boss and coworker are intense BFFs, mediocre employee wants me to accommodate her school schedule

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

1. Mediocre employee wants me to accommodate her school schedule

One of my direct reports, Jane, told me that she recently made the decision to go back to school and get a business degree. I was really excited for her. Then she told me that based on the classes that she signed up for and the campus that she decided on (45 minutes away), she needed me to change her schedule to an hour and half earlier. My heart sank. Being a call center, we have pretty set schedules to maintain coverage and the shifts are based on seniority. Not only do we not have a slot on an earlier schedule, but she doesn’t have the seniority to be moved to an earlier slot if one were to open.

I mentioned this to Jane, and she got upset, stating that we’ve made accommodations for others, so why not for her. This isn’t entirely true. It’s true that other departments have made accommodations for school schedules, but these are for non-phone based employees outside of the call center. Also, the one employee who works closely with our department (but is not a call center employee) who they’ve made serious accommodations for is an outstanding performer. Jane is mediocre at best.

I feel a little bit conflicted. There is the side of me that understands the importance of a degree and how frustrating it is to try to overcome the obstacles in the way of a degree. This part of me wants to give her a high five for her initiative and do whatever I can to help. Then there is the manager side of me that thinks that there’s no way that I can make these accommodations while being fair to the rest of the department. I’d have to create a spot on the earlier shift and move her schedule ahead of three people with more seniority (and who are all better performers). This part of me wants to ask why anyone would sign up for classes without checking to see if their work schedule could be moved, or why someone would decide to take classes 45 minutes away when there is literally a college across the street from our building (don’t worry – I won’t actually ask her this, as I realize it’s none of my business).

You can support Jane in going back to school, while also holding firm that you can’t disadvantage other, better coworkers to accommodate her. Just be straightforward about the situation. For example: “I think it’s great that you’re going back to school, but I’m not able to change your schedule. I don’t have a spot on the earlier shift, and if one opened up, we have three people with more seniority who would be in line for it first. I can’t change the promises we’ve made to them. You’re right that other teams have made accommodations for school schedules, but those are employees outside the call center. Our schedules are more rigid here, and we can’t do that. I understand that that means that you may not be able to stay on here.”

And then hold firm. You absolutely shouldn’t be breaking your own rules and disadvantage others in order to keep on someone you describe as “mediocre at best.”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My boss is intense BFFs with my coworker

I work for a very large Fortune 500 company. There is an HR policy in place regarding conflicts of interest for family members and opposite-sex relationships. However, there is not a policy regarding same-sex friendships.

In my department, my manager and coworker have a very intense personal relationship (non-sexual). They work out together during the week and on weekends, they attend all sorts of sporting events, they dine together, they take expensive vacations together (spas/vacations out of the country – one of which was financed by my manager), they text, they are in each other’s offices all day, they take selfies and post them on Facebook, and they share clothing. It is a very close friendship.

As a result, the coworker has a LOT of power in our group. She has unlimited access to our boss, and she is able to direct her own narrative. Our boss maintains that she can be objective. I disagree. There have been a number of instances where this coworker’s behavior was excused instead of addressed. She can act, essentially, with impunity. My bosses’ boss knows about this friendship, and either hasn’t or won’t address it. It could be that I have been existing in this dysfunctional environment for too long, but I’m starting to think that maybe I am wrong. Is this a conflict or am I off base?

No, it’s a huge conflict! You don’t have to be having sex with someone to have inappropriate biased in their favor or to be perceived as having inappropriate bias in their favor.

Occasionally working out together or dining together? Not a big deal on its own. But hanging out on weekends, vacationing together (!), sharing clothing (!), and all the rest? A huge deal. A huge, massive, ridiculous, complete abdication of your manager’s job. She’s far, far over the line of what’s appropriate. No one looking at that would believe that she can be unbiased or objective about your coworker, which means that she’s not able to do her job.

As for what to do … if her boss knows and won’t address it (huge failure on her part too), there might not be much you can do. You could talk to your boss or her boss and explain how the dynamic is impacting your department, but I’m skeptical that the friendship would actually get dialed back to an appropriate level (i.e., about 5% of where it is currently) without a serious mandate from someone above her who truly sees why this is completely not okay.

3. When a good employee resigns

I’m a new manager, and one of my strongest employees has decided to resign. It wasn’t an easy decision for her to make, so I’ve tried to be respectful and supportive while she makes her exit. Having never gone through this process before, it made me wonder if there’s something I can be doing to help give closure? Besides having her walk me through her job list and files, is it weird to have a one-on-one exit interview with her? I know that’s something HR will be doing, but is it normal practice for managers to give one as well? I meet with all my employees regularly, so I have a good sense of how she feels about this position and job, but I wonder if she would like the opportunity to give feedback, which could help determine how I train/direct the new employee filling her old position?

It would be weird to ask her to do a second formal exit interview with you, but not weird at all to talk informally with her and ask if there’s anything you could have done differently to keep her, what feedback she might want to share that would help you manage better or the department run better; and what advice she has on acclimating her replacement.

4. Is it inappropriate for men to initiate handshakes with women at work?

I was recently in a meeting with someone who claimed that it’s inappropriate for men to initiate handshakes with women in the workplace because “it could be seen as sexual harassment.” For the full effect, please imagine the speaker leaning forward and saying it an extremely serious tone, wide-eyed, followed by “I bet you didn’t know that, did you?” I tried to gently disagree, but she was very, VERY sure that This Is A Thing.

My first instinct is that this is total hogwash, perhaps even a boogeyman made up by people who don’t like the fact that it’s no longer okay to sexually harass your coworkers? However, I’m in academia, so I’m fairly disconnected from the corporate environment, and really, anything is possible. This is definitely Not A Thing, right?

P.S. She teaches this to students. It was all I could do to not yell THIS IS NOT A THING in the middle of the meeting!

What?! No, this is not a thing. In fact, it’s horribly sexist and old-fashioned and doesn’t belong in the workplace. No one in the workplace should be treating colleagues differently based on their sex, and it’s gross that she’s teaching students that they’re supposed to. Please intervene, for the principle of it and for the good of her students.

5. Interviewing with a prominent scar

I broke my wrist pretty badly a few months ago, and wound up needing surgery to get some plates put in. Everything internally is healing up fine, but the scar that was left behind is pretty prominent. Hopefully this will get better with time, but at the moment, the location and size of my scar make it look like I tried to kill myself. It’s red and angry looking enough that unless I try very hard to hide it, it’s pretty visible (even in long sleeves). In my day-to-day life, when I meet new people, I show off my “badass scar from playing sports” and that seems to ease people’s discomfort.

The problem is, I am also searching for a new job. I know first impressions count, and this scar could count against me for being a “mental health risk.” How do I bring this up with people? It feels a bit overly defensive to say “my scar looks like I tried to kill myself but really I was just playing sports,” and flashing my scar to show off how badass I am is obviously also out of the question.

I think you’re over-thinking it! Assuming it’s going to be visible when you’re shaking hands, just say, “Excuse the scar — I’m healing from a soccer injury” (or whatever). People aren’t likely to think anything of it.

{ 509 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    Handshaking. It is a SOCIAL rule of etiquette that women are first to offer their hand in a handshake. Just as it is a SOCIAL rule that women precede men through the doorway, have their chairs pushed in by their escort etc etc. This has no place in the workplace where status is accorded hierarchy i.e. the boss gets precedence whether man or woman and handshakes are usually initiated by the more powerful person but either way it acceptable — gender has zip doodle to do with it.

    Teaching that women should be treated by social rules of chivalry is just one more way to keep women in their place.

    1. LisaLee*

      Yeah, it’s these sorts of things–telling men that innocuous behaviors are going to get them fired for harassment–that turn “feminism” in to a big, bad boogeyman. Of course it isn’t sexual harassment to offer to shake hands first.

      1. LW #4 checking in*

        That was my first thought as well. I’ll bet this is something made up by people who hate feminism and want to make it look bad. It’s so bizarre all around. Unfortunately, I’m 30+ years younger than the woman spreading this strange idea to countless students, she condescended to me several times during the hourlong meeting, and she regards herself as a bit of a guru (ugh) on all things corporate, so I suspect any attempt to correct her will not be well-received. But I’ll try!

        1. Miss Betty*

          She didn’t make it up, she perhaps misunderstood and definitely misinterpreted it. As mentioned above, it’s a (long standing) social rule that women offer to shake hands first and that men don’t shake hands with women that don’t offer. It’s not a workplace guideline and has nothing to do with sexual harassment. I agree with Allison on that teaching this is out of place and improper in the workplace.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep, it’s not made up but it’s also not feminism; it’s more from the “ladies are delicate flowers” days.

            1. Mags*

              Feminism is just the belief that women are equal to men and deserve equal treatment in all respects. So, yes, “ladies are delicate flowers” and need to be treated differently than men is absolutely an idea that feminism tries to combat.

          2. KTM*

            I have never heard of this! I’m a 30 yr old female – is this a fairly old fashioned thing? Allowing a woman to go through a door first I’m familiar with but this one is new to me.

            1. teclatrans*

              I am a 44-year-old woman and I am agog that this is a rule. I mean, I believe it if others are saying it is so, but…really?

          3. DMC*

            I’ve never heard of this social rule (well, before now, of course)! Interesting!

        2. Althea*

          Try to find a higher authority she respects who will weigh in.

          Also, there might be some call to imply that she’s out of touch with the modern workplace… because she is.

          It drove me batty when my older, southern boss always stood when I came in the room, and always gestured for me to go first, and held the door. He was being a “gentleman” and he was a truly nice person, but it made me want to scream, “You’re just being inefficient! I have arms! I can hold doors and carry objects myself!”

          1. anonanonanon*

            That type of “gentlmanly” behavior makes me so uncomfortable on dates, but even more uncomfortable in a professional setting. I think most times the intent is genuinely well meant, but it still comes off as showing that you think I deserve to be treated differently because I’m a woman.

            My rule with holding doors open is that everyone should do it if someone is right behind them or someone is carrying a large package because that’s common decency and politeness, but if you have to make an extra effort to rush forward and open the door before a woman can, it’s weird.

            1. Tammy*

              I had a boss once who issued an edict after two women joined our team: “Now that there are women on the team, you guys need to clean up your language and stop swearing so much around the ladies!” Aside from the subtle sexism, the odd thing was I’d been a part of the team for more than a year at that point.l But, despite the fact that I try really hard not to cuss like a sailor, the directive not to swear “because of the ladies” made me far more uncomfortable than the occasional f-bomb from my colleagues ever did. (Maybe I’m an odd duck in this regard, though, because that role was the first one of my entire career where I had more than one other woman on my team – and I’ve been in this field for pushing 20 years.)

              1. animaniactoo*

                I’ve been known to have a mouth like a sailor. My probable response to that would have been “Sh–, that’s gonna be hard.”

                1. OfficePrincess*

                  My boss will often apologize before/after swearing around me. It drives me batty. I’ve been here how many years? If it bothered me I’d be gone by now. My favorite response is that I went to a women’s college, not a finishing school.

                2. DMC*

                  Office Princess, I went to a women’s undergraduate college in northern CA! High five :)

              2. Janice in Accounting*

                I work in a male-dominated industry in the South and have heard similar comments. When a male coworker swears and then apologizes to me, my response is always, “You should be sorry, I’m a f**king lady!” Brings down the house every time, and erases that line a little bit.

            2. Althea*

              Ha. My husband learned very early on not to try to seize things out of my hands for carrying. He knows I’ll ask for help if I need it. Otherwise, if I didn’t plan to carry it, I wouldn’t have picked it up. Sometimes family will look at him askance for not helping me with something, and I just tell them he’s perfect because he’s respecting my decision and ability to do it myself.

              Yep, on the doors. I feel the same, but the boss in this case always did the rush-forward type.

              1. LD*

                It’s hard to break an upbringing…if he’s been taught by Mom and Dad that this is the way things are done, and if it’s an expectation set by his wife, it may just need to be something you put up with, or view as a charming old-school habit that will eventually die out as others take over in the workplace.

                1. Chinook*

                  Re: men opening doors at work.

                  I am one who also gets irked by all the men doing that for me but I have learned it is not a hill worth dying on unless they are showing other actions that bother me. If it is the only way they treat women differently, I can handle that.

                  As for the handshake thing, I had no idea but I think it goes back to that Catholic shaking hands at mass thing we discussed last week – you shook hands with everyone and, if a hand is presented, you either shook it or explained you had a cold (and shook no one else’s hand as well). Gender is irrelevant.

            3. Cecily*

              I’m a bike courier, and one day I had a big load inside my backpack and was using my external cargo straps to hold in another box. My new male coworker saw me with the bulky backpack, and went HERE LET ME ADJUST THAT FOR YOU, with the implication that my straps weren’t tight enough. He went to tighten them and really awkwardly fiddled with them because, of course, being the only person in my store who used that style of cargo straps, they were perfectly adjusted already. He was just being Nice, sure, but he wouldn’t have tried to do that unless he thought I wouldn’t have done it correctly in the first place.

              Thankfully, I’ve managed to prove my competence by y’know being competent and he’s stopped.

              (the only other response to my load from a new guy, who wasn’t familiar with how couriers do, was HELL YEAH GET IT CECILY)

            4. Koko*

              Also, don’t hold the door for someone who is going to take more than 2-3 seconds to reach the door at a normal walking pace. I always feel pressure to jog to the door faster when I’m 15 feet away and someone tries to hold the door for me (and I’m empty-handed and easily could have opened it myself when I got there).

          2. Pokebunny*

            It drove me batty when my older, southern boss always stood when I came in the room

            I always stand when someone comes into the scene (usually more senior) while I’m sitting down. I didn’t know this would annoy some people. :(

            1. Althea*

              I think it’s fine when meeting someone for the first time (I do it myself, and I’m a woman), but this was specifically doing it for women, not men. To me, all it does is imply that I’m some kind of delicate flower that can’t handle things the way men can.

              I’d actually think it was kind of weird for someone to always stand when senior managers come in to the room, but it wouldn’t bother me the way sex-dependent standing does. The former is a sign of respect, the latter a reminder of difference (and the implication I mentioned above).

              1. Pokebunny*

                I always stand, for example, if I’m waiting for a friend at a restaurant and I got us a seat first. When they come in, I’ll then stand and we’ll both sit down. I also stand every time a senior person comes into the room. I do it for both genders, but if you were a woman, you wouldn’t know that and would assume I only did it because you’re a woman.

                Gah. Now I have to think twice about standing.

                1. Ms. Didymus*

                  It is not rude or impolite to *always* stand when *anyone* new the scene approaches.

                  It is wildly inappropriate in a business setting to stand only when women approach. Does that make sense?

                2. Althea*

                  I don’t think you need to reconsider it that hard. I’d assume on a one-off you were standing to greet me (and everyone else). But this was my boss, and I was around him a lot, so I witnessed it being a gendered thing.

                3. KH*

                  I used to travel to India a lot for work. The entire team would stand up when someone senior entered, and they wouldn’t sit down until they were told to do so.

                  Us clueless American’s didn’t know this, and we would leave them standing for 5-10 minutes before they got so fidgety we finally noticed and said they could have a seat.

                  Good old times.

              2. Koko*

                At our office people trickle into conference rooms one by one over a period of maybe 5 minutes (some come a few early and some come a few late and everything in between). It’d feel like I was in a Catholic mass if I had to stand up every time someone entered the room!

          3. Cassie*

            I have a few male coworkers (most of the staff are women) and they always hold the doors open. It really is inefficient and sometimes I will say “just go through already!”. When it comes to faculty, where the majority are men, they do not hold the door open. They don’t even do that thing where they walk through and hold the door open behind them – they just let the door close.

            If I’m walking with my boss, he will hold the door and let me walk through first – he didn’t used to do this, but he’s been doing this lately. Sometimes he’ll kind of push me through which is awkward (obviously).

            We should make it a rule – whoever reaches the door first, open the door, walk through and then hold it open for the next person if the person is within 2 feet. If the person is farther than that, let the door close. Or something. And if you’re the person behind – if you are going to dwadle, do it more deliberately so the person in front can stop holding the door for you.

          4. blushingflower*

            I have a boss who tries to let all the women out of the elevator first, even if he is the one standing closest to the door. It is incredibly inefficient.
            I also once had a delivery guy get mad at me when I held the door for him, even though his arms were full of packages and mine were not.

          5. MissDisplaced*

            Eh! Not uncomfortable with men just being polite, but I’ve never heard of the handshake thing before. Americans shake hands, men women, it’s never crossed my mind there was a supposed rule on who offers first.

        3. Mike C.*

          This is what I hate about “business experts” – most of the time it’s nothing more than bluster and bullshit.

          Seriously though, challenge her to prove it.

        4. INTP*

          Besides people who hate feminism, I could also see it coming from an actual situation in which a man was shaking a woman’s hand in a clearly and intentionally creepy way, and instead of taking her allegations seriously, people involved or hearing about it secondhand just decided “oh, it must be common for people to mistake handshakes as sexual harassment” and the anecdote eventually reached your coworker.

          But yes, it is obviously a myth with roots in sexism of some sort. A handshake can be sexual harassment just like anything – eye contact, small talk, anything. Harassers are good at tormenting victims by transgressing social norms just enough to make the victim feel violated but still sound innocent or misinterpreted to outsiders. The only way to keep employees from engaging in any contact that might be done in a sexually aggressive fashion is to not allow them to interact at all, and segregating genders just means no opportunities for women. You don’t need to prevent the contact to minimize chances of a lawsuit, just take victims seriously when they say that they are being harassed.

          1. Julia*

            Such an interesting thing to add!

            And then the victim gets a “are you seriously complaining about a handshake?”

        5. Editor*

          Snarky response that first came to mind because Academia: Tell her it’s a microaggression to wait for the woman to offer her hand (since that gendered response is also a form of harassment). Add whatever other buzzwords you can think of.

      2. M*

        I hate this kind of thing — people claiming some innocuous thing “could be seen as sexual harassment!!” as a method of subtle undermining.

        I had a boss who claimed that building fire codes about clear passages from desks to doors were there because “if you walk too close to someone’s desk they could feel sexually harassed.”

          1. Bea W*

            I swear someone makes this stuff up for entertainment value, just to see if people believe it!

        1. anonanonanon*

          I had one who said it was sexual harassment if you complimented someone – opposite or same sex – on their clothes.

          1. ZuKeeper*

            Because when I say “Nice tie,” I obviously mean something else entirely! Yikes.

          2. Mike C.*

            Well, if you’re really creepy about it then it can be.

            There’s a world of difference between “Nice tie!” and “That dress really makes your ass look great!”

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              Right. Just about anytbing can turn into harassment. Even a handshake if the person grabs on to you and pulls you towards them, but geez not in and of itself. It’s like the religion I grew up in that was against any and all dancing because it was “sexual”.

              1. Minion*

                I think I went to church with you.

                You know why Baptists are against pre-marital sex? They’re afraid it’ll lead to dancing.


                1. JaneEyre*

                  Eeee! Made my day, Minion! My Baptist girl friend’s spin: “Baptists don’t dance because sex leads to dancing”!

              2. INTP*

                I think things like this come up because people don’t take the victims seriously when things are done in a harassing way. “Oh, Jane said she felt sexually harassed by Bill but Bill said he was just shaking her hand to be friendly so it must be common for people to misinterpret handshakes as sexual harassment.” (When Bill, of course, always holds onto Janes hand a second longer than normal with a menacing grin and clear intent to make her feel uncomfortable.)

            2. starsaphire*

              Oh, so very this!

              If I say to a co-worker, “That’s a gorgeous sweater; where did you get it?” that is NOT harassment.

              If I leer at her and stare at her, ah, tracts-of-land while saying, “Nice sweater,” that’s harassment.

            3. INTP*

              Yeah, this sounds like some guy did something like leer down a woman’s neckline while saying “nice shirt” and then when called on it, told everyone he knew about the horrible woman who “felt like she was being sexually harassed” when he “just gave her a compliment.”

              Of course, if we could recognize that creeps are good at violating their victims in ways that can be explained as innocuous behavior that was misinterpreted and take the victims and their subjective accounts seriously, we’d have no need for weird moratoriums on walking close to desks or complimenting clothing.

            4. Dahlia*

              Right, but the difference is that the first one is compliment on the clothing, and the second one is a commentary on someone’s body. So actually they aren’t both clothing compliments.

              I feel like these “anything can be sexual harassment” arguments are a bit risky because they contribute to that idea that there are all these confused well-intentioned individuals who can no longer tell what harassment is and isn’t because anything can be construed as harassment!! And now they just can’t even work with women or look at women or go to work every day because they don’t know!!! Which is actually kind of suppressive to the movement.

        2. Nervous Accountant*

          The only way I could say that that’s sexual harassment is if there’s already a pattern of creepy/harrassing behavior, and this is just one of the subtle behaviors (kind of like talking too low to get someone to lean in close). I’m sure this was an actual incident and then it turned into a big fat joke.

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          It’s either a subtle form of undermining or it’s showing that the speaker really, really does not grasp the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

          We ended up having a conversation on here — I think it was a year ago or more? — where someone was asserting that if you can’t flirt with women at the office, that means you must Never Ever Speak To Them At All Or Be In The Least Bit Friendly. Like there was no middle ground between “So, do you have a boyfriend?” and stiff, solemn silence. And I tend to think that’s a lot of what drives this kind of attitude — someone who doesn’t really have a firm grasp on the ground between a handshake and a pinch on the behind, and has defaulted to AVOID ALL CONTACT.

          1. Security SemiPro*

            I’m pretty sure only jerks who would prefer to harass others can’t figure out the middle ground between harassment and robotic nothingness. It not about not being able to understand subtlety and nuance in human interaction, its about not wanting to have interactions that accept others, mostly women, as humans.

            They know the difference between a handshake and a butt grope – they just prefer butt gropes and get huffy when that’s not acceptable.

        4. M*

          Well the conversation started with boss talking about “can you believe all the crazy rules there are because of sexual harassment? There are even rules about the spacing of the desks, because people consider it harassment when you walk too close to their desk!!” But the desk-spacing rules he was describing were CLEARLY fire code rules, not related to harassment at all.

          I don’t mean to get off topic, just pointing out that there are people really invested in the idea that sexual harassment regulations are incredibly complicated and insidery and that it’s super-easy for a person who isn’t doing anything wrong to run afoul of them.

    2. Anonymous Educator*

      I’ve never given thought to who offers a hand first, and I’ve never had anyone give me side-eye or chastise me. Could be the part of the U.S. I live in, but I haven’t found anyone who cares who extends the hand first. In fact, I’d never heard of a preferred order before reading this letter.

      1. Myrin*

        Same here. In fact, in my experience people usually offer their hand simultaneously anyway, or at least it has always seemed that way to me, so if there’s some kind of order, I’ve certainly never noticed it. (I’ll have a kind of formal meeting in an academic environment in just a couple of hours, I’ll pay attention to how the handshake between me and the man I’m meeting will go just for the fun of it.)

        1. Myrin*

          Back to report: When I walked into the room, we both stuck out our hands at the very same time, when I left the room, he was the first to go.

      2. Jo*

        I live in a conservatively religious country where men and women who are not closely related traditionally DO NOT TOUCH EACH OTHER. At all. Including shaking hands.

        There’s been a large influx of foreigners here lately, so this has changed somewhat where foreigners are involved. The usual protocol is for the foreigner to wait for the local of the opposite gender to make the first move. If they hold out their hand, you shake it. If not, you give the local greeting.

        [Now, I realise this has no bearing on LW4’s question, who presumably lives in the US or somewhere similar; I just think it’s an interesting anecdote. And that there are places where things like this genuinely are issues.]

        1. Jo*

          Oh, and I have a story: I once witnessed an amusing if slightly awkward interaction where a newly arrived European ambassador held out his hand to a local woman he had just met to shake, and she had to explain that she doesn’t shake hands with men. He was a bit embarrassed. But I bet he never made that mistake again!

          1. Artemesia*

            This is sort of where the ‘rule’ that the woman offers her hand first comes from in the US as well. The woman gets to decide if even this degree of touching occurs. Not so much a thing now but 50 years ago definitely the social rule. Etiquette books even talked about the importance of a woman being gracious and not leaving a clueless man standing there with his arm extended although he was in error.

          2. College Career Counselor*

            Had that happen to me with a female student many years ago. It did make me wonder exactly how she was going to manage clinical rotations in medical school in the U.S., where she might have to physically examine/treat men who were not related to her.

            1. Turanga Leela*

              I don’t know her situation, but I’ve worked with Orthodox Jewish men, and their rule was that they didn’t touch women socially, but it was fine if they needed to touch a woman in the course of medical treatment. This applied to examination, treatment, and even their own training.

              1. College Career Counselor*

                Good point about social vs. other settings. I would have said that the setting I was in with the student was a professional one, not social, because I was greeting the student in the appropriate manner for the field. But, strictly speaking, handshakes are not a prerequisite to obtaining career counseling (although I have taught my fair share of students proper business handshaking protocols)!

                1. TootsNYC*

                  and “social vs. business” is an important issue in lots of other areas as well.

                  as a guest in someone’s home, you would never criticize the food; as a customer of a restaurant, you absolutely should send the food back to the kitchen if it’s unacceptable.

        2. KayDay*

          So I was just at a work conference that was held in a moderately conservative country, but with the majority of participants from a VERY conservative country (which was the subject of the conference). After the conference was over, I spoke to one of the hosts, who apologized for not shaking my hand (I actually didn’t even notice at the time). What was funny was he was told that women (i.e. me) should extend their hand first, while I was following the above mentioned wait for the local to initiate first protocol! But at the end of the day, it wasn’t a big deal. No one was offended, it was just funny once we discussed it.

        3. Bwmn*

          There are definitely some countries and some religious communities all over the world where this would apply – but to take this is a mainstream marker of professional behavior, particularly in more Western contexts would be bizarre.

        4. The Carrie*

          I had a broker come in once who was an Orthodox Jew and I held out my hand and he told me he doesn’t shake women’s hands. It was an ooops for me because I am from NY and should have known better!

    3. stevenz*

      I have never heard of conventions about who extends hand to whom first. In reality, handshakes are generally spontaneous and don’t require either party to initiate it.

      As for the rest, yes, chivalry is deader than dead.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Thank goodness. Chivalry was always about courtesy to ‘ladies’ (women of one’s own elevated station) only, while other women were fair game for rudeness and worse.

        That said, the idea that a business handshake is sexual harassment is loonworthy.

        1. Blurgle*

          Well, that’s the weird part; chivalry started out as how men of knightly status were supposed to treat each other, then it got all mixed up with the troubadour culture and 300 years later young Henry VIII is out there pretending to be Robin Hood for the love of his fair Catalina. (And didn’t that work out well?)

              1. Kelly L.*

                Anne of Cleves was the only one who really came out of it OK. Even poor Catherine Parr, known for being the one who “Survived,” died of non-Henry-related childbirth not long after.

                1. fposte*

                  After finally getting to marry the man of her dreams and watching him make the moves on her stepdaughter instead.

                  However, I think Catherine Howard got the worst lot of all of them. Which is saying something, because that’s a competitive race.

            1. Liana*

              Ehhh not really. Anne was beheaded, yes, but Catherine of Aragon was exiled to the middle of nowhere. She wasn’t allowed to return to her home country or even keep any company, and essentially died in solitary confinement. Anne of Cleves is the only wife who really came out on top – despite being portrayed as “ugly”, she managed to remain one of the king’s best friends.

              The Toast happens to have an excellent article on the six wives of Henry VIII – I’ll see if I can dig it up, it’s pretty great :)

              1. Oryx*

                Oooooh I love The Toast and I’m a total Tudor nerd so I’d be super interested in seeing that!

                1. AnonInSC*

                  Sorry Liana – you’re post was in moderation when I commented. Clearly you have excellent taste in internet reading!

              2. eplawyer*

                Being a family law attorney I wrote a blog post about how Anne of Cleves did quite well by being reasonable about ending her marriage to Henry. The blog is called “Divorce Field.”

                But yeah, someone can claim any interaction between a man and woman is sexual harassment. Guess the real problems women face are over so we have to focus on things like who offers the hand first for a hand shake.

        2. Anxa*

          There’s a lot about the history I don’t understand, but I do know that I tend to associate pointedly chivalrous behavior with feeling uncomfortable and paternalism.

          There’s a pretty big debate in my area that open up conversations on protecting the rights and comforts of different groups who experience different levels of marginalizations, but has descending into hyperbole, hate speech, and a lot paternalist declarations of “if you were my daughter, I wouldn’t want …”

          I seethe inside because while I’m glad that you’d like to use your relative social pressure to help protect me, the fact that you as a regular man and one ‘the good guys’ is supposed to be the arbiter of who I should and shouldn’t feel threatened is so creepy to me and makes me feel so small and angry.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I tend to think of chivalry as “the strong working to protect the weak,” so I don’t think of it as dead. Because “who is weak?” will differ from situation to situation.

        It’s chivalrous for a manager to minimize gossip about an employee who is on a PIP or was fired, for example. It’s chivalrous for a woman to hold the door for a man carrying a package. It’s chivalrous for a man to move an obstacle out of the way for a woman who is carrying a package.

        1. Putting Out Fires, Esq*

          It’s chivalrous to provide 200 bannermen to your overlord so he can go invade France. That sort of thing.

          Historical context aside, I think you’re on to what “chivalry” should look like in modern society: those who easily can doing for those who cannot without difficulty.

        2. Chinook*

          “I tend to think of chivalry as “the strong working to protect the weak,” so I don’t think of it as dead. Because “who is weak?” will differ from situation to situation. ”

          I tend to agree. It also encompasses protecting those who need to be protected. I learned this while at a head table for a Knights of Columbus dinner where the rule is that neither a woman, a priest nor a guest can sit at the end of the table (i.e. the knights must always be on the outside). It was weird but actually understandable if looked at from a historical perspective.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      Thank you Artemesia. I learned that women extend their hands in SOCIAL situations when I was sent to charm school (yes, my mother tried to make a lady out of me). I’ve never seen it in 30+ years of work. I do believe it is good for the more powerful person to extend their hand first as it is welcoming.

    5. many bells down*

      I have been told that there are some countries where it is not good business etiquette for a man to extend his hand to a woman, and that she should offer to shake first. But this is a very specific situation that you’d probably learn about if you were headed to conduct business in that specific country.

      1. Sheep*

        Where I work, in Jordan, it sometimes gets a bit awkward when Western counterparts try to shake the hands of my fully veiled colleague. For her, women and men (who are not married or related) are not supposed to touch. Her response is to put her right hand on her heart and do a tiny bow with her head. The men often get very confused though.

        1. FiveWheels*

          I like her response. It baffles me that people would expect their own country’s conventions to apply elsewhere though. In Japan I know to bow, in France I expect kisses, different places are different!

          1. neverjaunty*

            People don’t always know the ways in which different place are different.

            1. MK*

              If you go there on business, though, you should make an effort to find out before you make people uncomfortable.

              1. neverjaunty*

                Of course. But making an effort to find out doesn’t mean that you will, in fact, learn every possible cultural difference, and if you make a mistake, it doesn’t mean that you were an ignorant clod who assumed everybody’s culture is just like your own.

                1. Anna*

                  And there’s muscle memory you have to overcome, too. I know the conventions; that doesn’t mean my body is going to do what it’s been trained to do.

                2. Retail HR Guy*

                  And some cultural conventions can be purposefully ignored. When I was in Jordan I didn’t offer to shake hands with women but I would include them in conversations (while the male Jordanians were ignoring them) and otherwise treat them like full-fledged human beings. Some appreciated it, some didn’t. But I didn’t feel like I was required to become a misogynist just because I was on vacation in Jordan, any more than a veiled Muslim woman would be required to sport a bikini while vacationing in the French Riviera.

                  The cultural exchange works both ways. Learn the rules and customs and be polite, but it is not necessary to perfectly mimic the culture you are visiting.

            2. FiveWheels*

              I don’t expect everyone to know every cultural norm in countries they visit, but I expect people to know there will be customs they aren’t used to. Not knowing local etiquette is understandable, but being surprised that it’s different is not!

          2. JMegan*

            I like that response too. It seems like a very considerate way of both acknowledging the offered handshake and refusing it at the same time.

        2. Lia S*

          As an American woman working stateside with mostly Muslim men, I have many customers who do the same tiny bow to me, rather than shake my hand. I think it’s a lovely way to still show respect, but to also accommodate their cultural norms.

    6. FD*

      And I’m not even sure this is a very common social rule anymore. I’ve heard the one about the doorway and the chair, but I’ve never heard the one about handshaking.

      1. Sparrow*

        Yeah, same. I grew up in a very conservative area of the US, and this social rule of handshaking is brand new to me.

      2. Kelly L.*

        It’s pretty old-fashioned. I think the Emily Post book from the 1920s might mention it, but I don’t remember for sure.

    7. Sara smile*

      The handshaking thing is not completely without merit. I currently live in Asia, in a country with a high Muslim population and it is the norm for the woman to extend the handshake first. The reason being many women here do not feel comfortable shaking a man’s hand so the cue comes from the woman, to shake or not to shake. Obvs, LW4 seems to be US based so the woman giving the advice in the scenario is off base but just wanted to mention that the advice wasn’t off base globally and it isn’t for sexual harassment reasons.

      1. Althea*

        Ha, that’s interesting, I just posted about something similar but with the opposite twist on initiative in handshaking. I wonder how varied it is across the Muslim world?

        1. Sara smile*

          Where I am, things are still pretty conservative for Muslim women but more relaxed for Muslim men. I think that affects the handshake routine in this particular country where it is the woman that is the more restricted on who she can touch of the opposite sex. I would guarantee it is different across other countries. The country am in is quite a melting pot.

      2. neverjaunty*

        The advice was off base, period. “Be aware that in countries where men and women don’t touch socially you should not shake hands” is ENTIRELY DIFFERENT advice.

        1. Sara smile*

          The advice in the country I am in is not to never shake hands though. Again, the issue is the man doesn’t know the woman’s preference so he lets her go first. Either she extends her hand (and he reciprocates) or she won’t extend her hand (and usually there is some head nod, wave or body tilt instead between the two people).

          And again I already said that given LW4 is presumably US based the advice she was given was wrong, as LW4 knows. It doesn’t hurt though for a bit of global knowledge to seep in occasionally. Not everywhere is like the US.

      3. LW #4 checking in*

        I actually wondered for half a second if this was what she was getting at, because her department gets a fair number of international students, some of whom are Muslim. I clarified, and nope, she views that as a separate thing altogether. I’m truly baffled.

    8. Nighthawk*

      The only place I’ve heard of where it’s not okay to shake a woman’s hand is in very conservative religious circles.

    9. Althea*

      Cultural caveat: as a woman working with Muslim men of varying levels of conservatism, I let them take the initiative in hand-shaking. Some of them feel their observance (or the culture around their observance) restricts them from touching unrelated women, so the appropriate greeting is to put a hand over their chest when meeting. I can see the norms varying from place to place on this one.

        1. Sara smile*

          You can do the hand over the heart in response. However, Some non Muslims feel uncomfortable doing the hand over the heart greeting since it is a Muslim greeting, so a head nod is a perfectly fine response as well.

        2. Althea*

          I never saw other women do it, so I didn’t either. Not sure if I was being polite or not!

    10. Bea W*

      I’ve never heard of this social rule around handshakes. Men offer first all the time. I’m 40s in the metropolitan northeast US.

    11. Kylynara*

      It’s Not A Thing you need to worry about doing accidentally, but I would argue that offering handshakes to a woman CAN BE sexual harassment, or at least a part of it.

      When I was in college (read: younger, less assertive, and more naive), I worked vacations as a grocery store cashier. There was a cart boy who had the biggest crush on me, but not enough courage to say so. Instead he made a point to stop at my lane every time he had a remotely reasonable reason to walk through the store and customers weren’t directly in the way. (Up to 4-5 times per 6 hr. shift) He would ask me every time if anyone had ever told me I was beautiful and offer me a handshake. Particularly in front of customers there was no way to avoid it without being rude, but his intention was clearly obvious to me. I just had no way to push back in front of people who were only seeing a snapshot. This continued the entire time I worked there, 3 months over the summers and another month at Christmas, for 3 years.

      I never reported it or anything, it wasn’t overtly sexual, so it didn’t occur to me then that it was sexual harassment, but as someone older and wiser, I would say making your attraction to a coworker not simply known, but something that coworker has to deal with repeatedly throughout their work days probably does qualify as sexual harassment.

      I do want to reiterate that as long as you are offering handshakes the same times you would offer them to a man, there is absolutely nothing to worry about.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes. I mean, saying hello CAN BE sexual harassment if done in an inappropriate or creepy way when it wouldn’t normally be common practice to do so. I don’t think that any of us would say “well, but it depends” if OP’s self-appointed expert told her that men should never say hello to female colleagues.

        2. Kylynara*

          I was more trying to suggest where she might have gotten the idea, than claiming it was correct. I tried to be clear that offering in a handshake in the normal course of business is ABSOLUTELY not an issue.

    12. TootsNYC*

      actually, that’s the important distinction:

      The higher-ranking person should offer their hand first. It is not only their right, but it is their OBLIGATION.

      I’ve done a lot of reading about etiquette. This “higher ranking” thing exists in lots of places; I read that at the captain’s table, the other navy officers aren’t supposed to start conversation until after the captain does.

      And that the British royals aren’t supposed to be spoken to until they speak first. Nor do others extend a hand until they do so.

      And so, the royals pay attention, and make it a point to reach out to shake hands, and they make it a point to speak first so that others are free then to speak.
      And if a ship’s captain is preoccupied and doesn’t begin the conversation, so that others are free to speak among themselves, he is actually rude.

      So, the thing to teach them is, to follow the cues of the higher ranking person, and when they become the higher ranking person to remember that it is their job to put others at ease, to introduce themselves, to introduce others.

    13. ThursdaysGeek*

      Huh. Even in a social setting it’s awkward when the person meeting my spouse and I offers a handshake to him and does not offer one to me. Not getting the handshake seems somewhat sexist. I will sometimes initiate it, so he knows I’m a real person too and part of the group, but it’s uncomfortable.

      If you’re going to shake hands with a man, in a mixed group and in the US, please treat women the same as the men.

      If I have to initiate the handshake in a social setting I may let it go. But if it’s in a business setting and you’re trying to sell something to us, there’s a good chance you just lost the sale.

      1. Koko*

        Strictly speaking, after your spouse shakes hands with the person you’re meeting, etiquette says that if the other person doesn’t address or greet you, your spouse is supposed to say, “And [this is]/[you remember] my wife, ThursdaysGeek.”

        This is one I am really bad at. I’m forever forgetting to introduce the person who walked up to me to the person who was already with me until a minute or two later when I suddenly realize I’ve made things weird for these two people who haven’t been properly introduced, and then it’s awkward when I clumsily do a belated introduction.

        1. Purple Jello*

          You just say “Oh, I don’t know if you’ve already met Thursdays Geek”

    14. Anonymouse*

      I’m a guy, I’m in the US, and somewhere along the lines I just stopped offering my hand to anyone first. I don’t care who it is I’m meeting.

      There are a variety of factors.

      one is I’m just finding a lot of people conscious of germs, so there’s comfort on that level.
      I also work in a diverse areas, so I run into a lot of different cultural expectations about contact between people. So it’s easier to just let other people lead.

      But it’s never been about what I think is appropriate, but about the needs of the other person.

      I guess the only people I might be putting off are those who think I should be offering first based on some sort of hierarchy, but I’m not going to win them all.

    15. Limpy*

      So I have a question about handshaking etiquette.

      I use a cane in my right hand.

      Honestly I’d just rather avoid handshaking altogether because it often involves shifting my cane to my other hand temporarily, which isn’t ideal for support.

      What would be the most aligned with etiquette way to manage handshakes?

      1. Koko*

        Hm, I don’t know if it this is what the etiquette books say, but I would offer your left hand with a gesture or a few words to explain that your cane makes offering your right hand impractical.

        I have a friend who was born without his right hand (arm stops at the wrist) and he always offers his left hand when meeting people.

    16. Janice in Accounting*

      LW #4, please do whatever you can to dispel this–I would be SO MAD if a man shook hands with all the other men in the room but didn’t offer me his hand to shake.

      1. LW #4 checking in*

        I’ll do my best! I’m also a woman, and I, too, would be mighty pissed of male colleagues stopped initiating handshakes with me. It’s so infantalizing! I don’t have high hopes that the spreader of this absurd “rule” will listen to me, based on her personality, but I’ll give it a shot.

    17. Intern Wrangler*

      There are some cultures where hand shaking between genders is not appropriate. It is important for recognize that we work in an increasingly diverse work environment and there may be other social norms for different cultures.

    18. Ruralpsych*

      Wait, since when do women have to offer first. Maybe this is a cultural thing. In Australia you just offer no matter gender.

    19. Vicki*

      It’s not even a case here of teaching that women should be treated by (rapidly becoming outdated) social rules. In the social rules world, a man initiating a handshake is a social blunder, not possible harassment!

      This “trainer” needs training!!

    20. Paige*

      This is a real thing in many countries and cultures, although not so much in North America. As a woman who works internationally, it’s good to know what the norm is there. It would be totally normal for my male colleagues here to offer their hand first, while in field offices it would be rude and disrespectful. But yeah, blaming sexual harassment laws? That’s gross.

  2. Kyla*

    I don’t have anything constructive to say except that I’ve been Jane. Call Centres are such soul destroying places to work and I can’t blame her for looking for options and further study to get her out of that kind of job as a career. I would have been considered a mediocre employee as well, but simply because the work is so monotonous and dry. I do very well another types of work, like my current career.

    I get that it may not be possible to accommodate her, but I really hope there is something that can be arranged so she doesn’t have to drop out of the degree. Plus with a new sense of direction, it might make her happier and a better employee.

    As for why she chose the college 45 minutes away, it could be that they offer cheaper fees or offered her a scholarship. I know my choice of school was made by who offered me a scholarship.

    1. Ms. Didymus*

      I’ve worked in call centers and they can be rough. But I still would not have enrolled in classes without discussing it with my employer first. And I wouldn’t expect them to alter my schedule. Call centers are notorious for strict scheduling.

      1. Emily*

        When I worked in a call centre, I asked them to move my shifts to accommodate something for me; I didn’t need a particular shift, I just needed a non-changing shift (my call centre had a thing where your shifts could be subject to change without more than three days’ notice) so that I could reliably schedule something else into the gaps that also had a non-changing schedule. What I did was ask for the less-desirable shifts. “Hey, instead of working every third weekend, can I just work every weekend? And can I work the 16-00:30 shift during the week?”

        One of the reasons for the constant shifting around was that they didn’t want to stick anyone with the “sucky” shifts for too long. It worked out well for all concerned. I don’t know if OP’s call center is one with extended business hours which would permit that kind of thing, though.

        1. Emily*

          It’s also worth noting that at the time I lived a long way from any family, and that I don’t have any children or other people I’d generally like to see on weekends. Working nights and weekends to free up weekday time for other commitments isn’t going to work for everyone, I know.

          1. Chaordic One*

            When I was looking for work while going to college back during the height of the Great Recession, 2007-2009 or so, I had a set class schedule of classes on alternating weekends. At that time absolutely no prospective employers would accommodate the schedule. They all wanted me to be on call whenever they needed me.

            I finally quit mentioning that I was attending college, and was fairly quickly hired for a customer service position. I worked for more than 6 months before the class schedule and the work schedule conflicted. I “called in sick” at work and went to class, something I did twice more during the year I worked there. It wasn’t the greatest solution, but I don’t know what else I could have done.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Ha. My direct report requested to call in “sick” today. She has two classes left before graduating with her master’s degree, and her professor for one class only gave them the topic of their group paper, due Thursday, on Monday. She is flipping out and panicking. I told her, sure, use a sick day; I can see from here that you don’t feel well at all. I would not have been so lenient with a mediocre employee, but she reliably gets her work done. And she is only my direct report for another week, because she had been promoted to a position above me (I won’t report to her, but she’ll be hierarchically higher).

              1. Hlyssande*

                Wow, what a jerk professor! As if people don’t have lives outside of school? I’m glad you were able to accommodate her.

                1. Artemesia*

                  How strange. Every class I ever taught had all the assignments for the semester in the syllabus from day 1 especially where papers were involved or other major efforts. Perhaps her team was slow in choosing its topic or something; hard to imagine a professor actually just making such an assignment at the last minute but easy to imagine a team procrastinating.

                2. Liana*

                  @Artemesia – it happened to me while I was in college once or twice. Most times, the professors list everything out on the syllabus, but sometimes they don’t. I had one professor in particular who was notoriously disorganized. I don’t really see this as that strange at all.

                3. Xay*

                  I’m finishing my master’s degree and took two days off this semester because it took so long to get feedback on my master’s paper from both of my readers that I didn’t have time to write on the weekends. Stuff happens.

                4. So Very Anonymous*

                  When I went back to school, I had a jerk professor who changed the deadlines for three final projects every week for the last six weeks of the course. In one case he woukdn’t let us choose our own paper topics but held a lottery to determine who could write about what. In one case he didn’t tell us for weeks when a team project was due, and when he finally did, he chose the Monday after Thanksgiving.

                  I had taught college before going back to school, and I was livid. I would NEVER have changed the syllabus that many times for no apparent reason.

                5. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  The actual assignment has been on the syllabus for the whole semester, but the professor was supposed to assign the specific topic for each group. Alice has been getting antsy about getting the topic because she likes to work ahead as much as she can. She was hoping that he would assign the topic by Friday so that she could have the weekend to work on it. She finally emailed him on Sunday afternoon, and he replied back on Monday morning and told her their topic. Another group also emailed to request their topic, and he gave them their topic on an ad hoc basis as well; as of Monday afternoon, he still had not announced topics to the class at large.

                6. Simonthegrey*

                  @Artemesia – as an adjunct and professional tutor, I see it happening. There’s one teacher in the business department here who is notorious for warning students at the beginning of the semester that they will have a semester assignment (a business plan) but who doesn’t give them any of the format information about the paper until a week before it is due because he doesn’t want to confuse them, and then if anyone complains he reminds them they had “the whole semester” to work on it. During the class, as other assignments, they do write parts of the plan, but there is still a lot of work that has to be done to take four assignments on designing a website, writing an executive summary, competitor matrix, and resume and turn it into a 25 page business plan with floor layouts, detailed advertising analysis, etc.

              2. Kelly L.*

                It’s pretty easy for me to imagine an occasional professor who was either a jerk or herself a procrastinator/disorganized. They happen sometimes.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                I always hated professors who picked your topic for you or had to approve it and never got round to it until the last minute. And then they expect you to still hand it in on time! I guess they think their class is the only one you’re taking/most important. :P

                1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

                  I was going back to school while working full time and I had a couple professors like this.

                  After being in the corporate world for so long, I think I freaked them out – when either one would change dates in the class or delay announcing the assignment, I would flat out say, “If I don’t have the topic by Monday, I cannot complete the assignment. As a result, I’ll need a one-day deadline extension for every day past Monday until you give me the topic.” If the professor pushed back, I would state, “I work full time and have two other classes. Without a topic, those are my priority.”

                  Got some blank blinks and interesting email responses, but I was surprised to find it worked. I was able to negotiate 2 days on one paper, and push an algebra exam date back one day because our professor didn’t give our class the review in time. After the first few weeks, I didn’t have as many problems getting what I needed from those professors.

                  I had no luck at all with the one who spent half the class talking about her cat rescue, episodes of Hoarders in graphic details, and on several occasion,s brought her prized Chinese Cresteds to class. Those nights were torment.

                2. So Very Anonymous*

                  Dr. Johnny, YOU are who I wanted on my teams for group class projects!

                  Extra points if you work “booger” into our Powerpoint presentation.

              1. Artemesia*

                It was how Walmart apparently discouraged single mothers from working by not allowing schedule so people could arrange consistent day care; I think they dropped that when there was so much criticism, but consistent with the exploitive nature of many low wage businesses that don’t pay well, don’t always offer a full time position, but still expect people to be at their beck and call for 24/7 so they can’t arrange second jobs easily,

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I worked at Walmart one summer while I was in college, and I have very, very few good things to say about the experience, but the one thing I can say is that they had no problem being my second job and accommodating my schedule. I’m sure it helped that I wanted evening hours only, and that it was in a college town so the largest pool of employees needed to schedule around classes.

              2. Anxa*

                I was at a party with a lot of people I didn’t know. I remember one attendant checking her phone, then complaining about someone emailing her about getting time off to go to orientation for school. Then she joked about okaying it up front to shut her up and about marking down on her calendar to make sure she’d get that shift scheduled so she couldn’t go.

                My stomach turned.

      2. Talvi*

        Sometimes you can’t arrange your classes around your work schedule, though. I remember when I was doing my undergrad, I had quite a few classes that were only offered once a year (or even once every other year).

        Of course, at the time I was also working on campus (with rules that they could only hire current students), so they were great about working around our classes.

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        I think she just assumed what they did for the employee/s in the adjacent department they’d could do for her. And perhaps didn’t realize that there was a seniority waiting list for the earlier shift.

        1. Chaordic One*

          I hope her employer isn’t one of those that say how much they support their employees and their employees’ efforts to better themselves or how much they support education. Actions, not words.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think that’s unfair — they can support their employees without making every schedule change someone asks for, especially in a case like this where it would mean screwing over three other people.

    2. FD*

      Eh, I think it depends on the call center. I’m working support in one now and I actually like it. It’s definitely not for everyone though.

    3. MK*

      Kyla, the problem is that there are three people who are doing the same monotonous and dry work as Jane, and for longer than she has, and they are actually good at their jobs. The OP can sympathise with Jane and want to help, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of others.

      Also, I am very dubious about someone who expects her job to accommodate her school schedule in a way that gets her the more desirable shifts. I agree that there might be valid reasons for her choose of school and classes, but that doesn’t entitle her to anything from her job; and she is sort of active like it does.

      1. Jack the treacle eater*

        That the shifts are more desirable, as opposed to more convenient to her, may not even have occurred to her.

        I also can’t help feeling that the fact that others are better at their jobs should not be a consideration in this situation. Shouldn’t better or worse at jobs be for performance bonuses, reviews, performance management etc? Shift allocation seems to me to fall into a similar category as holiday allocation and the like; perhaps more to do with role, seniority and so on than performance?

        1. Colette*

          Why wouldn’t you give your best performers (I,.e. The people you want to keep) whatever benefits you can, including a better shift?

          1. BananaPants*

            Call centers tend to churn n’ burn through employees rapidly and big centers give supervisors little flexibility or input into shift scheduling for their reports. In the large center where Mr. BP worked, the average tenure of a CSR was a year or less. Shift bid was done purely on the basis of seniority; performance had nothing to do with it. Within 12-18 months the CSRs who stuck around could avoid shifts with weekends but were generally still working either an early morning shift or into the evening rather than what was thought of as a typical office schedule (say 6-2:30 or noon – 8:30 rather than 8-4:30). The handful of CSRs with 5+ year tenure pretty much had a lock on weekdays.

            And getting promoted to a lead or supervisor or making a lateral move to tech support meant starting all over at the bottom in those groups’ shift bids!

        2. the gold digger*

          Not if there are Good Shifts and Bad Shifts. Why would you not use something non-monetary as a reward when you can to keep your best performers?

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          Shift allocation seems to me to fall into a similar category as holiday allocation and the like; perhaps more to do with role, seniority and so on than performance?

          Sounds like she loses on seniority as well.

          To me, one of the biggest points against Jane is the way she just expected accommodations to be made for her, instead of asking ahead of time.

          1. Anna*

            “Can you accommodate me trying to improve my prospects at being able to find a job that isn’t as soul-crushing as working in a call center?”


            1. MK*

              “Can you accommodate me trying to improve my prospects at being able to find a job that isn’t as soul-crushing as working in a call center, by creating an extra position to a desirable shift and giving to me, bypassing three other people who are also working in a soul-crushing call center for much longer than me, but are actually doing good work as opposed to my mediocre one?”

              “Nope” is right.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Eh. As her manager, I wouldn’t care if she found her job soul-crushing, because God knows I’ve had soul-crushing jobs too (I’ve already mentioned Walmart once today), and it’s just something you do until you find your way out of it. She’s not special just because she decided she doesn’t work in a call center. She doesn’t deserve to leapfrog over others who are better employees, and have seniority, just because she’s got some Grand Plan. Because if that’s the rationale for assigning shifts, what if I think Motherhood should be every woman’s Grand Plan, and Cersei asks for a better shift so she can spend more time at home with her kids? What if I think Travel should be every person’s Grand Plan, and Fergus wants the entire month of July off so he can kayak down the Amazon and that means no one else gets a July vacation? You don’t assign things of value (like shifts) just because you approve of what someone wants to do with their time.

              1. olives*

                This is a great point that I really hadn’t considered before – I think I’ve inhaled so much of the “education is of paramount importance” that I haven’t really questioned whether it’s reasonable to get special privileges on the basis of seeking it.

                I’ll have to rethink that in the future. Thanks for making that point.

          2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            Agreed. When I went back, I chose night classes to avoid conflicts. On the rare occasions that I could only find an early class, I spoke to my boss before enrolling in that class. This is one of those occasions where discussion is required.

            Not to mention, by enrolling without talking to OP, Jane might have lost out on tuition assistance benefits that could help fund her study and support her further.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              It sounds as if Jane is somewhat in the dark though. Is she aware she’s mediocre and had that feedback from Op? Is she aware shifts are given by seniority? Doesn’t sound like it to me or the average person wouldn’t have been so bold as to just sign up for school then ask work to adjust accordingly.

              1. Koko*

                Based on my call center experience, she probably knows she’s mediocre (such a harsh word, I prefer average). When I was in a center, you knew your own stats, you knew what the minimum expected stats were to keep your job, and you know what kind of stats it took to get promoted. People tended to be very aware of where they stood in the performance rankings.

          3. Jack the treacle eater*

            Well, we know she loses on seniority, because that’s been stated.

        4. Jaydee*

          It sounds like ordinarily shift preference is based on seniority. Wakeen, Xanthippe, and Kimmy have all been there longer than Jane. I think OP compares how good they are only to show why she isn’t inclined to deviate from the seniority system. Like maybe she would be more accommodating if Jane out-performed the others, but she doesn’t.

        5. themmases*

          Why wouldn’t it be? It’s bad for morale to give away perks to some people and not others, especially if they’re less senior or less good at their jobs than the people passed over. That goes double if you’re actually depriving stronger workers of something to give it to someone mediocre, which the OP would be. When you hurt morale like that, and make your workplace look like somewhere good people can’t get what they want, it’s the good performers who will have the easiest time going elsewhere.

          That’s true in any type of workplace and it’s especially true in a call center which already has high turnover and needs to recognize seniority to entice people to stay. It’s not somehow more fair to pretend that’s not the case. Put another way, the OP needs to *appear* fair, not just *be* fair.

    4. Kelly L.*

      Yep, it’s a call center and it’s probably not what Jane wants to do for the rest of her life anyway; I find it likely that she’ll just quit the call center after the OP breaks the news to her, and that might be best for everyone involved.

      1. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

        Maybe she’s looking for a Very Good Reason to quit.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Maybe. If preserving this job were a priority for her, even if a lesser priority than going to school, it seems that she would have asked about the accommodations before enrolling in classes. The fact that she enrolled first and asked later makes it seem to me that she is more willing to sacrifice the job if need be.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yep, I feel like she could probably take or leave the job. The classes are offered when the classes are offered, she figures it couldn’t hurt to at least ask, and if OP says no, welp, she’ll just leave and look for something else. At least that’s my guess.

            1. MK*

              That makes sense, but as I said down thread, I don’t understand why she wouldn’t be more gracious about it and leave on better terms. It sounds like she is pushing for this accommodation, bringing up examples of other people, etc.

    5. BananaPants*

      When my husband was working in a call center for a huge telecom company, he wanted to take classes towards an MBA. They offered flexibility but ONLY for on-site classes from the for-profit school that they partnered with. He could have gone to a much cheaper state university 10 minutes away with a far better reputation – but with a work schedule that changed every 6 months in shift bid, there was no guarantee that work schedules and class schedules would ever line up (and since he tended to work 2nd shift they usually wouldn’t).

      Given that the for-profit in question is basically a regionally-accredited diploma mill, he elected not to go that route. There were people who had finished a bachelor’s degree from the for-profit partner school while working in the call center only to discover that it was pretty worthless outside of the company – which rarely retained call center employees for more than a year to 18 months, tops (he was there for 2.5 years).

        1. Important Moi*

          Wow. Did management at the company ever address the diplomas earned at the for profit school?

    6. Vicki*

      Would it be inappropriate for the OP to ask Jane why she chose a school so far away?

  3. Ms. Didymus*

    #2, I feel your pain. My boss (a Director) is really good friends with my coworker (we’re both managers). Just today this came to a head when said coworker was putting forth an idea that really disadvantages our other fellow manager and really is only an advantage to her. When I brought this up I was told it had already been decided that weekend when they were camping together and we (myself and manager #3) were just being “looped in.”

    It is really disheartening and makes me believe I won’t have the same access, opportunities or development opportunities.

    1. Artemesia*

      This boss needs to lose good employees. I hope you can move up in the company and away from this terrible boss or move on and leave this twosome behind. Yours is a classic example of exactly why this behavior is bad management.

    2. super anon*

      the same thing as no 2 is happening to me. it sucks. my coworker has ensured i have 0 access to our bosses and i feel like she is systematically trying to push me out of the department. she spent 2 hours today talking to one of our bosses, and i can barely get 5 minutes. i also learned that she took our other boss clubbing… which is just, idek. it’s so disheartening to not be the favourite and know your bosses don’t care about you.

    3. Hornswoggler*

      “I was told it had already been decided that weekend when they were camping together and we (myself and manager #3) were just being “looped in.””

      You need to be assertive in response to this. You have to say: “I don’t feel it is good practice to take decisions which should involve the whole team with only two of that team present. Moreover, the decision was taken at a time and in a place where the other team members weren’t able to be present.”

      It might also be worth having a meeting and nutting out some ‘decision-making criteria’ – including who should be consulted on certain levels of decision-making. It might take an hour or two if they’re really argumentative but it is very helpful. I’ve had to do this in creative businesses where there are very strong egos and dominant personalities and it has been useful because it makes people consider the wider picture.

        1. Hornswoggler*

          Yeah – good point – I thought that just after I’d pressed ‘submit’…

      1. Lisa*

        I worked in a similar environment where this type of situation was turned into an age discrimination lawsuit because the BFF was younger than everyone else.

    4. K.*

      Honestly, it sounds like you won’t have the same opportunities your coworker has. If advancement is important to you, I’d start looking, either elsewhere in the company so that you’re no longer under this boss, or leaving it altogether. You can only go so far in this situation.

    5. GreenTeaPot*

      This could have been written by me, and a lot of other peole, 20 years ago. Boss and coworker were BFFs, and coworker was a bully. She was fine with colleagues who looked up to her, but very threatened and thus very aggressive with those with more education and those who challenged her. While the rest of us worked a 40-plus hour week, she put in 25-30. Finally, under new top management, she was forced to punch a time card. Boss was forced out, coworker expected to get her job, but it didn’t happen that way. I survived by focusing on doing my best work, being supportive of all coworkers and, eventually, leaving the company. Good luck to OP#2 and anyone else in this situation.

    6. Rick*

      The worst work environment I’ve experienced was the one where my boss was super chummy with two of his subordinates, to the point of taking them out to Starbucks at least three times a week, and buying drinks for them at department happy hours. When (to be fair they were good at their jobs, but this did happen — it’s life), it came back to the other two of us to cover for them and let them take the credit. Worst job. By FAR. No questions asked.

      This is pretty much always a terrible practice and unfortunately, it seems like most of the time the bad manager gets away with it because their manager has a blind spot for BadBoss.

      Did I mention that the favored direct reports were two straight out of college women, and the other two of us were slightly older guys he “inherited” from a departing manager (who was a fair and kickass boss)?

  4. C Average*

    OP #2 could’ve been me. It was AWFUL. The boss and her BFF went camping together on the weekend, wore matchy-matchy Halloween costumes, and were even roommates for a while. Working in an office with them made me feel like some kind of awkward third wheel, and I never knew how to formulate a principled objection to the situation.

    Increasingly, the boss invented projects for our team that played to specific strengths the BFF had that the rest of the team didn’t. In my final year or two at that job, there was a huge amount of mission creep in our department, much of it to facilitate the BFF getting paid to pursue things that weren’t in her job description and that even she described as “passion projects.” (The BFF was a hard worker and did excellent work. But she definitely leveraged her close relationship with the boss to pull work that had never been in our group’s purview into our workflow because it interested her personally.)

    It was so, so dysfunctional.

    Is the only solution to just get out, or is there actually a way to dial back this kind of configuration to something functional?

    1. Kora*

      You can’t ‘manage up’ this dynamic into something functional. Ideally, the boss’s boss would step in, point out how inappropriate this was, and ensure that steps were taken (like, maybe, transferring boss’s BFF to another department). So you can take this to the boss’s boss if you feel comfortable doing so, but there’s not a lot else you can do other than leave.

      1. Bwmn*

        I have to say I agree with this – because unlike romantic or family relationships, I can see lots of companies/organizations feeling very awkward in how to enforce “no being friends at work”.

        While this can easily become very dysfunctional and clearly disheartening to others, I also see this from the flip side. In a context where people are putting crazy hours into work, to hear that your friendship(s) at work are problematic would be hard. So unless there’s something very specific and tangible that can be addressed – such as “It is my understanding that you and Jane/some managers meet for an hour once a week, I think that my work in the department would also benefit from that” – I think expecting boss’s boss to intervene is very unlikely.

    2. MK*

      I seriously doubt such a close personal relationship can be dialed down; people can be more discreet and try not to discriminate, but if the two pals “break up” that creates another very awkward situation. Ideally, one or both of them should be moved to another position and get some training about keeping your personal life outside the workplace.

      1. Annie Ominous*

        This is very true. I had a boss who was awful and BFFs with a co-worker (looking back, the CW was totally being used – it was super dysfunctional, and eventually the staff took an online quiz about whether you’re working for a sociopath. Guess what the answer was?) Anyway, I got treated badly first (and completely gaslighted), but when she set her sights on the former BFF, look out! I would not have wanted to be in that woman’s place.

    3. hbc*

      I think the only way it gets better (I won’t say “fixed”) is if you can point out objective ways in which the coworker is getting favored. “We’re all supposed to take turns covering late Friday, and everyone has done it four times this year while Jane has only gone once. Jane also averages around the middle of the pack for sales but gets the Employee of the Month award every other month. I can’t come up with an explanation other than favoritism.”

      That’s hard for the boss’s boss to ignore, and it might mean the overt stuff gets dialed back or people are moved about departments. But even then, I’ve gotta suspect there’ll be fallout from disrupting their set up.

    4. GreenTeaPot*

      Yup, been there. In my situation, which was a newspaper, coworker’s work was submitted to contests and showcased. She was given the best assignments so this could happen. One Sunday, a huge news story broke, and I heard about it first. I called Boss at home, she pooh-poohed it, but then fave the story to Coworker. The story went national, and coworker got an award for it. A few years later, Coworker stumbled upon a boring Sunday story and guess who got called in to work on it? Yup, yours truly.

      1. folklorist*

        Ugh, as a writer thinking about awards for this and next year, this makes my blood boil for you! I’m so happy that I work for a rational, supportive boss on a great team!

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      This is my place of work. My friend (who just left for a better job) and I marvel at how this woman has pulled off this kind of thing. She doesn’t have the skills or experience that her equivalents at other work places have. It’s been a bit of mess for productivity, because she spends all her time forming relations rather than doing anything- her relationships with others are grossly exaggerated. Furthermore, to our own team, she is either cutthroat towards people she perceives as threats to her standing or dismissive to people she feels are expendable.

      Leaving is the only situation ombuds has helped me think of.

      1. Guesty*

        I’m in this boat. I’m a manager, and one of my coworkers is a new manager and also BFFs with our boss. They’ll get their hair, nails, eyebrows done together, get drunk at boss’s house, gossip for hours at a time in the boss’s office, etc. They’ve kinda offered to let me join their little sorority, but I’m not that kind of person, period, and I want more separation between my work life and my personal life. I can try to ignore that my coworker gets better ratings and thus more $$$, because I know that teacher’s pets’ get rewarded and life isn’t fair. I wish they’d be more discreet about it, but that’s asking too much.

        The problem I have it that she’s not a good manager to our team, and every single person has come to me to ask if I can help them find a way to work with her, and I’m just powerless to help them. She refuses to answer their questions; ignores their emails, calls, instant messages, drop-bys; then is super nitpicky over the little things, and just rude to them generally. Good performers are discouraged, the one low performer is in a special hell. I try to talk to her directly about being more helpful or at least kind, and she brushes it off, saying she doesn’t care. I try to talk to our boss about it discreetly and just hear a bunch of ready-made excuses that that’s how the coworker is. The boss’s boss works in an office two time zones away, and doesn’t want to get involved. Until and unless someone quits over it and says that’s the problem, I don’t expect things to change.

  5. stevenz*

    #5. Wear a watch with a wide band. They’re much in fashion. (Unless it hurts or aggravates the scar.) In certain situations, wear a top that has elastic cuffs that go down past the scar and won’t ride up when you extend your hand. You could tie a scarf around that wrist as a kind of fashion statement. A wide cuff bracelet?

    Or wear a slinky sequined gown and really long silk gloves and an ivory cigarette holder, like Gloria Swanson. OK, maybe not the cigarette holder. (You’ll look faaabulous, dahling.)

    PS: Whether to use the word badass in a job interview bears some thought.

    PPS: I hope you have full use of your wrist again.

    1. C Average*

      Depending on the formality of the situation, you could also look for a top or dress with thumb loops. They used to be found only on technical gear for running and cycling, but as “athleisurewear” has caught on, I’m seeing them more and more on dressier items. I intentionally look for them because I sometimes get fairly severe eczema on my hands, and cuffs with thumb loops hide the worst of it. They also keep my hands warm when it’s cold! If you Google “dress with thumb loops,” you’ll see lots of cool stuff. (Aaaaand off I go shopping.)

      1. LW #5*

        This is awesome! I’ve been living in thumb-looped hoodies ever since I got my cast off, so this is the logical next step. Thanks for the idea.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        And you sent me off shopping, too, and now I am soon to be the proud new owner of a Cabela Triune heather dress in the shade of Concord.

      3. Koko*

        When I was a girl in high school, it was fashionable to cut your own thumb holes into your (oversized, because it was the 90s) hoodie.

    2. Student*

      Use a compression wrap (without actually pulling it tight enough to compress). It’ll look like you sprained your wrist instead of like you have a cut. You can refer to it completely honestly and plausibly as a sports injury with much less scrutiny. Some wrist or tape wraps are way more subtle than others, so you may want to look around.

      1. Momiitz*

        This is what I was thinking too. That way you don’t have to worry about taking the focus off your interview.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Another bonus to wearing a wrist brace is if it is your right hand you can avoid handshakes if your hand was also injured.

        My husband broke several bones in his hand and after a painful day at a conference where he cringed anytime someone shook his hand with even moderate pressure (and he really thought one of the bone crushing shakes re-broke it) he has been wearing a wrist brace to that kind of event, because it gives him a polite reason to skip hand shakes.

        As long as OP can still write while wearing a brace and the job isn’t one that requires lifting, a brace would be worth a shot. And OP can even say “yeah, I broke my wrist playing sports and had to have surgery” – that also might help avoid stares when/if she shows up at work with a scar.

        1. LW #5*

          Good shout, everyone. I wore the brace I was given after surgery for an interview a couple weeks ago, which I would have kept doing as a last resort, but it’s a bit uncomfortable, and the velcro shredded a bit of my dress. I’ll look into getting something that looks medical but still comfortable.

          My symapathy to your husband – that sounds so painful. Luckily it was my non-dominant hand, but it’s still nice to have a visable signal to keep shoving on public transport to a minimum, and to please be patient as I awkwardly fumble and spend a couple minutes trying to remove my coat.

          1. FiveWheels*

            I agree this plan is great – I had a nasty elbow break a few years ago and wore my sling in some situations long after I needed it, because it was a great way of avoiding innocent but painful contact.

            1. Annie Ominous*

              I broke a bone in my foot. I can now wear certain shoes (they are not my style and very old-ladyish, but they meet my orthopedist’s requirements). This week I’m trying to wear shoes all day and not just at home/after work. However, I still plan to wear my air cast in crowd situations for the next week or so. I’m really nervous someone’s going to step on my foot and undo all my healing!

              1. LW #5*

                I know! I terrified some poor kid who ran smack into me in my first time out of my house after the surgery. She was about 12 ish and I yelled so loud (more fear than pain) that she fled the scene… only to have her friends send her back to appologise to me!

              2. SusanIvanova*

                After I broke my ankle, I wore Doc Martens and a nice dress to sing at a fellow choir member’s wedding – it’s amazing what goes with crutches :)

          2. TootsNYC*

            Even just wrapping it in an Ace bandage for the duration of the interview would remove this worry for you. The bandage would say “injury here,’ in a minor way.

          3. Anonsie*

            One thing you might try is cutting the toe off of a tube sock and wearing that under the brace to protect your clothes. Alternatively, put it over the velcro that’s causing a problem (if the velcro is on the outside of the brace and you’re wearing the brace under your sleeve. You can match the sock to your brace and nobody will think much of it–braces and casts often have extra wraps or whatever, so it looks like it’s all part and parcel of the same thing.

          4. GH in SoCAl*

            Try the Mueller Life Wrist Support Sleeve. No Velcro, kinda steampunk cool. Link in next comment.

              1. LW #5*

                All amazing ideas – I’m giving the Amazon delivery person a workout this evening.

      1. LW #5*

        I’ll look into that. It’s pretty raised and bumpy so I wonder if makeup would hide it enough, but it’s for sure worth a shot. Thanks.

    3. LW #5*

      Ha. I don’t think I’ve managed to use badass in a job interview ( at least not since high school!). I’d love to roll in rocking a full on ballgown with all the trimmings. “What, this scar? Yeah, that’s the least of your worries…”

      The scar is still a bit sensitive to things rubbing up against it, but I love those ideas for going forward.

      1. specialist*

        I will handle this issue. I am a board-certified plastic surgeon with subspecialty training in hand surgery. You have a scar. You should be doing scar care consisting of silicone sheeting, scar massage, and sun avoidance. This should have been discussed in therapy. Silicone tapes can be used to cover the scar, provide therapy, and should work well for your interview. Mepitac is a great option, but not the only source.
        If it comes to covering a red scar, I recommend dermablend make up. This is sufficient to cover a tattoo.

        1. LW #5*

          Thanks so much for posting this. I actually didn’t get much in the way of after-care. My check-ins were mainly with an occupational therapist, with only a couple with a surgeon. The surgeon focused on range of motion and seeing that there was no infection, and the OT continued looking at my strength and range of motion. She gave me a sillicone thing to put on it (kind of like a rubber tube?) and said to keep it moisturised, but that was about it. It’s been a few months now, and I’ve been putting oils and creams on it, as well as the rubber tube thing. It’s only been in the past few weeks that I’ve thought it should be healing faster, or more tidily, and now I’m concerned that I didn’t do enough right at the start.

    4. danr*

      For a long term solution look into the various silicone scar treatments. It comes as part of a bandage. It sounds odd but it does work. My wife had carpal tunnel surgery and the physical therapist recommended it. It really did work.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        I used the silicone scar treatment as well and totally recommend. The longer you can leave it on, the better. I am very fair-skinned and scar easily; after my last surgery and regular use of the treatment for 3 months my scar is barely noticeable.

        Good luck!

        1. LW #5*

          Thanks! I had one for a bit and it made everything go really red and itchy, but I’m going to try a different brand and see how that goes.

          1. MaggiePi*

            If you can find a stretchy skin-colored wrist sleeve they aren’t as bulky as the stiff velcro kind. Long-term, mederma may help the scar. It pretty much erased a scar on my face.

          2. Murphy*

            I have horrible scars on my ankle from a bad accident (lost a lot of skin). Remember to keep the scar out of sun too if you want it to fade as much as possible.

            Good luck! I remember feeling so self-conscious of my scars when they were new. Now I never really think about them from an aessthetic sense.

  6. anon for this*

    With this letter, there is just an affirmation that it is awful and sympathy. Would the advice be to suck it up, go to the bosses boss ir HR, or look for another job. Something similar goes on in my office but my boss deals with me somewhat fairly but if it shifts, I think I would want out. The bestie has been perceived as getting extra favors but I am not sure if that is true or not.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In short answer posts, I sometimes just answer the direct question asked because … well, short answers.

      If her boss knows and won’t address it, there might not be much the OP can do. She could talk to her boss or her boss’s boss and explain how the dynamic is impacting the department, but I’m skeptical that the friendship would actually get dialed back to an appropriate level (i.e., about 5% of where it is currently) without a serious mandate from someone above her who truly sees why this is completely not okay.

      And I just added that to the post.

      1. anon for this*

        Thanks for adding this. This letter is a little too close to home. My work place is filled with a lot of friendships and the seamier side of it is that unfair treatments and privileges are perceived to happen.

        1. Chaordic One*

          About a week ago Alison had a link to an article about social class in the office and a book that dealt with the subject. The author of the article mentioned how when growing up, when watching the t.v. show, “Bewitched” she thought it odd that Darrin was always inviting his boss to dinner in his house and worried about Samantha impressing his boss. According to the author these kind of close out-of-the-office behaviors is is an upper-class behavior.

          I wonder if maybe some sort of similar class-based thing is going on with your boss and co-worker.

          1. MK*

            It’s not really restricted to upper-class anymore, if it ever was (the kind of friendship described in the letter has nothing to do with Darrin’s personal PR diners for his boss).

          2. TootsNYC*

            the funny thing is, I assume that on a construction crew, the *entire* crew, including boss, might be invited to a backyard barbecue. (Of course, there might not be the same sort of “nice dinner party” angst.)

            I tend to think of more blue-collar jobs having socialization outside the office, even with the boss.

        2. AlsoAnon*

          In my workplace, Boss is highly involved with religious activities in a specific proselytizing church. Boss has recently involved Assistant in our department in their church. Assistant is now immune to repercussions from things like clocking in and eating a leisurely AM meal prior to starting actual work (which severely disrupts department workflow, otherwise I would shrug this one off ) taking their lunch break during peak demand times, bringing children in to work for up to entire workdays in an office marked by strict client confidentiality. Boss and Assistant spend considerable time discussing church activities. Boss is otherwise highly professional in all their interactions; so this has been demoralizing, not to mention the effect on actual output. I have only sympathy to offer OP #1.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            I wonder if the question of religious discrimination could be brought up to the boss’s boss? After all, the boss is favoring this employee because they’re involved in the same church.

    2. hayling*

      I have to say that I actually appreciate that sometimes people are just looking for confirmation of “is this crazy?” — when you’re in a dysfunctional environment, sometimes it can be hard to see the forest for the trees.

  7. Z*

    #4 My father is old enough that he remembers an awkward transition period where some women would be extremely offended by a man offering to shake their hand – this would be considered Inappropriate Touching by a Strange Man, and other women would be extremely offended by a man not offering to shake their hand because that would be Sexism and Not Being Treated as Equals. He said the whole thing was so much easier when the women offered the handshakes so that he wasn’t playing inappropriate behaviour roulette.

    Related: has anybody else noticed that women shake hands differently to men? I’m female, and I always go for a firm, confident handshake because this seems most appropriate. Women tend to do a sort of limp, hand-holdey thing or the very lightest of grips, and men will usually do a firm handshake but sometimes do a… kind of… princess-may-I-kiss-your-hand… holding thing? I thought this was weird, and I demonstrated this on my dad who said that he would be very taken aback if another man had done that to him. It seems to me that women seem to be less comfortable with handshaking in general, but I may be wrong.

    Note in case of suspected cultural differences: Myself and my father are white Australians in Australia.

    1. Artemesia*

      Men often hurt women in hand shakes especially the kind who think a ‘firm’ handshake is important and the men who are just sadists. And many people have arthritis or issues where a firm handshake would be painful. Women avoid getting this crushing shake by just offering the tips of their fingers so it isn’t a full shake or sometimes doing a weird two handed thing so that the other shaker can’t grab the hand and crush the bones together. (for the sadist a handshake is perfect because if it hurts, well he is just manly with a ‘firm’ handshake)

      1. Bartlett for President*

        “Men often hurt women in hand shakes” – say what now? What are you basing this on? Because I’ve never encountered this claim before. I’m not saying you’re wrong necessarily, but rather that I’ve never seen a claim that men often hurt women in hand shakes. I mean, sure, maybe sometimes…but, often?

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I saw this a lot more 30 years ago. It was almost a frat-boy type of hazing. The men would crush the womens hands and then claim that the women had to put up with it if they wanted to be in mens jobs. It was one of those passive aggressive things they’d do t undermine the women. It was easy to do as women’s hands are usually smaller so they get engulfed.
          Some men still do it, and not just to women. There was a recent picture on the internet where Prince William had his hand crushed by the Prime Minister of India.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            It can be a cultural thing. From experience, some German handshakes can almost feel as if your fingers are being dislocated!

            1. Myrin*

              It’s interesting that you say that because I’m a German woman and constantly encounter the limpy handshake some people above mention. I’d even say I’ve had the firmer handshake 90% of the times I shook hands with anyone ever. So it’s fascinating to see that there’s apparently a different conception from an outside perspective.

              1. Tau*

                Clearly you are simply a German finger-crusher yourself. ;)

                It’s hard to say, but I do feel as if I’ve had more limp handshakes in the UK than in Germany, and no crushing ones in the UK at all that I can remember. That said, I don’t shake hands that often in the UK? (Definite cultural differences here, I think, but I’m not sure if grip strength is one of them…?)

            2. Bartlett for President*

              Holy crap, yes. I was not prepared when I moved there. The day I met tons of faculty and staff at the university ended with me whining like a baby about my hand.

          2. OldAdmin*

            “I saw this a lot more 30 years ago. It was almost a frat-boy type of hazing. The men would crush the womens hands and then claim that the women had to put up with it if they wanted to be in mens jobs. It was one of those passive aggressive things they’d do t undermine the women.”
            Oh yes, I’ve had this happen to me *a lot* at university and early on at work.
            I have long thin hands, and various men would grab it hard, and gleefully knead it, trying to make me wince, going “heh heh heh”. :-(
            I’m pretty strong and resistant to pain, so I’d let them knead. And them crush back with full force, smiling brightly. I did get grudging respect after that in most cases.

            1. LD*

              Nah. I’d yell at them for that and call them out. I didn’t put up with that “frat boy” or “let’s see if we can make the woman squeamish or hurt” nonsense anywhere. And so they didn’t pull it on me any time afterwards. I was just direct and said what I liked and what I didn’t like. It typically worked then and still does.

          3. SusanIvanova*

            There’s a trick to keep this from working – press down on their wrist with your index finger, or first two fingers. It works from the combination of the angle this puts your hand in, and the pressure of your fingers. My karate instructor showed me this; he’s a big strong guy and it worked against him.

        2. Important Moi*

          “I’ve never seen a claim that men often hurt women in hand shakes.”

          I’m a woman, I’ve been hurt by men who shake my hand with a too firm squeeze. Men have also “pumped” arm to hard.

          Now you’ve seen a claim.

          1. Total Rando*

            I think the problem “Bartlett for President” is pointing out is the word “often”. You provided one example, but how many times have you shaken a man’s hand and not received any injuries.

            I’m a woman and have never had my hand injured by a handshake. But neither of our examples can prove or disprove the claim that “men often hurt women in hand shakes”.

          2. Annie Ominous*

            I have very small but surprisingly strong hands. I’ve had a superfirm grip from a man before, but I think they’re surprised that I can do the same and a little more. However, I am more likely to get a limp handshake from a man compared to my firm (but not crushing) on.

            I recently received a handshake from a woman where she covered my hand with her left hand and looked directly into my eyes. It was very warm and welcoming. (I was volunteering at a local nonprofit, so I think it fell halfway between business and social. But I have a feeling that’s how she always shakes hands.)

        3. Aunt Vixen*

          I pretty routinely get thumbprint bruises on the back of my hand behind the base of my own thumb. It doesn’t even take an aggressive handshake to do it – just a firm handshake from someone whose hand is bigger than mine, as most men’s are. I can easily imagine that this happens to many women all the time through no particular fault of any man’s, just a kind of lack of situational awareness.

        4. TootsNYC*

          well, a woman’s hand is very, very often significantly smaller than a man’s. So if a man has a strong handshake, he’s squeezing a woman’s hand in a way that he’s not necessarily doing to a man (whose hand is more likely to be somewhat even in size to his).

          (as Engineer Girl points out, a woman’s hand might easily be engulfed)

        5. Anonsie*

          There are definitely men who shake hands way too hard. It’s always the guys who are too cocky for their own good; I’m convinced it’s a dominance thing. There’s a world of difference between a firm handshake and a death grip, though I wouldn’t call the death grip super-common.

        6. A grad student*

          This happens to me all the time- I’m pretty small (just over 5 feet), and I think where larger men’s hands fit on mine falls on or near a pressure point, just due to the fit of hands. Any “firm” handshake from a dude with large hands is pretty painful for a while afterward.

      2. Purple Dragon*

        I’m a woman who’s shaken hands for a couple of decades with men and women. I do tend to get wimpier hand shakes from women more often but I get them from men too. I’ve never had my fingers crushed by either gender, or the princess-kiss-hand thing. I’m in Australia too. Odd ! What field are you in ? I’m currently in IT but prior to that I worked for a company that sold some supplies for the building industry so was shaking hands with big burly builders regularly.

        1. Z*

          I’m a lab worker – a technical professional. I shake hands with all sorts of blue collar, white collar, desk worker and field worker type of people.

          It’s not exactly a princess-kiss-hand thing, it’s sort of a light hold with a bit of rotation so that the back of my hand/knuckles are rotated upward a little. It’s really weird, and hard to describe, but it is kind of like the first second of a “lift her hand and kiss it” action. It’s certainly not a handshake.

          1. Alienor*

            I know exactly what you mean and I’ve experienced it soooo many times. They usually grab just my fingers instead of my whole hand, too. It feels so weird and awkward, I think I’d rather get the crushing kind of handshake!

      3. Panda Bandit*

        I guess I’ve been lucky in that regard. My siblings are the only people who have ever tried to crush my hand.

      4. Polka Dot Bird*

        One way to avoid the handshake crush is to make sure you slid you hand well into the grip – the webs of both people’s hands should be touching. This makes your hand wedge the other hand further open, and stops the crush.

      5. ginger ale for all*

        I work at a university where the president had arthritis so bad that they redesigned the graduation ceremonies so she wouldn’t have to shake everyone’s hands. It would have been too painful. She ended up giving each graduate a carnation with the hand that they would have shaken. I thought it was an elegant solution instead of having her deal with over a thousand firm or limp handshakes.

      6. Mockingjay*

        When I lived in Germany, I attended immersion language courses at the local Volkshochshule. The classes were a mix of immigrants, business persons, and spouses of business or military persons residing there. Great mix of people – looked like the United Nations most days.

        Our excellent, mostly female instructors went over greetings, introductions, and cultural norms, including the firm German handshake. The women had the firmest grip. I have small hands and very slender fingers and they were routinely crushed by these brisk, no-nonsense women. They tended to squeeze the hand along the finger joints. Ouch.

        We also discussed how to handle greetings for those coming from religious and conservative cultures. The hand over heart and half-bow or nod worked very graciously – whether at school, work, or socially.

      7. AnonEMoose*

        I’m a woman, and am usually wearing a ring on my right hand ring finger, as well as my wedding and engagement rings on my left hand. When shaking hands, if the other person (usually a man) is a “firm handshake” type, this can lead to the ring being pressed uncomfortably into the fingers on each side. It can hurt more than you’d think!

    2. Shell*

      Ha. Woman here, and the last time I got a comment on my handshake, it was from a new hire for our warehouse team. Big guy, outweighs me by at least 50 lbs of muscle, and he said “whoa, that’s quite a firm handshake you got!”

      I had been rock climbing/bouldering a lot at the time and apparently failed at gauging my own grip. Oops.

      (None of my other professional handshakes before or since have merited comment. Detached, professional, not too limp or too strong. I haven’t seen women with significantly different handshakes than men.)

      1. OhNo*

        Man, I have that problem, too. I use a manual wheelchair at all times, so my grip is really strong from grabbing the wheels. I got a lot of comments on my exceptionally firm handshake for a while, until I figured out how to moderate my grip to appropriate levels.

        It does come in handy, though. I had an interview with one of those crush-your-hand-to-prove-his-dominance types two years ago, and I squeezed him back so hard that he actually winced. Shockingly, I did not get a call back from that job, but I count it as a bullet dodged.

        1. Ms. Anne Thrope*

          Hang on now. Some guy tried to hand-crush-dominate a person in a wheelchair?!?!? Oh that’s classy.


          1. OhNo*

            He was not the first. Actually, now that I think about it, a lot of men try to do that to me. Maybe I give off a threatening vibe or something?

      2. Koko*

        I tend to shake fairly aggressively when meeting men in a professional context so they know I mean business.

    3. FD*

      Handshakes and gender is actually really interesting to me!

      In my experience, especially in more traditional fields, a firm handshake is seen as a sign of status and seriousness. I’ve done some work in and freelancing for real estate, and many men, especially those over 50 will basically do it as a sort of…power display? Sometimes I’ve seen two men shake hands and really try to squeeze bone crushingly hard, and I’ve heard this happens in politics a lot.

      Women tend not to do this naturally, because women are socialized to establish status in other means. However, I had a female mentor early on who taught me to give a very firm, but not bone-crushing handshake, and I’ve found it really helpful. I bet a lot of women never get taught that, and I do think it makes a difference.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Or the handshake where one person twists both arms mid-shake so that their own is on top. An old friend of mine demonstrated this to me and called it the “power handshake.” I was like NOPE NOPE NOPE.

        1. Clewgarnet*

          Oh, is that what that’s meant to be?

          I had an interviewee try it on me once. I do a fair bit of work with free weights, so he didn’t get too far! (He didn’t get the job. He directed all his technical answers to the male HR rep.)

    4. FiveWheels*

      I detest a limp, fingers only handshake. Ugh. Makes me borderline physically sick.

      1. Who Watches the Watchers?*

        I do too! I was always taught a handshake is supposed to be like a hug: not too tight, not too loose, and not too long.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Me, too! I always hated shaking hands with the old ladies in church when I was a kid, because nearly every single one of them would just place their limp, lifeless hand in my hand. I felt like they’d handed me a dead fish. I don’t know if it was because of arthritis or because they were from the generation of being delicate southern flowers, but it sucked.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I keep trying, and I can’t even make my hand relax enough to feel that dead. I don’t even know how they did it.

          1. OhNo*

            It’s all in the wrist. Literally – you have to relax your muscles all the way up your forearm, and even into your bicep, to make it that limp.

            (I learned this from an acquaintance who has the magic ability to make his hands completely boneless. It’s a nice trick to have for the kind of martial arts we both do, but weird in every other context. Trust me, it’s really strange when the handshake starts off normal and then devolves into grasping a limp noodle.)

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              So they had perfected their passiveness to a high martial arts level. That is somehow funny and sad at the same time.

              1. LD*

                I’m not sure how it’s sad? It’s definitely weird that he’s using it in a handshake. It’s just an example of how in martial arts you can outwit your opponent by relaxing vs. pushing.

                1. Mallory Janis Ian*

                  I was just making a joke that it was a little sad that the old ladies at church had perfected a handshake so limp and passive that it is comparable to a trick by a practiced martial artist.

      3. JB (not in Houston)*

        I don’t care for it, either, but feeling physically ill seems like an extreme reaction. There are plenty of people who have arthritis or other reasons why firm handshakes are painful. So you’ll probably have to experiences those kinds of handshakes for the rest of your life unless you just opt out of handshaking. Would it help you not feel sick if you reframed your thinking? Like, think of yourself as protecting their injury-prone hands? Or pretend you were raised to think that’s how you shake hands? I don’t know really how to help with that. But having that strong of a reaction to it seems like it could be pretty unpleasant for you.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          It’s not just a loose handshake, though. I’ve shaken hands with people who just don’t squeeze hard or don’t squeeze at all, but their hand doesn’t feel dead because they keep some tension in the wrist. This dead fish handshake is worse than that. Their whole hand is loose and hanging loosely from the wrist; there isn’t any tension anywhere, and it feels weird when they do it. It isn’t like making hand contact with someone, it is like having an inanimate object placed in one’s hand.

          1. LD*

            It does feel creepy, as you describe, like having an inanimate object placed in your hand!

    5. FiveWheels*

      My boss and I have a relationship somewhat like #2, though not as extreme, and we don’t discuss weekend hangouts in the office. To avoid the appearance of bias, I do more of the less desirable work and turn down various perks. It’s not an ideal situation anyway, but it sounds like this pair are handling it as badly as possible.

    6. Honeybee*

      I’m a woman and I have gotten the looser handshake from both men and women. It varies.

      What I’m still baffled by is why we as a society have decided that the pressure with which another human squeezes your hand says anything about that person’s worth ethic or business acumen. Not to mention that this disadvantages people with disabilities who cannot shake hands for whatever reason.

      1. FiveWheels*

        If someone gives me a weird handshake I don’t judge them as a bad businessperson, just as a weird person who made me physically uncomfortable. There’s an aspect of thinking this person has very little self awareness but mainly it’s my reptile brain saying “WRONG WRONG WRONG DANGER” that causes the discomfort.

      2. Kylynara*

        I suspect it is a carryover from the origins of the practice, checking for hidden weapons. Showing your strength makes a lot more sense in that situation, regardless of whether you are trying to make a treaty with an enemy, or hoping someone new will become an ally. I suspect that as that gradually evolved into the the current handshaking for business, the idea that firmer is better just stayed, without anyone examining the reasons behind it.

    7. Jack the treacle eater*

      Don’t know about the princess thing, but otherwise I haven’t noticed a gender bias for limp hand-holdey or firm and confident – I’ve had both types from both sexes equally enough that I haven’t noticed a mix!

    8. TL17*

      I shook hands with a man recently who grasped so tightly I actually let out a little yelp. He looked confused, so I said, “I am a delicate flower and I think you crushed me.” Why I said those particular words, I’m not sure, but it really hurt. He laughed and said he would have to work on not shaking hands so tightly in the future.

    9. BananaPants*

      I’m an engineer so I shake a lot of guys’ hands. Maybe 1/3 of the time a man will shake my hand with a sad little limp handshake, like he thinks he’s going to hurt me. It bugs, especially when I can see that they’re shaking normally with male colleagues but then loosen up to almost no pressure for me; I’m not a delicate flower and I can withstand the normal pressure of a handshake. I shake firmly but not too hard and I feel like that helps to position me as an equal. Older men tend to do the super-limp handshake more often than men closer to my own age.

      I can count on one hand (ha) the number of times a guy has shaken my hand too hard or caused discomfort. Note: I have a large build, so physically my hand isn’t engulfed by the hands of most men. When it’s happened I just smile and grit my teeth and don’t let on that it’s too hard, because I suspect that men who purposely try to crush a woman’s hand are trying to undermine her or put her in her place. I won’t give a dude like that the satisfaction of knowing that he caused pain.

    10. Drink the Juice Shelby*

      I call it the dead fish handshake. It’s some women that do it, like their whole hand is limp. Or they do that weird thing where they only present their fingers. It’s so strange especially when it’s at work.

      I’m a woman, but my dad taught me when I was little how to give a firm hand shake.

      I’ve never had a man try and crush my hand either.

      1. SH*

        I hate shaking hands with people because 1) I hate touching people I’m not in some sort of personal relationship with and 2) I was taught in school that everyone has to give a firm handshake or it means you’re insecure. While practicing, I would do what I thought was a firm squeeze only to be told it was weak. Now I just hold out my hand, smile and give a gentle squeeze. I would hope that other aspects of the meeting (personal or professional) would weigh more than this.

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I haven’t had the dead fish handshake from any women outside of the old ladies at church when I was a kid. Most all the women I shake hands with now don’t do it any differently than the men do. I thought it was a generational thing with the church ladies, like they had to show that they were delicate and feminine and a firm handshake was too masculine for them. Either that, or every single one of them had arthritis in their hands.

      3. The Butcher of Luverne*

        Oh yes, the dead fish — and I get it more often from men than from women (I’m female).

    11. JB (not in Houston)*

      I’m from the US, and I’ve had that limp, “I’ll just place my hand in yours and let you take care of the shake part” handshake from men as much as from women.

      I have had that princess-y handshake from men before, but usually only older men. From watching old movies it seems that women used to shake hands by holding their hands more at that angle than at the angle we all use today. I’ve never seen it in action by two people who were both doing that, just men doing that to surprised women, so I’m not really sure if that’s what the men who’ve done it to me were going for.

    12. Chalupa Batman*

      I have a “softer” handshake socially than I do in business situations. I have a more tilted, princess-y handshake that means “nice to meet you, acquaintance of someone I know,” a traditional firm but not crushing straight on handshake that means “nice to meet/see you, business associate,” and a straight on, two handed, more active handshake that means “I want you to know that I’m a nice person welcoming you,” usually used in semi-social situations like volunteer events (my husband works for a well known non-profit, so I do a lot of quasi mandatory socializing). I know I can come off as standoffish to strangers sometimes, so a softer social handshake is a way of showing that I’m not scary. I have never noticed who extended their hand first in any situation, I didn’t even know that was a thing. This thread has me thinking handshakes are a lot more complex than I thought.

      I did once fist bump colleagues at a conference because I’d been nursing a cold and didn’t want to infect anyone. I was worried that this would be confusing or come across as unprofessional, but apparently fist bumping is a comfortable American convention in this situation. (I did indicate that I’d been sick recently when extending my fist, I didn’t just act like that was a normal thing to do.)

    13. Elizabeth West*

      We talked about handshakes in the administrative assistant conference I recently attended–the presenter was of the mind that a wimpy handshake is very bad for your image. I have never shaken hands like that in my life, though I tend to adjust to the amount of pressure the other person gives, in case they have a problem with their hands. I’m racking my brain and I can’t remember ever encountering men who did the princess thing.

      But if I had pain when shaking hands, I would demur and just not do it. I would just say, “Sorry, I can’t shake hands because arthritis/broken finger/whatever.” I’ve had people say something similar to me when I extended mine and it was no problem whatsoever.

    14. Anxa*


      I don’t really like handholding, and I think my gender does play into some of the reasons why:

      -I’m not really into hand-to-hand contact because it seems like an unnecessary opportunity for disease transmission. Many nurses and public health workers are women.

      -I feel oddly self-aware of my hands, but they’re also numb a lot. Poor circulation, RA, Raynaud’s and just cold hands are more common in women. It’s not physically uncomfortable or painful to shake hands, it just feels….weird.

      -Similar to the cold hands thing…I am self conscious about my cold hands. And I’m self-concious about my cuticles and nails and callouses if I have any. A lot of women wouldn’t think twice about this, but I do feel a little ashamed of my hands; they aren’t really that nice. And I’m so embarrassed if they are sweaty.

      -I have anxiety, so I’m more likely to overthink this stuff. Anxiety is more common in women.

      -Okay, this is really a stretch for numbers, but I have body issues related to a blood phobia (blood’s not so much the trigger as general body horror). But it’s more common in women. I hate, hate, hate having my knuckles rolled in handshakes, which was all the rage when I was in high school.

      1. Koko*

        I’m not familiar with this expression – “having your knuckles rolled.” What does that entail? Something that possibly draws blood?!

        1. Anxa*

          It’s when someone grabs your hand and then rolls your knuckles (where fingers meet hand) around each other, almost in a wave like or pulse like pattern

          It has nothing to do with with blood but my ‘blood phobia’ is more like a general body phobia, but it has the same unique physiology as a more traditional blood phobia (at least as far as I can tell). I feel ill when I am hyperaware of my body and its parts in a way that’s pretty difficult to explain to others.

          The sensation of feeling my metacarpals roll around in someone else’s grip makes me triggers a mild disgust response in me.

    15. ThursdaysGeek*

      I had an interview years ago and was being introduced to my new co-worker (I got the job). I hadn’t noticed until he stuck out his hand that he had no fingers or thumb. So I shook his hand. He didn’t make it awkward, and therefore it wasn’t, although I was momentarily surprised.

    16. greenbeans*

      I’m a woman in the U.S., and I shake hands normally with everyone–firm grip, eye contact, smile.

      I’ve had the princess-hand-kiss thing just once, and it was super awkward and surprising. I stuck out my hand to one of our vendors, and he paused, put my fingertips between his thumb and fingers, and shook them gently. I was an IT manager at the time, and he was a vendor we used for electrical and cabling work. His entire team consisted of men, and I’m guessing he rarely worked with women on the business side of things. I really liked him and we had a good working relationship, but my handshake confounded him for some reason.

    17. Swoop*

      re: women’s handshakes
      What I’ve found is that:
      a) many women aren’t/weren’t taught how to shake hands in the same way men are/were taught
      b) many women have had their hand hurt by someone crushing it. Part of this is that women are more likely to wear rings on their shaking hand than men are so it takes very little excess pressure to make those dig in painfully. Part of it is that women genrally have smaller hands so they’re easier to crush. And honestly, there are people who like to play the crushing game.

      Personally I give a firm hand but clasp & shake lightly – I don’t want to thumb-wrestle or read your life & fate lines through my palm, I just want to shake your hand…

    18. Beth*

      I find this really interesting. I actually had a long conversation with my uncle about this a couple years ago and I was complaining about people who have really limp handshakes, or don’t shake hands ‘properly’.

      When my Uncle shakes a woman’s hand, he kind of grips her fingers in a gentle squeeze. I thought that was a little weird, until we compared hand sizes. His hands are literally nearly twice as big as mine (I have rather small hands and his are huge). If he properly shook my hand, it would be completely engulfed. So, while I think a proper handshake is still the way to go, exceptions can be made.

  8. BTownGirl*

    #5 – I have a wrist surgery scar that looked very similar to yours at first (don’t worry it will fade – mine’s just thin, white lines now) and I just covered it with a cuff bracelet or a chunky watch when the doctor said it was okay! Don’t worry, only one person ever asked me if it was the result of Something Tragic. On a date. He was an idiot. Good luck interviewing!! :)

    1. Bartlett for President*

      When I was in middle school, I was taking a pizza out of a oven that was baking on a pizza stone. I accidentally burned my wrist, and it was bad enough that I needed to keep a bandage wrapped around my wrist. The school administrators thought I had tried to kill myself, and wouldn’t let me leave school, even after I showed them the note from my doctor saying it was a burn. My mother was out of town, and so the school demanded my father come pick me up…by leaving court (he was a lawyer) in the middle of a freakin’ trial 30 minutes away.

      Luckily, the scar moved up some as I got older, but I’ve had a number of people ask about it when they notice it. I sometimes look at them with really wide eyes, and say I did try to slit my wrist with a machete, but my brother’s teeth weren’t sufficient as a sharping tool and it was too dull to do enough damage to kill me.

      1. Shell*

        Did your father actually leave in the middle of the trial? Or did he shake some sense into the school administrators over the phone?

        1. Bartlett for President*

          No, my father stayed and continued. Honestly, if someone had actually spoken to him, I am almost certain his response would have been that he’d be there after court, and that they could babysit my ass until then if I wasn’t allowed to leave. He wouldn’t leave court for something trivial, and I doubt a judge would have allowed it.

          The administrator, however, didn’t actually reach my father because you couldn’t just call someone up while court was in session and they were participating. They talked to a court clerk who knew my father, who called over to the jail where her husband worked as a sheriff’s deputy (small ass area…), and asked them to send someone to the school to get me, as the administrator couldn’t really prevent a police officer from taking me home. I remember he bought me an ice cream sundae from McDonalds on the way home.

          It was all ridiculous, frankly. The fact that a sheriff’s deputy had to come get me (and waste an hour of his time) was f-ed up. It was one of those situations where you look back on it, and go “that couldn’t possibly have happened, right? no one is that stupid, right?” My dad ended up going ballistic on the school administrator, and the school district office.

          1. Shell*

            Yeah, I figured getting a lawyer to leave in the middle of trial was nigh impossible for anything short of a life-or-death situation, but I thought he might have been able to take a call during a scheduled break.

            I hope your father gave them a chewing out they’d never forget. :)

            1. Bartlett for President*

              My father is like 5’9″, and not terribly big. But, most people would swear he’s over 6’2″ because he’s pretty damn intimidating. He has that perfectly-calm-anger thing down that is pretty much the scariest thing in the world, in my opinion.

      2. LW #5*

        I’ve been told by friends with similar injuries that I’d better get working on a good story! I’m thinking maybe a bear attack…

        1. Jersey's Mom*

          I got whacked on the head by a branch, resulting in 21 stitches across the middle of my forehead. When I went back to work 2 days later, I posted this on the front of my cube:

          Pick One:
          1. I learned the hard way that bullfighting requires a lot of agility
          2. Do not try to play peacemaker between the Bloods and the Crips
          3. Firefighters do not appreciate it when you help to chop down the door of a burning house.
          4. Stock car racing is not for me.
          5. Be careful hunting bears, because they fight back.

          At least I didn’t have to go into a long explanation about the damn branch and safety gear.

        2. Joline*

          A few years ago I was at a party with a friend who had all of the fingers on one of her hands amputated due to complications from meningitis. I told another person at that party that my friend lost her fingers defending the family dog from a bear. I was believed (apparently people assume that it’s not something someone would joke about – and I have a good straight face) until my friend explained what actually happened five or ten minutes later.

      3. BTownGirl*

        GOOD GOD YOUR SCHOOL!! I can’t with people, I really can’t. I’m sort of obsessed with your explanation and, since I too have a brother, I may have to borrow it should anyone ask in the future ;)

        1. Bartlett for President*

          I’m a firm believer in the concept of stupid questions deserve stupid answer (unless I’m teaching, and then that rule doesn’t apply…because that’s unfair). I don’t find it appropriate to ask someone if they tried to harm themselves, even if you can see a scar. Its their story to tell, and if they want to tell it – they will. So, if someone asks me about my scar, I make shit up to freak them out/make them feel bad. I didn’t get it from trying to hurt myself, but maybe my reaction will fuck with them just enough they think twice about asking someone who did.

          1. BTownGirl*

            I love this. SO much. When someone asked me that, I was honestly stunned. Do they really think that someone who had actually attempted suicide would want to talk about it with a f&^$*%g stranger?! …”Oh hey, I just thought you might want to give me the details of what was possibly the worst moment of your life?” Chiiiiild, please.

      4. AnonAnalyst*

        I got a similar burn a few years ago when I was taking a pan out of the oven for Thanksgiving dinner (perfect timing to make all of the other cooking and clean up I was doing that day especially difficult). It was from the edge of the pan, so it was a straight line, and as it healed and I could take the bandage off it really started looking like a nasty scar from a suicide attempt.

        It took months to heal and then a good 10-12 more months for the scar to fade, but it’s finally gone. Fortunately, no one that saw the bandage or the scar made any comments, although I remember having some anxiety about it before a couple of big meetings where there was no good way to keep it covered under my suit jacket (the end of it was pretty close to the base of my palm on the inside of my wrist, so most long sleeves didn’t quite cover it).

        And I’ll second BTownGirl’s suggestion of wearing a cuff bracelet or wide-band watch when you can – I did that on a lot of other days and it made me feel a lot more comfortable, even though most of my discomfort was probably in my own mind!

      5. Anon Moose*

        Ugh. Someone I know who played hockey had a bad accident during a game where someone skated over their wrist after they fell. Luckily the pads/uniform stopped it from being too deep but they still went to the hospital. Despite the fact that it was witnessed by tons of people, including the parents who brought them into the doctor, the hospital still constantly asked if they needed mental health counseling. I mean its good to be vigilant, but still.

    2. LW #5*

      That’s fantastic to hear that your scar is so much less visible now. Do you remember how long it took to begin fading? And how did the guy manage to bring that up on a date?! Yikes.

      1. BTownGirl*

        Hi! A little background: my injury was from one of those mandolin slicers (Seriously, don’t even with those things…did I mention I was slicing ONIONS?! Because I was. But enough of my problems.), so it was a nasty cut and I had to have surgery to repair the nerves and was in a cast after for about a month. I would say it would be about eight weeks in (or about two weeks after the cast came off) when it really started to look better, so you may find you turn the corner faster than you think :) The most important thing is to protect it from sun exposure and your doctor can tell you if silicone scar sheets are okay for you (they were a no go for me). Keep in mind that, if at the end of the healing process you aren’t happy with how it looks, a good plastic surgeon can revise the scar in many cases! Sending you lots of good wishes!

        P.s. As for the fool on the date, I’m guessing the six cocktails he had eased him into saying something so charming haha!

        1. LW #5*

          Ooh, interesting about the plastic surgery as an option. I figured that since this was cuased by surgery, another surgery could make things worse. I’m going to try the other options first but keep this in the back of my mind as a last resort.

      2. Jane*

        I have several noticeable scars from different things… They fade in a geometric slope– fast at first then slowly, but even very old scars do respond to treatment. The key is start getting scar cream, vitamin E, herbal scar therapies, or silicon anti-scar treatment on it early and often. The efficacy of these treatments fades the older the scar is, so don’t wait to start massaging scar cream or using other treatment as soon as your doctor says it’s ok. The cream/oil stuff tends to soften the raised scar and minimize itching while the silicon stuff can enhance itching but really helps flatten raised scars. Redness and itching is part of the healing process, and normal.

        One thing to remember is that it’s actually unprofessional to ask someone about their scars, and totally normal for you to decline to discuss at work. Many people may burn with curiosity but far fewer will actually ask anything. The tips on hiding the scar above are great, but remember that your medical history is private. I say this as someone with very obvious scars from self-injury– age helped but also being less cagey about hiding the scars and instead just ignoring them, dressing any which way, and casually declining to talk about them. For me, learning to overcome the fear and shame of someone noticing was more important than coming up with a believable story.

        1. LW #5*

          That’s actually a really good point. I kind of start getting uncomfortable when I see people staring even though it’s really none of their business. Maybe I need to just keep reminding myself that I don’t owe them an explanation. And the thing is, I don’t mind talking about it or people asking questions, but it IS awkward when they just stare at it all bug-eyed.

          Thanks so much for all your help.

  9. Bartlett for President*

    I have found men to often be surprised when I extend my hand to shake – even when the men are all standing around shaking hands already. It confuses me to no end. I acknowledge I was raised in a household where gender was considered rather irrelevant, and my brother and I were really never treated differently (not that telling us to suck it up when we were injured was the best idea, but it was the same responsive given to us both). So, I sometimes am just plain confused when people react to me different as a woman. Just shake my hand. I promise I won’t give you cooties!

  10. Nerfmobile*

    For #1, my department saw a similar case a few years back. Without talking to her manager, an employee had applied for (and been accepted to) a summer intensive program that would have prepped her for a different line of work. My company does have people in that work, but my department doesn’t. With about 6 weeks notice said employee approached her manager with the proposal that she take an extended leave of absence (during a time that her team was short-staffed), and upon her return that they help her transition into the new line of work (thus permanently leaving the team).

    We’re a big company, so with appropriate advance conversations a career shift like that, maybe even with company-paid training, could have been explored and effected over a few years time. But with that kind of fait accompli and compressed timeframe, all my department could do was say “we wish you the best but we can’t support an extended leave like that at this time.”

    She chose to leave, did the program, and after a somewhat rocky start is doing ok now, so I guess it worked out. But she definitely burnt some bridges in the process and didn’t really understand why, which is a little sad.

    1. Kyla*

      I guess it depends what kind of work she was in? When I was in a soul destroying call centre job, I’d have probably done the same and not worried about the bridges. I wouldn’t have been prepared to wait years for a career shift to be explored when I was already staring down the barrel of a nervous breakdown. Call Centres are modern day sweat shops. I can’t blame her for leaving.

      1. MK*

        This is the second time you imply that being miserable at your job entitles you to demand things of your workplace. But what I don’t understand is why would anyone behave in this way; because it is the outrageous demands that burnt the bridges, not the leaving. Why not simply resign to pursue other work and leave with the good wishes of your colleagues? If you want to make the effort, why not suggest what you want in a way that isn’t oblivious to your coworkers being also people, not machines that exist to accommodate you when you take 6weeks off (As in, “I know it’s a lot to ask, but is there anyway to do this? No? OK, I understand”)?

        1. JeJe*

          I think the point is that the call center employees don’t necessarily have an expectation of getting what they are asking for. Before quitting your current job, it doesn’t really hurt to ask your employer if they can accommodate you.

          As far as burnt bridges go, I don’t think the message ‘I’m starting school and can only continue to work here under different a schedule, is that possible?’ is such a terrible thing to say to your employer (with better phrasing). Just as ‘no, we can’t accommodate that schedule’ is perfectly reasonable answer. Unless there is some other rude behavior surrounding this exchange, it shouldn’t burn bridges.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it’s the “she got upset, stating that we’ve made accommodations for others, so why not for her” that’s giving that impression.

            1. JeJe*

              Yes, Jane pushed back and got upset, but I don’t really see why bridges were burnt in Nerfmobile’s example. Maybe there were other problems with that exchange as well, but from the way it’s framed, it seems like the career changer asked for something that couldn’t be accommodated, got a ‘No’ for good reason and decided to moved on.

          2. Lindsay J*

            This. I might be moving soon. The company I work at has branch in the location I am moving to. Howver, according to our handbook you must be with the company for a certain amount of time before you are permitted to change departments or locations. I will not have been with the company for long enough. Even so, I figure it cannot possibly hurt to ask if it would be possible to transfer (once/if the move is official).

            At best, they say yes, and I get to keep my job and not have to job hunt. At worst, I get told no, at which point I will put in my notice because the move is more important to me than keeping this particular job. I fully understand that they will probably say no, and am prepared for that outcome. I can’t see any way this could be construed as a demand.

            And I don’t think that asking to be moved to a different shift – especially one the company has already established – or asking for an unpaid 6 week leave of absence (assuming this is something like call center or retail where there is never really a full head count, or a position where a temp could easily be hired) is a huge, outrageous request at all. If it doesn’t work for the company, all they have to do is say “no”, at which point the employee can decide whether the schooling or the company is more important and make the decision about which to cut accordingly.

            And honestly, from what I can tell, with the high turn-over in call centers and the number of people who will self-select out of applying for call center jobs, there are generally always open call center positions. And a person who has call center experience and left for a reasonable reason like “they couldn’t accommodate my school schedule,” will quickly be able to find a position in a center that will be able to accommodate their schedule (possibly even quicker than the call center can hire, onboard, and train a competent replacement).

            Also, most people don’t intend to make call center work their career and might move on to some other type of job, or have other plans for their finances (being supported by a parent or spouse, living off of savings or loans and scholarships, etc) during the time period when they are in school.

            Acting like someone won’t ever have priorities or options outside of their call center job is more treating them as a machine than a coworker asking for a 6 week leave of absence is.

            1. MK*

              There is actually no mention of call centres in the example above. But there is mention of the team being short-staffed and the period is going to be busy, so the assumption that a 6-week leave can be easily accommodated seems way off. And there is a huge difference between resigning, in which case the position will be filled as soon as possible, and asking for a leave of absence, which leaves the position open while you are gone.

              Asking to be moved to a more desirable shift, when the company hands those out based on seniority, and there are 3 people ahead of you is a huge request, in my opinion. But I don’t actually think there is anything wrong with asking, as long as you do it graciously and take no for an answer, instead of trying to argue about it like Jane.

              1. Lindsay J*

                Yeah, trying to argue about it is definitely not cool. If it’s a no, it’s a no. And you should probably go into the converstation expecting it to be a no so you’re pleasantly surprized if it’s a yes.

                And yeah, the example above didn’t mention call centers, but the OP did, and the above example didn’t really specify the type of business at all.

                However, many positions can be filled by temps from entry level to professional type positions like accountants etc.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        Leaving is fine. Expecting the rest of the office to cater to her needs, on short notice and with no discussion, is not.

      3. Kelly L.*

        Yep, when I quit telemarketing, I wasn’t worried about bridges–I wasn’t planning to ever get that type of job again, and never have, and have never even put it on my resume. It’s only come up one time since, in one of those “list everything you’ve ever done for the last 15 years” background checks.

    2. Liana*

      In your example, it sounds like you don’t think six weeks is enough notice to make that kind of proposal, which seems kind of bizarre to me. Several years to shift into a different line of work at the same company seems … unreasonably slow. Your department may not have been able to accommodate her leave, which is fine, but I have to say, I don’t see anything inappropriate or unreasonable about what your coworker did.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, I’m scratching my head a little at that too–in most cases she could have just quit with two weeks’ notice and no one thinking badly of it.

      2. MK*

        What this coworker basically said is “In 6 weeks I will leave an already short-staffed team and be gone for 6 weeks, during a busy time, but I expect you to keep the position open. When I return, I am not actually coming back to work, I will just stay here till I can transition to a different department, and I want you to help with that”. I can see both her colleagues and the company be stunned by her nerve. Everything else aside, was there even an open position in the other department? Even if there was, it’s still not a given that they would want to move someone who has just completed an intensive training (not always a great way to learn).

        I also don’t necessarily agree that a few years is unreasonably slow for someone to move to different department, it depends on the work. If it is completely different and also technical, all you really have is a known quantity employee who wants a change. The company would have to decide if they are interested enough in her to accomodate her training schedule, then give her some tasks to see how well she performs in the work she wants to do, then help her transition.

        1. Lindsay J*

          Again, she could just quit in two weeks and nobody would think badly of her. She’s giving 6 weeks notice and offering to come back after that. I don’t see how that reflects poorly on her. Is this a position where a temp couldn’t be brought in for that amount of time?

          If the leave of absence will not be possible, or the other department doesn’t have am opening, or the training wouldn’t be sufficient, then all the company has to say is “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.” (And it the latter two cases, maybe, “When a position in the other department does open up, you are welcome to apply then,” or “Usually we prefer our teapot makers have a ‘bachelors in teapot making’ rather than a ‘teapot shaping certificate’. The certificate is a great start, but isn’t comprehensive enough to be a good foundation for what we do here.” Then the employee can decide whether she is going to go through with the schooling and quit her job, or keep the job and postpone the schooling for another time.

          And for the schooling, it depends on the nature of the business and the departments. If she’s an admin wanting to become say a realtor, 6 weeks seems to be the typical education in some states. On the other hand, if she’s an admin wanting to go to a 6 week “code camp” and expecting to move right into the programming department then yeah that’s probably not realistic.

          And, if the other department does have an opening, and her schooling is adequate, then having a known quantity is sometimes a great thing. When hiring I would rather have someone I know will turn up to work on time and is known to be pleasant and coachable, than someone I am basically taking a chance on depending solely on their performance in an interview and the word of other people they worked with. I will even go so far to say that for a lot of positions I would take a known quantity with less experience than an outside person with more experience, if the known quantity is a high performer in their current department and doesn’t have personality or fit issues.

          It also depends on what “transition” means. If she is content to stay in the current department long term and just wants to be given tasks that will give her experience to move into the other department on occasion when they are available, then that is one thing and is perfectly reasonable. If, on the other hand, “transition” to her means that she is willing to sit at her old desk for two weeks and pretend to be productive while the other department prepares her office, then well not so much.

          1. MK*

            If she simply quits, they will hire someone else, perhaps soon enough that they won’t be short staffed during a busy time, and that will be that. What she was proposing would have the department scrable to accommodate her (give her leave at an inconvenient time, perhaps having to get a temp, who might or might not work out, have her come back, but intenting to transition), only to have her leave anyway. From the department’s point of view, it makes no sense to go to all this trouble, since they will have to hire someone new anyway, unless she is an outstanding performer. But even then, any company would expect some kind of discussion beforehand, not simply an announcement.

            I think the problem both with Jane and this employee is that they presented this as a done deal, and then insisting on the accommodation. In a situation like this, the sensible thing to do, if you are interested in keeping your job, is to have a discussion with your supevisor about how much accommodation you can expect from your company, and then decide what to do (which could be planning your training differently or quitting your job). If you are not interested in your job and are determined to do the training no matter what, sure, go ahead and make your plans and inform your company about them; then, ask how far they can accomodate you, but don’t expect your boss to bend over backwards, don’t argue back that they should do it for you because they did it for X, don’t propose convuluted “I will stay for 6 weeks, then leave for 6 weeks, then come back on the understanding I will leave soon” arrangements.

            1. Lindsay J*

              Yeah, announcing it as a proposal is not okay.

              However, I still don’t see the harm in asking for something, even if it might be inconvient. You’re acting like the employee has any sort of power here, when they really don’t. All the company has to do if the proposal is too inconvenient for them is say “I’m sorry, we won’t be able to do that,” and that’s that. At that point the employee can work their normal schedule, or quit and pursue whatever their outside interest was. But the employee will never know if it’s too inconvenient or not unless they ask. It might be super-simple for the company to hire a temp, or temporarily push someone else up into that role, or something. I mean there should be a contingency plan of some sort – what if the employee got into a car accident and needed to go on short term disability.

              I think you’re going into this with the belief that these employees don’t think the company can say no to them, which I don’t see to be the case. The example with the 6 weeks on and 6 weeks off doesn’t mention any type of push-back. And in the OP’s letter, all it says is that she got upset and asked why she couldn’t be accomodated when other people were. It didn’t say she cried or screamed or went to HR or tried to sue. She might not have realized the rules were different for her than another department and just weanted clarification. There’s no indication that after the OP said, “I’m sorry, we are able to make schedule changes for some people. But with the call center we need phone coverage at set hours, so having you come in early and leave early doesn’t work for us,” that the employee pushed back and further.

              And, again, we have no way of knowing what “transition” means in this context. If she means, “I’ll continue doing my current job for an indefinite period of time going forward, but I’d like you to know that moving to position Y is the way I would like my career to go in and I’d really appreciate it if the next time a project with team Y comes up if you’d consider letting me work on it so I can start gaining some knowledge and expeience about that subject area.” I don’t see a problem with it. If it’s “Yeah, so I’ll come back and work a week in my old job while they get ready for me over at team Y” that’s another thing entirely.

              I guarantee you these employees know that their jobs can say “no” to their request and that they have the choice to fall in line, resign, or be fired.

        2. Liana*

          Okay, but that’s wildly different than what you posted earlier. Someone going to their manager and saying “I expect you to keep my position open for 6 weeks” is not the same thing as “I have a proposal that involves me taking an extended leave of absence, but also gives you six weeks to transition into it, as well as additional transition time to find a replacement when I come back.” One is fairly presumptuous, but the other is actually a fairly sensible solution.

          I’m also very curious to hear what kind of industry thinks it’s reasonable to take several years to move into a different department. Even if the work is very different from what the employee was doing earlier, I just can’t think of a single instance where an internal transfer would reasonably take years.

          1. MK*

            I did not write the original comment. But “I am taking an extended leave of absence” by definition means “I expect you to keep my position open while I am gone for a significant amount of time and either have my coworkers shar my workload or get a temp (if that’s even possible)”. I don’t think it’s completely outrageous simply to propose this, but it is a huge request and if the person was cavalier about it, I would have thought them pretty clueless.

            As for the transfer, I really think it depends on the work; probably my view is colored by the fact that my own position requires 18 months of training and a year-long supervised period. But if, say, a member of your teapots sales team wants to transition into designing teapots, would you simply have them transfer after a 6-week intensive design cours, even assuming there is a job open? Sure, you know they are a good worker, but they have zero experience as a designer; wouldn’t you have them observe the design department, then work under your regular designers, then do some small tasks of their own, before you just transfered them? That’s not going to happen in a couple of months. And all this when you could hire someone who has studied desing extensively and been designing teapots for 5 years. Of course, you may decide the employee is worth the investment, but that requires a pretty serious discussion beforehand.

        3. Nerfmobile*

          It was this, pretty much. And for a 10-week leave of absence. No open positions in the other department, and we don’t normally hire people straight out of the kind of training she was going for. We want either a regular BA degree in the topic or the intensive training plus several years of experience – and she would have known this if she had had the right conversations up front. A more structured transition would have taken a year or so to get her the right training and to do some shadowing and proving herself in the new field, and then she would have needed to wait til we could get a spot created on the right team.

          She burnt bridges because of how she handled her reaction to the “we wish you well” response. If she’d handled it better, we would have seen her as just clueless, but by her response she appeared clueless AND self-centered.

          1. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, if she had a bad reaction to being told “Sorry, that’s not possible,” that makes it entirely different than what I was imagining. That I can understand being bridge-burning.

      3. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        it sounds like you don’t think six weeks is enough notice to make that kind of proposal

        There are a lot of things I can get accomplished in 8, 10, 12 weeks that I can’t get accomplished in 6 weeks.

        Also, my boss (who I would need support from to orchestrate a six-week leave of absence and transition to a new team for an employee) would be much, much more amenable to someone coming forward with “here is something I would like to do…” rather than “here’s what I did.” He is definitely not an “ask forgiveness” kind of guy.

    3. themmases*

      I can see from this story why your company wasn’t able to accommodate her, but not how she was the one who burned any bridges. This person wasn’t obligated to tell her manager that she was applying for an opportunity that could require her to leave her job. That would be like telling her manager that she was job searching, or applying to grad school.

      Basically this employee was giving notice at her current job but interested in working for the company again after her training, and the “transition” implies she was even willing to do some time in her old role on her return. 6 weeks is a ton of notice to leave most jobs. It’s normal to talk about potential future roles before leaving a company for training, if you know you would want to come back– she had a lot of time to make that happen too. Many companies would want to keep a known employee about to become qualified in something else they need; you never know until you ask.

      I can see how it would be offensive to *demand* such an arrangement, but that’s because it’s generally offensive to demand anything. This story is presented like the department was given a choice of accommodating this employee or losing her. But that department was losing her either way and there’s nothing offensive about either resigning or expressing interest in coming back after training. They never had the option of forbidding her to go just because they were short-staffed.

    4. TootsNYC*

      6 weeks notice? I don’t understand why you guys think she “burned some bridges”–is she not allowed to quit?

      “over a few years’ time” is a phenomenally long time for your company to expect someone to wait around.
      In a way, all she really asked was whether you’d help her transition into a new job, or hire her back. Bcs she wouldn’t be paid for a leave of absence, right?

      She wanted to go to school; she checked to see if she could stay with the company in any way; the answer was no; she quit to pursue that plan.

      I don’t understand why that’s a bridge burner.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        She burnt bridges because of how she handled her reaction to the “we wish you well” response. If she’d handled it better, we would have seen her as just clueless, but by her response she appeared clueless AND self-centered.

        I wonder if the burned bridges are more with her teammates?

  11. RG*

    I want an intense BFF. Just not my boss. And not too intense. Maybe I should rethink this…

    Also – lady you do not need to make handshakes that complicated. OP #4, you’re fine, I doubt anyone else cars that much about your offered handshake.

    1. LW #4 checking in*

      I’m a lady as well, and I would be pretty annoyed if my male colleagues stopped initiating handshakes with me. :) Not that I expect them to do it all the time, of course, but I’d probably notice if they stopped altogether, and it would be weird.

    2. Bartlett for President*

      Get a dog. Seriously, if you are so-inclined, and can afford/devote the time to having a dog, it is perfect. I feel my desire to hang out alone is more acceptable because I’m not alone…I’m hanging with my dog. Who cares that she’s asleep? She’s right here next to me! Also, I get devoted, undying love in return for some scritches (which is relaxing to me), putting some food in a bowl, and taking her for walks/playing. If I throw in some chicken jerky, she’ll basically consider me a god. It is a sweet deal.

    1. OP No.3*

      That’s great advice. She’s leaving to stay at home full time with her kids, but I will absolutely offer that in case she decides to eventually go back into the field.

      1. Elsie*

        OP No. 3, I’ve had a good track record at my current company and am leaving in a few weeks to go to grad school. I’m planning to get coffee or a drink 1-on-1 with my manager on one of my last days. That gives her a chance to ask me any questions she wants, me a chance to provide feedback, and an opportunity for us to chat/close out my time here. She might appreciate a coffee/lunch/drinks offer where you could chat in a more informal environment.

        1. OP No.3*

          Awesome! Yep, I have my informal meeting with her scheduled on her last day. Thanks for the advice!

      2. Cas*

        If that’s her reason for leaving, would she have been open to part-time or consulting? That may have been an idea of something that would have helped keep her skills with the company.

  12. Panda Bandit*

    #4 – That is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read. They’re touching hands, not rear ends.

      1. Bartlett for President*

        Me too! I just have this image of two people sticking their butts out, and rubbing them to say hello.

  13. Wehaf*

    For #5 – there are some very good makeups designed to cover scars and tattoos; they usually come in a wide range of skin colors and work quite well (and don’t rub off on clothes much). You may or may not want to cover the scar (I have some prominent scars and I never bother) but if you do there are options. With a scar on your wrist you may run the risk of washing the makeup off when you wash your hands, but other than that it should be fine. Kat von D makes one; I’ve heard CoverX is good, and I used to use Dermablend.

    And I know this is going beyond the scope of your question, but there are good scar treatment options out there, too. Vitamin E oil, Mederma, Kelocote, silicon sheeting, massage, and religious use of sunscreen can all help.

    1. LW #5*

      Thanks so much – I’m going to look into these too.

      I was given silicone sheeting by my occupational therapist, but it somwhow managed to give me a rash, so now I’m on to Kelocote, vitimin E oil and bio oil. I can’t tell if they’re helping the redness yet, but it’s stopped being so darned itchy, so at least that’s something. Is the massage self-massage or do you go to someone to get it done?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You do it yourself, because you need to do it a few times a day — just really firmly massaging the whole scar. It breaks up the scar tissue over time. (I had to do it when I had surgery on my thumb.)

        1. LW #5*

          Ahh, gotcha. I was told to do that at the start to help get the nerves up and running again, but had kind of tapered off. I’m going to start that up again.

          How is your thumb?

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, this worked on my gallbladder scar too. The tiny ones from the laparoscopic instruments went away by themselves, but the one right in the middle where they yanked the sucker out was threatening to form a keloid. I mashed it to death!

      2. i'm anon*

        Self-massage works. It doesn’t matter so much what the treatment is (though I’ve heard good things about Mederma), the massage is the important thing–it helps break up the scar tissue so that the scar becomes flatter and smoother.

        When I had surgery that left me with prominent scars on my ribcage, I also taped over the scars with silk tape (google 3M Durapore tape) for about 3 months continuously, which kept the skin from stretching with movement. Thus, the scar healed very fine and thin instead of stretching into a wider scar. This may or may not be practical for you given the location of your scar. I split the tape in two (hold at the narrow end and rip, and it rips cleanly into 2 thinner strips) to make it last longer, and replaced the tape whenever it started to peel up and look too grungy, on the recommendation of my surgeon.

  14. Merry and Bright*

    The comments above about handshakes are interesting. When I was younger I was told it was based on age or seniority. Therefore the older or more senior person would offer their hand to the younger or more junior one. If the people were peers then it would be the host who offered (business or social). Rules, rules, rules! I think the last time I shook hands was at a formal job interview but it isn’t something that arises that much either way.

  15. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

    #1, I’ll see your Jane story and raise you.

    Gloria was on direct report team, functioning mostly as my personal admin support with additional duties. Bright young woman if a bit wack-a-doo, quite competent but always full of drama. If I didn’t have a Gloria issue for a solid month, I could feel a countdown clock ticking to something about to happen.

    One day Gloria sits me down with her issue. She’d gone to vet tech school at some point in the past and was about to lose the credit for her certification unless she completed an internship. (Please note: teapots and vet techerie, utterly no crossover. ) She had arranged an internship and needed a new work schedule.

    And then she gave me the schedule.

    It was hilarious. Her schedule had her in the office 3 days a week for 3 hours at a time. The rest of the time was filled in by work from home (which, was something I had told her *repeatedly* that she couldn’t do), and a full day on Saturday (when we don’t offer Saturday hours to anyone because we aren’t open on Saturdays and she has a support job). For 6 months.

    How do you even….what universe do you live in….what… (You can imagine my mind sputtering in that one on one.)

    Of course I said it wasn’t possible, although kindly because as wack-a-doo as Gloria was, I genuinely liked her. I explained to her that having a support job meant that she had to be available when other people needed support, hell when *I* needed support, it was what her job was. And she cried. And the only thing she could keep saying was she had to do an internship so she didn’t lose her vet certification.

    Ending to the story:

    1) a couple weeks later Gloria found another internship, and I gave her flexibility on one afternoon to acccomdate it.
    2) several months later, Gloria changed her schedule without asking and I realized that she wasn’t responding to any requests after 3:30. I told her she had to work until 4:30 because [business reasons] and she cried and told me it was unfair and she felt as if she was being picked on.
    3) After she left us to move to another state, I had my schadenfraude. She had taken shift work (we became FB friends after she left) and her FB was filled with her complaints about shifts and how she had no control over when she was scheduled to work, which could include weekends and other shifts in a 24/7 cycle. (How mean is the lady who made you work until 4:30pm now? :p)

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      HA! The Jane’s and Gloria’s of the world continue to befuddle me. I do love when karma makes the rounds. Great story!

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      The amazing part of the story to me is that you were able to keep liking her. How did you do that!? Someone gets on the wrong side of me one to many times, and it starts to affect whether or not I like them.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

        She’s a sincerely good person and she was good at her job. She worked for me for a couple years. I was enormously relieved when she resigned because the energy it took to still like her, despite the Stunt of the Month, was a lot. So she left before things took an irretrievable bad turn, happy ending.

  16. Dallas Guy*

    #2 – I was the third wheel at a workplace about 2 years ago, to my immediate supervisor and a peer. They were friendly from way back, 10 years previous at another company. They actually called each other the “cool kids”. The general manager didn’t care and even played into it somewhat. I later learned he was planning his own exit from the company, so it was fun for him too. Meanwhile I had no one to complain to.

    I was let go after 9 months in that role simply because I sat in an awkward chair even though my work was fine. And to boot, it was a promotion. My immediate supervisor had no say in me getting the role, he actually resented it, and had designs on hiring yet another friend from outside for the role – which is precisely what he did after he had me fired. To this day I have issues explaining why I was let go from that job.

    1. Amo for This*

      Something similar happened to me about 10 years ago. Although, I was hired by the boss, but a few weeks after I was hired, it became clear that one of my co-workers and my boss were BFFs. At first it wasn’t a big deal, but as time went on it became increasingly difficult when it became clear they wanted to hire another friend. I was pushed out.

      Although in retrospect it worked out for the best. I ended up working for a much better organization with great people, and the boss and her bestie got fired after 18 months. Only one member of the 8 person team stayed with the organization, and she was someone who was there before the boss and her BFF showed up.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Ugh that stinks. I was let go from a retail job once so the manager could hire his buddy. Luckily it was fairly short-lived, so I could leave it off any resumes or applications.

    3. Dallas Guy*

      I’d like to reiterate, as I’m hoping for advice…
      I have issues to this day about explaining my termination for that role. I was forced to immediately take a really cruddy job just to pay the bills. *Cruddy* as in the boss/owner outright lied from day one…on various industry websites he is called “demonic” (That’s what you get when you don’t research a potential employer).
      So I worked a full year before actively searching and interviewing, to give it my all and not look like a job-hopper. But it was so bad that I was going to quit without anything lined up. Wouldn’t you know it, I was let go from that job…2 jobs in a row…sigh.
      I’m not looking for sympathy, just a plan.

      1. Mockingjay*

        The second job is a layoff. Easy to explain – reduction in force, budget cuts, end of contract. NOT a red flag.

        Can you frame the first job as a layoff as well? Leaning toward truthfulness, of course. Check the layoff/termination notice. It might be worth having a friend call for a “reference check, ” just to see how Company 1 describes your exit. If it’s not good, is it possible to leave that job off your resume?

        1. Dallas Guy*

          The first job (where I was third wheel) is where I was officially let go for “management realignment”. As I was there for 3 years, I can’t leave it off my resume. Plus, I was promoted to that third wheel role. I have a good reference there, but it just doesn’t go over well with potential employers that I was let go.

          My latest job…I certainly do get asked about it and some of the operations during interviews, even when some interviewers know that company’s issues. I guess they want to hear some horror stories. It was a bad job and a tough one. My former role has not been filled, and may not be. My role was akin to scrubbing a floor with a dry mop, because the owner was too cheap to provide water. I scrubbed VERY HARD, EVERY DAY and still couldn’t get the job done. So when I interview my emphasis is on the scrubbing and not the desired clean floor…I can’t leave those 15 months off my resume.

          I can only think that my unlucky streak of 2 bad roles in a row has to end soon.

  17. NarrowDoorways*

    Ha! #5! I have a co-worker with this horrific scar on her wrist. For the LONGEST time I assumed it was self-inflicted. I later found out it was a burn scar from when she was a young child that healed only after some odd complications.

    She also mentions she prefers people ask, though obviously almost no one ever does because, hello, sensitive issue much? I like the above idea. Casually mention a sport and move on.

    1. LW #5*

      I can completely see that being the case for me as well. Luckily at the moment, my place of work is small and friendly enough that word pread pretty quickly when I broke my wrist, so everyone knows what happened. When meeting new people it tends to come up pretty quickly as I am just getting back into the gym / sports, and there’s a lot of talk around our national healthcare service (UK) at the moment which I’ve now had a lot of experience with.

      I can see completely forgetting it’s there years down the line, not dropping an explanation into a conversation, and having people wonder. It wouldn’t bug me nearly as much (I don’t think) if it didn’t feel like an extra thing to think about while trying to get a new job.

      1. Jane*

        Just want to put it out there, there are those of us who do have wrist and arm injuries that look and _were_ self-inflected, and we also need jobs.

        People go through mental health crises for a lot of reasons, and scars often last much longer than things like PTSD (my case, following sexual assault when I was a young teen), untreated depression or un/misdiagnosed mental illness like bipolar disorder. Mental illness is often more treatable than scarring. If you have an easy explanation for your scar, by all means let people know to make your life more comfortable. But I hope people reading this can spend a moment reflecting on the results of this stigma against these scars. My scars are from when I was a teenager, and I am in my 30s now, but I do still face this stigma, and yes, it can make job hunting, as well as access to healthcare, more difficult because people make assumptions about my capacity and stability based on what they think these scars indicate. I got my PTSD treated a few years after I was raped, and I have not self-injured in 15 years– but I am often re-victimized by this ongoing judgment against people with scars on their arms. It harms those whose scars are just sports injuries, as indicated in this letter, but it _also_ harms those who did have self-inflicted wounds but who have healed, and those trying to heal. By all means, address mental health issues at work or in the hiring process as necessary and as indicated by law and good practice, but don’t make assumptions about someone’s mental health from the visible results of about 2 seconds worth of action at any unknown point in that person’s past.

        1. LW #5*

          That’s a really good point, and thanks so much for sharing it. It actually shouldn’t matter how they got there at all.

        2. LW #5*

          Thanks so much to everyone for chiming in. I’ve ordered a few things off amazon, and might treat myself to a thumb looped dress and some fancy concealer if I can find any this weekend. Here’s hoping it’s not too late to get this thing looking a little less prominent (it’s been a few months). More importantly, here’s hoping I can rock it no matter what it looks like.

          I just wanted to add, I’ve been reading this blog for a while now but have never commented. You all have been so welcoming, thoughtful and friendly, and it’s been fantastic getting to chat with all of you.

      2. IT Squirrel*

        Hi LW

        I don’t know if you’ll see this now, but since you mention the UK and NHS you might have similar after-care to me (I cut through a tendon in my finger and had to have it stitched back together so had to do LOTS of massage to get it to heal properly). My Physio got me using a battery powered mini-vibrator (cue much hilarity at work but it is an actual medical one) to massage the scar. You could ask your therapist about them and see if it would help yours too? I had to pay a little for it but it helped hugely and meant I could do the massage for much longer without my other hand getting tired which I think helped the scar heal into a barely noticeable line.

    2. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I have a scar on my wrist, not really a big one, but it probably looks like I tried to cut my wrist. It is from when I was a kid, and my grandparents had a glass back door that, for some reason, was on a spring like a screen door. My grandma called us in from the backyard for lunch, and my sister ran in the door ahead of me, letting it fly shut behind her. I put my hand out to catch the door, and my hand went right through one of the glass panes and my wrist was sliced open on one of the broken shards.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Similar – At 3 I tripped on hall carpet going into the kitchen, dropped and broke a jelly glass on cold tile, and landed on the shards. Just last week at the doctor I had to explain that the gash scar next to my wrist vein was from a childhood injury from Tweety Bird and not the kind of self-infliction she was thinking.

        1. bearing*

          Nearly the exact same thing happened to me, at age 12! Tripped while carrying a glass that had had a former life as a jar. Shards in my wrist and everything. I sliced up the nerves and tendons and required reconstruction surgery and therapy. To this day I have a scar that “looks like I tried to kill myself.”

  18. Roscoe*

    #2 As Alison pointed out here, there is really nothing you can do except decide if its someplace you want to be. For the most part, I think we police managers a bit too much when it comes to their interpersonal relationship with subordinates and what they can and can’t do. However, in this situation, it definitely seems that , if nothing else, they are flaunting it too much in the office. But if the people above the boss are aware, then you can’t really do anything about it. I mean who knows, it could be that they are like Batman and Robin and really do work ridiculously well together and the company has decided that rather than risk losing one of them, they will let it continue. If I were you, I’d just focus on doing your job as good as you can.

  19. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #5 – This is one of those things where the way you act about it will tell people a lot about how they should act about it. So if you’re nonchalant and a bit wry, they’re more likely to be put at ease. I get big ugly red scratches on my wrists pretty regularly (thanks, cats…) and my go-to script has worked out to be something along the lines of “Oh, yeah, there’s my souvenir from Dame Flufflepants. She always goes for the wrists when dinner is late, the little monster.” I say it lightly, and usually I get laughs and even some back-and-forth joking about how terrible cats can be.

    1. catsAreCool*

      I’ve got a long scratch on the back of my wrist from one of my kitties (not really his fault; he got scared by something when I was holding him). Reminds me how cats aren’t so much tame as just good at getting along with humans (most of the time).

  20. AMD*

    #5 – why not wear a carpal tunnel wrist brace? It will cover up the scar and you can indicate that you are recovering from an injury without being dishonest.

    1. Bartlett for President*

      Eh, I’d be cautious with this approach….the employer might think they are looking at a walking work comp claim, and CT is not a cheap work comp claim (few years as a case manager…I would take a crazy litigation claim over a totally legit CT claim any day) that takes FOREVER. In some jurisdictions, the aggravation of something like CT is still legit, so a new employer could be on the hook for care, etc. I know this is very jaded, but after working with employers of injured workers, I have lost all faith in people to not be jerks to employees who are hurt on the job. The number of times I’ve had to explain to an employer that just because someone is overweight, that doesn’t mean that their back injury after working for six years routinely lifting heavy boxes can be denied.

  21. Alston*

    Hi #5. I too have plates and screw holding both my wrists together. I broke both wrists (I fell off a pogo stick) and I’ve got the same problem as you.

    First off it not as noticeable to others. When I interviewed I made sure to wear a big wrist cuff over one of them and a fit of and bracelet on the other. Other alternative could be some sort of brace or wrap to camouflage it or makeup made for tattoos. Kat von D has one they sell at Sephora.

    Also, put sunscreen on your scar every day, and massage it with lotion at night. That’ll help the scar to start fading eventually, and massaging helps break down scar tissue.

    1. LW #5*

      Owwww! I can’t even imagine having both at the same time. A couple people have said that about the massage, so I’m going to start doing it tonight. I hope you’ve healed up well!

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Wow — someone else who had a freak pogo stick accident! My spouse broke his pelvis. On his birthday. With the pogo stick I had bought for him for his birthday. At least a broken pelvis doesn’t leave scars.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        When I was a kid, I could pogo around and around the house on my pogo stick. Flash forward to me in my mid-twenties finding a pogo stick at a yard sale. I thought I’d be able to just hop on it and take off. Reading these accounts of freak pogo accidents makes me glad that all that happened to me after hopping on is that my feet flew up in the air and I came down flat on my back, on the cement driveway, and had the wind knocked out of me.

  22. Former Computer Professional*

    I have a few noticeable scars and I tend to get questions about them. My response is typically to make up some outlandish tale. My current favorite is to look at the scar, sigh, and say, “And that’s when I decided to give up bear wrestling.”

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Stealing! :D

      I have a giant scar on the front of my neck–it’s from mole removal years ago and it turned into a keloid, which was then removed and turned into an even bigger one (not even anything cool). It’s flattened out and faded over time, so it’s less noticeable, but I get tired of explaining it to people. Scarves are my new buddies.

      1. LW #5*

        Yeah, that’s what mine is too – a keloid. It’s good to know they fade over time. I think I’m going bracelet shopping when this has all died down. Maybe that’ll be my “thing”

  23. FiveWheels*

    My boss and I have a relationship somewhat like #2, though not as extreme, and we don’t discuss weekend hangouts in the office. To avoid the appearance of bias, I do more of the less desirable work and turn down various perks. It’s not an ideal situation anyway, but it sounds like this pair are handling it as badly as possible.

    (This somehow posted as a reply to an unrelated comment, so re-mappedposting sorry!)

  24. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Even if she was a stellar employee, if she doesn’t have the seniority to switch shifts, I’d argue that you shouldn’t do it. It’s not even really about her being mediocre. It’s poor decision making. Yay, I’m glad you are going back to school. Now, let’s sit down and talk about what your schedule might be and how that fits with your working hours. I had an employee do something similar. Decide she was going to start volunteer with a veteran related group, which I totally support. At first, it didn’t really interfere but as it got further along there were more and more times when she could only work half a day and it was really screwing up my front desk schedule. She quit on her own for other reasons but it didn’t help that she and I never really got along.

    #2-Echoing AAM. This is totally a problem. And that your boss things she can be impartial is a huge red flag.

    #3-Since you are a new manager this would be a really good time to get some candid feedback. There probably isn’t anything you could’ve done to change things to make her stay but it’ll be good information to keep other high performers. It’s possible there was nothing “wrong” and this was just a good move for her for various reasons.

    #4-Aside from a few cultural/religious situations where touching of unrelated males and females is not acceptable…no just no. I almost always initiate handshakes. But really the delay is usually so tiny how would you ever really know who started it? IMO it’s more important to have a good handshake than worry about who is starting it.

    #5-You’ve gotten some good advice. I think a sports wrap or brace would be a good way to do it. You wouldn’t worry about sleeve length that way. I have/had horrible eczema on my hands and wrist along with a nickel allergy. It was so bad at one point I had to wrap bandages around my wrists and it did look like I’d tried to kill myself. People asked about it. It was super awkward. Go with a wrap or brace and avoid the question. You’ll probably feel more confident. I know I would.

    1. OP No.3*

      Thanks for the advice! Yeah, she’s leaving the field to stay at home with her kids, so it was personal life that took priority. I did try to work with her to see if there was anything we could do to allow her to have more family time, but at the end of the day I think it was (sadly) the best decision for both parties for her to leave. I would like to know if she has any feedback on ways I could help others stick around. I “inherited” most of my staff and she was someone that was around before my time, so I know she could offer some solid perspective. Thank you!

  25. BananaPants*

    OP #2 – a coworker (also an individual contributor) and our former big boss were/are very buddy-buddy and it did become frustrating. They bonded over shared hobbies and it got to the point where they were loaning each other tools and helping each other with projects on the weekend. It becomes frustrating to see that kind of friendship spilling over into work. I’m fine with them being friends, but in the office it should have been more restrained – given that Big Boss was the one who determined our promotion schedules, raises, and project assignments it was hard not to wonder if Coworker got a bigger merit increase than me because he helped Big Boss re-sod his lawn last month (or whatever).

    An additional complication is that Big Boss and Coworker are both male and I’m female. When the two of them and other male coworkers were chatting about cars or home improvement, I felt like I was intruding if I tried to join the conversation.

  26. Alis*

    I agree that #1 is unreasonable. I was fortunate, in a call centre-type environment (sort of – a police station answering 911 calls), I was permitted to do my homework during slow overnights when no calls were coming in. No 911, no work to do but sit and wait. I felt that was a very generous, reasonable accommodation. Completely rearranging a schedule by bumping seniority? No way, talk about making 3 angry employees to placate 1 mediocre one. Good call on this.

  27. Rusty Shackelford*

    I feel a little bit conflicted. There is the side of me that understands the importance of a degree and how frustrating it is to try to overcome the obstacles in the way of a degree. This part of me wants to give her a high five for her initiative and do whatever I can to help. Then there is the manager side of me that thinks that there’s no way that I can make these accommodations while being fair to the rest of the department.

    I don’t think either of these sides actually conflicts with the other. Yes, you’re happy for her, that she’s found a path she wants to take. Yes, you’re supportive, and you want to do whatever you can to help her. No, you can’t do this particular thing she wants you to do, because it would be so unfair to other employees. Those can all be true. Being supportive can also mean not walking her out the door when you find she’s looking for a more accommodating job. It can mean being a good reference for her.

  28. Former Retail Manager*

    Related to #1…..Retail, like call centers, has it’s fair share of Jane’s who think they can change their own schedule, with absolutely no consultation with management, and expect to be accommodated. My point of view was if you didn’t consider my scheduling needs and input to be important enough to consider in your decision making process then you have shown me that the job is not that important to you and if we can accommodate you, great, and if not, too bad, so sad. Good luck in your future endeavors.

    My favorite was a lady that another manager hired who had mentioned in her interview that she only wanted to work M-F, 9a-5p (ummm, no…it’s retail moron….nights and weekends…that’s the gig), the hiring manager told her that we couldn’t do that so she agreed to full availability, and two weeks in thought she’d pull a fast one, made up a lie about the reason she could only work M-F, 9a-5p, and expected to be accommodated. I did not do it despite her incessant whining and threats to complain to my boss. I offered her Boss’ direct cell…she declined. A week later she just stopped showing up. I wish I could say that was an isolated incident, but unfortunately the world is full of entitled people who think it’s all about them.

      1. ginger ale for all*

        Why do you think it is harsh? HRM has a specific shift to fill and applicants think they can set different hours so HRM reexplains the situation and lets the ones who don’t get it go.

          1. ginger ale for all*

            Oh – I missed the word moron.

            But if you take that out, hiring people for a specific shift and then having them not want to work that specific shift is aggravating.

            1. Nicole J.*

              I get that. I hire events staff and it frustrates me when I look at a CV and think “Oh this person sounds great!” only to find out that they don’t want to work on Saturdays, or are going on holiday all through June, July and half of August (the busiest time.) Different from a full-time job, but while it seems obvious to me that events involve weekend/summer work, it’s genuinely not always obvious to the people applying.

        1. Elsajeni*

          I think it’s pretty harsh to call someone a moron for asking for the shifts she wanted. Yes, her later behavior was lousy, but come on.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            It’s actually pretty ignorant to take a job in retail expecting you’ll work 9 to 5.

            1. esra*

              Depends on the retail job, there are shops that have standard 9-5 shifts. I worked at one in high school with a regular day crew that worked M-F and, extremely rarely, a weekend day.

      2. Temperance*

        I think it’s completely fair. How would you feel if you were one of HRM’s employees working nights and weekends, and some new person walks in and takes all the good shifts?

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          YES! That is exactly what this person expected to happen. And why, you ask? “Because she had kids and needed to be home with them at night to help with homework and cook dinner.” Guess what, I also had a child and a family that I wanted to spend time with at night, as did numerous other employees there at that time. I always to give every employee as least one day shift per week and one weekend day off, of their choosing, so long as I could make it work with everyone else’s schedules. If someone got the short end of the stick for a couple of weeks in a row, then I might give that person, Friday, Sat, Sun off the next week, in appreciation for hanging in there and being flexible. Retail management and time budgets are a pain and there is virtually no way to ever make everyone happy. It’s a juggling act, all the time.

      3. Petronella*

        Agreed. I am a “formal retail manager” as well, and a few years out from the retail field, I now have the perspective to see that in a job like that – hard work, few perks, little respect, low pay, little room for advancement – it is not reasonable to expect reasonable behaviour from the people you hire. I didn’t and don’t blame employees one bit for going back to school, for requesting what may seem like outlandish scheduling, or for just quitting without notice. It’s a crap job, they knew it and I knew it. It’s not a reflection on the person to request working Monday-Friday. It’s a reflection on the inhumane nature of that industry.

        1. Chickaletta*

          ^^ This. When the job sucks, the employee doesn’t feel like they owe the company much. They figure out ways to make it worthwhile to work there, and for some people that means taking all they can get. It’s like that in a lot of things: when we feel like we got the “short stick” in life, or when there’s a shortage of something, we fight all the harder to get what we want. (Think of Black Friday crowds, people with low incomes who turn to illegal businesses, stressed out commuters who cut you off on the road so they can get to work half a minute quicker…)

          Anyway, I came here to support OP#1. It sounds like your employee has made a series of poor decisions and you shouldn’t have to add to that list. If you want to support her return to school, you could offer her alternative schedule options (if they exist) and maybe that would be enough to motivate her to find a better class schedule. I also agree with Alison’s advice to explain the situation to her so she can understand why you cannot accomodate her request. She may get angry and still think you’re against her, but there’s also a chance that a lightbulb might go off and she’ll learn something from it.

      4. themmases*

        Yeah it’s quite harsh… This person is a “moron” for just asking for their preferred shift? Charming.

        As a retail worker– and I’ve worked a lot of it– having the right availability was a huge part of getting hired (even though my schedule was going to be disregarded later) and I’d usually get talked into marking myself as available for some shifts I didn’t want. Basically the shift discussion is a negotiation where as a potential employee, you offer the availability closest to what you really want that you think will get you called back. Only a “moron” would say they’re available 24/7 as their opening bid.

        The flip side of working retail is that store management frequently does not respect its own employees’ stated availability and will schedule anyone, any time. I had it happen to me often even when I was a student, at multiple stores. If you read the news, even if every retail manager on this thread is the best manager ever! the trend is for retail employees’ time to be increasingly monopolized and disrespected by erratic schedules that come from management. In an environment where your schedule is different every week, most people work around school or a second job, and you probably aren’t getting full-time hours anyway, it is not that weird to think that you could take on extra commitments too. Just like you can move on to the next employee, your employee can move on to the next crappy retail job… It’s not like you’re offering them some golden ticket. And if a minimum-wage employee is a “moron” for not getting that, what does that make the person whose job it is to make the schedule?

        1. Former Retail Manager*

          The person didn’t say they were available 24/7, but there is a huge difference in being available between the hours of 9am and 1am, 7 days a week, and this person’s original request. Also, if you really can’t work beyond what was requested, you need to realize that retail isn’t the right fit and look to other options, perhaps part-time office work. But don’t tell the hiring manager you can work during all business hours and then pull a bait and switch. This is akin to taking a professional position and then asking to work 2p to 10p, just because you like it better. You may not be a morning person, but if you’re applying for a job that requires you to be there from 8-5, and that’s made clear during the interview, then you need to plan for 8-5.

          And, in my personal opinion, anyone that applies to a retail job and requests 9a-5p, M-F is a moron. Anyone with common sense knows that this is not the peak business times in retail and the only person lucky enough to work it is typically the store manager and maybe one or two associates, and even then, the store manager usually has requirements to be in the store during peak business hours at most companies thereby eliminating the elusive M-F schedule for them as well.

          And I did make every effort to accommodate my employee’s schedules and I did respect their availability, which for many changed week to week, due to doctor’s appointments, child care issues, switching with someone at an intern/externship, etc. Retail is awful at all levels, in my opinion, but as with any job, if you don’t meet the requirements, as they’re outlined at the beginning, then it isn’t the job for you and you should find a better fit, not pretend that you can do it and then expect everyone to accommodate you.

          1. Bartlett for President*

            I don’t disagree with you that pulling a bait and switch, and not reading the job requirements are kind of sucky things to do. But, I think it is also important to remember that some people are desperate for jobs. Part time office work isn’t common, and requires a lot of things that retail doesn’t – namely, professional clothing, demonstrated computer skills, and often experience. The two types of jobs aren’t really going to available to same group of people. I’m going to go ahead and guess that many people who apply to retail aren’t doing it instead of applying for a job at Intel.

            Also, “9am and 1am, 7 days a week” is pretty much 24/7 – that’s a lot of time to expect a person to be available. Most people with families, school, etc would not be able to make themselves available for that without some struggle. People make it work, but often it is because they have no other choice. It may be the only way they can put food on the table, or buy their kid’s diapers. People should be treated with dignity, and that includes acknowledging that they should be allowed to live a life and not have their lives in constant flux of varied schedules and always having to be available – for crappy pay.

    1. Temperance*

      Thank you for handling that fairly. I worked at a movie theater in high school and college, and had several coworkers who were older and parents and were able to snag all the day shifts, even though many of us had flex schedules and would have been thrilled to work days. Days were always quieter and you were paid the same to work.

    2. Muriel Heslop*

      I worked retail during grad school (and beyond) and my managers always accommodated my shifts. I gave them a lot of notice before I started school, volunteered to take a lot of undesirable shifts to offset my accommodations, and worked my tail off while I was there. Even 20 years later, I am so grateful to have found a store that would work with me and I tried to repay that by being a great employee.

      PS: I don’t think you were harsh at all. If someone wants to work 9-5 every day, retail probably isn’t for them.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        You are so right about retail not being the right fit if 9-5 is your desired schedule. And I will say that I had many great employees throughout the years, which it sounds like you were, but they always gave me ample notice about changing school schedules (as you did) and it was virtually never a big deal. However, if you hummed along for 6 months to a year with full availability and abruptly told me that you could only work Mon. and Wed. I would do what I could, but it wasn’t likely I’d always be able to schedule those shifts for that person. I always understood that retail was the pit of hell and we were all going to school, myself included, in hopes of eventually leaving said hell and moving on to greener pastures. But while we were all in it together, there had to be teamwork and consideration of other co-workers and an understanding that no one person’s schedule is more important than another.

      2. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

        Though not retail, I bartended in college and the professors in my department seemed to favor evening classes (we also had a lot of SOTAs).

        As long as I was able to give them a set block, i.e. I can’t work Tuesday or Thursday evening, they always worked to accommodate me. And though not an “official” agreement, the trade-off was that I would pick up less desirable shifts — I was the only one who didn’t complain about working Halloween and NYE.

  29. Pwyll*

    #5: I have an old friend who literally flew over the handlebars of her bike the day before an interview. Her face was banged up a bit, but the morning of the interview it really didn’t look all that bad at all. She drove herself insane about what people would think, practiced with anyone who would listen what she’d say to explain the bruise on her chin, and in the end . . . no one even blinked an eye. She got hired. Humans get hurt sometimes, it’s so not a big deal.

  30. 'callaKid*

    RE Question 5 – there are silicone scar treatment sheets that one can wear for several weeks to diminish the appearance of the scar – and they work! there are several brands in out there (ScarAway is one name) and can be bought in drug stores and on line. I used them after my knee surgery and it worked beautify. the scar is flatter and less noticeable. I encourage OP5 to try them. The only negatives is that 1. they can be a bit expensive, and 2. they would show as much as the scar does. I suggest winding an ace bandage around it, as if you had a sprained wrist, to cover the works, and that would not need any explanation at all! Hope this helps.

    1. DCGirl*

      I was able to buy the store brand at Target that was less expensive but worked just as well as ScarAway. I agree — they work great.

      1. MaggiePi*

        I don’t know about the silicon things, but I know mederma works on old scars. My mom used it on a 20 yr old scar on her finger.

      2. Jane*

        They do work on older scars but their efficacy fades over time– as in, you’ll get less dramatic results on older scars, but still get something.

    2. LW #5*

      Thanks so much for the reccomendation. I’ve found them on Amazon and they’ll be with me by tomorrow morning. Y’all are a wealth of knowledge!

  31. (different) Rebecca*

    Academic perspective about OP1’s letter: While she certainly should have consulted with you first, it’s entirely unrealistic to think that she ‘chose’ one school over another based completely on proximity. Schools are not interchangeable, and depending on what she’s going for, the one across the street might have been unsuitable. Or she might have applied and they might have rejected her. The decision to apply is hers, but not so much the decision to go, if you see what I mean.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree. Proximity isn’t the only reason, or even the most important reason, to pick a particular school.

    2. TootsNYC*

      or the one across the street costs an arm and a leg; and the one 45 minutes away only costs as arm.

      1. (different) Rebecca*

        *grin* $1500 per credit hour, I’m paying for classes this semester… *grumble*

    3. nicolefromqueens*

      I wanted to say something like this as well. Maybe the closer school rejected her, costs way more, has a waiting list, requires a FT commitment, or staggers their prereqs. Or maybe the school that’s 45 minutes away from the job is 45 minutes closer to her house (especially important if she goes to school on days she has off from work); offers more schedule flexibility; has a faster program, allowing her to graduate sooner; has a better program, faculty, and/or support; maybe she has friends there; maybe she felt more comfortable on campus.

      I actually know a similar case to Jane. A friend of a friend at the time wanted to go to Community College to become an RN. She lived and went to HS in the suburbs right outside the city limits, but the Suburban CC had YEARS-LONG waiting lists for the RN program. Any Allied Health-associated course required upper sophomore standing to get into because they were always, always full as soon as registration started. The reason being was that all of the local hospitals and union sent their nurses aides to school at Suburban CC, and if there were seats leftover, they were filled by waiting list for matriculated students who already had the prereqs. So, if you will: admission to the CC, then the liberal arts requirements, then the Allied Health prereqs, and THEN Nursing courses. So she would’ve likely taken 5-6 years to get a “2 year degree.” IIRC, the City CC accepted her into the RN program after one semester of Allied Health courses. Not only was the City CC’S tuition “slightly” higher, it was a huge PITA and expense driving and parking, and it didn’t have as good a reputation as Suburban CC, but at least she was on a much faster track (IIRC, 2 years and 2 summers?) But in the meantime, she lost a few menial jobs and burned some bridges with a school and commuting schedule.

      There are dozens of reasons to pick one school over another, and proximity to a menial, monotonous, dead-end job wasn’t high on my list either.

  32. Jessie*

    OP #2: I’ve seen this happen a lot in very male-dominated workplaces where a manager is female and there is only one or two female employees. I don’t know if that’s the case here. It’s almost an extreme counteraction to the “boy’s club” scenario, except instead of golf and fishing trips it’s the spa, gym, and shopping trips (or golf and fishing as well, depending on the women.) The cases I’ve seen I don’t think the women involved even realized what they were doing at first. They were just so happy to have another woman around. Not to mention, it’s hard to feel guilty about having a “girl’s club” when you’ve seen so many “boy’s clubs”. I’m not saying that makes it at any way okay, just that it might be something your manager hasn’t even given much thought to yet.

    1. JaneEyre*

      Great point. It will be interesting to see if “girls’ clubs” will become a trend in the workplace and replace the “old boys'” network.

  33. animaniactoo*

    LW2, one of my co-workers and my boss are very close in the office. I don’t know how much talking outside the office they do. But they are nowhere NEAR the level of close described here and it is STILL a huge inappropriate thing that creates issues now and then. In an office full of known dysfunctional elements, this is one of the ones that gets acknowledged by almost everyone except the two of them. And all that is, is him spending a lot of time in her office while she vents to him and he spurs her on.

    Just for some additional perspective on how completely out of line your situation is.

  34. I'm Not Phyllis*

    OP #1 I’m with you on wondering why she didn’t ask about accommodation before signing up for courses! Even if accommodations were made for others, I assume they’d be made for me without first asking. I would definitely follow Alison’s advice – and do so asap while she might still have options in her schedule.

  35. Former Avon Sales Rep*

    #2 – Happened to me in a former job. OP #2’s situation is pretty much identical to what happened to me. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do about it, other than 1.) accept it and 2.) look for a different job. When stuff like this happens, I often think that it’s a crummy employee’s way of maintaining a job. Some people aren’t above using others to get what they want (or get out of work they don’t want to do).

    In my situation, the coworker (Jane) ended up getting a different job within the company. About a year later, the manager (Mindy) had moved on to a different role herself. When another role came open that Mindy wanted, she told Jane about it and Jane weaseled her way into said role. Needless to say, it damaged their “friendship” immensely. And happily, I ended up getting a different job in a different department and I am much happier.

  36. CH*

    OP#1 just out of curiosity, if your employee came to you earlier about her school schedule dilemma is it something together you could have worked on towards a solution with more time on your side. I’m thinking of an informal deal between your staff – if employee delayed going back til the next semester and maybe worked with another coworker to cover shifts (coworker would pickup days employee needed to leave early and in return employee would work late 1-2 days so coworker could leave early). You could do it on a trial basis before the new start date. I realize that probably won’t work due to the company’s rules.

    OP#2 I don’t see this getting any better. I would start looking while things are tolerable. It doesn’t seem like anyone is going to do anything to dial back this friendship to a professional level. I think if you say anything else your life will go from a tolerable working situation to an insufferable situation where you will be miserable. I don’t think the boss sees anything wrong with the situation and probably never will.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I’m thinking OP#1 might have had the same answers but wouldn’t have felt as crummy about it,

  37. Anonymous in the South*

    Re: #2 BFF with the boss. We have a couple of those around here. As long as it doesn’t affect my work and the “big” boss doesn’t care, there is nothing I can do about it. Yes, it’s unfair, but you have to decide if you can live with it or if you need to move on.

  38. Muriel Heslop*

    I just made my entire class practice handshaking after reading them Letter #4. They are cracking up but loving pretending to be “professionals”.

    1. LW #4 checking in*

      This is awesome! I think that practicing handshaking is more important than people believe. Someone said upthread that women tend to have less firm handshakes (which may just be a lack of practice, since women don’t tend to shake hands as a social greeting, and men do), but I’ve also encountered tons of men who could use some handshake practice as well.

    2. AP*

      My elementary school principal used to give out these monthly achievement awards if you reached certain goals, and part of getting the award was walking up, accepting it from the principal, and shaking her hand. She would always point out that a good handshake is important and you should feel confident shaking hands. So now, twenty-some years later, I still think about that and really appreciate her efforts to teach us a pretty important life lesson!

    3. a*

      One of my teachers in 8th grade always had us line up outside the classroom and shake her hand before we could go in the room. She always told us to aim for something in between a dead fish and a knucklecrusher.

  39. Oryx*

    I have an acquaintance who could be the boss in #2 — I interviewed with her years ago, became friends with her after, and follow her on social media. Some of her interactions with her subordinates could be maybe seen as networking, but others …. ooh boy, I always wonder what her other employees think if they find out some of her vacations and such that she does with their peers.

    At the time, I was super bummed I didn’t get the job but now, seeing her relationships from the outside, I’m glad I’m not working there.

  40. DCGirl*

    To OP #5, I had wrist surgery last year. Those silicon pads for scar treatment made a HUGE difference in how quickly my scar reduced in size and redness. The brand name company is ScarAway, but I bought the house brand at Target (less expensive) and they worked just as well.

    1. LW #5*

      Thanks for this – I’ve just found them on Amazon and they’ll be in my hands by tomorrow!

  41. animaniactoo*

    OP1 “This part of me wants to ask why anyone would sign up for classes without checking to see if their work schedule could be moved”

    I would actually go with this line of thinking as well for her benefit. “I think it’s great that you’re going back to school and I want to support in you in that however I can. On the other side of that, I need you to understand that accommodations are made when they’re possible, but it’s not always possible. Long-term schedule shifts aren’t an accommodation that happens for people who are working in the call center itself. Any time you need an accommodation to your work schedule you need to check and make sure that it’s possible because we also need to weigh being fair to the other employees who have needs as well, and what the business needs.”

  42. JaneEyre*

    OP#2: I can’t even! They share clothes? ! Can this BE any more inappropriate? I wish I had a solution for you but sadly not. At a previous job, I witnessed an entire department (7-10) be BFFS with the company CEO and get away with anything and everything all the while churning out pi__ poor products with impunity. It had been happening for years and everyone knew it. The CEO had no qualms shafting any other employees, even relatives. No matter what was said to management, nothing was ever done. I was massively relieved when I was finally laid off.

  43. Lindsay J*

    I have scars on my wrists. They’re old so probably not as noticeable as a fresh one. However, they are pretty deep.

    If they have ever effected a hiring decision about me, I don’t know about it. However, I haven’t ever had any trouble getting jobs. Nor have acquaintances ever mentioned them. I don’t really think other people spend all that much time looking at other people’s wrists. If covering them with a bracelet or similar would make you feel more confident about it and the bracelet would entirely cover it then go for it (if the bracelet doesn’t entirely cover it it might inadvertently bring more attention to the scar than people would have paid otherwise.) Otherwise, if you want to cover it I think the medical brace or bandage is a great idea while healing.

  44. boop*

    #1: “…why anyone would sign up for classes without checking to see if their work schedule could be moved…”
    Probably because her life isn’t based on a call center job and she isn’t going to pass up opportunities to answer phones forever? This shouldn’t affect your handling of the situation, I just thought it was weird that anyone would be shocked by this.

    #5. Now we have to add being a “mental health risk” to Things that can make us Unemployable???

    1. animaniactoo*

      Her life may not be based on a call center job, but her ability to pay the rent might be. And I don’t think the OP would have been so surprised if it wasn’t for the fact that Jane got upset at the idea that accommodations would be a problem. People who don’t care about the job so much don’t get upset when accommodations aren’t being made for them to keep it and go do whatever else it is they’re looking to do.

    2. Jane*

      “#5. Now we have to add being a “mental health risk” to Things that can make us Unemployable???”

      … based on employers’ uninformed assumptions of what bodies look like mental health risks.

      I commented above (in moderation) that this stigma impacts those with unrelated injuries– like the OP’s sports injury to their wrist– but it also negatively impacts people who had and effectively treated or treat mental health issues like depression, PTSD, and bipolar. I hope employers reading this reflect on the impact of assumptions about and bias against scars.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s not shocking that she wants out of the call center. It’s shocking that she thought the call center would be happy to give her whatever she needs in order to make her escape.

    4. Tammy*

      Now we have to add being a “mental health risk” to Things that can make us Unemployable???

      This brings up a thought for me…would refusing to hire (or promote or whatever) someone because of this perception run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act? Intuitively, I would think it would, but not being an HR geek, I’m not actually sure if “past history of a suicide attempt” rises to the level of a “disability” that’s protected by the ADA. Does anyone with more knowledge know how that would actually play out? I know you’d have to prove that the refusal to hire was because of the past suicide attempt, but I’m actually curious now how this would play out as a matter of law.

  45. Workfromhome*


    If this person was a good and valued employee please do have a sit down (not an official 2nd exit interview) even if it’s lunch or coffee to have some closure. Even though the reason for leaving means you are not searching for a way to change their mind a departing employee can have very valuable insight and may speak a bit more freely. You also never know if they may decide to come back,go elsewhere and talk about your company . I recently went through a similar situation where I was employed for close to 15 years and worked remotely with a lot of travel to hq. I decided to take another local position as it was the only way to stop all the travel. After 15 years no one had even a phone discussion about what suggestions I had etc let alone a face to face debrief. It was sorry to see you go box up your stuff and mail it bye! It left a very bad impression not only with me but with my new employer. So don’t try to win them back but at least show you value them by having a discussion that will close the work relationship on a good note.

  46. LV*


    I have a massive scar on my forearm, near my wrist, as a result of a bad accident. I interviewed once without covering it and both managers interviewing me stared at the scar throughout the entire 45 minute interview. They looked more at my scar than they looked at me directly. I did not get another interview and I have wondered since that time if it had something to do with the scar.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’m guessing it had more to do with them being jerky idiots. Because that’s really rude to openly stare at someone’s scar for forty-five minutes!

    2. LW #5*

      After I got my cast off, a colleague asked to see the scar. I showed her, and someone else walking past stopped, said “ew” really loudly, then hurried away.

      Thanks for that.

  47. JennyFair*

    The attitude of the militant handshake denier seems to be that only men can be sexual harassers and women victims of sexual harassment, and that’s categorically untrue, not to mention unhelpful.

  48. JennyFair*

    #1, I have worked in a call center environment, and school was *always* prioritized in scheduling. While you may not want to make an exception for a mediocre employee, could the policy/outlook of the company be changed to one that accommodates schooling for any employee as a rule? It’s done in other call centers, so it has to be possible, and supporting educational needs would also be good for morale/culture in general.

  49. Q*

    4) I’ve noticed that handshakes are all but obsolete anymore. Almost no one I interact with shakes hands anymore. However, as a woman, I would not be insulted or feel harassed if a man offered his hand to me. Perhaps if the woman is dressed in the style of a culture that believes in keeping man and women apart, then the man should think twice before offing contact, but that would be the only exception I could think of.

    5) I like Allison’s answer but if you want to avoid the whole scar subject, any chance you could wrap it up in a bandage? You could still mention the sports injury but having it covered with help stop the staring that is sure to occur.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I was thinking about your “handshakes aren’t ‘in’ anymore” point before I saw your comment.
      I tend to most often interview w/ women potential bosses, and there often isn’t a handshake at all.

  50. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

    #1 Just my perspective on where Jane might be coming from. And this is a big maybe as I obviously have no idea how OP#1’s call center works. In my experience, people don’t take call center jobs seriously. The pay is not much more than McDonald’s and you’re treated like a child. Management spends more time with panem et circenses, filling balloons and putting up cutesy bulletin boards meant for the under 8 set to make the work place more fun and colorful than actually developing their employees. Using the job as a spring board to move up within the company is just a hook HR uses to get people in the (revolving) door. Moving up from the call center is rare and difficult. In one case even getting 40 hours a week due to my shift and the overall call volume. Most weeks my check was less than unemployment (which had unfortunately ran out). Again, this might not be the case here, not all call centers are like this. But I, personally, can see why Jane would put almost anything ahead of a call center job.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      But, again, no one thinks it’s weird that Jane doesn’t want to stay in that job. It’s not weird at all to have no loyalty to that type of job. The weird thing is that she assumed her employer would give her a schedule that several other employees wanted, and were (according to the company’s policy) more entitled to than she was. It’s a pretty clueless move.

      1. Manders*

        In call centers, turnover can be so high that switching shifts around to retain an employee might make good business sense, even if it’s not 100% fair to everyone else. If Jane is an acceptably good worker, and giving her the shift she wants will make it more likely that she stays until she finishes school, that may be easier and cheaper for the company than Jane leaving over a scheduling conflict and 2 or 3 other people cycling through her position. Turnover and lost productivity while training up new employees is a huge drain on call centers.

        OP doesn’t seem to think Jane deserves the shift, and there’s already a waiting list for the better shifts, so either this call center has a good retention rate or OP can find a replacement for Jane without too many problems. So it’s not worth it for the OP, but it could theoretically be worth it to go the extra mile to be flexible in order to retain an employee.

        1. Observer*

          Except that unless Jane were absolutely stellar, the cost in retention for the rest of the staff would be an issue as well.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          True. But if giving Jane that perk drives away the higher performers, the net result isn’t going to be in the OP’s favor.

  51. John*

    This “My boss is intense BFFs with my coworker” is nothing new. One of the largest software company in Redmond has this same problem-no same sex rules from HR there. In 2011 the MSN department head was sleeping with the one at the same company’s another online digital business. They lived in the same house and were running two of the biggest online service departments in that company (this fact can be checked both on their Linked In profile and the house they had bought together in WA)-and this trickled down as there were a lot of Directors who would hire only, let us say, those who were of their persuasion, and then favorites were played all over the place. It was a blatant abuse of HR policies that applied to others in the company but not to these folks.

  52. Sarah*

    I’ve had the same wrist scar since a darkroom incident in high school. It has never been an issue in 10+ interviews and I’ve been hired many times.

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