my boss asked me to do her kid’s homework, are sandals considered business attire, and more

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

1. My boss asked me to do her kid’s homework

I’m a receptionist, and although I have a cordial relationship with my supervisor, it’s pretty strictly professional. The other day, she came to me at reception during working hours and basically asked if I would do part of her sons’s homework assignment for him. I think it’s because she knows I have a design background and the part of his project she was asking me to do was to create a logo. While she was technically asking me, her approach was the same as when she asks if I have enough downtime to take on admin tasks for the office, and although it was not explicit, I felt pressure to accept it like a work assignment.

I declined as politely as I could (mostly because I don’t think it’s right to do a child’s homework for them), using an admin task as a cover excuse. She did let it drop, but am I wrong to feel it was inappropriate of her to ask, homework ethics aside?

What! No, you are not wrong — that’s entirely inappropriate on multiple levels. She was asking you to do something that wasn’t work-related when there’s a power dynamic that she should have known would make you feel awkward about saying no if you didn’t want to do it, and the particular thing she was asking you to do was in itself inappropriate (her kid’s homework! WTF!). I am not a big believer in shame, but really, how does someone ask that with no shame?

You handled it really well — you came up with a way of declining that minimized awkwardness for both of you but allowed you to say no, and in a way that reinforced that you have actual work to do. Some people might advocate for addressing it more directly, but unless it’s part of a pattern of inappropriate requests from her, I don’t think you need to do that. If it happens again, then yes — but for now, I’d consider it handled.

2. Asking to work from home during office renovations

I work in a small department for a medium-sized organization. I’m in my mid-20s, the youngest employee in my department, and also the newest (I’ve been at this organization for almost a year now). About two weeks ago, the office where my department works began serious renovations. We are talking major construction work — they’ve been drilling through concrete and pulling apart walls and carpeting. They are extremely loud and distracting, and because the building is old their work kicks up dust and mold spores, which have been aggravating my allergies. I asked the office manager last week how long the project will take, and she said that it could be up to three months or longer before they are finished! I would love to work from home, even if only for a few days a week, just to have some reprieve from all of the construction work around me.

Here is the problem: working from home is not a common practice in my department, even though most of our positions could easily be done remotely, and I am the only person who is considering this request. 75% of my department works in offices where they can shut their doors, open their windows, and work in peace. I work along with four coworkers in a windowless room with cubicles, where we are subjected to the brunt of the construction work. Two of them work part-time, so they are rarely around anyway, and my other full-time coworker states that the construction (somehow!!) doesn’t bother him.

I fear that I will risk coming off as high-maintenance or worse, and when the time comes for a promotion, my coworker will be considered instead of me because he stuck it out through the construction and remained at the office. I fear that even bringing it up will jeopardize my standing within the organization, even though I am known to be a generally good employee with solid performance. Furthermore, when I ran this idea by a few trusted sources outside of the organization, they stated that I was acting entitled and that “all millennials want to do is work from home so they can screw around.” I have a gut feeling that my situation is unique and my supervisor won’t respond this way, but I’d like your opinion. Should I stick it out or ask for relief? I really like this job, but the idea of dealing with this for the next several months genuinely makes me consider leaving.

Please don’t ask those sources for advice on anything ever again, because they gave you advice that was both terrible and rude. This isn’t entitled, working from home doesn’t equal “screwing around,” and this has nothing to do with millennials. I hate your sources, whoever they are.

Even an only halfway good manager would very much want to know that this is aggravating your allergies, to say nothing of the noise, and especially if it’s at the point that you’d consider leaving over it! This is absolutely reasonable to ask your manager about. Explain the situation (heavy focus on your allergies, since that’s likely to be taken particularly seriously), and ask if it would be possible for you to work from home part of the time. You might also throw in the option of trying a different space if one is available, so that it’s clear that this is about getting away from the construction issues more than anything else.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Are sandals now considered business attire?

I’m relatively new to the professional world (mid twenties) and was always under the impression that open-toed shoes are not considered professional business attire. However, the past couple summers I’ve seen a lot of women who’ve been in the professional world for over 10 years wearing nice sandals, flat and heeled, to the office and events. My office is business casual and not very strict in terms of dress code, but I even saw a women wearing heeled sandals to an interview! She was hired and another woman started a couple weeks ago and wore sandals on her first day at work. I would love to be able to wear nice sandals during the summer to work but don’t want to misstep (ha!).

It depends on the office. In many offices, yes, nice sandals — not thong-type sandals, but dressier ones — are perfectly appropriate. In more conservative offices, they’re not and you’d be expected to wear closed-toe shoes. So it’s just about knowing your environment.

4. How to interview without disclosing my current employer’s internal chaos

I’ve been working at the same nonprofit for nearly five years. Due to new leadership, things are changing rapidly and it frequently feels like things in my current job are going down the toilet. I’ve been searching for new jobs and have been able to address the “Why are you looking for a new job” question with a direct and succinct answer.

However, on a recent interview at another nonprofit, the interviewer (who was the person the position would report to) started asking me about my current job’s operating budget and other more probing questions which led me to reveal more about the state of my current job than I wanted to. I felt stuck between wanting to honestly and quickly answer her questions and not giving away that my current job is a mess and I’m trying to get out quickly. At one point she literally asked, “Are you guys in turmoil over there?”

What’s the best way to deal with this situation? While I certainly hope I won’t be caught in a similar situation in future interviews, how can I redirect the conversation without it seeming like I’m blowing off certain questions?

Ugh, yeah, it’s natural that she’s curious, but that’s putting you in a difficult situation. Once you realize that things are starting to become more about your employer’s situation than about you — or at whatever point you start to feel like you’re not comfortable sharing what the interviewer is asking about — I’d say something bland and uninformative like “transitions are always tricky, but I’m sure things will work out fine,” which should signal that you’re not up for pursuing that line of inquiry. (I’m not recommending just being transparent and saying “I don’t feel like I can share what’s going on internally” because that can be read as “Something big and dramatic is going on,” and that can lead to gossip if this is an organization working in the same space as your current one. Although for something like a direct question about confidential budget information, it would be fine to say, “I don’t think I can talk about those numbers outside the organization.”)

In general, though, you might just head this off by not getting into what’s going on in the organization at all. You’ve been there five years, so simply saying that you’re feeling ready for something new is generally going to seem perfectly plausible.

5. Should I address my cover letter to the boss or to the person doing the screening?

I’m applying for a senior position at a small non-profit. The job notice states that resumes and cover letters need to go to a staff member who is not the executive director.

Do I address my cover letter to the person the job notice states to send it to, or do I address my cover letter to the ED? Silly question I know, but I can’t find anything anywhere that will answer this question.

Oooh, I’m glad you asked this because I see candidates doing a weird thing with this all the time. You should address your cover letter to the person they asked you to send it to. It’s not going to get you rejected if you address it to the ED instead, but it’s mildly rude — it’s like saying “It’s been clearly stated that you’re the one doing this work, but I’ve decided to act as if I’m speaking with someone more important than you.”

{ 401 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*


    You’re now working in a construction zone with no training as to the hazards and risks that you normally wouldn’t face in the normal office environment. You sound like you’re working on a construction site, so you’re going to have to understand what that means, and what unique hazards you might run into. And unlike the folks doing the remodeling, you’re at a unique risk because this isn’t something you deal with on a regular basis. So first things first your management should have spent some time either finding you a new place to work, or preparing you for a completely new environment.

    In the mean time, demand* that you have proper eye, hearing and respiration equipment, proper ventilation, notifications when dangerous work is to be done and so on. Are they screwing with electrical or gas? There should be warnings when stuff is turned on and off. Will there be asbestos or lead paint removal? What’s the plan for that? And so on. You should also look up your OSHA numbers or see if there is a state or municipal version.

    Or they can just find a new area to work in. Don’t let your employer cut cornersat the expense of your health and ability to do your job. And don’t let others convince you that you’re “being entitled”. This is your safety we’re taking about here and construction sites are full of all sorts of lovely things.

    * Don’t ignore this or feel like you aren’t entitled to a safe working environment because you are. You aren’t being “high maintenance” for asking for proper safety equipment even if your coworker doesn’t give a shit about hearing damage or inhaling cubic feet of indeterminate dust.

    1. Sunny Days*


      And can we, as a society, stop using the word, “millenials”? It’s become a derogatory slur for a certain age group.

      1. Waffles*

        But what will the clickbaity headlines/articles be about then?

        When did it stop being Gen Y? Hmm.

          1. Karo*

            The link reads as “…And now these headlines are Italian” and I got really confused. Wasn’t sure if there was a secret Italian prejudice against 43-year-old white men that my Sicilian grandparents forgot to inform me of.

            I get it now :)

          2. Honeybee*

            I actually went to read some of the articles that were redone here and felt my blood boiling. Especially one that said “The fact is, I don’t need to know anything more about how millennials are parenting than that two of them thought it was a great idea to name their twin boys Astral Defiance and Defy Aster.” Um, has this person never heard of Frank Zappa?

      2. Jeanne*

        It has become derogatory. I’m not sure what birth years are Millenials. But in every generation there are good workers and bad workers. I’m sure in 1910 they were bemoaning the laziness of the younger generation.

        1. Joseph*

          “I’m sure in 1910 they were bemoaning the laziness of the younger generation.”
          They were and there are plenty of searchable documents from that time to back it up, but complaining about the current generation goes back way, way further than that. There’s a quote from ancient Greece (credited to Socrates, but who knows) talking about how the younger generation doesn’t respect their elders. Similar phrases have also been found on ancient Egyptian tombs and other sorts of things.
          Frankly, I have no doubt that there are/were cave wall drawings from the development of agriculture complaining about how the young are so lazy because they’re growing grain instead of hunting down animals.

          1. the_scientist*

            “The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

            1. Photoshop Til I Drop*

              Considering that “dainties” often refers coyly to lingerie, that paints an interesting mental picture.

            2. Salyan*

              In the rural parts of Cameroon, only the oldest person in the room may cross their legs. Interesting how that ancient etiquette still survives.

          2. Qmatilda*

            Yep, I remember MTV doing pieces in defense of GenX back in the day. Hating on the youngsters is just typical.

            And yes, that reference does in fact date me and I’m ok with that. GenX all the way. ;)

          3. GreyjoyGardens*

            Kids these days – walking upright and actually COOKING their food! Why, back in my day, we walked on all fours! Uphill! Through the snow! Both ways! We ate raw meat and the crudest of crudites and we LOVED it! This younger generation is gonna come to a bad end, walking on two legs and all that…

          4. Elizabeth West*

            Totally. This has been going on since the world began. When Gen Y or whatever has kids and grandkids, they’ll probably do the exact same thing.

            Now get off my lawn!

        2. Natalie*

          The oldest Millenials are around 35, so not even that young anymore. Today’s damn kids are so lazy and entitled they stole my generational moniker! /s

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            I am 32 and I always find it ridiculous when I am lumped in with 22 yr olds. Not just because of the decade age difference – people in their twenties grew up differently than I did. Cell phones weren’t common for everyone to have until I was in college, only very few had them in HS and were texting and the like. I remember facebook being founded and having to have a .edu email address to sign up – I didn’t grow up on it like they did. People in their twenties had a very different school experience growing up than people in their 30s. I feel like we fit more with Gen X than millennials – and NOT because I think millennials are lazy or anything, just the differences in experience growing up. I know more hard working millennials than lazy entitled ones. And I know plenty of lazy and entitled baby boomers and Gen Xers.

            I think millennials get a raw deal. They entered the work force during a crap economy with ridiculous student loan debt and all they get is sh*t upon by older folks saying they are lazy and entitled when all they want is a job that allows them to move out of the basement and pay off their debt.

            1. twenty points for the copier*

              I’m 34 and feel the same way – I didn’t grow up with internet/cell phones/social media – all of those went through periods of being very new. I remember hearing rumors that my friend had a special thing called Prodigy on her computer that could connect you to other computers and order pizza. I was so excited to check it out, but mostly we just waited for graphics to load.

              and at the same time, me and my cohort graduated well before the 2008 crisis into a very different economy and job market. I have relatives and friends 4+ years younger and it was a totally different story for them. I’m fine with whatever definitions demographers want to put on things – ultimately it’s of zero consequence to me in my actual life – but I feel like my experience is very different from those who graduated in and around 2008 and drastically different from 22 year olds who grew up barely knowing a world without mobile technology and the modern war on terror.

              1. Simonthegrey*

                There was a presentation on demographic studies at our school (I’m a teacher/tutor) and it was geared towards teaching the different demographics (i.e. millenials want apps and stuff, boomers wand hard data, Gen X wants conversation, etc). The way they put up the year breaks, I am just barely in Gen X (1981) with my best friend’s mom (1966, I think), while my best friend and husband (both 1983) were Millenials. The friend and I just sort of stared at each other for a long time.

                Then I told her she was lazy and entitled and needed to get a job (she is FT at the college where I adjunct and has a better salary than I do, lol).

              2. Tau*

                I remember how amazed I was when classmates began turning up with mobile phones when I was a teenager. The one that’s really stuck in my memory is being out with them on a class trip, us needing to change plans and being able to just call the people in the other group and letting them know where we were going. Changing plans on the fly! Not needing to meet up in person first to communicate! It’s wizardry, I tell you!

                Given that I’m not even borderline Millennial by any measure I’ve seen (four years younger than you, which puts me pretty solidly in the generation) I always roll my eyes so far they’re in danger of falling out of my head when people start talking about how Millennials growing up with social media/mobile phones/the internet/whathaveyou.

              3. Whats In A Name*

                I realize I’m late to the party, so you might not see this but I feel this way often. I am 37, so not a millennial but I feel the gap between me and my 24 year old brother is way way further than the gap between me and my 50 year old boss. We just grew up in a completely different time, and technology has advanced way more quickly in the past 10 years than it did in times prior.

            2. Ghost Town*

              We appear to be about the same age and I agree that it is weird being lumped in with young 20-somethings because of these same reasons. We have very different experiences, especially with technology. Got my Facebook account when my school signed on. It was a Very Big Deal.

              1. Natalie*

                Oh, man, I had forgotten about that! When my college got on Facebook I heard about it from a ton of people, and I just remembering thinking “WTF is Facebook?”

            3. Blurgle*

              Ask the people who lump in Boomers born in 1946 with their own children born 18 years later.

              Because someone who was 5 years old during Woodstock is just like the 22-year-olds who attended.

              1. MillennialGeezer*

                That’s the thing, though. “Baby Boomers” were not intended to be a discrete, homogeneous, generational group. The term was used descriptively at first to describe the phenomenon of lots of babies being born after WWII. Then rates of population growth stayed up into the next literal generation (babies born to the original Boomers). Then amidst all the talk of the sociological and financial impact of this massive population growth we started identifying the next generation (Gen X) and bitching about how Gen X < Baby Boomer < Silent Generation. Now we have a societal compulsion to perpetuate the stereotype that because people born in a certain time span experienced certain similar events during their formative years, they all share certain traits and characteristics. Never mind the myriad cultural biases in defining which events and experiences matter to generational development or that the responses to those events may be very different depending on social and cultural reasons. "Entering high schoolers a diverse, interesting group of young people" is a much less clickbait-ish headline than "OMG watch and laugh as today's high school freshman don't remember 9/11, can't figure out how to use VCR."

            4. Rey*

              I’ve started to think of a “millennial” as “anyone who entered the job market post-2008.” It seems to me that’s the watershed separation event.

              1. Navy Vet*

                That puts me in an odd spot….I’m Gen X, but didn’t enter the civilian job market until 2008…I’m not very impressed….LOL

                But, my sister who is 8 years younger then me is in the same boat as most of you. She’s technically a millennial…but she’s on the older end of the millennial range and it doesn’t really seem to apply to people in their early/mid 30’s tbh.

            5. Purest Green*

              I agree. I read an article somewhere about those of us who seem to be in between generations. It was really interesting and I’m upset I can’t find it to share. I guess you’ll have to trust it was interesting. ;)

            6. Noah*

              Also 32, and yes there is a huge difference between myself and my siblings who are 8-10 years younger. No Facebook until college, although we had Myspace it wasn’t quite the same, more of a personal website and less of a social media site. I had a cell phone when I was 16 but it had limited minutes and texts were 10 cents each to send and receive, so we didn’t really text. I also didn’t grow up with the internet, we didn’t really have a computer at home until I was in 8th grade. I learned how to type on a typewriter.

              I don’t think Millenials are lazy either. Most of the ones that I work with on a daily basis are extremely smart, talented, and willing to do what needs to be done.

            7. Joseph*

              “I am 32 and I always find it ridiculous when I am lumped in with 22 yr olds. ”
              Actually, it gets *even more* absurdly ridiculous. Millennial as a generation is commonly defined as people born between the early 1980’s and the early to mid 2000’s. So you’re getting lumped in with high schoolers too.
              Also, if you were born at the start of the millennial generation, you could graduate college, have a kid at age 22 and your kid would ALSO be a millennial. Seems odd that you’re lumped in as the same generation as your own child.

              1. many bells down*

                I felt the same about being “Gen X”. I first started hearing stuff about it when I was 12 or 13. What 23-year-olds were doing was really not relevant to my life. I was still playing with Barbies!

            8. Nanani*

              I’m the same age as you, but considering how widely things like cell phone use vary by region and money, and that “OMG MILLENIEALS!!” pieces are mostly disseminated from the top of the status ladder, it is reasonable to imagine that they are basing their sample of our rich peers who DID have their own cell phones and texting as early as the 90s, and so on.

              In fact, I grew up as the last year of the “old curriculum” in school, and everyone from one year younger down had a new one with much more computer classes (I did typing on TYPEWRITERS!! Not PCs!) and so on. Someone just over the border might be the same age as us but have had the “new” curriculum just because administration speed varies.

              And absolutely seconded about the crappy economy and getting dumped on. Just the “grew up with tech” part is variable and probably true for the millennials encountered by lifestyle column writers.

              1. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

                I love your observation about this being disseminated from the top of the status ladder, and I think there’s a heavy income/status component to millennial-bashing; a lot of it is affluent older people with steady, prestigious jobs whining about entry-level and lower-status workers and how they have the *nerve* to expect to be *paid* or God forbid *treated with respect*. It’s a combination of “get off my lawn” with “it’s sooo hard to find good help these days” and the behavior of the sort of people who point out the fast-food clerk to their kid and shout “You better study hard in school or you’ll end up like him!”

                1. Anon13*

                  I often wonder how boomers, who were such a liberal and politically engaged generation, particularly in comparison to their parents, became what they are today. Of course, I know it’s not true for every boomer by a long shot, but it’s interesting to see how the generation’s attitudes have shifted.

            9. lfi*

              THIS. 1984 here.. and i can even see a huge difference between myself and my siblings (all 88-92). fb was a .edu. no cell phone until i was 16/17ish (and it was a nokia with snake). i’m deeply appreciative of having a job and the work that goes into having (and keeping one!).

              my siblings, otoh… well… lol. not sure this box has enough space for that. ;)

              1. Vanesa*

                I was born in 89 and see a huge difference between my sister born in 92! I didn’t get a cell phone until high school too and yup all it had was snake.

            10. Anon Always*

              Millennials did get a raw deal. But, so did certain segments of every generation. Because recessions have occurred in every single generation. In 1975 the employment rate was 8.5%, in 1983 the it was 9.6%, and in 1992 it was 7.5%. So almost every generation has had a segment of their generation graduating when the unemployment rate was high. That isn’t unique to any one generation. And, while millennials face some unique challenges, in terms of student debt, etc., but they also received advantages that generations before them didn’t receive.

              And you are correct there are plenty of lazy employees of all generations. That definitely isn’t the exclusive property of one specific generation. Nor is the bad press about stereotyping each generation. And, I think every younger generation has pushed the world of work to provide different benefits and opportunities than the past generation. I see that as a good thing.

              In terms of the LW, I think bringing up her health concerns and her inability to be productive in a loud dusty environment is perfectly appropriate. I think the problem is many employers just don’t trust their employees and so won’t allow them to work from home on principle. So I think it would be good for the LW to have alternate suggestions as well (or ask his/her boss for suggestions about how to deal with this situation).

            11. Meghan*

              Same! I turn 35 next week, and usually get lumped in with the millennials, though rarely I get lumped in the Gen X. And while that’s a slightly better fit, it’s not great either. Facebook wasn’t available at all while I was in college. No one had cell phones in high school. But we all grew up on Nintendo and Oregon Trail, so, unlike most people in Gen X, are native tech users. I feel like there’s a group of us born from about 1978-1985 who are really our own island. I like to think of us as the Nintendo Generation. But I completely agree that those of us in our 30s have very little in common, experience-wise with people who are in their early 20s. It’s such a silly and inaccurate distinction and I really wish we could just drop it entirely.

            12. Audiophile*

              I just turned 30 this year and I’m always taken aback when I’m referred to as a millennial.

              I still remember having AOL and blocking the phone line to connect to the internet. (Hell, I still remember getting in trouble with my mom for picking the wrong area code when signing up with AOL and running up the phone bill.)

              I didn’t have a cell phone until I was a sophomore in high school. I didn’t have a “smartphone” until I was out of college. I still remember getting Facebook at my SUNY school and it being a big deal and feeling like an exclusive club.

              I don’t really feel a connection with “millennials” and I’d much prefer to be called “Generation Y”. Somewhere along the way, “millennial” became the catch phrase for our generation and it’s been used derogatorily ever since.

              1. (Another) B*

                DEFINITELY Generation Y. That was what it was called before “Millennials” was invented.

            13. Honeybee*

              Every generation is a pretty big one – the Baby Boomers range from 1946 (currently 69 or 70) to 1964 (currently 51 or 52). The Greatest Generation was born between 1900 and 1924. The generalizations about generations are supposed to be broad strokes. I’m 30 and my experiences are the same as you, but there are still some generational quirks that characterize our generation (people roughly late teens/early 20s to about 35) that aren’t shared by people older than us. We’re the first generation that spent most or all of our adult lives post-9/11; we’re a generation whose adulthood mostly took place after the Great Recession; we’re a generation whose early working experiences are characterized by rapid technological advances in a way that our parents’ were not.

              But there’s always going to be a little overlap between the slide years of generations, which is one of the reasons sociologists argue about the precise years that generations begin and end (except for the Boomers, for some reason).

          2. Anon for this*

            The age group keeps growing! A few years ago, I was 22 and old for a millennial. Now I’m 25 and hearing about late-30-something millennials. I’m sure I’ll hear someone shouting at the 40-year-olds to get off their lawn sooner or later.

            Gen X never gets a break, do they? They had like five minutes of people forgetting to complain about Gen X, then they found themselves lumped in with millennials.

            1. Mike C.*

              I’ve always read that the birth age starts around 1980-1982 until 9/11/01.

              So yeah, tip of the spear right here.

            2. JustaTech*

              I’ve heard of a new generational marker for people who fall between millenials and GenX-ers: The Oregon Trail generation. As in, you played Oregon Trail on an Apple IIE in your school’s computer lab with the green graphics and you kept dying fording a river.

                1. Honeybee*

                  What’s that, though? I definitely played Oregon Trail on early Apple computers, and I remember many of the hallmarks the article lists – card catalogs, not having a computer in the home until I was much older, using pay phones, asking Tommy’s mom if Tommy could come to the phone, and cassette singles. But I was born in 1986, not the early 1980s. I started college the year Facebook launched, and I don’t think it made my college experience more hellish (before Facebook opened to everyone, it was a great way to keep in touch with other high school friends who went to college elsewhere and also to keep in touch across campus with people you’d met).

                  So do I belong or do I not?

                  There are always going to be slide years in generations, and people on the tails of a generation will always feel a little out of place with the middle part. But the thing is, I don’t think generational research was ever meant to define a series of micro-experiences that people within the generation share (like stalking your college ex on Facebook, or even preferring fancy benefits at upscale work locations). It’s more about macro experiences – e.g., computers in the classroom – Generation Y was probably the first generation to widely have access to computers in the classroom used for educational purposes. Or the research showing that younger adults these days are delaying the things that sociologists used to use as metrics for transition to adulthood – like getting married, buying a house, and having children.

              1. TheOregonTrailGeneration*

                OMGOMGOMG yes. yes. I actually prefer this title and I LOVED playing Oregon Trial on the computer lab Apple computers! Fond memories that’s for sure :) I’m going to borrow this idea and turn it into my screen name lol

                1. MillennialGeezer*

                  I’m solidly in the Oregon Trail Generation (born 1981), but our schools did not have the funds for computers. I was in middle school before I used an Apple IIe. We played Oregon Trail on a giant paper map hung on our classroom wall.

              2. KTB*

                Yep, my sister (1982) and I (1979) are both Oregon Trailers, and it makes so much more sense for both of us!!

                Stupid broken axles. And snakes.

            3. OriginalYup*

              We Gen Xers are used to being the forgotten middle child of the generational debates. It dovetails nicely with our mistrust of authority and desire to fly under the radar anyway. ;-)

              Millennials, I’ve got nothing but love for you. I too graduated into a recession and spent the early part of my career being tagged with absurd stereotypes. It’s stupid and retrograde and reflects nothing about who you are or what you can accomplish.

              1. Anna*

                Ha! I was just talking to my friend about this. Nobody every talks about Gen X. We are the last generation to be told a college education will unlock the world and first generation it wasn’t true. We really are the middle child!

            4. Anon13*

              It doesn’t really keep growing, though! Millennials was first coined as a term to describe the generation beginning with those who came of age at the start of the new millennium, so the generation’s earliest members were always those born in the early 80s. And yes, sooner or later, 40 year-olds will be millennials, just as boomers and gen-x’ers aged, as well. Then we’ll all complain about generation z.

          3. Kelly L.*

            And I see today’s teenagers referred to as “millennials” whenever someone wants to bash them. It’s become a catch-all for “young person who annoys me.”

        3. (Another) B*

          As an older Millennial (31 years old) I HATE the stereotype. I’m much more similar to Gen-X. When older people tell me I grew up with the internet and cellphones and that me and my peers are entitled I’m like – No I didn’t, and no we aren’t. I can’t speak for someone born in like 1999 though. This generation span is way too long.

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            I don’t really get the entitled thing at all. And the reason so many “young folks” want to work from home? Many of us recognize we get more done there, it helps the environment, reduced personal costs, and so much more. Is working from home for everyone? No. But that’s not a generational thing.

            My second real job was 100% telecommute. I worked more than I would have had I been going to a physical location because I was always “at” work. I had to start imposing boundaries on myself.

            There are some jobs where you really need to be in a specific location for specific times. But SO MANY jobs could be done via telecommute at least partially and it is outdated thinking to require butts in seats for a specific amount of time.

          2. LQ*

            I’m on the very top end and my coworkers (who are nearly all old enough to have children older than me) will bring up stereotypes and not only do I do the “no I didn’t and we aren’t” but I also bring out, you’re the parents who raised them. Are your kids like that? No. Well then maybe we cut back on it a little.

            It “helps” that I had a weird upbringing and not only did I not have a cellphone, but I didn’t have running water for the first few memoried years of my childhood. I can remember a time that is essentially “older” than they are. It does pretty clearly say that you can’t just sweep the broad brush and catch everyone.

            1. (Another) B*

              Yeah the working from home thing – From the time I wake up until my butt is in my seat at the office is almost 2 hours time. To get home? About 3. (drive to/from train station, park, train into city, walk, elevator way up). This is time I could be working.

          3. Anon13*

            Of course I don’t know you personally, but I’ve found that older millennials (like me, I’m 33) often believe they are more similar to gen-x, but their attitudes on a lot of things, like work style, politics, etc. are actually more in line with millennials. What they don’t identify with are the negative stereotypes. Which, duh, of course they don’t!

            1. Honeybee*

              Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. I don’t feel affinity for Gen X at all – I definitely fall more squarely into the millennial generation in a lot of ways. There are cultural experiences that Gen X shares (being teenagers or young adults during the MTV era, growing up during the Cold War, the emergence of AIDS pre-HAART) that I don’t.

              Wikipedia actually has really good summations of the research and cultural understandings of some of the younger generations.

          4. Honeybee*

            Yeah, that infuriates me too. I’m 30 years old and when people say I grew up with Internet and smartphones I’m like what? No, no I didn’t. Just because the Internet theoretically existed when I was a child doesn’t mean that it was really around or widely used.

            1. Psychdoc*

              Seconded! I just turned 33. I didn’t have a computer until (I think) 5th grade, got the internet in 8th, no cellphone until sophomore year of college, and I still don’t have a smarts (though that’s just bc I’m cheap). Mind you, my parents tend towards luditeness, but still, just bc these things *existed* doesn’t mean the majority of us were using them.

      3. Purest Green*

        What’s interesting to me is that many of the people who complain about “millennials” raised them. So whose fault is that.

        1. Mike C.*

          I know, right? Especially when folks complain about how helicopter parents are “ruining kids” and then blame the kids for being ruined. Throw in some garbage about participation trophies* and there you go.

          *Just a small rant here, but why do so many people believe that kids take that crap seriously? I always hated participation trophies. I knew they didn’t mean a single thing and I hated it. I also hated it some parent would decide for us that we weren’t allowed to keep score and feed me some bullshit line about how “it’s just important that we play the game” or whatever.

          Kids aren’t stupid, they can see through the bullshit.

            1. Simonthegrey*

              Exactly this. It makes the parents feel better.

              I know when I was about 10 or so, my dance troupe performed in some competition. We weren’t very good, as the class consisted of ages ranging from 15 down to about 7. I was in it because I have always had problems with coordination, and was fat. We were the Bad News Ballet only it wasn’t Ballet. We also weren’t interested in competition, but the teacher pushed us into it. And hey! We scored second place!

              There was only one other group in the “mid teen jazz shimmying to James Taylor” category.

              Trust me, even the seven year old knew we lost.

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            I never minded the “no keeping score” if it was genuinely a game for fun, like a pick-up game or “you’re all in summer camp and let’s play soccer today” type of thing. But a sports league where you’re paying to play that sport? Not keeping score makes no sense.

            I always view participation trophies as I viewed the “leveled” classes in middle school and high school. Our school got rid of them at some point so no one would feel left out, but kids aren’t stupid and they know which kids in the class are smarter than others, just like they know which ones are better athletes or musicians or whatnot.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Yeah, the only reason my kids like the medals that every kid gets for running in the summer race every year, is because they make excellent trappings for pretend play at home. They become medals for all sorts of things. But the run? Enh, sure, they’re a medal *from* the run, but they don’t view it as winning because they know it’s not.

              Though I do think that saying every kid gets a medal because every kid is a winner and we celebrate every kid as they cross the finish line because they’re all awesome, besides being the sort of self-esteem stuff that doesn’t work, also *defeats the ostensible purpose* if done over the loudspeaker at the event itself. Or do they think the kids are deaf?

            2. Honeybee*

              Oh, yeah, in fifth grade we switched classes only for math. The teachers went to great pains to try to conceal the reason, but we eventually figured out that it was because the math classes were divided into five levels, and from there it wasn’t too hard to figure out what level each teacher had.

          2. Nanani*

            Same. Nothing sucks quite the same way as having your own achievements downplayed and glossed over so that the slackers in class could get the same participation trophy.
            It’s the group work mentality writ large.
            And it was done TO us, not BY us.

            1. Anon13*

              Yep! I was lucky in school in that we actually did get awards for achievement. Effort awards were given out to some kids who genuinely worked their butts off, but just didn’t have the same natural smarts/talent, but those were limited, too. And, I don’t see anything wrong with encouraging an elementary school aged kid who tries really, really hard, but falls a little short, by letting her know you recognize her efforts.

          3. cataloger*

            Agreed. As a teenager I was on a diving team where we not only all got participation trophies, but if we didn’t actually place in the competition we got *specific* additional participation trophies. My sister got “Most Improved” and I got the “110% Award”. We couldn’t decide who should be more insulted! She must have started awful but got better, and I didn’t improve much but tried very hard.

          4. Jillociraptor*

            I’ve read some interesting work lately that talks about how the “participation trophy” idea has been particularly destructive to Millennials who grew up not being able to believe any positive praise about them because they knew how empty so much of it was. It’s very funny to me now, but when I was in high school I was convinced with my whole heart that I was not going to get into a single college. I was a National Merit Scholar with a 4.2 GPA and the leader of like six student organizations, but I had zero confidence that it was good enough because the praise I got for actual accomplishments sounded exactly like the praise I got for showing up and ambling ineptly around a basketball court or making a paint-by-number school art project. I have a lot of empathy for those in my generation who are seen as needing constant reassurance and praise. We’re really still learning how to honestly assess our own performance.

            1. Aurion*

              There was a debate a while in a post debating whether to praise achievement or effort, and the consensus seemed to be you praise effort for children and achievements for adults. Makes sense, but when (what age) and how do we transition over?

              Me, I tend to praise achievement and my parents expected me to put in my full effort in things. I’m not saying I did that perfectly, and obviously “achievement” needs to be calibrated accordingly because I’m never going to be a professional chess player/soccer player/etc. But there were a lot of people talking about praising effort to get kids in the habit of working hard, keep their self-esteem, etc. I don’t necessarily agree, but that said, I am not and do not plan to be a parent so the nuances of when to transition from the expectation of “good effort” to “good achievement” isn’t one I have to worry about.

              1. Jillociraptor*

                It’s important for kids to get critical feedback and opportunities for development, and also to hear that you’re proud of them for making an effort, trying something hard, persisting through challenges. I don’t think it’s mutually exclusive. (And adults need that too! When you’re trying to learn something new, it can be really helpful to hear someone notice that you’re making an effort and improving!)

                Praising for effort can go wrong when you’re not praising for actual effort, but trying to find something to say when performance wasn’t very good. Both kids and adults appreciate honest and specific positive feedback and appreciation, rather than empty platitudes. And I think almost always both kids and adults get satisfaction from mastering something they couldn’t previously do–and critical feedback is a necessary part of being able to do that.

              2. Honeybee*

                There’s research on this – Carol Dweck is the leading psychologist in this area (and recently wrote a book about it called Mindset. Most of her work was with children, but through years of research the consensus is that praising children for efforts encourages a growth mindset – you teach children that by putting in effort and hard work they can achieve things. She contrasted it with praising children for their innate abilities and talents, which gives people a ‘fixed’ mindset – the mindset that they have a finite amount of talent in every area and that once they hit the top, they can no longer improve. (E.g. “I’m just not good at math.”)

                Achievements can fall into either one of these categories. I don’t think praising for efforts or achievements are mutually exclusive, as long as the praise makes it clear that the achievement is due to work (“You worked really hard for that A!”) vs. innate ability (“You’re so smart!”)

            2. Thumper*

              Very true. I read a story recently from a high school music teacher about how her students weren’t taking her compliments seriously because they thought she was just saying they were doing well for the sake of saying it. It wasn’t until she started giving negative criticism on their work that they were able to respect her positive feedback as well.

      4. Audiophile*

        As a millennial, I really, really dislike the word millennial.

        I’ve heard everything from we don’t know the value of an honest, good day’s work to we all have bad attitudes and don’t know how to take criticism and don’t know how to collaborate, etc.

        I’m waiting for it to creep its way into interview questions. “How do you as a millennial, work with someone who’s from a different generation – say Generation X or a Baby Boomer?”

        1. Biff*

          I’m pretty sure Alison has a letter about that, from about a year, maybe 18 months back. Does anyone else remember that? It was a horrorshow.

          1. Audiophile*

            I think I know the post you’re referring to. Something about reading a book on millennials to learn the best way to manage/communicate with them. As if millennials are an alien species.

        2. (Another) B*

          Whenever I feel bad about being a Millennial I just read the Old Economy Steven memes. Google it (not letting me post a link).

      5. pope suburban*

        There is a browser extension, I think it’s Chrome-only at this point, that will replace “millenials” with “snake people.” I highly recommend it. :’)

      6. tink*

        And that age group keeps expanding too–I’ve seen people considered “millenials” basically from the 18-35 range (and know people outside that range who fall into a given “why millenials don’t [x]” category being talked about at a time). It seems to be lazy word use for “anyone that is or seems younger than me in a more junior position who is familiar with and uses modern technology on a regular basis and does something I disagree with or don’t like.”

        1. Honeybee*

          Well, no, that’s about right. Generations typically span about 20 years – Baby Boomers are between their early 50s and their late 60s right now. Millennials are born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s, so yes, they’re about 18-35 at this point.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Yeah. I wouldn’t demand but I would raise comcerns that the office doesn’t comply with OSHA. And goodness, that could result in big fines.
      I’d ask for alternate accommodation because you are in an open area and are being exposed to various dust/spores/etc. and it is causing you respiratory problems. I’d then mention that I’d be open to working from home if no safe alternative is available. That gives them an easy out.

      1. Jeanne*

        I agree it doesn’t has to start as a demand. OP is concerned she will be seen as not a team player. Those concerns are real to her. I’m sure she can begin by having a conversation with her boss about options. “The construction is already making my allergies difficult and three months could cause problems. Has the company made plans for us to work in other building locations or would it be good to work from home? I’m sure I’m not the only one affected this way.”

        1. Mike C.*

          I’m getting a little frustrated that folks are more concerned about perception of reputation over issues that could seriously harm, maim or kill the OP. Office politics has an unfortunate place, but not here – this is much more serious.

          Folks would be (rightly) fuming at the idea of a mother having to pump breast milk in a bathroom, but this issue is much, much worse in terms of health and safety.

          Maybe “insist” is a better word here, but this isn’t an issue to be taken lightly and not something you just ask about once or twice at the pleasure of management.

          1. MK*

            I think “working in a construction zone” and “seriously harn, maim or kill” may be inaccurate (and overdramatic) in describing the OP’s situation. You seem to take it for granted that construction is actually happening right next to the OP’s workspace, which I find it hard to believe (if for no other reason, I doubt the company doing the construction would agree to do such an arrangement for safety and insurance concerns). The OP says the building is being renovated; they don’t specify it’s happening in the same area and that, along with the fact that at least one of their co-workers don’t seem to mind, makes it more likely in my view that the construction near but not in their actual workspace.

            Obviously, it’s bad enough that it cannot go on for three more months. But, given that the OP is the only one of four people who finds it intolerable, they stand a better chance of getting what they want by stating their case with more moderation, ansd especially without jumping straight to working from home as a solution, since apparently it’s not done a lot at their employer.

            1. neverjaunty*

              Two of the people in the OP’s space are not around much. One other person in her area says it doesn’t bother him. So no, OP – whose allergies are being aggravated by all this dust and mold – is not some weird outlier.

              And no, it isn’t dramatic or overblown to recognize that this is a real danger. As OP describes it, there are no real measures being taken to protect the workers from construction hazards. Including, as Mike C. correctly notes, airborne hazards like mold.

            2. Mike C.*

              This attitude is exactly why this situation is so dangerous for the OP.

              I too work in an office, and on the other side of that window is the largest manufacturing facility in the world. While safety is pounded into all of our heads on a regular basis, those who work the floor practice it daily because that’s the only way they can do their jobs. Those in the office areas? Not as much. The big difference is that we’re set up for this work, were as the work being done in the OP’s workplace is new and ever changing.

              When one of us comes down we’re at a much greater risk because we don’t work on the floor every day. We don’t always know where power is on, what sorts of specific work is going on, we’re not accustomed to wearing PPE or simply don’t have the daily practice of navigating around whatever happens to be going on that day. Thus, we need to take special precautions and follow special procedures to ensure we don’t get hurt – procedures that are clearly missing in the OP’s workplace.

              Maybe the OP won’t need everything I’ve suggested, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to know what to think about and watch out for, and it’s always acceptable to demand that safety be treated as the number one priority. It costs me nothing but time to write this post, and I’d prefer folks think “christ, not again, another safety lecture” than feel uncomfortable advocating for their personal safety.

              1. MK*

                I am not doubting that there are safety concerns that need to be addressed. But the reality is, if the OP goes to their boss with “The construction work is endangering my life and I need either this long list of safety measures or to work from home”, they are going to come across as hysterical or angling for WFH on a pretext. They are more likely to get what they want by explaining their health issues, express concern over the more general hazards and ask what can be done to address the issue.

          2. Jeanne*

            I get that you think we should be able to get these type of changes immediately because working like the OP said is a problem. The reality is we are working with humans. I’m sure OP could go in and say what you wrote. I’m sure changes would be made. But in the end OP could be looked at as troublesome, annoying, unhelpful, etc. Right or wrong, it is the truth as seen by the OP. So we think she should start with a softer tone. The softer tone could still get all the needed changes without having the worse consequences for her career.

        2. ModernHypatia*

          I’ve had luck in the past with “This is something that’s making it difficult for me to do the kind of quality of work I want to give you.” and then proposing a couple of different solutions, with “Can we find something that would work out better all round? Would working in a different space during construction be possible? If that’s not possible, working from home a couple of days a week would give my body a break from the things I’m allergic to.” (Also, OP#2 if you’ve been there a year, they’ve got a good baseline on you by now. It’s not like you just started.)

          Mold allergies are really nothing to take lightly: they can cause long-term problems and take a long time to shake even after exposure stops. (And lungs are very slow to heal: my doctors have told me it takes almost a year for lungs to recover from significant exposure or problems, and during that time you’re more susceptible to other problems, more chance of colds getting your lungs badly, etc.)

          1. JustaTech*

            Mold allergies can be all kinds of bad news. I had a coworker who spent on day cleaning out a mold room (no mask, because none of us were trained on them so we didn’t have any) and within a week the coworker (who had allergies) was in the hospital with pneumonia and ended up on short-term disability.

            Seriously, molds want to mess you up.

      2. edj3*

        Regarding OSHA, you might be surprised what’s OK and what’s not OK.

        I also worked in a building undergoing renovation to the degree the OP is talking about. I have reactive airway disease and the particulate matter did a real number on me. Between the mold, drywall dust, concrete dust, carpet fibers, paint fumes and tar (they also redid the roof), I coughed so often and so frequently that I strained muscles in my chest and sounded like I had TB. My lung capacity was impaired and demonstrably so, and I ended up being on way more than normal meds to get everything under control.

        Like the OP, I explored working elsewhere and learned that our environment met OSHA standards. So my request was denied. I suspect that what’s OK for people with unimpaired lungs isn’t OK for me, but that the standard isn’t designed with my lungs in mind.

        So all that to say, your building may in fact be technically safe while still posing real issues for you.

        1. JessaB*

          At that point your impaired lungs at least in the USA become subject to ADA accommodation laws. What’s okay by OSHA for healthy individuals is not okay for you.

          1. edj3*


            But filing for ADA accommodation felt like a pretty big hurdle for me, not the least of which was feeling like I needed to share personal health information I didn’t think I ought to have to share. Anyone with ears could hear me (I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wrote in to AAM then about that woman with the awful coughing and can we do anything about it??). I wasn’t sick but the coughing just never.stopped.

    3. Lizabeth*

      I second giving OSHA a call if the management is not helpful in sorting this out; an inspection would wake them up very quickly.

      1. Unegen*

        The problem is that if the LW has made any sort of mention of unsafe work conditions or OSHA at work, and an OSHA complaint is made, the LW will be fired. Yes, it is illegal to fire someone in retaliation for making and OSHA complaint. However, most (all?) states have at-will employment, so your employer can fire you at any time for any reason. They’ll fire the LW…they’ll just write down that it was for some other reason. And it will be up to the LW to bear the cost of proving otherwise in court.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But you’re stating that as a “will definitely happen” when in fact the majority of companies aren’t likely to react that way. It’s possible, but that’s a different thing.

    4. Patricia*

      I’m OP#2.

      Thanks for your support! Reading your response, I think that you are absolutely right- its bizarre that we never received any training or warning regarding the hazards that we might experience during this time. It was simply thrown into an email last month “oh, and by the way, we might be doing some work here soon, just to let you know”. I think it would have been much easier to approach my supervisor with this ahead of time, instead of now when I’m in the thick of it. Thankfully the building was tested for asbestos and they reported that there isn’t any risk in the area where I work (although other areas of the building are at risk), but there is certainly dust and mold and nobody is denying it (in fact, everyone frequently jokes about it). And yes, there has been electrical work done- we had a power outage due to it, one of the sprinkler lines burst and the floors became soaked, and the mold issue was worsened once it all dried. They did nothing about it but install a bunch of fans.

      The thing that bothers me the most is that my coworker is clearly bothered by it, but still refuses to do anything. I thought at first he was acting this way because this is the sort of thing that as a professional I should just deal with. But if I don’t have to (and in fact, shouldn’t have to) deal with this, I’ll go to my supervisor and ask her about alternative options. You’re right- my health is worth more than a promotion.

      1. nonegiven*

        I would try the ADA route and wear a dust mask all day at work until something is changed.

      2. OhBehave*

        Unless you work in construction, in no way is this something you should just deal with. You should not breathe in that dust. Your lungs will thank you for speaking up (my mom has COPD so I’m careful with my lungs!)

  2. Jennifer*

    The sandals comment cracked me up–must be someone from the East Coast asking that because on the West Coast, I’ve had some higher-ups wearing flip-flops to work. Sandals are pretty dirt common in warmer climates. Dressier sandals are fine.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      It depends on the office, even on the West Coast. We have several labs with electrical equipment and any open toed shoe is banned.

      1. paul*

        I’m in Texas, working for a non-profit…they finally changed the dress code 4-5 years ago to allow dressy sandals.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          The dressy sandal debate! I’m in Texas too and we have had so many conversations about what constitutes a dressy sandal and whether someone’s sandals are too flip-flop like.

      2. Mabel*

        I don’t think you can generalize based on geography. My east coast company has a “business appropriate” dress code, and sandals are not permitted. However, people wear them all. the. time. And I’m glad because I’m one of those people. To be honest, if I were climbing the corporate ladder, I wouldn’t wear sandals because I think people do see them as not quite appropriate.

    2. Chaordic One*

      I briefly worked in advertising on the west coast and it was common for well-dressed high-level female execs to come to work wearing strappy high-heeled sandals and they would meet with high-level corporate clients dressed that way. (Personally, I wouldn’t wear sandals, but it seemed to work for them.)

      1. Graciosa*

        Not in advertising, but ditto with the additional option of high-heeled open-toed shoes of a non-strappy variety.

        It was a major culture shock for me when I started here, because I had only previously worked in environments where TOES were not seen at work (with a possible exception for lifeguards!).

        I have never managed to get myself to follow the leader on this particular trend, but if someone asked me I would definitely have to say it was considered acceptable.

      2. Honeybee*

        I love the laid-back dress culture on the West Coast (moved here a year ago for work). I would be far more surprised to see a tie here than strappy sandals or flip flops or ratty old sneakers. Even our interview candidates don’t wear ties. Or suit jackets.

    3. Jeanne*

      I’ve worked a few places where closed toe shoes were required but I’m in science. I think sandals are a more casual look than closed toe dress shoes, heels or flats. It’s definitely know your office culture.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Also, open toe isn’t necessarily a sandal. I have several pairs of peep-toe pumps, but they are way, way closer to a pump than a sandal. I’m in Dallas, so between coasts, and I’d not feel comfortable wearing anything more sandal-y than sling backs. When I visit the San Francisco office, I could straight up wear shorts and flipflops, but I’d feel weird.

        1. Nea*

          The flip side of this is that there are closed-toe or “cage toe” sandals. I once worked at a place that specifically asked that toes be covered, but they didn’t stipulate anything else about the shoe.

    4. SL #2*

      Hahaha my DC internships would be horrified at what counts as business casual at my LA nonprofit.

      1. Collie*

        I’ve worked at a few different federal agencies in DC and I’ve always been surprised by how different departments handle dress code. In my experience, flip flops (even bare feet in one office) was acceptable for those in HR, but suits were expected in other departments.

        1. SL #2*

          I interned at a lobbying firm– they were actually on the more relaxed end of the dress code, but on days where I knew I had to go to the Hill, you better believe I dressed up then.

    5. MK*

      Such issues are very area-, culture- and\or industry-specific. In my country, unless one is over 75, wearing closed-toe shoes in July and August would be seen as downright wierd and wearing tights would make people think you have a medical condition. (It used to boggle my mind how tights-in-the-summertime was even an issue in the U.S., but I visited last month and experienced the lethal air-conditioning)

      1. sunny-dee*

        Hahahaha – I know! I bring a sweater with me just because the A/C can get actually, physically painful. Thankfully, I’m generally working from home. I still can’t handle tights in summer, though. Just the walk from the parking lot would have me drenched.

      2. nonegiven*

        I apologized to my sister for not wearing panty hose to her daughter’s wedding. She said you can’t wear pantyhose in August, I’m not wearing them, either.

    6. Sparrow*

      I lived in the PNW for a couple of years and regularly wore flip flops to work :) That wouldn’t fly elsewhere I’ve lived in the country, but nicer sandals are fine!

      1. many bells down*

        My orientation for my volunteer gig was “We’re business casual here, which in Seattle means casual. Jeans are fine, please don’t wear yoga pants. Nerdy t-shirts are encouraged.”

    7. AdAgencyChick*

      I’m in NYC and no one in the niche of advertising I work in would dream of asking this question because sandals are so ubiquitous. (Thank goodness! The recent heat wave would have sucked even more if closed toe shoes had been a requirement!)

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        Thanks for that.

        I’m like w-h-a-t to this question. It’s so not even a thing. I can’t wait until the first crocus pops so my feet can breathe. I’m like wait, people don’t do this? They do in my world.

        The young women are wearing “flip flops” now, but the nice ones, not the flip flops of my youth. Very dressy.

        1. Abbi Abrams*

          This question struck me as crazy too, but if LW #3 is young and new to the professional world, she’s probably getting all her dress code information from her mother or a similar outdated source!

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            It’s not a crazy question. It’s really regional and industry dependent. There are more conservative work places where sandals are too casual.

            1. Abbi Abrams*

              Of course, but the LW said herself her office was business casual and not strict about dress code.

          2. CheeryO*

            It’s not crazy to ask. I can get away with jeans and pretty casual tops at work, but not sandals. I have tried, and it gets comments/side-eye every time. I imagine it’s related to the fact that 11/13 people in my department are men who have been here since the mid-80s.

          3. AdAgencyChick*

            I don’t think it’s crazy for OP to ask — depends on her industry and perhaps geography as well — but I’m glad it would be a crazy question in MY industry!

          4. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            Oh to be clear, I didn’t think it the OP was out of touch for asking the question. I mean is So Not A Thing in *our world*.

            We’re less casual than the next place and our younger women (especially) dress way above minimum business casual standards. Tres chic. But everybody (?) , most people, are wearing open toes/sandalish shoes as soon as the season turns so it’s just not a thing in our world.

          5. LW3*

            I asked about the sandals and no, I’ve never asked my mother about anything professional. I’m getting my information from observation and feedback at earlier jobs (I was told off for wearing nice heeled sandals at one of my first professional jobs, but that was at a nonprofit with a more conservative culture than where I am now).

            1. LW3*

              Oh also another coworker a couple years ago (same company) who told me she would never wear sandals to work. She’s in her early 30s and originally from California.

      2. LW3*

        Well I wear sandals to work and then just change into flats when I get there. I keep a couple pairs of flats and wedges at work.

      3. (Another) B*

        I’m wearing sandals right now. As long as they’re not flip flops I think they should be ok. But in business formal offices, probably not.

    8. Broke*

      Yeah, it’s definitely a climate thing. I’m on the East Coast, but more southerly, and open toes are everywhere in my office during the summer. It’s too hot for anything else!

    9. Sadsack*

      My advice is to make sure to not wear sandals that make a clapping sound when you walk. Flip flops aren’t the only shoes that make that sound. It is extremely distracting when someone walks through the office clip-clopping all the way. I enjoy being able to wear heeled sandals to work, but only those I’ve made sure fit securely and don’t make any noise.

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Oh god – that thwack! thwack! thwack! sound of sandal slapping foot drives me batty! I agree – sandals are fine, but don’t wear ones that thwack. There are lots of pretty, breezy-looking sandals (by brands like Propet, Trotters, etc.) that look summery and casual, if that is the look you are after, but fit well and aren’t noisy.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I adore sandals, but I always find ones that have a back strap so as to avoid the clip-clop sound. Not only do they sound better, but they’re much less likely to fly off my feet when walking (I hate flip flops).

      2. many bells down*

        I have some sneakers that don’t get along with the linoleum at work. I go down the hall and it’s “squeak squork SQUWAK”. I’m not wearing those to work anymore.

      3. Formica Dinette*

        Agreed. But I find the sandals that encourage people to shuffle their feet even more irritating than the ones that make the clapping sound. I want to scream at them to pick up their *expletive* feet.

    10. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I was thinking North vs South, but warmer climate vs not warm works too. I worked in banking for two large banks (they both have locations in the North and South) and the one headquartered in a Northern state did not allow open-toe shoes and the one that was headquartered in the South did.

    11. irritable vowel*

      I work at an urban university in the northeast and wear sandals every day from May to September. Not an issue at all! (My friend, on the other hand, used to work as a paralegal in the same city and her conservative law firm dress code included pantyhose even in the summer, even when she was 9 months pregnant.)

      I was at a training event at work a few weeks ago and since I had a seat in the back, amused myself by counting how many women were wearing sleeveless tops (which is something I had never considered inappropriate office attire until I started reading this blog) – I think there were at least 8 or 9, that I could see. Summer is hot, we might as well be comfortable!

      1. Nerdling*

        How the hell do you even find pantyhose that fit at nine months pregnant?! I’m pretty sure requiring that is a direct violation of both the 8th Amendment and the Geneva Convention.

        1. Janice in Accounting*

          The last time I wore pantyhose was to my grandmother-in-law’s funeral when I was seven months pregnant. In August. I put them directly into the trash afterward and swore I’d never wear pantyhose again, as God is my witness.

          1. Nerdling*

            Man, I was about five months along and it was November when my granny passed, but, as God is my witness, there was no WAY I was getting those things over my bump. I love you, Granny, but not even for you would I wear hose while knocked up.

      2. KarenD*

        Funny story about hose: We had a company a few counties over with about 800 employees that was taken over by a national firm headquartered somewhere in the Midwest. They had the same rule – women must wear hose if they were wearing dresses (which were explicitly preferred); knee-high hosiery or trouser socks were required with pants. From what I understand the whole thing was handled in a very condescending “you work for a big company now and have to play by big-kid rules” manner.

        Their Florida employees flat-out rebelled. Even folks who had been wearing hose to work stopped. The company tried spot-disciplining employees but eventually just caved.

        On the other hand, we have a huge Florida-based hospital chain that still requires hose or socks to be worn – even by volunteers!

        But for most workplaces here, sandals are just fine. I’ve seen them in the courtroom and the boardroom.

        1. Security SemiPro*

          I was working for a company that was considering requiring dresses for women. I told them I’d show up in full Ren Faire regalia, which met all of their proposed criteria.

          It was a manufacturing company, I cannot imagine the disaster that would be requiring dresses for people on the manufacturing floor. It was silly enough for the office workers, I had to walk through a plant every morning to get to my cube. The authors decided to forgo that requirement in their ‘update’ of the dress code. (Maybe they didn’t think they had any women on the floor? No idea, stupid all around.)

      3. LW3*

        That’s so funny, I’ve never thought twice about wearing sleeveless tops (I hate sleeves) but the sandals thing just caught me by surprise!

      4. LD*

        Hmm. Sleeveless is a big issue? That again would be dependent on the culture of the organization. And if you are wearing a suit, then a sleeveless, collarless shell is the height of traditional, conservative business wear for women. Inside the office, many women wear sleeveless tops and dresses, but most will have a sweater or jacket if they need to meet with a client, or if the air conditioning is too cold. YMMV.

    12. all aboard the anon train*

      I don’t know about that. I’ve worked in Boston and NY and have been to several of my company’s New England offices and sandals are pretty common in the offices. Even flip-flops have been worn by quite a few people in the summer.

    13. Jen RO*

      As someone from outside the US, thanks for enlightening me. I was getting the impression (based on previous AAM threads) that sandals were just unthinkable in any US office. (Before I started reading this blog I had absolutely no idea that some people think showing toes and armpits at work is a no-no! That’s just not something I had ever thought about.)

      1. Mabel*

        Wait, was there a question about sleeveless tops that I missed? I wear sleeveless dresses all the time in the summer. I bring a cardigan, but sometimes it’s to joy to wear it. Now I’m going to have to search AAM for “sleeveless”!

    14. LW3*

      I’m from the east coast but also grew up down south. Even there with my first professional job I would do what I do now – wear sandals to work and then change into flats that I keep at the office.

  3. Sunny Days*

    #4 – I would say, with a compassionate tone, “I wish I could say more, but I like to err on the side of protecting my employer’s confidentiality. I’m sure you can understand.” Or, “I don’t want to betray their confidentiality. But due to a variety of factors, I’ve decided it’s time for a change.” Something along those lines.

    And before any interview, think about what kinds of questions would cross that line. It’s a common situation to find yourself in. Generally, it’s best to say too little rather than the opposite because it’s a sensitive legal/business/security issue. But don’t freak out if you did. People make that kind of mistake all the time, and the interviewer created the situation by asking inappropriate questions.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      But only say that if what you really want to imply is “OMG, it’s a total cluster over there, and I’ve got to get out.” Because that’s how it would be heard.

    2. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

      Yeah, that phrasing sounds a literal overly dramatic to me, TBH. I prefer something more along the lines of another commenter’s “the place has its challenges like everywhere, but I’m looking for a new blah blah blah”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, that’s good. You don’t want to say anything that implies There’s a Scandal I Can’t Speak Of or The Place Is Falling Apart, because in a small field, that could end up causing gossip and drama.

        1. Anna*

          And chances are the non-profit the OP is interviewing with already knows or has heard gossip if the field is small. My field isn’t that small and we all know what’s happening at other places clear across the country. Since we all move in the same circles, stuff gets around.

        1. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

          It’s a fox! I can’t even remember why I picked it anymore.

  4. Waffles*

    OP #2: At my company they renovated an office next door to mine. Tore out a wall, replaced drywall, etc. I knew there would be dust everywhere, so I got permission to temporarily move my computer to an empty office at the other side of the building. It was a wonderfully quiet couple of weeks and I didn’t have to breathe nastiness. You may not have that option, but it may be something worth exploring before bringing up working from home.

    Three months? That’s just unacceptable for many reasons. Your health is important, whether you’re the CEO or a junior staff member.

    1. misspiggy*

      You’ve highlighted another issue the employer should be concerned about – what the dust will be doing to the lifespan of the computers in that environment.

    2. Amber T*

      When my office was doing renovations (and I was the only one in the open cubicle area while everyone had lovely doors to shut), I was the one who suggested to our office manager that I move to a little used conference room on the other side of the building. She seemed genuinely surprised that she didn’t think of that for me and apologized for not realizing how I’d be affected. After I got set up, I just told my supervisor where I was sitting (he, too, forgot that I would be in an affected area).

      I’d start out by asking where in the building you can move to temporarily (not if you can move, where you can move). I see nothing wrong with you saying “The construction has been pretty distracting lately and Jane told me it’s going to last for three months. Where would be an appropriate place for me to set up shop while they finish up?” or, if you know of an office/conference room that’s free “Would you mind if I set up shop there until they finish?” If there are no available spaces, and they’re not offering another solution, then I’d ask about working remotely.

      And if they say no, or they hem and haw and give you a hard time about temporarily working elsewhere, then I’d seriously consider looking for a new job, because by then it isn’t an issue that there’s construction, it’s an issue that your employer doesn’t care about your health, safety, and productivity levels.

      (Then again I’m a spoiled millenial so what do I know?)

      1. JMegan*

        I really like this answer. Take it for granted that you would be allowed to switch workstations for the duration of the construction, then ask what needs to be done to make it happen. Yes also to taking note of their response, and thinking about other options if it’s anything less than helpful and accommodating!

        1. OhBehave*

          Tone of voice will go a long way to help you here. I would guess they really have not taken into account what those of you without doors are having to deal with. I would also add your allergy issues. This is a huge concern for me because dust really gets to me.

          All of that dust is horrible for office equipment too. Ugh. No matter how careful they are about draping off the construction zone, dust will seep in through the cracks.

    3. KR*

      When they were doing some HVAC work a few years ago, they didn’t cover anything or take any precautions while drilling. We came into our IT office one day to find that they had drilled a new vent in the ceiling and gotten white mud/sludge all over the back of one of our PCs. That one survived, but another one in another office straight up died due to the sludge. Not only did they get this all over the computers, but they didn’t clean any of it up from the floor, shelves or desk. My boss was not happy at all.

  5. Mike*

    Re #3: As I guy I really have to ask: When does a flip-flop stop being a flip-flop and start being a sandal? Early in the summer we had a meeting and flip-flops were brought up as a “just FYI remember they aren’t allowed” yet plenty of women wear things that look a lot like flip-flops with a bit of ornamentation.

    Oh, and I do like how the capris seem to be ok once shorts are no longer allowed.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not actually trying to get people in trouble, it just seems like there are absurd delineations on what is acceptable and what isn’t. Luckily for me my style is far from those lines.

    1. Simonthegrey*

      A flip flop becomes a dress sandal when it’s on a woman’s foot. /s

      Just kidding. I work at a place where straight up flip-flops wouldn’t necessarily be looked at askance during the summer (though I wouldn’t wear them because I hate to paint my toenails and have naturally really yellow nails otherwise which look weird). I always find it a weird line between ‘this is a flip flop’ and ‘this is a dressy flip flop.’

      1. GovWorker*

        Flip flops are cheap rubber shower shoes.
        “Dressy” flip flops have toe separators but no back strap. I would just call those sandals.

    2. Marzipan*

      So far as I’m concerned, a flip-flop is a flat sole that is held on only by straps coming up between your big toe and second toe, with no other straps across the back or instep – hence the flipping and flopping. If it has more structure to it, I’d consider it a sandal.

      1. Nina*

        Yeah, that’s a fair definition. I have seen fancy versions with bling and even a small heel, but they still count as flip-flops because of the sound they make. Amusingly, I checked Wikipedia, and they are classified as a sandal, albeit casual.

        Years ago, I had a coworker who absolutely hated the sound of flip-flops, and she privately asked me not to wear them anymore. It was nbd to me so I didn’t, but that sound grates on a lot of people.

        I’ve also heard them called “thongs” but not in the US.

        1. Al Lo*

          I grew up calling them “thongs” (in Canada), but that changed in the common vernacular by the time I was a teen. I’d say that, technically, a sandal can be a thong without being a flip flop, since the thong is the piece of material/leather/plastic between the toes, and there are lots of sandals with backs or more straps/structure that also have the thong. I’m going back and forth on whether it could be a flip flop without being a thong. A slide could make the flippy floppy sound, but I wouldn’t classify it as a flip flop, so I don’t think I’d parse the definition that way, but I’m sure some could.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I grew up in KS and called them thongs. Seems that term went out of favor around the late 90s when the shoe became popular casual wear, and the underwear was also popular.

            1. Alienor*

              They were thongs when I was a kid in the late 70s/early 80s. I think you’re right that the term for them changed when thong underwear became a thing.

          2. GovWorker*

            I grew up in Chicago and cheap rubber shower shoes were thongs. Not appropriate for the office then or now. Sandals of all types are ok, thank goodness because I am diabetic and cannot stand pressure on my toes. No enclosed shoes for me until it snows.
            My federal office is very casual though.

            1. Aurora Leigh*

              I think flip flop vs thong is a generational thing. I trained my mom out of saying “thong” in the early 2000’s by saying ewwwwww every single time she mentioned wearing said item. It worked!

              1. Ellie H.*

                I wish I could train my mom out of saying “queer” to mean unusual and “turned on” to mean “interested in/excited about” in such a way. My mom is not that old and definitely not out of touch, it’s just these 2 things. The second one I think is a little more debatable but it happens to be a phrase I have a huge pet peeve about hearing in that context, like nails on a chalk board so it drives me crazy. I’m like MOM, NOBODY uses that in a non-sexual context anymore.

          3. irritable vowel*

            My parents are Canadian and I remember my dad referring to them as “slappers” when I was a kid! That might have just been a dad-ism, though.

            1. LCL*

              Left Coast US baby boomer. We called them thongs. I know people call them slaps now, but I could never use that word for thongs. Because the first time I heard that it included a racial slur. No I will not write it out. So I can’t even, though I know most people call them slaps without meaning anything else..

        2. GreyjoyGardens*

          I’m pretty sure I have misophonia – I can’t stand the sound of flip-flops thwacking against bare feet (nor can I stand the sound of people slurping their food, smacking their lips, etc.). So I’m one of those “this sound grates” people, ha.

          To me, a flip-flop is a casual, beachy sandal made of rubber or cloth. A slide is a backless sandal made of leather (fake or real) or another sturdy material, and doesn’t look beachy. Slides are fine for workplaces that aren’t formal or don’t ban open-toed shoes altogether for safety reasons. Flip-flops are much more casual, which is OK for some workplaces, but – call me an old fogy – I hate seeing dirty, worn flip-flops on grody, unwashed feet with untrimmed nails! You don’t need to have a professional pedicure, or even put on nail polish, but your feet need to look as clean and presentable as your hands if you are going to bare them for all to see!

        3. Elizabeth West*

          We used to call them thongs, but that was when I was a kid in the 1970s. I didn’t hear flip flops until I was older. They’re really terrible for your feet, too.

          Who was it who called a flip flop-wearing coworker “Thwapla” the other day? I’m still laughing about that!

    3. FD*

      In most offices I’ve been in, a flipflop has the following characteristics:

      1) No heel
      2) Minimal to no ornamentation and made of a ‘cheap’ looking material, such as plastic or foam
      3) Lacking enough structure to move with the foot when you lift and lower it, which leads to the characteristic slappy sound when you walk

      It is true though that the gods of fashion have generally considered that sandals on men are inherently casual, but sandals on women can be dressy.

      1. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

        Well, if you think about women’s formal or cocktail wear, it’s generally going to be paired with open-toed shoes, and that’s about as dressy as it gets. Yes, it’s kind of arcane and non-logical, but it isn’t completely arbitrary – whereas men’s sandals are pretty much without exception clearly casualwear.

        I would consider a smart, strappy shoe made of leather or leather-like material to be a sandal and acceptable for work in many offices, but a plastic or foam shoe with only or primarily a thong between the toes to be a flip-flop. Yes, there are a few shoes that blur the divide (one of my team wears what are essentially sparkly leather flats with a thong, but that do cover most of her foot and end around the ankle) but mostly I don’t think it’s difficult to tell the difference.

        1. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

          A worked example.

          This is a sandal, and appropriate for work in many (not all) offices:

          This is a flip-flop:

          This is pushing it, and only advisable in business casual offices:

          1. Mabel*

            Hmmm… I don’t think any of these are work-appropriate. The silver one would be OK in black (not patent) and possibly with a lower heel. Just my opinion. My sandals are quite boring compared to these.

          2. Callietwo*

            I don’t consider that second one a flip flop simply because it has a back strap.. to me these are flip flops:

            I am wondering if are these too casual for an interview at a company where all the styles Hankie posted are worn? I have a promotional interview coming up and before this discussion, I planned on wearing either my red or black version of this shoe:

        2. voyager1*

          We had this convo at my last employer too. No joke actual quote ” I don’t care how many feathers are on it, it is still a flip flop.” We all knew who the VP was talking about… And yes it was a feather covered flip flop.

    4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      My last employer defined flip-flop as any shoe that had the plug that goes through the bottom of the sole. All other “sandals” were fine, even if they looked identical with the exception of how the strap was attached to the sole.

    5. Ellie H.*

      What do you all think of these?

      I have those (in a very similar color – faded pink) and I wear them to work. Have worn to “nice” (casual but nice) restaurant too with a nice dress. My offices have always been on the far-casual end of business casual (no denim jeans, but people who aren’t in management dress pretty flexibly) and I never felt weird wearing them. Can’t decide if they are flip flops or not. I’m pretty sure they don’t make noise but I don’t think I could tell at this point, I am sure I can’t hear it anymore if they do.

      1. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

        Yeah, that’s a flip-flop. Personally I would only wear those in a casual office (probably only one where jeans were acceptable).

        1. Jen RO*

          On the other hand, they would be given the side-eye in my very casual office. I am super casual (and usually baffled about all the dress code rules discussed here), but shoes with foam soles are only for the beach in my view.

          (That said, they are super cute, Ellie!)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Very, very casual — pretty much as casual as footwear gets. (And believe me, I love me some Tevas, but they are super casual. But it sounds like they’re fine for your office.)

        1. Ellie H.*

          Definitely – in my prev. job I worked in the main administration building of the university and almost never wore them except a couple times in the summer. But now I work at the art school where it is MUCH more flexible (and interesting). Someone came in the other day w/these amazing heels with an Eames chair heel. These in fact!

      3. teclatrans*

        Definitely flip flops (even though they are constructed so well they don’t make the slapping sound), primarily because of the materials used (even with a back strap they would beachwear).

        I can see why you wear these everywhere — I cannot abide flip flops (or thongs between my toes) of any kind, yet I love these.

    6. Jeanne*

      Welcome to the world of women’s clothing. Hundreds of delineation. Thousands of unwritten rules.

    7. Clever Name*

      I’m a woman and I wonder the same thing. I have some leather thong sandals- that have a leather footbed and upper and don’t have foam or plastic anywhere on them- that I would call “leather flip flops”. I remember wearing them to work one very hot Friday in the summer, and I was slightly nervous about wearing them, until I saw the owner of the company (also a woman) wearing very similar shoes. I said, “I’m so glad you’re wearing flip flops today because I was concerned I was wearing too casual shoes” She laughed and said, “Well, they’re not really flip flops- they’re sandals!” I’m still confused by this. I think the main difference is the construction and materials, but I still think it’s a double standard. I typically wear leather flats, even in the summer, even though other women in my fairly casual office wear sandals to work.

    8. LD*

      Anything that makes that flip-flop sound counts by me! But really, it is that they don’t have the back strap and are just held on by the one strap across the front of the foot or by the strap that separates between your big toe and the rest of your toes.

  6. Z Blair*

    Re: #5: I’m the OP. I posted my question to a closed group I belong to, and everyone agreed with your answer. Another thing I had not considered in this reply: ” If the job posting says send it to X person, then send it to her, not the ED. They probably have an internal system in place where the ED would pay attention only to candidates pre-screened by X person.” GREAT point! I did some checking around LinkedIn on the screener because I wanted to get her title correct. Turns out she is the development/communications mgr. and that she has worked with the ED for years, beginning with a previous org they both worked at. Important info but it validates that point!

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      That’s not a bad point, but I think you might be over-thinking and over-researching this. You should send it to the person the job posting says to send it to because that’s what the job posting says. If you intentionally ignore something the posting instructs you to do, you’re already starting off on the wrong foot.

      1. Kate M*

        Exactly, and OP you only need to do this because the job listing specifically says who to send the application to. If it didn’t say who to send the application to, I wouldn’t list anyone, even the ED. You don’t know who it would end up going to, and it honestly doesn’t matter. You could put “To Whom it May Concern” or “Dear Hiring Manager.” Nobody is really going to notice – I never really look at who applicants address their cover letter to when I’m hiring. Don’t waste a lot of time trying to figure it out.

      2. Z Blair*

        JB, perhaps overthinking because job searching makes me anxious! Not necessarily over-researching though. I saw the initial job posting on and went to the actual website for the company where the job posting was worded somewhat differently, so two websites. That is why I asked the question here in the first place, because of that difference. After that I went to LinkedIn to look at more about the company and employees. That to me is a normal process of vetting a potential employer/organization. Thank you for your comment!

      1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

        Or “Dear (position name) hiring committee.” It’s been years if not decades since I’ve been involved in an interview that did not have at least two people involved in the decision making process.

  7. Aca-Believe It*

    #5. Maybe this is a British thing, but the ED or equivalent doesn’t necessarily have *anything* to do with hiring. Depends on the position really.

    1. Z Blair*

      Aca-Believe It, not having worked across the pond I wouldn’t know if it is a British thing either! In my experience here, the ED has the authority to hire dependent upon what their Board of Directors has accorded them. Generally senior employees may go through additional steps in being hired, not always the case with other staff. What I have found to be most important is the culture of an organization and and their digital footprint. I am curious about what my skills and experience can offer them and how I may fit in. This is why I research online to learn about a potential employer/boss/organization, even when I am volunteering my time.

  8. Rebecca*

    #1 – early in my job life, think mid 1980’s, I worked as an admin for a VP. His kids went to private school, and we had just gotten a personal computer at work with a word processing program. I typed up school papers for his kids several times, on company time. I was very young and just did what I was told, and the other admins did the same thing (whatever their bosses told them to do). I sent out mailings for his PAC and all manner of personal stuff. I wish I would have known then what I know now. At least with the kid’s papers, they were already handwritten, so I just typed them and perhaps made changes the next day :(

    Fast forward to now – my current manager was taking classes, and tasked one of my coworkers with proofreading the papers she had to submit for her class assignments, yes, on company time. She also thinks nothing of interrupting our work by sitting down, laying out a scenario, and asking how we would phrase things differently when she’s working on homework. I just shake my head. My go to line is “have you tried the the thesaurus?”

    1. MK*

      I think the real issue is how the company views the whole thing. Some orgs would consider it abuse of authority and company resourses, others would think it falls in the same category as using the company printer to print vacation tickets and bookings, a sort of perk for more senior people. As long as it’s done on company time and the company is ok with an employee’s time being used this way, it’s hard to say no politely.

    2. Lora*

      Dear people who even dream of tasking employees to”help” with your or your child’s homework:

      Stop. Just stop. The point of education is that YOU learn how to do this, and your work should reflect what you are learning.

      Exams and homework are valuable feedback for you and the teacher – if many students do poorly in one particular area, that tells the teacher that the lesson design needs work.

      Additionally, if you are struggling and need help, it’s very likely that the teacher can direct you to support you might not even know existed! Universities often have free tutoring and study groups and offices whose very job it is to support remedial education and learning disabilities. Please, please make use of these services!

      Seriously, nobody cares if you got a B- on your midterm. No, not even medical school admissions committees. I promise.

      The meanest university science and math instructor and erstwhile tutor ever to walk the face of the earth, who gave 0 on anything she thought was not the student’s own work, without giving a hoot who the student’s parents were or about threats/whines of “I’m gonna call my family lawyer!”

      (Yeah, I can’t fathom spending $300/hour for a lawyer to actually litigate Junior’s lousy grades, but it did in fact happen. I don’t know how these people don’t die of shame either.)

      1. Allison*

        Seriously, it took me a while to realize that homework was meant to reinforce what we learned in class, and occasionally help prepare for class discussions. The kid has to design a logo so they learn what goes into designing a logo! If they don’t do homework, their performance in the classroom may suffer.

        Doing homework is important, help your kids if you must but have them complete the assignments.

        1. Anna*

          A teacher in Texas just sent a note home to parents saying there would be no assigned homework. The only thing’s the kids would do at home would be work they didn’t finish in class. Finnish schools don’t assign homework. This is a total sideline on the conversation, but it’s looking more and more like homework isn’t actually that helpful to students to retain information. However, useless or not, if a teacher assigns your kid homework, your kid should do that homework. Not you, not your staff, and not a graphic designer you tried to hire.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I always saw homework as supplemental to what you were learning in class–you read a chapter and answered the questions at the back, then you discussed the chapter in class the next day. If you had a practical assignment, you got homework where you did some type of activity based on what you were shown in class–for practice, to reinforce it. When I spent some time in teacher school not long ago, it seemed to be more about looking stuff up on the computer. :(

            Homework has changed a lot since I was a kid, but you still always did your own work. You’re totally right–that hasn’t changed and it shouldn’t change.

        1. AnonWriter*

          It also puts the kids whose parents understand the role of homework at a disadvantage. My parents refused to do my homework for me like the other “fun parents” and my homework/projects never looked as good as the parent ones…

          1. Lady Bug*

            I could do projects for my kid until 2nd grade, then I had to stop so they wouldn’t look like they were done by a 2nd grader….

        2. Kyrielle*

          It does. Also an unfair disadvantage. They may get better grades, but they’ll learn less than the kid who had to do it themselves. (As long as that kid doesn’t give up because their stuff is ‘never as good as’ the professionally-produced items their classmate turns in.)

          Same thing for kids whose parents can do their homework or help with it, and do, vs. those whose parents are too busy working and running the household to play that game. (I won’t play that game – I’ve seen some really amazing displays at the totally-non-graded science fair at my kid’s school. His last year looked like it was written by a first-grader, because it was. I did spell words he hadn’t learned yet for him, when he asked me to. But the rest of it’s on him. Otherwise, there’s no point in participating at all and I could save myself the hassle of observing and assisting with the parts he’s not yet allowed to do, like moving things in/out of the oven.)

          1. Judy*

            When my daughter was in 2nd grade, she was so excited about the science fair. She drew a great for a second grader picture of the water cycle. She labelled it in her own writing, including the big print of the title. It seemed like most of the other kids had access to a cricut. That year was the only year she did a science project.

            1. hbc*

              Ugh, that reminds me of an argument I had with someone. He was talking about some science project a friend had done in high school in the nineties which involved, if I remember correctly, sequencing a gene. Said friend went on to win some national science fair award, and this guy was insisting that this project was a sign of intelligence and intelligence only. I took the stance that it takes an incredible amount of privilege to have access to a university biology lab as a high school freshman, nevermind being exposed to the kind of material that would let one even know that this kind of project was conceivable.

              I don’t think he exactly used the phrase “bootstraps,” but let’s just say neither of us convinced the other.

            2. 2nd Place Science Fair*

              In middle school, I did a science fair project where I bounced several balls and made a graph of how high they bounced after being in the freezer. I used the scientific method, but the resulting display was not super fancy. It was so gratifying for the doctor’s daughter who obviously had a lot of help with her display to only get an honorable mention while I got second place because I actually used the scientific method and she didn’t. Take that!

          2. cataloger*

            I remember being in an elementary school science fair where one of the third-graders did their project on cataracts, and even brought some samples of affected lenses in little jars. How were my African violets grown on the north, west, south, and east sides of the house supposed to compete with that?

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      At my last agency, one higher-up actually made a large group of copywriters and graphic designers get together to come up with a concept and design materials for her kid’s bar mitzvah. In a way this is less bad than doing the kid’s homework, because at least the kid won’t be turning in schoolwork that he didn’t do. But it sure chapped my arse. Given that this higher-up was constantly harping on all of us needing to have 40 client-billable hours on our timesheets every week, that meant we all got to spend our “free time” coming up with ideas so that her child could have cooler-looking invitations and party favors than the rest of his class.

      It’s not the reason I quit, but it sure didn’t make me want to stay.

  9. Christopher Tracy*

    OP #4 – I get those kinds of questions every time I interview whenever the subject of my time at Evil Law Firm comes up. I worked for a firm that is notorious in my city for being dysfunctional as all hell, so people always want to know if the rumors they hear are true. Of course, I always just give a non-answer to these questions and say something like, “The firm has its problems, but I learned a lot while I was there, and I left because I outgrew the position and there just wasn’t an opportunity to advance there,” which is true. I had the AVP of my current company’s corporate division ask me outright about their financial problems, their bi-monthly layoffs (I was still employed with them during this interview and was in no danger of losing my job that year), the lawsuits against us, etc. I still have generic answers and talked about how much I wanted to work for new company instead, and eventually she dropped it.

    So I completely get how awkward this is for you. You don’t want to be disingenuous when someone asks you a straightforward question about your company that’s true, but you don’t want to be too forthcoming with information because it would look like badmouthing your employer, even if you aren’t. I just finally settled on acknowledging the issues briefly, saying that I learned a lot (because I did, both good and bad), and pivoting back to the job at hand. Good luck.

    1. Mike C.*

      That and they don’t deserve to hear the good stories until after there are a few paychecks in hand.


      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Oh yeah – all the more incentive for them to have hired me! I’ve been here almost three years now, and they’ve gotten confirmation of some wild stories from me in that time, lol.

  10. Christopher Tracy*

    OP #3 – If you see higher-level women in your office and even new hires wearing nice sandals to work, I think it’s safe to assume you can too. But if you truly are concerned about making a misstep, just ask your manager if it’s okay. If it’s not (maybe her team is more business than casual while every other team leans more casual – this actually happens at my workplace), she’ll let you know, and if it is, you too can discuss what types of sandals are allowed.

    But seriously, just ask.

    1. Total Rando*

      So maybe this is just me, but I don’t see asking my manager that question if my manager was male. My (probably incorrect) assumption is that he may never have noticed or be able to articulate the differences among the shoe choices I’m considering. I would feel comfortable asking a female manager about whether or not my shoe choice was appropriate, but not a male manager. Is that just me? Am I crazy/terrible for feeling that way?

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I would ask my male manager because he’s been in the office long enough to know what’s acceptable and what’s not even if he himself can’t quite articulate the differences verbally (I could totally see him pointing to another woman in our office’s feet and saying, “That’s okay to wear.”). And I’ve had and known male managers who are very fashion conscious who could verbally articulate what kind of footwear is acceptable. But mileages and all.

      2. chocolate lover*

        Plus, it’s important to know what expectations your manager (male or female) has for you, regardless of what other, higher up women may be doing.

      3. Graciosa*

        Not crazy/terrible, but perhaps uninformed.

        There is just as much variance in how helpful female managers can be on the topic of what to wear in the office as there is among male managers. I have female peers who are as utterly oblivious as any stereotypical absent-minded-professor of fiction, and male peers who notice – I mean *really* notice – what kind of bag you’re carrying. (And please, no stereotypical assumptions about their sexuality as a result.)

        I’m a female manager who probably has the same approach as a lot of my colleagues of both genders. I had – and have – absolutely no interest in fashion. I have a very strong interest in succeeding at work, so I pay attention to what clothing is effective on the job for people of any gender. I also pay attention to a lot of other aspects that contribute to success from speech patters to body language to how to write emails. I want to succeed myself, and I want to help my team succeed. These things matter.

        I would suggest you ask for advice from – or learn by observing – people who are successful in your company. Gender is – and should be – irrelevant.

      4. Jen RO*

        It would depend on the manager, I guess, but my first instinct would be to ask a more senior female employee rather than my manager, if he were male.

        1. LW3*

          I actually did ask another female employee a couple years ago and she said she would never wear sandals to work. I asked because there is another woman in the office who wears flip flops all summer. Keep in mind this employee who said she would never wear sandals to work is actually from California.

      5. Security SemiPro*

        I think it depends on your environment (like many things with dress code.)

        There is absolutely a high level woman at my company who believes that all women should be wearing top of the line business fashion wear to this office every day. Brand name bags, the spiky heels, the whole nine.

        I work for a tech company where the written dress code is that you cover bathing suit areas and wear something on your feet. Common dress is jeans and old t-shirts you got for free from a conference. The execs wear khakis and plaid button downs with sneakers unless they’re meeting with the board.

        If you worked for (or, as a woman, near) the Fashionista, fashionable attire is required. If you work anywhere else, it’s not. I do expect all managers, regardless of gender, to be able to give decent guidance on this. (Including the bit where if you’re presenting to Exec A, B or C, wear the snarky t-shirt, but if you are presenting to Fashionista, wear pumps.) Part of management is setting your staff up for success, including preparing them for weird stuff.

    2. LW3*

      I think the context that was missing from my question is that I am in a male dominated field, technology sales, and at any given moment one of the youngest (looking at least) people in the room. I can’t ask my manager if sandals are allowed, he would look at me like I just asked him how to tie my shoes and it would make me look ridiculous. When I’m a young women in an industry dominated my middle aged men, followed by young men, who all wear the same thing (collared shirt, slacks, dress shoes), the attire guidelines can be a little unclear. At one point I was one of two women employed by the company. The new hire and interviewee are going to bring our women count up to 6 total. The other woman exclusively wears flip flops and mini skirts in the summer, so I can’t use her as a guideline on professional norms (which is why I was paying attention to what the other women were wearing).

  11. Retiree57*

    @2 many years ago, my office did a carpet replacement but they didn’t “vent” the new carpet outside before installing it. So the carpet chemicals were released into the air next door to my office. Many of us developed respiratory ailments. I came down with a severe bout of bronchitis that had me out sick for two weeks. If you have allergies and are unusually susceptible to whatever is flying through the air at your workplace, you might be able to ask for ADA accommodation, e.g. a different office placement, working from home, or at least a breathing mask. Maybe you would get a more favorable response to the request that way…. Not “I can’t concentrate with all this noise and dust” but “these unsafe conditions are going to land me in the hospital.” With better phrasing and documentation from your physician, of course.

    1. LD*

      This reminds me of other safety issues that aren’t considered ahead of time! At one company where I worked while they were replacing the carpet in the hallways, the sales manager was interviewing for an admin. One poor interviewee was brought in down one of the hallways where the installers were working and she slipped on the carpet glue and fell! She wasn’t hurt physically, but her shoes and her suit were ruined, and, of course, they had to reschedule her interview and she didn’t get hired. I felt so bad for her!

  12. TheFormerCSManager*

    #2 – couple of things…how old is your building? They’ve checked for asbestos, right? If they’re opening walls of a certain age (I don’t know what that is). They may be required to do asbestos abatement which would require certain aid for you. (Covering things so no dust could get in up to not being allowed in the area). Also, the allergy thing is not a small deal. When my building replaced old ceiling tile, they were unaware that the insulation was covered in black mold. Myself and a coworker were behind a closed door in an office (they were in the hall) when they cracked those open. She started having breathing issues in 15 minutes and I had hives pop out in delightful areas. Needless to say, the company nurse personally escorted us to our cars and wouldn’t allow us to return to work until OSHA had an air test done. If the construction company had given us 20 minutes heads up, we could have easily prevented a big mess.

    1. ArchErin*

      Asbestos use in construction peaked in the 1970’s but can be still used in the US for certain (contained) items in construction like cement asbestos pipes. However, it is not nearly as widespread as it used to be. Abatement is a serious endeavor though which usually requires the area being curtained off with plastic sheets and air pumped in to create negative pressure. All debris must be sealed in plastic bags and taken out so that trace amounts don’t contaminate areas that are not being abated. Mold abatement is similar but can actually be more extensive as mold can penetrate any porous moist substance.
      OP if your building is doing extensive construction they (or the construction company) have an obligation to test for these things. In addition to OSHA, the EPA and individual states have passed laws regarding this. You may want to look up your state’s laws and use that to bolster your case. But in any case, this is a health matter. Plain and simple.

      1. Jeanne*

        Up above, OP commented that they tested. There is no asbestos in her area but mold is a problem.

  13. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-There is nothing wrong with requesting to work off-site or somewhere else during all of that. Myself and other staff member were pregnant when OldJob was doing major renovations. I told my boss on the days when they are doing carpet or paint, I’m working from home. And I told my staff that if they want to take vacation or work at another (less than 2 miles away) site they can. And others who had allergies and whatnot had that option too. This is an OSHA thing not an entitlement thing.

    #3-I’ve worked in higher ed for almost 15 years and wear open toe shoes all the time. Current job is super casual all year long and I’ve worn flat sandals or wedges all summer. No Old Navy style foam flips flops but everything else I’ve worn. TO be honest though, people here were in shorts all summer so old navy flips flops would’ve been fine. Know your office is the rule here. If others are wearing nice sandals, where sandals. I don’t get the close toe shoe thing unless you are in a hazardous environment like construction or medical. You seeing my toes means I’m less professional? That logic makes no sense.

    1. Rincat*

      RE #3, I’ve been in higher ed for most of my career as well, and that’s definitely been the case for me as well. My first school was a little more conservative/business, but people still wore sandals in the summer (even men!), and some non-client facing positions wore shorts. However my director at the time was a micromanager and we couldn’t get away with that…

      Now I’m at school #2 and I consider myself one of the fanciest/most formal dressers in my department, and that’s pretty sad if you could see how casual my clothes are. I don’t ever wear shorts or flippies, but I do have a nice pair of back-strap flat leather sandals I wear all summer (I’m in Texas, my feet would die otherwise).

  14. KathyGeiss*

    Re: sandals

    I once had an etiquette coach tell us that sandals were ok as long as the % of foot shown was not higher than the % of foot covered.

    Obviously this will vary by industry and location but it is a nice quick and easy rule. It helps rule out flip flops and overly formal (as in wear with a gown) strappy sandals. Leaves you with cute peep toe pumps and lots of other options.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Hmmm. . .probably not a fail safe rule. Back when I was a newbie in the workforce (2000), I wore Doc Martens sandals to work (with a dress, wtf). These cover like 90% of your foot, but are not really business wear or business casual.

      1. KathyGeiss*

        Doc marten makes sandals! My 16 yr old self is so intrigued!!!

        But yeah, the rule will definitely not protect you from frankly amazing (although not necessarily appropriate) work fashion choices.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        There are also lots of athletic-type sandals that fit the rule but probably wouldn’t be appropriate in a dress-sandals-only environment.

    2. littlemoose*

      I work in a pretty casual office, and this is kind of the arbitrary rule I’ve established for myself. I wear peep-toe flats or sandals that still cover much of the foot to work during the summer. They all have heels and straps, so no slappy sounds when I walk. I do have coworkers who wear more casual sandals, including flip flop type styles, but this is the self-imposed standard that keeps me from feeling I’ve gotten too casual at work.

    3. Joan Callamezzo*

      While other commenters are correctly pointing out legitimate exceptions to that rule, this is basically my approach too. Google “city sandal” and you get a good idea of what would be, in most environments, a work-appropriate sandal: wide straps, chunky heel, with significantly more structure, support and coverage than a flip-flop.

  15. Mark in Cali*

    In my business casual office, women are always wearing fashion sandals. If a man came in wearing designer men’s sandals they would be sent home. It really frustrates me. Not to mention the sleeveless shirts.

    I think a lot of managers in my office don’t have the guts to simply say, “Oh hey, by the way those shoes aren’t appropriate for the office. Please choose something that is not a sandal.”

    When those comments are made though, people get pissy saying, “Well the managers have nothing better to do but worry about dress code . . .”

    1. Mel*

      Are you wanting to wear sandals and sleeveless shirts to work or are you just perturbed that the standards aren’t equal?

      1. Mark in Cali*

        Both, Mel. I would gladly wear sandals. I’d probably skip on the sleeveless shirts. Also, the standards should be equal (or as equal as they can be considering the difference in the available men’s and woman’s clothing).

            1. Mark in Cali*

              See, I thought about not posting this comment because I really knew deep down that select women on here would turn this around into a “you don’t know how hard it is to be a woman in the workplace,” conversation.

              Why didn’t I listen?

              Listen, I’m 31 and didn’t grow up learning to disrespect women or treat them as anything but equals. Sorry for the commenters above that you deal with some awful males in your life who evidently make it hard for you to be a woman in the corporate workplace, but I grow tired of the double standard on this blog from (mostly) female commentators who won’t allow any man to feel like that have it rough in their job or can’t have a pet peeve just like you do at your jobs without it turning into a sexist issue.

              Trying thinking outside your binary man/woman world for a second.

        1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

          Well, I hope you will be wearing makeup, styling your hair, and wearing heels then. If you want standards to be equal.

          1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

            Because even though most workplaces don’t *require* those things, some do, and many heavily imply you aren’t professional looking enough as a woman if you don’t wear makeup, style your hair, and wear heels

          2. Mark in Cali*

            I’ve been known to wear makeup on special nights out when I want my skin to be blemish free. I put product in may hair like many men. And I can’t wait for the day heels for men become less than taboo because I will power walk in my heels along with the best of them.

        2. hbc*

          Despite the drubbing you’re getting, I agree. If professional sleeveless tops with shaved underarms are allowed for women, they should be allowed for men. There’s all kinds of reasons to be in favor of gender-blind dress codes, not least to avoid gender policing. It’s not like we fight back against the objectification of women by codifying that they can (read: should) show more skin.

          If men have a hard time finding those shirts and/or don’t want to shave their pits, that’s not the problem of management.

        3. Ellie H.*

          I feel like the shirt thing is a false equivalency, because sleeveless shirts on men are invariably a WAY, way less formal look than sleeveless shirts on women. There are any number of very professional-looking blouses that lack sleeves, whereas I have never seen a men’s wear sleeveless shirt that is not a T-shirt. (Obviously there are innumerable informal, unprofessional women’s shirts without sleeves, but also tons of “nice” blouses – in other words could be one or the other).

          I do think that there are some OK looking male sandals. I wear my Birkenstocks (they’re the nicer, feminine looking style) to work and I don’t think a guy wearing them would be so bad. I do think there’s a little bit of a standard where Birkenstocks or similar on a guy will always be more associated as more casual than comparable sandals on a woman. This is probably due to our culture in which formal (fancy) dress for women tends to involve revealing much more of the body than formal wear for men (cocktail dress vs suit).

        4. Myr*

          I agree with you. Every single time I wear a skirt when it’s hot out I feel sorry for men who “can’t”. It is so comfortable. I can choose to work at a place that won’t make me put on makeup but you can’t choose to work someplace that’ll let you wear a skirt and that sucks.

          Feminism is the rising tide that lifts all ships, guys.

    2. NW Mossy*

      Every summer, my employer posts reminders about the dress code policy as the weather warms up. A few years back, a handful of employees commented that the policy on knee-length shorts (OK for women, not OK for men) was unnecessarily gendered and unfair. HR looked at it, concluded the employees were right, and updated the policy to permit tailored knee-length shorts (such as Bermudas) for everyone.

      Unless truly androgynous fashion goes mainstream there’s likely always going to be some gendered elements in dress codes, but there are opportunities to improve and if employees call attention to it, it can be a catalyst for change.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        HR looked at it, concluded the employees were right, and updated the policy to permit tailored knee-length shorts (such as Bermudas) for everyone.

        That’s awesome. Did the men start wearing them?

        1. NW Mossy*

          A few do, particularly those with a preppy/East Coast style sense. They do a good job of making sure it looks polished and work-appropriate.

      2. Anna*

        That’s cool.

        I agree. Men do have less options available, but they also have less scrutiny of their clothing choices. Which is why this whole conversation about sandals is even happening.

      1. Mark in Cali*

        Then I would argue that has to be true for a woman too.

        I have friends that make clothing and I bed if I called him up he could design, in his view, a professional sleeveless shirt for me.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Nope, it’s not true for women. You can buy a sleeveless oxford in the career section. You can buy a sleeveless printed silky top in the career section. In fact, you are almost exclusively limited to sleeveless tops or long sleeve tops as woman.

          I hate wearing sleeveless shirts. I don’t want to worry about deodorant, stubble or the big armpit gap showing my bra, which happens to me in most sleeveless shirts because I don’t fill out the front very much. Yet, there aren’t many professional short sleeve shirts that don’t look frumpy or aren’t t-shirts or polos. And a woman in a polo is a different professional look than a man.

          1. Amber*

            I have so many dress tops that have t-shirt length sleeves!! Or I wear a sleeveless top with a light sweater, which I pretty much need in the freezing air conditioning. I tend to wear a plain tank top under tops that might show bra through the sleeves. I can understand that men don’t get as much leeway as women in terms of options, but when I watch my husband pick from his 3 pairs of dress pants and his three different colours of shirts and a few ties, and how quick he gets ready in the morning I think it works out ok for each gender!

    3. anonderella*

      Yes but how many men would be willing to keep their body hair immaculately trimmed/shaved in order to wear that stuff? Men don’t have to shave their legs, but women must, in order to wear shorts? What if I, as a woman, want to choose to stop shaving my legs? I can’t wear shorts to work because I’m ‘not groomed’, but you as a man can wear shorts, assuming shorts are allowed?

      (IMO) I feel that our patriarchal ancestors set up this gendered status quo, nurtured women’s fashion so that our appearances were more important than the content of our minds, forged a veritable Olympus of celebrity nightmares that keep us gagging on superficiality, materialism, and ignorance, and so now the men-folk get to wear button-downs and be hot in the summertime. Hah. : )

      I for one am totally ok with reaping the small benefits (aka, wearing sleeveless shirts and skirts) of my lady-‘cestors having been marginalized, grotesquely sexualized, and paraded around like dolls. It’s all I get, other than the lessons learned about standing up for yourself, which aren’t nearly as valuable as you think they will be once you actually get into the workforce and realize that “sometimes things just are the way they are.”

    4. Alton*

      I don’t like gendered dress codes, either, but I think a major difference is that a lot of “nice” women’s sandals are dressy (some have heels, for example) whereas men’s tend to be plainer or more sporty. I think if a woman wore more masculine sandals, if would look different and more casual to a lot of people.

    5. Sadsack*

      I haven’t considered the issue of men’s sandals. I don’t know that I have ever seen a pair that were dressy like women’s. If they do exist, I am real curious what my company would say about it. I hope nothing because it doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal if women are allowed.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I used to have a male co-worker who wore sandals with socks all the time. He was from a culture where that look was more standard . This was in a business casual office that lean more towards formal, 15 years ago. Now I’m not sure if it’s a dress code issue in my current office, or if men just don’t want to look unfashionable. You don’t see men in pants and sandals a lot.

    6. Elsajeni*

      To what extent is this a double standard in the dress code and to what extent is it a difference in what types of clothes are commercially available, though? I can find a sleeveless women’s oxford or silky sleeveless blouse that most people would consider work-appropriate at basically any store in the mall; I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a men’s sleeveless shirt for sale that wasn’t a T-shirt or similar casual jersey knit style. I don’t pay much attention to men’s sandals, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the same is true there — that there are more dressy sandals made for women than there are for men. I’d also like to see dress codes phrased gender-neutrally, but realistically, how much of a difference would you see in dress style between an office that bans sleeveless shirts for men and one that allows them, but only if they’re a formal style?

  16. Red*

    “Do I address my cover letter to the person the job notice states to send it to, or do I address my cover letter to the ED? Silly question I know, but I can’t find anything anywhere that will answer this question.”

    But, I mean, isn’t the answer RIGHT THERE? If the job notice says to send your materials to Chris Smith, why on earth would you not address them to Chris Smith?

    1. Grey*

      Right. It’s like reading a job notice that says “no phone calls please”, then asking, “Should I call them?”

    2. CMT*

      I’ve applied to at least one job where the job was something like Senior Program Officer but the person receiving materials was something like a Program Assistant. In that case, I figured the Program Assistant was just doing the administrative work of collecting the application materials, but probably wouldn’t have any other role in the process. But in that case I just used a generic “Dear hiring manager”.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Yes, and how do you know Chris Smith isn’t the hiring manager!? I usually see a job listing with just the person’s name, not their title–so Chris could totally be your potential boss. If he sees you can’t follow simple directions, you’re not likely to get very far.

      Even if Helena Wormington is the actual hiring manager, I feel like it’s rude to pretend Chris doesn’t exist just because he’s Helen’s assistant. When I write a query letter, which is a lot like a cover letter (ugh), I address it to the agent. But when someone actually replied with a request for pages (!!!), the email came from her assistant. I was stumped–do I reply to her or to the agent? I googled it and people said they felt weird replying as though the assistant didn’t exist (as did I). Since she was speaking on behalf of her boss, I just sent the reply and requested material to her.

      So it was like:
      Babs Rookwood Agency brookwood@rookwoodagency.comm
      Dear Ms. Rookwood, Here is a query blah blah. Sincerely, Me.

      Dear Liz, please send us stuff. Signed, Augusta Cerulean.

      Reply to reply:
      Dear Augusta, I’m delighted. Here is the stuff. Sincerely, Me.

    4. Norman*

      yeah, I cannot believe this was a serious question. But it was. OP even doubled down in the comments.

      Next question: “The job posting says I should send a resume. Should I send a resume?”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey, no, wait, that’s unkind. Many people have questions like this and nowhere to go to ask them, especially earlier on in their careers. I welcome these questions!

        (Also, I get applications ALL THE TIME that are addressed to someone else even though my name is in the job ad. It is a thing people do.)

        1. catsAreCool*

          I think also that people get nervous when working on cover letters, etc., and it’s harder to think clearly when nervous. At least it’s harder for me.

      2. Z Blair*

        Norman, just to clarify: There were two job notices I saw for the same job. The first notice (on had no contact info, was generic, and made no mention of whom to forward materials to. The second notice for that same posting (found on the employer’s website) had a name to send it to, but no title associated with that name making this a fair (albeit “serious”) question.

  17. LQ*

    When I was a younger employee they did construction outside our building. (They dug up the entire street in the worst way possible.) I brought up to my boss that the vibrations on the building were making me nauseous and had helped to trigger at least one migraine. She and I worked out a plan to make sure that we could both work from home. (It was just the 2 of us.) She just hadn’t considered it. (This was a decade ago, but there were the internet and laptops!) It hadn’t been common practice before, but it became common after. She and I would both work from home usually a day a week, sometimes more when there were intense projects and light on meetings. I don’t think people were using the term millennial then but whatever. It was great. It helped out in a lot of ways. I didn’t get sick. Focus work got done faster.

    I definitely recommend asking. This is entirely reasonable to ask.

  18. Carissa*

    #1- That’s messed up.

    #2- I hate your sources, too. Working from home a few days during the week during construction is a perfectly reasonable request.

    #3- Ladies in my office have been wearing nice, dressier sandals for years. (Educational non-profit)

    #5- The job notice specifically tells you who to address the cover letter to. Why would you address it to someone not even mentioned in the notice?

  19. sylph*

    #2: I was actually in that situation earlier this year. They were redoing the roof of my building and all the fumes and dust were vented straight into the building. I ended up with some pretty serious asthma attacks. My managers actually sent me home and let me continue working from home a couple days a week til the construction was over.

  20. NW Mossy*

    I can sympathize with construction, as my office building (a downtown skyscraper) is undergoing a multi-year, floor-by-floor gutting/rebuild of the interior. I’ve moved into my new space now and it’s great, but the noise while they were building it out was a hassle – it sounded like an elephant log-rolling competition most days.

    Definitely speak up – any reasonable manager wants you to be able to be productive and will be willing to work with you on a solution. Working from home may not fly if the IT infrastructure isn’t there to support it, but there may be other options to reduce the impact of the construction.

  21. Rincat*

    Re: sandals, everyone is right that it just really depends on the office. As AAM often says, dress conservatively until you get to know your office culture, and then you can branch out a little.

    Just an example, but I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and have been working in higher education for the last 10 years. Nice sandals – like no rubber flippies or overly noisy sandals – are acceptable at the schools I’ve worked at. The non-profit I was at didn’t really like them, but peep-toes or something like that were appropriate. However, one of my friends worked for an insurance giant, and there was a zero-tolerance ban on any kind of open toe shoe. They also banned bare legs (so hose in the summer! yay so fun). So really, it just depends!

    P.S. I did have one coworker at my current job who regularly wore pajama pants, an old sorority t-shirt, and flippies almost every day in the summer. Now that’s a bit too casual!

    1. Catalin*

      UGH, panty hose are EVIL and seriously, how are they THAT different than a bare leg? Any kind of ‘tasteful discreet’ hosiery should disappear against the skin. Tights and darkly colored hosiery might hide a freckle but the exact details of the leg are still right there.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I think they’re different… emotionally? I don’t wear skin-tone pantyhose any more, but during the winter-to-spring transition I put on a knee-length dress that I’d normally wear with black pantyhose, and tried to wear it bare-legged, and I just couldn’t do it. I felt exposed.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yes, tights FTW! \0/

            I feel weird wearing dresses without hose. Plus I get blisters and can’t wear heels. And your legst stick to each other in summer, ow. They have those anti-chub rub things that go on your legs, but if you’re going to wear something like that, why not just wear stockings or hose anyway!? Kate Middleton does it!!! I’m actually more likely to wear a dress or skirt in winter when I can wear tights than in summer, ugh.

            I’m just going to get long-legged Spanx!

            1. Cordelia Longfellow*


              I pretty much exclusively wear dresses to work these days, and I wear most of them year-round. The only difference is pantyhose in the summer and fun coloured tights in the winter.

      2. Kelly L.*

        That awful orangey fake suntan color that doesn’t match any skin tone found in nature! Shudder! LOL!

        1. Photoshop Til I Drop*

          There is some naturally-toned hosiery for “never seen the sun” complexions such as myself, but you have to seek it out. Donna Karan makes some nice stuff. I rarely wear hose, but when I do, it’s nice to have some that blends into my ghostliness.

          1. Kelly L.*

            My perfect match was a shade called Naked that was sold at Victoria’s Secret. I don’t know if it still exists, and I’m fat now anyway, woe. So I’ve just given up on regular pantyhose and just wear bright or patterned tights. (My boss okayed the brights for work. The patterns I have to save for weekends.)

      3. addlady*

        I thought pantyhose were just to make you feel better about your legs in the winter, when your legs get mottled and pale.

  22. Moldy McGee*

    Do what Alison suggests and emphasize the allergies, but go out right now and buy yourself some N95 masks. I have been wearing these constantly this year and you will get over being self-conscious fast. Anyway, I have a dangerous mold allergy, like anaphalaxis-level dangerous. The environment in my work space gets messed up quite often because the people in charge of our energy-saving program are complete duffusses who have no communication skills. However, all I have to do is say the phrase “dangerous mold allergy” to one of the bosses and things miraculously get cleaned up for me. If my doctor had to write a note for me or I had to make a formal complaint that would look very bad for my employer due to certain OSHA regulations and public records laws. I don’t abuse my magic phrase but I also don’t feel entitled when I use it because my health needs to come first.

    1. LCL*

      …and people in charge of the energy saving programs ALWAYS forget about the shift workers and the whole idea that there are groups that work hours other than 9 to 5. OMG, so much consumption for lights! Yeah, because it is dark during their work hours. Sheesh.

  23. Daisy Dukes*

    #4 actually relates to a situation I’ve been thinking about for interviews. We’ve had part of our team outsourced and have gone from 5 to 2. I’ve been here for 5 years but it still makes me nervous.

    Is it better, as Alison suggests, to just say I’m looking to grow my wings or should I mention the outsource thing?

    I’ve been thinking if my answer is too generic and makes employers wonder if there’s other stuff going on?

    1. Jeanne*

      I think it’s ok to say there have been layoffs and you’re concerned. It’s so common now that I doubt they’ll give it a second thought.

  24. LizB*

    #3: A coworker of mine ran into this issue a little while ago, at an internal leadership conference. She was talking with some folks in a different department about the dress code, which is currently just “business casual” without further elaboration. Apparently the higher-ups are going to be adding some clarifications and more specific rules sometime soon, so they were discussing what those specific rules were going to be. The person my coworker was talking to mentioned sandals, and how they were going to be banned; my coworker was surprised, because people wear dressy sandals in our department a lot, and she herself was wearing a nice pair of sandals that day (not flip-flop-esque at all). The woman she was talking to looked at her sandals with horror and told her that she considered them more inappropriate than sneakers or athletic shoes! Our department is a bit of an outlier both in work tasks and culture compared to most departments in our organization, but “athletic shoes are more appropriate than dressy sandals” is definitely a viewpoint I hadn’t encountered before.

  25. Secretive*

    When an interviewer starts probing too much into the details of a past or current workplace – I simply site confidentiality and say “I’d love to give you an answer to that but it would reveal more information than my confidentiality agreement allows me to say.” or a simple “I am not at liberty to comment on that.”

    Usually that quiets them up and I think it gives the impression that I take confidentiality very seriously (which is big for my industry).

  26. Izzy*

    Re the first letter, being asked to do the boss’ kid’s homework: I totally agree with Alison’s response. However, in defense of the boss, let me rant a little about schools today. I understand where the boss is coming from.
    I am a boomer. When I was in school, we were absolutely expected to do our own homework, including keeping track of assignments. Ditto when my first child was in school. Parents were told to provide a quiet well lighted space and maybe proof read or call out spelling words. When my youngest entered elementary school 20 years later, the rules had changed. It was supposedly my job to make sure al her assignments were done – it was me the teachers fussed at. She got a very low grade on a design project she worked very hard on (in second grade IIRC) to copy and illustrate a short story and make it into a book. She copied by hand. drew her own illustrations, and stapled the booklet together. All her own work, and she and I were proud of it. I had a conversation with the teacher, and she showed me for comparison an example of an “A” project. It was on card stock, with typed text, clip art, and a comb binding from Kinko’s. Obviously done by an adult. This would have been around mid 90’s, so every elementary school kid didn’t have access to a computer like they apparently do now. Still, it was too professional a job to have been done by even a computer literate second grader. There were other projects, like the science fair, where the instructions were addressed to the parents. When I was doing science fairs, it was supposed to be totally the student’s work. One awesome project was disqualified because the judges didn’t believe the kid did it himself (neither did anyone else, although this was in high school and he did probably do most of it, but any parental help was too much); now it seems it’s supposed to be a joint project. Rant ended. The boss should not have asked the receptionist to do the work. It might have been OK to give the kid some design tips if she wanted to, and then let the kid design the logo. Although tutoring the boss’ child is not part of the job description and not something she should have been required to do either. How are kids supposed to learn if adults do their work for them?

    1. Lia*

      Sounds like when my son was in boy scouts and entered the pinewood derby. He made his own car, and painted it, etc himself. He was about 10-11 at the time. The other cars were CLEARLY done by the dads, using expensive power tools and fancy paint jobs no kid at that age could manage.

      My son came in dead last, but he was thrilled to participate. I got some serious side-eye from the other parents for not “helping”, though.

    2. Jeanne*

      I agree there is a problem. However, I would like to see parents advocating for change rather than throwing up their hands and doing the kid’s work. Having your employees do the kid’s work seems to me a step too far.

    3. ArtK*

      The middle school where my friend teaches stopped doing science fair because parents were doing all the work. The kids still do projects, but they’re all done in-class. Sadly, this school is full of extremely driven parents, as in Ivy League or bust, so they take helicoptering to a new level.

      I was a little sad that they stopped the science fair because I enjoyed judging it. Especially enjoyed giving low marks to the ones that clearly had an adult do them.

  27. hbc*

    OP2: “I fear that I will risk coming off as high-maintenance or worse….” If a one-off incident gets you labeled as high-maintenance, you don’t want to be working there. This is a reasonable request, even though, yes, the guy who is cool with breathing in the dust is technically an easier employee in this particular instance.

    Seriously, no manager worth the title is going to make a promotion decision based on whether you have a high tolerance for fumes or need a special chair or have to be home by sunset on Fridays or you’d prefer a decaf option in the break room.

  28. amysee*

    #2: Speak up for the sake of your health. In my first job out of college, I did not speak up soon enough during an office remodel and ended up with chronic bronchitis (cured now!) due to having inhaled a good bit of drywall dust without proper protection.

    My office wasn’t thrilled about having to accommodate me (similar to you, I was one of only a few in the office without a door I could close, so others weren’t having the same experience as me), but they were able to move me- first to a spare room, and then to an oversized storage area. It was bliss.

    I learned from this experience not to assume that my coworkers or supervisors understand what I am experiencing, and to speak up instead of– as I did at first– fuming resentfully in silence at my mistreatment. (Not that you seem to be doing that! Just my own takeaway.)

    Good luck! You deserve to breathe clean air at work.

  29. Piggy Back*

    Can I piggy back on question #2? Can an employer require you to work from his home? I am the CFO’s executive assistant and the CEO who is an absolute piece of shit (too long to go into now) is saying I need to work from his home once a week (without my boss). I don’t feel comfortable doing this. He is verbally abusive and I have heard rumors of other inappropriate behavior. I’ve never had to work with him before and don’t know why I have to start now. Can I refuse to work from his house? If they fire me for refusing, will I be denied unemployment? My salary is low and I will need a cushion to help while job searching.

    (For the record, I am currently job searching.)

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Sounds like the CFO is your direct boss. Are you comfortable enough with the CFO that you can bring your concerns to her/him? Or does the CFO see no issue with the CEO’s request?

      This is so outside the line to me. How many people in the office work from home part or full time?

      1. Piggy Back*

        The CFO is my direct boss, but the CEO/owner is his direct boss, so I’m not sure how helpful he would be. The CEO has a personal assistant that works from his home, but her job duties are much different than mine (she picks up dry cleaning, runs errands, etc).

    2. LQ*

      Unemployment: It will vary greatly depending on your state. In most states if you quit for that you would not be able to get unemployment. I’d strongly say don’t quit if you would need the cushion of unemployment.

      Being fired means you are much more likely in most states to qualify for unemployment. Go to your state’s website and you should be able to read the law for your state. If you do think this will come to an unemployment situation then I’d recommend making notes of problematic incidents. (One of the places documentation would actually be useful.) If you start having to fill out the paperwork be as factual, detailed, and unemotional about the questions they ask as you can.

      Your state may very, please please, go read the law in your state before you assume you’ll qualify.

    3. Sadsack*

      I am so confused…why would you need to work from the CEO’s house? What is his reason? I would do as others have suggested and talk to your direct manager about it. I’d make it clear that you are uncomfortable with that up, but not mention any accusations about the CEO, and tell him you don’t understand the need anyway.

      1. Piggy Back*

        He has a “home office” and works from home. His assistant works from his home as well, but I’m not sure if she’d be there while I was there. Regardless, I don’t feel good about it.

    4. Awkward Interviewee*

      I’m super creeped out by your CEO. Can you find someone, anyone who might be on your side – CFO, someone in HR? You definitely shouldn’t work at CEO’s house alone if he is a piece of shit and engages in inappropriate behavior. And like others have said, research unemployment in your state.

    5. Jeanne*

      I don’t know the answers but I think you should refuse. I don’t even think you should really debate it. “No, I can’t do that. Sorry.” Your boss should be saying you have work to do for him.

    6. GreyjoyGardens*

      Working from the CEO’s home? Alone with just him? Especially if you are female and he is male – creepy as hell! I’d do everything I could to not work there.

      As for getting unemployment: It really depends on the state, as some are much more worker-friendly than others. In my state, California, you have to be fired for “willful misconduct” to be denied unemployment. “Always tardy” falls under that category; “not a team player” does not. But check with your state! Most of this information is easily accessible online.

  30. Non-Prophet*

    OP #3: I agree with others who have said that whether sandals are acceptable office attire depends on your office culture, location, and industry. I work for a mid-sized non-profit in the NYC area. We don’t have a dress code, so my approach has been to take dress code cues from the senior managers. Our EVP is always impeccably dressed and she has never worn sandals to the office. It may just be a matter of her personal preference: it’s possible that our EVP doesn’t like sandals for herself but isn’t opposed to them on others; in fact, several of my coworkers DO wear dressy sandals to the office. But I feel more comfortable erring on the side of caution and wearing close-toed shoes, even in the middle of summer.

    On the other hand, our EVP will often wear sleeveless sheath dresses, so I don’t hesitate to do the same (assuming the AC isn’t on full blast!)

  31. Tris Prior*

    I was once told to make campaign posters for my boss’s boss’s kid’s run at the senior class presidency. While facing a major print deadline. “And, make a few versions of each one, so he can choose the design he likes best.”

    It was my first job out of college and I had no idea at the time that this was not a thing that should be part of my job!

  32. DM*

    Yep, NICE open toed shoes (or sandals) are generally accepted in most offices I’ve worked, except possibly a law office (and even then, it’s usually okay in many of them, as long as the shoes are nice and not too casual). Something like this would be a okay in most places, for example. – and yes, I’m currently wearing platform open toed shoes in my downtown office. :)

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Huh. I’m fully pro-sandal, but those actually DON’T look appropriate to me. I think it’s because of the ruffle thing around the ankle — it makes them look like an evening shoe.

        1. DM*

          LOL. They’d be fine in my office (with the right outfit, of course), but we’re kind of folks that like to show off shoes :)

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Yep, I agree. This is part of why office sandals are an advanced move: it’s hard to hit the balance of not too casual, not too beachy, not too evening-y. Depending on the particular office, I might wear some of the styles below. (In reality, FWIW, even though I work in an extremely casual office, I never wear sandals to work.)

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Oh, I wouldn’t mind them. If you wore them with a very tailored outfit, I think they would look nice. If you were all fluffy with a ruffled blouse and tiered skirt, etc., then nah.

  33. Language Lover*

    I’m a librarian and I’ve been asked by faculty members multiple times to do work that was school work. One faculty member wanted me to find ten articles on a subject (unrelated to the discipline I serve and he teaches) for his child who was just so busy at school to do this. Another faculty member wanted me to do some educational research that I suspected was some classes she was taking to improve her standing instead of just curiosity.

    It’s pretty awkward. Part of my job is developing a good relationship with faculty members and doing subject-specific literature searches for them. I had to find a way to say “no” without revealing my true “What. The. Hell!?” feelings. Luckily, our library doesn’t have access to the databases/journals that would have been appropriate in either situation and I directed them to the libraries of their child’s undergrad/their grad programs.

    So I sympathize with you #1. It was inappropriate. You weren’t wrong to feel awkward about it. Hopefully, this doesn’t come up again and was just a one-time error in judgment. Thankfully, once I shut them down, neither faculty member came back to me with a similar request.

  34. WildLandLover*

    OP#2 — For what it’s worth, I work in a building where major renovations were done several years ago for earthquake safety. There was so much dust being thrown into the air and the ducts — even though the contractor put up plastic sheeting to try to minimize it — that a couple of employees came down with autoimmune disorders of the respiratory system. We can’t prove it was because of the construction dust, but since both of those employees came down with respiratory disorders within a year of the construction, we can’t help but think it was due to the construction. Luckily for me, I was working out in the field for most of that summer so I missed most of it.

    Mold spores are nothing to take lightly. Depending upon your autoimmune system, you could end up with asthma or something worse. I recommend you definitely follow up with your supervisor to see about working from home.

  35. MommaTRex*

    #1 – Giving some advice is one thing. Like if the kid came in to sit down with you for a few minutes (like 30 minute maximum) to get some ideas, or learn a trick or two in some software. But this? NO.
    #2 – Gen-Xer here. Your sources have given you terrible advice. Everyone will understand you wanting to work from home. Well, every reasonable person. There’s usually one whack-job in every office who will complain about everything, but nobody important really cares what they think.
    #3 – Not being able to wear nice, professional “sandals” (aka open-toed shoes) would be a reason for me to look for employment elsewhere.

  36. Boss Cat Meme*

    I do not have children, so maybe it’s something I just don’t get, but parents, come on, do you actually think you are HELPING your children by doing their homework yourself or having an office assistant do it? What really gets me too are the parents who spend a fortune to send their kids to some posh academy for “genius” development, and then they are doing their kids homework? Yeah, that’s some genius you have there.

    Learning to time mange, prioritize, working smarter not harder are all part of an education that will prep your kids to problem solve and succeed. I taught COLLEGE kids who demanded I hand hold them through EASY assignments. Believe it or not, one of their “assignments” was to go to the college library and check out an actual book – -the point was developing research techniques beyond internet blogs. You would not believe the excuses they had for not being able to walk across the quad and enter the big building with the pillars in the front! You would not believe how SHOCKED and ANGRY they were when I told them no book equals no grade for that assignment. One young woman burst into tears like a baby and swept my things off my desk before running out of the classroom.

    Did her mommy teach her THAT? Mommy sure taught her how to make excuses, or think that they could just “dazzle” their professors with some BS about how special snowflake doesn’t see the point of the assignment. Parents, STOP DOING YOUR KIDS HOMEWORK!!!!!

    1. Kyrielle*

      I have children, and I don’t understand it either.

      Another mother I know comments that the way the schools assign science fair stuff, they must know the parents will be doing it. I’m like…really? Of course for a first-grader I guided him through the process of picking and running an experiment, but he had to actually pick a question, make a guess what the answer would be, and do most of the work. (His project involved baking cookies – I handled the oven for him, because first-grader. And I told him the spelling of some words he hadn’t had to write before, because again, first-grader.)

      But if the school wanted us to do it, it’d be the “parent science fair” not “student science fair”. Of course some parents do much or all of it, and I know the school realizes that (because for some displays, it’s very very clear), but…that doesn’t make it the point. And yes, doing it would be easier than guiding a six-year-old through doing it. It’s also easier for me to do basic addition than for him. But I’m not the one who needs to learn it; of course it’s easier for me, I already learned that. Come on, guys, you aren’t doing them any favors at all.

      I…I am wowed (and not in a good way) that you get students who balk at an assignment to just go check out a book. When my boys get me to check out books for them at the library, it’s so they can spend more time playing on the train table, not because they don’t know how. O.o (And I totally brought home a positive book about broccoli this week; they may rethink that strategy next week.)

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I do get it. My kids are in college and middle school. As a parent, you learn to pick what matters in your family, and that may or may not align with the school’s objectives. They are my kids, not yours.

        As a general matter of practice, I don’t do my kids homework, and I think it is important to learn the things they’re supposed to learn.

        However, some specific things don’t have a lot of value for me. Last year, my 6th grader built his own cell model, but in 5th grade, he had help with his Native American hut. His crafting skills weren’t there yet, and who cares? What does building a hut really contribute to the understanding of Native American shelters for social studies, vs. studying the book and pictures?

        Another time, he had been working steadily on a short story for his writing class, but still ended up needing to write four pages the night it was due (he had gotten too involved in writing the first two pages). I let him dictate it to me. I type much faster than he does. This wasn’t typing class, and he had practiced the keyboarding skills some, but after he spent about an hour on it, and it was 7:00 pm, I took over. So what? Next time, he will understand what it takes to do a similar assignment.

        Everyone has to pay their dues at some point, and if a parent chooses to do ALL the homework for a kid, to manage their every interaction with a teacher, etc., the dues will be paid when the child fails at his first job and moves home.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Having help is not the same thing as the parent totally doing the assignment, though. You didn’t write the story or build the hut. You assisted him–he still did the work.

          I saw something on Facebook the other day about how school helps prepare kids for life. One point made was that at a job, you will sometimes be assigned tasks that are boring, seem unrelated to anything (hopefully homework isn’t like that, but you never know), and you basically have to do what your boss (teacher) says. It was written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but I laughed when I read that because it is so true. You don’t get to say, “I’m not getting anything out of this assignment so I don’t really want to do it,” at work!

          (Or knock everything off the table and run out of the room–though I have had days where I wished I could!!)

        2. catsAreCool*

          I agree with Elizabeth – helping him the way you did is OK; you didn’t do all the work for him, so he still learned.

        3. Kyrielle*

          What Elizabeth said. I get helping. I don’t get taking over and doing – I’m talking cases where I think, at most, the kids may have watched their parents do the science experiment.

    2. Jeanne*

      I think the one who swept the stuff off your desk has been watching too many soap operas or reality shows. Everything must be DRAMATIC. I probably would have laughed so hard before failing her.

      1. Boss Cat Meme*

        I was so angry at her the day she stormed out I was ready to throw her out of class. Two days later, when she came to class again, I told her she was an A plus student who could accomplish anything she wanted, but her attitude will convince people she’s not worth a second glance. She would be doomed to fail unless she did the work, because her work is the ONLY thing that will speak for her.

        Surprisingly, she apologized and her attitude changed immediately. She truly was an A student too. She’d get a 98 out of 100 and then ask me what she should have done to get a 100. She became my best student. I think I may have been the very first instructor to have ever given her a failing grade on an assignment that she couldn’t talk her way out of.

        THAT is the problem with parents who do their kids homework. No, of course it doesn’t matter if the Native American hut looked like it was made out of twine and chewing gum. Education does not exist in a vacuum, and good instructors focus on the educational development of the student, not the prettiness of the project . We do not LEARN categorically, as in right now I’m learning to keyboard, and at 1:30 I will learn who Lewis and Clark were. We are continually learning hundreds of new ideas, skills, and problem-solving techniques every minute of every day. Parents who teach their kids that they don’t “need” to learn or do a concept or skill are the worst of all (education wise) because they are shutting down the multiple layers of learning that occur in children especially. The point of the assignment is not how pretty your child’s version of Fort Henry looks. The point is that your child learns multiple layers of skills and concepts, like construction principles, the ability to finish what they start, the ability to mange time wisely, the pride of accomplishment, the growth that occurs when your child realizes that he did it himself and next time if he gives himself more time and more effort he will do even better. The confidence that your child gains by finishing something well is IMPOSSIBLE to teach UNLESS your child finishes something well. YOU finishing it for him teaches him to make excuses. If you think, “I worked SO hard on the first two pages,” isn’t an excuse then you’re fooling yourself. Next time tell him “That’s great! You’re over half way finished now and I know you can knock out two short pages in no time flat,” and you will give him the confidence AND the ability to succeed. Instead you just reaffirmed the idea that he’s a lousy typist, (as ALL children are that’s why they need to do it more) or the teacher gave him too much homework, or that he can wait until the last possible minute to start anything because mommy will take care of it, and that he thinks it’s fine to pick and choose what parts of the assignment “matter.” This is the kid who will grow up and tell his supervisor that he didn’t finish the project because it “doesn’t matter” if it’s missing X or Y, and tell his college prof that it “doesn’t matter” if he can locate a book or not because it’s probably online somewhere.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I remember my mother going to bat for me three times in the case of homework/test issues. Each time, I had done the work, fairly, and they graded me down based on assumptions/reasons that my parents knew were false. (For example, I filled out my family tree in grade school and they said I didn’t finish the assignment, just said I didn’t know almost everywhere…we’d been told to ask our family and they actually didn’t know either…. Which got my Dad started on genealogy, but the original assignment was to interview our immediate family and fill out a family tree. Which I did. As best I could.)

    3. Thumper*

      That reminds me of a time when I was a junior in art school and I had to witness other students in one of my gen ed courses practically begging our professor to make an upcoming exam multiple choice instead of short answer. It was so infuriating, it wasn’t even a hard course!

  37. League*

    As the director of a nonprofit who does frequent hiring of senior staff, I respectfully disagree with the response to #5. In the job postings we do, we mention whom the position will be reporting to, so it makes sense to me that applicants for these positions would address their cover letters to me. They’re instructed to send their application materials to a generic email address and may get follow-up from HR if there’s a piece missing, but it doesn’t make sense for them to write a cover letter to someone they know isn’t actually going to be making the choice. Again, these are senior positions, so maybe the expectation is different?

    And, ultimately, I agree this doesn’t matter that much – but it’s nice when the applicant acknowledges they’ve read the whole posting and understands they’ll be working for me directly and that I’m doing my own hiring.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s a different situation though — the OP is asking about times when they say “send your materials to Jane Smith” but she’s wondering about addressing them to the ED, Lucinda Jones, instead. In your case, you’re not saying to send them to a particular name, just a generic email address.

  38. Only Today*

    5) I’m so glad you answered this! It’s different from the common question: to whom should I address my cover letter/application? It doesn’t generally matter (i.e. don’t stress if you can’t find a name), but if there’s a name immediately available to you, use it. Going up the ladder does not speak well of your attention to detail or your level of arrogance/classism.

Comments are closed.