receptionist walks around the office barefoot, company keeps changing my job, and more

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

1. Our receptionist walks around the office barefoot

We are a small firm with 9 accountants and a receptionist in an open plan office, and my boss is in an office with a door.

Our receptionist will take her shoes off every day for hours at a time when she is filing, because she has said that her shoes hurt her feet. I have mentioned to her twice that it is unprofessional and she should wear them, but she ignores me.

How do I tell my boss (I am not sure if he has noticed) that I find it unprofessional (should a client walk in and see it), but also I find it shows that she has no respect for her colleagues either? She has worked here for approximately 6 months, I have been here for 3 years.

I’d leave the question of respect for her colleagues out of it; that’s not really the issue here and makes it more adversarial than it needs to be. Professionalism is the issue, and yes, it’s unprofessional. If her shoes hurt, she needs different shoes — shoes that serve their intended function (of being able to be worn for a full work day).

I’d say this to your boss: “I’ve noticed that Jane takes her shoes off every day for hours at a time and walks around the office that way. It looks really unprofessional, especially to clients. I’ve brought it up with her but it hasn’t changed anything. If you agree with me, would you say something to her?”

2. My company keeps re-orging and changing my job

I’ve been with my company for a little over five years. In that five years, we have re-organized four times. I have been impacted in every single one of them. Each of them is distracting and completely change the course of my job (I’ve gone from client management, to event management, to a completely unknown and undefined position, and now in corporate marketing/communications). We are given no warning. Eventually the re-org doesn’t work, and things are changed again.

Each re-organization has resulted in multiple employees quitting. I’ve stuck around, as two of the four re-organizations have worked out in my favor. I am currently in a position I really enjoy, with a team that has allowed me to learn and grow.

But, in typical fashion, another re-organization is on the horizon. My company will be developing a new team that is going to be part marketing/communications and part member experience/development. My name has been thrown around to move into one of the newly created positions. I know, based on past experience, my opinion won’t be ask and my faith will be chosen for me. I will hear of the change when they tell me that my job is changing and I’ll be expected to comply with it. I’ve been open and honest with my boss and she is fighting for me, but her opinion isn’t asked either, the re-orgs are solely done at the senior management level.

I do not want to change jobs! I like my job and I like my team and I am worried that a change is going to put me a step back in my career. I find it very upsetting that established managers can mess with my career path like this.

What options do I have? Can I say no? Can I say I am disappointed? Do I need to get my bosses blessing to go above her and voice my concern directly to the senior managers? Or, is my only choice to stop whining and suck it up…or quit?

If you’re fairly senior or you have the ear of someone senior — and a decent amount of standing in the organization — you can certainly share your concerns. But if they don’t care about your boss’s input, they’re probably not going to care about yours, which would mean that no, you can’t say no, and yeah, you probably need to deal with it or move to another company. I’d seriously think about doing the latter — this kind of instability is unlikely to stop with the latest reorg.

3. Can I offer to take on the cleaning work for my office for extra pay?

I have a full time job working in an office doing graphic design. The company hires a cleaning company, and they come once per week, on the weekends when the office is closed. They do an unsatisfactory job, and often times I end up cleaning my own station, taking trash out to the dumpsters, wiping down the kitchen, etc. Last week they didn’t even show up!

Since I am currently looking for a part-time job (in addition to my full-time job), I thought about asking my boss if I could take on the cleaning responsibilities. I have a feeling he might quickly say “no” so thought it would be a better idea to write him an email, stating my case in hopes that he will at least think it over and consider me for the position. Any advice on how to ask this?

I wouldn’t. Offering to take on the cleaning work in addition to your regular work comes with the risk that it will (unfairly) devalue your design work to them, or even that they’ll come to expect you to do cleaning or other janitorial work for your regular salary as part of your regular job. Seek part-time work outside your company so that you’re not mixing the two.

4. Why can’t I know what my disciplinary meeting will be about?

When asked to attend a disciplinary meeting, do I have a right to know what I did or didn’t do before it? When asked what the discipline action was about, I was told to come to the meeting to find out.

I’m a big fan of not leaving people in suspense over this kind of thing; it just builds anxiety and is kind of cruel. Plus, giving people a chance to process what’s going on and gather their thoughts beforehand can often lead to a more productive conversation than just springing it on them.

That said, you asked and they’re apparently not telling you until the meeting, so you have to accept that. There’s no right to get information beforehand; that’s up to your employer.

5. Writing a thank-you letter for a raise

I’m a young marketer and was hired at a 150-person company three months ago. The salary offered was $X, but for the scope of work, I felt it should have been $X+10k. I did realize that I was young and as-yet-unproven. So when I joined, I asked for six months to prove myself and if I had, to get the $10k raise, which they agreed to.

I have been working hard, in charge of a lot of projects, and staying late to finish stuff when hardly anyone stays late. I love this company and I believe in it; for the first time, I’m not anxiously looking to move on to the next better thing. However, I have been really frugal and am still living paycheck to paycheck.

My boss just pulled me in for a three-month review and I was given the $10k raise. I can’t believe this is real life!

She recommended that I thank the CEO and COO (CEO’s son) because they have “really noticed” me, think I’m doing great work, and advocated for me. She mentioned writing a letter, which I think is what I’d like to do. I gave my direct boss a hug because we’re close enough for that.

Should I write a letter? If I write a letter, what is appropriate to say? The money means a HUGE difference in my life, but I don’t want to give them TMI or say anything unprofessional. If I don’t write a letter, what are my other options? If I meet with them in person, what is the right balance between short and sweet versus gushing? I don’t want to start crying.

Normally you don’t write a letter to thank your employer for a raise; you just say thank-you in person in the conversation where you’re informed of it. However, in this case, your manager is telling you that the culture of the company is one where a thank-you letter would be the thing to do, so I’d believe her and take her advice. Keep it short and simple — say something like you’re thrilled they’ve recognized the work you’ve been putting in, you’re really happy to be working there, and you appreciate the vote of confidence. Short and simple — like a paragraph. Congratulations!

{ 390 comments… read them below }

  1. LM*

    For question #4: I’m in HR and I agree that I’d much rather be upfront with people about what we will be discussing. But sometimes I hesitate because if the issue being raised involves another employee, I don’t want the employee in question to accost the other employee prior to our meeting. Any strategies for how to avoid that?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, HR. Yeah, the stuff HR deals with can be different. (I was thinking managers.) With a situation like the one you describe, I’d hesitate too. In that case, I think it’s fine to be vague. Vague just shouldn’t be the default.

      Also, when you do have to be vague, if possible it’s nice to reassure someone that it’s nothing bad (if in fact that’s true; obviously you don’t want to lie). Even just something like, “Can we talk at 2 p.m. tomorrow? Nothing’s wrong, I just want to touch base with you about something” is better than no context at all.

      1. Vicki*

        Yes, but the OP said this is called a “disciplinary meeting”. If she can’t guess what that’s about, something is Very Wrong.

        A “disciplinary meeting” should not come as a surprise.

        1. Annonymouse*

          But as we’ve seen on this site people sometimes get disciplined for things clearly not their fault/should not be disciplined for.

          Like the LW who got one for not telling her boss another employee had passed away while she was on vacation (that she had no way of knowing herself). Because she “withheld this information” he left abusive messages for the deceaseds family.

          Or the one that got a write up for not wearing business attire when she picked her boss up as a favour at 1am from the airport.

          I agree with you that with reasonable bosses in a reasonable workplace that any disciplinary discussions would not be a surprise. You’d know what you did or at least be told if it was a change you weren’t aware you didn’t comply with.

          But there are too many places where reason is unheard of.

  2. Afiendishingy*

    Re: #4, how much information would you as a manager give the employee? Are a few words enough, e.g. “We need to discuss the Noodle Incident, please come to the admin building Thursday at 2 to meet with me?” I have previously just said “we need you to come in, can you do Thursday at 2” and if asked what it was regarding I would say “the Noodle Incident”, but haven’t volunteered that off the bat. I agree it’s kinder to give people an idea, though.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I find it’s less often about incidents and more often about issues (performance concerns, feedback, etc.). In that case, I’d say, “I’d like to talk about how the X project went / is going.”

      But if it’s really about an incident (which I do think is less likely to be the case, particular as employees become more and more senior), I’d say, “I’d like to talk about the interaction you had with the vendor in our parking lot” or whatever. There are some cases where it’s going to be better not to mention the topic ahead of time (like the kind of thing LM mentioned above), but those should be relative rarities.

      Of course, you also shouldn’t need a ton of special meetings about this kind of thing — you should have regular one-on-ones with people, and lots of this can just be covered in those.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I’m picturing an employee with a colander on her/his head, flinging spaghetti at coworkers, yelling “MAY YOU BE TOUCHED BY HIS NOODLY APPENDAGE!!!”

      2. Janorah*

        I was actually involved in The Noodle Incident. Since I was the culprit, I feel like it’s okay for me to share this if I want to.

        I’ve told this story over so many beers to friends that I think it’s okay to share it publicly like this. And my therapist says that telling this story is a good way of processing everything that happened and achieving closure.

        I grew up on a small farm in Tennessee, doing normal farm girl things. (I’m a guy.) I had the usual friends of a farm kid: a few classmates, some chickens, a cow. The family dog. And I managed to tame a raccoon.

        The raccoon looked like it had been cast out from its family. Normally the mothers are very protective of their kits – this one was pure white, with red eyes: an albino raccoon. I admit that at first, when I found Noodles eating dog food on the back porch, my first thought was: “If that raccoon were older he’d make a fine coonskin cap, white as fresh driven snow.” And so with eventually killing and skinning him in mind, I began the slow process of taming the raccoon.

        About five minutes later I figured he was pretty well tamed, so picked him up and took him to bed with me. He bit and scratched me a little (a lot!) but we made it through the night.

        About five or six weeks later I had to admit to myself that I was getting rather fond of Noodles. We’d become inseparable! When I ate my cereal in the mornings, he’d dip his little paws into my bowl and pull out some Chocolate Frosted Cocoa Bombs. At lunch he’s eat the crusts of my bread. And my mother took to setting a little place for him at the dinner table.

        A few years passed. Noodles was a full-grown raccoon, gamely trundling along behind me wherever I went. One day I’d left him back at the house and was working in one of the fields, driving the harrower. Unknown to me, he jumped out of an open window and came running- okay, raccoons don’t run; he was trotting at best- up to where I was driving a John Deere tractor through the field, ripping the dirt up for planting.

        Noodles came running up, straight towards the tractor. I saw just a flash of white disappear under the front of the tractor, and my heart stopped. Unfortunately the tractor took a little more distance to stop.

        I rushed out of the cab, and looked around under the tractor, frantically searching everywhere for Noodles. Not a sign, not a sight. Until: caught in one of the harrowing blades, a bit of white, and more pink, and then red. I slowly, gingerly reached out my hand-

        all that was left of Noodles was his tail. The rest of him must have gotten buried immediately by the harrower.

        Eyes streaming, I took that tail up into the cab and finished my work. And when I was done with my fieldwork for the day, I took that tail right into the bathroom and washed it up, bright and fresh as driven snow. At first I hung it off my bedpost, then moved it outside to the barn, and after a few years it was just in a shoebox in my closet.

        I went to college in New York City, just to get away from my small town fate of subsistence farming and friendly fistfight a over PBRs and games of pool down at Tucker’s. One day my mother called me, telling me that the farm had been foreclosed. The Bank took it all from us: The Bank, owned by that hoity-toity oil baron Jed Clampett and all his kin. Feh, none of us have any love for those rich hillbillies.

        “I have some things to send you,” she told me. We talked about the size of the package, and whether she should ship it next-day air by UPS or USPS. I pointed out that the marginal value of reviving childhood nicknacks after one day versus after one week didn’t justify the exorbitant costs of overnight shipping, but my mother wouldn’t have any of that. “You’ll want this as soon as possible,” she told me. And so, my curiosity piqued, I gave her my work address.

        “Make sure you write on there «Associate Partner» Jamorah,” I told her. “Otherwise the secretaries just sit on our packages for a few days, claiming they don’t know if we’re in court or not.”

        The next day started out normal. 4:30am wake up, a medium-run day so just 10k running, followed by breakfast, a quick upper body workout, and a shower at the gym. By 7:30am I was closing the door to my office, and by the time I finished my coffee Marilu was knocking on my door with a surprisingly large package. “I love a surprisingly large package,” she exclaimed.

        I smiled and invited her to stay for the unboxing. Nothing kills childhood memories faster than having to explain them to a spectator. I cut open the slits on top of the box, and we both leaned in close as I opened the flaps.

        “One, two, three!” I said dramatically. And out of the box leaped something alive. Something big. Marilu shrieked, heads out in the hallway turned. The creature was fast, and running around in my office, looking for a place to hide. It was big, and white: and when it finally stopped to pull a few books of a shelf and clamber up into the dark recess it had made, I got a good look at it.

        It was Noodles. It had to be: it was a white raccoon, with a stump for a tail, and two liquid rubies for eyes. I was astonished. “Noodles?” I called out, astonishedly. Noodles ignored me.

        It had been what, 6? 8 years? Do raccoons even live this long? “But I drove over you…” my voice trailed off. Marilu was still screaming about a fox.

        Whistling the theme song from Titanic, a special melody that I had trained Noodles to recognize me by, I approached him. I switched to singing so he could become familiar to my voice again. “Near…. far… wherever you are, I will hmmmph like the hmmph and my heart will, go on…” From a pocket I pulled a packet of Raccoon Chow, shook some out into my hand (live minnows, they love them), and offered it to him.

        With a glee Noodles leapt onto my arm, clambered up it, and sat on my shoulder. Marilu looked at me, her hands over her mouth, eyes wide with fright. “I’ll be okay, Marilu,” I told her. “Please shut the door behind you on the way out.”

        “And Marilu,” I added, tossing a card to her, “Here’s my corporate Amex. Go down to the corner spa and have some you time.”

        Three hours later I had the full story from my mother. Shortly after I left for college, Noodles had turned back up. He must have run under the tractor, lost his tail, and tear-assed to the copse of oak that serves as a windbreak for our fields. And there he lived, a wild animal again, watching us from time to time. “Oh, sure, Dad saw Noodles around from time to time, and he’d toss him some chips or crusts. But no, we never told you. Why, honey? Well you had that damn overgrown rat on your shoulders all through junior high and now it was going into high school. And you thinking that Noodles died was sad, but we figured, you know. He’s going to die someday, and it’ll kill you, so you may as well have that heartbreak now. Why did we send him now? Well, you’re all grown now, and I think you’re a tad lonely up there in Brookline. Brooklyn, however you like me to say it sweetie. So, there you go.”

        And there I was, sitting with an albino raccoon on my shoulders, when President Bill Clinton came through the office on a tour.

        1. INFJ*

          Ha! I really wish I had read the last line before the whole story.

          Oh, and please tell me this is not real!

              1. Janorah*

                So you were with me up through driving a harrower over an albino raccoon; my mother shipping me a live raccoon; and even that I had trained my raccoon to respond to a love song – but it was that I happened to have live minnows in my suit pocket that blew your suspension of disbelief?

                I assure you, I keep the minnows in my pocket in case I decide to go fishing in the East River on my way home

        2. OfficePrincess*

          There’s nothing quite like hyperventilating with tears in your eyes as you try not to cause a scene at your desk. Nicely done.

        3. Nervous Accountant*

          I’m dying, I’m in tears.

          I know this might reference something, but I have no idea…but fun read nonetheless.

          Is this something like the “Pineapple Incident”?

          1. Janorah*

            This is 100% a new and original and entirely truthful story from my own childhood. I hope to be able to share more stories in weeks to come. Many a time I have found myself wanting to comment on Alison’s blog, but have held back out of fear that fellow readers would not be interested in my insights, paltry as they are, borne of long and disastrous encounters between my humble Tennessee roots and my big-city power-lawyer life.

            I am greatly bolstered by your applause, and will share more as the moments fit.

      3. ella*

        I believe it’s a Calvin and Hobbes reference. The strip makes several references to the infamous “noodle incident” but never clarifies what happened.

  3. Charisma*

    #3 Also consider that if you are cleaning up after these people, they might be taking credit for the work you are doing already. Your boss might not be fully aware of how awful a job the cleaning company is really doing. Hold off on this stuff. Document it, let your employer know. Then maybe they will be motivated to hire people who actually do the work they are paid to do.

    And Alison is absolutely right. You should keep secondary work separate from your current job. I too am a graphic designer and have a secondary job that I don’t tell my graphic design clients about lest they devalue my work. For some reason many people see those of us who have to have multiple jobs to survive as less valuable instead of resourceful during difficult economic times. Though the stigma has gotten to be less over the years, it’s still very much there.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      That attitude (that people who work second jobs are somehow less valuable) has always puzzled me. Wouldn’t you rather have an employee who takes his or her financial responsibilities seriously enough to get a second job to pay off debt or stay current on bills? I think it shows character.

      1. Charlotte Collins*

        I think the issue isn’t the second job but that someone with a professional career should not be seen doing what is considered menial work in the office. These are boundaries that you don’t want to blur. (Especially if you’re a woman, since women have worked very hard to not have it assumed that housekeeping would be part of their role when it wouldn’t be for a man in the same position.)

        For the record, I’m not saying anything against housekeeping/cleaning as a part time job – it’s very important work, but the OP should not do it where s/he has a different role. I’d be more inclined to look for free-lance design work, if I were the OP.

      2. TootsNYC*

        Because taking two jobs says that your first employer doesn’t think you’re valuable enough to pay more money to.

    2. Merry and Bright*

      But taking on extra paid work during difficult economic times is resourceful though, surely? We all have bills to pay. That’s really tough on you.

      1. KarenT*

        I think it really lessens your negotiating power as well. It’s really hard to pull off, “Give me a raise or I’ll walk” when your employer knows you’re working a second job in the evenings.

    3. UKAnon*

      I think the problem is that people equate wages with worth to the economy, and thus somebody who needs a second job isn’t “worth as much” as somebody who earns enough to live on in one full time job.

      …Which is hugely problematic and overlooks numerous factors. But I think that’s how the reasoning goes – if you can call it reasoning, when it’s more of a gut feeling that people don’t examine too deeply.

      1. LSCO*

        Yes. I think there’s also a “well if they can’t get enough work to pay themselves a full time living wage, their work can’t be as good” attitude to it as well. Nonsensical yes, but there nonetheless.

      2. Koko*

        That’d be an especially weird judgment to make when it’s your own company that’s not paying them enough, though. I could see Aunt Carol thinking that at Thanksgiving dinner when asking why Jim’s marketing career isn’t enough to support him, but I can’t imagine finding out one of my own coworkers has a second job and suddenly changing my opinion of their work. If I’m well-paid I’d more likely either think they must have massive debt/expenses, or if I’m underpaid I’d assume they’re in the same boat. I wouldn’t jump right to, “My company must be lowballing them because they’re only OK at what they do.”

        I worked two jobs, one professional and one service, for a few years to pay off student loan debt. As far as I could tell, the main impressions it left at my professional job was a combination of admiration for my work ethic because I spent 5 of my 7 nights and 5 of my 7 days at work, and some slight awkwardness around my inavailability during those hours (had to leave at 5 on the dot 4 days a week, couldn’t work evenings). My company has a pretty healthy work-life balance though, so while there are a few people who stay late and work evenings it’s not at all common or expected and I wasn’t penalized for it. I don’t think anyone changed their opinion of my marketing ability just because I had extra bills to pay.

      3. Ad Astra*

        I was going to say the same thing. The market (sometimes with help from the government) determines what a competitive wage is for your work, and we often make the mistake of measuring a person’s worth in dollars. Janitorial work doesn’t pay very well, but it’s still important. Social workers make a lot less money than petroleum engineers, but they’re not less valuable. Jobs that require a lot of writing and communication skills often don’t pay as well as jobs that rely on applied math and science, but it doesn’t mean the world needs communicators less than it needs numbers people.

    4. Theresa*

      Thanks, Charisma!
      I agree – I don’t think the boss really knows how terrible the cleaning company is. I like the idea of documenting things that go uncleaned, week after week. Looks like I’ll be searching for a second job elsewhere, and it will be for the better.

      1. Charisma*

        Happy to help!

        Been on vacation, so if you happen to read this…

        A couple of things to remember:
        If you take a second job as a regular employee, make sure you claim ZERO exemptions on those jobs. You should only claim exemptions for your primary job or you might get into trouble with the IRS.

        If you take on work as a freelancer, you are responsible for both the taxes that you pay to the government AND the taxes your employer would normally pay on your behalf to the government. So be sure to charge enough money to compensate for that. This usually means that you should be charging around 30% (will vary slightly by state) more per hour (if you think in hourly terms) for your services than what you are currently making at your day job in order to be making about on par. (And that doesn’t even cover the theoretical health insurance/vacation/PTO/etc. that freelancers don’t get as part of their package. But if you already have a day job as a backbone to support you, that is less of a worry then if you are Full-Time Freelance.) Put that 30% aside when you get paid (not kidding, I suggest setting yourself up with a dedicated savings account if possible) so that when tax season comes you have it ready.

        Good Luck!

    5. Artemesia*

      If a woman bringing in cookies every week undercuts her image as a professional rather than ‘ mom’, imagine what being the office char woman would do to your future possibilities as a professional. Worst idea ever. And absolutely don’t clean up after the feckless cleaners except for your own workspace. No one is going to take a woman who is mopping up the kitchen seriously.

      1. Bitbyte*

        As I mentioned down further, my mom cleans the break room at her job prior to every shift. Yes, the younger guys who work there call her “Momma”, but they mean it in the, “You’d better get your ass in gear or Momma’s gonna rip you a new one.” She was promoted last year and is now the first female supervisor her department has ever had. She got to fire someone recently. No one thinks less of her for cleaning.

        1. INFJ*

          I can see, in this case, the cleaning being viewed as part of a no-nonsense, “want something done you gotta do it yourself” attitude.

  4. Jeanne*

    #2, It appears the most stable job is the person who designs the reorgs. That would be really frustrating to me. I guess the question to you is: Are there other things you like more about that company to outweigh being reorganized constantly? If not, you probably need to start looking.

    It will probably take some thought to make your resume look like you have not been job hopping when your job kept changing. Good luck!

    1. So Very Anonymous*

      Does it count as job hopping if it’s all within the same company though? I wonder if this might be something you’d mention in an interview — that you’re looking for an organization where you can focus on doing one job really well instead of the multiple redirections that multiple reorgs caused (maybe not that wording, but you get the drift).

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because it’s all at the same company, she doesn’t really need to worry about it appearing as job hopping; that’s more about when you’re jumping from company to company.

      1. J.B.*

        But maybe some specific heading on the resume would make that clear. Since you advise sticking with accomplishments maybe
        possible bullet about changing roles, adding responsibility, etc
        accomplishment A
        accomplishment B…
        (modified with dates as needed)

        I do think that if each job were listed out separately with dates and not clearly marked as being within the same company, a quick scan might suggest job hopping.

        1. The IT Manager*

          It should always be clear that they’re with the same company. Make sure the company stands out and list the job titles underneath.

          Company, location, dates at company
          Job Title 1, dates
          Job Title 2, dates
          Job Title 3, dates

        2. Koko*

          In college I found employment with a research lab where I started out in a temporary field position, then was hired on by the call center when the field work ended, then requested a transfer to the mail room (which paid less but didn’t involve me being cursed out the phone), and then was promoted to a junior project management position. I got plenty of interviews with my resume and I actually got some comments to the effect that listing all these positions at one company demonstrated my loyalty because I was willing to move and grow within a company instead of going outside of it.

          I listed it like this:

          Various positions, Teapots Research Lab, Washington, DC
          Junior Research Associate, August 2006-July 2007
          • Accomplishment
          • Accomplishment
          • Accomplishment
          Data Entry Specialist, March 2006-August 2006
          • Accomplishment
          Telephone Interviewer, December 2005-March 2006
          • Accomplishment
          Field Interviewer, August 2005-December 2005
          • Accomplishment

        3. Meg Murry*

          It doesn’t make it look like job hopping, however, even though it’s 5 years at 1 company, it’s only an average of 1 year per position, which would be mildly concerning to me. That would concern me that the person doesn’t really have a lot of depth of knowledge in each role before being moved to the next role. Are there certain tasks or a general theme that the OP has for each role, or has it been a completely different job each time? I don’t understand how anyone gets anything done with the learning curve that would go into each reorg as everyone shifts, and if I were the OP I would be looking to move on – because it sounds like the crazy isn’t going to stop anytime soon, and who knows where the next re-org will land her.

          Honestly, if I were OP, I might only list the current title on the resume, and perhaps one of the others that is relevant to the jobs she is applying for, or break it up into 2 sections – one on Client Management and Event Management, and another on Marketing and Communications or however it makes sense to break it up.

    3. TootsNYC*

      It’s all within the same company, so no, it won’t look that much like job hopping.

      And as you hunt, when people say, “why are you looking to leave your current job,” you can say, “well, they keep changing the entire organizations structure, and giving me new assignments. And it’s great to be valued, and I like my reputation for being flexible and dedicated, I’d rather have a more predictable workplace.”

  5. Blurgle*

    #1, I assume your office doesn’t have some bizarre Draconian rule calling for women employees to wear pumps, heels of a certain height, etc.? Because if the receptionist is able to walk barefoot she can walk in sensible, comfortable flat shoes.

    1. MsChanandlerBong*

      My podiatrist says walking around barefoot is terrible for your feet. OP #1, would your company allow her to wear sneakers while filing, or are they really particular about footwear? If her dress shoes hurt her, putting on sneakers while standing and putting extra weight on her feet would be a good way to reduce pain without being so unprofessional as to walk around in bare feet.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Slightly off topic but I just don’t really get how that is. I mean, before shoes we walked around barefoot and that’s kind of how our feet/bodies are designed. I just find it slightly amusing, I suppose… granted, I guess we used to walk on much softer surfaces (grass versus concrete or tile let’s say) so maybe that is what balances it out.

          1. Vicki*

            And this is why we don;t walk around the office barefoot. Office carpets are full of staples, dirt, carpet cleaners, pins, … staples.

        1. Myrin*

          I think – just from personal experience and what I’ve heard from others, I have no data to back that up – that if we walked barefoot for all our life, it wouldn’t be bad for our feet. But pretty much everyone wears shoes that are somehow wrong for them for an extended period, thus “crippling” our feet, and with these weird feet, it’s indeed not good to walk around barefoot. (I read some time ago that less than 10% (? I think?) of people are born with feet that are already damaged in some way, yet almost every adult has one foot problem or another, suggesting that it is indeed the shoes that mess up our feet, not genetics or something (although that might obviously play a role as well).)

          1. Vdubs*

            Yeah from what I’ve read you have to a climate your way back to barefoot but transitioning with low heel and no heel shoes.

            Look up Katy Bowman on this subject, she’s brilliant.

          2. BRR*

            I read something similar not too long ago. That in places today where people don’t wear shoes, their feet are in better shape than in cultures where people do wear shoes.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              But they are very broad and flat – if you never wear shoes, your feet look different than if you are from a shoe-wearing culture.

          3. blackcat*

            Yeah, I grew up running around barefoot. My parents got me to wear shoes mostly at school and in stores, but other than that, I was barefoot. I’m more comfortable barefoot no matter what, but I’ve known people who are more comfortable in a variety of times of shoes. I do think what you wear changes what you think is comfortable.

            Once, as a teacher, I got to school at like 6am (school started after 8) and was doing some stuff in my classroom (organizing equipment, tidying, etc). Given that I thought I’d be alone there so early, I was going barefoot. Guess who walks in at 6:30? My boss! He got in early and wondered why my light was on. And then he told me not wearing shoes was unprofessional…. To which I said, “I know. Like you, I did not expect anyone to see me until at least 7:30am. I will be wearing shoes by then.” He just shrugged and said “That’s fair.”

            The “it looks unprofessional” comment is hard to take seriously if you aren’t going to be interacting with anyone. But I do agree that a receptionist should be wearing shoes while walking around the office–you shouldn’t be client/customer-facing while barefoot unless your job calls for it (life guard? I can’t think of many…).

            1. Chinook*

              “Yeah, I grew up running around barefoot. My parents got me to wear shoes mostly at school and in stores, but other than that, I was barefoot. I’m more comfortable barefoot no matter what, but I’ve known people who are more comfortable in a variety of times of shoes. ”

              I am glad I am not alone. While I do wear shoes most of the time now (I will not admit to my shod status at the moment but my feet are hidden under my desk), I think my barefoot childhood made the difference. Even socks are too much for me and I happily shuck them the moment I get home.

          4. Sigrid*

            Yeah, if you look at the footprint of someone who has been barefoot all their life vs. someone who has been in shoes all their life and is only barefoot for the footprint, they look completely different. Spending a lifetime wearing shoes means that our feet are dependent on those shoes, like if someone had been in a wheelchair their entire life (without a true need), they probably wouldn’t have the muscle strength to stand up.

          5. CheeryO*

            Yup, this. I recently moved to an apartment with all hardwood floors, and I was amazed by how badly my feet ached after my first full day of padding around the place barefoot. I’ve gotten used to it by now, and I swear my feet are stronger for it. I used to have all kinds of foot issues while running, and they’ve mostly gone away.

            I am not sure how scientifically sound “Born to Run” is, but the author makes the case that shoes really weaken our feet.

            1. Charlotte Collins*

              I love walking on hardwood floors! But mine are in a really old building, when people knew how to make a floor. :)

        2. Koko*

          Yeah, I think it must be what others are saying about shoes ruining you for being barefoot. I never really made the transition to wearing shoes for extended periods of time. I wear slip-on sandals in the summer and slip-on boots in the winter…almost any time I sit down I take them off, and the first thing I do when I get home or get to a friend’s house is remove my shoes. I’m much, much more comfortable barefooted and don’t have any foot problems despite a lifetime of being mostly barefoot.

          I’m actually fondly recalling an old job I had where I walked into the office on the first day and saw my boss barefoot and knew I was home. Neither I nor she ever wore our shoes at that job unless we had guests coming (very rare).

        3. Elizabeth West*

          I’m pretty sure that means on hard, modern surfaces. People who go barefoot their entire lives generally live someplace where they don’t have to do that. They walk on more forgiving natural ground.

        4. MsChanandlerBong*

          My mother said the same thing when I told her. However, I’ve been walking around barefoot for about five years now (I work at home) and I finally had to have the podiatrist give me a PAINFUL steroid injection in my heel because my plantar fasciitis made it so that I could barely walk. So I don’t ask questions!

          The doctor said that walking barefoot makes the muscles/tendons of your foot spread out, which puts extra strain on them or something.

        5. Brooke*

          It depends. My podiatrist has told me that because of my slightly wonky feet (THANK YOU GENETICS) I should wear a small heel versus flats, to keep my feet at a bit of an angle. She explained the mechanics of it all which I only half-understood, but since following her advice my feet have indeed been happier.

          1. Marcela*

            Yes. My orthopedist recommended me to always wear a small heel (1″), never flats, since the fat deposits under my feet are quite thin. Before that, I could not walk not even medium distances without pain. Afterward, my family would not believe I was medically prescribed high heel shoes =^.^=, so my mom called my doctor to see if I understood correctly.

            1. Brooke*

              Yes, my doctor I had thin fat pads too! Which surprised me… I could stand to transfer a bit from elsewhere to my feet ;)

          2. OfficePrincess*

            Same here. I also have wide feet with bunions so anything narrow is out, making heels hard to find. Sometimes I cheat with an extra thick heel insert in my favorite flats, but my feet (and hips) do feel better when I have a slight heel.

        6. Honeybee*

          Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. How is it terrible to walk the way my feed come naturally? (Assuming that I’m not walking on broken glass or whatnot.)

      2. AnonEMoose*

        I’m another one who likes to be barefooted whenever possible. I tend to wear flat or very low heel shoes anyway, and have been doing it most of my life. So once I get home, shoes come off first thing. I only put shoes on in the house if I need to go to the basement.

        I’ve also been known to kick my shoes off under my desk, but always have socks on. And I put my shoes back on if I have to get up for something.

      3. Artemesia*

        I am utterly unwilling to be uncomfortable footwise and it is dead easy to find comfortable shoes that don’t look like sneakers. They may not be high fashion but there are plenty of presentable black or brown shoes that won’t scare the horses or look overly casual.

        1. TootsNYC*

          for that matter, the receptionist could have true ballet slippers (not pointe) in black–her feet would be covered, and it’s almost like being barefoot.

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            I like the idea of her going en pointe when she, say, has to put something in a hard-to-reach file cabinet.

            But it is true that you can find shoes nowadays that look nice and are comfortable. As someone who wore orthopedic shoes as a kid in the 70s, I do not buy the “I can’t find comfortable shoes that look professional” excuse at all. Trust me, I know what a lack of choice looks like. (It looks like the same ugly shoe in a choice of three different colors.)

          2. AnonymousaurusRex*

            Actually, this is exactly what I do. I have a pair of ballet slippers (flats, not pointe shoes) that I keep at my desk and wear every day, with the exception of days I have to meet with clients, which is rare.

        2. simonthegrey*

          I have really picky feet, so I can’t wear anything with a heel higher than about an inch for very long (I can wear them to weddings where I will sit in the church and sit in the reception but that’s it. I wore flats to my own wedding). I buy really good insoles for all of my shoes. However, I don’t like the texture of walking barefoot, so I don’t generally have to worry about that.

      4. abby*

        I dunno, I am a big fan of going barefoot around the house (and even in the privacy of my own office at work). Have always preferred bare feet (and socks only when it’s cold) over shoes. And I am the only female in my family with no foot problems.

    2. Bunny*

      In most places I’ve worked, walking around barefoot would be considered a health and safety issue. Even in a sedate and well-carpeted office building, it’s possible to stub toes, or for hot drinks to be spilled or items to fall from desks.

      We’re not allowed open-toed shoes in my current office for that exact reason. While some people will slip shoes off while sitting at their desks, I can’t see many office spaces being happy about staff walking around without anything on their feet.

          1. Robin*

            There is a brand of flip-flop/sandal called Vionics, which have support and align the foot correctly. Maybe she could slip a pair of those on for filing?

        1. Rat Racer*

          Or a hospital. Hospitals always have rules about open-toed shoes. (At least the ones I’ve worked for)

            1. Anx*

              And yet, it’s a tall order to find non-canvas women’s shoes that cover the top of the foot. There are some work shoes with the think rubber soles, but it’s very hard to find officey shoes that double as lab safe.

              1. Nina*

                Oh, IA. The line is pretty divided for office shoes vs. the durable “work” shoes that you can wear in something like a hospital/lab.

                I have a pair of Danskos which came highly recommended for work. Yes, they’re durable and well made, but easily the ugliest pair of shoes I own and oddly enough, very uncomfortable. I can’t wear them for long periods of time, which completely defeated the purpose of running around in them for my airport job. I bought a pair of cheap knockoffs that felt better on my feet and worked just fine. But I would never wear either pair in an office environment.

                1. afiendishthingy*

                  Yes! I thought I was the only one who thought Danskos were torture! Don’t know about you but they’re just too narrow at the toe for me. They literally leave bruises on my feet but the next size was too long. I got mine when I worked on my feet most of the day, and NOPE.

        2. Seal*

          I just had an employee wearing open-toed sandals shred and almost break 2 toes last week when she got her foot caught under a metal door. While this was a freak accident and we’re not planning to ban open-toed shoes because of it, after all of the paperwork involved I can certainly understand why we might consider it.

      1. Koko*

        Eh, I don’t know about health and safety. Agreed that seems a little overly paranoid. I know the fact that my previous job let me walk around barefoot was a quirk of being in a very small company led by a strange specimen, a Type-A high-achieving hippie yogini. Now that I’m in a larger and more corporate office I would never dream of trying to go barefoot here, but most of the women and half the men wear open-toed sandals in the summer and in the almost 5 years I’ve been here none of our couple hundred employees has suffered any ill health or injury as a result.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, I think most workplaces that claim open-toed shoes as a safety issue are using “safety” the way people use “hygiene” to talk about shirtless men–in other words, it’s about the social convention and they can’t quite believe or acknowledge that that’s the issue.

          I hypocritically am fine with enforcing things because of the social convention, but I’m at a job that’s never cared what I have on my feet and I’ve definitely been barefoot in my office.

        2. Retail Lifer*

          I don’t know much about office life, but in retail we’ve been told we can’t wear open-toed shoes “for insurance reasons.” Also safety, but I think they cared more about the insurance part.

          I was a manager at a store that sold a lot of surf-brand clothes and flip-flops and for years that’s what we were told. Finally, someone in upper management caved in and let us wear flip-flops. THE NEXT DAY one of the managers in another store ripped her toenail off while moving a ladder. She didn’t seek medical treatment so she didn’t tell anyone, as surely the rules would be immeduately changed back.

          1. Koko*

            I think there’s more a case to be made in a retail environment where people are moving heavy boxes, ladders, and the like. When I worked at a dog kennel we also had to wear closed-toed shoes for safety, which made sense when you’re lifting dogs and fussing around metal cages and all that. But in my office job honestly the heaviest thing I carry or move any given day is 12 copies of a 2-page printout for a large meeting.

    3. Heathr*

      Maybe she has a medical reason for removing her shoes. I have terrible bunions, and have spent thousands on ugly, expensive orthopedic dress shoes which are till extremely painful.

    4. Merry and Bright*

      Sounds like another transatlantic clothes discussion emerging after the tights, leggings and pantyhose yesterday! A pump in the UK is a flat shoe so would normally be more comfortable anyway :)

      1. afiendishthingy*

        Oh, interesting. A pump definitely has a heel in the US. Also I have a couple pairs of very comfortable heels (pretty low, maybe 2.5 inches). I appreciate the arch support.

        I also have several pairs of shoes, including a pair of flats, which are fine for the first five hours or so and then all of a sudden my feet are screaming in agony. And a pair of amazing fuchsia pumps which always garner compliments and which become torture devices in about two hours. I don’t wear them much but sometimes they just look so GOOD with an outfit. Anyway.

        I’m not grossed out by feet, I definitely take my shoes off under my desk if my feet really hurt. The last fuchsia heels day I was one of the last people at work in the evening and I made at least one desk to copier trip barefoot. But it was late, very few coworkers there, no clients there and they wouldn’t have been in that area anyway. I don’t understand how being barefoot is “disrespectful” to your coworkers, but I’m surprised how many people think it’s ok to be barefoot in the middle of an open office, every day, for hours. There are much worse offenses, obviously, but professional garb does include shoes, especially when clients are around.

        1. Koko*

          I have an amazing pair of 5″ black velvet strappy heels that always draw a lot of compliments make my entire lower half of my body look amazing…I only wear them to places where I’m basically going straight from the car to a seat! No mixers or cocktail hours in those things!

      2. Chinook*

        I am also wondering if there is a local climate effect on whether or not you are willing to go shoeless in the office. Around here, everyone changes shoes when they get to work for 8 months out of the year to keep down the mud and wet and because winter boots are too warm to stay in all day. As a result, it is possible to get caught shoeless if you are distracted (squirrel!) or if you ended up with a leak in the boot and your feet needed drying out. In fact, I think you would be considered more strange for walking around in winter boots during the day than if you were shoeless.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          In my old job I sometimes walked around in just my socks if my feet got wet on the way in, or at lunch. The boss did it too. No-one does it here so I keep my shoes on, but sometimes slip them off under my desk. But always with socks on – I hate looking at bare feet, especially my own! I have weird stubby toes :)

    5. Kelly O*

      I have to admit, I will sometimes slip out of all but the most comfortable shoes when filing, particularly for long periods of time. Most of the administrative assistants I know will admit to doing the same.

      That said, it’s typically in a file room. But if she’s moving around a lot, and if there is any up and down on step stools, heels can be a royal pain. Even “comfortable” ones. It’s obviously harder if you’re in an open, shared space.

      And quite honestly if you weren’t my boss, I probably wouldn’t listen to you either. One of the downsides of being the front desk person is the constant barrage of “helpful advice” you get from coworkers. You learn at some point to let it go and work through what’s really important. You also don’t know if she’s spoken to the boss, or if they’ve already had a conversation.

      There is also a difference between walking around the office without shoes and sliding out of them just while filing. (I’ll also admit to sometimes sliding them off under the desk too.) If she puts them back on when she walks here or there, and has them off just for the filing… I mean obviously I don’t know your office layout, but there are other variables to consider.

      At some point you have to decide if this is the hill upon which you wish to die. If she’s not your direct report, you may have to live with it, whether you like it or not.

      1. WhiskeyTango*


        I think its an office culture thing. I’ve worked in law offices where this happened a LOT and it was never a big deal. The only thing ever said to me was when my boss walked into the file room and I was filing barefoot was, “You’re shorter without shoes.” (Which is very true.) We had a laugh about how I was deceiving everyone about my height. End of story.

        OTOH, I’ve worked in other offices where it most definitely would NOT have happened. Period.

        I have a corporate attorney job now. Just last week, after spending 5 days in a row in all day client meetings wearing 3″ heels, I finally escaped back to my office and took them off under my desk. When I got up to pick up something off the printer, I did not put them back on. Lo and behold, I ran into my boss, who looked me up and down and said, “How did you find toenail polish to match your dress?”

        1. Joline*

          The job I’m in now is the first job where I actually wear shoes (though for most of the year it’s flip flops – I just make sure not to make the noise while walking around). My first job was a small family owned company and no one ever said anything (we rarely had outside people come to our office). My next job was in a smaller (maybe 30 people) with a Big 4 accounting firm. I generally wore shoes other than under my desk when I was on the more open side of the office but once I got moved to a more isolated area I tended to wander around in our area (no outside people every came into our section) in socks or bare feet but admittedly did avoid some of the higher-ups. Until one day a partner came back to meet with me, asked me to join him in a vacant office, I asked him “…do I have to wear shoes?” to which he responded “I don’t care if you wear shoes.”

          I took that as a blanket acknowledgement that I never really had to wear shoes. Of course I also took that with the caveat that that was only true with no clients around (ie. to get to the other part of the office I had to cross reception and I wouldn’t dream of doing that barefoot) and no people from the fancier offices around.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            I remember seeing my boss walking around in socks (the co-owner of the company) at a previous job. That was a job where I could wear my holey moccasins, so it looks like I have on footwear, but only on top. Now I wear sandals or shoes to the office, but my holey crocs most everywhere else. Sure, I’m wearing shoes in the store — they just don’t have much in the way of soles. It’s sad when summer is over and I have to put on real shoes again.

            1. Chinook*

              “but my holey crocs most everywhere else.”

              Did you know crocs come in dress shoes and sandals? I don’t recommend the pumps with no holes (my feet get sweaty) but I love the sandals with the croc base – so comfy.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Well, I was talking about holes in the soles, but I think the idea of crocs dressy enough to wear to work sound like a wonderful idea, and I’m going to track some down!

                1. Liz*

                  I wear a pair of cute little Croc ballet flats to work in summer, and they’re amazingly comfortable, and quite appropriate for my work (I’m a legal secretary in a firm that wouldn’t approve of open sandals).

                  The downside is that, like Chinook, my feet get sweaty — I have to chuck the shoes in the washing machine every few weeks, and put powder in them every day. But I have very delicate feet, and they give me a lot of support.

            1. Joline*

              Ha. Yeah. I’ll let that noise fly with the best of them while I’m out and about. But it’d be grating indoors. I find it annoying when other people don’t wrangle their slap-happy shoes so it’d be kind of a jerk move if I didn’t do it myself.

      2. JAM*

        Oh definitely. I do secretarial duties a lot but other parts of my job are more admin based. Add to that my workplace is in a rehabbed factory with no padded flooring, just old warehouse concrete. I do a lot of hospitality and facilities duties and originally had to wear heels or nice dress shoes. I ended up with serious foot problems in just 6 months. I now have approval to wear sneakers with my custom insoles made by my podiatrist but I wish it hadn’t come to that (especially since my insurance doesn’t cover it and because I run they didn’t workman’s comp it). If people had reasonable standards about shoes maybe people wouldn’t end up barefoot.

      3. Sheepla*

        My thoughts exactly. If OP is not my boss, I’m ignoring this comment. Not for my colleague to decide.

    6. The IT Manager*

      Let’s assume if the company allows her to walk around barefoot, there’s probably not a rule about pumps and heels.

      Rule: women must wear pumps, 1 inch heels or greater, or be barefoot???

    7. Fish Microwaver*

      I admit that I occasionally walk around barefoot in my office. We are not client facing and nobody cares. I also microwave fish sometimes and nobody cares.

      1. abby*

        or nobody has said anything yet ;)

        are you our HR admin? she microwaves fish, but I don’t have the heart to say anything …

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      That was my thought. And, if she’s young and in that mindset that flats are ugly, she could wear flats to work, then slip the flats on while she’s doing her running around stuff at the office, then switch back to her pumps.

      1. SG*

        I don’t think young people necessarily think flats are ugly. I’m in my early 20s and far more often older people tell me not to wear flat shoes- it looks more “professional” to wear heels.

    9. SG*

      I definitely walk around my office barefoot sometimes…but I’ve got all empty desks next to me in my little cubicle corner. None of my coworkers seem to mind! We’re a creative company though, so I think there’s more room for wackiness.

    10. Meadowsweet*

      BarkingDogsShoes reviews many work-appropriate, pretty, comfortable shoes

      Though to be fair I once spent 8 months walking around the office in sockfeet because when I wore shoes I got a shock from everything I touched. Everything. Including the water.

    11. Officeworker*

      Hi, I actually submitted the question, and no. The only dress code our office requires is business style. She wears black, flat shoes to work, and that is what she takes off to file. I am not the only staff member that has mentioned it to her either.

  6. Keep Summer Safe*

    #5: How nice! I confess that as I started to read your letter, I thought it was going to end on a rather less happy note. But I was wrong, and happily so! It’s nice to know that there’s management out there that keeps promises and notices hard work!

    1. Persehone Mulberry*

      Agreed (and nicely done on negotiating the 6 month review)! Also, OP#5, note that Alison’s suggested script does *not* mention anything about your personal finances. Just as you shouldn’t use financial need as a basis for negotiating, neither should it come up afterward. Keep the focus on your professional value.

    2. MsM*

      I know. Which is kind of a depressing commentary on how much those “sure, we’ll consider a raise at the evaluation point” promises are usually worth.

  7. Carpe Librarium*

    #1 – Is there an office dress code that can be referenced, or perhaps you could frame it as a workplace safety issue? What happens if someone rolls their chair back at the wrong moment, or drops a mug in the tea room?

    1. Phyllis*

      Yes to the safety issue. File folders dropped on bare toes hurt, and can cause cuts and bruises. Or what if the building had to be evacuated on a moment’s notice. Walking in an office barefoot is a contributor to slips, trips, and falls, one of the commonest of workplace injuries.

      1. Nashira*

        Slipstripsandfalls is a curse word in the work comp insurance office where I work, and for liability/property insurers too. It’s also all one word when people say it.

        They can really jack up your joints, especially if you’re older, heavier, or on stairs

    2. Jo*

      Came here to say just this. Where I work, no shoes is banned – staples might get caught in the carpet, other sharp pieces of office detritus, not to mention office carpet hygiene issues generally, even though they are cleaned regularly. A health and safety issue on top of the professionalism aspect is going to help to get a boss’s attention too.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Honestly, my first “safety” thought had to do with staples stuck in the carpet. Those short office carpets seem to capture them and hold on tight.

        1. Charlotte Collins*

          My concern where I work would be the lack of floor cleaning that goes on. I’ll kick off my shoes at my desk but put them back on to leave it. (Also, there are very icky diseases you can get if everyone’s barefoot. I’d rather not find out what these are in relation to my co-workers.)

          Does anyone remember when RBG didn’t stand up fast enough for something (the President, the national anthem? I can’t remember) and people made a big deal until a bunch of women pointed out that she was clearly putting her shoes back on before she stood up?

    3. BRR*

      I prefer the honesty approach, that it’s unprofessional especially if clients come in. Everything else is true but that’s not the reason it’s being brought up.

      1. Elysian*

        I agree. Plus, these safety issues, while true, seem like stretch. I mean, if I drop something and put my hand on the floor to pick it up, someone could roll their chair back on it, but that’s not a reason to ban bare hands. If the office needs to be vacated quickly in the middle of winter, I’ll still need to grab my coat, but that’s not a reason to mandate coat-wearing. The safety concerns on this are really negligible and easily disputed – the real reason the OP doesn’t like it is because it is unprofessional. That is a real reason, and I think that’s the one she/he should use if its going to be addressed.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Agreed. Stick to the real problem, which is that it looks unprofessional and she’s in a public-facing position.

        2. Koko*

          Exactly. While all of these hazards are potentially real things, at the same time, I’m an adult not a toddler. I’m a bit smarter, more coordinated, and more resilient to small injuries so all these theoretical hazards in practice will likely never happen and if they do won’t be a big deal. A stray staple on the floor might make me go “ouch!” but I look at the floor, pick up the staple, and 30 seconds later I carry on living my life. It’s not going to rise to the level of needing medical attention or filing an injury report or anything.

          I readily accept that shoes are part of professionalism and dutifully wear them at work. But I go barefoot most other places and in 30 years I’ve yet to break a toe or need stitches in my foot.

        3. Cat*

          Yeah, I walk around barefoot at home, and I can guarantee I clean that less carefully than the office is cleaned.

          (Personally, I commit to wearing shoes at the office between the hours of 8am and 6pm on weekdays. At any other time, bare feet are fair game.)

      1. Mpls*

        Actually, it is. There is a layer of protection (even a minimal one) between your foot (skin and bones) when you are wearing shoes. It helps spread out any force (even to a minimal degree), prevent pinching of the skin. May not prevent it from hurting like the dickens, but it will provide some protection.

        1. Marcela*

          Yes, I can see shoes will protect me from a chair. But when tea is falling to the floor, my office pumps are only going to protect my toes. Unless I’m wearing boots, I’ll be burned just the same.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          Yeah, I almost broke a couple toes a couple years ago when a rather large student sat down very forcefully and the leg of his chair came up and then landed VERY HARD on my foot. Freak accident plus me being dumb and standing too close. I was wearing sneakers, appropriate for that job, and there was a moment of OH GOD MY FOOT IS BROKEN, but there was really just a small cut and two badly bruised toes, and a black toenail for a few months. Open-toed shoes or other shoes that didn’t cover the whole top of my foot would have been worse, but I do think barefoot would have been the worst of all. Less likely to happen in an accounting firm probably though.

  8. Chani*

    “If her shoes hurt, she needs different shoes — shoes that serve their intended function (of being able to be worn for a full work day).”

    Ha! If only such a shoe existed for me. :( Shoe shopping often reduces me to tears, I only have 1-2 pairs at a time because ones that are bearable are usually around $200, finding ones that actually look nice is pure luck… And I might have to go back to wearing orthotics now, which makes the whole thing twice as hard. So yes, I will take my goddamn shoes off at work because they are goddamn fucking painful! Hell, even wearing clothes is torture some days.

    Luckily I’m a programmer, so people rarely care what I’m wearing.

    1. Caroline*

      Haha, software engineer here and while reading this, I definitely thought to myself “Maybe I should stop slipping my shoes off while at work. It is unprofessional. Nah, tons of people at work do it”.

      1. KSM*

        Yup, I work in web dev and it’s the same here. Shoes are regularly taken off by everyone and almost no one has ‘office shoes’ (I think, technically, there’s a single pair I’ve never seen used and I have an emergency pair for the rare cases clients come in). In the wintertime, when boots are salty and wet, they’re taken off before you even enter the office proper, in the foyer, as is standard for Canadian *homes*.

    2. Brightwanderer*

      I’ve had a lot of problems finding work shoes I can wear with my orthotics. I can’t wear heels and any flat shoe with that kind of scoop top is going to dig into the top of my foot because of how the orthotic insert raises it up. In the end I discovered a surprising solution – men’s shoes! Plain black lace-ups that go right over my foot are perfect. Not exactly glamorous, but appropriate for work and comfortable.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I tell you whut, I’m going to start looking at men’s shoes AND men’s pants (for the deep pockets). I’ll still wear my feminine tops, but I’ll be comfortable in the pants and shoes.

        1. Nashira*

          I may or may not regularly wear men’s pants and shoes to work, as a file clerk. I have lovely, flattering women’s pants (hard to do as a tall person), but pockets and extra ease are The Best when you’re on the floor a quarter of the time.

      2. moss*

        I wear men’s shoes too! I have a high instep and wide feet and men’s shoes always fit me whereas women’s rarely do.

        I work at home tho so no dress code considerations. I walk around barefoot, get a side-eye from the dog, that’s about the extent of it.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’ve been buying men’s (or boy’s) shoes for years. They are wider than women’s, especially if I can find men’s wide. Plus, I’m also a geek, so I at least pretend I don’t know how to dress myself, and really don’t care how I look.

    3. SaraV*

      I wear size 11 shoes, have an EXTREMELY wide toe, skinny heel, and stupidly high arches. I really don’t have shoes that fit, I have shoes that are “close enough”. Oh, and being 6′, I don’t like heels. It’s quite the struggle to find shoes that are “close enough” that fall into my budget that aren’t sandals. At OldJob in my cubicle, I always slipped my shoes off if I could.

      As a receptionist, though, I can understand that her being barefoot is not the greatest impression. As someone mentioned before, could she wear “dressier” slippers? I’m pretty sure Dearfoam and Isotoner make slippers that look like ballet flats. (Although, if she has size 10+ feet like myself, that might be a problem)

      1. Ann Furthermore*

        I was a size 10 for years. Then I got pregnant, and my feet ended up a half size bigger. So technically I wear a size 10.5, but I’ve only ever seen one pair of shoes in that size. No one makes them. So now I have to look for a 10 that runs big, or an 11 that runs small. Such a hassle.

        1. Student*

          Have you tried shopping in the men’s section of the shoe store? I believe that’s in the neighborhood of a 9 for men’s sizes (in the US). I know they have cooties and stuff, but that seems like a small price to pay to wear comfortable shoes.

        2. Mpls*

          I am somewhere between a 10.5 and 11 (usually 11). Expensive shoes come in 10.5 – Cole Haan comes to mind.

      2. BananaPants*

        I share your pain. When I could find them a 10.5 fit well, but I usually needed to go for a 10W and be a little pinched, or go up to an 11 and know the shoes would be too big. With my first pregnancy I swelled up to an 11 and my feet never went back. Thankfully they didn’t expand more in my second pregnancy. I get jealous of women who can find cute shoes – even at an 8 or a 9, companies still make nice shoes for you. Meanwhile it takes me trips to 3 stores to find a truly comfortable pair of size 11 plain black flats! I usually wind up in styles like clogs or boat shoes for everyday wear. Shopping for dress shoes is miserable.

        Complicating matters, I need to wear non-boot, non-sneaker style safety shoes fairly often at work. This year for the first time I was able to buy women’s safety shoes in a nice slip on style (they look like Danskos, which I love). I had to go to a specialty retailer to do it; before I just sucked it up and bought men’s shoes.

      3. Ad Astra*

        I have a wide toe and an average heel, though I’m only a 9 or 9.5 so at least it’s a common size. I typically can’t afford any of the brands that come in wide sizes, and I’d be worried that they’d rub on my heels anyway. It takes me all of 6 months to destroy a pair of ballet flats from Target. I can’t last more than an hour in most heels, or maybe three hours in wedges. The only shoes that are ever comfortable for me are flip-flops.

        1. fposte*

          I think in general people with wide feet have narrower heels than wide shoes seem to suppose, because every widie I know has had the same complaint. I’m guessing it would require a more expensive change to the last than generally companies make.

          But I’ll plug Clarks here on avoiding the heel-rub thing–they wrap and cushion the top of the heelcap so there’s no skin-toughening period, at least not for me.

      4. Meg Murry*

        Yes, I was going to suggest something like the “foldable flats” I’ve seen at the drugstore that aren’t much more than a slipper. Then it would be something on her feet, but not barefoot.

        I agree with others upthread though that it depends on where she is walking around and who can see her. At her desk or immediately next to it, and you have to peer over a cubical wall to see her feet? Let it go. Completely visible to all who walk in the front door (and you are a client facing company where that is more than just the UPS man once a day)? Ask your boss to say something.

        That said, I worked in a place where we had to wear steel toed shoes in the labs and plants, but not at our desks in cube land (where no customers or vendors were allowed – employees only). It was not uncommon for the last hour of the day for many people to be in socks only at their cubes, and occasionally scurry to the printer in stocking feet – but shoes went on if you were venturing out of our cube area into the hallway or other parts of the building.

      5. Retail Lifer*

        Slippers are a great idea. I’ve seen the Dearfoam ones that you mention because I’ve often wondered if I could get away with those at work.

      6. Katter*

        I wear a women’s 13 (YEP) and I pretty much wear Birkenstocks and Converse All-Stars. Fortunately, my workplace is pretty casual outside of special events, because I honestly don’t know where I would even get “dressy” shoes. I had one pair of Clarks sandals that looked pretty nice, but they stopped making them and now all the ones I can find online are big, blocky things that look like they come with a prescription.

        Sizes aside, I’ve always found it a little disturbing that women’s dress shoes are just so…awful. High heels are extremely painful to wear, and the flats I’ve found here and there over the years offer no arch support. It’s like someone decided that unless it causes you actual physical harm by providing improper support, it isn’t a shoe worthy of the office. On those rare occasions where I had to wear “nicer” shoes to work I’d slip them off at my desk or behind the counter as often as I could.

      7. teclatrans*

        You are my foot double (I am also 6 foot). The wide toe, skinny heel is so hard to find a shoe for, and when you add in the size issue — even shoes that technically run this high often look ridiculous because the lines are all wrong — well, as you say, the good options are expensive and hard to find.

    4. BananaPants*

      My mother has plantar fasciitis and the only shoes she can wear in any comfort are very expensive Hoka One One running shoes with custom inserts. Fortunately as a nurse she’s allowed to wear sneakers to work.

      1. Lindrine*

        I have the same issue too. I had to give up heals pretty much and find loafers and flats that have proper support. I will look up the shoes you mentioned they sound comfy.

        Clarks can be good and naturalizer. I just try different ones and sometimes find something that works.

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      “Hell, even wearing clothes is torture some days.”

      God would I love to ditch the bra at the office.

    6. bridget*

      I doubt that a receptionist is truly on her feet all day filing. Most of the time, she’s probably sitting at a desk answering phones and the like, and only spends part of her day filing. I think she would be fine to have her shoes off while she’s sitting on her desk, provided that they’re the type of shoes that can be slipped on quickly when she needs to get up and leave her desk. That’s always been my strategy for every job I’ve ever had, including my stint as a receptionist.

    7. Cath in Canada*

      I am very, very happy that our weather has finally cooled down enough for me to go back to my lovely comfortable ankle boots. I can NOT find summer shoes that are comfortable for a full day. Winter, no problem – there’s something about summer shoes!

  9. Keep Summer Safe*

    #1: I could probably work at that office for years and not notice her lack of footwear.

    I’m curious how many of the other accountants have a problem with her going barefoot?

    I can’t shake the feeling that this is more about OP1 wanting to bend the receptionist to their will than any real concern about looking professional.

    But I agree that she should wear shoes around the office – as a matter of safety. Offices can be full of nasty sharp surprises. Even if she’s got good thick callouses that might protect her from broken glass on the floor, someone might roll a chair onto her toes, etc.

    1. JessaB*

      There is however, probably no reason she can’t get slipper type shoes for doing filing. Heck what I wear right now are technically men’s slippers, but they have a rubber sole and the top looks just like a regular fabric type shoe. There are things that are not “technically shoes” that could be worn for that.

    2. UKAnon*

      “I can’t shake the feeling that this is more about OP1 wanting to bend the receptionist to their will than any real concern about looking professional.”

      Unfortunately, this is how it came across to me too. Taking it as a lack of respect (should the receptionist be “respecting” you beyond being polite, professional and courteous in her interactions with you? How does her choice of footwear change that?) and pulling seniority of years reads more like at this stage OP just wants to force the receptionist to change because she thinks this should happen. Unless a client actually complains to you, leave this to her boss; it isn’t your business.

      As a client, without evidence to the contrary I would just assume that this is one of those places where she’s ‘forced’ to wear ridiculously high heels then walk on hard floors all day. And that is a whole new form of torture our society has invented, so I wouldn’t give two figs that she was walking round barefoot.

        1. UKAnon*

          I was thinking of the “You won’t get promoted if…” or the “Oh it’s just normal in the office to…” or even comments like this about footwear. There are studies that women who don’t conform to societal notions of beauty in all kinds of regards earn less over a lifetime than their attractive peers, so a negative career effect for choosing not to wear heels – particularly in some environments – can contribute to ‘forcing’ women to do so.

          1. BRR*

            Ahh my apologies. Pre-coffee I went straight to legally and completely ignored that there can be other forms of pressure. I missed that big part.

          2. Ad Astra*

            I am definitely not required to wear heels to work, but so many women in the office wear them that I often feel under-dressed in flats. The pressure is real, even though nobody would ever explicitly ask me to wear heels.

            1. Hermione*

              Do you ever wonder if the REST of the women in your office feel the same way? I bet many of them do, but are acting the same as you due to the same pressures you feel.

        2. Elysian*

          There are definitely some employers who force women to wear heels. I know of some congresspeople who force their female staffers to wear heels and skirts rather than pants/flats. I know of some courtrooms where the Judge expects female lawyers to come in skirts and heels, not pants or flats. There have been reports of a few restaurants that require heels as part of the uniform. I don’t know if there’s been a definitive ruling on the legality of it (like so many things, I imagine “it depends”) but it most certainly happens.

          1. Katter*

            Family friends of ours have a daughter who was a cocktail waitress at one of the big casinos on the Las Vegas strip. She told us about how the management wanted to push the older women out (yes, it was deliberate age discrimination — they wanted everyone young and pretty), but couldn’t legally fire them for being old. Management cooked up a scheme to get them to quit by requiring high heels as part of the uniform, figuring only the young ones would make it through their shifts in heels. They were right, of course…so all the older waitresses went to their doctors and got confirmation that they couldn’t be required to wear heels for health reasons, and management was forced to allow them to wear their flats.

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          My neighbor works from home, but when her boss comes into town and they go to client sites, she’s required to wear heals. I don’t know how serious that requirement is, if she could lose her job over it: she simply complies. I couldn’t work a job like that.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, I read it the same way as you. Especially as the ONLY item that is really the OP’s business – the fact that clients might come in and see – is in parenthesis. Which sounds like the chance of a client unexpectedly coming is is slight.

    3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      It didn’t come off that way to me, but I have worked with some very conservative clients, who are eagle-eyed, which has has trained me to notice *every* detail in the week before their visit.

      1. Koko*

        Probably not, if she’s barefoot all the time. It’s having all your foot sweat marinating in your shoes all day that makes your feet stink when you initially remove your shoes.

    4. The IT Manager*

      I see two wrongs not adding up to a right.

      I found the LW’s claim that bare feet are disrespectful to be silly. Showing your foot is not disrespectful. LW is interpreting/misinterpreting directed disrespect towards her creating an adversarial relationship. Bare feet are completely unprofessional, though.

      OTOH, the receptionist’s solution to my shoes hurt my feet is really childish. The receptionist knows that her shoes hurt her feet and has picked the wrong solution. Other possible solutions:
      1) Suck it up and deal with the pain if she absolutely must wear those uncomfortable shoes
      2) Get new, comfortable shoes for all day or just for when she’s filing and standing in the office
      3) Slip her shoes off under the desk where others can’t see it, but put them back on when moving around the office

      1. Loose Seal*

        Depending on her feet, it may be prohibitively expensive to get dress shoes that don’t hurt her feet. I don’t think “suck it up” is a kind response to someone being in pain all day when their job requires them to be on their feet for any length of time. When I’ve worn shoes that started to hurt me during the day (surely we’ve all been in a position where we wore shoes that hadn’t been fully broken in and were trapped in them for the day), slipping them off under the desk wouldn’t have helped as much as being able to slip them off while being on my feet while filing. I might have tried different shoes the next day but there certainly have been times in my career that I could not afford to run out and get better, usually quite a bit more expensive, shoes.

        Regardless, I don’t think it’s OP’s job to speak to the receptionist about her attire. If concerned, she could mention it to the boss and then consider her part done.

    5. BuildMeUp*

      I would definitely notice! And to be honest, I would be pretty weirded out by it. I don’t know that I would view it as disrespectful to me if I worked there, but if I came in as a client and noticed, I would find it very off-putting and unprofessional. If it was a different type of business, like a start-up, it might not be a big deal, but in an accounting firm, it would seem very strange to me.

      I’m not sure it’s fair to assume that OP1 wants to “bend the receptionist to their will.” OP is not asking the receptionist to do something abnormal or out of the scope of her normal duties. She is asking the receptionist to wear shoes, and I don’t think that’s a crazy request.

    6. Officeworker*

      Hi, I submitted this question.

      Of the nine of us, 5 have mentioned it. Our office is open plan, even in the filing, and because she is quite behind on the filing, she does about 2 hours a day. The shoes she is removing are black ballet flats. And where she is filing is where the client (usually about 5 or 6 a day) walk through. If a client walks is, she has to run past them to put her shoes back on.

      I also have no desire to bend her to my will, this is just a matter that I feel she is being very unprofessional in. She is also not totally barefoot, but in her stockings. I also am the one who trained her, and this is the only matter that I have ever mentioned to her.

  10. Knitting Cat Lady*


    Are you the receptionist’s manager or a coworker?

    Also, is she required to wear heels of a certain height? Because high heels can be really painful, no matter the shoe.

    I work in Germany. Like most offices in Germany, mine doesn’t have air conditioning. We had two incredible heat waves this year. Temperatures got to 40C for the first time ever. The office was 30C plus.

    Many people were walking around barefoot to deal with the heat.

    Then again, I’m an engineer in a department full of engineers. Our dress code can be summed up as ‘wear something clean’.

      1. JessaB*

        Yeh. Where I once worked it was pretty much “neat, clean and not obscene,” which also included no political type statements.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Are there really places that require women to wear heels of a certain height, in 2015? (Or just women who are receptionists or in other customer-facing roles, or other admin-type roles?)

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        I’ve seen some pretty weird dress codes.

        Harrod’s stood out with detailed demands about make up and heel height.

        That was a few years ago, though, and there was a bit of a media outrage.

        No idea if those rules still apply.

        And I wouldn’t be surprised if there are at least a few backwards places with heel requirements. I don’t have much faith in humanity.

        1. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

          I’ve worked in places that had heel requirements, but they dictated that your heels couldn’t be higher than, say, an inch or so. Because it was minimum wage work in a movie theater, and honestly sneakers were best for that job – ushering in “dressy” shoes, even shoes that were supposed to be comfortable, was awful.

          But yeah, I’ve seen maximum heel heights, minimum heel heights sounds like crazy town.

          1. Judy*

            Yep, in my experience dress codes have maximum heel height (and usually minimum heel area). But I’ve spent my career in design offices attached to manufacturing plants.

          1. Merry and Bright*

            Oh yes! I remember they refused entry to George Michael for wearing ‘scruffy’ jeans even though he had actually bought them in Harrods!

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I have not had the guts to go in there yet, though I’ve heard good things about the food hall. I always end up at Fortnum and Mason anyway. It’s the one posh store where I know I can afford stuff (tea mostly, but other stuff too).

              Plus, I like to go out the side door and have the uniformed doorman hold the door for me. It makes me feel like a princess. Plus, Hatchards (the oldest bookshop in London) is right next door. :D

              I have no clue what the dress code for the employees is, but they always look very smart. And the doorman–he has to dress like a royal footman or something. I wonder what they do for him when it’s really hot out, the poor guy.

      2. LSCO*

        I’ve worked in an office where whilst it wasn’t explicitly in the dress code for women to wear heels, it would have been very much frowned upon if a woman were to wear flats. My first week there as a temp I wore flats (I’m tall anyway and heels are dreadfully uncomfortable and painful for me at the best of times), and was pulled aside by a coworker who told me I should wear heels if I wanted to get a permanent position as flats were seen as unprofessional.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I have never, ever understood this–how a flat shoe and a high-heeled shoe, even if they’re exactly the same other than the height, can be perceived as vastly different levels of formality, but I know it’s A Thing in some places. Yuck.

          1. AnonAnalyst*

            Yeah, I really hate this. I like heels, but I’ve had arthritis and other joint issues since I was about 20 so my body most definitely does not like heels. I will wear them once in awhile when I want to, but no way will I wear them every day; I’m not going to risk permanently damaging my joints further just so everyone else in the office will consider me appropriately dressed based on the heel height of my shoes. I have many pairs of polished and professional-looking flats, so that should be good enough.

            Fortunately, this hasn’t been an issue in my working life so far, although I guess I need to keep a closer eye on it when interviewing with new employers.

            1. sam*

              weirdly, wearing heels makes the tendinitis in my ankle hurt less. walking around with a fully flexed foot (as I do in flats) is what really aggravates it.

              1. Kelly L.*

                My feet like it best when I have a tiny bit of heel, like an inch or less. Flat-flats hurt and so do high heels.

              2. Loose Seal*

                I have low back and hip issues and sometimes wearing a heel (2.5 to 3 inches) is the only thing that makes me comfortable for the day. It is weird and people always make a comment about how they thought I had back pain that would have prevented heels — like they think I’m lying about the pain. I think it’s because wearing heels tips a woman’s pelvis slightly and that will be enough sometimes to take the pressure off the sore points in my hips.

                1. Charlotte Collins*

                  Also, if you change up the height of your heels regularly, that helps. I get terrible charlie horses sometimes, and my calves seem to prefer me to go barefoot or wear shoes of different heights throughout the week. (Divas!)

                  But as a short woman I love my wedge heels! They give me a bit more height and tend to be very comfortable to walk in. No wonder they were so popular in the 40s when women wanted to combine style and practicality. (Now if designers would only start making those convertible dress-suits again…)

          2. Koko*

            I truly don’t get this either.

            There was some brou-ha-ha that I recall earlier this year at some big fashion event in Milan where some famous and revered old lady was denied entry into one of the fashion shows because she was wearing flats. They were a designer, probably $800, pair of flats but the event’s dress code demanded that women had to wear heels to be admitted. It turned into a bunch of bad PR because the old lady was somehow important and she literally had aged to the point that she couldn’t wear heels anymore because her feet were so bad.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I don’t do heels anymore unless they are very low, like on a boot, or kitten heels. They make my back hurt (I injured it once and it’s never been the same since). Wearing them to work is out.

            2. Honeybee*

              This is where I am, too. Flats and Keds are what I wear pretty much every other time, including interviews. I’m just not willing to subject my feet (and legs and hips and back) to pain on a regular basis.

          3. Allison*

            I hate it so much. There are definitely classy flats and loud, gaudy heels; and there are casual heels and dressy flats. It’s all about what the shoe is made of and what it looks like, whether it has a heel seems fairly irrelevant.

            I used to wear heels on dates when we’d go to a nice restaurant, and basically every guy I’ve ever dated has made it clear he’d rather see me wear nice flats and be comfortable all night, than wear heels that’ll have me hobbling and wincing on our way back to the car. I mean, I might wear heels anyway, but that’s because it’s my decision g-darnit! I’ve also seen men quoted in Cosmo as saying wearing flats on a date is like wearing sweatpants, but they don’t sound like guys I wanna date! I mean really, how is that a fair comparison?

        2. Kelly O*

          I have been wearing flats pretty much exclusively all summer and am trying to transition back to some heels.

          It’s a perceived level of dressed up thing. While my office is technically business casual, I support executives in full suits every day. Heels are just dressier, particularly with dresses, and the flats don’t look as put together. It’s not written in any dress code, but is understood.

          And I don’t think people are getting how wrong a pair of house shoes would be. My own personal boss would hit the roof (he’s made comments about people in Sketchers slip on shoes before) but of he comes in the file room and my heels are next to me, there is not an eye batted.

          It’s all in your individual office, your relationship with your executive(s), and a million other things that someone on staff might not know.

          1. Kelly L.*

            I think it’s arbitrary and silly that we-as-a-culture have decided heels are dressier, though, all other things being equal. (i.e. comparing shoes in a nice-looking material to other shoes in a nice-looking material) Either people are really dead set on me being 5’8″ rather than 5’6″, or it’s about the way legs look in heels, which is kind of a sexist thing to judge people on in a workplace.

            This is not intended as a rant at you! :) Just at a whole concept I just don’t get, but that I know exists.

            1. Ad Astra*

              I always have to laugh when the men in my office/life complain about having to wear dress shoes. They look so comfortable!

              1. Koko*

                I think a guy explained to me once that their dress shoes fit the way Doc Martens do – when you first get them it’s all rigid unyielding walls of leather digging into your feet and they only soften over time from being broken in.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  I believe it. I’ve had that experience with leather shoes. They’re the best once they’re broken in, but they can be the worst until you get there.

                2. Ellen*

                  I think this is more the case with nicer men’s shoes–I still remember the revelation it was for my husband when I talked him into spending more on his dress shoes and he realized that his feet didn’t have to be totally miserable all day just to look nice.

            2. fposte*

              But that’s formality (and fashion/convention) in general, right? Why is black dressier than baby blue? Why is putting on a necktie dressier than putting on a sweater vest? Etc.

                1. Newhouse*

                  @J, maybe not when you look at the actual numbers of these fashion conventions (although I’m doubtful even there) but absolutely when talking about “affecting” as actively hurting or bad or time-consuming and taking a lot fo effort.

                  To go with fposte’s example, I’m sure there are men who’d rather wear sweater vests than neckties but have to wear the latter. But at worst they’ll find them uncomfortable and maybe not fitting their general style or whatever, but there’s no actual harm health-wise in wearing sweater vests. Same with things like makeup or hair styles, where men maybe have a limit on the length of their hair, but for women there are often some (elaborate) hairstyles that are okay yet others aren’t, and they’re often required to wear (again, elaborate) makeup which is an absolute non issue for men.

                  I’d also argue that there are different roots for many of these standards when it comes to men and women. As others have said, the only reason heels exist is because they generally make the legs look more comely, and that’s the reason behind a lot of requirements regarding women’s “professionality”, whereas for men, a lot of their standards are so that they look more powerful or sophisticated. There are probably many people who find men in suits especially attractive but that’s definitely not the reason suits are considered professional.

              1. Cat*

                Yeah, but sometimes conventions are worth pushing back against. In this case, since high heels lead to legitimate medical problems and are only considered more formal for women, I think it’s one that is.

                1. Cat*

                  And to expand on that, I think it’s sometimes also worth considering the cultural scripts that lead to something being considered more formal or attractive in certain circumstances. I think it’s often not random. And when you do that with heels,* you get some pretty nasty ones.

                  * Which I wear myself sometimes, I’m not knocking anyone for participating; life is complicated.

                2. fposte*

                  Not arguing with that one–and in general, fashion conventions do hit more at women. The hem-height difference between dowdy and slutty is an ever-moving target, for one thing.

                  It’s just all so peculiar that shoes don’t really stand out to me.

                3. Kelly L.*

                  This. With heels, I think it’s rooted in some men’s preferences for the way legs look in heels, like I was thinking above, and that’s not a good standard for the workplace.

                  Another example that can be problematic–someone posted downthread (and I’m not picking on her personally–this is a cultural thing) that she didn’t feel dressed up without her hair blown out. If only straight hair is formal, then you get into nasty racial implications pretty fast.

                4. Artemesia*

                  The function of high heels is to make the legs look more enticing to men. There is no other reason they are favored and are more ‘formal’. It is distantly related to foot binding.

                5. fposte*

                  Well, to make the female body more enticing, period. It’s not just men who enjoy that, and it’s not like women don’t enjoy dressing in ways that make them feel sexier and more attractive.

                  But, you know, bras. Which are much weirder to me than high heels.

          2. Meg Murry*

            But that is in the file room, not in the hallway or reception area. I agree that heels off in the file room or under your desk is one thing, in the reception area where clients go is another.

            Would your boss throw a fit if you were wearing something like these foldable flats in a neutral color like black or tan? (like to follow, probably will be caught in moderation)? It would be preferable to being barefoot in a public facing area, in my opinion. In fact, I’m considering getting a pair to keep under my desk, for days when I just can’t take my current shoes anymore but don’t want to be totally barefoot.

        3. Katie the Fed*

          Since my accident, I’ve only been able to wear ugly-as-sin flats with orthotic inserts. Honestly, I’m happy enough to be able to walk I don’t give a rat’s patootie if it makes me look unprofessional.

        1. Noah*

          Yes, even for women in flight attendant or customer service roles who are on their feet the majority of the day.

    2. Officeworker*

      Hi, I am one of the senior accountants, and I also trained her at her job when she started here.

      She wears flat black ballet flats,and that is what she removes to do the filing in her stockings. Our dress code is business/professional.

      We are in Australia, but our office is airconditioned to the point where we wear jumpers inside year round.

  11. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. My favourite comfy work flats have suddenly started to hurt. It is quite painful when the heel rubs and catches and so I ended up trying to do a dignified hobble around the office whilst at that trying-to-find-the-coffee-machine-and-where-they-keep-the-printer-paper stage.

  12. Ladidah*

    #1: I don’t really get what “respect” has to do with the receptionist’s feet. There are legitimate safety reasons to require footwear (and closed-toe footwear) at work: I’ve seen the latter requirement even at trendy retail stores where sandals/open toe shoes might appear to be more appropriate footwear for salespeople (wearing the clothes). But the liability/workplace safety issues re: boxes of clothing, files, furniture on bare toes have led to these rules.

    That being said, she’s taking off her shoes to be more comfortable while doing her work. She needs a pair of comfortable flat shoes, to be sure, but it’s not a matter of “respect” or “disrespect,” and I’d suggest OP #4 not only not *mention* the “disrespect” issue, but also really reconsider this for themselves, because of all the workplace actions to be not about you, someone taking off their shoes to haul objects around more comfortably is definitely pretty high on the list.

    1. Nodumbunny*

      I agree – I don’t think this has any real impact on the OP and they should stay out of it. If a client complains, or the manager notices or she gets her toes run over, it will take care of itself.

      1. LBK*

        Waiting for a client complaint isn’t a great idea for minor professionalism issues like this because they don’t usually rise to the level of warranting a complaint, but they’re still things a client might notice that will contribute to forming their overall opinion of the office.

    2. Sadsack*

      I think the point of the letter writer is that she told the receptionist to wear shoes and the receptionist declined, thus disrespecting OP’s authority to tell her what to do. I don’t agree with this, but I think this is where the respect issues lies.

      1. Marcela*

        No, it’s not that, since OP says she finds it’s disrespectful to her colleagues, plural, not only to her.

  13. Confused*

    #4 Mysterious disciplinary meeting
    At OldJob this happened ALL. THE. TIME. And just as Alison described, it felt cruel and caused anxiety. Meetings would simply appear on the schedule without another word, even when it was only one person being called in.
    Someone told me management did this to prevent people having time to come up with a story that benefited them. They were basically trying to catch you off guard so you would not have time to come up with a good lie.
    I never understood this. If someone was going to lie, they were going to lie regardless. Also, if they were this concerned about employees lying um….hire more trustworthy employees!? Tip of the iceberg at OldJob.
    I feel ya, OP#4

    1. Retail Lifer*

      This is how my boyfriend’s entire team was let go. They scheduled a mysterious meeting for each person, three days in a row. His meeting was on the third day so obviously he knew what was coming by then.

  14. Patricia*

    For #1: This can also be a safety issue. I would approach it from that direction. The employee could injure herself (break a toe on office furniture, step on something, etc.), and the company would be liable for a workers comp claim for allowing her behavior.

  15. Cynthia*

    Thanks for posting my question. I contacted HR, and was told that I did have a right to have some general idea of meeting with manager. Called manager and was told meeting would involve disciplinary action and one day suspension regarding one minute late clock in July and 5 minute late clock in August. I had previously been written up 9-10 months prior because of tardiness. I signed DAR and their have been no further tardys since. The policy is a twelve month rolling policy and you are only allowed 4 tardys within a year. I am an RN and have been employed at this hospital for 16 years. Manager informed me I had 8 more tardys to roll before the last 2 in July and August. Didn’t matter if it was one minute or 5 minutes, still a tardy. I work under extremely stressful conditions mainly due to understaffing. I often work without lunch breaks or any other break. If we are fortunate enough to have a break, it will be interrupted because we carry zone phones so that our patients can call us as needed. I often stay in a constant state of dehydration because no time to drink. We are written up for having drinks in our work stations. I work 12-14 hr shifts. Cafeteria closes at 6:30 pm and I work night shift. If I don’t have time to prepare or stop for food, then I don’t eat. That being said I suffer from 2 chronic health conditions. I have ulcerative colitis and interstitial cystitis that are both pretty much controlled which I am very grateful. I don’t like to use my illnesses as an excuse for my tardys and accept full responsibility for my behavior. But, in some instances, I have flare ups from uc and results in many trips to restroom and cramping. My manager is aware of my situation as I did explain that sometimes I have to make a pit stop on my way in to work. I have no issues with attendance I just learn to deal with this and do the best I can. My have received positive evaluations since my hire. Never had any complaints from patients and have good relationships with physicians. I have had patients write to CEO and to manager stating how they appreciated the great care that I had given to them. Floor nursing has become very difficult due to understaffing and cutbacks. I obtained certification as Lactation Consultant. Months later I inquired about a position in Lactation as I am a mother baby nurse.
    I was told I could not because of disciplinary action write up. That was last year and have inquired again about an opening in Lactation. 2 days later, get a call from manager and found out about the recent incident with the tardys. Some thing don’t seem quite right. I am 55 years old and my salary is based on the upper end due to my years in nursing. Many young new graduate nurses seem to be the norm on our floor now. I wonder if I am being pushed out. What do you think? I now have no other option, but to resign because any further tardy will result in termination. I cannot guarantee this will not happen because there will always be circumstances beyond my control. I live in a right to work state. Nurses have been told before that because of the economy, we should be glad that we have jobs. Now that really is good for morale. The senior nurses were told that we were running off the new nurses because of negativity. Sorry, but I don’t have that much power. Please send any comments or question. Thanks.

    1. UKAnon*

      Hi Cynthia,

      Firstly, many, many thanks for the work you and other nurses do – particularly in such circumstances. It sounds like you are trying to be fair to your employer, but those are awful work conditions.

      I don’t know much about American employment law so I will defer to others on that, but two things jump out at me; 1) whilst it’s obviously important to have nurses arriving on time and available, it sounds like it would be a reasonable accommodation of your conditions to allow some flexibility in your arrival times when you’ve needed to stop en route (say no more than 10 mins) and to need three-four 5 min breaks (or whatever numbers will help you) to take on food and drink if this also helps control your condition. 2) Age discrimination might be a factor here and you may also like to look into that.

      I don’t think you should feel the need to resign in these circumstances; if you can, it would be better to work with your manager to try and accommodate your circumstances. One final thought: are you part of/able to join a union? That’s probably the easiest route for you to look into your situation in detail.

      Best of luck!

      1. lobsterpot*

        I would have thought even in the US, there might be a reasonable accommodation to be made regarding the OP4’s health conditions. Certainly in the UK this employer’s behaviour would raise serious concerns under the equality act, even if there is a genuine tardy issue.

      2. lobsterpot*

        Doi, you said that. I should read more carefully.

        Gosh, the situation sounds nasty and stressful :(

      3. Cynthia*

        Thank you. I enjoy helping people. I live in Georgia (USA) and unfortunately there are no nursing Unions here or anywhere in the south. The word “union” is a no no and many nurses are scared to even talk about them for fear of retaliation or loss of job. Hospital administration would do anything to keep unions at bay. However, we are a profession who is in a desperate need of unionization. Also, Ga. is considered a right to work state which means that an employee has no rights. The employer can fire you for any reason they choose, without any cause. I plan on meeting with HR to see if I have any rights with respect to my health conditions. I will not resign until I have acquired another position. I have considered travel nursing. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise. I will pray God will help me make the best decision.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Yes, ADA applies in all states. It’s also possible that this hospital has internal policies that describe a specific process for termination, since the policies are so strict about tardiness and there are formal disciplinary meetings. Every state except Montana has at-will employment, but tons of companies have their own policies that provide some modicum of due process.

            I, too, suspect there could be some ADA issues here, though there are many posters here who would know better than I do.

            I would also suggest a dedicated, balls-to-the-wall job search, because this is really not a great environment. And if you lose your job, it really might be a blessing in disguise as you say. Losing my last job was definitely a blessing in disguise for me, and I’m not someone who uses that term often.

    2. YaH*

      That sounds genuinely horrible. I am so sorry. I have nothing useful to offer in the way of advice, just sympathy.

    3. NJ anon*

      With your health conditions, would this fall under “reasonable accommodations?” Nurses are the greatest asset in a health facility and it’s terrible how they are treating you. Perhaps you should see an employment lawyer.

      1. Violetta*

        Yes this is what I’m wondering as well! Restroom breaks and drinking water are such basic necessities even if you’re 100 % healthy, they must be reasonable to accomodate for someone with a chronic health condition. (Not being fired for being 1 minute late if you have a medical condition that necessitates a bathroom break that interrupts your commute sometimes seems entirely reasonable to me too…)
        OP, I would do some research on this with regards to the ADA

        1. fposte*

          I definitely think it’s worth raising the issue for restroom breaks and water, but it’s pretty unlikely that lateness for shift work, especially medical shift work, would be considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

          1. Us, Too*

            Tardiness would be a pretty big deal in a hospital compared to my own work, I’m sure. I can’t imagine why the ADA would accommodate this, either.

            1. Loose Seal*

              Why should there be an ADA accommodation for the tardies, though? Surely, OP could leave for work a few minutes earlier so to have time for a bio break on the way, if necessary. I expect, knowing Georgia like I do, that OP drives rather than takes public transit (which is so terrible, even in Atlanta, it’s almost not worth having). So it’s not a matter of leaving an hour early to get a train that puts her at work earlier like it might be for some posters.

              From what I know about nursing (I’m not a nurse), OP is probably relieving someone that has just worked a 12-hour shift and they have to spend some time together to go over the patients’ needs before the previous nurse can leave. I would say that it would be an unreasonable accommodation to ask the previous nurse shift to cover OP’s tardies when it’s not proven that OP has tried leaving for work earlier.

              1. fposte*

                Maybe you’d meant to put this elsewhere, but I think you’re responding to two people who have the same concern as you on accommodating tardiness in a nursing job.

            2. Anony-maus*

              INAL but I imagine the ADA would cover a more flexible policy regarding start time because the condition causes unpredictable flareups and unpredictable use of the bathroom.

          2. Violetta*

            I put that one in brackets because I’m sure the law doesn’t agree with me, I just personally feel it would be horrid to fire someone with a medical condition for a couple 1-5 minute delays on a yearly basis

    4. BRR*

      I’m really sorry, your manager sounds like an ass. Even though they’re an ass they have a job to do and it’s true that a tardy is a tardy. You really have no way of knowing if it’s your age or salary are motivating factors.

      I wouldn’t quit, it’s usually easier to find a job when you have a job. I’m not familiar with the nursing profession but that’s still probably true in your field (somebody please step in if you know better). Also I was under the impression there is a nurse shortage (sounds like you’re in the US at least and once again please step in if somebody knows better), I would keep your job and start looking for a new one.

      1. Ad Astra*

        My understanding is that there is a nurse shortage in some parts of the U.S., but there’s also a shortage of funding to pay for the nurses needed.

    5. neverjaunty*

      You should talk to an employment lawyer. It is entirely possible that your hospital is violating both labor laws and patient safety laws. And if this is their normal staffing practice, you better believe that you are not the only one complaining – and that patients have complained about the kind of quality of care that happens in understaffed hospitals

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This. And the bit about her age, the salary level she’s at, and the prevalence of younger nurses coming in makes me wonder if they’re not trying to push her out either because of her age or because they want to ditch the person with the highest pay.

    6. Fish Microwaver*

      Do you charge your employer for every minute you work beyond the end of your shift? Or the breaks that you work? I thought not. They are nickel and diming you and I suspect trying to get rid of you. Sorry, your management sucks and isn’t going to change.

    7. Us, Too*

      Do you have any evidence that others aren’t being treated the same way you are? For example, does everyone get written up if they are tardy or just you?

      In any event, the only thing you can do immediately to ensure that you aren’t terminated for tardiness is to allow yourself enough “buffer” time in getting to work to ensure that you’ll be on time. Doing this, of course, doesn’t mean that your car won’t break down, you won’t get into an accident, or you’ll have some freak thing happen that could potentially make you late beyond even your “buffer”, but at least you’ll know that you did everything you could to prevent termination. And you’ll have the peace of mind to know that if you encounter a little extra traffic or a traffic light being out, you’ll be at work on time.

      1. fposte*

        The differential treatment point is a really good one, and it’s one that a lawyer is likely to ask, so you’re going to want to be prepared with an answer.

    8. Yep*

      Wow, lots of stuff here.

      You must be able to get a doctor’s note (heh, I appreciate the irony) for your to have water while you are working. I see you mentioned multiple issues, but this one stood out to me. Twelve hour shifts without WATER is insane. No wonder you’re understaffed.

      To echo another commenter – are other nurses getting written up for these tardies, like you are?

      I used to work for a retail business who would keep track of who was late by the minute like that. One day a manager pulled me into show me how many times I clocked in a minute late. But funnily enough, they did not keep track of all the times I clocked in a minute early, and I’m betting it’s the same for you too.

      This does sound like age discrimination and that they’re pushing you out. You could fight that going through the appropriate channels, but do you really want to? I’m sure the stress and long hours are putting a strain on your health and fighting this will only add to that.

      I’d say you should go into retirement early, if that’s plausible for you.

      (Another) personal side note: Both my parents retired earlier than expected, my mother because of stressful work conditions – she’d been with the business for over 30 years and was continually treated like crap. The final straw was when her new manager began sexually harassing her (she was about 60 at the time, and he 40, mind you). My mom was like, “I could fight it, but I’m too old to be dealing with this crap.”

      Otherwise I would suggest – again, if it’s plausible for you – looking into a different area of nursing than hospitals, like home care. I have a nurse friend who made that transition, and she’s said she enjoys the break up of routine with going to people’s houses compared to a hospital or doctor’s office environment.

      My third suggestion would be to appeal to the CEO, if you have any rapport with him/her, since you mentioned patients have written him letters attesting to your fabulous nursing skills and personal touch.

      This just makes me so sad, and I wish you the best with however you decide to handle this. Please make your health your #1 priority – you can’t take care of others without taking care of yourself first.

  16. AcidMeFlux*

    For flats that give some support; Jezebel has actuallyjust been asking readers to nominate the best flats available (I guess, in the US). Here’s the link:

    Or, as readers above have mentioned, a good quality, nicely styled slipped would do. Whatever the shoe, I usually buy a size larger than I need and then use orthotics, from Scholls or from the runner’s section in a sporting goods store. But walking around barefoot in the office? Gross.

  17. lobsterpot*

    In relation to number 4 – if this was happening in the UK, there are very clear rules around disciplinary procedure produced by Acas, which is the government’s tribunal and mediation service.

    In addition employers must have a greivance procedure which meets minimum standards – and trade unions have guides available on navigating this.

    You should never be put into a disciplinary where you are unsure what it’s about. Whilst it would be unusual that someone would be disciplined and truly have NO idea what it MIGHT be about, refusing to tell am employee who is facing a hearing goes against very clear guidance and would most likely be successfully challenged by the employee or their trade union.

  18. NJ anon*

    #2 “Re-org” is a dirty word in my dictionary! I can’t believe you survived so many! I left one organization due to a re-organization that was going horribly wrong (3 out of 5 Directors left, one got demoted and stayed). Started new job and a few months in, guess what . . . a re-organization! Sigh.

  19. F.*

    #1: I echo the other posters regarding no shoes being a safety violation. It is also unprofessional, especially in a forward-facing position like Receptionist.
    #2: Sounds like they may be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Is this an otherwise healthy company? If so, there should be no reason for the constant reorganizations. If not, then it might be time to look into furthering your career somewhere else. At least you have a diversity of experience and lots of flexibility to show for it.
    #3: In the US, if you are employed as a fulltime, non-exempt employee, you cannot take on the cleaning duties as a “second job” for the same employer, as that would put you over 40 hours per week. They employer would then be required by law to pay you overtime. If it makes you feel any better, I know what our company pays the cleaning agency per month, and I’ll just say that we’re getting what we pay for when they do a half-baked job.

    1. Theresa*

      Re: #3 – Good point, I didn’t think of that! I was just thinking, “Since I’m already here, I’ll clean up this joint!” but my boss would never agree to pay me OT for it.

    2. Soharaz*

      Amusingly my sister worked as a receptionist for a lawyer’s office and she took a part time ‘under the table’ job cleaning the offices. Not sure if she was part time or full time, but how sketchy is that?!

  20. afiendishthingy*

    I reread 1 and this jumped out at me: “I have mentioned to her twice that it is unprofessional and she should wear them, but she ignores me. How do I tell my boss (I am not sure if he has noticed) that I find it unprofessional (should a client walk in and see it), but also I find it shows that she has no respect for her colleagues either? ”

    I had been trying to figure out how OP got to “no respect for her colleagues” from “files barefoot” but now I am thinking OP feels disrespected because the receptionist didn’t start wearing shoes when OP told her to. I agree with OP that the receptionist should wear shoes, but they’re not the receptionist’s boss and OP shouldn’t order her around. I wonder if receptionist is new to office work and just doesn’t get professional norms. In any case it’s her manager’s place to tell her if she’s not interested in hearing it from coworkers.

    1. Mabel*

      I think it’s possible to equate “dresses appropriately” with “respect for the people around you.” I was thinking about the “What Not to a Wear” TV show where they talked about this often. It might not be what the OP had in mind, but I keep thinking about it as I read through the comments, so I wanted to mention it.

    2. KT*

      This can also be a cultural thing. I was raised that how you dress/present yourself demonstrates how much respect you have for someone.

      So even though I went to an all-girls high-school where most people rolled out of bed (or slept in their uniform), I came to school with a starched skirt, full makeup, and a perfect blowout, because anything less would show the teachers I did not respect them.

      I have tried to separate myself from this mindset, since I know most aren’t raised this way, but I do struggle with it sometimes. Showing up at work looking like a frump or taking off your shoes would be the equivalent of flipping me off to me still.

    3. Officeworker*

      Hi, I posted question 1.

      We don’t really have managers, I am one of the senior workers here and I was actually the one that trained her. The “disrespecting colleagues” comment stems from the fact that 5 other accountants have approached me and said that they think that she should wear shoes and it bothers them that she walks around the entire office, reception area, and their desks for about 2 hours a day without them.

      Her ordinary shoes are black ballet flats, which is what she removes.

  21. K.*

    #2: start looking. I was recently laid off after the second re-org in less than a year; I hated the job I landed in in the first. (And my boss had no say in any of it – it was HER boss who laid us off.) There’s been another round of layoffs since mine. Even if you come out okay, four re-orgs in a short time is a sign of trouble. I’d start sending out resumes.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I once worked at a company and we called the management the “Rose Bowl Parade Committee”… you know, how they hold the parade and football game on January 1, take a deep breath on January 2, and begin planning for the NEXT January event on January 3?

      Well, this place I once worked – they’d have a re-org, take a day to breathe, and begin planning the NEXT reorg to take place two-three months later.

    2. la munieca*

      I work for an org that has re-org’d twice in the 2.5 years I’ve been with them. One of my colleagues who manages her career brilliantly did a great job of advocating for herself when the first re-org rumblings began. Early on in her 1:1 meetings with her manager, she clearly laid out her medium-term career goals and the work & opportunities she was looking for in her next step – be that step within the org or outside. This gave her manager helpful information on how to retain her and opened up the lines of communication. As the second re-org approached, I followed her lead and ended up shifting to a different department that could offer me what I was looking for (including a title bump). Parting from my old team was made easier, too, since my previous managers’ response was, “I wasn’t in a position to offer you what you were looking for, but I’m glad you found it elsewhere in the org.” Granted, a lot of the success of this strategy lies in accepting and perhaps raising the risk of re-orgs (I have an employed partner and don’t have large debts or children, so my ability to assume risk is high) and managers who are reasonable. Articulating what you’re looking for in your next step, too, can help take back some of the agency re-orgs can strip away, and help you more quickly launch an external job search if you want/need to.

  22. AvonLady Barksdale*

    #1: I used to work in one of those shared office spaces– a Regus space– where several different companies had offices and people from all over the world rented space for short periods of time. One woman started over the summer and would walk around the entire office– her space and the common areas– barefoot or in socks, like it was No Big Thing. In the kitchen. In the halls. In the BATHROOM. I am not grossed out by feet, but this made me wince. I did find it unprofessional, I found the bathroom thing really nasty, and she looked like she was treating the office like a beach party.

    Did I think she had to wear heels? Of course not. I broke my foot and exclusively wore Pumas for months. I also used to wear my “commuting” shoes– sandals or foldable flats– around the office all day, as did many other women. I can’t wear heels anymore (I try, because I have several great pairs, but no), so I sympathize with the discomfort problem, but the barefoot thing really bothers me. At least put on a pair of socks! There are moccasins, slippers, the aforementioned folding flats– all of these would be better than barefoot, in my opinion.

    Oddly, in my current office, we sometimes kick off our shoes and stretch out on the upstairs sofas while we’re working. Admittedly, that doesn’t bother me, I think it’s because a) I’d rather not see shoes on the furniture and b) we all put on our shoes before we walk to the bathroom. We also don’t see clients in the office without fair warning, and we have a living room-type space.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Also? This thread prompted me to buy those on-sale flats I’ve been hemming and hawing about. Thanks, AAM! :-)

    2. Hlyssande*

      In winter I do walk around in sock feet, but never to the bathroom! I have a pair of birkenstock slip ons at my desk for a reason.

    3. Q*

      We often kick off our shoes around here while we are at our desk working. We’ve even been known to go to the printer or fax machine in our socks. But never has any of us gone into the bathroom without putting our shoes on. That’s just nasty.

  23. KT*

    #1 ewwwww feet gross me out, so I would definitely be weirded out by a coworker going barefoot.

    In my previous company, the work atmosphere was like Devil Wears Prada…it was expected your heels would be 3 to 4 inches to look “polished”. “Sensible” heels or flats would get you the evil eye. Most people, just like in the movie, wore sky high heels, but kept ballet flats under the desk for when the big bosses weren’t looking.

    It’s a still a habit for me to wear high heels every day, but for events when I’m going to be on my feet 16+ hours and know I will possibly be sprinting, I keep a pair of Crocs Gianna flats with me. (Yes, Crocs). They are super cute and can pass as normal flats, but are so extremely comfortable. I’ve worn them while running all-day events without my feet ever hurting. I keep a pair at my desk for emergencies.

    1. Christy*

      Right–some people are grossed out by feet. I suspect that’s what’s going on with the LW–she just has an issue with feet. And like, you shouldn’t be walking around barefoot anyway, so IMO it’s not a problem that she has an issue with feet.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      People are talking above about possible safety issues with going barefoot, but I’d be much safer in an office barefoot than in heels. In heels, I’d fall and break something right away.

  24. Menacia*

    It would take a LOT for me to want to walk around barefoot in my office. The carpets are never cleaned, and are just gross. I have many slipper-like flats I wear because I don’t wear heels at all. They are very comfortable and still look professional. I would recommend to the OP to just ignore it, perhaps a client will bring it up but in the meantime, she’s not your money, and it’s not your circus. ;)

      1. Nina*

        That phrase cracked me up, lol.

        The cleanliness of the floor/carpet was my issue, too. Thinking back on some of the offices I’ve been in, there’s no way in hell I would go barefoot on those, because the tile was filthy, or there’s a lot of gunk in the carpet. And it looks disgusting when your feet pick up whatever dirt is on the ground. It’s one thing to be parked at your desk with your shoes off, but just walking around barefoot at work borders on too casual, and definitely unsanitary. JMO.

        I understand if this woman has issues and wearing shoes is painful, especially if she’s on her feet all day, but there’s a balance between wearing heels and nothing at all. Ballet-style slippers are great for situations like these.

  25. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

    I’ll admit I’ve taken my shoes off at my desk, especially at my old job when I’d wear heels (it was a casual office, they were completely unnecessary so I’m still wondering why I did that) or when I’d wear any shoes without any tights or socks under them and my feet would start to feel swampy. The day I discovered liner socks was a happy day indeed! But back to the point, while it’s fair to say many people take their heels off when they’re sitting down at their workstations and it’s safe to say no one will notice or care, walking around barefoot is a different story. I’ll agree with the others, it’s unprofessional and unsafe, and whoever manages this person needs to step in.

    I do have sympathy for those with foot problems, and I think that flats should be a universally accepted form of office shoes, as long as they’re professional looking and in good shape. There are also plenty of products that exist to make shoes fit better and feel better. If someone can’t wear normal shoes, again, I get it, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that everyone who works in an office needs to wear shoes when they’re walking around said office. It’s an office, not a beach or a hippie commune.

  26. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Ok. I’m going to be the outlier here but I say that as long as clients don’t see her without shoes then what’s the big deal? I rarely have shoes on in my office. In fact, right now I don’t. And if I just have to walk the 3 feet across the hall to grab a file from our main office, I don’t put my shoes on. If students or bosses are around I put my shoes on of course but in general I’m barefoot. Because I like being barefoot. I like owning shoes but not really wearing them as they are usually high heels. This is more of a spring/summer thing because of the weather. If I was the receptionist and you weren’t my boss, I’d probably be mad that you’d said something twice. Is seeing her barefoot really that much of an assault on you? Unless her feet smell then what’s the problem as long as clients don’t see it. I’ve run around 3 universities barefoot for various reasons over the last 15 years while doing my job.

    #2-I feel you on the re-orgs. Been there too but thankfully it was just reporting structure that changed and not my job functions. Although one memorable re-org was right before we came back from winter break. We got a cryptic email the Sunday before and had to go to main campus on the Monday we got back. Boom, new boss and structure entirely effective immediately.

    1. Us, Too*

      For me, wearing shoes at work is kind of like wearing a bra. Sure, I could argue that it’s someone else’s hangup if they have a problem with me “going commando” with my feet or breasts, but in the end it’s just something you do to be properly dressed for a professional environment (social convention).

      1. Observer*

        I hear that. But, it’s totally none of the OP’s business. If the manager notices and cares, that’s a different story. And if the receptionist wrote in, I would point out that wearing shoes IS a norm and it really shouldn’t be violated without good reason. Again, though, that’s THEIR problem, not the OP’s.

        1. Us, Too*

          I was responding to the “what’s the big deal” comment. I don’t think it’s OP problem, merely pointing out that failure to observe social and professional norms can be a big deal in a workplace.

          1. TotesMaGoats*

            Right but while wearing shoes (or bras for that matter) might be a professional norm in general, each office is going to be completely different. And it might be the OP that is out of touch with the office norms and not the receptionist. I don’t actually think that’s the case here. I think the OP doesn’t like it, stepped over org chart boundaries and reprimanded the receptionist twice and then got twisted when she didn’t heed her “advice”.

            1. Us, Too*

              Well, sure it varies by workplace! But we don’t actually know what the norm in OP’s workplace is. I’m guessing that if it were “normal” for folks to walk around barefoot, OP would have noticed this in her 3 years there and this one person’s doing so wouldn’t be particularly noteworthy. No telling, though!

    2. Artemesia*

      I worked at a place that decided to reorganize to a matrix organization; they reorganized to departments because they wanted for legal reasons to lay off whole departments. Should have seen that one coming.

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        We started taking bets on how long it would take for a re-org after each big boss (vp level) was hired or fired. We were usually right. 6 months, give or take and something was changing. It’s what we were known for. We would often say “Oh, it’s Thursday must be time for a re-org.”

    3. Officeworker*

      Hi, I am actually the one in the office that trained her, and that has to assign jobs to her.

      Clients do see her barefoot, she has to pass them in the reception area to get her shoes back on to show them to the meeting room. They also walk down the hallway lined with files (where she is filing barefoot) to reach the meeting rooms.

      I mentioned it to her because 5 other accountants had mentioned it to me. I didn’t actually notice that she was barefoot until I was told.

      1. Observer*

        The fact that you trained her doesn’t make you her supervisor. So, are you her supervisor, or just the person who manages schedules? Because if it’s the latter, your feelings about the matter don’t matter. And the appropriate response to the other accountants is that since you are not her supervisor, it’s not something you can really do anything about.

        Client reaction is a legitimate issue, and that’s what you should bring to your boss. Tell him (her?) that the other accountants have mentioned it, and that clients have seen her. Then leave it at that, unless told otherwise. And forget about the “respect” for you and the other staff. It’s really, really not relevant.

  27. embertine*

    As someone who was walking around in my socks a few hours ago because my boots hurt, OP#1’s question is funny to me. Lots of people in my office walk around barefoot in summer or in socks in the winter, although I suppose it depends on what you do, what the dress code is, and what the work environment looks like in terms of safety. The only comments I get are if I’m wearing especially cute socks (the pineapple ones go over well with our design department).

    1. WLE*

      I’ve worked in a handful of offices over the years, and I’ve seen lots of co-workers do just what you’ve described (myself included). I’ve never once seen someone be reprimanded for not wearing shoes…

  28. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #4 – management is trying to use the element of surprise – and extended fear – into the meeting, so the OP will be a “pushover”. Obviously with a notice of that type – you’re going to be scared – which may be why they’re doing it the way they’re doing it.

    If I went into a meeting like that, I would refuse to sign anything, just say “I’ll reply to this in writing” … etc. and don’t be tricked into admitting fault where it’s not yours. Last but not least, keep your cool. It’s better to say “I have no response right now – because I might say the wrong thing and regret it later. We both would.”

    Be careful.

    1. Us, Too*

      We don’t actually know why they didn’t tell her in advance. I don’t think you can read any specific MO into this with no information about it. It could just be a simple oversight, for example.

  29. Bitbyte*

    My mom cleans her company’s break room before her actual shift starts for extra money. It hasn’t decreased her value. In fact, last year she was promoted and is now the first female supervisor her department has ever had.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I think this would depend on the company culture and size. This might work at a small company that supports and appreciates its staff (and has a hard time finding/keeping cleaners). However, I would think very carefully about doing this.

    2. E*

      Another possible issue is overtime pay. While this may be a separate job, a DOL audit could determine that the company is violating overtime pay law even with separate jobs but same employer. Not worth the risk to the company.

      1. Bitbyte*

        It’s job a separate job. She clocks in, cleans the break room and then heads to the floor for her “real job”. So it’s all overtime that she’s getting. That’s why she does it.

            1. Bitbyte*

              I don’t think the DOL is looking too hard into it. Just about everyone there gets overtime every week, so she’s not an anomaly.

  30. Jerzy*

    OP #1 – My boss (the owner and CEO of my company) walks around the office barefoot pretty much most of the time, and I’ve often wondered if there would be a problem if I did the same. (Not that I’m likely to.)

    Of course, if a client was coming in, he’d put some shoes on, I have no doubt.

    Maybe he’s just watched too much Mad Men.

    1. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

      Yeah but they only took their shoes off in the CEO’s office, not the office suite in general, and I’m fairly sure they left their socks on. I can’t remember a time where anyone at that ad agency went barefoot around the office.

    2. Charlotte Collins*

      My mom worked somewhere where the president of the company walked around in what were clearly bedroom slippers. But he was very old and a bit absent-minded, so it wasn’t a huge surprise. Also, his family had started the company about 100 years before, so it’s not like anyone was going to tell him not to. (I worked there one summer – it was a classic Victorian building on a beautiful setting with old-growth trees and a lagoon. It’s not surprising he felt at home enough to wear slippers.)

      He also kept a canoe in a small boat house on the grounds that employees were free to use on their lunch break.

    3. Bagworm*

      At my longest term employer (and one of my early office jobs), the CEO always walked around barefoot (and wore shorts and had visible tattoos). I took that as permission to do the same but I was in a separate building where we didn’t have any customers coming in and I asked all my coworkers if it bothered them. I really like to go barefoot and usually have my shoes off in my office but I do understand that it bothers some people and is not the norm for professional attire. Having that early experience (many, many other non-conventional things going on at that agency; some good/fun, mostly very problematic) has always tinted my view of being barefoot (as well as other things, still getting over the PTSD).

  31. ACA*

    Our receptionist will take her shoes off every day for hours at a time when she is filing, because she has said that her shoes hurt her feet.

    What I want to know is: How much paperwork does your office produce that she spends hours every day doing the filing?

    1. Erin*

      This is actually practical. Receptionists often do both the filing and covering the phones, but filing (in a file room or wherever) takes them away from their desk, so they’re unable to take calls. At a previous job where I was receptionist I took two hour block of time every afternoon to file, during which time someone covered the phones for me. At one of my current jobs, I have covered the phone so the receptionist can file.

      1. ACA*

        I guess I interpreted “for hours at a time” to mean “for 3+ hours at a time” – as in, an excessively long time. Two hours doesn’t seem excessively long either for filing or for being barefoot.

    2. Nina*

      You’d be surprised. I had a temp job as an admin but the company really hired me as a file clerk. There were dozens of folders to file to the archives, and one group of files could take a full day to sort. Some of the folders were incredibly heavy and I still had back problems months after the job ended.

    3. Officeworker*

      No that much. She spent the first 4 months here not filing, and my boss told her that she needs to do 2 hours a day until it is gone.

  32. brighidg*

    #1 What about something like Dr Scholl’s Fast Flats? They’re about as close to being barefoot as one can be without actually being barefoot.

    1. Charlotte Collins*

      I love Dr. Scholl’s shoes! They are ridiculously comfortable and a lot more fashionable than you’d expect.

  33. VictoriaHR*

    #1 – as someone who can always tell when someone in the vicinity is barefoot after having worn shoes (i.e. foot smell), I beg people to leave theirs on all day. Sure, being barefoot feels great, but when other people can smell your feet, it’s a problem.

    I hate it when people come over to my house and take off their shoes without asking. Had that happen once and her feet stunk so bad, it was all I could concentrate on during the entire visit.

    1. NotAllCanadians*

      This is even trickier in places where shoe-removal is a cultural norm. In about 99% of the communities I’ve lived in, shoe removal is a the standard, which is great for keeping floors clean but less than ideal when someone’s summer feet are not so fresh. I personally never wear shoes that make me smelly to anyone’s house anymore.

      1. Smelly Pirate Hooker*

        I dunno about bare feet keeping floors clean. stocking feet maybe (I’m all for taking shoes off when you enter an apartment or house), but I was barefoot around my apartment a lot this summer and my floors got pretty darn sticky!

        1. Kelly L.*

          It’s a thing in places with a ton of snow, so you don’t track snow and salt everywhere. It has led to some really nasty fights elseweb! :D

        2. Chinook*

          “I dunno about bare feet keeping floors clean. stocking feet maybe (I’m all for taking shoes off when you enter an apartment or house), but I was barefoot around my apartment a lot this summer and my floors got pretty darn sticky!”

          I don’t think that it is a case of the feet cleaning the floors so much as a) nothing is being tracked in from outside because you leave outdoor shoes at the door and b) you are more prone to realize your floor needs cleaning (sweeping, washing, vacuuming) if you are bare foot and are less likely to put up with it because of the discomfort. I go barefoot in my apartment all the time and end up sweeping weekly to keep it clean (and washing in the winter because, despite keeping outdoor shoes at the door, muck still gets tracked in somehow).

  34. AnnieMouse*

    #1: This is a safety issue. Suppose she steps on a toothpick or a staple. It could get infected, etc. She needs to put her shoes back on and keep them on.

    1. Marcela*

      I truly find amazing this worry about safety. It seems to me my hands are in more danger than my feet, and nobody suggest we wear (safety) gloves.

  35. Cucumberzucchini*

    I walk around barefoot all the time and did so at my last two jobs (now self-employed and the boss so I can do what I like in regards to wearing shows). Nobody cared. But I work in marketing/web/graphics so it’s a different environment . Down with shoes!

  36. Elizabeth West*

    #1–Tell the receptionist to try Crocs’ website or store. They make professional-looking shoes that are super comfortable because they have that CrocLite stuff inside them (they had insoles, but they’ve apparently discontinued those). They may be a bit pricey up front, but they’re well made and with care, should last.

    I had to do this at Exjob because the office had a concrete floor with indoor/outdoor carpet over it and my feet and back were KILLING me. I bought a pair of Crocs Mary Janes and it completely cured the problem. My boss would have had kittens if I went around barefoot.

    1. J*

      LW doesn’t need to help the receptionist at all. If the office requires shoes, then it’s up to the receptionist to figure out shoes that work. She can ask advice, sure, but the LW isn’t her mom.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        True, and I meant if she does ask or say “My feet hurt,” then the OP can suggest it. Not as “You should keep shoes on,” but “You might try these shoes because I’ve heard they are very comfortable.” If she has foot problems in general, it might help.

        1. J*

          The conversation shouldn’t even be happening at all. The receptionist’s footwear issues aren’t the LW’s to manage. Sure, if the receptionist specifically asks for advice, or if the LW maybe wants to help so the receptionist doesn’t get in trouble, I can see that, but the LW is trying to reprimand and manage this person and it just isn’t her problem to manage.

  37. Observer*

    A few thoughts on the shoes issues.

    1. For all of the people who are telling the OP to tell the receptionist what to try, what makes you think that she’s going to listen? Receptionist has made it clear she has no interest in taking orders from the OP. And, what makes you think that these suggestions will work? We have no idea what is causing her feet to hurt, so no one has any way to know what MIGHT work, at best. And, if this person has an ongoing problem, it’s a good bet that she has tried most of the things anyone has suggested. Of course, it’s also possible that she’s found a solution – but one that’s too expensive for the salary she’s getting paid.

    2. The supposed safety issue is utterly bogus. If it were real then the only shows that would be permitted in an office would be lace up flat athletic / orthopedic type shoes, as they are the only ones that won’t fall off, don’t contribute to slips and falls, can’t get pulled off if your show catches on something, and provide significant support if something actually falls on you. Getting up on anything in heels is far more dangerous than doing so in heels. Same if you are wearing shoes that are don’t fit like socks of snugly laced. Many shoes hard HARDER to walk in than being barefoot if a floor is slippery or wet. Your odds of twisting your ankle in a regular floor are basically non-existent if you are barefoot, but go up the higher your heel is. etc. On the other hand, the real risks of walking around with or without shoes in a typical office (not talking about factory floor, lab etc.) are pretty minimal if people are paying attention.

    3. OP, why are you even looking at what the receptionist is doing or wearing? Supervising her is not your job or business. Beyond that, how does this affect you? “I don’t like it” is not something you can legitimately bring to a boss – that’s YOUR problem, not hers. If there really is a chance that clients might come in and see this as unprofessional, that is the ONLY thing that you have any standing to bring to the manager, as that could affect the business.

    1. J*

      Yeah the OP already crossed the line by trying to reprimand the receptionist. If it really matter then the receptionist’s boss will say something. It’s not up to the OP to remind the receptionist to wear shoes, try to make her wear shoes, or come up with comfortable footwear solutions for her.

      1. Officeworker*

        I am the one who trains her. It might not make me her boss, but it does make me somewhat responsible for the way she works here.

        1. Observer*

          Not at all. And, the fact that you take that attitude is a bit of a problem on its own. As long as you are not her boss, it’s not your place to tell her how to dress, unless you are carry a message from the Boss.

          1. Brandy*

            Ive trained people before. I train them and then, hands off. Im here for questions but again, Im not their boss nor does anyone who trained me become my boss. They just happen to know something I need to know.

    2. Marcela*

      Oh, yes to 2. As a matter of fact, the same kind of safety argument can be made for hands, and I have had several accidents with drawers or tea, but I’ve never heard anybody suggest I should wear gloves or something to protect my lap.

    3. afiendishthingy*

      “Your odds of twisting your ankle in a regular floor are basically non-existent if you are barefoot, but go up the higher your heel is. etc”

      Hmmm. I am extra talented then because I have badly twisted my ankles while barefoot several times.

      I agree the OP shouldn’t be trying to manage the receptionist, but I maintain that in most offices some sort of shoes are a required part of professional wardrobe if you’re around people. I know I’ve seen our admins file barefoot in the fileroom on occasion, and I honestly find it kind of endearing, but I think it would be different in a more public area. I think OP is taking it weirdly personally, though, and if the boss hasn’t noticed yet I doubt they’re going to care too much. So overall yeah, I think OP needs to let it go.

      1. Observer*

        Hmmm. I am extra talented then because I have badly twisted my ankles while barefoot several times.

        I’d say that’s fairly unusual. In any case, it’s certainly the case that heels increase the likelihood in general of twisting an ankle, and the higher they are, the higher the chance. Which is one of the reasons why I say that in a normal office environment, the safety argument is bogus. And, in fact, where safety is an issue, generally heels are forbidden.

  38. Juliette*

    #2 sounds like Girl Scouts of Western Pennsylvania. Every year they move people and job titles/descriptions around and no one knows anything. Its terribly unorganized.

  39. Clever Name*

    #1 I can’t decide if going barefoot is better or worse than wearing stretch pants (leggings) with a t-shirt in the office. Our receptionist routinely wears those types of outfits and I cringe every time I see her. She is the face of our company when people walk in the door, and she does not present well when wearing such garments. While I am not part of the rabid leggings-are-not-pants group, I do think they are not a part of a professional wardrobe, especially when they are not paired with a tunic or a dress. Yes, I have said something to management, but she still wears them. :/

  40. Formica Dinette*

    IMO the shoe thing is none of OP’s business. If the receptionist has been there for six months and a client hasn’t yet come in and seen her shoeless, that’s pretty unlikely to happen. I also have a feeling the receptionist’s shoes don’t actually hurt, but that she made up the excuse to get OP off her back.

  41. _ism_*

    #2 sounds like my plant, but the re-orgs aren’t ever officially communicated to everyone. We don’t have job descriptions or titles, people are moved to different departments all of a sudden with no idea why, and are expected to start becoming involved in that department’s work as well. When I asked for an official title every time I was shuffled around or had more responsibilities added from departments who for some reason don’t handle it anymore all of a sudden, I got laughed at. I ended up just making something up myself and putting it on my e-mail signature. Everyone does it around here.

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