I’m not allowed to share food if I don’t bring enough for everyone, flying back from a business trip for a funeral, and more

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

1. Should my company pay to fly me back from a business trip for a family funeral?

I work for a small IT company based out of Ohio, where I live. My company flew me to California for a two-week business trip. This morning my grandmother passed away. I need to fly back to Ohio for the funeral this weekend, and then back to California to finish the job. Shouldn’t my company pay for this flight, or am I crazy?

Good companies would pay for the flights. It’s an expense that you’re incurring because of work; after all, if you weren’t on a trip for work, you’d already be at home and none of this would be necessary. They’re not legally required to pay the cost, but they should — both ethically and practically, and also because refusing to is a really good way to alienate and demoralize an employee.

2. I’m not allowed to bring in food to share if I don’t bring enough for everyone

For over 10 years, I’ve prepared lunches and set up a table with food to share with my shift. Everyone is happy! I sent a batch of cookies with my husband, telling him to make sure three people got some for sure and that I didn’t care who had the rest. A person or two who didn’t get some of whatever I brought complained to HR that they felt excluded. I was shocked that they would do that. Moreover, I was shocked that management would intervene. They said if I couldn’t make enough to feed everyone, I wasn’t allowed to bring food in.

There are no rules on this in the handbook, but other departments bring in food for their department. The supervisor who told me that was carrying out a dish at the end of the day. I asked had he brought enough for everyone, and he was very angry. That is discrimination, is it not?

Not in the legal sense, no. Illegal discrimination must be based on race, sex, religion, disability, or another protected class; simply treating people differently when those elements aren’t a factor isn’t illegal.

Assuming that you are working with adults and not children, it’s pretty silly of your company to try to manage who you bring in food for. And it’s incredibly silly that some of your coworkers complained to HR (!) about not getting the food. But your company does indeed have the right to do silly things like this if they want to.

3. Do I need to step up my work outfits?

I work for a tech startup that’s still pretty young, and other than the founders I have been here the longest. When we started building the company two years ago, it was impressed upon me that unless we’re meeting a client, we could dress casually to come into the office. My normal outfit is a sundress and cardigan, or jeans and sneakers when it’s cold, though I dress very nicely when meeting clients.

However, in the last few months we’ve gotten a new CEO who is always wearing a suit, and my own team has expanded to include some new hires who 1. are all middle-aged men, and 2. also dress in suits (in contrast, I’m 26 and female). When it was just me and the tech team, I fit in, but now with my own team I really stand out.

Am I hurting my credibility by continuing to dress casually when the rest of my team does not? I’m not officially the manager of this group, but due to seniority and expertise I am being treated as such. I’d love to keep dressing comfortably (I work long hours and have a long subway commute), but should I care more about matching the rest of the team in terms of dress?

Maybe? It’s hard to say without knowing more. It’s definitely possible that the culture of your company has changed since you were hired, particularly with the arrival of the new CEO, and that expectations around dress are changing (if not formally, then informally in terms of the impression you might be making by dressing more casually). But it’s also possible that that’s not the case, despite what these newer arrivals are wearing.

If you’re standing out as the most casual on your own team, the safest thing would be to assume that yeah, you do need to go more formal. But given that it’s not 100% clear, the other option would be to talk to someone internal who’s well-positioned to advise you on this — like your own boss or someone else senior to you who tends to have a good read on your company’s politics.

4. Does job performance not matter that much?

We recently had a career development forum at my office in which we were shown the PIE model (essentially your career success is based on 10% Performance, 30% Image and 60% Exposure). The majority of the audience were people about 3-4 years into their careers, though I’ve been there longer. The model has created a great amount of discussion and discontent in light of the fact that it discounts job performance for a bunch of relatively newer hires. My understanding was at this point in your career, you should focus on doing your job and doing it well, but the PIE model seems to say your work isn’t as important as networking. I feel that if your performance only accounts for 10%, there may be something wrong with management. What are your thoughts?

Wow. Your company is seriously messed up if they thought it was a good idea to tell employees that their actual work performance barely matters. Even if it were true (which it’s not), why on earth would they want to convey that message?

Anyway, nooooo, that does not line up with any reality I’ve ever seen. Performance matters hugely. Image and exposure aren’t nothing, but they’re far from the biggest pieces of the pie. This sounds like yet another crappy gimmick being pitched by the career development industry, which is always looking for new concepts to sell whether they’re needed or not — and whether they’re terrible or not. Shame on your company for buying into it.

5. I missed a job interview because my Uber didn’t show up

Yesterday I was supposed to have an interview at this big company for a position I lack experience for. The manager emailed me about seeing my resume on some site and said she would like to interview me. The day of the interview, I was ready to go and an hour before the interview I decided to get an Uber. But the car didn’t show up, and 10 minutes before the time of the interview I called the manager to apologize and ask for more time (30 minutes) and she agreed. I tried another Uber, but I was blocked/blacklisted and I had no means of alternative transport.

My mentor contacted me as I was panicking, and he offered to call the employer on my behalf as I was ready to cancel the whole thing altogether. They agreed to a later time, but the manager said it is not impressive at all and indicates that I feel the post is above me. How do I handle the interview, as it is in three days time?

I’d be very, very wary of taking a job with someone who barely knows you and already feels free to criticize you. Really, if she finds it that unimpressive, she should just cancel the interview. It’s like agreeing to a date with someone but telling them that you think they’re an ass — it’s rude and it raises the question of why she’s bothering. In this context, it means it’s highly likely that you’d be signing on to work with an jerk.

Of course, that all assumes that she made these remarks to you. If she actually said it to your mentor and he passed it on to you, that’s different, since she presumably assumed she was speaking to him in confidence. I’m not clear on what his role is in all this — does he know her? — but that’s something to factor in.

{ 462 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    #3 I don’t get the ‘comfortable’ versus ‘more formal’ distinction. Yes having to wear nylons and a skirted suit would be less comfortable, but there are lot of very sharp casual outfits including some with nice jeans and interesting tops and jackets that are as comfortable as slunge wear but still more professional looking in an office where people are dressing more formally. It sounds like the company has had a cultural shift in expected attire, I’d be thinking about looking sharper without necessarily opting for less comfortable clothing.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Agreeing with this. The two are not mutually exclusive. If that is your experience then you’ve bought the wrong clothes.

    2. Marcela*

      Well, as I always say when there is a conversation about clothes and comfort, there is nothing more uncomfortable than jeans for me. A couple of days ago I wore a pair of pants for the first time in years and it felt so strange that I went to Amazon and searched ” yoga pants for office”. Surprisingly they do exist, elastic pants thick enough to hide everything as normal pants, but no buttons at all. They look like normal office pants too, so I don’t think I’ll be forced again to go to jeans when I need to ” downgrade” to casual comfortable.

      1. Jen RO*

        On the other end of the spectrum, there is nothing *more* comfortable than jeans for me! The dress code is a serious consideration for me when applying for a job, and I would have to think hard before I accepted one that didn’t allow jeans.

        1. Artemesia*

          Me too as an old retired lady I wear black jeans (they don’t shout ‘jeans’ if they are new and dark) virtually all of the time. And in my last decades of work in an environment where jeans and a blazer would be the norm, wore them at work. I think they are incredibly comfortable. But of course there are lots of pants options and the OP should choose something comfortable to her.

          1. bohtie*

            black jeans ftw! As someone with a business casual workplace but who also has to do a lot of lifting and toting, they are a godsend.

            1. Hannah*

              OP here! I somehow always got a casual rockstar vibe from black jeans, but seeing a lot of comments about how nice black jeans can be dressed up. Black jeans and a blazer might be the perfect compromise!

              1. Metsgal*

                I work for a formal corporation, and while we have a “no jeans at work except Friday’s” rule, no one seems to care if we wear black or other colored jeans. Most of the time, you can’t even tell they are jeans.

                1. zora*

                  Old Navy Rockstar Jeans come in colors in ‘Sateen’ fabric, and they are my go to right now, I wear them almost every day. And if you cover the pockets with long tops/sweaters, you really can’t tell they are jeans at all.

              2. OhBehave*

                Any dark denim is a classic look. Pair them with a cardigan or jacket and I think that’s a polished look with comfort. Accessorize at will!

                As for dresses, there are so many comfortable options. I think your sundresses with a cardi sound like a great compromise and comfortable to boot. The thing that will completely dress down an outfit are flip flops. I would not wear those or sandals to work (based on your description). Flats would be just fine.

        2. Lass*

          I like skirts and dresses just fine, but I have to wear something under them or I get severe chub rub. So it’s not like I can just throw a dress on and walk out the door, I need tights or bike shorts as well. As far as pants go, jeans are the most comfortable to me. Dress pants just don’t have the right structure – they’re too thin to hold things in where things need to be held in.

          1. Hannah*

            OP here! I have nothing against skirts and dresses, and actually used to wear more, but chub rub is the actual worst. But I always regret wearing tights by midday when the waistband starts rolling and cutting into my sides! Maybe I need to invest in more bike shorts…

            1. Parfait*

              I wear dresses 95% of the time. Allow me to sing the praises of Jockey SlipShorts. They are super comfortable, no compression at all, and completely eliminate that painful rubbing. They’re expensive but I try to stock up when they go on sale.

              1. Lass*

                I had the worst luck with those. They were fine for about two hours, then they just started riding up right into my crotch. I have to go out and get actual athletic bike or running shorts made from that thicker spandexy material with elastic at the bottoms. Luckily Old Navy tends to put these on sale a lot.

              2. Whats In A Name*

                Oooh…I love these. And if you live near Kohl’s sometimes I can snag a pair on clearance. The last pair I bought were $4.

            2. Artemesia*

              Bike shorts especially cotton ones which are increasingly hard to find are a godsend. Another great use — over bathing suits. I am an old lady — no one needs to see my thighs and black bike shorts over a one piece bathing suit works great — and it keeps your butt from getting burned when you snorkel too —

              1. DragoCucina*

                I found a mid-thigh, 100% cotton boy shorts on Amazon. They were in a pack of 12. They prevent that chub rub. I have also used unscented deodorant (solid stick) when I knew I was going to do a lot of walking.

            3. VolunteercoordinatorinNOVA*

              So this may be odd but I now wear mens boxer briefs underneath dresses or skirts to help with chub rub. I had an ex who was a size or two bigger than I and one time I needed to wear a dress but all of my bike shorty things were in the wash. Out of desperation, I grabbed a pair of his boxers and wore them and they were super comfy and easy. After we broke up, I went out and bought a pack and use them whenever I don’t necessarily need anything to tighten/firm but just don’t want my thighs rubbing together. They’re not as tight as some other undergarment items so I find them a bit more comfy and generally they are cheaper. Just an idea!

          2. mirinotginger*

            I use old leggings that aren’t in the best shape any more and cut them to the length I want them.

          3. TootsNYC*

            Just want to mention the anti-chafing stick that is sold for athletes.

            I love it! My chub rub isn’t as severe as it could be, but it’s there. And this makes a difference.

            There are other products. Monistat makes a powder-gel for inner thigh & bikini area; and there’s a new stick product in pink packaging called “For Her” by Body Glide.

            But I liked the one I got from Amazon. (I stocked up and bought two; the second one got sticky and wasn’t any help, but the first one was wonderful. I don’t know if the bad one was defective, or if it got exposed to some moisture level…)
            I can’t find it now; it appears that brand is gone. But one aimed at athletes is probably a good idea.

            (Johnson & Johnson makes a little anti-rub stick for your feet, to protect from your shoes’ rubbing; it works for chub rub as well, but it’s very small.)

          4. Not Rebee*

            Not saying it will work for everyone, but I have had great success with just putting deodorant where I would end up chafed. A lot of what causes the chafing is caused by sweating, so that helps, and deodorant tends to be slippery so it helps eliminate friction on that alone. Even with bike shorts, I find that the bottoms roll up and drive me nuts, so I try and avoid shorts or anything like that under dresses or skirts where I can help it – plus the thickness of the fabric makes me feel a little constricted.

      2. Kas*

        I’m so glad I’m not the only one who finds jeans uncomfortable – it seems to me that everyone else thinks they are the most comfortable clothing ever!

          1. Sparrow*

            +1. I wear skirts or dresses 95% of the time, including non-work time. I’m always confused when people are like, “why are you so dressed up?” when really it feels like the lazier/more comfy option.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I nearly always wear dresses or skirts. I’m super pear-shaped and pants that actually fit me do no exist. We’re talking 14″ difference between waist and hips; I’m not even sure professional alterations can fix that. I’ve worn the same pair of jeans for 10+ years and am dreading the day they wear out because the current trend of lower rise and skinny cut means that I cannot buy replacements. And I’m not even plus-sized, which is its own set of headaches.

          1. Artemesia*

            take a look at NNDY and then have them tailored — if you want to acquire jeans to replace the old ones. I used to have the problem of wide hips and skinny waist and always had to have pants tailored. Gaining weight has taken care of that fit issue as my waist now almost matches but I still sometimes have to have them nipped in an inch or two

          2. bohtie*

            try companies like Not Your Daughter’s Jeans – I am also ridiculously proportioned (normal size torso, freakishly short legs, enormous hips and butt) and have a pair that my roommate’s mom gave me (which is hilarious, because I am 31 and childless) and they are high-waisted and stretchy but not saggy in the way stretchy clothing can sometimes get. They’re literally my favorite pants.

            1. Jadelyn*

              My mom – short, with very short legs, and apple-shaped – absolutely ADORES NYDJ. They’re the only jeans she wears.

              1. Artemesia*

                I am tall, fairly slender and more pear than apple shaped and they work great for me too. They come in several pant leg lengths and cuts. One of their great features is that they tend to obscure the love handle roll that many older people have and which tends to linger even if one is not overweight.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I wear slacks – I don’t like the open feeling of dresses/skirts – but I can’t stand jeans or other ‘rigid’ pants. (I do have one pair of denim slacks that are very not-jeans-like that are comfy, but it’s rare to find those, in my experience.)

        3. Fluke Skywalker*

          I am alllllll about skirts/dresses in an office environment. I’ve had jobs where jeans just made sense because I was doing grubby work, but the last couple of jobs I’ve had are all dresses all the time. I live in a climate that’s just too hot/humid for pants to be comfortable anymore. Gotta have some airflow!

          1. Hannah*

            OP here! Definitely feel you, dresses and skirts make more sense in the heat. Here in NYC it’s getting chilly, so walking from the subway to the office with bare legs is going to be impossible soon (and I hate how tights always roll and bunch!)

            1. Meghan*

              I live in New England, and you gotta buy better tights. Spanx brand tights are incredible – they are very opaque and they stay where you put them – no rolling or bunching at all. Also, leggings under dresses work really well, too, especially when it’s colder.

              1. Sparrow*

                Leggings feel like pjs. I love them. And fleece-lined leggings are a necessity for winter – I wear them all through Chicago winter and they’re infinitely warmer than jeans!

        4. Stranger than fiction*

          They’re totally not all that comfortable. And the skiny ones? Omg they choke my knees…and I have the worlds skinniest legs so explain that!

        5. Meghan*

          Same. Jeans always pull in too much in the middle to be comfortable. I have hideous red marks on my skin when I take them off (and yes, they fit, my skin is just really sensitive). I vastly prefer skirts and dresses and wear them almost exclusively. In the warmer months I live in comfy cotton dresses. I always think it’s funny when people remark on me being dressed up, because, hello, I left my house without wearing any pants, so who really dressed up here?
          I just started a job that allows jeans on Friday, and everyone has made sure I know, and tells me excitedly, and I’m over here like, meh. I’ll probably wear a tunic/more casual dress and leggings. Jeans are not that great.

      3. Catalin*

        Elastic waisted pants FTW — there are business pants that look and feel exactly like other formal trousers except with elastic instead of the usual oppressive material around the waist. It’s been a life changer for me. My shape doesn’t mix well with many dress pants.

        1. Windchime*

          Same here. And I recently discovered ponte pants after I got a new job that doesn’t allow jeans. They are so comfortable! I’ve only found one brand so far that fits (damn you, plus-size hips AND tallness!) and they expensive but worth it. In case anyone else is looking, the brand is NYDJ. I’m headed to the store this weekend to buy more.

          1. Elsajeni*

            My mom has been trying to sell me on NYDJ for years (I keep telling her: Mom, it says right in the name, they’re not mine), and I’m still not really into their actual jeans, but I just bought a couple pairs of their ponte slacks and I think I’m in love. (And I’m still abiding by the name of the brand, since they’re not jeans, they’re slacks.)

          2. Jadelyn*

            Bless ponte pants! They feel like thicker yoga pants to me. My workplace moved to jeans this summer, but prior to that it was all ponte pants for me, all the time. I got mine from Lands End, actually, since they had tall plus sizes available and you could get them custom-hemmed to your inseam if you needed to.

            1. Venus Supreme*

              My go-to pants are ponte leggings from Old Navy. I got them last year, and I’m praying they make a comeback this season!

          3. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

            How do you care for your NYDJ ponte pants? I washed/damp dryer dried (if you know what I mean, took out and hung up damp) two pairs of mine and they had shrunk 6-7 inches. They were waaaay too long initially so not a tragedy, but they are now a tighter fit everywhere and I prefer slightly looser.

            I have one pair I have not yet washed, they are way too long, so I am thinking of hemming and having them dry cleaned – what have you done? I wear pants forever before washing but at some point the knees are so baggy I just have to do something. All thoughts from NYDJ slacks owners welcome!

            1. Maxine of Arc*

              Oh no! What does the care label say? They might not be able to go into the dryer at all, even for a short time.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I have a hiatal hernia and GERD, and a tight waistband, belt, and anything that presses or cuts into my stomach is super uncomfortable. Elastic waist or stretch is my friend.

        3. Hannah*

          OP here! Pretty sure a bright light just came down from above and angelic choirs started singing. Where does one find these magical elastic dress pants?!

          1. Uyulala*

            Wal-Mart has Riders comfort waist pants that I like. The do have a button and zipper, so look like regular pants, but they are soft like yoga pants and very stretchy in the waist.

          2. Ellie H.*

            These are really expensive and high end, but in case you like that kind of thing (I think it’s totally worth it for these) I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Eileen Fisher elastic waist pants. I have a pair of black tencel and a pair of black Japanese organic cotton I rotate between basically every single day. They are like $250 new, but you can buy new with tags on eBay for $85-$120 and probably less for gently used pants. They go with any kind of top and are super comfortable – the black pants and any kind of nice sweater or top are a great office look. Eileen Fisher is kind of an older-skewing brand but I’m 29 and adore the clothes and get compliments on pretty much all my outfits. The only thing is that they run quite large. I’m 5’7″ and size 4-6 but usually wear a size 8 in pants and I wear size small Eileen Fisher.

      4. Anna*

        This is wear I draw a thick and straight line. There is no such thing as pants you can do yoga in AND wear as work clothes. There just isn’t. Either they are work pants or they are workout pants.

      1. Hannah*

        OP here! I still have a bit of righteous anger about the change. NO I WAS HERE FIRST HOW DARE YOU CHANGE THIS OFFICE.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, my one pair of suit pants is definitely the most comfortable pair of trousers I own – the material is very light and smooth and doesn’t restrict me the way jeans does.

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      Agreed. And OP doesn’t even have to change her style that much to up the formality factor. She can ditch her sneakers for comfortable flats in a leather-like material, wear black jeans instead of blue, and swap out some of her cardigans for blazers.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I was just thinking about blazers. A pair of jeans becomes immediately more “smart” with a blazer, scarf, and boots.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Because everyone else is, and it makes her stand out, not in a good way.

          Impressions matter, and right or wrong, it’s very probable that continuing to wear sundresses and jeans when everyone else is in button downs and slacks (or at least dresses with short sleeves) is going to negatively impact the rise of her career. It’s cliche, but “dress for the job you want” is still a truism.

          1. LadyKelvin*

            But really if her and the rest of the office are fairly causal, the new comers are sticking out by wearing suits. We often give people the advice to dress for the culture that exists, even if you are used to a more formal culture. Since she is senior to these new suit wearers, she should be the one saying that their office is more formal and they might stand out (in a bad way) by insisting on wearing suits and not fitting in to the culture. Just because the CEO wears suits doesn’t mean the whole culture changes, unless he mandates a new dress code. CEOs are important people who meet with important people, funding groups, etc and probably needs to wear a suit for these types of meetings.

            1. Jessesgirl72*

              That is where Alison’s advice takes over. It originally was just the founders and her, that is a different dynamic than just the founders, her, and the new CEO and all the new hires in dressier clothes. If possible, she should ask the advice of the founders.

              1. Hannah*

                OP here! When we were getting started our founders dressed very casually, but now they each usually have at least one client-facing meeting a day and so have stepped up their game. I brought up my concern with the one female founder who said I could stay casual, but that still doesn’t solve the standing out problem unfortunately.

                1. Wheezy Weasel*

                  If they’re dressing nicer for client meetings but not because it’s required for other office work, I’d take a clue from that…dress according to what needs to get done rather than following a code. A few companies will actually say that language in their employee manual, perhaps the founders can update your document? That way, those who dress more formally can feel like they’re not overdressing, because it’s within their control about what type of work that needs to be done, and those who dress more casually can know that they’re doing the same thing, but on the other end of the scale.

          2. Mike C.*

            I’m still not hearing a business case for this, and I’m not hearing a justification for limiting the OP’s career just because she dresses more casually.

      2. Wren*

        The shoes thing is the biggest issue for me. There is no such thing as a pair of comfortable flats as far as I can tell. My feel just slide out of them if I don’t keep my toes balled up inside them when I walk!

        1. snorkellingfish*

          What works for me is boots (even if it can be a pain to find ones without too much of a heel).

          Depending on the cut of my pants or jeans, I can wear shorter boots under my pants, or longer boots over the top of my pants. My longer boots also work over tights if I’m wearing a dress. They look more dressed up than sneakers while still being fairly comfortable. They also provide more support than flats.

          A decent pair of boots tends to be more expensive than sneakers or flats, but they can be a good option if you want something formal but comfortable and flats don’t work for you.

          (I do have a comfortable pair of flats too–ones with some elastic around the top so they hold onto my foot better–but my poor flat feet tend to start aching from the lack of support if I wear them too many days in a row.)

      3. Chaordic One.*

        I like Fortitude’s suggestion about the comfortable flats. Nice leather shoes can really dress up an otherwise casual outfit and they don’t have to be some uncomfortable things with ridiculous high heels. And a nice blazer to top it off always adds some class.

        1. Chaordic One.*

          Oh, and sometimes a piece of jewelry can a bit of class to an otherwise plain or casual outfit. Last week there was a discussion about “statement jewelry.” Personally, I think “statement jewelry” might be a bit much, but that’s just me and it’s not my style. I’m more old-fashioned and like a string of pearls.

    5. Vin Packer*

      Comfort in clothing is about more than the physical properties of the clothes, I think. There’s something about the social contract that can make clothes coded as casual feel more comfortable to some people than clothes coded as formal, even if the actual clothing itself isn’t more or less restrictive.

      Is it the same amount of work to put on a cardigan as a hooded sweatshirt? Yeah. Does it perform the exact same function? Sure. But sometimes “hoodie” is just the vibe you want to put out there.

      Sounds like OP is wondering about whether her vibe still fits in.

      1. Lass*

        The hoodies I own are way softer than the cardigans I own. And I own a crap ton of cardigans. Hoodies are just snugglier.

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Yes. Fleece is softer and warmer than a cardigan. Well, I did have this one cashmere sweater… But cashmere is pricy!

          1. bohtie*

            FLEEEEEECE. We have custom fleece jackets for all the employees and while they’re totally optional and part of the uniform they are absolutely my way of being comfortable while still technically dressing for the company.

      2. Hannah*

        OP here! That’s definitely part of my concern, though I hadn’t even realized it util your comment. I used to sit firmly with the tech side of our company, so jeans and hoodies were the norm. But now I’m in this new team of suit-wearing gentlemen, and part of me still wants the tech team vibe of “yes we’re at work and it’s stressful but we’re the cool casual team”.

        To be honest, however, I don’t actually own hoodies. My cardigans are oversized and super casual, though, so it’s pretty close.

        1. Parfait*

          Two more suggestions for one step up from cardigans: Ponte blazers – look sharper than cardigans but are every bit as comfortable. Also, I own a PURPLE POLARFLEECE BLAZER which is the best thing ever.

          I find blazers incredibly constricting and these are soooo comfy.

      3. Tau*

        Yes. If you put me in a dress or a suit, I will be incredibly uncomfortable all day. That has zero to do with the physical properties of the clothing and everything to do with the image I am projecting, the image I prefer to project… my “vibe”, as you put it.

    6. Jessesgirl72*

      I am confused, as well. Since she’s already defaulting to sundresses, she should be able to upgrade to something just as comfortable- just with sleeves or that look a little nicer. All my dresses are knits and are perfectly acceptable office wear.

      1. Fluke Skywalker*

        Right? Or even throw a blazer/jacket on over the dresses you already own. Bam! Instant upgrade. Plus you can get cute, soft jackets that are made out of fleecy material, but are still tailored to look professional. I just saw some at Target not long ago.

        OP, take a look at Pinterest. There’s tons of cute ideas for work outfits that straddle that line between casual and dressy. It can be as simple as adding a nice scarf with your jeans and top, changing out sneakers for comfy flats, etc. Accessories can make a huge difference, and are way less expensive than a new wardrobe!

        1. Jessesgirl72*

          Plus they are rarely dry clean only and never need ironed.

          The OP doesn’t know what she’s missing.

    7. k*

      As others have said, there are a lot of ways to up your look a little but keep it comfortable and casual. I’ve always worked in business casual settings but can’t stand most formal business clothes. I’ve never found a pair of dress pants I actually felt comfortable in, blazers as well. OP’s style sounds a lot like mine, so I would suggest a few things: Find a few cute pencils skirts. There are a lot of cute ones in more casual fabrics like denim or corduroy, but the cut still makes it more formal. My winter uniform in pencil skirt, cozy tights (I swear there are comfy ones), tall boots or flats depending on the weather, and a cardigan. Swap out the sneakers for flats and boots. Dark colored jeans (or even black), a pair of boots, and a nice cardigan over any shirt will look more polished than the same outfit with sneakers.

      Just slowly start mixing things into your wardrobe for a more polished look. No need to suddenly start wearing pantsuits everyday :)

      1. Hannah*

        OP here! Our styles do sound similar, but I think that my normal jeans + boots + cardigan look is very casual. Maybe I need nicer shirts to go under the cardigan?

    8. Elysian*

      Some of my own comfort with clothes actually flows from the price. More “business” clothes tend to be more expensive. Even if they’re not prohibitively expensive, I feel like I need to take more care with them. I can grab like three cardigans for the price of one blazer at Target. Plus sometimes they need to be washed differently, etc. So I’m way more comfortable in cardigans because to me they feel less fussy – they’re less expensive, don’t require any special care, and if I rip or spill something on it, it is much more easily replaceable. So while business clothes can be just as comfortable, they’re more “work” in a lot of ways. Some of that is mental work, so I’m with people that prefer more casual stuff.

      That’s not to say that she shouldn’t change with the changing times at her company. But it can be a bummer.

      1. Hannah*

        OP here. This is also true! Startup job means startup salary, so needing to suddenly spend a lot of money on a new work wardrobe would definitely be a bummer. And long hours means never enough time to pick up my dry cleaning!

        1. Jean*

          Don’t go out and buy a whole bunch of new clothes. Add in a new piece when you see something on sale or something you love, so you’re gradually making changes to your work wardrobe. And don’t buy anything that needs dry-cleaning! There’s lots of clothes out there that look good for work and can just be washed and dried as usual.

    9. voluptuousfire*

      Ponte knit skinny pants, knee high riding boots, a tshirt and a nice blazer and maybe toss on a scarf…done.

      More “formal” than jeans and comfy due to ponte knit skinny pants. I swear by that material.

    10. Laura*

      Agree with this. I find that wearing a jacket or cardigan, coupled with a necklace or a scarf, is enough. I’m still wearing the same pants with spandex and the same knit shirt, I just look like I tried. The jacket doesn’t even need to be a blazer necessarily.

    11. S.H.*

      Comfortable clothing can mean a lot more than just physical comfort. Casual clothing is very easy for me to wear because it’s gender-neutral (I know the OP wears sundresses, so this probably isn’t her issue, but it is for a lot of us). The dressier clothing gets, the more gendered it becomes – even dress shirts/blazers/suits are cut very differently for women and men. This forces me to make declarations about my gender presentation that I’m not comfortable making in order to dress up. Wearing jeans, tshirts, and hoodies lets me remain ‘undeclared’. The idea of having to dress up at work actually really stresses me out because I just have no idea what to wear and I don’t like all the messages I would have to send with that clothing. (The same reason that if I get married someday, I doubt I’ll have a fancy wedding – I don’t want to have to figure out what gender to dress up as).

    12. Hannah*

      OP here, thanks for your comment! Should have specified, by “comfortable” what I really mean is “allows me to nap comfortably on my hour-and-a-half-long subway commute home”. I always assumed that jeans were super casual, but I’m seeing a lot of people on here who disagree, which would be good news for me!

    13. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Eh, people are different. For me, formality itself is uncomfortable. I still do it — I’m among the most formally dressed in my office! — but it just kind of chafes me (psychically, not physically).

    14. CuhPow*

      I think CEOs can dress formally without expecting lower employees too. I mean, they’re generally public facing, meeting clients and associates, and generally meant to look more professional not just to outsiders but to their own employees. I think it’s unfair to say their is a cultural shift if all the people dressing formally are new and less senior to the company that OP or in an unrelated department. Maybe that’s what their manager likes or their roles are different enough (more client facing more often) to require generally formal dress. Or maybe because they’re older males THEY are the ones not fitting in with the culture and are stuck in their old habits. It’s unfair to think a senior employee should change to match new employees when that’s the opposite of AAM advice. I’m sure having been there long enough, if there was a new policy that they are spouting to new hires about formal dress, the change would have been addressed to OP. Otherwise it may be possible that it’s just OPs awkwardness and no one cares or has a problem with her dress and nothing has changed on her part because they feel she dresses appropriately for the situation. If it ever became a problem
      It would likely be addressed.

    15. V*

      I haven’t seen my favorite cold-weather stealth comfort outfit mentioned yet, so I’ll throw it out there… sweater dress, leggings, and boots. Feels like PJs and a blanket, but nearly every time I wear a variation on that theme, someone comments on how nice I look. Sometimes I’ll zhuzh with a stretchy belt and a chunky necklace, but honestly, that’s just icing on the cake.

      I’m plus size, and I’ve had good luck finding nice sweater dresses at Dress Barn and occasionally Lane Bryant, and the wide waist band leggings from Lane Bryant (bought last year; hoping they still have them this year because I could use a refresh).

      I keep the leggings train going until it hits 65-70 degrees or so, with flats or sandals instead of boots, and lighter knit shift dresses.

  2. Marisol*

    #2 – stop making ANY food, since you can’t monitor and be responsible for making sure it gets divvied up to everyone’s liking, and then when people ask about it, tell them, “oh, someone complained to HR that they didn’t get a cookie, and I was told I had to bring enough food for everyone, and unfortunately I can’t make that much/can’t devote time to making sure it is distributed equally, so I have to stop doing it altogether. I’m really bummed but it’s just not feasible for me with this new requirement.” That’s what I’d do at least. But you sound like a nicer person than me, if you’re cooking for your coworkers.

    1. Jeanne*

      I would definitely tell the reason to anyone who asks. They said it’s their policy. There’s no reason it has to be a secret. Of course phrase it factually and use a neutral tone. I wouldn’t mention the cookie. “HR met with me and said I may not bring food to share unless I bring enough to share with everyone. I can’t afford the money or time for that so I won’t be bringing any more.” Then if asked I would say “Apparently there were complaints” but not be more specific.

    2. Adlib*

      I like that response. I also really liked OP’s original comment to the supervisor. There’s no reason for the supervisor to be angry if she’s the one who told OP to follow the same rule. What a bunch of weirdos about food.

    3. Whats In A Name*

      I was actually going to leave a similar comment. It’s a shame but I think stopping is really the only choice here. Telling management they are wrong isn’t going to work – it will probably make things worse. Managing portions will be a nightmare as well and too distracting from work I would think….can you even imagine the nightmare of “Sam, your slice of cake is 1/2″ x 3/4″ – I explicitly said 1/2″ square portions so everyone could enjoy!”

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, bringing in “enough” for everyone will require bringing in too much, or someone who didn’t come over when it was first available and decides they want a cookie mid-afternoon will have a complaint if some people had seconds and there are no cookies left. The way to tell whether you have enough for everyone is to bring it in and see if you run out – and if you do, you’re in violation. The only way to comply is to bring in ridiculous amounts (2-3 cookies per person or the like, maybe more, depending on the people) or to stop bringing in food. I’d go with the latter, hands-down.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I worked at one place where a coworker cooked lunch for the staff every once in a while (burgers, frito pie, etc., on a griddle), and he charged something like $2.50 each to cover the cost of the food. If you didn’t pay, you didn’t get any. I found that totally fair.

            1. Maxine of Arc*

              Bag of Fritos. Tear open down the middle. Scoop in chili, top with cheese and onions, experience magic.

              1. Anonymous Texan Born and Bred*

                I make mine with jalapeños and a scoop of sour cream on top. You also can layer these ingredients in a casserole dish and bake it until the cheese melts. Do multiple layers of Fritos, chili, chopped onions, then cheese.

          1. Moonsaults*

            We grill burgers for the crew once a month or so depending on our schedules. Two or three bucks a person is what it shakes out to be, so fair indeed! Love that idea.

      2. Cube Farmer*

        Now I have this vision of Milton standing there mumbling, “The ratio of people to cake is too big.” (Office Space)

    4. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      And what’s everyone? It’s an odd distinction.

      I bring in stuff that feeds my team/office suite (8 people), would I be responsible for bringing in things for my entire floor? My entire building? The department?

      1. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

        And then what about those that are vegan, gluten free, nut free, kosher, or some other special diet? Would you then have to also provide alternatives for those individuals? I have a friend who for medical reasons does not eat meat, gluten or sugar. She does not complain, she just simply does not partake. She knows her diet is restrictive and not how most people eat.

        The only thing I would have advised differently is that you don’t list people you specifically want to have the food. It would be put it in the break room for a free for all or you give it as a gift outside of work. That may have been what the complaint was really about. People were singled out as favored, not that someone didn’t get a cookie.

        1. MT*

          But this isn’t kindergarten!

          If a coworker comes in and says “Oh Jill, my wife made these and insisted you try one,” it wouldn’t even occur to me as weird.

          How are all of these “but sheeeeeee got one” toddlers getting jobs and paying taxes?

      2. POF*

        I wonder that too. I also wonder about the entire context – since I had a similar issue in my department. We have about 25 people ( 3 work groups ) and a very nice lunch room.

        I had a problem with one staff member who liked to bake, kept it in her cube and all day long it was party central as people in her work group stopped by for a treat and a chat. Then the other work groups wanted to start.

        My rule was: bring whatever you like in – at whatever quantity , but you have to stage it in the lunchroom if it is shared. Work space – cubicles / offices are for work.

        I spoke to her about the disruption and her response was ” oh well – everyone is coming by for a cookie …. so what can I do “

        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

          My old job used to do treat days and the food would often end up in front of one person’s cube.

          It was fun, but boy was it distracting. On my birthday I got zero work done!

      3. SusanIvanova*

        When Coffeecup was just edging into the BEC zone, I brought in enough fancy cupcakes for my whole team. He took it upon himself to tell someone who wasn’t on my team about it; I saw the two of them walking off with a cupcake each. Grr.

    5. Tequila Mockingbird*

      The HR rule is a silly one, but I can’t help but be caught on a detail – OP specifically delivered cookies to three named people–“make sure three people got some for sure and that I didn’t care who had the rest.” To me, that reads as a bit catty and exclusionary, even if OP didn’t intend it that way. Why send food specifically to Tom, Dick and Jane, and leave off Rose and Fergus? I can kind of understand Rose and Fergus feeling miffed or snubbed by that, even though I agree getting HR involved was excessive.

      Also, I was confused as to why OP’s husband appeared in the story. Does he work there, too?

      1. Moonsaults*

        I dunno, it reads to me like “I sent Tom, Dick and Jane cookies and wanted the rest left in the breakroom.” to me.

        When I bring things, I put some on the desks of my office-mates and then put the rest in the breakroom for a “come and get it.” kind of thing. It’s not excluding anyone, it’s because I don’t work directly with everyone, so I couldn’t hand deliver to them even if I wanted to. Then I ring the bell by telling a couple people in passing “Cookies in the breakroom, I was stress baking again!!!” >:D

      2. Jeanne*

        It isn’t necessarily catty. Maybe she discussed the recipe with them and promised them some. Maybe they didn’t get any last time. I have shared with just a couple friends before. Why complain because Tom got a cookie and you didn’t? No one owes you food.

        1. Tequila Mockingbird*

          I agree that complaining was unnecessary and stupid. I just think there might be a few details missing (why OP only wanted to share cookies with three specific people) that provide context as to why two other people got upset. But yes, there might be an innocent explanation for all of it.

        2. MT*

          That’s my feeling – it’s weird to feel “entitled” to gifts and favors.

          You cannot regulate random acts of kindness.

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    OP1, if you’re being expected to foot the bill for that air travel, that’s really crappy and I’m sorry. I’m also sorry for your loss. They absolutely should be paying for that, not you.

    My last company was really great about stuff like that. In 2014, I was in Sweden leading a software testing event, and my brother passed away unexpectedly. I felt bad for having to leave so suddenly. It wasn’t that I thought that I was so indispensable that the rest of the team couldn’t get along without me; the project had been delayed and so things had escalated and become very high profile. I felt bad for leaving everyone in the lurch.

    In any event, my boss and the project manager were nothing but supportive. They told me to get home as quickly as possible and not to worry about work. I called the corporate travel office, told them what happened, and they rebooked my ticket while I was on hold. In addition to that, it was January and there was a huge blizzard on the East Coast. The woman who set everything up routed me through LA and back to Denver, because she was concerned about me getting stranded in DC or Chicago. This was another couple hours of travel time, but a guarantee of getting back to Denver, where I live. I would never have thought of that, and I was glad she did.

    There were many, many things I didn’t like about that company, but the way they handled things like this sure wasn’t one of them.

    1. Jeanne*

      That’s wonderful. Also, in OP’s case, are you getting any Bereavement Leave? Most companies let you take a few days off for a grandmother. Flying home for the weekend and going right back is above and beyond. Fly home and take the time you need. Have they really said they won’t pay or are you assuming? Talk to HR. Call and ask the policy for bereavement leave when you are out of state.

    2. Finman*

      I was on a 10 month rotation in Brazil and both me and my wife had a grandparent pass away during that time. Both times my company footed the $10,000 plane bill with no hesitation (following policy allowing business class travel over 6 hours) and I was still considered an “entry level” employee.

  4. Hannah*

    #1: If you have any concern that your boss wouldn’t approve the expense of flying home and flying back, then I would frame it as needing to cut the trip short and move your return date up a week so you can attend a funeral. It would have to be your company’s responsibility to find coverage for the second week. Maybe they would come to the conclusion on their own that flying you home and back out is the best solution, or maybe they’d prefer another solution. But I would treat it as moving your return date up because of an emergency. I would absolutely not volunteer to fly myself home and back out again if there was any chance I’d be expected to foot the bill for it myself. That’s just unacceptable.

    #5: Why could you get an Uber but not a regular cab? Is there more to the story to explain why Uber would be the only possible means of transportation? Frankly, that seems like a bizarre excuse for missing an interview, so it might not reflect well. You might want to clarify a little more when you do meet the employer and apologize for what happened.

    1. Mabel*

      Unless you’re in a major city (and not in an outer borough), it can be very difficult to find a cab. Uber is usually reliable, so I don’t think the OP was doing anything bizarre by expecting the ride s/he booked to show up.

      1. Lisa*

        Cabs are more unreliable. Takes like 30 -40 min to get one outside a city. Plus in Pittsburgh cabs don’t exist unless you are going to the airport. You have to use Uber to get around.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      It would certainly cause the employer to question how the employee would get to work if they wer hired. If you can’t reliably get to an interview then you can’t reliably get to work.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I take the bus to work, and it’s reliable and cheap. But I sometimes take a taxi in for various reasons. I could definitely see deciding to take a taxi for a job interview, so my interview clothes stay tidy and I don’t have to worry about getting rained on – for a normal work day, I can tidy up when I get there. By the time I realized that a taxi wasn’t going to work, it would be too late to take the bus and make it at the scheduled time.

        1. KR*

          Well this is true in your case and may be for OP but it still doesn’t look good for the OP. Suppose you were trying to get to work for an important meeting, decided to skip the bus and your Uber didn’t show up? Now youve missed the meeting

          1. Jaydee*

            But you can miss an important meeting if your usually reliable car breaks down or there is an accident causing traffic delays or you lose your keys. Obviously being late looks worse if this is your first impression versus an isolated incident with an otherwise generally reliable employee. But it’s still not a sign that using Uber or a taxi is, by definition, an inherently less reliable method of transportation.

          2. Anna*

            Well then oh no life happened. Where I live Uber is more reliable than taxis. If I were in a situation where I were only taking public transportation of some variety, I would not hesitate to take Uber.

            I feel like we’re getting in to the territory of advising the OP they should have had three different back up plans with an emergency back up plan JUST IN CASE. It’s not reasonable. Sometimes everything does go fruit shaped and it’s beyond your control.

          3. Jadelyn*

            …which is something that can happen to literally anyone regardless of your mode of transportation. I have my own car, but the clutch gave out a couple weeks ago and stranded me on the side of the road. I didn’t have anything scheduled that morning, but if I had, I’d have unavoidably missed the meeting because I was busy arranging for a tow and taking care of things at the repair shop. I got to work about noon that day. S*** happens sometimes, regardless of your reliance on public or personal transportation.

            Suppose you were trying to get to work for an important meeting, decided to drive your own car instead of taking the bus, and your car broke down? Suppose you were trying to get to work for an important meeting, decided to drive your own car instead of relying on Uber, and a massive accident resulted in the freeway being closed? Suppose you were trying to get to work for an important meeting, decided to drive your own car as usual, and got into an accident on the way there?

            Having one’s own car is framed as “reliable”, but things like traffic, accidents, and mechanical breakdowns can happen with even the most expensive and well-maintained personal vehicle. NO method of transit is 100% reliable, and there is always the possibility of delays, whether it’s an Uber that doesn’t show up, a bus that doesn’t show up or is running late, a car breaking down, a bus or car getting stuck in traffic or getting into an accident, etc. So acting as though reliance on public transit or Uber or other methods is somehow less reliable or reflects poorly on someone is just classism, pure and simple.

            1. Stranger than fiction*

              I was surprised that uber didn’t show up twice and then I remembered my daughter’s uber driver cancelled on her one time because they couldn’t easily get across the freeway to our side of town because of some marathon going on that was why until lyft then said they couldn’t pick her up for over an hour “due to traffic ” and we looked online and found out why. Thank goodness it wasnt work or anything important. She was just trying to meet a friend.

          4. JPT*

            Plus, why did this person wait 50 minutes for the first uber? (or at least that’s how the letter reads) That’s more what’s weird to me. Couldn’t you brainstorm a solution in the meantime? Most places have more than one ride share company operating in them. Download another app or call the uber driver to ask if he’s lost. Seems like this person just sat around for an hour, or maybe I’m misinterpreting

      2. KellyK*

        It’s a reasonable concern, but it depends a lot on the timing of the interview and the public transit in your location. There might be a commuter bus in the morning, but only Uber for the rest of the day, for example. That’s all assuming that the LW is dependent on public transportation in general, rather than having their car in the shop during the interview, or not wanting to buy a car until they have a job.

        Having your Uber driver flake on you isn’t all that different than having your car break down or your Metro train be delayed. It happens to everybody now and again. It’s more avoidable when you have a car of your own (although there’s also traffic and parking), but it’s not as simple as “no car = won’t show up to work.”

        1. Alton*

          Yep, it’s a reasonable concern, but like you say, there are a lot of variables. I take the bus to/from work because we have commuter buses. But if I had an interview at, say, 2 PM, my bus options would be more limited and I might take a cab instead.

        2. AnonAnalyst*

          Yeah, I’ve lived in a couple of large cities now where most people rely to some degree on public transit, and commuter bus/train was the first thing I thought. Especially to areas with large office parks or with a lot of businesses that are off the main bus or train lines, there is special commuter bus service in the mornings and evenings to shuttle people back and forth between the office and closest public transit stop.

          It’s really easy to get to and from these areas without your own car during regular commuting hours, but a lot more difficult off’-hours. Using Uber isn’t an unreasonable thing to do in that situation and doesn’t necessarily point to the OP as being unreliable should she be hired.

      3. Billy*

        Absolutely agreed. It’s extraordinarily poor practice to be late or miss an interview, and OP#5 did so twice. Add to that the impression that the OP was not qualified for the job, and frankly I’m surprised they are willing to try again.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Has no one ever heard of extenuating circumstances? If they’re late for the first interview with a good reason (failure of public transit, car accident, etc), but otherwise do well, see if they’re late for a second interview. Once is coincidence, twice is pushing it. How does it make sense to extrapolate from a single incident of transportation problems to “clearly this person couldn’t reliably get to work if we hired them”?

        I just feel like it’s being overly picky to insist on literal perfection from a candidate given that we’re all out there on the same roads and s*** can happen to the best of us. Unless you’ve literally never had a breakdown, accident, etc. and have always been perfectly on time for every single event you’ve ever attended…cut people a little slack.

        1. Aurion*

          But this isn’t just one goof, this was a string of goofs.

          -Uber didn’t show up; OP postponed interview by 30 minutes 10 minutes before the interview was scheduled to start.
          -Uber still didn’t show up. OP did not make it to the interview site at all.
          -Mentor called interviewer to reschedule for OP. OP didn’t call, mentor did.

          Again, OP never made it to the interview. This isn’t “late for the interview but otherwise do well”; she never made it there to begin with.

          Now, I don’t know anything about Uber, it’s not available in my city. But enough people have mentioned a GPS tracker that most people, including the interviewer herself, would probably assume that OP knew about Uber delays via GPS, and thus she should’ve called well before 10 minutes before the interview. That’s strike one.

          Then, OP was the one who requested 30 minutes. The interviewer didn’t set the time frame, OP did. So if you’re late and you ask for a reschedule, I think it’s reasonable to assume that you have a good enough handle on the time and delay to accurately estimate the arrival time the second go around. She still didn’t make it in. Strike two.

          Lastly, the mentor was the one who called in for her. That strikes me as very weird; a mentor can introduce you, refer you to a job, be your reference…but past that initial point of contact you should be the one to contact your (prospective) employer. It feels like parents calling in for their children; if you’re old enough to have a job, you’re old enough to be the point of contact unless you’re physically incapable of doing so. This is strike three.

          I don’t think we the commentors are expecting literal perfection, but OP didn’t handle this well and I don’t blame the interviewer for being miffed. And while OP can’t control Uber, unless she is in an area where there is literally nothing but Uber, I think the interviewer is likely to expect her to find alternative transportation somehow.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I agree that the mentor part of things is odd, and she didn’t really handle the whole situation well. Those are definitely fair critiques and the OP could stand to hear suggestions on how to handle something like this better in the future.

            But I’m seeing this general theme of people taking a hard line that if someone can’t be perfectly on time for an interview they are unworthy of employment because obvs that means they’re always late and would be late to work all the time if you hired them, and that’s what I am trying to push back on.

            1. Aurion*

              I’m still pretty young myself, and I’ve never had more than one in-person interview for a particular application. Maybe your industry is different, or your further along in your career.

              But in my experience, if you only have that one chance at presenting your candidacy, yes it counts harshly against you if you are late because there’s no other information about you. Two minutes due to a car accident on the road? Probably not a big deal (especially if you call early), and I’ve waited for interviewers a lot longer than that. 20 minutes or more? Unless you are a stellar candidate well above the rest (helps if you have multiple interviews to establish how awesome you are), well, there are probably others in the running that made a better impression by not being late.

              Is being late a condemnation or a damnation against your worthiness as a person? Of course not. Flunking an interview in general isn’t a judgement against your personal worthiness. But being late is a strike against you, and if you’re competing against other great candidates without this strike against them…

          2. jaxon*

            This makes me wonder if this OP is in a job development program of some kind (“mentor” made me think “counselor” since obviously your professor or your former boss or another mentor-like person is not usually going to get this involved in your job search) and perhaps the OP is not very experienced with professional norms. It would be understandable (not excusable, per se) that such a person might be thrown a lot more off balance in this situation than others might.

            Of course I don’t know any details about the OP but it’s important for those of us in the professional world to remember how complex this all is. My partner is an employment counselor who works with people who are essentially job-ready but who have not had the kinds of opportunities and experiences that others have had. They might have had periods of incarceration or struggles with addiction, and they need ENORMOUS amounts of help putting a resume together, figuring out where and how to look for jobs, practicing how to conduct themselves in an interview, and so on.

            A person in such a program who gets an interview, and then suddenly has to face a circumstance like a cab that doesn’t show up, is less able to roll with the punches. My partner has many, many stories on this subject. Again, I don’t know the OP’s situation and I don’t want to speculate, but circumstances like what I describe are very common in the working world.

      5. oh12*

        Yes, and I wouldn’t want to hear excuses for anything when you fail to show up for an interview. I understand that stuff happens, but when so little is known about someone (an applicant), a no-show carries more weight in a hiring manager’s eyes, and it is negative weight.

    3. Rilara*

      I was thinking this too about #5. Uber has GPS for the cars so you should have known a while before the interview that something was wrong and been able to find a different method of transportation or contacted your driver much earlier than 10 minutes before the interview. (Although my thinking is based on Uber in the U.S. so please forgive me if this post is for a different country!)

      Also from the way I’m reading it, it sounds like the employer told this to the mentor. It seems strange to me that an employer would agree to set another interview time for the OP (without speaking with the OP) unless they had a prior relationship with the mentor. Based on that it wouldn’t surprise me if the relationship is familiar enough for the employer to share a thought like that with the mentor.

      1. (different) Rebecca*

        Oh, I don’t know; on a perfectly clear street in San Juan, I watched the Uber’s GPS go from 2 minutes away to 5 minutes away to 1 minute away for 20 solid minutes. So what do you trust, the GPS that says it’ll be there in 2 minutes? Or your instinct that says we’ve done this dance 5 times already, I’m just going to find another way? It’s six of one, really.

        1. Temperance*

          That happened to me when I was trying to get a ride to the hospital. I reached out to their CS team.

    4. Adlib*

      On #5, I feel like we’re missing a piece of info. I’ve only used Uber once, so maybe I just don’t know enough about it, but why would the OP be blocked/blacklisted if their first one didn’t show up? That seemed odd to me.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq*

          I have also been a no-show for Ubers a couple of times and I can still get an Uber fine. Typically you have to have a gotten a low rating a few times.

          1. Temperance*

            No, but if the driver was showing as on the way for a long period of time, and then she cancels, there is a window in which you can’t get another car.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq*

              Really? That’s never happened to me; I’ve cancelled and gotten another right away when a car shows as 5 minutes away for 10 minutes.

              1. RKB*

                It has to be a different driver. So if OP’s driver was the only one nearby, then they can’t call him again.

            2. harryv*

              Uh.. no. Cancellations happen all the time and it doesn’t take 30 min to realize it. So something doesn’t line up on OP’s story.

      1. Sarita*

        I’m on the outer fringes of a city where Uber is available, and there will frequently be only 1 or 2 drivers within a 30 minute radius. I can see this happening easily.

        If I request a ride, and driver #1 accepts it but then decides they don’t want to bother coming that far out to get me, they can either cancel right away (which looks bad for them), or wait a while and then pretend I was a no-show (looks bad for me). Also, I’m not going to study the map like a hawk for 30 minutes while I wait; I’ll be getting dressed, eating, etc. So I might not realize they’re jerking me around until it’s getting close to the time they needed to be here and I check and realize how far away they still are.

        If they keep me hanging for that long, driver #2 has gotten another call in the meantime and drops off the map because they’re now unavailable. So when I try to book another ride, only driver #1 is available. Driver #1 blocks me/rejects me/whatever they do (I don’t know how this looks from a driver’s point of view), and now I can’t call an Uber at all, unless I’m willing to wait and hope another driver finishes a job and pops up within the available radius.

        This whole scenario hasn’t happened to me, but I *have* had drivers reject me moments after requesting an Uber, at which point they drop off the map and there’s no one left to replace them, making calling an Uber at that moment literally impossible – the app wouldn’t let me summon a driver from farther away. So I can easily imagine this happening to the LW.

        It sucks being on the edge of Uber’s service zone sometimes, because drivers will reject you just for being too far away, and that’s after you have fewer drivers available in the first place.

    5. Artemesia*

      I agree that flying home early is the alternative. Framed that way there is no added expense to them — you could separately agree to be flown out again.

    6. Kimberlee, Esq*

      Also, are there places that have Uber but not Lyft? Maybe making sure to have both downloaded so you have an extra option next time would be good. Also, contact Uber’s customer service to find out why you are blacklisted and see if they can lift it?

      1. nicolefromqueens*

        Yes, I only have UberX where I live. A half mile west of me, I’d also have Uber Pool, Lyft, Gett, and Juno.

    7. Sketchee*

      Uber is almost always reliable where I live. I do have some weird one off stories where it wasn’t. Maybe 1 out of 50 trips in a year will have problems.

      For work I drive and probably have car trouble just as often. Car trouble that is potentially preventable. And in the moment doesn’t always get resolved.

      It’s a yellow flag at best. Certainly, the interviewer would want to consider how timely this person was to future interviews. And if a stellar candidate, then watch this during the probation period.

      Everyone has been late before. We’ve heard a few similar letters about interview lateness on this blog.

      1. zora*

        In two different cities I’ve lived in, calling for a cab is less than useless. In NYC it has always worked great for me and you can just walk to the street and flag one down fairly quickly. But in some cities, you can call an actual taxi company, they will tell you it’s coming at the scheduled time, and then it is an hour late, or never shows up at all.

        Uber has become so popular in some cities because of this very problem, at least you can actually get a car and it most likely will actually show up when it says it will. There are problems sometimes like the OP mentions, but much less frequently than the cab companies.

  5. Aurion*

    #5: I’m sorry, because your situation wasn’t your fault, but I can’t fault the hiring manager for being miffed. It sounds like your mentor called the interviewer and rescheduled for you, so the comments were probably shared to him in confidence. Generally, assuming that it’s not a five-car pileup or a downed subway that interrupts transport for a large number of people, issues with transportation are your own responsibility–especially since you renegaded twice for the time. Was there not a cab available or other more reliable transportation?

    Also, I know your mentor offered to call for you, but I find it really, really weird. As your mentor, he can guide you, he can introduce you or refer you or be a reference, but after that you should be talking to the hiring manager on your own. Even if the hiring manager will talk to your mentor about you, I find calling and making excuses/apologies for you, for an interview where you will be making your first in-person impression, to be very, very strange. It would certainly colour my impression of you.

    1. Jeanne*

      When I read it, I end up wondering how old the LW is, how new to the working world. This reads like when an 18 yr old has an interview set up by mom’s friend’s husband. But it is very unclear who talked to who and when.

      1. Aurion*

        Yup, exactly. I forgot to add it to my previous comment, but frankly, if you are old enough to work you are old enough to contact your (prospective) employer by yourself. Exceptions can be made for introductions (which your mentor can do for you for the initial contact only), or if you are physically incapable of contact (illness, accident, what have you).

        Even if you interview, I would prepare for this to be a courtesy interview only. If I were the hiring manager the inability to contact me by yourself, coupled with the poor time management, would turn me off unless you can seriously wow me. And given the OP is underqualified, this isn’t likely.

    2. Random Lurker*

      Also – LW said he/she was ready to go an hour in advance, but didn’t call the manager until 10 minutes before. What were you doing during those 50 minutes waiting for a car? You would have had plenty of time to cancel your uber and wait the blackout time (what is it, 5-10 mins?) to request another car.

      Look, I know this site tends to lean pro LW/anti-manager, but I wouldn’t even bother rescheduling an interview with someone who didn’t make it in. Even if it Uber’s fault, it would concern me greatly.

      1. CoffeeLover*

        Ya I must say this was poorly handled by the OP. I’m not an Uber user, but I’ve had taxis not show up (or show up 30+min late) many many times. It’s something you plan for especially for an interview. As Random Lurker mentioned, the fact that OP waited until 10min before the interview was also bad. Presumably, OP knew she couldn’t make it much sooner than that. I have a feeling the only reason this manager is giving her another chance is because of the managers relationship with OP’s mentor. Not a great start to a working relationship.

        1. Colette*

          I agree. Ten minutes before an interview, I want to be outside the building, not sitting at home. If I were the manager, I’d be very concerned about this and I’d probably pass unless it was for a job where the hours are completely flexible.

          1. Christine*

            I’m wondering if they have a position that is hold to fill, or has a low retention rate. Didn’t the LW state he was underqualified? It could be a bad first impression all around. I suspect the mentor repeated what was said, this is a young individual they are still learning to ropes of the interview process.

            He should send a note / e-mail to the interviewee apologizing for the late cancellation and that he appreciates them still willing to consider them for the position. Go to the interview, do a good job because he owes his mentor for speaking up for him. He can always decline it if it’s offered. Otherwise look at this as a learning experience. When I realize it’s time to switch jobs (I work for the state, we have to apply for promotions, etc.), the first 1 – 3 interviews are viewed as practice runs. I need to get into the groove of things. Than the 4th or 5th interview is where I get a job. Sometimes it’s a good idea to do a few interviews not expecting to get the job as a training exercise. If you haven’t job hunted for say 5 – 10 years you may not know the new trendy interview questions. These things phase in and out over the years. I’m looking to move right now, the latest question that threw me was “How would you analyze a problem?” Told them I didn’t know for sure, it would depend on what it is. Not what they were looking for.

            1. Lil Lamb*

              Huh. I would probably have said “Every situation is different. Can you give me an example?” too. That’s a really poorly worded question. Is the problem interpersonal, something to do with work, or a research issue etc. etc.

              1. Christine*

                It threw me. I didn’t have a good feeling going into the interview and things have proved it to me. I think they know who they want, and they chose some oddball questions to narrow the scope per say. There’s an admin that has been out on FMLA and I believe that’s who they want since it’s been advertised for 3 months. They normally do not delay that long. Most admin positions are advertised for 2 weeks, if they do not like the applicant pools or the interview process isn’t successful, they’ll reopen it again for two weeks.

                1. Lil Lamb*

                  Yeah, you’re definitely not missing out on anything. Hopefully you didn’t have to miss a day’s work for your interview, but as you said the practice helps.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          I regularly used to use Taxis, and I always left myself an hour extra to get there and started calling to hound the dispatcher after 15 minutes. The dispatchers got to know me, and I’d ask “if it really going to be 15 minutes, or is it going to be 30-45?” and sometimes I’d get the truth out of them, or get them to move me up the priority list. Sometimes I was still late.

          And I never made excuses or thought it was anyone’s fault other than my own.

          To be fair, it sounds like the OP doesn’t either, really, but it being hounded into this as much as the Hiring Manager is, by her “mentor”

    3. Moonsaults*

      The fact that someone else called to reschedule for her also jumped out at me.

      I would have been unimpressed in that situation as well not because someone needed to reschedule. It would be because they could call the first time to say that they had to push the time back, then instead of calling back the second time, another person called to do it. I wouldn’t assume that anything I said to them as confidential though, why would anyone call for someone else and not relay a message like that?

  6. Jeanne*

    #4, I assume the PIE method comes with a PIE chart. I suppose there are a few jobs where exposure matters a lot. Casting agent, Kardashian, mime, that sort of thing. I guess your real issue is if they’re planning to carry through with this and how much you care. Would you rather focus on your performance and then listen to your boss say that performance is nice but not that important? I have a lot of trouble adapting to these nonsense developments and would probably ignore it. Do whatever you think is best but be willing to accept the consequences. Hopefully in a year they’ll drop it.

    1. Sam*

      I work in Finance, and my company uses the PIE model as well. I can argue that my performance should matter more than my exposure, but the reality at my company is that the size of your “personal board of directors” matters a lot more.

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I just saw that advice in an HBR.org article.

        “Personal” Board of Directors?

        I really thought better of them.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I might be wrong, but the letter reads to me like it was just something presented at a career development workshop held at the office, and not an actual thing the company is imposing on people or using to manage. If I’m wrong about that, though, then that’s even more ridiculous.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        It reads to me like it’s both. Of course, I’m reading this through the lens of what my company does, and they would never allow some outside company to come in and give us a presentation if management wasn’t onboard with the topic. But it could be different at OP’s company.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I’ve worked at companies that would bring in career development speakers but never implement any of what they said. It was like they would have a speaker each year just to fulfill some HR checklist, but the touted advice never made it out of the room once the assembly ended.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            That’s so strange to me – why bring these people in if you don’t plan to implement anything they suggest? You’re wasting their time and your employees’ time doing that. I hate being dragged to seminars or training classes in the middle of my work day, but I suck it up and deal because it all pertains to what I do. I’d be feeling some kind of way if I was made to sit through various presentations that were pointless when my workload is piling up and I could actually be handling it.

      2. Meg*

        Unfortunately the PIE model is actually a concept that’s implemented at my organization. Annually, our division gets together for a”meeting,” which lasts all morning and mostly consists of presentations on anything from policy changes to plans and budgets for the next year. A couple of years ago, the head of our division gave a presentation about how he wanted all of us younger employees to start thinking about plans to advance in our careers. We have a large group of managers with 15-25 years of experience and my organization is anticipating that group will be retiring soon and wants to begin “grooming” others to be promoted into those management positions in the near future. This division head included in his presentation the PIE model and told us all that we needed to start getting more “exposure.” If you’re wondering how the PIE model plays out within an organization, it looks a lot like favoritism. Most of our managers are men, so there’s a bit of a “boys club” and if you’re not part of the club, you don’t get “exposure” and aren’t considered for management positions. I, along with several other coworkers, were shocked by this presentation. I get that favoritism exists and there will always be brown-nosers who think being friendly with the boss means they should be promoted. But, I think these types of practices should be acknowledged and stamped out of an organization, not presented as the only way to get promoted or advance in your career.

    3. aelle*

      I Googled the PIE method, because I found the concept baffling, and a few of the resources I found do say that your performance is a bedrock without which image and exposure don’t matter – which already starts to make more sense. It’s also supposed to be a recipe for climbing the corporate ladder, not for doing your job – in which case I find it dumb for a company to spread this information, because not everyone wants or needs to get to the C-suite – or even into management.
      Still, the concept that you should basically dedicate 6 times more resources, time, or energy to your exposure than to your actual work… how would anyone get anything done?

      1. Jaydee*

        I wondered if it assumed a base level of good performance. I can see it as a career advancement tool. If I sit in my office and do a good job but no one outside my team or company knows that, it will be hard to advance very far. Even if I’m not looking to manage or get into the C-suite. A content expert is pretty useless if no one knows they are an expert on the topic.

      2. Elsajeni*

        Yeah, I can see it that way — good performance is a prerequisite, because your image and exposure are really “image as a strong performer” and “exposure/visibility of your strong performance to others,” but visibility plays a bigger role in the actual process of advancement, since, well… people have to know you’re there if they’re going to promote you. But even if that’s the point they’re trying to make, it sounds like this “PIE chart” business is a terrible way of getting it across.

      3. Beezus*

        I’m not sure about the proportions, but it’s definitely been my experience that performing fantastically doesn’t matter if no one outside your immediate team/manager know what you’re doing or how well you’re doing it.

        In one of my past jobs, I busted my tail dealing with a broken process, working 60+ hour weeks, and managed to scrape out performance numbers that were only slightly below average (compared to divisions that the process was designed for, where it worked smoothly). My boss knew how hard I worked and that I was set up to fail, and what a miracle my numbers were – to anyone else, I looked like someone who put in WAY too many hours at the office and, by the numbers, underperformed anyway. My image was not good. My team was not very visible and was largely ignored, so I didn’t get any exposure, either.

        I wound up transferring to another group and doing different work – I still work nearly as hard and my performance is still great, but I actually look like a success story on paper now, my image outside my immediate team is better, and my work is more visible and gets a lot more exposure, so my future career prospects are a lot better. Working hard and doing good work is critical, but it isn’t everything.

    4. Lora*

      I am horrified that such a thing exists outside of the entertainment and advertising industry. OP, definitely talk it over with your boss! If my employees were told such nonsense I’d be ripping the presenter and the fool who invited them a new butthole for spreading idiocy and wasting other people’s time.

      And if your boss is anything like me, be prepared for a shocked look and a response along the lines of, “holy sh… no. No, your performance is 99.9% and maybe go to a conference once a year and join a professional organization or something. Who set this up again? Was it that guy Mike? Well…god bless him, but…”

      1. PIE*

        Thanks all! I’m the OP of the PIE method question and our direct managers all seem to be of the opinion it was not appropriate for our audience or the type of work that we do and was off base in general. Really appreciate Alison answering the question – I wasn’t sure if I was just missing something or if it had some sort of legitimacy outside our little bubble. Thanks again!

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Your management team needs to have a meeting with whoever organized this presentation and tell them that. If they don’t, the organizers will probably keep bringing charlatans like this into the company and wasting people’s time. And they need to have a meeting with their direct reports to make it clear that the presentation was utter insanity and not co-signed by them so that the newer hires with less professional experience will know their actual performance is indeed being measured more so than anything else.

          1. Mike C.*

            keep bringing charlatans like this

            Yes, this is exactly what these people are, charlatans. They should be recognized and treated as such rather than be given the respect of seriously considering their terrible, shallow ideas.

          2. Sas*

            Ha ha True, but the company that made the presentation is probably owned or run by someone’s (at OP’s business) son. Kidding, hopefully.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          I can imagine a way in which it makes sense — *other people* are judging you mostly on exposure, if by exposure they mean how much they see of you and your work. So for you, it’s critical to do the work well, but then also make sure that other people know you’re doing it.

          I’ve only just read this question and comments, not anything actually about the model, but I’ve had to do a lot of work with myself fighting “the work speaks for itself! Doesn’t it??” The work does not speak for itself — you have to speak for the work.

        3. Wilbur*

          Personally, I think it’s actually kind of accurate. I’m working in a very large company that’s in a bit of a rut, any hiring decisions, promotions, etc. are approved at the VP level (Well above most managers). If you just “do the work”, it can be easy to get lost in the mix. Without getting exposure to upper level managers, I don’t think there’s a chance of getting anything approved. This might be my perception and is probably dependent on a lot of factors but I think it’s worth keeping in mind. I think the better take away from this presentation is to make sure you interact with people outside you’re normal group occasionally, and try and keep your work visible.

          1. LQ*

            This is interesting because the easiest way to make my work visible is to let things fail and then swoop in to save them. This is the least “good” part of my job because it isn’t preventing problems, it is fixing things that have already caused delays and problems. In an environment where you actually do focus on this (and yes, there are a lot of them) then you incentivize metaphorically starting fires and putting them out. You make it better to make a product that fails and you can fix than a product that just works.

          2. Jeanne*

            It really depends on the job and the company if you can do this. With the layers in between and the big bosses in another building, it can be impossible.

    5. Christine*

      I think they just hired the firm to come in & didn’t vet them beforehand. Management & HR dropped the ball on this one.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Oh, sometimes those firms are vetted by someone very high up- where networking and exposure is legitimately the largest chunk of their pie- and they think it’s just awesome information for everyone. The problem is the person vetting it being completely out of touch with how things work at the OP’s level.

    6. PIE Fan*

      I’m familiar with the PIE model and actually think it makes a lot of sense…if pitched correctly. It doesn’t sound like that was the case here. As someone said above, performance is your ticket in the door and not negotiable. If you’re not performing, the rest of it doesn’t matter. The idea behind image and exposure is that performance isn’t all that matters – if you’re great at your job, but you dress sloppily (in environments where that matters) and don’t have relationships with people that can help promote your career or mentor you, it’s going to be harder to get new opportunities. The idea behind the model is to help people younger in their career understand that it all matters.

    7. Chaordic One.*

      Of course performance by itself, even high performance is not a be all, end all. People need to have some social skills and to look (at least a bit) professional in the context of their job. No one wants to deal with a socially inept character like “Doctor Martin Ellingham” or with someone who has hygiene problems.

      I kind of hate to admit it, but in a lot of jobs it really does seem like sizzle is valued more than the steak, and that appearances count more than substance or results. A physically attractive employee may end up being more successful in their career than the higher performing one. Sometimes life sucks.

    8. Milton Waddams*

      This is an ideological conflict. People want to believe that performance matters because if it does not, then it raises more difficult questions about why exactly the most compensated employees in a company are paid as much as they are, when it is not because they are the most skilled, talented, intelligent, or productive.

      When your company’s product is made on contract by whichever overseas manufacturer is cheapest this season (which is likely the same one making your competitor’s identical products), can you really talk about performance in a meaningful way?

      The PIE model is a “don’t hate the player, hate the game” development that acknowledges certain unfair realities, such as that the person who takes the credit for an accomplishment is often rewarded over the person who accomplishes, and that the person who went to prep school with the boss’s son and future CEO is going to have an easier time advancing their career.

  7. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. Slightly off topic, but we used to have big meetings at a former company. As these went on all day, a catered sandwich lunch would be provided. At the end of the day, if there were any leftovers, the rest of the food could be eaten by the employees. This usually meant stopping off for a sandwich with afternoon coffee break, but there were several people who would turn up with plastic containers and tin foil!

    There was an annoyed employee who had nothing to do with the big meeting complaining that there were not enough leftovers because the particpants had been particularly hungry that day and eaten almost everything.

    Back to the letter. Could it be that somebody on the shift takes more than their fair share of cookies, so there are none left for others?

    1. sstabeler*

      even if there is, it’s not the LW’s job to make sure everyone gets some. I could see complaining to HR if someone was being specifically excluded from having any of the shared food- as in a literal “everyone except X can have some” but more because if that’s a pattern, it starts getting toxic.

      1. sssssssssss*

        I’ve seen that attitude too – “There’s no leftovers?! But what about me?” in many places, and not just work. I will also check out leftovers for an afternoon snack and then I check out what’s left of the leftovers at the end of the day, 4:45-ish. If there’s still stuff leftover that’s not showing signs of serious wilting or drying out, then I might take it home, as the cleaners are just going to throw it out.

        It’s too bad someone took a simple generous gift and ruined it for everyone else. You have to wonder about HR too – why would that even merit being reported to management? Is this a workplace or a classroom? Food gets put out, it’s first come, first served unless your name is on it. It’s like a cousin complaining at a family event that your kid didn’t share enough to his liking so he complains to his mother who complains to your mother and the both of them tell you to share, even though you know you were reasonable with your toys. Entitlement trumps fairness.

        Now, if this was a person who wanted some of the food but always arrived late to get some and there was none left over consistently – say because of duties, shift, being busy – a small conversation with the food giver could result in a cookie set aside for that one person who just can’t get there in time for a cookie before they are gone.

    2. Chocolate lover*

      At an old job, there were particular people who would lurk around meetings (with clients, in exposed conference rooms where everyone in the meeting could see them lurking) so they could jump on any leftover food. And they would take a lot of it. Some of them were referred to as vultures and it got so embarrassing in front of clients, the company instituted new rules that no one was allowed to take food out of the conference rooms, if there were any leftovers, the meeting organizer would bring them to the break room.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        People can be so weird about food. There was one professor in my previous department who was a food vulture like this; it was as if he lost his mind and all his manners if he had an opportunity to seize free food.

      2. Whats In A Name*

        2nd the comment about people being weird about food. A few times a year we bring in food for staff and have an employee when will leave at the end of the day with 3 or 4 boxes of pizza, or a catering tray of lasagna or turkey – whatever it might be we bring in.

        It’s usually after everyone has eaten for the day and it will be left one night in fridge before tossed so part of me thinks “well, it’d just get tossed anyways” but part of me also thinks “that could have been lunch for a few people tomorrow, too”

        All that being said, I would never go to HR and complain.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          A few times a year we bring in food for staff and have an employee when will leave at the end of the day with 3 or 4 boxes of pizza, or a catering tray of lasagna or turkey – whatever it might be we bring in.

          That person has no home training. They didn’t pay for that food, so they have no business walking out with that much stuff unless the meeting organizer gives them the green light.

        2. Becky*

          One of the things we do here when there’s a big company spread is if there is a substantial amount left over, to pack up the food at the end of the day and issue a statement that it’ll be for lunch tomorrow. It goes into the refrigerators and I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone with my own eyeballs snag stuff.

          We’re a smallish company at the moment, and have an actual committee that organizes this stuff, so there’s oversight enough that everyone else falls into line. It’s an interesting company culture here and not one I’ve run into in previous, albeit far larger, companies.

          1. Whats In A Name*

            I think that is an excellent way to handle leftovers for meetings, especially in a small operation.

          2. AnonAnalyst*

            My last company did this too. It worked really well – sometimes you would see someone grab an extra sandwich and take it home for dinner, but nothing egregious. We were also a small company and everyone knew each other, so I think that may factor in too – everyone was going to know if Bob took the entire pan of lasagna home with him rather than letting some of his coworkers share it.

        3. ThatGirl*

          I have a co-worker who’s in her late 20s but seems to have inherited her Russian-born mother’s sensibilities about food (I mention her ethnicity because the mom grew up and emigrated during food shortages and scarcity). So any time we have some sort of company food event – like cookies and cocoa around the holidays – she will grab a container or a napkin and take some extras home. I find this slightly weird although I’ve resisted saying anything since there’s always a ton.

        4. Liane*

          OldJob at Very Big Retailer had some prize-winning Food Vultures–they gorged or hoarded–yes, hoarded–to the point that there literally* wouldn’t be anything left for people who went on break/lunch 20-30 minutes later!
          1–I did overnight Thanksgiving evening-Black Friday morning one year and the Managers were kind enough to expense and order in pizzas, at least 50 large pizzas. When I got there, about 30 minutes after the pizzas arrived, there was MAYBE 1-2 pies’ worth of slices left, and only a few of the staff had been sent to break. The Managers were all WTF?!?! because the pizzas hadn’t been out that long and they knew they’d ordered enough for everyone scheduled to have 2-3 slices. Rumor, and braggarts, had it that many of the first ones on break had taken 5-7 slices (!!!) each and hoarded them away. No consequences–not even a note by the timeclock saying “Bad employees! Bad! –don’t do that again or else!”
          2–Store made some kind of Big Goal, and our Bakery made 3 full-sheet cakes, one for each of the three shifts. (Each of these will serve a whole shift generously.) Third/overnight shift gets food goodies first. So when they came on, all 3 cakes were in the Bakery, each box labelled clearly for a shift. Next morning the break room was a shambles with just the crumbs of All. Three. Cakes!!! The employee who arranged this was furious. She complained to Store Manager and had to store-use several smaller intended-for-sale cakes for the other 2 shifts. Again, nothing was done and in my opinion the overnight Assistant Managers should have gotten formal coachings for not managing their team, even if there was no way to ID the actual thieves.

          *not erroneously using “Literally” for “Figuratively”

        5. Elizabeth West*

          We have the opposite problem here–people will bring in these huge trays of stuff for food fests in their department, and they sit in the fridge for DAYS. Taking up space. They don’t put it back out the next day, either. It’s just in storage. So you have to play Lunch Bag Tetris every damn day. >:(

          Once a month or so, the cleaners do the fridge and throw everything out, but it’s really annoying when people leave their leftovers (personal ones too) in everybody’s way for weeks at a time.

          1. WellRed*

            Lately, we seem to have people stocking on in the fridge for themselves, think gallon milk jugs, 3 pound bags of baby carrots and six packs of soda. It’s a normal sized fridge that needs to be shared by 15 people. I always try to be mindful of space I take in a shared space.

        6. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          I don’t know. I read an essay a while ago about supporting employees who were struggling with food insecurity and it’s really made me think. I’ve started trying to be more intentional about inviting staff to eat/take home leftover food, and I’ve been wondering about how to make sure the folks who need it are getting access to it.

          (Link in a follow up comment.)

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            And now I see that the link is broken. The article generated a lot of controversy — folks saying that there’s only one way employers need to help food insecure employees: paying a living wage. While I agree with that, I still thought the original list was useful.

            1. Anonymouse*

              My husband used to have a coworker on his team who was making the same amount of money as the rest of the department, but was significantly less well off than the rest of them. He had 4 kids and a stay at home wife and they didn’t vaccinate their kids so everyone was always sick and wracking up medical debt. We often tried to be kind/sensitive and subtly offer large portions of leftovers, or pay for dinners out when he was around.

              If a company finds that many of its employees are food insecure, perhaps that warrants a look at the pay structure. But I think that there will always been a few employees who are struggling, not because they aren’t paid appropriately, but because their life circumstances are much different.

            2. Phyllis B*

              Victoria NonProfit, I couldn’t read the article. Could you maybe share in the comments some of what it said?

        7. Phyllis B*

          Not exactly the same thing, but our church has a Wed. night service and supper before. There was a lady who lived across the street from the church who would come (eat, but not stay for the service.) She would take all the left-overs “for her dogs.” That would be fine if she waited until everyone was through eating to do this, but one night (pizza night) she had loaded five boxes of pizza to take home for the dogs. My grand-children and I were five minutes (!!) late getting there after serving time started, and there was NO FOOD left. I had to go to a nearby BBQ place and get something to feed them. No one wanted to say anything because “she lived in the community.” Luckily, she has move away, but that always stuck with me.

      3. Fluke Skywalker*

        Haha. That sort of happens at my current job. If you bring food in or there’s leftovers from a meeting, you’d better get some FAST, because it’ll be gone in about five minutes. No one ever complains if they don’t get any, though. And you definitely hear people sometimes saying that they’re going to wait to eat lunch until a meeting is over, because there’s always leftovers. IDK why we over-order so much for meetings around here.

        Pretty much every job I’ve ever had has encouraged us to take leftovers home, because I’ve never worked anywhere that has fridge space for large amounts of leftovers. Once everyone has taken some, whatever’s left will usually fit, and it’s up for grabs for lunches the next day.

    3. Kimberlee, Esq*

      I mean, it could be something that feels to OP like a one-time event, but to the person who complained, its obvs much bigger. Like, maybe the same 10 people in a 14 person office get cookies all the time, and the same small handful of people who for whatever reason can’t run over as quickly consistently get none? It still is weird but it’s understandable; in offices, there are so many things that, while seeming small, over time tend to make you feel Welcome or make you feel Not Welcome, and I could see someone complaining (maybe even informally) eventually.

      1. OhNo*

        Even so, I feel like it shows a sense of entitlement on the part of whoever complained. Just because a coworker brought in food doesn’t mean you’re entitled to some consistently, regularly, or even at all.

        I love free food, and I’m always excited about it when some shows up at work, but I don’t start work until the afternoon and frequently miss out on it. I would never, ever, ever complain to anyone if there isn’t any left by the time I get there. If I desperately wanted or needed some of the free food, there are other things I could do (show up for my shift earlier, use a bathroom break to grab some to set aside, ask a coworker to grab me something, or even ask the provider/organizer to set aside some for the staff who come in later). Whoever complained should have taken the burden on themselves to make sure they get some, rather than trying to make it the OP’s fault.

  8. WhiteCollarWorker*

    #3 What is with young people on hating formal wear as if it was the plague ? And what lousy reasoning “(I work long hours and have a long subway commute)” ? So you assume other employees and your CEO don’t work long hours or have a long subway commute ? In a work environment I woul like to blend in rather than be the stand out, that should be withyour work. I work maybe around 12 hrs and have a 1 and half hour commute each way and I still wear formals.

    1. Jen RO*

      I’m in my thirties and I hate formal wear. No, it’s not comfortable to me, and yes, it would make a commute worse. You can’t wear sneakers with a suit or with slacks, I’d have to wear flats or heels, and none of those shoe options are what I’d want to be wearing during my commute. I live in jeans and I absolutely understand OP.

      That said – OP, I do think that you need to start dressing a bit more formally. In my (admittedly super-casual) view, even putting on a suit jacket/blazer over a plain t-shirt and a pair of jeans makes the outfit look smarter.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        In my 40s, and while I quite like getting dressed up occasionally for fun, I like working in comfortable clothing, where my feet don’t hurt, and I don’t show up at the office having sweated completely through my clothing, to shiver in the AC until I dry off, and I don’t have to debug code while worrying about sitting in a ladylike fashion. It also saves me quite a lot of money, and a huge amount of time shopping – I can find jeans, slacks, comfortable shoes and nice but casual tops that fit me well and are flattering without too much effort or money, while I dread shopping for more formal or fashionable clothing.

      2. aelle*

        There might be a cultural or resource thing at play that I don’t get here. I’m European and I never wear sneakers unless I am actually going for a run. I own a few different types of inexpensive city shoes and they are all very comfortable as I walk everywhere. In the summer I wear ballet flats, in the winter I wear flat- or low-heel boots (ankle boots with pants) – and I wear the same shoes whether I’m working or doing groceries or walking my dog. I only ever wear heels at parties and if I’m going to take a taxi. Is it difficult to find comfortable city shoes in the US?

        1. Jen RO*

          I’m also European, and I think I used the wrong word. I didn’t mean running shoes, I meant something like Converse.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I wear black and white high top Chucks with dress pants and suit-like outfits into work all the time – it can be done. I’m in the US by the way, and Chucks are the only sneakers I own ’cause they’re super comfortable.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Hahah, this made me chuckle. I finally got a pair of low-top Chucks and the only way I can wear them is with insoles. I have very high arches and they have NO support whatsoever. But I LOVE the way they look. :)

              For nice, I have a pair of black leather walking shoes by Romika. They were very expensive, but very comfortable and worth every penny. When I told the shoe salesman I was looking for something nice to wear in London that wouldn’t kill my feet, he immediately pointed to the rack. Flats kill me. I can’t find a pair with any arch support. Loafers are good, though. I love love love penny loafers. And both of these can be worn with a dress and tights in winter. As can my Born boots (another splurge, but comfy and WARM).

              Most of the time, however, I just wear cheap trainers. We only have to dress up at work when clients are coming in.

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I have a pair of athletic shoes (Brooks Ghosts) for exercise walks and runs, and a pair of Pumas (always Pumas!) for casual walking, shopping, etc. I call them both “sneakers”. So I got you. :)

          3. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I’m in America, and I only wear sneakers (I’m in the South, so all athletic shoes are “tennis shoes”) if I’m going for a walk, run, or hike. I wear Clarks business casual shoes at the office. I call them my “ugly black campus shoes” because they’re comfy and great for walking all over the university campus, but they’re not what a fashion maven would call pretty or stylish. I do have one pair of tennis shoes that are solid black all over and have a slim, streamlined fit. I sometimes sneak-wear them as business casual shoes with my ponte stretch trousers, because the are SO comfortable.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              Clarks are magic. My mother bought me a pair of sturdy brown flats when I started my first post-college job, because it involved a fair amount of walking–three years later, I still have them, and I will keep them until the soles fall off.

          4. aelle*

            Sorry for assuming! I envy you, living in a climate where you can wear Converse year round – too much rain and snow around these parts.

            1. Jen RO*

              Haha, not really – we definitely have harsh winters here! But it’s just 2 months a year, and I drive to work, so I can get away with wearing Converse-like shoes for most of the year.
              These past months, it’s been around 10C during the day, with occasional rain, so I’m wearing faux-leather high tops that don’t get wet on my walk from my car to the office. Once the snow starts, it’s going to be boots all the way. And by boots I mean both hiking-type boots and knee high boots… which have two different words in my native language, but I don’t think the distinction exists in English!

          5. Artemesia*

            I refuse to not wear comfortable shoes and haven’t worn athletic shoes as day ware for years. There are tons of reasonably attractive walking shoes that are incredibly comfortable and don’t look like you are on the way home from the gym. In Europe young men often wear dark colored athletic type shoes that blend well — my husband always buys a pair when we visit — they look nothing like the clunky gym shoes of yore.

            1. DragoCucina*

              +1 There are many non-running shoe/sneaker options. The crocs ballet flats are not expensive. Love my Clarks pumps. As a splurge I bought a pair of Cole Haan ZeroGrands. They are oxfords built on a sneaker base.

              We have one staffer who only wears Chucks. But he owns many pairs and they are always color coordinated to his shirts. Because its purposeful he carries it off with style.

        2. CoffeeLover*

          People definitely dress “down” more in North America than they do in Europe (I was born in Europe, grew up in Canada, and now moving back to Europe again). I think what North Americans would describe as uncomfortable, more formal clothing, would be considered every-day clothing in Europe. It’s not that Europe and North America have different types of clothing (like they can’t find comfortable dressy shoes), but it’s more like what’s considered comfortable is different.

          1. Bluesboy*

            This, 100%. I can’t speak for all Europe, but I live in Milan and there’s no way my female colleagues would even think about wearing comfortable shoes on the commute and changing in the office – an American friend once tried it and was basically laughed at.

            I get the impression that here we choose to spend more of their budget on clothes, which in turn makes them better quality and more comfortable, that might make a difference?

            1. Emilia Bedelia*

              Eh, I think it’s more of a cultural value on how you should dress in public. Women wear sneakers on their commute in the US because they value their comfort over what people on the train think. You see people in the grocery store in pajamas because who cares what the cashier thinks when you’re getting milk at 9 pm. I think Americans just don’t place as much value on dressing more formally for strangers – I certainly feel no obligation to dress up for people I don’t know and have no reason to impress.
              It’s possible that more expensive clothing may be more comfortable (I have my doubts about this argument as well- clothing is just more expensive in Europe, not necessarily because it’s better quality), but there is no pair of expensive heels that is as comfortable to walk in as a pair of sneakers.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I agree. Better quality professional clothing isn’t more comfortable than cheaper professional clothing. It’s just that Americans tend to prefer not to wear it.

              2. bluesboy*

                You’re very right that the ‘dress to impress’ element is important in relation to strangers here. I know women who put make up on to go running, something I never saw in the UK.

                In relation to expensive clothes being more comfortable I can’t comment on heels. Other than that, comparing like with like (formal shoes to formal shoes but NOT to trainers) my experience is that more quality pays off in comfort. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t wear jeans to work instead of a suit if I could though!

            2. MC*

              It started because of a transit strike in the 80’s in NYC. With subways and buses on strike, women had to walk from the commuter trains to their offices which could be more than a mile away. Women wore their sneakers with their office wear because a mile in high heels is both painful and expensive. After the transit strike was over, it never stopped and spread across the nation.

          2. Milton Waddams*

            People feel squeezed from two sides. On the one side is culture and social class — unless you grew up wearing clothes like that, they will feel foreign no matter how comfortable. On the other is the uniquely poor quality of American clothes available to Americans not willing to buy all their stuff online or through mail-order. T-shirts and jeans are more forgiving to manufacture, so the poor quality isn’t as obvious as it is in more formal clothes.

        3. Chocolate lover*

          I have yet to find a pair of shoes comfortable for walking outdoors for any more than a couple hundred feet. They hurt significantly, or I end up with blisters. There’s no way I could do my commute or any walking in shoes, I can only wear sneakers.

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            It may be a gender marketing thing, but I love my Hush Puppies and Rockport shoes. They are actually more comfortable than my running shoes because I don’t have to lace them up, they’re loafers with elastic. And they are as well cushioned as any sneaker I’ve owned.

            1. Marcela*

              Oh, Rockport has been such a miracle for me. I discovered their Total Motion line, and I’m almost at the point where I can’t wear anything else. Those shoes are like athletic shoes on the inside but formal, office shoes on the outside. Yesterday I got a pair of boots and it’s like I’ve been using them since forever, so comfortable they are.

              1. Chocolate Teapot*

                I have a couple of pairs of Geox trainers which are comfortable, but a bit smarter than other sporty trainers.

            2. Chaordic One.*

              I find Hush Puppies to be a bit tight for me, but I do love Rockport shoes and I think they’re the best.

          2. BPT*

            I always have a problem with blisters and flats at first, but you just have to spend a couple of days breaking them in. Get the stick on padding for the heel area, stretch them out with socks and a hairdryer, and in a week or so it should be fine. And then they become my favorite shoes.

              1. Sophie Winston*

                Another vote for ECCO. I don’t consider the heels I have from them exactly comfortable, but far better than anything else I’ve ever worn.

                1. Wheezy Weasel*

                  Ecco is great for men as well, I have a pair with over 6 years and 1000 walking miles on them that only recently needed a resole.

              2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                I haven’t heard of a single one of these brands. Are any of them good for SERIOUSLY W I D E feet?

            1. Jen RO*

              I tried on some Rieker shoes and they seemed sooo comfortable, but also *at least* twice as expensive as the kind of stuff I usually buy. I do plan to get a pair if I find them on sale…

              1. Whats In A Name*

                What about durability, though? It took me awhile to realize that I was buying *cheaper* shoes but replacing them 3x as often as a better made, more comfortable shoe. Is there a chance the Reikers will last longer? I am not familiar with the brand (or your budget) so just curious.

            2. Cath in Canada*

              Cobb Hill – I bought a pair of ankle boots from them once, had to unexpectedly walk ~5k the very first day I wore them, had no problems, went back the next week and bought them in two other colours.

          3. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farms*

            Josef Seibel,” the European comfort shoe” I got a pair for Christmas,and managed a 3-day theme park trip with no problems! Again,kind of pricey,so I was really glad they were a gift.

        4. Editor in Academia*

          Yes, it’s difficult to find comfortable city shoes in the US (but in Europe it’s easy). 1) A painfully pointy toe is what you find on most open pumps with a heel. 2) A babyish round toe shape, instead, is what you get in a flat, “ballerina” shoe– it looks like a bedroom slipper in the office. 3) A Mary Jane (a pump with a strap), in the US, is designed like a clunky toddler shoe (OK for weekends, but it lacks authority in the office). 4) An Oxford (a lace-up “man’s” shoe), in America, is also built clunky, like a hiking shoe — except from few expensive designers.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I’ve found a bunch of cute Oxfords (and loafers – I’m wearing the latter today) that are not at all clunky and are very comfortable at DSW. And most of them don’t cost over $50.

            1. MT*

              Please tell me where!

              I’m moving out of a hot climate soon and will no longer be able to wear sandals year-round.

              I *adore* Oxfords but all those I’ve found are prohibitively expensive.

      3. Chocolate lover*

        I wear sneakers for my commute all the time, regardless of what else I’m wearing, and just change into shoes when I get to work. I’m not sure what you mean by about not wearing sneakers with a suit on your commute, why not?

        1. Newish Reader*

          This. I wear clean, neat sneakers with any business outfit for the commute or for running around at lunchtime doing errands or taking a walk.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          If you’re wearing dress slacks that are at the right length for heels, they are most likely going to be too long to wear with sneakers (which doesn’t impact me but would be an issue for a lot of women). So there’s one possible reason.

      4. Whats In A Name*

        I’m in my 30s on when I have to commute in the city I wear comfortable shoes during commute and tuck a pair of work-appropriate shoes in my bag.

        I strongly agree that a ponte knit blazer over a comfortable tee shirt and tailored pair of jeans can look very stylish and professional even with converse or other slim lined tennies or boots.

        1. Artemesia*

          In addition to this, no one should be in an office without a pair of shoes they can walk 10 miles in — remember all those people walking home from Manhattan on 9/11. When King Kong is rampaging through the streets you need to be able to slip into comfortable shoes to run.

        2. Alton*

          Same here.

          I’ve actually invested in some really nice pairs of dress shoes that are designed to be comfortable and supportive. But when I started a job downtown where I often have to walk up and down hills on hard concrete and will sometimes walk over a mile from my bus stop to my office, I started getting shin splints, my plantar fasciitis started acting up again, and I developed some strange nerve damage in one of my toes. Even if I didn’t walk the whole mile but just a couple blocks to catch a bus that could get me closer, I’d still have some issues. It didn’t start getting better until I started wearing my sneakers and carrying my dress shoes in my bag.

        1. Hannah*

          OP here. Thanks for your comment! However, I’d caution you not to judge anyone in my age bracket for being “ridiculous” for dressing casually just for the heck of it. Speaking for myself, working at a startup means taking home a startup salary, which is not real big. Paying my bills and eating is a little bit more important than buying an entirely new formal wardrobe at the moment.

          Please let me know if you have any resources for cheap work attire, I’d gladly check it out!

          1. Lily Evans*

            I know it’s been mentioned on here before, but some of my friends and I have been really happy with ThreadUp for building our work wardrobes!

          2. Whats In A Name*

            I think Aim Away from Face was saying that the assumption was ridiculous, not the young people were ridiculous. At least that’s how I read it. Plenty of people of all ages prefer casual.

          3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

            Consignment stores. Even now that I can afford to buy most anything, I still scour the consignment stores.

            One of my favorites consistently has designer and high-end department store clothes…complete with their original price tags. I wear a lot of Lilly Pulitzer and there is a woman who must switch her LP dresses out with every season’s new prints.

            Also, once you identify a style/brand that you like, watch for sales…I have a list of things I’m looking for at any given time and rather than going out to immediately purchase. I just watch the sales. Finally, a lot of places like Banana Republic, Nordstrom, J. Crew will give you significant discounts if you use their store brand card, and they will let you make an immeadiate payment for the amount of your purchase. So you get the discount without the debt!

          4. Ktelzbeth*

            I read the “ridiculous” to mean that the assumption was ridiculous, not that disliking formal wear was ridiculous. Dunno which was meant, but I’m choosing to believe the best.

        2. catsAreCool*

          I’m in my 40’s, and I’d rather wear casual clothes – they’re more comfortable, and they’re easier to replace.

      1. Chocolate lover*

        They didn’t assume, OP said she was 26. (I don’t agree it’s only “young” people either, I’m no fan of formal attire. Business casual is as far as I go.)

      2. Milton Waddams*

        A good point. Baby Boomers and grunge-era Gen-Xers tend to also dislike formal wear, although this often depends on their level of conservatism. The preppy generation in between those two on the other hand is all over the formalwear, regardless of their cultural or political affiliations, as is the front-end of the Millennials, who I guess were rebelling against their Boomer parents in their love of shiny shoes and American Psycho. :-)

    2. a different Vicki*

      It’s not just young people. I dislike a lot of formal wear, and I was born during the Kennedy administration. (You may now dismiss my opinions as those of a leftover hippie, if it helps.)

      Part of it may be gender: women’s formal or business clothing is less likely to have usable pockets than either jeans or men’s clothing (though women’s jeans are also an uphill battle, if you want pockets to keep things in, not ornamental stitching where a pocket ought to be). It’s also hard for me to find even vaguely dressy shoes that don’t hurt my wide feet. My best shoe options appear to be some brands of sneakers, or some styles of men’s shoes (and I need a size 6.5, which doesn’t always exist). The issue isn’t the subway commute, or the walk to/from the subway. Even keeping the “nice” but uncomfortable shoes under my desk would mean wearing them eight hours a day. Those “nice flats” aren’t always available in wide sizes (or a “wide” means I can get it on, not that I can walk comfortably in it). If I’m going to stand out, I’d as soon have it be “she’s wearing jeans” rather than “why is she scowling every afternoon?” (because my feet hurt).

      It’s no problem to keep my hair a natural color–that’s easier than dyeing it purple, and painless–and cover my tattoos. I’d rather not have to carry a purse and then lock it in my desk to keep my wallet safe. (Not all jobs come with locking desks, either.)

      1. attila the bun*

        My dad is 70, and one of the reasons he quit his lawyering job in the 80s was that he had to wear a suit.

        They are uncomfortable, too warm and a tie is the most pointless invention ever.

        1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

          I once heard wearing a tie described as “going to work every day with a fancy noose around your neck”.

          1. Manders*

            I’m a woman and I actually really like the look of ties, but in an office where men are required to wear ties, women usually don’t wear them. Sometimes men’s formalwear reads as less formal/too edgy for a conservative office on women.

            Fashion, especially business fashion, is weird.

      2. TheOperaGhost*

        I have the opposite problem with shoes. My feet and especially my heels are so incredibly narrow that almost anything that doesn’t lace on or have a decent strap just falls off my feet. For a vast majority of the “office shoes” that exist I will simply step out of them leaving the shoes behind.

        I currently own 1 pair of what I call interview shoes. I only wear them for a few hours a day as needed as I purchased them in a smaller size so that they stay on my feet but are very tight in my toes.

    3. Lex*

      It’s not just young people, I’m 40 and I would never work at a company that required formal clothing. It is 2016, there should be zero need for daily formal wear in most industries. And with the cost of living rising and wages stagnating, not having to waste money on the upkeep of a formal wardrobe only makes financial sense.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      There’s a lot of wiggle room between jeans and “formal wear”. Nobody’s asking her to show up in a prom dress. There are plenty of comfortable clothes that look less conspicuous among a suited. I have a couple of soft midweight rayon skirts that (frankly, are more comfortable for me than jeans and) look perfectly nice/neutra with a turtleneck or a *nice* t-shirt. Business and business casual are not formal wear. We’re not in the Mad Men era: Women don’t need to wear a girdle and garters any more to look nice.

      I sort of feel like some of this is rebellion at being asked to actually go out and think about clothes, but getting some practice in that now would be a good idea for the long-term.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I too and wondering about this “formal wear” every one keeps going to. And do they consider khakis or dress pants “formal”?? We are biz casual at work (no jeans M-Th) but people wear leggings, khakis, polo shirts, whatever they think is comfortable. Our C-suite employees were a shirt and tie (men) and smart dresses/skirts/tailored pants (women); occasionally both gender wear suits for board meetings. I don’t even think they are “formal” daily.

        I wear dresses most days because those are most comfortable to me but I don’t think I dress on a higher level, it’s just what I think is comfortable and what I feel good in.

        Unless I missed it in the letter, no one is asking to OP to even switch to pantsuits or skirt/dress suits…she is asking on her own if she should step it up and it sounds like in her environment that can happen in jeans and perhaps a slim tennis shoe (converse-type) or boots in winter.

        1. Shazbot*

          Everyone on this thread is confusing businesswear for “formal wear.”

          Businesswear is a suit, or at the least a jacket and matching trousers/skirt.
          Formal wear is white tie or an evening gown.

      2. Chat Noir*

        I agree about the wiggle room. When I think of formal, it’s a suit and tie for men and a suit (either skirt or pants) for women. I’ve seen a lot of suits and women’s “formal” clothing featured on Corporette.

        The blog Extra Petite has a couple of posts on how to change up more casual outfits. Links to follow.

        1. Anon in NOVA*

          +1 corporette. Their comments section is how I found this site!

          There’s also a “corporette moms” offshoot. Even if you’re not a mom, the clothes there tend to be a bit more comfortable and made out of machine-washable materials (there’s even a “washable wednesday” feature if you’re so inclined) Plus they feature maternity clothes- what could be more comfortable than elastic-waisted pants? I’m only 50% joking..

      3. insert witty name here*

        I’m 43 and when I read “formal wear” I immediately thought prom. Butt bows for everyone in the office!

        1. Liane*

          Considering all the comments from men about how awful ties are, they would probably suggest butt bows as a tie substitute once they find out about them.

        2. Hannah*

          OP here. I’m thinking about trying to institute a Formal Friday policy; my team members can dress in their normal suits, I’ll be coming to the office in a ball gown and elbow-length gloves. The butt bow would of course be mandatory.

        3. Woman of a Certain Age*

          As the crabby oldster, as opposed to just being old, when I think of “formal wear” I think of the kind of outfits usually worn by those nice young people in that musical group, “Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox.”

          The young men look so nice in their suits, but the women are dressed more for cocktail parties or for a ball. And I love the tap dancing.

      4. Mike C.*

        It’s not a “rebellion”, it’s a demand for justification. There’s no business reason for this, so why have it?

    5. Lady Bug*

      Aw, it’s so sweet you think I’m still young. As a 40 year woman who would only wear jeans and tshirts if I could, I greatly appreciate feeling youthful for a day.

    6. BPT*

      Like we say every time age comes up – it’s not a young/old thing. I’m 30 and I’ve always preferred professional/business formal wear. I prefer dresses and skirts to pants. Growing up, I remember my older teachers always loving casual days and they would make a big deal about it. I’ve never wanted to work in an atmosphere where casual dress was the norm. I would hate that. It’s just based on personality and personal preference, not age.

    7. Kimberlee, Esq*

      Formal wear is great if you like to wear it and want to wear it. As a requirement in business, it is oppressive and classist, and I’m in favor of resisting it to whatever degree one personally can or wants to.

      1. fposte*

        Can you expand on why you think business wear is inherently classist? It seems to me that any prescribed clothing is going to take a harder toll on lower-paid workers, and they’re the ones who are most frequently saddled with uniforms that they have to pay for, which are hardly business wear.

        I don’t disagree that class is in the mix, but we seem to be operating on the notion that formality rises with class, and that’s a very recent and not at all uniform development.

        1. Mike C.*

          The higher up the chain of formality you go, the more expensive and the more specialized the clothing becomes.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq*

            ^^^ that, basically. General businesswear tends to be more expensive (a suit is more expensive than jeans and a Tshirt), and what we consider to be businesswear in general is definitely based on how close it is to “what rich, powerful white men wear.”

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think it’s that simple–informality has actually tended to be more accepted the higher you go (think U and Non-U), suits have been critical church wear in a lot of communities, and there are workplaces where if you’re wearing jeans, they better be the pricey ones.

              What you’re saying may be more active now than it used to be, but even there it operates disproportionately. I think it’s a simplification that overlooks the different practices of a lot of America.

    8. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      I don’t think it’s a young vs. old thing. My mother is a university professor who is most often in jeans, t-shirts, and birkenstocks and loathes having to dress up.

      Today, I’m dressed “casually” for work – pencil skirt, blouse, cardigan, and 4-inch heels. I’ve spent a lot of time cultivating a smart wardrobe, and enjoy putting together head to toe outfits for work.

    9. Hannah*

      OP here. Thanks for your comment! However, I think you’re assuming a few things about me and my colleagues, by comparing to your own job. Totally understandable! But let me explain a few differences.

      First off, it’s pretty easy to see that my colleagues work fewer hours in the office than me, because I’m usually the first one into the office and always last one out. Since we’re such a small group, I also am familiar with where they live, and I have a much longer subway commute than the rest of them.

      Second, I work at a startup, which unfortunately means I am paid startup salary. I’m actually due a large raise that has been delayed multiple times until more funding comes in (though that’s a different issue), but until then I am on a tight budget that doesn’t easy allow for an entirely new formal wardrobe. I also would need to budget in dry cleaning costs, which I’ve never previously needed.

      1. Whats In A Name*

        I get the salary thing and I commiserate with the longer commute BUT when it comes to peripheral things I don’t know that they are relevant to any part of office culture norms, really. My previous commute was 1.5 hours each way as opposed to everyone else’s 20 minutes and I worked 10 hour days as opposed to their 8 (bandwidth issues) but I still had to show up at the same time and follow the dress code.

        That’s down the same road as the thread that started the “single people should work holidays because they don’t have kids at home” debate. To be transparent I think that thought is ridiculous, too.

        It sounds like at this point the dressing more smartly is up to you and I totally think you should do what feels good to you and do it within your budget. Be comfortable and use your best judgement here, but pulling in the peripherals can come back to bite sometimes.

  9. Bluesboy*

    #2 I wonder if something is missing from this letter. I’ve worked before with someone who would bring things in to share with people, but with selected people only. It was divisive, and bad for team spirit. Everybody gets if you occasionally share something with a friend or someone from the office, but when there’s an office of say, 8 people, and every day only 6 get included, the other 2 feel…well, excluded. Because they are. And if management tries to do something about it the employee says that it’s their food, they can do what they want with it, and management is ‘discriminating’.

    Now it could easily be that this isn’t the case here. It could be as simple as that the OP doesn’t normally worry about who eats it but she knows that Paula and Jason love those particular cookies so she wanted to make sure they got one. And I’m not saying that the OP has done anything wrong necessarily, just saying that I think I’d like a little more background.

    1. Accidental Analyst*

      The way I read it was that she’s been bringing in food for her shift for years with no issues. She gave some to her husband who’s on a different shift/team. Not everyone on that team got some and one of them complained. If that’s the case, and combined with other departments still able to bring in food for only their teams, it makes the direction even more stupid. Whether it’s worth asking for clarification on the order and who it applies to depends on how sensible the person who made the order is . . .

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I think that’s the right read of the situation. What I’m still not quite getting even after several re-reads is whether “I couldn’t make enough to feed everyone, I wasn’t allowed to bring food in” pertains only to the husband’s team or if the company now has an eye on her in general (however that might work), even regarding her own shift where this went on for ten years without any problems. Because if it’s the former, it seems like an easy solution to just never again make something for the husband to bring.

        (Also, what’s especially ridiculous about this whole ridiculous affair is the fact that “enough for everyone” is really subjective; I say that as someone whose stomach seems to be a semi-endless abyss and who often doesn’t really have a scale for what “normal” portions of things are. Even with countable things – like cookies, in this case – unless everyone knows how many cookies there were to begin with, it’s quite easy to just grab a cookie whenever you walk by a bowl full of them without realising that at the end of the day, you had five when one of your coworkers only had one.)

        1. Whats In A Name*

          I was going to use the cookie example earlier. You have 20 employees so you bake 24 cookies. 5 people take 2 cookies and BAM! 15 cookies left for 16 employees before you even realize it.

    2. CM*

      I was wondering the same thing — whether there are people who feel excluded in general, not just because they happened not to get any food that day.

    3. Nye*

      Yeah, I don’t really get the objection here. I bake a lot and frequently bring leftover treats in for my co-workers. In both my current and past offices, there’s always been a general space where treats could be left for folks to help themselves. I’m sure some people miss out, because I definitely don’t bring enough for the whole 80-person group, but no one had ever objected. They’re just excited if they happen to get one. If OP is following this kind of system, then I think their objecting coworker and HR are being utterly ridiculous.

      On the other hand, if OP or husband are leaving treats individually on most but not all desks, I can see why the coworker works feels left out. I still don’t think it rises to the level of an HR complaint (let alone any HR action), but I could see why it’d be poorly received by the non-treated.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        I think numbers matter here, too. In my office, there are probably 100 people on my open-office floor, so nobody would expect you to make for everyone, and it’s fine. But if you have a 10 person office, and are bringing enough for 5-8 people? That just feels like kind of a dick move… especially if its consistent over time and ends up excluding the same 2-3 people every time.

    4. LQ*

      There is a big difference between everybody and your team too.

      If I have to feed everybody is that the small sub-team? The full team (everyone who reports to my manger)? The people who work near us/with us often? The people who report to the same director? The people in my corner of the building? The entire division (many of whom aren’t local)? The entire floor? The entire department? The entirety of the state government? The building? Which everybody?

      I will sometimes bring things in and set them in a spare nearby cube and give one or two things to people I know have favorites and then send an email to my full team, and let anyone walking by peering in, go ahead, have some. If Wakeen is late? If I only set food on the desks of three but not the fourth person on my team? That might be a problem. But it sounds like the food is being set out, people not getting there? That’s not exclusion unless you are specifically going out of your way to set it up during the time that there is a meeting for those two every single time.

    5. AndersonDarling*

      I was starting to lean that way as well. If the OP said to make sure these three people get the cookies, and then the husband may have made too big a deal about it. If someone came to may co-worker’s desks and said “Manager made these especially for you” and skipped me, I would be concerned. Why didn’t she make a cookie for me? Am I not performing well? Does she have a better relationship with them? Will I not get the promotion I was waiting for because the manager doesn’t like me enough to make an extra cookie for me?
      I wouldn’t march into HR, but I would certainly notice that my co-workers are valued more.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          I was just using an example to show how a line could be crossed. If there is any kind of authority tied to the treats, then there could be different interpretations of the gifts. Even if the OP is a front line employee, there could be a hierarchy between departments that could come into play.

  10. Cori*

    #2 The size of your organization may also be a necessary piece of information in this conversation. Employee morale is an important part of management and if someone, even unknowingly or innocently, is doing something that affects korale negatively, it would be right to address it. Usually this should be in a conversation more about sharing jow morale is being affected and asking the employee to take that into into consideration rather than creating an official policy or decree. And sometimes, even when a manager has tried to have a conversation in this spirit, it still feels like a policy type discussion on the part of the employee is feels caught off guard and confused because they were just trying to.do.something good.
    In a large organization, giving food to a smaller group, is a special treat. In a small organization, it has the potential.for exclusion.
    To me, this is one of those situations where everyone needs to start with the understanding that no one meant to do harm and just listen to each other’s perspectives.

  11. Frankie Seeks Job*

    OP 4 – “Boss, as per instructed during the forum, I will work from 9 to 10am today, go to the salon from 10am to 12 noon, and spend the rest of the day networking on LinkedIn. See ya!”

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      LOL! That would make them either drop this silly notion or change the percentages around real quick.

  12. CoffeeLover*

    #4 I worked in a place where this was the case. It was a project based environment where you changed teams frequently. Performance reviews were bell-curved (urgh) and in many ways determined by people that had never directly worked with you. So at the end of the day how you performed during the year mattered very little compared to how well the powers that be “thought” you performed. It was the first job out of university for many of my peers and I remember one of the big bosses telling us we needed to “play the game”. I almost spit out my coffee. I’ve always been a “stick my head down and do good work” kind of person, so it was hugely demoralizing to find out someone who performed at the same level as me received a much higher rating because of their social butterfly nature. I highly suspect the reason performance was evaluated this way is because it was a huge company, and rather than spend the time/resources to genuinely evaluate each person, they would spend 2minutes to come up with a number and be done with it. The most frustrating thing is that they knew people were unhappy with this system, but they refused to change it. Honestly, it’s really refreshing to hear Alison say this isn’t the case everywhere.

    1. Bad Candidate*

      My company operates this way. We’re also on a bell curve review system and it’s been very clear that doing your job and doing it well means absolutely nothing. I’ve seen several people get promoted because they are bootlicking the right people. And the thing is, management really has no basis of evaluating our work, they don’t know how we do what we do as they’ve never done it. One guy got promoted twice in the last 18 months and recently moved to a new area, I got some of his clients. I found out that often he wasn’t doing things right and in one case he had done zero work, ZERO WORK on a client in all of those 18 months. Now we have to scramble to fix that client. But he’s still loved and petted by management.

  13. Ian Mac Eochagáin*

    In no. 5, what is a mentor? Is that a representative of the company or of a recruiting firm? I’ve never heard the word used in this context before.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I imagine– and this is purely speculative, based on my own experience– that the OP has a mentor who introduced her to the hiring manager at the company. So it’s not a formal business relationship. For a timely example, I have an interview this afternoon with someone to whom I was introduced by a mutual business acquaintance. I would consider her a mentor to me. If something goes seriously wrong today and I start to freak out, I might call her, and she would probably offer to call the interviewer on my behalf, because we both know her.

      I probably wouldn’t handle the situation that way exactly, but it sounds like the OP called the mentor for advice and the mentor offered to step in. Again, speculation! But that’s the type of relationship I was picturing.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        That was my read, as well. The OP was late and was going to skip it entirely, so she called to tell her mentor out of politeness- probably a family friend or possibly an old professor- and the mentor offered to step in.

    2. Jesmlet*

      To me, sounds like this person is fairly young and their mentor is probably a friend of the family in the same business that they are in. But that might just be me reading into things.

  14. Minister of Snark*

    #2 I would fix this by NEVER bringing food in again, unless it was designated for my mouth. You tried to be generous and got disciplined for it. So the whiners basically ruined it for everybody. And if anyone asks why you’re not bringing in goodies to share, tell them, “Apparently, the food I brought in was upsetting people, so I thought it was best to stop.” And if they try to convince you to start up again, tell them it’s not worth the complication to your work life.

    1. Joan Crawford's Look of Surprise*

      Agreed. I would add to your script and tell them that they more than welcome to take up mantle and prepare the meals themselves. Doubt we’ll see any takers.

      1. sometimeswhy*

        Yep. I noticed that the treats brought in by most folks excluded about half the staff. No one had ever complained or even mentioned it but I started making a personal effort to bring things in that met the assortment of dietary restrictions we have here. And when people complained*, I stopped. Entirely. Now I cook for family and friends and my coworkers can fend for their damn selves.

        *Paradoxically it was the folks whose dietary restrictions I’d quietly accommodated who groused. They weren’t providing advice on how to do it properly, which would’ve been welcome, they were flat out complaining that I didn’t bring them what they wanted, think “Well it’s great that you brought in oranges but I wanted apples so I guess I’ll just eat this paper I found in the recycle bin.” If it was the omnivores complaining, I’d’ve told them to go screw.

        1. Camellia*

          “Well it’s great that you brought in oranges but I wanted apples so I guess I’ll just eat this paper I found in the recycle bin.”

          OMG the quotes are hilarious today! Is this a variation of ‘Eat dirt and die”?

  15. The Cosmic Avenger*

    For #2, I might be tempted to bring in a lot of food for myself and lay out the spread at my desk….and if someone happens to take it while I’m not looking, hey, what can I do? wink wink

    I know it’s a fairly antagonistic approach, but they are being ridiculous, and it’s always tempting (albeit unwise) to point that out.

    1. Wild at Heart*

      I thought you were going to go in the opposite direction with this comment: bring in a huge spread of food for my desk; when people try to take some, “NO, ALL FOR ME, NONE FOR YOU” XP

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I thought of that, but if this actually happened to me, I’d want to find a way to still be generous to my coworkers while supposedly attempting to follow the edict of the corporate overlords. :)

  16. Lass*

    #2 I used to work in an office with two shifts, and I’d often bring cupcakes or cookies in for my shift. Once, someone who worked the later shift caught wind that there had been cupcakes. He cornered me and said, “If you’re going to bring in muffins, bring enough for the night shift, all right?” A.) They were cupcakes, not muffins, B.) I take the subway into work and can’t carry 40 cupcakes, C.) I can’t afford to bake 40 cupcakes and D.) sit down, you buy job. Luckily, everyone knew how unhinged this guy was, and I continued bringing in goodies for my shift and no one cared.

      1. Lil Lamb*

        Missed opportunity.

        And what is it with people in making demands from someone who is performing an act of kindness?

      2. Mockingjay*

        Haha, I wish you could buy a job. “Hi, I’d like to purchase the Executive job with a window office and compensation of $X annual. Can you put a hold on it until the January clearance sale?”

    1. Artemesia*

      And you didn’t say ‘well if you want the second shift to have muffins, why don’t YOU bake muffins for the second shift? I am not the company baker, I am just a co-worker sharing with my colleagues.’ Second shifters have a point if the COMPANY is providing treats and not making sure a fresh batch is provided for their shift BUT how bizarro to expect some fellow worker to bake for your shift on which she doesn’t work?

    2. not really a lurker anymore*

      When I bring food in, I always leave the leftovers for 2nd and/or 3rd shift. They so often get the shaft when it comes to food brought in by the day shift (which includes our dept. head who ought to know better.)

      I don’t bring enough in to feed them all but I do make sure a couple of different people on 2nd know about it.

      1. Lass*

        I mean, I would bring in more cupcakes than there were people, that is just the nature of baking. But I wasn’t going to bake 40 cupcakes so every single person in the company got something. If there were leftovers, of course, I left them there for people coming in later, I didn’t just take them home. But more often than not, 1st shifters would have two cupcakes and there wouldn’t be anything left. If the second shifters wanted cupcakes, one of them should have started buying them or making them. As Artemesia said, I’m not the company baker, I’m just someone who likes to bake and experiment with new things and doesn’t want leftovers in her house.

    3. Turtle Candle*

      Ugh, it’s annoying when people act like a gift is an entitlement. Back when I worked in person in an office (I’m remote now) I’d bring hard candies because I personally like them–usually Jolly Ranchers. Since Jolly Ranchers are pretty inexpensive, I’d bring a whole bunch and put them in a bowl on my desk. Most people were just happy there was candy there (or ignored it if they didn’t want candy), but one coworker made a point of mentioning on a regular basis that she really preferred chocolate or caramel-type candies and why did I only ever have hard candies and on and on. It took a few pointed mentions that if she wanted chocolates, she could bring them in, to get her to stop complaining directly to me (although the low-level grumbling never did stop). I was a coworker sharing her stash, not the company candy supplier!

    4. Moonsaults*

      I’m glad that your story ended with everyone knowing he was a nut job and you didn’t get bullied into doing what he was trying to demand. What piece of work that guy is, I’m glad he wasn’t on your shift and therefore stayed “muffin” deprived.

  17. ArtK*

    #4: “We don’t care what you do, as long as you look good doing it.” Okey-dokey.

    What they probably missed is the fact that performance heavily affects the other two. If you’re not doing your job well, your image will be awful and the exposure you get won’t be the kind that you want.

  18. Lauren Pomerantz*

    #2, I’ve been meaning to ask this question somewhere, but didn’t think it merited Alison’s attention. So how about something from the readers?

    I will, about once a month, stop on my way in to work and pick up a lox and bagel sandwich. When I do this, I usually buy about a dozen bagels for the team at our location. I wondered, though, last time, if it was rude of me to offer everyone else just bagels and cream cheese when I had a lox sandwich. Obviously I can’t afford to buy everyone a lox sandwich, and I’m not sure everyone else would even want one.

    Note that I’m not a manager, just another cubicle peon.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think it’s really nice of you to bring in the bagels and cream cheese, and you’re good on the lox. Besides, not everyone likes lox (I KNOW, I don’t get it either, but hey, taste is subjective) and the people who do understand that it’s pricey stuff.

      This reminds me of when we had Bagel Fridays, and if the bagels didn’t show up by 10am, it was like mutiny. Also, when our favorite bagel place shut down, the first replacement was terrible and there was another mutiny until they went with Pick-A-Bagel. It was, however, an entirely different scenario, as Bagel Fridays were handled by management. What you’re doing is just picking up a bunch of random surprise treats, like if you brought in a carton of Munchkins when you stopped to get a Boston cream for yourself. Don’t sweat it.

      I really, really miss a good bagel with good lox.

    2. Anon in NOVA*

      I think it would be ridiculous to expect you to buy a breakfast sandwich for everyone! I’m sure everyone just thinks it’s very nice that you got bagels for them at all! Even if you WERE a manager, buying yourself a sandwich and bringing in bagels for 10 other people is still a nice gesture, in my opinion. You’re a nice coworker :)

    3. Jenbug*

      I think it’s nice of you to bring anything for your coworkers. I would do that sometimes too – stop at Dunkin Donuts and get myself a breakfast sandwich and then buy a box of munchkins to share with my department.

    4. Canadian J*

      Lauren Pomerantz: I think your gesture of bringing in bagels and cream cheese for your coworkers is generous enough, and not rude at all – you’re bringing in free food! I’ve worked in private companies where my boss did the exact same thing you’ve been doing, but he was a manager.

      Your coworkers are probably appreciative of the bagels and cream cheese, and not at all put out that they didn’t get smoked salmon – everyone should understand that it’s an expensive item, and usually a treat.

      It doesn’t sound like this is the case, but if they say ARE something along the lines of “hey, where’s my lox?”, you have proof that you’re working with rude and boorish people. If that happens, say nothing, remove all the food you brought, and don’t bring it in again. But, I hope that’s not the case, and that your coworkers will take a page from your book of awesome sharing tendencies. Bon appétit!

    5. ThatGirl*

      I agree with everyone else, sometimes I’ll stop for a breakfast sandwich and coffee and get donut holes for people — no way am I buying breakfast sandwiches for 20 people, when everyone has preferences and might not even want one.

    6. Emilia Bedelia*

      No way! That’s extremely generous of you to even get bagels for your team, and if they’re reasonable and kind people they will be grateful (and if they’re not reasonable and kind people, well, I am a lox hater and I will be more than happy to eat your bagels)
      Sometimes in my office, people will come in with a fancy drink from Dunkin Donuts and a box of donuts to share – it’s sort of understood that they happened to be getting a drink, and the donuts were a special bonus. No one demands a Coolatta while eating a free donut.
      Think of your lox as compensation for your time :)

    7. Moonsaults*

      You are very thoughtful and kind, anyone who ever says differently is the one with the issue.

      I do this frequently as well, in the way of I’ll go get myself something and pick up a “to be shared” item along the way. Nobody has ever thought my personal breakfast/lunch/coffee was also something that should have been shared.

      Also if anyone treats you like you’re taking orders instead of bringing in a gift is a jerk. I would counter someone who said “hey where’s my lox tho?” with something motherly “Don’t like it? Don’t eat it.”

  19. Anon in NOVA*

    #5 I have to agree with a lot of the other commenters… the issue for me would be more that you waited until 10 minutes before the interview (!!!!!) to call rather than the fact you had transportation issues. You knew well before 10 minutes before the interview that you wouldn’t be there on time! Sometimes there’s a gap between interviews, and if I’d held the interview panel unnecessarily only to find out 10 minutes before that the person couldn’t make it anywhere near the scheduled time, I’d be irritated.
    Still, I’m sorry this happened to you. That’s rough.

  20. Wild at Heart*

    #2 – That is completely ridiculous. I work in an office of 20 to 30 people and we are constantly bringing in food to share. It all goes in the break room, an email goes out to say that there are freebies, and it’s understood that it’s a first come first serve basis. If we could only bring stuff in when there was enough for everyone, there would never be any food. Just this week, my roommates and I had a party where we ended up with a dozen leftover cupcakes. Obviously not enough for the entire office but enough that my roomies and I wouldn’t eat them ourselves. So I brought them into my office. I actually still took two home, so if I’d baked enough for the whole team, a lot more would have gone to waste.

    I would definitely stop bringing stuff in and then tell people who ask what HR said. I bet that decision will get overturned real quick when other employees complain about the stupid rule and that now no one is bringing in anything to share.

    1. Not Karen*

      Agree & it works the same way in my office (n=140). It’s sort of an ongoing joke that whenever a free food e-mail goes out, there becomes a competition to see who can get there first.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Hah, that used to happen at Exjob. But we kind of had a rule to let the shop workers have a shot at anything big, so it went in the break room instead of in the actual office. Otherwise, they got left out a lot because they couldn’t just wander in any time they felt like it–they had to wait for the buzzer.

  21. Anon in NOVA*

    I appear to be in the minority regarding #1, as I’ve always worked in local or state government so my expectations are a bit different (as in lower), but I would not expect my agency to pay for my new flight home. HOWEVER, I would certainly not be expected to return! As someone above pointed out, what about bereavement leave? If it’s really that important that you turn right around and fly back out, I think asking them to pay for your second flight out there is justified.

  22. Rusty Shackelford*

    For #4, was this a workshop telling you that your performance *should* be based so heavily on exposure (which is ridiculous) or that this is simply how it happens in the real world so you should equip yourself to deal with it (which makes a lot more sense)?

  23. Milla*

    Informal dresser:
    Take it up half a step if only because you’re feeling self conscious. Switch from the cardigan to a blazer jacket over the dresses, and then from jeans to either dark khakis or trouser pants. If they fit, they’ll be comfortable. Avoid dry clean only anything. Replace traditional sneakers with those sketchers ones that look like regular shoes.
    Cookie thing:
    I think the food sharing really depends on what you were sending in. If it was a tray of a dozen or so, and three people whose favorites those were had the cookie’s existence specifically mentioned to them so they could go get one, then the situation is a bit ridiculous. If it was a few cookies and most went to your favored people via hand delivery before the ugly ones were left on the coffee table, yeah, I can see that causing problems since people are very invested in fairness and it seems like you’re feeding the rest of the team scraps.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      If it was a few cookies and most went to your favored people via hand delivery before the ugly ones were left on the coffee table, yeah, I can see that causing problems since people are very invested in fairness and it seems like you’re feeding the rest of the team scraps.

      Oh, no, this is completely ridiculous. The OP has the right to give cookies to her friends and leave a few out for anyone else (even though that’s not what she was doing, according to her description). This is not unfair. Obviously there are tactless ways to do it, but we’re no longer in grade school where you can’t hand out invitations in class unless you give one to everyone. (Also, scraps? WTF?)

  24. NK*

    OP 5 – as someone who just did a bunch of interviews yesterday and dealt with some flaky candidates (I was doing on-campus recruiting for undergrads), when you go into the interview, be sure to be genuinely apologetic and acknowledge that they went out of their way to do a schedule change. Maybe this interviewer is a jerk, you’ll have to determine that when you meet her. But it’s really maddening when a candidate wants to be accommodated and then doesn’t really acknowledge that they inconvenienced you. I know crappy stuff happens at the worst possible time. But when it’s basically your interviewer’s only data point, they need to know this was a one-off and not how you operate.

  25. Mena*

    2. This was the rule in kindergarten but doesn’t apply to the workplace. the complainers are whining and management is foolish to get involved.

    3. Most definitely watch how your boss and other higher ups are dressing and follow accordingly. Culture changes all the time and what you were told in the beginning doesn’t seem to be today’s norm.

    4. My professional experience has taught me “If you do your job, you get to keep your job.” The only way this model works is if it is assumed your are doing your job – doing your job is a given and not a source of ‘extra credit.’

    5. I’m taken aback that the mentor called on the interviewee’s behalf (and AAM didn’t comment) – this feels like my father calling to say why I’m late.

  26. Donuts*

    #2 Our management has a preference, not a policy. If someone brings in donuts, they should all be the same flavor (like all glaze instead of mixed) so that Bob doesn’t take the last chocolate donut and Fergus gets mad because he really wanted the chocolate one.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Oooh, that is so mean! (I exaggerate, but still!) I don’t like donuts very much, but there are a few varieties from a couple of places that I like. If I don’t get, say, the maple one, then whatever. I am not a child. I just don’t take a donut. I think that preference is just weird.

      1. Sophie Winston*

        Exactly. It’s like a crazy version of not everyone can have sandwiches. Just because not everyone can get their favorite doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to have enough variety that a lot of people do get their favorite.

        1. Lissa*

          On a side note, I have stolen “not everyone can have sandwiches” for my own use offsite, because it really does describe a certain kind of interaction that can often mean nothing gets done *coughcommitteescough*

    2. Anon 2*

      That’s ridiculous.

      Mind you, I always like to assume I’m working with adults, but when people want to complain about this sort of stuff I often remember that I’m not. It’s like the staff member who recently complained that I didn’t bring in donuts for another staff person’s birthday (because that person requested that we not have them as she was on a diet and she didn’t want a fuss made). Because apparently birthday donuts are a treat for everyone and we should have them to build morale.

    3. Chriama*

      So everyone who hates chocolate donuts is just SOL? This whole thing is weird. People should be expected and assumed to act like adults.

    4. chocolate lover*

      That makes me think of my grandparents when my cousin and I were children. We are both female, only a month apart in age, and spent a lot of time together. Grandparents insisted on giving us the EXACT SAME Christmas gifts to make sure there was no fighting. Well, that backfired one year when they gave us boy the toy she wanted, and I hated. :P

      I don’t see that as something that should have to be done at work!

      1. Observer*

        What’s even worse is when they get two kids the same age the same clothes. This happened to my children more than once. The problem is that the two children in question are totally different in looks and build. So the item that was too big for one was too small for the other.

        If you ask me, that’s about as reasonable as this supervisors preference. As Chriama says, that means that someone who doesn’t like chocolate (or whatever it is) is for sure out of luck.

    5. hbc*

      Well, that’s nuts, unless you have my brother in the office. He used to request a certain donut flavor that only he liked—and then eat another donut or two first so he was guaranteed more. When I caught on (why haven’t those gone? Is he not eating any donuts?), I found that his donuts were tasty enough when eaten spitefully.

    6. Moonsaults*

      This makes things so much more difficult though.

      We get donuts every few weeks or so. We get them from the supermarket that has dozens on sale regularly, they’re always mixed boxes. So anyone who wanted to cry about it can go take a nap, since they clearly need one.

    7. LBK*

      I don’t think I’d be able to muster up any kind of respect for a grown adult that pitches a fit because they can’t have the kind of free donut they want. It would be so hard to take them seriously as a professional.

    1. Anon 2*

      I think it’s fine.

      I’ve had interviews scheduled for two places that made it pretty clear that I was out of the running before the actual interview. The first place accidentally sent me an email meant for another employee talking about how unimpressive that I was, and the second place I found out from an inside source that one of the committee members thought I was an elitist because of a past employer. I wasn’t going to get hired at either place. So I didn’t see the point in wasting my time or the employers time with the interview.

      I mean you could go for the interview experience and perhaps see if you can wow them, but generally I think if a hiring manager has their mind made up then there isn’t much you can do to change it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I mean, to answer the OP’s actual question: She should be very apologetic when she shows up.

      But that’s the least important thing here. The bigger one (to me) is what I wrote in my response.

  27. Erin*

    #2 – No, it’s not discrimination. It’s really stupid, is what it is.

    That reminds me of when people go out to lunch together and other people are like, Hey I wasn’t invited! So what? Eat with who you want to. Share food with who you want to.

    I suppose it would have been uncool if you had intentionally told them not to share the cookies with certain people, but that is not what happened.

    Your coworkers are babies for complaining. They could have gone to you directly, “Hey, heard those cookies were good, they were gone before I got to them! Can you let me know when you’re in a baking mood again so I can be sure to grab one?”

    To avoid this next time, is there a break room or a common area you can place them? Send out an email letting everyone know there are cookies in the break room!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      To avoid this next time, is there a break room or a common area you can place them? Send out an email letting everyone know there are cookies in the break room!

      The OP mentioned shift work, which usually doesn’t involve frequent checking of email.

      1. Erin*

        Ah, then I’d suggest she leave them in the break room with a small sign or note, “Help yourself!” No need to even identify who she is.

  28. Tardis*

    I definitely agree with the theme of the upthread comment on clothing for #3: There is a HUGE gradation between the casual clothes you describe wearing to the office and wearing a suit everyday, and you could easily look more professional without abandoning dresses and cardigans completely.

    For example – did you know you can get knit blazers, which are basically slightly thicker cardigans with lapels like a blazer? It’s just as comfortable as what you’re wearing now, but you’ll look much sharper. You can get one at Nordstrom’s for $40-$50 (try the Caslon brand, I have 2 of their knit blazers). Also, a shift from sundresses to A-line/sheath dresses will be just as comfortable but make you appear much more professional. If you want to stick with jeans, adding a knit blazer could make it look much more put together. No need to abandon comfort completely!

    It’s all about incremental changes that work for you. The above worked for me, but I know there are lots of other options, too!

    1. Hannah*

      OP here. Thanks for the knit blazer tip! I’m definitely going to check out Calson tonight. Sounds like this would be the perfect compromise!

      1. JustaTech*

        I love those blazers. So much that I managed to wear through the elbows of every one I had! I need to go get a new set. Sometimes you can also find corduroy or other, less formal materials too.

  29. TN*

    #3: Since it seems the culture has shifted somewhat due to the new CEO, I definitely think you’ll need to adjust the wardrobe somewhat. Instead of a sundress with cardigan, how about the sundress with a blazer? Or a more fitted sheath with the cardigan? I’ve also seen some great denim style trousers that are completely comfortable – those with a nice shirt and flats? Nothing new but rather an upgrade. The Limited has some amazing tops that are both stylish, comfy and professional. Old Navy Harper pants are AH-MAZ-ING as well; wonderful material, movable and definitely more polished.

    FWIW, I switched industries myself and now have to dress a bit more professional but I find that I like how I look and feel. Confidant, comfortable and somewhat more powerful than before. Hopefully this potential transition is easy and rewarding for you!

    1. Hannah*

      OP here. Thanks for the tips! I’ve worn the Old Navy Pixie pants before, which looked pretty good but have a slightly unflattering shape on me. I’ll try on the Harper cut next time I’m there!

  30. inky*

    I think people are being way too hard on #4 – the proof that image is important is all the people commenting on clothing for #3! I’m not going to try to defend the exact percentages quoted, but it’s a really important lesson for people relatively new to the workforce that it’s not just the quality of your work that matters, but also your appearance, attitude, etc. Nobody wants to work with a high-performing asshole.

    Exposure is a little trickier – it’s important, but early in your career the only person you really need to make sure has exposure to you is your immediate manager. But even then, it’s crucial to make sure your manager knows what you’re working on and why, and if someone really likes what you do, they should let your manager know. As you advance in your career and start working more cross-group it’s even more important to have exposure, both so you’re communicating your value to the company for your own benefit and so people know who to come to for the areas that you’re an expert in.

    1. Observer*

      I’m not going to try to defend the exact percentages quoted,

      But that’s the whole point! No one is claiming that appearance doesn’t count at all. But, the percentages are what makes this so insane. It’s like a lot of things in life – the dose makes the poison.

      Image matters, but 3x performance? That’s beyond ridiculous. And the “exposure” is 2x that?! Yeah, the numbers are sheer insanity.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      I think people are being way too hard on #4 – the proof that image is important is all the people commenting on clothing for #3!

      No one said image at work doesn’t matter – everyone here would agree that, to some extent, it absolutely does. What we’re all arguing is that your performance should not only be 10% of how you’re judged in the workplace since you’re presumably being paid to, you know, actually work as opposed to schmoozing higher-ups all day.

  31. Is it Friday Yet?*

    OP #2, I’m sorry your co-workers are not adult enough to handle this. One of my co-workers really enjoys cooking and baking, and she frequently brings in leftovers or dishes to share, but there is definitely not enough for the entire office. Some days, she offers me a sample, and other days she does not. I’m thankful that everyone in my office is a grown up about it and doesn’t expect her to share everything she brings in EVERY TIME. Good gravy.

  32. Beancounter in Texas*

    #5 – This is what stood out to me: ‘The day of the interview, I was ready to go and an hour before the interview I decided to get an Uber.” Did you not have transportation in mind before the day of the interview?

  33. Shazbot*

    OK I’m going to have to scream this because *everyone* is making this mistake and it’s just driving me nuts:


    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Not a mistake – OP said higher-ups in her office are dressing more formally than she is, so people ran with that. Most people knew she was talking about business wear.

  34. Anon 12*

    #2 – HR even entertaining a complaint like this. much less making a policy decision based on it is why HR people are the source of jokes on sitcoms. I don’t understand why people think HR is the complaint is supposed to listen to every complaint about everything and why some HR people think they are supposed to respond. Seriously, I would have laughed somebody out for bringing that to me and gone back to doing something useful.

  35. Cassie*

    #2 – not that I would go complaining to HR about something like this, but I think context matters. It’s one thing if you give a treat to a coworker or friend, it’s another thing if you make a big presentation about it while other people are sitting right there. It’s not something that needs to be mandated, but just be a little considerate to other people.

    I used to be a bit of a vulture when it came to scavenging for food after meetings – I’d check the conference room schedule, wander over there a little after the scheduled end time, and hover in the hallway looking busy until I was sure the meeting was done. So I always made sure I was well-positioned to get some leftovers or some scraps to eat for a late lunch. But I’d always help the assistant(s) with the clean up and carrying the food out of the conference room too, because I didn’t want to be a complete moocher.

    Nowadays, I’m less into scavenging – if the leftover food is put out near our offices, I might take a look at what’s there but I don’t take anything a lot of the time. What kind of irks me is when there are boxed lunches and the secretary cleaning up gives them specifically to certain staff members (her friends). In the past, boxed lunches would be left out for the taking (just like catering trays) and anyone (faculty, students, staff) could take them. Now, it feels like you have to cozy up to the secretary. I don’t like this …

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