employee’s emotional outbursts might be hormone-related, coworker marks most of her emails as “highly important,” and more

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

1. I think my employee’s emotional outbursts might be hormone-related

I manage a business with eight employees, which includes one supervisor, Diane, who oversees the daily operations of most of the remaining staff. One of those staff members, Kristine, is a very good employee; however, she periodically has very strong emotional reactions to work situations (and life situations, but we know to focus on the work ones).

Here’s the thing though, in reviewing my notes recently (following Kristine’s most recent outburst) I’ve realized that these emotionally charged reactions occur at a regular interval of every four weeks. Based on the notes and other information informally shared by Kristine, it seems very likely that these exaggerated behaviors are hormone/PMS-related.

While I have no intention of suggesting to Kristine that things may feel worse due to hormones/PMS, would it be completely inappropriate for me to help her supervisor make this connection too? Am I making too big a leap in my assumptions about this?

Should we address these behaviors that only happen every so often (and so predictably)? Even if I don’t say anything to Diane about it, is it inappropriate or “too soft” (I don’t want to be a pushover) of me to use a little more caution in addressing errors, requests, etc. during these times of likely increased sensitivity?

I think you can legitimately point out to Kristine or her manager that this happens at regular four-week intervals, but I wouldn’t speculate to either of them about why that might be. At most, you could say something like, “Given that this is happening at regular intervals, it might be worth talking to a doctor about whether there’s something medical going on.” But anything beyond that is too personal (and also gets into icky historical territory about women and emotions).

And don’t treat her differently during those time periods — it’s too personal, it’s speculation, and you might be wrong. (And a lot of people — everyone? — would be mortified if they learned that their boss was tip-toeing around them when they suspected they had their period! I am cringing just thinking about it.)

Most importantly, what you need from her doesn’t change regardless of the cause of her behavior: You need her to stop having disruptive emotional outbursts, and that’s true whether it’s caused by PMS, her monthly book club meeting, or anything else.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Coworker marks most of her emails as “highly important”

I have a minor workplace annoyance I’d like your advice on. One of my coworkers is in the habit of consistently sending emails marked as “highly important” with the dreaded red exclamation mark next to it. Her role is different than everyone else on our team because she is involved in process improvement and system upgrades, as opposed to just making chocolate teapots like the rest of us. So, in one way her emails are important, but never urgent. I looked back at the past three months (I keep all of my emails in a folder based on who sent them) and roughly 75% of the emails she’s sent were red exclamation marked.

Is this one of those things I need to just get over or should I talk to her or our boss about it? I’ll admit that I don’t read her emails all that often because my thinking is that if nearly everything she says is highly important, none of it is. Am I off-base here?

No, that’s annoying. It’s not really a big enough deal that you should definitely speak with her or her boss about it though — it’s more something to just roll your eyes at.

That said, if you have a friendly relationship with your coworker and you think she’d take it well, there’s no reason you couldn’t say, “Hey, I’ve noticed you mark the majority of your emails as highly important, which really dilutes the impact of marking them that way at all. I didn’t know if you realized how often you do it, but it’s enough that I suspect it’s not having the impact that you intend.”

(Also, job applicants: Stop marking your application-related correspondence this way. It is obnoxious.)

3. Flying out for an interview when I’m a finalist with another company

I am a finalist for Company A, and the position is perfect. I visited the home office at their expense last week ,and I still have one more phone interview to complete later this week. According to Company A, I am a very strong candidate.

I have also been invited to fly to Company B for a set of on-site interviews. I am a strong candidate for Company B but they are not my first choice. Here is the issue: Company A has not made an offer but it is likely that I will have one in the next two weeks. Company B is pushing for me to give them dates so that they can fly me up in the next two weeks. I do not want to waste Company B’s money because if I get an offer from Company A, I will take it. Should I let Company A know that I am being pursued or should I just continue to interview with both?

Continue to interview with both. Until you have an actual offer from Company A, you should continue to proceed as if they weren’t even in the picture — because there’s no guarantee that an offer will materialize. No matter how much they like you a stronger candidate could emerge, a hiring freeze could be implemented, they could reorg the department, or all sorts of other things. So you don’t want to rule out other job possibilities meanwhile. And Company B isn’t wasting their money by flying you out; you’re still on the market.

You also shouldn’t mention Company B to Company A at this point, because you’re still just in the interview process with B. Company A surely assumes that you’re talking with other companies. If you get an offer from B, at that point you’d alert A in order to see if they could expedite their own timeline … but they’re not likely to do that just because you have upcoming interviews.

4. Offering to cover for frequently absent coworkers

My job is in one small unit of a much larger organization, most of which involves working with the public. I mostly work on the tech side, although I’m not without experience on the public side. Two of my colleagues are regularly out without any notice, at least once a week, and their duties fall to the rest of our division. However, there is no set contingency plan should one or both of them be out. Hiring a new person is a process so there’s no short-term relief on the horizon, and maybe no long-term relief.

I’m trained in these public jobs (mostly), but I get the feeling that my non-confrontational boss only puts me in them at the last minute and by necessity. I do have goals and projects that I’m working on, although I’m mostly unsupervised while my boss frequently subs in for my absent coworkers. I think this constant chaos is wearing on everyone.

I’d like to have at least a little more predictability in my schedule, and I’d like to have some responsibilities automatically fall to me when people are absent. I’d also like to be proactive and help stave off the worst of the chaos that results from multiple people being out.

How do I go about asking for these things in a way that is respectful to my boss? He and I have a decent relationship and I’m working on being someone he can rely upon. I know he’s struggling and also not getting much help from above him, and that the situation isn’t likely to get significantly better any time soon. I need to put in at least another couple of years at this institution before moving elsewhere. How can I help my boss make the best of a hard situation?

You could say this: “We often end up scrambling for coverage when Jane or Fergus are out at the last minute. I don’t mind covering for them. What would you think of making me the official sub for them when they’re out? I wouldn’t mind that being our default, and that way we’d have a plan in place and ready to go.”

That said, be sure that you want to offer this, and think carefully about whether it will impact your ability to get your own work done or put you in a position where you’re just meeting basic expectations in your job when you otherwise would be exceeding them. Pitching in is a good thing, but you should look out for yourself too.

5. Do I have to have my last name on my resume?

I’d really rather not have my last name on my resume because I’m estranged from my family. Would it be okay to put my name down as my first name and last initial?

Nope. You’ve got to use your last name. Using just your first name and last initial would be so out of sync with how resumes work that it would come across very oddly. It’s likely to look like you’re trying to hide something (by avoiding being googled) or just very out of touch with professional conventions, neither of which are good.

{ 529 comments… read them below }

  1. Grand Mouse*

    It could be hormonal, it could be stress every month when the bills come due. Maybe that’s when a nasty relative calls up. I would avoid all association with PMS.

    1. copy run start*

      Seconding this. It could even be a regular work task that she has that is causing her stress. I would say you’ve noticed a pattern of outbursts, but then address the behavior and not the timing. Menstruation varies quite a bit for each woman, and I’d imagine there are plenty of women out there who aren’t currently menstruating despite being in the child-bearing age range.

      1. paul*

        Yep. I’m a guy and I get crabby at the 1st of the month every month because I spend way too much time pulling CISCO logs to compile reports we have to file but that I doubt anyone looks at. I *do* try to avoid snapping, but I’m generally a little brusque and unwilling to get dragged into off topic stuff and I’m less likely to volunteer to help with other stuff around that time since they’re due by the Wednesday of the first week of the month.

        SO I’m at home right now with strep throat worrying about those G-D logs

      2. Natalie*

        Month close makes me very, very cranky when people have planned or communicated badly about things I need to know. But in accounting that’s kind of expected.

    2. L.*

      Exactly! I was wondering how often they get paid – if it’s monthly then maybe she’s scraping by in the final stretch.

    3. Fiennes*

      My first thought: “She’s trying to conceive, and has a couple of emotional days every month when it doesn’t happen.”

      Which is a TOTAL assumption on my part, and not the kind of thing I’d ever bring up in a business context as either coworker or supervisor. I’d try to deal with the outbursts straightforwardly…while keeping that potential timing factor in my mind.

      1. DE*

        Yeah, that’s been a source of me being in a depressed mood once a month for much of the last two years. Someone bringing it up to me that they noticed the pattern would be really not appreciated – bring up the problems if there are any, not the timing.

      2. Lightbulb moment*

        Me too. I don’t have outbursts but I’m definitely not myself those days. 11 months in here.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          Hang in there y’all…it took me 7 years and 4 losses but I have a joy of a toddler now. It’s all worth it. Good luck. <3

          1. temporarily_anon*

            I’m coming back to this thread two months late just to thank you, Bend & Snap, as a lady who’s into her 6th year of trying. Just, thank you.

        2. Bonky*

          I’m sorry; it’s a very hard time – it was probably the hardest time of my and my husband’s life. I was surprised to reflect later that nothing: job losses, deaths in the family, all the really big stuff – has ever been as stressful, perhaps because it’s so hard to see an end to the situation when you’re in the middle of it. I really hope things come together for you. I didn’t have outbursts either, but I was terribly, terribly sad, and after a while our relationship was not what it was. I promise things get better.

      3. wealhtheow*

        That was my first thought, too. When I was trying (and failing) to conceive, years ago, I was always very open with my boss about it and how the ups and downs of IVF were affecting my mood and my work — but I had the World’s Best Boss at the time, which made that an easy decision, and that’s pretty rare.

        Whether it’s PMS, emotion over not being pregnant, or something completely else, it’s one thing for someone to tell their boss or a co-worker, and an entirely other thing for their boss or co-workers to make assumptions and then decisions based on those assumptions!

      4. Bonky*

        When I was trying to conceive it was emphatically the most painful, stressful time I’ve ever had in my life -same goes for my husband, whom I work with. I had two miscarriages, an ectopic pregnancy and subsequently several rounds of IVF.

        I kept my chairman (who’s my direct manager) and close co-workers in the loop all the way through (and it was a wonderful support and relief to have them near when things went badly wrong, especially when I was hospitalised and had to take a month off after the ectopic pregnancy). It helped keep the stress something that was separate from work, in an odd way. I’m in a lucky situation: I’m one of the company founders and I’m about as secure in my position as I think is reasonable to be; I’ve got good relationships within the office; I have sympathetic colleagues and a great boss.

        That said, I have had jobs when I was younger where it would have been very hard to tell my manager. (Reading this has made me imagine telling one very specific, very awful ex-boss about the situation; and it actually made me feel a little ill.) If I were not able to disclose what was going on, I would absolutely hate to have people speculate about what was up. There’s not really a sensitive way to approach this that I can think of.

        This all has a happy ending. I’m five months pregnant.

    4. Chaordic One*

      During the time I worked in HR there were a handful of cases where employees demonstrating odd behavior actually had serious medical issues. In the worst cases it turned out that one employee had a brain tumor and in another the employee was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        I have a client whose employer thought she randomly showed up drunk one day. They were going to just drive her home. Luckily, another employee pointed out how out of character it was and insisted on taking her to the hospital. Turns out she had an aneurysm and they saved her life. I’ve heard the same thing about strokes.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Or blood sugar. We had a patron at a past job show up woozy and disoriented and, by all appearances, drunk out of her mind. One of the bosses checked her wallet for an emergency contact and found some kind of medical card and a testing kit–turns out she was diabetic and her blood sugar was dangerously low.

          1. Paquita*

            My DH is diabetic, his job knows this, and STILL they had him work 6 hours without a break to eat something several weeks ago. Low blood sugar is not something to take lightly.

              1. Liane*

                His HR might want to google Dollar General. That company paid over $277,000 to a diabetic former employee because they fired her for drinking juice then immediately paying, rather than vice versa, because she had low blood sugar. Lot of money to pay out to learn that was a Reasonable Accomodation.

    5. kb*

      About once a month I remember it’s too late for me to become a child actor. I can get pretty emotional about it.

      But seriously, there are other things that could happening ~monthly in this woman’s life that she may not want to talk about with her employer. It would be fair to note to Kristine that the intense reactions seem to be recurrent and ask if there is anything you could do to help (it could turn out to be a work issue). But it would be horrible for Kristine to find out her bosses were speculating about her menstrual cycle when in actuality she, say, takes her Grandma to dinner once a month and has been watching her fade away due to Alzheimer’s or something equally tragic. And even if it is her period, it’s still insulting.

      1. Temperance*

        I used to become so stressed at work every Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning, because my JerkBoss was part of a networking group run by this awful beast, and JerkBoss let said beast treat me like garbage. I’m sure it was noticeable because Sheryl (real name, jerks like her don’t deserve anonymity) would scream at me, at the reception desk, if I ordered too many meals, or too few, or if she didn’t like an item on her sandwich, or if I wasn’t there to greet her visitors. I WASN’T THE RECEPTIONIST, EITHER. She hated the receptionist, and JerkBoss decided that I needed to deal with Sheryl.

        My boss asked me if I was going through anxiety, and I said that yes, I was stressed because of dealing with JerkBoss and her networking group, and that I couldn’t handle getting reamed out if one person changed their RSVP at the last minute, after food was ordered and on the way.

        Nothing changed, BTW, until I switched offices because our Grand Boss had an opening.

          1. Temperance*

            It honestly was part of the reason I was motivated to move on and get my law degree. :) I’m also overly nice to anyone who does catering etc. now because it was so nerve-wracking. I would get reamed out if I had one meal too many, because COST, but then if I didn’t have enough because someone signed up at the last minute, I would similarly get my ass handed to me. And oh, did I mention that SHERYL also insisted that we had to have a variety of different places to order from, and I couldn’t just get a sandwich tray and salad?

    6. roflmouse*

      To further drive in the point here, I personally live with Bipolar Disorder. Most of the time I’m a very mellow individual, but during my manic phases I can be exceptionally irritable or weepy. I am pretty open about it, but I can’t even imagine how humiliated I would feel if someone approached me and suggested my irritability was related to PMS. I would be so unbelievably ashamed. Don’t keep track of this sort of thing, just address work related issues so everyone can keep their dignity.

      1. MicheleNYC*

        +1 I was going to say this. My sister was recently diagnosed and it takes a bit of time to get medications etc.

          1. L*

            At way-back-old-college-job, we had an associate who needed meds to maintain her moods and due to the crappy insurance we had, she tended to run out of meds before running out of month.
            I don’t think management was aware other than a couple of absences every month (thank goodness this place didn’t have the draconian attendance policy then that they do now), and we were always able to get her work covered.
            TL;DR- there are lots of reasons this is a thing.

      2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        I was diagnosed four years ago with Bipolar 1 and C-PTSD, and adjustment is so tough. Took over a year to get my pharmaceutical cocktail right for me and convince my insurance to dispense the meds as described. The phases are so cyclical even with medical compliance, and at some points, I’m manic without knowing it and sometimes have no clue until the phase has passed.

        My boss knows I have trouble because there are a few odd patterns, but if he came to me and suggested that I see my doctor about my reproductive health, I would be mortified and angry, and unlikely unable to work with a man whom I now know is tracking my potential cycle. And since I’m in perimenopause, that’s even worse.

        You know, in thinking about it, if any of my coworkers suggested that a moment of irritation was driven by menstruation, I’d likely register a formal complaint. That’s just out of line, IMO.

        OP, simply present the facts about the recurrent outbursts. Don’t present any speculation, assumptions, or anything else that is not explicit backed with fact. Any mention of hormonal influence is not helpful, not necessarily accurate, and could open you up for action depending on how you suggest it.

      3. Moonsaults*

        My former best friend was bi-polar as well and whenever she skipped a dosage of her medication for some reason, I could immediately tell. It could be when her script is running low on something and she’s waiting for a refill as well is what I was thinking.

        1. starsaphire*

          Oh, my goodness, yes. I still do not understand how the thought process works, insofar as medication refills go, at my particular in-network pharmacy.

          1) You have a 30-day supply, because even though your doctor wrote a scrip for 90 days, they only give out 30-day supplies, ever.
          2) You cannot, absolutely cannot, call and request a refill until it has been 30 days since your last refill. No, not even if the 30th day is on a weekend, or if you’re planning a trip out of town, or if your kid flushed your pills down the loo.
          3) They are aware that 7-day weeks do not divide into a period of 30 days evenly, but they’re still not open on Sundays. (They just added Saturday hours, like, last year.)
          4) They paper every tiny bottle with 8 stickers about how dire the outcome will be if you dare to skip a single dosage.
          5) Oh, so you’re going to pass them up and go to a chain pharmacy instead, with 7-day service and longer hours? Guess what, those pharmacies are all out-of-network… good luck!

          1. Marisol*

            What I don’t get is how is it their prerogative to insist on a monthly schedule. That schedule may be customary, but what if my doctor wanted to write me an additional prescription mid-month? Who are they to interfere with my doctor’s care? I hate the whole process.

          2. Dr. Johnny Fever*

            In my case, when my meds switched from my psych to my primary doc, my insurance pharmacy decided that the prescription for one of my meds that is twice the typical dose must have been incorrect and changed it, dispensing only half of what I needed each 90 days. I would get surprised at coming up short, have to wait two weeks unmedicated, and by the time I’d get stable again, the pharmacy would do the same damned thing.

            I realized what was happening the *third* time I had to go through the hassle, took my bottles to my doc, and he wrote a new script right there and then, noting his intent in the dosage instructions. FINALLY I got the full prescription.

          3. Aurion*

            Insurance networks and opening hours are one thing, but…no refills before the last day? What the hell?

            I mean, my only data point is birth control pills which I stopped taking years ago, but I swear every pharmacy let me get refills around 10-15 days before the end of the pack. I couldn’t get it earlier than that (I tried once because I was going past the pharmacy, got turned down), but there was definitely a window to get the refills before the literal last day. I imagine any medication that needs to be refilled would be similar, but apparently I’m very wrong!

            Like, is this just craziness on behalf of that particular pharmacy, or are all pharmacies in your location that draconian with their refill policies?

            1. Jane D'oh!*

              My guess is that it is a heavily regulated medication, like pain pills or Ritalin. Pharmacies often are given barely what they need to filfull demand (or they even come up short) because apparently it’s more important to the government to punish pill seekers than it is to ensure that health problems are properly treated.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I’ve had what happened to starsaphire happen with routine medications, like daily birth control (i.e., not heavily regulated, as opposed to emergency contraception). I have so many horror stories of insurance companies and/or pharmacies imposing policies that are (1) not required by law or regulation or even private risk-managers; and (2) increase the risk of severe harm to the person for whom the script is intended. It blows my mind that there hasn’t been a class-action lawsuit on this, yet.

              2. starsaphire*

                Nope. Not scheduled drugs at all; basic one-a-day stuff for common issues, like (for example) BP meds.

                It’s just weird. But going to Bigbox Pharmacy is sheer hell, so we deal with it.

            2. Renee*

              It’s been several years, but I had one insurer that treated BC like every other prescription and would only approve refills every 30 days. No amount of explanation of “Cycles: how do they work?” could change it. My doctor ended up giving me a pack of out his closet to bridge those gaps but it was so stupid.

              I’m with a provider now that gives me a decent window and scrips by mail. I’m so glad those days are over (but a little fearful of what’s might come if the ACA and regulated attention to women’s issues go away).

          4. Liane*

            Sounds like the pharmacy at the Veteran’s Aministration hospital here.
            A friend told me they will only give her 30 not 45 pills of a drug although her VA doctor writes it for 1.5 pills/day.
            She and my husband both run out of meds often because it is every 30 days but the pharmacy doesn’t mail them early so they have time to get there.
            VA doesn’t give him the option of coming in, a 10 minute drive, 1 way.
            I don’t know how Friend deals but Husband calls At Least every other month. “Hi, my meds’ 30 days were up X days ago. Where are they?” and gets told to come pick them up…

      1. Czhorat*

        Me too.

        I see it as the responsibility of everyone in the workplace – especially men – to shut this nonsense down whenever it rears its ugly head.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Yes. Just think about all the men who get cranky on a semi-regular schedule — bills, obnoxious relatives, etc. — and nobody ever blames it on his hormones. Plus we seem to hold it as more legitimate if he’s moody because his sports team lost than if she is because of something medically happening in her body.

          1. Blossom*

            If it’s any consolation, I would laugh out loud in the face of sports-related moodiness. Thankfully, I’ve never come across it.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah. I mean, I may get extra annoyed at my husband during certain times, but his behavior is legitimately annoying :D It’s only my reaction that differs.

        1. animaniactoo*

          My husband thinks I’m adorable when I’m cranky. I think he’s deranged.

          But it does mean that he will “poke the bear” as it were. It is SUCH a relief to be able to just be cranky and not have to work to control like I do out in the rest of the world. Where I need people to take me seriously and not assume that just because I overreacted (some), there’s not a genuine issue that needs to be addressed.

          1. Chameleon*

            That would legit drive me to divorce. I am serious; nothing drives me insane more than my anger being dismissed or ignored.

      3. Menacia*

        I agree, except in the case of one my managers who would announce that she was PMS’ing, regardless of who was around to hear (other employees, consultants, etc.) I was really happy when she went through menopause and that stopped. ;)

      4. Perse's Mom*

        Oho! If anything, my emotions are more *honest* when I’m on my period. I just don’t have the mental energy to cope with fatigue and pain and bloating and BLEEDING and cramps AND bullcrap.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same, haha.

          Off period: “Could you please not do that? Thanks.”
          On period: “OMG THAT IS SO F*CKING ANNOYING–WHAT ARE YOU, MAD?? CUT IT THE HELL OUT!” (not really but in my head)

    7. LBK*

      Yeah, my work responsibilities operate on a monthly schedule so I tend to be snappier around the same time every month when I’m in the midst of our compensation cycle. Not necessarily ruling out that it’s PMS, but there are plenty of other simple explanations for this employee’s behavioral trends.

      (Also, this totally reminded me of the episode of Community where Abed unintentionally starts tracking the women’s menstrual cycles.)

      1. JuniperGreen*

        “Sorry, I can’t join you to go swimming/horseback riding/attend that trapeze lesson. I’ve got my monthly book club.”

    8. Kathleen Adams*

      Please, please, *please* do not so much as hint that it could be menstruation-related, OP. Please. And please also just wipe that thought out of your mind, if at all possible.

      The plain fact is that the chances are really quite good that it is NOT menstruation-related. For one thing, PMS (particularly PMS severe enough to affect someone this drastically) isn’t nearly as common as many people think it is, while at the same time, other things that make people cranky are in fact very common.

      So my suggestion is to ask yourself “How would I handle this person’s issues if she were a man?”

      1. Karanda Baywood*

        Agree. Vehemently.

        I am inwardly seething at the idea that this woman is being judged by her cycle.

        1. Liz2*

          I honestly didn’t get a sense from the letter than anyone is judging on a cycle, only that a pattern has now emerged and would have some legitimate reason to consider that as a possible cause.

          As AAM wisely states, there’s still no way anyone should mention that directly beyond “consider checking with a doctor if there’s any health concern.”

          1. Kathleen Adams*

            It’s just that the whole “Gee, she’s cranky – I wonder if she’s on her period?” attitude is so pervasive – and it’s almost always ill-advised. I get that the OP is trying to be thoughtful and helpful, and he sounds like a nice person, but you know something? It doesn’t help. He *really* needs to just stop. There are many possible causes, some of which are as likely or even more likely than PMS, so he needs to stop that train of thought right now, tell the manager what he’s documented without speculating as to a cause, and then the manager needs to address the problem *behavior* with Kristine.

            Speculating about causes, unless they are work causes, is not going to do any good. So nobody should do it.

      2. Moonsaults*

        Yes. That’s exactly why someone is diagnosed with PMDD and they don’t even call it PMS at that point, when it disrupts your life in that kind of manner.

        It took forever to realize I have PMDD when not properly medicated, it’s horrific and almost ruined my relationship.

    9. SystemsLady*

      Agreed. And I wonder if Kristine’s outbursts are closer to crying jags than lashing out at coworkers.

      I get them as a side effect of medication when particularly stressed. Hormones play a role in whether or not they occur, but periods at least tend not to be the root cause.

      I definitely agree knowing this is problematic and happens regularly would be helpful for Kristine. Sometimes they can’t be stopped, but you can learn what you need to do when they happen.

      “I’ve noticed this happens regularly, about once a month” is probably good enough. I don’t think it’s necessary to mention same time every month, as that might come off the wrong way.

      1. Emi.*

        +1 for how to address regularity without making it sound like “it’s just your hormones.” The advantage of addressing the regularity is that if there is a regular cause (no matter what it is!) it could be helpful to her to realize that it’s affecting her behaviour at work more than she may realize.

    10. Leatherwings*

      Yes, there are so many other explanations! I have social anxiety and have to go to this recurring networking event with my SO towards the end of each month. It exhausts me the day leading up to it and after it. I don’t have emotional outbursts at work, but if I did it could look the same as “hormones”

    11. Kore*

      Absolutely. There are a ton of reasons something could happen every four weeks. Jumping to PMS is not the way to go.

    12. My 2 Cents*

      I have a co-worker that gets impossible to deal with every time there is a full moon, which is monthly (approx.) as well. So, there’s another thing that could be causing it that isn’t menstrual related.

          1. Liane*

            Please let me know if he wrote that chocolate can be substituted. It works on dementor exposure after all.

        1. Youth Services Librarian*

          ask any librarian and we will tell you the moon thing is REAL. in fact, i endeared myself to my coworkers by coming up behind them and saying “suuuuper moooon” that week anytime anything crazy happened (which was frequently)

        2. SpaceySteph*

          My dad is an OB and also swears by the full moon effect. More– and crazier– calls on those nights.

        3. SimontheGreyWarden*

          When I worked retail at the bookstore, it sure seemed like the crazy customers who wanted the really weird books came out for full moon. I mean, I know it was confirmation bias, but it felt so REAL. We got in the habit of asking, “is it a full moon” any time weird stuff happened.

        1. Meaghan*

          Yeah, probably as many as a quarter of women start their periods on a full moon and another quarter on a new moon!! Of course, the other two quarters probably start theirs when the moon is either waxing or waning. These percentages might be as low as a fifth of women, to account for women with irregular or no cycles. It’s almost as though the moon and menstruation are only correlated and there’s no causal link…

  2. Andrew*

    I’ve wondered about leaving the last name out before…but I’ve always listed it being hopefully optimistic my obviously asian last name won’t bring any implicit bias during the initial hiring process or being discriminated against.

      1. CQ*

        I have an English first name and a Scottish surname – imagine the surprise of my interviewers when a black girl shows up

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I confuse people that way, too :) My favorite is meeting people who’ve talked to me on the phone who look visibly discomfited by the idea that I am not white.

          1. the gold digger*

            I had an African-American boss who would encounter the same thing – visible surprise upon meeting him in person that he was not white. That had to have gotten old.

            1. Anna*


              I was in class with a woman who worked for the local PBS station. She would make copies of the resumes they received for positions with names and addresses marked out so it just said Resume #1, Resume #2, etc. She was trying to remove as much implicit bias as possible before applicants were evaluated.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Especially when combined with my real name ;)

              The other thing that happens, that I find hilarious, is that people will try to “Hindi-cize” my very English/French name, which results in some really absurd results. There’s this funny skit where Kal Penn is doing a mock press junket for the movie “Namesake.” The interviewer keeps saying, “So tell me about nam-uh-sah-kay”—essentially trying pronounce the title in what the interviewer thinks it is if transliterated from Sanskrit/Hindi. He looks at her, totally confused, and then goes, “Wait, you mean the ‘Namesake’?” To which the interviewer replies, “Oh no, you’re saying it wrong—it’s ‘nam-uh-sah-kay.'”

              I died laughing; it just did such a great job of capturing a very specific kind of condescension that I’ve experienced pretty regularly in cities/regions that self-identify as politically progressive and racially diverse.

          2. shep*

            I also confuse people! I have a very foreign-looking name (I’m half Persian), so if people read my name first, they’re surprised I look white. If people meet me face-to-face first, they’re often clearly taken aback when I introduce myself with my name. “Oh! Uh, what was that again?” They clearly expected my name to be Ashley or Michelle or something of that ilk. :)

            I used to visit a Starbucks across the street (but less so now; willpower!) at INSANELY regular intervals, and one of the baristas there was practicing his name knowledge of the regulars. He goes, “Wait wait wait! Don’t tell me. NATALIE! Right??”

            My name is so not Natalie. But it was pretty adorable. I was like, “No, actually, it’s Soraya [but my actual name], but close!” and he was like, “Oh MAN I was WAY off.”

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              OMG, that is wild. Did he ever get it right??

              I was once at a week-long training where a woman was so confused by the fact that someone “like me” (her words) had my name that she calling me other English names that definitely were not mine, including Carol, Chloe, Barbara and Zelda (so not even the same starting sound as my name)—even after I repeatedly corrected her, as did the other 19 training participants who were perplexed and kind of embarrassed on her behalf (fremdscham all around). I was extremely tempted to start purposefully calling her the wrong name, but the chances of ever seeing each other again were slim, so I ignored it.

          3. Meghan*

            One of my best friends is a guy with a very Anglicized first and last night. Shocks the hell outta people when an extremely large half-Chinese man shows up.

            And most people have no clue what his ethnicity is. He likes to say he’s ethnically ambiguous. Regularly gets mistaken for being Hispanic, Middle Eastern, Pacific Islander, you name it. It would be funny if it didn’t often lead to people saying super racist things to him.

            1. Professional Merchandiser*

              I couldn’t help but laugh about the “large half-Chinese man thing. I used to work with a Chinese man with an Asian name/accent that grew up in the Mississippi Delta. He had a brother who lived in Starkville, MS and when we had a project to do there, his brother offered to treat the group to lunch. Well, when we met, he had the most distinct Southern accent I have ever heard. (Being a Mississippi gal myself, I know a Southern accent!!) I couldn’t believe they grew up in the same household!!

          4. Episkey*

            This happens to me because I married a man who is 1/2 Hispanic. So now my last name is pretty Hispanic sounding and my first name is something that apparently has become quite popular with the Hispanic community (especially the way my parents spelled it) but is historically Scandinavian. So here people are expecting a Latina and I show up — totally white with blue eyes. It’s pretty amusing sometimes.

            1. many bells down*

              Yep, my first husband was Mexican and I took his very common last name. He didn’t speak a word of Spanish, either, and I had a few years in high school and was hardly fluent. Even after seeing me in person (also extremely white with blue eyes) people would try to speak Spanish to me.

        2. CDM*

          I read something by a certain famous chef that was along the lines of:
          “When a Parisian restaurant hires a chef named Marcus Samuelsson from Sweden, they don’t expect a 6 foot tall black guy to show up in their kitchen.”

        3. SpecialG*

          I have a traditionally African-American first AND last name and I’ve started enjoying the shocked expressions I get when people see a white girl with blonde hair and blue eyes.

          1. ThatGirl*

            My first name is unusual but often heard as Latinx or black and so I’ve definitely had people (like my husband’s former boss) be surprised when a pale white girl shows up.

          2. many bells down*

            This reminds me of an incident that happened about … 15 years ago in California. The state education secretary was visiting some school kids and one girl told him “My name is Isis, do you know what it means?” He – for some unfathomable reason – made a joke about it meaning “stupid dirty girl”.

            Well everyone was up in arms, naturally, and the NAACP was organizing a protest, saying “he never would have said that to a little white girl!”

            Isis was totally white, with blonde hair and blue eyes.

            1. Kaybee*

              One of my best friends is a 40 yr old white woman. I’m a 30 yr old black woman. She has an ethnic first and last name. My name is pretty normal. We sat next to each other and when someone would address either of us, they would be surprised who would respond. it’s a running joke between us.

        4. LBK*

          I am absolutely terrible at identifying accents and once thought my new boss who I’d only spoken to over the phone was from somewhere in the UK. Imagine my surprise when I met him on my first day and he turned out to be Jamaican (in my defense, he’d also lived in Canada for years, so his accent was a weird mishmash of the two).

        5. Annie Moose*

          I have an Indian friend (who looks very obviously Indian, to complete the picture) with a very common English first name/surname, and he says he gets people all the time who refuse to believe that a) yes, that is his actual birth name that his parents gave to him that’s written on his birth certificate and b) yes, he was actually born in India and didn’t move to the US until he was a child.

          How dare people not have names that fit the stereotype of their appearance, amirite??

          1. Jessesgirl72*

            I have an Indian friend who encounters the same problem. People are always badgering him to know what his “real name” is. And this under the guise of trying to be liberal and inclusive!!! He has tried to remind people that his first name is one that’s in the Bible , and that just shocks them more to learn he’s a Christian. I suggested that if he wants to, he could remind these busy bodies of British Imperialism, and just who it was who occupied India for all those years.

            1. Annie Moose*

              Haha, I’m a little curious if we have a friend in common! My friend’s name is Biblical too, and he’s a Christian (which is, I assume, why his parents named him that–his brothers have Biblical names as well that just happen to also be very common English names).

              1. CM*

                Probably not — there are lots of Christian Indians, and often they were converted by a missionary and then took the missionary’s first name as their last name. For example, “Thomas” and “Joseph” are common last names in certain Indian communities, and it’s also common for these families to name their children with Biblical names.

            2. DragoCucina*

              Our recent assistant pastors have gone through this. One is Fr. Joy N. and the other Fr. Joy C. Joy is their birth names. In one case the priest’s last name is from Portuguese settlers in India. He says he rarely goes to appointments in his “civilian” clothes because of the arguments that yes he is Joy N. No, it’s not his wife.

          2. OP 5*

            Oh, that’s annoying! I am an Indian as well (with a fairly traditional Indian name) so I haven’t faced this.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This drives me crazy—I have so many friends of South Asian descent who are Christian and have Christian names, and they get asked their “real” name all the time. Yes there are thousands of Christians in India, and yes their English-language names are “Indian names,” too! More Indians speak English than any of the 27+ “mother tongue” languages.

            Also, just a side note: Many Indian churches/Christian-communities predate British imperialism—there are historic Catholic and Syrian Orthodox communities that have been around for over 1000 years in Goa and Kerala. Several “younger” South Asian religions, which predate imperialism, have scriptures that reference Christianity (as well as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism), which indicates there’s always been awareness of Christianity as a faith for some time. The subcontinent is pretty diverse, and of course that diversity is amplified in the diaspora.

            1. family stuff*

              Yes, my Indian side of the family is from Goa and they always like to tell us how St. Thomas the Apostle came to Goa and that’s why they are Catholic. So they have definitely been Catholic a looong time. My grandmother’s brothers are all named John.

        6. AthenaC*

          My mixed-race daughter (presents as black, especially in the summer :) ) has an Irish surname, and really enjoys the look on people’s faces when she tells them “I’m Irish.” I bought her a t-shirt a few years ago to wear on St. Patrick’s Day that said “Irish Princess.” She loved it!

        7. Jubilance*

          My husband goes through the same thing – based on his name you’d think an Irish man was showing up for an interview, not a Black man from the South.

          1. Golden Lioness*

            It’s pretty common. I am white (hair every color on the rainbow, recently blonde, currently red) but have a very unique non-white last name (courtesy of my grandpa). I’ve been asked “what’s your real name” too many times as well. My last name’s spelling could pass for French and had people try to pronounce that way… that always gives me a chuckle =)

            Especially funny is that I present as white (European-like) and people get blown away when I speak because they do not expect me to have an accent. People from my own original nationality talk to me in English and do not expect me to be from the same part of the world.

            I enjoy it. I have mostly taken it with humor (have received some bigoted comments) and it’s normally just a great ice breaker or conversation starter. =)

            1. Nic*

              On the pronunciation bit–my last name is a not-well-approved-of creature, and you could add “Ima” as a first name to make fun of it. Think Hogg. I love my last name, and joke that I should have been named Ima.

              Anyway, the name is pronounced exactly like the critter, but telemarketers will go to great lengths to avoid pronouncing it that way. Cracks me up every time!

        8. Dust Bunny*

          I happen to share a somewhat unusual surname with a well-known NBA star from my hometown. He’s African-American, but the name is actually anglicized German; I am pasty white. I actually had one person ask if we were related (I guess maybe by marriage??).

          One of my good friends has a first name that is usually given to boys and is married to a man of Asian descent, so people expect to meet a Japanese guy but instead get a milk-white strawberry-blonde woman.

          1. Chicago Recruiter*

            Ha, I have a friend (blue eyed blonde) who shares a last name with a well known African-American NFL player in our city. She tells people he’s her brother.

            1. Lovemyjob...truly!*

              Years ago I was friends with a woman who loved to tell the story about how when she was a child she used to tell her first grade class that Kenny Rogers was her father. She explained that she’d seen him on TV and he looked so nice that she decided to just tell people that he was her dad. All of her classmates bought it. Her teacher? I think she may have doubted the story. It may have been the fact that she’d met my friends dad already or it may have been the fact that my friend was a Muslim African-American. I always loved the story though because her friends never doubted her. She said that they never questioned her about that and that they really only wanted to know if she’d gotten to meet Dolly Parton. LOL!

          2. MyFakeNameIsLaura*

            FYI pasty white and black people can be born into the same family. Life is a rich tapestry.

            1. Emi.*

              My family’s wasian, and I usually pass for white. My brother, on the other hand…”Oh, I thought he was adopted? From Africa?”

          3. B*

            In a similar note… I have close relatives who physically appear to be different races. Since we’re a very mixed family so my nephews, and cousins on both sides appear as white, black, and Asian.

            My one sister’s son appears visually white and my other’s kids look black. Our dad was of asian and black decent.

            People never believe we’re related so closely! It’s amazing how few folks know how this works

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            You could have been related! (through slavery) I don’t mean to be gloomy; it’s fairly common throughout the country, but those kinds of relationships seem to be more publicly known in the South. I have several friends who live in towns where there are the Black Martins and White Martins, and they’re all related, even if they grew up on different sides of town, go to different churches/schools, and politely ignore each other… unless one side needed help, in which labor and $ would flow back and forth. And it’s been that way for about 150-200 years.

        9. paul*

          Man. I’m enough of a smartass I’d try to learn how to speak in a Scottish brogue just to mess with them more

        1. Chicago Recruiter*

          Same. No idea what my parents were thinking. My middle name is almost as bad (common name, weird cutesy spelling).

        2. Collarbone High*

          My parents gave me both first and middle names that peaked in popularity about 20 years before I was born. (And haven’t made the Eleanor-Evelyn-Hannah-Sophia comeback.) I think people meeting me in person are sometimes surprised I’m not substantially older.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think that’s the inspiration for her handle (but it’s not her non-AAM name) :)

          2. Temperance*

            That is EXACTLY where I stole my name from (well, and my obsession with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union), but trust me, my actual name is not Temperance.

      2. Rosamond*

        I had a student worker who, when it was time to graduate and get a professional job, put a nickname that she didn’t actually use IRL on her resume, because it sounded more neutral than her African American first name. As in Tyshauna –> Shauna. Sad to say that considering the field she was going into, it probably helped.

        1. SimontheGreyWarden*

          Some of my Black students will talk about this when they share about jobs they have had. Usually it’s phone or telemarketing jobs, and if they use their real name (for example, Shantrisha) they have people telling them to slow down, talk less ghetto, they can’t understand them, etc. However if they use a ‘whiter’ nickname (Trisha, Shana) even though their speaking voice doesn’t change, they get far fewer rude comments.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I feel like there’s a childish quality to not including your last name. Like, seeing only a first name reminds me of kindergarten cubby signs, etc. Unless you’re Cher/Madonna/Prince, it’s not a good look (and if you’re that iconic, you probably don’t need to send out resumes).

      1. Marzipan*

        “So, Cher, what is it that most interests you about the position of Spout Assistant, Junior Grade?”

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          “Well, you know, I retired a few years ago, but I miss working. So I decided to turn back time and take a junior position.”

          1. Dot Warner*

            “People often say that our department has full of gypsies, tramps, and thieves. How would you respond to that?”

            1. Sparky*

              Well, first, I like to light the candles one by one – I hope that’s ok, I’m leaving my current job because they have this light all the candles at once policy and I think that’s dangerous, then I like to schedule one on ones with the staff…

        2. Golden Lioness*

          LOL… and I will work with a zeal just like Jesse James…
          Is it a problem that I like to sing while I work?

      2. Lemon Zinger*

        Agreed. When I joined my department, there was already a Lemon in the office, with a complicated and difficult-to-pronounce last name. Everyone just called her Lemon, and called me/referred to me as Lemon Zinger.

        Now she’s moved on, but management still calls me by my full name. It’s kind of endearing. :)

    2. The Bread burglar*

      My name has oddly gotten me more interviews. Though I sometimes wonder if it turns others off.

      A few bosses have said they liked my cv and then looked at my name and went “we have to interview her.”

      Neither my first or surname is that interesting but together people seem to love it. Think like: Lily Snow*

      *Not my name but this sort of thing.

      1. Chaordic One*

        A while back I was listening to a folk singer (I can’t remember who, but it was no one I’d ever heard of before) being interviewed on the radio and she told a story about learning a new song from the new girl in her school (it must have been back in the 1930s). She described the new girl as being blonde and pretty, but very thin and pale. The new girl’s name was Blanche White.

    3. Beezus*

      If the OP’s relationship with her family is so adversarial that she doesn’t want to use their name, it might make sense for her to change her legal name. I know a young lady who changed hers in adulthood because she didn’t want the surname of the man who abused her mother. Changing it was cathartic for her.

        1. Shazbot*

          Anyone have an idea how much of a headache this is with regard to obtaining security clearances?

          1. Not Karen*

            As long as you’re honest about it, it shouldn’t be a problem. I haven’t had a problem with background checks (though yes, not as strict as security clearances). Such things include a spot on the form for any previous names you were known by.

            1. Anna*

              Yeah, why would that be any more difficult than it is for people who change their name when they get married?

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes, this. Name changes are fairly common—they only complicate the background check process if you’re not super straightforward and accurate.

          2. Me*

            There is a line on the sf86 for it. It’s not a huge deal if you haven’t submitted it yet.

            If your investigation is already in progress, wait for it to be completed and have your full clearance (not just interim) issued

            If you already have on and you are a contractor, your security officer can update your records. If you are on the federal side, talk to your departments HR for further guidance.

        2. sam*

          I was going to suggest this as well. I have a friend who was estranged from her father because he was abusive. When she became an adult, she legally changed her last name to her (mother’s or grandmother’s – I can’t remember right now) maiden name – so that she could carry on a different family name that didn’t have those associations.

      1. Jenbug*

        This exactly. If you are estranged and don’t want any association, then make the legal changes. At some point, you’d have to let your potential employers know your name anyway. It’s not something you can keep secret.

      2. ZSD*

        I was going to say the same thing. I think the government charges you to change your name except when you get married, which I find odd, but if the OP has the money, they might consider changing their name.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            And even that isn’t bad.

            I actually did this myself years and years ago. It’s a lot easier now (with the internet, you can just download the forms and file yourself); when I did it though I had done all the research and knew what I needed to do, the clerk insisted that I needed an attorney. (I reminded her that Miranda rights work both ways – I have the right to represent myself; she still refused to help me file my paperwork.) A family friend volunteered to help me, but I basically did most of the research/work for him (and then he didn’t listen to me on a couple things I needed him to do, which slowed down the process considerably, taking about six months total, which was super annoying as I was hoping to have it done MUCH sooner… but that’s a story for another day!)

            However, my friend recently did this as well, to change her name back to her maiden name (long story), and in HER case it took about 2-3 weeks total and wasn’t any more painful than, say, changing your name when you get married.

            1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

              ETA: OP, check out the website for whatever the vital records office is in your state. (Some have more than one; NY, for example, has one for the five boroughs of NYC and one for the rest of the state.) If you google, “Vital Records [Your State]” it should come up easily. From there you should be able to find out how to do it. Each state is different, some more difficult than others, though really it’s not terribly difficult anywhere.

              ETA x2: In MOST states, it is legal to assume a different name so long as there is no intent to defraud. It does get more complicated with surnames as there are legalities associated with pay, taxes, etc. However, if you begin the process you can start casually going by that name socially and professionally until it’s “official.”

              1. Czhorat*

                True, but some emplyers might balk at using the “unofficial” name, and it is odd.

                Also, I assume that you need to use the legal one for HR stuff, including pay stubs, etc.

                I recall it costing me order of magnitude a couple hundred dollars [this was, if it matters, within the give boroughs of NYC]

                1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

                  >>I recall it costing me order of magnitude a couple hundred dollars [this was, if it matters, within the give boroughs of NYC]>>
                  Sounds about right.

                  And, yes, a lot of employers do balk at that. I have a hyphenated last name now, and I had to be proactive and explicit about my *email preferences* because I wanted my email to not be cumbersome with a bunch of punctuation in it (and even then they didn’t get it quite right, but close enough).

                2. Akiva*

                  I’m trans and haven’t changed my name legally; I’ve been going by my “new” name for about 5 years at this point, and I consider it my real name if anyone asks, as opposed to the name on my driver’s license. I put my real name on my resume, and when I was filling out my official HR paperwork and background check I put my legal name. I only had to explain to the HR person, who was very good about it. (I’m lucky.)

                  I agree that it comes off a little oddly if it’s the last name you’re trying to avoid, but if you’re a little lucky with your middle name you might be able to pass it off as a double-barreled last name situation, where you only use “Rob James” but your legal name is “Robert James McSomething”. I agree that the longer-term solution is to change it legally, but it does take a few months, so for now err on the side of using your full last name and getting your HR to change it when the paperwork goes through.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Akiva, there are some states that are waiving the name change fee for transfolks. The National Center for Transgender Equality has a comprehensive guide for all 50 states on how to change your name (including whether you can file an application to waive the normal name change fee): http://www.transequality.org/documents

          2. Emma*

            And the requirements vary greatly by state. I changed my name a while back, and not only was the fee in my state really low, I didn’t have to publish a notice.

        1. the gold digger*

          This won’t apply to OP, but, thanks to commenter Stephanie’s advice, I was able to easily and quickly change from my married name (I did not want the same name as my in-laws and I missed my maiden name) back to my maiden name.

          My passport was still in my maiden name. All I did was take the passport to the social security office and ask for a new SS card in the maiden name, then used the SS card to get a new drivers license in my maiden name. It took only a few minutes at the SS office and they didn’t question my request at all.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            SS office is by far the easiest place to change your name. You can even mail in documents if you don’t have time to go in person.

          2. Case of the Mondays*

            That will not result in a name change in the vital records statistics your state maintains. If you changed your name when you married, at least in my state your name change isn’t official until it is changed there. You just essentially used an outdated document to get new documents with the wrong name. Not legal advice and YMMV.

            1. Judy*

              My marriage certificate doesn’t state whether or not I changed my name. So that is the way I did change my name. I took my marriage certificate to the DMV, SS office, etc. I didn’t do anything to the state vital records.

              1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

                Yeah, this differs by state. Some states actually require you to put your new name on the certificate.

            2. the gold digger*

              I am not particularly concerned with being official with the state government. My voter registration, my DL, and my taxes are all under my maiden name. If they don’t want to take my (6% of my income) taxes, my property taxes, or my DL fee under my maiden name, they can tell me.

              (Feeling cranky about some other things and taking it out on state government.)

          3. Cupquake*

            One of my favorite stories from parents is that after my older sister was born, but before I was born, my dad decided to change his legal name. He’s from India and had a very long, obviously Indian name and was facing some racial profiling as a doctor (patients not wanting someone with a foreign name). So he changed his last name to my moms last name (she’s white and has very typical white name) and went by a shortened version of his Indian name as his first name. Everything went through okay, no problems with any of the official government forms *except* they wanted to change the fathers name on my sisters birth certificate, so later in life there would be no questions. My sister was born in a Deep South state, and the hospital just couldn’t understand the issue. First they assumed there’d been a paternity issue, but when my mom told them “no, my husband just chose to change his name” they told her “men don’t change their names” and refused to change it. So my sister and I have different fathers on our birth certificate.

          4. Nutcracker*

            I’m curious about your circumstances, Gold Digger, and also about Stephanie’s advice. I took my husband’s name a few years ago, but I also include my maiden name virtually every instance when my name appears “officially” or publicly. I don’t insist that people actually call me by all three names and usually don’t introduce myself with all three, but it’s all over my signature block, email sender field, professional documents, etc. In hindsight, I should have recognized that my attachment to my maiden name seems to be above average. (I have a common first name, so throughout my life many people have regularly addressed me by my uncommon maiden name or nicknames based on it.) Also, I am very close with my parents and don’t particularly gravitate to my immediate in-laws (putting it as generously as I can), so it sort of annoys me to have my name in common with them rather than my parents. If I had it to do over again, I think I would have legally made my last name a dual name (probably not hyphenated), instead of moving my maiden name to middle. Was your distaste for sharing your name with in-laws at all counter-balanced by enjoying having it in common with your husband? Did reverting back affect you professionally or otherwise? In my case, going dual may not have a big impact because my maiden name is already everywhere.

            1. the gold digger*

              Hi Nutcracker –

              I didn’t get married until I was 43, so I was already really used to my name. I am not opposed philosophically to name changes, but I had no idea it would bother me as much not to use my birth name! Even as much as I love my husband, my desire for my own name was stronger.

              The situation with his parents did not help. I wanted nothing to do with them. (And vice versa – who wants a gold-digging, bad-bacon-eating DIL?) I have to admit I enjoyed how their heads almost exploded when I changed my name back. I wanted to ask why they were so bothered by my not adhering to a conservative, non-feminist practice given that they were extremely left. (And then I remembered that even in revolutions, the women are supposed to do the cooking and the cleaning.)

              With respect to my career – nope, it has not had an impact, probably because I am pretty much of a professional failure. :) I have a job, but unlike many of my college and grad school friends, I will never be a partner/CEO/VP/director. Right now, I am just happy to have a paycheck. I have given up on professional accomplishment.

        2. MsCHX*

          What OP would need to do (assuming she’s not getting married anytime soon) is pay a fee ($300+ here) and have a court approve it. And in my state, you’d also have to undergo a criminal background check.

          1. Mel*

            I changed my name to my mother’s maiden name, and the fee and court appearance led me to delay doing this several years. Totally worth it when I finally was able.

          2. Sea Born*

            I legally changed my name last month, and it only cost $110 (Oregon). I didn’t even have to put a notice in the paper.

            The biggest bummer was having to go to the courthouse on two different days, once to file the paperwork, and again for the hearing. The hearings in my county are held every day but only at 1:15. And the judge was late. :/ Otherwise, it was a very simple process and would definitely recommend the letter writer look in to it!

          3. Emma*

            In my state, the fee is $41, there is no publication requirement, and no background check. You do have to get it approved by the circuit court, but they’re notoriously lenient – you have to give a reason and affirm you’re not trying to evade debts or pretending to be someone else, but “I don’t like my birth name and want a new one” was considered good enough for me to get my petition approved.

            1. Emma*

              Also, I didn’t have to show up in person for any of it. I mailed the forms in, gave a phone number if they did have questions, and they sent me the confirmed order when they approved it.

        3. Jubilance*

          Yes they do, and depending on where you live it can be a lot. I initially kept my maiden name when I got married, and then decided to change it later, so I had to go through the normal name change process. It cost me $350 in court fees and I had to miss an afternoon of work to go to court for the hearing – for some people the court fee might be a hardship.

          1. Natalie*

            In my state, at least, you can file for a fee waiver just like for any other court fee. (No idea how likely it would be to succeed, though.)

          2. Purple Jello*

            I also delayed changing my name (years!) at Social Security but just took every document I could find with either/both names to our local SS office. I spent less time in line than it took for them to figure out how to enter a “delayed name change due to marriage”. No charge.

      3. Turtlewings*

        I came here just to say this! You really can’t just stop using your surname — it basically defeats the point of the existence of names, you just can’t function that way. But you can totally change your name to something else. If the problem were OP’s first name, it would be easy to start going by a nickname, middle name, etc.; unfortunately a surname takes actual legal intervention, which takes time, effort, and a certain amount of money. But it can absolutely be done, and if the negativity of the name is that strong, I think it definitely should be done.

      4. Kathleen Adams*

        You actually don’t have to do anything to start using a new name except to…you know, start using a new name. I think you have to legally change it before you get a Social Security number in that name, or passport, or a mortgage, but if you don’t want to take the time to legally change it, it’s actually perfectly legal to have two different names, so long as you don’t do so with the intention to defraud. So the OP could have one “legal” name for her Social Security, lease, mortgage, that kind of stuff, and use a different name as her “professional name” or whatever she wants to call it.

        That’s what I do, actually. I use my married name on the legal stuff, and some people know me by that, but I use my birth name at work. It’s not st all uncommon. It’s less common to do this because you don’t want to identify with your birth name for other reasons, but it can definitely be done.

        This does mean that she might have to cope with two names on her job history, but that’s easier to explain than “Would you mind referring to me as Cher B.?”

        1. the gold digger*

          My sister does this (not the Cher B part :) ). She is a nurse practitioner and did not want to have to legally change her name on all of her licensing when she got married. All of her legal documents are in her maiden name, but socially, she is Mrs Husband’sLastName.

          1. Case of the Mondays*

            This works because she is signing her legal name. What Kathleen Adams does won’t work if you have to sign anything as part of your job. I tried doing the exact same thing but got in trouble when my boss realized I was signing legal documents for work with a name that was no longer my name. (Internal incident reports.) You can have everyone call you whatever you want but when you sign your name to something at work, contract, report, whatever, it needs to be your legal name.

          2. Kathleen Adams*

            I know at least two other women (including one who works two desks away from me) who do this. It really isn’t uncommon at all.

          3. Jenbug*

            My sister is an actor who had started building a local reputation under her maiden name before getting married so she hasn’t legally changed her name but she socially uses her husband’s name.

        2. CM*

          While I think it’s a better long-term option for OP#5 to officially change their last name if they never want to be associated with it, I think that if OP#5 is a woman, they can get away with putting a new last name on their resume and saying the name they go by is different than their legal name. I’ve seen women do this, and the assumption (even if it’s not true for OP#5) is that the different names are related to marriage or divorce. But I think this would be weird for a man, since there is usually no expectation that a man will change his name after marriage.

        3. Natalie*

          “It’s less common to do this because you don’t want to identify with your birth name for other reasons, but it can definitely be done.”

          And if female, the OP probably doesn’t need to explain. If you say Jones is your birth name without providing additional details, most people will assume you got married and changed your name socially but not legally.

      5. Mel*

        Definitely a good option! I did this myself, and was so very happy when my paperwork FINALLY was in order and I was only known by my mother’s maiden name.
        (Funny serendipity – I had to have my undergraduate degrees reprinted recently, and they used my new last name even though my original degrees had my father’s last name. I was pleasantly surprised!)

        1. AC*

          That is interesting! I changed my first name 10 years ago, and I’ve always disclosed that information when I’ve had job offers (for background checks and so forth). I graduated college before getting married, so my degree is under a different first and last name. I never thought about them changing their records, although they do have my current name.

    4. Anonymoose*

      Yeah, I’ve wondered this too. It doesn’t help that my last name, while Asian, is also an African word, so sometimes I get confused looks from people expecting a 100% Asian girl (I’m mixed and look white at a first glance) or those expecting a black girl.

    5. sam*

      On a smaller flip side, I have an incredibly “WASP”y last name (my grandfather on my father’s side was literally from an english protestant family), but the rest of my entire family is all jewish, which is what we all identify with – in fact the grandmother that my non-jewish grandfather married came from an ultra-orthodox family (you can imagine how well that went over in 1940).

      Added to that is the fact that people, when seeing me, automatically assume I’m irish for some reason. So when I tell someone that I have to leave early for Passover, or take off for Yom Kippur, I get some…very quizzical looks.

      It is kind of fascinating being someone who can “pass”. I’ve had some really anti-semitic things said to me by people who don’t know that I’m jewish, which has always been an incredibly “interesting” (horrifying) window into the way the majority white/christian culture in the US thinks/behaves when they think that no “outsiders” are around.

      1. Anon For This*

        One of my good friends is having this ongoing conversation right now about passing. Her father was Mexican and in the US illegally, her mother is white. All her siblings can pass as white but she cannot. So there’s been a lot of discussion with her siblings about things she’s experienced that they haven’t.

      2. Science!*

        This is me my entire life. My dad is catholic with a traditional Irish last name, but my mom is Jewish and I was raised Jewish. People have always been confused by me when I talk about celebrating Chanukah or Yom Kippur. I remember in college trying to get put on a special list serve for Jewish students and my initial request was met with a “This list serve is only for jewish students, are you jewish?” (not literally what they said, this was >10 years ago, so semi faulty memory).

        1. sam*

          Yeah – I never “intentionally” hide it. And when people say anti semitic crap (or racist crap!) I generally confront them (exceptions, of course, if I think physical safety could be a real issue!).

          But it’s a real window into something that probably not a lot of racial or religious minorities have the ‘opportunity’ to experience – sometimes it’s like being a spy – I can pretty much confirm that (a lot of) people are more racist behind your back than they are to your face.

    6. Bonky*

      I changed my surname when I got married, even though I was already published under my maiden name, for that EXACT reason. It was always particularly difficult when applying for editorial jobs. I’m half Asian, half white British – my looks aren’t easy to place, but if you add my former, very Asian surname, people are inclined to start saying things like “but you speak such good English!” (Response, with a broad smile to hide the smouldering rage: “I was born in Yorkshire.”)

  3. MK*

    OP2, I read that you are conflating “highly important” with “urgent”, but they aren’t the same thing at all. It’s perfectly possible that 75% of your coworker’s communications are indeed very important for you to know; that doesn’t mean they are so urgent that you have to drop everything else to read them, but it does mean you should go over them carefully at some point.

    If there is little in these e-mails that affects your job, then maybe it’s a good idea to have a conversation with her about only sending relevant information to people, so that it doesn’t get lost in this influx of e-mails. But I find it dangerous for you to simply not read the e-mails (and that Alison didn’t address that); if you end up messing up because you didn’t know information that this coworker send to you, I doubt your boss will be impressed with a “I didn’t read Jane’s e-mails because she marks them all as highly important and it’s annoying ” excuse.

    1. Mike C.*

      That, and since we’re talking about someone who changes processes and upgrades things, you’re going to want to know what those changes are and how they affect your work. Not reading then at all just because she does this annoying thing is going to come back and bite you.

      I mean even if we aren’t taking about process changes related to health and safety, having everyone follow the changes is a fundamental part of ensuring those changes have the intended effect. You can’t do that if you aren’t reading the emails in the first place.

      1. hbc*

        Yep, and I wonder if there is a chicken/egg thing going on. Being the person who’s “only” dealing with process improvements (or compliance or whatever) and therefore gets ignored because there isn’t a customer directly on the other end will get you grasping for ways to get people to pay attention. 75% red flags isn’t effective, but would anything be?

        1. Liane*

          Husband and I have both worked in QA/QC in different fields and people in other departments (notably production, sales, marketing) frequently viewed our area, plus Regulatory, as THEM, The Enemy, Trouble.
          I wonder if a bit of this feeding into the annoyance. But yes it would be annoying and I am glad I have never had to deal with someone like this.

          @Wakeen’s Teapots, Inc., loved your threat to remove someone’s red flag. Reminds me of the old story about an editor whose reporter was overusing the semicolon, so he filed it off the die (?), I think that is the name of the part that hits the ink ribbon.

            1. AnotherAlison*

              I had a friend in marketing who said you get three exclamation points to use ever. She hated them. I used to forward my son’s third grade teacher’s emails to her. . .real example. . .clearly very exciting:

              Hi there! I just wanted to touch base and let you know that we have had a rough week! [Boy] is having trouble completing his task. He has missed one recess every day and is still not finishing his work. He is very distracted and is distracting others around him. He is very smart and capable of doing the work we are doing, he is just having trouble focusing! Let me know if there is anything that I can do!
              Thanks for your help!
              Mrs. P

              1. CM*

                I always write emails, then go back and change all the exclamation points into periods before hitting send.

              2. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

                Eh, she’s trying to soften the impact of her email by being overly friendly. I’m sure a lot of parents she deals with react super negatively or just flat out ignore her when she sends these emails, so this is a strategy to get a good result.

                I do this a lot. My job requires me to get information and documents from people whose full time job doesn’t include helping me. If I’m not extra over friendly at the get go, I get less compliance. Less compliance means I have to loop in the person’s boss to get them to do it, which ticks off the person i need to help me etc etc. Better from my pov to be overly friendly and feminine w/ the explanation points.

                It’s also gendered. Lots of men don’t take kindly to being told what to do by a woman. If adding in the softening language and punctuation gets me what I want then I’m going to do it. I’ve got shit to get done.

            2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              Georgette Heyer is so fond of exclamation points in dialogue that now I think everyone in Regency England talked in a constant state of excitement.

      2. LBK*

        That, and since we’re talking about someone who changes processes and upgrades things, you’re going to want to know what those changes are and how they affect your work.

        If people can get away with not reading the emails, then they clearly don’t merit flagging or perhaps even sending. If they can’t get away with not reading the emails, then wouldn’t the consequences naturally play out in a way that would clue people in that they do need to read them?

        I’d almost bet money that the coworker is using a wide distribution list where 75% of the people receiving any given email don’t actually need to read it. That sets the precedent that usually emails from this person can be ignored, and flagging them when they’re still going out to the same wide range of people doesn’t do anything to help clue someone in when they might actually need to read that email. I think she’d probably have better results only distributing information to the people who need it, which will probably be more work on her end than just checking the “urgent” box but will actually achieve her desired outcome.

      3. Natalie*

        Even in that case, the exclamation points are superfluous. Every email the CEO of my company sends is important and should be read, but I know that based on the sender name.

        The exclamation point should be used to denote emails that are more critical or time sensitive than the average email *that person* sends.

    2. t*

      In my experience the little red exclamation point generally means “read me right now” and I agree that this person’s use of that is inappropriate. I find a better way to communicate the importance of a message is in the subject line. “FYI: subject” for things that are informational, “ACTION: subject” if someone needs to act on it, etc. In her case, something like “PROCESS CHANGE: subject”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I certainly interpret it as “more important than anything else in your inbox! read me now!” … which is why it’s obnoxious unless it’s happening like once a year and it’s a message telling you that there’s a large pit just outside your office doorway that you’ll fall into and die if you walk out without looking.

        75% of the emails someone sends? No.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          it’s a message telling you that there’s a large pit just outside your office doorway


          For us, because we’re dealing with a massive internal flow of communications about customers’ orders/requests and supplier issues, the red flag is appropriate more than once a year. If the 50K order for Google is blowing up and you need that communication pushed to the top of the other parties’ flows, red flag it. If a major supplier just had a meltdown that’s impacted 75 in house orders, red flag it.

          The red flag is helpful when used appropriately for “stop everything else and read this and do this right this second”. People overuse it are the boy who cried wolf and they’ve lost the power of the red flag. We’re pretty consistent at insisting our folks use it correctly.

          One of my top sales rep, she was a red flag over user and I had to beat it out of her gently. Well, my version of gentle. I told her I was going to remove the red flag from her computer if she didn’t cut it out. :p And then replied to every red flagged email she sent, that I happened to see, with huge pictures of various red and exclamation points “Red flag me? Did you just red flag me? Do not red flag me!”

          I also told her that she was going to have to give up her RUSH stamp and she looked stricken. :-) (Good egg who cares passionately about taking care of her customers but oy with the red flag already.)

          So in our world, red flag 1 – 3x a week is probably appropriate. We have a lot of pits.

        2. Graciosa*

          I hardly ever use a red flag – actually I can’t remember using it because if it’s really I crisis, I call – but I sometimes feel like the only person on the planet who uses a blue flag.

          For example, my formal request for my boss to approve my vacation time late next year gets a blue flag, as this is anything but urgent. Yes, it needs a formal reply, but some time next quarter is fine. I know the answer without asking, but I’ll file it when I get it.

          The odd thing is that I think I get better responses to my blue flags than other people do to their red ones. If a low priority message requires a reply, I usually get it in minutes, even from very busy people who take much longer with unmarked email.

          I guess that in a sea of red flags, my solitary blue one stands out.

          1. Cambridge Comma*

            Fellow blue flag user here. I also notice quick replies to blue flagged mails. Perhaps because they are unthreatening.

            1. Karo*

              I tend to respond to them quickly because I know there’s no pressure. I can shoot off a quick email – even if I’m just saying “I think it’s Z, but I’ll check” – and I’m going above and beyond for them.

              Also, yeah, the intimidation thing. :)

          2. SJ*

            When my former boss got inappropriately marked High Importance emails, he would passive-aggressively mark his response email Low Priority.

          3. MillersSpring*

            I hardly ever notice when emails have red urgent icons.

            If I do it’s usually the end of the day when I’m sorting, and I think, “Huh, that one was supposedly urgent.”

        3. Cambridge Comma*

          I don’t use red flags often, but when I do it’s for things where I know the person is otherwise likely to spend all day working on a task that has become superfluous if they don’t read the mail. (Obviously it would be better to phone, but some of my colleagues have disabled their phones so as to not be reachable. That’s a whole other story.)

        4. MCR*

          I disagree, Alison. I advise clients on cybersecurity issues, and we are constantly having talks with our clients about how to take cybersecurity upgrades more seriously. Often, employees will disregard messages about system upgrades or security improvements that require action on their parts. These may happen routinely, but they are absolutely vital for the organization’s security – particularly in sectors like finance and healthcare. If 75% of the messages that your CISO is sending are about system upgrades – even if they are routine! – you’d better believe you should pay attention immediately!

          1. LBK*

            If 75% of the messages that your CISO is sending are about system upgrades – even if they are routine! – you’d better believe you should pay attention immediately!

            It’s the “immediately” part I disagree with. If you’re sending me an email on Monday about something I need to do before a system update goes in on Friday, that is definitely not more important than a customer issue I need to deal with today. It creates a “boy who cried wolf” scenario so if you eventually do need me to do something immediately, I’m going to assume your “urgent” email is just as urgent as every other one you sent, ie not actually urgent.

            FWIW, system update emails at my company also tend to be really jargon-heavy and talk too much about what the update is rather than whether or not I need to do anything. If you need me to leave my computer on when I leave on Friday, just send me an email that says that. Don’t send me an essay with all the technical details of version 8.5.3 of some background database that I wouldn’t even recognize by name.

          2. animaniactoo*

            Yes, but that should be standard – just seeing a message from cybersecurity should trip the mental flag.

            If I see something with a red flag from cybersecurity, I would expect it to say “URGENT, WE ARE INFECTED/HAVE BEEN HACKED, TAKE THESE STEPS IMMEDIATELY”. Not “There is a new security-related update to your software, please download and install immediately.”

          3. Natalie*

            If your system has critical upgrades, it’s probably better to push them to the machines rather than depend on people to download a patch.

        5. animaniactoo*

          I use my red flag sparingly, but it’s definitely more than once a year. On average, it’s probably about every other month.

          And it’s usually to the person who has to sign off on my packaging design who is *always* slower than they’re supposed to be about returning comments. I don’t understand how they still have a job, but generally if I’m red flagging it, it’s because we’re about to miss a shipping deadline over it. It may not be more important to *them* than all the other e-mails in their inbox, but it is on my end and I would hope that it’s pretty important to them.

    3. LBK*

      …that doesn’t mean they are so urgent that you have to drop everything else to read them, but it does mean you should go over them carefully at some point.

      How is this description different from any other email you receive? Almost everything that gets sent to me is something I need to read and go over carefully at some point.

      If the coworker is running into situations where people ignore emails and then complain about not being made aware of changes, I don’t think adding a flag is going to fix it anyway. My experience is that if people weren’t reading your emails before, the only way to get them to start is by holding them accountable when ignoring an email causes a problem or when they claim they weren’t told. I’ve found that forwarding the email back to them with a “see below” is a pretty good way to embarrass someone into paying more attention going forward.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. I’ve never red-flagged an email in my life, and I don’t think any of the red-flagged emails I’ve ever gotten have warranted the flag. (Honestly, most of the time when I see it, it’s being done by job applicants and just … no.)

        If someone isn’t reading your emails and it’s causing a problem, you deal with that the way you deal with any other issue. I doubt they’re going to start reading them just because they suddenly come with a red flag, especially if 75% of your emails come that way.

        I think people are giving the flag waaayyy too much credit.

        1. shep*

          Yes, all the flagged emails I’ve received from my coworkers haven’t *really* warranted a flag. They’re important, and I tend to give them a quicker look anyway because they’re inter-office and I want to make sure they’ve got what they need.

          That said, what totally WOULD warrant a flag would be “Fresh tamales in the breakroom!” :D

        2. LBK*

          I will admit that I used to flag a lot of emails when I worked in a call center, but we didn’t have IM so it was the least intrusive way to catch someone’s attention to say “I need you to jump off the inbound line once you’re done with your current call so you can address something for me”.

        3. Kathleen Adams*

          Our former president (that is, the president of my organization, not the president of the US) used to tell me to flag emails I needed his response to. So I did. I was judicious about it, using it only for something I needed a response to fairly soon (e.g., within the next 12-24 hours), but yes, I did it – and it seemed to work, too. I guess other employees must have been pretty judicious as well.

          But now I wonder if I’ve gotten in the habit of using it the same way with other people? Hmm. I will reevaluate.

  4. Kathlynn*

    On #1, are these over reactions to things that would still warrent a reaction anyways? Because, as someone who experences a mood shift, I don’t react to things that wouldn’t bother me at other times. I react to things I’ve been bitting my tongue about the rest of the month or how ever long. If you are going to bring it up, make sure that both sides get looked at.

    On the last one, Name Change time (maybe). If you are that much against using your last name, just change it, then you don’t have to worry about being associated with your family. (which I may do one day myself. I even have my new name picked out).

  5. L.*

    #5: I’d say you gotta use your last name unless you’re royalty (Queen Elizabeth, Napoleon) or a celebrity (Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna, Prince). Seriously though, if you feel this strongly about using your family name you might want to consider legally changing it and then using that new name going forward.

    1. Fiennes*

      Seconding the call to change your name. In some states (not all), this process is surprisingly easy. And if you’re feeling that big a need to separate yourself from your family, LW, choosing a new name will probably provide an enormous psychological boost. Just be sure your potential references know about the name change; you don’t want potential employers to ask them questions only to have them go, “Who??”

      1. Ismis*

        It depends on what the poster is worried about (googling finding the family, for example), but depending on the name, they could also change the spelling, e.g. Smith versus Smythe. Then it wouldn’t be an issue for reference checkers.

    2. Marzipan*

      Thirding this suggestion. Apart from anything else, not using your family name would be so unusual that it would cause everyone to ask about it and comment upon it – which means, in effect, you’d be asked about your family all the time when it’s evidently a painful subject. Whereas, having a family name is so ordinary that no-one will notice or mention it. It doesn’t have the significance to other people that it has to you.

      And, if that significance to you is so great that you can’t bear using it, make a change to something that doesn’t provoke those worries for you.

      1. Nerfmobile*

        Yes. I once work with someone from India – in India, he had stopped using his last name for various reasons. When he moved to the US, he found that people and systems just could not cope with someone using only a single name. So he finally settled on doubling his first name and using it as both his first and last for official purposes. The effect was something like going as Ravi Ravi.

        1. Lora*

          There are cultures where they don’t have such a thing as last names – Indonesia, Tibet, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Burma, parts of India. That said, when people from those cultures immigrate to Europe and the US, they usually make up a last name for official purposes or use their mononym for both first and last, as in Nerfmobile’s example. Had a colleague named Abdullah Abdullah.

          1. Chameleon*

            Hah, ask my husband about the full year he spent calling a client “Fnu” based on the name on his ID…before finding out it stood for “first name unavailable.” XD

              1. Chameleon*

                There wasn’t much more to it. He was working at a bank and a man from Indonesia came regularly to cash his paycheck, made out to FNU SOWETO. Mr. Chameleon tried to greet all his regular customers by name, so he would give him a cheerful “Hey there, Fnu! How’s your day going?”

                After a year or so, the guy comes in with a check made out to A. Soweto. Figuring it was written to a family member, Mr. Chameleon explained that he couldn’t deposit the check unless A. endorsed it.

                At which point Mr. Soweto explained that he had only the one name, so whenever there was paperwork the space for “first name” was either filled with a generic A, or the acronym F.N.U. But he had never corrected Mr. Chameleon, whether die to shyness or some other reason. Mr. C was mortified.

        2. afd s*

          Haha my grandma did something like this! As a child she went by her maiden name of course and then when she got married she just stopped using a last name because last names aren’t a big deal. When she applied for a visa to the US they needed a last name so if her name was Elizabeth she wrote Eliza Beth.

      2. MsCHX*

        “not using your family name would be so unusual that it would cause everyone to ask about it and comment upon it”
        She’s talking about for work. Why would anyone at a new job know that she has a different surname from her family?

        Also, I don’t think it’s all that unusual. I have 2 sisters so now all 3 of us have different last names which is different from our parents and brothers. I am in a stepfamily where between the 7 of us there are 3 last names.

        1. BPT*

          The OP suggested using just a first name and last initial. Family name just means last name, so not having a “family name” (last name) on your resume would certainly bring attention to your last name in a less than great way.

        2. Kathleen Adams*

          It’s not unusual at all. It’s unusual to do so for the reasons the OP mentions, but that doesn’t make it unusual. And it’s not difficult to do, either.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          I think Marzipan meant not using a last name at all, the way the LW wanted to. That’s going to get tons of questions if it doesn’t get your resume thrown out to begin with. Just a different name from your parents I agree is totally unremarkable, especially in a context where nobody is likely to know who your family is to begin with.

          1. MsCHX*

            Yeah, I see that. I assumed Marzipan was saying in general, having a last name different from your family would be weird.

            1. LBK*

              I think it’s just a colloquial difference – “family name” is a synonym for “surname,” although a literal reading of that phrase is a bit confusing in this context.

        4. wealhtheow*

          Unless I’m reading wrong, the question isn’t “can I use a different family name /surname from other family members” (which, you’re quite right, how would employers know or care?) but “can I get away with not using a family name /surname at all” (which … nope).

          I’ve actually worked with, interviewed, and in a couple of cases hired people whose resume name is different from their legal name. (One person pruned their legal name down from 9 syllables to 5 for professional purposes, for example.) Forms at my company have a spot for your legal names and your “usual” names; granted, most people use the “usual” spot to make sure we know that, e.g., Jenni Teapotson is the same person as Alison Jennifer Teapotson, but it absolutely does get used for surnames as well.

          I also have a colleague who has legally changed their last name for reasons not unlike the OP’s, as well as married colleagues who have kept their birth names, changed to a spouse’s surname, hyphenated the two surnames, or blended them in some other way. I even know someone whose surname is completely made up, because when their parents got divorced their mother didn’t want to use either her ex-husband’s surname or her parents’!

          As a hiring manager, I would never think less of someone for using a name different to the one on their legal paperwork, as long as they were reasonably up-front about it (like, if I’m checking your references and your last manager knew you under a different surname, you need to tell me that ahead of time). A resume with a first name and last initial, though, would give me pause.

    3. PepperAndPale*

      Alternatively, do they have a middle name that could work as a surname? I don’t, but if they ever need a pseudonym my dad has a middle name that would be perfectly passable, as does my mum. And just a reminder that your legal name absolutely doesn’t need to be the name you use at work, so a legal name change doesn’t need to be done urgently if you want to ditch a name with bad associations.

      1. NJ Anon*

        Maybe not but it could cause quite a bit of confusion. You have to sign off on w-4’s and provide identification for the I-9. Your paycheck would need to be made out to your legal name, etc.

        1. blackcat*

          But people clear that up all the time. Plenty of people use nick names on their resume instead of full names (“Katie” rather than “Kathleen”) or use a birth name instead of a married name (some women change their name legally, but continue to go by the old one professionally).

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            Yeah, that was kind of my point below; there are plenty of people who have one name with respect to email and employee directories, and only use their legal names for payroll, and probably payroll and HR are the only ones who are aware of that name.

            That’s assuming that a different first name would be enough to hide them, a big assumption, but it’s also a much easier and quicker path.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              Yes, that’s totally normal – and very easy to do. Lots of married women (e.g., me) use their married name on legal documents but their birth name as their professional name. This is perfectly legal so long as it’s not done with the intention to deceive.

              You still have the problem with different names on your job history…but it’s not nearly as big of a problem as you’d have if you decided to suddenly go by “Kathleen A.” or something.

          2. MinB*

            My grandboss has a long, multi-word Polish last name. She goes by Amy K*. Her work email is AmyK@work.email even though everyone else’s is in a FirstLast@work.email format.

            Her last name does appear in her email signature, business cards, office sign, and I’m sure on her W-2s, so if seeing the family name on that sort of thing is going to bother the OP, they should get a name change. If not, it is possible to go by Firstname Initial in a professional setting and at least reduce how often their last name is mentioned.

            *name changed

        2. Decimus*

          I’d second putting a different last name on the resume. It would need to be straightened out during the hiring process, but it’s much more reasonable once you have a job offer to then say “by the way, my legal name is Tyrion Lannister and not Tyrion Snow, I’m in the middle of changing it/thinking of changing it.” It might be ‘odd’ for some employers but it’s the right place to bring up anything of that sort, whether’s it’s a name change, or need to take vacation, or accommodation for a disability.

          1. Czhorat*

            This might come off as weird and set off red flags.

            I also had my employer at the time refuse to print business cards with my “new” name before I legally changed it, out of an odd fear that I’d use them for something fraudulent.

            1. Kathleen Adams*

              I don’t think it would set off any red flags, at least not in most professions. Really, what with marriage, divorce, and other non-marital reasons, changing names is in fact quite common. I think your employer was a bit more fussy about this than most people would be, Czhorat.

        3. MsCHX*

          +1 on that not being a huge deal.
          It took me 3 1/2 years to change my name after getting married (I knew I was going to before we got married, it wasn’t a decision I was grappling with, but I am a procrastinator). I started a new job during that time and at that point had been using my married name on correspondence. But when it came to background check stuff, I of course used my legal (maiden) name. The hiring manager did ask about it but it was an easy and simple explanation so it wasn’t an issue.

      2. Anononon*

        My grandmother purposely gave her three children middle names that could be used as last names if they became famous. (None did :) )

        1. RVA Cat*

          Hmm, I hadn’t thought of that. My son’s middle name is the last name of my husband’s deceased friend, which felt a lot less creepy than using his first name for some reason (the namesake was murdered; my husband’s namesake was an uncle killed in war but that’s different….).

        2. Shazbot*

          Someone once told me that their strategy for naming their kids was to give them a name that would sound appropriate whether they were a punk with a mohawk or a Supreme Court judge. There is a surprising amount of potential overlap there.

          1. Emi.*

            Ha, that’s great! I’ve also heard that you should pick a name that sounds good shouted across the playground, followed by “Get over here right now!” and also sounds good announced on TV, followed by “President of the United States of America.”

            1. RVA Cat*

              Though, they will probably only be known by their full 3 names if they *shoot* the president… :(

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Great advice above, saved me some typing as I was thinking along the same lines. :)

      For now, the OP could also use a nickname, middle name, or initials instead of their first name if they’re concerned about being specifically identified as *that* Tyrion Lannister as opposed to just being identified as *a* Lannister. I know they were concerned about their last name, but I think they’ll find that last names are more common than they think. My last name has 10 letters, and even some distant cousins spell it slightly differently, yet I have found seemingly unrelated people with the same last name living very close to where I’ve settled, many miles from any blood relations, and two seemingly unrelated minor to moderate US celebrities (one regional, one national) with the same last name.

      1. Joseph*

        I think they’ll find that last names are more common than they think.
        Honestly, even if your name was rare, it still probably won’t matter to the vast majority of people. My last name is super-rare – per Google, the only people in the US with my last name are all direct relatives. My name was also shared with a good player on my city’s NBA team (never an all-star, but a first round draft pick and multi-year starter – the kind of guy that even casual fans know while he’s on the team, then is kind of forgotten once he leaves).
        The majority of people never blinked an eye when I said my last name. The absolute *most* that ever happened, even when he was actively playing for the NBA team, was a two sentence conversation – “wait, are you related to Tywin Lannister of the Casterly Lions?” “yes, but it’s very distant”, “oh cool”.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I learned a few years ago that I share my (long and unusual) last name with the founder of a kind of sport, and it still surprises me that not one person has said, “Oh, like the guy who did that?” Especially people who play this sport regularly.

          I also share my last name with my father (big shocker there!), and I’m estranged from him. Have been for a very long time. I never changed the name. He is a known figure in certain circles, and still, no one has ever said anything to me.

      2. Witty Nickname*

        My maiden name was rather uncommon, but people finally learned to pronounce it correctly when a recording artist with the same last name became famous. My first name is also a less-common spelling of a common name, and there are several people with the same name in the US when I google.

        Funny story – the famous recording artist and I also had the same first initial. During the time they became famous, I was listed in the Los Angeles phone book by first initial, last name; I got some interesting voice mails!

        If the OP is still in the same area as the family they are estranged from, though, they could also have a concern about the family finding out where they are applying/working (you never know who might know their family members and mention “Oh, OP applied at my company last week! She’s got an interview Tuesday!”), so even having google turn up several people with the same name wouldn’t help in that case.

    5. Czhorat*

      This is an obvious and easy solution. I changed mine to my wife’s after a few years of marriage. It took filling out some forms, paying a fee, and running a legal bother in a local paper, and then was done. You’ll still have to list your birthname on background check forms, but that’s likely it.

      And yes, I’ve gotten the occasional raised eyebrow when it comes up, but that’s not ask that frequent. I think refusing to give your name at all would raise more eyebrows.

    6. Lily in NYC*

      I love the idea of one of these celebs deciding they want an office job and trying to decide what name to put on the resume. I’d definitely call Cher in for an interview.

  6. Loz*

    #1 Lots of unpleasant things occur regularly that might be the cause. Mortgage payments, child visitation rights (either way), parole officer check-ins (maybe – not sure about that!), customary dinners with unpleasant in-laws, money running out, visits to dying relatives…The list goes on.

    You could use any of these in place of PMS, but really you don’t need any reason. You’ve identified a pattern that affects your work. You’ve got documentation. Present that as the fact and let her and her manager deal with how to alter the disruptive behaviour. It’s not your problem why, just that it happens.

  7. Gene*

    In PreviousJob, the techs for one of our engineers (my current boss’s wife) had days every 4 weeks on their calendars marked in red. They planned on field work those few days; I didn’t work for her, but I learned to plan field work those days as well. A couple of years later I asked my boss about it (we have that kind of office) and he showed me his calendar, also marked. And my wife temped there for about 6 months ten years later, no change

    I don’t think anyone ever told her, the managers at that job were all engineers with little, if any, people management skills. Someone should tell her about how the pattern is affecting the workplace. I have little doubt she knows, but she may think she has it under control.

    1. Mreasy*

      Ugh. This is pretty offensive. I know plenty of guys who are jerks all the time, or just st certain times of the month or year (bills/sports/holidays/who knows why), but nobody has a cute avoidance regimen in place & marked on a calendar for them. It’s just another way to reduce women to their biology, which is beyond inappropriate in a workplace.

      1. h.cowl*

        Strongly agree. Setting aside the fact that women’s cycles vary (mine can be as long as 70 days or as short as 38! yes, it’s literally *never* been only 4 weeks), it’s just obnoxious to reduce a single person’s bad behavior down to their sex and physiology. Speculating on or discussing it at work is absurd and condescending.

        1. Gaara*

          i don’t understand why someone isn’t telling this employee “this behavior is unacceptable” when it is being unacceptable.

          Half the people in my office are women. I don’t know how they feel on the inside, but on the outside, they show up to work and are professional every day (unlike some of the men!). PMS isn’t causing women to treat their coworkers poorly.

          1. Gaara*

            I also don’t understand why no one is shitting down this red calendar thing. That’s inappropriate and unprofessional, and maybe sex based harrassment.

        2. Annie Moose*

          Furthermore, let’s be honest: it’s not necessarily hormones. I get really miserable and grouchy when I get severe cramps, but it’s not because of hormones, it’s because I’ve taken two different types of OTC painkillers and they haven’t quite kicked in yet so I’m still hurting so bad I want to cry and/or go on an arson rampage (possibly both at the same time).

          Yeah, it’s related to my cycle, but it’s not my silly lady-hormones ruining my silly lady-brain. It’s the fact that I feel like someone is winding up my intestines with a fork like they’re spaghetti.

      2. Czhorat*

        Exactly this.

        I’d you have issues with a female coworker you deal with it in the same damn way you’d deal with a make coworker. Women aren’t literal werewolves.

    2. Gene*

      And yes, I understand that some may find this offensive, but I made no mention of a cause. It was a noticeable pattern. Any hormonal cause you are inferring is on you.

      She isn’t a people person in the best of times; for 3-4 days a month she was an evil, fire-breathing, vengeful demon. And those days were reliably 27 days apart +/- 1 day. If I had a male boss who was an asshole on a reliable schedule, I’d plan ways to avoid being in the office those days, as well.

      1. Zillah*

        Given that you were responding directly to a letter speculating on the 4 weeks = PMS thing, it seems a little disingenuous to say that “Any hormonal cause you are inferring is on you.”

        1. Gene*

          Given that half this thread is “It may not be/probably isn’t PMS”, I didn’t mention PMS.

          It wasn’t until I was working for her husband in a completely different workplace that I knew it was cycle-related. Yeah, I made the assumption, but it was just that.

          To address some of the other vitriol I’ve gotten here.

          Yes, this is the regular commenter Gene; AFAIK, no one has masqueraded as me.
          I am not attempting to troll, I related a true tale of FormerJob and offered advice.
          It’s not like there was a giant department calendar that had days noted, it was something kept
          between the techs as a good day to be out.
          I haven’t worked there in 25 years. She is now managing the department.
          If I had a boss of any gender who was a PITA the day after the local sportsball team lost a game,
          I’d plan my life to be out of the office after every game, just in case.

      2. Gingerblue*

        I can’t imagine why she isn’t a people person in an office where her husband and all her coworkers feel free to try to track her menstrual cycle and compare their gross speculation about it for over a decade.

        1. Czhorat*


          Nobody would ever treat a man this way. If someone speculated about a male employee needing mood stabilizers or other medical intervention for behavior we’d all be shocked.

          1. Marisol*

            Sure they would. I’ve armchair-diagnosed plenty of bosses. It’s common to speculate what makes another person tick.

        1. Oryx*

          Not only that, but to literally say “3-4 days a month that were around 27 days apart” and then to turn around and say we are the ones making our own assumptions about the cause and “I didn’t say that” is borderline gas lighting, making it even more offensive.

            1. Oryx*

              Which is why I said borderline. Even if it’s not full on gaslighting it’s more than disingenuous — it’s manipulation.

              1. Anon For This*

                Gas lighting is a pretty horrible thing for someone to go through. This isn’t even borderline gas lighting and I would recommend not using it so lightly.

                But yeah, Gene, to spell it out and then be offended anyone read the writing is disingenuous. We all know what you meant.

                1. Oryx*

                  I’ve been through it, so, yes, it is horrible. I also feel pretty confident recognizing shades of it because of that.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I had to read this multiple times to figure out what you were saying, and I think I’ve decided it’s awful.

      1. AnitaJ*

        YES. This is gross. So gross. I wish I had something more insightful to say about it, but your comment sums it up for me.

    4. Oryx*

      Flames. Flames on the side of my face.

      This is so rage inducing I can’t say anything more out of concern Alison would block me from ever coming to AAM ever again.

    5. Nye*

      I once worked for someone who would occasionally be irritable and impossible to please for a few days at a time. Sadly, it wasn’t predictable, but the first employee to get the brunt of it would pass the word. Everyone would then avoid the boss for a few days until it blew over. If you couldn’t, a bad encounter might leave you psychologically bruised for days or weeks. Maybe it was unfair of us, but it was pretty much the only effective coping mechanism we had. If we could have charted & avoided, we absolutely would have.

      Which is to say that I don’t love the implications of the “field day” schedule, but I understand it from a “avoid unnecessary workplace conflict” perspective. Sometimes people can’t or won’t change, and you just have to roll with it in the most effective way you can.

    6. Cambridge Comma*

      Apparently one of the biggest customer groups for period tracking apps is men who want to track the cycles of their significant other to avoid them on the relevant days. So gross.

        1. Annie Moose*

          WHY IS THAT? Seriously! They only just added it to iOS last year, and annoyingly, the app I use doesn’t integrate with it.

    7. Katie the Fed*

      That’s legitimately gross, Gene. This is the kind of crap that keeps women out of S&T fields.

  8. Dan*


    I wonder, has anybody ever seen the red exclamation point used in an effective manner? In OP’s case, the sender is one who sends out what I presume to be actually important emails more often than not. So, as OP notes, the flag isn’t very meaningful, although the emails themselves may very well be important.

    TBH, I don’t pay attention the damned thing. There’s a certain set of people from whom I read everything, and everybody else I skim the subject line. If the subject matters, I open it.

    TL;DR: The damn thing could go away and I don’t know who would miss it.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I do think they can be used effectively. As in, “I’m unable to do X, but client needs a call back today, please take care of immediately!” Or “someone quit, we need to find coverage for their clients ASAP”

    2. kb*

      My boss and coworkers actually use it pretty well, imo. Everyone seems to have agreed that the red exclamation point is more intended for time sensitivity, rather than the weight of the content of the email. If I’m in the zone with my work, I’m not going to stop to read every email as they come in, but if I see a red ! cross my screen, I’ll stop and check it out immediately. Generally it’s used for client things that need to be handled ASAP. A few weeks ago it was used to announce that surprise pizzas were delivered for lunch. That may have been one of the more debatable instances, but I personally found that to be spot-on usage, haha.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes, from our IT folks. They only send the red exclamation if something important is going to happen, like the server going offline (thus making remote work impossible and temporarily disabling access to email). They use it sparingly, and their other updates (“new software, please be sure to restart your computer”) aren’t flagged, but they’re also titled clearly enough that you can understand what they want you to do by reading the subject line.

      1. eplawyer*

        This is the solution to red flagitis. Better subject lines. If you put in your subject line – Critical Software Update Coming, people will read it. If you red flag your email and say Software Update, they might not.

        As someone noted above, ACTION or something similar can also get people’s attention much more than overuse of a red flag.

        Although I have to agree that surprise pizzas definitely warrants a red flag — and possibly and all caps subject line.

        1. Cassie*

          Totally agree on the better subject lines. I send out emails for a weekly meeting to a group mailing list. I’ll start the subject with “REMINDER” if the meeting’s at the regular time/room, “TIME CHANGE” if it’s a time change and “CANCELLED” if the meeting’s cancelled. That way, people can just quickly look at the subject line and figure out what the email’s about.

          I’ve never marked any emails as urgent (I use Thunderbird and I assume there’s a red flag to do this?). If it’s really urgent/critical – put it in the subject.

      2. MsCHX*

        I was trying to come up with an “acceptable” use and this is pretty much all I’ve seen around here. IT has used it when the phones, email system or server is down. A legitimate emergency.

        I’m HR and I use it one time a year – when I send out my final Open Enrollment notification. Because every year, someone had NO CLUE and missed enrollment.

    4. Jen RO*

      Yeah, my boss only uses it a couple of times a year, when it’s important and time-sensitive. For example, ‘your timesheet is late and it’s the end of the fiscal year tomorrow, and if you don’t submit it now we will be in big trouble’.

        1. Aurion*

          I’ve seen a lot of those tips and I try to follow the spirit, if not the letter. I feel like the caps lock and bullets would “feel” too terse…we’re not super touchy-feely, but we do try to be friendly and conversational.

          But I love those tips and I’m bookmarking this. If the culture changes to something more corporate or ambagious with multiple layers of red tape and departments, I might try these.

    5. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      I said this earlier up a few minutes ago, but the red flag works for us in our system, as long as people don’t overuse it.

      Example, emails to the sample queue from reps. On a busy day, the queue might be about 3 hours long. If a rep has a hair on fire customer crisis, a red flag will push that to be the next request that’s opened and dealt with. It actually works well and I much prefer it to the olden days of a hair on fire customer crisis where the rep would run around trying to get things done herself out of flow. But! It only works if everybody’s judgement about “hair on fire customer crisis!” is decent, which, at the moment it is.

      1. GreatLakesGal*

        Oh, yes.

        In my workplace, 75% of the emails regarding process changes ARE highly important to operations.

        I’m wondering if there is a BEC issue as well; unless I was searching my folders for a specific item, I can’t otherwise imagine why I would try to quantify who is flagging what in any particular way.

        I would just shrug this one off, myself, and be grateful this isn’t the deadly “reply all” that tanked our internal messaging system.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          In our case, an overuse of the red flag would royally piss off the traffic manager who would cheerfully tell you to your face to “cut it out”. :-)

          (Her normal aggravation though is for people who don’t use a red flag, or RUSH URGENT << in the subject line, when there's a hair on fire crisis. It causes her more work to try to solve an urgent issue 2 hours after its sent than immediately, when she has more options.)

        2. Koko*

          unless I was searching my folders for a specific item, I can’t otherwise imagine why I would try to quantify who is flagging what in any particular way.

          It’s noticeable when someone sends more ! emails than non-! emails. You don’t really have to go searching. OP probably just glanced at the folder when writing her letter to AAM because readers always second-guess if the LW doesn’t quantify, like, “Well, how much is most of the time? Is it REALLY all the time?”

    6. Joseph*

      I use it very rarely. Most of the time it’s when my boss/PM/etc is out of the office (and unavailable via cell) and I want to make sure they read it ASAP and get back to me, rather than putting it off.
      Also, if you really want to talk about useless email options, I legitimately have no idea why the “mark email as low priority” even exists (nor have I ever received an email where someone checked it). After all, if your email is so unimportant that you yourself marked it as low priority, why even bother to send the email in the first place?

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        OMG I hate that.

        Someone who used to work for me used it frequently and it bugged the crap out of me for exactly that reason, but it felt petty to mention so I never did.

      2. Chicken Fishing*

        I used it when I had a boss who was out on medical leave but there were occasionally things that I needed to pass along. Since they were still checking emails I wanted to emphasize if something did not require their attention until they returned. The subject line would also reflected this. It never occurred to me this might be considered obnoxious, but I’ll definitely ask before I do it again!

      3. Anon in NOVA*

        I tend to use it for my boss only. And only in situations where, say, she’s on her way to the regional teapot factory director’s meeting, and I just learned from my regional colleagues that their teapot directors are worked up on one particular issue. This usually means it will turn into the dominating discussion at the regional teapot directors meeting. I’ll email it with the red exclamation point and say “I just heard changing spout designs to decrease tea spillage is turning into a regional teapot discussion. We have been working on this for 1 year in our factory already, and have done XYZ to move that direction.” so that she won’t feel out of the loop when the conversation comes up. She’s always appreciative. That’s the only time I use it though.

      4. Andrea*

        In my workplace, if you mark an email low priority when sending to a specific mailbox, it will not trigger an auto response. If you send with regular or high priority, you get an auto response. That way you know you’ve done what you need to (notified them), and your email box isn’t cluttered up with the auto response from their mailbox.

      5. Blue*

        The biweekly notification that our electronic pay stubs are available always come marked low priority. I guess because you still want to get them, but it’s really not important at all (you access the pay stub the same way no matter what, the pay schedule is reliable, and everyone is on salary). Not sure if checking that box changes how Outlook handles the message, however.

      6. Koko*

        I use the low-priority flag to send my direct report small tasks that aren’t time-sensitive. It’s just an easy shorthand so I don’t have to write, “This is super-low priority, but when you have some room open up on your plate, can you-” every time.

        I also use the low-priority flag when I see an interesting article or piece of software that I think a coworker might want to check out, but I have no stake in whether or not they do. It’s an easy shorthand for, “Don’t stop what you’re doing for this, and I don’t expect any response or follow-up from you,” so I don’t have to write that every time.

      7. Ama*

        I communicated with a volunteer for a while who marked all her responses to me as low priority. Because she was a doctor I suspect it might have been her way of distinguishing within in her own email that the stuff from my org was primarily admin and event planning and thus not as high priority as her research and patient care, which I totally understand. I did notice she stopped doing it recently so I wonder if she found out that the senders could actually see those marks and came up with a different filing system.

      8. KellyK*

        I don’t know, I think anything that’s non urgent but still needs to be done (like a leave request for months in advance) is worth marking low priority.

      9. catsAreCool*

        I use low priority occasionally, when the e-mail is something that doesn’t matter so much if it takes a week or 2 for the person to get back to me. Oddly enough, people have tended to get back to me right away the last couple of times I used it.

    7. blackcat*

      My university administration uses it on announcements that effect everyone, immediately:
      Bomb threat! Don’t come to work!
      All power out on campus! University closing!
      Holy shit! More snow than we thought! Don’t come to work!
      Building on fire! Avoid that part of campus!

      Things with advanced warning do not get the red flag:
      Due to predicted severe weather, the university will be closed to tomorrow.
      As a reminder city is starting road on [X major road to university] on Monday.

      I find this generally appropriate.

      1. Cassie*

        What do they put in the subject line?

        Our emergency alerts have the subject line “Campus Alert” and then (if we’re lucky) a couple of words to describe the situation. Like “Campus Alert: Suspicious Package” or “Campus Alert: Robbery near campus”. Sometimes, though, there is nothing after “Campus Alert” so you have to read the email. At least the test messages say “Campus Alert Test” so you don’t think it’s an emergency, but I’ve heard many complaints from students/staff/faculty that they just ignore the campus alerts because we get so many test messages or messages that are not really critical.

        I’m looking at my Gmail inbox right now and I don’t even think there is a red flag option, is there? (in the headers of the message, it shows “priority: urgent; importance: high” so I guess if I was using Outlook, it would show up?

    8. The Bread burglar*

      I see the red exclamation point used correctly all the time.

      The problem is they all assume I will drop everything to help with their urgent thing. Nope nope nope. Just because you have poor planning skills doesn’t mean I can drop everything for you. Especially when you all think your stuff is urgent.

      1. Hush42*

        My boss likes to say “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine”. For the record he says this about Sales Reps not about me :)

    9. Koko*

      Most people where I work use them properly – as in, “This message legitimately needs an attention as quickly as possible, because our website is completely down and we’re losing money/open enrollment closes at the end of the day/this journalist has a 2 pm deadline,” etc.

      I do work with someone like OP’s coworker who marks every email he sends as urgent. And granted, he does usually want rapid turnaround on his request…but it’s usually because he didn’t give us a heads up two days prior that he was going to need this entirely predictable task done, and now he doesn’t want it to take two more days. Sigh.

      1. Judy*

        The last 3 ! emails I’ve received, they’re all from different people:

        Final Notice – Server Maintenance – Save Documents (15 minutes before server was taken down)
        Happy Thanksgiving (3pm on 23rd, mentioning it was fine to leave)
        Open enrollment ends today at 5pm (at noon)

    10. Emilia Bedelia*

      Agreed- I just don’t pay attention to the marks. It doesn’t annoy me at all- I read my emails and prioritize them myself according to my own schedule.

      Interestingly, I find that the ones marked “urgent” in my inbox currently are requests that I have been told, from the business side, are a low priority for me. Sorry, people who used those exclamation points, my business-aligned priorities are not changing!

    11. Office Plant*

      Yes. They’ve mostly been used appropriately in the places where I’ve worked. You do occasionally get that one person, though . . .

    12. Temperance*

      I have used it with my boss, but only if something is seriously urgent. Like, last time I used it, she was out of the office and a coworker’s son had an emergency.

    13. Valor*

      I think I used it once, hopefully effectively, in my previous job. There was a deadline for ordering new security cards or else yours wouldn’t arrive before the lock situation changed and you would be unable to enter your work site. I’m pretty sure I red-flagged the last email I sent about it before I hunted people down in person.

  9. Turanga Leela*

    OP #5, is there a last name you use socially? Have you thought about getting a legal name change? I did it, and it was pretty straightforward. I had to go to the courthouse a few times and pay for a notice in the local paper.

    On the flip side, sharing a last name with someone is not an endorsement of that person. Just because you are a von Flugel does not mean that you share the values of the von Flugel family. Many, many people are estranged from their families and continue to use their birth names—please don’t feel that keeping or using your birth name needs to mean anything about your relationship to your family.

    1. Artemesia*

      If it is a well known name or a rare name, then I can see not wanting the association; a change is not that hard to do. I have a SIL who did that — she dropped her rather ordinary last name for a fancier ‘stage name’ although her work is not that prominent in the arts. Part of it was a way of severing association with the father she was sideways with.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think the difficulty is that OP#5 does feel that their birth name reflects their relationship to their family. I totally understand the desire, when estranged, to remove all markers that could even remotely allow people to associate you with the bad-fam.

      But I agree with the others OP#5; if it’s causing you distress, it’s totally ok to change your last name. I have a handful of friends who have done so for various reasons, and none of them regretted it.

      1. Random Lurker*

        I get it – I have a strained family relationship. I was happy to take my husbands name when we married for that reason. But -professionaly speaking- go by your known legal name. Unless your surname is something polarizing, like “Trump”, or something infamously awful, like Dhamer, a potential employer is not going to be interested in your family. Don’t let the family relationship impede your job search. And going by “Just John!” will do just that.

        1. MsCHX*

          I’m 100% with the NO! on the single name thing.

          I think the last name thing can be extremely relevant. Especially if there is something epic associated with the last name and doubly so if they live in a small town.

    3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      On the flip side, sharing a last name with someone is not an endorsement of that person. Just because you are a von Flugel does not mean that you share the values of the von Flugel family.

      I’m imaging the OP in a situation I found myself in before I married: living in a small town where the last name matters so much more than it should. My maiden name has a horrible reputation in my small town and while I can’t *prove* it was the reason I could never get a job as a teenager in that town, I strongly suspect that it was. I never even got called, so not a bomb the interview situation. I actually drove 30 minutes away to work part-time all during high school. I still couldn’t get a job in town, even with the good references and work history, until I got married (my married name is very well-respected). I also got hired easily while away at college, again leading me to believe that I wasn’t doing something “wrong” other than having the wrong name. It’s unbelievably frustrating to have a last name that kills your chances before they’ll even meet you.

  10. MadGrad*

    As other people have mentioned above, there could be any number of reasons that the person in #1 gets regularly stressed and has outbursts. I honestly think any implication that my behaviour was due to my period – inappropriate or otherwise – would make me run seething out of any place, maybe with a stop at HR on my way out. It’s just not appropriate, and way rife with gross sexist implications. Seriously, put that notion entirely out of your mind and maybe don’t bring up health at all – just ask what’s going on when you address the bad behaviour pattern. I can’t imagine that any good can come of the period idea.

    1. Willis*

      Ditto. It reminds me of The Office. “Michael, whenever we get mad you ask if we’re on our periods.” “Well, I have to know if you’re serious or not.”

      1. Merida May*

        +100 I was coming here to say that, too! It’s a line right out of the Michael Scott playbook.

  11. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2: People often develop this habit because, in past jobs, their emails went unread and they were later blamed for not having completed work or conveyed information even though they did so in a timely manner. It only takes this happening two or three times before you start thinking it’s the norm to “underline” that you are in fact doing your job. Or it’s possible that there’s some element of her job that requires a response from you and not just quiet assurance that you’ll read the emails at some point that day. Is there a way to tell her something like, “Don’t worry, I really do read all the emails you send me and I retain the important information in them. Is there some kind of response you’re looking for or do you just want to make sure that nothing slips through the cracks?” This strikes me as a “just talk to her” scenario, with a dash of, “She picked up this habit in a past job and no one ever corrected it.”

    1. NJ Anon*

      This. I had to start requesting read reciepts on important emails to my boss because she had a very low response rate and I didn’t know if she read them or not. One day she said she noticed I had begun using them and asked did I want to talk about it. So I had to tell her exactly what I stated above. For a minute I thought it was a trick question! Boss: “why are you using read receipts on emails to me?” Me: (?) “Because you dont always respond and there are times I need to know you read them.” Awkward.

      1. Graciosa*

        My system is set to deny receipts across the board – I think they’re obnoxious – so that would have given you totally incorrect (lack of) information in my case.

        1. Ann Furthermore*

          They are horribly obnoxious. I think I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve used that feature in all the years I’ve been working. There are rare instances when it’s necessary, but for the most part, I never use them.

          1. NJ Anon*

            Oh, I agree. I normally don’t ever use them and find them extremely annoying. But when you have to let your boss know there isn’t enough money in the bank to make payroll and you can’t reach her by phone then I need to cover my own rear and make sure she knows what is going on. (She admits to being easily distracted as well.)

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          At my last company read receipts were used to highlight that the person HAS.NOT.RESPONDED to prior emails. And it was viewed as obnoxious as I typed it. The director of my department would write you up for using it because he knew what people were implying by using it.

          Here? It’s standard. Almost everyone has them on for every email. Very, very odd to me. And I have to assume that this company is in the minority with how much they use read receipts.

  12. Cat steals keyboard*

    #5 I’m also estranged. Sometimes worrying about things like this is a cover for how you’re really feeling eg feeling unsafe or wanting to be able to tell people you’re estranged but feeling unable to.

    What I did was tell my employer that I don’t want certain things made public eg my photo. There’s no real need to hide your name on an application. If you feel unsafe that’s something to discuss with a therapist and if needed with police. (Who were very helpful to me but I know that’s not everyone’s experience.)

    By the way the U.K. based organisation Stand Alone runs on and offline peer support groups for anyone who is estranged.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        I found it incredibly empowering when my name change came through, and doubly so at my new job where they’ve never known me by my old name at all.

    1. Estranged*

      I’ve been dealing with similar stuff. I’m in the process of sorting it all out. Sometimes you have to get some distance from a situation before you can see what legal and social issues were actually at play and how best to deal with it all.

  13. katamia*

    Re OP1, I slightly disagree about the script the OP should use to raise the issue. I don’t think they should suggest or imply that it’s a medical condition. I think I’d hear that and go “Yikes, they’re trying to imply it’s PMS” when several people have already raised non-medical possibilities in comments here and there are probably a lot more non-medical possibilities that people haven’t mentioned yet. And I know people have already said this, but it bears repeating: many, many women are either irregular or are regular but not for the stereotypical 28-day/four-week cycle, so there is a decent chance (I couldn’t possibly give a percentage range here) that these moods do not line up with her menstrual cycle.

    Re OP2, I’ve seen people on AAM talk about how much they hate it when coworkers mark a lot of their emails highly important, but I’ve never seen this in the wild (and, being self-employed, haven’t actually had coworkers for awhile). I have to admit I don’t really get what’s so bad about it, although it would never occur to me to do it myself. Does Outlook or whatever email program you use actually treat these emails any differently (e.g., sending them all to the top and making it hard to find other emails you need, pinging you when they come in when you’d rather it not)?

    1. Alienor*

      At least for the version of Outlook I use, it treats them the same as other emails, they just have an exclamation mark next to them. (And TBH I usually don’t pay any attention to the exclamation mark anyway. Unless it’s from an executive or has a subject line that clearly indicates it’s on fire, it’ll have to wait its turn.)

      1. Graciosa*

        You can set your inbox to sort by importance in every version of Outlook I’ve seen, which causes all the reds to appear at the top – but it doesn’t happen unless you choose to sort that way.

        1. Alienor*

          I think it’s “arrange by priority” in Outlook for Mac (the one I have). But I’m a pretty obsessive email checker, so odds are I’ll see everything as it arrives anyway.

    2. hbc*

      If no one uses the importance tag, then it’s probably easy to ignore it (though a red exclamation mark does tend to draw the eye.) But if you have nine people trying to use them effectively and consistently–say, once a month–and the tenth uses five a day, you’re losing signal from those other people.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      To me, it’s the “boy who cried wolf” issue. If something comes in marked “highly important”, I’d prioritise it, because that’s what the function is for, and I’d assume it’s something I need to know right away. But if 75% of mails from one person were marked like this, but the contents were obviously not that important, I’d probably end up rolling my eyes and putting them to the bottom of the list without reading them, and risk missing something I actually needed to know.

      1. Anon in NOVA*

        Yes. It can be stressful if there’s a likelihood that ignoring an ACTUALLY important email could lead to consequences. If they’re going to go “well I marked it urgent!” and put you in the position of saying “yes well ALL of his emails are urgent, I didn’t know that one really was!” I can imagine finding it stressful and irritating.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        It can be very dramatic! I’m sorry you are missing out.

        I just dug out a couple emails I sent on the subject, few years back now, everybody is currently beaten into shape. I had a graphic I stole from google images with a huge red flag and then under it big red letters: RED FLAG WARNING ISSUED. I sent that in reply to a few unnecessarily red flagged emails. :-)

        One reply to the graphic was “Lmao! I know, I just wanted you to yell. ”


        So yes, you’re missing out. :-)

    4. Koko*

      Outlook can treat the emails differently if you’ve organized your inbox to bump ! messages to the top, or if you’ve set up rules that highlight ! messages in a different color, etc., which a lot of people I know have done, but I don’t believe it does anything differently by default.

      For me it’s not so much that it bothers me as it makes me hard eyeroll the person overusing them, gradually begin to lose respect for their requests, and eventually start asking people at happy hour, “So…do you ever get any emails from Fergus that aren’t urgent?” (i.e. making fun of Fergus at happy hour).

      1. E*

        Thanks for sharing this info, I didn’t realize I could color code my inbox so that it’s easier to see emails from my boss(es). This is so much better!

        1. Koko*

          I make heavy use of Outlook’s Categories feature. It’s what my inbox is primarily sorted by, so that even if I sort by sender name or date or subject line, it sorts within categories. Everything that’s uncategorized is an email I need to archive, or assign an inbox category to depending on what type of project I need it for.

          Then when I’m working on projects I can quickly find all the emails I need grouped together by themselves in the right category, and as I complete tasks I uncategorize them and archive them. It helps me not to lose track of random requests I get from other people when I see them still filed in my “Respond” category (for emails that need my response before the end of the day or sooner) or my “Do” category (for requests I need to take action on), and also keeps those emails from drowning out the emails I’m saving to work on my long-term projects. I try to get my uncategorized emails down to zero before I log off every day so I can be 100% sure I’m on top of everything.

    5. LBK*

      It’s not so much the ! itself that’s annoying, it’s that it tends to be abused by entitled people who think everything they want should be your #1 priority. It’s like when you get a panicked voicemail from someone saying to call them back RIGHT AWAY and you call back and it’s some completely routine, non-urgent question.

  14. Marzipan*

    #4, if offering to always be the cover when your collages are out would impact too heavily on your own workload, you could always propose a rota for this along with your boss (and anyone else who can cover this work or who could be trained to). Having that predictability of ‘this time may be interrupted by covering other tasks, but *this* time won’t be’ may be helpful in arranging things so your own work doesn’t suffer.

    1. katamia*

      I like this idea. I’m worried about OP4 getting overworked or not being able to finish their own work, and this seems like a fair compromise that would help get a little more structure into the situation while still giving OP4 time to do their own work.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, I have been the sole backup staff before and it seems like such a good idea until you wind up on coverage for two weeks straight because of a flu epidemic or alternating vacations. We have a very elaborate rotation here with four people covering our one front desk position and it seems to work really well.

  15. Jen RO*

    I read #4 differently: OP is offering to be the backup for *some* tasks, not everything the co-workers do… so this would have a lesser impact. We do this in my team and it works great: if Team Lead is away, John allocates projects to the rest of the team, Amy attends the planning meeting, Jane monitors the shared inbox and Ben takes on TL’s writing work. When TL gets back she knows exactly who to ask for updates on each task.

      1. OP#4*

        Well, yes. But as it’s a matter of increasing my boss’ workload and increasing mine, I’d rather increase mine if it means that he has more time to meet with me to discuss projects, etc. rather than covering for the receptionist. Also if certain tasks don’t get done, it makes my job more difficult so I’d rather be proactive and make sure things don’t spiral into a giant chaos situation like they are now.

    1. OP#4*

      Yeah, that’s what I meant: that I’d take over some tasks, not that I’d do all of the absent person’s job.

  16. Willis*

    #2 – When I was in college (and email was somewhat new…yikes), I had a classmate who used to send all his emails to our professor tagged ‘high priority.’ The professor asked him about it in class once and he said he thought they got there faster that way. :)

  17. Newish Reader*

    #4: While I completely understand the desire to want to be helpful, keep in mind that by finding a solution to your coworkers’ last-minute absences, that could just be putting a bandaid on a situation that your boss should be addressing. Presumably, there is a full week of work for your two coworkers need to complete each week. If they are each out once a week or once every other week unexpectedly, that is a performance issue.

    You noted your boss in non-confrontational, so if the work is still getting done in the coworkers’ absences by someone else, your boss is off the hook for dealing with the absences head-on. If the boss is the one having to cover, that could be more motivational for the boss to act.

    I currently have a coworker that is on a PIP and one of the main issues is the amount of time spent away from the office. I’m sure it’s a coincidence many of the unplanned days when he called out were Mondays and Fridays. There are other issues as well, but consistent and dependenable attendance are part of having a job.

    1. katamia*

      Yeah. Unless they both have FMLA or something similar, the boss should be taking steps to improve the absences. OP wouldn’t necessarily know that, though.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      Actually, the OP said that the boss IS the one providing most of the coverage, and it sounds like only asking the rest of the team to pitch in when they reach hair-on-fire stage, instead of having an organized coverage plan (or, like you said, actually dealing with the absence issue).

      1. Newish Reader*

        Right, it does sound like the boss is the one providing the majority of the coverage currently. My point was that if the LW volunteers to take on much of that coverage, that could just be providing a bandaid. Once the boss is no longer having to provide the bulk of the coverage, what is the incentive for a non-confrontational boss to deal with the actual issue (in this case significant unplanned absences)?

        It is important for workplaces to have plans for coverage for normal usage of vacation time and typical unplanned absences that are just part of life. And to create plans as needed for the larger life situations that occur sporadically (FMLA, bereavement, etc.). But in this case it sounds like the coworkers are taking advantage and being out unexpectedly way more than should normally be expected. It is not the LW’s responsibility to find a solution if the boss is not willing to address the actual issue. If the boss is addressing the issue, then the solution should occur as an outcome of that.

  18. Temperance*

    Lw4 – not knowing what you do, your gender, or what your colleagues do, I’m going to advise you *not* to take on tasks that are lower-level. You’re in tech, not a receptionist.

    Your company needs a plan. You don’t have to be it.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      Yes! I concur fully, especially if the dynamic is employee = female and boss = male, which is how I read the letter, but I know that may not be correct. If the other position is not on par or nearly on par with your tech position, I would be concerned about appearances. Rightly or wrongly, it can be detrimental when females take on lower level positions/duties beneath their own, sometimes resulting in their higher level achievements being underrecognized or glossed over.

      1. Temperance*

        Yep. Jill becomes to go-to to cover for the receptionist, while Kyle never gets assigned that work, so Kyle is seen as superior and gets better assignments. Even without the superiority, he’s getting more interesting/important work while she answers the phone, which has a negative impact on her career.


        1. Kate*

          I started at my company as reception, and despite having all the experience and training for it whenever my boss was asked if I could cover for it she explained I was super busy with other things. She pulled me aside one day when someone complained in my hearing to be sure I understood that it wasn’t that my project was so important (I knew it wasn’t), but that she knew I had potential for advancement that would be squashed if people saw me as a glorified door opener (building that needed pass card access… but receptionist could buzz people in).
          She was a great boss and I really missed her when she left!

        2. OP#4*

          Luckily the Jill/Kyle thing doesn’t happen because almost all the salaried employees with the professional titles in our department are male and all of us hourly employees are female. Yay glass elevator.

          But that division isn’t universal for my field, just the elite institution I belong to, so I agree that it’s wise on a professional development side to not be too helpful. As I said above, I just want my boss to not have to do reception so that maybe he can do what I need him to do.

          1. Temperance*

            Yeah, I’m hardcore advising you against doing receptionist work, specifically, or at the VERY least, ensuring that the men on your team are also forced to cover. Don’t keep yourself in that pink ghetto.

    2. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

      Totally agree here. If you were hired for your tech skills and you fill in doing reception type work, your credibility as a tech may be impacted. Let the company and your boss figure out how to cover absences. This is their problem to solve, not yours.

      Volunteer for nothing!

    3. J.B.*

      Also, to add to this…I have a colleague who always tries so hard to be helpful that it gets in the way of our workgroup’s priorities. A couple of times I have nicely responded back that we will be doing it some other way and declined to help with the new task. It has definitely gotten in the way of things she really should have been doing.

      Short version: talk to your boss about the chaos, but don’t volunteer for anything additional. Prioritize your today job first and push back only as far as things interfere with your today job. That reflects your value to the organization, even if it kills you to have customers getting service that isn’t as good.

    4. Allison*

      Agree! I know we should all be willing to step up and pitch in when needed, especially at small companies or on small teams where people wear many hats. That said, being a “helper” can hurt you, whether you take on those tasks or people start asking you to do stuff, and then keep asking you because you were so good at it, and suddenly you’re their helper! You want people to see you as being good at your job, first and foremost, and being a “helper” can detract from that. Especially if you’re a woman.

      Unfortunately, when there’s no admin in sight and someone needs a “helper” to do something admin-related, like sign for a package or escort the bagel guy to the upstairs kitchen, they nearly always ask the nearest woman if she would be so kind as to do it for them. That’s an issue, because these women know if they say no they could get a reputation for having a bad attitude, but if they do it they’ll be more likely to get asked to do other, admin-related things, regardless of what they do at the company.

      I need to stop wearing ModCloth . . . those vintage-looking dresses probably don’t help . . .

      1. Temperance*

        It’s not your clothes, it’s your gender. You’re not an admin, so no need to do their tasks.

  19. Temperance*

    LW1: or could be mental health issues – you mention that she has Issues in her home life. You need to address her behavior, not the cause.

  20. Murphy*

    OP#1: I maybe wouldn’t say “regular 4 week intervals” since everyone can read between the lines and know what that probably means, even if you’re not coming out and saying it. Maybe just “every few weeks”? It may soften the language a little bit.

  21. The Bread burglar*

    I get depressed evrry 4 weeks. It has nothing to do with the state of my uterus and more to do with my monthly call home to my grandparents.

    I live far away and don’t get to see them and they helped raise me so I am very attached. Its difficult to see them and know I am so far away. Especially when I hear about all the things they love that they are losing the ability to do because of health.

    If you suggested anything to do with health or made the implication it was because of pms. I would be furious. It is not your place to try and guess what is going on with my body. I don’t assume my male colleagues being grumpy is automatically due to erectile dysfunction (what its the closest thing I could think of). Don’t assume you know whats going on with her just because shes a woman.

    1. Emi.*

      I second this! You might be wrong in guessing it’s PMS-related, and even if you’re right, it’s obnoxious and inappropriate. (And if you are right, I guarantee you wouldn’t be the first person to bring it up to her.)

    2. Myrin*

      I’m delighted by the thought of everyone assuming that any man who is grumpy must be so because of erectile dysfunction!

      1. CM*

        “Bob is yelling at the secretary again… I think SOMEBODY is having erectile dysfunction!” “Yeah, no kidding. Just avoid Bob during the last week of the month, you know how he gets when he has erectile dysfunction!”

  22. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#1….I don’t dislike/disagree with Alison’s advice about mentioning a possible medical issue, but whether or not I’d use that phrasing would definitely depend upon other information I knew about the employee that isn’t disclosed here and you may not even have. However, if you do decide to use it, I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing changes. It’s like telling someone who presents as obviously depressed that they’re depressed. Many people often don’t see the forest for the trees and would tell you they’re not depressed. I’ve seen this with menopausal women quite a bit. For some reason, there is a very distinct resistance to admitting that major hormonal changes have drastically impacted their mood and reactions to certain situations and they will attribute their behavior to it being cloudy outside before admitting that they’re menopausal and having a tough go of it. (Not to say that resistance isn’t understandable in a professional environment due to potential perceptions/stigmas and the like)

    I’d stick with addressing the behaviors and their impact in the workplace because, as so many others have said, it could be any number of things that are causing the employee to react in the manner that she is. And if she’s really emotional and prone to outbursts, do you want her reading between the lines, getting upset, and yelling “THEY THINK I HAVE PMS!!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!!!”

    1. KiteFlier*

      “I’ve seen this with menopausal women quite a bit. For some reason, there is a very distinct resistance to admitting that major hormonal changes have drastically impacted their mood and reactions to certain situations and they will attribute their behavior to it being cloudy outside before admitting that they’re menopausal and having a tough go of it.”

      Because attributing feelings towards a hormone surge or lack thereof completely invalidates that person’s feelings.

      1. Emi.*


        Chalking someone’s feelings up to hormones is so, so obnoxious (and also stupid, because hormones are involved in all emotions–what if I went around telling men “You’re not *really* stressed, it’s just cortisol”?).

        Hormones might be affecting the way people process their feelings, and in theory this shouldn’t be any more fraught than the fact that I’m more likely to snap when I have the flu, but in practice it’s really hard to bring it up and not sound like you’re trying to deny the reality or justification of someone else’s emotions. (No, this is not about how the mean widdle feminists are too sensitive. It’s about how saying things that are easily misinterpreted is bad management.)

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        Going through depression, it was a relief to learn that a significant contributor to the depression was faulty brain chemistry that could be treated and fixed. Rather than a personality defect or a core part of my being. It became just another illness to treat and fix through drugs and therapy. Just like you’d treat a broken ankle.

        I don’t think you should invalidate feelings, but being able to identify a chemical or process that is out of balance can really help some people.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          It may be helpful for a person to identify a chemical that is out of balance in their own body, but it is not helpful for a coworker to decide that what you’re feeling is really just hormones from menopause.

          1. Nerdling*

            Especially because the basic emotion might well legitimately be how I feel, and only the outward expression of said emotion is magnified to a noticeably whacked level. As in, you hit me in the head with the microwave door, so I’m hurt and annoyed – that’s legitimate emotion – but my brain chemistry pushes the reaction to that pain and annoyance to 11, so I’m yelling at you with tears in my eyes over an accident – that’s whacked. But it doesn’t mean that the initial annoyance and pain aren’t real.

        2. Former Retail Manager*

          That is what I meant. Oftentimes, the reason for the drastic change in mood or personality is hormones due to menopause. It ‘s just a fact. If that’s the reason for a lady’s issues, I think it’s unfortunate that they cannot simply say that and treat it, just as you would depression, or any other ailment. The stigma that comes with saying things are hormonal, even when it’s true and regardless of gender, is just unfortunate.

          1. Emma*

            Yeah, I’m with you. The “it must be hormones” thing angers me not because it is/isn’t hormonal (it might be!) but because of the idea that if my mood is influenced by my hormones, it’s obviously illegitimate. Hormones influence you. That’s kind of their job. I just wish we could talk openly about how our hormones affect us without getting dismissed as silly women (as if men don’t have their own hormones).

  23. Gandalf the Nude*

    OP #2, I actually asked a similar question in the open thread a couple weeks ago. What ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs suggested and I found helped me was to create an Outlook rule that changes all of my person’s correspondence to normal importance. Just seeing the little exclamation point was annoying and stressing and made me de-prioritize his messages (his were never truly urgent). But removing the flag removed the trigger and let me prioritize appropriately without getting frustrated at his lack of judgment.

  24. discarvard*

    LW1- try making a list of every possible non-period related reason (bills due, unpleasant monthly work activity, family issues) and read over it until you internalize those reasons as the more likely cause. Then, when you speak with her, only suggest that. (“I realize this is difficult for you, but this is affecting all of us and happens regularly; if you are having trouble with the spout realigning duties every month, please let us know.”) Don’t stress the exact timing. On the off chance it is period related, she will know; on the likely chance it isn’t, your relationship will be preserved.

    1. Liane*

      And you avoid Kristine, Diane, and everyone else who knows about the issue deciding you’re just another Gross Jerkboss. Priceless.

  25. J.B.*

    OP#1: I am dealing with a kids behavior that is biologically related (not PMS!) and not entirely in her control. But you know what? It doesn’t matter to the people she comes across. If she’s treating someone badly, it is not their problem to live with. She needs to find ways to cope. How she treats other people matters.

    Here, you have an employee who you describe as good but with strong emotional reactions to both work and life situations. So what? Does it matter if something is caused by work or outside of work? What matters is taking out emotions on colleagues or her work suffering due to the emotion. Your job as a boss is to focus on the impact – not on the cause. She needs to knock it off because of the people around her. If she has something so disruptive going on in her personal life, she may need leave or something – BUT she can’t take it out on her colleagues!

    1. Myrin*

      Exactly. This is one of these situations we actually encounter quite often on here, where it’s basically entirely irrelevant what the cause of X behaviour is, it’s only important that it be addressed. And addressed not by phrases like “every four weeks” but “regularly” or “again and again” to make the point that this is a recurring pattern.

    2. Stellaaaaa*

      This is a tough situation because it’s so gendered, but in general, I think it can be helpful to say something like, “I don’t know if you’re aware of how blatant X behavior has been, but it’s really easy for people to draw Y conclusion or at least make Z assumption.” It’s a good motivator to realize that other people aren’t oblivious. In this case, the employee is having outbursts that may be directed at other employees. Even if OP isn’t drawing conclusions, the rest of the staff might be. We’ve all had that coworker who had no clue that they were making their relationship or family business much more public than they realized and I think it’s a kindness (and a good impetus to fix the problem) to not hedge around the fact that people can use their eyes and see how she’s acting.

    3. Ann Furthermore*

      I managed someone once who was bipolar. When we interviewed her, she came across as very, very bright and enthusiastic. And she absolutely was. Then about 6 months after she started, she stopped taking her meds — not an assumption on my part; she told me she had. Then she started having emotional outbursts, and was so scattered that she couldn’t focus on anything, and people really started having a hard time working with her. It was a difficult situation to deal with. As her manager, I couldn’t tell her to go back on her meds, all I could do was tell her that this or that behavior needed to stop, or that she needed to start meeting her deadlines again, and so on. I also told her that the only thing within control was her reaction to a person or situation. The most I could do was recommend using the EAP. What I wanted to tell her was to keep looking until she found a doctor that she liked and could work with, and who would be open to tweaking her dosages of medication, or trying different meds (or supplements) altogether. My sister’s husband is bi-polar, and that’s what they finally did when she was at the end of her rope. They found a doctor they liked, and they finally landed on a specific dosage of some medication, plus fish oil supplements. It literally saved their marriage. But of course, HR told me I couldn’t tell her how to handle her health and medical issues. I understood why, but it was frustrating to be unable to really talk to her. I ended up moving into another role, and the next manager only documented what he needed to in order to fire her.

      I really felt terrible for her. She was SO smart, and her bipolar condition really impacted her career development and how she was regarded in the workplace. Her judgement in some areas wasn’t great either; she dated a few people in other departments, handled it badly when things didn’t work out, and word eventually got around. She would tell me about these things, and I would just inwardly cringe, but again, as her manager, I had to be careful about what I said. I think I kept it limited to pretty innocuous comments. She was raised by a single mother with (it sounded like to me) the same condition that had never been diagnosed, and so her childhood was pretty tumultuous, plus her mom stole her SSN and completely ruined her credit before she was 18, which took her years to get straightened out. But she did it, and put herself through school, and really overcame some significant challenges. When she was on her meds, there was nothing she couldn’t do, but when she would decide to stop taking them, everything would unravel. I know this is not an uncommon story, but it’s the only time I’ve witnessed it up close.

      One of the things I had to coach her on was slowing down and letting people catch up to her because she picked things up so quickly. I told her once that she was usually at least 5, and sometimes 10, steps ahead of everyone else, but she had to stop assuming everyone was moving at the same speed. Sometimes she would come into my cube and sit down and start talking as if we were in the middle of a conversation, and I would have to tell her to rewind and start from the beginning.

      1. Duffel of Doom*

        Man. I think this is the exact situation we just went through with a coworker. We don’t know for sure, but we’re pretty convinced she stopped taking her meds after a personal meltdown. She promptly turned into the most difficult person I’ve ever met- stepping on toes in order to prove herself the best, being outright condescending to our more junior coworker, dominating all meetings with oversharing, etc. Unfortunately it was poorly handled by management here, but she luckily quit before she caused any major damage (we’re in HR).

    4. Alton*

      Yep. This is something that I work hard to remember as someone who struggles with depression and anxiety. Just because I might have an “excuse” doesn’t mean it’s okay to take it out on people, or that it wouldn’t be a problem if my issues regularly caused problems for other people.

      I think it can be different if it’s a temporary thing. Like, if you know someone is going through a rough patch or just had a death in the family, it’s important to be reasonably understanding. But if it becomes a pattern where someone becomes noticeably upset every month, that starts to become an issue regardless of the cause, and just looking the other way might not be okay.

  26. Imaginary Number*

    OP #2: The red-exclamation of doom is usually utilized so poorly that I don’t even see it anymore. It could be anything from something super-important deadline to a “Hey, today’s the last day to join fantasy football!”

    1. Czhorat*

      I don’t always include my mailing address. IN these days of electronic communications it might be an anachronism to include it. Nobody is replying to you via post.

      1. Not Karen*

        That’s not the purpose of an address… It’s so employers know how far away from the office you live, so if you need to move before starting the job, or will have a really long commute and they worry about your longevity, etc.

        1. Natalie*

          Eh, I’m sure it’s used that way but the convention actually exists because these things used to be done by mail. But since it’s a largely unnecessary question I don’t think anyone would be horrified if it was left off.

          (It’s also worth noting that your address might introduce unconscious bias, if you live in a “People X neighborhood” or what have you.)

          1. NJ Anon*

            I won’t interview anyone who leaves their address off their resume. What are they trying to hide? Are you seriously going to take a 10 hour/week job when you live 1.5 hours away?

            1. kb*

              A missing address isn’t a good reason to immediately disqualify a good candidate. I know people have left their addresses off for all sorts of logical reasons or no reason at all. I left my address off when I applied to a part-time job in college because I lived ~extremely~ close and didn’t want to become the #1 emergency fall-back person. I know people leave it off while house-hunting. I think the necessity for addresses on resumes is gone now that most employers will reach out electronically rather than by traditional mail.

              1. Talvi*

                My main motivator for leaving my address off my resume is space. An email address takes up one line (and depending on how you’ve arranged things, it could be on the same line as e.g. your name and your phone number). A mailing address will take up at least two, possibly 3-4, depending on where you live/if it’s complicated enough.

                Space on resumes is at a premium – I’m not going to waste it on a mailing address.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But it’s considered a standard part of the resume that it’s convention to have. Wanting to save space isn’t a great reason to leave that off and if you’re finding you need to, that’s a flag to edit more.

    2. Technical Editor & Resume Reviewer*

      I don’t, and I advise my clients not to. You never know where the resume will end up — even on the larger internet by some clueless HR lady with a blog.

      City and state is really all that’s needed these days.

    3. Allison*

      I don’t need to see someone’s street address, but if I’m screening candidates for a position that has to be in a specific office (no remote option, no relocation assistance), I either need to see on the resume that the candidate is already local, or I need to see in the cover letter that the person is planning to move here on their own dime for personal reasons, like moving in with a significant other or moving to be closer to family. If you don’t mention where you live, I’ll assume it’s because you’re not local and are trying to make us fall in love with you, so when you finally say “oh but here’s the thing, I live on the other side of the country” or “so actually, I live in Europe and would need visa assistance” we’ll be willing to make special concessions because at that point we have to have you.

      Or I can cross reference your resume with your LinkedIn and social media pages to see where you’re living these days. But I’d rather people just be honest about where in the world they are.

    4. sylph*

      Leaving it on is a good way to indicate you’re local (if that’s relevant to your search and not otherwise obvious).

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s increasingly common for people to leave it off, but unless you have a very good reason for doing so, I’d include it because it will make many employers wonder if you’re trying to hide that you’re not local.

      1. Natalie*

        If you’ve included your most recent job, isn’t it going to be fairly obvious that your local even without your address?

          1. Natalie*

            Huh, I guess a lot of the resume formats I’ve seen include the city, so it’s basically always obvious. Is that not standard?

        1. Allison*

          Not always. Sometimes people work for satellite offices, or companies that aren’t well known so I’d have to look up where they’re located, or they worked for the company remotely. Just because information seems obvious to you doesn’t mean it’s obvious to everyone.

          1. Not Karen*

            Just because information seems obvious to you doesn’t mean it’s obvious to everyone.

            When I was looking for a job during my final time in graduate school in Canada, I had my Canadian address on my resume because I thought that was the most honest thing to do. I thought it was going to be obvious to US employers that I’m a US citizen since every single job and my undergraduate school were in the US. Apparently not because interviewers asked about my citizenship so often it made me wonder if the companies who didn’t respond at all to my applications did so because they just assumed I needed sponsorship.

  27. Hannah*

    #1 – As a woman who experiences PMS and in all sorts of up and down moods during specific times of the month, it’s no excuse to have emotional outbursts. You learn to control it, especially at work.

      1. Hannah*

        Lol. Very other few instances would there be emotional outbursts by a woman every 28 days. It’s quite clear what’s going on.

        1. HannahS*

          Whoa, that’s not true at all! Lots of people on this thread, men included, have commented on monthly things that stress them out.

        2. Liane*

          News Flash! Lots of women DO NOT have 28 day cycles! No. Matter. What!
          Mine never were. Heck, a relative of mine doesn’t even have regular cycles on birth control pills.

          Several folks must have been sick when their Non-Major’s Bio 101 professor covered Human Reproduction, bless their hearts.

          (Types the woman with a Zoology degree–who just used up her lifetime exclamation point supply.)

  28. Katie the Fed*

    “I think you can legitimately point out to Kristine or her manager that this happens at regular four-week intervals, but I wouldn’t speculate to either of them about why that might be.”

    Oh I wouldn’t even do that. The implication is clear. I would just talk about periodic outbursts that are making you all walk on eggshells. The behavior needs to stop, regardless of the reason.

  29. Allison*

    #1, PMS can definitely make me cranky sometimes. Generally I just have a lower tolerance for BS, and sometimes it’s just because I have less energy, and/or I’m frustrated because I’m bloating and breaking out. That said, it doesn’t cause outbursts at work, and if it did it would be on me to solve the issue. No hormonal, physical, or psychological problem grants someone a free pass to be a jerk.

    I agree with others you need to address the behavior. “Jane, you seem to be getting very upset every few weeks. Everyone gets upset sometimes, but this behavior isn’t normal, and it’s impacting [our team/your career]. I need you to figure out what’s really causing you to get so upset, and get a better handle on your emotions at work.”

    1. BPT*

      Right, like I don’t always like the implication that PMS does not have an impact on women’s moods and feelings. Like, yeah, PMS can make me a little more emotional. Also, if I’m having bad cramps, you can bet I’m going to be a little more cranky. Anyone who says can be 100% on when they’ve got shooting pains going through their body is either superhuman or lying.

      BUT, it’s not a woman thing. It’s a human thing. Men also have hormonal fluctuations that affect their moods. Just because it doesn’t coincide with bodily bleeding doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. But people don’t try to calendar out men’s reactions to their hormonal fluctuations.

      This is all irrelevant though. My feeling bad because of my period doesn’t mean that it’s my work’s problem. I either control it well enough to work, or I take a sick day. (Although I would suggest workplaces having enough sick days to deal with things like this or be open from working from home.) That’s not to say that I’m going to judge someone for being emotional at work once or twice – everyone has a bad day, regardless of reason. But if it’s a recurring thing, that’s something they need to work on, also regardless of reason.

      1. Allison*

        Sometimes I have worked from home when I’m cranky or moody, and known I’d be . . . less than a joy to be around. Depressive episode, breakup, presidential election, I know myself enough to know when I should keep myself away from other humans. But not everyone gets that privilege.

  30. EmmaUK*

    People are being so cavalier about PMS but for some women it can be a nightmare. Do some Googling into it. It’s a legitimate problem that deserves to be treated as such.

    1. Mustache Cat*

      I don’t think people are being necessarily cavalier about PMS, but rather that they are pointing out OP1’s speculation on that point is completely baseless. There are a large number of other possible causes, as suggested in the comments above. The behavior needs to be addressed: the speculation on the root cause is not helpful.

      If it is indeed PMS, once the cycle of behavior is pointed out to this woman, she is fully capable of counting her own periods and coming to her own realization about any medical issues she might have. No need for OP1 to bring it up.

    2. JB (not in Houston)*

      I don’t think anyone here has been cavalier about it? We’ve just said that your coworkers shouldn’t be tracking your periods, or implying that women are biologically predisposed to be hysterical/irrational every month, or letting a coworker treat other coworkers badly every month.

    3. Kathleen Adams*

      I agree that nobody is being cavalier. What we are saying, I think, is “OP, quite trying to diagnose a coworker! You don’t have the data!”

      Trying to diagnose somebody when all you’ve got are some very vague symptoms that can be caused by any number of things (1) is not helpful, (2) is intrusive, (3) has a high chance of being inaccurate (because while severe PMS exists, it’s not actually that common) and (4) is more than a bit…icky.

      What the OP should do is what he would do if the employee having these problems were a man – he should address any work-related issues and leave off speculating about anybody’s monthly cycles.

  31. Nolan*

    #1 reminds me of the episode of Parks and Recreation where it’s revealed that Pawnee city councilmen tracked any active councilwoman’s period and would use that information to invalidate any arguments she had against the group. Don’t be like Councilman Milton!

    Also, not everyone experiences mood swings or pms symptoms. And I feel like most of the people who do, don’t have this kind of reaction to it, with notable outbursts interrupting their jobs. I’d assume some kind of external force was causing stress.

  32. Tomato Frog*

    For a while last year when I was the confidante for three different people’s complaints about their book club meetings. Book club rage is real.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    I find using a white exclamation point or flag is better–it’s friendlier and more likely to get a response

  34. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Re: last names; my good friend moved from Pakistan as a toddler. She then married another guy who immigrated as a child.

    She took his name, and it was a common but clearly very Middle Eastern name. And then she decided to keep her maiden name as a middle name.

    With two very closely heritage-related names, imagine employers’ surprise when they basically get someone so immersed in American culture she might as well ride into the office on a bald eagle!

    And, since she doesn’t wear a hijab, she’s often mistaken differently if people don’t know her last name; they think she must be Latina. Perversely, after Trump, this has protected her from the worst harassment; but it’s the wrong kind! People use anti-Hispanic insults instead.

  35. EJ*

    Stay away from anything female/PMS related! Unfortunately, women are already subjected to everyone think a mood swing is PMS related. Men can just as easily have mood swings and hormone influxes! She could have un-diagnosed bi-polar disorder… or something diagnosed that she wishes to not share with the office [because it’s medical and private].


    You might want to look into legally changing your last name. No one will frown upon that, especially if you are estranged from your family.

    My brother in law actually changed his last name, so he would no longer be associated with his father’s last name and family. Also, my husband is thinking out legally changing his first name to his nickname, which everyone knows him by. He’s the “third” of his namesake, but it’s bad blood with his fathers side the the family also, and he doesn’t want to be associated with it.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Males don’t really get hormone influxes unless there are some very serious medical issues going on. Mood swings though definitely.

      1. Mookie*

        Aging and emotional stress may or may not count as serious medical issues, but they’re going to happen to everyone, and given the comparatively high frequency of thyroid, diabetic, and pancreatic problems — not to mention plain old hormone therapy — the bulk of humans experience fluctuating hormone levels (induced and “natural”) at every stage in their lives. Biological essentializing — reducing adult women to a reproductive process in order to neatly explain complex behavior — is both bad science and bad long-term management strategy.

  36. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I think it’s probably more to do with money, or stress at work, than PMS.

    I do contract work, and am snippy for the first two weeks of a new project because I haven’t been paid yet, and may not have a full or even any paycheck from my last one to hold me over.

  37. Brett*

    I was in that exact situation several years ago. I was waiting on an offer from company A and company G based in Mountain View, CA, contacted me out of the blue for an interview. I passed the first round, and they wanted to fly me out for an in-person round. I did inform company A that I had made the next round of interviews with company G and told company G that I was waiting for an offer from company A (which I think made company G move a little faster).

    The reality of my situation was that for personal reasons I preferred company A, but if company A fell through or fell significantly short on their offer I was certainly not going to pass up a chance with company G.

    End result: Company A sped up their offer (people told me it was the fastest background check they had ever seen) and got it to me in days. I informed company G that I was taking the offer and would not need to fly out. I realized now that they did not care about spending the money, but keeping everyone informed put me on good terms with company G for a long time. I made an effort to keep in touch with them (via linkedin, conferences, etc) and there were no hard feelings about me not continuing the process with them. I think even if I had flown out though, it would have been the same.

  38. Solidus Pilcrow*

    Letter # 1,
    It took me a little while to pin down what is wrong about assuming the cause of the employee’s outbursts is her period. All the discussion about sexism and reducing women to a uterus is true and valid. However, it’s not the point. Because, unless you are her doctor or therapist, ** the cause does not matter, only the behavior. **

    This is really not so different than when the internet begins speculating that someone’s awkward or jerkish behavior is because of Autism or armchair diagnosing a personality disorder.

    OP, assume you are correct and her menstrual cycle is the cause. What can you do about it? How does that change the problem you need to solve? You can’t order her to see a GYN and get hormone therapy or stop work for 3 days a month.

    Now let’s assume it’s one of the non-menstrual reasons other commenters have tossed out. Let’s say she has a jerk ex-husband and his monthly child visitations give her a huge amount of stress. You can’t impede court ordered visitation and you can’t stop the ex from being a jerk.

    In either case, all you and other managers/supervisors can do is address the resulting behavior because you can’t (and shouldn’t) cure the underlying cause. I suppose you could recommend EAP or mandate that the employee get some counseling like yesterday’s update with the mooching employee, but that’s pretty much the extent of what you as a manager can do.

  39. LadyPhoenix*

    OP #1: DO NOT assume Kristeine’s behavior is her period. If you asked that kind of a question, you petty set your self up for sexual harasment because either:
    A. You assume that her emotions are invalid and that she can’t make decisions because of hormones
    B. You’re an invasive creepazoid who is keeping track of her periods when you are not her partner or parent
    C. All of the above

    For all you know, this could be the week her rent is due, or she has tobabysit so eone she dispises, or she has a class with someone she hates. Women can get pissd off without needing hormones, thank you very much.

    So when you sit down, you should state your issue like this:
    “I have noticed that around this time of the month, your behavior changes negatively. Are you having any problem that could be hurting your work flow? Is there anything the company can do to assist you?”

    DON’T bring up medical problems. Let her admit what the exact problem is.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Let’s not go overboard here. It’s not sexual harassment to say, “Hey, I’ve noticed this is happening at regular intervals and could there be a solution that involves working with your doctor?”

      The OP shouldn’t assume it’s being caused by Kristine’s period for all the reasons that have already been covered, but there’s nothing to indicate that she assumes her emotions are invalid or that this is anywhere near sexual harassment.

      1. Czhorat*

        It may not be sexual harassment, but it is disparate treatment based on gender assumptions. That is not aone with which I am comfortable in a workplace.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Saying “Hey, I’ve noticed this is happening at regular intervals and could there be a solution that involves working with your doctor?” is not disparate treatment.

          1. Czhorat*

            That’s very fair, but presenting it as a monthly occurrence implies a connection to menses and/or lycanthropy.

            If it were a male employee, do you think it would be presentes as “this happens every four weeks”?

              1. TootsNYC*

                And investigating that cycle might lead to a solution.

                I might actually say, “Have you thought about what that might be? Here are the dates from the last 3 months. Please look at your schedule–here at work, at home, medical, your family’s schedule, everything, please–and see if there’s anything that might be triggering this. Some frustration that occurs on a regular cycle at roughly this pattern, etc. Dig into it, please, to see if there’s something underlying it, and then look into whether there’s something that can be done to change how you’re reacting to that pattern.”

                Because maybe it IS the monthly book club, and if you could figure out which member was SO annoying that it used up all her patience for the week, it would be really valuable!

              2. Mookie*

                But as many people have pointed out, many things happen like clockwork and humans behave on “cycles” all of the time (often induced by outside circumstances, like bill collections). We’re less apt to notice these “cycles” in men because we’ve had it beaten into our heads that women are a monolith and are unusually possessed and guided by their emotions. I have never encountered the suggestion before that someone manage a poorly-behaving employee by tracking their behavior on a calendar or suggesting that they do so to suss out a medical explanation. Have you?

          2. Terry Thompson*

            I’m surprised to hear the advice that a manager should be mentioning anything about seeing a doctor to this employee. I’m of the belief that it’s not in a manager’s purview to make unsolicited suggestions about an employee’s health or medical decisions. The employee in this example hasn’t given any indication to their manager that this is health related. That’s just an assumption the manager is making.

            If it is a medical situation, it’s not the manager’s business what it is or how (or whether) it’s being treated. What is the manager’s business is the performance at work, regardless of the cause.

            “We need you to be more respectful and congenial with your coworkers,” seems like the right route here. If a manager can be and wants to be supportive, the sentence to add would be, “is there anything we can offer to help you address this?” But, “have you considered seeing a doctor about your behavior” is neither supportive nor appropriate, in my opinion.

            Even if we remove the medical morass from this situation, I think suggesting a solution to the employee that’s based on your assumption isn’t pragmatic. If you’re wrong, and you’ve tied the problem behavior to a false cause, how should the employee respond? Will they feel like they have to correct you by disclosing the real cause? What if they don’t want to or can’t? Will they feel as if they need to placate you and pretend to buy into your suggested course of action? Some employees might even think that they’re being instructed to follow through on your suggestion or risk their job.

            Or what if you’re right? Now you’ve intimated that the goal is for the employee to address the external situation. What if it’s something they have no way to address?

            My advice: stick to naming the problem behavior, use specific examples, and set your expectation. If you want to offer support or help in achieving the expectation, let the employee tell you how you can help. Don’t make assumptions about the cause, and don’t offer suggestions or solutions based on those assumptions.

      2. Mookie*

        < It’s not sexual harassment to say, “Hey, I’ve noticed this is happening at regular intervals and could there be a solution that involves working with your doctor?”

        I wouldn’t call that sexual harassment, either, but, absent the existence of an unusually close working relationship between them, it’s an incredibly presumptuous, invasive, and unnecessary approach that doesn’t follow basic professional norms. “This is happening at regular intervals [and you need to do something about it]” would be the complete sentence. I’ve never seen you suggest to a LW that bad behavior or poor anger management might have a medical explanation and there’s no reason to validate the LW’s desire, simply because they are suggesting PMS on thin and stereotypical evidence, to follow such a line of inquiry, absent background information (like Kristine disclosing specific medical problems at some point in the past). It’s not their job to suss out the psychological or physical root of employee behavior, and it sets a bad precedent for all women to do so in this instance. I know you agree with that, but premise of this letter is faulty; to go against your advice and pursue this wouldn’t be sexualized harassment, it’d be gendered discrimination.

  40. Emi.*

    This is kind of an aside, but if I do get extra cranky during the lead-up to my period, on what grounds do those feelings count as less “real”? Maybe it’s just that I “really” do hate some people, and they only find out once a month. They should cherish the insight I have bestowed upon them.

    1. Solidus Pilcrow*

      Yeah, sometimes hormones/pain/medical conditions don’t make you feel differently as much as they strip away the veneer of civilization that keeps you from showing those feelings.

      1. Annie Moose*

        This is what I think. It’s not that my feelings toward people and things change, it’s that my tolerance for nonsense plummets. The filter gets worn very, very thin, and I have to work extra hard to keep it in place.

    2. Permanent project manager?*

      Yep yep. I completely snapped at my father-in-law last week. The Husband blamed it on PMS. That’s half-true. Most of the time, I can filter myself when *this particular frustration* arises with FIL, but what I was frustrated about is not a new thing. In my cranky pre-period state, the filter came off. And I’m not one bit sorry, honestly. This is how I really feel. Be thankful I keep a lid on it as often as I do.

    3. sam*

      I don’t get particularly cranky anymore.

      I get migraines. Horrible, blinding, can’t see my hands in front of my face, gripped with nausea, migraines.

      At a minimum, not being able to read/see my computer monitor or read documents has a slight impact on my ability to do my job as a lawyer.

      Thankfully, this only happens a few times a year, and I’ve cut out all of my external triggers (like red wine (sad face emoji)), but my hormones are the one thing I can’t completely control, no matter how much I try (and believe me – I try).

    4. Tinker*

      That’s been my experience. Particularly when I was younger and wasn’t very good at asserting myself against opposition, I’d have situations where some pattern of interaction with someone else was getting on my last nerve but I’d decide that it wasn’t worth the ensuing fight to get them to stop until there was some point where I was unexpectedly short of fucks and would end up tearing them a new one. One of the patterns in which this would occur was suspiciously hormonal (I say, having access to the relevant information). When I learned to be more assertive generally, the pattern of last-straw anger at particular times went away, though I still notice other emotional and physical patterns that persist.

      One thing I particularly did not do well before I learned better: my parents were often involved in this issue of getting on my last nerve, because they had a tendency to nitpick and fret and pry about the details of my studies and later work in a way that got to be frustrating. However, particularly early on, matters of financial dependence and obligation made it difficult to push back about this, so the cycle was particularly pronounced with them. Hence, I’d blow up on some occasion about, say, “quit bugging me about whether I’m super duper duper sure I’m dressing femininely enough at the office, it’s driving me nuts” and do this in a real emotional way and then apologize for the cry/shouting aspect of it saying that I was on my period. Unfortunately, and this is the mistake that I made, rather than taking “They are being undignified and indelicate in telling me this because of their low well of emotional resources on this particular day, but this is an ongoing frustration on their part that I might want to consider respecting for the benefit of our relationship”, they took “Poor dear, sometimes she just gets hysterical and upset about things that actually have no significance, so we have to make placating noises until they calm down and then we can return to business as usual.”

      It kind of got to a breaking point one time in my late twenties when I explained for the fourteen zillionth time (while crying, because low emotional reserves) that I didn’t want to hear any more criticism about how I dress at work, that it’s my own business, that nitpicking me about this undermined my confidence in my career, that I’ve heard the things that keep on getting brought up over and over and over again and I have decided not to do them, and continuing to pester me about them does nothing but bother me — an extended and detailed explanation including specifically that this was something that I had been frustrated about continuously for years at that point, ended with “Do you understand?” And then after that there was a moderate pause, and the answer “You know, honey, I saw some ads on TV for a thing called Yaz that might help with your problem. You should really look into it.” Yaz is a birth control formulation that at the time was being heavily advertised as a treatment for PMS.

      I do have to admit that Yaz solved my problem. Kinda. Because I launched into some really righteous come-to-Jesus at that point concerning that I was also sick and tired of having legitimate issues I was raising blown off as PMS, that it was however I would have at the time said “incredibly invalidating”, and that they were never EVER to bring up the subject of my period again. Which they didn’t. Next time I told them off for something, the response was “Oh, honey, have you had your thyroid checked?”

      We’re not talking now. Not for that event specifically, but the underlying pattern of behavior was certainly involved.

  41. Bananistan*

    OP1, maybe you can just give Kristine a list of the dates/descriptions of all the outbursts she’s had. This is good because it’ll show her that it’s a Very Serious Issue– serious enough to be recorded– and then, if she wants, she can do the date-tracking herself.

  42. KB*

    For clarification on #2: The OP says they don’t read the sender’s emails very often. Are they saying they don’t read them very quickly after being received or that they habitually choose not to read many of the emails? Because if it’s the latter, that’s actually pretty rude, OP, and I could see why the sender is marking things as important. It’s still not the right reaction since it would end up having a dulling effect, but it would be frustrating to have people disregard info sent to them in an email. Especially if they end up having to repeat the info to people. I would ask her if the issue is that people don’t read her emails and help her find a way to address that (first by reading them yourself and telling colleagues when they’re missing something that was already covered in the email).

  43. Kristin*

    OP #5, have you considered legally changing your last name? Maybe that’s not something you’re ready to do yet but I think the cost is relatively minimal. I don’t know if it would cause more trouble or not in the interview process as far as background checks go, but I bet you could just get away with saying “I recently changed my name to OP Smith” or whatever you choose. Maybe someone else would have more insight into how this might work.

    Just a thought! If the estrangement is permanent, it might feel good to start fresh and pick a last name that has a personal meaning to you.

    Best of luck!

    1. Not Karen*

      On the background check form that you fill out, there is a field for previous name(s). If the HR people noticed when they sent mine in, they never bothered to mention it.

  44. ArtK*

    #2: I’m in software and I have a colleague who always marks his bug reports as “critical” or “blocker” (the two highest priorities.) His justification is that we won’t fix them unless he does that. The problem is that we have very limited resources right now and we *have* to triage these things. Making everything “important” makes that much harder. We have to go back and play Twenty Questions to find out what the real priority is, for each bug! Of course that takes resources that could be dedicated to actually fixing things.

    Bottom line: This bad habit wastes time and effort. Dedicate yourself to making that clear to this person. (And good luck with that — I haven’t succeeded yet.)

    1. Annie Moose*

      At OldJob, I was on a project where we had to stop letting the testers input their own bug priorities–EVERYTHING was high. Instead, some of the key project members got together on a weekly basis to prioritize the bugs for real.

      And yes, this meant I had to go check each and every one that was assigned to me ahead of time, just in case there was a REAL critical bug in there… sigh.

  45. boop the first*

    #1: Just as an aside, PMS and menstruation are not the same thing. They occur at different times.
    ORRRRRR… maybe 4 weeks is the longest she can go with dealing with all y’all’s crap?? Heh. I have a lot of anxiety, but also am a very private person, so yeah, things tend to build up. Maybe she just has a particular length of fuse. I was just recently thinking how annoying it is that women have to be emotionally analyzed in the workplace, for being “too emotional” to function. And yet, my male manager can’t go a single day without violently smashing something and then wailing “Why am I like this?” afterward.

  46. ArtK*

    OP #5. I think that you need to think about how the estrangement might affect your employment. If this is something within your own family, there’s no reason for the employer to even care. If there’s something public, like criminal action or something else notable, you may want to consider changing your name.

  47. Karyn*

    RE: OP 2 –

    Much as I love and adore him, my ex-boss was a high-importance button abuser. I’ve mentioned this before, but what I did for him was, I printed out every single high-importance email he sent me over the course of a day, took them into his office, and said, “These are all the high importance emails you’ve sent me today. You can have three of them completed. Which ones are the most important of them?”

    Turns out, he didn’t even realize how many he was sending! He got a little better after that, actually, and whenever he would “act up” again, I’d do the exact same thing. :)

  48. TootsNYC*

    For #5–the “no last name” person

    I wonder what sort of community you are a member of–how big it is.

    In the area around my hometown (a county seat in rural Iowa), I can totally see that someone would field questions like, “Oh, are you related to Julie Pottoroff? I went to school with her” or “Are you one of the Beaconsfield Lawheads?” Maybe someone named Miller might be exempt from that instant recognition.

    There’s also the risk of someone saying, “Hmm, this resume is from a Hatfield; lots of those Hatfields are kinda worthless, so maybe I won’t even call her in,” especially if they’re related to the McCoys.

    But: Hopefully people are smart enough to look at what’s on your actual resumé. And you’ll have to give them your last name SOMEtime.

    You can also say, “We’re not close” or maybe “We don’t get to see much of each other” (though that’s can be weird and drama-inducing if it’s anyone closer than an aunt/uncle/cousin).
    Otherwise, it would be good practice to be able to say, “Oh, yes,” in an absent-minded way and then immediately say, “I’m really interested in this position.”

  49. WerkingIt*

    #1 — I would say something like “These issues seem to come up each month like clockwork. Is it possible that something else is going on in your life that coincides with these feelings? For instance, I know that for me I can tend to get stressed out around the first of the month because it seems that that’s when all my bills are due. Or I’ve known people who have certain anniversaries of major typically unpleasant life events that make them extra sensitive.”

    There are lots of reasons for people to be sensitive at regular intervals so perhaps just suggesting that there could be something influencing her emotions may be enough for her to see she may need to dial it down.

    1. WerkingIt*

      Or it could be something like a report or other work paper work due at the same time each month that puts her on edge.

  50. That girl*

    Is it okay, for a pregnant lady to scream and curse at her supervisor and then blame it on hormones…? My co-worker is only 11 wks pregnant but has been doing this from the begining. It’s getting really bad, and anoying to other workers. Is this normal or out of line. It’s embarrasing to me. What should they do?

Comments are closed.