I got in trouble for wearing work-out clothes around the office, throwing up at work, and more

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

1. I got in trouble for helping my boss while wearing work-out clothes

I leave the office every day to jog during my lunch break. I wear dresses to work and change into work-out clothes for this purpose. I am required by my office to take an hour lunch, at a designated time slot specified by the office manager. And it is an unpaid hour.

The other day, I changed into running shorts (a rarity as yoga-type pants are my usual norm), and my boss (I am the assistant to the owner of the company) decided he needed me to do some things as I was getting ready to leave. I voiced to him that I was getting ready to leave for my lunch, and that I am required by the office manager to take it at the time she decidedly designated to me days before, and he had me help him anyway. I was in my jogging gear for 10 minutes in the office before I left the building.

Subsequently, the office manager wrote me up for wearing “skin-tight short-shorts” around the office. Can I actually be reprimanded for what I wear on my unpaid lunch hour to work out, when my intention is to be outside and nowhere near the office?

Like, legally? Sure. They’re allowed to say that you need to change back into work-appropriate clothes if you’re sticking around the office.

But in this case, you should point out to the office manager that you were on your way out the door for your break and your boss directed you to stay and help him. Or even better, you should ask your boss to intervene so that you’re not disciplined for something he directed you to do.

For what it’s worth, if these were really “skin-tight short-shorts,” ideally you would have told your boss, “Let me change back in to work clothes before I help you” or explicitly asked him to okay you not changing back, but I also know you might not have realized he needed you for more than a minute or two. Regardless, this shouldn’t be a big deal; they should just ask you to handle it differently in the future.

2. Our workplace mails us donation requests

I work at a research 1 university and every year we receive mail (at home) soliciting for donations to the college we work in or the university itself.

Am I crazy to think this is egregious? Our pay is not competitive in any way, we rarely get raises, and they want us to help fill their pockets for programs and other things that do not involve employees. I know they call people too, but I have made sure to be taken off that list. What do you think?

It’s a little obnoxious, but I wouldn’t say it’s egregious — as long as there’s absolutely no pressure on you to donate and you can throw away that letter and never hear anything about it.

3. Offering to arrange funding for an unpaid internship

I am a freelance graphic designer who wants to start focusing specifically on urban mobility issues. I’ve done some similar work in the past, but in the last few years while freelancing and needing to focus on finding paid freelance work, I’ve done much less of this kind of work.

I recently saw a posting for an internship at an urban mobility organization, which, due to my background (experience working at similar projects), I’m pretty sure I’d be a fantastic fit but… it’s unpaid. I think in general it would be a pretty good move in terms of getting closer to the work I want to be doing. I have freelance work I could continue doing on the side, but taking on an unpaid internship, while a great opportunity, would not be realistic right now. But, because of a contest I won (in the urban mobility area) and some consulting I’ve been doing since for them, I have a light working relationship with a big company who I am hoping might be able to fund the internship if I frame it in a way that overlaps with their interests.

I’m trying to figure out what would make sense to do. Should I send an intro note to the internship organizer and ask if arranging funding (and creating a project that would appeal to the big company) would be something they would be interested in? Or should I formally apply, and then if accepted, bring up the possibility of funding? It all feels very possible for me–the big company has a lot of overlapping interests, etc–but I do think it’s useful to have a sense for how things are done which I don’t have.

I’d apply, and then if you’re contacted for an interview, bring it up at that point and ask if they’d be open to it. I wouldn’t bring it up earlier, because you’d be asking them to spend time considering if this would work before they’ve determined that they’re interested in talking further. Also, the part about having to create a project that would appeal to the big company is potentially a minus — they might want you focused on other things — so it’s better to raise it as a conversation rather than in a cover letter.

4. When a chronic illness makes you throw up at work

I have chronic health issues related to celiac disease that make it difficult for me to hold down food sometimes. I manage them to the best of my ability and my company is incredibly understanding. I let my boss know during my accessibility meeting that I had a chronic health problem, and we have worked out steps to take if I need time off. My direct coworkers know as much information as is necessary. However, I occasionally will get sick while I am at work, even though I try my best to not come in if I am sick. This is not a problem at my office since we have a private bathroom.

However, since I work at a nonprofit, we occasionally have to use office space from a local corporation if we need more room. This corporation has a much more rigid culture and I do not know any of the employees. They also have a communal bathroom. How should I handle it if one of their employees has questions or awkward stares? This happened frequently in communal restrooms in the past. I don’t want to draw attention to myself unnecessarily and I do not want to do anything to harm our relationship with this generous partner.

If someone else is in the bathroom while you’re getting sick, I’d just say (as cheerfully as you can muster, given the circumstances), “Chronic health condition — nothing to worry about!” or “Chronic health condition — I’ve got it under control!”

People are generally going to wonder if they need to come to your assistance in some way (or worry that it’s an eating disorder or something else that people tend to speculate on in an unhelpful way), so if just briskly reassuring them with a small amount of info should take care of that.

5. Email signature after a promotion no one knows about

I have recently been promoted, and I am not sure how I should list my job title in my email signature and personal company contact profile.

My manager had told me I will be promoted and had told me my new job title. However, I am not sure if my colleagues know that I am promoted. I don’t think my manager has told them about my promotion.

My HR record shows my new job title. But I can edit what my job title is on my company contact list and on my email signature. What is the norm for changing one’s job title in email signatures if colleagues don’t know about the promotion?

Normally you’d just go ahead and change it. But since you’re unsure, go ahead and ask your boss. Say this: “Hey, I was getting ready to change my title to X in my email signature and on the company contact list. Should I wait for any kind of official announcement to people before I do that?”

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. C Average*

    I am cripplingly emetophobic, and when someone is throwing up all I want to know is that a) it’s not contagious (so I will not feel the need to shower in Lysol) and b) they don’t need any help from me (so I can run away as fast as I can and not feel like a horrible person for abandoning the sick person).

    I’d want to hear, “It’s a chronic thing. Nothing contagious and nothing I can’t handle on my own.”

    1. Nina*

      Same here. I feel bad about it because I’d rather help than flip out, but that’s why it’s a phobia.

      Regardless, it still sucks for you OP, so I think just announcing that you’re ok will smooth things over. And since the people in your office already know, they can just re-affirm it if anyone else has questions.

    2. Lee Long*

      This is OP. Thank you so much! I didn’t want to make the situation more awkward than it already was and hearing y’all’s perspective really helped

      1. ChristyJ*

        That sucks op. Not to be mean or rude but are you getting sick from cross contamination or just not religiously monitoring your diet? Could this be prevented?

        I know a few celiacs and none of them have this problem.

        1. A Signer*

          This seems unnecessary. OP wrote in about how to manage the impressions on officemates, not for advice on managing her illness. As a person with chronic illness myself, I’d recommend trusting that we’re doing all that we can to take care of our health.

          1. Gaara*

            I think a lot of people will wonder this if you tell them you have celiac and then continue to get periodically sick. So that’s important to be prepared for or consider.

            1. Anna*

              No it’s not. Just like my blood glucose levels are nobody’s business, it’s nobody’s business how the OP is managing their illness and it would incredibly rude to ask.

          2. SystemsLady*

            Yup. OP also said “related to celiac”. Genetics-wise celiac can very often come clustered with other sensitivities that are more difficult to deal with, and the specifics aren’t our business.

            1. Lee Long*

              Thank you for stepping in. Celiac Disease caused other health problems in my case. It is a rare side effect

        2. Temperance*

          Eh, I’m not a celiac, nor do I have digestive issues other than some food allergies. I can still throw up pretty easily. Trust LW to know what’s going on with her own body.

      2. Temperance*

        All that I would need to hear is that you aren’t contagious. ;) I have had norovirus in the past, and it started because someone came to work ill and then it spread through my entire company. It was awful.

    3. Newby*

      This used to happen to me a lot. I always lead with the “not contagious” part for that reason. “I’m not contagious. It’s just a flare up of a chronic condition. I’ll be fine.”

    4. TootsNYC*

      I might say, “Some foods don’t agree with me,” and leave it at that.

      “Chronic thing” raises questions and implies some disease too scary to talk about.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Came back to say: I have celiac, and I don’t keep it a secret around the office. So I could say, “It’s from my celiac.” But I’d keep it short, and I’d either make the celiac a known thing, or I’d just say, “Some foods don’t agree with me,” or “I have a touchy stomach.”

        (also–celiac undetected can cause several different kinds of damage; and even just a single instance of gluten-ing will cause a different reaction in each different celiac patient.)

        1. Anna*

          It also can change. My BF started out with just serious stomach pains when she’d get dosed. Then it moved to diarrhea, and then included vomiting. Now it’s feeling fatigued and basically crummy unless she somehow gets a lot.

          It’s different for everyone and it can be progressive, is what I’m trying to say. :P

  2. Stellaaaaa*

    OP4: If you’re comfortable with it, I see no problem saying, “Sorry, I have celiac” as you duck into a stall. I think you can presume that most people know what celiac disease is by now, and it’s not an illness that carries a huge stigma. Obviously your opinion may differ, but I wouldn’t feel weird if everyone at work knew I had celiac disease

      1. chickabiddy*

        Yes. The details are none of my business, although knowing it was celiac disease and not something that might require immediate assistance would be reassuring. I would be wondering if I (or someone else) needed to get someone from your office or any other sort of help.

        I’m really sorry that this is something you have to deal with!

    1. Zillah*

      I agree. I have a lot of dietary restrictions, and I’ve tended to mention them matter-of-factly when it’s come up at work. That’s always worked out well for me with pretty much no drama.

    2. Florida*

      Some people wouldn’t mind saying, “I have celiac.” Others don’t want anyone to know. I agree that celiac does not have a stigma attached to it.
      To me, the one downside of telling others the specific condition is that suddenly all of your co-workers become armchair doctors. There are already comments today along the lines of, “I have a friend with celiac, and they don’t have this issue. Why don’t you try ____?”
      So I would say you should consider the personalities of your co-workers and whether or not they are armchair doctors and your tolerance for this type of conversation.
      Don’t feel like you HAVE to reveal it, though. Alison’s answer is perfect.

      1. Diabetic*

        As long as you use the word “celiac [and sensitive to gluten]”. I would avoid just “gluten sensitive”, as I think there is a stigma attached to disavowing gluten, rightly or wrongly. As long as you attach something like celiac or FODMAP sensitive, though, you’re probably fine.

        Type 1 diabetes is probably the worst.

        “Can you eat that?” Yes. “Are you sure?” Also yes.

        “You must not be under control if you were low this morning, slept through alarms, and were late for work [happens very rarely/have discussed with my boss, usually working through lunch for a day or two is enough to cover]?”

        Short of directly telling the rest of my hormones what to do on a daily basis, telling my pump company to hurry up with the new version that can send alarms to my phone (only the “empty insulin” alarm and “you’re not just low, you’re *really* low” alarm wake me up, and usually I’m already in fight or flight mode/woken up on the second), and speeding up my no longer living alone timeline, there’s not much I can do about this one :P.

        1. Diabetic*

          (The alarms I sleep through are indeed phone alarms, but I set the low alarm conservatively and it would be going off before I “conk out”. It’s only when I’m slightly low and it just kind of sticks there that this happens – I automatically wake up before it gets to be a dangerous low)

          1. T1 SO*

            Totally off topic, but my S.O. is T1. What type of pump has alarms that can be sent to one’s phone? S.O. just got a new pump (after 12 years!!) and I wonder if it has this feature. (Or are you saying you wish they would make a pump with that feature?)

            Severe hypoglycemia can be really scary; S.O. has had some very bad episodes where I’m thankful I’ve been there to help.

            1. sarah*

              The new Dexcom (I believe it is called Dexcom Share) can do this — it actually sends alarms to both my husband’s phone and mine. Super useful!

          1. Ellen*

            Insulin dependant type 2 here, cheering you on from the sidelines, blessed with needles and tiny bottles five times a day.

  3. Susan*

    Sometimes this site has the effect of just making me really grateful that my workplace doesn’t get all uptight about small things like being scandalized for 10 minutes by workout clothes.

    1. Drew*

      I’m grateful not to be in an office where the office manager has the power to write you up, period, much less for something your boss required you to do.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Since the OP is an assistant, I’m assuming the office manager manages the OP (it’s not uncommon for the office manager to manage the admins) … but if I’m wrong about that and she’s not her manager, then yes, that is very, very wrong.

        1. eplawyer*

          But the OP works directly for the boss. Shouldn’t the boss be aware of these policies like lunchtime and dress code? Are these really policies or has the office manager pulled a power play and created them on her own?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            In some offices, there’s a central admin manager even though the admins all assist other people (for example, the VPs’ assistants all report to one main operations person), so the OP could be person X’s assistant and still report to the office manager. If that’s the case, the office manager wouldn’t need a written policy to point to if she thinks walking around in short-shorts was sufficiently bad judgement for their particular office.

            1. eplawyer*

              It’s the part where the LW had to tell the boss it was her lunch hour and she had to take it that bothers me. Presumably the owner of the company knows the office policies. Even if the LW reports to office manager, the boss should be sufficiently aware of the policies to have prevented this. Because presumably as the owner he set the policies.

              1. MK*

                I don’t see why you would assume that. If the owner/boss has indeed structured the staff so that all the admins report to the office manager, they may well have given this person the authority to set the policies regulating the admins. After all, such an arrangement is supposed to “free” the non-support staff from dealing with the management of admins.

              2. Temperance*

                I really disagree with this. You’re assuming a very small company here.

                At my firm, all the secretaries report to the Office Manager, even though their attorneys are their actual bosses and give them work etc. The attorneys shouldn’t be wasting their time on day to day scheduling and other stuff, so the OM does it. This may be a similar situation.

    2. svb*

      Exactly. Overmanagement for the sake of making a point or feeling in control is a slippery slope. I presume OP #1 changes somewhere in the office. So what about the walk from the changing area to beyond the property?

    3. M-C*

      I agree that “writing people up” for a minor offense without previous discussion is not the sign of a place you’d want to work at. And dictating exactly when the unpaid lunch is taken isn’t exactly the mark of a great workplace either.

      But let me also gently bring up the reminder of the boss I really liked and the sidekick, who were (admirably) running during their lunch hour, and (quite legitimately) took showers at work afterwards. The rub was that there was only one shower, so at least one near-naked sweaty guy hung out around the workplace for nearly a half-hour every day while waiting his turn, not to mention the times when they’d wander in and finish their conversation, near naked and sweaty, in the middle of the workplace, or even worse start talking to you and have a whole work discussion, near-naked and sweaty, before even getting to the shower.

      I really liked this guy, still consider him one of my best bosses ever something like 30 years later. But I haven’t quite been able to erase those images from my mind. Don’t be that person OP! Please wear something else than small tight shorts to exercise, even if you think of it as ‘on your own time’, even if you mostly wear them that way.

    1. C Average*

      Around the time of 9/11, I was working for my alma mater. I was part of a team that went on recruiting trips, and one of our PowerPoint slides detailed how college graduates could expect to earn $28k more than those without degrees. “I’ll be excited to GET to $28k,” we’d mutter darkly to each other before busting into our canned spiel.

      After 9/11, my job was eliminated due to budget cuts. On the same day I carried my box of stuff home, I got a solicitation from the alumni office in the mail.

      I wrote an emotional-to-the-point-of-unhinged letter to the alumni office.

      To this day, I have never received a single solicitation for funds from my alma mater.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        My graduate school didn’t bother correlating lists of graduated students with lists of current students. So during my entire, often very broke PhD, I kept getting solicitations for alumni donations.

        1. Dr. Ruthless*

          I got a call from student calling when I was a PhD student (I had also done my MA there, so I was, indeed a former student). The call went something like this:

          Caller: “When’s the last time you managed to make it back to [University]?”
          Me: “Um…today?”
          Caller: “Oh, wow that’s really great! I’m so glad to hear you got a chance to come back and visit! What did you do while you were on campus?”
          Me: “I had class”
          Caller: “Oh…my records show that you graduated…?”
          Me: “Yep, I got my Masters, but I’m still working on my PhD.”
          Caller: “Wow, that’s so great! “–Launches into donation pitch
          Me: “No, I don’t think I can donate. I only earn $8,000, and I have to buy my own insurance [this was a particular bugbear of mine at the time], so I don’t think I’ll be able to give anything.”
          Caller: “The school is PAYING YOU?!? Are you sure you can’t give back? That’s so great that they’re paying you to attend. You should really think about donating.”
          Me: “$8,000 a year. No.”

          1. Katie the Sensual Wristed Fed*

            Ahahaha this happened to me as a graduate student too. I also pointed out that I had to borrow money from my parents to pay rent the previous month because the admin assistant forgot to send our paperwork in on time so I hadn’t been paid. But since they had just found money to revamp the football stadium, I figured they could limp through without my largesse.

            1. Dr. Ruthless*

              At one point I was working outside of my department for my stipend and tuition. The guy who ran the program was about to retire and had the worst case of senioritis I’ve ever seen, and just didn’t submit my paperwork for months. I was getting paid, but my tuition wasn’t. At one point I logged into the web self service thing and I owed $49,000. I walked in with a printout and told him he had to fix this. Now.

            2. the gold digger*

              I made the mistake of agreeing to be on the fundraising committee for my class year. Then I discovered that the president of my college makes $1.5 million dollars a year – this for a school smaller than any of the Ivies (3,900 undergrads), with a $5 billion endowment, and without a medical school or a law school. So in my requests to my classmates, I just asked for $10 apiece so we could get the alumni participation numbers for the rankings. If the school is so desperate for money, they can ask the president to donate.

              1. Rana*

                This is something I’ve always appreciated about my alma mater. They are happy if you even donate $5 a year – they actually made up special stickers and cards you can put on your car to show your affiliation if you do – and every phone-banker (all students) who solicited me over the years were completely understanding the times I explained that even $5 was too much.

              2. Rana*

                I also got very pissy when institutions that I worked for asked for donations. No. Just… no. I’m not going to give you part of my meager salary so that you can turn around and use it to pay for something other than the benefits you’re stinting me out of.

              3. Emilia Bedelia*

                My alma mater’s president is the highest paid private university president in the nation (to the tune of 7.5 million in 2014).
                So you can imagine how excited we all are to donate :)

          2. all aboard the anon train*


            When my alma mater called me after I had graduated (this was the year the economy erupted and my graduating class entered into a workforce where most of us couldn’t find jobs), I got very snippy (and I know the poor students manning those phones have no choice, but I was still bitter and annoyed).

            Caller: I see you just graduated. How did you like University?
            Me: It was great.
            Caller: So, I’m calling for a donation today.
            Me: I’ve donated $XK already.
            Caller: Really? I don’t see anything in our database.
            Me: It was my tuition. Bye.

            I still use that line when they call. I have the number blocked for my undergrad and grad schools, but sometimes they call from a different number, which is obnoxious. I was especially prickly that first time I got the call after undergrad because it was a bad economy, I had only been out of school for a month or two, and it was after a school year where we had several protests on campus about rising tuition and fees while the president of the college got a $1M bonus.

            1. Photoshop Til I Drop*

              My advisor gave me wrong information that made me take an unnecessary extra semester. He said I had to take separate classes for my gen eds and my minor requirements, even though some math classes would have been eligible for both. He was wrong, and it cost me thousands of dollars and delayed my graduation. I made this clear to the people who called, and asked if they’d like me to spread the word about the incompetence of their guidance department. They stopped calling.

            2. Anna*

              Best. Response. Ever.

              I’m half-heartedly contacted by the school where I did my MA. My undergrad school (which I am more likely to donate) never really contacts me.

          3. Florida*

            I always remind myself that the people making those calls are undergrads. In many cases, this is the first job they’ve ever had. Yes, they say stupid stuff, but I try to cut them some slack.

            1. LizM*

              They’re also not paid very well, my roommate used to work in the call center. Chances are, they’re also trying to figure out how to cover tuition and rent.

              1. Janelle*

                As someone who once managed the campus call center, it was one of the best paying jobs on campus.

                Universities and colleges often solicit faculty and staff not because they’re looking for a lot of money. They’re mostly looking for participation numbers. It looks good on grant applications to say that the employees support the institution. (You can always designate your gift to go to a specific area/need if unrestricted giving isn’t for you.) However, having also run fac/staff campaigns, I can assure you that participation is generally very low, so you wouldn’t be the only one.

                (I’m a professional fundraiser, and I get a little defensive when people call what I do “obnoxious”. Come on, guys. Non-profits don’t run on good intentions. I’ve worked in organizations where we had hand-me-down computers and copiers. Very, very few orgs can get away with not asking.)

                1. Emma*

                  It’s not that any fundraising is obnoxious so much as certain types of clueless fundraising are. Like asking for donations from underpaid staff, or not taking no for an answer.

          4. Wendy Darling*

            Yep. When I was a TA and RA we were HOUNDED to donate to the college’s fundraiser so they could have 100% participation. Meanwhile the graduate student employees hadn’t gotten a cost of living adjustment in the last 8 years and the university had just taken the union to court to try to get out of paying for stuff it had agreed to pay for.

        2. Jaydee*

          Having worked very briefly in a call center for my alma mater while I was a student, I don’t think that was an oversight. I quit without notice when we started calling people who I knew. It was the summer after my junior year, so these were people who had graduated when I was a freshman. They were either in graduate school or had been working for at most 2 years at an entry level job and still paying off student loans.

        1. Catabodua*

          Fried Eggs – the economy was already in a downward slide when 9/11 happened and tons of companies used it as an excuse to cut jobs.

          I worked for a women’s clothing retailer at the time and they used 9/11 as their excuse for poor sales in their public reporting for several quarters, if not a year.

        2. Maxwell Edison*

          I had a friend who taught at a school for students from overseas, and he lost his job after 9/11 when most of the students’ parents panicked and yanked their kids back home. Student body dropped by around 50% and lots of teachers’ jobs got cut.

          1. Chocolate Teapot*

            I was jobhunting in September of 2001 and was in the early stages of interviews for an overseas job which would have a lot of international contact. After 9/11 I was informed the company had decided to not go ahead with recruiting.

        3. MillersSpring*

          The U.S. economy was slipping already in 2000 and 2001, then worsened in 2002. Google “2001 recession.” Apparently it affected the U.K. less. Felt like crap over here.

          1. Kerry ( like the county in Ireland)*

            April 2002 my position was eliminated at a law firm due to a massive slowdown in legal industry. This was also the start of first year law firm jobs getting cut or delayed–a friend had a firm offer but the firm got bought between end of summer/spring and he was out of a job.

      2. Koko*

        My school more than doubled tuition and the university’s population in four years while reducing full-time tenured faculty until my department was folded into another one just to stay alive. I was taught mostly by adjuncts not receiving benefits, and fewer and fewer courses were offered each year.

        This, so they could build a bunch of fancy new buildings that some future students would get to use and would make them look like a Prestigious Community Institution with its soaring modern architecture.

        The first time I was called about a donation I politely declined but after about the third time the caller tried to persuade me to change my mind, I let him know that while I loved the professors I had at their school, I did not think the administration treated them well and I believed the administration did not have the correct priorities and sacrificed the quality of my education out of greed and in order to puff themselves up in public opinion, and that I would never be making a donation, ever.

        They did stop calling for a couple of years, but then they started up again. I screen their calls and haven’t talked to them again, but they email and postal mail me a lot too.

      3. Good_Intentions*

        C Average,

        Please let me tell you how much I applaud your decision to rightfully tell your alma mater where to stick it.

        I too have received endless solicitations for donations from both workplaces (nonprofits) and my university.

        Every time an ask arrives in the mail, I black out my name and address, rip it into tiny pieces and place it in the recycling bin. This is especially cathartic when I’ve been in between jobs.

        Again, I really enjoyed reading your story.

        1. Janelle*

          They’ll just pay to get your address updated with NCOA. It’s more efficient to send the slip back in the (hopefully) postage paid envelope with a note that says not to solicit you via mail or phone again. Anywhere I’ve worked has a process for this, and these requests come in every day.

      4. sometimeswhy*

        I received two degrees from my alma mater under two different names. For years they continued to solicit donations from both [exname] and [nowname]. I eventually went on a tear explaining that I’d received two degrees from them, under two different names and that their continued insistence on using [exname] despite (1) being able to keep it track everywhere else and (2) also soliciting under [nowname] felt a little like it was devaluing any degree or certification from that institution and asked them to either sort their shit out or stop calling.

        They opted for the latter.

      5. BananaPants*

        I told my alma mater that when I’m done paying off my student loans, I’ll be happy to contribute to the annual campaign. Haven’t been bothered since.

    2. tab*

      Just call t number or reply to the letter and just ask politely to removed from the mailing list! Any decently trained sevelopment person will take care of that for you stat.

      1. Emelle*

        They will also remove you if you tell them your spouse went to Arch Rival University and whatever you donate to Alma Mater, you have to write the same check to Arch Rival U. I haven’t gotten a call from Alma Mater in 15 years.

    3. RobotWithHumanHair*

      Good to know that it wasn’t just my job too. They’d make a big campaign of it on campus and basically hold events trying to guilt staff into donating (despite the fact that we were the university with the lowest compensation in the state). I always avoided those events like the plague.

      (All past tense, because after 17 years working there, I resigned and moved out of state with my family…still looking for new work, unfortunately.)

    4. BRR*

      It’s not uncommon at all nonprofits. One point is to be able to say their employees love the organization so much they all donated back to it. It’s obviously fake and I haven’t met anybody who goes “wow that’s impressive.” I work in development and it got brought up as a brainingstorming idea earlier this year and I’m happy that it was shut down early. I always ask in my head when this happens to “haven’t i given enough.” It always feels like a combination off your employer stealing from you and them wanting you to be thankful for working there.

      1. Florida*

        I tend to think it would be irresponsible of a nonprofit to NOT ask its employees to donate*. The employees are usually invested in the mission. They know more about it than anyone else. Why wouldn’t you ask them?

        *I am talking about inviting employees once to donate. If they say no, move on. I am not talking about shaking them down or guilting them into donating. I think sending a solicitation letter is the perfect way to do it.

        1. Bend it like Brooklyn*

          Yes, they already know. And if they can afford to and want to, they’ll do so. So why would you need to ask them? Why not trust that the employees are capable of figuring out how to donate without having to be asked directly?

          1. Catz*

            Because that goes against everything development professionals know about fundraising – people have to be asked or they won’t give. Obviously that’s a generalization, but they ask board members, volunteers, people who “should just know” all the time. I’m in development, and we don’t ask staff, not because they “already know” but because there are better uses of our resources.

            1. Bend It Like Brooklyn*

              I donate to three chairites on a monthly basis. None are ones that approached me. All are ones I care about and chose to donate to. Charities or fundraisers that hassle me for money get ignored. I’d be FURIOUS if an organisation employing me felt it was OK to pester me to donate to them. And I’d make a point of never doing so.

              1. Florida*

                Please note that I said it was not OK for charities to pester their employees. I said it was OK to ask employees. There is a big difference.

          2. Florida*

            For the same reason the entire field of marketing and advertising exists. It’s not a matter of trusting employees to donate. Quite often people know what they need, but they must be reminded to buy it. People know when they need a new car, but sometimes they have to be reminded. We all (even non-Americans) know who the American presidential candidates are, but you can’t go more than a few waking hours without being reminded of their names. People know that the university depends on donations, but sometimes they forget to donate unless they are asked.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, to me, if it’s exactly 100%, it’s obviously fake or pressured. Because I don’t think, statistically, you’d ever literally reach 100% if everyone was left to their own devices.

        1. Florida*

          As mentioned by Catz up above, you would never raise any money (or very little money) if everyone was left to their own devices. Very few people wake up in the morning and say, “I think I’ll send a check to the university (or any other charity).” They send the money because they were asked, they got a letter, they got an email, they got a phone call, or some other way they were asked to donate.”

          1. irene*

            just to reiterate this:

            i’m also in development for a nonprofit with a membership program, and the number of times people come up to me and say “you know, i’ve been meaning to re-up since i expired X months ago, but i keep forgetting to mail the check” and then don’t actually do anything until I stick a letter in the mail… and this is something where they’re paying to attend our programs/events/lectures but would get in free if they just did the annual membership on time, and there’s an easy-access online form to do it themselves.

            i feel a bit reluctant to do the sales pitch asking for money, because i hate being asked to donate, but for all the people like me and Koko and Bend It Like Brooklyn, etc., there are loads who do need to be prompted to actually pay, even if they want to and intend to.

            (heck, i was caught out by the local symphony recently – i’d been ignoring their phonathon calls for weeks, then finally answered so i could ask them to leave a voicemail when they call so i know it’s not a telemarketer, because i was definitely going to be donating/buying tickets this season, just not yet. i ended up buying more tickets than i would have done if left to my own devices, because i was offered a non-specific show option – a number of tickets for any combination of shows, just call the morning of a show to get a seat assigned if i plan to attend (they never sell out) and my card stamped at the door. but it’s a phonathon-only ticket option designed to snag people like me. that phone solicit guaranteed a 4-ticket sale AND the unrestricted donation that i had been planning, and didn’t risk me forgetting to do it on time. plus having a person talking to me helped guilt me into acting sooner.)

            ((i refuse to donate to my university, though. i’m an alumni and staff and sit in on meetings talking about different campaigns, and when the staff or alumni ones come around all i can think is Fat Chance Our Department Is Hitting 100% Participation This Year, i’m terrible. but i also didn’t really have a strong relationship with the school as a student and only chose it because i was too sick to move away from my family))

    5. Aurora Leigh*

      Haha! My college made a big production on the day all the seniors came to do graduation paperwork stuff. You sent through the line of tables and at the first table someone have you a dollar bill and a speel about your first dollar earned as a grad. Then at the end of the line they asked you to donate it back to the school! And yes, they were sending me mailers long before I found full time work.

    6. clarie*

      Yup! I work in higher Ed fundraising. If you’re not interested in giving, let them know that a) you don’t plan to give and b) you don’t want to be solicited by phone, mail or e-mail. They *should* respect your wishes – if they don’t, complain loudly and often :).
      I work more on the administrative side, and it drives me crazy when I hear of schools that don’t have accurate records of enrolled students, or who send out solicitations the day after tuition is due. These things can be avoided! I also understand the rationale behind asking employees to give, but at many colleges (especially large universities), employees don’t see themselves as part of a mission-driven non-profit, so being asked to give back to their employer is confusing at best, and offensive at worst.

      Working in fundraising had made me so jaded about non-profit status, especially in higher education.

      1. Koko*

        Even in a mission-driven nonprofit (where I am a fundraiser no less), I consider myself to be “giving back” to my employer because I could take my skills elsewhere and earn 50% more money.

        I agree with you about being jaded. I’m fortunate to work for an org that treats the staff very well, but mingling in the NPO industry you begin to realize just how many small organizations out there are led by megalomaniacs and narcissists whose organizational model relies on overworking and underpaying young people with little to no experience, and use shame and guilt to convince those young people that they’re directly hurting the cause if they advocate for themselves.

        You see the same thing happen with market-disrupting start-ups. There’s just that extra bit of leverage that the owner/ED has in a mission-driven context, where they can cloak their own unreasonable demands in the guise of being “for the cause.”

    7. craftierthanthou*

      I work at a state university where we went several years without real raises (i.e. you’d get a tiny bit more each year, but not enough to cover the hikes in insurance and parking… so you were really making less). We were still asked to “give back.”

      But the best part was that as the holidays rolled around one of those years, we received letters from the school asking us to name the university as the beneficiary of our employer-provided life insurance (a very small policy of a few thousand dollars). My coworkers and I were a bit shocked at that request, but we did have a lot of fun speculating just how we might “accidentally” die on campus if we did sign them over.

    8. Soupspoon McGee*

      At my last dysfunctional workplace, a community college, I donated to the student scholarship fund every year. The last year I donated, I followed their very public instructions to name and designate a scholarship with the promise that I’d donate $1,000 a year for 10 years. The head of development had his assistant, a friend of mine, tell me the board was phasing out that option, so I couldn’t create a scholarship for students with disabilities, I couldn’t direct my money elsewhere, and I certainly couldn’t get it back.

      1. Koko*

        That is appalling. I’ve worked at many nonprofits over the years but one thing has always been consistent: Any donation will be refunded for any reason, within a reasonable time period (around a year). Anyone demanding a refund is already not likely to be a repeat donor. Refusing to refund just makes that more certain and also increases the chances of them giving you bad publicity on social media. You always apologize and refund the donation. Maybe if you’re lucky, they will appreciate how you handled the request and in the future they might come around and donate again.

    9. anncakes*


      When I worked at a large state university, I got these letters. The first one came right around the time there was drama with our contracts. The university had been withholding all raises and was playing around with benefits, in violation of our contract. The various unions had accepted a freeze and cut back for X number of years to help the university cope with the downturn, but the freeze wasn’t supposed to last forever. It was written into all of the contracts that it’d be lifted on such-and-such year, but of course the university just kept the freeze in place for over 2 extra years. So here we are with the university violating our contracts and holding back money we’re owed, and they’re still sending every employee those stupid “please give back” letters, all while sitting on extra revenue and using money from the general fund to pay for football expenses like the coach’s mortgage on his gigantic home. Ha.

      I still get phone calls every once in a while from the place where I got my masters 6 years ago. I’ve never even answered the phone, but they keep trying to call me. It doesn’t bother me enough to contact them and request they not solicit me. I’m just fascinated by it and am wondering how many years in a row they’ll call without an answer and whether they’ll ever give up…

      1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

        I worked at a university call center for a brief time, and I bet they will keep calling unless you proactively ask to be taking off of all soliticing lists. We could only flag a person on our do-not-call list if the person we were calling said to taken them off our list. Mom, husband, child, the president of the United States does not count. And one’s inclusion on the do-not-call list only lasted five years. Only after three times on the do-not-call list would someone stop getting phone calls. This did not include the magazines, email, etc. (and there was no option to flag this request on the call center side). But conveniently we could flag someone wanting to get the university logo on their car plates.

        It seems that they have a system to get updated addresses, phone numbers, etc. Many people seemed surprised that the university had their unlisted phone number and the addresses we had on file were new addresses. One said they told us they died last time (and was not called for a few years). They seem to have found my new information as well. I guess they use that BS excuse of “business relationship” to continue sending me solitication requests.

    10. irritable vowel*

      I always felt fine not donating at the university where I work until they rolled out their latest giving campaign a few years ago and strongly implied that heads of units would be privy to who on their staff contributed. I decided that for political reasons I needed to press pause on my principles and pony up. Fortunately the new campaign allowed donors to earmark really specifically where they wanted their donations to go. One of the things you could donate to was student financial aid, which I have absolutely no problem contributing to (I mean, it’s still going to the university, but I felt like my contribution was directly helping a student make it more affordable to attend our ridiculously priced university).

      1. Florida*

        I’m in favor of the university asking staff to donate but I have a problem with the heads of units knowing about it. The development staff, accounting staff, and others like that would obviously have to know because it’s part of their jobs. But otherwise it’s no one’s business.
        I have donated to United Way (an organization I loathe) because I felt like I had to. I earmarked the donation, but I still hate United Way.

        1. ScarletInTheLibrary*

          And knowing how much one donated. Our larger government unit does these charity drives every year. This year, our stats will be conveniently entered into our new (and crappy) payroll system. It would be too easy for our supervisors to look at that information. In the past, we could submit the form, and put a zero donation so we could have a 100% participation for the branch (because branch manager thinks it’s important). I don’t think we will be able to do this going forward.

    11. Sparrow*

      Yep. At my last institution, the college I worked in was in the middle of a big fundraising push and wanted 100% donation rate from faculty and staff in the program. This was a university I’d worked at for about a year with meh salary, and I had no personal affinity or loyalty to the school. It’s a good thing no one asked me for money in person, because I would’ve straight-up laughed in their face.

      (Re. donations to your alma mater – I recently got a letter raising funds for a specific program I’d participated in. I was willing to make a donation because that program was a huge part of my college experience – and then I realized that they were asked for gifts of $1000 or more. I mean, I was a history major and have spent more time in grad school than out of grad school since I graduated. Yeah, that’s not happening.)

    12. Michael in Boston*

      I worked as a library assistant at an undergraduate institution in Boston about two years ago. I would receive quarterly donation requests. These were slipped into my work/office mailbox, sent through inter-office mail. I would have rather received these requests at home: coming in to start the day only to find a request for cash was not great. They also really pushed us to donate through a direct deduction from our paychecks, which left a bad taste in my mouth. At the time, all I could think of was how I’d like my paycheck to be larger, not smaller.

      Still, many of the employees (more senior professionals) did donate and earmarked funds for financial aid for students. I think it was easier at their level of compensation and for tax purposes as well.

      From my own college, I get letters about every couple of months or so, and a phone call from a student fundraising phone bank about 2-3 times per year. I always tell them that I will think about donating once I’ve repaid student loans. I once made the mistake of elaborating further that I really did not enjoy my time at college and for that reason did not want to donate, but I think this freaked the student out.

  4. CATS*

    I worked in social services and after several years of no COLAs and no raises, no promotions, hour reductions, etc, we got solicitations in our work mail boxes for a local food bank.

    Some of us were USING the food bank!!!

  5. Geneva*

    #4. I feel your pain! The slightest bit of stress makes me sick so I’ve understandably lost my lunch numerous times at work (such a pain). To avoid bringing attention to myself in communal bathrooms, I wait in the stall and take deep breathes until the room clears out. Ginger ale also helps stall the inevitable as well.

    1. Newby*

      I used to nibble on crystallized ginger. It works very fast. I also found some strong ginger candy that I kept in a drawer at my desk (it was more palatable than the crystallized ginger).

    2. Rebecca in Dallas*

      I’ve had migraines come on quickly that made me feel like I was going to throw up at work. I’ve found Altoids (or probably any strong mint) helps hold it off for a little while. I know several friends swear by ginger for morning sickness during pregnancy.

    3. Amadeo*

      Zofran is the most wonderful thing I’ve ever been given by a doctor. Ginger ale, ginger chews and sometimes Bonine are good over the counter things, but if you have regular nausea, it might be worth begging your doctor to consider giving you a script. Phenergen is cheaper, but all it does is make me want to sleep at my desk. I sound like a drug pusher, but Zofran is the best anti-nausea drug I’ve ever been given.

      1. BananaPants*

        I was on Zofran for severe nausea during both pregancies (borderline hyperemesis in the 2nd) and it at least reduced the vomiting. I was still nauseous 24/7, I just wasn’t puking as often. Great stuff, but in the US insurance companies often limit how much they cover unless you’re a cancer patient or pregnant with HG.

        My OBGYN wouldn’t even try phenergan – I’m an engineer and we could not risk me having any kind of sedating effect.

      2. BTownGirl*

        Zofran is just magical. I had surgery and, even after I’d been given every anti-nausea remedy imaginable in the hospital, I was still throwing up two days later. I took a Zofran and fifteen minutes later I was happily eating the entire contents of my refrigerator. Miracle!!

    4. CATS*

      I have Celiac as well and take zofran fairly frequently due to nausea and a host of other comorbid conditions.

  6. Shabu Shabu*

    OP#1, may you never have to change back into work clothes after just changing into workout gear. That is half the battle sometimes (at least for me =P )!

  7. Jack the Treacle Eater*

    #5, “My manager had told me I will be promoted and had told me my new job title”

    Is this an official promotion yet, or is it just that you’ve been notified about a forthcoming promotion ahead of time? If it’s the latter, do nothing until the promotion is made official, though if it’s dragging you could ask when it will take force.

    If it is already official, what Alison said.

    1. Fried Eggs*

      And if you think asking if there will be an announcement is presumptuous (depends on what’s normal at your office, I guess). You could even just frame it as asking if it’s official. I think I’d go with: “I wasn’t quite clear on when my title change goes into effect. Should I go ahead and change my email signature now or wait until a certain date?”

      That gives your boss the opportunity to say it’s official starting now, but hold off on changing your email until I make an announcement, or tell Fergus, or the new quarter starts, or whatever.

    2. OP #5*

      When my manager told me about my promotion, he did not indicate a specific date. I found out my name was under the new title after looking at an HR record source one day. But I am slowly starting to handle some of the responsibilities and tasks for the New Title. So that’s why I was wondering on when I should change my email signature…

      1. irritable vowel*

        I got dinged by my boss’s boss for changing my email signature after it was official in HR but before he had sent out an announcement about it to the rest of the staff. So, I would say ask first – you have nothing to lose.

    3. Liz*

      As it’s already changed in HR, I’d say that’s official.

      OP, I’ve just been in your place: my manager told me I’d been promoted, announced it to the team 2 days later… and it’s now 3 months later and the paperwork still hasn’t finished making all the rounds to reflect in our directory! I figured once he told the team and/or it was approved, it counted as official and just went ahead to change my signature.

    4. danr*

      At my old company announced promotions were reserved for the big titles. All of my promotions were unannounced. I always found out when I got my yearly raises. I called them stealth promotions. The change in job title was real as was the extra bump in pay. I used the new title as needed. No one ever asked about it. Others were in the same situation and we would find out either when their email sig changed or by word of mouth.

  8. H.C.*

    OP2 – this is fairly typical for nonprofits; in fact, some even use it as (misguided) gauge for employee engagement (i.e. are our workers passionate enough about our cause to donate some of their hard-earned, possibly below-average earnings back to us?)

    Just keep ignoring or saying no when you get those requests (alternatively, I give the “I usually wait until end of calendar year to make my charity contribution decisions.” line [which is true since that’s when I figure out my year-end finances and know how much I can afford to give – if at all.])

    1. Newish Reader*

      You should be able to let the fundraising office know that you prefer to be removed from future solicitations. I used to work in the fundraising area of a university doing the backend support work and we had ways to note which employees and alumni didn’t want to ever be solicited again or had preferences in how to be solicited (never by phone but mail was okay, etc.).

      1. Over Development*


        My record indicates I do not want to be solicited by phone but am okay with letters and email.

      2. BRR, ,*

        Exactly. I work in development too and whenever I’m contacted I asked to not be contacted and specify do not call, do not mail, and do not email.

    1. Colette*

      That’s not actually an unreasonable thing to be concerned about. I mean, in this case the OP was on her break, but if she decided to start wearing spandex on a regular basis, that would be inappropriate in a lot of offices.

      1. Mookie*

        Except that the office manager knows the OP, presumably saw her that day, and is aware that she is mandated to take an hour-long unpaid break at that time. It’s pretty obvious, based on that context, that the OP was in the process of leaving the office. The “write-up” is ridiculous and there’s little reason for the office manager to believe that this would be an ongoing problem.

    2. Over Development*

      I have to agree with Collete here. In this case, it was not the OP’s fault and I think the Office Manager over reached.

      But as someone who has had to send people home due to: (1) wearing a tunic top as a dress, (2) cut-off shorts so short the pockets hung out below the hem, (3) a deep v-neck so low that made coworkers uncomfortable…and I could keep going.

      There are clothes that are inappropriate for work, and it has nothing to do with being prudish.

      1. BRR, ,*

        On #3 I had a coworker this week whose v was so deep the part of her bra between her breasts were showing. I don’t consider myself a prude but not office appropriate.

  9. AnonAdjunct*

    OP2: I’m an adjunct instructor working for the same college for the past 10 years. I haven’t had a pay increase in 6 years. In fact, several years ago, I lost nearly one-fourth of my income because the administration cut adjuncts’ teaching loads so they could avoid giving us health insurance under the ACA. Now their enrollments are dropping, so we’re losing income because of that, too. Not that any of the administrators are losing any of their pay. No, no. The effects of their poor decisions get passed on to the instructors who teach the students who bring in the revenue, so we get to bear the consequences.

    These people still have the nerve to solicit us for donations. Seriously. It’s like higher ed administrators live in some alternate universe where they think it’s reasonable to cut workers’ pay and pressure them to donate more at the same time. It’s a very special kind of special world in higher ed. Guys, you have taken enough of my money. Please consider that 25 percent pay cut to be my perpetual, annual contribution to the general fund. Unfortunately, there isn’t a category for that on the solicitation form.

    If I felt obligated to donate (which I haven’t for nearly five years), I’d earmark my donation for a scholarship that supports students in financial need and not to the general fund.

  10. aebhel*

    @OP #1

    I would definitely ask your boss to intervene. You should not be written up for something he directed you to do. If the situation hasn’t been made clear to the office manager, start with that, but if she’s unreasonable about it (which, given that she jumped straight to a write-up, she may well be), definitely loop your boss in.

    1. Mephyle*

      Yes, this gets to the heart of the matter. We can talk about other offices where dress codes this, obligatory lunch hours that etc., but whatever light they shed on the matter doesn’t erase the fact that the situation here is that she was instructed by a boss to do something and then written up by the office manager for doing precisely that thing.

  11. Ann Furthermore*

    #2: I call it egregious and tone deaf, especially after reading some of these other comments.

    My company does something similar, or was, for quite awhile. The Export-Import Bank was the target of lawmakers for awhile, and this or that senator or congressman would threaten to vote to defend it because it is an example of corporate welfare to other countries, gives companies in other countries an unfair competitive advantage, blah, blah, blah. My employer is a very large company with customers around the world, many of whom depend on loans from the Export-Import Bank.

    Every few months, every employee would get an email from the CEO asking each of us to contact our congressmen and tell them to vote to approve funding for the Export-Import Bank. The unspoken implication was that if it was defunded, it could lead to layoffs. And of course, this could *only* be done on personal time.

    Those emails really pissed me off. Hey Mr CEO, we are not your private army of lobbyists, here to cater to your every whim. You’re already paying plenty of people obscene amounts of money to further your interests in Washington. And it’s not like anyone’s job is safe anyway, since you’re already outsourcing hundreds of jobs to India. So no, I won’t be emailing my congressman to help you get a bigger bonus.

    Really a sore spot with me. Thankfully, the Export-Import Bank got its funding renewed, so we haven’t seen any emails like that in awhile.

  12. Wendy*

    Universities do pressure their (underpaid) staff to donate, because they like to advertise the donation participation rate. God knows why, nobody they’re marketing to cares, but it’s a metric they’ve set themselves so they run around making people crazy about it.

    I have never donated to the university that underpays me. If pressed, I smile and say, “I give at the office,” and leave unvoiced, “you fuckers.” If they were really to press hard, I’d lose the smile and suggest they pay me more and then I’d think about it, and at that point I suspect several unions would be getting into the act.

  13. Over Development*

    Maybe I’m just too used to receiving fundraising letters, but I don’t think it’s egregious. It’s nothing personal, you are a record in a database, that does not have a do not mail code, and you haven’t made a gift this year.

    I have seen universities that target by job code, and try to weed out employees who make under a certain amount each year, but that often feels very classist. Our department admin proudly donates about $50 each December and loves that she receives the same mailings and stewardship opportunities as other donors.

    1. Mookie*

      I agree, particularly with your last paragraph, and to remind the world at large that it’s usually underpaid undergrads doing the phoning, so please don’t take them to task personally for something they can’t control. We are forever and for very good reason exhorted to treat people well when doing business–and it’s usually cashier, clerks, and admins that receive the brunt of anger and frustration–and this is no different. Ask to be removed from the list if they’re phoning and bin the written requests.

  14. Ghost Town*

    OP2 I also work at a state university and we receive a solicitation for charitable giving. While I’ve technically received raises every year (0.5-1.5%), my take home pay had gone down thanks to an increase in parking fees. I used to stress about the solicitation, now I just toss it without a second thought.

  15. Liz*

    #2 – I also work for a similar university, with the same pay issues. Just toss the letter. If there’s a drive for 100% participation you can give 50c or $5 or whatever, but otherwise feel free to ignore it. If you really don’t want to get any solicitations just tell them and they’ll add the appropriate code to your record.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      When I was feeling particularly aggrieved (for instance, when the university declined yet again to give us a cost of living adjustment and then also TRIPLED our quarterly fees) I wrote ‘fuck you’ on the letters and then tossed them. Which, while not particularly useful or dignified, made me feel a tiny bit better.

      1. the gold digger*

        Kind of related – it’s been more than a year since my husband’s parents died and yet we still get their mail. Any time there is a paid postage return envelope included, I write, “HE IS STILL DEAD” across the solicitation letter, stuff it in the envelope, and mail it.

        I have been so, so tempted to complete and return the political surveys their party has sent them, but I have not.

        1. irene*

          oh man i am SO EMBARRASSED when i get something like that back!

          usually it’s because someone didn’t actually tell me to mark the person deceased in the database, or one of the data entry people fucked up. i have been dealing with their fuck-ups so much lately i want to tear my hair out, but i’m not allowed to fix anything myself because i’m in a Read-Only role.

          i work hard to make sure i submit correct information to the data entryists and that when i spot bad information, i email them ASAP to fix it with a clear explanation of why. i literally have to manually comb through every report and retype it in Excel to exclude the bad data or eliminate duplicates and i just want to know why is data entry always advertised as an entry-level job if it’s so fucking hard to get right?!?!

          on the other hand, i like to fuck with other orgs’ databases by randomly changing my name around and refusing to choose a salutation. i tip my hat to the kids who mark “Prof” and “Dr” when they sign up for my program, and everyone who gives me an ambiguous name, even though it complicates some things… i know one person who was listed in my database five or six times, all with the same mailing address, just enough was different to not be automatically assumed the same, except she did it accidentally simply by never remembering what name/phone/email combo she used the last time she donated. i admired the tangle so much once i discovered it, not so much when i had to fix it.

  16. JoniKat*

    As a fellow celiac, I am very empathetic to what you’re going through OP #4. The weird thing about celiac disease is that it manifests different in everyone. I don’t typically throw up unless I accidentally have a lot of gluten from a mistake at a restaurant or on my own, but I regularly get other also not pleasant side effects instead.

    However, I also have Type 1 diabetes which when my insulin pump fails makes me vomit terribly. This happened once after I had just started a new job and I told everyone after I left the bathroom, “I’m sorry, I’m having an issue with my diabetes, but I’ll be okay in a little while.” They then said, “Oh I’m so sorry to hear that, my relative has it, I hope you feel better.” I’m sure most, if not all, of the people at the new building will understand! Good luck!

  17. Temperance*

    Re: #4

    If you’re in the other office space, and it’s a big corporation, they might have accessible, single user restrooms in addition to the regular ones. Ask the receptionist. I tend to throw up pretty easily, and regularly scope out ways to get the most privacy while doing so.

    Don’t feel weird about using the accessible restroom (if there is one). It’s for people with health issues or mobility issues, and this counts as one, IMO.

  18. Vicki*

    When I got phone calls asking me to donate to my very rich and prestigious alma mater, I politely (and truthfully) told the undergrad at the other end of the line “I’m giving to the United Negro College Fund, they need it a lot more.”

  19. Annoyed*

    A big reason for colleges harassing alumni for money, I mean kindly soliciting donations, is that it is a factor in the all-important US News rankings.

  20. Kristin*

    I think this might be the one time I’ve felt strongly different from Alison!

    Honestly that office manager seems wildly out of line. She’s policing the OPs body in a way that seems vindictive. Skin tight short shorts seems like a very judgmental way of saying “inappropriate dress” – plus it seems she wrote up the OP without asking her what was up or talking to her about it.

    Just seems sort of toxic to me. It doesn’t appear the OPs boss minded the shorts, or at least felt they were fine for a few minutes.

    1. Gaara*

      There can value in describing the inappropriate attire, in general. Usually the people who dress inappropriately don’t know what is or is not appropriate — that’s why they do it.

      The situation here is obviously different in some ways, but if “skin-tight short-shorts” is an accurate description, then I don’t see how that description is part of the problem. (To be clear, I don’t think the OP should have been written up at all, given the circumstances.)

    2. Mander*

      I am with you on this. Clearly the big boss recognised that OP was on their way to the gym (and dressed appropriately for that). One hopes the big boss also realised that they were interfering with the usual routine. It seems vindictive for the manager to write the OP up for what amounts to having their break interrupted.

      1. Kristin*

        Yeah, I might be hyper-sensitive on this issue because I am pretty passionate about how women’s bodies are policed but the tone felt really petty to me. There is a way to describe the outfit without being so judgy.

        Skin tight short shorts could easily be described as “Athletic wear that was shorter and more revealing than our dess code allows” for example.

  21. Greg*

    OP1: Explain to your boss what happened and see if they will intervene this is a “against the rules but common sense” situation. However you don’t say one detail I’d consider important, did you take a full hour after you finished listening to the manager? If you didn’t would you have been penalized for taking your full hour and coming back at say 1:10 instead of 1:00? because they took 10 minutes of your time, didn’t compensate you for it and then wrote you up. I’d let that inform any future “little favors” in regards to your lunch from now on.

  22. designbot*

    OP3: I’ve got to ask, if you’re actually making money as a freelancer already, and it being an unpaid internship is a dealbreaker for you, is that maybe a sign that an internship might not be appropriate for you in the first place? It sounds like you have a bit of experience under your belt already, which for me would be a red flag that the structure (read: pay, hierarchy, and duration) of an internship might not make you happy. Internships are one of those things that it is possible to be overqualified for.

    1. OP3*

      OP#3 Here:
      Yes, I think you are right and are jumping into the bigger issue here, which I have been trying to ignore in my enthusiasm for the general mission of the internship-offering org.

      1. designbot*

        I’d say keep in touch with the organization—sign up for their mailing list, go to community events they host, etc, and keep a lookout for any more job postings more suited to your level.

  23. Rusty Shackelford*

    I always loved it when my alma mater called to solicit donations to fund scholarships for others, while I was still paying off my student loans. But what I loved even more was when Caller ID was invented so I never had to answer the phone to those calls again. ;-)

  24. Crawlypie*

    I work at a medium-sized state school, and we get lots of pressure to donate to the United Way and to the university. I toss the UW mailings (or shred them if I’m in a bad mood) but agree to give a small annual donation to my department’s fund. For a few years it was $5, but this year I got a long overdue raise. So this year I donated $10. :)

    Will it buy much? Nope. Will it get the boss, his boss and the campus coordinator off my back for year? Yes, so it’s worth it to me.

  25. Biff*

    Hrm, there is a woman on my floor who regularly wears workout clothing into the office, and as it is skin-tight and skimpy (belly button is not always covered and the bra is visible through deep armholes) it’s been a cause for concern. It is not appropriate for the office at all (espeically as the office gym, which is free to use, has changing rooms) and causes ‘presentation issues’ for that particular group from time to time.

    I’m not sure what the letter writer’s situation is, but if she can’t change at the gym, I wonder if she could wear warm-up, tear-away pants (or even one of those velorish warmup suits) over her jogging duds until she arrives at the gym or her workout location. This would hopefully signal that she understands the office manager’s concerns about skimpy clothes at the office and potentially signal, even more strongly, that she is headed out to workout.

  26. NPOQueen*

    OP2, as a former university fundraiser, this is pretty common stuff. Even the fundraising staff had to give (I hated this myself because I was on the mailing list, but I worked in the office? Participation was not officially mandatory, but you had to give so that the fundraising office could hit 100% participation and be an example to other university departments.

    If you receive a call, it’s usually a student worker who makes minimum wage, so please be polite (but firm) about removing yourself from their call list. You can ask to be removed from their solicitation list at the same time. It may be annoying, but from a fundraising perspective, it’s all about participation. For the students, we asked only for $1; if you could do more, that was great, but $1 was celebrated on it’s own. The point is to get people in the habit of giving, and as their careers take off, they are already used to the process. It also helps identify major gift donors, who get assigned an individual fundraiser to follow up with them.

    OP2, I can’t speak to your exact situation, but I also worked for a research university, and faculty/staff donations were important, as they generally went to student scholarships. I do hope you were able to get your name off the mailing list though; in general, fundraisers want everyone to be happy. Moreover, fundraising accounted for 30% of the university’s budget when I was working, and this was after the economy crashed. The other parts were research dollars (40%) and tuition (30%). So yeah, hitting up all their resources was pretty standard.

  27. Professor Ronny*


    I have taught and four universities (two private and two public) and every one of them does this. They normally say that having a high percentage of faculty and staff give shows confidence in / support of the university that they can brag about to outside givers. Again, every one was more concerned with percentages giving rather than amount given. So, throw a few dollars their way (what every you can afford) and forget about it.

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