my boss hasn’t talked to me since Christmas, I’m supposed to bring green paper to my interview, and more

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

1. My boss hasn’t talked to me since Christmas

Since I returned from the Christmas holidays, my manager hasn’t spoken to me. We are in different offices and she would usually drop by most days to catch up before, so it feels very strange to have a whole month go by without anything from her. I know that her diary has been very full, but she still makes time to talk with the rest of my team and those outside it. The contrast with how she relates to me is startling. Nothing happened to cause this that I can identify. I’ve gone over things in my head and can’t see anything that I may have done.

I have been trying to convince myself that if I had done something wrong (or not done something right) she would have told me directly, but I’m finding this lack of communication very troubling and stressful. I do have periods of depression and anxiety, so I don’t know whether I am reading too much into a busy schedule/manager stress (I’m the most experienced worker in the team so maybe I don’t need the same oversight as others) or if this is something I should be really concerned about. My anxiety is making the thought of speaking to her about it a scary prospect; I’m worried about seeming needy or attention seeking. Some outside perspective would be greatly appreciated!

There’s a very good chance that that she’s just busy and that you’re right that the reason she’s talking more to others is because they need more oversight. Or who knows, maybe it’s something else. What do you know of her in general — is she a reasonable person? Is she generally kind? Can you imagine her just freezing out someone who reports to her? Thinking through the answers to those questions through might make you feel better.

But also, have you tried initiating contact with her, rather than waiting for her to initiate it with you? Why not stop by her office and say that you realized you haven’t talked to her since the holidays and wanted to catch up … or ask for a check-in meeting … or say you’d like to meet with her to get her input on a project … or any of the other normal things you might do if you weren’t worried about this?

If you do that and she still seems weird, at that point you could say something like, “I might be misinterpreting, but I’ve gotten the sense that I might have done something to upset you. If so, I’d definitely want to know about it!” It’s likely that will jog her into realizing she’s been neglecting you, but if there’s something more going on, it’ll be good to get it out on the table.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Interviewer told me to bring green paper to my interview

Why would an interviewer want me to bring a green sheet of paper to my interview? I’m pretty sure it’s just to see if I’m paying attention.

Yeah, it sounds like one of those “let’s see if they follow directions” tests.

For what it’s worth, it’s a pretty infantilizing way of assessing that. There are much better ways to do that, ways that don’t involve treating job applicants like kindergartners, such as looking carefully at their application materials and their correspondence (for example, if you ask three questions in an email, do they only answer two?) and using actual job-related exercises as part of the hiring process.

3. I have to pay for a digital subscription to the paper I work for

I’m a social media intern for a local paper, and I had to recently purchase a digital subscription—it’s around $10 per month—at the paper so I could do my job: sharing content across its Twitter and Facebook platforms. There are ways to get around the digital paywall, but the workarounds take time away that I could be using to do my job. I brought it up with another social media editor and my manager, and he said there’s basically nothing they can do about it. It’s either using an inconvenient work-around or buying their product to do my job.

As someone who is paid close to the minimum wage as an intern, I find this ridiculous and burdensome. My parents still support me in college, and I’m not going to starve by buying this, but making an intern purchase a product—a digital product nonetheless that simply gets me access past an online paywall—seems inappropriate here just so I can do my job effectively. To be clear, my boss is otherwise great, but this seems like it crosses a line. Should I bring this up again, or should I just let it slide?

It’s definitely ridiculous. Have you tried just submitting it as a business expense to be reimbursed, which is how it should be working?

But if it would be weird to do that after you’ve already talked to your boss and she said no, go back to her and say this: “I’m sorry to push this issue, but I don’t think I should personally pay for a work expense, especially since I’m on an intern’s wages. This seems like a business expense that I should submit for reimbursement. Can I go ahead and do that?”

4. Interview shoes with a foot disability

I have severe, chronic foot problems. I can live pain-free if I wear the right kind of shoes, which for me is hiking boots and Birkenstocks*. I can’t get away with wearing bad shoes even for short periods of time, and the resulting levels of pain make it hard for me to cook, wash dishes, make trips to the grocery store, etc. It’s a complete no-go.

What do I do for job interviews? I work in a field which is very casual and nobody will care when I’m on the job, but interviews are much more strict. I hate the idea that I’d get weeded out due to a legit disability that doesn’t even matter when it comes to my actual job.

*Because I get flooded with people recommending shoes whenever I bring this up — I’m a fashion diva in my spare time, and if I could wear a wider range of shoes, you can bet that I would be wearing a wider range of shoes. Whatever shoe you have in mind, I can guarantee that I’ve tried it, and it didn’t work. I read up on blogs for people with foot problems, I visit the shoes for healthy feet store frequently, and…nope. This is it. This is a how-do-I-cope-with-a-disability question, not a recommend-me-shoes-I-might-not-have-tried question.

When you first meet your interviewer, just cheerfully and briskly say, “Apologies for the shoes! I have a foot condition that’s acting up.” If you briefly explain it and don’t make a big deal out of it, they won’t either.

If you wanted to be even vaguer, you could call it a “foot injury” rather than a “foot condition,” which might sound less scary, not that you should have to cater to that sort of thing.

5. Employees who arrive for work too early

I have employees who will show up 30 minutes or more before a shift and want the building opened up so they can hang out and do emails and such before clocking in. I am opposed to employees being at work more than 10 minutes before their shifts. I assume they are trying to clock in early or might be doing something they shouldn’t. Am I wrong in feeling this way or is this a founded theory that employees shouldn’t be at work unless clocked in and working?

Why are you assuming that they’re trying to do something wrong? That’s a really big leap to make, and a pretty adversarial one toward your employees too. If you have reason to think that, deal with whatever’s causing you to think it. But otherwise, don’t assign motives to people that may not exist, especially when it’s not terribly unusual for someone to want to deal with emails or chat with coworkers before they start work.

However, when you say they want the building opened up — are they inconveniencing other people with that? If so, that’s a valid reason to say either “hey, please show up on time and not so early” or “if you show up early, you may not be let in until close to your shift time.” (Even then, though, you’d want to make sure that you’re not penalizing people who arrive early because of public transportation schedules, etc. and who just want somewhere to sit that isn’t in the elements.)

{ 341 comments… read them below }

  1. LisaLee*

    For #5…I really think this is probably a public transit issue. Personally, the buses in my city run every hour on the hour before 10 am, but my workday starts at 8:30. Luckily there are other places around where I can hang out for half an hour, but if that wasn’t the case, I would be sitting in my workplace.

    Surely if you suspect someone of abusing the system to clock in early you could find that out just by checking the payroll.

    1. Rando*

      Public transportation schedule, set childcare drop off times, avoiding traffic by arriving earlier, etc. So many reasons to get there early.

      1. DuckDuckMøøse*

        More reasons : I get anxious about the possibility of being late, so I’m a habitual “too early” person. I also have problems with insomnia, so my schedule varies, depending on when I wake up, and give up trying to sleep. ;)
        At my job, it doesn’t matter when we start, since we have flexible work schedules. But I don’t show up at 4am and expect my building to be open. The building opens at 5am, unless there is an emergency.

        If it’s not an inconvenience to let employees in a little early, what is the harm? I say treat them like adults, and don’t assume there is a nefarious ulterior motive. No one wants to work for an employer that treats them like thieves, or untrustworthy children. That’s a big morale hit.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, I was an early-bird when I worked in the city; my commute was over an hour by rail. I’d always plan on being on time even if I missed a train or had a moderate train delay, meaning I’d be as much as thirty minutes early if things went well.

          “Employees arriving too early” is an example of a *good* problem to have. Arriving too late is, IMHO, far more disruptive.

        2. Kore*

          Yeah, if I have a set need to be there time I am always early. My current job is very flexible so I tend to be a bit later (I’m not much of a morning person), but if it’s a rigid start time I’m always there early.

        3. Kate H*

          Same. I leave 30-45 minutes earlier than I need to for work. Part of it is just habit from when I started and was terrified of being late. And part of it is just the realization that if I leave on time, I run into traffic of people going to pick up their kids from school (I work afternoons). I like to sit in my car and read a book until it’s time for my shift.

    2. Kate the Little Teapot*

      #5 – I would also look at what your penalties for tardiness are. If people are likely to lose their jobs if they’re late, they probably are trying to arrive early in order that traffic won’t cause them to be late.

      1. Rebecca*

        Great point – at my very first job, years ago, we non-exempts were assessed attendance points, and being 1-3 minutes late resulted in 1/4 point. If you were later than 3 minutes, but less than 4 hours late, it was 1/2 point, and if you missed the whole day, it was 1 full point, IIRC. 12 points in a rolling calendar year meant dismissal. We had no sick time, and very little vacation, so there were people who routinely showed up at least 30 minutes early, even if it meant sitting in their cars in the parking lot to avoid this. It was a terrible policy. I remember once I hit a deer on the way to work, a very common thing in my rural area, still got the 1/2 point assessed.

        1. Anon13*

          That is an insane policy! And, I’m guessing it often led to people who would have been 10 minutes late actually showing up 3.5 hours late. If the punishment is the same, why not take the extra time off to do whatever it is that you need to do? (In other workplaces, the obvious answer is that you care about your job and want to be a good employee, but, if that policy is indicative of general treatment of employees in that particularly workplace, I’m guessing people may not have been as concerned about that. )

          1. OhNo*

            That was my first thought, too. If I’m running ten minutes late because of traffic, I might as well stop and get a cup of coffee, pick up my dry cleaning, and maybe do a bit of window shopping before I stroll into work.

            Seriously, though, that policy is bonkers. I hope they changed it after you left, but somehow I doubt it.

            1. AKJ*

              When my workplace had a similar policy, we were docked one point for taking a sick day, but you could have up to 3 sick days under one point. I had taken a sick day but was feeling better the next day, so I planned to go in after a dental appointment. My dentist appointment ran longer than I expected, so I ended up calling in sick a 2nd day to avoid getting another 1/2 point assessed for being late.

              1. Collarbone High*

                I think I’d have called in on day 3 at that point. If I’m already being punished, might as well commit the crime.

                1. Anon13*

                  I probably would have, too. And, I generally consider myself a conscientious employee. I just don’t take well to losing “points” for legitimate illnesses.

                2. Liane*

                  OldJob at Famed Retailer was like that. Tardy (arriving 7 minutes early) was 1/3 point; calling in for a day was 1 point; 3+ consecutive days absent for the same thing was counted as the same point. Over 3 points in a rolling 6 months period, was “verbal” (first time) or written coaching. Oh, and yes, absent only 2 days in a row for the same thing was counted as 2 Occurrences. And yes, we had a lot of people call in Day 3 when 1 or 2 days was enough to recover. Which meant we were short-staffed for more days than we would have been if 2 days didn’t equal 2 points.
                  I did it a couple of times when I was well after 2 days, but 2 Occurrences would put me over the “limit,” and discipline incidents didn’t roll off for 12 months.

                3. Xarcady*

                  At my retail job, you used to earn one point a month for perfect attendance. Then you would “spend” the points when you had to call out or be late.

                  Half a point for up to 10 minutes late, a point if you were more than 20 minutes late. A point if you missed your whole shift.

                  And if you were late or called out, you also lost the attendance point you would have earned for that month.

                  You started with 6 points. All you had to do was be 1 minute late for one shift every month, and you would end up with 0 attendance points, and a fair chance of being fired for attendance problems. You would have spent all your points, and not earned any new ones.

                  So they eventually switched to earning a half a point every two weeks, and started people off with more points, which helped.

                  I always clocked in about 5 minutes early, to be on the safe side. But then someone figured out that I was getting paid for those extra 15-20 minutes a week (during which I was on the clock and working), and I was told to stop. Could only clock in on the exact hour. Which, as we clocked in on the cash registers, led to me standing there, doing nothing, waiting to clock in, while customers would spot me at a register and run over to check out, and then get angry at me because I couldn’t help them for one or two minutes.

                  Micromanaging for the win!

            2. RKB*

              Ha, this reminds me of high school. When they started doing the automatic phone calls home they happened after 15 minutes of being late, so if you were that late, you might as well get breakfast or take a nap in the library or spend extra time on your makeup or whatnot.

              1. Miss Betty*

                When I was in high school, they instituted a policy of 20 minutes late=absence. I lived a mile away from school and walked or rode my bike. One morning, I started off on my bike but got a flat tire before I’d gone far, so I went back home, ditched the bike, and walked to school. Went to my first class. I think I was just over 20 minutes late at that point. I told my teacher what had happened and she said it didn’t matter, no exceptions, 20 minutes late=absence. So I took out the latest novel I was reading and ignored her for the rest of the period. (She ignored me too, so it all worked out.) It was chilly that morning and my nose was running, but I didn’t have any Kleenex, so I sniffed all class period as I read. Not very nice, actually – but I was 15 and, perhaps, a bit passive-agressive.

                1. OhNo*

                  My high school had a policy where being more than 10 minutes late meant you spent the period in in-school suspension. My brother and I drove to school together, and whenever we were running late he would drop me off and then go out to get doughnuts and coffee rather than sit in ISS for an hour.

                  (I had calculus first period, and an excellent teacher. There was a policy that if you said you had a test, and the teacher verified it, you could go to class rather than ISS. I’m sure the office staff thought that we had an unusual number of tests in that class, because almost every day someone would cry “test!” and walk in late.)

                2. Cassie*

                  My high school started a tardy sweep – if you weren’t in the classroom by the 2nd bell, the admins would send you to the cafeteria for detention. One time I overslept and when I got to school, the 2nd bell had just rung. I scurried to class and when I sat down in my sea, the teacher said “nope, go to the cafeteria”. It was so silly. So instead of practicing on my typing skills (it was a computer / typing class), I got to sit in the cafeteria for an hour and a half (we had block scheduling) with a bunch of deadbeat kids.

                  Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t think I stayed in the cafeteria for the whole 90 minutes. After you got marked up for being late, I think they let you go back to class.

            3. Jadelyn*

              Yep. If I’m going to get penalized for being 5 minutes late, I might as well get penalized with a cup of coffee in hand. Or just go back to bed for another hour or two, if I oversleep and realize when I wake up that I won’t be able to be exactly on time. What a ridiculous way to handle attendance!

          2. Rebecca*

            LOL, since the pay was so low, no one wanted to miss time! And, to add insult to injury with the no sick time, if you missed 3 consecutive days due to being sick, you got 3 attendance points AND had to bring a doctor’s note in order to go back to work. So, you were out 3 days pay (-60% for the week), a doctor’s visit fee, and you were probably still sick. It was awful. I went to work many times so sick I could barely stand up because of this policy because I was so poor I couldn’t take the cut in pay.

        2. AKJ*

          We had a similar policy at one of my jobs, although our “grace period” was 15 minutes. If you were more than 15 minutes late, you got docked a 1/2 point. 7 points in a rolling calendar year meant dismissal. We got paid for sick time, but we were still assessed a point for taking a sick day. We did get vacations, but they were scheduled in November of the previous year for the entire subsequent year, so it wasn’t like you could take vacation time if something unexpected came up. You could reserve up to one week for “day-at-a-time vacation,” but those had to be approved in advance.
          People showed up early all the time. I once had such a short turnaround between shifts (due to a schedule change) that I slept in our breakroom, so technically I was about four hours early.

          1. RKB*

            Ooooh this regularly happens with our lifeguards. They get split shifts since they can’t be on deck more than 1.5 hours at a time, so some of them just take a nap in between because why leave and come back?

        3. Liane*

          A lot of people assume that stingy policies like these are only for the low-level positions, but it isn’t true.
          One of my friends has been at the same insurer for some years and has held 3 positions with increasing responsibility–processor, analyst, and his current, which I believe is reporting and/or QA. He’s still under an attendance occurrence policy very similar to the one I just posted from my Famed Retailer job.

      2. Sydney Bristow*

        This was my thought too. I always aim to be early and rely on the subway. If there is an issue, I’m likely to be significantly late if I didn’t add in a good cushion. The cushion normally works out with me being early but I’d rather that than be super late.

        Luckily my job is flexible and I can start whenever I get in (with a time that would be considered late) but it wasn’t always that way so my habit stuck around.

        1. Meghan*

          I rely on the subway too, but it doesn’t start running in my city until 6. I live an hour and a half away by transit in the best of times, most days it’s closer to 2 hours. If there’s a serious delay (for example, 2 suicides in the 6 months I’ve lived here) my 20 minute cushion disappears quickly. Sometimes my employer will ask everyone if they want to do a modified shift and start at 7 instead of 8:30 and I’m just sitting there like “uh, I physically can’t be there that early, even 8 is pushing it”. Lucky I’ve been around long enough and done enough unpaid overtime that 10-15 minutes every couple weeks and the occasional 3 hour trip through transit hell isn’t a big deal.

      3. cercis*

        That’s what I was thinking. I worked one place with a points system. Points were assessed if you were so much as 1 minute late. Since I took public transportation, that meant not taking the bus that was supposed to drop me outside the building 5 minutes early. I took the one that dropped me off 20 minutes early until it was late once and I had to run to the building and run up the 3 flights of (extremely steep) stairs, so from then on it was the one that dropped me off 35 minutes early. While I wouldn’t have gotten fired for points, having points “just” meant that you lost other perqs. I was extremely lucky to have a bus that ran every 15 minutes or so.

        Every time they sent around an employee survey I complained about the points system and pointed out that if were a little more reasonable – such as having a 5 minute window for late arrival – it would be less punitive and stress inducing.

      4. One of the Sarahs*

        Yeah, way back when I was call centre staff straight out of uni, I used to get to work early around 15-20 mins early because if my bus was late/early/didn’t show up, and I was even 2 minutes late to clock on, I’d get penalised (funny how if I had to take a call 1 minute before the end of my shift, and I was still on the call after my shift was over, they wouldn’t pay me extra, though…. guess which was the more common occurrence…). Luckily there was an awful canteen to read in, and the site was open 24/7, because I would have been so angry if they’d made me shiver in the dark car park.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      That would be my assumption – or even traffic considerations with people driving.

      The question I would ask the LW is whether it’s okay for employees to periodically clock in late without penalty (if their bus is late, or traffic is bad), or if it’s possible for people to shift their schedules to match with public transit.

      If it’s not – if this is a job where being there at starting time is important – then your employees are likely showing up early not for nefarious purposes, but to avoid being late and getting in trouble. They understandably don’t want to have to hang out on the sidewalk every day before work, or even having to pay for unwanted coffee to be able to sit somewhere indoors for fifteen minutes or half an hour.

      1. Marzipan*

        Yes. This. Unless #5 is totally fine with people being late, it’s not reasonable to take issue with them being early. Being early is often the only way to achieve being on time. It’s not like the employees can just bend the universe to suit their will so they arrive exactly on time every day, and expecting them to hang around outside in all weathers seems rather harsh.

        1. Nisie*

          I help teach those with disabilities how to get and keep a job. We stress that to be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late. Also, we teach showing up 15-20 minutes early.

          1. NonProfit Nancy*

            That may be good advice, but only if they can keep themselves occupied – not on site – for those twenty minutes. I would say it’s a poor impression to have someone show up that early before a scheduled interview and want to hang around the office? Or, as in this case, showing up too early before work and needing to be let in?

            1. Liane*

              Interviews, yes, showing up more than 10 or so minutes early is a bad idea; Alison has covered this a few times.

          2. Teclatrans*

            I struggled for decades with undiagnosed ADHD, and learning to aim for early was revelatory and life-changing. Turns out I am a terrible judge of how long it takes me to get somewhere, how long it takes to do those last-minute “I don’t have to leave yet” jobs, etc.

            My partner drives 40 miles to work, and the commute varies from 50-200 minutes. If he has to be in at a certain time for a meeting or etc., he absolutely leaves extra early. If traffic cooperates, he arrives early.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              I’m still trying to help my husband learn this (we both have ADHD; I’ve known about mine most of my life so have a number of coping strategies; he did not and thus does not).

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        +1 re not assuming everyone can pay for coffee, especially if they’re on minimum wage

    4. katamia*

      That they take public transportation or that there’s some other traffic issue (sometimes leaving 5 minutes later during rush hour can make a 20- or 30-minute difference) was my first thought.

      1. Anon13*

        Those were my first two thoughts, as well.

        I used to take public transportation and, even on one of the city’s busiest lines (the X2 in DC), it would have been difficult for me to arrive at work at the exact same time every day. Luckily, my arrival time didn’t really matter, but I left at pretty much the exact same time every day and could arrive 10 or some minutes in either direction (so a 20 minute span) from my “normal” time. And, at that point, I was less than 2 miles from work. I’m sure someone with a longer public transit route has to account even more for differences in time.

        Now, I’m in the suburbs in a Midwest state – I pass through three school zones on my way to work, and, depending on when I leave, can get stuck behind up to four buses and can get behind a line of cars waiting to turn in at one of the schools. I can leave 5 minutes later and arrive 20 minutes later. Again, arriving at a specific time is not a requirement of my job, but if it was, you can bet I’d be early every day, at least during the school year, to avoid these issues.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’m also a little puzzled about why #5 thinks “I assume they are trying to clock in early or might be doing something they shouldn’t.”

      I don’t mean to make you feel badly, but that’s a really strange response to people being early. So I wondered if there’s more to the backstory that you left out of your letter.

      What sorts of “things” would your employees be doing that they shouldn’t, and have they ever done those things in the past? Have you seen evidence that they’re clocking in early on their timesheets, etc.? If you haven’t seen anyone doing either of those things, why is your first assumption that their goal is to do something dishonest? Have they done other things that have undermined how you perceive your relationship with them and their integrity?

      When I was an hourly employee, I routinely came into work 15-30 minutes to get settled, warm up my breakfast, check my non-work emails, get organized—basically take care of things that I wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) be doing during the work day but that would distract me if the tasks were niggling at the back of my mind… and things that are hard to do, even if they were ok to do at work, when interacting with customers. And I also wanted ample time before my shift began because if I had been even a minute late I would have been immediately written up. Heck, I’m on salary, and I still come in well in advance of “opening business hours” to have that early morning prep time.

      If my boss said, “hey, you can’t be here that early b/c I can’t open the store for you,” then I’d be like (internal monologue:), oh, that sucks but ok. But if my boss was telegraphing that they didn’t have faith in me or trust me, it would probably encourage me to continue to come early to demonstrate my commitment and work ethic.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Yes, this was the part that bothered me, too. If the employees really would do “something they shouldn’t” before [opening time], why wouldn’t they do it after opening time? And why would you keep employing someone who you don’t trust? If you feel you don’t have enough to accuse them, ask what evidence you really have of any wrongdoing. My guess is there is none, you’re just worried about trusting people, which is not unusual but also not reasonable to take out on other people.

        Now, as others have said, if opening the building early is a real issue, then that’s separate from whether employees would do something wrong if they were allowed in the building early. And if they clock in early, wouldn’t you know by simply looking at the time they punched in? Just be clear when you let them in that they should not punch in before the start of their shift.

        1. Itsa Me*

          I don’t understand why the LW is making an assumption that they’re clocking in early rather than just checking. That seems like the logical next step.

          I wonder whether the emails they are checking are personal or work-related. If they are personal then there is no issue, but if they are work-related then the employees need to be paid for that time so I could understand the LW not wanting them in early to do that.

          1. OhNo*

            Well, they may not have the ability to check what time people clock in. I know some places have very strict rules about who can view or change what information. If it’s considered payroll info, and the OP is a lead worker or line supervisor or someone without management responsibility, they might not have access.

            Time clocking might be something the OP doesn’t have control over, but that they are responsible for (i.e.: keeping to the budget, making sure breaks are on time and covered, etc.)

            1. Observer*

              Even where the manager doesn’t get to see the punch records of their direct reports (rather than being expected to “approve” time sheets), if she’s being required to manage their time and payroll budget, she could certainly ask for information on when people clock in without specific names – eg “please give me the number of people who are working more than x hours per week, and the number of people who are working less than that amount.”

              I also don’t believe that in a functional workplace a manager will be forbidden from seeing the time records of the people whose time they are required to manage. If the OP is not being expected to manage their time, then worrying about them trying to clock in early is a bit over the top.

              1. OhNo*

                I absolutely agree that no functional workplace would have those kind of restrictions. But I’ve worked at a place that had such rules (unsurprisingly, it was not very functional), so it does happen. I really hope the OP is not in one of those places, though, because that would just make things a hundred times more difficult.

                1. Zombii*

                  I’ve worked at one of those places too. Policy said all breaks had to be tracked by clocking out/in, even if they were paid breaks. One of the managers thought one of her reports was taking extra smoke breaks and wanted to address it. Her plan was to compare the employee’s timecard with the ID badge records from the door to the smoke deck (closed facility: any door in/out had a scanner), and then base a corrective action on the extent of the discrepancy.

                  HR refused, because giving the employee’s direct manager access to those records could—wait for it—make the company liable in a potential discrimination case. If any of the real lawyers here could give me a credible explanation for this, I’d appreciate it.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @Zombii, based on what you’ve described, there’s no way there would be a discrimination issue. Was there a racial or other identity difference, other than gender, between your manager and the employee at issue?

            2. Liane*

              If you supervise/manage people (which means their timeliness is part of your job, if it is important to their positions) and you cannot view their timesheets–you escalate to someone who does, your manager, HR, etc.
              Most managers don’t have the ability to look personally at what an employee does on company computers–but if they have a concern they go to the IT people who can. No different.

          2. Zombii*

            I wondered the same thing about the emails. Is everyone given enough time during their shifts to do all necessary work, or do they have to work off the clock to manage it? Are they being incentivised (subtly or overtly) to be there early and/or is there a valid reason for them to clock in early (like checking work emails or doing other work things)?

            Storytime. Toxic ExJob (call center) used to have a policy that said no one was allowed to clock in for work until they were ready to take calls. This meant showing up 10-25 minutes early, unpaid, to find a workstation and log into the necessary programs and check email, unpaid. They stopped doing that after a class action suit (because apparently it’s illegal to instruct people to come to work and do work things, while refusing to pay them), and then they made a policy that no one could be in the building when they weren’t scheduled to work—because there was a stupid amount of people who wanted to work off the clock secretly, in an attempt to game the unreasonable metrics and a ridiculous bonus structure.

      2. Elly*

        I took it as doing work off the clock before their shift starts, and that the OP just worded it strangely.

        1. Sas*

          Oh, it seems like the manager is referring to some sort of ” time theft ” or something. Which really does so many bad things to people and is inappropriate for reasons listed by people. Try OP not to be one of those managers.

        2. Anna*

          I may be wrong, but it seems like it would be a lot more difficult to do work off the clock for a shift job if you’re not being encouraged to do it.

      3. NonProfit Nancy*

        I might be off base, but I assumed they wanted to clock in early and thus leave early, which causes some other problem for OP. At my job because people ask to arrive at 7:30 – eg, before the phone starts ringing – and then they leave at around 4, meaning their coworkers are left with a sh*tstorm of calls, last minute demands, etc. We have “core hours” that prevent this schedule.

    6. Barista*

      I like to get to work early to settle in. It’s nice to be able to enjoy a cup of coffee and soak in the atmosphere before beginning a shift. It’s one of many good reasons to arrive early.

      And I definitely agree that the fear of time theft can be assuaged by simply checking the punch records.

      I’m guessing it’s an inconvenience to have the place unlocked for the employees who arrive early. That makes the most sense to me. My question to OP#5 would be whether it’s a good number of people who arrive that early and whether there’s any reason not to simply unlock the doors earlier. It would make sense if there’s a security feature that requires approval for each entry, as that would get annoying.

      1. Fish Microwaver*

        Yes, I like to take time to settle in with a coffee, go through emails etc. Some quiet time at the start of the day sets me up well.

      2. SophieChotek*

        +1 to settling in. And like Nisie said “if you’re on time, you’re late.” At my retail job, we have to be ready to go at precisely the time we are supposed to be “on the floor” — so really we ought to be there 10-15 minutes early to put our things away, ensure our name-tags are on, etc. so we can punch in and be ready to ring customers in at 9:30 sharp. The LW probably is not in the retail environment, but I still agree with the premise — working with public transportation, child care, just liking a few minutes to settle in, not wanting to be penalized for being late. If it’s a security issue that’s really unfortunate for all the people that get there early (how many?) but then it sounds like that is an issue that could be addressed in a straighforward manner, and has nothing to do with theft or trying to punch in early. (And at my retail job, my manager has to approve every payroll individually, so she’d see if i kept punching in early anyway).

      3. Anon13*

        I like to settle in, as well. And, if the employees all get along and enjoy each others’ company, I could see wanting to arrive early to chat with co-workers before one’s shift, as well. And, while I don’t think there’s a problem with brief personal conversations (i.e. “How was your weeekend?” “It was great, I saw Monster Trucks with my kids and they loved it.” “How fun, I think I might take my kids to see it this weekend.”), I’d think any manager would prefer that employees have any longer or more in-depth personal conversations before or after work, or during lunch breaks.

    7. Excel Slayer*

      Yeah. I deal with people’s times and clockings generally and it really isn’t that unusual for people to arrive 30 minutes or so early. There’s several hundred reasons for it (bus schedules, wanting to miss traffic, long commute and not wanting to risk being late if something goes wrong, wanting to be ready to go when their shift starts, absolutely not wanting to be penalised for being late, just being an early person).

      If your company is severe about being late, then ten minutes is a very small gap of time for most people to hit. If it’s impractical to have the building opened early then do tell them that – but honestly, OP, I think you’re worrying about it too much.

    8. Alton*

      Yeah, I usually arrive around 20 minutes early because that’s when my bus gets me there. I’m non-exempt and am not supposed to work off the clock, so I just surf the net on my phone or get some tea or something.

    9. Allison*

      Most likely. Many people are subject to bus and commuter train schedules, and sometimes it’s a choice between a train that would get you there too early, or a train that would get you there minutes before your shift if it runs on time (and they don’t always), so I could see opting for the early train to be safe.

    10. Michelle*

      I usually arrive at work 30 minutes early. It’s not to clock in early or “do something I’m not supposed to”. I cannot eat before I leave home. If I try to eat within an hour or so of waking up I get sick. So either I make something & take it with me or go by a restaurant & grab something. I go to work eat, then I clock in at my regular time and get things ready to go.

      Security opens our building at 7 am and I arrive at 8 am. There are usually several people already there when I arrive. Unless it’s truly inconveniencing staff for others to arrive early, I wouldn’t push it. If you have people who are clocking in early or doing something they are not suppose to, you should just speak to them privately and make your expectations/rules/policies clear.

    11. LBK*

      Yeah, at one time the locations of my apartment and my office meant that there was one bus I could take to get to work that only ran every 45 mins, so I could either get to work 30 minutes early or 15 minutes late. Hence, I was always 30 minutes early.

    12. kimberly*

      I was thinking the same thing, but not just public transit but any commute. I live in Houston – so public transit is horrible and no use to get to my old job. I was regularly at work 45 min to an hour before start time. If I left 15 minutes later, I was in danger of being late because of bottlenecks at two different freeway exchanges. There wasn’t really any safe place for me to wait.

  2. Sami*

    OP#4: I’m sorry you’re dealing with this, chronic pain is horrid. If I were to meet you in an interview or similar formal situation, I honestly probably wouldn’t even notice your shoes. Or if I did or you wanted to preemptively bring it up, Alison’s suggestions are perfect. And as long as you’re otherwise dressed appropriately for the occasion, I can’t imagine any reasonable person having a problem with your shoes. Good luck!

    1. Al Lo*

      I would 100% notice your shoes — I always notice shoes — but I would probably assume that it was a mobility issue of some sort, the same way I would with anyone who wore something more casual or more functional than the rest of their outfit might suggest, and I think Alison’s suggestion would just confirm that assumption and I’d forget about it after your mention.

      However, if you could make them a statement and paired them with something similar to this or this (but with more interview-appropriate pieces on the second one), I would think you had an awesome, quirky style, and the boots wouldn’t even warrant a mention. That may not fly in your interviews, but if it would work, an outfit like that would draw way less notice for me than, say, a suit with hiking boots.

      1. Al Lo*

        (And to be fair, in my industry, either of those outfits would be 100% interview-appropriate, polka dot tights and all, but I recognize that that isn’t the case in many industries, even other casual ones.)

      2. OhNo*

        I was just thinking the same thing – if paired with the right outfit, hiking books in particular can pass as a fashion statement, rather than something that sticks out.

        FWIW, I also have a disability and wear hiking boots at all times. I got ones that are all black and wear looser pants that cover most of the boot, and no one has ever commented on it. So if fashion’s not your thing, you can invest in an interview outfit with long pants and it should still look perfectly professional.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      OP#4, one of my guy friends has this problem. He literally cannot wear any shoes other than ones with custom-made, super expensive medical orthotics, and he only has two sets—one for his sneakers and one for hiking boots. Granted, he’s a guy, but he will usually let prospective employers know that he has a chronic foot injury (I wouldn’t call it a “condition” because I think some people’s minds will jump to short-term things like an ingrown toenail or athlete’s foot). So far it’s always worked for him.

      1. Eh? Non Y. Mouse*

        Yeah, I didn’t know if the OP was a guy or not and how that would affect things.

        What I do for my own chronic issue is still wear the shoes that give me the support I need (standard dress shoes suck for support) but I try and go with a style that blends in a bit more. So I’m wearing runners, but they’re black leather on the outside so they don’t stand out as much. So I’m wondering if there’s a style of hiking boot that might offer the support of the hiking boot the OP needs but has an outside appearance that blends in more. Then again most hiking boots look pretty rugged no matter what.

        If there is such a boot, it might help so only the most shoe focused people notice.

        Of course, I use a mobility device so people pretty well assume something is up with my feet anyway

        1. Hotstreak*

          You can absolutely do this! I own a pair of hiking boots that are a beautiful natural leather, and I could easily have worn them with khaki paints at my formal-ish job if I treated the leather correctly & if they weren’t cut to pieces from hiking!

          You can also get hiking boots in more formal looking black leather, with matching black soles (or have a cobbler put a new matching sole on).

          I know OP doesn’t want advice on specific shoes but I am curious what it is about the hiking boots that make them comfortable. Stiff sole? Ankle support? There’s nothing magically different about hiking boots vs sneakers.

        2. PlainJane*

          This is very similar to what I do when I need to look presentable at work, but we’ve just gotten a bunch of snow. I have smooth black snow boots that, when worn with black slacks, look almost like dress shoes (minus the polish). I’ve also done the black tennis shoes thing when I have an injury.

    3. Just a Thought*

      OP#4 I too suffer from a foot condition. For a while I was stuck in running sneakers per my doctors orders. Luckily for me there is a correction that allows a slightly wider range of possibilities. But I definitly interviewed for jobs in sneakers. I think my obvious limp gave me away, but I think most reasonable people understand that foot pain is no joke. I like the wording foot injury a little bit more than foot condition. But I think as long as you act like it isn’t a big deal your interviewers will too.

    4. Lovemyjob...Truly!!!*

      OP#4 you have my sympathy. My husband has been dealing with foot problems and chronic pain since birth (literally!) and, like you, he can wear only specific shoes without issue (a specific brand of sneakers, birkenstocks, and hiking boots). He had a job interview last week and insisted on wearing a pair of dress shoes and, like you, suffered for it later. His weekend was not fun. In the past he’s always worn his hiking boots or dark colored sneakers and nobody has commented on it. In fact, the only time I’ve noticed someone noticing what he wore on his feet for an occasion was when he wore his Birkenstock sandals to our wedding. People commented then (Black tux, brown sandals…it was a good look!) but his comfort was way more important than anything else. We made it a “thing” and invited anyone who wanted to wear their sandals to wear them. People did!

    5. Ktelzbeth*

      For my own foot condition (no diagnosis and no treatment after years and opinions) I pretty much always wear running shoes with as much cushion as possible or Alegrias, since they are the only brand my custom insole will fit. Fortunately, Alegria makes a decent black Mary Jane, so I can blend in, mostly. You have my sympathy. Chronic foot pain sucks! I would not worry about your shoes, especially if you gave me Alison’s brief one-liner.

    6. zora*

      I would say just find the simplest, most solid color option you can. I’m thinking probably plain black Birkenstock clogs, but maybe simple, solid color hiking boots. And then say what Alison suggested.

      As long as your shoes are unobtrusive, I think you’ll be fine, especially in a casual industry. If they are bright green hiking boots, or Birkenstock sandals with socks, I think it will seem a little more odd to interviewers. ;o)

  3. esra (also a Canadian)*

    As long as the hiking boots are neutral-coloured, I’d go for them over the birks and just explain as AAM laid out. As long as someone gave an explanation that it was an accommodation, I wouldn’t think twice about it.

    1. Nerfmobile*

      Agreed, I’d go with the boots over the Birkenstocks for most interview-appropriate outfits. If you were wearing them with pants and they were relatively neutral in tone (brown, black, or grey; no red laces or orange or teal accents) they probably wouldn’t even be worth mentioning unless you were in a quite formal business environment. At least in my neck of the woods, so to speak (US West Coast).

      1. yasmara*

        I would go with Birkenstocks, because they now make shoe and boot options with the same footbed (per their own description):

        These in particular would be completely innocuous as interview shoes (if expensive, sorry):–black/0733191-0733193-0000000.html#start=4

        I (literally) feel your pain – I have been dealing with foot issues since March of last year. I have super expensive custom orthotics & almost exclusively wear sneakers right now (and regret it when I don’t). I thought it was going to be awful forever, but I’ve been going to intensive physical therapy for the last month (2+ times a week) & am *finally* starting to see improvement. PT for the win!

        1. AnInternSupervisor*

          I’ve seen maryjane style Birkenstock shoes (with backs) “out in the wild” and they looked very cute and chic!

      1. Bibliovore*

        I feel your pain. I am in Birkenstocks- Bostons for everyday, Londons for business or hiking boots- the hiking boots are for stability and walking. I casually mention that it was hiking boots or braces, and I picked the boots.

        I wear pants mostly or leggings with a dress or skirt.

  4. Cerberus*

    #3: Thats so far beyond ridiculous. You should not be paying for this service. I would talk to your boss and make a suggestion for continuity – create a “social media manager” email account and tie that to all social media accounts including the paid subscription, which is billed to a company card. You manage the account right now but when your internship is finished, the person taking over social media will assume responsibility for the accounts.

    1. dragonzflame*

      I’m side eyeing #3’s workplace pretty hard. I’m an independent copywriter, and several times I’ve had clients give me a free license so I can either use the product before I write about it, or because it works better for their internal systems. I struggle to believe a newspaper couldn’t hook OP up with a sub, somehow.

      This is a good suggestion, and it would make tons of sense.

      1. Bunny*

        Reporter here. The cheapness in our industry is disgusting. That company can afford a ten dollar a month intern subscription all interns can log into, FFS.

        Or don’t pay for it. Do the work around. When they ask you why it’s slow, tell them.

        It sounds to me like you’re doing work that should go to an employee, not an intern. I’m not surprised.

        Notify your school about this too, because this is not OK.

        1. J*

          I’m not disgusted, but I can very easily see the employer refusing to reimburse for access to the resource if they’ve already provided a free (if inconvenient) path to the information.

          Use the workaround.

          1. Zoethor2*

            My interpretation wasn’t that the employer provided a workaround, but rather that the intern is using one of the common paywall workarounds (incognito mode, deleting popups using “inspect element”) as his own solution to the issue.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Totally agreed. OP#3, are you in CA* by any chance? ;)

      What’s troubling to me is that when you raised the issue, your boss just shrugged it off. I get that he might be busy or hasn’t thought it through, but that’s a weird response to a legitimate concern. You’re effectively (semi-involuntarily) subsidizing your own paycheck. I’d push back, if you feel comfortable doing so.

      * I’m only semi joking—this would be a required business expense and your employer would have to cover its cost if you were in CA.

      1. Cerberus*

        I’m totally in California. This is why I am so shocked. Is it really only a law here and not elsewhere? It seems so obvious.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          The California law is broader about what has to be reimbursed than the provisions in other states (some have no rules about reimbursement, others have rules but they’re very limited/specific).

          I don’t want to encourage you to make it sound like you lawyered up, but if you can subtly drop that “this seems to be a work-related expense, and I’m not sure I’m allowed to pay for that out of pocket under Labor Code § 2802. Should I expense it?”

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Sorry, Cerberus, I missed that you’re not the OP!

            (but you can still use that line ;) )

    3. OP #3*

      This definitely makes sense. I just might suggest this option to my editor once I gain some clout (I don’t have much where I work yet) and see what I can do.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I think that if you’re an intern, and your employer won’t pay for an expense that would allow you to be more efficient, they’re sending you a clear message that efficiency isn’t important enough to them to give you a free subscription, which I’m pretty sure would cost them absolutely nothing. I recommend that you just do your job without the subscription. If your boss wanted you to work faster, they would provide the subscription, just like if they want you to have email they provide you with an account and (in most cases) a computer and a desk. And if they expect for you to provide it yourself, then you’d be much better off interning almost anywhere else, because they have no sense of perspective and no concern for their employees.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          ^This was going to be my response. I think that they know the workaround and know it takes time away from other tasks and are apparently ok with it. They are deeming the subscription as unnecessary, which OP acknowledges in her letter.

          They may want it to take her longer so she becomes more familiar with the background processes or because if she does the tasks too quickly they won’t have enough work for her to do. Or they could be unreasonable.

          However, it sounds like they aren’t mandating she pay for, just saying if she wants the quicker work around it’s something she needs to invest in on her own.

          FWIW, I think they should provide the subscription for her to simply have the service while she is an intern there.

          1. Newby*

            This was what I was thinking too. Her employer decided that they would rather pay for her time than for the subscription. They get to make that call. It might not make sense, but it is their decision.

          2. Karen D*

            Ehhh….. Actually, this is kind of a newspaper culture thing but I agree the publication hasn’t quite thought this through in terms of interns.

            At every publication where I’ve worked, reporters and editors are expected to be subscribers; most publications give their employees hefty discounts (50-70 percent off) but there is that expectation. I took the paper at home even though when I came to work all four zoned editions were sitting on my desk; I finally switched to an all-digital subscription but I’m still a subscriber.

            That said, my publication didn’t expect that of interns. We always have a few “house” logins that they can use. If OP’s publication isn’t doing that, I would suggest the OP seek out one of the reporters or editors who has been friendly and ask if there’s a login available. If an intern came to me with this problem (I am one of those who makes it a point to meet interns and let them know they can always buttonhole me with questions, problems or concerns) and there wasn’t a “house” account, I would just share my login details with them and let them use my subscription. (My subscription login is completely separate from any of my work login details and tied to a throwaway personal Gmail account.)

      2. BRR*

        You don’t really need clout for this. This is an essential for your job like having internet access. I like the idea of an intern account but if that might not work even just an employee account.

        How are others doing their work? Does the work around take that long?

        1. Notorious MCG*

          ^Seconded. No need for clout, and since it is a good idea that will solve the problem now and for the future they will appreciate it being brought up.

          1. namelesscommentater*

            Sometimes handling things like this effectively and professionally is how you gain clout!

        2. Lady Blerd*

          I was going to say this. LW3, this is a work related issue and bonus, if you rais the problem and bring a solution, you boss is more likely to give it serious consideration and will raise your profile with her. This is not an outrageous demand in the least.

      3. AnInternSupervisor*

        FWIW, my interns sometimes say things to me in the most roundabout, shy ways and I don’t necessarily pick up on what they are actually saying to me until much later (i.e. “I had some slight issues with the software that delayed my work…” when they really mean that the iPad was straight up broken all day and they wanted to know how to fix it or if they could get another one). While I always talk to them about being direct and professional when communicating, for a lot of them this is one of their first times in a professional setting, and if I am busy I know I don’t always have time to think through what they could mean.

        If you haven’t already, when you speak to your supervisor say, “I am unable to access X because of the paywall and it is delaying my work. Is there another way to access it internally or is there way to provide me with a subscription?” If they say no, you have to pay for a subscription, ask them if they will be paying for it and if they will reimburse you. If THEN they even say they will not pay/reimburse, just flat out say that you cannot afford the subscription and will need them to find some work around.

        Chances are there is some work around or other way to access it that they think you know about but someone forgot to tell you, or they forgot to set you up with access on your first day. But either way, don’t let them make you pay for something that is part of your duties for them, your talents are not worth paying someone for the experience, no matter how prestigious the company may be.

        (I get really heated about interns being taken advantage of – be direct, communicate what the problem is and what you need, but in no way shape or form should you pay for the subscription – that’s some pay-for-play nonsense and is in my opinion unethical).

        1. Karen D*

          LOL your first paragraph brings back memories of my first stint as a newspaper intern … the only way to get into the newsroom was via a locked door and I was too shy to tell anyone that I didn’t have a key card. So I’d just linger outside the door until someone came through and follow them in. After a few weeks, one of the kinder writers (who was also, bless him, a smoker) figured out what was going on, dragged me into the newsroom and yelled at the city editor “Give her a key card, for gosh sakes!”

          By the end of that internship, I was considerably mouthier … which was a good thing, because at the end of that internship, they pointed at a desk and said “Wakeen is leaving next week. Want his job?”

          1. AnInternSupervisor*

            Just yesterday I thought one of my newer interns was late because she hadn’t called to be let in to our building (we can’t give them access for complicated security reasons). Turns out she thought it would be “too forward” to call me despite being told that was what she should do, so she stood out in the cold for 45 minutes until I happened to wander by the door. She’s a recent college grad, and I get being nervous, but for crying out loud!

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          This is such a good point! I definitely have turned down things interns asked me for without realizing they were asking for something I’d want to say yes to, just because they asked for it in such a round-about confusing manner!

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This cracks me up but is also so true. My intern didn’t have access to a legal database for a week and didn’t tell me. It was literally impossible to complete the task in any kind of competent manner without access, and the problem was quickly fixed once we found out.

          It’s ok to be direct as long as you’re respectful. And oftentimes, your boss will appreciate it.

      4. Collarbone High*

        You could also point out that by using a digital subscription, you’re screwing up the analytics, because your clicks are being counted as page views. There absolutely should be accounts set up for staff whose clicks aren’t counted.

    4. LBK*

      What I don’t understand is why you’d need to be accessing the front-end of your own employer’s website. Surely there’s an internal system you should be on that should allow you direct access to the site’s content? Or is this a normal thing for small papers? Even free blogging tools usually allow you easy access to sharing links on the admin dashboard so it seems weird to me that the only way to get at what you need would be through the customer-facing paywalled site. Seems like the company’s just being obscenely cheap.

      1. Emi.*

        I figured it was just to share articles on social media, which I’d think would be normal to do through the front end.

        1. LBK*

          The internal version of the site (where the posts get uploaded) should still have access to do that, though. It usually gives you a permalink to the page for you to share, and I believe most of the tools I’ve used even have a share button right there like the front-end would. The main difference is not having to go through the paywall (which a sane employer shouldn’t make their employees do).

          1. LBK*

            You can still get the URL for an external page from the internal site; it’s generated by the same system, it’s not like the only way to figure out what the link will be is to publish the page and then look at it after from the front end. As I said, even most free blogging tools can do this.

      2. Natalie*

        That’s what I was wondering. Why on earth is a subscription necessary in the first place, no matter who is paying for it?

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Eh, systems vary quite widely. I’ve been working with [platform] for six years now, and while our website’s backend will have some things in common with others on the same platform, we’ve customized ours a LOT, and there are lots of things I wouldn’t be able to do on another website on the same platform, or would take me 10x as long to do because they don’t run across that issue as much as we do, or they didn’t devote the time or development hours to customize a more efficient solution.

        Now, they definitely should have some provision for employees who need to do things with/on/regarding the website to do those things without paying for a subscription, but there’s just SO much variation, I can see it taking a bit of effort to set up if they’ve never had to deal with it before. (Maybe they don’t want to give interns the right to publish content on the website, and until now there have only been publishers/editors who have needed access behind the paywall, for example.)

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, I totally get that maybe the system just isn’t designed that way if they use something custom. If that’s the case, though, making the intern pay for a subscription is still the laziest, cheapest way to give them the access they need.

    5. chomps*

      Yes, this is ridiculous. If you work for the paper, don’t you have a way to log into a system that allows you access for free? I work for an academic database, but I don’t have to pay for it. I just log into our system and I can access it for free.

    6. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Definitely do this. The problem with using your own account is that it becomes associated with the brand. Once your internship is over do you want your name & email/twitter address forever linked to this company? Are they likely to demand you turn it over to them due to those accounts now being considered company property? Lots of reasons to create a generic account for this sort of thing.

    7. 2 Cents*

      Wow. Just wow. You are not out of bounds thinking this is ridiculous and absurd. There’s no company admin account? I’m calling BS on this. You said the workaround was time consuming. Are you paid hourly? Were they expecting you to do like 10 things an hour, but the workaround only lets you do 5? This loss of productivity would need to hurt them before they give you access.

  5. MommaCat*

    LW #4, as someone who wears work boots and sometimes has to shift to a more professional setting without changing my shoes, I’ve found that black boots under dark boot-cut pants go a long way towards minimizing the effect of the boots. I’ve even got a pair of glossy black boots that can pass muster, but that’s probably easier to find in steel-toe boots than hiking boots. Hopefully this doesn’t go too far into “recommending shoes” category! Good luck.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I was wondering about black boots myself, but I think I’d rather be the person who is waaaay off on my footwear choice for an interview, and gives an explanation, than the person who tries to make my footwear pass without explanation. As an interviewer, I’d rather hear that someone has a foot issue than wonder why they think black tactical boots = dress shoes.

      1. OhNo*

        That’s interesting, because I have always worn hiking boots to interviews and never said a thing about it, and it’s never been an issue. To be fair, I’m visibly disabled, so it’s possible that if anyone did have a concern, they would just assume that it was because of my disability and wouldn’t mention it.

        That said, I don’t think the OP should ever have to disclose a disability if they don’t want to. Especially not if the only reason they are disclosing is because they feel like they have to justify their shoes!

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Good point. I agree that someone shouldn’t have to disclose their disability, but it does leave the interviewer wondering. I guess it would vary by individual disability and work situation which is preferable.

          I look at it through the lens of when I was a graduating college student and didn’t have proper dress clothes (other than my interview suit), and I would go to work in various not-business clothes and shoes and pretend that they were. I wouldn’t want someone thinking I had that same not-great judgement at my age now just because I’m wearing the only thing I can comfortably wear.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, agreed. In some industries, those boots might be okay for an interview, but in a lot of fields they’d look much too casual. It’s better to just be clear about why you’re wearing non-suit-type footwear.

    2. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      OP5, they may be early because of public transit issues.

      I have fairly fast express bus service from a park and ride lot in my suburb, to the city, downtown, where I work. But due to how those buses run and when they stop, I have to get into work between 7:00 and 8:50, and have to leave between 3:40 and 5:40. Otherwise there’s literally no way home. In my case, if you started work at 9, I would always be hanging around in the morning. It doesn’t mean anything nefarious.

      So stop assuming that of your people. Especially if they don’t make a lot of money, similar public transit schedule issues are probably what’s happening.

  6. Kate the Little Teapot*

    #1 – I too have trouble when not checked in with. I find that scheduling a regular 1×1 meeting with your boss is a good way to get around this kind of creeping self-doubt. If that doesn’t work because your boss doesn’t like meetings/is too busy, sending regular check-in emails that make an excuse to ask a legitimate-sounding question will usually also help.

    1. OP1*

      Thanks, I like the idea of check-in emails to remind the boss that I’m still here! I have been here long enough that I don’t often have reasons to schedule full meetings and I can work unsupervised – I just worry that by not talking to me, I might be missing out on other bits of useful information that are being mentioned during conversations she is having with other co-workers.

      1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        If I’m your boss, just holler at me. (Not “holler” as in “yell” the other kind of “holler”.)

        I get way inside myself sometimes, can’t be helped, because of Other Things Going On you don’t know about. Ideally I’d be equally warm and engaging all the time, but I can’t be because: sales figures for last quarter were an issue must restrategize a bunch of things, PTB dropped a major budgeting redo, an entire department is blowing up and need to work with them closely to contain damage, etc.

        My people know me and they check in with me in the “hey, everything okay? here’s what I’m working on good news” fashion.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

        And I should mention, if I’m not talking to you, it’s because you are checked off in my brain as “doing well! works independently! so happy there’s nothing on fire there, thank god I can trust you!” category.

        Sub-optimal, understood. Two hands, 24 hours in the day, it happens, holler at me.

        1. OP1*

          I hadn’t thought of it that way – that is quite reassuring! Having anxiety means I’m usually leaping to the “what I have I done wrong” conclusion. Perhaps it is a case of the squeaky wheels getting the grease?

          1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            I mean, I’m not your boss but I juggle so very much that when something is going well, that’s not what I’m paying attention to.

            I like to think I wouldn’t let go from Christmas until 2/7 not talking to somebody who reports to me and at least celebrating with them the things going well! But, I lose track of time, so, holler at me. :)

            1. Allypopx*

              +1 to everything Wakeen says here. I have this issue too. I have some tiers below me so occasionally one of my more direct reports (who I meet with regularly) will give me a gentle nudge and be like “Hey, people have commented on not seeing you around much. I know you’re busy but it would be good for morale if you made more of an effort to check in with everyone” ….and then I’ll spiral internally for like an hour about how neglectful and inefficient I am, and have much more contact with the staff for like two weeks, then taper off, and rinse repeat… all that to say it’s common, people get wrapped up in their own stuff, don’t take it personally, and you should definitely nudge her if feel like you need or want contact!

          2. Lablizard*

            If it makes you feel any better, it has been 2, possibly 3, years since my boss checked in with me. My first year or so we had regular check-ins, but after 9 months they dwindled and pretty much disappeared by 12. I asked about it and she told me, “You, I don’t need to worry about. You will come to me if you need something, but otherwise you know what you are doing and do it. I don’t need to check in with you anymore.”

            She might have stopped checking in because you have outgrown the need for it.

          3. Mindy*

            Not to make you paranoid, but I have a boss who does stop talking to people when she is upset with them. She won’t tell them why either. If you pass her in the hall and say good morning it is as if you aren’t even there. If you are talking in meetings she will cut you off. Her annoyance usually lasts about a year. The majority of her employees have received the silent treatment at one time or another. Everyone can tell when someone is on her bad side and we all commiserate with “better you than me!” Most likely your boss has just been busy. Why not go say “hi” and see if she responds!? :)

            1. OP1*

              I hope this is not the case, Mindy. I’ve found a slot in her diary for tomorrow, so unless something comes up I’m going to try and get past my worry, talk and see what happens. Wish me luck!

      3. shep*

        I email my boss at least a few times a week to ask questions. She’s right down the hall from me, but her schedule is CRAZY. We also didn’t have a lot of contact during the holidays (Thanksgiving through New Years is often a skeleton crew-like environment in the office with so many people taking off at different times) and I started to feel really disconnected (and perhaps even like I’d done something wrong because I am a serial worrier-over-trifles and classic overthinker). I’ve had a few chances to touch base with her since, and it totally boosted my confidence. One glance at her calendar, too, shows she’s just SO busy.

        As Wakeen Teapots, Ltd. says below, I try to take it as more of a compliment that I don’t need too much supervision! :)

  7. Seal*

    #4 – My suggestion would be to go with the hiking boots rather than Birkenstocks for an interview, because sandals will draw more attention to your feet than the boots will in this situation, particularly in the winter.* Also, like any pair of shoes you’d wear to an interview, make sure your hiking boots look clean and polished rather than worn and scruffy. Wearing them with pants rather than a skirt will make them less noticeable, too.

    *I assume by Birkenstocks you mean sandals, although I believe they also make clogs and regular shoes as well. The only Birkenstocks I’ve ever owned have been sandals – they were quite comfortable.

  8. Lori*

    I would go with the boots if it is winter or snowy at all (and make sure clean, etc.) and matching the color with your dressy looking pants goes a long way like other people have mentioned.

    If it is summer, I would go with the Birkenstocks but their regular shoes (not sandals) with pants and be sure wear appropriate socks or tights with them.

  9. Kt*

    For #5…I once had a miserable commute. It was only about 20 miles. Some days it would take me 30 minutes to get to work, some days it took an hour and there was no rhyme or reason to it.

    My workplace was strict about start times, so to ensure I was in by 8, I left at 7 every day. Some days that meant I just squeaked in. Others I was 30 minutes early. On those days, I took the time to get coffee, answered emails, and got a head start on projects while it was quiet. Nothing nefarious.

    Throw in that some people are at the mercy of public transportation, and I’d say this is pretty normal.

    1. krysb*

      I used to live 38 miles from work. The traffic was so bad that, if I left after 6:15, I wouldn’t make it to work on time at 8. Traffic was horrible. Now I live about 60 miles from work and make it in 1 hour, 5 minutes to 1 hour, 15 minutes – but that’s mostly because I don’t have to deal with rush hour.

    2. SeekingBetter*

      I agree on having to only go 20 miles during a typical commute and having some days take closer to an hour or so. Even though I drove my own car, it seemed like a nasty accident would pop up during rush hour, or, the traffic was back-to-back bottleneck for 4-5 miles.

      I was a nonexempt employee so I could only clock in 5 minutes before my shift. I usually got to the building early on a good and short commute day, but at least the organization I worked for didn’t mind I hang around inside the building as long as I didn’t clock in early.

    3. Whats In A Name*

      Yes – this! I used to commute to the city. If I left home at 5:30 I got in at 6:30. If I left home at 5:40 I got in at 7:30 (as long as there were no accidents). So I was always in at 6:30. Start time was 8:00; I was salary so I started working around 7:00 – 7:30 after checking personal email and news.

      OP since it sounds like your people punch a clock I’d be inclined to just have a conversation that clocking in early is not OK but having coffee, checking personal emails, etc. IS ok as long as they are in line with company internet usage policy.

      Now, if you have to arrive 30 minutes early just to open up that is another story. But if not, I say let it go. If you do find out suspect things are happening handle it then – don’t assume the worse from the get go.

    4. shep*

      I wonder if we all commute in the same metro area. I have about a 25-mile commute right now (hopefully changing very soon!), and I get to work SUPER-early so I can leave before traffic gets *too* bad. But it’s still bad, and variable. Some strange and glorious days, it takes maybe 35 minutes to get home in the afternoon. Often, it takes 45. Less often, but still fairly regularly, it takes an hour if there’s been an accident–or just an inexplicable bottleneck.

  10. Loose Seal*

    #2 — If you go through with the interview, I’d bring a dollar. It’s green and probably the easiest thing to get unless you already have a pack of construction paper lying around. Even though it’s technically cloth instead of paper, it should fit the bill (ha, pun intended!).

    1. Al Lo*

      Bring a green cootie catcher with answers in it like “50% more starting salary!” and “Corner office with a big window? Why, thanks!” You can play games, too!


    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Or bring an environmental policy brief (folks have started renaming their “white papers” as “green papers”). ;)

      1. Karo*

        Bring an environmental policy brief printed on recycled green paper. Boom, bases covered.

        (In seriousness though – what?!)

      2. Jake*

        That was actually my first reaction to this. I’d assume they want a green paper to discuss environmental issues. Obviously that only makes sense in certain contexts.

    3. MashaKasha*

      Haha, that was the first thing that popped into the evil me’s head: they are auctioning the job off to the highest bidder. This is a hint to bring a cash bribe! “Green paper”, yeaaaah riiiight heh heh

    4. Trout 'Waver*

      Bring a red sheet of paper and when called out on it say you’re colorblind. Ask if the work can accommodate people with disabilities. Make it as awkward as possible.

      Don’t actually do this, obviously.

    5. misplacedmidwesterner*

      It’s probably just me, but I was wondering if either the person setting up the interviewer or the letter writer didn’t speak English natively and they were actually asking about a green card. Perhaps they were just assuming the person needed a green card (didn’t have citizen) and were asking them to bring proof of the right to work.

  11. Susan*

    #5 – I can’t stand being late (and my workplace is pretty strict about attendance/tardiness), so I always allow extra time, which means I usually get to work early. Unless you have some evidence that they’re doing something wrong, I strongly suspect your employees are doing the same thing — leaving extra time to make sure they’re not late — and you should be thankful that they are conscientious about punctuality.

  12. CC*

    #2 green paper – are you sure it is paper the color green? I wonder if they mean they prefer you taking notes on “environmentally friendly” paper?

    1. Greg M.*

      Number 3, whichever way the subscription goes see if you can claim what you’ve already paid on your income tax at least.

    2. (different) Rebecca*

      That’s an interesting distinction, and not one I would immediately have made. Perhaps they should spring for a recycled notebook with a green colored cover? *grin*

    3. Whats In A Name*

      This was actually my first thought.

      Well actually my first thought was “what is a green paper?” because I was comparing to a white paper.

      My 2nd thought was “environmentally friendly”…but I’d definitely be asking follow up questions to see what they meant period. Especially given how odd a request it is.

      1. TootsNYC*

        And as mentioned above, be sure they didn’t say “bring a green paper” when they meant to say “bring a green card.”

  13. Matt*

    #5: I’m one of those persons who are always way too early. I’m always freaking out about what could go wrong (especially public transit issues), so if everything goes right, I’m always the first to arrive. This isn’t an issue at work since I have flex time, but a boss allowing me to arrive no more than 10 minutes early (but probably not one minute late?) and having to hit such a small time window sounds like my worst nightmare. (Except if there was some cafe or whatever near the site – otherwise I would probably spend my unexpended time buffer sitting on the bench at the bus stop, which would just be quite cold in Winter ;-)

    1. Just Me*

      Are you me? I was “only” 5 minutes early today and was freaking out. It was a weird confluence of traffic and not catching green lights. I’m usually in 15 minutes early. And nobody really cares, I adjust my end time accordingly.

    2. anonsydance*

      I’m the same way. There have been times when my bus had to take detours, I’d call to let someone know I was running late and then still get there 5-10 minutes early. I felt awful today that I had an interview and I was just right on time.

  14. aa*

    5 – That is a weird leap of logic. Many people have traffic, carpooling, babysitters, school drop-off, public transit issues. And many of us don’t want to be late for work. Much better to relax AFTER all the morning chores are taken care of and before starting work. I can’t think why this would seem troublesome.

  15. nonegiven*

    My husband likes to show up a little early, make coffee and read the news online before work. Before they changed the hours he was half an hour early sometimes.

  16. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    #2 Please report back and tell us if they actually made you do anything with it.

    #3 Ex-journalist here. What the actual what?! No this is not okay of them to do! They should be able to set you up with a staff login. I subscribed to some of my clients’ publications when I was freelance but they were print magazines where the staff only got about 10 voucher copies and couldn’t send them to every single freelancer. Being made to buy a digital subscription to do your job isn’t okay for anyone, least of all an intern. If only Gawker still existed…

    Anyway, my advice? Say no. Say: that won’t be possible. If you need to use your paid internship time to use a time-consuming workaround then that’s what you need to do. (If you’re not being paid, that’s a whole other problem.) Repeat after me: “that won’t be possible.” You don’t need to explain. Just say no. I know it can feel like you have to take whatever you can get but please, say no. Not just for yourself, but for all the other interns after you. Why they don’t just set up one intern login is totally beyond me.

    I have one further thought. If you are doing social media work for the paper you should be logged in as the paper. If you are working for the paper and sharing content under your own name they should set up an account for you. If they expect you to use your own account to share their content, and they’re paying you for the time doing that, that’s kind of not ideal, and means you’re not really doing the kind of work you’d expect to see from an internship – sharing content under your own independent social media account isn’t going to give you any marketable experience. And I don’t know about the legalities of paying you to do it, but it’s entirely possible that they won’t pay for you because then you are using an account they pay for to fake-share content, if that makes sense? What’s in the company policy?

    I urge you to think carefully about what you are getting from this. People in social media aren’t going to be impressed by you simply sharing content – that’s not valuable experience for you.

    1. Lord of the Ringbinders*

      Sorry, that wasn’t very clear. Obviously I don’t think you’re paying for your social media account, but if they’re paying you yet making you use your own paywall account and your own social media account then that’s dodgy. If you’re using their social media account they should also let you use their paywall account. Does your manager also pay to subscribe?!

      1. OP #3*

        I don’t know about my manager, but another social media editor (who’s a full-time staffer) pays for his own subscription. To be clear, I’m sharing content under all the publication’s social media accounts–I even have access to them outside of work. It’s a legitimate internship–I’m using the company official social media channels and I have my own desk and computer–but paying for a subscription to me is ridiculous. So I literally pulled out my credit card at work and subscribed.

        1. One of the Sarahs*

          Even if a staffer is paying for theirs, you shouldn’t be paying for yours, as I’m willing to bet you’re not on the same salary, let alone have the same benefits etc. I know the media is a bad industry for expecting people trying to get into it to work for free, but you shouldn’t be paying for work-based expenses too.

  17. Lord of the Ringbinders*

    #2 I just started thinking about other ridiculous things you could be asked to bring and ended up in a reverie about AAM readers wearing teapot pins to secretly signal to each other.

    AAM, could you PLEASE make merchandise? I’m thinking teapot pins. You could even sell them on and such. And put some or all of the money towards causes you support.

    Sorry I’ve gone a bit off-topic.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Alison actually had a CafePress store for quite a while! AFAIK it got almost no traffic and hasn’t been updated in a while.

      1. Notorious MCG*

        It’s still up! I’m a new reader and was considering asking my husband to get me the coffee mug or the lunchbag for my birthday.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Thank you! I was searching “chocolate teapot” and it would just return “chocolate” and “Ask A Manager” just returned a lot of “Ask me about…” items!

        If I didn’t already have too many coffee mugs (including travel mugs and souvenir mugs), I’d buy one of the AAM mugs. The Chocolate Teapots logo is cute, but it’s the AAM logo and font that I associate with the site.

        1. Tableau Wizard*

          This just made me realize, did Alison not change to her winter logo this year? Or did I somehow miss it…

            1. Notorious MCG*

              I’m upset about it too! I’m in KY and instead of the usual 3 months of dust and an occasional snowstorm, it’s been all rain and 50 degree weather >:(

            2. ThursdaysGeek*

              Last year the East had so much snow I thought it should be shipped out west. This year we’ve gotten all of the snow. We’ve had snow on the ground for nearly 2 months, and we’re out in the desert where it almost never precipitates. And it is cold, too. But I’m happy, because the mountains are finally getting adequate snow.

    2. Camellia*

      I have a teapot pin, with a tilted teapot above a tea cup. A small chain runs from the lip of the spout down into the tea cup, like pouring tea. I haven’t seen it in ages! I’ll have to dig it out and start wearing it!

  18. LadyCop*

    #4. As a person with extremely high arches and the worst case of planars fasciitis my podiatrist has ever seen…I feel where you’re coming from. In a perfect world, I could wear hiking boots or hiking sneakers at work, but uniforms are uniforms…and those are not the safest footwear. In the meantime, yay custom orthodics, and good boots.

    1. yasmara*

      PF twins, @LadyCopy! I actually tore my fascia and it’s been a miserable recovery. I compounded it by not wearing the “proper” PF-friendly shoes while on a business trip to London (lots of walking with tall German men who outpaced my 5’4″ self without trying) & set myself back to the tune of one orthopedic boot for most of the month of June. Foot problems suck.

  19. cncx*

    i worked in an office (not in the US) where the building insurance was such that regular employees could only be in the office from like 6am to 8pm and outside those times it was only certain managers or with written approval from certain managers.

    that doesn’t sound like this is OP5’s problem but it is something to think about in another situation. i personally like to come in late and leave late (in a perfect world i would work ten to seven) and i thought my boss at the time was just being a jerk but it turned out that was actually something to do with the building insurance and the lease.

    in the same vein, i used to work in an office where my office hours were 8 to 5 but my trains only got me in the office at 730 or 830. i would suck it up when i thought i would have a half hour to myself from 730 to 8 to drink my coffee and check up on my emails…but then my bosses started throwing work on my desk and giving me 8 and 830 deadlines for stuff. so i wound up working an extra half hour or hour a day.

    1. One of the Sarahs*

      In that case, though, couldn’t they give more people written approval, if they’re eg having public transport issues? It doesn’t seem like an onerous thing to do – or get the insurance renegotiated? Making people wait outside for 15-30 mins seems like a one-way ticket to high turnover, which is far more work.

  20. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #2: Oof, that’s an uncomfortable sign right there. I’d say go along with it if you’re interested in this job, but be on the lookout for any other signs of games-playing.

    #4: I have been there! And you have my total sympathies. Foot pain is a bitch and a half. I think Alison’s suggestion about a brief mention with a no-big-deal attitude is the best way to deal with it if the situation absolutely demands attention — but depending on the formality of your interview outfits and their general cut/style, you may not even need to go there.

    #5: You seem really distrustful of your employees. Is there a history there?

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      #5 – agreed – and unless there’s a history, such an attitude breeds distrust and contempt – going BOTH ways.

  21. Sled dog mama*

    #4-I have hammer and mallet toe deformities on both feet and am in the same boat. I’ve got literally two pairs of shoes that I know 100% will be comfortable (I’m lucky that I’ve got a few others that I can manage for a few hours for say a nice dinner with hubby but I’d never make it through an interview)
    I have to echo what others have said, whatever shoes you wear make sure they are scrupulously clean, in fantastic condition and a neutral color. I’d probably go with boots over Birkenstock purely because of the reputation of Birkenstocks. If the rest of your outfit is professional and your shoes are well cared for and clean I’m going to think you have trouble finding shoes or are very practical and value comfort and ease of movement over fashion. If you make a quick statement apologizing that your chronic foot injury is acting up and these are the only shoes you can wear or these are the shoes your doctor recommends I would look at them the same way I’d look at any other shoes (because attention to detail is important in my industry and I want to know if a candidate paid attention to their shoes and how well cared for tells me something about how they will care for equipment).
    As others have said, I would go with calling it an injury rather than a condition because injury implies pain and inability to function where condition does not.

  22. Channel Z*

    #1 oh, I feel your pain! The last time I was in a meeting with one of my advisors in November, it ended with her telling me in front of the other attendee that I looked awful, and following my stunned silence she repeated it. She hasn’t seen or spoken to me since.
    It definitely seems there has been a change, if she used to stop by and chat and now she doesn’t. It is best to assume for now that she has her own reason but not because you did anything wrong. Do you need to talk with her about anything work related? If so, you could mention it casually at that point. If not, then maybe that’s why she stopped, there is nothing to talk about! Not everyone likes small talk.

    1. OP1*

      Thanks for the sympathy Channel Z! I’m going to try and think of a legitimate reason for conversation now.

      Maybe your advisor just feels a bit embarrassed at what she said?

      1. Channel Z*

        I wish that were the case. I had heard rumours about her being nasty but it was the first time I experienced it. That was mild compared to other truly awful things she has done, which i found out about later. Luckily someone else is my primary advisor. I hope you find out an answer that puts your mind at ease. :) In such situations I try to repeat some kind of mantra in my head to drown out the paranoid voice, She’s just busy or I’m doing a good job

    2. Marillenbaum*

      That’s awful! I can’t believe she said that and then had the gall to repeat it. Yeesh, what a nightmare.

  23. Catalyst*

    #5 – I am also one of those people who likes to get to work early. It’s nice not to have to panic if traffic is bad and to sit and have a cup of coffee before I start work. Actually that is usually when I get a chance to read AAM.
    Also, as mentioned above by others, I have been that person who takes the bus and can only arrive a half hour early or a half hour late, I was lucky that my office opened early. Yes, its nice if there is a cafe or something somewhere for them to hang out before work starts, but on the flip side of that, not everyone can really afford it. When I was taking the bus, I could not have justified purchasing a coffee every morning just to kill time until my office opened (student loans, rent and food took up pretty much all of my money). I know to some that sounds silly, but it is a reality for some.

  24. mreasy*

    As a person with plantar fasciitis, I love that Birks have become fashionable again! But when weather and appropriateness don’t allow you to rock the pink metallic sandal look, there are a lot of very shoe-ish members of the Birkenstock universe (and their sister brands), beyond just the sandal or clog-looking options. I can’t imagine taking a second look at someone wearing a black Birkenstock shoe to an interview, whether with slacks or with a skirt and tights.

  25. Zip Silver*

    #5, I feel you. While I’m in a professional position, most of my employees aren’t. They’ve got a habit of working off the clock (“oh. I’m only seeing up my workstation, this isn’t work”), and I fixed it by keeping the production area locked right up until the start time (although the break room is accessible). Why people wouldn’t want to get paid for their 15-20 minutes a day (or, and hour per week) of set up, I don’t know. But if DoL stops by one day and starts asking innocuous questions of the staff, then you’ll be covered when they tell the DoL that the building stays locked until start time.

    1. Alice*

      Zip, I think the key part in your story is that the break room stayed open. Sure, OP can control (and should control) when people start work. But locking the building to keep out people who (now I’m imagining, but it’s not crazy) just want to come in from the rain/cold/heat after their carpool or bus dropped them off – that’s really adversarial.

      1. Zip Silver*

        I suppose. I don’t ever consider public transport issues because it doesn’t exist where I live. If you don’t have a vehicle then you’re kind of out of luck.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          You know, if a manager didn’t trust me enough to sit at my workstation or desk or office in an off-hour, I don’t think I’d ever trust them around anything personal of mine, or my family members, or whatever.

          As Al Davis once said “you don’t have to take them home with you at night….” I wouldn’t….

        2. Teclatrans*

          But see above for all the people describing why people with cars might also need to be early.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I grew up in a non-public-transport part of the world.

          And I’d absolutely be sure I was leaving a 20-minute cushion if I had to drive very far! And that’s even if there isn’t much in the way of traffic.

  26. Notorious MCG*

    #4, I’m jumping on the boots-over-Birks in winter bandwagon and am now considering going out to look for some black boots that I can wear at work in the winter…

    But in summer I feel like that could get too hot! In that case what about a skirt with dark opaque tights and the clog birks? That way you can also play with color a bit more.

    I am also of the bandwagon to call it an injury and not a condition. For some reason when I hear ‘foot condition’ my brain jumps to fungus, which is weird, but I guess that’s my brain.

    1. Corky's wife Bonnie*

      I don’t know about calling it an injury though, because those can heal and if she or he gets the job, then they will still have to wear these shoes. I think calling it a chronic foot ailment might be a better choice of words. The chronic will alert that it’s ongoing.

      1. fposte*

        But injuries don’t always heal or heal completely, and by the time anybody’s wondering about the duration, she’s been working there for a while.

        You want a fast brushoff phrase that doesn’t make anybody have to do any parsing. “Foot injury” is nice and sporty and bland.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! Personal example: I broke my foot in 2011 (long-time readers will remember my constant moaning and complaining) and still consider myself to have a “foot injury” when it acts up (which it still does at times).

          1. Liz*

            That actually makes me feel better — I broke my foot last March, and I was feeling bad because there are STILL days where I need to wear sneakers instead of dress shoes. (I got a pair of black Skechers without laces, which look at first glance like exceptionally ugly dress shoes. But they’re definitely not what I prefer to wear in the office.)

        2. Artemesia*

          Subtle but wise I think. A foot injury IS sporty and people who have them can be energetic and athletic, whereas a chronic foot condition could be gross like fungus or it could be a sign of age and poor condition. It projects ‘unhealthy’ whereas ‘injury’ does not and perhaps projects the opposite. Impression management is important during the interview stage.

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      You’re not alone- when I read “condition” I envisioned all sorts of gross toe fungal things that I would prefer not to think about, so I think that’s probably the wrong foot (haha) to start off an interview on. I think “injury” is good- or, something like “I have foot problems and my podiatrist likes me to wear these all the time”.

  27. Captain Radish*

    For #4, I’m assuming based on your wording that you are female. If so, my advice doesn’t apply as much to you (although you can probably get away with it). If you buy a good pair of black work boots (oil resistant soles) they are basically indistinguishable from black dress shoes if your pant legs are long enough. I’ve done many interviews in my Red Wings after I polished them.

  28. Employment Lawyer*

    4. Interview shoes with a foot disability
    As AAM says, just brush it off with a quick explanation. Anyone who refuses to accept an explanation of your shoes will not be good to work for.

    That said, if you ever end up on the richer and more successful side, you should be aware that a custom shoemaker can make a lot of things, including shoes which are simultaneously attractive and meet your support needs. Most orthotic special shoes are not fashion-focused, but that is due to market focus; there’s no reason you can’t get a fashionable-but-supportive boot. (For a mass-media example of custom boot-making which may inspire you, see the movie “Kinky Boots,” which is not about kink at all, it is actually a historical comedy about a real-life English shoe factory that specializes in shoes for male transvestites.)

    1. Zip Silver*

      “a real-life English shoe factory that specializes in shoes for male transvestites”

      That is one hell of a niche. If you’re the first into a market like that, you’ve pretty much got it cornered.

  29. Alton*

    #5, wouldn’t it be pretty easy to see if people were clocking in early? It’s harder to police stuff like people checking work email off the clock, but you can make it clear that people shouldn’t work before the start of their shifts and address it if someone is caught doing so. It seems like a stretch to assume that the only reason someone would be early is because they’re trying to sneak in more hours/get unauthorized overtime. A lot of people rely on public transportation or carpools, have to drop their kids off somewhere, etc. Unless it’s actually a hardship to let people into the building, why is it a problem for someone to come in early and spend that time, say, reading or getting settled in?

    1. Chickaletta*

      That’s what I’m thinking, it wouldn’t be that difficult to find out what the employees are doing before they start their shift. Besides checking the time sheets, you could come in early yourself a couple times to see what types of things they do (you’ll know if they’re putting on a show for you if there’s lots of whispers and side glances), and you could also come straight out and ask them in a non-accusatory sort of way. Additionally, you can put some rules in place: say it’s ok to start the coffee and check personal email in the break room, for instance, but not do work related tasks, enter certain parts of the building, or clock-in until their shift begins.

  30. Bad Candidate*

    #4 I have a similar problem, I even wrote in to AAM in 2013 about it. I’ve also tried every shoe out there, including some recommended to me by readers here. Either they didn’t work or they were too expensive to try. :\ I’m stuck wearing sneakers or something else that is flexible. I try to wear black sneakers when I can, I feel like they are less noticeable, but recently I had an interview where they black ones wouldn’t go on. I had to wear my regular sneakers to an interview. I was horribly embarrassed, but I explained it away right away and it was a non-issue. I’m sure it helped that everyone in the office was in jeans and sneakers themselves.

    1. Notorious MCG*

      I actually read your 2013 letter last night as I was clicking through random links on the site. When this one was posted this morning I thought, ‘Oh is this a repeat?’

  31. always in email jail*

    For #2, I’d be tempted to inquire about the need for the green paper, along the lines of “Thank you for confirming the interview, I’m looking forward to it! In terms of the green paper, are you able to provide more details about what it will be needed for? I want to ensure I take that into account when making a selection.” or however you’d want to word it. Now that I think of it, this would be indicative of my work style, too. (Asking for clarification when needed to ensure I’m not wasting time procuring the wrong type of green paper)

    What do others think? Is it worth asking, or just show up with what you can and hope for the best?

    1. fposte*

      I’d say it could go either way; it’s possible that if they’re giving a test like this that they’d like detail-oriented folks, but it’s risky to belabor the question and look like you need hand-holding and don’t tolerate ambiguity. Therefore the shorter you can make the question, the better, especially as the answer will almost certainly be “No, no more details.” “Anything I should keep in mind on the green paper?”

      1. Artemesia*

        My bet would be they are talking about eco paper and will laugh at someone who brings a sheet of emerald green paper. But it sounds like the kind of head game crap that would turn me off about wanting to work there.

    2. Brandy*

      Where can a person purchase just 1 sheet or several sheets of colored paper? I guess maybe an office supply store, ie Staples, but I don’t have one easy to access. Its a chore to go by the stores for me. Id be resentful of the interviewer. I don’t want to purchase a big stack of green paper because ill never use it again. Wasteful.

      1. Mononymous*

        At a craft store (Joann’s or similar) you can buy scrapbooking paper by the sheet, in just about any color. That’s the route I’d take, though I’d be seriously annoyed at having to make a special trip to buy something that would probably end up thrown away after the interview, just to check a box that I can follow directions. Ugh.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yes! And it’s especially frustrating to ask people who might be out of work and counting every penny to go out and get unnecessary quantities of something they probably otherwise have no use for.

    3. MegaMoose, Esq*

      I’ve been job searching for four and a half years and I’m thinking that I would cancel the interview if they wanted me to go out and buy colored paper to bring to an interview for some sort of attention-to-detail test. That’s just asinine.

      1. NonProfit Nancy*

        Agree. A more appropriate way to test would just be to have people bring prepared answers to a question or two (this seems common in my field). Same test, but now relevant, and doesn’t cost a job applicant money.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          Someone mentioned this in the comments to the old post Allison linked, but another not-bonkers way of screening for following directions is to instruct job hunters to use specific phrasing in the subject field of your email (i.e. “Application: Job Title”). I’ve had a few places ask for this and didn’t bat an eye.

          1. Emilia Bedelia*

            I’ve always assumed this practice is for email filter purposes, which is a great feature to use because it automatically filters out the people who can’t read directions.

      2. Chriama*

        Yeah, I’m wondering if there’s a pointed way to say “I don’t have green paper and I’m not about to go buy a pack of something that will have no further use for me just because you have some weird interviewer test.” Maybe say something like “I don’t have green paper. Would regular white paper and a green marker be an acceptable substitute?” (Assuming you do have a green marker, otherwise suggest whatever object you do possess that can show your attention to detail while not causing you unnecessary financial impact).

        1. Natalie*

          Yeah, this is probably the tack I’d take if I could afford to lose the job. I’m not making a separate trip to a store to buy something I’m never going to use unless I have a pretty decent reason, and “dumb interview test” isn’t one of them.

    4. Angelinha*

      It’s a weird request on their part to be sure, but also pretty simple. I think asking for more details would make you seem weirder than them (which does not make their request any less weird!). I’d just bring it and see what it’s needed for when you get there.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq*

        Asking for someone anyone would have sitting around their house is weird but simple (like a fork), but in this case, I would think most people would need to make a trip to a specialty shop, which to me takes it out of the realm of simple.

      2. BF50*

        I’m not sure I’d care too much about looking weird because this is a big enough flag for me, that I’d be hesitant about the job. I’d probably be more straightforward.

        “Green paper seems like an odd request. I don’t have any on hand and am hesitant to make a special trip for it. Can you clarify what the purpose of bringing it would be?”

        And if that blew up my chances, I wouldn’t much care, but I say that as someone who isn’t desperate for a new job, any new job. So YMMV.

  32. namelesscommentater*

    #5 – Doors were locked until 15 minutes before shift at one place I managed. This policy was in response to employees coming in early and talking loudly to each other (and us)/failing to follow protocol because we weren’t set up for it early. It was detrimental to our own work getting done because we needed quiet and space to spread out.

    We made the policy clear, upped it to thirty minutes on rainy days, made exceptions for bathroom emergencies, and it was still quite an adversarial rule. Because refusing people entry to their place of work, particularly in proximity to their shift, is detrimental for employee morale. And despite the multitude of reasons why we did so (including actual employee bad behavior) – it was not an easy policy to defend or implement.

    Is there anyway you could build early-arrivers into the process somehow? I wanted a waiting room/lobby area – where they could be indoors but not disrupting my work. Or, could you open doors 15-20 minutes early to allow for the bulk of the flow of people (some super early comers will still wait, but a good chunk of commute variation will fall into those 20 minutes).

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      But see, that policy was punishing everyone instead of the offenders. I know it is more difficult and time-consuming, but ideally your management would have told people not to disturb the previous shift once or twice, and after that the specific noise/space offenders should be told to go outside until their shift starts. (Or 5 minutes if they need to change into a uniform or something like that.) Then, if you’re sending the same people outside regularly, THEY get told that they will not be allowed in the building until their starting time.

      Like I said, I know that’s not always practical, but it’s better for morale to not take away privileges from those who abide by the rules just because others won’t follow them.

      1. Chriama*

        Sure, but other than bodily removing them from the building how do you keep them outside if the doors are open and other employees are heading in early? I think a waiting area/break room would have been a good thing to have in that situation.

        1. namelesscommentater*

          (My response below was drafted without having seen this).

          Yup. And to add to that, unlocking and relocking the door is time consuming in itself to allow for only some to enter. So it didn’t address the fact that we needed to be doing our own work in that time.

      2. namelesscommentater*

        That’s exactly what happened! We tried to be welcoming and allow them in when they arrived – as soon as they became disruptive we set clearer expectations. When those weren’t met we implemented the fifteen minute policy. “Luckily” all of the early arrivals were offenders, so we weren’t punishing anybody who shouldn’t be.

        I’m not sure how I’d manage it if they hadn’t all been disruptive. Allowing different employees in at different times seems even more adversarial to me. Honestly, I’d probably have tried to manage the offenders out — because WTF to an adult needing their behavior redirected 3 days in a row and then acting surprised when we limit the opportunity for them to be disruptive…

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          Right, maybe I should have said it’s often not practical. And sometimes two people who can normally behave themselves suddenly have behavior issues when put in the same room. This is why I don’t like managing people — once the expectations are stated clearly, I don’t know what to do when someone doesn’t meet them even though they’re perfectly capable of doing so. It just doesn’t compute. I had to be told something twice a couple of times and I was mortified, I came up with reminders and schedules and routines to show to my supervisor, but mostly for myself, because I hated the feeling of not doing what I said I would do.

  33. Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys*

    When my son was a toddler, I’d drop him off at day care early and spend 30 minutes in a bagel shop a few doors down from my office. That peace and quiet is what kept me sane as a working mom with a toddler. (I don’t think anything is going to keep me sane with a middle schooler.) If I hadn’t had the bagel shop, I would have just gone in and read or surfed the Net. Some people just like to start their day a little more slowly than others.

    If this is a new behavior or there are other concerns, I would only worry about the working off the clock issue as that is putting the company in legal jeopardy if they are non-exempt. But if they are just enjoying their coffee and reading the latest headlines, I’d leave them in peace. And maybe consider giving them a key and making them the office opener.

  34. The Fail Ship*

    #5 strikes me as odd, at least without a backstory. On the flip side, I once had an employee that would work unapproved overtime routinely and then started working extra time and not submitting it. When asked, she said she was told not to submit overtime. After re-sending the follow up note clearly outlining and referencing the policy (which was basically: always submit all time, ensure OT is approved in advance)… she continued to do this. It gave me anxiety about her showing up early when no one else was there. She did not have too much work, she just wasn’t competent at the work she had. Because of her protected class, HR was unwilling to allow us to let her go despite the continuous issues. She was the type to throw words like “protected class” around. It was a nightmare and excellent lesson in better screening in the hiring process.

    1. always in email jail*

      Yes, I’ve had the same thing with an employee. They are exempt but we still give our exempt employees “flex time” for APPROVED extra hours. Still, they would come in at 5:30 (when their approved start time is 8) and then inform (not ask) me that they’ll be leaving 2.5 hours early. I would repeatedly stress than an altered work schedule and/or flex time had to be discussed and approved with your supervisor in advance, so I would be unable to accommodate the sudden absence unless they wanted to submit a leave slip, but it continued to be an issue.

      However, that’s where communication with the “problem” employees comes in. A blanket policy is rarely the answer to a few bad apples.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        A blanket policy is rarely the answer to a few bad apples.

        That’s funny, I was just making the exact same point a couple of comments up!

  35. Jenbug*

    OP#2 – this would annoy me so much! if I was unemployed and someone expected me to spend money on something stupid to see if I could follow directions, I would probably be tempted to cancel the interview. Please let us know what the purpose of the green paper was!

    OP#5 – I am one of those people who prefers to get to work at least 15-20 minutes before I’m supposed to start so I have time to ease into my day. I usually make a cup of tea and get some breakfast to eat while I’m going through my emails and writing my To Do list for the day. Some people just don’t want to hit the ground running.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. While you might be able to fudge the to-do list the emails are inarguable.

        And if you’re exempt, this is a fine start to the day. But if you’re non-exempt, you’d have to be paid for that time, and I think that’s exactly what the OP is worried about.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I will never understand how many people actually *want* to work without being paid. I’ve got a few coworkers like that and it drives me up the wall.

          1. Anxa*

            I think I can offer some perspective here:

            I’m currently feeling stuck in hourly, part-time jobs that have very little growth opportunity. I have to sell myself on hours and it can get pretty cut throat in some environments. If I’ve been swamped with having no time to do any administrative work or project work, I will stay an extra 6 minutes (so I can round down) to put a final touch or two on something I almost finished, so I can have it ready at my next shift. That improves my performance and gets me more referrals, which helps keep me busy so my hours aren’t cut. None of this stuff is stuff I have to do, but I can’t really accomplish much in this position if I’m not bringing it home with me (and usually that just means researching techniques, etc). I would gladly volunteer if I could to take on a new project if I could so that I could grow and have a chance to apply for a full-time job that requires experience I don’t have.

            I’m not saying I work off the clock, but the temptation is so strong because I’m so eager for stretch work.

            1. MegaMoose, Esq*

              I can appreciate that – I know that I’ve seen people rewarded for going “above and beyond” even if “above and beyond” exposes the company to liability for wage theft. To be clear, I blame the company here for encouraging the behavior, not the employee. Either way, it seems like you’ve thought about it and at least appreciate that you’re trying to make the best of a bad situation. I’ve seen other people who just don’t think it’s a big deal and that’s the big that baffles me. Aside from the whole “it’s illegal” bit, it seems like a question of self-respect. My time is worth something, and my employer needs to recognize that by compensating me for the time I put towards furthering their interests.

              1. Anxa*

                I think my perspective is also skewed because my time literally isn’t worth that much, at least not on the job market. So my self-respect is going to be a little bit different than someone’s who is more highly compensated for their time, or whose time is more sought after.

                For example, yesterday I took a bus to work, got there way before my shift started just in case I got another client. I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to catch a break by needing time to get there. I was out of my house from 1030 am to 7pm, but only ended up working for 1.5 hours. While I mostly spent the rest of the time using the resources of the facilities (perfectly normal as I work at a college), I checked over some books a few minutes early to mentally prepare for my session. Even though I had no paid opportunity to do that. Making a good impression could make the difference between a client choosing to stick with me and getting more hours, and making a poor impression because I’m hourly and have no opportunity to do better. But really it was worth it to me to squeeze my bus fare a little harder and stay there all day, just in case another person requested me for the day. If I had other opportunities or more marketable skills I probably wouldn’t even bother.

      2. Anxa*

        Emails are tricky in my opinion, because there may be work related emails on there and there may be personal emails. Checking my personal email does help me focus on work once work starts, but I could also probably respond to a work email (just as I would at home).

        To Do lists are also tricky, because again there are likely to be some personal items on there. Also, they aren’t necessarily part of my job description, so it seems like an extra I’m adding on that would take more time. I think it depends on the nature of your work and what’s expected of you.

        1. fposte*

          The job description doesn’t matter (and to-do lists would rarely be on them anyway)–it’s work that’s “suffered or permitted,” so all they have to do is not stop you to be on the hook. Nor would mixing in personal be enough to make it not work. The basic question is whether this would fall under the de minimis exception–does it only happen infrequently, *and* (not or) is the time only a few minutes or seconds? (Additionally, it looks like the de minimis standard has been questioned recently as not really being in the spirit of the FLSA.)

          In reality, most jobs aren’t going to worry a lot if you slip “ask about software upgrade” onto your grocery list. But if you spend every morning writing to-dos for the day and half of them are work, that’s probably compensable time.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Literally the only thing I could think of on the green paper was that maybe they needed to print some item of paperwork on green, but were on such a shoestring budget that they couldn’t buy their own green paper and had to have the candidates bring it, which would not bode well for the business, haha. But probably far-fetched.

      1. Kelly L.*

        (We actually have one item of employment paperwork at my work that’s called a “green sheet” and is printed on green paper, hence why I thought of it. Actually, on second thought, could the interviewer have accidentally sent OP a checklist meant to be an internal list of things the interviewer was supposed to bring?)

  36. Jessesgirl72*

    OP5: I used to be one of those 30 minute early people- I left that extra time to get to work and was early 80% of the time, but there were STILL days when I was late, and it was a big deal to be late there.

    I hung out in the break room drinking coffee until closer to my start time.

    You don’t mention any insurance reasons- or any good reason- to not let them in. Just that you don’t trust your employees and they MUST be up to something nefarious to be there early. And that they are wrong to be there any earlier than YOU feel is necessary.

    That’s really not pretty, and maybe you should give some thought to that.

    1. shep*

      Definitely agree with all of this.

      I HAD to be a good 15 minutes early in FirstJob to turn on lights, computers, etc., and the only reason we didn’t open doors was because we were a teaching facility and parents often wanted to drop their kids and go, sometimes a full twenty minutes before operating hours. (In retrospect, after reading Alison’s blog for several years and having more experience in the working world, this should’ve DEFINITELY been a part of the scheduled shift–i.e., instead of 9-12, it should’ve been 8:45-12:15–but that’s a separate issue entirely.)

      So, in short, actual staff were encouraged to arrive at least a little early to set up/prepare for their students. The only people we kept out were parents/children for safety and billing reasons. We also had a small break room for staff.

  37. not so super-visor*

    OP #5: are they hourly employees? I can understand not wanting hourly employees to show up 30 minutes early and start answering emails or doing other work related duties before their shift actually starts– you could get yourself into some trouble there. Our building is always open because we have multiple shifts, and I constantly have to tell some of the more veteran employees that they can’t clock in more than 15 minutes early. It can be really frustrating.

  38. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP5, they may be early because of public transit issues.

    I have fairly fast express bus service from a park and ride lot in my suburb, to the city, downtown, where I work. But due to how those buses run and when they stop, I have to get into work between 7:00 and 8:50, and have to leave between 3:40 and 5:40. Otherwise there’s literally no way home. In my case, if you started work at 9, I would always be hanging around in the morning. It doesn’t mean anything nefarious.

    So stop assuming that of your people. Especially if they don’t make a lot of money, similar public transit schedule issues are probably what’s happening.

    1. Brogrammer*

      I agree that OP5 should be conscious of commutes, especially regarding public transit. I think the tone of the letter sounded a little off, but my read of the situation is that the employees are hourly and OP5 suspects they may be starting their work early. Not nefarious, but they still shouldn’t do it.

  39. Christine*

    #5. Employees who arrive for work too early

    It’s an issue if someone has to start their shift early to open up 30 minutes early. Or management comes in before the shift starts and wants some peace and quiet before they open up. I’m one of those that like coming in a bit early in order to get a parking space, etc.

    I have to watch it though, my boss would see me walk in the door and grab me before I even have my coat off & put me to work, but would argue with me about taking 15 minutes of annual leave, to leave early to pick up the dog at the vet. Once I told her, she understood that I didn’t want to be grabbed in the hallway before the work day, before I got my coat off and made my coffee. (she has no life outside the job) If she made it too hard on me).

    I like to come in early, take my coat off, go to the bathroom, fix a cup of coffee, etc. By not opening up early, they are doing these things on the clock. If people are married, have roommates, or kids that 15 – 30 minutes before work may be their only down time all day. I’m in that situation. As the employer you are not required to give them that 15 – 30 minutes of warm up time. But it makes a huge difference in their work performance. It’s a stressor to have to be clocked in right at 8:00, but the door doesn’t open until 7:55. You find yourself rushed, and it’s not a good start in my opinion.

    OP … I have a couple of recommendations. If someone is in the building 30 minutes early, can you designate a door to be open for the early arrivers. Give a key to someone that you trust, that arrives quite early, an individual that has requested early access, they will be given a key to open for their convenience and fellow workers. that the key is for that purpose only. Alison would have to answer this one, this is being done as a favor to the employees, does the employee entrusted with a key have to be paid for the 5 minutes to open the door? That they cannot clock in early, because this is being done as their request, not management.

    If you think people are clocking in early, check their time sheets. But if they are arriving early, and they are being asked to work because they are in the building, they should be clocking in. You and fellow management will have to be cognizant of the time. You can lay down the law that clocking in early is not acceptable if given early access to the building, tell both the staff and the supervisors. If you find a particular supervisor that is asking them work if they arrive early, you’ll have to address that with the manager. Do not allow them to start work early off the clock either. I would do something to give them access 30 minutes early, be a supervisor in the building opening up, or a trusted staff member given a key. Put a policy in place, and monitor the time cards. I see no reason that the door shouldn’t be open 15 minutes before shift as standard procedure. If a large number of employees walk in, take public transportation, etc., 30 minutes should be the norm.

  40. Anon for this*

    #3, I work for a newspaper and we have to purchase a subscription to access the front-end of the website. However, I’m a full-time employee and we get a heavily discounted rate (about $75 for the entire year), plus it includes the 7-day paper delivery and digital access. I can’t imagine making our interns pay $10 a month for access, that’s pretty ridiculous.

  41. Loznak*

    When I worked in banking we clocked in at 8:00 a.m., supposed to be at the window and ready to receive customers at 8:00 a.m.; that 10 – 15 minutes getting our cash drawer out of the vault, etc. was worked off the clock. I was the vault teller and had to open up for everyone to be ready to go at 8:00 many times I came in between 7:30 – 7:45 to be ready to receive customers. I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to lose my job. I wonder, that was in the early 1990’s, can I go back to the labor board & see about my OT for four years?

    1. shep*

      This is awfully similar to how FirstJob worked. In retrospect I’m sure I should’ve been paid that time. That said, my supervisor there is also an excellent work reference, so I wouldn’t want to disrupt that relationship. Just the way the company was structured, I know it would be a huge mess and damage that working relationship.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, that’s ridiculous. I also worked as a bank teller in the 90s and we were definitely paid to set up our drawer, etc.

  42. Tennessee INFP*

    OP #3 – I have almost the same exact job as you do (though not an intern). We have several publications I run the social media pages for, and for each digital subscription I need, they simply gave me free access. There has got to be a site admin that can give you the access to what you need. Have you tried asking them? I’m sure there is a way to give a comp subscription to someone that wants/needs it, or that there is a general admin log-in that they use that you can use too. You might even write the person who creates the content you’re working with and ask them for the link directly. Do some digging, ask the right people and I’m sure you will find help. I do agree with Alison, that you should ask to be reimbursed for what you have spent already.

    1. NonProfit Nancy*

      To be honest, it sounds like there is a free option (the workaround) but OP doesn’t want to use it. I’m sure it is inconvenient and dumb, but OP might just need to accept that the company would rather she spend her time – which is probably free to them – using the workaround, rather than spending their limited budget to save her time.

      1. Tennessee INFP*

        If the content OP is accessing, is THEIR content, then it would cost them nothing to give her a free digital sub and comp it. I’m sure others in the company have such access, especially site admins – it’s very common. We comp subscriptions for important people in the industry all the time.

    2. Margaret*

      I know nothing about this sort of thing, but do online publications really not have a way to (or motivation to, perhaps) remove the paywall if you’re accessing from their own network?! It seems bizarre to me that you would even need to log-in to view it if you’re at work, much less have to pay for a subscription.

  43. Dust Bunny*

    I don’t do shift work but my job does have an expected start and end time, and I frequently arrive early because I have to allow for traffic–if I’m not running early, I could end up being very late. If my bosses don’t want me to do this, they should give me enough of a raise that I could afford to live closer. :-) It seems like a reasonable way could be found to accommodate people.

    Shoes: I slipped off of a curb and injured my foot–a deep internal bruise, I guess? Nothing broken but it was super painful for a day or two, so much so that I traded cars with my father so I wouldn’t need to use a clutch. Of course, I hurt myself the evening before we had some rather important foreign visitors at work. They wanted to take pictures of us doing things at our facility. I assumed these would be cropped, but . . . nope. So in a newspaper somewhere in Japan is a series of pictures of me doing things wearing one sensible flat shoe and one fuzzy bedroom slipper.

    1. Cassandra*

      I sprained my knee the day before an important conference talk in a very large city — slipped on the stairs at the place I was staying.

      Proper conference heels were Not Gonna Happen. I went to the pre-conference dinner and gave that talk in my tourism-friendly Mary Jane clodhoppers. I don’t think there’s photographic evidence, fortunately.

  44. MegaMoose, Esq*

    I agree that OP#5 seems a little too focused on the idea that people are doing something wrong if they’re at work doing anything other than working. But I am going to say that the employees asking for the building to open early is a little weird. Someone’s always going to be the first one there, and unless you want everyone to have keys and authority to be in the building alone, someone’s going to risk having to sit outside the door waiting for a bit. I’ve worked a number of places with a two-person rule, which generally means someone’s got to wait. It’s usually not a big deal. And before anyone mentions weather and public transportation, I’ve relied on the bus before myself and I live in Minnesota. We know weather.

  45. Parenthetically*

    The green paper thing is bringing me back to grad school. Our style guide was Chicago… but with about 250 tiny, arbitrary changes made to things like margins, spacing and punctuation. They did it for no other reason than to test the willingness of the students to submit. They have two employees who work for the Ph.D. program who do NOTHING but check formatting. It was… great.

    1. fposte*

      Did they officially state that as the reason? Because the situation you describe is pretty common, and that’s not usually why it’s done. (Even Chicago deviates from Chicago, amusingly enough.)

      1. Parenthetically*

        One of the formatting secretaries explicitly told me that was the reason. She actually growled it, and said, “The point is for you students to submit! This is about authority and obedience!”

        1. fposte*

          Wow. I’m not saying “Because we’ve always done it that way and we want it consistent” is the most moving reason, but I’m stunned that your school apparently has turned it into something more horrible.

          There was an urban legend that somebody’s dissertation submission got rejected because the watermark was upside down on one page. Sounds like your school is going even farther than that.

    2. Anxa*

      My SOs school had a similar situation, but they didn’t have an actual guide available to students. That makes sense, though, because if they did invest the time to compile a formatting resource, that could eliminate the need for employees like the two in your school.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Ah, see, we had a style guide (and software, which cost about $300), but the employees were just there to check dissertation style issues for the profs, because even the profs refused to keep up with the continual changes to the style guide.

  46. lcsa99*

    For number 2, I am wondering if it is more than just a test to see if you follow directions. This could also be to see if you think literally (the paper is the color green) or more figuratively (recycled), if you ask for clarification when you aren’t sure or just go with it, etc. Gives them an idea of how you think and work beyond just what you’ve told them through your resume and cover letter.

    1. Artemesia*

      Yeah. If they actually want a sheet of green colored paper, it would take a heck of a good reason for me to want to work there. I assume it is a test on whether you are imaginative and can think beyond the concrete.

  47. Anxa*


    I think the simplest way to address this is to make sure your employees know that it’s not big deal to be late once in a while. They are probably at least in part arriving early so that they aren’t late. If you let them know they have nothing to worry about by being late, they’re less likely to need to get there early.

  48. Observer*

    #5 You’ve gotten a bit of a pile on about your question. Please take the responses seriously.

    Go through the archives and see the number of discussions about getting to work on time, and the issues around that. If you have very strict on time policies, then you really have a (non-legal) obligation to accommodate people, because the reality is that for many people being early is the only practical way to be on time. So you are the reason they are early.

    Beyond that it’s worth addressing why on earth is it your assumption that there can be only nefarious reasons for people to com e early. Unless you have concrete reasons to believe that your workforce is really corrupt, which you have not shared, all of the reasons I can think of for this reflect on you. Please think about this.

  49. Stellar*

    #2: The props master in me wants you to reply to the green paper request with several follow up questions.

    What size paper?

    What weight do they need?

    Are they looking for a manufactured or more hand-crafted look?

    Will that be a solid green or is marbled/speckled ok?

    Have they considered how they’ll be using the paper? Will it need to fold easily, be stapled or otherwise bound, stand up to a lot of handling?

    Just one?

    What’s the lighting like in the office? Is reflectivity an issue?

    Will it need to fit inside of something (envelope, binder)? Can I have the measurements for that object?

    Have they received the paint chips I sent? Please choose a few greens with consideration for office wall paint and general color scheme, I’ll try to match. Alternatively, send paint samples of current color scheme.

    Don’t do any of this. Green paper. How obnoxious.

    1. Pebbles*

      You just gave the OP the simplest and free way of complying with the “request”! OP, go to some store that sells paint and grab a green sample. There. Done. And still obnoxious.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Shoutout to props people! I used to do props work in college, and it really satisfied my desire to be both creative and a total stickler for weird details.

    3. One of the Sarahs*

      Do they need any kind of code on it so that people who are colour-blind can tell it’s green and not blue? *
      What kind of edging do they want?
      Should it hold a crease, or be crease-resistant? Or something like tissue paper, with multiple creasing?
      Should it have a matte or gloss finish?
      Will it need to be printed? Ink-jet, laser-jet, letter-press, rubber-stamped? Hand-written? Painted on?

      and so on and so on

      * My partner’s colour blind, and in her current job, there was a spreadsheet nicely colour-coded in about 10 various shades of pink-red-purple, none of which she could see. Now apparently it’s in some eye-bleeding combo of colours, with some background, that makes everyone else have style-related-allergies, but she can see it all! “Bring me green paper” would be a bit of a lottery, if she chose it herself!

  50. anonderella*

    “I assume they are trying to clock in early or might be doing something they shouldn’t.”

    am I the only one who read this thinking OP5 meant working, by saying “doing something they shouldn’t”? That seems to be the crux of her question, as she repeats at the end.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I figured she meant either stealing from the company or, like, copying their butts or “ducking” or something.

    2. Brogrammer*

      That was my take too, that she suspected that hourly employees might be starting work before their scheduled start time, but the tone was definitely a bit odd.

    3. A. Schuyler*

      I read “doing something they shouldn’t” to mean fraud or similar. In some environments, I could see that being a concern when people are going to great lengths to be in the office on their own, which might include (to those of us who are not habitually early people) arriving a significant time before work begins. I’d see it as being almost as shady as someone who always wants to be last out of the office – what are you doing that you don’t want anyone to see?

      That said, innocent until proven guilty and the like, so it would still be nice of them to let people in, have controls in place to prevent wrongdoing, and deal with any concerns as they come up.

  51. Mrs. Picky Pincher*

    1. I also have anxiety, so I know how it feels over-analyze things. I would follow AAM’s advice and just schedule a check-in of your own volition. Sometimes managers get busy and employees have to take matters into their own hands.

    5. I had a manager with this same attitude and it was horrible to work for him. I worked as a secretary at the time and I wasn’t allowed to enter the building any time before 8 am. When you’re in charge of the phones, that’s a huge problem. People would call right at 8 am and I’d miss it because I wasn’t at my desk. My idea is that, as long as you aren’t paying them and they aren’t using a lot of company resources, let them come in early. They might not otherwise have access to internet to pay their bills, etc., and they consider this a perk.

  52. Katie*

    #4 / Alison: Would it be weird to mention something to the recruiter when setting up the interviewer? Something along the lines of “If you could give my interviewers a heads up, my footwear will appear more casual than the rest of my outfit. I have a foot injury and my shoe options are limited at the moment!”

  53. Chris*

    #5, wtf… have you never worked a job before?

    I ALWAYS was early to work if possible, simply because I could settle in, chat a bit with coworkers, wake up a bit. As long as it doesn’t cause other problems for other workers, what’s the big deal?

    1. MegaMoose, Esq*

      That’s not really fair or nice – they had a concern and they asked about it. Besides, the employees are also asking that the building be opened early, which could cause plenty of issues depending on the situation.

      1. Observer*

        It’s a bit harsh, but not so unfair. The assumption that the only reasons that people might want to come in early is to clock in when they are not supposed to or to do something they shouldn’t be is really out of touch, unless there is a LOT of context we don’t know about.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq*

          I’d like to think that even people with “out of touch” questions would feel comfortable sending them in to be answered without being met by harsh language. Maybe this is that person’s first job (or first management job) – no need to make them feel bad about it.

  54. Taylor Swift*

    LW3, it’s definitely not something you should be paying for, but it’s not just “a digital product”. You blow it off like it’s worthless, but real people like yourself put time and effort into making that content and just because you view it on a computer doesn’t mean it should be free!

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      Eh, I’m assuming that description was used to make clear that there is no marginal cost to the company to her accessing the online version of the paper.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        +1, especially as she’s literally accessing to promote and share it, and bring in more readers

  55. Argh!*

    #5: This may be due to school schedules, day care, bus routes, etc.

    If they really are getting there early just to use their computers, that implies they don’t make enough money to subscribe to an ISP or purchase a computer. If that’s the case, letting them use their computers for “fun” uses would be an act of good will and may help them be more computer savvy in unexpected ways.

  56. Kms1025*

    OP # 5 – I would just make it clear to your employees what time the doors will be opened because obviously someone has to do that and should not be “penalized” to accommodate early arrivals. But, is there any way you could schedule a couple of early arrivals to open the office and then have the rest of the employees arrive at their normal time? I, frankly, appreciate early arrivals much more so than late arrivals :)

  57. Transformer*

    #4) What about taking the birkenstock and building a facade shoe around it? There are several artisans at our Saturday market and if I had this issue I would see how expensive it would be to make a custom top.

  58. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, did you ask why they want you to bring green paper? That would have been my first response..

    1. Hershele Ostropoler*

      Maybe that’s the behavioral test. They want to see if the candidate follows seemingly ridiculous and arbitrary instructions without question or seeks clarification.

  59. JKD*

    Re #5
    I was once half an hour early to a shift job. The building wasn’t open to the public at that time (it usually is), but there were plenty of employees in the building. I just wanted to be somewhere warm and comfortable, so I tried to stay out of the way as I waited to clock in. Later that day, there was a general reminder to my department that no one was supposed to arrive more than 5 minutes early, and violations would be treated as a “disciplinary issue.” That was part of a larger trend of management treating us all like potential criminals.

    There are a thousand ways to tell people you don’t trust them. Not wanting them in the building (because they might do something nefarious) is pretty effective all on its own. If you think so badly of them, why would you want to spend every working day with them? And why would they want to give their time and loyalty to someone who sees them in such a bad light?

  60. Hershele Ostropoler*

    I can see why there might be insurance issues with employees being early (especially if they’re so early the building isn’t ordinarily open), so it’s striking that LW5 didn’t say that.

  61. Mrs. Fenris*

    My boss had to make a policy about not coming in early to hang out, as so often happens, because of one person. We have a 24 hour facility with a day and night shift. There was a day employee who was clueless in several ways. Most of them were because she didn’t quite understand that we were all coworkers doing a job…she seemed to think we were all just a bunch of BFFs hanging out. She came in early and just sat chitchatting with the overnight shift while they were trying to finish up and leave. Public transit was nonexistent in that area, she did not have a spouse or children affecting her schedule, there was just no reason for her to come in early other than because she thought it would be a fun social time.

  62. Dan*

    #5– This one is really highly contextual. At my job here we have people with a commute that is 2-3 hours depending on weather. If they didn’t usually show up almost an hour early, they would show up unacceptably late often enough to get disciplined severely or even terminated.

    Some jobs (and given how you feel about times you might be doing this accidentally!) send the message “be here early or else!” by having things like “one minute late is a write-up” and making employees line up at a time clock and home they all get through in time (worked at a place like this, ugh) or other draconian attendance policies. These policies mean employees show up far earlier than they would otherwise to remove a source of anxiety (“will I get myself fired? how would I pay my rent?” etc.) from their lives.

    Another contextual piece of the puzzle is the environment. At an office this is perfectly normal, at a fast food joint it would not be (and there your suspicions of trying to pull something or socializing with on-shift workers and distracting them would be more justified). It would be weird on a construction site, fairly typical for an IT department where the expectation is you’re logging into your tools at exactly 8:00, you’re in the shift huddle meeting at 8:10, and when the huddle is over you’re going right to work, not spending time getting coffee, grabbing a bagel or using the restroom, you’re working.

    It says a lot, about either you or your employees that your first instinct is that they’re trying to pull a fast one when they’re acting perfectly normally.

  63. Hershele Ostropoler*

    And now I’m wondering if “green paper” is meant in the Soupy Sales sense.

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