employee told two coworkers they’re overweight, friend has no experience but wants the job, and more

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

1. Diet-obsessed employee told two coworkers they’re overweight

I manage a small team at a mid-size company. We work very closely with another team on a daily basis. “Mike,” a member of that team, is a vegan and loves to tell people about his lifestyle. It’s to the point that you cannot mention anything related to food around him, lest he go on a 20-minute tirade. Recently two members of my team were in the break room and asked him an innocent question about his lunch, which consisted of all veggies. He proceeded to tell them the virtues of an all-plant diet. About 15 minutes into his spiel, he looked at both of them and said something to the effect of “you should both consider this lifestyle since you’re overweight.”

When my employee told me about this, I was instantly enraged. I approached my boss (who is Mike’s boss as well) and explained the situation. He had me confirm with my employee that he actually used the words “you’re overweight” and it was not implied. My employee confirmed that Mike did say that exact thing, but pleaded with me to please not say anything to him, and that it was okay with her and she did not want to see him get in trouble. I don’t want to make her uncomfortable or strain their work relationship by approaching him about this, but I don’t think I can stand for someone body shaming my employees! What is your take? And if he is approached about this comment, should I talk to him on behalf of my team members, or should his boss?

His boss should talk to him and tell him that he cannot comment on other employees’ bodies or diets, period, and get him to commit that he won’t do it again. It also wouldn’t hurt for his boss to tell him to rein in the nutrition talk in general because he’s being a huge bore and people are going to start to avoid him.

You should tell your employee that Mike’s boss has a responsibility to ensure that Mike doesn’t keep making comments like that to people — and that even if she’s willing to let it go, other people may not feel as forgiving. You should also tell her that she doesn’t need to let Mike or other people hijack her time like that; make sure she knows that if anyone is ever droning on to her about food, knitting, porcupines, their kids, or any other non-work topic, it’s fine for her to cut them off and say she’s on deadline and has to get back to her work.

2. My friend has no experience and no portfolio but wants the job

My friend (A) is working a normal office job but apparently likes writing. Two years ago, A applied for a full-time position to write articles for a consumer publication. You don’t need a background in the subject, but need to be able to make a technical subject friendly enough for consumers to understand and apply to their own lives. A does not have a background in the subject or any professional writing experience. However, she was invited to interview because her friend (B) works in the company and recommended her to the manager. Although A passed the first-round interview and received some positive comments on her writing test, she later found out via B that she was ultimately rejected based on lack of experience.

Fast forward to last week, the same position opened up again. B encouraged A to reapply and promised to put in a good word again. This time, the manager informed B to tell A to give up on the position because nothing had changed about her lack of experience, so she would be automatically taken out of consideration. And by that, I mean A has ZERO writing experience. She does some copywriting work during her normal job, but she has never written full articles in a professional capacity. I suggested that if A really wants to be writer, she should create a portfolio of writing samples or do some freelance work during her spare time. She rejected the idea on the grounds that she is too busy to write unless she’s being paid on a full-time basis. She believes she has a gift for translating jargon for the layman and just needs a chance to prove it.

I have past professional writing experience and could tell anyone that even getting an internship would require a portfolio. Yet, she has brushed off all of my advice, thinking that she just needs to wait for an opportunity to land in her lap without any hard work. To make things worse, B continues to praise A, saying that the company made a mistake on passing on her. Maybe A is really an undiscovered talent but if she doesn’t have the portfolio to prove it, who on earth is going to know or care? I’m bewildered that she can say that she likes writing when she actually hasn’t written … anything at all.

As a concerned friend, how do I get A’s head out of the clouds, preferably without hurting her feelings, and is it even worth trying? Is it better to simply stay silent in future? If it matters, we are of similar age.

It doesn’t sound like you can get her head of the clouds. You’ve give her what sounds like good advice, and she’s ignoring it. You can’t force her to believe you.

The nice thing about this dilemma is that she’s going to have to figure it out on her own at some point, or at least she’s likely to, because she’s not going to get the jobs she’s applying for. As someone who has written professionally for years and has hired lots of writers, the idea of someone applying for a writing job with no clips, and no apparent interest in creating clips, is basically a non-starter. Writing jobs attract a huge number of applicants, and most of those applicants have published clips. Someone who says they wants to write but has never actually bothered to do write on her own is going to get cut in the first round.

Anyway, you’ve tried, she’s ignoring you, and you can in good conscience let it drop. (You might want to tell B that he’s being an ass, though.)

3. Will not having Facebook hurt my job search?

I am not on Facebook. I don’t like very concept of it and think it’s invasive. It has recently occurred to me, though, that not having a Facebook account could be hurting my job search. Will it look like I have something to hide if I don’t have a Facebook account? Will it make me look too old? Will the company not interview me because they can’t verify me through a Facebook account? (I had trouble signing up for a government service because they couldn’t find me on Facebook!)

How would I handle interview questions about Facebook? The truth that I hate the concept of it could alienate an interviewer. Is a nonchalant “it’s not for me” sufficient? I have my own professional website and am listed on a few industry sites.

Unless you work in PR, marketing, or social media, employers aren’t going to care that you don’t have Facebook, and it’s highly unlikely that you will be asked about it. For 99.9% of employers out there, this will be a non-issue. (If you run into that 0.1% who care, be suspicious because sensible employers won’t.)

Plus loads of people aren’t on Facebook; it’s really not a shocking thing.

4. Unplanned absences and our review process

In Oregon, we have what’s called “Oregon Sick Time” (it came into effect a couple years ago). Basically it requires employers (that qualify) to provide 40 hours of protected paid leave per year to employees for illness.

When it comes to our employee review process, one thing we look at are unplanned absences. Under our current process (that was enacted pre-OST), anything between one and 39 hours per year is fine. Anything beyond that, we start looking at discipline.

My issue is this: Say John has 41 hours of unplanned time. However, 40 hours are protected leave due to illness. So come review time, we can only take one hour into account. Jane on the other hand has actually only missed one hour (she’s pretty picky about her attendance). So after I get done giving kudos to Jane about her attendance, I have to turn around and give the same kudos to John, even though we both know he’s missed more than one hour.

This situation is creating resentment among some of the employees towards their coworkers. We’ve looked at redoing our attendance policy but are at loss on how to adjust it. We don’t want to shrink the number of hours before discipline because life happens. Just because you’re unable to come in doesn’t mean you’re sick. I’m writing you to see if you or your readers have any ideas about how to deal with this.

Stop disciplining or praising people for their use of sick time, period. That should not be something built into your review process at all.

If someone is missing so much work that it’s impacting their performance, address that — and don’t wait until formal reviews to do it. But if it’s not, then be an employer who doesn’t penalize people for being sick. And also be an employer that doesn’t praise people for being lucky enough not to get sick. Treat people like responsible adults, which means focusing on performance and results.

5. Massachusetts’s new law against asking for salary history

I live in Massachusetts, where it is illegal to ask for salary history.

I am currently searching for a job, and am working with some recruiters. I am repeatedly asked for my salary history, and what salary I would take. This happens when the recruiter is working on a specific job posting, not in a general information call. What can I do? I’ve tried asking what the employer’s range is, along with other strategies. But the recruiters keep asking for specific numbers.

The Massachusetts law that makes it illegal to ask about your salary history doesn’t go into effect until July 1, 2018 so they’re not breaking the law yet. But it’s still pretty crappy of them to be asking, knowing that the change is coming and knowing that the law was passed because of serious concerns about racial and gender salary inequities. And it’s not like you’re seeing it on forms that just haven’t been changed yet; you’re being asked it by humans, who could easily just not.

I think you can cite the law anyway: “Oh, there’s actually a new law in Massachusetts that prohibits asking that. But I’m looking for a range of $X to $Y.” Or, “Oh, there’s actually a new law in Massachusetts that prohibits asking that. What’s the range for the position?”

If the recruiter responds that the law doesn’t take effect until next year, know that you’re dealing with a pretty crappy, unethical recruiter.

{ 701 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I’ve removed several threads below bashing vegans. It’s not constructive to bash anyone’s diet; the issue isn’t the diet, it’s the person who’s a boor about it. (And unsolicited criticism of other people’s diets is exactly the problem the post was discussing, so please don’t replicate it here.)

    I’m putting this up here in the hopes it will stop further comments along those lines.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, if you have any input or power over it, please knock that policy off. Why on earth would you include a person’s use of sick leave in their performance review? And what’s the rationale for disciplining someone for using time that is essential for their ability to function and part of their compensation package? Why is there this focus on attendance to begin with, as opposed to reviewing deliverables? Is being physically present a core performance metric (it is for some jobs, so I’m curious why all your employees are covered by this metric)?

    I don’t mean to be harsh, but I find the entire idea of praising adults about their attendance at a job they are paid to show up for to be really strange.

    1. DArcy*

      My impression is that OP#4’s company is not actually tracking the use of sick time; they’re automatically applying mandatory sick time to every employee’s first 40 hours of unplanned/unscheduled time out, a policy which makes it impossible for them to officially distinguish between “Employee X was sick for 30 hours” and “Employee Y just goofed off for 30 hours”. That’s a very poor strategy, and it is absolutely not required by Oregon law.

      You absolutely can require employees to actually declare when they’re using sick leave, and that’s actually good for employees because it gives us the flexibility to “save” sick time for when we’re seriously ill and expect to be out for several days, as opposed to being forced to use it up every time we’re out.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I apologize if I’m being dense or misreading your comment. My gut reaction is that I’m not sure why the distinction matters? The only time sick leave should be part of a performance evaluation is if a person’s absence is negatively impacting their performance metrics or essential job duties. Although employees should not lie about taking sick leave to simply goof off, I don’t want employers determining whether someone’s leave is “goof off” leave or “sick leave” because I think it’s important for sick leave to be freely available and without negative repercussions if they’re meeting their goals.

        My understanding of what OP wrote is that John has taken one sick-leave hour beyond the protected 40 hours of sick leave. Meanwhile, Jane has not taken sick leave, but she has also had an unexcused 1-hour absence during the same evaluation period. But Jane is upset because she feels she’s being punished for the 1-hour absence when John has effectively taken 41-hours of sick leave. This sounds like comparing apples and oranges to me—being absent without an excuse is materially different than being absent because you’re on sick leave. But it seems like the tension is resolved, either way, by changing how the company addresses attendance.

        1. Bea*

          In Oregon you can’t use someone using the sick leave time against them anyways. It’s a slippery slope the OP should really work towards getting fixed in these yearly years of the new law before an employee is disgruntled enough to start an investigation about the company using that in performance reviews. So not just approaching it as “bad management” style is how I’d bring it to the higher ups attention in this case.

        2. Karen D*

          It sounds as if both employees are well within the allowed guidelines, because the OP mentions “kudos” for them both. It sounds as if the policy is geared toward discipline for employees with excessive time off, and that Jane wants John to lose out on a high rating because he took 41 hours of “unscheduled” PTO under the old policy, and she doesn’t think the new law should effectively erase those hours.

          On an annual review, many companies save the highest rating (“achieves standards” “blows standards away” “renders standards a helpless sobbing thing on the breakroom floor”) for employees who use very little sick time at all, or none. I’m not sure what bearing the new Oregon law will have on that — whether getting a less-than-perfect rating on one element in a multi-element performance review would be considered punitive enough to merit official action. I kinda doubt it.

          1. Karen D*

            (Also, I think Jane needs to mind her own bidness and not worry about how John is rated.)

            1. Lilo*

              This. Frankly, I would much prefer to work for an employer who doesn’t punish people for being sick or just taking their vacation time, even if I personally didn’t use sick time this year. My office also builds a culture of “we’re all in this together” for anything from sickness, family leave, to vacations, which I think is a lot healthier than bean counting.

              1. GermanGirl*

                Yes, absolutely. Btw, how does Jane even know about John’s 41 hours? At my company only managers get to see that info.

                1. sssssssssss*

                  Jane may not know the exact amount but if John and Jane work in the same department, John’s absences will be noted by everyone, eventually. (John is sick again?!). He may have made a comment (I’ve run out the 40 hours) or, as one of my coworker does (sadly), someone is secretly tracking their hours behind their backs.

                2. KMB13*

                  I really hope it’s not the tracking, but I think it may be! I’m not sure it would be a “thing” to notice if someone was out for five sick days over the course of a year, but YMMV.

                3. JessaB*

                  Yeh when you realise that 40 hours is either 5 or 4 days depending on whether you work 8 or 10 hour days, that’s not an incredibly large amount of time. 5 days and 1 hour? Geez John is nearly never absent even if he took it all at once (injury, flu, surgery, whatever.) I’d be thrilled that even if it didn’t touch upon performance someone was healthy enough to only be out 5 days and 1 hour. Good for them. Lucky them. I’m not one of those people. I get sick very easily (Gods help the people that bring coughing stuff into the office where I work, I’ll be out for a week because of them and I won’t be nice to them about it.)

                  I don’t get it. Companies shouldn’t be rewarding people for coming in sick (which is pretty much what “OMG you wanna use leave? no don’t do that, it’ll go on your review, means.) But presuming they’re doing that, 5 days in a year is just NOT a thing.

                4. One of the Sarahs*

                  Co-signing JessaB – 40 hours is basically a working week, so regardless of if it’s taken all at once (he had the ‘flu) or one day every 2 months or so, it’s very weird to think that someone’s remembering it by Annual Review time.

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            “On an annual review, many companies save the highest rating (“achieves standards” “blows standards away” “renders standards a helpless sobbing thing on the breakroom floor”) for employees who use very little sick time at all, or none.”

            Isn’t that dodgy, given that would disproportionately affect people with disabilities, pregnant women…

            1. Lilo*

              I also feel like that kind of policy backfires when someone comes to work with flu or norovirus because missing a day is just SO BAD. Sick leave is good for public health.

              1. Jessica*

                Exactly. Companies that have oppressive sick leave policies will ultimately reap what they’ve sown, and it will be a harvest of contagion.
                And if the person who’s most discouraged from using sick time is the receptionist, because they’re public-facing and “have to be there,” well, that just means they can infect a broader range of other people.

              2. DorthVader*

                Yes this so much. One of my husband’s managers came into the office with norovirus and passed it around to EVERYONE in their office, disrupting work WAY more than if Patient Zero had just stayed home for a few days. They have a generous time-off policy that PZ could (should) have taken advantage of and people aren’t shamed for taking time off there. They’re encouraged to, in fact. Or they can work from home.
                So count me as another voice saying to stop shaming people for taking leave, or else someone will come in with norovirus and REALLY mess up your work life.

                1. Biff*

                  I’ve had norovirus twice and I gotta tell you, I’d have lost it with the boss. I don’t have a good immune system due to reasons, and this could have very well been weeks of sickness for me.

                2. JessaB*

                  I would have had a fit. I’ve had noro (husband brought it home from a call centre job,) and it flattened me for two weeks. Luckily husband works from home now. Because seriously. He works for a company with AMAZING benefits (and they regularly make those “great to work at” lists,) there’s no freaking excuse to bring noro into a call centre or OMG a restaurant. Chipotle anyone?

                3. Zombii*

                  I know of a call center that’s had norovirus going around for the past 2 years.

                  I wish it would hit management, so they could personally experience the results of their idiotic sick leave policy—3 whole days per year for free! then every absence is a write-up! :D—but management has their own offices with doors that close, and for some reason only people with good immune systems can stick around long enough to get promoted. :(

                4. Newt*


                  I am reasonably average in my health compared to my co-workers, with one exception. I’m prone to migraines, which can last anywhere from 1-3 days and which I am *incapable* of working through even if I can blast the pain away with meds, because the light and sound sensitivity, touch sensitivity and other symptoms make the world intolerable.

                  And while my employer is great in many respects, they are not great when it comes to sick leave – you have to have a detailed, filling-in-documents-with-the-boss meeting after every one in which you’re quizzed on the cause of absence, whether the employer could/should do anything to assist with it, likelihood of a re-occurrence… and there are Stages. 1-2 days off in a rolling year is no action. 4-6 opens up the door to discussions of what actions you’re taking outside of work to pursue medical solutions for repeating issues, and more than 7 days starts leading into PIP territory. The exception being that, if your absence occurs because your employer *sends you home for being too sick to work* then that absence isn’t counted towards your rolling days off count, on the basis that it wasn’t your choice to be absent.

                  I’m a good worker. I score in the top 2 tiers across the board in all performance reviews, and have repeatedly been fast-tracked for expanded responsibilities and advancement because of the strength I bring to the company. I am NOT interested in seeing that jeopardised due to something I have limited ability to fix.

                  Which in practice has led to people like me, who know they may need to take sick leave for something, coming in when they are actually really, really sick and just being useless and poorly at everyone until they get sent home. I’ve worked through blood poisoning in the office, feverish and suffering from the meds. I’ve worked through flu and colds and chest infections and, of course, those illnesses ended up spreading around the whole office and infecting everyone. Even if you end up getting sent home after just a couple of hours, that’s still long enough to infect other people.

                  It’s daft.

              3. Lablizard*

                Isn’t that how some of the Chipotle outbreaks happened? And I bet it happens more often than we hear about because retardant workers almost never get paid leave and are often fired for missing too much work

                1. Lilo*

                  Yeah, I totally worked sick at my fast food job. The kinds of industries that really need paid sick leave almost never have it.

                2. Anxa*

                  As a formerly registered health inspector who had actually worked restaurant jobs, one of the MOST frustrating things about my internship was just watching the absolutely (maybe literal?) sh*t show of government working against itself by refusing to have any communication between labor and health.

                  It’s hard enough to prevent contamination in a fast-paced restaurant environment where a low percentage of staff understands the basics of the biology. It would frustrate me to no end that the one thing that the state can actually regulate pretty well from an office at the county seat is labor law.

                  Do you think the average wait staff will be able to constantly monitor hygiene and sanitation during a Saturday night shift running from back of house to front of house? Handling money, bussing tables, preparing food, setting tables, serving food? Lapses will happen.

                  But what if you could call in sick when you had diarrhea and suspected illness without losing your job? Without a drastic pay cut (what if it’s the weekend shift, the shift that makes up from 3 weekday lunches walking out with 30 dollars?).

                  And also, I’ve taken server tests and not once have I ever seen a question on sanitation.

                3. Kit M. Harding*

                  Where I went to graduate school, the undergrads had a norovirus outbreak and the cafeteria pretty much went completely over to packaged food for that time to keep the students from contaminating each other at things like the salad bar, and the hot meals were dished out by the person behind the counter. I do wonder, though, given how rapidly it spread, what the calling-out conditions were like for the people working in those cafeterias. (I stuck with the sushi and was fine, but I also didn’t live on campus and was eating at most two meals a week in the student cafeterias.)

                4. Gazebo Slayer*

                  @Anxa – the only solution is for the US to adopt civilized labor and workplace safety laws, but that’s not going to happen while we keep electing politicians who want working and poor people to die.

              4. JGray*

                As someone who has had norovirus I can tell you that the virus is nasty. Its horrible for the first week when you have the symptoms but then the recovery time is almost as bad. It took me almost two week to recover because I was so dehydrated. So because I have actually had it I would be pissed if a coworker, manager, or whomever came into work with it and spread it. It is also deadly to people with compromised immune systems- I’m not talking just cancer patients- people with arthritis can be taking medications that mean a virus like this is devastating. Its so contagious that you are guaranteed to get it if you are around someone. My daughter brought it home from school which I why I got it. I bleached everything to kill it and luckily since my husband was out of town for work for three weeks he didn’t get it. But it was misery there for a while.

                1. Your Weird Uncle*

                  I was working at a field site as an archaeologist years ago supervising a student dig. One day some students found a messy pile of human poo actually IN our trench; they cleaned it up without mentioning it to the crew chiefs (and apparently not taking the appropriate biowaste measures, which I’m not sure was anything they would have thought of). That night the ambulance was called out to retrieve one of the students from the campsite, and then we all started dropping like flies. It was….quite literally a gut-wrenchingly horrible experience.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  re: human waste (not sick leave)

                  In the Washington Post podcast Presidential, a doctor says that he thinks President Harrison was killed by untreated human waste being dumped uphill from the White House’s water supply. And other presidents as well, he thinks.

                3. Artemesia*

                  A person who has had norovirus is contagious for a couple of weeks after they are ‘well’ i.e. they are shedding the virus in their stool. So it is super critical that excellent hygiene be practiced. And to make it worse, alcohol gel sanitizers don’t kill it.

                  It sort of boils down to each of us having to be super careful to not touch our own nose or face or eat without washing hands carefully and to just assume that we come into contact with germs on public transport, keyboards, door handles etc. I have had fewer colds traveling since I now wipe down the tray table on the plane and the door knobs, remote, sink handles etc with a chlorox wipe. And I have trained myself to not rub eyes or touch face with dirty hands. When I use a shared keyboard, I am either super careful about washing hands after or sometimes I go ahead and wipe it down with alcohol gel or a sanitizing wipe. Not all this necessarily gets norovirus but it does get cold viruses and flu.

                  And yeah curses on anyone who brings that to a party, a job etc. 65 years ago one of my relatives brought it to Thanksgiving in my family’s 800 square foot little house and sickened 26 people. They brought a barfing toddler instead of staying home because they ‘wanted to see everyone.’ I still curse this aunt’s name long after she is gone. My parents were so sick after these people left that they could barely help my brother and me who were young kids and sick as cats.

                4. Alienor*

                  There was an outbreak at my daughter’s school last month, and they had to notify the health department, shut down the building where the most kids had gotten sick, and bring in a special cleaning crew over spring break to decontaminate. She somehow managed to avoid catching it (thank goodness) but I heard terrible stories from other parents. Definitely do not want!

              5. One of the Sarahs*

                Yes, this!

                In my old civil service days, they were hardcore about sickness-as-moral-failing until a combination of Bird Flu and Noro outbreaks, and the Public Health teams putting it in real terms, sharing stats about the loss of productivity for 1 person missing a week, with them coming in and infecting the people around them – and how quickly that spreads, so it’s not just the workplace, it’s (eg) people on their bus on the way in/in the place they buy lunch/the kids of co-workers/their teachers and so on and so on.

            2. Karen D*

              Dunno, but I do know “attendance” has been an element of every performance review I’ve ever had. (I rarely get above an average/achieves standards rating, even in those years when I had an accommodation under the ADA that specifically permitted me to come in late on days when that was needed. It didn’t bother me, but it probably would have if I had received a “fails to meet standards” rating.)

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                That’s wild. Post working in retail and food service, I have literally never had “attendance” as a metric on my performance review. And the way your company is implementing it sounds wildly ill conceived. I’m so sorry, Karen.

                1. Karen D*

                  It honestly never occurred to me to question it! Nobody considers it to be a very important metric, but it’s on there.

              2. Lilo*

                In my organization “attendance” means complying with attendance policy – not some kind of middle school perfect attendance thing. Working hours, properly requesting known leave, properly notifying your employer when you take sick leave. Using accrued leave and properly using other methods if you go beyond accrued leave, etc.

                I’d hate to see it otherwise – I agree it would punish people for things that weren’t their fault.

                1. Ramona Flowers*

                  Yes, mine too! So if you’re sick and let them know within the required time, you’re good.

                2. Perse's Mom*

                  Ours is more like schedule flexibility and not abusing breaks. I’m non-exempt, but I’ll work overtime when it’s necessary. I take my allotted breaks and don’t pad them to make them last longer, etc.

                3. DArcy*

                  That’s how attendance works for my company, yeah. You don’t get penalized at all for sick time or calling out in advance; what we actually count against people for attendance is calling out at the last second or outright no-call/no-show.

                  That’s where this policy of automatically applying sick leave exceeds the law — not penalizing employees for using sick leave does not mean the company is required to give 40 hours worth of free passes on no-call/no-shows or late callouts.

                4. Whats In A Name*

                  Yes! The only way I wrap my head around this being performance review material is if an employee repeatedly abuses the attendance policy. But then, as Alison pointed out, that really should be treated independently.

                  I couldn’t imagine getting kudos OR discipline for using sick time, or not using sick time, or whatever many offices appear to be doing. I’ve worked in offices where it’s been looked down upon to call out sick but have never had it addressed in anyway if it’s within policy and you have the time.

                5. SarahTheEntwife*

                  Same here. I’m in a position where punctuality and coverage are really important, but we’re never penalized for taking sick or vacation time appropriately. The only thing that would get brought up in reviews is something like not bothering to call out sick promptly or coming in significantly late a lot.

              3. Darren*

                My company is pretty good I’ve actually gone over the usual sick days the last couple of years (11 or 12 days when we only have 10) and in the first of those years I got the highest rating and a promotion, in the other I got the second highest rating and a second promotion.

                And this is also with working 9-5:30ish on all the rest of the days. My company takes work life balance quite seriously and it’s all about what your produce not how long your butt is sitting in a chair.

              4. TootsNYC*

                I really don’t understand that–I just don’t. Not anymore. It’s one of those things that became some automatic assumption, but it doesn’t make sense.

                I guess it comes from kids playing hooky at school. But now as a grownup, it would be so weird. There’s sick time, and you take it if you’re sick. There’s vacation, and you take it openly. There’s “being late for work,” and that’s treated w/ either loss in pay (hourly) or being asked to make up the time/effort (exempt), or ignored (bcs you work through lunch on other days); if it happens too much, it’s a conversation, maybe a warning, and eventually firing if necessary. And then there’s “just not showing up for work,” and at my job, that’s considered “job abandonment,” and they can/may fire you for it.

                Why would it be a positive part of your evaluation? You have 2 kinds of absences: allowed (no convo needed), non-allowed (negative feedback immediately, or firing–none of which should wait until your review).

              5. Jojo*

                At my job, you are ineligible for a raise if anything on your review is below “exceeds expectation”. Attendance is a metric, and it would majorly suck if someone didn’t get a COL raise because their boss thought they got sick too much.

            3. PB*

              Yep. I have a ton of doctor’s appointments due to a thyroid condition. I also get migraines so severe that I can’t see. I also get the same normal illnesses as everyone else. My workplace does not have this policy. Despite having to miss work pretty often for health-related issues, I received “Exceeds Expectations” on my review.

              I would strongly consider leaving an employer that punished me for being born with a defective thyroid, or for not trying to drive while blind.

              1. many bells down*

                My husband’s got thyroid disease and celiac disease. He misses work a couple times a month at least. And his last review was 5/5 across the board and he just got promoted because he gets his work done and he’s pleasant to work with and that SHOULD be what’s important.

            4. Preggo lady*

              On the other side of the coin, I’d also like to add that, as a pregnant woman, I really don’t want your germs close to me, thank you very much, dearest colleagues. My body is currently too busy making another human to run a fully functioning immune system so would greatly appreciate it if you stayed home if you were seriously ill.

              Early in my pregnancy, I was working with a girl who had a really bad cold and made a big song and dance about how she was powering through. I caught it. It made me seriously ill for about a fortnight to the point of multiple doctor’s visits combined with not being able to get out of bed for days at a time. I could have slapped her.

              1. Annonymouse*

                I hear you.
                I’m pregnant and if anyone in my small office mentions not feeling well my first verbal reaction is “Stay the hell away from me!”

                Did you tell your “lovely” coworker that exposing you to illness could kill your baby?

                Harsh, maybe not 100% true, but some people really just don’t get it otherwise.

          3. Sam*

            …it is a very good thing my company doesn’t operate this way, because I’m one of the higher performers, and I usually use 8-9 sick days a year. If some of my lower-performing coworkers received stronger evaluations simply because I’m more likely to get sick/need a mental health day, I would suddenly care far less about producing my best work and care a lot more about finding a new job.

          4. LQ*

            We have attendance. My boss gives everyone the middle mark for it. You can’t be awesome at showing up. Which is great. I think that’s what the policy should be. (Ok I would prefer that it just not be on there, but if it is? pass fail) You show up? Great. Next, lets talk about stuff that actually matters.

            That said I have a coworker who despises that this is true. With every fiber of her being. She wishes everyone would be to work 10 minutes early and will track it if you are 1 minute late. My boss could care less (but I’m not sure how ;)) but won’t tell her to knock it off strongly enough that she will.

            1. Michelle*

              Wow, we have a person just like that in my office. They actually have a little book that they track worker’s time in and insists on reviewing everyone’s time sheet.They are a dept. head and should review her direct reports times if she feels necessary but she even reviews people she has no power over. I personally think she’s just nosy. The “big” boss knows and he refuses to tell her to stop doing this as it’s not her business. I don’t think he knows about the book. Since she moved it and I don’t know where it is, I figure it’s best not to mention it.

              1. Salyan*

                That’s horrible. If you ever find the book, perhaps you could make it mysteriously disappear…

                1. Michelle*

                  I originally found the book by accident. I was in a storage room, rearranging and organizing items. The book in a box of post-it notes. I picked it up and opened it and each employee had their name at the top of a page,with notations below. It went something like this:
                  Monday, May 1st- clocked in 2 minutes late, didn’t start working until 8:36.
                  Tuesday, May 2nd- left 4 minutes early.
                  Wednesday, May 3rd- left sick at noon.

                  I was so shocked that an adult with a job would basically have a “burn book” I just put it back. A few days later when I realized it should not exist, I went to retrieve it and was going to give it to the boss and say ” Hey, I found this book and I’m not sure who it belongs to or what I should do with it”, it was gone. I know who it belonged it- they have very distinctive writing, such as their capital W’s look like 3’s, things like that.

                2. anonderella*

                  set a trap : next time someone is late/absent and you know about it before she does, see if she goes running off to any air vents or dark corners ; )

                  In seriousness; that’s really awful you have to work with someone like that. She seems to not even care that she’s disrupting the common culture. And what’s worse, she thinks this behavior will solve anything.

          5. 2 Cents*

            That’s a crappy system to measure people by. Signed, A Hard Worker with an AutoImmune Disease She Neither Asked For Nor Caused Herself

        3. So Much Anon For This*

          My employer penalizes anyone who uses more than 3 ‘unplanned’ absences per quarter. This, in practice, means sick days. We are ‘written up’ and it is held against us in performance reviews.

          We are all highly skilled professionals with advanced degrees.

          No words to describe the amount of resentment this causes. Not to mention, we all come in to work unless we are projectile vomiting or unconscious.

          Apparently, that’s how our company likes it.

          1. LaterKate*

            My workplace has a similar policy. Two unplanned absences per quarter are ok, but a third will get you “written up”. It doesn’t matter whether you have the time or not (all PTO is in one bucket). The worst part about it is that if you have someone who calls in twice a quarter, every quarter, they will receive no disciplinary action. If you have someone who has not called in sick for 3 years, but has a run of bad luck and has to call in 3 times in a quarter, they will be written up. That doesn’t make sense to me at all. I actually think that neither of the employees in my example should be “written up” (I also think write-ups should have ended in middle school) but I think it’s especially ludicrous to punish someone who is very clearly NOT abusing the attendance policy.

            1. thefyd*

              My employer’s sick time policy used to grant ten “instances” on a rolling twelve-month basis (planned or unplanned, and an instance could be a one-hour doctor’s appointment, or a three-day absence due to illness, after which short-term disability would kick in), but if you used eight instances during that rolling twelve-month period, you would get written up, and after your next instance you would be fired, unless enough time had passed for a prior instance to drop off your rolling total. So you could never actually use all the sick time the policy supposedly gave you. I was very glad when we transitioned to PTO.

              1. Elizabeth*

                We have a single bucket of PTO for both sick leave & vacation. I just double-checked our policy on attendance. It says that employees are expected to attend 95% of their scheduled shifts, and calling in with less than 30 minutes notice counts as an unexcused absence. FMLA, scheduled vacations and other pre-approved absences do not count against the scheduled shift requirement.

          2. AndersonDarling*

            My company made a similar policy. We have a few departments of 24 hour shifts, like nurses and lab technicians, and there was a huge problem of staff no-call-no-showing or calling in after their shift started to say they will be 2 hours late. Instead of addressing it with these employees, the company made a blanket policy that affected everyone. Now we are supposed to call in 12 hours before a sick absence. (Um, does anyone know they are getting the flu 12 hours in advance?)
            Anyway, I don’t know how these absences could be addressed in Oregon. This was the kind of scenario I was thinking when reading the OP’s letter. People are calling in at the last minute, running late frequently, or leaving early on a regular basis, and they are using the Oregon policy as permission.

            1. AndersonDarling*

              Ops! I meant that the departments run 24 hours. The shifts are 12 or 10 hours.

            2. ScrappyCook*

              I have a friend that was a phlebotomist and they had crazy rules that you were docked points if you called in less than 48 hours before a shift. Why in the world would you punish a sick person not coming in to work at the hospital? That blew my mind.

          3. Antilles*

            Not to mention, we all come in to work unless we are projectile vomiting or unconscious.
            I’d bet that if someone was already at the limit of three, they’d come in on Day 4 regardless – even if it meant carrying a barf bag or passing out in the office.

    2. Fish Microwaver*

      It’s not unheard of for leave management to come up in performance reviews. I have been told to reduce my leave balance, as it accrues, potentially infinitely. On the other hand a colleague was reprimanded for taking excessive sick leave while undergoing cancer treatment.

      1. PB*

        Wow. How on earth does your company think they’ll retain good employees? I’d be looking for another job if I saw that happen to a coworker.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Yep, mine came up positively – in that my manager encouraged me to make use of my PTO.

      3. Geoffrey B*

        One non-obvious reason why employers encourage people not to build up an excessive balance of leave: employee leave balances can be considered a liability on the company’s books, and the value of that liability can fluctuate with interest rates, so large balances lead to erratic behaviour in the accounts.

        1. Mike C.*

          So if it’s really that much of a problem the employer can send the employee home paid or simply cut them a check for the excess time. It’s not that hard of a problem to solve if they actually cared about solving it.

          1. LawBee*

            I agree in theory. That does lead to people not taking their vacation time to get the extra check however, which really isn’t something that should be encouraged. People who hate taking vacation still need to take it – they just should find ways to spend it that appeals to them.

      4. TootsNYC*

        I worked at a place that had, in the employee handbook, verbiage saying that taking vacation freshened your mind and helped you be more creative, so you were supposed to take it. And lunch.

        but wow–excessive sick time for cancer….

        ye gods, there are mean people in the world.

      5. Not So NewReader*

        I worked one place where the joke was that calling in dead was not a reason for not showing up. Your company must be a sibling of my old company.
        I just wonder how the person who delivered that message can sleep at night. I probably would have refused to deliver the message and I’d probably have been fired on the spot. I have refused to deliver messages before so I know I can get me in trouble easily.

    3. Lora*

      I will be the weirdo: I penalize employees for coming to work sick. I actively tell them, keep your germs to yourself and don’t make me or anyone else sick. If the whole department is down with your bubonic plague or whatever it is you have, that’s a much bigger deal than us having to scramble for a day. It is Poor Judgment and I need employees to develop and use good judgment LIKE ADULTS.

      If it’s serious, I ask, “did your doctor say it was OK for you to return to work, or do you need more time?”

      I do explain that many people in my family have had cancer including me, and we have several pregnant employees, and spreading germs to immunocompromised people is something I view as downright immoral , when you work for a company whose mission is health care. They know I mean it. I will give all the flex time in the world for doctor appointments and things of that nature.

      I also enjoy a great deal of something that rarely exists in the world anymore: employee loyalty. My latest hire turned down a materially better offer to work for me. Other employees come to me for mentoring rather than their bosses. When I ask people to put in extra effort and time, they give it willingly.

      1. Another Lawyer*

        My grand boss is this way, and it’s Very Nice. Even if you’re just really sneezy that day, you can work from home without a second thought. My boss once sent me home because he determined I looked too sick for my grand boss to see me and told me to WFH or just take the day.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I had a boss that did this. I was mostly over a cold from the weekend, but I ended up relapsing and lost my voice. He saw, and told me to go home, pour myself a belt of Scotch, and go to bed. It was beautiful.

      2. Not Today Satan*

        Thank you for this. I am currently sick and working from home because someone who works near me has been coming in sick (coughing sick) all week. It drives me BONKERS and I wish more managers would enforce this.

      3. Michelle*

        Please do the workers of the world a favor and spread your wise words to all managers/bosses/grandbosses etc.!

        I seriously admire you for thinking of all your workers and encouraging sick people to stay home and get better.

        Sure, I could come to work sick and be physically present, but I’m not going to accomplish anything, I’m going to probably infect other with my sickness and I’m going to look horrible because when I’m sick, I look sick. (I know people can be sick and look fine and vice versa, but I know I look different when I’m sick.)

        1. Lora*

          It’s 100% selfish, I assure you. My mother just completed her treatment for Stage III breast cancer and when she gets sick she is the woooooooorst petty tyrant. I was miserably immunocompromised for 35 years with an undiagnosed thyroid problem and lived with incessant bronchitis or pneumonia twice every winter, had cancer twice myself, in addition to various other health problems (I have crummy genetics), and I don’t need any more illness piled on top of all the scans and stuff I already deal with.

          There is no end to the backlog of reports that need written and data that needs analyzed and documentation that needs filled out and literature searches that need done, all of which can be done better in peace and quiet at home rather than in the insanely noisy open office. If I had my druthers everyone not in the lab would work from home, it would be more productive than the constant stream of interruptions.

      4. Anxa*

        I’m curious, not trying to be snarky here: Do you also have a penalties/rewards for proper hygiene (mainly stuff like handwashing?)

        1. bridget*

          I’m not Lora, but if I were her employee, something like this would feel like it undercut her whole theme of being a responsible adult. Most of the important handwashing occurs in the bathroom – I do not want to feel monitored in there, even if it’s for a good cause like promoting office hygiene. And other than the bathroom – are we going to line up like a class of kindergarteners to all wash our hands at the sink before lunch?

        2. Lora*

          We are required as part of OSHA to wash hands and wear gloves in the lab, changing gloves and washing hands several times daily, so anyone who doesn’t is being a Safety Hazard in general and gets a penalty for that, yes. We have the fancy no-hands sinks/soap dispensers as well as the regular kind.

          We have a lot of microbiologists on staff who are religious about handwashing, so that’s not really an issue. We make vaccines, too – there’s not much argument about the necessity of flu shots.

      5. TootsNYC*

        (I love that you made Poor Judgment a proper noun. I love the proper-noun-ing of words.)

      6. JustaTech*

        I had a job once where I manufactured viruses (it’s a thing!) and one of the strict requirements was that you could not come in to the clean rooms if you yourself had a virus, because you might contaminate our special virus. So you stayed home or, if there was a lot of paperwork, you could work at your desk, but you had to avoid your coworkers.

        Sadly, I didn’t have paid leave there.

      7. Aunt Vixen*

        I used to work at a place where my actual bosses and the HR department were exactly that awesome – flexible about my struggles to get my own health under control and then outright proactively brilliant when my father was dying and I needed more leave than I had; they let me run a leave overdraft that someone in HR kept track of off the books and just debited me as I accrued more. No payroll adjustment, no “write-ups,” nothing but sympathy and understanding. I was disastrously underpaid there (I mean, I made a living, but not a comfortable one), but I’d have stayed a lot longer if I hadn’t been laid off in a massive funding crunch because that kind of management does indeed engender tens of thousands of dollars worth of loyalty.

      8. oranges & lemons*

        This is great. I remember when I was in my first internship and I came in sick out of habit because I was used to being cajoled into working sick in retail. My boss told me to go home because she didn’t want me to spread germs around. I was actually kind of shocked. Of course, I didn’t get paid sick time as an intern, but that was a different problem.

    4. Jubilance*

      My first job was at a company that had the old GE “10% don’t get a raise” rule. In my dept, that meant the person who had been out on leave due to cancer treatment was decided to be the one who didn’t get a raise…cause he’d been out a lot…to treat his cancer.

      Sometimes people suck.

      1. Artemesia*

        On the other hand, the person with cancer was likely not very productive. It is kind and good business to be supportive of people getting treatment for a serious illness like that, but not unreasonable to base raises on productivity and that may be a very unproductive year, understandably, for that employee.

      2. Marmite*

        My first job no one got a raise and only 25% could get a bonus. It was supposed to be top 25% of employees but in practice was top 25% in each team so you were better off if you were in a team full of slackers and you were average than if you were in a team full of superstars and you were also a superstar.

    5. Retail HR Guy*

      I think you’re misreading. OP #4 isn’t including a person’s use of sick leave in their performance review (at least not anymore and not anything 40 hours or below). OP is saying that in their review they pretend that the 41-hour sick employee has the same unplanned time off as the 1-hour non-sick employee. In other words, he is treating them both exactly the same despite the sick employee’s use of sick time. OP’s problem is the feeling of resentment in the team.

      As someone who has had to make changes to accommodate the Oregon Sick Time law and who understands that in many positions attendance is 90% of doing the job (retail, etc.) let me offer a solution.

      The employees are probably not resenting that other employees are not penalized for being sick. They are resenting the fact that there is an unfairness to it. How come that sick day is protected but my car breaking down isn’t? How come the people with kids get a protected day to take their sick kid to the doctor, but as a childless person I am not protected when I take my sick dog to the vet?

      The solution is to make it even for everyone. Oregon Sick Time allows you to expand the list of reasons that are covered to beyond the minimum required by law. So just have the policy that their first 40 hours of time off (outside of planned vacation days) for a legitimate reason will be paid time and won’t count against them under the attendance policy (whatever that ends up being after your changes). This will satisfy the requirements of the law and will level the playing field for all employees. The “legitimate reason” caveat is there just so that employees don’t abuse things by calling in for unprofessional reasons like “well, the game was on and I didn’t want to miss it” or whatever. Err on the side of approval.

      This is what our company did and we are pretty happy with the outcome and I think our employees are, too.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, your letter made me see red. Honestly, if I had an employee making comments like that to others, they’d get exactly one very stern warning before they were on a fast-track to firing. I know that my response is 1000% unreasonable and disproportionate, but making unsolicited comments of this nature regarding a person’s physical appearance or weight are on the far end of the “things you do not say to coworkers” and “things no decent human says” spectrums for me.

    In addition to everything Alison suggested, would you feel comfortable intervening if Mike said something like that, again, in front of you? In addition to having your boss talk to Mike, sometimes it can really help for a peer who seems “uninvolved” or “neutral” to call out bad behavior. Oftentimes the person being malicious doesn’t intend to be unkind, but they also don’t have a good baseline for whether what they’re saying is in any way appropriate or acceptable. Having a third-party peer tell them to knock it off sometimes gives them a wake-up call that their behavior is not normal or ok.

    1. Jessica*

      PCBH, I agree strongly with everything you said except the idea that your response was unreasonable or disproportionate.

    2. Handy nickname*

      One of my most mouth-gaping work experiences (okay, I’ve been really lucky so far):
      Free cake in the break room, so I (a kind of skinny woman) grabbed a piece.
      Coworker, walking by, polked a finger at my stomach, saying, “You’re going to get fat!”

      (Note, my weight is relevant only insofar as this coworker frequently comments on how “skinny” I am, often while expressing surprise at things such as me eating meat, or talking about how certain food will help fatten me up. It’s weird and gross.)

      1. Handy nickname*

        Aaand totally missed the point of my comment. Was going to agree that talking about other people’s weight (especially coworkers!) is weird and gross, and this guy is way over the line.

        1. Anonygoose*

          A few months before my wedding, a woman I work with (who was also getting married) and I were each eating a muffin in the staff lounge (we get free muffins and treats every Tuesday). One of my male coworkers who was standing near us looked at us, raised his eyebrows, and said “geeze, ladies, when does your wedding diet start?”. He passed it off as a joke, but we gave him such an earful about how insulting and ridiculous that statement was. I hope he learned his lesson – he certainly hasn’t said anything to us about weight or diets since!

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s ok—I understood! Whoever your obnoxious coworker is, they need to knock it the hell off. And poking your stomach? You’re not the Pillsbury Doughboy! [Sidenote: The ad firm that created the Doughboy and Doughgirl specifically instructed that the Doughgirl was never to be poked because of the prevalence of women in the workplace being inappropriately and consistently touched in the way you’ve described.]

        I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable or suggest that you’re responsible for your coworker’s behavior, but have you told them they’re being rude/inappropriate? Like literally, in response to “You’re going to get fat!” you said, “Wow. That’s insanely rude and inappropriate.” Your coworker isn’t Daniel Inouye, and you’re not Kirsten Gillibrand, and none of that behavior is ok or cute.

        1. Handy nickname*

          Oh interesting, didn’t know that about Pillsbury!

          My coworker was walking through a door as he said the “You’re going to get fat” comment, but two seconds more and I would have been spluttering, “Wow, that’s rude!” Once I made a face and said something like, “Wow, that’s a weird thing to say to a coworker,” kind of as I was walking away. I could definitely be more direct/aggressive in shutting him down, but part of the reason I haven’t is that we’re working in a semi-public area, and he often makes the comments in the public section as I am walking away, so not super conducive to calling him out on it. I appreciate your encouragement to speak up, though! And will make more of a point of doing that because it bugs the crap out of me.

          It feels extra gross to me because I’m a women in my early 20s and he’s a guy in his 60s (maybe? I’m bad at guessing) who also always calls me and any other women within earshot “Dear” and other weirdly personal pet names, which- blech, no.

          1. Observer*

            Both are actually all the more reason to call it out. If I were waiting for someone and saw this happening, I would be REALLY uncomfortable.

          2. Handy nickname*

            Thanks guys, I really appreciate the support. Honestly, I’m not sure his behavior rises to the level of harassment. Calling people “dear” is weird and kind of gross, but doesn’t seem like it’s really at the sexual harassment threshold, and a lot of the customers he calls that seem honestly flattered by it (which baffles me! Why would you like that?!), and the other comments aren’t specifically sex/gender-based, so harrass-y, but not in the legal sense.

            For context, this is an entry-level job in a retail environment, and I’d probably make more headway by pushing back myself. I love my job and a lot of the people I work with, including my boss, who is freakin’ awesome in many ways, but there are also some cringeworthy aspects some of which I push back on with the higher-ups, and some of which I’ve learned to deal with on my own as a trade-off for being in this environment.

            1. Nanani*

              Still not a bad idea to bring it up with the higher ups and/or document In Case of Escalation
              You may not be the only one experiencing this, multiple “little reports” can make a difference.

            2. Observer*

              Definitely push back. And consider bringing it up with the higher ups. It may not be a legal issue, but it definitely is a morale issue. And if he’s doing this in front of customers, it could be a customer retention issue.

            3. Michele*

              I would absolutely want to know if someone was treating one of my reports that way. Being older is not an excuse for inappropriate behavior.

          3. Sunshine*

            Ooooh I bet he says it in a public place because he knows you can’t call him on it in front of customers. Of course this has the side effect of potentially bringing the conpany into disrepute….

          4. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            “I could definitely be more direct/aggressive in shutting him down, but part of the reason I haven’t is that we’re working in a semi-public area, and he often makes the comments in the public section as I am walking away, so not super conducive to calling him out on it”

            This is not an accident. He’s purposefully crop-dusting you with shithead powder. It’s a tactic. I suggest calling him out on it.

            1. Jadelyn*

              “crop-dusting you with shithead powder” okay, I have to ask. Who did you sell your soul to for this wit? Can I get their number please?

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              YUP. He’s counting on you to be polite while he blow through all rules of proper office conduct. It’s like when you decide to break up with someone and then do it in a public place with the hope that they won’t “cause a scene” (except grosser, here, because he’s so out of line).

              I’d call him out on it in the moment, if you’re feeling up to it. It can take practice, but I have never seen anything as effective as loudly announcing, a semi-public area, how inappropriate/bizarre a person is being. It puts the uncomfortable spotlight on them, which is where it should be to begin with (instead of you having to feel icky but then feeling like you’re not allowed to say anything in response because it’s impolite).

          5. CoveredInBees*

            REPORT HIM. I had a job in high school and a pastry chef there (who was a big deal in the pastry world at that time) felt ok walking past me and poking me saying I was too fat for any man to love. I needed the money, so I avoided him as much as possible.

            This happened in front of one of the managers, who immediately stepped in and told the chef in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable. The chef tried to brush it off because he is gay and old enough to be my father. The manager was having none of it and I learned a lesson in my own intrinsic value and to speak up, even if it feels uncomfortable.

            1. Michele*

              That is awesome that your manager stuck up for you. One of the things that I hated about working in restaurants was the constant sexual harassment.

        2. Greg M.*

          would have loved neither of them to never get poked thanks to the number of “pilsburies” I received as an overweight child with people thinking it was ok to jab me in the stomach all the time.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I hear you. It’s not ok regardless of gender, just as commenting on someone’s weight or eating habits is not ok.

        3. Cath in Canada*

          I have a friend who dressed as the Pillsbury Doughboy one Halloween precisely so that cute girls would poke him in the tummy. It worked, too!

      3. Gaia*

        Regardless of whether someone is skinny, average or overweight you should never NEVER never comment on it in the workplace.

        I’m a big lady. I have eyes. I know my body. I am aware of this. I do not need a coworker (or anyone!) informing me of this. I have a coworker who is very thin (she has casually mentioned an illness that makes it hard for her to maintain weight previously) and she is self conscious about this. I don’t imagine she needs people joking about her size.

        1. Observer*

          You mean you really know you’re not a size two!? I thought I was the only one who knew that I’m big!

          Honestly, is there any person who is really overweight who doesn’t know it? It is true that some people are in denial about the problem it poses, but those people are NOT going to be convinced by this kind of nonsense.

        2. MommyMD*

          Right Gaia. I had someone tell me I was too thin and my head was starting to look like a big pumpkin on my little body. I felt like a Seinfeld episode.

        3. Dot Warner*

          Ugh, yes. My previous boss never seemed to understand that the two of us would have had a much better working relationship if we could’ve had ONE conversation where she did not talk about how skinny I am. Not exaggerating – she even did it at my performance review!

          Unless you’re their doctor or personal trainer, talking about people’s weight is rude and tacky. Find something else to discuss or just stay quiet.

          1. Violet Fox*

            I’m on the fluffy side of things and even my personal trainer does not talk about my weight. He does talk about training hard, getting stronger, and telling me to do things to remember how hard it is the first time I do some new exercise so I can compare it with how I do after more training.

              1. Violet Fox*

                He is seriously amazing! He has a ton of focus on seeing one’s own progress and on encouraging to do more and more and that I can do just a bit more each time. He also has this enthusiasm for everything that is just so infectious.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              Yes, my trainer is the same way! He will ask me how my nutrition is doing (I had gastric bypass, so he doesn’t try to tell me how to eat since he’s not my doctor) and asks if my weight is stable. And that’s it. He’s focused on me working out consistently and challenging myself. And what I love is that he realizes we’re human. He always tells me to do what I’m supposed to do 80% of the time and to not worry about the other 20%.

            2. F Manley*

              Oh, gosh, I wish I’d had a personal trainer like that. I got a freebie session with one once at the gym I was at, and he insisted that we go through BMI calculations, tape measures around parts of the body, weight, and discussions of Weight Goals even as I kept telling him that I found it counterproductive and discouraging to think about things like that. His actual workout suggestions were great, but I wasn’t going to pay for more sessions with someone who insisted he had to calculate my BMI because Gym Policy and it would be Motivational.

              1. only acting normal*

                On one of those “competition” weight loss TV shows once they had a woman trying to lose weight to help get pregnant. One of the “motivational” things was a photo of when the participant felt attractive: she was heavier in her photo than she was on the show. The trainers just couldn’t grasp her personal motivations at all, and (sadly given her goal) she was the first eliminated. Essentially, because her self-worth was high the trainers couldn’t leverage it to shame her! And they had zero other methods!? Bad bad trainers.

            3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              The only person talking to me about my weight right now is my obgyn, and that’s because I’m pregnant and was already heavy and am an older first time mom, so it’s entirely focused on what’s best for the pregnancy and the baby. I admit the weigh-ins make me really self conscious because I’ve struggled with disordered eating all my life, but it’s about making sure everything is on track, not about judgment.

          2. Nervous Accountant*

            I agree with generally every sentiment posed here so far, so I”m not disagreeing–but even doctors and trainers have to follow some sort of etiquette–as Violet Fox says below, the focus should be on being healthier/stronger/better, NOT more attractive/slender etc.

            Thank GOD this hasn’t happened to me at work, I’m generally easygoing and a lot of ppl talk about health and fitness and stuff but not in a “wow you need to lose weight!” way (although I do have one cw that constantly says to cut the soda but..meh).

        4. KMB13*

          Yep! My boss commented on my weight somewhat frequently in my first ~6 months of working here…on what I was eating, on losing weight (he didn’t directly say I needed to, but he would always tell me good ways to lose weight, etc. so the implication that I needed to and the assumption that I was trying to was strongly there). He eventually got the hint after I told him that I wasn’t trying to lose weight, that I am happy with my current weight, that my doctor said I’m healthy, etc. many, many times. He still lets the comments sneak in, but he’s better about it.

        5. ancolie*

          I’m a fat chick. I’ve been lucky to have not had an a*****e be nasty to me by insulting me about my weight in several years. But the next time it happens, I plan to act startled and look down at my body, then say, “OH MY GOD, I *AM* FAT!!! WHY DID NOBODY TELL ME???!!”

      4. PatPat*

        Yesterday, a male coworker and I were discussing how one of the children in our case has gained a lot of weight, which is relevant to our work. My coworker looked at me and said, “You’ve probably never had that problem. You (pause while he looks me up and down) have a great metabolism!” NO! Creepy. Coworkers should not discuss each other’s bodies ever, even if they think what they’re saying is complimentary, and especially when the coworkers are of opposite sexes.

        1. Whats In A Name*

          This is my pet peeve. No I should’t just “have the cookie because it’s not like it matters”..one does matter, because then I’ll eat a dozen. Contrary to your thought that “you don’t know what it’s like to struggle, you must have good genes” I do struggle, every day. And I work hard most days and make choices I don’t always want to. It’s not EASY and it’s not genes or metabolism.

          1. Blurgle*

            Ugh, I hate people who try to get you to eat.
            “Yes, that one cookie will matter; at best I’ll spend the rest of the week in the washroom waiting for the sweet release of death, at worst I’ll end up in the ICU on a breathing tube, or worse. Yes, from one bite of a cookie. No, I’m not exaggerating or making stuff up for attention. I wouldn’t have said anything if you hadn’t pushed the matter. From my point of view YOU are the attention hog.”
            I only wish I had the guts to say that and not just walk away.

        2. many bells down*

          A co-worker of my sister’s said that he thought she must weigh more than she appeared to … because she has really big breasts. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he claimed he said nothing wrong because he’s a “personal trainer” and it’s “his job to notice these things.” My sister works at MACY’S, not a gym. And she wears the most minimizing tops she can find just to avoid comments like that.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            And yet, she made no mention of his small brain? Amazing self-restraint. I hope she explained that he was not at the gym at the moment.

    3. Ramona Flowers*

      It might also be worth explaining to this employee that one person is responsible for the consequences of Mike’s actions and that is Mike, not her.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ooo, excellent point. If Mike is disciplined, it’s not because of anything your employee did. It’s because of what Mike did.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          There’s a kind of victim-self-blaming in there and it makes me sad because it’s not a million miles away from telling someone else that they shouldn’t get someone into trouble – except she’s saying this to herself.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          Oh and OP, you are not making anyone feel uncomfortable – if that happens then again it is all on Mike.

        3. eplawyer*

          Oh this so much. People worry about getting other people in trouble. If someone is in trouble it’s for their own actions. They got themselves in trouble.

          Mike needs to be told 1) do not comment on other people’s appearances. Period. 2) stop talking about the veganism. If he likes it fine, but not everyone wants to be a vegan or hear about it constantly. As Alison said whether its knitting, porcupines or any other subject someone drones on about, you need to not bore your co-workers.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I would also tell my own employee, “It’s not like you’re tattling on Mike and getting him fired. This is a good opportunity for Mike’s boss to teach him some office social standards (and general social standards), because thanks to you we’ve realized that he has a weakness here. These are skills he needs to learn, and it’s just the now is the time to teach them, now that we’ve spotted the need.”

        It’s not about getting Mike in trouble. It’s about alerting him, warning him of the dangers, and teaching him. Next time, it can be about getting him in trouble.

        1. INFJ*

          Yes, people who are that radical about their lifestyle (I am vegan, so I don’t think it’s radical in itself, rather Mike’s behavior is radical by talking about it constantly and insulting people) probably think they’re doing people a favor by “showing them the light,” so it would be especially necessary for his boss to inform him that this is NOT OK at work.

          1. Annabell*

            This is a really good point. I think new converts to anything (though I guess we don’t know how long Mike has been a vegan) theme to be really enthusiastic about “enlightening” people. He may be under the impression that he’s helping, though I think commenting on other people’s bodies is a rather mind boggling choice.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I would just say I heard it from a couple people and I overheard other things recently too. ” Mike, if you talk about people’s bodies people are going to talk about what you said behind your back. It’s a given.”

      3. Vernocular*

        I love this suggestion! I’m the writer on #1 and I think I’ll bring this up today with my employee at our monthly 1 on 1 meeting. Perfect timing. :)

        As far as the self-blaming comment below, you’re right, it was pretty bad. She thought the whole thing was funny and didn’t think it was wrong because in her words, “Well, I AM overweight!” I told her it was unacceptable to comment on anyone’s weight, overweight or not. Needless to say, she doesn’t have the highest self esteem. I’m always trying to build her up –she is awesome at her job–but I suspect there are some big problems in her home life contributing to her low self-esteem.

    4. Zip Silver*

      How can you tell if somebody is vegan?… Don’t worry, they’ll tell you!

      I’m all for telling Mike to knock it off, but OP needs to be ready to deal out consequences if he doesn’t. Stereotyping here, but in my experience, vegans have trouble keeping it up themselves.

      1. Czhorat*

        Yes, you are stereotyping. Those vegans who are quiet about it are invisible to you, giving the impression that every vegan is evangelical about it.

        1. K.*

          Yeah, I have two friends who are vegan and never mention it unless we’re trying to decide where to eat & someone suggests a place they don’t know (“do they have vegan options?”). But I went on a date with an obnoxious vegan extremist once. Only once. He was insufferable.

        2. I Herd the Cats*

          Just jumping in to say I work with two vegans and several vegetarians and the *only* reason I know is because I’m in charge of ordering food for work events. I have never heard them discuss it. One of the vegetarians is a big, hearty-eating dude and people at work who’ve discovered he doesn’t eat meat are initially shocked — it’s funny, like he doesn’t fit the stereotype.

          1. Handy nickname*

            And that’s why it’s so easy to stereotype vegans- if they’re quiet about it, nobody even knows. The obnoxiously evangelical ones then become our only sample group, and BOOM stereotype!

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              In my experience, those obviously evangelical ones are generally either newer to it (I knew some insufferable vegans in college who had just ‘converted’) or just looking for *anything* to feel superior about, and they’d be insufferable marathon runners or insufferable dog parents or insufferable Honda drivers if that was their bag.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Off-topic, but I love the idea of an insufferable Honda driver, just because they’re such a common car.

                I mean. I know I definitely have it in me to be an insufferable Tib owner, but I try really hard to keep my car-geeking confined to the Tib forums and other car-minded friends.

          2. Havarti*

            We ordered pizzas for the warehouse crew once so we got some covered in meat and some covered in veggies. The known vegetarian in the group lifted the lid on the meat pizza and said “Ugh, meat” in a very disgusted tone of voice. Slightly irritated, I said “Don’t you know carrot juice is murder?” Carrot Juice is Murder is the title of a song by the Canadian comedy group Arrogant Worms. The person turned to stare at me and I was like “crap!” so I explained it was the title of a song and we managed to talk about music instead of keeping your opinions on other people’s food preferences to yourself.

          3. Gadfly*

            Sounds like you know my husband. Lacto-veggie for about 3 decades now. And has gout issues–the instructions to lay off the bacon and beer (alcohol also not an issue–doesn’t drink) never go over well from new doctors. He has to watch lentils and raisins instead.

        3. bunniferous*

          Sadly the ones who are NOT quiet about it seem to make up for it. Hence the vegan crossfit jokes.

          1. Blurgle*

            For every one obnoxious vegan there are fifteen obnoxious people telling anti-vegan jokes.

            1. INFJ*

              I LOVE this.

              Somebody posts a picture of a burger on FB. Responses are:
              “That looks delicious!”
              “Where did you go? I want to eat there!”
              “So jealous!”

              I post a picture of vegan ice cream:
              “Don’t you know soy is bad for you?”
              “I love bacon!”
              “Plants have feelings, too!”


        4. KaraLynn*

          Very nicely stated and very true.

          If you think vegetarians and vegans like to talk about their diets, step back and quietly observe how often meat eaters like to talk about theirs. “Mmmm, bacon is so good! Has anyone ever said that before?”

      2. sssssssssss*

        I had to laugh. Yes, it’s true what everyone else is saying – it’s a stereotype and there are plenty who don’t broadcast to the world about why veganism rules – but we have one on a FB group in my area and on almost every FB post, she brings it up or works it in somehow that she is vegan. Then she worked in the word “carnist” that I had to look up and I got annoyed.

        New converts to anything are excited because they are happy. We just have to wait them out to settle down.

        1. BethRA*

          ” but we have one on a FB group in my area and on almost every FB post, she brings it up or works it in somehow that she is vegan”

          But it’s neither unique to vegans (I’ve had the same experience recently with people doing Paleo or Whole30), nor it is universal among them. So maybe we can try not to reinforce stereotypes?

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Having been vegan and having known vegans, it’s not true :) it just feels that way for the reasons Czhorat noted.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I removed another thread below bashing vegans. That’s not cool to do here, any more than it’s okay to bash anyone else’s diet. I’m hesitant to remove this one because I think there are lots of valuable replies to it, but please y’all, cut that out.

      5. M*

        Yeah. I’m vegan and every time it comes up with somebody new, always after they’ve known me for weeks if not months, they always say ‘I didn’t know you were vegan!’ And I want to say, ‘you didn’t know because I don’t see it as a thing to talk about unless it becomes relevant, for example, when people continuously offer me pizza.’ Sure, there are annoying vegans, and there are annoying people who talk about paleo and all kinds of eating/lifestyle habits but please don’t keep stereotyping vegans. Like somebody else said, you don’t know about the quiet ones but there’s actually a lot of us out there.

    5. blackcat*

      Well, I think it’s that they discovered something that is new and life-changing to them. They think it is wonderful! And since they were convinced to try it, clearly others can be convinced, too! You just need enough enthusiasm!!!!!!!

      I’ve even known new knitters who do this….

    6. Oryx*

      There’s lots of middle grounds with vegans. You only hear the extreme ones because they are the loudest. So can you possibly stop generalizing?

    7. Julia*

      As a vegetarian who lets her husband eat meat (just please one where the animals are treated well), I have had several people try to talk me out of vegetarianism. So maybe let’s lay off the stereotyping?

    8. kittymommy*

      Exactly. +1000

      And my bad diet may have made me overweight but at least it didn’t make me a dick.

    9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I’ve met preachy vegans, just as I’ve met people who are preachy about paleo, Crossfit, Neti pots, biking in cities, polyamory/monogamy, carnivorousness, knitting, etc., etc. There are a lot of people in all of those categories who are in no way overbearing or self-righteous (I would argue that in many cases they’re the majority in their subgroup), or who you may not even realize identify with any of those things.

      So I don’t think it’s helpful to stereotype. Plus it’s not really relevant for OP. Mike said what he said because he’s being an asshole (and frankly, a significant part of the population probably thinks what he said was ok/”factual”). I think it’s important to address the problematic behavior, not the individual’s personal dietary choices and our assumptions about those choices.

        1. Cafe au Lait*

          There’s a lot of knitters who read AskAManager. I only found this blog due to a job hunting post on Ravelry.

          1. Violet Fox*

            I think a post on Ravelry is how I found AAM as well. Heck, there are a few usernames that I think I recognise though mine is different because that’s just how I roll.

      1. Megan M.*

        Okay but using a Neti pot when I was sick REALLY DID change my life! :P (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    10. BananaPants*

      Yeah, new devotees to any way of life outside the mainstream tend to get evangelical – Crossfitters are the worst, in my experience.

    11. Lora*

      Yeah, where I live it’s less the vegans (there’s lots, so it’s less novel to discuss I guess?) and more the CrossFit people.

      I’m more muscle-y than your average middle aged lady and occasionally people ask what gym I go to, and before I can even say “actually I don’t go to the gym ever,” they go OFF about CrossFit.

      You know what changed my life? Tequila.

      1. Lablizard*

        I get the same reaction. I never understand it. What I am doing works for me. I am healthy and able to do anything I want to physically and a few things I didn’t think I would be able to do until I tried them. I’m good, CrossFit weirdo. Leave me alone.

      2. Not A Morning Person*

        “You know what changed my life? Tequila.” I hope this is okay – thank you for my first laugh out loud of the day!

        1. Lora*

          You’re welcome!

          It’s true, I hated tequila until I went to a fancy liquor tasting thing for tequila, not expecting to like it but I was bored waiting for a flight and needed something to do. It was AMAZING and fruity and smooth and a tiny bit sweet and didn’t leave even a trace of hangover. Like good Scotch, but sort of fruity instead of smoky.

          My industry is very male-dominated too, so I derive great joy from going to pub crawls with the manly men who order Scotch and ordering a good tequila for myself.

    12. JS*

      I tend to err moderate in employee issues but I am also 100% on board with what you said. I think in this case it’s perfectly reasonable to have the one and done warning since Mike has revealed himself to be a busybody in general. This isn’t a mistake of someone inadvertently insulting someone, this was deliberate and since its related to a topic Mike is overly passionate about it will likely come up again. I would make sure HR was present to in any warning conversation so its crystal clear he is skating on extremely thin ice.

    13. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      And another data point on the trend of “Dear Alison, get a load of this ABSOLUTELY UNTHINKABLE OVERSTEPPING OF WORKPLACE BOUNDARIES” letters appears. Does global warming cause people to say and do insane things to their coworkers, or what the actual?

    14. Jaguar*

      So what about “Wow, did you lose weight? You look great!”? Or, “You okay? You look like you’re limping around.” Or, noticing someone has a big cut on their arm, “Jesus, what happened?”

      I don’t have an opinion on this, mind you. Maybe all of those are unacceptable, but they seem benign to me, and I’ve both engaged and been engaged in all of them with coworkers. But there’s also coworkers – past and present – I know, I trust, and I am comfortable with and they could talk about me putting on weight or looking like crap today or whatever and vice versa and it’s fine. These blanket rules about never, ever doing a certain thing at work often strike me as weirdly authoritarian.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think we need to discipline ourselves to not mention weight. Period. Unless engaged in a conversation with a peer where you are both working on weight or something. We had a secretary in another department who gained a ton of weight with twins. She was about 4’9″ and tiny when she got pregnant and so the effect of her obesity was that she looked almost square. She kept that weight for about 15 years and then one year took it off. The first time I saw her, I said ‘you look terrific’. It was not necessary to say ‘Wow, you lost all that weight’ or whatever jumped into my mind first. Lay off the weight.

        How did you hurt your arm is entirely different, but I would also caution that if you don’t know the person well don’t assume a limp or use of a scooter or something is because ‘something happened.’ It may be a long term disability better left unmentioned. Don’t ask how I learned this lesson, but I did learn it.

        1. Jaguar*

          I think the problem with this idea that you don’t mention weight or some other taboo subject is that it’s treating certain people’s landmines as the baseline. Certainly, nobody should comment on the weight of people they don’t know (and that applies to the letter), but why is it two people who know each other and are reasonably sure they won’t cause offense can’t talk freely with one another? Sure, you’re still going to accidentally hit landmines, but the idea of treating people you know timidly seems far worse to me. I don’t want people I’m getting to know and become friendly with to assume by default that they can’t say anything hypothetically sensitive to me and when I notice people are self-censoring their interactions with me, I’m far less interested in talking to them, because who does want to talk to someone that’s as bland as possible?

          1. Non-Prophet*

            But I think the issue here is that we’re talking about a workplace, and it’s just never appropriate to comment on a coworker’s weight. Sure, if I have a friend who I KNOW has been trying to lose weight and who I KNOW would appreciate me noticing, I might compliment her on her progress. But even in cases where I am friendly with coworkers, the possibility of there being an extenuating circumstance causing weight fluctuation is just too great –and as a coworker, there’s a good chance I don’t know my coworker well enough to know about it.

            Here’s a real life example: my coworker has lost a lot of weight. Maybe it was the result of hard work, diet and exercise. But there is a very real chance that it’s because she lost both her parents recently after long, difficult illnesses, which not everyone at the office knows. So I’m sure as hell not going to compliment her about it.

            1. Jaguar*

              Yeah, I’m talking about a workplace as well. Most of the places I’ve worked, I’ve been close enough friends with a number of coworkers where we’ve been comfortable enough to speak freely about topics I wouldn’t otherwise with someone I didn’t know that well. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that we should put a freeze on that because of a hypothetical scenario. Accidentally saying something wrong is a consequence of human interaction and bonding. Wiping whole subjects off the table seems like an extreme ascetic solution.

      2. DeskBird*

        At one point a few years ago I had a brand new condition that made me very very ill. I lost over 30 lbs in the space of about a month because I could barely eat. I was weak as a kitten and was very scared about what was happening to me. SO MANY people – including my own mother – could not shut up about how great I looked and wow did I loose weight how great it all was. It was really upsetting to hear because the weight loss was so unhealthy and people were treating this horrible condition like I had a stroke of luck. Later, when I was better and gained the weight back it still upset me, because is horrible undernourished really what everyone thinks I look best as? Is that what I should be aiming for? It messed with my head badly and if it weren’t for my main concern being watching my diet so my condition never flared again, it could have led to some very bad diet decisions. So please, even if someone you work with has lost weight, unless they talk about it as a positive thing please leave it alone. You never know what is going on there.

        1. ancolie*

          Years ago, I was a credit union teller and one of my coworkers was a dangerously underweight woman. She was 5′ and had tiny bones, but when her doctors are freaking out about her not gaining weight, too, it’s definitely underweight.

          She had so many people either say they wished THEY had the problem she had or gossiped about it being an eating disorder. It made her so sad and angry because she was TERRIFIED of what could be wrong with her.

          I think I was one of the only ones she ever talked to about it. Because even though I’m fat, I had 100% sympathy and never said anything like the others did. I’d just listen and maybe say things like, “god, that really sucks”, or “Jesus, I’d be really scared, too. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.”

        2. Gadfly*

          A former grandboss had to explain her stomach cancer in detail to get people to shut up about how wonderful it was that she lost so much weight and so quickly.

          Don’t go there. Just don’t.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          When I was in my twenties I dropped a lot of weight for reasons unknown at that time. It scared the crap out of me. I was eating 4k calories per day and losing 5 pounds a week. This went on for six weeks. I got all kinds of remarks from the people closest to me, “you’re obviously bulimic” (so far removed from reality that I did not even engage in the discussion) and “clearly it’s cancer” (also not true). It was a lonely time processing this by myself. And it was a big life lesson. 1) Don’t mention weight loss/gain. 2) If a person does open up about weight loss/gain start by asking them “what do you think might be going on?”. It’s amazing how people can pinpoint where the problem may have started from, trust them to have some idea of what they are talking about. Don’t randomly decide they are bulimic or whatever.

      3. JessaB*

        Wow did you lose weight is dangerous. I’m going to be blunt here. My mother DIED because of “wow you lost weight great going.” They wasted a lot of time before they realised that the reason a woman who had been dieting for over 45 years lost 100lbs was cancer. It killed her.

        Wow did you lose is just as bad as wow you gained. People don’t always WANT to lose weight, they don’t always lose weight because of good reasons, they could have an eating disorder, there are a metric tonne of reasons NOT to talk about people’s weight. Same for people gaining.

        1. Ours is the Fury*

          I worked really hard and lost a lot of weight. (100+ pounds). I am now at a weight that is healthy for my body type. No one at work commented on it but they all whispered behind my back. It would have been nice to actually have someone say SOMETHING nice, beyond the false “you look terrific today” like they say to EVERYONE because we are a society of false compliments.

          I also lost a bunch of friends because people suck and don’t want to actually be friends with someone who changes their lifestyle from unhealthy to healthy. So I don’t really think that never mentioning it is healthy at all. At least acknowledge something. I LITERALLY do not care how great my clothes look – I didn’t make them, I didn’t accomplish shit by putting them on, that’s not a fucking compliment. But the fat activists of the world seem to think that weight is taboo and should never ever be mentioned which is stupid.

          If someone looses a lot of weight quickly and feels like shit, they should see a doctor. People mentioning it has nothing to do with if they have cancer or not. Cancer doesn’t care about your feelings.

          1. One of the Sarahs*

            So, the problem with your last paragraph is that some people lose a lot of weight, and might be unsure about if it’s OK or something to worry about, but the people in their everyday life telling them it’s a really good thing, coupled with lifelong messages from society at large, would make them feel stupid about worrying about it. After all, a sudden weight loss is the dream goal, right?

            Here in the UK, we have lots of Public Health campaigns about the symptoms of strokes, heart disease, all kinds of cancers, because so many diseases would be far more treatable if they were caught earlier. And especially if you’re in the USA where it costs money to go to the doctor, and a ton of people already put off going to doctors anyway, whether through fear or lack of education, people treating a warning sign of sickness as something that’s a positive in someone’s life just adds to problems.

            1. Gadfly*

              It is actually part of higher morbidity rates for larger people. Unintended weight loss frequently isn’t treated as a serious symptom and so diseases are MUCH further progressed before they are diagnosed. People have to fight to have it treated with concern instead of kudos.

      4. SarahBot*

        I had a similar experience to DeskBird – several years ago, I lost 60 pounds in 6 months (because my digestive tract was messed up and I couldn’t eat – I spent six weeks on a liquid-only diet and then another six weeks being fed via IV because I couldn’t keep food down), and SO MANY PEOPLE complimented me on my weight loss and told me how great I looked. Even my boss at the time, who knew what terrible pain I was in and how hard things were for me, said, “well, it’s like a silver lining, right?” But I didn’t look great – my skin was sallow and my hair was falling out. But all most people could see was my weight loss, and that automatically equated to a great thing for them.

        For me, the safest and best route is to compliment / remark on things that are someone’s choice (i.e., outfit, hairstyle, etc.) – it’s important to me that I do my best to never make anyone feel the way those weight-loss “compliments” made me feel.

        1. Jaguar*

          There is an opposite to that, though, which is the person that works hard to lose weight (or whatever else) and nobody cares. I know people for who that’s the case as well and it’s also been somewhat crushing. Withdrawing from responding positively to people because of what-if hypotheticals doesn’t seem like a workable solution to me and additionally seems really cold. As I mentioned above, I think people should be open with people they know and trust, and that also includes some responsibility on the recipient to say, “Listen, can you not talk about my weight?” Requiring everyone to self-censor across the board seems like a massive price to pay.

          1. Non-Prophet*

            i might agree with some this for very close, personal friendships. But I don’t think someone should ever have to say, “Listen, can you not talk about my weight” in the workplace. Yes, I want to be warm and friendly with my coworkers. But I hope to never cross a personal boundry in the workplace that requires someone to set me straight…especially about something that literally has nothing to do with work!

            1. Jaguar*

              An argument could be made (I’m not entirely sure I want to personally commit to it, but I’m leaning that way) that this is more a matter of your preferences. You’re placing a lot of value on not discussing anything that might be sensitive to someone. I don’t, and there are plenty of times when I’ll say something to the effect of, “Look, can we discuss something else?” and then we move on and it’s fine. So if someone wanted to avoid discussing anything with me that’s a potential sore spot, then sure, that’s their choice, but if they were doing it because they didn’t want me to have to ask them to stop, I would strongly prefer they talk openly and let me put the brakes on. Which is to say, if my choice is people talk freely to me and they might hit a sore spot or people don’t talk freely at all, I’ll choose talk freely every time, and that goes with even pretty casual acquaintances.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Which is your preference and your choice, but that’s a far from universal preference. I’d rather err on the side of courtesy and keep things light in a professional space.

                1. Jaguar*

                  Right, but you make guesses about how receptive people are to things, which is why for a given individual, you might compliment them on weight loss but not comment on weight gain – the latter is obviously more likely to be a sore spot. Similarly, someone you know, you might comment on how they’re dressed, but a random stranger you might be less inclined to. What I’m arguing against is throwing all vast swaths of stuff into the taboo lockbox and never going near it. I don’t think it’s a workable solution to treat everyone like they’re the worst case scenario and especially not the more you get to know them.

              2. Non-Prophet*

                I respectfully disagree with this. If I make someone uncomfortable in the workplace by discussing a topic known to be sensitive to a LOT of people, the onus shouldn’t be on them to tell me to stop. The onus should be on me to avoid crossing inappropriate boundries in the workplace. Weight, like politics, religion, and personal finances, is just one of those topics on the list of things that seem best avoided at work.

          2. gwal*

            Honestly, if losing weight WAS all about health and hard work, other people not mentioning it would not be “crushing”. What you’ve described is the other side of society’s insistence that fat people are worse than thin people, and a person wishing they would be lauded for their move away from the worse category. It’s hard to agree that abolishing a non-work-related topic from your work vocabulary is “a massive price to pay”.

            1. Jaguar*

              Now you’re just marginalizing other people’s experiences? I mean, dispute the word choice if you must, but I know people who have been hurt by nobody recognizing something they’ve accomplished, including losing weight, and we have Ours is the Fury’s post above as well.

              I don’t agree that it’s fat shaming to congratulate someone on losing weight when they’ve set that as a goal for themselves. I couldn’t care less about anyone’s knowledge of Tae Kwon Do, but if someone tells me they just reached black belt, I’d be genuinely happy and enthused for them.

      5. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        Speaking as someone who gets “oh you’re using a cane! What happened?” a lot, I wish people wouldn’t. It doesn’t feel as socially dangerous as “you’ve lost weight”, but it gets old fast.
        I use a cane sometimes because of a chronic medical condition. It may be the first time a coworker has seen me with one but it’s the fiftieth time I’ve had the conversion. I’m public with my condition but man I get tired of talking about it and I’m tired of all the “poor you!” or “that’s tough!” reactions to something I’ve been managing for a decade.
        And what if someone doesn’t feel like disclosing? What if that big cut on someone’s arm was due to domestic violence?
        I let people know if my performance will be affected by my condition. No one needs to ask.
        I wouldn’t give it a blanket prohibition, for reasons you pointed out like personal relationships with coworkers, but all those comments strike me as unnecessary and put the onus on the other person to decide whether to say “it’s personal” and risk making a Big Deal out of a thing or not.
        My go-to response on the cane these days, by the way, is “yeah I do that sometimes.” It gets me double-takes but it ends the conversation.

      6. Jadelyn*

        For the love of god, please do not with “Did you lose weight? You look great!” It’s unspeakably rude to fat people in general, like, excuse you. I look great *now*, and it’s taken a LOT of mental and emotional self-work to get to a place where I have halfway decent self-esteem. Treating weight loss as inherently something that improves a person’s appearance is really gross and just helps normalize the way our society treats fat people like shit – ugly, unloveable, etc.

        Also, you don’t know why they lost weight. When my fiance and I separated several years ago, I was a wreck. I lost about 30 lbs over the course of a couple months because I literally stopped eating. I just had no appetite, ever, and had to force myself to remember to have at least a little bit of food before going to bed, but I never ate whole meals. If someone had commented on my weight loss and said I looked great I’d have either burst into tears – like, horrible wailing and sobbing – or punched them. Or both.

        Just…don’t comment on people’s bodies or weight. Ever. Don’t do it. The risks of it being hurtful are far greater than the possible rewards of mild social bonding.

      7. Kindling*

        I have a personal rule to never, ever comment on anyone’s weight, even if it’s in a ‘positive’ way. I was recently tempted to break my rule to ask a friend if she had lost weight. Glad I ended up keeping my mouth shut, because like 30 minutes later, she revealed (unprompted) that it was due to a medical problem.

      8. lauren*

        Yeah, any comments on weight should be avoided, even if they’re “positive”. For me personally : I’m bulimic. My weight fluctuates–not a lot, but since I’m very short, it’s noticeable. Any comment about weight, food, whatever generally tosses me into a very bad place. And if I’ve noticeably lost weight it probably means things are going very badly for me. (My mother once asked me to talk to a neighbor’s daughter about weight loss and how I successfully lost weight!!! I very carefully avoided ever doing that.)

        Obviously I can’t expect my coworkers to know this, nor would I particularly want them to. But there are a lot of examples here of people with their own reasons why comments about weight/food would be detrimental, and I’d really love it if we as a society could just shut up about other people’s bodies. (I’d also love it if whatever makes restaurants put calorie information on menu boards would go away. Eating out is enough of a nightmare.)

      9. Clinical Social Worker*

        I have had so many people INSIST I lost weight when I hadn’t. “But you look great!” Well, I haven’t lost a pound. Seriously, it’s a weird, awkward moment. They think they are being complimentary but they aren’t. You can just say “You look great today.”

        1. Em*

          Yes. I have a relative who always tells me I look like I’ve lost weight. I never have, and sometimes I’ve gained. To her, it’s a great compliment when someone says that. To me, it’s not. It’s just pointing out that she thought I was too fat to begin with, and it is embarrassing to hear, especially when I was younger and felt like I was obliged to reply no, no I haven’t.

    15. Ted Mosby*

      I’ve been thin or average my whole life, I’m a vegetarian who is very conscious of the animal products I eat, I eat heathfully, yada yada yada, (basically I have no skin in this game, I’m not *personally offended* and being defensive) and I don’t think that’s an overreaction at all. You just don’t freaking say that. Even if he had any clue what he was talking about, which details in the letter make me doubt, you just don’t say that.

      It’s bad enough judgement to the point that I would never put that person in front of a client, and overstepping, unfounded, and rude in the same way calling your boss’s daughter a whore is. This is a 2 strikes situation. One more even borderline repeat comment and he’d be out. People like that make other people dread coming to work.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, what is B’s deal? Is B also a writer? Granted, I’m extremely ignorant about the writing industry/profession, but even I know you can’t get a full-time, paid writing job with zero experience. I don’t understand why B wouldn’t offer to help her build a portfolio instead of feeding her delusional belief that she’s so brilliant that people should pay her to write full-time based on nothing but speculation and glitter.

    But yes, you’re absolved—you went beyond what’s expected of you to help a friend who refuses to acknowledge she could use help (despite being explicitly told she has to meet certain metrics to even be eligible for this job). There’s nothing you can do for A. Sometimes people just have to be as delusional as they want to be, and you can’t save them from themselves.

    1. Karen D*

      As a professional writer with a few decades of experience, I can say the world is full of people who think “I’ll just let them know I’m available to start writing for them now.” And I agree, B is doing Friend A absolutely zero favors, just setting A up to be disappointed again and again. I would also agree it’s getting to the point where someone needs to sit B down and have a Frank Talk. I actually like Alison’s wording rather a lot.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        A friend of a friend once asked my advice on writing, wouldn’t be told – but did helpfully suggest I share my work with him. Uh, no.

        1. Karen D*

          I have had friends of friends come up to me and say “I have this great idea for a book, all I need is someone to listen to me and then write it down and handle the grammar and punctuation stuff.” Then when I offer to hook them up with a good ghostwriter (I know several) they look at me as if I’ve grown two heads. “I don’t want to hire somebody. I just thought you could help me out a little.”

          I always feel like telling them, “OK, I’ll give you my friend-of-a-friend rate; it’s only 1.5 times my normal freelance rate because you are a moron.

          1. Drew*

            “But I gave you this great idea!” Oh, my goodness, thank you for that, because as a writer coming up with ideas is LITERALLY WHAT I DO ALL THE TIME.

            I forget who said it, but someone pointed out that people like this overvalue their wonderful idea because it’s probably the only one they’ll ever have.

            1. Em*

              “people like this overvalue their wonderful idea because it’s probably the only one they’ll ever have”

              HA HA HA HA HA!!!! That actually explains a lot of the frustration I have with people.

          2. Blue*

            Yikes I just said something very similar right below without seeing this! It must be an almost universal thing.

          3. Whats In A Name*

            I, for one, totally think you should say that the next time someone asks you to do that for them.

            1. Karen D*

              I probably would if I ever took freelance work any more, which I don’t.

              The worst was a guy who pitched me to write his autobiography. We were at my dad’s funeral.

          4. Emmbee*

            My husband is a bestselling author with 17 published books under his belt. I work in publishing. If we had a nickel for every person who’s approached us with a “great idea” they want us to write for them…

            well, we’d have a lot of nickels.

            1. Zombii*

              If we had a nickel for every person who’s approached us with a “great idea” they want us to write for them…

              Personally, I blame James Patterson—I know the idea was around before him, but since he got rich off this premise, he’s given it more legitimacy as a thing.

          5. Cath in Canada*

            Ugh, my husband has what is actually a pretty interesting idea for a book, and has mentioned getting me to do the typing and editing (he’s mildly dyslexic and a hunt-and-peck typist). I barely have enough time and energy to do my own writing, let alone his! He thinks it’ll be really easy for me because he’d be “doing most of the work” on it.

            I’ve decided to tell him that I’ll edit it if he types the first draft. Should keep him busy for a decade or two :D

      2. I Herd the Cats*

        Good writing ability is waaaaaay undervalued. I think people think, hey, I use words! I have thoughts! I’d be a great writer! Being able to write words down semi-coherently doesn’t make you a great writer any more than me writing some numbers in Excel makes me an accountant.

        1. Oryx*

          My manager brought up my (good) writing in my annual review which made me so happy.

      3. Blue*

        I cannot tell you how many friends and family members have what they think are great ideas for novels that they bring to me, wanting me to whip it out for them as a ghost-writer, as though coming up with half-thoughts as ideas left and right is the hard part.

        1. ancolie*

          Similar are the chuckleheads who have a great idea for an app “that’ll be huge!” They just need someone to help out a tiny bit by actually designing, coding, creating and testing it.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Exactly: some people cannot be saved from themselves!

      I worked as a freelance writer for quite a few years and it wasn’t particularly unusual for people to really like the idea of being a writer but don’t understand that it takes a bit more than that – not just a portfolio, but more skills than simply being able to string a sentence together. Being able to meet a writing brief, for example.

      Sometimes people asked for my advice and listened to it. And sometimes people asked for my advice and then didn’t like what they heard. I couldn’t help those people. I doubt anyone can. But I am completely baffled by B – because even if A does did the job, why is B so sure she’ll be able to succeed in the role and won’t be a bad hire that reflects badly on B? Odd. But OP it’s okay to just nod sympathetically and not try to advise. You are indeed absolved!

      1. Artemesia*

        The old saw that a person who ‘wants to be a writer’ will never be a successful writer, but a person who ‘wants to write’ might be sums it up well. People who want to write, write. This person wants to be a writer, she doesn’t want to write.

        1. Cath in Canada*

          “To be the noun, you must do the verb”. A universal truth that seems particularly relevant to writing! In fact, it’s the mantra I use when I’m having a hard time getting motivated.

      2. Oryx*

        Yes, I had a friend who once waxed on about her dream was to not have a “real job” and live in a cozy little home on the coast where she can sit and write on her porch with the sea salt in her hair and it was a totally romanticized view of what it actually takes to be a writer.

        Most of my writing is done at 5 am in the morning in bed because that’s legit the only time I have to do it in my busy schedule. Also, y’know, I write and she doesn’t. She’s more of the “I don’t want to write, I want to have written” frame of mind.

      3. Sunshine*

        Its one of those professions people romanticise. I’ve been writing since I was ten and now do it for a living. It’s hard, poorly paid work. I have a friend who’s published 3 novels and pulls in less a year than his wife (an RN).

        I’d suggest anyone who’s interested go qualify as something you can do part time, and have a writing project on the side, for fun. It’ll likely be a lot more satisfying.

        1. Oryx*

          I also think people have this idea that book authors start making money right away and that is so far from the truth it’s laughable. Royalties get paid out about twice a year and even then there is usually a six month – year wait after publication to get your first royalty check depending on what their pay out calendar is like.

          I’ve heard lots of really big bestselling authors talk about how they have this debut book on the New York Times and it’s doing incredibly well and they have all these interviews and people assume are just rolling in it but in reality they are barely hanging on by a financial thread behind the scenes.

          1. Sunshine*

            Roxanne Gay was talking about that – how she had a book in the NYT bestsellers list and was hunting around for min wage jobs to make ends meet.

          2. Artemesia*

            My oldest friend has a friend who has written over a dozen mystery novels that are well received and fairly popular. It was a very long time before the royalties added up to a remodeled kitchen for her. She is doing well now, but not as well as I would have thought with a successful series (actually two successful mystery series.)

            1. Decima Dewey*

              You know the story about Edith Wharton and Henry James comparing their writing income?
              Wharton had bought a new car with the proceeds from her latest novel. James replied that with his last novel, he’d bought a wheelbarrow. With the proceeds from his latest, he’d have the wheelbarrow painted.

          3. Meri*

            In one of the earlier episodes of Bones, she’s talking about how her first book did so well, she got a 6 figure ADVANCE for her second. I’m not a writer, but it always struck me as one of the most unbelievable things on that show. (Which I realize is saying a lot.)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Six figure advances aren’t out of the realm of possibility, especially if a first book did well or the person has an existing platform! But it’s usually going to be broken down in a bunch of smaller payments — one upon contract signing, one upon manuscript acceptance, one upon publication, and so forth.

            2. Oryx*

              What Alison said. That’s not outrageous depending on the writer but you won’t get it all upfront. My 4 figure was broken up into two payments. And, again, an advance is against future royalties so if you burn through all of that you have to hope your book does well enough to cover at least the advance before you can generate more money.

          4. mrs__peel*

            Very true in the arts generally, too.

            I know a number of people who are (outwardly) successful musicians and visual artists, for whom that’s their full-time “day job”. Every single one is hustling like crazy for work, trying to chase down overdue payments, worried about losing their health insurance, etc. Even some of the very highly regarded ones are uninsured or on Medicaid.

            For example, my partner is a highly-regarded musician and plays at some very famous institutions (*coughMOMAcough*). By and large, they are TERRIBLE about about actually paying people they owe money to, and it takes him months of phone calls and letters to get the few hundred dollars they owe him. Even if you love what you do, the business side of things is exhausting and tenuous.

        2. Hellanon*

          I was fortunate to discover a few years back that I am not a novelist, but I *am* a technical writer, and a good one. It was screwing up the courage to explore the creative side that got me there, though. (I told this to a friend who is a novelist and she said, oh, you’re lucky…)

          1. Elemeno P.*

            Same here! I desperately wanted to write creatively for a living when I was younger, and it took me a long time to realize that I liked the idea of it more than the process. I’m also a technical writer and it works out well for me, since it pays pretty well and my work is solid.

            My favorite part is being a walking Dad Joke and telling people, “I’m technically a writer! In fact, I write technically every day.”

            1. KCL*

              This is amazing I love it. I’m going to become a technical writer just so I can make this joke all the time!

            2. Sunshine*

              I write product and website copy which pays OK. But as I say I kinda wish I’d become a plumber or something. I’d be pulling in $55k a year and have the option of setting my own hours.

        3. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I teach writing and I tutor writing, because while I love writing and write in my spare time, it is never going to pay the bills (I write some kind of esoteric stuff, and have admittedly not been very vigilant about looking into publishing). When I was younger I wanted to be a writer; but I’m also a realist, and I want to eat food and have a house and all that jazz.

    3. MiaRose*

      I had wondered the same thing about B as well. It’s perplexing. I’ve written user manuals and documentation as part of previous jobs, and everything I’ve done required a working knowledge of the subject. But I’ve also written sales pitches and catalog descriptions without prior knowledge of the subjects or products. Either way, I was required to have samples of my writing, whether in a portfolio or an actual publication. I’m not a professional writer, but I am skilled in technical writing, and it always gets on my nerves when people say, “Oh, that sounds like such an easy job. I could do it.” Um, no. Friend B is doing friend A no favors, and I wonder if OP#2 could have someone who does write for a living speak to friend A (unless that is overstepping).

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OMG it’s like people who think writing children’s books or young adult novels is “easy.”

        1. MiaRose*

          It’s not easy. I really suck at any creative writing so I really appreciate anyone with that talent. If people consider that they have to write something that will actually be good enough to sell, and do it with a looming deadline, maybe they won’t think it’s so easy after all.

          1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

            Very true. Wanting to be a writer is far different from having to produce very specific content on a regular basis. I write a weekly column and some weeks nothing comes to mind with a deadline staring at me. It’s been my experience that any writing job requires actual proof that you can write and produce the required content.

            1. Liane*

              Same here. I do have latitude on what I write within a very broad category, but I often struggle to have something finished. Fortunately I talked to Managing Editor, who is a published author, and took his advice to write as much as I could when I was on a roll. This way I can be ahead, in addition to the 1 or 2 reserve articles we are asked to have ready.

            2. Kopper*

              This! I work as a speechwriter and sometimes I get assignments that are pretty darn boring…but I have to do them, and I have to somehow make them interesting. And sometimes the writing process involves a lot of staring at a blank screen wondering how I can get it done. But I have to, and I do. Definitely not the same as the writing I do for fun in my spare time.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          Ahahahaha. My friend is a successful YA author and I have no idea how she does it.

      2. Artemesia*

        Why ‘speak to her.’ She has failed to get a job. She has been told what she needs to do. She is not everyone else’s project; leave her alone to get a clue from experience.

        1. MiaRose*

          I think part of the problem is friend B who keeps encouraging her, but the main problem is that she doesn’t get it. OP#1 has past professional writing experience and has advised friend A, but is perhaps too close to the situation? It is hard when you have one friend saying one thing, and another friend saying another. It’s far easier to lean towards the opinion that caters to one’s ego, even though it’s not logical.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Not only that but the manager is relaying information about her candidacy through B.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          In fairness to the LW, she’s asking if she can or should help her friend which isn’t unreasonable so let’s not jump on them.

          1. fposte*

            Artemesia isn’t jumping on the OP; she’s responding to the suggestion that the OP organize somebody else to counsel A on this.

            And I join Artemesia in thinking it would be good for the OP to be less involved with this rather than more. Maybe A will figure out how wrong she is after more rejections and maybe she won’t, but she’s beyond the point where a bit of friendly advice will change her mind. There are worse delusions than this for a friend to harbor.

        3. MiaRose*

          She rejected the idea on the grounds that she is too busy to write unless she’s being paid on a full-time basis. She believes she has a gift for translating jargon for the layman and just needs a chance to prove it.

          I don’t know how I missed this. Considering my job was to translate “jargon for the layman” and had to prove my skill the hard way, I’m disinclined to be sympathetic to friend A, and I’m leaning towards your way of thinking. She’s showing really sucky attitude, and is really unappreciative of OP#1’s advice.

          1. Collingwood21*

            “She rejected the idea on the grounds that she is too busy to write unless she’s being paid on a full-time basis. ”

            It *is* possible. I also love writing and have been happily plugging away at freelance jobs around full-time work for the past 5 years. If you want to write, you find a way to fit it into your life. I don’t think of it as working on weekends; I think of it as doing something I enjoy and getting an extra paycheque for it!

        4. Mike C.*

          I’m with you here. Sometimes people can be told the milk has gone bad, others need to smell it themselves or see it poured into a glass first. Folks like the OP’s friend are going to insist on taking a nice big gulp.

          /I’m in category two myself.

          1. OP#2*

            One part of me is happy she didn’t get the job because of her terrible attitude. The other part hopes she gets it eventually so she can experience that being a writer isn’t as romantic as she thinks it is.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      It just says that B works for the company. So I’m guessing that B is not a writer, and shares A’s delusions about what is involved in writing professionally, thinking that a recommendation from a friend is more important than things like experience, or a portfolio.

      If the OP is also friends with B, it might be worth pointing out that without a portfolio, A isn’t going to get a writing job. But otherwise, she’s unlikely to convince A or get her to change her behaviour. Shutting A down when she starts complaining about it, though, would be appropriate. If A starts going on about how unfair it is, re-iterating “they’re not going to hire you without a portfolio – that’s just how writing jobs work” and changing the topic would be just fine.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      Furthermore, you are never going to beat other applicants who DO have a portfolio. Why would an employer make that choice when they don’t have to?

      1. Karen D*

        Right! Going after a writing job with absolutely nothing that shows whether one can, in fact, write – that just strikes me as sheer folly.

    6. OP#2*

      Hello! To answer a few queries in this thread:
      – B is also a writer. I don’t know him well enough to know how he landed the job. I know that he has some past writing experience prior to this position. Which makes this whole situation extra frustrating because WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!
      – B is a friend of A and only an acquaintance of mine. So I don’t have the standing to have a Frank Talk with him.
      – B believes in A because A has a good work ethic, good personality, and would likely succeed with experience. I agree on this point, but the old letter that Alison linked kind of says it all. We can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help themselves.
      – Why is B feeding the delusion: B can be difficult sometimes (big ego, righteous). A big reason why I don’t want to have any Talk with him if I can help it. It’s probable that he was so very sure that his opinion is correct that he gets increasingly defensive about the company rejecting A. It’s more of a pride issue at this point. I think he convinced himself that A just needs A Chance because he knows so. Or more likely, he gave bad advice to A that a portfolio isn’t necessary since there was a writing test.

      Like what MiaRose said, “It is hard when you have one friend saying one thing, and another friend saying another. It’s far easier to lean towards the opinion that caters to one’s ego, even though it’s not logical.” Yes, all of this! The problem is A is too unmotivated to create writing samples, and ignoring advice from someone with experience (me). I don’t think she is going to be interested to speaking to other professional writers unless they tell her what she wants to hear.

      1. Misquoted*

        That brings you right back to “drop it”, right? It’s so frustrating to see a friend try something, get rejected, and then jump right up to try again when nothing’s changed, and you know it’s just going to end in another rejection. And worse when they are getting bad advice from elsewhere. Hard to watch.

        As for writing specifically, people do change careers and break into the writing business. It’s very possible, especially if this person might be an “undiscovered talent”. Some people ARE good writers, but haven’t had the chance to show it. The problem here is that she needs to find those chances to show it — she could ask her current employer to give her some writing tasks, volunteer at an organization to help them with their newsletters or something like that, take a writing course and use the assignments to start a portfolio, etc.

        Writing is not just about having good ideas and being able to string words together in a pleasing way. I can only speak to technical writing specifically, but it’s also about understanding the technology, using the tools, working with teams, managing your time well, prioritizing, structure, formatting, mechanics, word choice, globalization, and that’s just off the top of my head.

        (Tech writer, writing instructor, mentor)

        1. Turquoise Cow*

          I just started to study technical writing, and I was somewhat surprised to learn how much of it is collaborative- working with others to figure out what you’re writing about, to understand what they want you to write about, possibly even training people in addition to just writing a manual about it.

        2. MiaRose*

          Exactly this. I use my skills to volunteer at our schools on an ongoing basis to keep me from being rusty and add what is published to my portfolio. Especially with tech writing, there not only has to be discipline, there also has to be the ability to communicate with various people in order to get info as well as find the best style of communication for the given audience. Plus I’ve had to learn how to use specific software on the spot, so adaptability is also needed.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Ugh, thank you for the context! You definitely get to wash your hands of this. If B is passionately devoted to being a preening rooster and A is committed to being a cake, then they deserve to stew in this pot of lazy, willful cluelessness. I’m sorry you got sucked in, OP. :(

      3. MiaRose*

        This must be so frustrating for you, but to save yourself the stress, as my girls used to love to sing (24/7), “Let it go!”

    7. Kit M. Harding*

      It confuses me too. I have some actual paid writing things– not, you know, a *lot*, but there have been instances in which people have given me money for things I have written. And I still wouldn’t consider applying for a job like that, because people who hire full-time commercial writer stuff are not going to be impressed that I have two essays in a feminist zine, even if I did get paid for those. On the other hand, my seeing that may have to do with being on the entry levels of the writing profession and thus in a better position to be aware of all the stuff I don’t know. There are a lot of people out there who go “J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter as an unemployed single mother! I could totally do that!” and miss the part where it actually took time and effort.

      1. Pup Seal*

        Especially considering it took J.K. Rowling about 10 years to write the first Harry Potter book and she has been writing ever since she was a child.

    8. JessaB*

      Someone needs to talk to B. When B is recommending their friend, they need to be told outright to quit that. It makes them look like they have poor judgement. Either they have no actual idea what the job they’re recommending someone for IS, or they have no idea what their friends qualifications are. Either way, this looks VERY bad for B as well.

  5. NoMoreMrFixit*

    For #1 please put a stop to this guy. I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with his type. Being overweight makes one a target for these misguided individuals who think their sermonizing is helping. Be prepared for him to claim he is only trying to save them from themselves. Or has their health and best interests at heart. Honestly I find dealing with people who make nasty comments about my weight far easier than the crusading do-gooder trying to save me from my poor dietary choices. I tend to be pretty blunt and have no trouble shutting this sort of thing down good and hard when needed. Unfortunately that’s a trait I’ve had to develop over the years due to so many incidents of this type.

    1. that guy*

      And in some people’s weird brains, it’s wrong to say something to overweight people, but you can say whatever you want to someone who’s underweight. “Why are you so skinny?” “You should eat more” and so on. I’ve been tempted to reply “maybe you should eat less”, but I don’t do that, because I’m better than that. I’ve even had comments like that in job interviews.

      1. Catherine from Canada*

        Seconding the weirdness of commenting on a person’s body. Maybe they can change, maybe they can’t. It’s not like they don’t know that they are _fill-in-the-blank_.
        Two of my sons are 6 ft 7 inches. It’s ridiculous how many people tell them they’re “too tall”. Um, okay? And I should do what?

        (Mind you, the other two sons are 6’4″ and my daughters are 6′. Within the family they all refer to each other as “freakishly tall”, but that’s different.)

        1. Nervous Accountant*

          That reminds me of Marshall’s family from HIMYM, Marshall at 6’2? was considered the shortie of hte family.

        2. Blue Anne*

          My dad was 6’7″ too. He died a few years ago, but my mom just sent me a link to something he would’ve loved: some other tall guy had printed up a business card that said something like “Yes I am tall, you’re very observant for noticing! I am 6’7″. The weather is fine up here and I don’t play basketball. Thanks for having this conversation with me.”

          Maybe something to pick up for your kids. :)

          1. Emi.*

            My pastor is tall (like, I’m embarrassed to invite him over for dinner because he won’t fit in my basement apartment tall), and on his first day he began his homily with basically this.

          2. Mabel*

            Hahaha! I love this. I’m a 5’7″ woman, & I’m the shrimp in a family of very tall people.

        3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

          One of my friends got dinged on a performance review for being “too tall.”

          1. Kathryn T.*

            There’s a sports adage about the importance of physique that says “You can’t teach tall.” Apparently this person’s boss thought they could teach short!

          2. mrs__peel*

            What the—

            What kind of response are they expecting? “I’ll work on that during the next quarter, thanks!”

        4. shep*

          I’m the opposite–I’m 4’11” and I usually get a patronizing, “Oh you’re so little!” from people.

          I’m also an adult woman but I’m impressed by your skills of perception. *facepalm*

          1. Nic*

            At an inch taller, I feel ya. I am tired of being an arm rest, told I’m nipple-height, or asked to crawl under stuff because I’m “already closer”.

            I wore heels and platforms for a while which helped a LOT, but weren’t good for my legs or back. I feel for tall folks who don’t have the option to wear anti-platforms.

        5. Cedrus Libani*

          I am also, as a 6′ woman, a runt by my family’s standards. It amuses me how weird people can get about these things. Like, how do they think you end up tall? “Well, I was 5’6″, but then I drop-kicked a kitten, so my fairy godmother punished me with a growth spell.” No, really, I had no agency on this one.

    2. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      People like him drive me nuts.

      I am fat. I know I’m fat. What I eat, drink and do is no one else’s business.
      I still struggle to not justify my fatness to other people, concerned and otherwise.
      Justifications just validates their right to comment my body.

    3. Mookie*

      There’s something very micro-aggressive about certain fitness and food evangelicals* in general, even if they’re only repeating benevolent dogwhistles (equating health and morality with size, suggesting that food choices reflect a person’s self-regard and self-esteem, twisting the language of self-care into puritanical nagging about Taking Care of Onesself) and not out-and-out scrutinizing or hamfistedly negging strangers about their appearance. For all their concern about true well-being, they’re only ever concerned about addressing and policing what is visual. It must be frustating trying to “help” people who persist in looking like themselves despite all your best efforts!

      *versus gourmands and “foodies” and the like, who can be exhausting in their enthusiasm but at least aren’t trying to convert you for your own good

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Oh my god, those microaggressions are the worst. Yes, I’m fat — guess what! I’m getting over an eating disorder. Butt out. I’ll take the damn slice of pizza if I want to.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Some “gourmands” and “foodies” *are* obnoxiously evangelical – they’ll go on and on about “why aren’t you eating REAL food??” and such. Considering that the food they eat is often quite expensive and/or time-consuming to prepare, and the people they’re talking to often have a lot less money or very different lives, it’s really tone-deaf and offensive.

        1. aebhel*

          I think that NOT acting like that is the difference between a gourmand/foodie and a food evangelical. There’s nothing sinister about liking expensive, complicated dishes or having a refined palate; it’s when you start evangelizing to all and sundry or nitpicking other people’s dietary choices that you become an inconsiderate jerk.

        2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          As I like to say, stolen from the Sporkful podcast: I’m not a foodie. I’m an eater. And a cook.

    4. RVA Cat*

      Pretty sure I’m not the first, but I’m thinking we need to call the Mikes of the world “vegangelists” – because they’re preaching just the same (plus it will really tick them off).

    5. Em*

      Not only is it inappropriate, if you pay attention to obesity experts, it’s just bad advice. There are thousands of hormones and chemicals that regulate weight, appetite etc. Diet and exercise as a treatment for obesity has a success rate hovering around 5%. Success is something like losing 12 pounds and keeping it off for 2 years. Researchers are discovering just how much the body fights losing weight, including lowering metabolism and increasing whatever it is that makes a person constantly hungry, but bariatric surgery doesn’t have some of those effects and they don’t know why not yet. It’s a very complicated issue even if you are ACTUALLY knowledgeable and welcome to intervene in someone’s life.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        And there’s evidence that your gut flora might play into it….we still don’t really understand how it works and it isn’t just calories in, calories out, at least not purely. That can play into it, but there’s also a point where eating too few calories can halt weight loss as well.

      2. Lissa*

        This is one of those “if it were easy, we’d have solved it” things for me. Like, sure, random coworker, I definitely think that you have discovered the one solution that doctors don’t want you to know about! There are hundreds of articles written about this weekly, dozens of books at my local bookstore, clinics, etc., none of which have solved this problem, but you, Mike from accounting, definitely are more knowledgeable than all of them!

  6. Rabbit*

    OP 4 –

    So your current policy is to discipline employees who are sick six days out of 260? Or to really hone in on the point, employees who are sick 40 hours out of 2,080.

    Here’s a scenario that is not at all hypothetical: over the course of one year I had an emergency appendectomy and was in the hospital for 4 days – the day of the surgery and 3 days after; several months later I wound up with bronchitis (yes, diagnosed and everything) that kept me out of work for a solid 5 days; and finally in November I slipped on some ice and wound up fracturing my arm – I missed 2 days over that one and would have missed a couple more except that it happened late in the week. That’s a total of 11 days over the course of a year, five over your limit, and that’s not even getting into “life happens”. I feel that I should point out that I also received glowing reviews and a raise that year as I was a conscientious and hard working employee.

    The idea of disciplining employees for illness or unpleasant happenstance is insane to me. Allison is bang on the money here – you’re creating a terrible caste system with employees who are lucky enough to not have “life” happen to them and fortunate enough to not have health issues on the top and people who have ongoing medical issues, accidents, and bad luck on the bottom. That seems like a policy that actively invites resentment towards both management *and* the luckier employees to me.

    1. Amber*

      It also sounds like a policy that encourages coming into work sick. Lets say I have a cold early in the year but I’ll come into work and spread my germs around because I want to save up my sick time in case I get the flu or something and need to use it then and I don’t want to be penalized for being sick more than a few days a year.

    2. Matt*

      11 days are actually “nothing”.

      In the year of 2013 I had the flu in March and was at home for two weeks, and hernia surgery in August with another two weeks home. Makes 20 sick days, none of them avoidable. (Actually, after the surgery everyone encouraged me to stay home a little longer because I was still in some inguinal pain …) – So what, in 2014 I had zero sick days. It’s not something you have control over.

    3. BritCred*

      I had an employer tell me they given e me my promised raise in batches… As long as I hadn’t been off sick in that there months. Totally undermining me as “choosing” to be sick (feeling too nauseous to travel as well as other symptoms due to sinus issues isn’t a choice! And it can be pretty difficult to treat.) Totally destroyed any rapport I had them with that employer and made me miserable.

      On the other hand I had an employer with a strict Bradford system for illness. That the only thing they did when I triggered “the meeting” was discuss how to support me better and change around my hours to make it easier on me. Best relationship I ever had with an employer.

      1. Mike C.*

        That’s really what I keep thinking! “Protected” has to have some legal meaning, right?

      2. Princess Carolyn*

        That’s what I came here to say! Presumably, without this law in place, OP’s company would be penalizing people who took even fewer than 5 days off each year. That’s nutty.

    4. workingsickallthetime*

      Every time I read comments about sick time in this blog it amazes me. In my job we accrue sick time at a rate of 4 days per year, but we aren’t actually allowed to have more than 16 hours accrued at any time. If we don’t have time when we need it we can either use our limited vacation time or be written up. The concept of not working while extremely ill is so foreign to me. I wish I worked somewhere that understands that people can get sick for days at a time.

    5. Grey*

      I’m confused by this resentment. The OP is talking about reviews here. How do the employees know who is being praised and who is not?

      Unless you’re sharing employee reviews, the only resentment I could see here would come from criticizing an employee who actually uses their sick time. And they’d be resenting their employer, not their coworkers.

      1. Interviewer*

        While it’s not universal, we do have some employees come out of their reviews meetings and go straight to their coworkers to discuss everything. They compare notes, increases, ratings, etc. They go over things each of them heard the manager say, and what it might mean if they didn’t hear the same things. I would never do this, but apparently plenty of people do.

      2. Rabbit*

        Well, it’s fairly easy to figure out that if you’ve been disciplined for taking X number of hours off and the policy is for Y *and* you know that your coworker hasn’t missed a single day all year that she’s not getting the same talking to that you are.

    6. tough year*

      I’m all aboard the ‘life happens’ train this year. In Feb, my mom had a heart attack and almost died – I left work partway through the day to travel to my home state and took 2 days off to sit in ICU holding her hand, wondering if she’d wake up, then she woke up and had heart surgery and I worked from the hospital and my parents house for 2 days.

      10 days later, I had a kidney stone and serious complications that required 2 surgeries about 3 weeks apart. Right in the middle of those 2 surgeries, my gallbladder was upset about all the attention my kidneys were getting so I had a 24 hour gallbladder attack that required immediate emergency removal surgery.

      I was afraid to lose my job (we were going through some surprise restructuring that included layoffs on my team at the time so while they SAID take all the time you need, i heard something else. I realize now that’s on me but it was a tumultuous few weeks at work and home). So I only took 1-2 days off per surgery and worked from home full time during my recovery. If there hadn’t been so much going on at work, I probably would’ve needed a month off to recover from 3 back to back surgeries spanning 3 weeks.

      And that was in the first 60 days of 2017.

    7. Erin*

      I feel like it’s punishing people for being human or having a family. I called in once because I wanted to be with my husband while he was in the hospital waiting room with my stepdaughter who had appendicitis. Fortunately I was working at a different part time job at the time. If I did that where I currently work, I would loose my job or not allowed to use a sick day. But I still wouldn’t come in anyway, because I can always find work elsewhere.
      I’m home sick today with some sort of virus I had a 101 fever last night, I had to make a run to the after hours clinic at 6 last night just for a doctors note so I can stay home today. I hate my companies sick policy.

  7. Jessica*

    With respect to #4, I agree with everything Alison said, but how does that apply when actually being there is a core job responsibility? When you can’t just focus on performance/deliverables because the person’s job is, say, to provide reception coverage, or they’re an admin whose work can’t be done from home or at some other time because their main function is supporting other workers when those workers are at work and need their help?
    AAM keeps preaching the gospel of sanity that can apply to 99 of 100 workers, but the 100th one is the receptionist, and his job is just to be there. Does that mean he’s the only employee who gets treated like a magic robot that should never break down? How can the employer treat him fairly and humanely while acknowledging the reality that every hour he’s out sick, however legitimate, is an irretrievable lack of job performance?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      They should hire backup coverage. Lots of places do it, either by hiring back retired reception folks on a part-time call-in basis for sick-day coverage or by hiring temps. Normal companies—and I mean ones with as few as 7 workers—should never be so dependent on a single employee that that employee is treated like a piece of machinery instead of a human being. Attendance is an important metric in many jobs (especially support jobs), but it cannot be the only metric.

      I know that I’m an outlier, but imo, it is absolutely unacceptable, today, for an employer to make it impossible for an employee to take leave to which they’re entitled. And honestly, it invites a whole slew of labor compliance issues that can get real sticky real fast (FMLA, ADA, state laws governing sick leave).

      1. Kathlynn*

        Yeah, sadly many jobs do this. My current employer and previous employer had to keep a minimal number of employees. So they struggle to cover sick days or holidays.
        And whether or not your sick days were held against you depends on your employer’s opinion of you. If you are unlucky to have multiple illnesses that make you sick, then oh no you better not call in sick. Go to work sick because you know that there’s no coverage and only rarely call in sick, no problem when you do.

      2. Mike C.*

        Yes, you don’t hire just enough people to cover 100% of your needs, you hire enough people to cover more when things happen. Otherwise the first hiccup that happens derails everything else.

        My car has four wheels for driving and one in the trunk just in case. Same thing for staffing or resources or whatever.

      3. Becky*

        YES hire backup coverage, please. My department is rather small and we have ONE full time support position. It works great when he is in, but if he ever wants to take vacation, or you know take two weeks when his wife had their first child, his “backup” is me and another coworker who have full time jobs of our own and so it is super disruptive. He feels bad because he knows it is disruptive and it is frustrating to me as well (though I don’t take it out personally on him). We’ve started airing these issues loudly up the chain.

    2. Lilo*

      I think a reasonable employer has to have a plan in place for coverage for every employee, whether it’s having a plan for other employees to provide coverage or to have a temp worker plan in place. If your Office Manager gets appendicitis, your office can’t shut down for a week waiting for him to recover, but you certainly can’t punish someone for taking needed leave. That’s absurd and in many cases, illegal.

      The answer is thus that no one should be that kind of indispensable, especially in a larger organization. A one-person shop of course will have more problems with that, but even my father-in-law’s one man business has a guy he called to cover for him when he got hurt in a car accident. You just have to plan for the possibility of any employee being out.

      1. Michele*

        Yes. Everyone needs backup. For a while, there was a key function at work and I was the only one who knew how to do it. I kept asking for someone to train, but I would either be told that it was going to take to long or they were “optimizing resources and utilizing expertize” (don’t ever say that to an employee). Eventually, I planned a vacation in a place that didn’t have cell phone access and told them that if something went wrong while I was gone, they would be dead in the water. Someone was magically available for me to train by the end of the week.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can certainly make reliability, punctuality, etc. a thing that you assess receptionists on. But you shouldn’t be punishing them for taking sick leave that’s part of their benefits package. As long as you’re employing humans, you have to build in an expectation/understanding that they’ll be sick on occasion.

    4. Ramona Flowers*

      By not having only one person who can do those tasks.

      By looking at how to help employees who have long-term health problems, and asking what support they need and whether you can provide it.

      By treating sickness as something that can mean you need to review the situation, but not as a sign of an employee’s moral character, a source of positive/negative feedback, or a relevant topic of conversation for a review.

      By not buying into the idea that 100% attendance means you’re getting more and better work out of that person.

      By understanding that the more pressure you put on people not to use sick time, the more likely they are to store up stress and potentially experience burnout.

      By remembering that when people have time off sick it’s not because they made a bad choice. That one person isn’t more worthy of kudos because they haven’t gotten food poisoning or been hit by a car or had a miscarriage or had a crippling migraine or had appendicitis or kidney failure or cancer or bipolar disorder or MS.

      Or scrap the people and get robots. Those are your choices. There is no perfect choice, so you have to pick the least-worst and in most workplaces that is to accept that people will sometimes be out sick.

      1. Jessica*

        I love all these responses. I agree completely, and only wish our management did. But Alison, I’d like to know what you mean by “reliability,” when it doesn’t include punishing people for being sick.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It means that outside of official time off, you show up on time. And it means that you don’t call out at the last minute for random stuff when it will disrupt projects (being sick is fine; deciding at the last minute that you feel like going to beach even though you have deadlines that day is not).

          1. Jessica*

            Thanks for addressing my question, Alison. Now I’m overcome with bitter, ironic laughter at the realization of why I had trouble figuring out what you could possibly have meant there. It’s because my sickly employee would NEVER do something like spontaneously ditch work to go to the beach. By every measure that isn’t just measuring whether he has the random good fortune to be healthy, he’s actually ultra-reliable.

          2. Lablizard*

            The problem is after a handful of absences many employers start to assume beach rather than sick, no matter why the employee is missing work. Quite often it means that employees have to share more than should have to about their health or the health of the people they care for. I don’t know that there is a solution that allows an employee to keep their privacy without the risk of employer judgement.

            1. anonforthis*

              yep :/ i actually tend to overshare with my boss about my health issues so that she knows I’m not just skipping out on work but that I have serious stuff going on. Did I like having to tell my boss I might need to call out on short notice because my doctor prescribed me Provera? No, not particularly and yes that was probably extra overshare-y. Fortunately, my boss is very sympathetic and a woman who’s dealt with similar female health issues so she has a better understanding of what I’m dealing with. But I’m one of the lucky ones. I don’t know how I would handle it if I had a boss that was less understanding. Having two chronic illness is not a moral failing. Its genetics.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          Reliability can include informing your employer if you’re sick within a timely manner, and not just no-showing to work. But it’s also about things like meeting deadlines, doing what you say you will do and so on.

          1. DaisyGrrl*

            Adding to that, it’s helping ensure there’s adequate documentation/back-up for work to get done in your absence.

            I have an employee who has had a run of bad luck in terms of illness/injury in the last few months. What’s made it easier for everyone is that she developed guidance documents for her back-ups, and we’ve cross-trained a couple of people in her essential function. It’s now much less stressful for everyone when she’s away unexpectedly, and she’s stopped getting calls at home when people need urgent info.

            1. Lablizard*

              We cross train everyone in my group and have an established system for who takes over when (e.g. if Wakeen is out, Fergus covers. If Wakeen and Fergus are out, Jane covers Wakeen and Cersei covers Fergus. If Cersei is also out, Sansa covers Fergus and Darcy covers Cersei) until the point where if everyone is out the office, the manager does everything (thankfully hasn’t happened, because that would be me). It was a pain in the ass on the front end, like the worst GRE question ever, and we have to get people trained because not everyone came into the job able to use all the equipment or run all the tests, but once the set up was done, it works really nicely. Max number of duties anyone has ever had to cover was 3 and it was only for one (really stressful) day.

          2. imakethings*

            I just want to add that sometimes last minute things come up. For example, I woke up with my annual migraine the other morning about an hour and a half before I was supposed to show up for work (I’m one of those admin/support/receptionist types discussed above). The only solution for this is for me to lay down in a dark room and hope to sleep through the worst of it.

            Sometimes last minute things come up that interrupts an employee’s ability to show up through absolutely no fault of his/her own. The idea that I would be punished for that is a joke.

            1. Mobuy*

              Yes, totally true. I think as long as you are letting work know as soon as possible, no reasonable employer would punish you for it.

        3. JanetM*

          I’ve been an administrative assistant most of my life. For my jobs, reliability has included things like showing up on time, obtaining advance approval for and arranging front desk coverage for vacations and planned sick leave, and calling or emailing in as early as possible when out sick unexpectedly, including a list of any priority tasks (for example, “Dr. So-and-So is coming in today to check out equipment, can coworker X handle that”).

          I have been out for extended periods several times in my employment here (23 years): when my mother died, I was out for a bit more than a week (bereavement leave); when my father died, I was out for about six weeks (a mix of sick, vacation, and bereavement); when I was hit by a truck, I was out for a month or so and only able to work part time for a couple of weeks after that (sick leave); and the Year of My Husband’s Four Surgeries, I took a total of about eight weeks over the course of the year (sick leave concurrent with FMLA leave, some contiguous and some intermittent to take him to physical therapy and follow-up appointments).

          I have never been dinged for any of this. I do know that HR recommends managers include “low leave balances” as a concern on people’s annual reviews, with goal of “increase balance to X number of hours.”

          At my university, staff accrue sick leave at 8 hours per month, with no cap on the balance. We also accrue vacation time at a rate that depends on exempt / non-exempt status and, for non-exempt staff, length of service. There is a cap on annual leave; over a certain amount it rolls over into sick leave.

        4. Sarah*

          As an example, our office (at a university) hires two student workers. Now, obviously these are undergrad students doing part-time work study, so the professional standards are not the same! But, the two students we have this semester are night and day on reliability, and it has nothing to do with illness. One student always emails or texts to let us know if he’s sick or otherwise needs to be out, and all other times he’s always on time to his shifts, doesn’t duck out early, and when he is assigned work, he completes it quickly and accurately. He caught the bad stomach bug going around campus (like pretty much every student here!) but he let us know as soon as he could what was going on rather than just failing to show up. This is versus our other student worker who frequently misses shifts without giving notice, and when questioned about it does NOT have a legitimate excuse such as illness — it will be things like randomly oversleeping or deciding to take an out of town trip and not letting anyone know. You can guess which one is going to get a glowing recommendation, and which one is on the verge of being fired…

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        One of the weirdest things about that letter is the word “picky” to describe someone who takes no sick leave. If we were all pickier, then things like appendectomies wouldn’t derail our attendance.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      I think the fundamental problem in a many places is that a lot of employers staff their business based on the assumption of 100% availability, so that work will get done without undue stress as long as no-one gets sick, takes vacation or quits. The problem is that people then take vacation, get sick, or leave for other jobs, and the result is some combination of panic or overloading the other employees to compensate. Not to mention pressure to come to work regardless of circumstances. If your business is set up so that if the usual receptionist is out of the office things grind to a halt, that’s a fundamental design flaw.

      You do have a point though – if a job is essential, and requires coverage, excessive absences can be a major problem, although I think less than 1 day every two months is well below the threshold for disciplinary action. We’ve seen letters on this forum when a receptionist or someone similar is on intermittent FMLA leave and having arrange coverage of the phones is having a strong negative impact on the other employees (who still have to finish their normal amount of work). And in some cases, it’s a specialized job that is not easy to hire in a temp for (or it’s government and you’ve got a hiring freeze and can’t hire a replacement). I’m not sure how you handle situations like that, beyond decreasing the total output of the department to compensate.

      1. SystemsLady*

        Agreed! I had a manager once who wanted our billable (not just available) hours over 95%, because his bonus. Needless to say, things are better now that we have a manager who actually took people management classes in pursuit of his MBA.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I’ve had it come up with a guidance counselor (who is supposed to be writing things for students’ college applications, which are on deadlines) who seemed to be out at least one day a week. But the example in the letter would be someone who was out for two days in February, two in July, and 1.5 in December. Missing 5-10 days a year should be an unnoticeable use of sick time for a full-time employee. Missing 50-100 days in a full-time position, that’s going to impact things for most jobs.

    6. SystemsLady*

      As somebody who works at a smallish company, train somebody like the office manager who also needs to be there around the same times on their position, and to an extent vice versa. Give the three accountants who work right next to her desk an overview as well, and you’re basically set.

      We’ve never had an issue with that setup.

    7. Observer*

      Are you seriously saying that jobs like receptionist should not ever be allowed to take any time off, ever? That’s just not feasible. And in some jurisdictions it’s not even legal.

      The bottom line is that you need to have a fall back plan in place. Of course, if a person is out a lot and it’s affecting things, then you have to deal with it, but discipline should not be the issue if the person is out for legitimate reasons.

      1. paul*

        I think the question is what exactly is reasonable to have as sick time. In the cast of this letter I think the general consensus is one week a year is *incredibly* minimal, but what wouldn’t be reasonable?

        Even Allison’s follow ups don’t seem to really clarify that; she just says absences within official PTO allotments shouldn’t be penalized (which seems like a no brainer but we’ve all seen employers that don’t get that). But that doesn’t mean any of us would magically be OK with an actual policy of no PTO or sick leave either, or a policy of a week per year (as is the case in this letter).

        1. Sarah*

          I mean…if the person is sick, the person is sick, it’s not about reasonable or unreasonable, it’s about whether you are physically well enough to work, right? At some point of course the person will likely need to go on FMLA or even disability, but I think employers should work with people to make those things happen too (and I think they legally have to in most cases?).

      2. LBK*

        Right – if you can’t afford to have this person out for even a single day, why are you bothering to offer them PTO at all?

    8. Insert name here*

      In retail people work sick all the time. I’ve worked with people who came in coughing up blood, running fevers, throwing up etc. Or just plain not feeling well. My cashier friend had layringitis and called out and was given flack for it. Unless you were dying or in the ER you were expected to come in. And I’ve seen that at both corporate giants and mom and pops. It’s just reality.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It shouldn’t be though. That’s the whole point. Human beings get sick. It’s part of life. And employers should not hold that against them.

          1. Observer*

            And stupid. I think that if anyone actually measured the REAL cost of dragging people in when they are sick, they would realize that.

      2. je ne sais pas*

        Oh lord, same with restaurant work. I spent 15 years waiting tables and the number of people handling food that are ill in some way is just staggering.

        During cold and flu season we would all share bottles of Dayquil and Robitussin and pass around Costco sized bottles of antihistamines and generic Tylenol. Everyone had Imodium in their car, along with caffeine pills and eyedrops for red eyes. The last restaurant I worked at passed around c diff when one of the servers came down with it and came to work anyway, two or three restaurants I worked at passed around Noro, and one played Who’s Next? with pink eye. I once saw a coworker vomit into the trash can by the dish pit and finish out her shift. Another time a friend asked if I would buddy system her tables with her because she was a “little off” because she’d had a miscarriage the night before.

        Restaurant work is brutal and there is absolutely zero sick leave unless you’re in management.

        1. KellyK*

          This kind of nonsense needs to be illegal, both because it’s abusive to the employees and because it’s making customers sick. I wonder how many people have been hospitalized or even died because the person making their lunch had something highly contagious and wasn’t allowed to stay home.

          1. GermanGirl*

            Yes, and it actually is illegal in some countries (e.g. Germany for food-related jobs).

        2. Morning Glory*

          In addition to no sick leave, a lot of restaurants “take contagious illness so seriously” that if an employee calls out sick, they need a doctor’s note stating they’re not contagious anymore to come back to work. This effectively ensures sick employees will come to work.

          When I was 18, I called out sick with a cold from waiting tables and had to spend $70 see a doctor to come back to work. The four summers I worked there, I never called out sick again no matter how sick I was.

        3. SansaStark*

          Exactly. And sometimes it’s not even management’s “fault” that you’re working sick. If you don’t work your shift, you don’t get paid. I served for a couple of years and I’m sure I could have found someone to cover my Saturday night shift for me…but then I couldn’t pay my rent 2 days later, so I really didn’t have a choice.

          1. Chinook*

            ” And sometimes it’s not even management’s “fault” that you’re working sick. If you don’t work your shift, you don’t get paid.”

            This happens in office settings too hen you are a contractor or temp. I am in year 4 of my “temp” job with no sick leave and am grateful that my pay is what it is because I can survive with taking a few few unpaid sick days, but I know that there are others (especially fresh out of school) who can’t. and while I may take more sick days than average due to a chronic condition suddenly becoming unmanageable, at least I knew I could counter any “you are missing a lot of work” comments with “at least I am saving the company money” but I don’t have to because my boss is awesome and doesn’t question me about it.

            But, if I was still in that receptionist job, it would probably be completely different and I would be seen as unreliable and possibly fired unless I told them, in detail, what was going on (and I never want to have to tell any boss that I have personally experienced the difference between “suicidal ideations” and “suicidal tendencies,” so yes the doctors appointments are completely necessary)/

            1. SansaStark*

              I had completely forgotten about having the same issues as a temp/contractor. Not getting paid=not an option for so many people. And you’re so right about how it’s even more difficult when you’re fresh out of school and don’t have the reserves to go a few days without pay (or the experience to know that you should have some reserves).

            2. Lissa*

              Yup, I am a contractor and have a job that is necessary to be there (think sign language interpreter) and will have a really negative effect on people I support if I’m not – there are also not many options to get somebody to replace me on short notice, often literally every other person with that skillset is also working. I am a very lucky person in that I rarely get sick, but I lost quite a bit of income this year from surgery recovery. I honestly don’t think that a person who needed a lot of time off for any reason would be able to stay in my job, which is really really too bad.

              “Just find coverage” isn’t always possible!

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s absolutely true that employers do this, but it can also be true that they shouldn’t. And they really shouldn’t.

      4. Dweali*

        Retail/hospitality sucks because of that “working while sick” expectation (we actually had a lady in my town die recently because she was having a heart attack and the employer wouldn’t ‘let’ her leave…apparently she went in not feeling well and passed within a few hours of the shift).

        My least gross working while sick story when I was a server…I had to work with laryngitis because I couldn’t find coverage for my shift, they wouldn’t accept my call in, and even when I showed up and they saw I wasn’t faking wouldn’t let me leave.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Back in the days I worked retail, I got in a head-on collision in my car that left some amazing bruises all up my legs (and in other places; I had a deep black/burgundy seat belt print on my torso). The next day, I called in to tell them that I wouldn’t be able to work unless they had something for me to sit on at cash, because I couldn’t walk without pain. Nope, no stool — and the shift manager tried to bully me into coming in anyway.

          I offered to come in just long enough to show her the massive bruise that ran from mid-thigh down to cover the sole of my foot, but no way in hell was I going to stand on that bruise for six hours.

      5. Xarcady*

        At my retail job, someone came to work in pain from a kidney stone. For over a week. They were full-time and had health insurance, but had already lost time earlier in the year due to another kidney stone. Couldn’t afford the scan for the current kidney stone, because they’d used up their yearly allotment of scans on the first one.

        And, of course, no paid sick days. We had an attendance point system, and they were already on thin ice from taking so many days off to deal with the first kidney stone.

        They just popped pain pills all day. And the rest of us forced them to work the easiest register and did all the running around to the stockrooms for them. I remember watching as they walked down the aisle once–couldn’t even walk straight.

        But they needed the money for rent. And just two more absences and they’d be out of attendance points and in danger of getting fired. (Getting fired probably wouldn’t have happened, although the danger was there. More likely a written warning, and being told no more absences for the rest of the year.

        1. Chinook*

          I am impressed the person with kidney stones was capable of running a register. The combination of pain and pain killers when I dealt with them made me incapable of remembering how to use the phone to call in sick (the email I eventually sent was barely readable and my boss later said it was proof I should stay home).

          1. Zombii*

            Seriously impressive. When I had my wisdoms out, they gave me Vicodin and I took a whole week off work because of the pain/pain killers. Then I was out of sick days and work said I had to come back or don’t bother coming back, so I went to work for a whole week tripping balls on Vicodin.

            I was working at a call center, but in an agent support role/not taking calls all day, although I did take supervisor calls and those went about as well as you’d expect. (I’m amazed I didn’t get fired for this.)

      6. Nic*

        As a fifth grade teacher for a charter school I got sick at one point. Running over 100F fever and barely able to stay on my feet. That school did not use substitutes, so we were not allowed to leave unless another teacher could cover us. I was able to get out one period early, and was diagnosed with bronchitis and the flu.

        Which I probably gave to my entire 100 student fifth grade population.

      7. Becky*

        I remember at a previous job I had laryngitis one day and I was a phone support rep–they put me on chat support for the day.

    9. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      That really is non-reason. Somehow, every other country in the world with sick leave manages to survive.
      They do without or have temps to come in and cover. Very few people are truly essential and there are so many ways to handle someone being out there really is no reason NOT to have practices in place for it.

    10. paul*

      I have to wonder about this too. I hate oppresive sick leave policies, but there’s a lot of jobs were being there *matters*. Even jobs where it doesn’t have to always be an exact set of hours written in stone.

      We don’t really have to be at work exactly 8am-5pm, but if we’re not there to help clients, well, that’s no bueno. If someone needs to shift time around a bit (not taking lunches to make up some missed time, shifting maybe a half hour or an hour here or there, stuff like that) it’s no big deal, we’re all adults, etc, but we do actually have to have people and it isn’t like we can afford to have infinite backups hired. No one gives a damn if someone calls in sick generally, but if we had one individual calling in sick a ton-like regularly calling in 3-5 days a month–that’d be a big issue.

      1. Agnes*

        Yes, I feel like sometimes there’s an assumption on this website that no one ever abuses sick time. Not so much.

        Also, there’s the question of “part of your benefits package”. If you have health insurance, it’s part of your benefits package that doctors’ visits are covered (probably). That doesn’t mean that you should be scheduling unnecessary, weekly doctor’s visits because “it’s part of my benefits package”.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          The problem is that you shouldn’t enforce draconian policies on all employees because some of them abuse sick time. If you have an employee that routinely talks about their weekend partying habits and calls off every other Monday, then you address that with them. You don’t create a policy that’s going to punish someone who has a legitimate medical issue and needs time off.

          1. Natalie*

            I will practically guarantee that an employee who abuses sick time is probably falling down on the job in other ways, too. So it’s not like one’s only option for disciplining/firing them is sick-time-based.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            “Punishment is not fertilizer, to be spread evenly over everyone” is some of the best management advice I’ve read on here.

          3. Margo*

            I think there can be issues with [accusations of] discrimination or unfairness, which is why employers may end up playing safe by having a rigid policy, because it’s very hard to formulate policies which allow you to discipline John, who parties hard every weekend and calls in with ‘food poisoning’ or ‘flu’ every Monday, but not Mike, who has genuine health issues.

            You may, as the manager / employer, have a very good idea of who is really sick and who is swinging the lead, but it can be very hard to prove

            1. Mike C.*

              It’s hard if you don’t do any research or don’t look for any outside help. These are no different that than the sorts of problems you might encounter trying to use advanced features in Excel – you’re not the first person to see them and there are plenty of good answers out there that are only a google search away.

          4. aebhel*

            This! I’ve definitely known people who abuse sick time, but it doesn’t follow that a draconian sick leave policy is the way to go. Deal with performance problems with that employee, not by punishing the entire workplace.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But you’re assuming that regular use of sick leave is unreasonable or abusive. It’s not. And Paul’s example isn’t that great, because 3-5 sick days per month would be 188-480 hours of leave time over the year, which no one has advocated for and which I have never seen an employer provide, even among generous employers.

          It’s extremely easy to scenario plan for all employees actually taking time as needed without being draconian. I feel like people raise the issue in black and white terms. You can have good policies and still have accountability.

          And frankly, who cares if someone’s doctor’s appointments are spread out so long as they’re meeting all other objectives and b omg conscientious about planning for when they take off (which is possible for appointments but shouldn’t be the standard for sudden illness)? Would you make the same complaint for someone who was required to go to monthly talk therapy, physical therapy, or chemotherapy sessions?

          The issue isn’t that no one abuses sick leave. It’s that employers focus on the wrong issues when they recast performance and reliability problems as “excessive leave” instead of addressing the actual problem behavior (bailing without notice, routinely taking planned leave at times that are demonstrably difficult for others, failing to meet productivity goals or performance metrics, etc.).

        3. Parenthetically*

          Of course some people abuse sick time. But most people act like adults if they’re treated like adults. Besides, if your sick policy is “5 days of sick leave per year,” you’re saying, “We can survive 5 days without you when you’re sick.” If I take all 5 days of my sick leave faking sick, and then have to start dipping into my personal/vacation days when I get actually sick, who suffers from that?

          No one is saying that people should use their sick days even if they’re not sick. We’re saying, “Hey, you’re entitled to this, so you shouldn’t be penalized for using it, and you shouldn’t feel bad about using it, when you need to.” Just like you shouldn’t feel bad about or be penalized for using the annual visit or the preventative care your insurance provides, or the nurse hotline or the free flu shot. A sick day isn’t a favor your boss is doing you, it’s part of your negotiated agreement with the company.

        4. paul*

          I don’t even think it’s a case of acting like no one abuses sick leave; I think I’m seeing different issues.

          The first is the assumption that a lot of jobs have a lot more flexibility with coverage than they may in fact have. Part of that is this blog strongly skews white collar professional.

          The second is that places have sick leave/policies about sick leave. For us, we get all time off in a PTO bucket–sick, vacation, whatever. This isn’t exactly a default normal, but it isn’t that uncommon either–not every place separates out available PTO. We get 2.5 days/month. So technically someone could call in 2 days one month, 3 days the next and not be running out of time, but they’d probably still get some blowback after a few months running. And I wouldn’t be that upset about it because it’s incredibly disruptive.

          No one should feel bad about calling in for a week with the flu or arranging time off for a surgery or whatever, but if someone’s calling in multiple days a month every month, it’s a giant PITA for everyone else too. We have to reschedule client meetings, find substitutes for any community meetings they were supposed to go to, etc.

          1. aebhel*

            I’ve worked in a lot of blue-collar jobs where bodies on site was the most important thing, and I still think that draconian sick time policies are stupid. I think they’re especially stupid in most white-collar environments, mind you, because there’s frequently no legitimate reason to deny the employee the time off, but even in workplaces where coverage is necessary, they’re a problem. If your workplace can only function if 100% of employees make every scheduled shift, then it can’t function.

          2. Observer*

            Even in non-white collar environments they are stupid and problematic in other ways. This is ESPECIALLY true in food service, and also in any situation where people work in close quarters. For a high profile example, look at Chipotle. The cost of their food poisoning mess was way, way higher than it would have cost them to just have higher staffing so people could call out sick as needed.

            Presence matters in a LOT of jobs – even white collar ones. But presence is NOT enough – and a company will get much more out of a person who stays out for a day or two to get over an illness, and then can work reasonably efficiently when they get back vs someone who is dragging themselves into the office and can barely get anything done for two weeks.

          3. Mike C.*

            I work in a very blue collar environment, and we can certainly handle it when people get sick. It’s called having enough people. It’s called cross-training. And so on.

            Life happens. Rather than scheduling everything so tight that things fall apart you instead need to have a plan for it.

        5. Observer*

          Oh please! No one is claiming that no one ever abuses sick leave. They are saying that stupid policies that pressure or force people to come in sick or risk losing their jobs are stupid and disgusting. And policies like that are a stupid, stupid way to deal with abuse of sick leave.

          No one is saying that people should take sick leave unnecessarily. But, pressuring people to not make legitimate use of their sick leave is simply a bait and switch.

        6. Mike C.*

          No, you’re missing the point if you take it that way.

          If an employee isn’t performing well then they aren’t performing well. Deal with that issue directly.

          Making up draconian rules that only superficially get what you need while punishing people for things they have no control over is not the way to go.

      2. a different Vicki*

        Being out sick 3-5 days every month is outside most of what we’re talking about here, and may call for FMLA, or might even mean they’re not suited for that job. You shouldn’t penalize people for using the benefits that you promised them—which is what a company is doing if they say “this job pays $50,000/year, with 404k matching after the first year, two weeks’ of vacation, and up to twelve sick days” and then calls it poor performance if an employee actually needs that much sick time, or refuses to let them take the promised vacation time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tell someone that it’s only July and they’ve already used all 22 of those days, so they can’t have a week off in September, or that this job needs someone who won’t need as much sick time as they’ve been taking.

        The point is that if the job actually needs someone who will be there any time the office is open, you should be up front about the fact that you don’t give paid time off, and expect to pay a higher wage to make up for that (and probably have higher turnover even if you do). And have a temp agency on call anyway, because even the world’s most conscientious employee might get appendicitis.

        1. Gov Worker*

          Frequent absences may signal the need for accommodation. I know of a case where an individual with heart trouble and diabetes was frequently absent. Turned out that a complicated medical regimen and fatigue made her grueling commute a problem. Allowing work from home as an accommodation enabled this person to conserve energy and have better medical compliance, and her sick days were drastically reduced. Not every job is work from home friendly, but this one was and an ADA accomodation was a win-win solution.

      3. Observer*

        You don’t need “infinite” backups to have reasonable sick leave policies.

    11. Holly*

      Juries always sit an extra person or two at the beginning of trials for this very reason. You cannot depend on everyone being healthy and able to come to work 100% of the time. That’s ridiculous.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Anyone who’s organising staffing based on an assumption all staff members are in the office 100% of the time needs a serious reality check!

        In any office at any given time, the chances are there’ll be people out sick/on holiday/in training/dealing with a bereavement/on parental leave/got a new job and left before a replacement has been hired and so on.

        Tons and tons of workplaces understand this and adjust accordingly, through hiring appropriate numbers of staff, cross-training, making sure people keep their work on shared drives, and having expectations about what’s *really* essential, having a budget for temps/short-term workers etc etc. And these are going to be the businesses that are successful, because if everything goes to hell because someone takes more than 1 sickday a month, the business is continually firefighting.

    12. olives*

      I work for a small office of a very large company.

      Our receptionist / office admin works from 10 to 2 each day. It’s not that we don’t need her the rest of the time, but we can function. When she has to leave for the day and knows that people will be coming by who need to be greeted, she lets someone know. When she’s going to be out unexpectedly, she gets someone to take care of the most essential of her duties.

      And because we value her work, and as a human, the rest of us will step up to the plate.

      It’s one option of many that can keep a receptionist from being tethered to their desk, and keep treating them, fundamentally, as human. You might well have a scenario (e.g., dentist’s office) where this is a little trickier – but I promise that there is nearly always a way to handle it when you focus on people being people.

    13. CanadianDot*

      It’s some pretty poor business continuity practices if they can’t figure out coverage for a key position like that. Things happen, people get sick, people quit, etc. Every business should work at anticipating things like this, especially for the “must have” positions/work.

  8. Sam*

    I have a colleague who regularly comments on my body (we are both the same gender). I usually shut it down with redirection or brushing it off, though it’s exhausting to do so. Especially because the other person thinks they’re being nice, when I don’t think commenting on others’ bodies is ever nice. I also have chronic illnesses make my weight vary, outside my control.

    1. Lilo*

      I agree with your sentiment about people thinking they’re being nice not actually being nice: I got compliments for being thin – when I had a terrible stomach infection and was having serious trouble eating and was well into the “underweight” section of the BMI. I was literally downing those medical high-calorie shakes to try to put on weight.

      I’ve also been super frustrated when people kept commenting on a friend’s weightloss in high school, when I knew for the fact that it was because she had developed an eating disorder.

      As a result, my hardcore policy is this: just don’t comment on someone else’s weight – even as a compliment. If your best friend you know them super super well to know their new exercise program is paying off and they’d want you to notice – maybe, of course there are exceptions. But random strangers or people you don’t know so well, especially, NO!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Friend: have you lost weight?

        Me: my new meds have killed my appetite and I’m a bit freaked out actually.

        Friend: oh, you’re lucky!

        Me: would you say that to a cancer patient?

        Not very nice, but I made my point.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          There’s a clip from a news program going around Tumblr where the nitwit talking head, in response to a story about how hard it is to live on food stamps ($133/month!) thinks she should try it because she’d look so “fabulous” and “skinny”. She’d probably be saying “you’re lucky” too.

        2. Drew*

          I’d half expect someone that clueless to ask, “Have you tried the new chemo diet? It’s all the rage.”

        3. mreasy*

          Have had the same convo re appetite-killing meds! “Actually I feel like I look gaunt & old, honestly.”

          1. Sam*

            All these quippy comments are great, but imagine someone needing to be corrected multiple times a day with things of this nature, for years, and still not getting it. Or changing.

            Frustrating, right?

      2. Bryce*

        Yeah. If you’ve discussed weight with someone before and THEY invited your opinion (in a more explicit way that just being fat near you) then it can be okay to comment on in some cases. Unsolicited weight comments are never okay, though. I mean, maybe if you’re on a submarine and they can’t fit through the door safely, but other than that nope.

      3. Greg M.*

        “As a result, my hardcore policy is this: just don’t comment on someone else’s weight”

        a policy more people need to adopt right the hell now.

        1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

          Do not comment on someone else’s body, period.

          I do comment on things the person can affect like clothes, hair and makeup (because I like all those things) but I try VERY hard to avoid commenting their body, positively or negatively.

        2. Parenthetically*

          The policy in my classroom is: “Don’t comment on people’s bodies, period, ever, not even to say something you think is ‘nice,’ no, never ever.” With an addendum: “Losing weight is not praiseworthy and gaining weight is not blameworthy.”

        3. aJennyAnn*

          I’m a particularly big fan of “Don’t comment on an aspect of someone’s appearance that they can’t fix in less than 2 minutes,” ie “You’ve got a pen mark on your cheek” or “There’s a leaf in your hair”.

          1. Michele*

            I have never heard that before, but I really like that rule. Yes, please tell me if my shirt is unbuttoned, but don’t comment about my body.

          2. Parenthetically*

            Yep, agreed. We were taught, if they can fix it immediately, it’s rude not to mention it. If they can’t, it’s rude to mention it. This is another one that gets a lot of repetition in my classroom. :/

      4. LBK*

        Yeah, I had to put my foot in my mouth once because I made a comment about someone losing weight only to find out it was because they were dealing with a chronic illness that had flared up recently. Fortunately I said it to a mutual friend who set me straight and not directly to the person in question.

    2. Sylvia*

      Been there. I think unsolicited weight comments from anyone other than a medical professional you chose to see are rude, even when they’re meant to be compliments.

      1. Emac*

        I agree, except that unsolicited weight comments from a medical professional can be rude as well. There’s a lot of bias among health professionals against overweight people. I mean, if I go to the doctor saying that I think I have an ear infection, I don’t need a lecture about my weight, especially if it isn’t my regular doctor.

        1. Sylvia*

          They can be rude, but they at least stand a chance of being useful. Unlike commentary from a random acquaintance whose education consists of some blogs, a YouTube channel, and a high school health class that they sat through without listening.

        2. Natalie*

          It’s so aggravating, even when weight might be a factor. My husband ran into this with a sleep doctor, who seemed to think the only possible options for his sleep troubles were a) highly addictive benzos and b) losing weight as soon as possible. Weight loss is incredibly hard, takes a long time, and often isn’t permanent, but never mind treating the condition in the meantime. Just magically lose weight overnight and you won’t need any other treatment!

          (It also happens that my husband is really tall, so BMI is an even more useless measure than normal. But it would have been inappropriate and unhelpful no matter what his weight was.)

          1. CDR*

            I remember when I took my daughter in for a high school physical and the doctor could see stretch marks on her breasts and told her that she needed to watch her weight. Um, okay.

            1. MiaRose*

              Ugh, I probably would have reported that doctor to the school. Stupid not to think that breasts actually, you know, grow at this age.

              1. MiaRose*

                Wait, double ugh on me. Original comment was right. I need to stop trying to get stuff done and read AAM at the same time.

            2. Michele*

              As someone who has always been overweight and who developed very large breasts at a young age, I want to slap that doctor. Your poor daughter.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Oof. When quite young and quite thin, I was on the receiving end of “Wow you look great, you’ve lost weight.” Yes, being unable to keep down food for a few weeks will do that.

      1. Parenthetically*

        I’m currently losing weight, very slowly. I’m also pregnant. I’m losing weight because I can’t eat more than about 1/2 cup of food at a time or I feel horribly, horribly sick. Our cultural brainwashing is such that I’ve gotten compliments on losing weight even though my body is currently growing a human that needs calories to thrive.

        1. KellyK*

          I’m probably a terrible person, but I’d be really tempted to fire back with, an eye roll and a “Yeah, it’s so awesome that my body is literally eating itself to grow a person. Here’s hoping we both survive.”

        2. Cafe au Lait*

          Pregnant fist bump, I’ve been having a similar problem. I can’t eat huge meals, and often can’t eat (period) in the morning. I’m really hoping second trimester improves my ability to eat.

          1. Fuzzywuzzy*

            I’ve lost over 15lbs this pregnancy from morning sickness. The struggle is real!

          2. Parenthetically*

            It did for me, for awhile! Now I’m dealing with the most awful heartburn that I can only control with tiny portions. I’m grateful for a good prenatal vitamin and the fact that I didn’t start out underweight!

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Back when I was in college, I ended up going home severely ill for about two weeks. When I came back, all my professors but one accepted my dramatic weight loss as all the doctor’s note they needed. “Oh my god, just look at you — you don’t need a note to prove to me you were sick!” It was convenient, but insulting at the same time.

    4. Parenthetically*

      “Hey, Jane, I’m sure you don’t mean to offend, but my general policy is not to comment on people’s bodies either positively or negatively, because bodies and behaviors aren’t really connected and the size of a person’s body can be changed by so many things outside their control. I’d feel better, if you wanted to say something nice, which I very much appreciate, you’d focus on something I did rather than what I look like.”

      1. Sam*

        Variations of that have been tried. It’s unfortunate it continues, as I know it affects my self esteem as I am always waiting to be assessed and coming up with a response. “I don’t like weight talk,” has been made clear.

  9. Sami*

    And fat means more than just the size or shape of your body. In those panic-driven conversations, fat means you’re not trying. It means you’re not loved, because fat isn’t lovable. Fat means you’re not strong, not moral, not smart enough to stay alert to the threat of fat. Fat means you’ve failed.
    When others see my body, it reminds them of all of that. I’m a manifestation of that cultural nightmare, the worst case scenario for their bodies to become. If you see something, say something. And when others see me, they do. Because if they’re explaining diet advice and mortality rates to a fat person, no one could mistake them for one.
    People will say things to fat people that are heartless, thoughtless. They would not say them to anyone else, and they are not saying them to anyone else. Every warning shot we fire about fatness is aimed at ourselves. It is always a flagellation, a punishment for perceived failings, past or future, real or feared.
    In that way, concern hurts all of us. For those who aren’t fat, it continues to feed that anxiety around becoming fat, the unthinkable possibility that always surrounds them. And it hurts our relationships. All of a sudden, all of our familiarity, friendliness and warmth fell away, replaced by prescriptive, cold and sometimes condescending exchanges.
    It hurts me as a fat person because of the message it sends. Well-intentioned advice, day after day, week after week, year after year, shows me that I am seen first — and sometimes only — as a fat person. It is a tidal wave of reminders that I am, despite everything else, failing the one measure that matters. No matter how hard I try, how much money I spend or how many calories I ration, no matter how strong my mettle, it doesn’t matter. It can’t be seen. I don’t have the luxury of an uninterrupted day. Every day someone finds a way to show judgment, disdain or concern for the maligned vessel that carries me through the world.
    Fat people learn quickly and deeply that our bodies are not our own. They are public property, to be commented on, judged, prodded, rejected. Others are always entitled to our bodies, and they are never our own.

    1. MiaRose*

      I do understand this, and I’m so sorry you have to go through it. Even being athletic, if I don’t have the right size or shape, it overrides any actual accomplishments, and it makes me a failure.

    2. Elfie*

      Oh Sami, you’ve described it exactly. How terrible for you, but I completely get it, because I too am FAT. I was once out for a walk around the park with my husband, you know, being healthy, and some teenage chav said “Cor, you could feed the Horn of Africa with her!” So glad my husband has a hearing problem – I shudder to think what would have happened if he’d known at the time what the little arsehole had said. To be honest, I didn’t tell him until days later – I was too ashamed. Shit like that hurts, you know.

      1. Anonyforthis*

        On top of Sami’s incredibly accurate and poignant post, what is also insufferable is when you do try to change anything, by eating healthy, exercising, etc., you are again scrutinized. Even Planet Fitness has used fat-shaming in their ads, “the judgement free zone”…oh, how I wish there were such a place!

    3. OldJules*

      I also noticed a lot more health issues attributed to being overweight. When pregnant with my daughter, 8 years ago, nothing was said about my weight. This time around, there could not be enough test they could put me though, because I am overweight and thus can’t possibly be healthy. And if my child wasn’t born perfect, it’s my weight that did it.

      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

        When I was pregnant with my first kid, my 1st OBGYN told me he’d only be my doctor until I became high risk, as if it were a foregone conclusion due to my weight. I dumped him for an amazingly awesome OBGYN and did not have a single complication. I hate when doctors just see the fat and assume.

        1. Fuzzywuzzy*

          The OBGYN from my first pregnancy told me on a Friday that I was far too fat to ever get pregnant again (this was on top of other, unsolicited comments on my weight). I spent all weekend in tears until Monday, when I peed on a stick and immediately switched doctors.
          I should have known from how she spent my first pregnancy flabbergasted that I didn’t get gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.

    4. Bryce*

      Would it be all right if I reposted this on Facebook? With or without attribution, as you prefer.

  10. kit*

    OP #4: Please re-consider your attendance policy. I recently left my job for another position because my old company got bought by a larger company, and they implemented a similar, draconian policy. 4 unplanned absences over a rolling twelve month period were grounds for a write-up, with escalating warnings up to 7 unplanned absences, at which point it was grounds for termination.

    I have two kids under the age of 7. So…you can do the math on that.

    I was one of their top-performing employees, and I saved that company a lot of time and money with my contributions. But I had panic attacks nearly every time one of my kids got sick, and I was not being paid market-rate, either. So I had very, very little incentive to stay.

    1. Geoffrey B*

      Yep. So glad I work for an employer who’s sensible about this sort of stuff. I get excellent performance reviews but I used to get recurring strep throat/tonsillitis, which would knock me out for days at a time. Then I had my tonsils out, and that took three weeks off work.

      If “not penalising employees for things out of their control” doesn’t seem like enough incentive to re-think this policy, OP #4 might want to think about the implications of encouraging people to bring their germs in to work.

    2. PizzaDog*

      I once had a job where we were allowed 3 unplanned absences and 5 planned ones, to be decided by lotto at the start of the year. I asked what would happen during my midterms and finals, “well, you’d better hope that they happen within those three days.”

      That wasn’t even the worst part about working there.

  11. AnnaleighUK*

    Oooh OP#1’s letter really got on my nerves! In my former workplace we had a gaggle of women called ‘The Dieters’ who weren’t vegan or anything but always, always thought they had the right to comment on what other people ate and their weight. Bear in mind this group of women aren’t exactly VS Angels in their physique.

    I’m fairly tall, slim and I work hard to stay that way. I run, I cycle, I swim and I watch what I eat within reason. These Dieters would come up to me daily and extol the virtues of whatever fad diet they were on and look me up and down trying to find something to criticise. I hate that. It’s Not Okay. People who spend their lives picking holes in what people eat and critcising peoples shapes and sizes are obviously unhappy with themselves and need a good slap!

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I can imagine goose-like behaviour (i.e. squawking loudly) so gaggle would be a good term for it.

        I know somebody who is an All-Bore, so not just monologues on diet, but everything. All-Bore in this case also likes to ask quite personal questions about virtual strangers, such as what is their exercise regime, since they appear to have upper body strength/walk very upright so must have taken ballet class. All-Bore is avoided whenever possible.

      2. caledonia*

        Annaleigh is from the UK (as am I) and the slapping comment is slang/something that is sometimes said. It’s lighthearted.

        1. AnnaleighUK*

          I forget sometimes that what we say doesn’t always make sense to Americans! Gaggle as in ‘group’ and believe me, that slap would have been well deserved. Still, not my problem anymore, I work with nice people now.

    1. MillersSpring*

      I worked at a place where my boss and another woman (in their late 20s) were The Dieter-Exercisers. If I ever joined them for lunch or a social occasion, it was clear they had only One Topic. I was only about 20 pounds overweight then, and it was downright obnoxious to hear their talk.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s so true. At my old job, there was a woman who had been a Health and Exercise Science major at university; she was a keen runner and very into nutrition and fitness. But what made her so lovely to work with was that she never brought it up beyond work-appropriate small talk–like, “Oh, I ran a ten-miler over the weekend, and then went to a movie.” or if someone mentioned her lunch looked tasty she might mention what was in it. Beyond that, she firmly believed that it was Not Her Place to discuss diet and exercise with her coworkers.

        1. AnnaleighUK*

          Totally this – I’m a sporty sort and a bit of a nutrition freak but I don’t say a word about it to anyone unless they exhibit an interest in it. Its strange, and my housemate observed this as well, but the people that tend to be obsessed with diet and the like aren’t the athletic sort. I’m hardly going to start saying to people that they need to train for triathlons when it’s Not Their Thing and Not My Place. Leaping into a freezing cold lake at 7am on a Sunday isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. And yet the ladies I mentioned would go out if their way to say loudly to anyone in earshot ‘I’ve got kale for lunch today because the diet *insert Z-list celebrity here* followed recommended it’. Their diets came mostly from trashy magazines that believe they can make you bikini ready in six weeks (you know the sort) but really just make you miserable because it’s basically starving yourself. I haven’t encountered anyone as obsessed with weight or diets at my new job yet but this is only my first week so I guess there’s still time!

    2. gwal*

      please consider that you may also be exhibiting judgmental attitudes about people who “aren’t exactly VS Angels” and who you may believe do not “work hard” to modify their bodies to fit your/society’s preferences.

      1. neeko*

        The OP didn’t say anything about others not working hard. She was commenting on the fact that SHE works hard on her physique. And I think judgment is inevitable when a person is eye prodding at your body!

      2. AnnaleighUK*

        Ah, yes, I was perhaps a little harsh at 6am. Maybe I should have said ‘not athletic’ or something. I tend to type as I think. Not meant to be judgemental, more like the OP’s post hit a real nerve and then I let fly because these women really got on my nerves. Bad Annaleigh, think before you post *tap*

    3. zora*

      I work with an office full of actual registered dietitians/trained nutritionists, and none of them comment on other people’s bodies or weight. We talk about food a fair amount because we all love food, but it’s always about what we love or what is yummy. There is absolutely no excuse for this bs.

  12. Elizabeth West*

    #1 — Wow, in from Twitter past my bedtime but before Magic Mike explodes all over the comments. Definitely tell your employee she can walk away from him. And his manager needs to shut that crap down immediately. The fact that OP’s employee brought it up in the first place tells me she wasn’t all that comfortable with it, but she probably didn’t know what to do. Either that, or the other person wasn’t. But it doesn’t matter–Mike needs to cut it out, now.

    #2 — *headdesk* Don’t get me started on all the people who don’t know anything about writing but believe they can do it. And I’m not all that experienced, especially with freelancing, but even I know you have to be able to prove you can write.

    And this: She rejected the idea on the grounds that she is too busy to write unless she’s being paid on a full-time basis. Then A will never ever be a writer, because that’s how you get good at it. You write and write and write and WRITE. Even when you’re not being paid full-time, or even at all. Because practice.

    That’s how you get to Carnegie Hall, baby!

    1. Madame X*

      Hey! Don’t besmirch the name of Magic Mike with the overzealous bodyshamer in OP1’s letter.

  13. MiaRose*

    For OP#1, the whole thing about weight and diet really bugs me. Some people don’t realize that there are hormonal conditions, particularly ones dealing with levels of cortisol, that keep people from losing or gaining weight, as well as affect how they deal with stress and depression. I know because I’m going through it. Having done sports competitions for decades, and cutting down food portions, as well as cutting out artificial additives, I still could not lose a portion of my weight in my midsection. On top of that, I have that particular body type, apple or goblet, which holds onto the fat that is less healthy and more difficult to lose. Diet and exercise don’t always completely work. Frankly, I’m worried if “Mike’s” diet only consisted of vegetables. I don’t know if he’s seen a doctor or dietician to regulate his vegan diet, but if he doesn’t get enough protein, calcium, iron, zinc, or specific vitamins that are only naturally found in meat and dairy, he’ll run into some serious health issues later. I get a lot of family comments about how I should lost weight, all the time. Doesn’t help to have skinny family members.

    1. mreasy*

      There are certainly a lot of reasons people’s bodies vary in size. But an “official medical diagnosis” doesn’t make someone more validated in not having to be treated badly about their size than someone who is simply a larger person because that’s how the genetic lottery combines with their personal habits. People of all sizes deserve respect, not lectures and scrutiny, in the workplace & elsewhere.

      1. HannahS*

        This ^ is so true. No one needs to justify their body. Fatness is totally, completely, unrelated to morality. There is no moral superiority to having being fat because you want to change but can’t vs. being fat because you don’t want to change. It doesn’t matter if you’re fat because your thyroid is out of whack or because you’re poor and can’t afford to eat properly or because you just hate working out and love junk food. You deserve to be treated like an adult human who is left alone to manage their body according to their priorities and abilities.

      2. MiaRose*

        I agree. It’s just another facet to this whole body-shaming trend that is out there, whether someone is considered overweight or underweight. It does go both ways. A very good friend of mine from childhood was so skinny that she got some of the worse bullying. I would get stuff at home, but she would get everything at school. Horrible, either way.

    2. SarahTheEntwife*

      There are plenty of healthy vegans out there and I’m sure Mike is aware of the existence of doctors and nutritionists; the appropriate response to Mike’s diet-shaming is not to get concerned about his diet in return.

    3. Lucy Richardson*

      I just need to call out this statement “I don’t know if he’s seen a doctor or dietician to regulate his vegan diet, but if he doesn’t get enough protein, calcium, iron, zinc, or specific vitamins that are only naturally found in meat and dairy” as completely inaccurate.

      There is only one nutrient that is only found naturally in animal products that vegans must supplement, and it is one of the B vitamins. Nuts, legumes and grains are all great for protein, green leafy vegetables are high in calcium and iron, etc.

      1. Sylvia*

        Yes. Thank you.

        The idea that protein is only naturally found in meat and dairy is very strange. I know “x grams of protein!!” is a common advertising gimmick, but really, most people have no trouble getting enough protein.

        1. MiaRose*

          I didn’t say that protein is only naturally found in meat and dairy. It’s the getting “enough” protein that is my concern. I remember a friend of mine back in college, who is vegan, who had to bring containers of vegetable proteins with her, partly to stave off hunger, but mostly to make sure she got enough protein. She hated soy, and that was what many places had available as the vegan alternative. She had her almonds, then she had a container of garbanzo and kidney bean salad, or a couple of whole grain wheat and peanut butter sandwiches. Also avocados if they were on sale. But I’ve also seen many people who only eat salads without proteins all the time (work), and that was worrying. Though I just found out recently that spinach, especially if cooked down, provides a decent amount of protein. Go figure.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Getting enough protein is pretty easy as a vegan. The idea that it’s not has been out of date for a while now. There are loads of vegan body builders, etc.

            Regardless, we’re pretty off topic here so let’s move on.

      2. MiaRose*

        Most of my info comes from friends who are vegan or vegetarian, or from my doctor during the time when I considered at least becoming vegetarian. My comment was not intended to be judgmental as I only had the information given in OP#1’s letter, which states that Mike has an “all-plant diet”. I was only hoping to add information about checking with a doctor and not assuming Mike’s diet was healthier. There is a difference in the number of amino acids between plant proteins and animal proteins. Given that, I have a diet that is heavily influenced by Asian cuisine. I don’t eat much red meat, and I eat quite a bit of soy protein, though I can’t give up eggs entirely. The bulk of my diet consists of a huge variety of vegetables, smaller amounts of fruits because of the sugars, and I can’t give up rice and noodles, though I’ve cut down portions. I apologize if my comment, which was intended as concern and partly information, came off as judgmental.

    4. Jesmlet*

      It’s a touch hypocritical for you to want others to not comment on your health and then to follow up by commenting on Mike’s. We should just let everyone take care of themselves the best way they and their doctor’s see fit. I’m sorry your family doesn’t get this.

      1. Don't mind me*

        Totally agree…plus, even though Mike was completely wrong, I have to wonder what the “innocent comment” was that started this. That comment also qualifies as commenting on someone’s diet.

  14. The RO-Cat*

    The situation of OP#4 (sick time in employee evaluation) falls squarely in what I call “managerial laziness”, where management does not do its job of finding the appropriate metrics for whatever they wish to measure and use all kinds of proxies that are easier to see, but inaccurate (sometimes woefully so). It’s the case of butt-in-chair as a stand-in for “productive work”, voluntary OT for “dedication” and “engagement”, time on FB for “actual results” and so on. True, some aspects of some jobs are really difficult to gauge objectively and can benefit from such proxies, but – in my experience – the vast majority of job results / aspects can be measured objectively and exactly, albeit with effort from management. Also, some proxies do a good job of approximating the dimension actually needed, others not so much.

    All that is to say: OP, sick time has no place whatsoever in an employee evaluation. Look for the results you expect from the position and focus on those; find ways to measure *results* and not *path*, goals and not processes (generally speaking; sometimes processes are a legitimate subject of measurement). You (or your managers) need to do their jobs, first and foremost, and then evaluate employees.

    1. hbc*

      To be fair, unplanned absences can have a huge effect on some jobs. It’s just that sickness should never be counted (unless and until it has a major impact on performance.) I’d actually have no problem praising both employees in OP’s example. In fact, I might even be happier with John if his 41 hours were sick-related and Jane’s 1 hour was “Eh, decided to run some errands.”

      I think a lot of conscientious people comment here, and they may not be aware of some of the behaviors that go on. I’ve literally had day-of call-offs for school holidays and “we wanted to beat traffic for the long weekend.” And stuff that could and should have been on your calendar months ago that I have to scramble for in the moment is absolutely stuff that I will hold against someone.

      1. The RO-Cat*

        “To be fair, unplanned absences can have a huge effect on some jobs” – right. Here’s the work of the management to find ways to mitigate such occurences. People will get sick, will get stressed out; businesses should incorporate such events, and associated costs, into their calculations, not punish humans for being humans.

        For your second para, again you’re right. A good manager (hell, a half-decent one) takes those behaviors and talks with the perpetrators. And to be exact, those aren’t even “sick days”, they’re “personal days” (if I got the distinction correctly, we don’t have that kind of stipulations here; we’d just use PTO since we have at least 2o days, mandated by law). Measuring employees along any dimension (excepting maybe an overall health study) by using sick days usage is, plain and simple, management failure.

        1. hbc*

          I agree about the sick day usage, but I can’t tell if you agree or not that it’s fine to measure other reliability or last-minute call-offs. I mean, I work into the cost of doing business that I’ll have to deal with “life happens.” But just because I have the ability and resources to deal with it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be wondering if I can find someone who’s equally productive but also doesn’t sleep through their alarm every other week and give me that extra 20 minutes worth of arranging coverage.

          1. The RO-Cat*

            Of course it’s fine; a business plans for contingencies, not consistent lack of reliability. When an employee has a record of breaking their word (implicit or explicit) when planning woud have prevented it, it’s time for a discussion and/or a transition out, depending on circumstances.

  15. Emmy Oscar*

    Re: #5 – I’m very curious about how such laws work in the following scenarios:

    _____ When the company head office is based in another state, recruiting candidates from other states.
    For example: Blue Teapots Ink is based in Ohio. They are considering candidate finalists from Alabama, Montana and Oregan, which (in this theoretical example at least) don’t have laws against demanding prior salary history. The job is to be at a new branch opening in Massachusetts, where there IS such a law. But the interviews are taking place at the Ohio headquarters. Which law applies?

    _____When a multinational organization or company uses one singular online recruitment application system for its entire network of offices in multiple cities, states and countries, and this online system requires (as in, you cannot even proceed to the next screen without giving) one’s salary history.

    _____When one is applying for a Consulting or Independent Contractor role and one is asked for ones salary history. Does the law apply to non-staff roles?

    _____When one works in the type of organization where salaries are publicaly accessible as a matter or course. Such that, someone could search and find that info online. Is there a difference under the law then if that person asked you to TELL the information that is already accessible?

    Any insights appreciated. Thanks!

    1. Gaia*

      In the majority of cases the laws go by the location of the employee. So if I live in Mississippi and they have a law that says my employer must do X, then even if my employer is based out of Montana, they still have to do X with regard to me.

      1. Emmy Oscar*

        So an employer in Ohio recruiting from Alabama or Michigan for a job to be based in Massachusetts is free to ignore that state’s law then, yes? If they’re considering 6 candidates and only one is based in Massachusetts, they can ask all others for their salary history except the Massachusetts one? Getting a headache just trying to work this all out in my head, eesh!

        1. Gaia*

          If the job is based in Massachusetts but the candidate is in Alabama or Michigan, the state with the most rights for the employee wins but when the employee moves to Massachusetts, it then becomes Massachusetts law unless Ohio law specifies that it also covers remote workers.

          And don’t even start on federal vs state…

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Your questions all involve fairly complex issues related to conflicts of law (which exist at the inter-state, federal, and international levels), and statutory interpretation. Massachusetts is the first mover, but other states currently considering adopting similar laws have crafted their statues to respond to local conditions, so there aren’t generalities that can be drawn, yet, about how these rules “normally” work and how they apply across states. Which is all to say that none of those issues are easily answered, and they really shouldn’t be answered via blog posts.

      Generally speaking, as Gaia has noted, in the United States, a company with multiple locations must adhere to the laws of the state(s) for those business activities occurring in the state. Some states are particularly aggressive when they think an employer is trying to game the system; e.g., by holding interviews in Connecticut to avoid compliance with Massachusetts law even though they’re staffing an office in Massachusetts. But then you get into questions about long-arm statutes and constitutional due process, and none of that is really answerable in the abstract.

      If you’re truly curious about how each of these laws operate for your specific experience (as a job candidate), then I would do a Google Search for lawyer blog posts and news articles in legal periodicals on the subject. If you’re an employer, pay a lawyer to answer the questions you’ve posed.

    3. Jeanne*

      I believe that if a company is interviewing, they would operate under the law in their state. If you live in MA and want to move to TN, the interview and most importantly the job would follow TN laws. Some of these more complicated scenarios would most likely have to be litigated in the courts and it could be years before they’re worked out. The hope is that if a number of the most populous states have similar laws, multi-state companies will fall in line to make life easier and avoid lawsuits. It is possible the law will help with pay inequities but I predict it will take at least a decade.

    4. Recruit-o-rama*

      This will evolve in my opinion to be like the “ban the box” legislation in that the more these types of laws are passed in various jurisdictions, the more companies will take a broad approach. A few years ago, I proposed to my upper management that we remove the felony question from our application altogether because so many local municipalities, counties and states had begun to pass “ban the box” legislation. The ins and outs of each individual regulation started to be hard to manage for the recruiting team. For many employers, this is an ongoing process to break old habits.

      In the case of the salary history questions on applications, I think companies will reluctantly begin to remove the questions to stay in compliance. It will take some time for recruiting and HR professionals to catch up to the new trends and laws.

    5. Luke*

      Perhaps it’s just a cynical perspective,but I can see some companies with the option to do so excluding Massachusetts candidates for this reason.

    6. Anonymous Educator*

      It’s not spelled out in the law itself, so it will probably have to be decided in the courts and may be done so based on precedent.

      The law itself doesn’t say anything about whether it applies to the location of the employer or the employee, but I would probably think since the law specifies what the employer can do or not do that it would make sense that the law applies to whether the employer is in Massachusetts as opposed to the employee.

      (c) It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to:
      (2) seek the wage or salary history of a prospective employee from the prospective employee or a current or former employer or to require that a prospective employee’s prior wage or salary history meet certain criteria; provided, however, that: (i) if a prospective employee has voluntarily disclosed such information, a prospective employer may confirm prior wages or salary or permit a prospective employee to confirm prior wages or salary; and (ii) a prospective employer may seek or confirm a prospective employee’s wage or salary history after an offer of employment with compensation has been negotiated and made to the prospective employee;

  16. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 I wonder if A is one of those people who think Officially Being A Writer will somehow change their experience of writing. I mean, sure, they don’t feel like doing it now, but they like the idea of it and once they actually Become A Writer they’ll feel different.

    I know lots of actual writers who don’t like writing that much. We tend to like having written – after the words have been squeezed out.

    1. he who comes with the dawn*

      “We tend to like having written ” Ha. Sounds like me.
      I like the idea of being able to say “I wrote this book”, but I suck at writing, and I’m too lazy to get better at it.

  17. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I removed a comment trash-talking vegans. Veganism isn’t the issue; Mike is the issue. (Just like when you have people who drone on about Cross Fit, exercising isn’t the problem; those particular people are.)

    1. neverjaunty*

      Thank you. If Mike discovered paleo, he’d be just as obnoxious. The particular vehicle through which he chooses to express his personality flaws is not important.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        My own anecdotal experience is that people preemptively defending themselves from presumed attacks by (insert dieters) outnumber those (insert dieters) actually making any attacks. As opposed to just ordering their lunch and eating it while discussing what happened on iZombie.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        “You want a paleo diet? Throw your chocolate bar in the bushes then go pick it up — there, now you’ve hunted/gathered it. Just like a caveman!”

      3. Kyrielle*

        …I adore your second sentence. It applies to so many things (including Mike, very much!), and encapsulates them *excellently*.

    2. mm*

      Thank you! I’m a vegan with a BMI of 32 who likes to joke about eating lots of potatoes.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I have a friend that called herself a trashetarian. She was a vegetarian that hated vegetables. She ate lots of pizza, grilled cheese, faux chicken nuggets, potato chips, french fries, bagels….

  18. beetrootqueen*

    3. You don’t need facebook honestly in social media unless thats explicitly stated. I have worked social media for a few years now and honestly I’ve never used and I refuse to have an account. Feel free to screen out jobs (if you can) that require facebook use if you so wishI know I do. All the social media jobs I have had had generally use twitter or insta. A lot of my friends also work in social and have their own things thye promote and not one of them uses facebook this may be a country thing as I am not in the US but facebook seems to be falling out of favour.

    1. I Herd the Cats*

      I have never looked for somebody’s FaceBook account as part of a hiring process. I have looked for LinkedIn and I admit I find it a little odd when people don’t seem to have one, although it hasn’t stopped me from moving them along in the hiring process. In this LW’s case, having their own website (which I’d either find on google or it would be on the resume) would more than suffice. I guess I’m looking for some sort of business-type engagement with the internet.

      1. that guy*

        I tried to create a LinkedIn account. It said there is already an account with my e-mail address. When I enter the address and say “forgot password” it says there is account with that address.

      2. paul*

        I dropped LinkedIn a few years ago because it was an absolutely horrible platform to use. When I start job hunting again, am I going to need to go back to it? Uuggh :/

        1. k*

          I’ve heard it can be industry dependent, but for the most part you at least want a basic profile because some people will find it really odd if you don’t have one. I absolutely hate LinkedIn with a passion, but I keep the bare minimum up there just so that isn’t the random thing that hurts my chances.

      3. mrs__peel*

        I’ve never created a LinkedIn account, mainly because I’ve heard so many horror stories about the amount of spam and random emails you get.

    2. aebhel*

      I have a FB account, but it’s not public. All a prospective employer is going to see is my profile picture and name.

      1. k*

        I think that’s the case with the majority of people. Actually I’d be more surprised to see someone that had a public profile. Plus I see a lot of people that have their display names as FirstName MiddleName, so searching for their name as it is on their resume wouldn’t do much.

        1. mrs__peel*

          If I was hiring, I think I’d be more leery of people who *weren’t* savvy enough to use their privacy settings. Unless everything in their profile was completely innocuous and/or related to their profession.

      2. mrs__peel*

        Same here, I keep any social media stuff locked down airtight! (If you search my name, almost nothing comes up except that I “liked” our local Congressional representative’s posts occasionally).

    3. a girl has no name*

      I am glad to read your comment. I work in PR and Alison’s note about that as an industry were Facebook may be necessary made me a little worried.

      I hate Facebook, and I have one just for admin purposes to get to our organization page. I don’t have my last name, photo, I have never posted,no “friends” have been added. It’s just to get into the other Facebook page. (This could be an option if you work in one the fields listed. )

      I also think it’s falling out of favor, and I am so glad to find someone else who thinks so too. Most people judge me and my husband a lot for not having an account. It’s nice to know others are out there who also don’t like or need Facebook.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        I think a good takeaway is more that, if you are in an industry where you need Facebook, you will already know that you need Facebook. If you need to ask, then you don’t need Facebook.

        1. OP #3*

          Good point! I’m not in an industry that requires Facebook, and, actually, I’m surprised when professional organizations have a Facebook page instead of their own website.

    4. First Initial . Last Name @ email . server*

      Purely personal anecdote OP3: When I started job hunting I locked down all of my personal web presence, changed user names and shifted to anonymous accounts etc., and tightened up my portfolio site thinking all of this was just good web hygiene. Somewhere along the way, I caught wind that some hiring people do look at facebook profiles and I was instantly mortified, my facebook feed is mostly cats, experimental art, and strong political critique, all of the above in one post if I’m lucky. I asked my network if checking out a candidate’s facebook account was a real thing. A number of people replied that yes they did cruise candidate profiles. One reply in particular stood out, a good friend is the regional director of a US government agency, they told me that a candidate’s facebook profile is part of their consideration in hiring, they’re looking to see if someone is a “whack-job” (their words), if they’re an extremist of some flavor. They are a government agency after all. I asked if they did a google search for portfolio websites, they said no, this may be specific to THAT government agency. I’m seriously bothered by this, I don’t think facebook should be a hiring metric, but I’ll play along for the sake of getting a job. I have since curated my public facing facebook feed specifically for the purpose of this kind of character reference checking, and I now regularly check my feed to ensure my public facing posts are not, or could not be perceived as kookcoo.

      If you somehow feel pressured to make a facebook feed for the purpose of job hunting, you can build a profile and leave it alone forever more. You don’t actually have to USE facebook. Put up pictures of your pets, innocuous landscapes from a road trip, a book you’ve read, super milquetoast stuff so that you’re not written off for not having a facebook profile.

      I know it stinks.

      1. Cap Hiller*

        There is a difference even in your example @First Initial between not having a FB profile and have a public one that displays questionable content. I work in government/politics so I don’t think it’s weird to make sure your employees won’t publicly undermine your organization.

    5. mrs__peel*

      I’d guess that Facebook is mostly the province of Baby Boomers now, and that all The Young Whippersnappers are off on some other, cooler social media platforms…

      (I’m 36 and use Facebook, but very few of my teenage/20-something family members use it).

  19. Whats In A Name*

    OP #2……I feel like being expected to get a writing job with no experience is like trying to get any job unrelated to your field with no experience…why?!?!?

    Can you suggest to her to start a personal blog (doesn’t even have to be publicized)? Or find a small time magazine that needs filler materials and pays a nominal amount per article? These are things I do to get reps and just wrapped up a national publication that the company I am working with is putting out. Writing is peripheral to my job but 4 years ago I had ZERO professional writing experience….

    My path: I started a personal blog; I have no following, maybe a handful of people, and sometimes write a few times a week and sometimes go a month (or 2) without posting. Also busy, I just do it when I have time!

    I also write for our neighborhood magazine, which pays peanuts but only takes a few hours a week. It’s a sales driven magazine and the articles are filler so they aren’t looking for fabulous writers but it gives me, again, more reps. Literally all I had to say was “I’m willing to write”. If she can find a small magazine like the one in our neighborhood she can at least get paid….and have a work product in a magazine that she got paid for that can help her build a portfolio.

    I know you know she needs the experience, maybe you can give her one of these suggestions?

    1. OP#2*

      These would be GREAT suggestions… If the receiver was interested in hearing them. This is exactly how you build a portfolio and she has “no time” to do that. I can’t force someone to make time for things. The ball is completely in her court now.

      1. fposte*

        Yup, it is. I think for your own sake you need to extricate yourself from the issue at this point–you’ve given her advice and she’s decided not to take it. I’d take this topic off the friendship discussion table entirely at this point, because it’s doing neither of you any good.

        1. ZVA*

          +1 to this—exactly what I came here to say. OP, in your letter, you asked As a concerned friend, how do I get A’s head out of the clouds, preferably without hurting her feelings, and is it even worth trying? I get how frustrating this is, but I say you can’t get her head out of the clouds, and it’s not worth trying!

      2. Whats In A Name*

        I think you need to just drop it then. If she is not open to suggestions I say you just need to stop back and let her learn by burn.

        If the topic stays on the table you are going to get frustrated over and over if her attitude doesn’t change and it has the danger of bleeding over into other areas of your friendship.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      Trying to get any job unrelated to your field with no experience…why?!?!?


      1. mrs__peel*

        I think they’re waiting for some old-timey newspaper editor to tell them, “Kid, you’ve got moxie! You start on Monday”.

        ….. I don’t think that kind of thing happens anymore (if it ever really happened outside of 1930s Warner Brothers movies).

    3. Grits McGee*

      Even if A won’t use it, thanks for sharing this, Whats In A Name! I’ve occasionally thought about trying to get more into writing, and this is a really helpful path to think about!

    4. Dee*

      OP #2……I feel like being expected to get a writing job with no experience is like trying to get any job unrelated to your field with no experience…why?!?!?
      Because writing’s not a real job! It’s something that anyone could do, obviously, if they weren’t busy with their own jobs. She just needs a chaaaaance! (No, I don’t have any lingering issues from editing scientific papers, why do you ask?)

  20. Greg M.*

    Another in the long list of reasons I utterly refuse to discuss my weight or diet or anything related to it with anyone at all ever again. I’m so sick of having to justify my existence.

  21. Greg M.*

    Whenever weight comes up I see a lot of “they could have blah condition that causes it” and honeslty I’ve even grown tired of that. I’ve grown to despise the idea that I need a chronic illness to justify being fat to get people to leave us alone. I’m sorry, I exist, I’m allowed to exist and me being fat doesn’t harm you.

    Sorry but can we please drop the “but they might have this that justifies their fatness” topic?

    1. Thursday Next*

      +1 absolutely! It actually contributes to the moralizing around weight, as if there are people overweight “through no fault/choice of their own” vs. those who “have no excuse.” Bottom line is, it doesn’t matter: treat people with respect and don’t make unsolicited comments on their bodies.

        1. KellyK*

          No, being unhealthy is a thing that happens to some people, regardless of how wise or unwise they are. Specific behaviors might be wise or unwise, but those don’t always translate perfectly into health. The just world fallacy is a fallacy, basically.

          1. Thursday Next*

            Agreed, KellyK. There are so many factors at play in health–genes, environment, behavior, chance–I think avoiding moralizing around health altogether is probably best. We can certainly advocate for people to have healthful choices (access to preventive care, fresh produce, etc.).

            1. Thursday Next*

              I should specify that I meant moralizing about an individual person’s health should be avoided. I definitely think access to healthcare, e.g., is a moral issue!

    2. Whats In A Name*

      This also happens to thin people – I used to work with a very thin girl that was constantly labeled as anorexic/bulimic. I once got way too thin due to stress and was accused of doing drugs. People generally suck and need to learn to stay in their own lane.

      I feel strongly that this is only open for discussion if someone seeks out a professional and says “I need help with XYZ and this is why”. This is no place for unsolicited feedback from a co-worker. And do people actually think that they are going to have some epiphany from an unwanted lecture or insults about their weight?

      I work with clients that have a wide range of goals but I have never ever walked up to random co-workers doling out advice. It’s just not acceptable or respectful.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      Unfortunately this isn’t going to to go away while we are debating health care legislation. I constantly hear “I don’t want my money go to people’s preventable diseases.” Overweight people are sadly blamed for basically every medical condition they get.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Not to mention the assumed conditions you don’t even have! A friend of mine has told me over and over about medical professionals assuming she has or is concerned about diabetes, even though she’s only had one slightly elevated test result ever and clearly made the appointment to talk about something else. Like, “yes, I can see your leg is broken, but how are you managing your diabetes?”

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          AMEN. My blood sugar is normal, my cholesterol is probably better than yours (random doctor, not MegaMoose), and my blood pressure is always right at perfect or just under. And I’m turning 40 this year. I may not hold on to all of these healthy stats forever, but neither will a lot of people whose weight is in the healthy range.

        2. Michele*

          I had a doctor once refuse to treat my bronchitis until I had my cholesterol checked. I found a different doctor. All that sort of thing does is make people more reluctant to go to a doctor and get treatment that they need.

    4. Observer*

      I don’t really think that that’s what a lot of people are saying. More like “This is not a kind thing to do especially since so many people have a background story as to why they are overweight.”

      I agree, though, that we need to be careful with this, though, since the implications are quite judgemental.

  22. WG*

    #4: Unplanned absences should really only be addressed in relation to specific work functions and performance. For example, I once had a coworker that was in a front-line job where presence was important. She was out with unplanned absence about 20% of the time. Her supervisor addressed the reduced work performance and impact to others that had to drop everything to cover her work when she was unexpectedly out. The issue wasn’t that she was out, it was that work wasn’t being done.

  23. I Herd the Cats*

    “….make sure she knows that if anyone is ever droning on to her about food, knitting, porcupines, their kids, or any other non-work topic…”

    I don’t know about y’all but I could listen to someone drone on about porcupines for HOURS.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I’m not good at droning, but I can gabble excitedly about sharks for ages. Way better than CrossFit!

  24. Myrin*

    Ha, I was actually asked in a job interview last month if I’m active on social media. I said no (I mean, I do have a tumblr, but it’s under my internet pseudonym and not something I’d want to share with my interviewer who doesn’t need to know what kind of fanfiction I like to read) because it’s not for me but I don’t have anything against it, either. In that case, the question was relevant insofar as, as the interviewer then explained, they would like to build more of an online social media presence – mostly Twitter, as I understood it – and wanted to know about my experience with it. But it was one of many questions and I didn’t get the feeling that it was a make-it-or-break-it kind of thing, more some additional data.

    As a data point: I’m 26 and have never had Facebook and by now, many former classmates or others in my age group and area have actually deleted or abandoned theirs, so it’s really not extremely unusual to be FB-free.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      I still have mine, but my husband deleted his about a year ago. He couldn’t stand the constant tsunami of memes and politics. I still have mine, mostly to keep in touch with my high school friends.

      I don’t use my FB as much as I did, and I don’t post as much as I used to. The election was exhausting. Many people got rid of their social media accounts, of at least took a break from it after November .

  25. MuseumChick*

    Oh militant vegans. I agree with the others, Mike needs to be talked to and the co-workers who brought it to your attention need to be told that they are not getting him in trouble, his behavior is getting him in trouble.

    A few years ago I went Paleo (which worked very well for me personally). The only time I would bring it up was when going out to eat with friends. Or, when someone would specifically ask me about how it was going. I should get back to that way of eating, I felt great!

    PSA: The best way to bring people over to your way of eating is to make tasty food to share!

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Oh man, thank you. I have a big problem with the idea that paleolithic humans all ate the same thing (ha!), but I think it’s a decent approach for a lot of people. Unfortunately, I’d say it’s worse than veganism for evangelism. :/

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        I went to this raw cooking class a few years ago that was a lot of fun, but the room was literally divided into a paleo section and a vegan section. Both were terrifying.

      2. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        I pissed off a Paleo evangelist once by saying, “you do realize that some paleolithic groups subsisted entirely on the meat and coagulated blood of seals, right?”

    2. KellyK*

      PSA: The best way to bring people over to your way of eating is to make tasty food to share!

      Absolutely. (I’d say you get more flies with honey than with vinegar, but honey isn’t vegan. ;) )

    3. MuseumChick*

      I wrote another comment but it hasn’t shown up, weird.

      A bit off topic but there is now scientific evidence that not everyone should be on the exact same diet. I think if you google “scientific study individual diet” the study will pop up. For example, in it they had one woman who had struggled with, I think, diabetes her whole life. They found that she should never eat tomatoes. Ever. They made her blood sugar go off the chart.

  26. Katniss*

    Unless someone is eating ortalan or literal poison in front of them, people should NEVER comment about the perceived morality or safety/health of other people’s food. Never.

    1. KellyK*

      What’s ortalan? I’m assuming from context it was something poisonous, but Google was unhelpful.

      Also, I totally agree. I would include, “FYI, that dish includes the thing you’ve mentioned you were allergic to” as an acceptable food safety comment, but that’s pretty much an extension of poison.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Ortolan. A rare songbird (a bunting) that was banned from being killed/eaten in France, that chefs are trying to get permission to use again. “Even if it’s only one weekend a year” apparently.

        And even then, I’d suggest you keep your mouth shut. It’s not entirely analogous, since they aren’t endangered, but I’ve been lectured before about how could I eat Veal or Lamb.

        1. KellyK*

          Yep. I’m squicked out by how veal is raised in the US, so I don’t eat it myself, but I wouldn’t give someone else grief for it. (Vegans/vegetarians who aren’t comfortable being around people eating meat certainly get to have that as a boundary, but they can do it by only eating at veg/vegan places, or leaving the lunch room, not trying to convert everybody else.)

      2. Katniss*

        That’s my fault for misspelling it. It’s Ortolan, and the methods for eating it in the past were extremely cruel, so much so that the eater would traditionally wear a towel over their eyes to hide their shame from God.

        1. Emi.*

          …I cannot think of a better sign that you shouldn’t be doing something than an established ritual for hiding from God.

        2. KellyK*

          Ah, okay! Google did show me a songbird, but I completely missed that it was eaten in a cruel way.

          1. LCL*

            google Ortolan + Jeffrey Steinberg. He did an article about this that appeared in Vogue magazine.

        3. LBK*

          Oof. I confess I’ve eaten my fair share of controversial foods, but I looked up the consumption method you referenced and frankly it just sounds gross. That better be the tastiest damn bird in the universe.

      3. mrs__peel*

        If it’s ortolan, at least you won’t have to watch people eating it! (With the napkins over the head and all). Very considerate, if you ask me…

  27. Jessesgirl72*

    OP3: You certainly don’t need social media to get most jobs. However… if the subject comes up, I’d suggest saying that social media just never interested you or similar, and not mention how you are against the entire concept of it. That’s going to come off badly to most anyone who has a strong presence themselves, and Interviewers are people too. Not having FB is going to be fine- ranting about how evil FB is might not be.

    1. Observer*

      It’s going to put of even people who do not have a strong presence.

      A casual “It’s not for me” will get a shrug from most sensible employers. “No, I think it’s a bad thing” will get you marked as “odd”, at best. And anything stronger will probably raise red flags.

    2. OP #3*

      I figured a casual “It’s not for me” would be the best approach; just wasn’t sure it would be enough.

  28. Anonyforthis*

    My company has put safety and health at the top of their list of concerns. To the point that there are “challenges” every year where teams compete against each other for highest weight loss, or most steps taken. While this is all well and good, it creates an environment where certain people take it over the top. One of the managers in my department is a “nutritionist” and she spouts her programs that she’s involved in (currently it’s Isagenix) and all the sycophants who are voluntold to join are constantly making a din making these shakes and then walking around with them with their noses up in the air. What is laughable is that it’s ONLY during the work week they do this, they then come in on Monday to talk about how much they ate over the weekend. It’s the same every. single. week. It’s just annoying and boring. I come in and make my breakfast in the microwave and they tell me I’m “killing them” because it smells so good. Um, I don’t make comments about what you do or eat, why do you do think you can do it to me?

    1. mrs__peel*

      “voluntold” :/

      I’d hope that participation in things like competitive weight loss would be completely voluntary! I could see that being a *major* issue (for instance) if people have a history of eating disorders and are being pressured to participate. That raises some big, red ADA flags for me, as an attorney.

  29. Nisie*

    Coming from a place where I have two weeks sick leave- that is expected to be used without notice, I’m confused. How do employers expect employees to plan to be sick? Also, how do parents handle the unexpected illnesses that define kids? (Truth be told, I’ve used sick leave when my daughter’s asthma flares up and I’m up ever 2 hours to give a breathing treatment. I haven’t gotten enough sleep to be safe driving in those cases.)

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Same here. My company’s sick leave policy is “any leave when you have sick time is automatically acceptable leave.” They only start the escalating “we’ll discuss this with you” when you’ve blown through all your sick time and continue to ask for it, and that can be short-changed by invoking the really generous paid short-term disability/family assistance/etc leaves.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Which is reasonable in some cases, but not in others. If it’s a snow day — then yes, backup childcare. If your child is spewing from every orifice, a babysitter probably isn’t going to cut it (or want to take that on!)

        1. KellyK*

          Yep. Snow days are a little easier because a teenage babysitter would have the day off too (although they need to be a close neighbor to make it to your house themselves). Sick kids are a whole nother story.

          Sure, there are some jobs where you *can’t* leave to deal with a kid, but those employers are failing at their half of the bargain if they’re not informing potential employees of the expectation and paying people well to compensate.

          1. Sarah*

            Exactly — I would expect a brain surgeon can’t leave in the middle of a surgery or a judge can’t leave in the middle of a trial to pick up their child, but these professions are also compensated at a level where they can afford well-paid child care and backups.

      2. Beckie*

        It’s one thing to arrange backup childcare because my kid’s primary care provider is sick (this happens a lot with in-home daycares, nannyshares, etc.). It’s another thing entirely to expect me to find backup childcare because my kid is too sick to go to school or daycare. Very, very few people offer childcare in those situations, and I wouldn’t want to use them — I’d want to be the one taking care of my sick kid.

    2. Retail HR Guy*

      OP #4 is in Oregon, where days off for sick kids have their own law outside of the law OP mentioned (a provision in the Oregon Family Leave Act). If the company has over 25 employees, and the employee averages over 25 hours and has worked for the company for 180 days, then the employee can basically take as much time off as needed to stay home with sick kids (up to 60 days a year).

  30. Emi.*

    I’m going to go home and hug my mother for teaching us not to make personal remarks.

  31. hbc*

    Mike is awful, and nothing I am about to say takes away one bit from that. He has no excuse, full stop. That being said:

    “Recently two members of my team were in the break room and asked him an innocent question about his lunch, which consisted of all veggies.” No one should be commenting on other people’s food, except maybe a genuine “That looks delicious.” Mike may be a blowhard, but someone less of a blowhard has probably heard a lot of (supposedly) innocent questions about their diet and is probably sick of them.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Eh, I think this real depends on the question. It could have been something as basic as “That looks/smells good. What’s in it?” That’s a pretty common and innocuous question.

      To which the only appropriate response is, “Oh it’s veggie soup/vegan lasagna/roast veggies with lemon/whatever. Let me know if you want the recipe it’s really good!”

    2. LQ*

      An innocent question about lunch sounds exactly like, “Oh that looks/smells good, what is it?” Which frankly I’d prefer to not hear but that’s because I hate people. I think that’s got to be on the list of work acceptable comments about food.

      1. Lynly*

        I hear you about people in general. I’m “thisclose” to needing my own planet. My sister-in-law comments on my food choices every single time we dine together for some family event or are out to lunch as part of a volunteer organization we both belong to. She asks what’s on my plate, makes assumptions about what I like/don’t like based on what’s on my plate, wants bites of what’s on my plate, wants to know if I’m going to eat it all, wants me to try a bite of what’s on her plate. Sheesh! Big family event and dinner coming up in June. I’m exhausted already.

      2. LCL*

        I think it’s fair to ask where the person shops, about food that is obviously a convenience food. Then thank them for sharing that information. The vegetarians/vegans know where the quality is best for veg convenience foods. The tastiness of identical products can vary tremendously from store to store because of how fast the inventory moves.

  32. Seuuze*

    Re: #1 Alison wrote, “if anyone is ever droning on … about food, knitting, porcupines,”. This made me laugh. I am not a very good knitter and never bother to go to knitting groups to improve. I carved a porcupine on a linoleum block when I was in grade school which I still have. I also have a porcupine wrangling story from when I lived in Maine. I am definintely going to drone on about these topics, next time I am on a really bad date.

  33. Aurora*

    I just had this conversation with a co-worker. She equates thinness with good people. I told her to stop praising people on weight loss and thinness, or the ‘healthy lunch’ that they are eating that day. We work in a medical office and it didn’t occur to her that there may be some serious medical reasons why someone had lost or gained a considerable amount of weight. Just stop commenting on it! It’s not your business and it’s way out-of-line.

    1. Devil's Advocate*

      I agree with this Aurora. As a larger person though, I do wish people would stop using the hypothetical that a fat person could have medical reasons to explain their fatness. While it certainly addresses the issue of bullies who assume someone is fat due to laziness, the truth is that some people are fat because they’re fat. Maybe they don’t want to wake up 5am to exercise, maybe they work two/three jobs that have them sitting at a desk for 18 hours a day. And maybe they’re just not interested in healthy food choices. The fact is that it doesn’t matter why someone is fat. I believe others use health as a reason to care about someone’s fatness. I find that its a superficial reaction to something they don’t like and its unfortunate and callous.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yep; it’s concern trolling. “Oh, it’s not that I’m fatphobic, I’m just ~concerned~ about you, random stranger.” Bull.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Maybe they can’t afford to buy fresh produce, maybe they are too tired from busting their ass in a physical job to come home and cook, maybe they live in food desert and don’t have access to grocery stores…

        There are plenty of reasons why people are overweight and none of those reasons should be considered a value judgment on their personhood.

        1. Aurora*

          There are plenty of reasons why people are underweight and plenty of reasons why people are overweight. It should not be commented on, or equated with being a good or nice person, or even speculated upon. It doesn’t matter. I told my co-worker that she would never say anything to someone who had gained a considerable amount of weight, and it’s also rude to say something to someone who has lost a considerable amount of weight. The reasons don’t matter. Just STOP doing it!

            1. Devil's Advocate*

              I think we’re all agreeing on the same point. Aurora I know you were using the fact that you work in a medical office as an emphasis to the ridiculousness of your coworker’s responses and that she should be sensitive, as a medical professional, of the variety of different issues that might affect a person’s weight. It’s just one of my pet peeves when I see health used as an explanation or a barometer about someone’s weight. (Which I fully know you are not doing, I just wish your coworker didn’t need such an explanation to make it valid for her to not judge fat people. #offsoapbox

  34. Mel*

    Question #4 about reviewing people based on sick time used reminded me of a recent phone screen I had where the interviewer asked how many unplanned absences I’d had over the past year. The fact that they asked this tells me it factors into their hiring decision, but should it? I hardly missed any days (well within the range of my allotted sick time), but what if I had a medical condition that caused me to miss a week or more of work- should that be held against someone? How do you even answer that question without making yourself look bad, or without having to offer an invasive explanation about your medical history just so sound don’t sound like a flake? My opinion is that, unless attendance became a disciplinary issue at someone’s previous employer, it shouldn’t even be brought up, and unless it’s a disciplinary issue at someone’s current employer, it shouldn’t factor into their performance evaluation. Employers shouldn’t hold it against people that they get sick.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      That tells me that I don’t want to work for that company, even though I’m rarely sick. And it seems to me they are trying to skirt around a couple discrimination laws.

      Besides it being stupid because although I almost never get sick, this winter I got that virus that was going around everywhere that knocked me flat for most of 2 weeks.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        It could definitely affect those with kids or those that are married. My wife once got he riot act from work for missing two days in a row; the first, she was sick, and the second she had to take care of me (I had severe anemia that was at its all time worst then, and literally could not stand up- she didn’t want me to have to try, and thus faint and crack my head on the floor).

        1. Chinook*

          As someone who got read the riot act from a retail boss because I had to go pick up my husband from the ER (note that I didn’t actually go to the ER when he did but instead covered my shift), having to take time off to take care of my spouse has been described to me as slacking whereas, if he had been my child, it would have been perfectly acceptable.

      2. Mel*

        I think you’re right- that is a red flag. Next time I’m asked that, I think I’m going to say “The time I was off was within the range of PTO provided by my benefits package and was not a disciplinary issue.” If they insist on a number, I’m going to ask “Why do you ask?” If they insist on a number, I’m telling them I’m not interested anymore.

    2. paul*

      I’ve got to say I’d rather have someone miss a week solid-particularly if there’s warning at the start of it– than miss 5 days spread out over the month.

      1. Observer*

        It’s still a stupid question. There are SO many legitimate reasons that someone could have unplanned absences that the answer simply doesn’t tell you anything. Also, if you get too hung up on not allowing people to use their time you are going to wind up with “unplanned” absences because life happens whether or not you gave permission.

  35. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    Ugh. Literally five minutes ago a (male, somewhat obese) senior manager walked into our office, looked at my (female, UK size 8) colleague who was eating a doughnut, and said ‘oink oink, piggly wiggly’. Talk about double standards.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Please tell me that someone pointed out how inappropriate that comment was.

  36. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP1 really bugs me. Due to poverty and abuse as a kid, my wife is fat. Enough to have a hard time fitting in some places (planes, theme park rides, seats for plays in some of the older theatres in town). I can fit, but I’m not small either and have huge boobs, so it’s awkward for me too.

    If anyone ever insults, moralizes, or complains about having to sit near my wife, I bristle and immediately start loudly talking about how much I like being a lawyer and how good it is to be able to watch out for myself and others in that way. Keeps me from yelling back and usually stops the worst treatment!

    1. Just Stop It Already!*

      Whatever happened to “Mind your own business” and “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”?

      1. Dee*

        It doesn’t apply to fat people, of course, because it’s a moral failing, so people feel free to say whatever the hell they want.

        1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

          Well, yeah. I’m just glad she doesn’t need seat belt extenders and such any more (we don’t believe in long-term, massive weight loss, but something as small as a 5 or 10% loss is more easily maintained and can make many improvements in one’s health and comfort, so that’s what she’s been working on).

          1. Laura*

            How do you handle it in a lawyerly way if she takes up part of a seat that someone else has paid for? I imagine many of the people who are making you bristle are simply asking to occupy 100% of the territory for which they have paid the fee. Otherwise, why would these comments be flowing? Do you offer to compensate them accordingly?

  37. Amy*

    Out of sheer curiosity, as someone who’s never written professionally: How do people build a portfolio? Is using writing from classwork acceptable? If you’ve written professionally before, can you include that writing in your portfolio? (Especially in the case of, like, internal technical documentation, or legal documents, or other things that might be not widely published–I’m sure you can use a newspaper or magazine article you wrote.) What about personal stuff you wrote just for the sake of building a portfolio–is it weird to include something that’s never been published or graded or anything? Does it matter if your portfolio includes certain kinds of writing (like, if you were applying for a tech writing position and most of your portfolio was academic writing from classes, would that be a problem)?

    1. MiaRose*

      I suspect this is unusual, but I started out writing documents for family members who owned businesses for free. I don’t have those samples now because I’m uncomfortable using them at this point, but that was my early work. I think I may have also used samples from my tech writing class in college (I was specifically taking a course for engineers and scientists), but, again, I don’t use those anymore. My current portfolio consists of things I’ve done for work, volunteer work for schools, since those items are actually published and publicly available, and, since I run an online craft business, I use my own documents and instructions from my own business.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      When I got my first writing job, I used a couple of letters to the editor I’d had published and an article I’d had published in the Washington Post. That was before the internet was so ubiquitous. These days I’d say it’s actually a lot easier to get clips — you can write for a whole variety of smaller websites that weren’t an option before.

    3. H.C.*

      I was a reporter for my college & grad school’s newspapers – making sure to take beats that are less University-focused so they read like articles in a community paper/magazine; it was a great way to generate a lot of clips, given the frequency of assignments.

      When I interned, I also volunteered to take on writing assignments too (esp when I see my supervisors swamped with other work).

    4. Kathleen Adams*

      For me, academic papers aren’t that useful. They can demonstrate someone’s general ability to write decent prose, but academic writing is so different from the kinds of writing needed out here in the World of Work that I don’t find it helpful when evaluating someone as a writer.

      In the early days of my career, I did use some *sort of* academic writing as part of my portfolio, but it was feature and news articles written for various journalism classes, so although they hadn’t been published, they did offer some indication of my general journalistic writing ability. But more useful in my job searches were my “clips” (as we used to call them – I think some people still do) that I acquired by working on my college paper, taking a very ill-paid (but useful) internship, and working as an extremely ill-paid stringer for various papers around my college town and home town.

      I was told in college that you just had to have some clips, so I made sure I had some clips. And they were right, dang it – I really did need some clips.

    5. OP#2*

      There are several ways, depending on where you are applying for. Generally, you would want to show them writing samples (clips) that match the job. Classwork can be used but only show them your very best, and work on replacing these ASAP with “real” work. If you are a fresh grad or still a student, it’s much easier to get internships, so go for these if you have the option.

      For consumer/entertainment, blogging is a great way to start. Write your own reviews (movies, food, etc) or long-form posts about interesting/important subjects. Find interesting people from your preferred field to interview (e.g. chefs, game devs, artists, writers). There are plenty on the internet who would be more than happy to answer a few questions via email, if you would only take the courage to ask! Contribute to websites as a guest writer. Offer free work for friends (this is one of the cases where you should ignore “artists should never do free work” because you’re not one yet). Be explicit that it’s for building your portfolio so they don’t expect it to be free forever.

      For very technical documentation (like manuals), I think you can keep a list of successful projects you have worked on, and references to verify your work.

  38. Amy*

    OP1, “Mike” sounds like a total jerk, and it sounds like he needs to be told to stop talking about food and diet and weight at work regardless of this specific incident. Ideally his boss would talk to him (I think people often take reprimands more seriously from their boss than from others, and Mike sounds like the kind of person who will need that weight behind the reprimand to take it seriously). However, if his boss won’t, then you talking to him about it is better than no one doing it.

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    On #4, I would like to suggest installing a “sick bay” in the office. This would be a room where all the sick employees could go and work together. This way everyone can still come in and get their jobs done, but without the potential of infecting the healthy workers.

    You might want to stock the sick bay with tissues, cough drops, blankets, water, medicine, etc so that the employees can still rest up and take care of themselves while not leaving the office understaffed. True team players will love this and you’ll instill a feeling of camraderie.

        1. Myrin*

          Mark that username – they’re known for having mostly sarcastic comments like that.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        Even if they aren’t kidding, it’s silly, since offices don’t have hospital grade air filtration systems.

        And anyone who has belonged to an HMO or otherwise gone to one of those big office/hospital combos could tell you that even then, it doesn’t really work. I always end up with a cold after visiting my OB/GYN, despite no sick people in her office, just from (my guess) the door handle to get in and the buttons on the elevator.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        I was kidding, but this is an actual suggestion someone sereiously proposed in a company i worked for previously…Fortunately it was shot down instantly

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Satire isn’t nearly as funny when it could be true :( I feel like it’s becoming a lost art in modern society because so many things are so utterly ridiculous.

        2. Observer*

          Now THAT is scary! Were there any consequences for the person who made that suggestion? Not in a way of punishment. But in a way that their judgement is called into question.

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            Good question and I’m not sure…It was a pretty big company and I didn’t work with her directly, so i don’t know how she was viewed by others.

    1. Rat in the Sugar*

      Isn’t that basically how the Google offices are set up, so you never have to leave? Wouldn’t surprise me if they had a sick bay.

      1. MiaRose*

        They don’t have the sick bay, thankfully (no, I don’t work there, but I know people who do, and I just had to ask someone, given the culture). But I do know that many people in this specific industry who work from home when sick. There is a lot of leeway in terms of not working on location, but there is serious pressure when projects are due. But it also depends on your actual position in the company.

        However, I would not be surprised if one of these companies set up an actual Star Trek sick bay, for fun.

    2. Saucy Minx*

      They’ll need a Port-a-Potty too, so as not to spread their germs in the public restrooms.

  40. Devil's Advocate*

    I’ve worked with vegans before and while I won’t generalize/stereotype them, though I will say that I have found them to be very passionate about their food lifestyle. It does come from a place of thoughtfulness in that they have experienced wellness that comes with healthy eating and a sense of philanthropic joy for advocating for animals. THAT SAID. I agree that commenting on people’s weight or health or lifestyle (without being asked) is rude and inappropriate for a work environment.

    While I agree with Allison’s advice generally, I also think it’s a little presumptuous to assume that the employee isn’t capable of navigating work relationships in a manner that suits them and the office. While it’s certainly wise to cut off the conversation if it’s insulting or change the subject to a work related situation – every person has their own abilities in accomplishing this and feels comfortable for them. So, I’m not sure I agree that the manager should give the employee license to act shortly with others who discuss off-work topics, if that’s not the way the employee typically handles them. Unless it’s interfering with work of course.

  41. Is it Friday Yet?*

    OP#1 I sympathize with you because your employee has put you in an awkward position by bringing this to your attention but then asking you not to say anything to Mike.

  42. CMT*

    I wouldn’t cite the law until it actually goes into effect. It’s going to make you look out of touch if the employer knows that it’s not in effect yet.

  43. HisGirlFriday*

    OP #1, try reframing the conversation: You wouldn’t allow an employee to tell her co-workers, ‘You’re going to hell!’ because those coworkers don’t ascribe to the same belief set that she does. This is no different. Talk like this — judgements based on personal beliefs — has no place in the workplace.

    It’s great that one co-worker wasn’t offended by it, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK. It just means that person is nicer than a lot of us would be.

    1. Kathleen Adams*

      I don’t care what she says, but she was offended by it. I believe that she didn’t want to get him in trouble, but nobody is totally OK with some schmuck who dispenses opinions about personal things that are none of his damn business.

  44. Luke*

    Judge Dredd grade enforcement of sick time doesn’t actually help the organization . I understand why stat-focused managers do it: you can measure the number of sick days an employee uses -and lower is better ,right?

    Except maniacal enforcement of “no sick time” results in lost productivity anyways when one person gets sick and “toughs it out”, because then whatever disease they brought with them from god knows where will then circulate through the department.
    Instead of 9 healthy employees working at 100% and one out for sick time,now there’s 10 employees working at 40% efficiency -who are likely pumped up on various cold meds which may also negatively impact workplace performance. Unfortunately a department of compromised and sick staff at their desks looks better on paper then a healthy one where sick people use their time,so here we are.

  45. JS*

    OP #3 I’d go as far as to say it can only help you, not having one with the majority of employers. A lot of high profile jobs and careers would prefer their employees not to have social media lest any bad light is shed on their company from their employees thoughts/opinions/activities. This wouldn’t disqualify someone if they did, but in an “ideal world” for most companies I feel wish their employees didn’t. Although as a side note my friend went to Harvard and was on their soccer team and they were not allowed to have a Facebook AT ALL. I am unsure about their professors/staff but just an example of places being social media wary when they have public-ish figures.

    Even if you are in PR/Marketing/Social Media the focus and crux would be if you could understand and had experience managing social media accounts not that if you have one personally. I think the only time you would need to have one is if your job was more “talent” focused, news/entertainment/sports anchor or writer and even then the purpose is more to advertise/promote your work and you would only need to mention industry/professional posts rather than anything personal.

    1. Michele*

      I don’t work in a field that requires a media spotlight, and no one really cares as long as you don’t do anything embarrassing. Personally, I am on FB, but it is locked down on the tightest security settings.

    2. Tealeaves*

      Or, be like my co-worker. Create a FB, add a few friends, and post nothing but weekly cat pictures.

      They just said you needed a FB account, they never said what had to be in it.

  46. Jessie the First (or second)*

    Yup. The snark about how the women don’t look like Victoria’s Secret Angels? You have no moral highground to complain about body shaming if, first, you make a dig about how the women look.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Oh hey, my comment transported itself to its own post! Sorry all. This was supposed to be nested somewhere up above. :-)

  47. SheLooksFamiliar*

    Regarding sick/medical absences: I’m almost pathetically grateful now for my wonderful boss, and her compassion. I had to go to the ER recently, which led to ultrasounds and CT scans the very same day. Of course they found something that required a biopsy, which led to more Acts of Medical Care. All told, I was out of the office for about a week. My boss simply asked me what needed attention, and covered for me during that difficult week.

    Get this: She refused to apply my sick time because, technically, I wasn’t sick – I had an emergency. I had my laptop with me and fiddled with work here and there, because I wasn’t 100% unable to work. Still, when she saw me on Lync she insisted I log off and take care of myself. None of this came up in my review in March, either, which was a very good one. Interesting how people view ‘sick time’, isn’t it?

  48. Amber Rose*

    If a vegan does crossfit, which do they talk about first?

    In all seriousness, there’s a certain type of personality that reasons, “I’m doing this cool thing, and now I must spread the word so everyone knows how awesome I am/how awesome this thing is. I am so cool.” And I know, because I have these tendencies also. These people need someone to bring it to their attention, partly for the benefit of those around them, and partly for their own benefit, so they don’t destroy every personal and professional relationship they have.

    It may be awkward at first, but in the long run it’s pretty necessary.

    1. shep*

      “If a vegan does crossfit, which do they talk about first?”

      This cracked me up. :)

      I also admit that, while I certainly don’t open up conversations about my hobbies (in particular, I lift weights and write), if someone asks me, “Hey Shep, what kinds of exercises do you do at the gym?” or “What are your thoughts on the publishing climate?”, I will tell that person TO A FAULT before realizing that sometimes, they’re just trying to go for something slightly deeper than “how’s the weather?” and they don’t need a full dissertation.

      But I would NEVER try to convert someone to my style of working out, or eating, or what have you, or make comments on their bodies or lifestyle choices. Just, ewww. What gives anyone the right, aside from a clueless sense of superiority??

  49. Amber Rose*

    I hit submit too soon. *sigh*

    OP #4: At a previous job, if I used more than my allotted sick days/PTO, or if I called in more than twice in a six month rolling period (so, six months from the last sick day, not from a particular date) I was written up and it went in my file. I caught pneumonia one year after using up my PTO (it grew out of a cold I caught). I was home for two weeks.

    And I got written up. Because I’d missed a lot of work, and within that six months. Do not make people feel the way that felt to me. It felt like being punished for not infecting everyone with a horrible disease, and for having the audacity to catch a cold a couple times in the same year I got pneumonia. Like I wanted to be that sick, just to inconvenience my company. It was a huge betrayal, and one of the contributing factors for me leaving. Don’t do this. It sucks. You won’t keep good employees.

  50. JS*

    Regarding #4, while I agree that judging people by their sick time taken across the board is wrong, I would also wonder thoughts on punishment for “unplanned abscesses”. I don’t think that “unplanned” automatically means sick time used, just any other time off, not given advanced notice. Sick time aside I think this would also be wrong since it doesn’t account for “life happens”.

    I did have a former employer reprimand me though for unplanned sick absences/WFH days and saying I need to give a day in advance warning if I think I am going to be sick. I thought that was silly since 99% of the time people don’t know if they are going to feel sick the next day or if they are sick that night if it will be bad enough to stay home the next day. This was especially weird since they had a “unlimited leave” policy and it was OK for people to regularly take week long vacations every 2 months or others would take off every other Friday in summer but I raised red flags when I got sick 2-3 times a month and needed to work from home those days (being in office wasn’t a requirement for job completion and I still got my work done). Although for more context I had frequent on-site client meetings and frequent cross country travel 1-2 times a month to conventions with lots of people, socializing and hand shaking so the exposure to germs was plenty combined with jetlag, I was frequently getting sick and usually exhausted. I ended up leaving with severance since it wasn’t a good fit (sidenote, I was great at my job and got great feedback from everyone but the senior tilted person on my team who kept complaining about me to my boss but it was at Notorious Online Shopping Giant who is known to be ridiculous to its employees).

    1. Michele*

      I have never understood the thing about warning an employer if you are going to be sick. That seems like a wink and a nod to faking it. There have been times when I have gotten up with my alarm, known I wasn’t feeling well, but didn’t accept that I wasn’t OK to work until I realized that I was too sick to get dressed.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, that’s really bizarre. I mean, I can see them wanting a call right when you wake up feeling awful rather than 5 minutes before your shift starts. I can also see appreciating a courtesy heads-up if you feel lousy the night before and might need to call out, but sickness just doesn’t work on a schedule.

    2. Jadyn*

      I have never planned an abscess and am not about to start now, company policy be damned.


  51. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    RE: Letter #1

    Was anyone else picturing Victor the Vegan from Pearls Before Swine?

  52. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I feel lucky. I’m not small but not OMGfat either, and I often eat candy at work (my favorite, and I can’t keep it in the house, too tempting for everyone, so I eat at my desk).

    No one ever says anything about it.

    1. Michele*

      There is a gaggle of women here who love their fad diets and cleanses. Whenever there is food they do the whole, “I shouldn’t eat this…Maybe if I worked out like you do I could” thing. I don’t like to discuss my weight at all (been overweight my entire life and I am tired of other people making it their issue), so I actively avoid them.

  53. Michele*

    I work at a place with a policy kind of like the Oregon OP. Our company gives unlimited sick time. However, only the first 5 days are truly up for grabs. After that, if it looks like an employee is using sick days to get out of assignments or to pad weekends, we say something. Even if they use more than 5 days, though, we don’t have to say anything. Discretion is used, like the year that I caught the flu twice and one time led to pneumonia. I think I missed 14 days. It was OK because I have a strong work history and I wasn’t trying to milk the system. Sometimes you just have to use discretion.

  54. knitcrazybooknut*

    Now I really really want to watch someone knit a porcupine. No, really. (five seconds later) There are patterns. Ooooo!

  55. Shamy*

    As a nutrition professional, people like Mike frustrate me to no end. We are trained not to offer up nutrition advice to random people because we don’t have the whole picture and could do serious unintentional damage. When people ask me for advice, I often say, “without access to your medical records, I’m afraid I can’t give you helpful advice.” I can say with the utmost assurance that it is not always true that overweight=/=unhealthy and thin=/=healthy. I don’t even police people’s food choices in general. If they aren’t asking for my help, it isn’t my business.

    I hope someone tells Mike it really isn’t ok to comment on people’s bodies because you never know their circumstances. Maybe someone is receiving steroid treatments or the person that lost weight is relapsing into a severe caase of anorexia. We are bombarded with mixed messages about food constantly, I can’t imagine how difficult it is for people with issues surrounding food to navigate that every single day over and over. We have to eat to live. Those people deserve compassion and understanding.

  56. Shamy*

    Ack, brain and fingers didn’t coordinate well, should be: it is not always true that overwight=unhealthy and thin=healthy.

    1. Shamy*

      Le sigh, today is not my day, this should have been a reply to my previous comment.

  57. Fluffer Nutter*

    #1- High placed guy at Old Job who everyone called the “Walking Lawsuit” would comment on the # of calories in your meal and how long you’d have to work out to burn it off. It took me a while to notice he was only doing to women, even pregnant ones. He’d use it to turn the convo to his own athletic endeavors pretty quickly but ick. I finally had enough and gave an anon. note to his boss. He cut it out after that. I think you can’t let this behavior stand OP. Good luck!

    1. Shamy*

      I love the ending to this. Glad the big boss nipped it in the bud. Such gross behavior.

      1. Fluffer Nutter*

        Right? I went to his office after the note and ate a giant handful of snacks in front of him, just to see. He looked uncomfortable and pale (and chastened) but didn’t say anything. Once in a while people get their just desserts. So to speak.

  58. mr mike*

    I think I was let go from my job for being vegan. Upon discovering that I was vegan, I was mocked & ridiculed relentlessly by my coworkers. Our new boss worked out of state & would come by every month to take our department out to lunch & was unaware I was vegan, but every place we went to had a veg option, so I never mentioned it. As a joke, I think, my coworkers decided on a restaurant with NO veg options, which I didn’t realize until we got there. Now I realize they probably wanted me to have a meltdown or refuse to order, but I just ordered the chicken taco salad without the chicken & didn’t think anything more about it.

    Later, I found out that my veganism had become the focus of a big discussion afterward & our new boss informed of my being vegan. He quit taking us out to lunch when he came every month with no explanations. Twelve months after our last lunch, my boss sends us a lunch invitation to Red Robin, & I was happy because they had a veggie burger.

    I should have seen it coming. A few minutes before we were to leave in the company van, I was told HR wanted to see me. Of course I was being laid-off, and the lunch was scheduled so I could clean out my desk & be gone by the time they got back…

    1. Madame X*

      That’s terrible! I’m so sorry you worked with such awful people. I hope that you are in a better place now.

      1. mr mike*

        The only reason people knew I was vegan was that when I started losing weight, a rumor started that I had cancer! All of a sudden I was a PETA nut case, even though I’ve never been a member. I got unsolicited comments like, ‘Tell your PETA buddies I’m going hunting this weekend!’ Or someone would walk by my bench & see a picture of my dog & comment that Ingrid Newkirk says people shouldn’t have pets, or call me a hypocrite for eating a fake bologna sandwich. I think my favorite (?) were the multiple people who told me about someone who was wearing a fake fur coat & was splashed with fake blood(!). I knew they were just trying to bait me into arguing, but my standard answer was always, ‘Huh!’, which I think enraged them even more, since I refused to debate. They sure seemed to know a lot more about PETA than I did…

        1. De Minimis*

          My spouse is vegan. No one would even know about it at her job except that she had to tell them for things like group dinners/parties.

          I think she hates the self-righteous preachy vegans as much as anyone. Really damaging to their cause.

    2. MuseumChick*

      Jeez, your ex-coworkers are pretty big jerks. I’m sorry you had to go through that. At least you’re away from those awful people.

      Side note: I never heard that PETA was against pets. I did hear that at one point at least they had a pretty strong stand against service animals.

    3. emma2*

      What??!! Why on earth would anyone choose being vegan as a reason to hate you? That is so weird.

  59. Corby*

    Where diet and religion are concerned, I’ve learned that you can’t present an argument or give your own reasons why and expect them to change. When you try to do that, you aren’t asking a person to change their mind, you’re asking them to change a part of their identity. (The difference between arguing about little inconsequential things and the sorts of things people consider to be “big things” in life.)

    All you can do is be a resource for people who are already open to that change and maybe are investigating it already on their own. People who are already open to changing that part of who they are.

    So yeah, be a resource not an advocate. One is productive and the other counter-productive and polarizing.

  60. DiscoTechie*

    My social trainwreck of a coworker that has no filter/social common sense had the audacity to say to me when I was eating a donut for the first time in months in the break room, “Now that you’re pregnant you can let it all go!”. I ate that donut while maintaining eye contact and trying not to twitch too much.

  61. MashaKasha*

    I had a newly converted vegan preach at me at a potluck dinner, while I was trying to eat my very non-vegan lunch. I also had a calorie-counting SO for a couple of years, who liked to comment on everyone’s weight and food intake, and who was an omnivore. (I more or less ended up walking away from the situation both times.) I think the two issues are not related. Mike likes to judge people for hurting the animal world by eating animal products. And Mike also likes to judge people for weighing too much by Mike’s standards. Mike just needs to learn that his coworkers are not there for him to loudly judge for any reason, period.

    1. MashaKasha*

      Please ignore the “dinner”/”lunch” confusion in my comment above, it’s been a long day.

  62. mr mike*

    I think the oddest thing that happened while working there, was when I accompanied an engineer as technical support to a company we contracted with a few states away. My engineer told our hosts I was vegan, which made them anxious about the restaurant they wanted to take us out to. They wanted to take us to a fancy Italian restaurant & I said fine because every Italian restaurant has pasta marinara. We get seated at the restaurant & I’m sitting across the table from the big boss. He looks directly at me & says, ‘I feel so guilty!’, then proceeds to order the veal(!). But it gets stranger: The plant we are visiting is in the middle of nowhere with no cafeteria. Our hosts told me I would get a special box lunch because of my dietary restrictions. When lunch came I got… A roast beef sandwich? I thought there was a mix-up with my engineer’s lunch, but he had roast beef, too. I just figured someone forgot to tell the caterer, but my engineer got really upset. I begged him not to say anything to our hosts, but I got an odd feeling in my gut when they asked if I liked my ‘special lunch’. I just said it was fine while avoiding eye contact…

  63. Gadfly*

    So, any vegan who believes veganism is a wonder diet doesn’t know many vegans. Plenty of fat vegans, many of whom have been vegan for years or even decades. Which is why, for the weight obsessed, it can then pretty easily spiral into ever stricter eating (“It wasn’t enough to eliminate meat, so grains? And oils? And fruits? And… And…. And…) until you have orthorexia.

    There simply isn’t a diet out there that has evidence for long term significant weight loss for significant numbers of its participants. Last I looked it was still under 1% at the 5 year mark, and the million dollar prize for finding one that does hasn’t been claimed.

    It is great to eat for nutrition and ethics and whatever, but cutting animal products from your diet in order to drop a pants size is at best a short term solution. Healthy​ and thin are frequently antonyms.

    Although, if you are considering it, I recommend you check out any of the fat vegan Facebook groups. They have the best recipes–after all, some have had decades to collect them…

  64. OP#2*

    Thanks all for the comments! I no longer feel frustrated about not being able to shake sense into A. I doubt she will learn the hard way that being a writer isn’t as romantic as it sounds, since she’s not likely to get hired anywhere in the first place. But when that happens, I’m guilt-free and I can even give myself a “You Tried” star. I’m distancing myself from the topic the next time she brings it up, to avoid conflict. And I don’t really see the point of engaging if she just wants someone to stroke her ego. If she wants to be a gumption cake, I want nothing to do with it anymore.

  65. Emily Anderson*

    Ugh. The blue ribbons for perfect attendance need to go away. I miss 4 days of work because my idiot coworker comes in with the flu, hacking and coughing on everyone for a solid week. She gets kudos for perfect attendance and I get dinged for 4 absences. Managers, stop with this already. Dragging yourself into work to do a half-a$$ed job while spreading illness all over coworkers and clients should NOT be considered a virtue.

  66. Solo*

    OP#4: Yes yes yes stop with the praising people for not using sick days // shaming people who need to use them. I spent six months anxious about the possibility of losing my (current) job because I needed to use all of my annual sick leave (80 hours) last year and had to use almost all of it by _April_ this year. That anxiety wasn’t because of my boss, who encouraged me to take as much time as I needed to recover and offered info about short-term disability if I needed it; it’s because of workplaces that have policies like OP#4 described. In that same six months, I contributed way above my salary level, including presenting on my & my team’s work at conferences and driving a major project to completion. Instead of getting fired (thanks anxiety!brain), I got a promotion and my boss fought for weeks with HR for a major salary adjustment.

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