coworkers ask me too many questions, loud groups at company retreats, and more

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

1. My coworkers lean on me for too much help with their own work

I’ve been reading your blog for a few months and one of the main themes I’ve picked up on is being direct with people, which I’ve been working on. One thing I still struggle with is answering questions repeatedly from coworkers in situations where they aren’t willing (or able?) to try to find the answer on their own. For instance, we have a report that we’re sharing with customers. I’ve gone out of my way to learn the ins and outs of this report and meet with the subject matter expert to ensure I understand everything correctly. I have two colleagues at the same level as me who repeatedly ask me questions about either this report or other (really basic) things they should know. They also complain they haven’t had training on these things, so I’ve asked them to tell our boss directly that they want more training or say something like “Oh, the answer is in X document” or “Rusty is the best resource.” I’ve sat down with them both and given them the answers. In meetings, my boss will ask us what they need, and they say they’re fine.

Is there a point where I could tell my boss that they don’t know these things, and I’m constantly being asked for the answer? I don’t want to seem too harsh or betray their trust, but sometimes I’m seriously shocked or annoyed that they still don’t seem to know what’s going on. (I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I also feel weird that they could both be my mom…and I’m 31.)

Yes, you can definitely say something to your boss. But before you do, I’d be more direct with your coworkers. The next few times you get these requests, say something like:
* “You’ve asked me a bunch of times about this report, so let me tell you what I did to build up my knowledge about it so that you can do the same thing. I read it cover to cover and took notes on things I was unsure about, and then I met with Jane to ask for more information about those things. I think it would make sense for you to do that too, so that you’re not leaning on me to answer so many questions.”
* “I can answer the occasional question when it’s urgent, but doing it as a regular thing really breaks my focus. It sounds like you need to ask Jane for more training on this.”
* And then if it still happens”: “Have you talked to Jane about getting more training on this?” … “I’d appreciate it if you would, because otherwise I’m ending up as the de facto trainer, which I don’t really have time to be.”

If that doesn’t take care of it, then yes, talk to your boss. You can frame it this way: “I wanted to mention to you that I think Fergus and Imogen need more training on X and Y. I’ve been spending a lot of time answering their questions, and I’ve asked them to talk to you about additional training since it’s taking up so much of my time, but I get the sense that they haven’t done that yet.”

2. When do you tell your coworkers that you’re quitting?

I just gave my two weeks notice to my boss this past Thursday from my first job after college. It went very well and he was very nice about it. He asked if I could send a formal email he could send to the other managers and the head of our department, so I sent him my resignation letter. He told me he would send them this letter sometime that day to let them know I’m leaving.

I planned to tell all my other coworkers the next day since the head of our department was working from home and I wasn’t sure if my boss had already notified him. About an hour after giving notice, two of my coworkers came by my desk and said they had already heard I was leaving. They told me my boss had told all the other managers, one manager told an employee who works remotely, and this employee told someone else in my department (I’ll call her Lucy), who then informed these two coworkers.

I was planning to talk to Lucy in person Friday since she is the person who will take on my job duties until they hire a replacement, and therefore will be the most impacted. The other two coworkers have been good friends at work. I feel bad that all of them found out this way instead of from me directly. Was I wrong to wait until I was sure all the bosses knew I’m leaving? Should I have told my coworkers right away?

The only real etiquette here is to tell your boss first, which you did. From there, because you didn’t arrange for any particular roll-out of the news, he didn’t do anything wrong by telling others (and often a manager will need to tell others fairly quickly because it may impact people’s work in ways they need to know about sooner rather than later). And you didn’t do anything particularly wrong by not telling your coworkers right away. No one here really did anything wrong, since no one explicitly told anyone not to share the news.

In the future, though, you can certainly say, “I’d like to tell Lucy myself before we share the news more broadly” (but then you should do that right away, not wait … since waiting can limit your manager on things she needs to do to start working on the transition).

3. Loud groups at company retreats

My husband and I are currently on vacation in Mexico (a hardship, I know) and yesterday a very large, loud group checked into our resort. The majority seem to be in their mid-late 20s and 30s, with a handful that may be with them who are older.

In general we’ve been able to steer clear, but they’re all over so I’ve been able to suss out that they’re all employees on a company-sponsored trip (whereas I thought it may be a fraternity reunion). My question is really just what is your opinion of trips like this and how people should behave on them? This particular group has been drinking heavily, yelling a lot, and some of them have been pretty obnoxiously hitting on women. All behaviors that I can’t imagine reasonable people doing around coworkers or managers! I work in nonprofits, so these kinds of company trips will never be in my future, but is this common/acceptable in the corporate world? Or are they just given a “pass” while they’re on the trip?

I think there’s a really wide range of what’s considered acceptable on company-sponsored trips like these, depending on company culture, but in general, it’s — well, I don’t want to say common, but it’s not uncommon for people to bring a “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” mentality to work trips. That’s especially true with groups that are largely in their 20s and, to a lesser extent, 30s. I suspect it’s also more likely to happen with groups that don’t normally travel a ton (so the novelty hasn’t worn off), although I have zero evidence to base that theory on.

But yes, it’s obnoxious, and they risk losing serious respect from any coworkers there who aren’t amused by the behavior (as well as, clearly, being rude to innocent bystanders staying in the same place). And the heavy drinking and the hitting on people are both playing with fire because harassment laws don’t get suspended when you’re traveling; if they make unwelcome advances on a coworker, it’s as much of a problem at a resort as it is at the office.

Cedar Rapids is an excellent movie on this topic.

4. My pregnant coworker is throwing up at her desk every day

I have severe emetophobia. That means I am terrified of vomiting, being around other people who are vomiting, and even being around people who say they are feeling sick.

I work in a large, open plan office. A woman on the team next to mine is pregnant. I’m sure you can see where this is going. She vomits, loudly, several times a day, either in the restroom or into a garbage can at her desk. On the one hand, I feel horrible for her. I know she can’t help it, and must be miserable. On the other hand, my anxiety levels are through the roof. It’s really affecting my ability to work.

We are both able to work from home, but our company culture frowns on that. Is there anything I can do? Is it ok for someone who is vomiting that much to be at work, even if they aren’t “sick”? I’m sure that even people who don’t have my particular problem are finding it unpleasant as well.

Well, it wouldn’t be good to tell women in the early months of pregnancy that they shouldn’t come to work, so yeah, in this kind of context, it’s not unreasonable for her to be at work. But it’s also not unreasonable to expect her to at least attempt to use the bathroom when she needs to throw up rather than the trash can at her desk.

As for what you can do, assuming that headphones don’t solve the issue, I’d tell your manager that you have a strong reaction to other people vomiting and that hearing it so regularly is keeping you in a constant state of queasiness, and ask if for the next month or two you can either work from an office out of hearing distance of your coworker or from home (or a combination of the two).

5. Does my job not plan to keep me past probation?

I recently got hired at a private scientific research company, and this is my first “in my field” job out of university. Although the job seems to be going generally well, I’m afraid that they won’t keep me past the probationary period for the following reason: they haven’t bothered training me in the position they hired me for.

I got hired three months ago (probation is six months), and instead of training me for the job I was hired for, they’ve been using me as a pair of extra hands to throw into random tasks where I’m needed. I should mention that I was hired at the peak of the busy season, and I was the last of four technical employees who got hired in two months (one started the week before me).

I realize part of the lack of training is a lack of time, but all the new employees have received at least some degree of training in their positions, except me. Am I overreacting or do I have a reason to worry? Also would talking about it to my direct supervisor make it worse?

It’s possible that you have reason to worry, but it’s not at all unlikely that this is just about the fact that it’s their busy season and that you’ll be trained once things calm down. But you should absolutely talk to your manager about it, because she may not realize that you’re concerned by it (and may not even have fully processed that you really haven’t gotten any training at all, especially with three other new employees to juggle).

Say this: “I know that it’s a busy time right now, and I’m happy to help out where I’m needed, but I’m also eager to start getting trained in my regular responsibilities. Do you have a sense of when I can expect to shift more in that direction?”

{ 243 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager Post author

    Putting this up here so hopefully people see it first: I suspect the letter about the pregnant coworker may draw lots of advice about what the coworker should be doing, but let’s try to keep the advice focused on what the letter-writer can do since she’s the one writing in. Thank you!

  2. Rogue

    Along the lines of #1. How would you respond to a coworker who asks you things like “What’s the phone # for X?” Where all you did was google the answer previously and coworker is just too lazy.

    1. Edith

      “I don’t remember of the top of my head. Have you tried [method of information retrieval]? That’s where I found it last time I looked it up.”

      1. Rogue

        I thought that would work too. Coworker told their manager that I wouldn’t give her the number…her manager (not in any way my manager or above me) then contacted me and asked me for the number. I repeated basically what you said above and about 10 minutes later my manager comes in and says he was told I was being difficult. I explain the whole thing and then get told to just handle it myself because coworker is apparently incapable. :(

      2. Sheworkshardforthemoney

        “I’m busy right now, if you don’t want to wait, you can find the information here, (The Weather Network).”
        This worked on a co-worker who constantly asked me what the weather was.

    2. kate

      i had a manager in my first job that would email me/IM me links to “Let Me Google That For You” when I asked obvious questions. it was slightly humiliating but it broke that habit quickly.

      1. Rogue

        Oh my goodness! I just googled that and am so bookmarking it! Sorry you had to deal with the humiliation though, but at least you learned from it.

        1. Drew

          There’s another version of that site that goes by the initials JFGI (not spelling it out because of site rules, but I’m pretty sure you can get it on your own). I confess that I’ve used that on a couple of people who have said, “I could Google this, but it’s easier just to ask you” – IN EMAIL, not even in person. I haven’t used it at work, obviously, although with a couple of coworkers, the temptation is there.

          1. Chinook

            “I confess that I’ve used that on a couple of people who have said, “I could Google this, but it’s easier just to ask you” – IN EMAIL, not even in person. I haven’t used it at work, obviously, although with a couple of coworkers, the temptation is there”

            In defense of those doing this via email – is it possible that they are at a remote location where all they can access is their email via phone? I sometimes get those type of emails from our engineers and field staff who are more than capable of googling while at their desk but don’t have the time/patience to do it from their phone in the field (which sometimes is a field on the dark side of a mountain with satellite blind spots).

            Then again, I also work with one woman who uses me as a human google, so sometimes I know it is laziness.

          2. Holly

            I love the thought process that goes into…”I’m going to type out an email – this is surely faster than searching the Internet, which also involves typing.”

      2. C Average

        This was a common tactic at my old workplace, too. Yep, slightly humiliating; yep, totally does the trick.

    3. TootsNYC

      I thnk you could take this straight to the point:

      “Gladys, you keep asking me these questions, and it’s really disruptive. It’s also very annoying. I don’t have any special skill or knowledge–a Google search will answer almost anything. It would probably be a really good thing for your career for you to get more comfortable with Google, and practice will make that possible. Please stop asking me, and figure it out yourself.”

      And go pre-emptively to your own manager and say, “Gladys keeps interrupting me to ask me things that she should be able to find out herself. It’s really disruptive. I’ve told her this, and I’m not going to be answering those sorts of queries anymore. She has tried to get me in trouble over this issue, so I want to ask you to stick up for me if she tries it again.”

      And then say, in a VERY friendly tone, “I’m in the middle of something; I’m sure Google will help you.”

    4. AnonEMoose

      I’ve actually talked to my boss about the problem of people interrupting me to ask questions for which the answers are available elsewhere. He gave me permission to respond with “Have you checked the notes? Please take a look at those, and then let me know if you still have a question.”

      Because, in my case, people were perceiving asking me as the “easier” option. And for them, it was, but too many interruptions are quite disruptive to some of the tasks I need to complete. So I needed to make asking me a less easy option – my boss was fortunately ok with this. It’s taking time, but it is helping.

      1. notgiven

        My son’s manager once said, “when your interests and my questions align, I ask you, because it’s faster than Google.”

        Co-worker: “Yep.”

        1. AnonEMoose

          If it’s my supervisor, of course I’ll answer the questions without complaint, even if it’s inconvenient or I’ve told him the answer before (although he’s more likely to email than to stop by my desk – so I can answer when I have a moment).

          The issue was more with peer-level coworkers, when there are about 12 of them and one of me. Even if each of them only interrupted me once a day, that’s still 12 interruptions…and that adds up. Especially if it’s one of the busier times in my work cycle.

          And, most of the time, checking the notes in the system would be faster than getting up, walking over to my desk, and having me look up the answer. They were just perceiving asking me as “easier,” so at times, I was having to answer the same question about the same situation for 3 different people. That’s the behavior I asked for – and received – my supervisor’s permission to redirect by asking them if they’ve checked the notes first. And it’s helping, slowly…some of them aren’t too happy about it, but they’re basically nice people, and they’re getting it.

          1. Holly

            Yea…I don’t think people realize how much just a quick question can derail your concentration. I’ve started taking on more responsibilities, and sometimes people will just come and sit on my desk and launch into something…In a strange way, it’s making me more self-aware of when I interrupt people or ask them questions I could have found the answer to.

            1. AnonEMoose

              And in my job, what they think is a “quick question,” sometimes isn’t, because one detail can significantly change the answer. So what they’re thinking is just a brief thing can really derail what I was already doing – which is super annoying when the answer was already there if they’d looked.

        2. Parenthetically

          I get irritated when people ask questions they could get with a 10-second google because I really enjoy researching things that interest me, but once, after snarking to a friend about my annoyance with people who apparently think the google search bar is just tooooo faaaaaar awaaaaaay, she mentioned that she ALWAYS prefers to ask a human she knows and trusts rather than the internet, because she feels overwhelmed by the zillions of sometimes-dubious search results. Personality differences!

      2. Vicki

        It depends so much on your manager. A good manager backs you up. A bad manager decides you’re “not helpful” and brings up the whole thing in your annual review 6 months later. (Mine was the latter.)

      3. Holly

        Hello! I’m the letter-writer who was constantly being asked questions. Like most people, I always want to help my co-workers, but I was helping them at my own expense, so I did start to subtly direct people to where I thought they’d find the answer the easiest (e.g., ‘Oh, I think that’s in the Cool Section of the Awesome Guide’). I think they were a little put-off by me doing that instead of jumping up and showing them exactly where to find the answer, but I think they’re used to it now. I hate anything that feels like it could be a confrontation (even when it’s not really), so I am still working on being firm and direct (while being polite). I have a great boss who had already picked up on the fact that my coworkers were doing this, so she organized some training for them. I think it works out best this way, because me constantly giving them the answer was kind of enabling them not to learn anything.

        1. Aunt Margie at Work

          I’m all about avoiding confrontation. And I also pride myself on being the group help person. Short cuts, tricks whatever you call then, I know tons and I share. My coworkers tend to come to me, and I’m cool with it, to a point.
          I have one person who I thought didn’t get it, but then realized coworker chose not to get it because I was there. I would always give in and review. Finally, I said no. About a month later coworker tried to throw this back at me while we were standing in the walkway between our team’s desks, “I know you don’t like to show people how to do things.” I took a deep breath.
          “OH NO. You don’t get to turn this around on me. I’ve shown you that, like I’ve shown you everything. I will show you twice. After that, you either aren’t getting it and there’s nothing more for me to do, or you aren’t paying attention. In that case, you are right. I will not show you again. Because I’m not showing you, I’m doing it for you.”
          Coworker still asks me for help and shows me things as well. It was a good event overall.

      1. Anon Accountant

        Yes it sure is! I love to look all puzzled at the asker and say “well I found it from Google so have you had any luck with that”.

        Today my coworker actually looked at me very seriously and said “I haven’t tried google. Do you think I should?”. Um yes instead of asking me constantly because I’m going to google it also.

        1. Holly

          I kind of started to do that, too. I’ll look confused and say, ‘I wonder if it’s in This Document – have you checked it?’ Sometimes that doesn’t work, because one of my coworkers then can’t find where she saved it for some reason and then asks me where she saved it (sigh), or if I could send it to her, but we’re getting there!

  3. Cupquake

    Ugh, I can empathize with #4! I have a strong gag reflex and am a “sympathy puker” (when I hear/see/smell someone else vomiting I tend to start) so while I always sympathize with friends/coworkers who are sick/pregnant and puking I cannot be near them or offer sympathy. People (including bosses) have been fairly understanding of this. So while not all people have emetophobia like OP, or even as strong of a gag response as I do, I think most people do understand the desire to not be near a constantly vomiting person + not wanting to shame a pregnant woman, so hopefully your boss will be understanding enough to ignore company culture and let you work from home.

    1. DeskBird

      Alright – I have a similar situation going on at work right this very moment and have no idea what to do. The person in the cube next to me decided to come in with the stomach flu – and her breath smells heavily of vomit. Like if she stands up and talks this wave of vomit smell washes over my cube and i have to run down to the front door to get some fresh air so I don’t throw up. I’ve already mentioned it to our shared manager – who’s solution was for me to share a desk with her for the day – but I really need both my monitors to get anything done. Can I ask her not to breath on me? How can I possibly but that nicely?

      1. Vin Packer

        To me, this is different, unless you guys get no or very little sick leave. It’s reasonable to ask a person with a 24 hour bug to please stay home; less so for a person with a 40-week condition.

      2. ThatGirl

        You should suggest the co-worker goes home, that’s not good for anyone and she may be contagious.

        1. DeskBird

          We have reasonable sick leave – but a messed up culture where some people never seem to stop working. I told her she should go home – and she insisted she was too behind to go. I have no authority to make her.

      3. designbot

        wait, their solution was to move you closer to her by making you share a desk with her? How would that even help the initial problem? And wouldn’t it just make you more likely to catch her illness? Nothing about the suggested solution makes sense to me.

          1. DeskBird

            Yes – sorry – the solution was to share my managers desk – which is maybe an additional 7 ft away – and the person who is sick often comes over to talk to her so exposure to the smell would probably be worse.

            My manager has since made fun of me for thinking I could get sick. I got though the day with liberal use of febreze, hand sanitizer and lysol, but came fairly close to thowing up a handful of times when she was near me. The smell was really overpowering.

            1. Rana

              Dang. With your manager’s attitude, I’d be tempted to let myself barf on their desk just to make a point.

            2. Candi

              Whatever your manager personally believes, they’re being ridiculously unprofessional with their behavior. All of it.

    2. spocklady

      Ooof, me too Cupcake. Like, I can’t imagine the misery this poor pregnant woman must be in, but also yikes. I was
      also a puker when I was a kid, so I feel like I’m probably past quota on that for at least the next 10 years (not that my body necessarily agrees with me, sadly).

      One other thing to think about, is that even though she’s not sick, puke is not necessarily, like, germ-free. Maybe it would be easier on the pregnant coworker if boss will make an exception and let her work from home?

      I noticed that people below mention a condition called hyperemesis gravidarum (and can I just say I’m so sorry y’all because that sounds like a nightmare); if it’s the case that she will sometimes have that little warning, of course it’s unreasonable to demand that she get to a bathroom every time. However, it might also be causing issues beyond unpleasantness for others in her office. Even without the added bonus of emetophobia. Really, I just feel bad for everyone in this office. Good luck, OP #4.

    3. Sarah

      In the vein of misery loves company….
      I have emetophobia, and a year ago, a complete stranger threw up all. over. me at a concert. It was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. I was wearing my favorite dress, too, and that and a good pair of boots were ruined. It was inside the boots! My entire lower body was covered. It was my worst nightmare come true.

    4. Candi

      I had bad morning (afternoon, evening, night) sickness with little warning for three solid days in my second month. As in, good thing I was pushing a housekeeping cart around because I was barfing into the garbage bag literally under my nose multiple times a shift. (The mall had a ridiculous employee attendance policy.) The thing that finally killed it was fruit punch -fruit punch! I still can’t believe it!

      There’s got to be a reasonable accommodation or three for one or both of you, enabling you both to do your jobs while minimizing problems. Research, brainstorming, and the comment section here will help.

      1. Candi

        That was my first pregnancy, with my son. My daughter’s was a dream, even when she was doing gymnastics.

  4. Dry Roasted

    As someone who has had relatively bad nausea while pregnant (twice), I can say definitively that I would much rather make it to the bathroom than throw up into my trash can but sometimes there was absolutely nothing I could do. I don’t think most people, pregnant or otherwise, would puke in their trash can at their desk unless they had no choice.
    OP#4, I am so sorry that you are having to deal with that. I hope the working from home works out.

      1. Dry Roasted

        Ha. I stand corrected. I guess my idea of “most people” doesn’t include this person. I just know that when I was pregnant and sick at work I tried really super hard not to bother anyone. Maybe I’m projecting a bit

      2. ..Kat..

        Ooh. That was really bad. What some people don’t realize is that vomiting illnesses are often extremely contagious. Think norovirus on a cruise ship. And, if it is norovirus, you can catch it by breathing in tiny, aerosolized particles of vomit. If I remember correctly, the OP worked in an office in a hospital! Where many people know these fun filled infectious disease facts.

        1. hermit crab

          I was stunned when I learned that the infectious dose for norovirus is about 15 viral particles. FIFTEEN VIRUSES. I can barely imagine how tiny that is. No wonder it spreads so effectively!

    1. Vicki

      I had hyperemesis gravidarum (severe pregnancy sickness) to the point that I was getting 600 calories a day and was significantly lighter at birth than at the start of the pregnancy. I honestly wasn’t able to get anywhere at all before an attack hit, but did work from home because driving would not be safe. However I live in a country where medical insurance isn’t tied to employment so if this woman is so sick now I could understand being too scared to do anything that might compromise her health care and still come in.

      I’m amazed the manager didn’t offer a side office or something after the third or forth time it happened in the open plan office because that can’t be pleasant. I think the phobic coworker would absolutely be right to ask to work from home for a while, though if it was HG mine lasted the entire 9 months so it could be a long while :/

      1. Katie (the other one)

        I also had hyperemesis gravidarum, and it was awful. I tried really hard to get to a bathroom or at least somewhere where it wouldn’t bother anyone else, but honestly sometimes you get about two seconds’ warning. I wonder if OP#4 could ask her manager to move her or her pregnant co-worker to a conference room or spare office for the time being, if space allows? Or maybe talk to her co-worker first and see if she has a preference. It can’t be pleasant for her co-worker to be constantly throwing up in public either, she might well be mortified by the situation and would prefer more privacy.

      2. Jean

        I definitely had a couple of vomiting episodes that were uncontrollable – one time I was driving to work and threw up all over myself and had to go home and shower. It’s funny, though, I think I got all my vomiting out for decades during that pregnancy because I think I’ve thrown up 4 times in the 35 years since that, and 2 of those involved an ER visit.

    2. OP#4

      I’m so sorry YOU had to go through that! Our bathrooms are a hike, so I’m sure she doesn’t always have time or warning enough to get there.

      1. Vin Packer

        Can I just say that I’m not even your coworker and I appreciate how empathetic you are being about this? As awful as it is to puke constantly at work from pregnancy (been there), it’s no picnic to be right next to it either. I feel like it’s likely that you would be able to talk to her about it and maybe collaborate on a possible solution to propose to the boss in a way that is tactful and respectful if you wanted to.

        1. SophieChotek

          +1
          I hope you can figure out a solution that helps allieve your anxiety and restore your productivity.

      2. Anon too!

        When I was pregnant with my 1st, I had hyperemesis gravidarum. I actually carried around dog poop bags because I would get so little warning. The bathrooms where I was were also a bit of a hike and there were mostly women in my building so they were often full. On at least a couple occasions I barged into the men’s and threw up there. I literally threw up until my child was born. It was like having a bad stomach flu for 9 months. It is a testament to our animal origins and the VERY strong urge to reproduce that I had, that I was willing to do it a second time.

        With my 2nd, I was prescribed a medication (in Canada it’s available – but I don’t think it is in the US) which cost ~$2.50/pill. I took 4 or 5 a day for the 1st 1/2 of my pregnancy. And that cost was after insurance. The drawback was that I felt like I was in a fog the entire time.

        1. Chinook

          I think I know the medication you are talking about as I am taking it for the side effect of nausea from another medication. Without insurance, it is roughly $10/pill (when a monthly supply costs $300, you really do learn to live with mild nausea).

        2. Viola Dace

          I continued working while undergoing 16 rounds of chemo. There are drugs to control nausea but I used to joke that they worked because you were unconscious. They made me so sleepy! While the OP is asking the question for herself, it seems somewhat odd that the employer hasn’t offered some sort of accommodation to the pregnant employee…another space for her to work for instance. It has to be awful for her to feel so unwell and have others witness it.

    3. BananaPants

      Yes, I had severe nausea and vomiting during both pregnancies, with borderline hyperemesis gravidarum during the second one (I didn’t lose enough weight but met the other diagnostic criteria). Both times my OBGYN had me on Zofran from 8 weeks onward just to keep me functional. I carried a gallon size Ziploc bag in my purse at all times and had one at my desk and in the center console of my car because I’d sometimes have only a few seconds’ warning of trouble. With baby #2 I had broken blood vessels in my eyes and the skin of my face for months because of the force and frequency of my vomiting. Somehow I always made it to the bathroom at work to puke but felt considerably better knowing my wastebasket was right there. I would have been mortified to use the wastebasket at my desk, but I figured it would have been better than hurling all over a conference room or the hallway carpet.

      OP #4, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, but she may be in a situation where she quite literally cannot make it to the bathroom in time to puke there. If it’s typical nausea & vomiting of pregnancy, it will ease as she gets into her 2nd trimester but unfortunately if it’s HG she may be this sick all the way through. It’s no picnic for her, but it also sucks for emetophobic people who are subjected to it.

      I would suggest having a good set of headphones if that’s workable in your job, and if not I would suggest to your boss that either she or you is able to work from home or see if you can temporarily relocate your desk for a while.

    4. Karin

      Yes, my first thought was that maybe the pregnant woman has the nausea coming on so quickly she can’t make it to a bathroom. I know when I was pregnant, that happened to me a couple of times and I had to throw up into a trash can. That being said, I think quietly explaining to your manager/supervisor about your situation with the emetophobia is called for, and maybe asking to work out of earshot for a couple of months. But I would not say anything to the pregnant woman, because, as a formerly pregnant person who had issues while pregnant, I can tell you that she’s painfully aware that listening to the dulcet tones of her vomiting is unpleasant and she is wishing with all her might this wasn’t happening like this.

    5. Bex

      OP #4, just wanted to let you know that I would be having a panic attack every day if I were in your situation. I’m a fellow emetophobe who hasn’t thrown up in literally 20 years and by the grace of God I plan to never do so again. These stories of hyperemesis gravidarum are really making me feel confident in my childfree-dom. Dear Lord. I hope you find something that works. I might have to quit my job in your situation, literally I don’t think I could be in a room all day with a vomiting person for months.

      1. Jaydee

        Also an emetophobe and I would not be able to handle working where I can hear someone else vomiting on a regular basis. I have mostly gotten over the anxiety of vomiting myself, but a recent stomach bug that hit my whole household let me know that I am still quite capable of a multi-hour-long panic attack when it comes to hearing – or the apprehension of hearing in the near future – someone else vomiting. I have the utmost of sympathy for both OP #4 and her co-worker!

      2. SimonTheGreyWarden

        Emetophobe and pregnant here; I was incredibly lucky that I seem to have inherited my mother’s constitution and have had no nausea/vomiting while pregnant, and I cannot imagine the nightmare for either OP or people who have written about hyperemesis.

    6. Hyperemesis Gravidarum

      I suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum (morning sickness on steroids). I would be sick all day and leave work to go get IV fluids. I literally was not able to consume food for several weeks and my baby and I only survived on those IV fluids and yet I still got sick all day. I couldn’t afford to take off 9 months (I was sick until the day he was born) off work in addition to maternity leave so I tried to work at least a few days a week. I agree she probably would must rather go to the bathroom but can’t make it there. She is probably completely mortified when she can’t make it. She probably can’t take leave because then she won’t get maternity leave. I’d try and see if you could move if it bothers you that much.

    7. happymeal

      Thanks for saying this. I felt like the “she should be trying to get to the bathroom” comment was a little harsh for those of us who have had things like HG while pregnant and were beholden to the vomit.

  5. Knitting Cat Lady

    #4: Humans are ‘monkey see, monkey do’ about vomiting for a very good reason!

    Back in the early days when we lived in small groups that all ate the same thing it was a really good idea to puke if one of the others did so.

    As usual, some of us have it worse than others…

    1. Maxwell Edison

      I’d always wondered what the evolutionary reason was behind “sympathy vomiting.” Good to know!

    2. Mookie

      Eh, this actually interests me but there’s not yet any consensus nor evidence beyond the inductive to support the popular theories (“mirror neurons,” just-so evpsych stories involving caveman, bonding mechanisms or references to the herd effect) explaining sympathetic / empathetic / imitative / contagious reflexes in humans in particular and primates in general. Vomiting and regurgitation serve several functions (placating an enemy, for example) and have multiple triggers beyond nausea, but there are already plenty of more sophisticated mechanisms — biological and socialized — for detecting, avoiding, and expelling poisonous food.

      Revulsion for vomit, on the other hand, is a very human experience. Unlike other species who exhibit more novel strategies for avoiding the ingestion of toxic or spoiled edibles, we don’t eat one another’s upchuck (because we don’t need to in order to address deficiencies, for example) and few humans are coprophagic by necessity.

      I’m just glad we’re not rats. If you ever seen one struggle to avoid choking themselves on a delicious but gummy wad of rice or soft bread, you’d thank your lucky proverbial regurgitation or pica (or a very finicky palate, like most rats I’ve raised) aren’t our only options.

  6. LAP

    OP#4
    You could ask if she’s taking anything for it and recommend diclegis. That stuff worked wonders for my morning sickness (as in, virtually no more throwing up in public….it was a miracle) and my OBGYN had access to lots of free samples.

    I learned about it from her but I would have welcomed hearing about it from anyone. I don’t think it would be too forward to say something, personally.

    1. MadGrad

      I don’t know, I’ve heard enough examples in the world of people giving unwanted advice/attention to pregnant women and new parents (or even chronically ill people) that it might be seen as intrusive to some. If she’s vomiting at her desk all day, I’d assume she’s considered her options already.

      1. OP#4

        LOL, I’m female. I wouldn’t want to give advice….as mentioned above, people often feel free to do that with people who have chronic illnesses (which I do) and while I know they mean well, it can be annoying. I can only assume she’s working with her doctor and is one of the unlucky ones who has HG and nothing is working.

      2. Newby

        Yeah, giving medical advice is generally a bad idea unless you are very close and know it would be welcome. If she has just thrown up and you are right there, you might be able to offer her some peppermint tea or a ginger candy, but not medication.

      3. QA Lady

        Yep, this kind of advice is the kind of thing that can sometimes come from a friend but probably not from a co-worker.

        That said, Diclectin (aka diclegis) was a lifesaver for me and I guess I sang its praises enough that a friend remembered it and asked for it when she got pregnant and was having trouble functioning. But it doesn’t work for everyone. It just made my co-worker sleepy and nauseated.

    2. Justme

      Agree. Especially if the OP is male and can’t get pregnant.

      There are so many things to be done before butting in to her medical business.

    3. Sled dog mama

      Perhaps a better option would be to remind the coworker that her doctor is a great resource for helping with the nausea because LW (or female colleague enlisted by LW) would be miserable and she shouldn’t have to be miserable.

      1. Colette

        Even at that, it’s entirely possible that she’s already working with her doctor but they haven’t found something that works yet. She’s an adult, she can handle her own health.

      2. Justme

        Again, her medical business is no business of anyone else. It would only come off as patronizing to suggest speaking to her doctor.

        The better solution is for the poster to ask to work from home or an alternate office.

      3. Vin Packer

        I think the other commenters are right that this probably isn’t a good idea, but I do get where you’re coming from: there are so many horrible and unpleasant things about pregnancy that are perfectly normal and you tell your doctor about it and they just give you a blank look. So sometimes when you’re in the middle of it you don’t avail yourself of all the resources you could because you kind of get in this suck-it-up mode.

        Still, OP doesn’t have enough context to say anything about it though (which she seems to understand, above). That’s more of a sister/mom/BFF suggestion.

        1. Emi.

          Or you have a terrible doctor who tells you abnormal things are normal, like “Oh, everyone’s nipples bleed during breastfeeding.” In that case it would be helpful to get some outside advice, but I agree that it would have to come from someone like her sister/mom/BFF.

    4. Observer

      Do NOT recommend any specific solution. With very few exceptions, recommending specific medication to anyone based on knowing just on symptom and nothing more about that person’s health is just a very bad idea. From what I can see, all the OP knows is that her co-worker is pregnant and vomiting. There is no way for her to have the faintest idea of what might work for this woman, no matter what worked for someone else.

      If they have a good relationship, the op could ASK if her doctor has been working with her on the problem, and encourage her to push back if the answer is no. But that’s about it.

    5. Courtney

      Noooo! As yet another woman who suffered from hypermedia gravitation, do not do this. The constant stream of people with “helpful” advice and judgements about my condition was incredibly irritating. It’s hard enough to focus when you’re constantly running to the bathroom to throw up. Now add in all the time you spend explaining to people that yes, you’ve tried eating crackers and you don’t eat XYZ and you’re doing this and that and you’re on medication already, oh and then you have to debate the medication with someone who overheard and thinks it’s bad and you should stop taking it. Ugh.

      OP should ask the boss about moving desks. OP should not give medical advice.

      1. BananaPants

        Yes! I had severe NVP in pregnancy #1 and “borderline” HG in pregnancy #2. The suggestions for normal morning sickness – eating crackers, taking ginger, wearing Seabands, taking Diclegis/Unisom + B6 did absolutely *nothing* for me. It made me crazy when people gave what they thought was helpful advice.

        Fortunately Zofran helped enough – I was still throwing up and was still nauseous, it just took the edge off enough for me to function and go to work.

        1. Amy

          Seriously. If one more person asked me if I’d tried ginger, I was ready to beat them to death with a bag of Gin-Gins while saying “You’re so right. I vomit 30 times a day but it never occurred to me to try the one incredibly obvious thing that literally everyone knows about. Thank you!!”

        2. Candi

          And sometimes what helps one person has no logic to it. Fruit punch killed my severe morning sickness cold. I’ve never been able to find a medical/scientific reason why.

          (It takes a LOT to make me throw up, so it was really bad I was that sick.)

      2. J

        Ditto. Diglecis did nothing about my HG. I was miserable with every pregnancy, and it only got worse and hit sooner with each subsequent one. Please let the pregnant lady cope in peace.

  7. Wendy Darling

    Re: bad behavior at work functions, I left a company dinner when the executives all started doing shots and screaming inappropriate things at each other. :/ At least the restaurant was booked exclusively for our function so it was only employees, but it was still cringey. And these people were in their 40s and 50s.

    1. Me2

      I’ll never forget my first office job, for our company function we went on a boat ride to a lodge where we were served a meal, then a boat ride back to Seattle. I was only 16, and was absolutely appalled by the way some adults were acting. This was back in the day when drinking at lunch was completely accepted and normal, but at this event people were literally falling down drunk, hitting on coworkers, you name it. I was so uncomfortable and put off by the behavior that it stopped me from ever really enjoying a drink with coworkers. That event was 40 years ago and it’s still fresh in my mind how embarrassing they acted.

    2. Ruby

      I hear you!
      My work place has been banned from more than 12 places due our functions getting out of hand but for some reason the merest suggestion of making people actually pay for their drinks instead of getting blind drunk at an open bar is met with complete horror. I attend one a year (there are three or four functions), stay exactly long enough to watch the outcome of the first fist fight of the evening and then leave. After the first fight, chairs, tables and other items start flying and well, who wants to explain that on a work cover form?

      1. Notorious MCG

        Oh my god, TWELVE places?!

        OP3 here, and that is crazypants! I feel for you and the poor person who has to keep organizing those.

        1. Ruby

          I’m actually part of the social club who help organize the events. When it became clear that not having the open bar was not negotiable, myself and a handful of allies basically started picking venues that had the least amount of projectiles and good security/bouncers. It’s sad when the planning meeting turns into a debate about which is more dangerous, wood or plastic chairs?

          I can’t really blame people though, the functions are the only thing the company actually spends any money with regards to employee satisfaction. May as well make the most of free beer, cause you won’t be getting anything else out of them.

        2. HYDR

          OP3, I work in non-profit, my husband is in sales. He qualified for an incentive trip out of the country to an all-inclusive resort. SEVENTY-FIVE people went, and I can tell you that the group was was loud, drunk and obnoxious the entire time, from plane ride to plane ride. All I wanted was a trip away to read books, relax with my husband and re-charge. We certainly found our ‘spot’ at a quiet pool that was not the swim-up bar pool.

          I guess that is what happens when you have a group of outgoing salespeople together with an open bar and zero responsibilities. Not everyone was crazy, the majority were. Age was also a HUGE factor. The younger they were, the worst they acted!

        1. Ruby

          Blue collar job with little to no work/life balance and extreme problems hiring staff. As long as you show up most days and appear somewhat sober, it’s pretty hard to be fired.

    3. K.

      My old job was VERY boozy – literally everything was celebrated with alcohol. If you were in recovery, I don’t think you could have worked there. I’m not a binge drinker and people used to give me grief about it all the time. (It didn’t work.) The holiday party had been cancelled before I started working there because of “too much bad drunken behavior.” I was told a story of two high-level employees emerging from the bushes partially dressed, totally smashed (and each married to other people), another story of a fistfight, etc. This is not a particularly young company, either – and it was also in an area where you had no choice but to drive, so I’m sure there’s drunk driving happening regularly.

      At one end of year team dinner, the VP (in her fifties) got completely smashed, to the point where her #2 had to take her keys and drive her home. She was an “I love you guyssshhh” kind of drunk, stumbling around and putting her arm around everybody. Even other people who were drunk were like “[Veep], could you maybe quit grabbing on me?” It was totally non-sexual; it was just clingy and weird. Seeing your boss sloshing her whisky on the floor and slurring is not a good look.

    4. MashaKasha

      I was one of the oldest employees at an OldJob, and I was in my early 40s then. I will never forget the one time after a happy hour, when two of the coworkers, a guy and a woman, asked me for a ride to a large upscal-ish outdoor shopping center for an after-happy hour. I drove them there, and while walking through the shopping center, the guy suddenly had an urge to pee RIGHT WHERE HE STOOD, which happened to be on a wall near an entrance of a bank, which was closed. The woman stood guard, and I intercepted a group of lovely old ladies, who were about to walk right past the bank. (“Excuse me, do you know what time it is? Could you say this again? Did you say 10:30 or 11:30? Oh, TEN-thirty” they probably thought I was insane.) I think it was that night that I had my first thoughts about whether I’d taken this whole”socializing with coworkers” after work thing a bit too far. And you better believe that, if I ever run into this guy again in my career, the first thing to pop in my head would be “peeing on a bank wall”.

  8. Sonya

    The vomiting pregnant woman needs to see a doctor about her hyperemesis gravidarium, and get a script for promethazine (Phenergan). She cannot continue to throw up that regularly or the next sight to see will be her on a saline drip to try and resolve her extreme dehydration. A manager needs to say something. She cannot continue to come to work like this.

    1. Huh

      Yes! There are many safe ways to treat severe morning sickness. It’s sad and surprising a lot of qualifies doctors aren’t aware of the options. If I knew this lady I would definitely recommend she discuss her options with an experienced obstetrician/midwife. I suffered needlessly in my first pregnancy because I thought it was just one of those things and I had to suck it up. The second pregnancy I was on medication, which was fantastic to get through the first few weeks. When it eventually became unbearable I was hospitalised and put on saline drip (dehydration causes more vomiting and goes on vicious cycle) and given medication intravenously, which is far more effective than tablets. It’s awful when women suffer needlessly because they aren’t properly informed by their doctor.

    2. ..Kat..

      Zofran is safer and does not run the risk of feeling ditsy, high, whatever that phenergan does. But medications while pregnant are a crapshoot for your developing fetus. Little to no research on life long effects for your baby. Remember thalidomide?

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think there’s high potential for lots of comments here about what the pregnant coworker should be doing, but let’s try to keep the advice focused on what the letter-writer can do, since that’s a bit different. (I’ll add a note at the top about that too.)

    4. Amy

      She could very well be on Phenergan, Zofran or Digclegis. I had this condition and the drugs reduced my vomiting from about 30 times a day to 5-10, but I still threw up at work a lot. The kindest thing my manager could do was let me work from home some days and come in after 10AM on others. Also FMLA can be an option. I ended up reducing my maternity leave because it was more important to take the time beforehand.

      1. Parenthetically

        Yep, I’ve had a few friends with hyperemesis who still vomited multiple times a day on zofran. One ended up hospitalized on IV nutrition (and obviously had to leave her job). My mother, on the other hand, never vomited in five pregnancies. You never know which you’ll be!

  9. Huh

    “But it’s also not unreasonable to expect her to at least attempt to use the bathroom when she needs to throw up rather than the trash can at her desk.”

    Not sure if you have experienced morning sickness, Alison. No pregnant woman prefers to vomit in a public place within the view of her coworkers. Sometimes – especially with severe morning sickness – you can’t even make it to the bathroom. When I was pregnant I once threw up inside my car while driving (and yes it was as gross as it sounds lol). The nausea can come unexpectedly.

    It’s likely the woman in letter #4 continues to work because her employer won’t allow extended sick leave. Which is just crazy. If one of your staff is so sick they are vomiting at their desk, you should be letting them off work. It’s not fair on the coworkers who have to listen/watch/smell someone else vomiting next to them on a regular basis. It’s not fair on the pregnant woman to have to work through constant vomiting.

      1. Jenbug

        Would it be reasonable for OP#4 to suggest to the manager that they allow the pregnant women the option of working from home while she’s not feeling well? I understand why you said that they couldn’t tell her she shouldn’t be at work, but could they reframe it as concern for her health? Since the LW said that they have the option to work from home, but it’s frowned upon. is there a way to approach that as a better solution for everyone?

        1. OP#4

          Even leaving my phobia out of it, I just think she would be more COMFORTABLE working from home! Privacy, close to the bathroom, etc. But she may not want special treatment, or the option may not have been offered to her.

          1. Bend & Snap

            and that part is really the coworker’s business.

            I had terrible morning sickness and was losing weight until halfway through the second trimester, and still managed not to puke in my trash can at work (although in the car was a different story).

            But even if OP didn’t have a phobia, it would be totally reasonable to not want to be around daily vomiting, and moving is a good solution. OP I think framing this as a “you” problem vs a “coworker” problem would be helpful too–that way you’re asking them to work with you to solve a challenge.

          2. embertine

            OP, as someone who also has emetophobia, you have my sympathies. Allison and many of the commenters have assumed that you experience nausea or vomiting as a result of this, but it sounds like what I have, which is that I would having full-blown panic attacks if someone in my office was audibly vomiting several times a day. Either you or your colleague MUST work from home, there is no other solution.

            1. C Average

              Yeah, same. I haven’t thrown up in nearly 30 years, but I am absolutely paralyzed with anxiety when someone throws up or even talks about throwing up anywhere near me. I would be completely unproductive in a work environment like this.

            2. OP#4

              I’m experiencing nausea and horrible panic attacks. I’m practically mainlining Xanax. I feel awful about being such a weenie when this woman is so sick, but I can’t help it any more than she can. :-(

              1. Junior Dev

                Hey, you’re not a weenie. You have a disease just like she does and unfortunately the symptoms of here are triggering yours.

                You deserve to work in a vomit-free environment. If your work doesn’t let one of you work from home, move your desk so you aren’t so close to her, or some other effective measure when you ask, it may be worth pursuing this as a disability accomodation. Nobody WANTS to be next to a constantly vomiting person, but you have a specific medical reason not to be.

                I have PTSD and social anxiety so I know how much it sucks to have anxiety interfere with work. I hope you can work something out soon.

              2. Chinook

                You are allowed to feel awful. What has happened is that two competing illnesses have come to a head and both of you deserve a work environment where you can function and that doesn’t punish you for something about your body that you can’t control. Compromise is the key and someone in the company has to be responsible to help come up with this compromise. Maybe you both can take turns working from home?

              3. Being Here Now

                I am experiencing icky gagging reflex right now just from READING about somebody vomiting near you. So you have all my sympathy that you are going through this. I would advise talking with your boss ASAP and explaining the situation – you are having difficulty working under the present conditions. Hopefully boss will act to come up with a fair solution.

            3. QA Lady

              Exposure therapy can somewhat help with this. I used to get the nausea, dry heaves, racing heart full on fight-or-flight. However, I have 2 young children and a husband who catches everything. I now am able to remain calm in the moment and the panic attack hits after everything is dealt with (hours or day a later). Its still not fun because I find myself actually incapable of being affectionate with the formerly- sick for up to several days after. But I can at least mop up the puke.

              1/10 do not recommend this experience.

            4. KS

              Yep, as another -severe- emetophobe, I honestly can’t imagine. Phobias are rough and the panic attacks/uncontrollable anxiety that stem from them are no joke – it’s not just about “sympathy nausea”. If I were in this situation and my boss wouldn’t let me alter my surroundings somehow via working from home or a very different office, I’d have to put my job in jeopardy because of it. So I get how intense that kind of thing can be and I’m really sorry you’re dealing with it. I hope you can be accommodated on this.

          3. Jenbug

            That was my thought too! If I was that ill, I would definitely prefer to work from home. It really would be the best solution for everyone, but I understand that you have to approach it very carefully for legal reasons.

  10. Generation Catalano

    #1 I have two reactions to this and I don’t know which is right so here they both are.

    Either stop enabling them completely from this moment on. It sounds like they’re kind of enabling each other – BOTH saying they are fine when asked?! – and they also have zero motivation to learn about it when they can ask you questions. So stop answering them.

    Or maybe there’s an issue here where there should have been a defined learning process for getting to grips with this report, training sessions they were required to attend and someone checking it was followed. Why are they both saying they’re fine – what’s the history there? I’m also wondering if it’s entirely reasonable to meet with the subject matter expert and not share your learnings with your team. At my work you’d send an email round summarising key points after doing something like that. Is it the best use of your team’s time if you meet separately with the same person? Can you not write a process document with everything in it that you picked up? Did you invite them along when you met with the subject expert?

    Don’t get me wrong. I get that maybe this is a case of people wanting to be spoonfed. And it’s great that you have initiative, but could you have included them too?

    1. Is it Performance Art

      I like the idea of having them sit down with the subject matter expert. It’s going to be the best way for them to learn what they need. And if you still get the same questions even after they meet, there’s a good chance they just prefer to have you answer their questions rather than learn it themselves.
      If you’re getting the same questions again and again, you could try sending them a cheat sheet for future reference or put it in an email along with some extra detail and then if they ask again, mention that you’ve emailed them the information/ it’s in the cheat sheet. What happens afterward should be instructive. (I’ve sent out plenty of detailed instructions complete with pictures, only to get questions that were that were answered in the instructions by someone who insisted they’d read them. Either they missed it in the directions or they claim the directions weren’t clear enough even though everyone else says they’re clear as day.)

      1. Generation Catalano

        But OP already sat down with that person – have you shared what you learned in any kind of official way?

        If I was your manager and you’d sat down with the SME and were getting too many questions, I personally would expect to hear about the part where you fed back what you’d learned to your colleagues.

    2. misspiggy

      Yes, I was a bit confused about that. Is OP not now the ‘subject matter expert’ in this report for her team? In teams I’ve worked in, the OP would now be expected to train her coworkers or answer questions as part of her job duties, and would be recognised for having taken this initiative.

      1. TootsNYC

        I don’t think the OP was **appointed** as the subject-matter expert.

        She has **become** the subject-matter expert because of her own initiative and organizational ability.

        I think she should say this to her boss: “I’ve apparently become the subject-matter expert here. I read through everything, I asked questions, I made notes and kept files. I thought that was standard operating procedure. But Fergus and Jane keep coming to me with all their questions, even stuff I had assumed they would already have the answers to.
        “That tells me that my initiative, my actions, and my skills, are actually unusual. It also tells me that they trust me. As a result, I’m really steering the work on this project, pretty closely and pretty strongly.
        “I wanted to be sure you were fully aware. I’ve saved a lot of time and energy for all of us, and kept the project moving smoothly. I’d like to be rewarded for my initiative and leadership–with a raise, perhaps, but certainly with an official sanction as the team lead. And I’d like to have the opportunity on the next project to be more officially involved, as a way to gain the kind of experience that will lead to advancement in my career.”

    3. Mookie

      Agreed wholeheartedly that if this is fast becoming standard operating procedure, documenting these frequent, ad hoc training sessions in writing for easy forwarding and reference (and looping in for your manager’s sake) seems not only advisable, but probably obligatory with this particular group.

      In a similar vein, I’m mildly confused about this remark:

      I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I also feel weird that they could both be my mom…and I’m 31.

      OP, is this not true for anyone 16 – 18+ years older than you (that they could be one of your parents)? As it’s not remotely weird for people in their late 40s to late 60s to be in the workforce — and at any level of seniority — I don’t see the connection or why it’d make a difference. Do you feel weird because you know (or take the initiative to learn) more than they do?

      1. MK

        Eh, I don’t think this is unusual. People are conditioned to associate age with seniority/experience/authority; and in most cultures “respecting your elders” is a thing in various degrees. In my exrerience, even in the workplace it’s still the most likely situation to have the older person be more senior, or at least more experienced; when it’s the opposite there is usually a certain awkwardness there.

        1. Mookie

          Got that — and I agree, although climbing the ladder as one ages depends on the industry — I’m just wondering whether the OP thinks her available options might be more limited because she is a peer to people slightly older than her, a fairly common experience that (no kidding) becomes less common as one ages. I don’t know if I think this situation calls for extra amounts of age-related deference or pussy-footing, but I imagine others might disagree. That two of her colleagues are in the same boat would lead me to believe this is an internal hiring / training issue rather than that these people are “mom”-like and should, therefore, know better.

        2. Jesmlet

          I’m a 20something year old who had to train and give frequent criticism and feedback to a 40something year old and I found it pretty uncomfortable but very necessary. I was raised in a culture where you always defer to your elders and it was a strange situation to be put in having to be the one with more knowledge and authority. Telling an older person they need to go do something differently than how they’ve been doing it is just not the way to do things in my culture. Took some getting used to…

      2. Colette

        I read that as a sign that hat these coworkers have been in the workforce long enough that they should know how to learn how to do their job – they’re not fresh out of school waiting for someone to come tell them what to do.

        1. A.

          That’s how I read this too – my colleagues who act like this have enough work experience to know better, they shouldn’t need to ask someone with a lot less experience to spoon feed them this much.

        2. The Strand

          Ditto. That’s my impression – “How did you get along this far without learning how to help yourself?”

      3. Whats In A Name

        I actually read it as the OP being hesitant to approach and correct/train someone older or just downright refuse to answer their questions. And not in a “they should know better” way but in a respect your elders way. Some people are uncomfortable with this if not explicitly given direction to do so. And even then it can be very nerve racking, especially if they have ever verbalized “you could be my son/daughter”…it just can make an awkward dynamic.

        All that being said, I still agree OP needs to find a way to manage/shut down the behavior, even if that means sharing their findings with the subject matter expert.

    4. A.

      I went through this too, and it was frustrating that the outcome of my initiative to create reference materials got me nowhere because my colleagues did not use them, preferring to be spoon fed. They also refused to ask any of the SMEs (which is our procedure), and even let our team’s projects fall behind schedule if I was unavailable to answer a question that they could have located the answer to if they had put in minimal effort.

      My manager’s response was to assign me to formally train my colleagues and basically appointed me as the team’s SME, so I guess those reference materials won’t totally go to waste. So OP #1, be aware that’s a very real possibility if you approach him/her with this. But at least your manager will be aware this is how you are spending your time, and that’s something.

      1. TootsNYC

        And as I point out below, the creation of those reference materials, and your assignment to train and semi-supervise them can be the steps you stand on for your next move up.

        1. Artemesia

          Or you can be the office ‘girl’ who provides professional maid service but who is overlooked for promotion because being a support person is less measurable/visible than getting projects done.

    5. TootsNYC

      I’d suggest the OP think of the creation of a training manual, etc., as a career-development issue. (and not as “you should have done this work for them”) It could make her look really good.

      I also suggest the OP make sure her boss knows about the initiative that she’s shown, and leadership (or at least, cast the constant questions not as coworkers’ laziness but as our OP’s leadership, initiative, organizational ability). Make it sound like our OP is on a fast-track to team lead or supervisor.

    6. Chaordic One

      This was a big problem in my old job at Dysfunctional Teapots, Ltd. We had very high rates of turnover. Either I had to train someone about how to do a given task or, conversely, I would decide that I could just do it myself more quickly. It seemed like I always made the wrong decision.

  11. Mookie

    This particular group has been drinking heavily, yelling a lot, and some of them have been pretty obnoxiously hitting on women. All behaviors that I can’t imagine reasonable people doing around coworkers or managers!

    I can’t imagine reasonable people doing this under any circumstances — although, damned if I’m not regularly guilty of two out of the three outside working hours — but I found this understatement masterful and delicious.

    1. Spoonie

      I very briefly worked for a company where this behavior was actually encouraged — by the CEO no less. Notably, the CEO had been quite successful elsewhere before starting their own company. It was singlehandedly the most frustrating job I ever worked at, and in hindsight I did notice the red flags. But you were expected to live and breathe the company, not just…go to work and then have a life outside of it. So partying with the CEO/senior staff on a “company trip” to an international destination or Vegas? They actually do it. And honestly, I’m wondering if this is them.

      1. J

        I’m so wondering if I currently work where you worked briefly, because #3 sounded very very familiar to me, too. And this behavior is highly encouraged by our CEO. I’m not sure I want to believe that there’s more than one place like this (even though I know that’s really naive).

        1. Spoonie

          I really hope there’s not more than one place like that, but I’m also not that naive. If it is the same place, I highly recommend finding alternative employment. There’s a reason I was there only briefly.

  12. Rebecca

    #1 – OP, I’ve been in your shoes. A while back, I had a coworker who continually asked the same questions, every week, when she had to do a task for one of her customers. She asked me and the coworker on the other side of the cubicle…every week it was the SAME questions. We even joked about recording the answers so we could replay them to her instead of repeating them yet again. Ditto anything to do with Excel, Word, email, you name it. Once I said “how about we write this down, so you have the steps for next time?” She said “no need to do that, I can always just ask you!”. She would smile, and say she was going to retire in a few years, so why learn things that she’d never use again. Our manager was useless, and when we pointed this out, she just told us to help her and pulled the family card.

    Long story short, our company was sold. She was one of the first people to be left go from our department. It wasn’t her age, it was her skill set.

    You will do your coworkers a favor by stopping your assistance, pointing them in the right direction, and encouraging them to learn these steps for themselves.

    1. Rebecca in Dallas

      I had a coworker like that as well. I finally started responding to her questions with, “It’s the same way I showed you how to do it last week. I’m sorry, I don’t have time to help you with it again.” I had already requested that she write it down, if she didn’t then it was her problem, not mine.

      1. the gold digger

        When I moved to a new division at my old job, I prepared detailed documentation for the person who was replacing me, including examples of every report I had to do, a list of the contact people for each report, and links to all the source files. I made sure that every single customer file was current and I had all of my emails, which are very well organized, transferred to the new guy. (None of this documentation had existed when I started the job – I figured it all out on my own.)

        Then I spent two hours with him after he had started reviewing everything.

        For months afterwards, he would call or email me with simple questions. I finally started asking if he had looked at the documentation or looked in the customer files.

        No, he answered cheerfully. He hadn’t read that stuff yet.

        That’s when I told his boss, who is a friend of mine, that I was DONE. I did not ask how they could pay this guy 35% more than they had paid me, but I wanted to.

        1. Generation Catalano

          I had someone do this. Like you, I had moved to another team rather than leaving – so I was still in the building. My manager eventually stopped it by telling her I did actually have my own work to be getting on with.

          1. Whats In A Name

            I once moved out of state and the person who took over a portion of my duties at oldjob would call me on my cell to ask how to handle certain things. I finally had to tell her (nicely) to back off; I had trained her before I left & created a guide for her to follow because I got thrown into it without any direction but after a few months I was done with the calls. Materials/training guides only goes so far with some people.

  13. VP

    #4, depending on how long this has been going on, you may not have much longer to go. Unless your coworker is exceptionally unwell, the puking typically only lasts the first trimester (and only starts midway through). Assume good intentions- and assume that coworker feels terrible– can you just work from home more? Take more calls from conference rooms (i.e. Find reasons to be away from your desk?)

    As someone who as been your coworker, she’s probably worried about her performance, losing her job, etc. and doesn’t want to ask for any additional special treatment.

    1. OP#4

      Oh, I fully realize she is miserable and the problem is totally mine in this instance. I will be speaking to my manager about the WFH option.

      1. BI developer

        I don’t think the problem is totally yours, I’d wouldn’t like to sit near someone who is throwing up. I know your co-worker isn’t enjoying the situation either, but I would think the most practical option is for her to work from home. My desk it is a bank of 8 (in two rows, so we sit with out back to each other) if someone at one of those desks was throwing up it would be very unpleasant for the other 7 people to the extent that they would want to move elsewhere or work from home, which is a lot more inconvenient than one person moving.

        I know that women who have children can be punished and marginalised in the workplace, which totally unacceptable, but I don’t agree that accommodating someone vomiting at their desk is reasonable.

        1. TootsNYC

          yeah, I don’t think you can possibly be the only one who’d really rather not hear someone vomiting every day.

          Management really should be stepping up and figuring out how to get her into some sort of more private place to work.

          1. KS

            Agreed. I wouldn’t want to sit near someone who was uncontrollably doing any other (relatively private) body function in an office, either. It sucks for both parties, sure, but I also don’t think it’s unreasonable to not want to have anything to do with it.

      2. BananaPants

        FWIW, I had severe nausea and vomiting in my first pregnancy and borderline HG in my second. My stomach is like iron when I’m not pregnant, but I don’t handle other people puking well (even my own kids). I’ve been through the misery myself and I would still be seriously grossed out if a coworker was puking in close proximity to me!

        I’m hoping that your manager will let her work from home at least partially, or can move her desk to be close to a bathroom or something.

      3. tigerStripes

        I’d have a hard time dealing with this too. When I hear someone throwing up, I have to control my gag reflex. What you are dealing with sounds so much worse.

    1. AnonMarketer

      As an emet (and who wrote in last year about my then-boss who liked to announce when she was going to puke to the entire room), I can tell you, yes, it’s treatable, but by god, is it TERRIFYING. Most people aren’t inclined to start vomit-based therapy if that’s their fear, and it’s a long road. That doesn’t necessarily stop OP’s anxiety problem in the now. He/she is a trooper right now just for dealing with it!

  14. Joseph

    #2: I wouldn’t worry about it at all. It’s very common for this sort of news to spread generically; it’s just the way things work in an organization. Reasonable people (which I’m assuming they are!) won’t be offended that they heard it directly from their boss within an *hour* of you telling your boss.
    Also, not to be cruel, but the sad-but-honest truth is that a lot of these work friendships don’t last after you leave anyways. Not because of particular intent to fall apart, but because you no longer have that shared connection, you make connections at new places, it’s a lot more effort to arrange get-togethers, etc. And if these work friendships DO last, the hour delay of them finding out on their own isn’t going to matter long-term. So either way, it’s probably not worth much long-term worry.

    1. OP #2

      Thanks, that’s good to know!
      I’ve never been very comfortable having a super-close friendships with coworkers outside of work , so I made a huge effort to make friends outside of work.

  15. Roscoe

    #3 As far as compnay trips, I think it kind of depends on the type of trip. A “retreat” type of trip is one thing, because a certain amount of work is expected to be done. A “reward” trip to me is very different. Is this is a reward, I’m definitely more ok with the “what happens in vegas” mentality. While it is correct that the harrassment laws are still in place. However, aside from that its their vacation too. People get to behave how they wish (within reason). It doesn’t sound like they are being bad people or anything, just enjoying a vacation in a different way than a couple would.

  16. WhoHelpsHR

    Oy I am having a similar problem as #1 and will be following. In my case, I’m about to assume managerial control over the group who continually ask the same questions. I’ve tried directing them to resources before they ask me. I’ve also complained to our boss that they seem to lack basic knowledge for their jobs. Union environment. It does not seem to help, I’m at a loss, other than discipline.

    1. JMegan

      I wonder if it’s easier as a manager, actually? You will finally have the authority to tell people to go away and do their own thinking before coming to you, and the ability to make it a performance measure if need be.

      In any case, I find it helpful to ask “What did you do (to find the answer) before you came to me?” Then if the answer is “nothing,” you can direct them to go back and do X, Y, Z first, and come back if none of those things work.

      For OP1, I would say in addition to Alison’s scripts, just stop answering. If they email you, ignore the email until the next day or so. If they call or come to your desk, just keep repeating “it’s on the intranet” over and over again. Don’t be rude about it, but don’t give them the answer either. Right now they’re coming to you because it’s easier than doing the work themselves – so your best bet is to make it less easy. Good luck!

      1. TootsNYC

        When I was in kindergarten, I couldn’t tie my shoes. I needed my kindergarten teacher to tie them. She refused. “You can do it.” No, I couldn’t, I whined. I cried. I got mad. She said, “You are a big girl, and you do not really need me to tie you shoes. Of course you can do it. I’m going to go away so that you have to.” And she left me there by the coat closet.

        I am now in my mid-50s, and I STILL remember how I felt when I did actually tie my shoes. And I think that single incident is what taught me the initiative and problem-solving determination that I rely on every single day.

    2. TootsNYC

      I think it should be MUCH easier as a manager. You can issue orders without offense.

      So you say, “This is a question you should not be asking me until you have tried to get the answer in 3 places.”

      And you can train without offense.
      “You keep asking me really simple questions that you should be finding out for yourself. Because as a manager, I do not have time to deal with that minutiae; that’s why YOU are here, to do that. [that was lesson #1–the role of the manager]
      Let’s talk through all the ways you might possibly find out what the legal language is for that package insert. Tell me where you can think of that you might look. Have you ever handled something similar before?”
      So you can train them on the thought habits. You shouldn’t have to, but it might be worth a little investment of time.

  17. blackcat

    #3, it is my sense that companies that do this sort of thing are… self-selecting.

    One of my (male) friends took a job right out of college at a small finance company that did exactly this. Almost all employees were in their 20s/30s with just a few in their 40s/50s, and nearly all were male. It had a very bro-y culture. He said it was fine until he went to his first company retreat at a resort in Mexico. He was not exactly shocked at the drinking, but he was horrified at the harassment of women (particularly resort employees), the inviting of prostitutes to the parties (!!!) and cocaine use by his coworkers (!!!).

    He quickly found a new job. I’m a bit biased (he is my good friend), but I think he is awesome and brilliant. It was the company’s loss. Such awful companies will lose many of their best employees, who are just as disgusted by this behavior as you.

  18. Jenbug

    OP #1, I’ve been in your shoes. To make matters worse, my BOSS would send people to me for answers that he didn’t know! I developed some tools to help my coworkers with those types of things. Cheat sheets that explained exactly how to do a thing or a template that would automate the process. It had two benefits for me: #1, I didn’t have to answer the same questions repeatedly and #2, it made me look like an awesome team player. If you want to go for the path of least resistance, I’d recommend taking 10-15 minutes to type up a primer for your current coworkers and anyone else who may join your team in the future.

    1. Whats In A Name

      I was going to suggest something similar before. A process document. It might take even hours to create, depending on the complexity of the report, but it would save more than that in time spent explaining in 5 minute increments.

  19. STX

    #2 Honestly it sounds normal to me that your boss and other managers would control the spread of information. When I quit my last job with a month’s notice, I didn’t tell anyone because I was working on some sensitive projects and my boss didn’t want those clients to hear the news through the grapevine. Unfortunately I may have taken it too far because apparently a lot of my coworkers didn’t know I was leaving until they got the email planning for my going-away lunch!

    1. MillersSpring

      Yes. It is totally normal for your boss to immediately send an email that says OP is leaving on X date. It was your preference to tell Lucy yourself, but it is his responsibility and he acted correctly. The only thing he could have done differently is to cc you on the email.

  20. KathyGeiss

    Re #3. Ugh. This is so common. I often found that the worst offenders were 30-50 year olds with families. It was a bit of a “imma party like I’m in college cause I’m not responsible for kids and my wife will never know” mentality (note: my industry is dominated by men in straight relationships so it usually is a wife). I am all for a good party but it feels weird to get that out of control with colleagues. I would support people doing that with friends more often so they could be more reasonable at work functions.

    1. Gandalf the Nude

      Yeah, by far the hardiest partiers I’ve ever seen are empty nesters. And in a work context, they’re more likely to have enough political capital built up to make that kind of behavior more or less consequence free.

    2. Notorious MCG

      Fun fact: on the third day they were there, I noticed that a lot of people I had assumed to be unaffiliated with the loudest groups of employees were wearing logoed apparel while hanging out with their small kids by the pool! So at least for this company it seems that families were included on the invite list.

    3. Alienor

      I’m 45 and am constantly surprised at the number of people my age who still drink and party like they’re in college–not just once in a while, but every single weekend. They’ve got a lot more stamina than I do, that’s for sure!

    4. Leaving names out of it

      Yep, this exactly. My husband commonly ducks out of work events due to the completely inappropriate behavior of his superiors and HR. He’s just a little over a year sober and they try to get him to drink.

      We’ve both found with work travel it that people with kids at home are the worst offenders at these events.

  21. Dankar

    OP #4, you’ve got my sympathy. I also have a rather severe case of emetophobia, and you’ve just described my worst nightmare.

    As kind of a corollary question–my phobia is so severe that the last time someone threw up near me, I woke up about 15 minutes later, having passed out right at my (university) desk. There was also the time a young child threw up in the train station as I passed, and by the time I got on the train and reached my stop, I’d scratched my arms bloody. It’s not simply a “yucky” reaction, but an anxiety disorder. If this were a diagnosed issue, would people like myself and OP #4 be entitled to accommodations (a private office away from the puker, permission to work from home) under the ADA? I can never tell if phobias are covered…

      1. emmylou

        I also have severe emetephobia and I think that is a very good point. It’s not simple “yuckiness” — it’s a total anxiety/phobic reaction.

      2. hermit crab

        I wonder if allergies could be a good analogy here, for use when framing the issue to yourself or maybe talking to management. Example: When we moved into our current office building, there was still some construction going on, and one coworker’s allergies and asthma were horribly triggered by the resulting dust/particles in the air. So there was something going on in the office that was quite unpleasant (though manageable) for most people, but additional action had be taken for this particular coworker because she physically couldn’t function in that environment. Obviously, in this case, the construction couldn’t happen elsewhere, so the coworker ended up primarily working in a different area or from home for a few weeks until the construction was finished.

    1. Observer

      If the phobia is bad enough to interfere with normal daily living, probably.

      But, have you considered therapy? I’ve seen a fair amount of information that indicates that emetophobia is fairly treatable. If you have and it didn’t work, I’m sorry to hear that. If you haven’t because your doctor told you to “just avoid vomit”, please push back. As you can see, that’s not so easy, and it sounds like your reaction is really difficult for you.

      1. Dankar

        The therapy that’s been floated my way is usually exposure therapy, like someone mentioned upthread. This is a catch-22 for me since I know it would probably be very helpful, but am having a hard time getting excited about confronting my phobia to move past it. Just the thought makes my heart rate climb. Haha

        Right now, avoiding the situation has worked for me. I’m not so affected that I burn my food/avoid seafood/don’t fly or go to theme parks or any of the other coping mechanisms. I can now even watch movies and television shows with puking in them without needing to mute it!

        1. Candi

          If anyone is trying to float exposure therapy, to either of you, as THE thing and only thing to do, they need to stop.

          The whole emetophobia discussion has happened before on this site, a couple of times in the last six months alone.

          One thing I learned is there are multiple therapies for the condition. Exposure was one of the lesser recommended ones because of the problems involved.

          Cognitive behavioral therapy had several recommendations -always, always under guidance of a therapist.

    2. Junior Dev

      I hope Alison will weigh in on this but IIRC the ADA does not have a list of qualifying disorders–so it’s not like emetophobia itself is covered or not covered. I can’t say more without going past my level of knowledge but it might be worth searching for “ADA accomodations for phobia.”

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      This would probably fall under the “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual” method of evaluating whether your phobia requires accommodation. But given that you passed out, and given that this phobia seems related to an anxiety disorder (not simply an extreme reaction to a specific fear), you could request an individualized assessment if you were in a position where you were routinely exposed to a vomiting coworker. The type of accommodation provided would depend significantly on your job functions, the employer’s needs, etc.

      To your broader question, phobias aren’t categorically in/out of the definition of a disability. The ADA has a multistep process for determining (1) if you have a disability, and (2) if it can be reasonably accommodated.

    4. As a Preggo Lady

      This is helpful for me to see. As I said below, I also don’t enjoy watching someone vom and it will often make me nauseous and I’ll remove myself from the situation. But I wasn’t sure where the line is drawn from ‘ick, vomming is gross I feel queasy now’ to ‘ick, vomming is gross and I have a legitimate phobia of it.’ (I can’t imagine there’s anyone in the ‘eh, vomming’s ok,’ or ‘yum, VOM!’ camps)

      What you’re describing is definitely a legitimate phobia/anxiety and I appreciate you sharing this for others’ education.

  22. Menacia

    OP #1 – There is nothing I hate more than lazy-ass coworkers! I have always been the go-to person on software-specific issues, but now it seems everyone wants me to answer every question they have because they know they will get an immediate answer. They don’t realize (or don’t care) that I know these answers not because I’m omnipotent, but because I took the time to look up the answers so I knew them myself. I did not yell my questions out into the universe and expect a response. We have a database that my coworkers can use to look up resolutions to issues or instructions, and so now, even if I know the answer, I direct them there. Or say IDK, because it’s extremely distracting as the OP mentions to have people constantly looking to you to answer questions they themselves are competent to look up (or be trained in). That’s the part that really bothers me, I’ve taken the time to learn a piece of software to support it (because it’s my JOB), and my coworkers don’t and then ask me how to do something. Now it’s time for self preservation.

  23. CM

    OP #1: This might be obnoxious, but at a team meeting where the boss asks your coworkers if they need anything and they say no, I would pipe in and say, “Maybe some training on Teapot Lid Handling would be useful — we just talked about that the other day, when you were asking me about how to deal with lid breakage.” Not in an “I’m telling on you” kind of way, but in a “Hey, I’m jogging your memory with this helpful suggestion” kind of way.

    OP #2, I’d say to your coworker buddies that you intended to tell them in person and you’re sorry they found out from someone else. They’ll understand but I think it’s nice to let them know.

    OP #4, I’m with you — just reading your question and the comments about it have made me feel queasy. I think it’s a good approach to ask your manager for some accommodation, but I’m also hoping that the manager realizes that this is very unpleasant for everybody and finds some other solution, like a temporary private office, for your coworker who’s having a difficult pregnancy.

    1. Perse's Mom

      #1 – “In meetings, my boss will ask us what they need, and they say they’re fine.

      Is there a point where I could tell my boss that they don’t know these things, and I’m constantly being asked for the answer?”

      That IS where you speak up, OP.
      “Really? Because you both ask me a lot of questions about Report A [or whatever other thing they should know by now] on a regular basis. I only know what I know about [topics] because I sat down with [SME]. Perhaps you two would benefit from a similar session with [SME] about [topics]?”

  24. Kaitlyn

    LW4: You co-worker is not vomiting *at* you. Even though your reaction is strong and unpleasant, it may be helpful to remember that. Your co-worker is probably feeling embarrassed that this is happening to her, and that she’s throwing up in public at work. She might also be afraid that if she asks for accommodations, she’ll be punished or sidelined. (That “mommy track” can start early.) I totally understand how uncomfortable you are with this, but please try to remember that this time is finite and she won’t be throwing up forever—which also happened to be my mantra when I had my own round with morning sickness.

    1. Natalie

      I get where you’re coming from, but I don’t get the impression that the OP is at all upset with their co-worker. And they’re describing a phobia, not just a personal aversion to vomit. A genuine phobia is probably not something they can just “ride out” for however many weeks.

      1. ZVA

        Yeah, this is what I was going to say. The OP seems to empathize with her coworker, but given that she has emetophobia, I don’t see how reminding herself that her coworker won’t be throwing up forever or that she isn’t throwing up at her will help… OP said in the comments that she’s nauseous, mainlining Xanax, and on the verge of a panic attack all day—it sounds like asking her boss to work from home or in a different room is the only practical solution here.

        1. As a Preggo Lady

          I mention this below but I’ll mention it again here – I don’t like seeing people vom either, and it often will make me nauseous too. But, it’s a fact of life, and I don’t categorize it as a phobia per se. Occasionally I even have to clean up other people’s said vom, if it’s a family member who is too sick to care for themselves.

          I wouldn’t enjoy being around this for months on end either, but I honestly want to know where the line is from ‘ick vomming is gross’ to ‘ick I have a legitimate phobia of vomming’

      2. neverjaunty

        Yes, this. We all (I hope) have enormous sympathy for the co-worker, but shaming the OP for having a phobia that also makes it *her* problem is not at all helpful.

        1. emmylou

          I really don’t see her as shaming the co-worker — she’s being quite empathetic to my view. As a fellow emetephobe, I couldn’t stay in that room. I go places where people might be sick (mostly places where motion sickness is a risk, because I love traveling) but have to drug myself gently to be able to not be on complete edge the entire time. (Ironically, the drugs that stop people from vomiting also calm me down lol).

          1. C Average

            Your comments reminded me of an experience I had on a business trip in Japan. I was on a flight from Tokyo to Okinawa. I was in the window seat and this adorable elderly Japanese couple took up the other two seats.

            As soon as we were aloft, they opened their tray tables and took out and carefully, almost ceremoniously, opened the airsick bags from their seat pockets. They set the bags on their tray tables in front of them and then proceeded to pull from their carry-on bags this absolute banquet. Then they busted out their chopsticks and began eating.

            At this point my inner monologue went something like this: “Oh, my gosh, I am seated beside two barfers and we have no common language and with their tray tables down I can’t get out nor can I reach under my seat for my bag and get my headphones and hand sanitizer or even just something to distract myself. And now they are EATING. What the actual hell? Don’t they know that will produce more barf??!”

            Once they finished eating they collected their napkins, orange rinds, and other food scraps, tucked them neatly into the airsickness bags, daintily closed the bags, and placed them in their carry-in bags to (I assume) dispose of them when they reached their destination.

            I’m not sure I have ever experienced such exquisite relief in my life as I did at that moment.

      3. CM

        Agreed — see OP#4’s comments above, she seems to totally sympathize with her coworker and want to be sensitive to her needs. Even if this didn’t rise to the level of a phobia, it’s a really bad situation (unsanitary, distracting, causing many people to feel nauseated, embarrassing for the coworker) for both the pregnant woman and all the coworkers for somebody to be throwing up in the middle of the office all day. Management should really find some accommodation for the poor pregnant coworker who has to work in an open plan office while going through this.

        1. Alienor

          Same. I really feel like daily vomiting, regardless of the cause, is something that needs to be addressed for the sake of the entire office. I mean, if the co-worker were having trouble controlling her bladder for medical reasons, it wouldn’t be her fault, but the solution also wouldn’t be for her to pee in a bucket at her desk.

      4. Kaitlyn

        I didn’t get the sense that the OP was upset, either. But I just ask who should be asking for the accommodation here – the person vomiting, or the person who has a problem with the vomit? I am wary of situations where pregnant people/mothers are sidelined because their pregnancy or kid is inconvenient for the workworld, and there is a lot of “go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done” energy coming into answers where people encourage the co-worker to find alternate work space.

        1. Natalie

          “there is a lot of “go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done” energy coming into answers where people encourage the co-worker to find alternate work space.”

          … I’m really not seeing where you’re picking that up from. I get that the internet can often be a harsh place but if you look again at the comments discussing the vomiting, they’re basically all sympathetic and mostly from people who have actually been there.

          Regardless, I maintain that suggesting that someone with a phobia just be more sympathetic isn’t actionable advice.

          1. Kaitlyn

            Most of the comments here are along the lines of “Ew, gross / I too suffer from emetephobia / vomiting is unsanitary (true) / that pregnant woman should work from home.” Lots of commenters are affirming that the OP’s phobia is real and should be accommodated by both her co-worker and their employer. And I whole-heartedly agree, but I also wanted to big-picture this and say that pregnancy and having children is often punished in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in the workforce. Sending her home or moving her desk for a pregnancy symptom she can’t control sidelines her.

            OP, have you talked to her directly? Do you know your company’s policies on WFH? Is there something you can suggest to her that will assure her that she remains a vital part of the team, even in the midst of this? I know you can’t control either her vomit or your reaction to it, but are there elements of this situation you can control for yourself that remain unexplored?

        2. Apollo Warbucks

          I’m surprised with the number of people saying the OP should move elsewhere. The issue is not the pregnancy but the vomiting, it’s not unreasonable for people to want to go to work and not have to deal with a coworker throwing up (or excreting any other bodily fluid) at their desk, no matter the cause. Also if I’m reading the letter correctly it’s a persistent issue not just a one off, which is something I’d say people just have to deal with happening.

    2. Dankar

      Rationally, I understand that people don’t throw up *at* me. In the midst of an anxiety attack, though, I’m not at my most rational. I’m not sure I’d be able to be as understanding and empathetic about this situation as OP #4 has been throughout this thread! And this is likely much more for he or she than just something “uncomfortable.”

    3. OP#4

      I certainly don’t blame the poor woman, and know for a fact she’s horribly embarrassed. But given my own phobia, the situation is making it difficult for me to function at work. I have no more control over that than she has over her pregnancy nausea. I’ve gotten a lot of good suggestions, though!

  25. Applesauced

    #3 – I don’t know when you submitted this letter, but if you’re still on your trip it’s worth mentioning to the hotel/resort staff that you find the guests disruptive. The resort wants guests to enjoy themselves, and they can say something to the rowdy conference goers.

    1. Notorious MCG

      Hey! We left Saturday, actually. The crux of the question was about how often people are comfortable acting like this around coworkers whom you’d have to later see in a professional setting. If it had been just a large group vacation of friends, it wouldn’t have raised my brows nearly so much. They weren’t destructive, mainly just loud and (the best word for it) dude-bro-y

      1. MillersSpring

        Yeah, some people have no awareness that such behavior could come back to bite them professionally. And some workplaces encourage or at least have no consequences for bad behavior. This sounds like a reward trip, but that kind of free vacation should have different behavior expectations than a private vacation because you’re around your coworkers (and their families!).

  26. Cora

    OP#4: I would be very careful about how you proceed here considering your coworker is pregnant and really has no control over her bodily functions plus it may not go away as quickly as one would hope!

    Your first option should be speaking to your manager about moving to another place in the office where her getting sick at her desk will not be an issue for you – mainly because no one knows how long this’ll last! But then there is the issue of someone potentially having to switch with you, and even people moderately okay with vomiting wouldn’t volunteer for this unless they were close to the pregnant coworker socially.

    There always is the option to ask to work from home… but there is no known time frame except for her due date!!! Your boss may get prickly at the idea of you needing to work from home for months on end, never knowing for sure when it’ll stop or when it could flare up – we’re all heard the horror stories of severe morning sickness throughout the entire pregnancy!!!

    Finally there is the dreaded option of asking your boss to request your pregnant coworker work from home – which could be a dance on thin ice trying to not make it look like they are pushing a pregnant woman out of the workplace and discriminating against her in some way. Then there is the dreaded potential she will be told that it is YOU who has a problem with her and want her out of the office… which we all know could induce a drama filled situation that can carry long past the vomiting ends.

    But I guess there is also the option of asking the boss to move the coworker as well! If there was a location closer to the washroom that would work better for everyone – but then again she may push back on moving desks and it’ll come out that you have a problem.

    A good idea right now would be setting up an appointment with a health professional to discuss coping mechanisms, potential treatments, and even to see if you can get a note explaining that you do have a specific phobia making it worse for you than for a non-phobic person.

    1. C Average

      Eh, I don’t know. I think this is awfully pessimistic. It could just as easily go like this:

      OP 4: “Hey, Boss, I don’t know if you’re aware, but Lucinda seems to be having pretty severe morning sickness, and because of the way my desk is situated, I have to see and hear her throwing up in her trash can multiple times a day. I’m sympathetic to her cause, but I’m also finding the whole thing really distracting and queasy-making. Is there any possibility one of us can be moved somewhere else or allowed to work from home temporarily?”

      BOSS: “Wow, yikes, I didn’t know it was that bad. No one is using Fergus’s old office, which is closer to the restroom. I’ll talk to her about moving there until she’s feeling better.” Or “Really? Wow, that’s bad. It must be really uncomfortable for both of you. I’ll talk to her about working from home–maybe she’d be more comfortable there.”

      I don’t think there’s anything weird or surprising about a person not wanting to witness someone else vomiting at their desk several times a day. It wouldn’t take an emetophobe to want to address that situation and find a solution.

      The person I feel sorriest for in this situation is the janitorial staff. That trash can! Ugh.

      1. Newby

        There is always the possibility of working in a conference room temporarily. That doesn’t require anyone else to move.

      2. Purple Jello

        That trash can now potentially carries blood borne pathogens. Does it have a red bag in it and it’s disposed properly, or is she cleaning it out with a bleach solution? (Just completed our EH&S renewal training).

      3. As a Preggo Lady

        Yea. I specifically asked and made the call to work from home frequently in my first tri when morning sickness was so bad. My boss was only person who knew I was sick and he was very accommodating. I don’t know how I’d have gotten through without that flexibility. It’s ok to work from home on occasion in my office culture, but NOT regularly for weeks on end like I did, so I did get a lot of questions about my health – that I was cagey about until I was ready to share the news.

        Maybe Lucinda just doesn’t feel comfortable advocating for herself or asking, so I don’t think it’d be weird at all for a boss to offer it as an alternative. In fact, in my position, I saw it as my company being family-friendly. My work didn’t have to suffer, but I didn’t have to suffer to BE at work, either. (being sick in ones own bed and PJs is much preferable ya know)

        1. As a Preggo Lady

          I meant Boss was only person who knew I was pregnant – I had to tell him very early on after a very awkward vom scenario that he was the only witness of. He sent me straight home because I had some…. cleaning up to do.

  27. TootsNYC

    Re: 2. When do you tell your coworkers that you’re quitting?

    Don’t sweat it. This is always awkward–something to remember no matter which side of the situation you’re on.

  28. C Average

    I see a lot of comments here suggesting that LMGGTFY should create a process doc of some kind. Be careful with that! I have learned from experience that when you create such a resource, you usually become responsible for its upkeep. Meaning that instead of getting thanked for creating a helpful resource, you get criticized when the steps you’ve listed no longer work because there’s a new version of Windows or some such thing.

    Either plan on being responsible for updates or add a prominent header stating that “this document was created 1/16/17 and will not receive further updates. Use at your own risk.”

    1. Mindful anon

      This is my life right now. Or, people have also forgotten how to search Google Drive so the folders, docs, and screencasts I’ve made to supplement the manual “aren’t there.” There really is no level of support that is sufficient when the actual problem is someone who doesn’t want to do the thing.

    2. So Very Anonymous

      Yes, this is what I was thinking. Also is why the other teammates need to get themselves up to speed, so that they’ll be able to understand/implement changes when they come.

  29. zuprubup

    OP 3, I think this was my company. I sincerely apologize on behalf of my co-workers. Assuming you weren’t comfortable asking them to keep it down (personally I wouldn’t have been comfortable approaching a group of strangers who had been drinking), I do hope the resort staff was helpful in asking them to pipe down.

    I really am terribly sorry and will forward this link to some folks in management so they’re aware.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        It’s certainly possible, but there are loads of companies that do this kind of thing; I wouldn’t think the OP’s letter would be conclusive that it was X company or Y company.

    1. Notorious MCG

      Hey! OP3 here; It didn’t really disrupt me in any way, and I would have spoken to resort staff if I’d felt compelled to! My question really was about comfort levels around coworkers, and how common this is, because while I would be 100% down to take a trip to that resort with coworkers and just sit by the pool and drink and relax with them, I would definitely hesitate before going as all-out party as some groups were. And if I worked day-to-day with a lot of those dudes and they were generally professional and good at their jobs and then encountered this personality once we were at the resort, I would definitely lose some professional respect for them. But as far as regular resort behavior, nothing was outside the bounds of behaviors I’d seen before from regular vacationers.

    2. Notorious MCG

      Though I AM super interested in your perspective if it was your group! Is that atmosphere common in the day to day of your company? Did the trip change anyone’s opinions or relationships with anyone else? Or was it just a fun time had by all?

      1. zuprubup

        Thanks for the reply Notorious MCG. As AAM mentioned above, this may not have been my company although the destination, timeframe, demographic, and behavior are spot on. That being said, it so easily could have been my company.

        The drinking, being loud, etc. is not representative of our day to day or at least not representative of the vast majority of the company. Walking through our office, it’s usually very quiet despite an open office floor plan.

        I wouldn’t know if this trip changed anyones relationships because I don’t socialize very much (extreme introvert plus very far outside of the primary demographic of the company). I personally try to forget or to at least to not dwell on my co-workers’ behavior on these trips. I’ve also learned how to successfully avoid times and areas of the resort where I might witness that which I’d rather not. I’m good at making an appearance and then ducking out at the earliest opportunity.

        tl;dr this is a regular, mandatory trip. I know what to expect and can, for the most part, avoid the less pleasant aspects of it.

        1. Notorious MCG

          Seems as though it may have affected your relationship with the company, at least, which was my initial inkling as to the danger of these trips. They can exclude by attempting to include.

          1. zuprubup

            Oh yea, good point. I hadn’t thought of it beyond, this is something I have to accept as part of working at this company. The company places a great deal of importance on this trip as a means of fostering relationships and contributing to the culture.

  30. Puffle

    LW#5, I started a new job last year, in a totally new field. I was also hired during a busy period, and had to wait a while for any real training for several reasons:

    1. My boss was insanely busy
    2. Everyone was insanely busy, and what they needed most at that point was just an extra pair of hands
    3. The projects that they wanted me to take on are all quite complex and linked to a lot of other things, so they couldn’t just pick one thing at a time to teach me
    4. Having me help out where needed and act as an extra pair of hands gave them an insight into what I’m good and bad at on a practical level, so when they did start training me they were able to make more comprehensive choices on what to assign to me

    You could perhaps try talking to your boss about what they’re planning to train you on, and ask what their thought process is- it might be there’s some reasoning going on that you’re not aware of

    1. MillersSpring

      Yes, talk to your boss. She probably doesn’t realize that your impression is that you haven’t been trained. I think it’s an overreaction to assume they don’t plan to keep you, especially if you have no other signs or evidence.

    2. Jeanne

      In some scientific companies, having you help out sorta counts as training. They can see how good your technique is, you can get familiar with testing, etc. It may seem odd but we learn a lot about your abilities.

    3. tigerStripes

      Also, the way you’re helping out without getting formal training may make you look good to the boss. I mean, it’s better to have training when you can, but the fact that you are being helpful without it is a great thing at work!

  31. Miss Elaine E.

    While I sympathize with the pregnant coworker, I can’t get past the concept of having to endure seeing the (literal) puke-in-the bucket, nor the sound nor that characteristic smell of upchucking permeating a workplace — especially on a daily basis. I don’t think the OP mentioned if this was a setting in which there are customers, vendors etc., but that would make the situation even worse — I’m sure the employer would lose some of those, at least temporarily.

    Sorry, I’m a mom myself and I get it, but the emeter and the employer need to come up with a solution.

  32. silence

    op5 I’d ask about training in case it’s an oversight/ everyone assumes someone else was training you. My sister felt she was in a sink or swim position when starting a job that reported to 2 managers. The next person to start in one of the departments was given a tour and introduction to everyone. When my sister commented that it would have made her first days easier if she’d had the same start her manager was apologetic because she’d assumed the other manager as the first to meet my sister had done that.

  33. As a Preggo Lady

    As a currently pregnant lady who was VERY sick during my first trimester (lost a lot of weight that I didn’t really have to lose in the first place) I feel for both your AND the coworker’s pain.

    I was sick at work. A LOT. But I also worked from home a LOT – even though my company culture that isn’t normal. I told my boss and just told him that I was so sick and it made me uncomfortable to be sick in the office if it could be avoided. No one at work KNEW I was pregnant yet, so it was just drawing a lot of unwanted attention.

    That being said, there were times I just HAD to be in the office, and during some of those times there were times I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. I was always so embarrassed about it, and I did my darndest to be discrete.

    As far as from your perspective, I think the only thing you can really do is to a – ask to work somewhere else when she’s in (are there shared conference spaces you could reserve?) or use noise cancelling.

    As an aside, and sorry if this comes off as callous because that’s not the intent – I’ve always wondered about people with this fear. I mean, I don’t *like* to see or smell people vomit and it does give me a tough time as well, but I don’t categorize it as an official fear. Occasionally, if it’s my husband or a family member, I need to clean up someone else’s vomit who is too ill to help themselves. I’m sure I’m in for a lot more of that now that I’ve got a little one on the way, too. Have you given thought to getting help to manage this fear? It’s not something that’s always avoidable. I realize in this case it’s routine and it’s annoying and, realistically IS avoidable on your part with some assistance from your management. But, if someone voms on a bus? What do you do?

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