skipping a team-building event during your notice period, wearing a face mask to work, and more

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

1. Skipping a team-building event that’s during my notice period

I have recently given my three months notice, as I’m contractually obliged to do. During that time a team-building event of sorts is planned, in which the entire team (including remote colleagues) are present for an entire week to discuss strategy and priorities for the next few months. It always takes place in a mountain retreat, so that everyone spends all their waking hours with the entire group. These events are tiring and usually little progress is actually made.

I know that during the notice period I am still an employee and they can make me go even though I don’t see the point. After all, talking about strategy, priorities, and how best to tackle projects I won’t be working on seems like a waste of time: my opinion is somewhat irrelevant at this point. I am not a manager with influence, just a lowly worker bee, so it’s not that my input generally has had a huge impact. I usually tend to have different views on, say, how to best make teapots, but that hardly matters if the only person capable of manufacturing them differently leaves after a while: me.

Is there a professional way of saying I doubt my presence during the retreat will be beneficial to the company / team, particularly in light of my imminent departure?

“Since I’m leaving, I’d like to skip the retreat because I think it would be a better use of my remaining time to work on wrapping up my projects and documenting everything for my replacement. Would that be okay with you?”

If you get any push-back, then be more explicit: “To be totally transparent, my strong preference would be not to go since those events can be so intensive and draining, and I’m not in a role where I’ll be offering a lot of input. Unless you feel strongly that I need to be there, I’d definitely rather stay here and focus on wrapping things up.”

Alternately, if your sense of your manager is that she’s likely to push you to go, you could skip all this and just have an unmovable conflict that week. While that might not normally fly, you’re more likely to get away with it when you’re already leaving.

2. Wearing a face mask to work when I have a cold

My employer doesn’t provide any sick time (yay for being a temp!) and taking a day off unpaid when I’m sick means choosing between paying rent or buying groceries that month. Fortunately I rarely ever get anything close to resembling a stomach/intestinal bug, but I do get one or two reeeally bad colds every winter/spring. Would it look horribly passive aggressive or martyr-y if I were to come into work those days wearing a face mask?

I don’t want to get other people sick, but I also really can’t afford losing a day’s worth of pay. It’s bad enough when there’s a federal holiday and I have to hit up the food pantry for groceries that week, and I feel like there’s a federal holiday every month now! (Except for March- hallelujah for March!!!)

Nope, I don’t think it’ll look passive-aggressive or martyr-y. You’ll probably just look conscientious; I don’t think most people are likely to connect all the dots about why you’re there.

But you might get people who, upon realizing that you’re wearing it because you have a cold, encourage you to go home (not wanting to get sick themselves, just like you don’t want to), so you’ll want to be prepared for that.

You are hopefully job-searching?

3. Interview attire when you’re asked to come in that same day

Does a breach of norms on one side in an interview situation allow for logical consequence breaches on the other side?

Yesterday my husband scheduled a job interview for next Thursday. He’s a teacher working a leave replacement and needs something for after. He scheduled the interview for immediately after his current school day. This morning (after school hours started) he got a call asking if it could be rescheduled to this afternoon instead. (They’re on a tight timeline due to complicated reasons involving the bureaucracy of public schools).

Obviously, when he goes to this interview, he will be wearing whatever he happened to wear to work this morning rather than the sort of thing he would dress in for an interview. I’m not really worried in this case, because he’s worked with this school before and they reached out to him about the position, but would people generally understand lack of a suit, etc. as the logical consequence of scheduling a last-minute interview?

Yes. Just spell it out when they call to ask for the same-day meeting: “I’d love to come in. I should mention that I’m dressed pretty casually today because I wasn’t expecting an interview, but if you’re fine with that, I’ll see you at 3:00!” You can also say something similar when you first arrive: “Excuse my lack of a suit — since we scheduled this after I was already at work this morning, you caught me in khakis.”

They will be fine with it; they get that it was last-minute and that you agreed to accommodate them. (But it’s still worth spelling it out in case someone gets absent-minded and forgets that was the context.)

4. Reference check after I’ve been on the job for six months

I’ve been at my current job for almost six months. I got a call today from one of the references who I put on my application, saying that my employer just called her and had never contacted her before today. Why would they wait that long to call? It just seems very strange to me.

Yes, that’s extremely strange. I’d ask about it. Say this to your boss: “One of the references who I put down when I applied here told me that they just got a call this week asking for a reference for me. Do you know what that’s about?”

5. I had a verbal offer but now there’s a hiring freeze

I’ve had an informal phone conversation, a formal interview, and a few follow-up calls with a hiring manager who a professional acquaintance connected me to. We have clicked very well and she’s been up-front about how much she likes me–yay! During our last call, she told me she’d be asking HR to make me an offer. She discussed my general spot within the salary range and noted that she didn’t handle negotiations, but wanted me to have a sense of where I was at. She also said that because it was right before the holidays, she wasn’t sure if the HR contact was in the office or not, but that I should expect a call that day or early the following week.

I waited until the middle of the following week (which was a short week because of Christmas) and on the last day before the holidays, reached out to her. My email was along the lines of “I haven’t heard anything, and wanted to make sure you’re not waiting on something from me.” She responded with a friendly and brief email telling me that she thought folks were just out for the holidays, but also mentioned that she had run into a “snag”–a hiring freeze. She said she’d find out more after the holidays and keep me posted. Since then, radio silence. I did shoot her back an email inquiring about the timeframe, which she didn’t respond to.

I am applying for other jobs, but I’m also wondering if I can/should follow up. If so, what do I say? The conversations around this opening originated before Thanksgiving, and while I want to continue to express interest, I don’t want to come across as naggy.

Lots of people are slow at answering emails at this time of year, having just returned from vacation. And of course, some hiring managers go silent when they have nothing to report, which also could be happening here.

I think you can follow up once more at the very end of the month (which seems like a long time to wait, but you’ve already emailed her once about this, and you might as well give it a few weeks before checking back in since it’s unlikely that the hiring freeze will lift before then). Meanwhile I’d move on and do whatever you’d be doing if this job possibility didn’t exist since, for now at least, that’s the case.

{ 176 comments… read them below }

  1. 2017me*

    #2 – Would be pretty odd where I work. Can you work from home instead? Or is there a more isolated conference room you could sit in so as not to cough at people?

    1. PABJ*

      It’s definitely a cultural thing. I work in Japan and it’s totally normal to see people with face masks on(at least Japanese people).

      1. Jwal*

        Yes, I’m in the UK, and the only people I’ve seen who wear face masks have been from Japan and China. If someone here were to come into work wearing one then that would look incredibly weird, and to be honest it would have the appearance of being somewhat attention seeking.

        (They were a bit more common over here during the bird flu thing, but there was a lot of debate as to whether they were actually effective when worn for a length of time, and it never caught on.)

        1. Julia*

          I know a Japanese ladz who got stared at on a German train for wearing a mask. Here at my Japanese work place, no one wears them, and I have caught several people’s second hand colds. That said, I also had to come in this week despite Feeling awful, and while I try to wash my hands a lot and I’m not coughing or sneezing, I hope I can give this cold back to my awful co-worker so she stays home for a good long time and I won’t have to listen to loud private phone calls in our office.

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              I feel irrationally proud of myself that I knew why you’d made that particular typo ;-)

        2. Oryx*

          Eh, I have a friend who has a compromised immune system and she has to wear face masks in certain situations. It’s not all attention seeking.

          1. Anononon*

            It’s not that it is attention seeking, but that to some people, it gives the impression of attention seeking, which, unfortunately, a lot of chronically ill people deal with.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Agreed—it’s also common practice in some public health institutions (e.g., the receptionist at the doctor’s office).

            Honestly, if someone sees mask-wearing as “attention seeking,” it says more about the person making that assessment than it does about the mask-wearer.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              Exactly. OP, if you want to wear a mask, don’t worry about people who might see it that way.

            2. Koko*

              I feel that way about most complaints that someone “just wants attention.” So? Is the behavior problematic or not? If it’s not problematic, who cares if it’s for attention? (My view on this is also colored by how gendered the allegation of attention-seeking tend to be, because it always seems to be women in particular who are not allowed to enjoy receiving attention.)

            3. Windchime*

              I work in the IT department of a health care organization and people absolutely have worn masks to work. I guess it depends, but if you did it here people would just feel bad for you that you are not feeling well.

            4. Vicki*

              I don’t see it as “attention seeking” but I do think it’s Very Weird to see a person come into a restaurant wearing a face mask (as I did on Christmas Eve).

              I understand wearing one to work because you can’t afford to stay home.
              I understand the woman I saw in the grocery store (although I made sure to not be in the same aisle she was in.)

              But if you’re sick enough for a face mask, you should be avoiding “elective” activities such as restaurant meals on a busy holiday.

          3. TootsNYC*

            This shows that the norm is to wear a mask to protect yourself from other people’s germs, not to protect other people’s from yours.
            At least, out in the general public; in the hospital, it’s to corral your own germs.

            1. TootsNYC*

              though yesterday’s news story made the point that it’s most effective at corralling your own germs.

              1. Vicki*

                Given that most colds are caught through touch (not breathing), this is logical.

                Anyone who thinks a facemask will prevent them from catching a cold is naive.

      2. matcha123*

        I work in Japan and wear a disposable face mask from time to time. I have also worn them in the US when I go back home. No one seemed to care all that much.
        I think it might depend on how the mask looks. If it’s white and simple, maybe it won’t stand out as much, but something with an attached filter or something that looks HAZMAT level might have people more weirded out.

        1. Alison Read*

          Yeah except the simple white floppy masks found at the entrances to hospitals are designed to prevent the wearer from spreading their germs and are typically only effective for about 20 minutes. Masks to protect the wearer are often called duck bill masks… along with respiratorss, of course.

          I agree that wearing a mask shouldn’t be a giant issue, just be aware what type of mask you’re wearing because there are a lot of us out there that know more than we probably ever wanted to know about masks. I’m not in the medical field although I am immune compromised. If someone had a mask designed to prevent the wearer from spreading their cooties and just let it dangle around their neck while they coughed away in the seat behind you…. I digress! Just be sure you have the correct mask.

        2. TheBeetsMotel*

          I’m thinking about Dwight in The Office wearing a Hazmat suit when there was a lice outbreak!

          1. Alison Read*

            +1 OMG – YES!!! That would be hysterical, can you imagine sending a kid to pre/school in a hazmat suit after a lice notice? I’m going to YouTube that!

      3. Collarbone High*

        I lived in Japan for several years, and several Americans told me they were offended by Japanese people wearing face masks, because they (wrongly) felt the Japanese were implying that other people were germy or had poor hygiene.

        I wish the mask-wearing would catch on in other parts of the world. I wore one recently when I had strep and I did get a lot of weird looks from the random people I encountered on the way to the doctor and the pharmacy.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          This American would never be offended by that because I assume, from long experience, that many of the people around me are germy or have bad hygiene.

        2. ancolie*

          That is SO weird, since I automatically assume that wearing a face mask out (especially in places like Japan where it’s a cultural norm) means that the mask-weaver is sick and doesn’t want to spread their germs to everyone else. But apparently the exact opposite intention is seen by other (most?) Americans. Interesting.

          1. Marisol*

            I’m an American, I’ve only seen this done twice, and viewed it as a kindness on the part of the wearer each time.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Same—I always assumed it was to avoid spreading one’s germs, and I’ve never found it offensive.

        3. Anon3*

          I get that, wearing a mask is a bit off putting. You feel like the wearer is unfriendly and the mask is a “do not approach” sign. You can’t see if they are smiling or frowning.

    2. A Person*

      I live in Japan and I’m wearing them everyday for work at the moment to ward off the germs of the various tiny, adorable snot factories I work with (Just today I was carrying a two year old and she sneezed on my shoulder).

      I’d say go for it, especially if you’re going to be in close contact.

  2. AcademiaNut*

    If it helps, I came to work in a face mask today. But I do live in an area where this is standard practice when you’re sick.

    If you want to deflect questions, you could always say that you’re getting over a cold and don’t want to risk coughing on people.

  3. On a boat*

    My past employer made me attend an all-hands retreat during my second-to-last week of work. I tried to argue that my time was better spent wrapping up my projects (which was true) and that there was no sense in incurring thousands of dollars of cost to fly me cross-country and put me up at a lake resort for a week (also true). But they said I was still part of the company and it was mandatory that I attend.

    I used that trip as an opportunity to get drunk on a boat with my team and have a glorious send-off.

  4. Turanga Leela*

    Question on #3: Are candidates expected to wear a suit to interview for a K-12 teaching position? I’m curious if current teachers/admins reading this have any thoughts. I’m a former teacher with a lot of friends who still teach, and I wouldn’t expect a candidate to wear anything more formal than a blazer + tie (or, for women, a dress or nice pants). I don’t think it looks bad to interview for a teaching job in a suit, but I also don’t think it’s expected. I’m happy to have people correct me, though.

    Alison, please feel free to delete this if it’s too off-topic!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I will just ask that we not get too derailed on it, since clothing questions usually draw a ton of responses. Let’s limit this one to just a few responses so that we don’t derail the thread. Thanks!

    2. Al Lo*

      I’m also curious about this. I work in the arts, and have never been interviewed while wearing, been interviewed by someone who was wearing, interviewed another person who was wearing, or interviewed another person while I was wearing a suit. Dressed nicely, yes. Something slightly quirky that demonstrates an artistic personality, sure. Business casual skirt/dress/blazer/slacks, of course. Dark jeans and a nice top, sure. A suit, no. I wouldn’t bat an eye if someone was wearing one, but it would be very odd for someone to call out a lack of a suit at the beginning of their interview.

      If it’s not an industry norm, would it be more strange to mention it than not?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, if it’s not an industry norm (i.e., if you wouldn’t have been dressed differently had you had advance notice), there’s no need to mention it. It’s only a thing you need to mention if there’s something unusual about what you’re wearing to the interview.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          A few hours and a few responses later, it looks like the consensus is mixed and depends on region, as is the case for lots of fields! Let’s leave it here for now, although of course feel free to raise it on the open thread if you’d like to.

    3. Sami*

      I’m a teacher and if I were interviewing, I’d wear nice slacks, blouse and jacket. Maybe a skirt instead of the slacks- if it was warmer weather.

    4. Kate*

      I’m a teacher. I usually interview in a suit, but I did start out in a corporate setting, so it’s mostly a holdover from that. I’ve been on plenty of hiring panels with candidates who were not in a suit, and it didn’t really make a difference.

    5. blackcat*

      It depends on the school type, location, and time of year. There are definitely some schools where a suit is expected.

      When interviewing my replacement, my department chair was put off by the one (female) candidate who did not wear suit. Everyone else wore a suit. This was at a fancy private school in the south, but in March when you wouldn’t die of heat in a suit. I was a summer hire and did the wear a skirt suit and take off the jacket whenever outside thing, because there was no way I was keeping on a (wool! my only suit was wool!) jacket in 95 degree heat. This went over fine–summer interviewees definitely got more leeway.

    6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I am a teacher and have worn a suit every time I had an interview – but the last time I interviewed I was significantly younger and wanted to be sure to seem professional.

      I’ve been on multiple hiring committees at my school and wouldn’t ding an applicant for not wearing a suit unless it was for an administrator position. There have been some times I thought an applicant was too casual, though – like basic slacks and a cardigan, which would be fine everyday wear but not dressing to impress.

  5. Still Here*

    OP #1 : I would hope the sessions would be more than what each individual would be working on. Determining key projects, future direction, review of lessons learned from past projects: these are all discussions that could benefit from your time working with the company. Not partipating would deprive your organization of of any insights you can provide. The fact you are leaving may even be a plus, as you can point things out with less concern about office politics.

    1. Fjell & Skog*

      I was thinking the same thing. As much as I hate retreats/team-building events, if the people/organization are open to it, it could be useful to hear the thoughts of someone on their way out. I know I would have a lot of thoughts (constructive, even!) if I was leaving my current position (I’m looking), but right now there are things I wouldn’t say due to politics.

      1. James*

        OP here. I have already given lots of feedback regarding things that need to be done/changed and so far no one in our leadership has taken action. One of the major reasons I’m leaving is that there hardly seems to be an interest in hearing what I think based on my experience. Some of the points that will be discussed have been talked about for almost a year now. I’m not hopeful anything will change as about 5 people have left the team in the last quarter and no introspection had followed.

        1. Fjell & Skog*

          Yeah, in that case I’d skip it as long as that doesn’t jeopardize getting a good recommendation from them.

          1. Czhorat*

            Giving notice somewhat changes the power dynamic; it’s not as if they can fire you.

            To be honest, I don’t see why they’d want that of you. It seems bad for everyone.

        2. animaniactoo*

          In which case, might not your feedback be “For the past year I have given feedback about significant issues. Nothing I have to say about any of them is new, so I don’t really have anything to contribute on that standpoint. From a company operational standpoint, I do believe that it’s a problem that none of them have been acted on as far as I know, and it feels like leadership does not value the experience of the employees they’ve brought into the company to address these kinds of issues. I can’t say with certainty, but I believe that it’s part of the reason that 5 other people have also chosen to leave this team over the last 3 months.” ?

    2. Natalie*

      All of that is true, but I don’t think it changes anything since the LW has said they don’t want to go. They’re not obligated to provide insights on their way out the door, as we’ve discussed here regarding exit interviews. And when you know you’re leaving, you no longer benefit from playing along with a team retreat you hate.

      This would be an excellent argument if the LW wanted to go and needed to make a case to their manager.

  6. Artemesia*

    I am assuming the OP1 knows what a worthless endeavor the retreat will be with or without her. Surely the org gets more out of her wrapping up her work and documenting things.

    #5. It is the worst when a verbal offer falls through; my husband and I once found out when we attended a party of the firm (to which we had been invited) and noticed people drawing away instead of being welcoming. They had offered, then reshuffled something in the organization, decided no to hire a new person and withdrawn the offer, but hadn’t actually informed him and had forgotten about the party. You don’t have an offer until you get the formal offer. ‘Hiring freeze’ is business speak for ‘you will see an offer when hell freezes over.’ This MIGHT come through but you need to assume it won’t and move full speed ahead.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Oh no, that’s so awful! And how rude/disorganized of the firm. It’s one thing to change your mind about hiring, but it’s common decency to inform the applicant that you’ve changed your mind!

      1. Artemesia*

        It was in fact pretty awful. It was obvious to me the moment we walked in the room but my husband insisted that of course no one would be that cruel; he was wrong. Suddenly a very embarrassed partner rushed over and pulled him aside for the talk that should have occurred by phone earlier that day. This was after he had given up a great job to follow my job and was struggling to find a new position. Thank goodness it wasn’t too long after that that he was successful. But it was a pretty awful experience.

    2. Lynxa*

      Yiiiiiiiikes, that’s terrible. I’ve been practicing law for about 10 years and I’ve never had a written offer. I’d be so mad if a firm did something like this.

  7. JC Denton*

    #4 – Was there any kind of management turnover? I had this happen once. I was on the job about a year when the reference checks hit. A new supervisor had just been hired and they wanted to get a feel for everyone’s “background,” so they pulled all of our original, employment applications and called references. Very, very weird. I chopped it up as inexperienced manager syndrome. My conclusion wasn’t too far off; the supervisor ended up going back to an individual contributor role about a year into their management foray.

    1. Mookie*

      That was my second thought, dotting i crossing t, either because of a backlog or because management is evolving. My first was to wonder if there’s anything in the past six months’ performance as a comparatively new employee that might prompt or warrant a closer look at the OP’s CV / resumé and application. The employer might be trying to verify skills and experience, either because the OP thus far appears to lack them or because the OP’s current role is expanding or ending within the company, and they’d like to transfer her laterally (a promotion that early on seems unlikely) but would like more information before broaching the topic.

      1. Liane*

        “My first was to wonder if there’s anything in the past six months’ performance as a comparatively new employee that might prompt or warrant a closer look at the OP’s CV / resumé and application.”

        But still not a useful thing to do. AAM answered a question about doing that & told them that after several months, forget about talking to the references and just deal with the work issues like they should with a longer-term employee. In other words, tell them professionally what the problems are and what you need to see change.

      2. Collarbone High*

        This happened when I worked for the federal government — someone in HR left and their replacement determined that the agency’s reference-checking procedure hadn’t been followed in years, so they decided to recheck everyone’s references. It was an absurd situation; some of the people being rechecked had worked there for 10-15 years. But it was all about dotting i’s.

        1. fluffy*

          “dear Ask a Manager, I started working here 34 years ago. Management is now checking everyone’s references, but mine are all dead. Should I be concerned?”

          1. Wirving*

            “I’ve offered to help HR lead a seance in the hopes of reaching my references, but they seem put off by my offer.”

      3. Lia*

        This is my guess too. I saw this happen once, although I think it ended before too many reference calls were made. I know for sure CVs were pulled and educations verified, though.

      4. staying super anon for this*

        This is my thought, as we are considering doing this with an employee who appears to have severely overstated his/her qualifications. It’s too much to get into, but we strongly suspect the former employer now realizes this employee was not as wonderful as previously claimed.

        1. misplacedmidwesterner*

          I got a reference call from a fairly friendly professional acquaintance who had hired a former coworker. (I was now supervising former coworker’s position & had taken over shortly after she had been fired by us, but didn’t ever supervise her just work with her.) She hadn’t called me during the interview, instead calling the former manager (who had been fired in the same incident as the former coworker – which wasn’t clear to the reference checker). Former manager had an axe to grind and said really nice things about former coworker. They were 3 months into former coworker’s new job and wanted to see if any of this was fixable or if she should be let go during probation. So they reached out to me for more details. Ultimately she didn’t make it through probation period there either, I just confirmed that in what we had experienced, the behaviors they were seeing where what we had tried to correct through multiple performance improvement plans before firing and nothing ever improved.

        2. AnonForThisAsWell*

          I’ve seen this way too many times. One of my coworkers fits this perfectly, I can’t wait until he gets hired elsewhere.

    2. LQ*

      Other really weird but possible things would be that it is like a point where it gets harder to fire (off probation and “permanent”) so they are doing reference checks because they aren’t sure if they should make permanent or not. Or looking at a promotion and are doing them to see if the skills fit into the new position.
      Though I’ll admit my first thought is the HR department makes them and is super back logged and someone is just going through the motions without having stopped to question why they do this super super unhelpful thing that just keeps putting them more behind.

  8. AnonNurse*

    OP #3 – I’ve had this happen and it was not a big deal at all. I applied for a job and the next day they called asking if I could come in for a same day interview. I was able to go because of the flexibility of my job but I told them over the phone that my office was very casual and I was dressed much differently than I normally would for an interview. They said it was not a problem and I was offered the job within the next few days. Of course I think my telling them helped prepare them that I was wearing a jean skirt and a sweater. I also think if they’re reasonable people they will know that a same day interview will usually result in wardrobe that’s probably less than the best interview attire.

    Hope your husband had a great interview and has good luck in his job search!

    1. Elf*

      OP #3 here –

      No word yet but thanks for your thoughts. It certainly seems to me like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to have a really bizarre level of trouble thinking through the consequences of events they have set in motion. It wasn’t an issue in this instance, but it seems to me that another logical consequence would be not having a chance to do normal pre-interview prep (this might be possible during the day at some jobs, but not at many others) and lacking other materials you are expected to have at interviews (teachers are often expected to have portfolios, though that’s really regional).

      1. Joseph*

        I don’t know if the situation allows it, but for the portfolio thing, could your husband pre-make a generic one (along with copies of the resume, reference lists, etc) and keep it in his car? It’s not as good as something tailored to the individual school district, but certainly better than nothing.

      2. PinkCupcake*

        Quote of the day: “I’ve noticed that a lot of people seem to have a really bizarre level of trouble thinking through the consequences of events they have set in motion.”

    2. AFineSpringDay*

      I had this happen once when wearing casual jeans and a sweater (and I work in the arts where a suit is not the norm anyway – I would wear a dress with a nice jacket over it). I was meeting with a headhunter in the arts, not even the actual interview. And they were a little aggravated, and told me since I was looking for a new job I should be dressed for that basically 24/7. Eyeroll.

    3. Bwmn*

      I came here to ask about if women might feel differently about this – and definitely appreciate hearing your perspective.

      While I can see women (or at least myself) perhaps being somewhat more conscious about this, I think this came to my mind today because the front facing dynamic of my job. With very few exceptions, most teachers I imagine dress in a manner that is appropriate for them to be teaching students based on that school. However, my job involves a lot of meetings with external clients that have an expectation of a certain presentation – but when you don’t have meetings, it’s an industry that can allow for great casualness. Therefore the dynamic of my work closet ranges from suits/dresses to jeans and a tshirt.

      If I were put in this situation today, I’d probably run somewhere to at least moderately change what I’m wearing now – but I’m still trying to tease out whether that’s just me being insecure or a solid read on the nature of my profession.

  9. Murphy*

    OP#4: The only explanation I can think of is that maybe they have a policy where they have to call a certain number of references, and maybe that step got skipped before you were hired. Maybe someone just noticed and they just did it now because they need to dot the I’s and cross the T’s.

    1. None Of This Nonsense, Please*

      I think this is what happened to me. About two weeks *after* my 6-month probation was ended and I was fully hired, my manager was contacted by HR saying that they didn’t have references and if I didn’t provide them by the next week my employment would be void. It was heavily implied that the references hadn’t responded to repeated contact–but when I talked to them, neither had heard from the company at all! It was a bit of a scramble; one of my original references wasn’t available any more so I had to come up with another one. My manager half-joked that since I’d worked well for her for six months she could give me a reference herself, but I managed to find another one. It would have been nicely circular…..

  10. Hannah*

    #2: Where I am in the US, wearing a face mask is almost completely exclusive to a medical setting, so it would be unusual to wear something to the office that invokes more of a hospital vibe. It definitely depends on where you live, as they are common in some places.

    Wear the mask if you want to, but I wouldn’t get into a conversation about “well it was this or not be able to buy groceries this month” at work. I think that’s setting up a bit of a false choice and frankly I do think it would sound martyr-y. As I’m sure you know, you could theoretically save a buffer to make up for planned holidays and a few sick days. This is what independent contractors have to do. I understand that in practice, they might not pay you enough for that to be possible, so I hope things get better soon!

    1. Bea W*

      The sounding matyr-y part will also depend on the workplace. In an office where you have a lot of temps, it just sounds normal. :(

      In my field temps are paid well, and that is part of the problem. Losing a full day’s pay is a loss of hundreds of dollars. Maybe they can swing that once or twice a year, but no more than that. 20% of one’s paycheck is not insignificant unless you are rolling in cash already. Our temps pay their own health insurance (close to $2000/k month if they need a family plan because they get paid too much to qualify for subsidies) and get no discounts on parking or transit (another few hundred dollars to park). Toss in daycare if they have young children (another $1000+/month), and there’s not much room to go without a full week’s pay.

      1. caryatis*

        There are lots of people who save enough to skip a week’s pay. I could do that every month. We don’t know whether that’s possible for the letter writer without a whole lot more details, but I have to disagree with your apparent claim that no temp you know could possibly save money.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But if that’s Bea’s anecdotal experience in her industry, and if we’re supposed to believe LWs, why are you pushing back on this? Neither the OP or Bea said “all temps everywhere”—they’re both referring to their specific contexts.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Right, Bea didn’t say that, and neither did the OP. The OP did say she can’t afford to lose a day’s pay, and Bea said that is her experience as well. Please trust them to know their own situation.

        2. Chinook*

          But we do know that, for the OP, she can’t save enough to cover the time off:

          “It’s bad enough when there’s a federal holiday and I have to hit up the food pantry for groceries that week, and I feel like there’s a federal holiday every month now!”

          I have seen it with our temps. Those fresh out of university don’t have a cushion to fall back on and it takes time to create it. I have made a point of taking every new temp aside (after confirming with them that they haven’t worked for an agency before) and telling them to ask me if they have questions about what days they aren’t paid for and warn them that they don’t even get paid stat. holidays until they have been there 3 months (which means they can be short a day’s pay when they have the least ability to cover it). They are always surprised by this fact (At which point, I point them in the direction of our provincial labour board’s website to learn more).

          1. OP#2*

            wow only 3 months?! We have to work a full year before we get a fed holiday off! I had a feeling 12 months/1500 hours was a long time to work before earning a day…

    2. Liane*

      Bea W. makes some good points.

      Also, just a suggestion for *us as a group*:
      We probably shouldn’t get into giving money/savings advice to OP2. It never seems to end well.

    3. OP#2*

      I would *love* to be able to save up enough to have a buffer for sick/holiday time, but unfortunately my wage is too low for that, and all of what I *do* save goes towards having an emergency rent fund for when there are gaps between temp jobs. I’m in a very niche industry that 1. requires a graduate degree, and 2. maybe only has 2-3 openings per year in my region, but there’s no warning as to when they’ll crop up so I’m temping to cover things in the meantime. Not ideal, but I knew this was what I was getting into when I started this career path.

    4. Important Moi*

      The comments suggest derailing is on the horizon. It has been noted that “every person” doesn’t have this experience. I don’t think dozens ( or hundreds?) or comments pointing this out are needed.

      1. Anon...anon, anon, an...on*

        I find it a bit silly to try to control adults invited to comment on a public webpage.

        1. Natalie*

          It probably doesn’t seem obvious if you aren’t regularly here, but Alison (the host of said public webpage, in blue right above you) has recently been asking everyone to try and hold down on the long tangents. So this isn’t just Important Moi randomly decided X Shall Not Be Discussed.

    5. Chinook*

      “I think that’s setting up a bit of a false choice and frankly I do think it would sound martyr-y. As I’m sure you know, you could theoretically save a buffer to make up for planned holidays and a few sick days. This is what independent contractors have to do”

      But the OP is a temp and not an independent contractor (I have been both and there is a huge financial difference – IC’s get paid the profit (with the accompanying risk) that a temp agency would normally get paid. A temp is still an employee, just not of the place where they work), it is not a false choice but a reality.

      It is also possible that the people she interacts with daily don’t realize that she is a temp and may be giving honest concern/advice. Where I am, it isn’t always clear day-to-day who is an employee and who is a temp or an IC and, since our managers often have never been temps, they don’t realize the financial implications of taking a sick day. Of those I have told, every single one of them was shocked that temps don’t get the same benefits from their employer, the agency, that employees get from their company. In fact, many of them think that, in Canada, paid sick leave is a legal requirement (it isn’t and vacation pay is often just added to your pay cheque and you have to save it yourself to cover those days you take off).

      1. Hannah*

        I definitely get the reality, my advice to the OP was just to be thoughtful about the message to coworkers. She might have to power through the cold, but I’d recommend against openly advertising that she made a choice to risk getting others sick for the sake of her own budget. It might not come across well to frame it like that.

          1. Natalie*

            The co-workers don’t have control over whether OP has sick days, either. I’m sympathetic to the temping life (btdt myself and my husband is currently doing it) but I would also be put off if asked a co-worker if they were sick and they immediately jumped to “I have to work or I can’t buy groceries.” Keeping it relatively simple – “temps don’t have sick days” as someone else suggested – makes it perfectly clear without unnecessarily pushing stuff onto co-workers that they don’t have anything to do with.

            1. OP#2*

              yeah, I like the “temps dont have sick days” thing better, too. Gets the gist across without going into too much personal detail

  11. Bea W*

    #2 – any chance you can arrange to work from home if you have the type of job that can be done remotely? We take pity on our temps and allow it if they are sick and even on holidays when the office is closed if they chose, because we know they only get paid hours worked and we don’t give them health insurance on top of that.

      1. OP#2*

        That’s a really good idea- unfortunately no one works from home at my current placement, not even the actual employees. But I’ll keep it in mind for my next placement if I don’t get a job in my industry by then!

    1. Natalie*

      Another possibility, depending on the job set up of course, is working extra hours on the days you are in, to make up for the holiday or sick day. California excepted, overtime is determined by hours worked per week so it hopefully wouldn’t get pushback from management on a cost basis, at least.

      1. michelenyc*

        That’s what I did when I was freelance, (I am in NYC) and most employers don’t think it is a big deal.

      2. OP#2*

        I did that at my last placement, because the office was open quite late and so it was easier to stay later, but I’m at an academic office that closes pretty firmly at 5, and I’m not allowed a swipe-card to be able to get in before my 8:30 start time (since I’m not an employee of the school)… I can skip my lunches during the week though which gets me an extra half hour for each lunch I work through, which would be better than nothing!

  12. Emi.*

    When I see people wearing face masks, I always think they’re trying to protect themselves from some kind of pandemic flu or because they’re immuno-compromised. So you might also have to deal with people worrying that you’ve got something major going on that takes out your immune system, like cancer.

      1. blackcat*

        Right. When I see people on public transit with a mask, I think “Thank you for trying to not infect me.”

        I did the mask thing when I *had* to take public transit and I had a mild case of the mumps. It’s super contagious, and I wanted to be considerate to those around me. (Side note: Did you know the MMR vaccine is only about 80-85% effective for mumps? I didn’t! If you do get mumps after having been vaccinated, it tends to be quite mild. That’s actually *worse* for public health because, like me, people don’t realize that they are a walking disease factory for several days).

  13. Phantom*

    #5 – I totally feel your frustration. I once got a verbal offer and was told I’d be getting something in writing within a few days. When nothing came, I followed up and was told key people were on vacation. When I followed up again, I was told there was a hiring freeze. It was really frustrating because it felt as though if not for a key person taking a vacation at a bad time, I would have had the job. It was hard to accept that the job wasn’t mine after all, but I continued my job search and eventually found something even better.

  14. Lora*

    OP2, if anyone asks, I would keep the explanation simple: “I’m sorry, temps don’t get sick days”. Chances are anyone who asks doesn’t realize you’re a temp.

    I’ve been immunocompromised myself more than once, and my mother is currently immunocompromised. I get SO MAD when people come to work sick, and even madder when we are using temps because they ALWAYS come to work sick for this reason. I tell them to stay home, grab their computer if they are feeling poorly and Work From Home, AKA “stay very far away from me and don’t touch anything on my desk”. Fortunately, my state has recently mandated sick days.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Definitely not. You can’t blame someone for meeting their basic needs, even if it affects others’ health. People really only have the capacity to think of others (outside of maybe family) once the first two parts of Maslow’s hierarchy (food and safety) are met.

        If someone is coming into work sick because they really need the money, they’re stuck in need 1 or 2.

        1. Temperance*

          Eh I’m not so sure I agree with this. I totally understand WHY someone doesn’t want to take a sick day, and I know poverty, but I also have a really weakened immune system. Her cold could send me back to the hospital, which is something I’d really like to avoid. So if we’re all putting our own needs first, I think it’s fine to be frustrated at the person who exposes you to illness while also being angry that the sick person doesn’t get PTO.

          1. Lora*

            What really upsets me is when they are full time, salaried, working someplace with the most generous sick time policy ever (unlimited sick leave), and they STILL come to work to show how many hours they put in, even when they are just putting in face time but not doing any actual work. Making the martyr display. Your martyr display can send me to the hospital for weeks on end!

            Making all your colleagues sick is NOT teamwork. It is actively hurting the team when half of the team is sick – literally hurting them!

            1. Temperance*

              Yep. Last month, someone came to work after being exposed to norovirus. About half the people on his floor ended up contracting it.

              I at least have a private office, so I can limit my exposure to other people if I need to come in, but I honestly haven’t done this. I did it exactly once, accidentally – I was feeling a bit unwell in the morning, but thought it was sleep-related. By the time my train rolled in, I felt like I was hit by a truck, so I scanned what I needed to and went right back home with my laptop.

              1. fposte*

                I don’t think you can reasonably expect people to take days out when they’re merely exposed to illness and not ill, though. Otherwise that’s parents out until all the kids are double digits.

                1. Temperance*

                  To be clear, I don’t mean that he was in the same room or house as someone, but had been taking care of children with the virus and felt a bit unwell and still chose to come to work. I consider it unreasonable for him to have come in, knowing that he very likely had norovirus, especially considering that we have a firm policy against coming to work with a communicable disease.

                2. fposte*

                  Felt unwell, yes; just taking care of kids, no, unless that’s specifically stated in your workplace policy (and presumably there’s little to no sick-day penalty for that).

                  I also think it sounds like your workplace is pretty unusual there, and I’m presuming they have exceptions for staph carriers and other chronic situations.

                3. Emi.*

                  I mean, I always thought norovirus was fecal-oral, which doesn’t put it near the top of my “spreads easily around the office” list. (Wikipedia says it’s also transmitted person-to-person, which is why I would’ve double-checked before I went into the office with it, but the CDC page makes it sound like a reasonably clean person should be okay in the office.)

            2. JAM*

              Most of my colleagues have a month of PTO. They’re attorneys so they don’t always take vacations. We only cash out a max of 15% of our days we don’t take. They have complete access to work at home, laptops, everything. And they all still come in sick. And of course they “couldn’t” get their flu shots when they were offered either. Then getting the legal support sick and we make much less, have fewer days of PTO, and might actually want our vacation to get away from the workaholics. I hate sick people who have all the luxuries in the world who just want to be a workplace martyr and infect the rest of us.

          2. hbc*

            I still think it’s fine to be frustrated at the situation, but you usually don’t know enough to get frustrated with the individual person. Maybe if they don’t show up with the sniffles, they won’t be able to afford the medicine that will keep *them* out of the hospital. Maybe they’ve got something that looks communicable but is food poisoning or allergies.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think Lora is mad at the temps; it sounds like she’s mad at a system that makes it impossible for temps to take sick days without significant financial repercussions.

        1. Lora*

          Correct – temps should get sick days like everyone else! Everyone should have sick days, ESPECIALLY food handling people!

          I have very little sympathy for businesses who swear up and down that they will close if they are forced to give sick days, because literally EVERY time some business owner has claimed that, and my (so blue it’s practically navy) state says, “too bad, we are forcing you to (insert employee protection here: raise the minimum wage / provide health insurance / give sick days) and you’re just going to have to deal with it,” they always figure it out and don’t actually go out of business. Also, our employee protections have not hurt our state economy at ALL; in fact, we are in pretty good shape compared to more business-friendly states.

          Sick days for everyone!

          1. C Average*

            Preach. I live in a similar state, and small businesses are managing to survive here despite being mandated to adopt humane labor practices.

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

            This. This this this this this. The situation is the fault of cheap businesses. And politicians who won’t pass laws mandating sick days. And voters who harm themselves and their neighbors by opposing sick leave laws because mumble mumble something free market. (Anyone who thinks “things like these should be left up to employers” is either staggeringly naive or deliberately disingenuous, because it’s been demonstrated abundantly time and again that many employers won’t do the right thing unless they’re forced to, especially when it comes to workers who are more vulnerable and have less bargaining power. The people this harms most are the people who can least afford it, often people already in marginalized groups.)

    1. Murphy*

      That’s great as long as it’s possible for them to work from home. Doesn’t work for every job, or every day even in jobs where it is possible sometimes.

      1. Lora*

        I am fine with people “working” (read: maybe checking email once or twice) from home. If you’re sick you are sick.

        I have literally NEVER tracked any of my employees’ sick time or personal time. If HR/management doesn’t care to implement some kind of automatic thingy in SAP or whatever, then they don’t care enough for me to spend hours on it either – if something is truly, really a priority I have to care about, then the company will have spent money on it. It has never EVER been a problem – if they are out longer than a few days in a row, I send a note to HR so that the short-term disability insurance policy kicks in to cover their pay. If I had anyone out for longer than that, I’d send another note to HR about using the long term disability insurance. I send a get well card signed by people in the office if they tell me it’s serious. Miraculously all the work still gets done, which is the important point.

        I don’t think anyone’s ever asked me, “hey, how many sick days did whatshername take this year?” come to think of it. They ask if everything is OK if they don’t see someone around for a few days, that’s about it. They’ve asked about vacations for scheduling and accounting purposes, but that’s different.

        Seriously. Been working for a paycheck since 1991. Been in this field, supervising/managing on and off since 2004. Never tracked sick days and nobody cared.

        1. ThatGirl*

          You have been fortunate. Every employee job (vs contractor) I’ve had has sick time rolled into PTO, which has to be used up. Same for my husband.

          And when I was a contractor, I was in the same boat as OP#2, with the major difference that I could (can) work from home – but I left my laptop at the office once and drove 30 miles to get it and come back home, just so I could get some extra rest without losing a full day’s pay.

          1. Lora*

            Oh, I *have* had jobs in other states where my sick time + PTO were considered as yours – use it or lose it, before vacation days and whatnot had to be paid out and so forth. My point is that management’s priorities are seriously messed up if they take such a detailed interest in this sort of thing. It’s not necessary at all – even scheduling retail, you have options for how you’re going to manage your business which do not include “making people sneeze all over the general public”. You can automate things, you can simplify processes so they don’t take as long to perform, you can upgrade your cash registers to be faster with the credit cards, you can figure out a better way to display items so they don’t get all discombobulated whenever someone picks up a tee shirt…you have options. “Sick people have to suck it up and come in” is possibly one of the most thoughtless choices a manager can make, because all it does is compound the problem.

        2. Anxa*

          I don’t think the issue is that not everyone has the management support to work from home, but some jobs are literally impossible to do from home or are much more difficult to arrange coverage for and that lots of employees don’t have access to disability insurance.

    2. C Average*

      I’ve been the caretaker for someone immunocompromised, and if some kind of crud had been going around my workplace at that time, I wouldn’t have thought twice about masking up to lessen my chances of carrying something contagious home. And I appreciate it when people who have to be in public and have a contagious illness do mask up–while it may not be a cultural norm here in the States yet, it’s a practical and considerate solution.

  15. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I don’t have PTO either! Luckily, my spouse works and so it isn’t quite to the OP’s level. But right now we have $140 left in all our accounts until next Friday, so yesterday I worked through a badly sprained wrist. All day. In my dominant hand. In a keyboard-intensive job. Because I slipped on ice in my morning commute but couldn’t afford to lose hours.

    I go in unless I’m dying, and I kind of like the face mask idea.

  16. Joseph*

    OP #5: You need to move on. It’s worth sending a follow-up email later this month since it costs you basically nothing, but mentally you need to act as though this job is never happening.
    Remember that a “hiring freeze” is usually much different (and stronger) than merely needing to hold off for a couple weeks to shift budget around to fit your salary in or waiting on paperwork or similar things. Hiring freezes are department or company wide blocks on hiring caused by reorganizations, major budget/financial/political pressures, reorgnizations, etc. Meaning that you’d likely be waiting several months, if not longer.
    That said, sometimes companies *do* hire people even if there’s an official hiring freeze on, but only if there’s a crystal clear argument why such as replacing departed employees, saving money by cutting down on paid overtime, filling a specific niche in the business, etc. So it’s possible that part of the radio silence is because the hiring manager is trying to fight that battle right now – she doesn’t want to lose you by making it sound impossible, but also doesn’t want to promise you a job when she might not be able to deliver.

  17. always in email jail*

    Not going to lie, being in #3’s position would really mess with me! I have so many pre-interview rituals, I like to feel dressed for an interview even if they don’t care, it puts my head in the right place. Have to consume the right amount of caffeine (enough to be “on” but not so much I appear jittery or talk too fast), like to do extensive prep, etc. Wouldn’t be possible if I was told during the work day I had a same day interview! How stressful!

    #5 that’s very disappointing for you and I’m sorry that happened. Some organizations (I’m thinking government) may even be REQUIRED to repost the job after the freeze, depending on how long the freeze lasts. I hope it’s over quickly and that you get some resolution one way or another.

    1. Bwmn*

      I also have to admit, that I don’t know if my response to #3 is at all a solid reading on my industry – or just my personal “when I interview, I like things to proceed this way” rituals.

    2. blackcat*

      This happens a lot in public school hiring. At the prep school I worked at, we scheduled interviews long in advance. But when I was initially looking for work (doing both private and public schools, as I was fully licensed), I was given the advice of “Be ready for an interview at any time.” As it happened, I got a request for an interview one afternoon for the next morning. By the time that I got home from that interview (like 20 minutes later), I had job offer in my email. So less than 48 hours from interview invitation to job offer. And I got a lot of push back when I asked for the weekend to consider (interview/offer was a Friday, and I wanted to push the private school that I had interviewed at the week before to give me an answer. That worked, and I took the private school job. It was an easier job for more $$).

  18. PK*

    #4. I had this happen myself. About 9 months after I started, someone in HR was terminated. Turns out that she was dropping a lot of balls including reference checks. At that point, I was already through the probationary period and bonded but they still called my references. Ultimately, I never heard anything besides a heads up from one of my references.

  19. SarahKay*

    OP#2 If a face mask is not common, a bottle of anti-bacterial hand sanitiser, used regularly, will help significantly. In particular sanitise your hands well before opening doors, pressing elevator buttons, etc. My parents used to share every cold they got with each other and just started doing this last year, and were really surprised at how effective it was. And by effective, I mean that for the first time ever they didn’t pass a cold to each other this year.
    Granted, if you have to share a keyboard or phone, then that gets trickier; it may be worth seeing if there is a spare one you can plug in for your use only.

    1. Elysian*

      I agree with this – I personally would go for extreme cleanliness rather than something as out-of-place visually as a face mask. I’ve never seen someone come to work with a face mask and it would definitely make me question what the deal was with that, but I have seen lots of people go to town with hand sanitizer and Lysol wipes.

      1. Temperance*

        I bought a case of sanitizer after I got sick last year, and I sterilize the heck out of my office, and after every time I leave my office. I’m trying very hard not to get another serious infection ever again.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        Although I will say that if other people are willing to be the ones to stand out wearing a face mask, I’ll be quietly grateful, because I’d love it if it became common here. I catch so much that goes around, and I know not everyone can stay home when they are sick.

    2. Chinook*

      Can I add that Lysol wipes are also your friend? This way you can wipe down everything you touch, especially your phone.

      You may also want to recommend to your place of work that they get someone to come in who sanitizes workplaces. I have seen it done in a couple of offices and they do it at night and I think it does help fight the rampant spread of illness.

    3. MoinMoin*

      And OP might want to check if santizer/wipes are stocked in the office before spending her own money on them. Not all office supplies have them but a lot do.

      1. Visualized Tacos*

        I worked in a call center where people sometimes shared desks. They were hyper-vigilant about germ-spreading and every supervisor had antibacterial wipes on their desks. People were encouraged to wipe down their keyboard, mouse and desk regularly. Even as a temp, you might be able to make a case for having them stocked and their use promoted.

  20. Temperance*

    LW2: just speaking from my current job, you would absolutely get sent home immediately if you showed up wearing a face mask. I work with ~600 people or so, and when someone brings an illness to the office, it ends up cycling through all of us.

  21. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Honestly, I think lack of paid sick days is just dangerous. Especially in my field! I do contract work as a lawyer, and if a colleague did pro bono side work in immigration detention or prisons, they might be exposed to TB. Scary thought.

    1. Tobias Funke*

      Yup. I’m a clinical social worker. I’m also, as most therapists are, a contractor. No PTO. No benefits. No pay if the clients no show. And the population I love is flaky. Mental illness, substance abuse, DV, poverty, incarceration, homelessness. So they no show. So I go to work sick because I can’t afford to cancel a client. So I expose people who don’t have many if any of their needs met to illness. So they expose me to illness. So I get to know that a homeless kid might get sick because mom’s therapist couldn’t afford to take a day off. That feels good.

      The entire behavioral health field is FUBAR and it’s not well publicized. I could really use the money from selling plasma but I don’t want to run into my clients while doing it (because plassing is a lot of people’s main source of cash).

      TLDR: I feel you.

      1. General Ginger*

        “I get to know that a homeless kid might get sick because mom’s therapist couldn’t afford to take a day off.”

        What a really awful situation, for everyone.

  22. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #5. Well, you were not convinced that the job was “there”, so if you are currently employed, you did not resign from your current situation.

    recommended viewing – from someone who has “been there” = The Company Men. Great film, even if was a little over the top. During an approximate seven month unemployment period – nearly everything that happened to Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck) in that film, happened to me.

    Stood up on interviews, being led to believe I was the “one” they were going to hire, only to learn they shifted gears after verbally agreeing to everything, being told the job pays $x to learn it doesn’t, lured in to interview for what seemed like a perfect position but it was a con job to interview me for a lower and different slot , and I was even called in to one bizarre interview for the hiring manager’s own amusement.

    And even brought into rah-rah counseling sessions with other unemployed people – which were so insulting that they made everyone angry.

    Obviously, it would be different if you were just out of college, etc., but in general, when on a job search, expect the unexpected. And don’t assume anything is going to happen until you have the employment offer in writing, with specifics, in your hand.

  23. Beth*

    LW2 – I don’t know how flexible your job is, but would it be possible to come in late for a couple of days when you are sick and miss maybe 2-4 hours? I just keep having flashbacks of when I was sick with a cough for about a month back when I was a temp getting paid $10 an hour (and working a second job for $8 an hour at a coffee shop). It just kept getting worse and worse, partly because I just couldn’t sleep enough between the cough and the working. I think if I’d been able to just come in late a couple of days and sleep in, it would have helped a lot. Everyone I worked with was very kind to us temps, so I know that if I’d asked, they would have done that for me. I don’t think I felt like I could have asked at the time (but I was also 24 or so and probably thought I was invincible so who knows what was going on in my head!). Heck, even if I’d been able to come in late and work late (my hours were 7:30-4) I could have healed a little faster. It was just so hard for me to fall asleep with that cough, but I could have easily slept past that 6am alarm once I *did* fall asleep..

  24. Is it Friday Yet?*

    OP1 I sense is the type of thing that you’re going to HAVE to say you don’t wish to attend because it would be rude of your employer to exclude you.

  25. Pebbles*

    #2. I had a coworker who would wear a face mask at work everyday because he was allergic to cats. I was in a cube next to him (I have one cat), and the contractor in the cube on the other side of him had two cats. Apparently things were fine before the contractor came when it was just me, but add another cat lover and it was too much for him. Unfortunately it took several months for the company to resolve it by moving him to a different cube. So wear the mask whenever you feel you need to. My other coworkers and I got used to it, especially when we understood the reason for it. (FTR, I felt horrible that I was part of the problem, but there wasn’t much I could do.)

  26. Momonga*

    Re: #4 and the references – this is a long shot, but if you’re in a job that requires a special level of security (aka, government clearance) it’s normal for extra checking to happen, post hire.

  27. Gadfly*

    OP5: Is it a government job? If it is a government job, hiring freezes can be suddenly implemented from above and be of random duration. One of the main reasons it is so hard to get rid of a poorly performing employee: it is hard to justify jumping through the hoops required to fire someone who is still better than the no one you might then have for years depending on the freeze. And years sometimes happen–it often takes months to hire and if the freeze lifts for not long enough before a new freeze… I’ve watched this at my mother’s job several times over the years.

    Anyway, if it is, encourage them to contact you when/if the freeze lifts and then forget about it until they do. It could be soon or it could be a long time.

  28. A*

    I would appreciate some input on a variation of question 1: I am an assistant professor in the sciences and a 1.5 day retreat will be held before school begins in a week. Others who attended previous retreats told me they never get anything done during retreats and they are a source of conflict, although they are meant to resolve conflict. In the past I have had conferences during the retreat do would be able to skip,but this time I have no excuse. Downsides of attending: I am staying with my parents on the opposite coast and would have to leave a week earlier than I otherwise for school, which begins unusually late this year. I would also miss 1.5 days list to the retreat which I could really use to work on projects imminently due. Upside: my department chair has been supportive of my career, and I want to support his retreat plan. Also, it may help that I attended in my promotion review; I know for a fact that other people are not attending, but they already have tenure. What do you all advise? To go or not to go? Thanks.

  29. A*

    Ack, typing one phone. School begins in three weeks, but I would have to return next week if attending the retreat. “Retreat do” should be “retreat so” above; “list” should be “due.”

  30. Visualized Tacos*

    #3: Career Services at my college (which was actually worth a damn!) had a seminar about interview worst nightmares. One of those was wearing the wrong clothes – getting called for an interview the same day when you’re not wearing what you would normally wear to an interview. They pointed out that briefly acknowledging it, as Alison suggested, basically affirms “You and I both know this is different”. Even if they recognize and understand that you aren’t wearing your usual Interview Outfit, acknowledging it shows that you know that, so they don’t have to wonder if you would have worn that anyway.

    1. saminrva*

      A spin on getting called in on the same day — right after college, I was in a temp position and took a business trip with my supervisor to another town, which was about 4 hours’ drive from where we both lived. While we were there, I was offered an interview with an org in that town and they were thrilled that I just happened to be there and offered me an interview for the next day. Luckily my temp job supervisor was really accommodating, BUT it was the middle of summer and I hadn’t brought any shoes other than flip flops (the business trip was for archival work that didn’t require nice clothes), although they were nice-ish ones and the same color as my skirt and top at least. I didn’t have the money or a car to go buy new shoes on less than 24-hours’ notice and didn’t know what else to do, so just wore the flip flops to the interview [cringe]. I did comment/apologize for it, but I still got a few odd looks and didn’t get the job. I still think about that every time I pack for a business trip (and shoes are still my biggest dilemma in any job interview)!

  31. Cath in Canada*

    I bought a pack of disposable face masks before visiting Japan during cold and flu season a while ago – I thought it would be rude to walk around barefaced with a runny nose or cough if I happened to get sick. Luckily I stayed healthy on the trip, but I did end up using the masks on crowded buses next time I got a cold while at home. It’s always been very common here in Vancouver to see people of East Asian origin wearing masks in public, and (ironically?) it’s now spreading to other demographics too. I think it’s a great thing to be thoughtful about infecting others when you’re sick!

  32. Marisol*

    For #1 how about framing it as being helpful to the company, rather than opting out because you just don’t want to go? Something like, “I thought it would be most helpful to Acme Company if I stayed behind and got caught up on all the filing so the new person doesn’t have to deal with it, rather than go to the retreat. It will also keep the firm from spending money on someone who is about to leave, as well as being less disruptive socially as people can start getting used to my absence…”

    You can wordsmith that of course, to sound a little less clunky, but I think those are three bona-fide reasons for someone not to go to their company retreat: 1) your time is better spent elsewhere; 2) the company saves money; 3) the social dynamic suffers less if you abstain.

    1. James*

      I think the third reason might be worth trying, since I have already been labelled negative on several occasions for simply voicing an alternate way of doing things and criticising the current way based on the fact that it doesn’t really work and pretty much all colleagues agree but don’t have the desire to speak up.

  33. Marisol*

    I live in Los Angeles and have seen a face mask worn twice, both in the last year. The first time was my tailor, and I really appreciated that she a) wore one, since tailors are in your personal space; and b) still came in to work because I needed my alterations done. The second time was just a day or two ago, where I work at an asset management firm. It was a new hire, a twenty-something kid in fact, who was wearing it so it did seem kind of lacking savoir faire (sp?). However, while I did think it looked odd, I also thought it was conscientious of him to do it and didn’t think it was truly a faux pas.

  34. Allison*

    #5, I learned about a 3 strikes rule for following up with hiring managers (or recruiters, if you’re going through them). You should still space them out reasonably, but if if 3 simultaneous messages go unanswered, you need to walk away.

    But you have my sympathy. I know people are busy, but radio silence is just rude.

  35. Cassie*

    We have a lot of international students, so we do see some students wearing face masks (typically from east Asia). It’s not a big deal. I think I’ve also seen a couple of people (not of Asian descent) wearing face masks on the bus (I’m in southern California).

    What’s your workplace like? Are the other people likely to freak out and make a big ado about it? If it’s anything like my office, no one will care. (One lady walked around with a folded paper towel taped under her nose – not sure what the purpose was, but no one said anything).

  36. Jeff A.*

    #4 – A similar thing happened to me at my last company (higher ed/private university): a woman from HR called me at my University phone number 6 months into the job (i.e., I was sitting at my desk at work for the company that hired me 6 months ago) saying she was having trouble reaching one of my references. I was flabbergasted. I think I said something like, “You realize you’ve already hired me, right? Like, you’re calling me at my desk two floors above the office you work in.” It was weird, and kind of spooked me. I gave my reference a call and explained the situation and asked her to return the call ASAP. I have no idea what would have happened if they hadn’t been able to get in touch with her – fire me? Rescind the job offer that I accepted and began work at 6 months ago? In retrospect, almost everything at that place was a bureaucratic nightmare and total clusterfudge, so I guess this was just par for the course.

  37. teachers son*

    at #3 – my mom was a ate in life career changer. She went back to school to become a teacher at 42. Anyway, as my mom was finishing up school she was super excited to buy interview clothes. After 4 years of penny pinching and not really working she was excited to get back into the work force and picked out a gorgeous suit. One day while she was student teaching the principal called her down and asked if she had time to interview this afternoon. She was so upset that when she went in that afternoon – before the interview started – she described in detail what her interview suit looked like to the committee. She got the job the next day and never interviewed elsewhere – in fact she only wore the suit one time ever to a conference.

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