situation just sounds awful, I’m so sorry, I can just imagine the smell

  27. Tropicool*

    #1, I bike to work on occasion. I am the only person I’ve ever seen biking to work from my company, and I just started without saying anything. I’m sure most people won’t even notice. My company recently moved into a building with a gym and shower (yay!) so I just get ready at work. Before that, I would have to change and apply makeup when I got to work. I highly recommend baby wipes for cleaning up in the bathroom and removing sweat. I recommend airing out your clothes somewhere (even if it’s a cabinet at your desk) instead of sticking them back in your bag.

    The Mr. Money Mustache blog and forums have great tips on biking to work. Girls Biking to Work (a since discontinued blog) is great as well.

  28. Gwen*

    #3 I don’t usually include this info in cover letters, but once I’m starting to schedule something with a potential employer, I’ll usually say something like, “I can be best reached by email at XXX; I have limited access to phone during the day, but please feel free to call XXX and I will return your message as soon as possible.”

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I do too, and most employers will leave a voice mail. If any of them pouted about you not being available the SECOND they call, I’m guessing that is someone you don’t want to work for anyway.

  29. TootsNYC*

    #3–get a Google Voice number and have it send you a email when someone leaves a message; It can even transcribe )with sometimes-useful-enough accuracy, which is better than nothing–and you can listen to the voice mail via your email).

  30. squids*

    #2: My boss has apparently told his wife all about my recent health issues. I guess this might be okay if I didn’t know about it, but I’ve run into her in other contexts a few times recently and she keeps asking questions and starting conversations I really, really don’t want to have. My usual strategy of shutting things down through monosyllables and facial expressions doesn’t address the core problem.
    (He should know better … he has responsibilities for health information … )

    1. squids*

      Oof and I hope that wasn’t a derail, but it goes to say I strongly support shutting that sort of talk down whenever you feel safe or empowered to do so. The subjects will appreciate it.

  31. Emmie*

    #5: I received the same “concern” from others early in my career when my vacation time was so limited. I told people that “I know you mean well, and want me refreshed. But, I get the best joy from taking mini-breaks through out the year. We all refresh ourselves in different ways, and I am most refreshed from multiple long weekends, an extended holiday weekend, or a random weekday off.” Only one person kept it going after that, and I told her that I’d appreciate it if she’d stop asking / bringing it up – in a nice way, of course.

  32. Lanya*

    OP #5, I’m not sure why your coworkers care where you go on vacation or how you use your time, but my in-laws make these kinds of comments all of the time. They want my husband and me to come and visit their fancy vacation home in a cost-prohibitive location where they are planning to move permanently. We do not have extra money to travel right now, and since we’re doing long-term saving for a house, we’re not going to have a lot of funding to travel repeatedly in the future when they actually live there.

    The key is exactly what Alison said – basically, you have to become a broken record. Keep giving the same response over and over again and if necessary, be a little more blunt about it and preface it with “Like I’ve told you before…” They will eventually get the hint. When we started doing that, it took about 1 month of re-training, and now they don’t do it nearly as much. This tactic also works great for other personal and/or unwanted questions like “Why haven’t you bought a house yet?” and “Why haven’t you started a family yet?” and “Why don’t you go visit your sister in (the other cost-prohibitive location where she decided to live)?”

  33. EJ*

    #1: Wear moderately covering gym clothes to work. Like t-shirts, calf-length workout pants, and sneakers. You don’t want to show up to work in just a sports bra, obviously! Get a rain jacket/poncho for rainy days. A water resistant backpack will also be good — So you can carry your purse, lunch, work shoes, and other items. If you have a cubicle or office, bring a hanger and hang up your sweaty clothes to dry before the afternoon.

    I go to the gym everyday during my lunch break at work, and have no time for a shower afterwards. I’ve found keeping make-up size travel bag at my desk to bring with me to the gym with “freshen-up” necessities has worked out well!!! This would work out well for you too, so you don’t have to lug this stuff back and forth with you everyday.

    Include baby wipes, deodorant, body spray, hair brush, make-up, whatever you’d use. Also, a bottle of Febreeze! It’s great to spray your clothes/shoes after a work out/bike ride to mask any sweat odors. After the gym, I spray my clothes and hang them up on back of my door to dry. You can always get a hook and stick it under your desk if you don’t want people to see the clothes.

    However, if you need to head straight to the bathroom to change, before getting to your desk, buy travel size items to save room in your bag. Then hang up your clothes when you get to your desk.

  34. just laura*

    Did anyone else wonder about #2’s reactions? Declining to make personal goals, turning away from a manager who is talking… While I’m not saying the manager is right, these reactions seem a bit extreme. Even risky, considering the person talking to you is your boss!

  35. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #5 – the opposite = ever get criticized for saving your pennies, and taking a vacation that seems exotic for someone in your pay grade?

    I’m talking about a car trip to Florida for two weeks (from New England) to visit relatives. “Why are you doing that? Can’t you go to Sebago Lake or something?”

    I guess it was jealousy or something … I would travel to visit relatives, but for many in my predicament, a day trip to Disney World was out of the question for them …. whereas, it was within my reach because I was staying with family. I think that was it… but people have weird perceptions of things…

  36. EvilQueenRegina*

    That sounds like the old manager at The Real Office, 2 jobs ago. One day she announced in the middle of the office “Wakeen has been having an affair for years!” I don’t know if that was even true, thankfully Wakeen never found out! Another time she announced in a meeting that “Lucinda will be taking time off to have a hysterectomy” and none of the men knew where to put themselves.

  37. Grad Student*

    Thanks Alison for printing OP #1’s question today! It’s great to see how many bike commuters there are out in the AAM community :)

  38. Cath in Canada*

    #1, I’m now in my fifth job where I’ve cycled to work most days. It’s never been a problem, and three places even had showers on-site that were heavily used by other cyclists, and by people who run to or from work. This was also in rainy climates (Glasgow and then Vancouver). I would advise not cycling on your first day, and then just asking while they’re showing you around – is there secure bike storage, or just a rack outside? Is there any kind of shower or locker room facility, or do people just get changed in the washrooms? Unless it’s a very small workplace and/or in an unusually bike-unfriendly place, I’m sure you won’t be the only one riding to work!

  39. no. 1 question asker*

    Thanks for all the comments and experiences on cycling to work. Especially those who suggest presenting it as a done deal, as opposed to ‘please may I’ – because it really would be hugely inconvenient for me if they said no!

    I appreciate all the tips too, and will definitely be getting some baby wipes. I also plan to trial the route in work clothes at rush hour before my first day.

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