covering up bruises at work, I compared my interviewer with my dog, and more

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

1. Should I have to cover up my bruises at work?

I’m in my late-20’s, but I look even younger. I’m very physically active in two unorthodox sports: paintball and roller-derby. As such, my arms and legs are frequently covered in bruises in varying states of healing. This wasn’t a problem when I first got hired at my job at the start of the year, on account of it being winter, but now that the weather is warming up, I’m running into problems.

A few weeks ago, I started wearing skirts and short-sleeved blouses to work. One of my managers saw me, and immediately told me to cover up my legs and my arms. He said that my bruises made me look “unprofessional” and that so long as I was in the process of healing, I couldn’t be flashing them around.

I don’t have a front-facing job. 99% of the people I interact with are members of of the company. Even though we have AC and I’m wearing cotton pants and blouses, I’m still sweating up a storm. Furthermore, other people are starting to notice. I used to roll up my sleeves for typing/eating/using my hands, and whenever colleagues saw my bruises, they’d be like, “Oh wow! What happened??” Because I obviously wasn’t ashamed/trying to hide, they felt comfortable asking and I would then be able to explain my hobbies, which always garnered a lot of interest. Now that I’m always covering up, it makes it seem like I’m ashamed of my bruises or trying to hide something. And because my managers are now aware of the fact that I’m “supposed to be covered up,” they harp on me whenever I instinctively roll up my sleeves to work. So now, whenever I catch myself with my sleeves rolled up, I find myself silently cursing and hastily rolling them back down, looking around in paranoia. I have since found out that some of my coworkers now think I’m in an abusive relationship, and they’re scared to approach me and bring it up.

Can my managers mandate that I, and only I, have to cover up in the office? I feel like it brings unwanted attention to me and it really hampers my work. I don’t know if I can do this for the next four months!

Your managers can indeed tell you that you need to cover up if you regularly have lots of visible bruises. (The exception would be if the bruises were due to a medical condition, but that’s not the case here.) And there is some truth to the idea that regularly having lots of bruises can be distracting and alarming to people, especially if they’re large/dark/otherwise significant. There was actually a discussion of this a few years back; you can see in the comments that most people agreed it was reasonable for an employer to want you to cover them as part of general “professional appearance” expectations.

This one of those things where I think you can argue the fairness of it either way, but ultimately your employer does have the right to tell you to cover up. However, you can always try pushing back and seeing where that gets you. You could say something like, “I’m finding that having to keep my arms and legs covered at work means that I’m getting really overheated, even with light fabric. Since I don’t have a public-facing job, I’m hoping I can ask you to reconsider, at least on days when I know I won’t be interacting with anyone outside the company.” They may or may not agree, but it’s a reasonable conversation for you to initiate.

2. I compared my interviewer with my dog

I went into a interview and everything was going well. There was a assessment test on my abilities and the questions were normal.

On the way out, my interviewer walked me out and made a passing comment on the sunny weather. I replied, “Yeah, it’s really lovely out, nice and sunny with a cool breeze” — normal small talk. But she responded with “I prefer the triple digits.” And that’s when I said, “That’s just like my chihuahua.” I wanted to smack myself as soon as I finished the sentence.

Is this something you would count against a candidate? If so, how should I address this faux pas in my thank-you email, or is this something you pretend never happened on both sides?

It wasn’t the smoothest comment, no. But if you were otherwise the strongest candidate, most people aren’t going to take you out of the running for that, unless the position requires an unusually high degree of professional polish and schmoozing skills. (And even then, she may have just found it funny, who knows.)

I wouldn’t bring it up in the thank-you note; that would be calling more attention to it than you should. We all have awkward moments; try not to dwell on it too much.

Read an update to this letter here

3. I was asked to interview with almost no prep time

I interviewed for a position almost a year ago. I got into a pool but wasn’t hired for the position. More recently, I received an email that there may be another opportunity and that they would like me to come in for an informal discussion. I responded to this email quickly, saying that I would be interested and able to schedule a time at their convenience. I did not hear back at all, and after a week I followed up to make sure they had received my response. The HR person apologized that her confirmation had not reached me but that they had me scheduled for an appointment later that day.

I was very stressed out by this but responded promptly that, yes, I would be there for the appointment. I prepared as much as I could in a few hours and went for the appointment. It turned out to be much more than an informal discussion. All my original interviewers were there and a number of interview-type questions were asked. I felt like it went well despite my lack of preparation, and they said I would likely hear back the next week.

The short notice for my “discussion” wasn’t brought up and I’m concerned that only the HR person knew about it. I didn’t want to mention it during our meeting as I didn’t want to get on the HR person’s bad side by “tattling” on her (I had checked my junk mail and everywhere else I could think of and have no record of her contacting me to confirm the appointment). Some colleagues at my current job have told me that if I’m not successful in getting an offer, I should contact one of my interviewers and bring my lack of preparation time to their attention, although I’m unsure how this would help me as the position would have already been filled by that time and it might seem like I was trying to make excuses. What should I do/have done? Should I let it go? Should I not have accepted the short notice appointment?

Yeah, I wouldn’t do that. It feels a little blame-y so it’s not likely to reflect well on you (and even less so if their reasons for not offering you the job wouldn’t be connected with how much preparation time you had or didn’t have), and they’re not likely to offer you a re-do.

If you felt like the interview went well, then I’d take that as a sign that you did end up preparing sufficiently. But it also would have been okay to say, “Hmmm, I never received the email and I’m not available this afternoon. Are there any other days this week that would work?” Of course, if you do that, there’s a risk of hearing that no, this is the last slot they can offer so you need to decide what your risk tolerance is for that.

For what it’s worth, I’d assume that any invitation to meet and talk about a job is an interview — whether it’s called an “informal discussion” or anything else. Employers probably should watch their wording there, but on the candidate side it’s useful not to let that kind of wording lull you into thinking it’ll be anything less than a real interview.

4. How to ask job candidates about future plans

I’m in a medical field. A lot of the new graduates I interview have (or think they have), intentions of going on to graduate school for more advanced positions early in their career. Orientation to our position take six months, sometimes more. The learning curve is steep, and constantly starting over with new employees can put patients at risk. How do I appropriately ask the “five year” question? Should I not even ask?

“How do you see this position fitting into your longer-term career plans?” If someone says they plan to go to grad school, you can ask, “What kind of timeline are you considering for that” and/or “how long do you see yourself staying in this role, assuming you were reasonably happy with it?”

5. Former temp client asking me to work without going through the temp agency

I just finished a two-year gig through a staffing agency. I recently moved out of state to be near family, and left the client I worked at on VERY good terms (I’m talking multiple happy hours, cards, tears, the whole nine). It’s been three months since I left, and the client just asked me if I can freelance for them … without going through the staffing agency. But I signed an employee agreement with them saying I can’t do any work for a client for one year after my job assignment ends. Ugh!

I hate that the client even asked, because it puts me in a sh***y position where I have to choose between burning bridges, paying bills, and getting sued. My question is: Don’t companies understand that temp workers from staffing agencies come with some big strings attached?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes the person who asks you to do more work isn’t the person who handled the contract with the temp agency so they don’t even realize it will be an issue. Sometimes it’s the person who did the contract, but they just forgot that piece of it. And sure, sometimes they remember perfectly well but are being shady and hoping you won’t bring it up.

All you have to do is politely say, “I’d love to freelance for you. The contact with (agency) says that if you want to hire me for additional work within a year after my original assignment ends, it would need to go through them. Is that something that would make sense to explore?”

{ 463 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    Alison, am I having really realistic deja vu or did you post the first question last week at some point? I could have sworn I read this exact question really recently…?

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ah! I try not to print letters that also appeared in the open thread, but I didn’t see this one there. (It’s been about a month since she sent it to me, so I can’t blame her for posting it there instead.)

        1. This Daydreamer*

          I’m really glad you printed this one, though. As I said below, I hate the idea of having to hide bruises at work as if there is something shameful about them.

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            As am I. I don’t always have time to get through all of the open thread discussions!

          2. Tuckerman*

            What really bothers me is that I doubt if a man came in with arm/leg bruises he would be told to cover up. Because men are allowed to be rough and tumble and women are not.
            I do martial arts and used to come into work pretty bruised on my arms and legs (I bruise easily). Never had a problem. Was very open about my hobby. One customer asked about it.

            1. fposte*

              If he came in with leg bruises, it’s unlikely people would notice, because his legs are likely to be covered up already.

            2. Statler von Waldorf*

              I’ve had multiple jobs where I as a man was told to cover up whether or not I had a single bruise on me. Men were expected to be wearing a suit with jacket any time they left their desk. In the same office, women could wear skirts and short sleeves blouses. After working a summer in that office, there’s not enough money in the world to convince me to wear a suit everyday again.

              There are no shortage of sexist double standards in the workplace that target women, but in my experience this isn’t one of them.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, this is a basic expectation of dress for a lot of workers. Whether it’s an appropriate reaction to the situation or not, it’s not that burdensome an expectation just because you’re female. (Though I do feel a bit like limb exposure is one of the rare advantages of being female and I would hate to give it up–it’s just that it’s not unfair to do so.)

                1. Statler von Waldorf*

                  I actually got written up once for not wearing the jacket when I went maybe ten feet from my desk to use the bathroom. I started looking for other work soon afterwards.

        2. starfire13*

          Sorry! I didn’t think you were going to publish it!

          Here’s an update on the situation though: I never really talked hardcore about my hobbies at the office (generally a shy and private person), so my managers never knew about them. I never got many comments during the winter because I was naturally covered up and only ever had my forearms exposed from occasionally rolling up my sleeves. Like I said, when people asked, I was enthusiastic and open about my hobbies and sports. People were interested, but again, I’m not generally a chatty Cathy at work, so only a few would follow up but mostly people would move on.

          Well, I explained my hobbies to my managers, and asked if I could maybe put some pictures on my desk of my teams (again, being a private person, I don’t have pictures or a lot of personal things in my work area) so as to mitigate the situation. They said no, because THEY DON’T WANT ME PROMOTING VIOLENCE. I work in the educational field (but on an administrative level in the headquarters; think creating curriculum, standardised testing and revamping current teaching practices and researching up and coming ones).

          So yeah. I don’t know what to say or do now.

          1. Hrovitnir*

            Whaaaaat. Man, I’m sorry. I did muay thai so if you get bruises they are literally from being punched in the face and that’s kinda awkward.

            If I were you I would (a) have a massively lowered opinion of my managers, but (b) invest in some makeup rather than wearing long sleeves all the time. I think it’s dermablend that is a really high coverage foundation that stays incredibly well. Strippers (among others, probably actors?) use it to cover up tattoos and they’re having to dance and crap all night, so it sounds pretty magical.

            1. dlw*

              I would actually try Judith August killer cover. I have a port wine birthmark and it does an excellent job of covering and stays put better than Dermablend.

            2. LBK*

              I’ve heard people here mention Kat Von D’s tattoo concealer before, that was going to be my recommendation.

            3. Former Retail Manager*

              Can’t speak to Dermablend, but there is another highly pigmented product, Dermacol, that is sold on Amazon for about $12-$15 and it is MAGIC! Tons of YouTube videos on it. Can be used as cover, in your case, or all over makeup for folks with serious skin issues. Great stuff!

          2. This Daydreamer*

            They, um, do realize that paintball isn’t serious violence, right? Ugh. Your managers are a bit stick-in-the-mud, aren’t they? Maybe pointing out that hiding bruises make them a taboo subject and may make it harder for abuse victims to come forward. Or maybe that’s the very subject they’re trying to avoid. I mean, who wants to talk about abuse? Also, would they feel the same way about bruises that come from climbing walls or simple accidents? Ugh. They’re being ridiculous.

            1. starfire13*

              I guess with all the school shootings that happen, they don’t want an office worker to have pictures of herself with a “gun”. (even though in paintball, they’re called markers for that very reason) in case they have principals and other school-level officials or state-level officials visiting.

              I asked about roller-derby and they just said, “No. No promoting violence! Why are you being so aggressive?”

              1. This Daydreamer*

                Right. Ladies don’t do things that can cause marks or can be seen as aggressive. Pppppbbbbbttttt. Sorry, was that an unladylike sound? *sigh*

                1. Amy The Rev*

                  ugh seriously. I bet they’d have the same reaction if she played rugby, too. Sexism is so gross.

              2. Jenny*

                Ugh having been a criminal law intern and worked a case where someone used a pellet gun and paintball gun to make someone believe he had a handgun and rifle, I kind of get it. It really depends on the gear but some stuff does look a lot like military stuff (on purpose).

                1. This Daydreamer*

                  If someone showed up at work with a paintball gun and pretended it was a real gun, I could see how that would affect the workplace.

                2. Jenny*

                  I am just saying that the stuff can look like the real thing. In this case I worked the victim was former military and knew guns and believed it was real. The police said you couldn’t tell the difference until you touched the weapon. Especially in a place with zero tolerance policies, I understand the “no pictures of guns” rule.

                3. M-C*

                  If someone at work showed up with something that looked remotely like a gun, I’d be totally freaked out. If they had pictures of themselves on their desk with the same item, I’d look for another job immediately. And if it was in an educational context, I’d be all over the school board/deans/whatever appropriate to make sure it stopped. I’m sorry, this is absolutely not OK. You can have whatever fun you have on your own time, you cannot bring it to the office openly.

                  You know what this reminds me of? The woman who wanted the whole office to call her boyfriend her master..

              3. AndersonDarling*

                I played roller derby for a year and every time the topic came up, everyone thought about the classic banked track derby from TV. Once I explained that I played flat track and there are rules just like football or rugby, then everyone understood that it was just a sport.

                1. Bostonian*

                  Yeah, I don’t see how roller derby can be considered less acceptable violence than, say, football. I’m sure management wouldn’t consider it promoting violence if she had an action shot of Tom Brady (GOAT!!!) posted in her cube.

                2. many bells down*

                  My friend is a derby girl too, and she’s had to go to work more than once with a huge black eye. She’s pretty short; a lot of the other women’s elbows are at just the right height to whack her in the eye.

                3. Elizabeth West*

                  I had a ton of bruises from figure skating. The amount of people who asked me if I did roller derby was insane. In fact, if I just said “skating,” they assumed it was roller (thanks to the city for promoting the ice rink–NOT). No, I didn’t; I was just clumsy. LOL.

                4. Jennnn*

                  Skated derby for about a year. You end up with some bruises, but you will never get people to believe it, even though they have known forever that you skate.

              4. LBK*

                Yeesh. If that were me and I’d had the presence of mind in the moment I’d have asked if they were okay with people talking about football in the office, which is no less violent.

              5. Wannabe Disney Princess*

                I’m not going to comment on the bruises because I don’t have a strong enough reaction to it either way.

                However…being a survivor of a school shooting (I wasn’t directly in danger, but there are still some things I struggle with) I agree with not having anything that looks like a gun be displayed. That’s a hot-button issue for a reason.

                As for roller-derby…I think they’re being a little picky on that one. I mean, it isn’t anymore violent than football or rugby. Unless, of course, they aren’t allowing anyone to display anything from “violent” sports. If you can’t have your favorite football team paraphernalia displayed then this is just their ridiculous policy.

                1. Sled dog mama*

                  Out of curiosity, would you be ok with the OP having a picture of her paintball team if didn’t include any guns (or what ever they are called)?

                2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Yeah, honestly, I agree that displaying photos with the paintball markers is a bit much. Most of my knowledge of paintball is of some players I’m vaguely acquainted with who like to play it very tactical, so I tend to think of it as being very pseudo-military. Don’t know if that’s accurate, but that’s my feeling.

                  The roller derby part on the other hand is absurd.

                3. Wannabe Disney Princess*

                  @Sled Dog mama Oh, yeah. That wouldn’t bother me at all. It’s a team. I get that it’s a hobby outside work. For example, I live in an area where hunting is a thing and have several coworkers who partake. A picture with their hunting buddies in camo? A-Okay. A picture with their hunting buddies in camo holding rifles? No thank you.

                4. M-C*

                  I do agree that there should not be double standards about how football is OK because boys will be boys, at the same time as the OP is being chastised for unfeminine roller derby. It’s more than OK with me to remove open violence from educational contexts, but not on a sexist basis.

            2. Jessesgirl72*

              This is education, where they expel 6 year olds for having a piece of bread they have nibbled into the shape of a gun.

              This is definitely a case of know your industry. :(

              Although, the only Roller Derby player I know is a teacher for her real job. I don’t know what she does about bruises in front of a classroom of kids.

              1. FiveWheels*

                I hope she says “I’ve got bruises from playing a sport that I love! It’s great to have a hobby you really love and if anyone tries to tell you girls and women can’t enjoy physical challenge and competition, they’re wrong. Also my job is to teach you, not to look delicate”

              2. MHR*

                I’ve worked as a substitute teacher in the past and had to dicipline children before for doing the exact same thing. When I hear things reported as “oh Billy took a bite and it looked like a gun and they expelled him” I always think of my experience which was always more like “Billy bit the sandwich in to a gun and went around the table pretending to shoot people in the head while yelling “boom! Headshot! and this was the second time we had to tell him to stop (first was with a centimeter cube gun during math) since it was upsetting the other kids” This was a kindergartner by the way who during writing time would always write about playing COD Zombies with his dad. Once something hits the media it will always be so one sided because the school can’t and won’t ever tell what actually happened.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  …. I’m really torn between nodding in total agreement with your statement about things getting blown out of proportion, but also being speechlessly appalled at that kid’s behavior. Yikes!

                2. Rae*

                  This times a million. I worked with college kids and I can’t tell you how many times “Evil college against (insert minority here)” was 99.9% of the time an tired college RA who requested someone stop dancing in the halls and blaring music at 2am during finals week. One girl got so far as to file a complaint with the ACLU claiming her culture was being discriminated against…they laughed her off the phone but that was back in the early 2000’s, and I’me betting today it would be given national attention.

            3. Czhorat*

              Paintball is play-acting gun violence and, arguably, glorifying it. I have zero issue in not wanting photos and artifacts from that in a workplace.

              Roller-derby is, in my understanding, more like football in which the violence is incidental to the sport. It isn’t about hurting people or pretending to hurt people, though there are inevitable injuries.

              1. LBK*

                I agree, it seems like a stretch to me to try to distance paintball from gun violence. Whether you use a euphemism like a “marker” or not, the point is to shoot other people. I’d be a little more on board with that argument for something like laser tag where you’re not actually firing a projectile.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Now I’m really curious how something like boffer LARP or fencing would go over!

                2. Turkletina*

                  I fence. My right arm (and thigh, but that’s less visible) are almost always covered in bruises. I’ve never considered it unprofessional, and no one has ever commented on it beyond the occasional “What happened to your arm?”. Photos of fencing would be totally acceptable anywhere I’ve ever worked; I think people generally understand there’s no actual stabbing involved.

                  It sounds like the OP’s bruises can be more like welts, which isn’t something I can speak to from personal experience.

                3. Not Rebee*

                  I would assume fencing is fine because it looks so removed from actual sword fighting (and who actually does actual swordfighting with sharp blades these days?). While competition foils/epees/sabres can look scarier (because they have the button tip instead of the rubber caps), they still in no way look like something that can actually hurt you (I guess if you manage to break yours it could but..). And with fencers having such specific gear, it’s pretty obvious that no one is using a real weapon.
                  Of course, fencing is also stereotypically high class and roller derby and paintball are not as easily associated with rich people.
                  Personally, I look like someone punched me on the mouth right now because I ride horses and yesterday a horse headbutted me. All sports can be bruise-inducing. I think paintball is tricky because of how much it simulates real life tactical military exercises, but I would consider target shooting (archery as well!) or hunting equally gauche.

                4. VintageLydia*

                  Well, there is Historical European Martial Arts which resembles actual sword fighting more than sport fencing does. We don’t fight with sharps, though there are some traditions that do (with particular rules with safety in mind, obviously) but it’s definitely far more physical and violent than sport fencing… which is already pretty physical and results in lots of bruises on its own. I just… don’t see people being up in arms with a picture of someone in full kit with their swords, though, whether it’s sport fencing or HEMA.

                5. LBK*

                  I think fencing and other forms of faux swordplay are far enough removed from the ways modern violence more frequently occurs in the US that the parallel isn’t as jarring; the real-to-pretend ratio is much lower for sword violence than it is for gun violence (and I know the real-to-pretend or at least violent-to-hobbyist ratio is still pretty low for gun violence, but it’s high enough to make people uncomfortable).

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I was sure I remembered reading about something where a male teacher was fired because of his side job doing ultimate fighting. Then I googled it and realized I was remembering the movie Redbelt (which is excellent!).

                2. FiveWheels*

                  In my ultra conservative law firm, an attorney came to work with a black eye from boxing. The only comment was friendly ribbing to the effect that if he had a black eye, he can’t be that good.

                  There is a an annual attorney boxing tournament. There’s an annual rugby match between graduates of different colleges. and nobody has ever thought resulting bruises were unprofessional.

                  If anything, sports bruises would be the opposite – being a sportsperson helps imply the sort of “Healthy mind in healthy body” nonsense that some people lap up.

          3. hbc*

            Ugh, it sounds like they actively disapprove of your hobbies. I wonder where they draw the line–rugby, American football, soccer/football? Is it unacceptable if you have bruises from sparring but okay if you got it from a class focused on women’s self-defense? Are you cool to come in with a black eye from taking a tennis ball to the face, but not an elbow?

            In your position, I’d probably go with some half-measures. Flesh-colored bandages for the goose-eggs and other attention-grabbing stuff, loose short-sleeves to the elbow most of the time, and lying my butt off about the other random bruises. “Oh, I bumped into something.” “I have no idea, I bruise so easily.” I’d also request a desk fan or plug in one of those mini USB fans.

            1. Koko*

              Your suggestion at the end is actually me. I’m super pale so I show bruises like they’re going out of style, and I’m super clumsy. I’m always opening a car door into my face, taking a corner too tightly and grazing it with my hip, tripping over things…even just the static holds I do in weightlifting sometimes bruise me from the force of the weight against me. Honestly I usually don’t even remember what caused a given bruise and just assume it was clumsiness-related when I see a new one pop up. I guess it’s lucky that they appear randomly all over my body so most of the time the odds are it’s on a thigh or torso or under my hair or somewhere else that isn’t very visible.

              1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

                Same! Just the other day I wiped out in the shower and ended up with a nasty purple bruise on my hip. That was easy to cover, of course, but when I whack my shin into the coffee table for the umpteenth time this month, that is not so much.

                I just had one heal from tripping over a rock. Oh, and trail running season is here, so that’s going to result in some serious trail rash, I am sure!

                1. Liet-Kynes*

                  A friend of mine who lives in Tucson just wiped out into a cholla, which is basically an adorable little cactus that looks like a bunch of green churros connected end-to-end, while running. She posted a picture of herself flipping the camera the bird while festooned with a dozen little spiky churros. Apparently the ER spent two hours pulling out all the spines. *shudder*

              2. Amber T*

                There is never a time where there isn’t a bruise somewhere on my arms or legs. Like you, I’m super clumsy. I also bruise super easily and my skin stays discolored for a long time (I had a paintball “bruise” on my thigh for 18 months… the pain of the bruise disappeared in regular time but my skin was discolored like a bruise for a long time. I asked my doctor about it and she just shrugged.).

                I think it’s pretty ridiculous that you need to cover up your bruises, especially if it’s affecting your ability to work. If you keep them in the open, and probably answer about 1000 questions of “where’s that from?” with the same answer, people will eventually ignore them.

                (By the way, arnica gel works wonders on bruises, both in getting rid of the pain and reducing the time your skin is discolored.)

              3. many bells down*

                I feel you. I always have a bruise on my mid-thigh, because I keep walking into the footboard of my bed. The bed I’ve had for 15 years. And I once walked face-first into an open door, giving myself a black eye and a vertical bruise down my face.

            2. Gadfly*

              There are sunblock/anti-uv sleeves you can get that are like thick nylons that are form fitting and not as hot as long sleeves

          4. Jb*

            I’m more than a bit surprised that their first thought was to chastise you rather than assume you were the victim of domestic violence. Had your bruises been from that, their response would have been absolutely unconscionable. Can you imagine the AAM letter at the very least?

            1. This Daydreamer*

              Eep! “Hi, my husband got really angry at me because he was drunk and I forgot to make his dinner early because he had a slightly short day and now I’m in trouble because he grabbed my arm by accident when he was mad and left a bruise and now I’m on a PIP for being unprofessional. If my husband finds out someone else saw the bruise he’s going to blow a gasket! How do I fix this?” Any boss who punishes someone for being abused is really making things worse.

              1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

                You hire a lawyer, that’s how! (Though if you aren’t in the process of actively leaving the bad relationship I’m not exactly sure how that works.) *IANAL

                1. This Daydreamer*

                  That’s not an option for a lot of people. I’m in a pretty good spot but I’d have a hard time affording an attorney. My advice would be to contact people who work with people dealing with abuse

            2. LBK*

              My only guess is that they figured since she was openly displaying them, they weren’t from a nefarious source? Maybe this is a bad assumption but I would think most people would more actively try to hide bruises from physical abuse.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Then she would presumably explain that and it would be handled differently. There are lots of things where it’s reasonable for employers to have rules, but there are exceptions made for people with medical conditions (for example, the type of footwear that’s required).

                1. fposte*

                  And it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t ask her to cover up even then–I’m thinking of sutured incisions and open wounds, which are medical as all get out but something workplaces might well ask you to cover up.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  They very well could ask her to cover up wounds. At a restaurant where I worked, one of the employees had a scooter accident and showed up with some seriously gross road rash on her face, arms, and hands. The boss sent her home until it was less gruesome (trust me; it was). I think she could have put her in the back doing prep or something, but the prep counter was visible from the dining room where the cashier line formed; she didn’t want the employee’s condition to put customers off their food.

                3. Not Rebee*

                  fposte, I think the difference there is that surgical incisions etc (while still healing) trigger the gore factor. Not everyone is good with blood, or incisions. Personally, I wouldn’t mind if they were displayed, but they would turn my stomach when I saw them. Bruises don’t trigger that same thing – there’s no blood openly on display, and other than going “yikes” when you see a nasty one for the most part there’s no immediate turn-off when you see one (especially because with bruises you have no idea how the person got them).

                4. fposte*

                  @Not Rebec–I think we’ve got people even posting here who are triggered by bruises, actually.

                  However, my point is that it’s not simply a medical/non-medical binary.

                5. Avocado Toast*

                  When things like this come up, I always wonder… If it’s a reasonable accommodation to make considering a medical condition, then it is obviously not something that interferes with the regular workflow in the office. Wouldn’t it, therefore, be a reasonable accommodation to just *generally* make? 10 years since graduation and I still struggle with these arbitrary rules about what is and isn’t professional, and what kind of mitigating factors are considered…

                  On the topic of bruises, why are they considered eyesores if and only if they are not qualified by some medical condition (“I’m anemic,” “I am on warfarin,” etc.)? And why is it anybody’s *business* how the bruises were acquired? You mentioned footwear so I cannot help but think back to the letter about the interns petitioning to wear sneakers. I distinctly remember you making the argument that the interns were out of line for observing (and trying to exploit) that “so-and-so wears sneakers in violation of the dress code”, on the basis that there *could* be a medical issue and it was *not* their place to police that. So why is it suddenly anybody’s place to be policing which hematomas are unprofessional?

            3. curmudgeon*

              yeah, I actually had my Pastor ask me to chat with him alone when he saw my bruising from tae kwon do class. he wants to make sure that it wasn’t abuse from anyone & that I was safe.
              Never did anyone at work ask anything about bruises they saw.Guess they thought I was clumsy (okay, I am clumsy) as they didn’t know I studied martial arts..

              1. Badmin*

                I’ve thought of this and I don’t know what I would do if I noticed on a coworker. The pastor seems well equipped to have that kind of discussion and provide resources. For a coworker there is the risk you are wrong about the source of the bruises, as well as relationship with coworker and whether or not it would be appropriate to bring it up? Personally if I were concerned and didn’t know the coworker I would probably ask someone who was close to the coworker so they could bring it up.

          5. FiveWheels*

            I can understand (though don’t agree) that they think paintball promotes violence. But how in the world does roller derby?

            Also, does anyone else in your office engage in “violent” sports? I’m thinking boxing shooting, martial arts, fencing, anything like that? If so, are they allowed photos?

            The whole thing smells of sexism to me, that it’s somehow unseemly for a woman to play a rough sport. Not saying that’s the issue, but it’s the impression I got.

            1. RVA Cat*

              Yes I’m getting that vibe too. It’s possible they might look askance at a male employee who plays rugby but that could be more “dumb jock” stereotypes.

              Unfortunately this sounds like one of those “cultural fit” situations where they seem to be policing what you do on your off time, or at least making you jump through a lot of hoops about it. It may be time to think about whether that’s worthwhile long-term.

            2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

              This was my thought as well. Most of the women I know who are/were active in roller derby are in highly professional fields in their “day” jobs, so to me this is a lot of bunk.

              1. FiveWheels*

                And at least ever I live, roller derby is about 95% female. Of the demographics are the same in OP’s area it adds a whole new level of skeeviness.

                1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

                  Yeah, our local leagues are all-female with (some) male refs. It’s really popular here!

            3. This Daydreamer*

              Roller derby can be pretty heavily rough and tumble. Locally, we had a roller derby team host a fundraiser for my shelter (THANK YOU!!!) but it was hard to come up with a name for the event that didn’t have a violent edge to it. They come up with something, but you can’t really see it as a non-contact sport. They do roll like girls, after all.

            4. Alton*

              I think roller derby is often stereotyped as an aggressive sport where women rough each other up a lot and there’s exaggerated rivalry, a little like pro wrestling. It *can* be a rough sport sometimes, if only because skating around fast can result in spills, and a lot of players use nicknames that play on the tough image. But these stereotypes are unfair and definitely sexist. Women are judged a lot more harshly for than men for doing activities like this, and I think part of why roller derby is stereotyped in the first place is because women engaging in rough sports is seen as an anomaly.

              1. FiveWheels*

                One of the big appeals in my area is that it’s the only organised sport in which women are allowed full contact. Technically hockey here is non checking (in reality, it is pretty physical).

                It’s ridiculous, in 2017, that men playing hockey and rugby is fine but women playing roller derby or rugby needs some kind of explanation.

            5. Rat in the Sugar*

              The depictions of roller derby that I’ve seen in pop culture and whatnot showed it as a pretty fast and violent sport with lots of shoving and punching and spectacular pile-up crashes of skaters. I have never seen an actual roller derby so I have no idea whether that resembles reality or OP’s particular league at all but I’m not surprised that was their first impression.
              Maybe if OP compares it to hockey, which has also got a reputation for violence but depiction of which I seriously doubt would be banned in the office, the managers will see that they’re being unreasonable in not allowing any discussion or pictures at all on top of hiding the bruises?

              1. DerbyGirl*

                The vast majority of derby leagues worldwide play under the WFTDA ruleset, which is full-contact, but not violent, per say. You can, for example, hip check or shoulder check someone, but you can’t elbow, knee, or forearm them. The point is the move them out of your way, not to hurt them.

                Unfortunately, for those of use who bruise easily, it can look a lot worse than it is.

                1. Other Derby Girl*

                  Yes. There is no punching or shoving. Doing so is a great way to get ejected. I’ve been sent flying quite a bit, but that is usually due to a well-placed hip.

              2. Chalupa Batman*

                The matches I’ve been to have been fast paced and active, but not violent. A little bumping, but nothing I would call exceptionally aggressive. The derby players I know get most of their more spectacular bruises from contact with the floor, not other players.

              3. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

                Admittedly all I know about Roller Derby is what I once saw on a CSI episode; where the girls beat the crap out of one another and it ended up with one of them getting murdered. Though the murder was off the track in nature.

                I say that because I agree there is likely a lack of understanding what roller derby is if all you’ve been exposed to is what is on TV programming and movies and not the actual sport itself.

            6. Southern Ladybug*

              Yeah. I can see why in an educational setting the paintball thing (if the photos have guns in them) would be discouraged. But photos of the roller derby team shouldn’t be an issue. If they have any photos at all or the school/school district promotes any football team, they’ve completely lost the high ground in saying you can’t promote a sport that could be considered violent by some.

              And making you cover up your bruises is BS.

            7. blushingflower*

              I don’t think that roller derby promotes violence, per se, but I do think it is violent. Just like American football or hockey.

              I don’t find roller derby unseemly because it’s women, I find it unseemly because it’s a sport in which you deliberately hit other people in order to keep them from scoring more points.

              HOWEVER, I wouldn’t stop my hypothetical employee from displaying pictures of their roller derby or rugby or hockey or whatever team just because I dislike the sport.

              1. blushingflower*

                (Also I work in an education-adjacent field and have a coworker who does competitive pole dancing and has related pictures up in her office, so the thought that roller derby would be inappropriate to the workplace is hilarious to me)

            8. paul*

              The bruise thing has happened to me, so I don’t immediately go to sexism for that…but roller derby not being ok? Or paintball? I’d be shocked if that school felt that way about football or wrestling

          6. dr_silverware*

            Ugh. That stuff is really BS-y and over the line. I commented in the open thread that uncovered and unhealed injuries can gross people out, so it’s not the worst thing for them to ask you bandage or cover the bad bruises…but this is beyond reasonable.

            Education is notorious for butting into people’s personal lives, and I think you may be running into that culture. Even as a non-student-facing office worker. So I think you can either comply–cover up your bruises but say frankly when people ask, “I’m wearing long sleeves because I play a lot of roller derby and paintball, so I always have nasty-looking bruises.” Or you can escalate, maybe by talking about the consequences of this goofiness with your managers and with HR if they double down.

            Either way, I think your relationship with this office is probably coming to a close. You might be stewing about this for a long time, or conversely, there’s risk in escalation. Definitely keep your resume brushed up and your eye out for jobs, just so you know what options you have.

          7. textbookaquarian*

            Wow. I have a medical condition that causes easy bruising and quite often they show up on impact points (hands, forearms, shins, etc). Not once I have been told to cover myself because I look unprofessional though. As others have said, for a manager to say that without asking about the circumstances first is rather callous.

            The whole situation would raise a red flag for me. I understand they may be within their rights here, but management’s attitude seems ridiculous and would make me nervous about their reaction to more important situations in the future.

          8. Cassandra*

            A possible mitigation, at least for the arms: search for “Sleevey Wonders” and see if they’d work under your usual workwear. The mesh or lace ones aren’t as hot as (for example) cardigans or other jackets. They’re pricey, but I like mine (and have a couple in my office for when I wear a sleeveless dress — OK as casual wear in my workplace — and forget that I have an important meeting or something).

            Sizing note on these: if you’re busty (I’d say DD cup or larger), size up. WAY up.

          9. Derby Girl*

            Whut. I play derby. I have a picture of my team on my desk. My office knows why I show up bruised and in knee braces. A colleague who plays softball showed up with a black eye and stitches after being hit. It’s a real sport and rough, but not violent. Anyone who thinks otherwise is ill-informed.

          10. Liz2*

            Given the tight culture you are in now, I can only say to get the breeziest coulottes, lightest shell cami tops and lightest loosest cardigans. When I worked in places that weren’t cool with bare arms, my cardigan would disappear the moment I left the building. I actually tend to get cold in AC, but it’s still blazing hot outside!

          11. Snatches & Cleans*

            I’m also in education, K12. I’m an Olympic style weightlifter. Occasionally I goof up and wack myself in the neck with the barbell (right on the Adam’s apple) and I get a nice bruise. Or, heavy front squats will leave bruises on my delts. My boss asked me last time if I was “okay at home?” I laughed and explained what I do for fun. They are all fascinated/horrified, but they no longer question the bruises. They still can’t believe the callouses on my hands though.

          12. Annie*

            I have a fan at my desk because I get warm easily (our AC doesn’t work too well). You can wear the long sleeves and put the fan on.

            Roller derby sounds cool!!!

          13. Anonymoose*

            Woooooow. Your management is straight stupid. Also, I wonder if their thoughts about your ‘violent pastime’ will in any way make them judge you and your work. Hmm. Jerks.

  2. Gaia*

    Oh man, OP #2, I’ve been there. So much. My dog was a huge part of my life and comparisons just came out of my mouth at the most awkward times. I feel for you. But you have to just roll your eyes at yourself, laugh and move on. If you were a good candidate before, a decent employer won’t hold this against you (unless, as Alison said, this is a position that requires an unusually high level of poise in speech at all times)

    1. Em*

      Personally, not only would I not hold it against someone — it probably wouldn’t even register with me as an odd or awkward thing to say. Yesterday I was watching my kid play football, and the players on the sidelines were running into each other to try to make each other fall down, and I commented that they were just like young bulls. It’s not that unusual to compare people to animals, and the way you did wasn’t insulting because there’s noting insulting about liking the heat.

      1. Mookie*

        I agree that it would be weird to automatically take that kind of light, chatty remark personally, but it does depend a little on how it was delivered, in what tone, in what context (cf the “whore” comment from earlier this year). Strangers (and potential bosses) might think it indicates a person who is nervous or socially awkward, but it really shouldn’t affect somebody’s candidacy. And bringing it up after the fact is totally unnecessary, and could lead the interviewer to believe that this person doesn’t quite know what is socially permissible and what isn’t.

        And, as you and Gaia say, it mostly just sounds like the applicant has got her dog on the brain. I know when I first got pet rats I’d find myself clicking my tongue at people to get their attention, and occasionally yelling “eeh!” at them (them being co-workers, who knew me well enough to accept my apologies and move on, amused but not disturbed).

        1. PsychDoc*

          Yay for rat babies! I have had let rate and they are the greatest pets. I always love giving them treats like watermelon or raspberries. Thank you for bringing up happy memories. Yay ratlings!

      2. LBK*

        Agreed, I’m not even sure I understand what’s awkward about this comment, unless you’re drawing some kind of connection to using “dog” as an insult to call someone ugly? I don’t think what the OP said is inherently insulting.

      3. k*

        The comment wouldn’t even register with me either. I am biased though, because I have dogs that are a huge part of my life and often on my mind, so I have zero negative associated with being compared to a dog. But unless the person has some weird aversion to dogs, I doubt that the comment made a lasting impact.

      4. Elizabeth H.*

        Same. I totally understand the OP is embarrassed (I would probably be too) but I don’t think I would really notice if somebody said this, I might if it was part of a pattern of awkwardness in speech but not otherwise.

      5. Chalupa Batman*

        I wouldn’t even think to assume OP was comparing me to her dog in any insulting way, just commenting that some other “person” in her life shared my preference. Disclaimer-I adore my pups, once the door was open for dog talk, OP would not have escaped without seeing photos of my squishies.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      I’d have laughed and agreed, and told you about the lizard in dog’s clothing I live with!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      What Gaia said.

      If you used a comparison to your grandchild, it would have been on a similar par. You are talking about a little being who you love and care about, so of course, this being is at the front of your thinking.

      You know, OP, if we allow other people’s words to have double and triple meaning, we will probably find those extra meanings. People who work at their jobs and work at their relationships in life realize that not every sentence is a figurative dagger being thrown at them. It’s just not. Decide to let this be a filter for you. Do you really want to work with someone who tears apart your every sentence looking for some reference to a personal insult?

      Going forward, build a plan. I know I mention my dog too much to other people. So I recently made it a new habit to immediately say, “Whoops, I wasn’t trying to liken you to my dog. You said something that reminded me of him and I started chuckling inside.” That immediate expression of regret seems to help make me more aware of what I am saying and in what context I am saying it.

    4. Emily*

      Yeah, I think that this is probably a much bigger deal to OP #2 than it is to the interviewer. It’s very easy (at least for me, and probably OP #2 as well) to dwell on something awkward that I’ve said or done and worry that other people are judging me for it. But when other people are awkward around me? Unless they’ve done something incredibly rude or are always a huge weirdo, I tend to forget about it pretty quickly.

      And for what it’s worth, I’m not even sure that your chihuahua comment would register with me as weird.

    5. OP #2*

      Thanks for the prospective, I’m just use to being around co-workers that already know that my dogs are a huge part of my life, as in they eat better, see the doctor more, and I basically purchased my house because the location had a great walking trail for them nearby. It’s just when I’m around new people who aren’t aware of this, I try to limit my dogs comments but occasionally I slip and cringe when I look back at out of place the remark was.

      I received Allison’s email at the same time they sent me a offer, and have a appt. to go over employment terms with them tomorrow. So my interviewer is either a dog lover too, or she decided to just let it go.

    6. Anonymoose*

      My first thought was ‘oh, mine too!’ because seriously, that dog looooooves her some summer time. I can’t imagine a sane person taking offense to it.

  3. MadGrad*

    For #1, might it make sense to bring up the rumours you’ve heard about you being in an abusive situation? Something like that might be evidence to prove that this rule is having the opposite of the intended effect. If you’re worried about being scolded for letting others see, you can also point to washing hands in the bathroom as a logical time when you roll up your sleeves in the possible presence of others.

    1. Gen*

      I would bring it up, but I’d also be prepared for the manager to suggest the hobby be the activity that changes rather than the dress code. I had a problem with blood thinners that led people to think I was in an abusive relationship, and once the rumours got ground it’s been nearly impossible to shake them. Explanations are still seen as ‘excuses’. The managers might think that not having bruises is the only acceptable option and not care about what this has done to the OPs reputation

      1. This Daydreamer*

        In my experience, there are rumors about everything in a workplace. Should someone avoid wearing a new engagement ring or showing a baby bump? Or going to lunch with a colleague? Or just being in a bad mood that you try to hide but can’t quite manage?

      2. FiveWheels*

        If people start rumours because a colleague has a completely normal hobby that has completely normal side effects, the problem isn’t the hobby.

        If someone in my office ran a marathon and was walking like a cowboy for a few days afterward, and I started rumours of some kind of crime, the problem wouldn’t be with the marathon runner.

      3. Mike C.*

        The people are distracting themselves, that’s not on the OP that she works with a bunch of gossips.

      4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Well, reading the letter, it sounds like covering up the bruises is what’s causing all the distraction, rather than the bruises themselves!

        1. k*

          That was my take. Covering them makes it seem like she’s ashamed of them, so instead of asking about it people are making their own assumptions as to the cause. If she wasn’t covering them it’s likely that someone might ask about it, and she could just tell them the cause and be done with it.

  4. Kate the Little Teapot*

    OP #1 – I realize this is a huge hassle, but have you considered using a color correction palette and foundation to cover your bruises? Makeup may not completely hide them, but it may tone them down so they look more acceptable at work. I don’t think links are allowed in the comments here but if you google “how to cover a bruise with makeup,” you’ll get some good articles. The people at Sephora or whatever makeup store you go to in order to get the palette may be able to give you additional advice, too. Also, Arnica blemish creme and Vitamin C and cold packs when you first get the injury all make bruises heal quicker, you could certainly experiment with those (this is again easily searchable).

    1. LN*

      This is what I was gonna say. It doesn’t even have to be a hassle. Grab a color corrector that’s meant for dark under-eye circles, they’re usually orange-ish, and once you layer some concealer, foundation, or a light BB cream over that, it’ll make bruises all but disappear. I run very hot, so there’s no way I’d be able to dress to cover up bruises either – I totally sympathize with this issue, but you’re gonna have to figure out some middle ground, it sounds like. Makeup is probably the best solution. I have like, a $3 Nyx color corrector from Amazon and some BB cream I picked up on clearance at the drug store to match my skin tone, and I can cover up any kind of dark purple-ish or blue-ish blemish with no issues.

      1. FiveWheels*

        As someone who never wears makeup, the idea of using concealer and foundation and blending is fairly horrifying. I think the OP said she doesn’t wear makeup either. Even if I was a makeup expert, I wouldn’t be happy about having to use it to hide injuries.

        1. LN*

          I mean, you don’t have to be happy about it, but I think it’s a reasonable standard of professionalism not to have huge distracting bruises at work. I was just throwing it out there as a possible solution, if the OP finds it too horrifying to contemplate, that’s fine. Just wanted to mention it’s not necessarily difficult or expensive to cover up bruises with makeup if you want to go that route.

    2. lokilaufeysanon*

      There are actually brands out there that specifically are made to cover tattoos, so it may not even need to get into the hassle of having to use colour correcting palettes and foundation.

      1. mreasy*

        It’s very easy with drugstore stuff. I had a running accident the week before a friend’s wedding that I was in (wearing a knee-length dress) – an under-eye stick concealer plus a BB cream made my giant shin bruise disappear in moments. Glad I learned that before my own wedding because I am clumsy af!

      2. Alton*

        It might also be easier if you’re not super concerned with perfection.

        I use tiny amounts of drugstore concealer on pimples and healing acne scars, but I know it doesn’t make it invisible. Just minimizes it. If I was committed to making my skin look clear and flawless, then that would involve a more complicated makeup regime and probably higher-quality products.

        It sucks to feel *obligated* to do this if you don’t want to, though.

    3. seejay*

      I played paintball at an amateur competitive level for five years and trust me when I say that good luck in covering some of those bruises with anything except professional Hollywood level makeup skills. :/ Depending on what happened on the field, I’d wind up with bruises and welts up to 6″ in diameter and ranging from yellow to deep purple, sometimes almost black. And that’s not even getting into when I’d get injured (I once took a paintball to the mouth when I wasn’t wearing full face coverage).

      For the most part, no one noticed or cared that I had bruises and like the LW, I was pretty upfront about where they came from and the sport I was into so no one was wondering if I was in an abusive relationship, but I’d be pretty miffed if someone was spreading rumours and also pushing me to cover them up like it was something to hide, especially if I wasn’t in a customer facing position. Even as it is, I sometimes have to come into work with cuts and scrapes from bike accidents and no one tells me to cover them up.

      1. caryatis*

        Yeah, I don’t understand the “bruises are unprofessional” opinion. If anything, I would respect someone MORE for being physically active, rather than sedentary like all too many people. And no, that person isn’t going to have time to do an extra makeup routine every day–I don’t even put makeup on my face every day.

        1. sunny-dee*

          The unprofessional is that it’s distracting. Probably the closest comparison is something like dying your hair green if you’re a lawyer or accountant. There is nothing inherently wrong with dying your hair quirky colors, but in more conservative fields, anything *not related to your work* is unprofessional because it’s a distraction.

          I doubt the OP is in a really conservative field, but coming in covered in bruises routinely is abnormal enough to be distracting.

          (OT, but true, when my parents were moving once, my mom was stacking boxes and moving stuff around in the kitchen, and she kind of swung up and hit the side of her face on the door and gave herself a black eye. One of the ladies at the place she worked asked her about it the next day, and when my mom said she hit it on a door, the lady started casually bringing up women’s shelters in the area.)

        2. Elizabeth H.*

          I agree it’s not really fair, but I think that visible signs of serious injury (or that look like signs of injury) are intrinsically alarming to people – it’s like a biological reaction to the sight of pain or damage to the human body. So I think that it isn’t crazy to think that visible bruises or other injuries detract from the most “polished” appearance. If it were a workplace with incredibly casual dress, like where people could wear shorts and hoodies or whatever, then I think it would seem more unreasonable for the OP to be required to cover bruises. But it sounds like they want a more polished appearance for their employees overall.

        3. aebhel*

          Yeah, I’m kind of surprised at that. I always have visible bruises on my legs–I’m not even particularly active, I’m just pale and clumsy–but I don’t see how bruises are any more unprofessional than varicose veins or birthmarks or large, visible moles. Sure, people will notice them and some people are weirded out by them, but I think comparing them to tattoos or oddly-colored hair is just bizarre.

    4. Excel Slayer*

      Depending on the OPs makeup skills, it may also be tricky to get the makeup to stay all day given it’s on the arms and legs (as well as, say, the time taken to cover any bruises).

      OP, if you want to go down this route I’d recommend a theatre-quality cream-based makeup or heavier, and setting it with some good powder.

      Although, if your dress code allows it, maybe some maxi skirts would be cooler than trousers?

    5. Blue*

      This sounds like a much more labor-intensive solution. Given that, it’s definitely not an option I would seriously consider, and I don’t have nearly as many bruises as OP (just the unfortunate combo of easily marked skin and extreme clumsiness). OP, even if there isn’t a good solution for the bruise issue, you may want to continue mentioning your hobbies to coworkers. Even though the situation sucks for you, reminding people of your activities might help mitigate some of the conclusions people are otherwise jumping to.

      1. msmorlowe*

        I would think you wouldn’t have to cover every bruise, only the largest and most noticeable. And while it will take extra time, I imagine that it could be a palatable solution for both LW and the company, which might make it worth it.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah, if the company has made it clear that they’re not okay with her displaying them openly, she might just have to consider the extra time and money to cover them up part of the cost of her hobby. It’s annoying but sometimes you have to work your personal life around your work life.

    6. PsychDoc*

      I was applying thinking that tattoo cover-up would work well for OP. Like you said, the bruises don’t necessarily need to be completely gone, just faded a bit more.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 “Don’t companies understand that temp workers from staffing agencies come with some big strings attached?”

    Not necessarily, no. Some people have just not been in situations that make them aware of this. Or maybe it’s shady. But I don’t think the choices you listed are the only ones you have, it just feels that way right now.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      To be fair different companies have different contracts with different agencies. Sometimes, external employment conditions are based on hours worked for example. Ie, you can hire the contractor directly after x-amount of hours have been paid through the firm. The company should have checked it’s contracts before contacting you, but they were probably just being lazy and figured you’d tell them if there was an issue. Usually contracts are handled by a completely different department, so I can see this happening. But I’m sure a lot of players at the company would not be okay bringing you on through back channels (Ie, HR, legal, supply chain). It’s best to be above board with these things and Alison gave some good wording on that front.

    2. Hey Nonnie*

      In my experience, clients are Very Often forgetful of contract terms — but it’s also a complete non-issue to remind them. I had one client who would pop up every few months, and she would always contact me directly (which was perfectly fine). But every. single. time. she would ask me what my rates were, which are discussions the agency reserves for itself. So every. single. time. I’d tell the client that rate discussions needed to take place with Wakeen from Teapots Agency, I’ve cc’d him here. Lather, rinse, repeat a few months later. There’s no indication that she was ever bothered by the repeated reminders of the terms, since she kept coming back.

      On the plus side, thanks to this client I now know exactly what the agency’s upcharge on my rate is…

    3. hbc*

      Even if they know, I wonder if they’re following the spirit of the rule rather than the letter. OP has moved away, so this isn’t a standard poaching situation. And if they’re talking the occasional bout of work versus the ~40 hours a week for two years, it’s just not applicable in their minds.

      Doesn’t mean the OP has to charge ahead with them, but it’s quite possible the temp agency would make an exception, especially if they’re paid a finder’s fee or something.

    4. krysb*

      Also, I wonder if this type of contract is like a noncompete, meaning very difficult to actually enforce.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        No — legal and easy to enforce. It’s like a recruiter contract. The agency has done the work of finding the temp, and they get paid for that work for a certain period of time.

    5. Laura*

      I was in a temp position for 3.5 years where my boss wanted to hire me and her boss brought this up. One of his other directors shared with them that once I completed 2,500 hours for them they could do whatever they wanted without owing the staffing agency. Most staffing agencies won’t share that as it’s not in their interest. I would mention that you were under the impression it had to go through the staffing agency but I wouldn’t consider it a deal breaker.

    6. Ama*

      When I worked in academia the university I worked for had contracts with two temp agencies who were the only agencies we were allowed to hire temp/contract workers through. If we found a candidate of our own for a position, we were expected to send them to one of the temp agencies and let them handle the payroll, monitor hours etc. We had to pay a significant amount of overhead per hour for this, but the university had a couple years prior got in big trouble with the IRS for not properly monitoring temps and contract workers, and TPTB decided the overhead was worth it to immediately have someone else in charge of monitoring (the fact that it dissuaded some departments from hiring so many temps was also a feature not a bug).

      That said, when we wanted to create a permanent staff position for one of our temps, per our contract we were going to have to pay the temp agency some ridiculous percentage of her first year’s salary as a “finder’s fee.” But my boss not only successfully argued to the director of the department that even with the finder’s fee, the year of salary without temp overhead would reduce the costs of that position by about 20%, they were able to negotiate the finder’s fee down a little bit because we did so much business with them. So there’s definitely options, especially if the OP’s prospective employer is going to continue to use temps through the agency.

  6. Geoffrey B*

    #1: it might be a kindness to your co-workers to let them know the cause of the bruises so they don’t have to worry about you.

    1. Liane*

      She has done this, and apparently it worked until her bosses went all “EEEEKK! Bruises! Cover them now!”

      It is mentioned toward the end so if you only skim it is possible to miss.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Actually, I’m unclear whether the colleagues who asked and were cool with it were at this company or not. It could be since she mentioned rolling up her sleeves, or it could be at a previous workplace since it seems like exposing her bruises is kind of new here.

        Also, it may be that no one was aware of the *extent* of her bruises until now. Seeing one random bruise on her elbow is a cool story; seeing all four appendages completely covered in bruises like sleeve-tats may be unsettling.

      2. Geoffrey B*

        I was responding to the statement that “some of my coworkers now think I’m in an abusive relationship, and they’re scared to approach me and bring it up”. As sunny-dee says, it’s not clear whether the explanation was at current workplace. But even if it was, that statement suggests that not everybody heard it.

  7. CoffeeLover*

    #4 I wonder OP, how many people who think they will go to grad school actually end up sticking around or moving on to another position rather than school? I ask because I had 5 friends in university who planned to go to med school and not a single one did. I don’t know if that’s typical, but there’s no doubt med school is hard to get into.

    I think I just have a problem with the five year question in general though. Plans change and things don’t work out the way you indended. I’ve rarely given a fully honest answer to this question mostly because I don’t know the real answer. Heck, I might find I hate the job or am not suited to the profession entirely. If I was in these students position and was seriously planning to go to med school, I would still say, “I’m considering going to med school and may pursue it in a few years.” If asked directly how long, I would say 2years minimum even if I was actively applying at the time. People need jobs and can’t hinge their lives on a slim chance in the future, so I wouldn’t blame them for this. I also wouldn’t blame you for trying to avoid this, but I don’t think you should begrudge people too much for leaving earlier than hoped. (Kind of like a couple of recent writers whose employee (and 1 who was the employee) left after a short time for a bigger and better things.)

    1. Julia*

      This. When I started my first job, I thought I’d stay there forever or at least many years, but it turned out to be so terrible I quit as soon as my first contract was up.

    2. AliceBD*

      I graduated from college six years ago. I am the only person from my extended friend group who did not attend graduate school (either to be a lawyer, doctor, or a PhD); I’ve always said I would love to get a masters but I don’t see how it fits into my career trajectory (not enough salary bump to be worth the effort and loans). I think a ton of people who think they go to graduate school do attend. I’m guessing it also has something to do with the university — my university steered us pretty heavily into investment banking, tech for the engineers, or graduate school, and the career center wasn’t a ton of help for someone like me who wasn’t interested in any of those fields.

  8. FiveWheels*

    Personally I wouldn’t find bruises like OP1 describes to be unprofessional at all. In my ultra conservative office it’s not unusual for the sportspeople to be at work with slings, crutches, broken bones etc. I don’t see “bruises from playing my sport” as being different from “broken wrist from coming off my bike”, except being less alarming.

    It also strikes me as sinister that a woman with perfectly reasonable, non-sinister bruises is being ordered to hide them. If I was the victim of domestic violence I think that environment would make it very difficult for me to reach out to help.

    1. This Daydreamer*

      You beat me to it! Er, I mean you got there before I did. And you said it better and more concisely than I did.

    2. Mookie*

      Yep. I’d be keen to know whether this policy the LW’s managers are enforcing is applied to others and when and where. That the LW is beginning to feel paranoid and ashamed of her body because of this is just… ugh. And they’re creating an atmosphere where she is being isolated because colleagues now identify her as a pariah (for being abused). As This Daydreamer indicates below, people uncomfortable with women being physically tough on themselves (cf professional sport and excluding cis female athletes on the basis of dubious pseudo-science that purports to protect their reproductive organs for future ‘use’) is a very real thing, even if the intent of the managers is not to enforce this ancient double-standard.

        1. Shadow*

          Where’s the line then? Does the reason for the bruises determine whether they are acceptable?

          1. aebhel*

            So, is it any indication or injury or disability that you find unprofessional, or just bruises? What about varicose veins, or acne, or scars?

            1. Shadow*

              I’m only suggesting its hard to take the position that some bruises are okay and others aren’t

        2. Just Another Techie*

          I had to change how I dressed when I took up partner acrobatics, because I’d often end up with bruises on my neck, collarbone, or upper chest that looked like hickeys, but were in reality from having someone do a handstand on my shoulder or something. It’s incredibly frustrating that the first place people’s minds go to is something sexual, but it really was distracting enough that it was easier for me to invest in higher-collared tops.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I’d find hickeys unprofessional because they say “I make out like a teenager” rather than “I play sports”. But I still wouldn’t expect someone to cover them up.

    3. Manders*

      Ditto! I’ve practiced some sports that leave bruises in suspicious places, and in my experience trying to hide them always upset people more than giving a cheerful explanation. I can think of a few circumstances where it would be a wise idea to cover up so you don’t have to be constantly repeating that explanation, but OP isn’t client-facing and didn’t mention doing anything public like giving presentations, so I really don’t think it should be an issue.

      I also think it’s weird that her boss is policing her every time she rolls up her sleeves. What happens when she needs to wash her hands or prevent a long sleeve from dragging in her food?

  9. This Daydreamer*

    Ugh, I hate hate hate the idea of a boss requiring someone to hide bruises. I work in a domestic violence shelter and abuse loves secrets.

    Bruises are nothing to be ashamed of and the idea of treating them that way makes me want to cry because it makes abuse victims feel even more ashamed of what they are going through. They could even get in trouble in the office if they accidentally show any injury! Yes, I know that isn’t really the case, but people who are being abused don’t look at their situation realistically.

    I want bruises something that people feel free to talk about. Let’s open up the conversation! “Oh, yeah, I got that one playing paintball over the weekend. I thought for sure that I was going to be fast enough but he got me like half a second before I got behind [whatever barriers they have at the paintball arena]! Still was a great game. *conversation about paintball or other weekend activities continues*” Compare that to “Oh, yeah. Um, I fell down the stairs. I’m such a klutz! *changes conversation* *next week, they have a bruise from slipping on something*” One of these is clearly about a fun activity and the other one raises concerns. Either way, bruises and other injuries are not a taboo topic and maybe the second one leads to other conversations that need to be had.

    Yeah, yeah. My personal favorite soapbox. But this really bothers me because I feel like it helps to sweep abuse under the rug. That and I hate the heat and would feel like I’m going to wilt if I had to wear long sleeves.

    1. David St. Hubbins*

      Agreed. Also, I get the idea that telling her to cover up implies that her hobbies are “unladylike” or something.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        Very good point. In this day and age, ladies play paintball, practice martial arts, play roller derby, ride horses, and do other things that can cause bruises and even, *gasp!* make you sweat!

        1. Lindrine*

          Deputy black belt here! And my mom rides horses.

          Maybe a confused/head tilt is in order when asked to cover up?

    2. Hrovitnir*

      *claps* It’s a good soapbox, and I also was wincing for this reason reading that letter.

      It’s a bit like the “zero tolerance” approach to bullying that is basically another tools bullies use against their victim. Weird blanket “all violence is bad” (as in the LW’s update above) approaches are counter-productive for actually fighting interpersonal violence.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        Thank you. Would they have the same response to injuries incurred while fighting off a mugger? Being in a car wreck? Stopping a terrorist attack? Would they write up someone who is in a violent relationship and desperately needs help getting out? They’re being ridiculous and could help to cause real harm.

        1. sunny-dee*

          I think the difference is the extent and frequency of the injury. Having a bruised jaw for three days because of oral surgery isn’t the same scope has having bruises covering a large part of your body 100% of the time.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I had the exact same squicky feeling—I’m glad this was the soapbox you chose :)

    4. Shay*

      Well, I guess I will have to put in as siding for this request falling entirely and understandably within the bounds of enforcing professional standards. Though I know generally this board isn’t real big on any professional norms.

      1. hbc*

        It’s not big on professional norms that don’t make sense, and professional norms that involve body policing don’t make sense to me. If you’d “let” a person with bruises from a car accident or from chemo treatment work uncovered, there’s no reason not to let a person with bruises from a hobby work uncovered.

        1. Jenny*

          I think it can depend though. An accident and chemo are involuntary and have a recovery. Whereas repeated severe bruises or hematoma from paintball are going to continue and it isn’t like you are punishing someone for having cancer.

          1. FiveWheels*

            They’re sports related injuries. How is this different from someone with a broken finger coming in with a splint?

          2. E*

            It’s hard to find the line for this, but I tend to agree with you on the voluntary/involuntary acquisition. Bruises from paintball to me would be in the same category as tattoos for a customer-facing position, the employer should be able to ask for coverage of the bruises if they’re wanting a professional image to be portrayed.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Eh, I don’t think bruises acquired in the course of sports are voluntary in the same way that tattoos are. I mean, you know you’re gonna get some bruises somewhere, but you don’t go in like “oh man, you know what would be rad? Black and blue all over my face!”

              1. FiveWheels*

                Exactly. I had a fairly horrific ankle related injury from my sport of choice. I still walk with a noticeable limp from time to time, more than ten years later. That I chose to play a dangerous sport doesn’t mean I chose to get injured.

      2. This Daydreamer*

        This board isn’t big on professional norms? Really? I guess you missed the conversation about the employee who basically called her boss’ daughter a whore. And the many tales of nightmare interns. And the frakton of advice on pretty much everything this blog discusses. This is a blog about office norms! Bruises happen, and people have a life outside of work and there’s nothing wrong with that.

        1. CMart*

          I’d be inclined to agree with Shay on “this board [ie: the commenters] isn’t real big on any professional norms” if what they mean by ‘professional norms’ is that it very often seems that the comments section is full of “the way we wish things would be/the way things should be” instead of “the way things are”.

          A lot of times the comments section gets very hung up on things that yes, are a bit old-fashioned or after some scrutiny kind of messed up and advocate that a LW should agitate for change because X “norm” is dumb and shouldn’t be a “norm”. But we do actually have to contend with reality, where X is a norm and by and large we just have to work within and around it.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, indeed, and I’m a big advocate of that (built my whole career around it, in fact). But this isn’t a social change advice site; it’s a career advice site, and I want to keep the focus on actionable advice.

      3. KellyK*

        Once they knew the bruises were sport-related, I can see that. But the original request was when they didn’t know if it was from contact sports, illness, or abuse. I don’t think a boss’s first concern when they see an employee with bruises should be making them cover up.

        I’m also not seeing where you’re getting this board “not being big on professional norms.”

      4. FiveWheels*

        The professional norms in my extremely conservative law firm do not include hiding sports injuries or any other injuries.

    5. Not Karen*

      Thank you. This is one of my soapboxes too. Also because I think it perpetuates the misconception that it’s not abuse if there are no visible signs.

    6. Lora*

      Agree 100%.

      It reeks of double standard to me. Plenty of the men I work with come in with injuries from skiing, rugby, fencing – heck, at one job a senior manager actually died when he took a tumble off his mountain bike. These were all considered just FINE, something to joke about over coffee.

      I teach dance, and I’ve had a lot of broken toes and sprains. Even working in extremely conservative companies, nobody’s ever batted an eyelash. If anything, my bosses were all, “oh hey let me get you a box to put your foot up on!” and “I’ll grab your printout off the printer, don’t get up”. On the other hand, there was a weird six months where I kept having falls down the stairs and off the edge of the deck and stuff like that, and a friend pointed out that I should get my ears checked and maybe a neurology consult if I am falling that much. I did, and it turned out to be nothing other than coincidence, but there’s plenty of reasons people can get bruises and they aren’t all Fight Club.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, we had a rugby player at OldExjob and he would come in with all sorts of cuts and bruises. Same attitude, with lots of teasing. To be fair, I did get the same teasing for any skating injuries I showed up with.

    7. k*

      Thanks for bringing this up. The boss is setting a weird precedent with this rule, and I doubt they’ve consider that it could have deeper implications.

  10. Jen*

    In the comments mentioned above, OP1 mentions that some of the bruises are really painful looking welts from paintball. Given that, I understand both sides. I once got a nasty bruise as a side effect from giving blood and even though it was clear what it was and blood donation is obviously an activity to be encouraged, I still covered it up with an arm band until it healed. Some people can be very distracted by injuries like that, including people who feel sympathy pains or someone who experienced violence and would associate negatively. I understand OP’s point as well, but given that when I was healing from a nasty welt, I myself didn’t want to look at it, I can see other people being uncomfortable. Particularly for paintball and those nasty welts, i would wonder if investing protective gear wouldn’t be a bad idea to prevent the worst bruising.

    1. FiveWheels*

      If the problem is that people see upset by seeing injuries, should victims of mugging or vast accidents cover up?

      1. CMart*

        I would and have, personally, for the same reasons as Jen above. I don’t like looking injured, so when I got into a car accident I gingerly applied coverup on my black and blue eyes and nose as best as I could. I did it because it made me feel better to not look beaten up, and because it was super distracting for everyone looking at me.

        On two occasions I’ve also helped male colleagues apply concealer to facial bruising because they didn’t want it to be a distraction either.

        1. FiveWheels*

          Not wanting to look injured is one thing, but wanting other people to pretend not to be injured is something else.

    2. Natalie*

      I think it’s reasonable to assume the OP is wearing whatever amount of protective gear is feasible. Bruising is in fact frequently the most serious injury one gets while wearing protective gear – the force of the paint ball or whatever has to go somewhere. (See also, bullet proof vests, which won’t protect you from gnarly bruises or even broken ribs.)

      1. seejay*

        Also, most people that play paintball, at least beyond the first few recreational games and once you get the feel for it, don’t wear any protective gear beyond facial protection. Anything that covers your body that’s hard plastic impedes movement and also causes the balls to break more easily (when most fields have rules that unbroken balls don’t “count” as a hit that marks you out… but an unbroken hit will still leave a bruise). Also, you can’t feel the hit through body armour so you might continue playing instead of checking and calling yourself hit, which is considered unfair play (I used to ref games as well as play competitively). So yeah, most serious players don’t bother with protective gear, it’s really highly unnecessary.

  11. Bagpuss*

    I wouldn’t automatically see the bruises as ‘unprofessional’ but I can see that they could be distracting.

    It might be worth speaking again to your manager and asking them whether you could (a) send a general e-mail round to explain that you are involved in roller derby, its a contact sport and leaves bruises, so people don’t need to be concerned about you if they notice the bruises, and (b) compromise by having a lightweight jacket or something you can put on if you do have to speak to someone outside the office?

    It might also be worth flagging up the issue that expecting someone who has bruises to cover them could be an issue of any member of staff were a victim of abuse as the insistence on covering the bruises might make it harder for them to feel they could seek support or be open bout any issues.

    (My own bruises experience. I once had to give a presentation to a group of over 150 police domestic abuse liaison officers, about some changes in the law relating to domestic abuse. It was the middle of a very hot summer, and a few days before the talk I had an accident while bell-ringing which resulted in the most spectacular bruise you have ever seen, covering the whole of one arm from shoulder to knuckles. My arm was also quite swollen so I couldn’t wear a long-sleeved shirt.
    It was a little awkward, particularly as while I explained the situation,my presentation came immediately after one about how often victims of abusive partners will make up excuses about how they got their injuries…)

    1. This Daydreamer*

      Oh, man. Talk about *great* timing! I can only imagine how embarrassing that was.

    2. Jenny*

      My sister once broke her arm and sprained her ankle in a bike accident two days before a job interview in he criminal law field. At least she didn’t have a black eye.

  12. David St. Hubbins*

    I don’t like the idea of having to hide sport related bruises. And I don’t see how it will make you look unprofessional.
    It’s not like you get into fistfights on weekends. Right? Will they require a man to do the same? Highly unlikely.

    1. Mookie*

      What happens here if someone, anyone, gets a bruise above their decolletage or neck? Do they have to leave their faces at home? It sounds like management has created a solution in search of a problem, rather than allowing adults to navigate this perfectly ordinary thing that happens. What the LW was doing — briefly explaining to people who inquired — was not a distraction, nipped curiosity in the bud, and otherwise seemed to work fine.

      1. David St. Hubbins*

        Agreed. There was no problem. Now management created one.
        It’s not as if sport related bruises are unusual, or taboo.

      2. Snatches & Cleans*

        I said this above, but I get bruises on my neck all the time from the barbell. It looks like I’ve been choked. I just tell the story how I whacked myself AGAIN and make it amusing and memorable so they don’t ask next time.

    2. sunny-dee*

      I’m actually hard pressed to imagine a professional environment where a man routinely went bare-knuckle or full-contact boxing.

      I don’t think this is a case of Joe/Jane being in a bike accident or a karate tournament and coming into work with a visible bruise. Those are one-off events and kind of “contained” injuries. I’m thinking it’s the frequency or maybe the extent of the bruising which is an issue.

      1. VintageLydia*

        Speaking as someone in a martial art: you don’t just get bruises during tournaments. If you practice often enough, broken bones and bruises are really common, even during slow sparring and if you’re clumsy like me, solo drills. I don’t do tournaments and every week I come home with one or two new bruises.

          1. sunny-dee*

            I think that is different, though, than what the OP is describing. This isn’t one or two bad bruises per season; this is numerous bruises over all appendages pretty consistently.

      2. BananaPants*

        I am too. I don’t know if it’s age or class related but among the professionals I know, full-contact sports seem to be largely left behind in one’s high school or college days. To my knowledge, no one does boxing or MMA. A few do martial arts but don’t come into work regularly covered in bruises (or with broken bones, etc.).

        1. Rockette*

          I box! And I’m a woman. It’s doubly weird for everyone. I’m not yet at a level where I’m sparring with people, but I do get in the ring and attempt to punch my trainer in the face. I’ve been lucky so far to have only experienced a few bruises, but they’ve all been below the elbow, either on my forearms or my knuckles (hand wraps provide some padding, but even with them on, if you hit something enough, you’ll bruise). I have caught a double-end bag in the face before and that’s not pretty, as far as what you can look like afterwards. I’m also super pale, so bruises and red marks look really awful and tend to stick around a lot longer on me.

  13. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

    I’m often cut or bruised and my only excuses are: I tried to walk fast and kicked myself, I forgot how to walk through a door, I tripped over nothing, I dropped something heavy on my own arm, I walked into the table/chair, and my cat likes to eat legs. Not sure how believable any of them are, but I often do misjudge the angle of approach and end up bouncing off the doorframe…

    1. This Daydreamer*

      I can really sympathize with being a klutz! If you want to avoid concern, be open about any visible injuries. Make it a running joke. Not talking about it or trying to always change the subject about injuries will raise suspicions. People who are being abused usually hate talking about their injuries. Being very open about your visible injuries and laughing about them will actually make it easier for concerned coworkers to spot a potentially bad situation.

    2. Elfie*

      My husband has a neurological condition that causes him to be extremely clumsy. He’s often had some of the most spectacular bruises from injuring himself in ways that I’m still not even sure how it’s physically possible to do that to yourself (like the time he sat down in a chair and trapped both big toes under the chair legs at the same time…ouch!!!!). However, the worst bruising ever was when he got put on some medication and it just caused massive bruising all over his arms and legs – one of his arms just looked like one giant big nasty bruise. He’s now never allowed to be prescribed that medication again, and his side effects get listed in the Patient Information Leaflet (under extremely uncommon, or something like that). So I completely understand where you’re coming from (although sometimes it really is unbelievable, even when you’ve seen it with your own eyes!).

      1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

        I’m not sure *what* makes me so clumsy, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s a mild case of dyspraxia. I can’t hit or catch a ball for toffee either; the only goal I ever saved in PE was with my face.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I read an article a while ago about “extra senses” we don’t count as part of the usual five, and one of them was basically the awareness of where your body is in relation to the things around it. All of the sudden, my inability to judge doorframes or the placement of desks (but lack of other types of clumsiness) made a lot more sense.

          1. Manders*

            That extra sense is called proprioception, and it’s fascinating! I’m also someone who smacks into doorframes and desks when I’m not paying attention, although I don’t have a diagnosable disorder and my fine motor skills are very good.

            There are a lot of reasons why people might have problems with proprioception, and we tend to end up with more than our fair share of bruises.

          2. teclatrans*

            Proprioception. An underrated sense.

            I, too, misjudge distance to doorways, furniture, the floor. It gets way worse just before my period, which makes me wonder if mine is at least partially interwoven with my ADHD somehow (since the estrogen drop exacerbates executive function issues like whoa).

            1. nonegiven*

              Proprioception, this must be me. There is no doorway so wide that I cannot still miss it. It got better when I was in a martial arts club, but now I’m back to clumsy again.

          3. Treecat*

            Slightly off topic, but kind of fun: I used to teach a physiology lab for undergraduates and one of our lab days was a rotation of various demonstrations based on senses, including proprioception. We’d blindfold the student, have them hold out their arm, an apply vibrating pressure (via a massager) to the outside of their arm just above the elbow. This messes with the signals the brain receives from the ulnar nerve, which makes it hard to judge how much the arm is bent or extended without being able to see it (hence the blindfold). Then we’d tell the student to bring their index finger as close to their nose as possible without touching. Inevitably, with the pressure/vibration screwing with their nerve signals, they would stop their finger about 6 inches in front of their faces and say that was as close as they could get. When we unblindfolded them, they were shocked!

            Interestingly, we also learned that proprioception (like many senses) can be trained when we had a nationally-ranked competitive gymnast in the class who could NOT be fooled by that demonstration. And it makes sense: your ability to orient your body in space has to be top-notch to compete in gymnastics.

        2. JeanB in NC*

          I found out in my 20s that I have no depth perception, and that’s why I could never play sports. I would think that could also cause you to bump into things – I walk into walls or doorways quite often.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Dyspraxia can go along with dyscalculia, too. I’ve always been clumsy, and it took me longer to learn choreography in theater productions and for skating programs. I have fine motor control issues as well.
          And God forbid you put me on your volleyball team in gym. The only thing I was ever good at there was the little butt scooters.

      2. FiveWheels*

        I empathise. When I was on steroids for a neurological problem, I bruised so easily that if I slept with my ankles crossed my shin would be purple the next day.

    3. Hrovitnir*

      Haha yeah, my mother once when she was young actually walked into a cupboard door and got a black eye. Since that is the stereotypical go-to excuse for bruises from domestic violence (possibly depending where you live), no one would believe her.

      I try and be upbeat about my mystery bruises (or from falling over, or from sport), and it seems to work?

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        This happened to me! I walked into a door and the next day at work someone asked what had happened; I, not even remembering that it was the go-to excuse, said I’d walked into a door and got a sad face and a “Yeah, sure you did.” I tried explaining that no, I really did walk into a door and just go more sad face and a “If you ever need help, I’m here.”

      2. paul*

        I actually concussed myself opening my office door this year. Knocked myself down and nearly out, bloody nose, busted lips…there was and still is some gentle ribbing over that. My boss told me the week after, while I was still healing, that if she hadn’t seen it shed think I was covering for someon if I said a door did it

    4. SaviourSelf*

      I sympathize so much with this! I have very limited depth perception and it leads to many mystery bruises and bouts of clumsiness. Luckily (and not at the same time) it is usually a shoulder, hip, or thigh that catch the bruises so they aren’t visible to many.

    5. Sled dog mama*

      Bruises from this are believable because it’s something that happens all the time. If someone works with you long enough they are going to see you have one of those, what I refer to as, “there’s a wall there” moments.
      I’m prone to running in to corners although I do run into my fair share of door frames too.

      My personal preference is to be covered up (I get really cold easily) but a few weeks ago I took a not bad fall off my bike (stupid one where I just sort of fell over going up a steep hill) but because of how I landed and the fact that the shoulder of the road fell away pretty steeply I ended up with a really nasty bruise on my hip and side. I was moving really stiffly and sitting down hurt, I would totally have resented someone suggesting I need to not distract my coworkers with the fact that I road bike.

      1. Sled dog mama*

        After reading some more comments I think I need to clarify.
        I would not resent being asked to cover up the bruises, what I would resent is the implication that my bruises and by extension the activity that gave me the bruises was a distraction to my co-workers.

  14. Aloot*

    #1: I’d fight against the “long sleeves only” or at least the “cannot roll up sleeves at all” and leave the pants issue alone. It will probably be easier to get some leeway when all you’re asking is to not get disciplined for rolling your sleeves up (like, how high do you roll them up? I doubt it goes much above the elbow?) rather than fighting back against the whole dresscode they’ve imposed on you. And then if you can roll your sleeves up with no problem, then let that become the new status quo for a while before you start pushing against the long sleeves only issue.

    #2: As a dog person myself I probably would’ve laughed at your comment. If the interviewer has a pet (and even if they don’t!) I think any offense you might have caused would’ve been clear to you in the moment. If they didn’t react much to it, then they probably saw it for what it was – just a harmless comment. Either way, like Alison said, *don’t* bring it up again! You’ll just highlight it if it was a comment they didn’t enjoy and if they thought it was fine they might start reading more into it than they originally did. (Cause obviously if you are bringing it up again, it needs some extra scrutiny, no?)

    1. This Daydreamer*

      Re:#2 Yeah, leave it alone unless they ask about you dog later. I think most workplaces are fine about talking about the furkids and it’s not like you said anything that would generally be seen as an insult. Honestly, if your interviewer took offense at that, I think it would be a really bad sign for the workplace in general. You didn’t call her the b word, after all! Just don’t compare a coworker’s actions to eating out of a cat’s litter box or licking their own genitalia or something like that.

  15. AlwhoisthatAl*

    #2 – Only if you had directly compared your interviewer to your chihuahua in looks, size and personality rather than just temperature preference would they have been bothered by the remark !
    Most experienced interviewers know that after an interview, you will be somewhat giddy at the release of tension so you can babble like an idiot. Been there…

    1. Quickstepping Matilda*

      Once in the lineup to go on the floor for a ballroom dance competition, one of the women behind me in line said, “Oh, I always love watching you dance. You remind me of my dog in the car with his head out the window!”

      I think she meant it as a compliment. But it was offputting.

  16. Jen*

    #4-My guess is that you are a manager of an ICU and attempting to determine if the interview candidate wants to go to anesthesia school. If so, I feel your pain as I struggle with the same issue! What I usually ask in the interview is, “What is your ultimate nursing goal?” If they state, “To be a CRNA.” Then I will ask how soon do they see themselves applying and move forward from there.

  17. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, double check to see if you were/are in a state that recognizes noncompete clauses. They’re unenforceable in California, Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Montana (which unfortunately doesn’t stop companies from trying to make employees sign them). And even states that recognize them are pretty hostile to bans that are longer than 1-2 years or too geographically broad (but the geographic scale depends on the industry and in your role).

    But assuming the clause is valid, I wouldn’t risk breaking your contract—it’s a massive time- and reputation-suck :(

    1. Jenny*

      The problem with even unenforceable non-competes is that just the threat of being sued is often enough to scare someone off. Completely frustrating, of course.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t a non-compete clause; it’s more similar to a recruiter clause that says “if you use this person in the next X months, we get paid for the work we did in finding them.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, thank you for clarifying! When I saw the note about not being able to work for a year, it sounded like a noncompete.

        If the recruiter gets a cut, it’s not ideal for OP, but it sounds much lower risk than other restrictions. I agree, then, that it makes sense to just raise the issue with Old Employer. Worst case, they take a pass, but assuming the rate is roughly the same for them, I can’t see why they’d say no (unless there are other internal policies).

      2. TootsNYC*

        Also, isn’t there some risk to the company? They’ve probably signed a contract with a similar clause.

  18. YorkJJ*

    #1 – I used to work with a guy who played rugby on the weekends. He came in on some Mondays looking like he got hit by a truck! He owned it. If people ask how your weekend was, tell them about it! Show the bruises as your badge of honor.

    #3 – I am now working for a company who ran a different kind of interview process. I was expecting a scheduled call from another company at a particular time, when about ten minutes prior to it, I get a call out of the blue from my current company about my application. No email, no schedule, no nothing. I had to act fast and answer questions about a job I had almost forgotten about! I had two more phone interviews with them just like this – not scheduled, just out of the blue. I never met anyone at the company face to face until my starting day. Thank god for LinkedIn and photos! It happens. Be flexible and agile.

  19. Becky*

    This letter has actually made me join the site! I just wanted to say that I’m so sorry your managers are being so completely unreasonable about bruises.

    I’m a second dan karate black belt and I regularly come in with bruises on my forearms. I’ve never had a manager have an issue with it, although I work in a senior role where my job essentially involves working with exec teams at hospitals. People occasionally ask (I have albinism so it is fair to say the bruises are very visible!) and I’ve never had a negative response.

    I’ve only once felt the need to proactively explain my bruises – I was meeting one of the Exec boards which I didn’t know that well and we’d had a really hard session the night before so I just made a point of noting the bruises were from karate as part of the introductions as I could see a few glances at them!

    It seems ridiculous to me that anyone would be expected to cover them up and I’m sorry you’re going through that.

  20. BananaPants*

    #1: Would Tat Jacket or other similar tattoo cover-up sleeves help? I know several nurses who have to use them, as they can’t have visible tattoos at work. I would fight the battle on long sleeves first; wear pants for a while and work on the sleeve-rolling issue.

    Maybe I just work in a conservative industry but either a man or woman who’s always covered in large bruises – whether from roller derby or their weekend MMA hobby – is going to raise eyebrows. It wouldn’t extend to the point of making them cover up, but questions will be asked (to make sure they’re not a victim of abuse) and they likely wouldn’t be selected for high profile assignments where they would be around external clients. IMO, it comes across as unprofessional.

  21. Ask a Manager* Post author

    So in 2013, the strong consensus among commenters was that it’s understandable and reasonable to ask you to cover regular bruises at work, but today the majority of commenters so far are outraged by it. I don’t think norms have changed that dramatically in four years so I don’t know what explains it (although the comment section in 2017 tends to be much quicker to bristle at things, so it’s likely a reflection of that).

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I think it points to something I said last week about the loud and first opinions are what prevails, because people are unwilling to voice the opposite opinion. I got jumped on pretty quickly and harshly for suggesting the fact that so many people are asking or reacting to the bruises proves that it’s a distraction.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        You got two comments pointing out that pretty much anything can be grist for an office rumor mill. That’s not getting jumped on and those comments weren’t particularly harsh.

      2. Mike C.*

        I’m certainly not unwilling to voice an opposing opinion, and unless there are comments that have since been deleted, I don’t think it’s fair to call having a few responses “being jumped”.

      3. Important Moi*

        I want to come in point out I agree with you. If I don’t jump in early, I usually don’t participate. My opinions often run contrary, but I’m willing to consider other perspectives, that’s the point right?

        Also, I’ve been jumped on as well. That’s not necessarily bad. I’m more precise with my comments.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Was the prior question about a client-facing role? Because I know that would make a difference to me and I think a few other people have noted that distinction.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          It didn’t specify, but it did specify that covering the bruises was not a problem for the OP of that question, whereas for today’s OP it is causing problems. That’s a pretty major difference.

        2. Kate 2*

          I think that makes the difference then. I would say that in a client facing role I might be okay with the request. In this case, since there is no or little client aspect, covering the bruises has nothing to do with PR or looking good for clients, it is 100% a weird hangup the managers have.

      1. 2013 Letter Writer*

        That was my letter! I was actually surprised at that time by how many people here thought it was important to cover bruises from weightlifting. Among my fitness-oriented social circle, nobody felt it was unprofessional to have an exposed bruised, any more than it would be unprofessional to have a birthmark or a varicose vein. It’s just a part of your body, end of story.

        At the time, I was working in a job where exposed legs at work were forbidden regardless (pants or maxi skirts only), and ended up throwing pantyhose on with a dress for networking events just to tone things down. The bruises never came up in conversation. I’ve since moved on to another position, but I’ve never gotten more than a “Wow, nice bruise. Where’d you get that from?”

        I would say that the conversation really HAS changed in the last four years. Women in sports, especially rough sports, are simply more talked about now. The 2015 women’s World Cup was a huge media draw, and the addition of women’s rugby to the Olympics for the first time in 2016 fascinated a lot of people. There’s simply a greater awareness that women play hard.

        1. kb*

          I wonder if covering up blemishes on legs in professional settings is/was a remnant from pantyhose requirements? I don’t know if this is because I’m young (20s) or just oblivious, but I wouldn’t even think to cover up averages bruises on my legs. I think you may be right about the prominence of women’s sports having something to do with more lax attitudes about bruises on display.

    3. This Daydreamer*

      Huh. Maybe it’s because of the more recent and very visible cases of domestic violence, or maybe because of the advance of feminism. Or maybe it’s more because of earlier commenters disliking the rule. Something to think about.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Thinking on it more, I think it’s a reflection of a change in the commenting section, not than anything broader than that. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed with other things here too. There’s much more of a tendency to strongly advocate the position that feels right or fair, with less emphasis on/understanding of the fact that loads of offices don’t have those norms. (I sometimes get puzzled letters these days from people pointing out that a reaction in the comment section doesn’t line up with the norms they’re familiar with, and that didn’t used to happen. It’s made the comment section less useful to people.)

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I also think it’s answering from a perspective of how we want the world to work. We want things to be fair and equitable and for people to be treated with respect and dignity. And there’s nothing wrong with advocating for those things. But as a society, we’re not there yet and we should be more cognizant of the realities of these situations.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes. I’ve always tried hard to make this a space where we deal with advice that works for the world as it is, not the way we wish it was. The comment section here used to be in sync with that, but I think is significantly less so in the last year.

            1. Sibley*

              Considering that everyone (including you Alison!) misunderstood a comment I made last week that was referencing the world as it is, not as it should be, I’ll agree.

              No hard feelings though. :)

            2. CC*

              I wonder if it’s a mark of how far and wide your column is now disseminated. When I first read about it, I believe that it really was mostly people who work in more traditional, everyday offices who came here for advice; now that you’re in New York mag and reaching broader circles (speaking as someone who works in a creative field in NYC where pretty much anything goes, outfit-wise, for instance), I wonder if your commenters have shifted somewhat accordingly. Anyway, big fan, keep up the great work.

              1. Tinker*

                I think that’s a thing to consider. One thing that I noticed particularly in the past is that people would talk about a “that’s just the way it is, you might wish it was otherwise but you have to be practical and live in the real world” item that was implicitly from a particular set of workplace norms — where often the thing that it was supposedly not the real world was actually my real actual world. At the time, I often found myself thinking “well, you have to consider this in the light of that these people are from conservative regions and industries and you are not”, and when I’d recommend this blog to others I’d include that comment as a caveat — but that doesn’t mean that my experience is necessarily any less real.

                It’s the same thing in this case — I haven’t had the opportunity to test bruises specifically yet, but it’d surprise me if I took up an especially bruise-inducing hobby and ended up having problems at work on that account. Certainly it’s the case that I’m visibly a lot of things that are outside some professional norms (unnaturally orange-haired, unconventionally pierced, user of the dread fidget spinner, etc) but not apparently the norms of my actual workplace. That’s the real world; I exist.

                Not saying that’s the only reason for sure, but it could be that with the increased traffic here there are more people like myself who genuinely see more-restrictive norms as neither universal nor inevitable, and they don’t see it as such a pie-in-the-sky thing to float the notion that things ought not to be that way.

            3. Heather*

              That’s something I’ve always really appreciated about this site. It’s frustrating for me to see people not accept that, so I can’t imagine how much worse it is for you.

            4. Sylvia*

              I really appreciate that about this website. Your advice isn’t based on what would work in a perfect world, it’s based on readers’ situations as they describe them.

              I’ve been surprised by some recent conversations in the comment section, like the one a few weeks ago about arriving at work on time.

            5. Violet Fox*

              The comment section honestly feels meaner in a lot of ways then it use to, to the point that I have pulled away from commenting.

            6. Kate the Little Teapot*

              I both agree with your point about the shift and would like to say that when I made the top level comment about the makeup earlier, most of the replies were constructive ones about potential makeup-related solutions.

              However, there were three commenters who responded with some comment about how the idea of having time or skill to use makeup on bruises was utterly unreasonable, and all of these resulted in silly debatey small subthreads.

              (Realistically – once you know how to do it this is a 10 minute task, and it’s less financial investment than new clothes, and the OP was clear that in her climate it was just about getting through the next 3 months of summer. I had a black eye and an important meeting which is how I learnt – I didn’t grow up knowing this, nor am I a person who wears a full face of makeup regularly.)

              1. Simms*

                To be honest, I think makeup use needs to be relegated to a “not all people can eat sandwiches” thing. As in yes plenty of people can use makeup quickly and cheaply but not everyone can (and plenty cannot for one reason or another) but everyone mostly does know about the existence of makeup so we don’t need a ton of people giving detailed makeup stuff when the OP in question is not asking about makeup details.

          2. AnotherHRPro*

            Yes, I think you nailed the cause. I find many of the comments having a theme of “that isn’t right” or “it shouldn’t be that way”. I do think that someone who constantly had painful and fresh looking bruises would be detracting at work. By distracting, I mean that people would comment about the bruises in relationship to the person more than the quality of their work. For me, the question really isn’t should a person have to cover up their bruises but does not covering the bruises damage how they are perceived. Because of that, I would recommend that the OP continue to cover the bruises for the most part.

        2. This Daydreamer*

          Oh, dear. Yeah that would be a real problem. Different workplaces can and should have their own rules about what is appropriate. I still feel very strongly that bruises shouldn’t be a taboo subject for the reasons I brought up before, but at the same time….

          Ugh. It’s complicated. Where is the barrier between office rules and the complications of life? Damn if I know where the line is.

        3. Mike C.*

          There’s also a wide variety of workplaces with a wide variety of norms that vary from region to region, even within the same company. How do you calibrate “what is normal”?

          Also, I would consider the fact that you started this site around the time of a massive recession when there were 7 applicants for every job. Now the unemployment rate is much lower and employees are going to be feeling like they have more power not to put up with dumb things “just because the boss says so”.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think things have changed that much in that regard in four years. I suspect it’s more a function of size — that as the site has attracted more readers/commenters, it’s attracted a wider commenting group that has a different agenda than the 2013 one did. 2013 commenters — as a whole — were more about providing useful advice. There’s a more frequent tendency with 2017 commenters to be more focused on expressing their opinions.

            It’s a real difference, although I haven’t been able to articulate it this clearly to myself until just now. It’s giving me some food for thought.

            1. CMDRBNA*

              I’ve seen similar things happen in small-ish Internet forums I was a part of that gradually became bigger – like Captain Awkward – or there was a linked article or column that led to a sudden influx of readers from other sites who either didn’t really understand the ‘norms’ of the commentariat or thought of it as a community. I’ve been reading CA long enough that I recognize commenters and remember their backstory and it really feels more like a community than just another website comment page.

              One thing I have noticed on a lot of advice columns that I follow regularly (I have a weird sort of addiction to advice sites!) is that people will respond with something like “well, what about THIS PARTICULAR SET OF CIRCUMSTANCES THAT COULD BE POSSIBLE??” that were never mentioned in the OP’s letter. CA is really good about reminding her readership that we only have the information the OP shared and speculation about what might or might not be happening is counterproductive because we just don’t know!

              1. Turtle Candle*

                And sometimes the what-if games can be downright baffling. I can at least understand why so many posts get a “what if mental illness?” or “what if sexism?”, even if it’s often beside the point of the question. But sometimes you’ll have someone say something like “my coworker stole my stapler and won’t give it back” and you’ll get a random person being like “but what if the LW stole their stapler first, huh, what if that?” It doesn’t happen so much here because Alison cracks down on it fast, but it happens regularly enough in advice columns that I have to think that some people just really enjoy making up random scenarios and/or playing the devil’s advocate.

                This is why I love the rule about taking the LW at their word and the rule about not going “not everyone can eat sandwiches,” because it cuts out a lot of what-if games.

                1. GrandBargain*

                  Reminds me of a podcast episode of With Friends Like These (Ana Marie Cox) that I was listening to this morning. A very conservative author was talking about how political debate has become all about “what if X?” or “what about Y?” As in when talking about one current issue, the conversation quickly stalls into “what about Hillary…” or “what about Obama….” His point wasn’t to favor one position over another, simply that no one can stick to the subject at hand and productive conversation can’t exist in that environment.

                2. Laura*

                  Oh God yes to the devil’s advocate observation! On Carolyn Hax there’s a very, very frequent commenter who does nothing but this, and can really cross the line sometimes with unpleasant speculations about the letter writers. Amusingly, I’ve noticed over the past year that she’s getting fewer and fewer likes – I’m guessing a ton of people have hidden her.

              2. Lindsay J*

                Yeah, I think we were calling it the “not everyone can have sandwiches” thing here for awhile (or maybe it would be some sort of inversion or correlary of that).

                But I’ve noticed it a lot recently here. Like with the employee who changed outfits and hair in the middle of the day I saw “well maybe she has alopecia and wears a wig to cover up her hair loss.”

                And, well, maybe she does. Some people do have alopecia. And some people who have it do wear wigs.

                But, we had no indication whatsoever that was the case for the employee in question. We don’t even know for sure that she was wearing a wig.

                And it’s not like having alopecia would have even changed the context of the advice given. She wasn’t being asked to change her hair style from something she was comfortable with. She was being asked to maintain the same appearance (so if a wig, the same wig) for the day if she was working with clients or doing a presentation, etc.

                Nor was it something that is a common trait to people with alopecia. I would venture to say that almost all people who have alopecia don’t randomly drastically change their clothes and their hair style in the middle of the day.

                I don’t know. To me that just struck me as A. Kind of stretching a bit (or a lot) to make a potential situation fit in with some sort of disorder. B. Didn’t change what the advice would ultimately be. C. Served to do nothing but potentially scare off a manager from having a discussion with their employer because of fear of offending them or committing a microaggression against them or something, when it was really an entirely appropriate and almost entirely inoffensive conversation for a manager to have with a subordinate.

                I think there is always a benefit to keeping in mind that there is more to situations than meets the eye (lest we wind up like the interns complaining about the foot ware of the other employee who happened to be disabled).

                However, if you were that employee’s manager and you didn’t know the situation, it would be appropriate to bring up the footwear if it were outside policy. And it need not be contentious.

                I just don’t think there is value in assuming that every single person being written about has some condition or life situation where they are doing something because they literally can’t help it.

                Sure the lunch theif might not be able to afford food at home, but they also might be being a jerk. The woman wearing a too-short dress may only have clothes from her last job being a bar promo-girl and not be able to afford them, or she might just not be aware of office norms. The employee using weird fonts and colors in client email may be dyslexic, or they may just think that they’re fun and that it makes them seem personable. The employee falling asleep at their desk could be a single parent who was up all night with a baby, or could have a health problem, or could just have stayed out too late the night before having fun.

                I think the attitude should be to approach all issues with a general sense of compassion. Then if the cause of the situation is a health issue or life circumstances, that person can tell you. But preemptively assuming or playing the “what if it’s because of this” game in the comments doesn’t seem productive in a lot of cases.

            2. This Daydreamer*

              Yeah, having more commenters will make the outlier commenters have more of a presence in the threads.

              But I am really, really grateful that you have more readers now. I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t been mentioned on another site. The job I have now came about because I applied for it from my volunteer position in the same organization, and I found myself thrown for a loop when I was asked for a resume. Resume? I’d never had to write a resume before! And resumes come with cover letters, too. I had no idea what to write in a cover letter. Um, hire me because I’m nice and a good volunteer and want money? Yeah, no. The job is very similar to the volunteer work so I guess I was hoping it would be a case of, well, “yeah we like you so sign here and we’ll start paying you to work overnight hours!”

              Your archives helped me write both the resume and cover letter. I filled out the Word form that was already on my computer for the resume, looked at your archives, and rewrote like 99% of it. And I honestly didn’t even try to write a cover letter without your help.

              I’m a pretty recent arrival and you saved me. I’m seriously crying right now because you and your readers were a non judgemental source of badly needed advice. And now I have a job. If I’d been reading this column when I was in my old job, I likely would have left before it ripped me to pieces.

              And now I’m going to log off because I’m exhausted and feeling maudlin – i did mention overnight shifts, right? Not trying to guilt trip, just saying that new readers can be a challenge but it’s also a really good thing.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I am definitely grateful for the new readers! And I’m so glad the site has been helpful to you like that — thank you for sharing that!

                1. This Daydreamer*

                  You’re welcome. I bent the rules by being wwwwaaaayyyy off topic, but you deserve to hear it.

            3. Shadow*

              Maybe it’s just me but there definitely seem to be more left views here than what’s in the real world. This bruise topic is a pretty good example of that.

              1. LBK*

                I mean, the left does exist in the real world. We are real people. This site might have a disproportionate amount of us depending on where you live, but that doesn’t mean we don’t exist and don’t hold these same views in our real lives.

                1. Shadow*

                  Agreed just saying that it skews perceptions of what’s normal to the point that I kind of feel sorry for the random reader with a right leaning comment who probably doesn’t expect what’s coming

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I lean left on most issues myself, but I agree that at times I think it skews people’s perceptions of what’s mainstream/normal in a way that doesn’t lead to helpful advice. Example: If you come from a world where people sharing what pronouns they use when they’re first introduced is a common thing (which is great! progress!), it’s useful to understand that a whole lot of the world still sees that as a very unusual thing to do.

                3. Tax Accountant*

                  We do exist in the real world, but how we exist is different from region to region too. I’m a liberal feminist in the south. I had literally never heard of the “introducing yourself with your pronouns” thing until I saw it randomly mentioned online somewhere a couple months ago. And then I asked my sister, who lives in San Francisco and was shocked that it was a real thing that people do. Not bad shocked, just shocked that something that other people consider a normal part of interacting with each other was so far beyond my realm of experience that I had not even heard of it.

                  FWIW, where I work, in a law office, it would be kind of weird to come in covered in bruises all the time. Roller derby or not. One of the most helpful articles I read early in my career was about when to rock the boat and when not to rock the boat with your appearance. The advice boiled down to following the rules as closely as possible while beginning your career and loosening up as you became more senior and had proven yourself and developed your reputation.

                4. Shadow*

                  That’s something that comes with experience-learning how to pick your battles. when I was younger I had the ability to take a stand on even the most insignificant things. I remember once feeling wronged bc my time off request for spring break didn’t get approved.

                5. Statler von Waldorf*

                  People share what pronouns to use when they introduced? Wow .. I’ve never heard of that one before. That would go beyond being very unusual in my part of the world, to the point where if someone did it at a job interview, I would suspect that it could tank their entire candidacy all by itself.

                6. LBK*

                  I don’t disagree that it can skew perceptions especially depending on the topic, I more just bristle because it’s pretty common rhetoric among the right lately that they represent “the real world” or “real America” as if liberals don’t count as people.

                7. aebhel*

                  Yeah, I would say that the comment section here lines up fairly well with my general work environment (I’m a woman with a crew-cut and several large, colorful, visible tattoos working in a customer-facing professional job, and it’s never been even slightly an issue; I can’t imagine that coming to work with visible bruises would be deemed ‘unprofessional’ in any job I’ve ever had, including the relatively conservative ones). I’m in the Northeast; I expect things are different in more conservative areas of the country, but I’m also not sure how ‘cover bruises/don’t cover bruises’ is really a Left/Right issue.

                  I’d be interested to know whether/how the demographics of AAM have changed over the years; since I’ve been following it the commentariat seems to have gotten a bit less white-collar-professional (and therefore, probably, a bit less conservative in the work sense), but that’s just my impression.

                8. Shadow*


                  Seems there are more women commenters as well but that might just be in my head too.

                9. Mike C.*

                  I would point out that given the increasingly international readership here, the typical American left/right model might not be most appropriate lens to use.

              2. Violet Fox*

                Excuse me, but the entire US is way to the right of the entire region of the world where I live. Implying people do not exist in the real world is actually quite rude. Hell, the left of the US is more right then our local far right. We are most certainly part of the real world.

            4. Mints*

              I think people used to comment when they felt like their jobs were typical, and readers who were on extremes (black eyes are totally normal in my office, or everyone wears three piece suits and I don’t even see forearms) would just lurk. But as commentariat grows, people on those extremes chime in more, and it ends up being disproportionate

            5. Princess Carolyn*

              I’m sure you’re right about it being a function of size. I think I also recognize the movement toward expressing an opinion vs. giving specific advice to the OP (which, again, is likely a function of size).

              BUT, in my perception, workplaces in general have become markedly more casual since 2013. The commentariat is increasingly likely to bristle at a lot of dress code-type issues now. A lot of us find more traditional dress codes unnecessary and outdated.

              We’re also more aware of how the traditional idea of “professional” appearance can unfairly affect people of color (e.g., natural hair being considered unprofessional) and women (e.g., firms where women are expected to wear high heels every day).

              1. Tinker*

                I came out at work, in the context of engaging in lunchroom conversations that hinged on the point that I’m bi, around about in the middle of 2012.

                In 2017, I’m using singular-they pronouns at work because people kept on seeking me out to ask me my pronouns, and I started answering them accurately. I’ve been visibly flaming at a gun show — because I’m visibly flaming everywhere — and did not have any negative interactions. That’s just what I expect now.

                Some of that is that I grew up in an extension of small-town Texas culture and now live among artists, therapists, and quirky tech-workers. But even so, I think the arc of cultural change is not to be underestimated.

              2. Kate 2*

                I love that you mentioned the unfair affect, especially on women. High heels force the feet into an unnatural position, and they *will* permanently damage your feet. Just ask Sarah Jessica Parker! If I was hired by a company that told me high heels were required, after I tried everything else, would be to go nuclear and threaten to take legal action, since I am not willing to permanently damage my mobility for a sexist, unnecessary job requirement.

                1. Violet Fox*

                  We are also seeing a lot clearer that this sort of sexism, as well as a lot of other -isms are damaging to people both professionally and personally and are the types of things that drive under represented groups out of professions.

            6. Turtle Candle*

              Yes, I think this is a real difference too. If someone asks “are halter tops appropriate in the office?” the answer is likely to be “it depends on the office.” (Whereas “do I have to wear a shirt in the office?” can get a more straightfoward “yes,” because we can assume that if the person worked as a Chippendale dancer or at a nudist colony, they would have told us, and in fact probably wouldn’t be asking in the first place.)

              The thing is, what isn’t all that useful is 300 comments about how it’s wrong to police women’s bodies. I say that as someone who is a liberal who feels very strongly that the policing of women’s bodies is wrong, and in fact as someone who thinks that it’s useful to point out the ways that we make women play awful guessing games around clothing. It’s just that it doesn’t need to be said 300 times in one thread, and in fact saying it 300 times in one thread can drown out and overwhelm the actual advice part of the advice–because, as you say, it’s less advice (there’s not much immediately actionable to do about “our society does this thing terribly in general”) than opinion.

              (I think that there’s also–I’m trying to think how to say this–a kind of… instinct to virtue signaling that is part of why it ends up being 300 comments on it instead of one or two. By which I mean, I have certainly felt the impulse to chime in with “yes, I agree that our society is weird and wrong in the way it treats women’s bodies!” even when that has been amply said, because I want to make it clear that I am on that “side,” so to speak. I try to resist these days, since Alison’s made it clear that those lengthy “I agree, and furthermore!” threads make moderating a huge headache.)

              1. LBK*

                I don’t think this is necessarily a right vs left thing, though – I think it’s more as Alison said above that the focus of the comments has shifted from acknowledging societal issues while still providing concrete advice to more just voicing opinions, which is inherently more geared towards how things should be rather than how they are.

                I’m as lefty as they come on topics like policing women’s bodies, but I also understand that that doesn’t really provide actionable advice to a LW who needs to know what kind of shirt to wear to work tomorrow and isn’t in a position to challenge the thinking at their office so assertively (which is going to be most LWs, since I think the majority of people who are willing and able to question the status quo tend do it without feeling like they need someone else’s advice to do so).

                1. LBK*

                  Oh – and I wanted to add that I think sometimes it can seem like this is a left vs right thing because on a lot of issues, the right position prefers things as they are/have been in the past whereas the left position prefers things to continue to change. So when the commentariat shifts towards being more future-looking rather than in the now, that inherently tends to sync up with more leftist views. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t lefties here who can’t provide pragmatic advice for today and vice versa.

                2. Turtle Candle*

                  I absolutely don’t think it’s a right vs. left thing–in fact, the first place I encountered this dynamic (talking about how things ought to be to the exclusion of how they are, serious virtue signaling) was in a radically conservative Christian private school. I used the examples I did specifically because I am on the left, and I felt more comfortable pointing to an example where I would feel tempted to derail (being extremely left myself), rather than pointing fingers at The Other Side. I’d rather use my own behavior as an example than potentially strawman someone else, is all.

                3. LBK*

                  Ack, sorry! I messed up my nesting and thought you were replying to Shadow’s comment about this site having a disproportionately left-leaning readership. Well, hopefully this conversation is still useful even though it was incorrectly attributed :)

                4. Turtle Candle*

                  Ah, that makes sense, no problem! And actually I think the dynamic sometimes shows up in ways that aren’t political at all–witness how often “how do I tell my coworker that I hate the smell of microwaved fish” turns into an endless comment thread of every food that someone might potentially find annoying, and I think the dynamic is very similar despite it being not political in any meaningful way.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                This is a great comment.

                It seems to be happening in this comment section regarding the covering up of bruises. A lot of people immediately jumped to it being a sexist thing because women are supposed to be delicate and dainty. And sure, it could be that. But the LW didn’t say anything to indicate she thought it was that and bringing up all these hypotheticals isn’t helping with the situation.

              3. Dot Warner*

                It’s just that it doesn’t need to be said 300 times in one thread, and in fact saying it 300 times in one thread can drown out and overwhelm the actual advice part of the advice–because, as you say, it’s less advice (there’s not much immediately actionable to do about “our society does this thing terribly in general”) than opinion.

                I agree, and these massive derails have made me a lot less interested in commenting lately. Yes, sexism (or whatever else the derail is about) is a big problem in the workplace, but when everybody’s saying the same thing over and over, that’s really not useful to the OP or anybody who might be in a similar situation.

          2. LBK*

            I mean, there’s some norms that vary dramatically by region, but there’s plenty that don’t, and I think it gets into “not everyone can eat sandwiches” territory to act as though there’s no feasible way to discuss a general cultural norm. Most people here seem to be well-served by most of the advice here, so obviously there’s some sort of generally applicable standards that exist. No one would bother continuing to write in here if norms varied so dramatically from office to office that you couldn’t give broadly useful answers to such brief letters.

            1. Mike C.*

              Oh, sorry, I’m certainly not trying to be all like, “well how can you know what’s real, maaaaaaaaaaaan!?” It’s more of a personal experience of how I can be at one site at my workplace that’s run in one way then cross the country to a very similar site and see how everything completely changes. Sure, some things are set in stone, but I’m always surprised to find the huge variability in what is considered normal.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Absolutely! What’s frustrating to me is when that doesn’t get acknowledged — for example, just because it would be okay in Commenter Bob’s workplace shouldn’t mean Bob refuses to accept that there are plenty of other workplaces where it wouldn’t be.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  It’s a good point — I was rereading one of the innumerable comment threads about “Miss/Mr. Firstname” the other day, and thinking to myself how this was something that was probably never going to be settled, because the cultural variation on it is just so huge. I think that might also be a function of size, where there’s more pressure to represent one’s own experience in a wider sea of voices.

              2. LBK*

                I think it really depends on what facet of the business is in question and how macro of a view you’re looking at in terms of what the “norm” is; I think details certainly vary pretty widely from office to office and you have to appreciate the nuances of your own situation, but broad, directional advice should apply the same in most white collar offices (I do think the blue collar world can be completely different, and I’d say that’s one pretty consistent factor of workplaces that does change the norms).

                And I do agree with Alison that it’s frustrating sometimes how people can’t see outside their experience and just double down on “while in MY office, this would never work” without being willing to concede that maybe their office is the outlier and that their specific situation isn’t applicable to the OP.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I think it depends a lot on the industry. Given that LW is in education, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask her to cover up regular bruises from fairly aggressive sports presuming they make the same request of *all* employees who engage in aggressive sports.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        I agree that industry matters. I think that the occasional small to moderate bruise wouldn’t be a big deal in any of the offices I’ve worked in (as I get them on my arms and legs not infrequently from walking into things) but that I’d expect more significant/serious bruises would be bandaged or covered, and anything on the face would have makeup applied. Of course, most suits don’t leave much visible skin in the first place, but still. And yes, it’s got to be across the board.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Exactly! I’m a super klutz and I frequently end up with bruises that I have no idea how I got.

          And I think about how people would show up at OldJob with a boot on their foot or using crutches or whatever and everyone wanted to know what happened, so I can see how it would be distracting if someone frequently had giant black & purple welts visible on their person.

          Come to think of it, two of the senior managers at OldJob played rugby and I don’t ever remember seeing either of them with bruises or injuries. It was a well known fact that they played in a league. I don’t know if they were just lucky/not easily bruised or if they covered up when it happened.

          1. Rockette*

            If someone came in with crutches, you might ask, “What happened?” once and get the story. I feel like that should be the same with the bruises. The first time you see the big bruise, you ask “What happened?” You find out the person plays roller derby. You think, “Oh, yeah, I can see how that would lead to bruising.” And then that’s the end! At least to me it is. Just as I wouldn’t go up to the person on crutches every day asking “What happened?”, I wouldn’t ask the person with the bruises what happened every time they had a fresh bruise. I’d just remember they play a sport where that can happen and that’s the end. I don’t understand how it’s distracting, unless you’re working with brand-new people every single day.

            1. Yorick*

              But this person is on crutches several days for the same injury. If someone gets a new horrible bruise, you don’t know that it’s from the same thing as the horrible bruise last week.

              1. Rockette*

                But if I know they regularly engage in a sport that can result in bruises, I’m just going to assume that’s what the bruise is from. I’m not going to be distracted every single time there’s a new bruise, because I asked about a bruise before and got the story.

                1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                  You’re not, but what about new people who don’t know? Or clients or customers?

                2. Rockette*

                  I can’t reply below Detective Amy Santiago, but the LW said this, “I don’t have a front-facing job. 99% of the people I interact with are members of of the company.” So I’m assuming she works with pretty much the same people all the time, so they should be in the know. If they’re not, I think it could go a long way to explain it to people, and then they won’t be distracted anymore.

    5. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I think part of it is in the details — the question asked before made it out that there was no real burden in covering up the bruises (they don’t wear skirts in the office anyway, but occasionally present in the South where skirts are more common.) So it’s not so much that being asked to cover bruises is per se an issue, but in this case, covering the bruises is a) causing significant physical discomfort for the OP and b) creating a lot of comment all on its own. Those raise problems, and additional problems from the managers framing the OP’s sports activity as “violence.”

    6. thunderbird*

      I have mixed feelings about this. I am currently wearing slim crop pants due to an epic bruise on my shin (don’t walk around in the dark), because it does look… unpolished?

      However, reflecting on the OP’s situation, it feeds the narrative of women needing to be delicate and causing more barriers or challenges to women participating in sport and physical activity. So I am torn.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I think – for a moment ignoring workplace realities – that it *should be* okay to have bruises and not cover them. But it should also be okay to have bruises and cover them. They *do* cause comment and reaction; what “should” happen in an ideal world is (IMO) the person with the bruise should pick whether to cover it or not, based on their comfort zone (and probably willingness to have conversations about the bruises).

        But I think the OP’s managers have made their position pretty clear; in the real world, the makeup advice is probably better. Also, there are some shirts with cooling technology that might do a better job than just plain cotton? OP – cotton does a good job often, but there are some shirts that do better. It might be worth looking into whether you can find one that’s office-appropriate, or put an office-appropriate shirt/vest over one. (Or you can also buy sleeves, no shirt, in the fabric – that might work – but I’ve never used those so can’t say how well they stay put.)

        1. Undine*

          I find synthetic fabrics a problem because I smell a lot more in them. And I don’t find them cooler than superthin cotton shirts.

          Have you talked to your managers about the heat? In addition to a fan, could you try one of those sports cooling towels or gel-filled neck coolers? I don’t know that it would make a difference, but you could try.

    7. BananaPants*

      I’m surprised that I seem to be in a small minority who thinks it’s understandable and reasonable to cover regular, significant bruising at work.

      In my industry and profession, participating in sports which involves basically getting beaten up on the regular would be viewed as somewhat unprofessional. IMO gender plays less of a role than social class.

      1. Important Moi*

        I have no objections to cover regular, significant bruising at work.

        In my industry and profession, people are so inappropriately nosy with no consequences, anyone who does anything outside the norm just doesn’t discuss it. They get tired of answering questions and dealing with the comments.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        I agree. I play rugby, and I often have a lot of bruises. If they’re large and noticeable, I cover them up, because I do think it looks unprofessional. My manager would never tell me to do so, but I think it’s just another distraction from my work- I don’t think it’s much better to be known as “that bruised rugby player” than “weird cat sweater woman” or “green hair woman”.

        The regularity and predictability of the bruising is also what makes me think it’s more reasonable to ask for her to cover them. It seems to be an ongoing issue, and it feels reasonable to me for the manager to ask her to figure out a solution if she’s going to be bruised on a regular basis. It’s similar to dress code- wearing jeans once because your pants ripped on the way in is okay, but wearing jeans all the time because you don’t want to buy new dress pants is not.

        1. RG*

          I think the jeans analogy is a great one! Though they’re often confusing and poorly explained, dress codes ultimately come from a place of establishing a cohesive standard so that clothing and presentation is not a distraction in the workplace. The norms of what’s a distraction clearly vary (facial piercings are fairly unremarkable in my non-profit space, but would be unusual in corporate law), but it’s understandable that bruises are distracting.

          I think the OP is actually asking two questions. The first is about whether the managers’ expectations are reasonable (I believe they are, even though it’s handled poorly), but the second is about how to handle the perceptions of coworkers. I don’t have a great answer, but I’d just talk more about your hobbies and how great they are (e.g., “How was your weekend, Jane?” “Awesome! I had a match with my paintball team. Got some wicked bruises, but we had a great time!”). Then, if the office rumor mill gets going, someone you’ve talked to can squash it for you (“Abuse? Nah, I was talking to Jane yesterday and she told me all about her avid paintball hobby. That’s probably what’s going on”).

          1. Just Another Techie*

            I don’t have a great answer, but I’d just talk more about your hobbies and how great they are (e.g., “How was your weekend, Jane?” “Awesome! I had a match with my paintball team. Got some wicked bruises, but we had a great time!”).

            I think this is great advice. I’m particularly close to one of my co-workers, who did express concern for me when I started coming in with significant bruises everywhere from acrobatics training. I eventually pulled up the “Circus Hurts” facebook group on my phone and showed him how circus performers all bruise a lot, and are even so proud of our bruises that we post photos to show off on facebook (badge of honor yo!) and he relaxed a bunch after that.

            I also started being more cognizant of how much bruising my clothing exposed and switched to longer sleeves and higher collars, because while the concern and questions were coming from a good place, it was exhausting to handle. It was distracting both to my colleagues and to me!

          2. Simms*

            I think the second question is what is getting to people because despite telling people her hobby, the actions of her managers are making her have to behave in a way that makes the rest of the office think she is lying and thus causing more gossip than the bruises themselves are.

      3. KarenT*

        I don’t know if you’re in a small minority. I think Jessesgirl72 above made a really good point about the first loud opinion tending to prevail. I’m with you on it being a completely reasonable expectation to cover up significant bruises at work.
        I also think Alison is correct in the comment section now being more reflective of how workplaces should be, and not always how they really are. That’s probably a natural progression as the blog grew in popularity. I also think in this case commenters were probably reacting to how strongly the OPs office was enforcing the policy (not being able to roll up sleeves for a bit does seem particularly heavy handed).

      4. Candy*

        I agree. To me, it seems along the same vein as brushing your teeth, tucking in your shirt, not wearing tights with holes in them, that sort of thing. I think things are getting a bit out of hand in the OP’s office (managers monitoring her for rolling up her sleeves is a bit over the top) but I personally don’t think it’s a hardship to be asked to look polished and professional while at work.

        I work in libraries, which are fairly casual environments, but I still wear cardigans and tights to cover all my tattoos, not because I’ve ever been asked to cover up, but because it makes me look more pulled together and people take me more seriously. If I had bruises instead of tattoos all over my arms and legs, I’d probably cover them too just for the sake of presenting a pulled-together image. It doesn’t kill me to save my little cami slip dresses that bare my arms and legs for the weekend

    8. NW Mossy*

      I think the key part of this letter is the extent to which the OP’s management is being plain that this is A Thing for them. The intensity of their reaction strikes me as off, and that wasn’t part of the scope of the original question.

    9. Jaybeetee*

      I’m wondering if there are a wider variety of readers/commenters out there now, with a wider variety of work experience? Skimming through the previous article and comments, people seem to be thinking of relatively high-up office workers in business suits with giant visible bruises, which *would* be distracting. Like a CEO with a black eye.

      I’d guess today’s readership doesn’t necessarily fit that mold as much, more people reading are in more casual workplaces with more emphasis on outside-of-work identity. But that’s just a theory.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        In the couple of years I’ve been hovering around this site, there have definitely been moments where it felt like those of us with non-exempt positions weren’t considered true professionals, because (the implication being) all “professional” jobs are exempt positions.

        It isn’t something I’ve felt in some time, but it was there on occasion.

      2. Jen*

        Yeah I am an attorney and professional norms in my field are pretty conservative. A lot of stuff commenters have defended here simply wouldn’t fly period. A litigator would never, ever go to court with visible bruises and would do everything to cover up because ypu bet a jury would notice and your primary duty is to the entity you are representing. End of story.

        1. aebhel*

          I think that’s a lot of it–for you, it’s a norm in the field, whereas for someone like, say, my spouse (who works in a blue-collar job, albeit a relatively well-paying one), it would be insane.

          I think the problem comes up when either group assumes that the norms in their area/industry are the norms everywhere.

    10. Natalie*

      I haven’t checked all the time stamps, but if many of the comments came in after the OP’s comment upthread with additional details, the fact that the management are being butts about the issue in general could be a factor.

    11. KellyK*

      It may just be a pricklier group of commenters than four years ago, but I think a lot of it is the specifics of this situation rather than discussion of a general rule.

      Part of it is that her boss asked her to cover the bruises before they knew the reason why, which would create a really unhelpful environment if the bruises had resulted from abuse (and if a coworker is being abused, will show them that they need to hide the evidence of it as well). At least, that’s a big negative for me.

      I also think policing whether she rolls up her sleeves while she’s eating is excessive, particularly since harping on it is feeding into the rumor that she’s in an abusive relationship. She’s not customer-facing normally, and she’s not distracting anyone from work during her lunch break.

      Like, in general, “cover up any large or scary bruises” is perfectly reasonable, but the way it’s being enforced in this particular case seems really petty and unhelpful.

        1. aebhel*

          (Sorry, accidentally posted too soon)

          That is, I think that depending on the job, requiring OP to cover bruises could be an unremarkable expectation, but this manager seems really bizarrely focused on how OP must never expose her forearms for any reason whatsoever. That, to me, is weird and worth pushing back on.

          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            Yeah, I agree; to me, it makes this letter hugely different from the one Alison linked, and I don’t think it necessarily has to do with a change in the commentariat. The 2013 letter basically made it out that it was all the same to the OP whether they covered their legs or not, while this OP is seeing concrete negative repercussions to doing so, and management is coming down like a ton of bricks.

          2. textbookaquarian*

            I agree. The manager’s reaction and subsequent behavior is the kicker here. It sent up a red flag for me.

    12. Madeline Wuntch*

      I think it’s much more about…the first time was an abstract question – can they do that? might it be distracting? Yes, and sure, yes.

      But as a “This is a thing they are doing, I don’t like it, it makes life difficult for me for no discernible reason”, I think it humanizes the question and makes it harder to justify. I find all this bruise talk kind of distressing (I’ve got a bit of blood, injury, injection phobia which makes me a teensy bit nauseous hearing about this stuff, though usually for me hearing about injuries happening or thinking about it is worse than seeing a bruise), but I’m still find it difficult to justify the reasoning for hiding bruises, or why it should be unprofessional to bruise easily or practice a rough and tumble sport. So, yes, of course, they can do whatever they want, but should they? Is it reasonable for people to hide things – injuries that could result from illness, clumsiness, sports, or abuse? As for distracting – I don’t know, I kind of think that is silly, like, sure, maybe a few minutes will be lost to small talk about it, but I usually find that as coworkers, any kind of injury or something makes the list of topics of conversations, my coworker sliced his thumb dressing a deer, etc, and I frequently talk about my sport that I’m very active in – and I know in my office that that is appropriate chitchat – so, I mean, if that was also the type of office you were in, and yet your bruises and your sport are unwelcome – that’d be kind of weird.

    13. LQ*

      I think while you do try very hard to be really practical in your responses (which is why this is my favorite work related site) what is practical varies from place to place (not just around the world, but within the US and even from one employer to another). Some people see their practical (I’d just find another job) as the solution to everyone’s situation. Like saying “I’d never work for an employer who polices my X” can seem incredibly practical if you’ve never worked for or heard of an employer who does X and it would be really easy in your location/industry/job to find a new employer. But for someone where every single employer they’ve heard of does X or it’s really hard to find a new job then that isn’t at all practical advice. And they may have something else that weighs really heavily on those choices. (I don’t like X but I need healthcare or my spouse will die without medication and I have to spend a lot of extra time with spouse so I can’t spend a lot of time looking, I need to work with X in the place I’m at.)

      So you end up with everyone thinking they are being perfectly reasonable because of what they see in their world. I don’t know how to fix it. But I really want practical advice. I want sometimes for it so say, “This sucks but it’s not unusual and so you may need to just deal with it.” because that makes the shocked and extreme answers much clearer that it is unusual and extreme.

  22. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    #1 – Oh no, sports! How violent! [Insert massive and dramatic eye-rolling here]

    Honestly, I think “your injuries are distracting to others, please hide them” is a heck of a slippery slope for managers to pose on the brink of. Sure, in your case they’re not related to any protected-class type issues, but it’s a very visible stand for them to take. Other people are noticing that you’re obviously covering up bruises, and that seems like way more of a morale/distraction issue to me than you mentioning to your coworkers that you play a sport! I mean, back when I did fencing, that left me with visible and hella weird bruises, but it only took one conversation with anyone in my life to assure them that yes, that’s from getting very consensually stabbed, it’s cool, wanna see my trophy from the last tournament?

  23. ruff orpington*

    #1: I’m sympathetic, but I do understand the desire to hide bruises and welts.

    I played rugby in college, and often would have pretty visible bruises (though likely not as severe as paintball bruises can be). One of my teammates who bruised very easily would often get pulled aside by professors or classmates to make sure that she was OK. She was glad that people were concerned (especially had she been in a situation that wasn’t rugby-related), but it was continually distracting to her and the people around her. There’s also the factor of people being squeamish around injuries– even if it’s known that the injuries are athletic, large visible bruises and welts are not generally something that people are comfortable seeing.

    It was a good idea to ask your boss if you could show photos of you playing to alleviate any concerns about your well being, but since they pushed back, I think you have your answer. It might be good to ask about what to do for temperature: “Hey Jane, it’s hard to completely cover all my bruises without over heating in the office. Would it be OK to either switch to short sleeves or have a fan at my desk?”

    1. Laura*

      Perfect response. I’ve always worked in leftie professions where people dress fashionably, no one needs to wear a suit, etc – journalism, publishing – and I would be amazed to see anyone with the kind of big welted bruises the writer’s describing, either in London or NYC.

  24. Rockette*

    I box for exercise and occasionally receive some bruising on my hands or even my face if I catch a double-end bag in the cheek. The folks at my office do not care. Everyone thinks it’s bad-ass that I get in a ring and attempt to punch my trainer in the face.

  25. Jaybeetee*

    Not really to provide any advice, but another bruise-related anecdote: When my younger brother was about a year old, my mother picked him up one day and he headbutted her right in the face, leaving her with a black eye. For days after that at work, people kept pulling her aside, asking if everything was okay, if she needed a place to stay, etc. It’s something she laughed about later, but it was also touching for her how caring that workplace was.

  26. Channel Z*

    OP2; maybe it’s me, but I didn’t think there was anything weird about mentioning that your dog likes the heat. It was plain ol chit chat, so something simple like briefly mentioning your dog seems like a reasonable topic. What would be weird is if you had gone on and on about your dog, but you didn’t. And if you apologize, I think it might make you seem paranoid.

    1. N*

      Same, I thought it was kind of funny. It’s DEFINITELY not like the woman a few weeks ago who called her boss’ daughter a w*#!@.

      I might also be biased because of my love for chihuahuas, though.

  27. Alton*

    I think bruising is more likely to be distracting if it’s a frequent thing. I think it can be unreasonable to expect someone to cover up any time they have a bruise or injury (not counting something like putting a bandage over a wound or healing stitches), but if it’s a regular thing, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to try to minimize the noticeability.

    The managers sound really annoying and tactless in their approach to this, though, and it sounds like they have some unfair biases.

    I can sympathize. I used to do Brazilian jiu jitsu, and I never knew how easily the human body could bruise. I wasn’t even aware of getting banged up or anything. But my knees were always bruised even though I wore long pants and we practiced on mats. And one time I had a massive bruise on my arm when my sparring partner accidentally pinched the skin under his knee.

    But my most awkward experience with being injured at work was when I broke a blood vessel in my eye after a bad bout of vomiting. It took a couple weeks before my eye wasn’t half red anymore, and it was tough to hide it. Anyone who saw it freaked out.

    1. Cercis*

      I got a bout of food poisoning while pregnant and ended up throwing up so hard that I burst blood vessels in my eyes AND had petechiae under my eyes. Several people were concerned that I had maybe been strangled or something. I was just happy I hadn’t gone into early labor from the force.

      1. Alton*

        I had petechiae, too, but thankfully(?) it wasn’t as noticeable as my horrible red eye. Nobody openly questioned if I was strangled, but I did get a lot of “Oh my God! Your eye! Are you okay?” I tried using an eye patch but couldn’t find one that fit well. The worst part: I was a few weeks away from starting a new job, and not only did I not want to start out looking like that, but I knew I’d have to have a picture taken for an ID. But fortunately it wasn’t an issue by then.

        I’m glad your pregnancy was okay. That could be scary.

        1. Cercis*

          Yeah, luckily I didn’t think of it until hours later (when it was clear everything was okay) so I didn’t have a lot of extra stress. My work place was … interesting … with the rumors they’d start. There were lots of rumors about my pregnancies (I had 2 working there) because I carry BIG and had big babies. I have very fair skin and don’t wear much makeup so the petechiae were very obvious. As were any bruises I’d get (which were quite a few due to natural clumsiness, plus while pregnant just flat forgetting the extra space my body took up). Luckily I had some lunch friends (one with whom I’m still in contact 17 years later) who “knew all” and would speak up and laugh at the more outrageous rumors.

    2. Kiki*

      I used to do competitive taekwondo in a former life. One time my sparring partner missed my helmet and got my cheek instead. The entire right side of my face was a bruise for about 3 weeks and there wasn’t enough makeup in the world to hide it. Thankfully nobody at my office seemed to care once they got over the initial shock and heard the story.

  28. Contractor vs Employee*

    #5 — is the contract specific about not being an EMPLOYEE of any client? Freelancing would be a little different (In my opinion) as you’d be a contractor and not considered an employee? Is that a possible workaround.

    The catch would be if you went through the agency, you’d forever be stuck in this loop of the agency having this hold on you working for this client.

    I am not all the well versed in this stuff, so this is more a question of my own as well. But if your contract doesn’t explicitly state contract work is included in their clause, is that a loophole you can explore?

    1. ArtK*

      The problem wouldn’t be between the employee and either the client or the temp agency. It’s what’s in the contract between the client and the agency. There’s likely a “no poaching” clause that says that they can’t directly hire someone who came in through the agency. This are often time-limited, so it’s still possible OP#5 could work directly for the client, but the client needs to clear up the legal issues before that can happen.

      1. Contractor vs Employee*

        Well yeah, my question is would freelancing/contract work be considered “directly employing” in the same sense as hiring them on would be (I’m assuming yes)

        But just wondering if there’s a loophole in that being a contractor the employee is actually her own boss and not actually “hired” by the company, but rather doing work for her own client.

        I’m assuming no, of course, because then a lot of companies would just set up these arrangements and not pay the temp-agencies and that wouldn’t be cool. Just curious and thinking around it though.

      2. Shadow*

        Lots of these are hour limits. AS in you can’t hire my employee until I’ve billed you for x hours.

    2. Bea*

      Believe me, those contracts are meant to not have loopholes. They’d still have a case if it were a freelance position being offered.

      I’m not shocked that people aren’t aware of these things though. I had a temp employee we actually fired try to get hired back without using the staffing agency. I had to explain that the contact he signed and one we signed as well prohibited that from happening. It helped me gloss over the fact he was fired because he was frequently a no show and didn’t do a good job.

  29. wickedtongue*

    Hmmm..I think what bugs me about Alison’s advice in #1 is that the manager’s order to cover up the bruises is causing more problems than displaying them did! Now, the LW is constantly paranoid that the bruises are showing, which is making the rest of the office think that the bruises are from domestic violence. Before that, she had could talk about a fun hobby and socialize; but now, she’s gaining unwanted attention and concern from her coworkers. It seems like she’s far more of a distraction now than before!

    I feel like bringing that up with the boss *might* be a better tactic than just mentioning that she doesn’t have a public-facing job.

    Also I know that we’re talking “real world” and not what’s fair, but I feel positive that a man with a “violent” hobby would never get this kind of request from a manager.

    1. Covergirl*

      I agree also, I think it has caused more harm than good, and a conversation should be had. I also wonder if just a bit of makeup cant cover the bruising and allow her to wear whatever keeps her most comfy during the day.

  30. Covergirl*

    #1 – Has anyone suggested concealer?? There is plenty of makeup that works well to cover bruising. Why not just dab concealer on the most visible bruises and stay cool? If it worked to hide hickies in high school 20 years ago, surely makeup technology would work even better now to cover some dark bruising! lol.

    Good luck!

    1. Covergirl*

      So I commented before I read the other comment, I see make up has been suggested. It also doesn’t have to be a long process like doing the face. A concealer stick, or tattoo stick… can be done in the car in the lot before you go in. Idk. I don’t like the idea that these bruises are so egregious that other management is also chiming in if you even roll up a sleeve when hot. It’s weird.

  31. Carla*

    To OP #1, I wish we lived in a world where bruises and changes in our bodies we’re considered unprofessional, but we don’t. Many women are still required to wear makeup or change their natural hair to ensure that their appearance is deemed “professional”. In light of that, I’m not surprised that you’ve been asked to cover up bruising, and I’m not sure there’s much you can do to fight it.

  32. Fishcakes*

    Any office that I’ve worked in that had a professional/business dress code wouldn’t be OK if I regularly came in with large bruises from my hobbies. Also – I’d never know if a male co-worker was covered in bruises because their dress code is more strict – suit jackets, long-sleeved dress shirts, and long pants.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      I was going to comment something similar. While the women can get away with wearing shells I don’t think I have seen most of the men with their sleeves rolled up (short sleeve polos on Friday being the main exception.) That’s probably part of the reason why almost all of the women have space heaters and an extra jacket or blazer laying around.
      I think that it is interesting that many commentors complain about the double standard of a women being told to cover her bruises but I doubt that the men in the office have the option to wear what the OP#1 wants to wear (or the male equivalent.)

      One final note, if exterior clients aren’t able to see you that doesn’t mean interior customers, your coworkers, can’t.

  33. 2horseygirls*

    As one who works with horses, I cam empathize with LW#1. Weird (and fairly significant) bruises can appear out of nowhere. If you’re comfortable and it’s in line with the company culture, perhaps a few photos of you with your roller derby team, or in the paintball championships, would simultaneously explain the bruises, and give co-workers an opportunity to ask about your activities. No advice on the covering up request, except maybe some open crochet-type cardigans?

    1. DietCokeHead*

      As a fellow horse girl, I empathize too. In fact, last year my horse tripped and I went off over his shoulder. I was wearing my helmet, so no irreversible damage was done, however, my face was swollen and I ended up with two black eyes. My co-workers were horrified. I got lots of questions about whether I went to a doctor (I had gone and had x-rays taken) and questions on how I managed not to break anything (luck and the helmet).

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        God bless helmets. The first time I ever went off a horse, I landed right on the crown of my head, and blacked out momentarily to boot; it scared the everliving crud out of my riding instructor, but I was completely fine.

  34. SheLooksFamiliar*

    About bruising: I was horsing around with my 5-year-old nephew and he head-butted my left eye. My entire eye and most of my cheek were dark purple and swollen – and I had an interview with a major client for a long-term contract in a few days. I got some teasing from friends, but mostly people were worried for me. I felt like the more I explained, the worse it sounded.

    I told the person who set up the interview what happened because I just couldn’t walk into a professional setting without warning them. It was just too distracting. I wore huge Jackie O sunglasses that day, and the people at the front desk still audibly gasped. I could hear them thinking, ‘Domestic abuse?’ The interview team knew about my eye, and there were still horrified looks from men and women alike when I took off my glasses.

    The upside is, I got the contract and a good story to tease my now 23-year-old nephew with. And I was really touched by the offers of housing, etc., by people who barely knew me.

    The downside is, bruises on women are not a benign thing so people will think the worst. We are conditioned to think of domestic abuse, or assault by a stranger, or other vile acts. I’m not sure if it’s better to display and ‘own’ the bruises and explain if asked, or to not have co-workers think about abuse that isn’t happening. But I think people are more understanding than OP1’s boss seems to think.

  35. Shadow*

    I’d consult a lawyer about the temp contract. They already made money off of you for two years and you completed the temp assignment. It’s not like they were trying to bring you on board before the temp assignment ended. And what they’re essentially saying is no matter how long you’re a temp we have dibs on you for a year. And what if you as a temp worked at multiple clients. Would that prevent you from working for any of those companies for a year thereby limiting your employability? That’s seems overly restrictive.

    1. Lisa S*

      It’s a perfectly normal and legal to have this in this type of contract. The agency found and placed the temp, and as part of their contract they have exclusivity for a set period. The OP signed the contract knowing this, and there’s no cause to contest it.

      1. Shadow*

        that’s the point though- Non competes have to be reasonable and have a legitimate business interest. The employee completed the contracted assignment from the employers perspective. And restricting someone from going to that client just because you see them as “your property” isn’t always reasonable.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          These are legally sound contracts that are time-limited. It’s the same thing that recruiters use, because otherwise employers could benefit from the work without paying for it.

          1. Shadow*

            They don’t have that argument bc they already made 2yrs worth of profit from that employee at that client

            1. KarenT*

              It’s not restricting the employee from going to the client. It’s ensuring the temp agency is paid a fee if the employee does, since the temp agency created the placement and relationship.

              1. Shadow*

                Now I’ve heard of that-a temp to hire fee but that’s not part of the contract apparently

            2. Jessie the First (or second)*

              If I read the LW and Alison’s clarifications correctly, this is not a non-compete, it is a contract in which any employment by a company that used her as a temp will need to go through the staffing agency (i.e., they get their recruiting cut) if she is employed by them within a year after temping for them. That is pretty standard staffing contract language. And it is far less restrictive than an actual non-compete would be – she can still be employed by companies.

              That the staffing agency has already made a profit from her temping services does not negate that in a legal sense they have a business interest still at stake (think of how easy would it be for companies to get around paying for agency services without this kind of contract – they want to hire someone but don’t want to pay a fee? Then get “temp” workers for month, then have the contract end, then hire the worker. This contract attempts to avoid that kind of maneuvering.) And one year is not a particularly long time; in lots of jurisdictions, a flat-out non-compete for one year would be enforceable, and this is less restrictive than a non-compete.

        2. Jen*

          Alison pointed this out above, but this is a bit different from a pure noncompete because the basis of the relationship in the first place is the agency.

  36. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I’m such a klutz, and the more tired I am, the less coordinated I am. And with caring for my wife and working, I’m always tired! Right now I have bruising from my collarbone down to my elbow because I accidentally shut my shoulder in a car door (yes, really!), and banged my collarbone against a dresser while picking something up. It’s too swollen to wear long sleeve shirts. And I’m probably going to get more bruises, since I will continue to be too tired to be coordinated. Doesn’t mean abuse though.

    An interesting related question: can or should an employer tell someone to cover up self-harm scars, even if old? Or are they considered a medical condition and you can’t ask? One of my friends in another city is dying this summer because her legs are still fairly badly scarred even though it’s been about four years. She can’t wear capris/shorts/sheer hose- it’s full pants or black tights with a skirt or they’re at least a little visible. And it’s so hot where she is!

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I think scars, regardless of origin, are a different category from bruises or other actively healing wounds, if only from the practical perspective that bruises fade a whole lot faster than scars. As for the legal side of it, it’s an interesting question that I am too dang sleepy to wrestle with at the moment.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I would think that faded scars are not likely to be as noticeable as fresh bruises.

      My legs are scarred because I sometimes scratch until they bleed in my sleep. I don’t typically worry too much about covering the faded marks, but if I have a bright red angry looking scab, I’ll usually cover it.

  37. Vaca*

    I’m going to take a very different tack on #1 here – your role as an employee is to, well, look the part and act the part. Part of that role is to show up looking the way your employer wants you to look. If they say no nose rings, you take out the nose ring. If they say wear a tie, you wear a tie. And if they say NO BRUISES, YOU QUIT PLAYING ROLLER DERBY. Seriously, this is no different from any other hobby interfering with your ability to meet the requirements of the job. They are being accommodating enough by asking you to cover up. I mean, let’s imagine that I love community theater and I get a role that requires me to have a mohawk. Say it’s Taxi Driver or whatever. If I show up at work on Monday with that mohawk, they’re going to send me home. Maybe – maybe – they’ll be willing to say “get yourself a wig.” But they might also very much – and be within their rights – say “this shows poor judgement. Lose the mohawk or lose the job.” Here’s another one: say I refurbish engines on the weekend. If I show up on Monday with grease caked under my fingernails, it’s not ok. If I can’t scrub it out, and I don’t want to wear gloves (which, again! accommodating!) the rational choice is to find another hobby. Not to blame my supervisor for telling me to knock it off (hey, I don’t need clean fingernails to answer the phone! Who do you think you are?).

    1. Jen*

      I actually think this comment is closer to practical reality. I had a job at a theme park and every aspect of our appearance was very tightly controlled. To the point that if your hair was wrong or your sideburns unkempted you were written up and sent home. And this was an hourly minimum wage job. The reality is that as long as it isn’t the result of a protected class or condition, your employer is within rights to demand certain things and while you can push back, you can legally be fired for noncompliance. Whether you think things should be different, that is another story and you shop find ways to advocate for societal change. But until the laws and norms change, that is the reality of life. These strict appearance rules run from attorneys to waiters.

      1. Natalie*

        “And this was an hourly minimum wage job.”

        I may be misunderstanding, but if the implication here is that higher wage jobs would thus exert more control, I can say in my experience it works the exact opposite. The lower paid a job is and the less formal education it requires, the more employees are treated like children in a Roald Dahl boarding school.

        As far as norms go, I’m not sure how they would literally ever change if the response is always “welp, that’s the norm, can’t do anything about it so you should just conform unquestioningly.”

        1. Jen*

          I am not saying be unquestioning, but if we don’t acknowledge legal realities and practicalities are we setting LWs up to get fired? You have to be realistic and pick hills to die on.

          1. Natalie*

            In any reasonable office, the LW wouldn’t be fired for raising the issue with their boss again. And if they are in an office where that outcome is likely, frankly they work with crazy people and could be fired tomorrow because the boss doesn’t like the email closings they use.

        2. Statler von Waldorf*

          No, higher wage jobs don’t exert more control. However, they do have higher unspoken expectations, and you tend to be judged more harshly when you break them. One of those expectations is dressing like a professional.

          As for changing norms, it’s fairly straightforward. How you change those is by showing you can follow them, build up political capital by proving that you can do your job well, then you can expend some of that capital pushing back on the norms you find problematic. Some norms actually useful and are there for reasons that are not inherently obvious, others are not. It takes some experience to know which is which.

          1. Natalie*

            I don’t think it’s a straight line, though. Do I recall correctly that you’re in law? They are certainly an extreme end, in both education and unspoken assumptions/judgment from what I’ve gathered. Many white collar offices with business casual dress codes don’t have especially high or rigid dress expectations and don’t really harshly judge people for missing the mark. So it’s more like a parabola, with low wage jobs at one end and certain prestige legacy industries at the other.

        3. CMart*

          I’ve had the same experience as you with low wage jobs, and I don’t think Jen was necessarily implying the opposite. I think she was just expressing the same bemusement I’ve always had when I was an hourly, minimum wage employee: y’all don’t pay nearly enough to expect me to care about unkempt sideburns.

          At my current role as an exempt, arguably overpaid employee? I definitely get paid enough to care about conforming to the dress code so I can continue my employment here.

    2. Princess Carolyn*

      That only works if the employer is being reasonable in what they’re requiring of the employee. I don’t think hiding bruises is a reasonable requirement, which means “quit doing roller derby” isn’t a reasonable response. In general, I’m skeptical of “look the part” requirements — a lot of them are unnecessary, and many of them are racist or classist. People bruise sometimes. I don’t think it’s unprofessional to be a human who bruises.

      Since the employer has all the power here, that may be how this whole thing plays out in the end. But, surely the OP already considered that option.

      1. Shadow*

        They’re not saying don’t ever show a bruise while you work here.

        The unnecessaryness of it is really irrelevant unless a protected category is involved.

      2. Vaca*

        I disagree. If one of my employees showed up with bruises, after ascertaining they were OK I would tell them to knock off whatever they were doing that caused the bruising. It’s gross and unprofessional.

        1. Dankar*

          I don’t think you can actively control what employees do off the clock, though. As long as it’s from a benign activity and not being disruptive in the workplace (thus, the request to cover them), it’s really not any of your business as an employer to tell people to knock it off with the hobbies they enjoy.

          1. CMart*

            Well, sure. You can’t reasonably expect to dictate what people are doing with their free time. So a boss can’t expect “knock off playing roller derby” to go over well.

            But “knock off coming into work with visible bruising from a consensual activity” gives you, the employee the power of choice. If you can’t do your hobby more carefully to avoid bruising, if you like your job you should probably consider stopping that hobby.

          2. Vaca*

            Actually, I can (and do) control what my employees do off the clock to the extent that it annoys me and impacts my ability to work. Again: not a protected class. If you show up with green hair and tell me it’s part of your band’s “look” I can tell you the hair goes or you do. If that means you have to quit the band that’s really not my problem.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Non-hypothetically, what are some of the things you’ve ordered your employees to stop doing because their use of their free time annoyed you personally?

              1. Vaca*

                1. Told an employee it was time to stop going out drinking every night and especially to stop telling me about it. Note that I work very late many nights and so it is definitely a career limiting move to brag about how many girls you are sleeping with while I am in the office.
                2. Told an employee he needed to stop using cocaine.
                3. Told an employee that if he was going to keep going to a boxing gym he had to stop getting punched in the face.
                4. Told an employee to either break up with his girlfriend or stop bringing the baggage to work.

                Note that *none* of these are because their use of free time annoyed me. All of them are because the results of what they were doing annoyed me / impacted their ability to do their job / impacted the ability of everyone else to do their job.

                1. Vaca*

                  Just for clarification, I don’t really care if the activities themselves annoy me, it’s if the results annoy me. If you’re in a Nickleback cover band I probably won’t fire you. Probably.

            2. aebhel*

              Nope. You can tell your employees not to come in to work with green hair; that’s your prerogative. But making the leap from ‘don’t come to work with green hair’ to ‘quit playing in a band on your free time’ is what you’re doing here. ‘Bruises should be covered’ =/= ‘Quit playing sports in your free time’. It’s a bizarrely combative and controlling way to come at the issue.

              It’s not illegal unless it disproportionately affects people on the basis of a protected class, but ‘not illegal’ is the bare minimum requirement.

              1. Vaca*

                I’m not sure you’re following my logic. The original poster seemed to be claiming that because they played roller derby etc, they ended up with bruises. The employer didn’t like the bruises and said to cover up. The OP didn’t like that since it was impinging on their ability to enjoy their free time and they don’t like covering up. My logic is that if it impacts your work and/or the work of others around you, and you aren’t able/willing to obviate the consequences (in this case bruises), that I have every right to tell you that you need to stop doing it. That is (should be?) non-controversial.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  No, the OP doesn’t like it because now everyone thinks they’re abuse victims and they’re also incredibly uncomfortable in the office. That’s really different from “impinging on the ability to enjoy free time.”

                2. PlainJane*

                  This may seem like hair-splitting, but: I agree that as a boss, you have the right to address issues that directly affect the workplace–hair in natural colors only, dress code (as long as it isn’t illegally discriminatory, and, yes, covering up bruises. What seems unreasonable in your approach is the leap to telling people what they can/can’t do in their personal lives. If someone is coming to work hung over, and that’s affecting their productivity, the workplace issue is the lost productivity–not how much they drank last night. If someone is telling you how many people they slept with, the issue is inappropriate conversations in the workplace–not their sex life. I don’t care what my employees do in their off hours, as long as they are appropriate and productive at work. That’s my only claim on them as an employer.

                3. aebhel*

                  I’m following your logic just fine, thank you, I just don’t agree with you. I think that’s an unnecessarily combative approach that is going to alienate employees when you could just as easily set expectations about how they present themselves at work and keep your commentary and/or opinions about their hobbies to yourself.

                  Making sure that employees present themselves professionally at work is your business. Determining how they structure their personal life in order to make that happen is really, really not.

                  And this is beyond the scope of the letter, to be honest–way beyond. The OP wants to know if this policy is worth pushing back on. Personally, I think it is; and if she still gets the response that bruises need to be covered, then she is an adult who can presumably make her own decisions about whether she wants to deal with covering up or quit her hobby. But this is–clearly, from the responses here, and from the responses she’s gotten from her coworkers–not such a widespread norm that pushing back is unthinkable.

    3. KellyK*

      Yes, technically it’s legal for an employer to have whatever nitpicky requirements they want, and often your only recourse is to find another job if you don’t like it. They can, for example, require you to dye your hair if they don’t like your natural hair color (which frequently happens when that color is grey). They can dictate the clothes you wear, down to the color and the brand. For that matter, they can require you to not have hobbies that they don’t like, even if they aren’t affecting your workplace appearance. We all know that, aside from requiring exempt employees to work off the clock or requiring people to submit to harassment related to their membership in a protected class, employers can require pretty much anything they want from employees.

      But it’s perfectly reasonable, on an internet forum, to opine on whether a specific requirement is actually reasonable. Telling the OP in all caps to give up hobbies that are important to them, as if that was as normal a request as “show up on time” doesn’t strike me as especially helpful. It’s humanly possible that she might have to choose between her sport and her job, but it sounds like there are a lot of avenues she hasn’t tried yet (concealer, cooler clothing that still covers the bruises, arnica gel, etc. etc. etc.).

      I don’t think getting a radical haircut or coming to work dirty is at all the same as having minor sports injuries. Most companies have a dress code that would indicate pretty clearly whether a Mohawk would fly at your office or not, but I seriously doubt that this employer has anything in writing about never having visible bruises.

    4. Other Derby Girl*

      A bruise is an injury. If someone showed up with a broken leg from their weekend soccer game, would an employer reasonably tell them to quit their hobby? (And in this case, as skaters know, a hobby that takes hours of your week, and extra volunteer time, and your own money to travel…if you do it, it’s because you are very committed.) You can’t always control bruises. It’s also a slippery slope: sports-inflicted bruises are one thing, but if the message is NO BRUISES, what do those who bruise easily, who have a blood disorder, who are victims of violence do?

      1. Vaca*

        It’s one thing if they have a condition. Obviously that’s protected. But yeah, if somebody was routinely getting injured at weekend soccer games I would tell them the soccer has to end. I have a business to run.

          1. Vaca*

            I would ask them to cover it up if it was bruises. The soccer injury thing is different – if you keep getting hurt and can’t walk, yeah, time to stop playing. That’s the way I interpreted the hypothetical anyway.

    5. Alton*

      I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect someone to give up a hobby that they do in their own time unless there’s an obvious mismatch between them openly doing the activity and the mission of their workplace (like being an avid hunter and working for PETA or something). Most of the time, there’s a happy medium–like using makeup to cover up the bruises.

      Also, I think it’s important to recognize that people are going to prioritize things differently. I would never intentionally go into a field where my R-rated fantasy novels would be a serious issue for my professional reputation, because my writing is important to me. Maybe roller derby is that important to the OP, to the point where she would rather find a different job if it comes down to it. That’s a perfectly valid choice. And some people would rather look for a job where they can have a mohawk and a nose piercing. There are things I don’t do because they’re not practical with work, but they’re things I’m willing to compromise on. If my job were keeping me from doing something important to me, I would be actively looking for jobs that were a better fit for my lifestyle.

      1. Alton*

        Also, even with the hair example, there are often compromises. I have a friend who wanted to dye her hair wild colors but knew it might not be acceptable in her field. So she preemptively invested in a good-quality wig that she could wear to work so it wouldn’t be an issue.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Tell your friend next time to think about doing things the other way around. A wig is a much more practical choice for the super colorful looks. With a wig you don’t have to worry about the color fading from washing, your roots showing, “scandal” occurring if your wig comes off at the wrong time/place, or severe damage to your hair from over processing. I suggest a high quality wig to anyone who wants to go with a drastic color change.

          1. Tinker*

            Heh, I concur with that advice — at least depending on what the person wants to do.

            Last year I got my hair dyed orange for what was meant to be a one-time larp event. Well, the one-time larp event ended up being a series of events at six-month intervals, and between inertia and “I just dyed my hair for the event, I don’t want to redye it now / it’s not so long until the next event, if I dye it a different color now I’ll have to bleach and redo it fairly shortly” my hair has now been some unnatural shade of orange for a year.

            (This is a thing that my boss and grandboss openly encourage me in.)

            I’m semi-retiring the character this week, and when this latest dye job has faded I’m going teal or something. And the next time I want a character with a signature hairstyle, probably going team wig.

    6. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I think this is a bit excessive, and a company that demands to have veto right over their employees’ legal recreational activities is a company that is asking to lose all of its high and even moderate performers.

      If we’re talking about the real world, there’s the difference between “a company technically has the right to do this” and “a company that isn’t staffed by loons is not going to ask this because it’s absurd.” Sure, my company can decide we’re going to ban anyone wearing blue in the office because the owner hates the color, but just because they’re legally able to do so doesn’t mean that it’s automatically a reasonable thing to ask.

      Plus, there’s a HUGE GAPING GRAND-CANYON SIZE GAP between “hey, maybe consider not doing this because it looks very off” and “here’s a box, pack up your desk.” Asking someone to cover up bruises is not an accommodation. Accommodation is where a company actually does something to make their employee more comfortable/able to work, not less so.

      1. aebhel*

        Right, and that’s the thing: you’re going to be stuck with only people who have no other options. Most people will compromise their personal presentation to be in line with professional norms, and plenty of people do in fact give up hobbies or habits that interfere with them being effective at their jobs. But nobody who isn’t desperate for a job is going to put up with a boss who expects to have veto power over everything they do in their free time.

    7. Lol again*

      My last comment was removed so I’ll pose a question instead. How far does your policing of your employees’ personal lives go? I’m surprised they would let you dictate which hobbies they can and can’t participate in. Personally I would quit if my boss tried to control my life outside work. I wonder why your employees allow it.

      1. Kate 2*

        I am not a llama, but if you fire an employee, who isn’t in a customer-facing position, for, example, going to a boxing gym in their free time and coming back bruised, you are setting yourself up for big trouble. Wrongful termination anyone?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Not in the U.S. In the U.S., “wrongful termination” means the firing was for an illegal reason — i.e., because of a person’s race, religion, sex, disability, or other protected characteristic, in retaliation for reporting harassment of discrimination, or a very, very small number of other situations. Firing someone for bruises from boxing isn’t against the law.

  38. HannahS*

    #4, I don’t know if it would help, but maybe include on the job posting that you’re looking for a long-term employee? I was in a similar position to a lot of your applicants (was trying to get in to medical school) and I saw job postings for medical administration that said stuff like, “We are looking for someone who is planning to make this their career,” or “We are looking for an employee who will be able to stay for at least five years.” I didn’t apply to those, because since I was applying to medical school, I couldn’t commit to more than a year at a time. But I definitely agree with Alison about asking about future timelines.

    1. Confused Teapot Maker*

      Agreed. I prefer this way round or something like saying “We usually expect people to stay in this role for five years and there’s a very steep learning curve in the first year” during the interview rather than trying to suss out what somebody’s five year plan is. Given the facts, I think people will self-select themselves out if they’re not happy with the deal. Plus, as people have pointed out above, five-year plans rarely work out. You could find yourself rejecting a really good candidate because they possibly might maybe go back to med school but actually never do or selecting somebody who has no dreams of med school, only for them to decide two months in that the job isn’t for them. (For what it’s worth, I’d like to add myself to the list of people who have sworn blind they were going to get a further degree…that was a decade ago. I still haven’t.)

  39. CDR*

    To the employee with bruises…you can supplement with Vitamin B12 and you won’t bruise as much. Most people are deficient and it is totally okay to get more B12 than you need since it is water soluble.

  40. Joielle*

    I also get a lot of bruises from practicing a sport… except in my case the sport is pole dancing! It’s a great strength workout and 90% of the time there’s nothing sexy about it, but I usually don’t bring it up at work because people immediately think of strippers – and although I have a ton of respect for those ladies, that’s not what I’m doing. Most of my bruises are in the backs of my knees and upper arms, so I just wear pants and 3/4 length sweaters all year. If it was a more conventional sport, I’d probably be more willing to expose the bruises and explain the cause.

  41. Sarah*

    For #1: I also work in education, and I think many education-related workplaces would ask employees to cover regular severe bruising, whether male or female. Indeed, I think it would probably be less of an issue for male employees, since they’re typically going to be wearing pants regardless of any bruising (unless they’re a gym teacher, I suppose!). I think part of it is probably the type of bruising that comes from paintball — at least in my experience, this type of bruising tends to be WAY nastier and just all around look more severe-looking than when, for example, I bang my leg on a coffee table. In general, I think education TENDS to be an area that places a premium on making other people feel comfortable with your presence/appearance since you’re going to be entrusted with their kids — I realize your job is not directly student-facing, but I think those norms/expectations can get carried over into the job sector as a whole.

    In general, if your office is really so poorly cooled that pants and a collared shirt are unbearable in the summer, this might be something to raise with management — if nothing else, I’m sure all the men in your office must be dying as well! If the issue is more your commute, perhaps you could combine sleeveless shells/button downs with very lightweight cardigans. In one of my previous jobs, I had about a 15 minute walk as part of my commute, but then our building was air conditioned to freezer-level temperatures. So, in the middle of summer I had to do a LOT of layering. It was sort of a pain, but once I worked out a system it was fine.

    1. starfire13*

      The thing is, I work in the educational HQ, not affiliated with any one school or even school board. It’s pretty casual, so men tend to wear khakis/dress pants with polo shirts or button up shirts but not suits and ties. We can even wear nice dark denim on Fridays, provided that we “pay a fee” of 1$, which gets donated to charity.

      1. Observer*

        So, you are basically being asked to wear pretty much the standard for what most of the men are wearing. In which case Sarah does have a point – if it’s really that hot, I’m sure the guys will be totally with you on turning up the AC.

          1. Observer*

            Um, plenty of lightweight polos have long sleeves. And so do shirts. Yes, there are ones with short sleeves, but far more have long sleeves.

  42. Chatterby*

    I tend to view something as professional vs. unprofessional by how distracting it is, and how much it detracts from your work.
    By this standard, wearing a full suit that happens to be lime zebra print, while entirely modest and technically appropriate, would be unprofessional, both because the bright color and pattern distract people, and because wearing it would cause people to form negative opinions about the wearer as a person, employee, and coworker, which would detract from how the wearer’s quality of work is perceived.
    Also by this measure, giant, visible bruises would be unprofessional, because again, they are distracting. Coworkers will stare at them and wonder how a person got them, when they should be working or paying attention. They also detract from a person’s credibility, because judgments about whether the person is violent/ weak/ aggressive/ clumsy/ being abused/ gross will color their opinions when they work with the bruised person.

    I came up with this standard after interviewing a person wearing about 15 plain gold rings on their fingers and I was so engrossed in staring at their hands that I didn’t hear a word they said and they became “ring dude” in my head ever after. I realized that anything that makes people forget what I’m saying, or my actual name in favor of a label, is not something I ever want to wear at work.

    1. Shadow*

      how distracting appearance is? To whom? I can think of many things that might be distracting that people would just have to live with for cultural/religious/nationality reasons.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I’m not sure that’s a good standard to have, because it’s incredibly subjective. Who decides what is ‘too’ distracting? I have ADHD, and literally anything has the potential to distract me — I’d be a very, very bad measure for that rule! The fact that you couldn’t remember anything “ring dude” said because you were distracted by his rings sounds an awful lot like a You problem, not a Him problem.

      In addition, as per the OP’s question and their followup near the top of the comments, covering up the bruises has generated way more distraction than having them visible — so even by your very subjective metric, the company is not making a good call here.

  43. Cucumberzucchini*

    I bruise very easily and when I get a bad bruise it looks insane. I’m a very extroverted person so I’ve typically been like, “Look at this crazy bruise I got from my horse biting me or running into my desk” when it’s a really impressive bruise. I’ve never covered them up purposefully or been asked to. One time I got a huge bruise on the inside of my arm from archery where the bow string hit my forearm. It was pitch black and about 6″ long and 3″ wide. Typically I have small bruises all over my legs. I really have no idea how they happen and often they’re on the back of my leg and I don’t realize they’re there until someone points them out.

    I know this isn’t advice on how to deal with your issue. But just surprised people would have a problem seeing someone’s bruises, especially in a non-customer facing role.

    1. textbookaquarian*

      Hey there, fellow easy bruiser. :)

      That surprised me too. I have a medical condition. So bruising is just a fact of life. It has never occurred to me that I should cover them because they’re distracting, upsetting, unprofessional or giving off a negative impression. If I tried to, I would end up dressing like the poor LW until the day I die.

      No one has ever reacted negatively to them either. Folks simply ask what happened, I tell them (if I know) and mention my condition. That’s the end of it.

      I recognize the difference between the LW’s situation and my own. Still the idea that someone would be bothered that much over bruises is odd to me as well.

  44. Chatterby*

    Regarding the temp thing: a lot of those non-competes companies have lower-level employees sign are illegal and/or unenforceable. It will depend on your state. Companies basically rely on the signer not being willing to risk it, or not being able/willing to pay for court fees to prove the illegality.
    Double check what your state laws say, maybe pop in to see a labor lawyer for extra assurance, and then see if you want to proceed. Or ask if the company would be willing to pay the fee the temp agency demands for an exception.
    There’s also no shame is saying “I am very interested in the position, but I was required to sign a non-compete with Temp Company not to work with any place they posted me for a full year after the assignment ended. I know non-competes like this are generally unenforceable, but what does your legal department think about the situation before we proceed? I don’t want to sour any business relations between your company and Temp Agency.”
    Also make sure they’re willing to pay you at a much higher rate, since 1099 freelancers are responsible for extra taxes, their own insurance, and do not receive paid time off or unemployment, which are all protections going through temp agency provided.

  45. Non for this*

    I’m kind of torn on the bruises issue…
    On one hand, the employer does seem to be unnecessarily rigid and strict, but at the same time, bruises- especially if there is a large quantity of them, they are large in size, or they are deeply colored- can be off-putting. It’s not fair, but I can understand how a person may hold an unfair bias against a highly bruised person.

    Again, this isn’t fair, but I’m trying to be understanding of both sides.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I do think there’s a happy medium where you want to default to covering things up unless it raises an issue — which, in this case, it has, because the OP is now being gossiped about and is miserably uncomfortable in her office. It’d be a little bit like… ok, if I can help it, I’m not going to go to work showing off my lobster-red sunburn, because I know everyone and their dog is going to want to say something and ain’t no one got time for that. But if the choices are “lobster-red sunburn displayed on skin that is entirely appropriate to show in the office” and “horrible torture from scarf/shawl/etc laying over it and driving me bananas,” well, that sunburn’s going on display.

    2. AnitaJ*

      I agree. TOTALLY my issue, but seeing deep, dark bruises makes me uncomfortable for a few reasons. I don’t think we should all go full-on monk’s robes to cover them up, but if I had to look at a coworker’s large purple/yellow/green bruises every day, I would most likely avoid then. Again–that’s MY problem, but realistically, there are probably coworkers out there who feel like me.

  46. Roker Moose*

    I’m very clumsy and often have bruises on my lower legs and arms. I wear skirts (tznius; yay!) and it’s never occurred to me that I should be covering them. It’s possibly been suggested by now, but the OP could try foundation or tinted moisturiser to obscure the bruises. I might start doing the same.

  47. kb*

    LW 1: I’m surprised your workplace is being so strict regarding sleeve-rolling. I understand requiring legs be completely covered, especially because most men have to do that 100% of the time regardless of bruises, but unless your upper arms are absolutely covered in welts, being upset over rolled sleeves seems excessive to me.

    Ultimately I suppose it’s your company’s call. I would recommend silk culottes or trousers. Grana carries some great ones. They feel breezy and cool. I Googled linen cardigans and quite a few came up that looked very thin yet opaque. I’d also check out some Athleta and other athletic-y brands– sometimes they carry lightweight long-sleeved tops that could be dressed up to pass as work attire (depending on how formal your office is). My mom had minor skin cancer a few years back and has bought UVA-protective clothing ever since. Brands that specialize in that, like Coolibar and others, often carry light-weight long-sleeved items. Most of their stuff leans outdoorsy and casual, but I know my mom got some neutral, extremely light cardigan and blazer-type items.

    1. aebhel*

      I second lightweight linen cardigans; if you get a darker color, it can give a lot of coverage visually while remaining cool. Or a very open knit cotton; again, with a darker color you can see skin through the gap, but the pattern of the knit will obscure bruising (I assume; it works on tattoos).

  48. aebhel*

    Also, Re: OP1, I didn’t see this addressed upthread, but: are your managers harping on you for having your sleeves rolled up at all, or only if there’s visible bruising on your forearms? Because I think it’s one thing to require that significant bruising be covered, but another thing entirely to have a ‘OP must wear long sleeves at all times, even though nobody else has to’ policy, and it sort of sounds like (whatever the original intention) that’s what it’s turned into.

  49. jcsgo*

    Re: #1 — is it also unprofessional to have mosquito bites exposed? I have a bunch on my legs and a few on my arms right now…

  50. Jan*

    In regards to OP5, it may depend on the state – in some states, non-competes are very difficult to enforce and where I work, we would think nothing of inviting a staffing agency candidate to work for us knowing that it is so unlikely to be an issue for them. We of course don’t get into it with the applicant – we aren’t in the business of giving applicants legal advice about their obligations to other employers…

  51. Nieve*

    OP1, I suggest you look up clothing made of 100% merino wool. Antibiotic fabric, breathable material which wicks sweat and never smells.. And excellent at helping your body with temperature control :) Its wool but fabric is quite thin, merino clothing are amazing! Most merino tops are long sleeved too

  52. Kit*

    OP 3 here! An update, I ended up being offered the position! So it appears the lack of prep time didn’t affect me as much as I initially thought. Hooray!

  53. specialist*

    I read the comments. It took a while. I went back and read the original post about the bruises and the covering up. Then there was the discussion about why the attitudes in the comments had changed. This was a worthy exercise. So here’s what I’ve got–yes, your employer can tell you to cover up. Most people really would do that anyhow, if they had noticeable bruising and were going to work. The commenters were really good about talking about the makeup that can cover bruising. There’s also any number of really light weight clothes that would fit the bill. There was one statement in the original post that I think triggered that “discrimination” bug in my head.
    “because my managers are now aware of the fact that I’m “supposed to be covered up,” they harp on me whenever
    I instinctively roll up my sleeves to work”
    I think this is a subtle but key point. Are they harping on you when you roll up your sleeves or are they harping on you because you are showing a bruise? This is important because it is a key difference. If you are rolling up your sleeves and NOT showing any bruises or other trauma, then you are held to a different standard than the others in your office. If you ARE showing bruises when you roll up your sleeves, then you are just not listening to what your boss told you to do. Figuring out the difference would be a great way to determine if this is going to be a long term job for you.

    At this point some disclosure is indicated. My dress code is much, much more stringent than yours. Not being able to wear shorts to work doesn’t garner any sympathy from me. However, being held to a different standard entirely really does garner sympathy. (I’ve been there.) Having been stuck in the latter situation, you need to decide how to handle this. Complaining about it will get you nowhere. The only thing you could possibly do would be to wait until one of your coworkers came in with a big exposed bruise, then pull out an extra scarf to help them cover the lesion so that they don’t get into any trouble. Bottom line, it will only help you to try to fit into your office culture, and covering bruises really isn’t much to ask.

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