my friends stole my ideas and strung me along about a job offer, my networking connection is actually my spouse, and more

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

1. My friends said an offer was coming, then stole my ideas and reposted the job

Friends who own their own business asked me to help create a job description for a new position at their company. I happily obliged. They then asked if I would be interested in applying the position. I interviewed, met with their business partner, and participated in several follow-up phone calls, texts, and emails. Several times, they indicated verbally that I “would be receiving a job offer letter at the end of the week.”

Each week since that original verbal mention of a job offer letter, they have contacted me either by phone, text, or email, keeping me in the loop but informing me of a delay in getting the offer letter to me.

Imagine my surprise when this week I saw an online job posting from their company with the exact job description for which I created and interviewed. And further, suggestions I made in my interview to improve their company have been posted on their Facebook page.

I don’t know if I feel more hurt or angry. These people are friends. I didn’t approach them for the job; they asked me, strung me along, and now are seeking other candidates. Should I contact them to tell them I saw the ad? Or should I just put the job it behind me, and lose the friendship?

Yes, contact them. If you weren’t friends with them, I’d say to move on. But there’s a personal relationship here, and it’s completely reasonable to ask them what’s going on. I’d call them (don’t text or email) and say this: “I’m wondering what’s going on with the X position. I saw that you’ve advertised it online, so I’m guessing that you’ve decided to talk with other candidates. That’s of course completely fine with me, but since the last update I heard was that you were sending me an offer letter, I wanted to find out from you what’s going on.”

You might also say: “The ideas I gave you in our interview were part of the interview process — I hadn’t intended to provide free work, but I see that they’ve been posted on your Facebook page. Should we figure out a consulting fee, or how would you like to handle that?”

2. Should I have disclosed that my networking connection is actually my spouse?

I got my current job through my spouse’s network of professional colleagues (I met Spouse at a different job in the same industry). Spouse referred me to Employer, and I refrained from mentioning that Spouse was not just a former employer/colleague, until I’d been on the job about two weeks, at which point I told my boss and grandboss that I was married to the person who’d essentially networked me into the job. They reacted pretty well and didn’t seem offended (though are toxic in other ways), but I still wonder if I handled it appropriately.

Should I have disclosed earlier? I couldn’t decide if disclosing pre- or mid-interview would make it seem like Spouse had only referred me because we were married or make Employer feel pressured or like they couldn’t trust Spouse’s recommendation (I don’t think they checked any of my other references, or got a more formal recommendation from Spouse besides “Here’s Moira, she’s great!” in the introductory email).

In future, can I still list Spouse as point of contact for the job where he was my boss? (We didn’t start dating until I’d left for grad school, and I still get freelance work from his company occasionally.)

It depends on exactly how your spouse networked you into the job. If Spouse just told them something like “Moira Smith is a great teapot maker and I’ve suggested she apply — keep an eye out for her application” … well, that’s still a little weird but not terrible. But if Spouse sang your praises and gave a glowing recommendation and they interviewed you on that basis, then Spouse really, really needed to disclose the connection from the start. (And if Spouse did not, then you needed to.)

In general, spouses are not considered credible references because it’s assumed they’re biased in your favor, and if Spouse gave a real reference as part of this process, you denied them highly relevant context by not mentioning the relationship.

And yeah, you shouldn’t use him as a reference in the future. If an interviewer asks to talk to your manager from that job, explain that said manager is now your spouse but that you can supply other references.

3. Asking people to stop leaping on me as soon as I walk into the office

I have a pet peeve: I hate it when I’m walking into work in the morning (i.e., have my coffee in hand, gym bag, purse, jacket) and someone stops me in the hallway or follows me to my desk to ask a question (which is not an emergency). How do I tell them to please give me 10 minutes to decompress and put my things down without sounding rude?

“I’m just walking in. Give me 10 minutes to get settled, and then I’ll be able to help you.”

If you encounter resistance (“it’ll just take a minute!”), hold firm: “I have some things to take care of before I can help you. Come see me in 10 minutes and I’ll be able to.”

Of course, if it’s your boss or someone else quite senior, you may not have this option — you need to apply some judgment to it, of course.

4. Manager wants to know what all time off will be used for before he’ll approve it

Our company uses a software program to keep track of PTO requests and balances. When a request is submitted in the system, an email is sent to the supervisor, asking that person to approve the request. We recently reorganized and my supervisor is now the city leader for our division. This person is a wonderful and supportive boss and is really well liked, so all of us viewed this as a positive change, myself included.

However, he has recently told us that we may not submit requests for time off unless we tell him in advance that we’re going to make the request and tell him why we’re taking time off, e.g. what we’ll be doing, where we’ll be going, etc. He has not explained why.

As much as I like and respect him, I’ve always chosen to keep my personal life personal and don’t feel I should be required to tell him what I’m going to be doing. It just feels like an invasion of privacy and I feel like I will have to make something up for times that I don’t want to discuss my plans. I don’t want to be put in a position where being dishonest is my only way out. I supervise 30 people and don’t require this of any of them, nor do I feel that I have the right to make this a requirement. Am I completely overreacting and should I just get over it? Does a supervisor have the right to make this a requirement?

No, you’re not overreacting. This is a wild over-reach by your manager, and utterly unjustified. Your time off is yours to do with as you please.

But you haven’t talked to him about it yet, and you need to. It’s possible that the requirement has somehow been miscommunicated, who knows. Regardless, you need to find out what the hell he’s thinking and why, and to push back if indeed this is what he wants. Say this: “I might be misunderstanding, but are you saying that you won’t approve time off unless you know exactly what we’ll be doing in our time away from work?”

If he says yes, then say this: “Can you tell me why you want that information? I would think that our time off is part of our benefits package and ours to use as we like, and I’m having trouble understanding why we need to provide an accounting of how we’ll be using that time.”

5. Should I wait to get a butch haircut until I finish interviewing for jobs?

I’m a late-20s woman with hair a couple of inches past my shoulders, in a very unadventurous cut. Recently I’ve decided that I’d like to get a very short and masculine haircut like the one I had in college. Among other reasons, I think this will help me read as gay, which I would very much like to do.

However, I’ve been wondering if I should wait to do this until after I’m finished applying for jobs. I’m worried that presenting as less feminine will make people less likely to want to hire me, if only on a subconscious level.

I’m not asking if I should have to do this — of course I shouldn’t. But I care more about getting a new job than getting a new haircut. And I already wear makeup to interviews, when I never typically wear it at work, because I know that it’s just as much a part of interview etiquette as wearing a suit.

Is this something I should be worried about? Obviously I don’t want to work someplace that won’t accept my sexuality, but again, I’m worried that this might lead to subconscious bias in even basically-accepting people.

I suppose it’s possible that you’ll run into the occasional person for whom this will trigger bias (unconscious or otherwise), but in general loads of women these days have very short cuts — gay, straight, and otherwise — and I’d say that you should just get the haircut you want to have.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. Uhdrea*

    OP #5 – I was just recently in this situation and I have to admit, I had noticeably poorer luck with shorter hair than I did with longer. My experience has been that, regardless of how the working environment turns out to be, the more visibly gay I am during interviews, the harder the search is.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I wonder if this also depends on industry and region. For example, it’s very common for women in professional positions/jobs to have hair that is cut progressively shorter as they get older (this also seems to happen frequently when women become moms). So it seems like there are other common associations people have with short hair that don’t necessarily relate back to a person’s LGBT identity.

      All those disclaimers aside, if OP is in a moderately “aware” region where anti-LGBT animus is considered unacceptable, then I say go for the haircut you want as long as it’s not too “out there” (i.e., a bob is ok, as is a pixie cut, but I wouldn’t go in with a mohawk).

      To be clear: I’m not saying anti-LGBT bias or bias against “gender-noncomforming” women doesn’t exist in the world—it does. I just wonder if this risk is especially high in particular industries and geographic communities.

      1. Uhdrea*

        I think it really becomes a matter of priority. If the OP badly needs a job, then it’s a factor to consider that might ultimately be worth waiting to get the haircut for.

        Plus, even in the most liberal of utopias, there are still people that make judgements based on perceived sexuality. I’ve had interviews shut down as soon as I mention my wife in Boston.

        1. Where is the Utopia Valley then?*

          Damn, in the US too? I smiled so wide when I read Alison’s reply. I have had a short haircut in Brazil (a much more backwater country) for the best part of two decades and as long as I don’t say anything like “my wife lives in Boston” it seems to be fine.

          Anyway, I don’t think it’s worth trying to change the world at the Letter Writter’s expense. I do grow my hair a little for job hunting season, wear makeup and do my nails. Conform to get in the door and then, slowly be yourself. People on the job will know you by then and appreciate you for who you are.

          1. Oryx*

            Oh absolutely in the US, sadly. I live in a major city in the Midwest and we are very liberal, especially compared to the rest of our state and while at a big picture view we are progressive, if you get at a granular level with certain people, businesses, etc., yes, there’s still a lot of people who will make those kind of anti-LGBT judgments.

            1. SaraSmiles*

              Well I can honestly say that here in Los Angeles, she could wear her hair in any style and I doubt that would close any doors; if anything, as an HR/recruiting manager, it would make her more interesting to me. I know entertainment and media, etc, are more liberal but I just cannot imagine what kind of closed minds are out there making hiring decisions if people need to think about masking their true selves to that degree. Not to go off topic, I know it still happens and I’m not debating that, but it makes me sad and mad!

              1. Queen of the File*

                It makes me sad and mad too. I can tell you one time it affected me since the interviewer actually told me why she was asking: “you look like someone who might have a problem with the type of humour some of the guys on our sales floor have.”

                RED FLAG.

      2. MillersSpring*

        OP, sounds like you need to prioritize getting a job, but Alison’s right: feel free to get the haircut you want. If you were interviewing with me, I would not care about your haircut or presentation one bit.

        Just an idea: could you possibly get a very short haircut now that’s somewhat conventional (I’m thinking Julie Andrews), then cut it or style it a bit more butch after you start a new job?

        1. Leny*

          OP#5, for what it’s worth, I have very short hair – now just long enough to style them either in a mohawk or let them fall to the side. A few weeks ago I was stressed out about meeting a Very Important Guy (VP Sales) of my company and I was antagonising as to whether I should cut my hair before, or style them differently, or….? Until I decided I don’t give a crap what this person thinks.

          I realise that this is not possible for everyone, but it gave me renewed assurance, and I definitely think that is what counts in that kind of settings.

          Also, I think you’ll find both kind of people during interviews: the kind who care a lot about apperance and the kind who don’t. Try not to spend too much time antagonising about your hair cut and I think you’ll be just fine :)

      3. Mookie*

        (this also seems to happen frequently when women become moms)

        Ooh, interesting. I’ve never noticed that.

        OP, this used to concern me as a queer teenager in the 90s in a west coast US boonie; I had one of those longer bob deals (just a fraction above my shoulders) and fellow female teens would forever ask me when I was going to ‘grow it out.’ (They were also concerned about me never forgoing a bra. It was weird.) I’ve never been paranoid about it as an adult, but I understand your concerns, both about the reaction and the desire to present as gay.

        1. I'm a tailors apprentice*

          I cut my hair shorter when I became a mom for two reasons: my kids kept pulling it when they were infants (and since infants seem to have super human ability to hold on and pull…it HURT!) and it was easier and quicker to wash, dry, and style when there was less of it to mess with. My kids are a bit older now and I’m starting to let it get longer.

          OP, I worked in a company where one day the VP of marketing cut her hair super short and dyed it bright pink – without a word to anyone why she did it. One day – long, dark hair and the next really short and bright pink. She was gay though I don’t know if that played into her reasons for cutting it. There were a few “wow, that’s short” comments (mostly from men) but what I remember most is the confidence she exuded with the short, pink hair that she didn’t seem to have with the long, dark hair. I still wish I was brave enough to do something that drastic to my hair and rock it, even half as much as she did.

          1. the gold digger*

            When my friend Laura had her first baby, she cut her shoulder length hair into a pixie and switched to elastic waistbands. “Every second counts,” she told me.

            Now that her kids are older, she is back to dressing very nicely and longer, styled hair.

            1. anon for this*

              I’d like to push back on the idea that longer, styled hair is > than pixie-length hair. I’m a mom who has had super-short hair, and longer hair below the shoulders. I feel about 100 times better/more polished with my precisely cut (and dyed) pixie hair than I ever did with my long hair, even when styled nicely. I got pretty much zero compliments on my hair when it was long; when it’s short, I literally have women coming up to me asking who my stylist is. Now, I can’t deny that men liked my hair better when it was longer, but I give no sh!ts about that. My DH is crazy about my short hair and his opinion is the only one I care about.

              1. Anna*

                I’ve kept my hair short for most of the last 20 odd years and this morning it looks On. Point. Long hair is less likely to get styled by me than short. Love my short hair, do not care what people interviewing me think.

                1. anon for this*

                  I love my short hair, too. It is very me. I am not great at styling longer hair, but the layers in my pixie do 85% of the work for me. A quick blowdry and some product, and I’m good to go. Plus, never having hair around my face and neck is SWEET FREEDOM.

              2. I'm a tailors apprentice*

                It also depends on the hair type. My hair is incredibly thick, wavy and course so super short looks, although I covet them and wish I could pull them off, I just can’t. My version of “short” goes to my ears and still has some length to it.

                A few years ago I learned the incredibly hard way that I just could not pull off Ginnifer Goodwin’s hairstyle. It took forever for it to grow back…and for a while I looked more like the lead singer of Flock of Seagulls in the “I Ran” video. I love pixie cuts and envy all women who can pull them off. The hair fairy and bone structure fairy have given you power that I simply don’t have.

                1. Renee*

                  I wore my hair in a pixie for years, and then the hormonal changes of pregnancy changed my hair from super straight to spiral curls. So now my hair is unmanageable unless it’s to my shoulders or so. A few years ago I cut it short because I was job hunting, and I had to buy a teeny straightener to make it look decent. I had to grow it out again and, ugh, never again. I miss my pixie but it’s just not compatible with my curls.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I wear my hair up all the time when I’m home. I’m not cutting it even if I manage somehow to have quadruplets. Hooray for elastic waistbands, however.

            3. ..Kat..*

              When you have a baby, all of those pregnancy hormones that helped your baby grow suddenly stop. So your hair tends to fall out, sometimes a lot. Which is why many women cut their hair shorter at that point.

          2. SQL Coder Cat*

            As someone who waited way too many years to do brightly colored hair, I can tell you the only thing necessary to be the person who can pull off wild hair is deciding that you are someone who can. I wish I hadn’t let my fear of other people’s judgment keep me from doing what I wanted with my hair for so long. My hair is currently black/peacock green/shocking violet, and I regularly get compliments on how amazing it looks.

            When I first started doing unnatural hair colors, I was at Evil Old Job where it was very much A Thing with the top manager. I have very long hair, so I handled it by only doing color on the last few inches of my hair and putting it up at work so it wasn’t visible. When I interviewed for Current Amazing Job, I put my hair up the same way. After getting the offer, I hesitantly inquired about the dress code regarding hair color. There was a long pause, and then Awesome New Boss said, in a very confused tone. “Why would anyone care? It’s YOUR hair.”

            TL;DR If you need to find a new job ASAP, you may want to leave your hair as is, but if you can afford to be picky in your job search, go ahead and get it cut. Unfortunately, some people are annoying and will judge you for it, but would you really want to work for someone like that?

            1. JustaTech*

              When I interviewed for CurrentJob one of the meetings was two women: classic mom-scientist (big fisherman sweater, big glasses, non-memorable hair) and punk-rock scientist (tattoos, piercings, short hair in some wild shade). It was the most fantastic contrast and made me feel very comfortable that I would be able to be myself.

            2. A*

              “My hair is currently black/peacock green/shocking violet”

              I have so much hair envy toward you right now. That sounds amazing.

          3. Artemesia*

            I have seen some gorgeous dramatically died hair — the only drawback is that it has to be more meticulously maintained than standard brown boring hair to not look unkempt.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I assumed that was why! At least, those are the reasons my friends give (less effort to style, less painful/easy to get when grabbed by small infants). But of course, this also depends on their hair type, the style of their cut, etc. They often get maintenance cuts much more frequently, now, than when they had longer hair (but less time curling/blow drying, which is a plus).

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yep! Hair to the small of my back became hair barely past my chin because I couldn’t afford all the time used up on washing/drying/brushing it.

            That said, I’ve also seen short hair on older women, younger women, other moms, non-moms, pretty much every demographic. Most of them don’t “read” as anything as far as gender or orientation to me on the basis of hair. Nor, given that I’m not in the business of cutting/styling hair or selling hair supplies, does it impact my view of them in business at all.

            That said, I know a friend of mine faces stark reactions because she keeps her hair buzzed super-short. Something extreme/unusual for the region might still attract enough attention to be an issue, and the OP will have to think about their reason.

            Another thing OP may consider if they decide they don’t want to risk the reactions, is whether they can get a short haircut they like, but that can – on interviewing days – be styled/pinned back or up just a bit in a way that makes it “read” more feminine. At least that way you’d only be dealing with it during the interviews.

            1. JessaB*

              I know a lot of women (and men) who had long hair and started going grey and liked the texture and colour of their grey (some hate it) and cut short so it would grow in, and then started growing it out. I knew one woman with gloriously white white hair but she didn’t trim the bottom and because she’d been blonde blonde before if she let her hair down it kinda looked like she wasn’t caring of it, because the yellow kind of dulled and looked dirty. I wish she’d just trimmed an inch at a time until the original colour was gone. But it’s her hair and I’d never tell her how to handle her own looks.

      4. Jenn*

        Mohawks are a traditional indigenous hairstyle for some nations, just like locs and twists might be for other people of colour

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree. I assumed OP did not identify as Native or indigenous. If she does, then I apologize.

          I noted mohawks because they’re a culturally appropriative and common hairstyle in certain non-Native/indigenous communities, including young LGBT women, folks who identify as punks/anarchists, etc., etc. If OP had written, “I’m an LGBT indigenous woman debating on whether to style my hair in a manner consistent with my Nation,” I would have had different advice.

      5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        There is a huge difference between older-woman short hair and butch-presenting short hair, to be honest. It’s not all about the length, but also about styling and other aspects of presentation.

        1. Sylvia*

          Yes. There are differences in presentation between a short-haired straight woman and a butch woman; these differences are intentionally visible, and it’s okay to acknowledge them. OP’s concerned about encountering homophobia because of that.

        2. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          I cut my hair to be more readable as gay, and it totally backfired because of context. I got an edgy asymmetrical pixie, but turned out everybody read it as “soccer mom”. I was the legal guardian of my two teenage brothers at the time and I went from being obviously their sister to being assumed to be their mom overnight (I was 27). Context really matters.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          They’re distinct, but there are parts of the country where a “butch” haircut and a short haircut don’t read as different or as inherently LGBT. As you noted, it’s not the haircut, alone, that conveys butch identity. If OP wants a butch haircut and intends to dress/style in a manner that’s butch, I think that’s a distinct question. But again, I also think it depends on whether you’re interviewing in an industry/region or at a company where anti-LGBT animus (even low-level animus) is common.

          If OP interviewed at any of my last 4 employers, having a “butch haircut” or presenting as butch would not have dinged her at all.

        4. aebhel*

          Yeah, butch-presenting includes a lot of other elements. I have, essentially, a crew cut, and I still don’t necessarily get read as butch unless I’m otherwise presenting that way. Very short hair and relatively femme clothing still gets read as femme a lot of the time (I’m in NY, for what that’s worth).

      6. AMT*

        Yes, I think it’s context-dependent, unfortunately. I got several job offers with a blue streak in my hair last year, but I’m a therapist in a huge city in a blue state. I would never have done it in most other industries/areas of the country.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Unfortunately, that’s definitely so. I dearly want to get blue or blue-green peekaboo highlights, but in the investment world, I don’t feel like that’s a good career move. Ah well.

      7. Hrovitnir*

        There’s generally a pretty big difference between a short hair cut women often get as they get older and a masculine short haircut. And I don’t know about bias, but I can tell you the way I was perceived and treated was noticeably different having a shaved head/masculine haircut than when I had long hair (mostly in ways I enjoyed, luckily.)

        1. Hrovitnir*

          (Oh, and btw I had a shaved head, which actually isn’t necessarily read as masculinely, and a masculine haircut. Think shaved sides and longer on top. I liked that a lot but got bored and growing it out was excruciating.)

          1. JustaTech*

            I had a corworker who had that style (super short sides/back, longer on top) and she could not figure out how to grow it out without going nuts. Maybe style the top super spiky? (I have no idea, I’ve always had long hair.)

            1. Natalie*

              In my experience you just have to suffer through a few terrible stages. Bleh, never again.

              1. JessaB*

                The only thing I’d think of is to have her look up Kelly Osbourne (sp?) Ms Osbourne has shaved sides and long in the middle and does all kinds of different things with it. I saw her on Project Runway Jr and she had a different way of styling each episode. So pics of her may help give your friend ideas for how to style while growing out. Also she had the most amazing shade of a pink hued violet colour on.

            2. Windchime*

              My daughter-in-law recently had a haircut that was chin length all over except one side was buzzed down really close. If she wore her hair down, she could cover the buzzed section. She wanted to grow it out but couldn’t figure out how, so she just buzzed it all off. Several months later, she’s got a super cute, short little haircut.

    2. snuck*

      Just a passing thought…

      If you want to publicly and intentionally be ‘out’ about your sexuality, and feel your hair will do this, and given what a hot button topic this is (unnecessarily unless you plan to join the Duck Club) and potential outcomes … then is it better to be upfront (not that you should have to!) and cut your hair now… and be employed somewhere that doesn’t give two hoots about it, than do it a week after you start a new job (or three months) and then get snide remarks or kickback etc?

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        This. Interviewing is about looking for a match between you and the employer. You should, of course, be and show your best. But if you’re presenting as someone you’re not in an interview, you’re not getting the information you need about the match between you and the employer. I know match can sometimes be a luxury if you really need a job. I hope you can find a place to work where you feel comfortable being yourself.

        1. Zillah*

          I think, though, that we can sometimes run into implicit prejudice or stereotypes even among people who are usually pretty open and accepting. I do think there’s a lot of merit to what you’re saying, but there is that side of things as well.

          1. Natalie*

            Yeah, there aren’t really easy answers to this issue, unfortunately. We have to make whatever we feel is the best decision and not beat ourselves up if there are still some negative aspects. :/

          2. JessaB*

            True but I agree with people that say do it first. Because seriously you do not want to end up in a job (and you may have had better interviews elsewhere) and find out that you’re in major problems and have to stick it out til you can find someplace else. If their potential treatment of you because you look in a certain way could be a deal breaker, then you should look that way in the interview.

      2. MoinMoin*

        That’s possible, but plenty of people that consider themselves allies or even just ambivalently fine with LGBT could have unconscious biases set off, which is true for any visual cues that read outside of the default (more or less makeup, orthotic shoes, extremely long hair, very short or very long nails, clothing colors, etc). Even someone proclaiming to be pro-LGBT may unconsciously think “she seems more analytical and reserved, she might not be right for this external facing role” or “she just came off very assertive and I don’t know if that would work well in this department” without realizing what led them to that impression. That same person, once they work with OP and have more data points about her outside of how she looks, might be totally fine to find out OP is gay.
        I’m not trying to steer OP in either direction, I just want to point out that unconscious bias isn’t the exclusive realm of the unrepentant bigot; plenty of perfectly accepting, nice, people also make these unconscious mental shortcuts and it’s not always indicative of how they’ll act towards a coworker. So it’s really a question of what data points the OP wants to give the interviewer, and how much risk you will take with that data in this limited interaction (positive or negative- no one should just be ‘default’ either).

        1. Lissa*

          Yes! Unconscious bias is huge here, and it’s not as easy as “well I wouldn’t want to work for people who are bigots” especially when it comes to presentation and assumptions. I have a semi-similar appearance issue — I don’t wear any makeup. I can tell myself “well would I want to work somewhere that women without makeup were looked down on or considered less professional” but it isn’t really just that. A lot of people will compare me to someone identical who wears makeup and not realize why they prefer the other person. A lot of those people likely even say “I like women who don’t wear makeup!”

    3. Thinking it through*

      I admit, my first reaction was if a job was most important to you, then definitely leave your hair long. Bias does exists and it’s silly to pretend it doesn’t!
      Then I thought about the ramifications. Would you want a job that you wouldn’t have gotten if you had short hair? Whether it’s wrong or not, if short hair or “reading gay” or whatever is an issue for a significant number of your interviewers that is a problem in and of itself. It seems to me that finding a job where you can be comfortable being yourself should be a consideration.

      1. Bwmn*

        I think much of this will come down to the OP’s reading of their industry…..where I work now and in my industry in general, there are a number of women with distinctly butch haircuts/masculine styles of dress. However, my mother works in a Midwestern large purple city at a hospital with fairly progressive LGBT policies. They also have an incredibly strict dress code on the books and particularly in HR, there appears to be no interest towards changing this. While this is largely around things like piercings (none for men, only one in each ear for women), visible tattoos, and ‘natural’ colored hair – it also comes from HR having more conservative definition on what professional presentation is.

        Having a butch haircut after being hired, I can’t see that being an issue. And even if it was with a specific manager, the OP would have HR on their side as well as assorted LGBT advocacy within the hospital. But getting through HR and the overall hiring process – I think being concerned about triggering biases would be very valid.

        If the OP’s gut feeling is that their geography and industry still has a conservative streak within hiring/professionalism ideas – I’d hold off on the hair cut. Unfortunately I think the concern is real.

    4. Bonky*

      I had kind of the opposite advice for OP #5! (I work in a very LGBT-friendly place, which may colour what I’m saying here a bit.)

      It comes down to culture. Would you *want* to work somewhere that turned you down because they thought you looked gay? Culture fit checks at interview work both ways: culture’s as important for the candidate as it is for the business. Presenting as exactly what you are is a good way to filter for the sort of companies which want you…exactly as you are. Not with a haircut that doesn’t fit you, or with a partner you’re worried to mention.

      Good luck. There are plenty of companies out there which won’t give two hoots how you present.

      1. Oryx*

        This is where I am. I work now at an LGBT-friendly place after having left a not friendly place and I’m trying to think about how my two work places would react to someone coming in with a self-described “butch” haircut and the differences are striking. This really is a good litmus test for culture and thinking if it’s a place you’d want to work and be happy (and another reminder why I’m so glad I left ExJob)

      2. Sydney Bristow*

        This is where I was leaning too.

        An LGBT friend of mine wanted a more butch haircut while job searching. She was also trying to transition from her corporate legal background to a more non-profit path with an emphasis on helping her community. She ended up getting the haircut as a way of helping to overcome her background. She did wind up successfully changing career tracks although not quite in the niche she wanted yet. Probably not what the OP is trying to do, but might be helpful info.

      3. ArtsNerd*

        Yes, this. I intentionally made sure to have the unnatural color in my hair visible when I interviewed for my current job for just this reason; I could style it either way. I didn’t want to work in an organization that cared about conservative hairstyles. Since then, I’ve buzzed it all off and most everyone loves it. (I frequently present as queer, though not butch.)

        Now I had the extreme luxury that I could take or leave this particular opportunity and something as superficial as my haircut could be my dealbreaker. It really is dependent on OP’s location, situation, and industry, so she’ll need to consider those factors quite seriously in addition to the great advice here.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Most of my hair is white, however the summer sun will give it a subtle blond color.
          I have read these articles about the “importance” of coloring grey hair. For several reasons, I decided to stop coloring my hair years ago. I deliberately decided to take my chances in terms of jobs. I landed on the fact that I do not want to work for a company where people look down their noses at people who are 40-50 plus years old. By the time I hit 48 I could see coworkers (and one time even a boss) deciding randomly that I was going to be a slow worker because of age.
          It’s interesting to me. When I was younger there was also issues, too young, no experience, obviously doesn’t know what responsibility is, etc. I think we have one good year around age 34 that people cannot find something negative to say about age. Yes, I am joking but with a point. It seems that no matter where we are at in life, someone finds something to be critical of. People who make out well in life are those who maintain working relationships with as many people as possible.

    5. CanuckDoughnut*

      Not gay (although I seem to ping a lot of people’s gaydar) — I have a short pixie and I think it helps me be taken seriously in a very male-dominated industry. So do pants. YMMV.

      1. Newby*

        I keep my hair cut short also. I can’t seem to style it well when it is long so I end up actually looking less professional. Blanket rules about what length of hair is the most professional really don’t work because they are too context dependent. Industry, geographic location and individual appearance affect how a short haircut is going to come across.

      2. writelhd*

        I work also in a highly male dominated and generally conservative industry, yet one of the most well respected local and even state-level voices in my industry is a woman. She’s chosen the path of having the longest hair I’ve ever seen on a curly headed person outside of Lords of the Rings movies. It comes down past her waist. Having insanely curly hair myself, I see the attraction in that choice because if you hair’s significantly curly, short does not equal less maintenance, and carries it’s own problems. She’s a total badass and everyone goes to her for industry advice and she states her opinion without a care; the hair is just a side thing, but it’s another thing that makes her person wholly unique and maybe harder to put into a steriotypical box because of it.

        1. CanuckDoughnut*

          that’s amazing.
          Also @Newby, it’s mainly just because I like short hair. The rest is all gravy. People should do what they like!

        2. Erin*

          That’s the kind of hair I have. It’s seriously less maintenance to have waist length hair that short. I wash my hair 2-3 times a week and air dry it. I braid my hair if I have a bad hair day. When I was in college I had hair to my chin it took 45 minutes to do it so I didn’t look like a clown.

      3. IANAL (I Argue Nightly About Llamas)*

        Same. I also read young (I’m 28 but pass for 24ish), and short hair makes me look older in a good way.

        Granted, before I cut off all my hair, it was blue and purple, so…

    6. AnotherAlison*

      I spent most of my 20s with a super-short pixie, but I grew it to shoulder length 3-4 times and then would cut it back short as soon as it was “long”. I grew my hair out in my 30s, but I did cut it super short one last time before abandoning the style. It had been long for a couple years, and I felt like I wasn’t me, so I cut it and then I felt like I REALLY wasn’t me.

      So, the only warning I would give the OP is that the haircut might not feel as natural as it did for you in college. I realize as a straight woman, short hair was not as much a part of my identity as it may be for you, but as a woman in a male-dominated job and a young mom, my hair was part of my whole I -will-do-whatever-I-want-in-my-life persona. The last time I cut it, even though I had been a mom for 10+ years, I felt more like a boring soccer mom instead of “me.” I didn’t feel very confident about myself, and I would not want to be interviewing that way.

    7. Lady Blerd*

      LW5, I would never tell you to hide your true self just to get a job but if you feel that keeping your hair longer will help, I say do it. Job hunting is stressful on it’s own, you don’t want the added pressure of thinking that your hair is keeping you from a job.

      Currently my hair is a lot shorter them most of my male colleagues and could read butch if one is so inclined but I’m not gay, I just don’t care for the upkeep of longer hair. I used to have a short afro (think Lupita Nyong’O or Viola Davis sans wig). Heck my hair is shorter then most of my male colleagues who are not bald!

    8. Kore*

      Ugh, this stinks. I have a pixie cut (which I pair with feminine makeup / outfits), and it really sucks that people could judge me for something so petty.

      1. Nadia*

        I myself cover my hair for religious reasons and go to interviews like that too. From my point of view, I’d rather they reject me upfront than have to suffer working with racists. So far, I’ve been totally happy at the jobs I have had and my head covering has never been an issue.

  2. Bruce H.*

    #3 I would just add that if you have an official start time, you need to come in early enough to finish decompressing and be ready to answer questions at your start time.

    1. Feathers McGraw*

      Hmm. I think we can assume the LW is starting work on time. I also think this is really field specific and also depends on norms in individual teams. In my team it would be considered rude to expect someone to immediately start answering questions when they haven’t even had five minutes to check their email. Nobody is ‘on’ all the time.

      1. Gaia*

        It is very context specific. For instance, I am currently dealing with a direct report who is supposed to start work at 8, routinely arrives about 7:59 and then expects to have 10 minutes to “decompress” and get his coffee before starting work. This is really not acceptable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he is hourly and is clocked in right at 8 and therefore I need him working at 8, not 8:10 or 8:15. If I come to him at 8, I need him to be available because he is supposed to be working and the nature of his work means even a few minutes of delays are unacceptable.

        For context, he is also never expected to work even a minute past the end of his shift. 5pm comes and whatever was being done can be immediately dropped and he is done for the day.

        1. Feathers McGraw*

          My point being that we don’t know what’s the case in the LW’s workplace.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          If you are scheduled to start work at 8, then you need to be ready to start work at 8. This obviously differs if you’re exempt, but I always arrive early so I can get my tea and settle in before I start working (and read AAM while I eat my breakfast at my desk).

          1. Gaia*

            Exactly. It is a different world when you are an hourly shift worker. I give my workers as much flexibility as I can but given the nature of our work starting late so you can “decompress” simply isn’t an option.

            1. Kyrielle*

              On the other hand, if they’re walking to their desk with things and not clocked in, not letting them get there and get settled and clock in might also be an issue. Depends on the environment and the scheduling.

              1. Newby*

                I have had to catch people in that position before. Some people I worked with were impossible to track down and did not respond to e-mails regularly, so you caught them whenever you could to say you needed to talk to them. I wouldn’t try to solve the problem right then. Instead I would tell them that I needed to meet about X and asked what time would be best. It was not a great solution, but it was the only way I could actually talk to them.

                1. Kyrielle*

                  And I think that’s totally reasonable. What drove me nuts at $OldJob was being “ambushed” en route to my desk, still carrying my backpack, possibly my laptop in its case if I’d had it home with me, my mugs, everything, and having the person expect me to trail them to their desk and spend 10-20 minutes going over something. If it had just been a quick “once you’ve set stuff down, I need to talk about X”, that wouldn’t trouble me.

                  (And, okay, it didn’t always trouble me when this happened – sometimes it really *was* an emergency. But not usually.)

                1. Kyrielle*

                  But if they come in at 7:50 to get “time to settle” and someone grabs them then for 5-10 minutes of work, is that okay? That is what I was trying to get at – even *if* the employee in question has a rigid schedule, there’s no reason to assume that they aren’t going to be on-the-job at the expected time.

                2. Gaia*

                  No, and that wouldn’t occur and isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about people scheduled to start at 8 who don’t actually start working until 10 – 15 minutes after that.

            2. Zillah*

              While that’s certainly the case for some jobs, I think it’s not really reasonable to make the broad statement that “it’s a different world when you’re an hourly shift worker.” I’ve never been exempt, and I’ve also never had a job that begrudged people the chance to decompress before starting the day or expected them to get in 10-15 minutes early if they needed a few minutes to gather their thoughts. We occasionally had early morning meetings, but that was very much the exception rather than the rule. I think it’s highly dependent on the workplace and the nature of the work.

            3. tigerlily*

              I think it depends on what people mean by “decompress.” I get that the specific scenario YOU have is an employee that’s not ready for work, but for many people that’s not the case. For me, when I say I need a few minutes to decompress when I get into work in the morning I mean I need a few minutes to start my computer, to read my emails, to make my to-do list, to check the board to see what subs are in the classrooms today. Getting set up for the workday is PART of work.

      2. Ashie*

        This was a huge pet peeve for me when I had direct reports. I had no set start time but I can’t solve everyone’s problems while I’m still holding my purse and coat. I used to sneak in the back just so I wouldn’t get mobbed as soon as I opened the door but one guy figured that out and would plant himself in my office until I arrived.

        1. Future Analyst*

          Yes, this was my thought as well. Regardless of the individual’s start time, I can’t imagine of what use they can be when they have their hands full (literally) and/or haven’t yet seen the email that’s being asked about, etc. And it’s rare that there are actual, true emergency-type question that just cannot wait the 10 mins.

          1. Joan Callamezzo*

            Yeah, I would have to put a stop to that right quick. That is insanely irritating.

          2. Ashie*

            It was annoying but I gave him a pass because he was a very sweet old man who I genuinely liked. Anyone else, I would have shooshed out.

    2. cncx*

      even when i had an official start time and came in early to decompress, people found out what time i came in and would chase me even then. in my case, it was more about boundaries than being on the clock.

      1. winter*

        Yeah, that’s exactly what I would expect in OPs case. You can be hassled 10 minutes earlier too because it’s during arrival.

      2. Xarcady*

        This. At one job, I’d come in an hour or 45 minutes early to get some work done before the official starting time. But there was one team that started work an hour before my team did, so they were there and ready to work–and because I was the only person in at that time, I got all their questions. And none of my own work got done, until I put my foot down and declared I would only help them in a real emergency. It took shutting my office door in their faces a time or two before they realized I was serious.

        And it helped that my boss had my back on this, too.

      3. copy run start*

        Yup, this was why I didn’t show until 7:58 in a previous job. Couldn’t tell customers I wasn’t working yet, and leaving early to make up that difference was strictly forbidden.

    3. snuck*

      I never had an official start time… I worked in a role that meant I could rock up whenever.. This meant that a) I’d get hit up for details, and b) hit others up… at whatever time I felt like it. We all worked varied hours, not wildly varied… just flexible.

      If a person was still carrying their handbag I might say “Hi, I’ve got a question for you later” but generally you let people unpack first. If they are the kind of person who unpacks, walks straight back out the door for a coffee down the street? Then I might hit them up there and then… if the day gets busy the moment can get lost for some things/people.

      1. Bonky*

        I don’t have an official start time either – but I do have a need to get into job-head-space after my commute. So I drop my bags at my desk, ask colleagues if anyone wants to come to the kitchen for a coffee (someone always does), go with them to grab a coffee and have a quick chat, then come back, set up and get started. If you lead the conversation and coffee-making activity, it’s easy to keep the topic to non-work stuff, it’s good for keeping up with what’s in your colleagues’ lives, and it’s a very pleasant start to the working day.

    4. Mrs. Fenris*

      I have an official start time and I am ready to work at that time. That’s completely fine. What makes me nuts is people, often multiple people, asking me questions as soon as I open the door. Sometimes it’s like one of those scenes in movies where someone gets mobbed by the press. I feel like a flashbulb is going to pop in my face.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        I also used to have a spacey but well-meaning coworker who would call me when I was on the way to work about various projects he was about to hand over to me. I was going to be standing in the room with him in 10 minutes, but he had to tell me all about them right then.

          1. Mrs. Fenris*

            I did. He was so earnest about it though…it was more of a “um, hey, is it ok if I dump this thing on you that I can’t avoid dumping on you?” We were peers but I am almost old enough to be his mother, and he tended to act a bit subordinate to me.

      2. snuck*

        Is there a way you can mitigate this? That sounds annoying!

        I’m thinking (with no idea what you’ve tried!) ….
        – if your role involves time sensitive stuff that others rely on – sending out updates and working towards a regular routing of that so people know what to expect and that you’ll deliver it…
        – if your role is a support one where people bring you many smaller tasks that you might be able to set up a way for people to send you these tasks (electronically or in paper form) and then action them in a timely manner (“Thanks for the leave requests, I enter them all after lunch so I’ll just pop them here, next time feel free to just drop the forms in my tray and I’ll clear it for you” *smile* *SMILE*)
        – if your role involves working with a people who for whatever reason now have this dynamic with you a firm clear “Thanks! I’ve got a couple of other things I have to deliver first thing each morning, can I set up a time with you later today to go through this detail?” or “I’m swamped on Tuesdays prepping payroll, can you please give me these requests on Wednesday or Thursday and I’ll make sure they are complete by Friday” etc.

        If they are still swamping you after that… why? Is it possible that there is deadlines or information sharing opportunities that are being missed? Is the whole workplace culture one of constant in your face contact (and can you live with that!!!)? Is this just an issue with a couple of key specific people – and if so … why?

    5. regina phalange*

      Most of the people on my floor are hourly, including me. My hours are 7a-4p, so I don’t get mobbed as much as I might if I started at 8:30. But literally EVERYONE will come in and get coffee, etc, first, before they actually start working, with the exception of maybe one or two people. But if we start ten minutes late, it is usually not an issue. If I come in to a “fire” though, coffee will have to wait.

    6. LetterWriter#3*

      This is letter writer #3. I don’t have an official start and stop time, my schedule is highly flexible. Theirs is as well. I wish they would email me instead, some of the questions from coworkers will be something like, “remember that excel spreadsheet you made for me 4 months ago? I can’t find it, can you send it to me again?” So, something that is obviously #7456 on my priority list and something I can’t help you with while my coffee and gym bag are in my hands. My boss never does this to me, thankfully. He knows I’m not a morning person. :)

      1. Natalie*

        Hey LW, unfortunately I think you’re going to have to get comfortable saying “no” in the moment. It’s really the only way, in my experience, to actually get people to stop, or failing that keep you from slowly building up your resentment. It might feel uncomfortable at first, especially if your more of a people pleaser, but I promise it will get easier with time.

      2. Isben Takes Tea*

        Maybe you could try a response like “Can you send me an email? I have a lot on my plate and it might fall through the cracks otherwise.”

        And then if it keeps happening, keep shortening the response:
        “Can you please send me an email?”
        “Best email me.”

          1. LetterWriter#3*

            Haha! Yes, I am a people pleaser and I do want to help them with their issue, but just want a bit of quiet time first to reflect on my priorities for the day. (And check my email to see if my boss sent a more urgent request!) What I’d really like to say to them is, “Mommy will help you find your toy and give you some juice, but first she needs to put down the groceries.”

            1. Clever Name*

              I feel exactly the same way you do about being accosted first thing like this! My officemate will sometimes say, “Clever naaaaame!” when I come in, and I know it’s because he’s about to pepper me with questions right away. It definitely feels like a “mom’s home!” moment.

            2. Marty*

              Alternately, there is a reason that people invented paper. If it’s important, not pin someone’s keyboard is a sure way to get their attention first thing in the morning without having to ambush them.

            3. snuck*

              I generally reflect in the shower before I get to work :P

              I can’t control what others do… I can carve that time out for me… and this is what worked for me :/

      3. Tuckerman*

        Admittedly, I have to consciously remind myself not to bombard a couple colleagues during the first half hour of their shift. My start time is significantly earlier, so by the time they arrive, I might have been holding on to a question for an hour or two. Since you have a flexible schedule, your co-workers haven’t established a routine for leaving you alone from 8am-8:15am, for example. They probably see you and think, “Oh! LW 3 is here now. Time to get in a question!”

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I am glad you chimed in here, OP.

        This is a boundaries question to me. They need to be told when you are available. This could be as simple as you open your office door when you are ready to start working.
        Or perhaps you have your coffee in the break room or your car which could also signal that you are not available yet.

        I think that part of the problem is your flexible hours. They don’t know when you will be in so by the time you get there they have hit “desperation mode”. Likewise a person who knows they are a low priority for you might try to compensate by jumping at you right when you come in, thinking that she’ll catch you before everyone else does.

        I do know that this is a rhythm or flow to almost any work place. If you know that you are going to get mobbed in the morning, are there steps you can take the night before so that people have what they need and are less apt to mob you?

        Are some days worse than others? Mondays are awful for me, I have a stack of mail, emails and calls. Then I have notes all over the place from my boss. I go in earlier on Mondays knowing that people are anxious to talk to me. Tuesdays tend to be very, very different, I know I can go in at my usual time on Tuesdays.

        Perhaps your solution is just simply saying, “Not ready to start work yet, please come back in 15 minutes. Then I will give you my undivided attention.”
        On the second “offensse”, say something like, “Remember? I need 15 minutes when I walk in to get set up for my day. Come back in 15.”

      5. Retired Hall Stalker*

        Have you considered that your coworkers bombard you when you come in because they find you otherwise difficult to get hold of? I’ve had two supervisors like this, who would say, “Send me an email” or “Let’s talk in 15 minutes,” and then not follow through. In fact, I would write a list and wait until my last boss was arriving or leaving because it was the only time I could reliably get questions answered. If these are otherwise considerate coworkers, you might find a longer lasting solution by figuring out why they are feeling the need to be inconsiderate in this situation. You can set firm boundaries, but if your coworkers think you’re bad at follow up, they’ll continue to stalk you on your way in. The other question is, why are people asking you about things they could find out themselves? Maybe you can start punting back some of those questions, or offering to train someone on how to help themselves. Q: where is spreadsheet a? A: I emailed it you two months ago, if that helps you find it. If I have some free time this afternoon, I can share some tips I learned to filter old email, if you’d like.

  3. MK*

    OP#1, the only caveat I would add is to be sure your ideas qualify at work before you ask for compensation for them. Ideas aren’t work, and if we are talking about something vague, like being more active on social media, it’s probably not something you can expect to be paid for.

    1. Marni*

      It sounded to me like it was some kind of creative ideas—and what they ARE is intellectual property. As a creative professional, I’m not paid for doing “work,” I’m paid for the intellectual property I create. I might take 3 hours to create something that I’m paid thousands of dollars for. They aren’t paying for 3 hours of my time, but my expertise (developed through education, training, etc.)

      1. snuck*

        It might also depend on how the idea was generated and how unique it was.

        If it’s a couple of mates sitting around chatting about how Big Company has done Y and Little Company could do Z better… Sure that’s creative idea generation… but there’s a LOT more to ideas than the original concept… If it’s a new product line, or a change in suppliers etc there’s a lot of work involved in delivering that.

        If the conversation is casual then why not just ‘gift’ to your friends the ideas… Unless it was something mindblowingly business changing that’s how I’d lean, particularly if I wanted to maintain the friendship. I might be circumspect in future about idea generation… but I’d keep a low profile if I wanted to maintain a positive relationship.

        1. Megan*

          The positive relationship is already damaged at the hands of the friends who were not upfront and honest about what was happening.

      2. MK*

        How long it took is irrelevant. What is relevant is whether what the OP did qualifies as something people get paid for or not; creative professionals might not get paid for their time exactly or the physical product of their labour, but neither are they paid for their ideas alone.

        For example, if the OP suggested that the company organise a contest to promote their products/services, and then went on to suggest what it would entail, what the terms should be, how it would be advertised, what might be suitable prizes and how to use the marketing opportunities, and then the company announced a contest following her input, yes, the fact that it was their idea should be compensated. But if all she did was say “You know what would be a good way to get your company some attention? A contest”, and then the company announced a contest that they developed independently, it’s a different matter. Sure, it’s still her idea and a decent company would give them credit for it, but what payment would you expect for a suggestion? Or even a series of suggestions?

        1. Not A Morning Person*

          This. And it’s not just in the creative fields. The repairperson often gets paid based on the time it takes, but the fee is also based on that repairperson’s knowledge and skill at performing the repair. I’ve heard it expressed as, “That $100.00 fee is not for the ten minutes I spent fixing that item, it’s for knowing how to fix it in only ten minutes.”

          1. Not So NewReader*

            This, this.
            Two years ago, I wanted to start doing home repairs. But I needed an overall plan for what order to do the extremely LONG list of repairs. It was important to me not to crossover completed work. Let’s not repair and paint a wall THEN decide to fix the plumbing that is IN the wall. I wanted to avoid this type of waste.

            My friend took in all that was wrong and developed a plan to handle it. We dropped the big tree BEFORE we checked the foundation for cracks, and so on. I paid him for his time to develop this plan because he was using his professional experience and knowledge to sort through the problems and establish a comprehensive plan to handle the problems. Physically, all he did was walk around my property… and around and around… That is still worth money, though.

      3. Mrs. Fenris*

        People ask me for free advice all the time without thinking twice about it. It’s an incredibly common conversational segue: “Oh, you repair teapots? Can I ask you a question about my teapot? I don’t want to pay to have it repaired, what can I do for it at home? Can’t you come to my house and fix it for free? Why not? Don’t you care about teapots?” The older I get, the more skilled I get at shutting this down quickly. I a) can’t diagnose their teapot without my equipment, with my staff, in my workplace and b) need to preserve my own mental health. My field has some well-publicized stress issues.

        ANYWAY, sorry. These people were not just picking the OP’s brain. That was really nervy of them and I’d be upset.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          In a way, I’m really grateful that there are legal restrictions on what I can say ‘for free’ in my industry… it makes a great conversation-stopper when people start digging for my stock picks or whatnot.

  4. phil*

    LW3: I used to have a put out the fires kind of job with a major entertainment provider, one that’s in your home every night. I was once called at 9am to put out a very important and time sensitive fire, fortunately located 10 minutes from my home. As I walked in Big Boss Producer roared up demanding answers Right Now! I said, ” Give me 5 minutes and I’ll tell you everything you want to know.”
    And I did.
    Allison’s advice is spot on.

  5. PollyQ*

    For OP#5, I present an imaginary dialogue:

    You: Hey boss, I’d like to take May 10-15 as vacation.

    Your weirdly intrusive boss: What for?

    You: Nonya

    WIB: Nonya?

    You: Nonya Bizness!

    1. Garland not Andews*

      I keep thinking that this is where you turn into the sullen teenager you used to be.
      Parent/Supervisor: Where will you be going?
      You: Out!

      Sorry, not helpful, but hope it gives you a chuckle.

      1. Anna*

        But it really is deserving of that kind of response. And I am fortunate in that I don’t have to have that sort of conversation with my boss.

    2. CrazyEngineerGirl*

      Our time off request form has a section asking for the ‘Reason for Time Off’ and I despise it on principle. It’s right under a section where you check a box for the type of time off you’re requesting (vacation, sick leave, unpaid, etc.) My little rebellion is to write the same thing as the box I checked off really largely in the white space.

      Reason for Time Off: VACATION

      No one has ever said anything about it…

      1. Life is Good*

        Old dysfunctional employer had a certain number of hours accrue for different types of PTO. Like 6.25 hours/mo vacation; 2.25 hours/mo sick; 1.25 hours/mo personal leave, and we had to detail which type we were using and why. Once, I had extensive gum surgery and had to return to the surgeon every few days for awhile. Well, I used up the “personal leave” category and then some. At the end of the year, the bookkeeper/HR lady said she would just take some of the “sick leave” hours and credit them to the excess “personal leave” hours. If they were interchangeable, why was this even necessary? I think it may be a matter of control by the OP’s manager. Our HR lady was certainly controlling.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I worked for a municipality where this was normal. Every. single. hour had to be accounted for.
          The state comptrollers office would audit us, any errors were not acceptable. Our tax dollars hard at work.
          Anyway, yeah, I get what you are saying, but the reason it is happening is because there is some micromanager in the chain. Yes, office staff can end up looking foolish but they have no choice in keeping exact records.

  6. BeenThere*

    For OP#5, if you can afford the price of maintaining the haircut while job hunting then go for it!

    I was once unemployed and job hunting, therefore had zero haircuts in a year and was sporting my default bun. The second I had the promise of one paycheck I lopped it all off with a pixie cit as a reward for getting the job and being able to afford to get my haircut every four weeks (my hair grows like weeds). Fortunately my new manager was a woman and very liberal by American standards, I would have stayed in that job if there were more intellectual challenges. As I straight woman with a short haircut and androgynous style people often make assumptions about my sexuality and gender which serves as an excellent filter for who has biases in the office and who doesn’t.

    TLDR; Cutting your hair before you interview I might save you working for someone who has bad biases which limit your success. It’s not fair but you deserve to work for someone who doesn’t care what you do once you go home.

  7. Feathers McGraw*

    #1 I’m so sorry this has happened. It almost sounds like this could have been a bizarrely underhand way of getting you to give them advice. In some fields it’s routine for the hiring process to generate ideas (e.g. send in five examples of features you’d write as Teapots Editor, or whatever) which can seem more or less okay depending on what they ask – often too much is asked these days.

    But these are friends and it feels personal. Some people can be tone deaf to work and business norms, or have a poor attitude to work in some way, but still make good friends – just friends you wouldn’t want to work with or for. Others don’t make good friends, because the things they’re inconsiderate about in their work lives also affect what types of friends the are. (There might be friends who are also great to work for, but it can get messy. Especially if they own a small business, meaning there isn’t any other, more objective management available.)

    It might be an idea to consider which of these your friends are. Are they otherwise warm and caring friends who you need to avoid working for? Or does this speak to other aspects of your friendship?

    1. Purple Dragon*

      I’d be thinking twice about working for them too. They may be wonderful friends, but they’ve shown you how they’re going to be running their business. I’d consider it a bullet dodged. I’d also keep an eye out on the friendship side too – do they take advantage of their friends in other ways as well ?

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Honestly, I’d think twice and then a third time about working for friends, period. If something goes wrong, then you’ve lost a job and lost the friendship. Unfortunately, it seems that may already have happened.

    2. Kathleen Adams*

      I don’t see how the “friends” (note my deliberate misuse of quote marks there :-) ) can come out of this looking good, and I don’t see how the friendship can be saved.

      The most charitable interpretation I can come up with is that they’ve had second thoughts about hiring the OP for some reason – maybe their business partner has somebody else in mind or didn’t care for her, maybe they’ve changed their minds about the requirements of the job, or whatever. But even so, they’ve strung her along now for weeks and weeks, and there’s just no excuse for that. And apparently she’s good enough to get free advice from but not to, you know, give a paycheck to.

      These are not indicators of good bosses, much less good friends. If it were me, I’d tell them, calmly but emphatically, that I felt used and explain why, and see if they offer a decent explanation – which they won’t because there isn’t one. But after that, I’d walk away. I understand why other people would try to get compensated for the time spent, but I doubt if I’d bother. I’d prefer to get clean away.

      1. Newby*

        I can’t think of any way that the friends look good after this. Best case scenario is that they fully intended to hire the LW but the business partner objected and they are trying to convince him. But if that happened, they should inform the LW promptly about the problem and definitely say something before the job is posted. The lack of honest communication is very troubling. I would find it very hard to salvage the friendship if someone treated me that way.

      2. Chickaletta*

        Ditto. This isn’t something a friend does. I’ve worked for and had partnerships with friends, and in no case did they a) keep anything from m (if anything, they overshared) and b) not compensate me. If I gave them advice or work for free, it was always agreed upon beforehand and they showed utmost gratitude during and after the project. And if a proposal didn’t pan out, they always kept me in the loop about that also.

        I think Alison’s advice is good – reach out to them to get some clarity. However, be cautious going forward with the friendship, what they did puts them solidly in acquaintance/networking contact territory in my opinion, but how YOU feel about them is what’s going to drive the relationship going forward.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, this struck me as just flat-out dishonest. They used her to get free copy whether they intended to hire her or not; even if that wasn’t their decision to use it, they weren’t open about it. Maybe they thought they could separate the friendship from the work, but if they handled the work part poorly, that doesn’t speak well for maintaining a friendship outside it.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I think these friends thought of the OP’s ideas the same as asking them to recommend a plumber, help them move, or give an opinion on whether they should paint the house green — rather than asking a business consultant for their expert opinion, for which they will be paid. Whether or not the job offer eventually materializes, they will probably continue on in that vein unless OP speaks up. OP will be expected to sacrifice time, knowledge, and skills and whatever else they ask because friends help each other — rather than OP is an employee and will work set hours with clearly defined job functions and goals, in exchange for a market-rate wage and benefits that are not dependent on how successful the business is. That’s another drawback of working with friends — sometimes they think that if they aren’t making a profit, they don’t owe you any either.

      OP, I wouldn’t ask for money for the past at this point (lesson learned), but have a good talk with them about going forward. You will no longer be able to offer any free business services, because this is how you earn a living. In [subject matter] you are a vendor, not a friend. If the friends are really friends, they should back off without throwing a fit.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        Well, but…I don’t see how that quite makes sense because although asking for advice could have been a friend-helping-friend thing, they offered her a job. Why would they do that if they were thinking of it as just a favor?

        1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          I’ve seen this exact thing with many a friends-who-become-employees-but-really-are-just-friends in several types of industries. As a graphic designer, I’ve had friends try to pull this — they’ll hire me to do X, but then it turns out they don’t get paid by someone else, so they don’t think they owe me because then they’ll be out the money and as a friend can’t I just do them this favor? My brother worked for many years in construction and he got that job/favor flip flop with friends all the time too.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I can see doing it if you are bartering for something tangible–I just did a spec edit of marketing copy for my koffsisterkoff in exchange for a portfolio item and a reference (we have different last names so nobody would know). It was easy, and it helped her out. Hell, I might have done it for nothing, but she offered the reference. She used to email me sentences to edit all the time when we were bored at work –“help me; does this sound okay?” type stuff. But you bet your butt if she wanted me to do a whole project, she would either need to find money in her budget or do it herself.

            1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

              Through experience I’ve learned that no matter how big or small the job, not only do I expect to be compensated for my time and skill, but the scope of the job is very clearly communicated between both parties — what’s included/excluded, deadlines, cost, copyrights, penalties if commitments aren’t met, changes from the original scope will incur additional costs, etc. If a friend can’t understand that, then they aren’t really my friend.

              That’s awfully nice of you to edit copy in exchange for a future reference. For some people that might be a good bargain if they really need a reference or to build up a portfolio, however in my experience it’s not a good business practice. A 5 minute favor suddenly becomes a perpetual job little favor by little favor. What happens if you discover your friend had you edit a whole project by sending you 2-3 sentences at a time over a few months? Would you try to retroactively charge? Or it was spec work when you did it, but now she’s selling copies and making money. Do you think you get to charge her then? She might agree, or she might say that you never had that agreement. You think your work was worth $1,000 but she says she’ll only buy you dinner? What happens if the friendship fades before you get to cash in that reference? Once you’ve done the work for free, you’ve lost all leverage to bargain.

          2. Chickaletta*

            As a graphic designer, I’ve heard that line a lot too. “This will be real easy for your, I bet you can do it fast” or, “my other friends are helping me and they’re not getting paid either”, and “it’s going to be the next best picture/facebook/billion dollar idea” are all versions of this.

            PS: If you’re feeding this line of BS to your friends to get them to work for free, please don’t. We’ve heard it all before and it automatically knocks your credibility down a few ladders.

          3. 90% Snark by Weight*

            When I’ve been told “My client didn’t pay me” my answer has always been something like “It sucks when a client doesn’t pay. But they’re not my client, you are.”

            And if they still don’t pay, they don’t get any future work without cash up front.

  8. Feathers McGraw*

    #2 Some employers have specific policies about this, e.g. if my husband joined my work we would need to give them a heads up and not work in the same team.

    The ideal point to disclose the connection would be when spouse recommended you. But hey, you live and learn.

    1. Feathers McGraw*

      I meant spouse would ideally have revealed it at that point. But hey, hindsight – its happened now so just focus on doing well in your job. Sorry to hear it’s toxic in other ways though.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Agreed. I’ve connected with people via my spouse before (lawyers love to marry lawyers) and always disclose the connection up front. The fact that your initial connection was professional is irrelevant – you’re married now, and we can’t automatically assume your spouse’s evaluation of your past relationship isn’t colored by that.

      1. OP#2 Spouse-Referral*

        Fair enough! I would have disclosed much sooner, for the record, but felt like I was sort of caught wrong-footed since he hadn’t disclosed in the first place when he first suggested they contact me. I wound up disclosing because I wanted to be able to give him freelance work; moonlighting is common in our field.

  9. Engineer Woman*

    OP #4: I agree with Alison’s approach – ask why your boss needs/wants to know what people are doing with their PTO. It shouldn’t matter as that time is for employees to do as they wish.
    Even though I usually don’t mind and might tell people why I’m off (ahhh – first real vacation in 2 years to Tahiti! Okay, I’m dreaming here) but the fact is – it’s nobody’s business what people do with PTO.
    I don’t think you’re overreacting.

    1. Kheldarson*

      I think it would depend on the field a bit. I know in my retail time they would ask for a general category for time off requests (family gathering, vacation, etc) because you can’t have too many people off at once. And if your requests come in at the same day, they’d weigh the family outing as being potentially higher than a day with friends.

      And if you were trying to get time off during black out days (anytime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, basically), you’d better be going to see your dying relative or something or it’d be denied.

      1. Feathers McGraw*

        But that sucks because they’re making assumptions about what’s important and people who, say, don’t have family are going to get repeatedly screwed.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Yeah, aside from asking “Are your plans flexible? Carla’s asked for that weekend off also,” you shouldn’t use what people are doing to decide who gets vacation.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            That is a great question. I have sometimes had to ask, “do you have specific plans for the time you requested or would it make a difference to you to take a different week?”. If someone has a family reunion with 50 people, they can’t reschedule. But it’s not unusual for someone to tell me that they don’t have specific plans and the following week works just as well. I’m not trying to ask for specifics, but those general questions have helped us make everybody happy more than once.

        2. babblemouth*

          But sometimes it SHOULD matter – think back to last year’s story about the employee who wanted time off to attend her graduation, while someone else wanted time off for something objectively less important. The general consensus was that the manager should absolutely have taken the reason for time off into account. (I realize there were a bunch of other problems with the manager in the story)

          So maybe instead of making a general rule of “family comes over friends, which come over time to just chill”, managers should be able to ask things like “is this a fixed event” and definitely be open to priorities in terms of importance of the event to someone. But that should only on a case-by-case basis when there is real conflict between requests, not just a blanket revealing of your reason for time off.

          1. Lablizard*

            It could be a tough call, though. How do you weigh, “visiting friends in $other country” against “Family visiting from $other country”? (these are my next 2 PL requests)

            To me, lead time (leave submitted 3 weeks ago vs 3 days ago), difficulty changing plans (e.g. one off event, appointment that is hard to schedule), and urgency are all more important than the actual activity when making leave decisions.

            1. Lablizard*

              And by decisions, I mean if I got a request from everyone on the team for the same day and I can’t cover necessary activities.

            2. I'm a tailors apprentice*

              I think lead time should be the determining factor. Who got their request in first? Of course, I also don’t agree with the people who immediately put in for all of the “good vacation time” as soon as the calendar becomes available.

              My company seems to balance this well. The holiday and summer calendars aren’t available until specific dates and several weeks before they become available the managers send out request sheets so they know what the fall out will be for time off requests and they’re able to balance work out so that everyone gets the request approved.

            3. Princess Carolyn*

              It definitely could be a tough call, but good managers should be empowered to make decisions. I agree that urgency and difficulty changing plans would be major factors, and maybe lead time could be kind of a tie breaker if both employees’ situations seem equally important (assuming it’s truly impossible to let them both take that day off). A manager whose trusted to use her judgment will also be able to evaluate individually how important something might be to the people involved – because we know that, for example, graduation is a BFD to some people and just a formality for others.

          2. Temperance*

            I think this is absolutely fair. I will always hold a grudge against the boss I had in high school, who refused to give me time off to march in a parade, but he gave one of his bros the day off to watch the damn parade.

        3. Alton*

          This could even lead to assumptions that the employee might not want. I’m not close to my extended family and basically see them as acquaintances, and I’d be mortified if what I saw as a casual meeting or annoying obligation was assumed to be more important than someone’s day with friends that they were really looking forward to.

        4. Lora*

          And people will just lie. Jeez.

          Things your manager actually needs to know about PTO:
          -Are you sick or have a doctor’s appointment or something that might conceivably be categorized as sick time instead of coming out of your vacation time, or is it a short term disability or FMLA type of deal?

          -If there’s a thing that only you know about, did you write it down for your colleagues so we don’t have to call you on your time off?

          -Will you have your phone on for absolute emergencies such as if there is a crater in the ground where a building used to be? And it’s fine to say No I will not be available at all.

          Otherwise vacation is pretty much first come first served. Don’t buy nonrefundable tickets before you get your vacation request approval.

          (Have spent the whole week snapping, “no we are unavailable to help, we are shorthanded.”)

      2. MillersSpring*

        OMG, people’s vacation requests are literally judged on the merits of their stated plans? Good gravy.

        I understand about limiting time off during busy periods, but actually deciding whether your staff’s plans are worthwhile takes the cake.

      3. neverjaunty*

        That’s not field-specific; that’s just bad management. Particularly since it punishes honesty. Nobody with any sense is going to say “Yeah, I’m going to hang with friends” – they’ll just invent an important family event.

        1. DoDah*

          You bet. We have to categorize the reason-for-request. I put a family thing every time. 98% of the time this is not true.

          ***I still have PTSD from the employer who said, “You are single with no kids, what do YOU need time off for?”***

          1. Adam V*

            “Oh, right, because you never did anything by yourself before you met your spouse.”

          2. Temperance*

            I hate that so much. It really burned me when my a-hole ex-boss took off Christmas through New Year’s every single year because of her “seniority” and her “need to spend time with her children”. Her kids were adults, BTW.

            1. Amy*

              I had a boss who would take the week of spring break , thanksgiving week and the week between Christmas and New Years for herself before publishing the calendar for everyone else. Her justification was that we could have 4 to 5 people off for any given day and still be ok so it’s not like no one else could take those days.

            2. Anxa*

              See, what gets me there is that she of all people should understand that adults have family outside of their own children (since her adult children were spending time with here).

              I’m 30 and while I wouldn’t expect travel time to see my family, if it’s not an inconvenience, it would be a huge huge deal to spend a few days every Christmas season and a few days every summer with my family (where I’m the child, not the parent).

          3. Kelly L.*

            Do they think people are robots who were constructed in a lab as young adults? Families of origin exist!

            1. Jessica*

              “I hate you! I hate you! I wish I was never artificially created in a lab!” *storms off*

        2. TheBeetsMotel*


          Had a manager once in an 8-5, mon-Fri work situation (ie days off during a week were always weekends) who wanted people to tell him if they were going out of town on any given weekend so “we’ll know not to ask you to come in if weekend work comes up”. Bear in mind, weekend work almost never happened and an abundance of it was never something people had reason to think would be an issue when getting hired.

          That being the case, the only reason I could find to warrant such an intrusion into our private lives was so that, should it be necessary, he could “judge” our time-off activities and decide who he felt was doing nothing important and could therefore be called. Noooooooope. My weekends are just that; mine. What I do with them is not something I’m going to bring to a manager for inspection so they can decide whether it’s worthwhile or not. And “going out of town” is not the only legitimate thing i could possibly be doing with my personal life.

          The implied concept was “if you’re still physically in the local geographical area over a weekend, you’re free game for us to pressure to come in and do things we can’t plan effectively enough to get done during the work week.” All of my nope.

          1. Not A Morning Person*

            In a previous role, I pushed back on this kind of thing as a safety issue. I don’t need everyone to know my home is vacant on a particular weekend. That actually worked b/c former manager was reasonable and listened to reasons for objections.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        And if your requests come in at the same day, they’d weigh the family outing as being potentially higher than a day with friends.

        Oh god, that’s awful. That’s really, really awful.

        I agree with those who would ask about *flexibility* in case of conflicts. But no, management should never get to decide who deserves it more, based on what they planned to do with their time off. It should not be a value judgment.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, if I’m trying to get the day to go help my aunt move – which is to say, mostly hang out and chat with her – the aunt I can drive up and see any weekend I want, and could theoretically even manage an hour’s visit on a weekday except it wouldn’t be worth the driving – that’s less important than if I’m hanging out with my friend Jane, whom I haven’t seen except only in…nearly a decade?

          If Jane was in town for a day or two, I’d be livid if my time-off request was denied so someone could hang out with their sister who lives in town and watch a movie, because one is family and the other isn’t.

          (If it was denied because people with other inflexible plans had already asked off, fine. If I and sister-watching-movie person put in at the same time and it’s a random drawing I lose, fine. But if it’s done because my reason is judged as less important because she’s not literal family? Oh, grrrrrr.)

      5. paul*

        Even as a family focused person that sounds crappy though. People without kids shouldn’t be relegated to second rate citizens.

        1. The Southern Gothic*

          Oh but we are.

          Don’t get me started on the reasons why this continues to still be a thing in this day and age.

          1. Jean who seeks to be Ingenious*

            Sorry to hear this–and sorry to the universe for the times when I took leave because of Parent Stuff. (In self-defense, I was overwhelmed not trying to be selfish. Life with our ADHD toddler/preschooler put us parents into Crisis Survival mode 24/7.)

            1. paul*

              I don’t think we owe anyone apologies for taking leave for our kids, but I feel bad when it becomes “oh, make the unmarried/childless people do everything.”

              1. LoiraSafada*

                Which is the norm. And yeah, some people do abuse taking leave for their kids. I’ve worked for and with many of them.

            2. Anna*

              You don’t need to apologize. You took your time off and used it as you needed to. It’s only bad news if you knew someone else didn’t get that time off simply because you had a kid and they did not. And thankfully most places aren’t jerks like that.

            3. JustaTech*

              Don’t be sorry! I was never mad at my single-mom coworker who had to leave at 5 to get her kid, or at my coworker who was going to all his wife’s OB appointments. I was mad at our boss who dumped all the worst hours on me without asking them if they had flexibility or if I had, you know, a life.

            4. Elizabeth West*

              You totally had a legit reason for taking off–don’t apologize for that. What burns my britches is when people think my time is less important because I haven’t had a baby.

      6. Allison*

        I was thinking about that too. I worked at a movie theater where weekends were busy and they needed people to be willing and able to work weekends. Most people would rather hang out with their friends on Friday and Saturday, so if you wanted to not be scheduled those shifts, you generally needed a reason why they should give you that night off.

        However, it’s different in the world of full-time office work, where people have paid time off to use as they please. Paid time off is a benefit, not a special exception given to people who really need it. If someone wants a day of PTO just to rest and play video games, let ’em do it! If it’s during a critical time, I could see saying “look, we need all hands on deck that week, is this time sensitive?”

        1. Temperance*

          I worked at a movie theater for 6 years in high school/college. It always made me so angry that parents were automatically given priority scheduling to have weekends, holidays, and nights off, and they were able to work the easy day shifts. It wasn’t okay for them to do that, IMO. People with children are not automatically superior to those without.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            The theater I worked at in high school didn’t have that problem–no one who worked there was over the age of 22, and that was the general manager! There were no parents and even the older teens were not in college or anything. It’s hilarious looking back–that whole place was basically staffed and run by children. We did a pretty good job, but I also remember writing down my reason for every day off I wanted as “having a baby”. Others did similar.

            They actually handled it well on holidays–since the place was open on Christmas, the GM walked around and asked everyone who was going to be in town if we wanted morning or evening. My family does a big ritual with presents Christmas morning, so I chose to work the evening shift. Those whose families had a big Christmas dinner came in during the morning. (The one Jewish employee just shrugged and said she didn’t care.)

          2. winter*

            Yes and no. As a person who’s also childfree and does sometimes grumple wrt the colleagues with children getting some “preferential treatment”, I do get why it’s relevant if they have to get their kids from daycare at Y o’clock. There are just times in the week where it’s easier/cheeper to organize childcare than others.
            In turn, my team will work with me re: shifts if I need to be at hobby Y every Wednesday afternoon.

            The important part for me is if this means you’ll always get the short end of the stick, indefinitely. E.g. one friend will always have to work 3 shifts, no matter if he’s been doing it for 10 years already, while his colleagues (who also have a spouse) with children are exempt from night shifts.

            1. paul*

              Particularly in smaller cities. There’s *no* actual child care centers open past 6:30 or 7pm here; there’s childcare *homes* but not actual child care centers. It sucks.

          3. tigerStripes*

            The movie theater should have paid more for the bad shifts – that might make it easier to get people to work for them without having to give anyone priority.

    2. Judy*

      Since OP4 is a manager of a team of 30, I would guess that their manager needs to know if they are unreachable or not. If I were in their manager’s position, I’d approve vacations, but then ask that they let me know if they were staying locally vs. travelling.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        But that shouldn’t make a difference as to whether or not to approve the request.

      2. esra*

        I think that could be solved by just asking if they’ll be reachable or not. It’s tough, because the managers I’d be most likely to share details with are the managers least likely to be weird about people taking time off.

    3. Catnip Melba Toast*

      Lie about your plans. People do it all the time. Alison has even suggested it as a way to prevent a micromanaging boss to contact you while you are on vacation… simply tell him or her that you will be camping out in an area with no cell reception.

  10. Amy Rose*

    #5: a new haircut always makes you feel fresh, rejuvenated even! If you get a new hair cut you’ll feel better and more like yourself, which would help in an interview. Right? :) do it!!!

  11. Artemesia*

    We hired a very important person in the field who brought in a junior associate he spoke highly of; later it became clear that she was his girlfriend and eventually they got married. He probably could have been open about it and no one would have cared, but it soured his reputation and hers the whole time they worked there and later they ended up leaving partly because she didn’t get the appreciation she genuinely deserved. I am sure some of the resentment of her was sexist but a lot of it was the lingering sense that he had put on over on everyone and pushed someone into the organization for his personal agenda. What’s done is done, but I do think that boosting someone for a job without mentioning they are your wife will leave a bad taste in many people’s mouths, that would not be there if the husband had said, ‘My wife, is an expert in tea spouts and her latest project sounds like it is exactly what you are talking about here; you might want to talk to her about that position.’

    1. Roscoe*

      So here is the question. If he was up front with it in the beginning, do you really think people would have given her a fair shot then? I can see how wanting to prove yourself before letting people know about the relationship makes sense. Because like it or not, people talk. And I’m sure some people would have said either way that she was only there because she was dating him. So why not prove she is capable first?

      1. AD*

        Whether or not he was up front, this would probably inevitably have been seen as a nepotism hire. There’s a reason why it’s best to avoid those – because people’s expectations will nearly always be that the person in question is treated more favorably than others.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Well, she’s not really being given a “fair” shot anyway. She’s getting additional consideration because of a referral by a trusted employee, which means she leapfrogged over a bunch of other people to get there. The people who reviewed her materials and interviewed her were not given the opportunity to take the referral with the grain of salt that they otherwise would have.

      3. Artemesia*

        Yes I do. Hiring a spouse was not unheard of and he would not have been her supervisor. The top leadership of the department that had recruited him felt bamboozled and that they had been made fools of and they sort of took it out on her indirectly. This was unfair; she was terrific, and I think an open spousal hire would not have evoked the same hostility. On the other hand, spousal hires do have a bit to go to prove themselves and sexism is always a factor when women are evaluated in the workplace; it is baked into our culture.

    2. Kathleen Adams*

      The way it should have been handled is that she should have gotten a job somewhere else. There is no good way to get your spouse or significant other hired by the company you work for.

      1. Kathleen Adams*

        That said, the way suggested by Artemesia sounds like the best option. At least there’s no lying.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        I think this can occasionally depend on the field. For instance, I used to work in higher ed, and in my experience universities loved having spouses both work there (albeit in different departments) because it meant people were less likely to move on.

        1. Kathleen Adams*

          Working there is one thing. Lots of workplaces allow spouses to both work there, particularly in different departments. But using your leverage to get the spouse/FB/BF/whatever a job there is an entirely different thing. The VIP in Artemesia’s example should *never* have gotten his girlfriend hired there. It was completely inappropriate, and it’s no wonder people resented it.

      3. Artemesia*

        There are types of jobs and regions where that is simply not an option; if you want Joe or Jane bigshot, you need to make room for their spouse or they will go elsewhere. In our case we were the only comparable employer in town.

      4. Fact & Fiction*

        I have to disagree with this. I got my fiancé who I later married hired at the large company I worked for and things went swimmingly for several years, until I changed career paths. The key points were we were up front from day one, he hired into a completely different department, and we were always careful to be super professional at work. Nepotism hires can work out just fine but you have to be up front and it really helps if your professional paths don’t intersect, or if you are at least under completely different command chains. My now husband has flourished, been promoted several times, and is one of the most respected IT guys in the company who most of the bigwigs prefer to work with when possible.

  12. cc*

    OP #4: The boss is being weird, but one possible explanation is he is trying to manage it when requests for time off conflict and he has to deny someone. I had a manager who was really weird about time off so I would make a point of saying something like “I checked with the team and will be taking off xxx days.” It seemed to work.

    1. Artemesia*

      If a conflict arose, then maybe sort it by ‘need’ that way but that makes no sense in planning far in advance. Your boss is not your mother, it is none of his dang business if you plan to do volunteer at your church or spend the days painting your toenails — your time off is not the business of the boss.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I think I would write the same exact thing every time – “I am taking the time off for personal religious reasons”. Every.single.time. And I’m an atheist.

        1. Not A Morning Person*

          I had a similar reaction to Lily in NYC, only something longer and much more detailed, such as, “I’ll turn off my alarm clock and get up on the first day around 9. Then I’ll roll over and get out of bed. Then I’ll go to the closet and get my robe and put it on. Then I’ll go to the kitchen. Then I’ll fill the coffee maker with water and add ground coffee to the basket after making sure there is a filter. Then I’ll turn the coffee maker on. Then I’ll stand and watch the coffee maker till it’s done making my coffee. Then I’ll get my coffee mug out of the cabinet. Then I’ll take the coffee pot and pour coffee into it till it is 3/4 full. Then I’ll add milk till it’s full enough. Then I’ll go to the window and look outside to see what the weather is like….” I think you get the picture.
          But instead, I think Alison’s advice is more appropriate. And maybe it’s like others have said, the manager is interested in knowing how to reach people when they are away for a few days. Even so, there are better ways to handle that need than asking for people’s reasons for taking their time off.

    2. aebhel*

      I just don’t get how this is so complicated. To be fair, at my job it’s mostly coverage that’s needed, and as the person responsible for public programs I can’t take a vacation when I have something scheduled, but otherwise it’s just ‘first come, first serve’, and that seems to work fine for us. Of course emergencies happen at the last minute, but not constantly (at least not here).

  13. Feathers McGraw*

    #3 Can you suggest they email you about the thing instead? And can you tell them you can’t take details in at this point in the day and cultivate a look of blank incomprehension?

    Also, if someone makes a beeline for you in this way, are you doing normal polite things like making eye contact and smiling? Can you not slow down to talk to them? I work in a role that involves a lot of listening, advice and support and had a problem where members of the public kept coming up to me at bus stops and telling me personal things (e.g. a long account of someone’s mother’s death). I did not have space for their stuff but felt paralysed.

    My supervisor and I started looking at my body language and verbal responses. We realised I hadn’t given myself permission to not listen and was therefore doing active listening with everyone all of the time. Might not be the case, but seemed worth mentioning. It’s okay not to want to engage – and if it’s not someone more senior it’s okay to look a bit harassed – but out of politeness you may not be communicating that it’s not an okay time.

    Or you could walk in wearing headphones…

    1. Cinnamon Owl*

      The body language aspect is interesting, and can be hard to self-analyze. I was pondering it yesterday at my oft-visited farmstand–the middle-aged cashiers can stand at the register in a way that conveys either ‘I am talking to someone but open and you can come up and start unloading your basket’ or ‘I am technically behind this register as I do some tasks, but not open.’ The young cashier was talking to some other young workers and it wasn’t clear if you could walk up or not. (I was thinking of it in terms of the soft skills discussed earlier in the week, and the small things a new worker might be doing that count against them but don’t rise to the level of anyone saying anything. And that this is where “no friends at the register” comes from–if you’re less experienced, it can read as “don’t interrupt us, we’re busy.” If you’re better at body language, you can convey that customers should feel free to approach.)

    2. Cinnamon Owl*

      The body language is very interesting. Yesterday at the farm stand I realized that the middle-aged, experienced cashiers could stand at the register chatting while conveying ‘I am open and you should come right up’ or stand alone in the usual spot and still convey ‘I am completing some task back here and not open.’ And the young cashier hadn’t learned this body language yet.

      1. Stella*

        Oooh!! This was exactly what I was trying to tell my girl scout troop last weekend at booth sales when they were busy chatting amongst themselves and eating gummy bears. Thanks for the language to use!

    3. LetterWriter#3*

      I actually do walk in wearing headphones! Which makes their morning ambush even more odd.

  14. Hoorah*

    My friend had to take sick leave while she was receiving fertility treatments. One afternoon her manager was annoyed about her request to take a couple of hours off to attend a medical appointment. He kept pestering her for details and she finally blurted out “Steven, I have to go and have a stick inside my vagina to examine my uterus.” He just shut up and signed her sick leave form red faced.

    So yeah. Just tell the manager you’re attending orgies or something.

    1. Freya UK*

      Amazing! I agree though, people who ask inappropriate questions deserve inappropriate answers.

    2. Thinking it through*

      Yeah but sick time and vacation time are completely different. It’s completely inappropriate in all cases to be asking employees details about what they are doing during sick time. If they tell you, that’s fine but you should not be giving people the 3rd degree about their health.
      I’d say the line is a little more blurry for vacation time. In my experience some people consider it “polite small talk” to ask people what they are doing for vacation as it’s usually much less personal. You can come off as not caring about your employees as people if you don’t ever ask about what they do outside of work. Where it crosses the line is if you decide about whether they get vacation time based on their answer. I don’t think the asking itself is necessarily wrong.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I disagree that it’s always inappropriate to ask for details about sick leave. My boss and I have a good relationship and if I needed to book sick leave he’d ask out of concern.

        If I didn’t want to give details that would be fine, but asking itself isn’t a problem.

      2. Temperance*

        I don’t agree with this. I had a very sudden, life-threatening illness last year, and my colleagues were rightly alarmed. So when I had to take time off after my return for medical appointments, I let everyone know it was routine follow-up and nothing to be scared of.

        1. Nolan*

          I agree. On a day off I realized that I needed to have something checked asap. The next available slot was that Monday morning, my next day back at work. So when I texted my manager to let her know I’d be in late, I told her it was for an “urgent but not life threatening doctor’s appointment”. That way she wouldn’t be worried, but also understood it couldn’t wait for my next weekday off.

          1. A. Schuyler*

            I’ve done similar things, even same-day. I called my GP about a minor but time sensitive issue and she had a slot 15 minutes later, so with my manager’s blessing I got in a cab and was back about 90 minutes later. She never asked and I never told, but I really appreciated that flexibility.

      3. Not A Morning Person*

        It’s not always separate. PTO is combined at my current employer and there is no vacation and no sick leave and no holidays. Any and all time off comes out of PTO. (FYI, I don’t care for it.)

    3. ceiswyn*

      I have worked at more than one place where the sickness self-certification forms require you to list your symptoms.

      And yet, people get really weird about it if you actually do…

    4. Princess Carolyn*

      I feel like “time off for an appointment” is always sufficient information, and bosses should know to leave it at that. That’s like management 101. And also manners 101.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Bingo! At my old position, I would occasionally give some additional information when requesting PTO, but that was mostly so my boss would understand what times I requested could/could not be moved depending on coverage needs–like, “Yeah, I can take a different couple of days in August because I can tour grad schools whenever, but the week in July is my mum’s birthday and can’t be rescheduled.”

  15. Not Australian*

    #4 It may be a false equivalency, but it seems only a short step from that to asking what you’re planning to spend your wages on, i.e. seriously intrusive. I could get that they might, for example, treat time off for medical appointments etc. differently – and it may be a question of prioritising leave according to need – but the right way to approach that would just be to say ‘Jane’s already requested those days off and we can’t lose both of you at the same time; is yours anything that can be altered?’ without going into detail.

  16. MommyMD*

    Spouse thing seems a bit sneaky. Bosses may have reacted ok outwardly but I bet they think so too.

  17. cncx*

    OP3: all my feels. i do helpdesk and i get chased down like it is an emergency, don’t even have my coat off, and it turns out someone just wants me to put paper in the printer, or show them how to use their iphone. I want to be disturbed for emergencies, of course, but when i don’t even have my coat off and i am getting chased down it really sets a negative tone for my day. Like don’t rush me before i have even sat down and then i find out it is something that could have easily waited or can be googled.

    What has helped is telling people exactly how AAM said it. i also add something like “if you tell me something before i have had a chance to settle down i am going to forget. If you want me to remember to do it, then you need to email me so i can get to it once i have started my day.” I also have the issue of people coming into my office wanting me to help them RIGHT NOW with stuff that messes with real priorities, and i do the same- i tell them i am on something else and i need an email.

    FWIW i don’t think these people are necessarily rude (some are, some have no social graces) but rather it is more”oh i see this person i need to ask her something right now.” still, the endgame is to break the chain of instant gratification. If i get people who ask me stuff by interrupting me, then in return i take my time doing it. i am not going to hop to (unless it is senior management of course) just because someone barged into my office before i have my coat off. It has worked pretty well- most people know to let me at least have my coffee, and most send an email now.

    1. Mookie*

      As someone who used to be thoughtless about how I managed and negotiated other people’s time, this is good stuff. For interrupters with an otherwise healthy sense of shame and boundaries, asserting the rule again and again will work. Also, once you establish that the matter is trivial and not timely, I’d take an extra minute or five to get back to them, demonstrating that there are consequences for hijacking your time.

  18. Jen RO*

    #3 – I tell my coworkers that they should consider that I am not in the office until the coffee cup is empty and the croissant is eaten. (And if they pester me when I walk in the door, I point at the coffee and ask if it looks empty. I am not a very nice person, but this is how I manage to stay sane as the go-to person in a department of 20.)

  19. Greg*

    #4, I’d almost want to give them too much information. When the boss asks what the time off is for, tell them that you are trying to have a baby and that is the time when the spouse is most fertile. I plan on using the entire day for baby making. The boss should realize that some information is too personal to share.

    1. CM*

      It would be kind of awesome if everyone could be enlisted to do this. Suddenly every PTO day is being used for baby-making, orgies, rectal exam, etc.

      1. Gail Davidson-Durst*

        This is exactly what I was thinking. “What are you planning to do?”
        – crazy sex weekend with my spouse
        – anus bleaching
        – BDSM convention
        – Well, my period is really bad, like blood running down my leg, bathroom floor looks like a crime scene kind of thing. And the clots, you wouldn’t believe the size! So I’m having an ablation, where they insert a sort of balloon *through* my vagina, into my uterus, and then fill it with scalding water to kill the cells of the endometrium. They say it might not stop periods completely, but if I only get that kind of brown-pink ooze afterward sign me up, amirite? (Bonus points if boss is male, and if they flee, you should chase the person, saying, “I haven’t given you all the details yet!”

        1. Robbenmel*

          Oh, and FTR, my mother, who has never been forthcoming with “details” of anything, gave me almost this exact advice when I was having bad lady-times in the 8th grade, and (male) principal didn’t want to let me to call her to come get me from school: “You should’ve sat in his lap and bled all over him!”

        2. FlyingFergus*

          I love this. Chasing after the male manager at the end was the frosting on the cake.

        3. regina phalange*

          OMG laughing at my desk so hard right now. Thank you for this. I am very lucky because my boss doesn’t care what we use our PTO for.

        4. Hlyssande*

          …note to self, ablation is on the table next time rather than a D&C again for perioding.

          1. Gail Davidson-Durst*

            Made people laugh and helped someone with perioding – I feel like I can call this day a success!

      2. Kelly L.*

        Not to even mention the ones that will go down in history as “watching Game of Thrones in my underwear while eating Haagen-Dazs.”

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I don’t ask employees why they need time off, but I once had one volunteer that she was getting a gynecological procedure done…in a fair bit of detail. I kept trying to stop her and she just just kept going. Awful.

  20. Wing Girl*

    #4: Do you think the message about what the boss wants was misinterpreted? Is it possible that he just wants to know the category of PTO that is being requested? For example, if you have PTO in separate categories for vacation, sick, and personal, is he just wanting to know which category is being used for the time off? It could be a way to ensure he has that information to reconcile when approving time sheets.

    1. Myrin*

      That’s a reasonable thought, but OP says “[We are supposed to] tell him why we’re taking time off, e.g. what we’ll be doing, where we’ll be going, etc.”. I understood those last two examples as a verbatim recount of what the boss said although I could be wrong. Regardless, I think Alison’s suggested response already takes that into account; if OP’s conversation starts with “I might be misunderstanding…” it’s easy for the boss to point out that this was indeed a misunderstanding and he actually meant it the way you suggested.

  21. svedin*

    #2 As a complete sidenote, I’ve always thought that asking for references from exes would be an enlightening exercise. I have lots of insight into what my exes are good at and where they each struggle that I would be more than happy to be frank about to any employer. In a kind and thoughtful way, of course, not in a “I want to ruin his life” way.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I wouldn’t use an ex for a work reference, but I do have one I’ve used as a personal reference (when applying for the bar). A couple of years later I returned the favor and was a reference for him renting an apartment.

    2. Cinnamon Owl*

      I think that was a Dan Savage letter. Along the lines, “I know I should climb out of my ex’s life, but I have constructed a complicated rationale for how they’re the only person who can possibly give me a reference and I don’t like that they flirt with other people during this 6 month period when we’re broken up but I need them to be my reference.”

    3. Nolan*

      You must have great relationships with your exes!

      I once got an unexpected reference call for an ex. I’m guessing he put me down as a personal reference before we broke up, and this hiring process was just run on molasses. Regardless, as soon as I told her that he was my ex she thanked me for my time and hung up. I’m pretty sure my tone conveyed the kind of reference I’d give.

  22. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    OP#4 “I’m going to the gym” as a default response.
    OP#5 I have salt and pepper hair and have a buzz cut. For my face structure and colouring it’s a very good look. Unfortunately, I noticed that I wasn’t getting any callbacks with job interviews. So I let it grow out a bit and dyed it. I got a job and within weeks I was back to my short cut and original look. I’m looking forward to full silver, right now it’s about 70%. It really is annoying that hair colour and style can make a difference when it has no impact on the job.

    1. silence*

      I had a great aunt who once her hair went over 50% white dyed it white. It looked so much smarter all one colour.

  23. Mookie*

    LW1, I had a similar experience as an actual applicant. I’d applied for one position in a small business (mail-order out of the owner’s home) but she interviewed me to “create” for her and then fill an entirely different position (much higher rate of pay, but matched by skills and experience) with a long-term project in mind. After a week of brainstorming sessions, some walk-throughs, and submitting an entirely original proposal and cost schedule, she said I’d wasted her time, was trying to take over her business, and then cut off all contact. She ended up using everything I’d given her, including some verbatim stuff on the company’s website. I left some bad feedback on a third-party site and was quite honest about it with peers (the industry is small and incestuous where we live), but never got any real satisfaction out of it.

    Friends, however, are different. Has this ruined the friendship for you? Could it? If so, I’d broach the subject of compensation, in as neutral and professional a way as possible. There’s nothing left to lose at that point.

  24. Lablizard*

    LW1, did your friends AND the business partner email you about the offer or just your friends? Is there a chance that your friends jumped the gun in offering before they and their partner were in agreement? If yes, that might temper the damage to your friendship. It would mean that they were unprofessional, but not deceptive.

    As for the job description, you agreed to do at as a favor. If you had never interviewed for the job or if the job was something you couldn’t possibly qualify for, would you expect compensation? The ideas generated in the interview are kind of the same, but flipped. If you interviewed with Big Teapots Inc, didn’t get the job, and then saw something that looked like your idea being used, would you invoice them or let it go? I think both these issues might have become inflated in your mind because you are feeling hurt and betrayed by friends, a perfectly understandable feeling, but you might errant to separate the two. The real problem is that you feel hurt and used by people you trusted.

    1. Jaydee*

      I was wondering the same thing. Is it possible that the friends wanted to hire you because you are their friend and they like you and think you will be great to work with but that the business partner wants to find someone with experience or a qualification you don’t have or something?

    2. Liz T*

      Agreed. OP wrote the job description before even expressing interest in the job–it wasn’t actually part of the interview process. They wrote it expecting it to be used, didn’t they? I get that it’s obnoxious HOW it’s being used, but they didn’t actually steal from OP.

  25. JS*

    #4 Totally not normal! What you share about your time off, if anything, should be private. Unless a person is taking excessive time off it shouldn’t be an issue of what they are doing (even then if they have a medical reason that is legally covered).

    Funny, I had a boss who was the opposite. I once asked for time off and mentioned I would be going to a Beyonce concert. He then told me “never to tell him what I am doing with my time off”. When I asked him why, he said “So I dont have to judge you.” LMAO. He had a super dry wit and was anti-mainstream anything so I just laughed and told him I’d be sure to tell him all about the concert.

    I can see in certain industries during a “busy season” wanting employees to be mindful of the time they take off and only take it off for emergencies, but even then approved time off is approved time off. If an individual is abusing that it needs to be brought up with the individual not a rule for everyone.

    1. JustaTech*

      I could kind of see, if a person was high up or business-essential enough, asking if they’ll be reachable or not (out of town vs out of state vs out of the country vs deep in the rain forest).

      But other than that, no, none of the boss’s business. It actually reminds me of a letter recently where a boss rescinded permission for PTO because the letter writer was going to compete in a e-sports (video game) competition.

  26. Rebecca*

    #4 – not normal, and been there, done that…got the T shirt. My ex-manager always asked us why we wanted a day off, because she judged the merit of it. She would point blank ask us why we wanted the time off, and since she never traveled, would look down on answers like cruises, a few days off in a sunny spot in the winter, that type of thing. She would also hold approval for the time off, and that affected our ability to make plans, like booking hotel rooms, flights, things like that, because she didn’t feel she needed to give a yes or no answer when we needed it. The fact that travel becomes more expensive the closer you get to departure didn’t matter to her. She always wanted to wait to see if something more meritorious in her mind popped up. It got to the point where people would make plans, reservations, etc. whether she approved or simply didn’t respond. So glad she isn’t managing anyone any longer.

    OP, I hope your manager is just under some misguided notion that this is a thing he needs to do, and that you can talk to him about it. Your time is your time, and it’s really none of his business whether you have a medical appointment, want to sit in your yard and count dandelions, or chill and watch Netflix.

  27. Bolt*

    #5: I would cut it before interviewing if it is important to you. Some companies have grooming policies that may consider this an extreme haircut depending on the style you want, would could get messy if you show up your first week with dramatically different hair than you interviewed with!

        1. Fiennes*

          I don’t buy this. Weird colors, shaved sides, etc – that all can read as extreme. But while very short hair on women might get looked at oddly, I think very few workplaces would actually call it “extreme.” (Even those might want to consider why they’re anti- a masculine haircut while okay with a more feminine pixie cut that is just as short, if not shorter.) The workplaces that would come down hard on this are either going to be super-controlling about appearance anyway or have serious anti-gay bias showing.

        2. Rat in the Sugar*

          Maybe a total GI Jane style buzzcut would be, but short pixies like the one Emma Watson had for a while are not extreme at all, but can still read as “butch” to people, depending on your face and whether you wear makeup. OP isn’t really clear on what kind of style she’s getting.

          And for that matter, a buzzcut like that only reads as “extreme” to me on a white woman, it’s a much more common style with Black women (at least from what I’ve observed here in the States).

          1. Partly Cloudy*


            Julie Andrews (someone else mentioned her elsewhere in this thread) and Jamie Lee Curtis have had super short hair for years and they don’t look butch OR unkempt. I have a straight female friend who’s six feet tall and she rocked a pixie cut for awhile. She almost always wore earrings and more feminine style tops (as opposed to t-shirts). Hair length is very much in context of the overall look.

        3. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Client-facing roles require decent grooming. Short, even non-feminine, haircuts on women are not the inverse of good grooming. Neither is the wearing of long hair, or box braids, or hair color.

          1. Scarlott*

            I guess. *shrugs*. I wouldn’t cut my hair if I wanted to leave a positive impression. Even the OP went ahead and interviewed with longish hair, and switched after. I think it’s pretty clear that human nature provides more attractive people with better opportunities and most people find long hair more attractive. Read through all the comments here. Its full of people growing their hair out for job hunting.

            1. annnnon*

              Those are probably also the same people who insist that women must wear pantyhose and makeup to appear polished.

              1. Scarlott*

                Hmmm, no I don’t think so. I think the general consensus on this board is that longer hair is more attractive, and that more attractive people get jobs easier, hence why most of the people here talk about either growing their hair out or changing it back to a natural looking color. I think that applies to men and woman.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  There’s no consensus here that I’m aware of re: what type of hair style is most attractive (and that would be very strange and surprising if there were)! I don’t mean this in a snide way, but I really do think you might be thinking of another site!

                2. Amtelope*

                  There’s no “consensus” that long hair is more attractive. Some employers are prejudiced against women with very short haircuts, often as a result of homophobia (whether or not women with very short haircuts are actually lesbians, they’re sometimes assumed to be.) The reason for that prejudice is not that those hairstyles are somehow objectively “less attractive.”

                3. Agnodike*

                  I think you wrote “more attractive” when you meant to write “more conventional.”

                4. JustaTech*

                  Uh, what? I guess it depends on what you mean by “longer” hair, because it’s very common for women with long hair to be judged as either very young, hippies or part of a weird religious group.

                5. Elizabeth West*

                  It depends on the person the hair is on. If the reverse were true and a buzzcut were the norm, I’d be screwed because I look like crap in short hair. But I’m only screwed because of lame sexist stereotypes that say women have to wear their hair a certain way.

            2. Natalie*

              People are talking about growing their hair out to avoid potential implicit or explicit bias, not so they can be perceived as more attractive.

            3. OlympiasEpiriot*

              Although I have long hair myself — which helps me read as femme, not “attractive”, which is useful for some of the mind-games I have to play in adversarial situations — I would not say long hair is necessarily more attractive. Good grooming is more attractive. I’ve seen lots of women with straggly long hair…money spent on coloring, but not on the trimming, for example, or just poor shaping so they look like an extra from a movie shoot about the settlement of the west.

              It is a great shame that people get pressure to style themselves one way or another.

              I have also noticed that the long hair is better thing is more generally directed at white women. The “advice” given by employment agencies to black women that I’ve heard of has been distinctly different and not in a good way. (White woman here, so I have no personal experience of this. Only hearsay. From people I trust.)

              1. Scarlott*

                Unless you’re desperate, you should style your hair how you want. If there is a bias, you don’t want to work for those people anyways. Their loss.

            4. Marcela*

              Hahahaha. No. I wear a pixie on the short side and I have an excellent reputation and my hair alone has never left a bad impression. My mom and aunt wore longer pixies all their lives in a Catholic country and not even once they had any professional trouble because of that. Only superficial people considers that hair alone is going to make a good or bad impression in a professional setting, where how attractive you look is not your most important characteristic.

          2. NaoNao*

            We-ll I agree *but* “good grooming” is not the only thing client-facing roles require. Often times strictures around natural color, lack of facial piercings and tattoos, etc are about minimizing distractions from the business at hand, and appearing neutral and business like. I 100% believe (and as someone who has pink/purple hair) that your appearance has little to do with your efficacy in a job. However, as my vaunted Cosmo mag (of all people) pointed out, high maintenance or unusual styles often send a subtle message “I’m different” or “I’m more focused on my appearance than work.” But short, even severe hair is not *quite* the same as, for example, bright blue hair, hair that brushes one’s derriere worn loose, or elaborate up-do’s with lots of “gear”.

        4. aebhel*

          No? I have a crew cut and I work with the public all the time. It’s a non-issue as long as you’re dressed professionally.

  28. Roscoe*

    For #2, to me it doesn’t seem like you did anything wrong. You didn’t mislead them, nor was it even a lie of omission. Your spouse introduced you to a professional contact. Maybe they did give you the interview as professional courtesy, but you seemed to have won the job on your own merits. There are people that I don’t know enough about their work to vouch for, but I would pass along their resume to my boss, and my boss may give them an interview because of it. I may not bring it up at all honestly, but I suppose if you would be bringing him around then it makes sense. But I do agree about using him as a reference, that probably would be a bit much.

    #5 I don’t know if this is exactly an apt comparison, but I’m a black male, and I always make sure to have a more “clean” haircut when I’m job hunting. Not that when my hair is longer it is unprofessional by any means, but you get judged on every little thing in a job interview, even subconsciously. So just as I think its very understandable for me to be concerned about going into a job with a big afro or corn rows, I can see why you would want to wait as well. If you are really trying to be very upfront about being gay, then maybe the haircut isn’t a bad thing to help you weed out places you wouldn’t want to work. But I think its really about whatever makes you feel comfortable. You don’t want to 2nd guess yourself for a job, and wonder if it was the hair that knocked you down even slightly

    1. OP#2 Spouse-Referral*

      Agreed–and thanks!! I wouldn’t do it this way again if Spouse referred me for another gig, either.

  29. Grits McGee*

    OP#4, if your workplace is anything like mine, boss’s ill-advised new policy may be a response to real or imagined leave malfeasance. (I hate the whole apply-discipline-to-everyone-equally approach to management. Punishment is not fertilizer, it doesn’t need to be applied evenly!!)

    1. Lablizard*

      “Punishment is not fertilizer, it doesn’t need to be applied evenly”

      Exactly, and I am so stealing this line the next time a stupid policy suggestion based on a single employee’s behavior comes up

  30. Imaginary Number*

    OP #3: Almost everyone is guilty of this in my workplace. I think a lot of it is because of a desire to “be the first in line” when there’s something pressing and they want you to know “hey, can you address my thing first if possible.” So no one thinks it’s rude to do but also no one thinks it’s rude to say “hey, give me ten minutes and I’ll come to your desk” or whatever.

  31. Katie the Fed*

    #3 – I’ve had this same problem and it drives me batty! Here’s what I’ve done:

    – For the people who work for me, told the repeat offenders that I like to have the first 20 minutes of the to read emails that came in overnight, drink my coffee, and get settled. For the absolute worst one I told him “if this cup of coffee is still in my hand, please give me some space.”

    – For other people, I’m decidedly unhelpful. “I JUST walked in the door and haven’t even looked at my email yet.” “I don’t know yet – I JUST walked in.” “Lemme actually put my coat down and then I’ll get back to you.”

    It’s mostly worked.

  32. Katie the Fed*

    OK, I have a question about #4 though. I agree this boss is going too far, but is it ok for a boss to ask something like “doing anything fun?” “have big plans?”

    Like, I don’t NEED to know. But I also just like to get to know my people and what they’re up to. Maybe I’m just nosy, but I’d like to be able to say something when they come back like “How was Argentina?” or “Did you get that thing done you needed?”

    1. Grits McGee*

      I always get paranoid about asking just on a social faux pas level. I live in low-level terror of the day when I cheerfully ask whether someone’s long was fun and my poor coworker has to respond that she was off for a loved one’s funeral, so, not really.

    2. Lablizard*

      Personally I wouldn’t ask. Once I had a boss who asked, “doing anything fun?” and my coworker burst into tears because he was going to the funeral of a friend who committed suicide. Sometimes vacation isn’t vacation, so if the person hasn’t mentioned why they are taking time off, they probably don’t want to share.

    3. McD*

      Fpr me personally, I always get super-uncomfortable when my boss asks me that. I’m not planning on doing anything particularly exciting with my time off, I just want a break. Being asked where I’m going/what I’m doing makes me feel like I should be abseiling in Outer Mongolia or something, and replying with “nothing much” always feels awkward.

      If it’s something big or exciting and I want to share, I’ll share. But I feel pressured and uncomfortable when asked directly.

      1. discarvard*

        Yeah- what if it’s a job interview out of town? Then the person has to either come up with a lie or gauge their level of trust that you’ll be okay with it. Asking isn’t a big workplace sin in my opinion, provided the person isn’t coming to you somber-faced and whispering their PTO request, but if it’s a fun thing they will probably bring it up anyway.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I think government must be really different about this, because I’ve never been upset if someone is interviewing. I usually just wish them luck and give some interview tips if they ask. I figure most people aren’t going to stay in the same job forever!

    4. LizB*

      I noticed recently that some of my staff were telling me a lot about what they would be using PTO for — many of them are early in their careers, and I think they were still in the habit of justifying absences like they might have had to do in school. I made a point of mentioning in my next team meeting that it isn’t mandatory to tell me why you need PTO, because it’s your time to use, but I’m always happy to hear about cool or important things if you feel like telling me. Some folks still give me tons of details, some folks give me less, but I think they got the message that it’s their choice. I don’t usually have to ask “big plans?” or other small-talky things because if they want to tell me, they’ll tell me without my prompting.

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        Yes, this. I have given this same advice to new members of my firm when they tell me they’re submitting for vacation time (I don’t receive the submission but if I’m managing a project I need to know about needing staff to cover).

        One guy who seemed to really feel the need to justify his break (and the poor thing had been working 10+ hour days with Saturdays included for weeks) got my sarcastic “You don’t have to tell me anything…I don’t care if you’re staying home for the week in your bathrobe watching porn. Just leave your field files in order!” Fortunately, after a second of looking stunned, he burst out laughing. He seemed to get the message.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think it depends a lot on your relationship with your team. If you have a chatty kind of relationship where you share info about yourself too, then I think it’s okay.

      1. Lablizard*

        And if you have a chatty relationship and they haven’t shared, odds are they don’t want to. If it is normal for an employee to share personal details and tell me about vacations, the time they take leave and don’t share is probably the time they don’t want me to know

      2. Natalie*

        Agreed. I’ve had plenty of bosses where this wouldn’t be some kind of minefield, and if there was something serious like a funeral they would know about it already. So very much a know your workplace situation.

      3. Hrovitnir*

        Exactly. If it comes naturally based on your interactions and they don’t feel pressured I think it’s totally fine. But if you generally have a more formal relationship and don’t really talk about your lives at all it comes across like people have to justify themselves.

    6. Rocket Roy*

      Reading the comments already below I can see that just asking at all can be a bad idea. Personally my boss and I usually ask each other what plans we have for our respective PTO days, but that is just because we both have a mutual love of travel and it is one of the few things we have to lightly chat about. I guess as a boss I would let the employee take the lead on sharing details. I imagine if the employee was planning something super awesome and fun they might (key word might) want to share anyways without prodding.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        This. It really depends on each relationship, but I think overall letting the employee take the lead/start the conversation is the way to go.

        I think we’re assuming that the boss in the letter wants to know the PTO usage for prioritization reasons (better alternatives have been mentioned above), since the OP said she’s otherwise a good boss. I wonder what other potential reasons she would be so… invasive?

    7. Princess Carolyn*

      Personally, I think “Doing anything fun?” is fine. Sometimes the answer is going to be no, but the employee has the option of giving as much or as little explanation as possible. They can say “No, just taking care of some family stuff” or “No, actually, I’m attending a funeral,” or whatever they prefer. I get that some people are intensely private, but “Doing anything fun?” is not an invasive question.

    8. Chicken*

      I’m on the private side, and I would be 100% fine with those questions – and in fact I appreciate it when my boss is friendly/chatty to some degree. Those questions are good because they’re vague, so I could answer something like “oh just some family stuff I need to deal with” or be more specific “I’m going on a food tour of Buenos Aires!” or whatever.

      I think the key is to match the employee’s tone / level of disclosure in the response. So for the “family stuff” answer, I would be fine if the boss said “I hope it goes well” and not okay with “oh, what’s going on?”

      But (from your comments generally) you obviously have good judgment, so I’m sure that you ask in an appropriate way :D

    9. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There is real value in building relationships with the people you manage, and that can mean taking a genuine interest (to some extent) in their lives outside of work. As long as you are attuned to people’s signals and don’t push if someone isn’t forthcoming, I think questions like this are fine to ask in the context of a reasonably trusting relationship.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, we share stuff like this quite frequently. But I also wouldn’t bat an eye if somebody asked for time off without telling me what it was for.

      2. Aurion*

        Yeah, this. I work in a chatty office (maybe a little too much so), but an idle “what’re you up to?” is making conversation to me, provided the boss is respectful of cues like Alison says. If I don’t want to say, an easy white lie would be “housecleaning” or “marathoning Netflix” or “reading some really good books”.

    10. Marillenbaum*

      I think it’s reasonable to show a polite interest in what your reports are up to. Yes, it can backfire, but even in cases where it turns out someone is traveling because of a hardship, it’s not wrong to want to be mindful and it positions you to be a better boss, IMO.

    11. Chameleon*

      I’m on the opposite side of most of these comments. I’m horribly shy, so I tend not to share info because I figure no one cares what I’m doing and I’ll be boring the hell out of them. But if someone asks, I know it’s okay to geek out about how I’m finally going to China (or whatever). It really makes me feel appreciated and cared for.

  33. K.*

    #3, I had a boss who would do this and I did push back. “I don’t know, I haven’t seen my email yet – I was driving here.” “Can you let me take off my coat and turn my computer on first?” She got in between 7 and 7:30 and I had to walk past her on my way in, so sometimes she’d follow me and fire questions at me as she was walking. She did it to everyone, not just me, and everyone gave her some version of “Dude, chill.” It largely worked, as long as I checked in with her shortly after getting settled.

    1. Scott*

      Your boss was okay with those responses? Not sure if it’s me but those responses come off a little too rude/passive aggressive

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        What do you consider passive-aggressive about them? They seem very straightforward and assertive to me.

    2. LetterWriter#3*

      Thankfully, my boss is great and never does this to me. Or he will say, “When you get a chance today, can we talk about X, Y, and Z?” It’s mainly people who are at my level or my reports who do the ambush.

  34. BTW*

    For #5, I would get a standard vanilla trim and then the cut you want after you get the job. I’m confused about the makeup, though. I’ve never worn makeup (except for the occasional member-of-the-bridal party situation, or a stage performance) and I would never think to put it on for an interview. Two reasons: due to inexperience, I would botch it and look like a clown, and, I wouldn’t want to take a job that required wearing makeup. (I am not sure what that would be…actor, model, or Tv talking head maybe?) so I’m just asking…is that a thing? Wearing makeup to an interview when you wouldn’t wear it on the job? Or maybe it’s just a matter of polish and projecting confidence and you feel more interview-able when you have it on? Just curious…

    1. Not Karen*

      I would say Yes, it is a Thing, but I don’t know why, either. I’ve never worn makeup to job interviews. Some people also say if you’re FAAB you have to wear a skirt suit to interviews, but I always wear a pantsuit. I’m gainfully employed.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I live somewhere that is very cold in the winter. Always wear a pantsuit to interviews because it’s a suit and also because it’s the best way to also be able to wear long johns and two pairs of socks. Someone wearing a skirt suit to an interview in the winter here might get a little bit of side eye for being impractical.

    2. Rincat*

      I think like most of this, it depends on the industry and where you live. I stopped wearing all makeup years ago and I don’t even wear it to interviews anymore. I just recently got a great job and I had 3 interviews, including one with the CIO, where I had on zero makeup. I’m in Texas which is definitely more conservative, but it was also in the DFW metroplex and it was in an IT organization. So lots of variables at play.

    3. Princess Carolyn*

      You know, I feel like some people just look more put-together sans makeup than others. I would never go to work without wearing mascara, foundation and blush at the very least. Without those things, I look like someone sleepily schlepping over to the gym. I don’t know why. But I do know several women who never wear makeup and still look polished. I’m honestly not sure what makes the difference.

      1. Partly Cloudy*

        Yeah, I kind of look like I just woke up when I don’t wear mascara.

        I wore a little bit of makeup (foundation and mascara) when I interviewed for my current job as well as my last, and wore it for the first few months on the job. I gradually stopped wearing foundation, and after breaking my foot last year, stopped wearing mascara (it was uncomfortable to stand on one foot to apply it). I’m fully recovered now but just never got back into the habit. No one seems to care.

      2. SJ*

        Yes — I don’t think I’m UGLY without makeup or anything, but I definitely look washed-out with sort of bland features (I’m incredibly pale, my eyelashes are almost blond, my brows are a bit sparse in places, my lips are a pale pink… and I have raccoon-like dark circles under my eyes). It’s amazing how undereye concealer, mascara, tinted brow gel, and a lip balm with a bit of color make me look 10000% more awake and just more DEFINED somehow.

        But plenty of women just look totally polished as soon as they roll out of bed, and for that I am envious.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        I stopped wearing make up a while ago, and at first I was keeping it for occasions like interviews or church or important meetings (what will people think??) but I’ve since just thrown it all away. It was expired, for one thing, and I’ve gone without for so long that wearing it makes me feel like a clown. It was a little nervewracking at first, but if men can look perfectly put together without lip gloss, then so can I.

        I have found that what makes the biggest difference is how *awake* you look–if you are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, no one will notice whether you have mascara on or not (though I do acknowledge that some people with blonde facial hair might disagree). A good night’s sleep, skin that is freshly washed and moisturized if dry, and an “open” face (eyes looking around and taking in the room, slightly widened as if you are very interested in things, mouth slightly parted as though you are ready to speak, chin *up*!) make you look much more polished than make up. IMHO.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          In addition to your points, I find having groomed eyebrows helps a lot in my case as well! Even just attacking the scragglers that are trying to make a slow break for my hairline.

          1. Emi.*

            I agree! In general, I think makeup for work is more about looking put-together than looking pretty.

      4. Kelly L.*

        What I’ve figured out for myself is that makeup really only makes a difference in photos. I don’t really get treated differently in real life one way or the other, but I photograph much better in makeup (something about the flash?), so I wear it if I think people will be taking pictures.

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          This is very true for me also. Even without flash. :) But I have fair skin and was freckled as a kid (so, sun damage, I guess) and very light eyelashes. In photos without makeup, my eyelashes are invisible but the sun spots on my face stand out. With makeup, it’s the opposite.

          I still wear makeup to go out in the evenings (dinner, date night, etc.) but I wear it less and less any other time. Not that I was ever one to wear makeup to run to Target (I look like the secret footage on “What Not To Wear” when I’m running errands, haha) but I no longer wear it to church, casual meals out, work….

      5. anon for this*

        I envy the people who have that naturally glowy look and look equally good with or without makeup. I look tired, almost ill, when I go bare-faced. I suspect it has something to do with my low-contrast coloring and not having very defined features. I also have slight ruddiness in my cheek from rosacea, even when it’s under control. Who knows for sure.

      6. Lablizard*

        I don’t know if I look more put together because I wear the “no make-up” make-up look, but I feel more put together. It triggers a ” this is formal/professional” response in me for some reason. Outside of work I rarely wear it. Brains are funny things

    4. Allison*

      My mom told me when I was a teenager that I needed to wear makeup to job interviews because my acne was off-putting. It was tough to hear, but in hindsight it was probably good advice. If you have great skin, and eyes that always look bright and awake, makeup probably isn’t necessary. However, I think most women look a little more put together with some BB cream, mascara, and subtle color on their lips – at least. And when it comes to job interviews, you do generally want to look a little more polished than you might normally would at work – I wear my nicest sheath dress, a blazer, and basic black heels to interviews even though I wouldn’t necessarily wear that stuff to work every day.

    5. SJ*

      I think some (not all!) managers may be unconsciously biased toward women who wear makeup to an interview because they perceive those women as being more “put together” and capable than women who don’t wear makeup, so that’s why women who typically don’t care to wear it might wear it to an interview. I think it’s far more important for a candidate to be neat and well-groomed (hair in place, etc.) and dressed appropriately for an interview than to wear makeup.

    6. OlympiasEpiriot*

      I’m in engineering, we work closely w/ construction firms. Few of the women here wear makeup, but some do. I don’t usually, certainly not at work events. I am also in a coastal, fashionable metropolitan area. I know several professional women who wear none or minimal makeup *even who work in the design industries*. I’m thinking right now of a clothing exec I know who has 8 different kinds of cool glasses to wear with different avant garde outfits but never wears any makeup at all. She also doesn’t color her short, asymmetrical haircut. She’s older than I am. Plenty of grey.

    7. Myrin*

      I sometimes wonder if people make the makeup thing out to be more of an issue than it is in reality.

      I know many people – men especially – who can’t really tell if a woman is wearing makeup in any given moment, especially if they’re just seeing her for the first time (like in a job interview; it’s probably different if you see someone in full makeup every day and then one day they come in without anything on; but even there, I’d say it’s the difference compared to what you’re used to and would get similar reactions the other way round). It might also not make much of a difference – it does for me, for example, because I’m a redhead with the typical blond-red lashes that somehow blend into the colour of my skin and make me look like I have snake eyes; I can technically disguise myself as myself because I’ve been told repeatedly that I honestly look like a completely different person depending on whether I wear makeup or not. My sister, on the other hand, basically never wears makeup and if she does… she doesn’t actually look much different? The same goes for many many friends I’ve had over the years.

      I also agree with Princess Carolyn that some people just seem to look naturally put-together and polished and some don’t in a way that IMO doesn’t really correlate with makeup. I actually suspect it’s the hair (at least I know that it’s for me) but I can’t be entirely sure.

      1. Hrovitnir*

        I think the problem is people can’t necessarily judge if someone’s wearing makeup, but they can feel like they just look “more put together” without realising that’s why.

        Of course, I can do makeup well if I feel like it, but generally feel incapable of looking well put together – I can wear the right clothes and try and make my hair tidy and I look fine, but not “well put together”. Different ways of assembling an outfit that suits you interests me but I am neither good at it nor motivated enough to try so formal clothes usually look as awkward on me as they feel. I have friends who are just… good at it, and not all of them even spend a lot of thought on it. It’s quite interesting.

    8. an anon*

      There is a definite, measurable, and frequently studied bias against women who do not wear makeup, who are generally perceived as less “professional.”

    9. aebhel*

      I only ever wear makeup when I’m breaking out (which is rarely anymore) or if I’m going to be on TV. I don’t think I look unprofessional, although I’m a librarian, which isn’t a field overall known for its fashion sense.

    10. writelhd*

      Add me to the list of people who just doesn’t wear makeup, and wouldn’t to an interview either. Just don’t have the time or interest.

    11. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

      I wear makeup to interviews and during my first few months on the job. But once I’ve been there long enough to relax a bit I generally don’t wear makeup day-to-day, only when I’m meeting with clients and going to court. I think of it as part of the same settling into the job process as gradually flexing my hours more and writing less formal emails to my bosses etc.

      However, I’ll caveat this by saying that I usually have a bit of a tan to even out my skintone (I’m white) and have dark eyes and long black eyelashes. So unlike my fair skinned, green eyed mom, I don’t look washed out without mascara and eyebrow pencil on.

    12. Liz*

      I don’t have great skin – acne and rosacea – and although I don’t wear makeup to work, I always feel like showing up with a blotched face would give people an (unfounded) negative first impression of me. And if I wear foundation and no lipstick and mascara, I think I look weirdly unfinished, so I just go for light full-face makeup.

  35. August*

    OP #5: This is based solely on my own experiences, but, if I were you, I’d wait until after I got the job to cut my hair. I live in a big liberal city, and, since I’ve moved here, I’ve gone job hunting twice: once when I was twenty and had a very short haircut, and again a couple of years ago, when my hair was past my shoulders. It could be due to additional work/interviewing experience, but I had MUCH better luck when my hair was long.

    I think using a short haircut to root out companies that might be homophobic is a good idea in theory, but, once again, in my experience, it doesn’t work like that 100% of the time. I don’t think most hiring managers see a pixie cut and go “Ah! She’s obviously a lesbian! Can’t hire her.”; I do think that there’s a bit of an unconscious bias, and that short hair can also read as young/rebellious/flighty (instead of just signaling “she’s gay”) . Again, it depends on your industry and how much you need a job right now. One of my supervisors loved my short haircut back in college, but actually turned out to be pretty homophobic, while my current supervisor seemed very conservative/tight-laced, but is incredibly accepting. I think if you want to weed out prejudice, as some commenters are suggesting, it might be better to try to get a feel of the company culture through asking questions during/after the interview, Glassdoor, etc.

  36. TheSkrink*

    OP # 5, from one butch to another, as much as it pains me to say it, keep your hair long if you want to minimize the bias against you, especially if you have other aspects of your presentation that read as masculine. It’s hard out there, and no coincidence that the times it’s been hardest are when my hair was shortest.

  37. Mel*

    OP#5, are you me? I’m waiting to cut my hair short until I reach a weight-loss goal (a way to motivate myself), and I feel more confident with short hair. The only consideration to give is where you live geographically. When I was finishing college in Texas about 10 years ago, I started working and got my hair cut very short a few months in to my first job. I definitely got a little pushback, but not to the point where I think I would not have been hired in the first place.

  38. qebebuwe*

    I’m curious why the advice to OP 1 regarding getting payment is different than for previous LWs.

    I seem to recall a couple, one from an employer who maybe was told to interview a candidate by her boss. That person was rejected & that LW received a bill from the applicant. There was another LW who had gone through a lot during the interview process & was ultimately rejected. That person also wanted to know about billing for her time.

    Is it the friend aspect here that makes the advice different. Would it have been OK for the previous interviewees to inquire about getting paid?

    1. Morning Glory*

      The difference is that the company incorporated her ideas that she gave them. Interviewing for free is expected, of course – but what the OP described is more like consulting for free. If it had happened at a point where it was understood by both parties that she would be receiving a job offer, that makes it even worse.

      1. Lablizard*

        I might be reading it wrong, but it sounds to me like the help with the position description was before the interview and the other stuff came up during the interview. In my mind it makes it a bit different

        1. Morning Glory*

          Yeah, I don’t mean helping with the job description, just whatever the idea was the OP gave that turned up on the company’s Facebook page. I don’t necessarily think it would be worth making a big deal about beyond the initial conversation, depending on how detailed and unique the ideas were.

          But bringing it up with the script Alison suggested would at least be a good way to communicate a. that the OP noticed the company implemented her ideas – and b. that it was a crummy thing to do if they weren’t going to offer her the job and she should have been compensated.

          I guess now that I think about it, that is partially due to the personal friendship, actually. Because it’s as much about setting the stage for future interactions with the friends as about what already happened, which wouldn’t be an issue normally.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s because they used her work. That’s a total breach of the understanding that should exist when you’re interviewing — that they can’t steal your work or ideas. Granted, I don’t know exactly what the ideas were here — maybe they were generic enough that they weren’t really the OP’s. But if she’s confident that they are, it’s reasonable to say “hey, that’s not cool to do.” (And it’s much easier to say that because they’re friends.)

  39. Any Moose*

    #5 My hair is short, I don’t wear make up or do my nails for interviews. I am not gay/lesbian. In the infamous words of Popeye ” I am what I am.” But I live in the northeast so that could make a difference.

  40. Nan*

    #3 – people (mostly one person, really) do this to me all the time and it drives me crazy. Especially when it’s things like “the printer has a jam” ok, then fix it!!! Or, “did you see my email from 3 seconds ago” Um, no, I was driving and don’t check email when I’m driving. I work in an industry where things may be urgent, but very rarely are they right-this-second urgent. The only thing that would be right-this-second urgent around here would be the building burning down, in which case you need to call 911, not ask me for permission.

    My standard response is “hang on, let my computer wake up” or “let me get logged in” If you start to tell them to hang on enough, they will eventually get it. Except my one person. Ugh.

    1. Scott*

      I wonder if some of this has to do with them looking to you for all of the answers or being conditioned to not take action without asking you.

      I’ve had some employees like that and it’s grating but I find you can get them to start figuring stuff out on their own by consistently responding with things like”what do you think you should do?” Or “what are our options?”

      1. Nan*

        Yeah, I’ve got all but one trained that when they come with a question, they need to come with an answer. I’m still working on The One. She is lacks self confidence, although her work is nearly always correct and she nearly always makes correct decisions. She’s my task for this year – getting her out of her own way.

    2. LetterWriter#3*

      I actually woke up to a text this morning from someone who wrote, “Did you see the email I sent you last night?” This matter isn’t urgent and I didn’t reply to their email last night because I was working on a higher priority project for my boss and my boss’s boss. I texted back saying I was busy and would reply later when I had a chance. sheesh.

  41. Scott*

    #3. It sounds like maybe you’re coming in later than most. If you need quiet time at the beginning of your work day get there before everyone. That may be the only reliable way to ensure people aren’t waiting for you

    1. Morning Glory*

      In some places, start times are really variable. My office is relatively flexible, and many people choose to come in at 7 and then leave early to beat rush hour traffic.

      I arrived this morning an hour before my start-time to caffeine-up and do homework – still fielded questions from other people who got in earlier than me.

      1. Nan*

        This. In my office, we start anywhere between 7 am and 12:30 pm. I am a 7 am person, which means I get here between 6:30 and 7, depending on traffic. One of my direct reports also starts at 7, but depending on traffic, may be here before me and have a “burning” question. Like, “did you see that email I just sent you” or “we’re out of the coffee flavor I like, but we have 75 other varieties, but can you go get the key?”

    2. Allypopx*

      Nah this is a common problem. People at my office keep slightly different schedules so even though I get in half an hour earlier than I *need* to there’s still a person who works 6-2 instead of 8:30-5 who can grab me if they have a hot question or something. It’s not unreasonable to want a few minutes to settle in, regardless of the general time structure (assuming you don’t have a hard start time, as others have noted).

    3. Temperance*

      I don’t agree with this. At my last job, my JerkBoss came in between 7:00 – 7:30 a.m. each day, and she would be on us as soon as we walked in the door. We weren’t allowed to start working before our scheduled 8:30 a.m. start time, so we basically had to sit there and wait until the exact time to clock in, but she would start peppering us with questions and tasks the second we showed up.

    4. Kelly L.*

      Nope, there’s no reason to assume that. People will show up early to lurk if they want to pounce. They’re not even necessarily her own immediate office-mates. I work at a college; students will hang around outside the office at 20-till because they know that’s when I get there, even though I don’t “start” till 8. When I worked in fast food, people would start banging on the doors 10 minutes before we opened.

    5. LetterWriter#3*

      I do come in later than most. That is true. But I’m also one of the last people, if not, the last person, to leave (I was actually working until midnight last night). I didn’t come in today until 11:30 AM though.

      1. Scott*

        What if you adjust your permanent outlook calendar to start at 12 and let everyone know you’re not available until then

        1. Kelly L.*

          Outlook calendar is one thing, but a lot of this happens because someone sees you physically in front of them, and pounces on you without checking whether you’re officially available.

          1. Scott*

            Yeah I don’t think there’s a real good solution if people are in essence waiting for you to get in because they need something.

  42. Scarlott*

    #3 Personally, I think this would trigger a bias in any non-lgbt dominated workplace (male dominated or female). Maybe that’s what you need though. You don’t want to get hired only to figure out you’re working with a bunch of homophobes. If I were you I would dress the way you want and let them figure it out.

    1. Natalie*

      “You don’t want to get hired only to figure out you’re working with a bunch of homophobes.”

      Eh, bias is a little more complicated than that. It’s fairly common for people to have an unconscious, implicit bias even though consciously they are egalitarian and would be perfectly fine to work with. I’m not sure if anyone’s researched this with hair, but they have with black-presenting names on resumes and such.

      Unfortunately people don’t general slot neatly into “complete assholes” and “perfectly lovely in every way”.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I was thinking the same thing–that bias plays out most against people you don’t know, and that it’s mitigated by acquaintanceship.

    2. Agnodike*

      It’s not always a matter of “a bunch of homophobes;” how you present yourself can affect how your actions are perceived in ways that align well with prejudice but aren’t explicitly prejudiced. So, for example, women who make statements without smiling are often perceived as more aggressive than men who make statements without smiling, because there’s a social expectation that women smile that doesn’t exist for men. Few people explicitly think, “I don’t like Shania because she’s not conforming to the social expectation that she smile when presenting information,” but a lot of people might think that Shania is grumpy or aggressive or rude without knowing precisely why – and they might not think that about Damian, even if he has exactly the same approach to interaction.

      It’s the same for queer folk: if we’re read as queer, even people who aren’t homophobes might interpret our (normal, appropriate) behaviours differently than if we’re read as straight.

      1. Scarlott*

        And how would keeping long hair for the interview and cutting it after help that? Because you’ll have the job offer so “no takebacks”? But then you still have to work with these people. So if it would have been an issue in the interview, it will be an issue in the job including work assignments, reviews, ect.

        1. Natalie*

          As fposte said above, knowing someone can mitigate unconscious biases. In an interview you’re basically strangers, and you’re making a decision based on comparatively little information. So “seems a bit grumpy” might be the difference between hired and not.

          Whereas once someone is on the job, they’re a known quantity. Your actual experience of Susan as a non-grumpy person settles in and counters any assumption that Susan was grumpy based on her facial expression.

        2. Agnodike*

          Well, for one, it might make a difference because we often judge people differently in an interview setting than we do in our day-to-day workplace setting – which is why people are commonly advised to “dress up” for interviews. There is a larger question of how you want to present yourself to the world in general, but it’s often separate from considerations of how you might choose to present yourself in an extra-formal or high-stakes setting like an interview.

  43. Princess Carolyn*

    I’m surprised so many people think the short hair would be an issue. I definitely appreciate that the OP distinguished between “Will this be an issue?” and “Should this be an issue?” but I’m still shocked at the response. I would have said no, there’s virtually no risk here. But I’m a cishet woman with long hair, so maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

    1. Ayshe22992*

      I dont think it would ever cross my mind to not cut my hair because of an interview, I will dye my hair normal ish colors if I have an interview but thats a slightly different story. I personally am a young woman with a long (6 inches or so) green mohawk. I’m as straight as the day is long but I love changing my hair and playing outside the “rules” of gender. I’m so happy my job, my school, and my internship are all cool with me having whatever color hair I want. And I even work closely with some higher ups at one of the BIG 3 Auto Companies.

      1. Princess Carolyn*

        I’m glad the business world is slowly getting over the cookie-cutter idea of what looks professional! I’m pretty unadventurous when it comes to my look, but I still like having freedom!

    2. Agnodike*

      I’m not saying it’s an issue everywhere, but I am queer and the difference between how I’m perceived when I present as typically feminine vs. when I don’t is astonishing. Even when I’m saying something that makes it obvious I’m not straight (“Oh, my ex-girlfriend just bought a house in that neighbourhood! She loves it!”), it’s been received way better when I’ve had long hair and worn typically feminine clothing than when I’ve had a butch haircut and buttoned my shirts all the way to the top button.

      Of course it shouldn’t make a difference, but it can, and it’s up to each person to decide how much that matters to them. Some people choose to present themselves in a way that best aligns with how they feel about themselves, some people choose to present themselves in a way that makes their lives easier where possible.

    3. Natalie*

      My bit of anecdata as a cis/het woman in a blue, GLBT-friendly area: I’ve had a whole series of short hair cuts and currently have an undercut and it definitely has some impact but it’s pretty mild. However, I could totally see how even a mild impact could feel like far too much if I was a queer woman who wasn’t sure it was safe to be out in this or that particular context.

    4. asteramella*

      Yes, it’s wishful thinking.

      The issue isn’t so much the shortness as the “masculinity.” A feminine-dressing woman with a pixie cut, wearing makeup and a blouse, won’t get much pushback. A woman who dresses more androgynously with a flat-top, button-up shirt and straight-leg pants will get more pushback.

  44. Ayshe22992*


    I can’t imagine being required to tell your boss why you need a day off. I personally am a talkative person so everyone knows why I’m taking the day off (usually a concert or something like that). I actually count down on my business Skype status bar. Luckily my boss doesn’t care why I’m taking the day off.

  45. overcaffeinatedandqueer (OP5)*

    Hey, Alison took my question! I did think about this a while ago, and went with a compromise; yes, it’s hella short for a woman, but not distinctly “butch.” It’s basically a layered crew cut (short in back, above the ears, but left long enough towards the top of my scalp to sort of fall down, making my hair look thicker and longer until it “stops” above the ears and the base of my neck), with long bangs I put off to the side.

    I’m now working and have enough money to survive and also have some fun, so I can afford to filter out homophobes.

    1. asteramella*

      I’m glad it worked out for you!

      I dress more androgynously at work but have “long” (for me) hair (shoulder length). In my corporate environment, a more butch haircut would not fly. I’ve been looking forward to cutting my hair when I switch industries later this year :)

  46. saffytaffy*

    I’m getting a strange feeling from OP #2. What I’m reading here is that Spouse lied, OP lied by omission, and then in the letter can’t resist saying that Employer is toxic, even though that’s not the focus of the letter and there are no details.

    I wonder if this isn’t part of a larger habit of lying about something, then coming clean out of guilt, and worrying that OP’s reputation has been harmed. It might be a good idea to reflect on how often similar situations come up in your everyday life.

    1. OP#2 Spouse-Referral*

      How’s the view from left field?! Spouse did lie by omission because they thought the employer was likely to be more dismissive of me if they knew we were personally involved, and I followed suit to see if I could get the job on my own — which I agree with Allison, wasn’t great. Spouse should have disclosed right up front, even though they weren’t giving a recommendation as much as a referral.

      The mention of the employer’s toxicity was probably unnecessary but turned out to be something of a justification for Spouse being hesitant about disclosing in the first place. This is not a habit of lying or something that is likely to happen again.

  47. Allypopx*

    A note on Alison’s advice to OP #3 – definitely use appropriate tone and judgment with your manager or senior colleagues, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still make the same request of them!
    “Hey OP do you have that teapot report ready?”
    “Absolutely Wakeen – just give me five minutes to get organized and I’ll get right back to you” or “I do, can I find you at your desk in 10?”
    You can still set limits with superiors. Be conscious of your tone, especially if this is something that bugs you, and don’t be argumentative if they push back, but my boss and I regularly ask each other for five minutes, and I’d be comfortable asking his boss too, as long as I was nice and professional about it.

  48. All_Anonymous*

    Op #5: I got a very butch haircut in the middle of a yearlong job search, two days before landing an interview. I was nervous about the hair, but I got the job, and in general, people were actually much more open to me with my short, unfeminine hair. It could be a geographic or industry thing, though.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yeah I know we have a hiring manager who really prefers hiring people with styles that indicate what our more conservative boss would call edgy or alternative leanings because they tend to be good culture fits overall. It’s not the main focus of her hiring decisions of course, but different places react to things that create traditional bias differently.

  49. Jan Levinson*

    #3 – I totally understand this.

    In particular, this happens to me when I come back from my lunch break. I intentionally go back to my desk a couple minutes early to put my lunchbox away, put my phone on my charger under my desk, get out a piece of gum, etc. However, I often have people come to my desk as soon as I’m getting back to ask minor questions, which really grinds my gears. Everyone needs a few minutes to decompress! I have a hard time speaking up, though in fear of coming across as unhelpful. Here’s to hoping you are more assertive than I am!

    You have my sympathies!

  50. AndersonDarling*

    #5- I’m actually working with something similar. I usually have brightly colored hair (Osborn Red with a streak of Platinum down one side) but it just finished growing out. I have an interview a few days before I get my hair recolored, so I’m going to look traditional at the interview. I’m planning on asking the HR rep about it. “I usually have hair that is colored a bit edgier. I was wondering if you have any policies around hair color, or if you think that would be outside of your work culture norms.”
    I just want to open the discussion with them ahead of time. I don’t think it would be a problem, but if I was offered the job, I don’t want to shock them when I show up on my first day.

    1. Temperance*

      I always wonder about this. My hair color of choice is hot pink. Obviously, I didn’t think I could get away with that as an attorney, so it’s now fairly light blonde, although not platinum. I miss pink hair me.

      I weirdly find that I dress more like a cupcake without pink hair, though. My tote bag is rose gold, my cell phone case is rose gold, my fitbit is pink, and I’m wearing a floral print dress. I would probably be more muted in my personal taste otherwise.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I’m an attorney and rather than color my hair I got brightly-colored extensions. Blue extensions ftw!

      2. SJ*

        I think pink hair + cupcake styling just comes off as a bit more costumey than someone with “normal” colored hair wearing/carrying more cutesy stuff.

  51. Still Here Still Queer*

    Alison, I’m sure this wasn’t your intent but “women, both gay and straight” is a little cringey and eyeroll-inducing because of the bisexual erasure. Must all bisexual women have long and/or femme hair now? ;)

    (I’m personally demisexual/panromantic, but generally go with “bi” when asked because frankly, it’s easier for the majority to understand. But bi erasure is nonetheless wearying.)

    1. overcaffeinatedandqueer (OP5)*

      Thanks for pointing this out! My wife is bi, so I try to be aware of erasure; just because she’s married to me doesn’t make her gay.

  52. Clumsy Clara*

    Offshoot from LW#5 (and i’m sure it varies by industry but…) is it really expected that women wear make up to job interviews? I never wear it (like maybe once a year if that) and definitely don’t for interviews.

    1. Scarlott*

      I don’t think it’s necessary at all. Just make sure you look professional. I would argue too strong of makeup is worse than none. Obvious exception if you applying to a cosmetics based company.

    2. Hrovitnir*

      There certainly is unconscious bias for “natural” makeup that will depend on region and industry. I think if it’s something that is totally abnormal for you and you feel happy to go without I wouldn’t bother. There are lots of unconscious biases to be aware of and you’ve gotta balance it out for your own comfort.

    3. J.B.*

      I’ve only started wearing makeup regularly now that I’m approaching 40. Never did before. I think it goes along with your field – if you are in a field where people regularly wear suits, I would at least put some sort of tinted moisturizer and lip balm on for an interview. Otherwise whatever works for you.

  53. Arielle*

    I got a pretty deliberate haircut before interviewing for my current job, on the grounds that if they didn’t want to hire me because I have a pixie cut, it wasn’t the kind of place I wanted to work for. I did have the privilege of a) being currently employed, b) being generally feminine in appearance, and c) being in a relationship with a man (although I am queer) so if any of those things aren’t true for you, you may want to play it safe.

  54. Sue Wilson*

    #2: I think the problem for me would be if your spouse gave an endorsement that only he could give as your former boss and if he worked at the place where he was endorsing you.

    There’s a difference to me between “Amy has a hard work ethic and is great at teapot designing when she worked for me” for which I think you need to disclose and “Bob over at XYZ keeps hiring her for consulting work, even after she left and he still loves her work” which is a viewpoint of your professional reputation in general, in which I think not disclosing is less of a problem and which I think is possible when it’s a networking connection with other people in the industry. And you need to disclose if spouse works at the place where you are applying, imo.

    1. OP#2 Spouse-Referral*

      Op#2 Here!

      It was a very informal hiring search–Spouse had a client, client was looking for a person, Spouse forwarded client’s email and cc’d client with a very basic intro, and I applied and interviewed on my own. My main concern, as someone speculated up-thread, was that I didn’t want to be discounted as a candidate just because we had a personal relationship after our professional one!

  55. C in the Hood*

    re OP3: I have to say in my current job, the worst it gets is my boss saying to me when I get in: “when we’re settled in, we need to talk about X”. And I think others have learned that once I have my coffee, I can give them a coherent and intelligent answer.

  56. Gabriela*

    OP #3, this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine, too. Where I work, we all pretty much have the same “official” start time, but the city is notorious for really terrible traffic, so unofficially, people arrive between a half hour before or a half hour after the “official” time (we are all mostly salaried and exempt). We are also all linked up to an intra-office messaging system that lets you know when someone is active or inactive. This has allowed people to call me the literal second my status goes from inactive to active and they are rarely emergencies or time-sensitive, just eager beavers. I don’t have any advice, just commiseration that this is obnoxious.

    1. shep*

      I’m in much the same situation. I was guilty last week of asking someone a question when we walked into the building at the same time that morning. She’s sometimes hard to pin down for in the office, and it was very time-sensitive and out of the norm, so I definitely felt a little bad about it. I wasn’t asking her to look at anything or do anything in the moment. More like, “Oh hey, I also need to talk to the contractor when she comes in today. Could you let me know?” But aside from that transgression, I try to avoid bothering anyone until well into the day and keep my upon-immediate-arrival interchanges to once every four or five years.

  57. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Argh! I used to work with a woman who would do this All. The. Time. I got to where I called it “The Pounce” because she would literally pounce on people at any given moment to ask something. She did this to me once when I was in the middle of a very important meeting (that she knew was going on because it was literally across from her office) and stepped out for a second to get an attendee a glass of water. She zoomed over to me and wanted me to review her TPS reports *right then.* This happened to me and so many of my colleagues so many times that someone finally had to go to her and tell her to knock it off. She didn’t get it that not only do people not always have time for her, but also that it’s not always possible to switch gears to accommodate whatever she was doing right at that moment.

  58. The Literary Engineer*

    #5, I would say that it depends on the field and culture of the workforce. I also am a huge fan of wigs. My real hair is a blue/purple/silver mohawk, but the wigs I wear are all natural looking. I have a cute blond bob, black long, and wavy brown. Everyone at work obviously knows that I have the technicolor mohawk, but when I’m going to be out of the shop and in a meeting or something like that, I put on a wig.

    It should be noted that these are not costume shop wigs and all look natural on me.

  59. voluptuousfire*

    #5 pretty much was me during my last job hunt. I pretty much had a slightly longer than buzzed cut at the time and I’m fairly sure I didn’t get one job because I wasn’t “feminine” enough. I was pretty butch presenting at the time, despite wearing heels and makeup. In the end, that’s not a problem for me because chances are if that my appearance was an issue, I wouldn’t be successful in that role.

    I’m a straight woman but my presentation (to a certain extent) and haircut read “queer” and it does cause some confusion, especially in how people approach me. Luckily I work for a company now that’s really progressive and liberal, so no one really thinks about such things and it’s pretty usual for the women here to have shorter cuts. I think there’s about 4 other women who are short haired. It was helpful when I was looking for a new hairstylist that specialized in short cuts on women. :)

    Why not split the difference? Cut it but keep it in a chin length bob or one of those really cute wedge(shorter in back, longer in front) cuts? It’s still short but more “socially acceptably” so?

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Oh man, this isn’t super relevant, but short haircuts like bobs are horrendous to keep up (for me at least). If you have thick, not-totally-straight hair it just looks bizarre without stuff like blow drying and/or straightening and I don’t know about other people but I’m never going to do that in the morning. Whereas with really short hair half the joy was how quickly it dried.

      This whole thread is making me want to cut my hair again.

  60. voluptuousfire*

    @ #5…to follow up, what’s your hair like long? Does it look good long? I ask because when my hair was long, it never looked very good. My hair’s texture doesn’t lend to length and years ago I was job hunting with shoulder length hair and the only way I could keep it semi-professional was keeping it up in a clip. One thing to keep in mind is that while long hair may be more culturally accepted, it may not be as professional looking if it’s stringy and just hanging there. A well groomed cute bob or pixie cut would be more professional in that context.

  61. Limepink22*

    For OP4, maybe if the reason the boss asks for PTO reasons is to ensure operational coverage and people get the time they really need (ie remember the mom with the military son on two days leave letter, or that awful graduation vs. Concert letter? ) but instead of the boss making a value call, he asks you to rate your PTO 1-10. then the value of the request to the employee is left up to them- if he can only give one person a day off and he has a request level 4, and a 7- well he knows who to give it to. Maybe a cap on how many 10s you can have in a calendar year but this way people can manage their pto a bit more privately…

    Just thoughts!

  62. mf*

    OP #4: When you ask your boss, “Can you tell me why you want that information?”, you could also follow up with, “And what criteria will you be using to assess my reasons whether my reasons for taking PTO are acceptable?”

    In other words, make him spell exactly when/why he would deny a PTO request. This is obviously a fraught subject, which is why most managers would never require employees to disclose why they’re taking PTO. Even if he’s concerned about coverage and/or trying to ensure that people who really need it get PTO before the ones who simply want some down time, there are probably going to be a lot to exceptions to whatever rule he’s created. If he hasn’t thought this through, you may be able to lead him to this point.

    If he hems and haws when he asks this question, you should press him to answer: “If you’re requiring me to disclose why I’m taking PTO, I think I deserve to know what sort of value judgments you’ll be making on how I spend my personal time.” <– This may seem a little confrontational, but it will probably drive home the point that you feel he's intruding on your personal life.

  63. The IT Manager*

    If I were #5, I would wait to get the cut especially if it’s particularly edgy or butch. I don’t think you’re trying to weed out the consciously anti-LGBTQ biased interviewees (you don’t want to work for them anyway), but the unconscious biases that accepting people and companies may have. Every little bit helps.

    I have had short hair in some cut or another for all of my adult life except for the two times I grew it out. Some cuts have been edgy and butch and others have not been. If I were interviewing in person, I’d definitely lean toward something less edgy and more traditional.

    I work from home now, but I don’t regret waiting until after an expected work trip to try something more unusual. I do regret getting a new to me very short, asymmetrical cut right before family photos. I got exactly what I asked for, but I didn’t like the look on me and now it’s preserved in family photos.

    I’m a better safe than sorry person. Since you’re interviewing now and need a job, I’d leave the new hair cut for a reward after you land the new job. I don’t think that even amounts to being untrue to yourself. You’ll have a lot of different hairstyles over the years.

  64. Fabulous*

    #3 – I understand this so much! I walk up 3 flights of stairs in the morning, need to get to my desk, log into my computer, then log into the timekeeping system. Takes maybe 2 minutes altogether, but I usually spend that time catching my breath and taking a minute to put away my jacket and purse, etc. People regularly start shouting hello and asking questions before I get to my desk. Let me log in at least first!!

  65. Tinker*

    So, I wanted to throw in a slightly different take on the whole “well, they may be perfectly good people who just have unconscious biases against people who look queer or unconventional” thing — the implication still being that you want to camouflage to get past those unconscious biases, and once you get in the door such people will probably be okay with you as you are and continue to not engage in overt bigotry.

    And this is true. There are probably lots of people who would look at me and have a bit of a “I can’t put my finger on it, but… uggghhh… harsh… intimidating… weird?” reaction, who would hire the version of me who exerted the effort to pass better for a couple hours and who would not be disappointed to a problematic degree when they discovered that the version of me that I can sustain for the long term is overtly queer and neurodivergent. There are also people — and I have figured this out in retrospect, based on how our working relationship developed — who looked at the way I present and went “I can’t put my finger on it but that right there is the sort of person that I definitely want analyzing my data, and when I give them my data to analyze day in and day out I feel somehow like things are well in hand because they look the part.”

    Thing is, I think many of us who are different get a bit used to looking at ourselves from the perspective of “please don’t mistreat me despite that I’m weird, I hope it’s okay for me to be weird if I exert effort to try and hide it, I will downplay this aspect of me that I think people are inclined to consider undesirable” that we don’t think about the prospect that there are pockets of people who might actually like us because we’re weird and be happier when they see more weird.

    Sure, those people are less common than the other sort and the overall state of the market might lead to a person still making the decision to aim for the mainstream presentation-wise. But I think that’s not as much of a given as it tends to be said.

    1. Arielle*

      I appreciate this on multiple levels. To use another example, I have an MFA in theater but I work in tech. I don’t want to work for a company who sees my MFA as a sign that I’m underqualified for my job. I want to work somewhere where they see my arts background as being a unique strength that I have as a candidate. In other words, I want to work somewhere where my weirdness is an asset rather than a liability.

  66. Jessica*

    I doubt it’s that type of office environment, but if I were in #4’s shoes, I’d tell my boss I was heading to a Furry convention. Or clown school. Or any other “so none of your business!” answers.

  67. Cats n' Kittens*

    I’m a straight woman and I have a very butch/traditionally male haircut (my male boss and I have pretty much the same exact haircut). It has crossed my mind that it would make me a less attractive candidate to employers but I cut my hair anyways because having short hair is a quality of life issue for me. I’ve had my hair this short now for 2 years and it hasn’t been a problem for me but I work in a pretty liberal area/field. In fact, my now coworkers mentioned to me that when I came in for my interview they thought I looked very cool/high fashion. Though to be fair I otherwise have a somewhat feminine aesthetic (ie. I rarely wear dresses or skirts but I also don’t wear a lot of menswear, mostly pixie pants and sweaters/cardigans).

  68. Emi.*

    For #1, why would it be okay to ask for payment here but not in previous letters? In a previous answer, you said

    * If the candidate felt that [the company asking for unpaid work] was happening, it was up to her to speak up; you don’t invoice after the fact without prior agreement.
    * A simple interview is not consulting work.
    * Good hiring does include talking over ideas and what the candidate’s approach to the job would be. In many cases, it also includes simulations of the actual work the person would be doing (although within reason — not hours of it — and not for the employer’s use outside of the hiring process).

    Apart from the fact that just sending an invoice is more obnoxious than “Should we figure out a consulting fee,” I don’t understand how they’re different.

  69. Bea*

    The insight into the POVs of those opposed to being asked about their reason for PTO is incredibly helpful and interesting.

    I’ve worked for people who would get pissy about needing time off over anything and developed anxiety over it. To the point I almost had to have my boyfriend give me a script to use when needing a day off to be with my mother while my dad had a massive long surgical procedure. Yet I always just figured all companies ask why you’re taking the time off, my new nontoxic job does but nobody ever really cares if it’s for a trip or extra snoozing on the couch with all your cats.

  70. Undine*

    I’ve always preferred short hair, even way back in the seventies when everybody told me how horrible it looked. And finally one friend said something to me, “You look happier with short hair.” Whatever you decide to go with for your interviews, short or long, choose a look that makes you feel confident and natural. That plays into it too.

  71. Noobtastic*

    Re: #1 and “The ideas I gave you in our interview were part of the interview process — I hadn’t intended to provide free work, but I see that they’ve been posted on your Facebook page. Should we figure out a consulting fee, or how would you like to handle that?”

    This just made me cackle with laughter!

    It’s a good thing I read this site at home, and not at work.

  72. Noobtastic*

    #4 – I’m not saying you should do this, but my first inclination, if the boss refuses to be reasonable after you follow Alison’s excellent advice, is to request PTO in advance with the note that “I plan to suffer from debilitating explosive diarrhea from March 27 to 30.”

    I mean, seriously, what the heck does he think he’s doing, making that requirement?

  73. Cassie*

    #3 – Like most people here, I also like to have a few minutes to get settled when I get to work. Thankfully most of our students aren’t even around at 8am so I don’t have to worry about being ambushed by them. If I run into them in the hallway and they ask for something, I’ll say “okay, I’ll send it to you” and we part ways. For more detailed requests, I’ll say “can you send me an email with that information?” just so I can be sure I get the right info to pass on. For simple requests, I don’t ask them to send me an email.

    I’ll admit that I have stalked around professors’ offices or their classrooms in hopes of catching them when they arrive – some faculty are very unresponsive to emails and you just can’t get a hold of them otherwise.

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