is my acne keeping me from getting a job, employee is crying every day, and more

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

1. Could my acne be keeping me from getting a job?

I’m 25, but have always been baby-faced. People have frequently asked me what grade I’m in despite being out of high school for seven years. To make matters worse, I have persistent acne that will not go away. I’m pretty sure it’s mostly triggered by stress. I’ve tried everything — medicated wipes, face scrubs, soap and water, not touching my face, blotting pads, doing nothing, etc. I recently dropped $80 on medicated primer and concealer because I had an interview and I really didn’t want to be broken out for that; it only covered it but it was still obvious to me that it was cover-up. (I do have a doctor’s appointment to speak with my physician this month to see if he has any suggestions for me.)

I’m trying to break into education (it’s what I’m certified in), but I feel like the fact that I barely look like I’m out of high school myself and having persistent acne may be hurting my chances of working at a school. I wear a suit to interviews, try to carry myself maturely, and speak with confidence, but it doesn’t feel like enough. I know nobody would ever admit it to my face, but is there any possibility that my acne is holding me back? I hate how it makes me look and I feel so gross and frustrated even though I know I’m not dirty and am, in fact, trying everything I can.

(Of course I’m equally sure it could just be that I’m underqualified and/or don’t perform as well as I could in the interview; I’m not releasing myself from culpability on that front.)

I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and tell you that there’s no possibility that it ever impacts your chances. It could indeed be making you look younger, especially if you’re already young-looking to start. But that doesn’t mean you’re unhireable; it just means that it might hold you back here and there — just like all sorts of other things (like weight or looking tragically unhip or wearing an unflattering suit) hold people back here and there, too.

But I doubt very much that it’s a major factor in your interview success in general, as long as you’re talking all the typically recommended steps to look older. That means the stuff you mentioned like wearing a suit and speaking with confidence, but also things like making sure that the suit is well-tailored (so you’re not swimming in it like a kid playing dress-up), that your hair and accessories read as professionally mature, and some of the other suggestions here. That stuff should carry more weight, taken as a whole, than some acne should.

Read multiple updates to this letter here.

2. My employee is crying almost daily

One of my reports has cried almost daily for the past month. She is upset because she got her hair cut and she feels it’s too short (it was down to her stomach before and is now at her armpits). She will burst into tears at her desk or in meetings and I have seen her coming in or out of the bathroom in tears also. When she first began crying all the time I was concerned and asked her if she needed anything and she said nothing was wrong except for her hair.

She said the same thing subsequent times when I asked. This only started in the past month and she swears up and down she is only upset about her hair and nothing else. I don’t know what to say or how to address it because it is obviously upsetting to her. But her crying spells cause disruptions and make anyone who is nearby uncomfortable. Another thing that throws a wrench in this is that I am male and I don’t want to make it seem like I am commenting on her appearance when I bring it up. How do I tell her she can’t keep crying at work without upsetting her further?

Whoa, that’s … a lot of crying about hair. To the point that it seems pretty likely that it’s not really about the hair.

You can address this without seeming like you’re commenting on her appearance. But I’d start by simply expressing concern. For example: “I’m sorry you’re having a difficult time right now. Is there anything the company can do to help with whatever you’re struggling with? We could talk about time off if you need it, and we have a pretty good EAP that I can refer you to if that sounds like it might be helpful.” That has the advantage of being compassionate — especially important if this is in fact not really about her hair — while also signaling that it’s becoming a thing that you’re concerned about, which can nudge her to rein it in if she can.

If it continues after that, it would be fair to say, “I know you’re having a tough time, and I’m sympathetic. I also need to make sure that everyone else is in an environment where they can work comfortably, and unfortunately I think crying so frequently is making it tough for people to carry on with work.”

3. Writing a thank-you note to the boss who fired me

I got fired recently and I want to write a thank-you letter to my boss for working with me, training me, and helping to develop my career (not for the act of firing me) Do you have any suggestions for what to write? I am at a loss, but I don’t want to burn bridges now that I am gone. I didn’t do anything crazy to be let go, I just wasn’t a fit for the job over the long-term. There is no good reason for me to hurt the relationships that I once had.

In the note, I want to show I am thankful for everything I learned. It was my first real job and we worked together for four years. That part is easier to write. I also want to maintain a relationship. I have been networking a lot lately and I am amazed at the number of people who respond to requests for help and guidance. I know we don’t have the strongest relationship because of the way things ended, but I don’t know if I will need to reach back out at some point. Saying thank you now would make it a lot easier to do this. This is especially true because I am looking to change careers and I might want to reach out to him for unbiased advice about job fit. I’m also worried someone will reach out to him for a back channel reference, so I want to end things on a more positive note. And I think that writing a thank you note will give me closure and allow me to move onto my next step because I will have to fully accept what happened and focus on the positives of my last position.

That’s a really gracious thing to do, and I bet it will indeed influence the way your boss thinks of you in the future.

I don’t think you need to write something lengthy here. Simply saying, “I want you to know that, despite it not working out the way we’d both hoped, I’m really grateful for the investment you made in me and your help with X, Y, and Z. I learned a ton from you especially around A and B, and I really appreciate C. I hope we can stay in touch, and I wish you and Organization every success with your work.”

This is so rarely done that you’re going to look extraordinarily mature and thoughtful, and it will make things less awkward between the two of you if your paths cross in the future.

4. Should government workers thank people for doing things they’re legally required to do?

I work for a medium-sized government agency. I don’t have a direct supervisor but I do have a fellow coworker, let’s call her Susie, who does the same job as me. Part of our duties involve occasionally getting records from organizations and business across the nation. All organizations are required to keep these records and must turn them over to us upon request. These records can very in length from 1-2 pages to thousands of pages. There is also no way to tell what size these documents will be ahead of time; Fortune 500 companies can have tiny records and the small nonprofit call fill a dozen boxes (or more). The organization must find the records, get a notarized statement swearing by their authenticity, then send them to us, either by fax or by mail, at their expense. This can be incredibly labor intensive.

When I receive a set of records, particularly a large batch, I always send an email or fax to whoever it was that sent them, thanking them for their time in getting the records together. I do this for two reasons: (1) to acknowledge I got the records, so that they don’t worry, and (2) because I genuinely understand that an employee had to spend their time getting them to us. Susie however, feels that saying thank you is unprofessional. She points out it is illegal for organizations to keep these records from us. For her, to say “thank you” is to imply that these organizations have a choice about providing these records.We’re not a law enforcement agency, but in her mind it’s like the city “thanking you” for paying a parking ticket. This seems silly to me. Shouldn’t we strive to be more civil? Not less? This isn’t a major source of contention but we are curious what you, and the readers, think.

Susie is being ridiculous. If for no other reason, you’re saying thank you because it makes the transaction a warmer, friendlier one, and that’s good because of basic kindness and courtesy, and because it’s useful for organizations that deal with you to come away with a good impression rather than seeing you as faceless, uncaring bureaucrats. But you’re also saying thank you for more practical things — they were responsive to your request, didn’t make you follow up over and over and chase down the information, got it to you in an easily usable format, or whatever.

5. Expenses when we’re asked to work from home

My company’s office is moving. However, due to delays in construction,our new office will not be ready until late January 2018 at the earliest. The lease on our current building ends this summer, so there are about six months in between when our current lease ends and when we can move into our new space. To accommodate this, our company is having people work at home part-time and rotate into one of our other local offices part-time.

My schedule has me working from home three days a week and in the office days days a week. I’m actually pretty excited about this because working from home makes it easier for me to take care of personal things without impacting my work. I currently work from home about once every two weeks and have proven myself to be effective working outside of the office. However, I am definitely not equipped at my home to work three days a week. I don’t even have a land line or high enough speed internet, let alone some of the other office essentials like a monitor or printer. Plus, being home full-time will impact my utilities as I will need to keep the lights and AC/heat on while I’m in the house. Is it fair to ask them to pay for, or contribute money toward some of these things? We’re a very large office and there a couple hundred of us in this part-time work-from-home situation, and they haven’t communicated anything to suggest they would. However, I cannot imagine I am the only one thinking about this or who has these needs/requests.

You can absolutely ask for them to equip you with the obvious necessities to work from home, like a monitor and a printer. (Or at least you can if they agree those are necessities for the type of work you do.) If you need a land line, you can explain that — or can ask them to cover their portion of your cell usage. Same for high-speed internet, if they agree you need it. Lights and AC/heat get a little trickier; it’s not typical for employers to chip in for those for people who work from home. In part, the reasoning is that you’re getting benefits that are at least equivalent to what you’d ask them to cover there (in saved gas money, for example). So I wouldn’t ask for those, but the stuff that’s clearly connected to work? Definitely.

{ 417 comments… read them below }

  1. ann perkins*

    #2 – true story: about four years ago, I moved 2000+ miles for a new job (it was that or move back home b/c I had one job option, and this was it). Shortly after the move, I met my ex. You know that episode of How I Met Your Mother where they say in every relationship that someone is the reacher and someone is the settler? Well, I was the reacher and he was the settler. I thought every time we went out, people were secretly thinking, “what is HE doing with HER.” So a couple weeks in, I got a hair cut, and due to a miscommunication ended up with a cut I HATED. SO MUCH. And cried. A lot. More because I was already insecure about our relationship and my new cut made it worse, not better. So it’s probably not just about the hair (although I didn’t cry at work, I was stressed to the max). So just here to say I agree with Alison that it’s probably something else but the hair is a trigger.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Question because I’m genuinely curious: Did you cry every day, spontaneously, for a month+? I don’t mean to be insensitive, but I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around weeks of crying unless it were related to a bigger health issue (e.g., alopecia, chemo/radiation, mental health).

      (Also, I kind of giggled at the “hair trigger” double entendre.)

      1. ann perkins*

        Valid question and no, definitely didn’t cry for that long at all. However it consumed me for a solid week + which I thought was excessive anyway. Especially because I felt so superficial.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        I’m glad to see so many people who agree that it could be really the hair but that the hair stands for something else that might not have come to the forefront in such a way. I feel sorry for this employee. I think Alison’s advice on how to speak to her is so perfect – that her being so upset is affecting other employee’s ability to work comfortably but expressing understanding that she’s having a difficult time.

        To answer your curiosity question with my own example I have had two times in my life (so far) when I’ve been so upset about something that I would cry uncontrollably in public, but not at work or in class but like when I was walking on the street or just out in public and it wasn’t so intense for as long a period of time more like a couple weeks. Everyone is different though and she must be going through a lot.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      And even if it is purely because of the hair, or feels that way to the employee, that’s a lot of crying over hair as Alison says. So I’d be concerned, in general, about their wellbeing and their stress levels.

      Because if you are that affected by losing a few inches of hair (it’s not like OP’s employee did something super drastic like getting a pixie cut) then something else is wrong, even if that something else is simply your ability to cope with feeling regret over cutting your hair. I don’t think this is a healthy or adaptive reaction so I’d be concerned they were depressed or burning out.

      Of course, none of us can actually know whether it’s just because of the hair, whatever anyone’s personal experience has been.

      1. Rapunzel*

        So that actually did sound pretty drastic to me – stomach up to armpits is a huge change. I had hair I could sit on until last week and took five inches off. It’s not much as a percentage but I’m still being shocked/surprised to discover the loss a couple of times a day. It may not look drastic to outsiders, because most people file longer than shoulder length hair as “long” and then stop paying attention.

        The crying about it daily for a month? Something is up. That is more than “my head feels funny when I turn it” level of disruption. If she didn’t want to cut her hair and something traumatic happened, I could see that as a response – long hair like that takes years to grow and a fair amount of attention and maintenance, it becomes a part of your identity.

        1. Allison*

          Yup. I had hair almost down to my butt at one point, and then one day I got it cut to a length that was “normal” (maybe down to my chest) and still long to most people, but it felt like a huge change and I actually did cry in the car on the way home, because I thought people might comment that they liked it longer and make me regret the cut. My dad thought I was being ridiculous.

        2. Not The Droid You Are Looking For*

          I had hair that reached to my mid-back and in a moment of stupidity decided to try a long bob.

          Honestly, I still tear up when I see pictures from that time. I hated it. I hated the way I looked and I felt so uncomfortable all the time. Now, I wasn’t crying all the time, but I was miserable — no matter how many people told me how great it looked.

        3. myswtghst*

          Agreed on how drastic the cut is. I’ve donated more than a foot of my hair three times (so far), and while it’s gotten easier each time, there is an adjustment period in going from waist-length hair to shoulder-length hair. I definitely cried at the salon the first time (which I didn’t really expect, tbh), but I can’t imagine crying for a month afterwards unless there was something else linked to the haircut – for example, if it was a breakup haircut or a donation in honor of a friend or family member with cancer.

          I’d definitely agree with AAM’s advice to give the OP some resources and gently let her know the crying is noticeable and starting to be disruptive, because I have to wonder if she realizes how it is impacting others’ perceptions of her. People’s emotional reactions are their own, and I really don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to feel, but there is an appropriate way to handle those feelings at work (and a time to realize the appropriate way to handle it is to take time off and deal with your feelings with a pint of ice cream at home / with a therapist / whatever way works for you).

        4. Not So NewReader*

          I remember friends commenting that sometimes women get a new cut after breaking up with someone. This may or may not apply here, but it’s not unheard of, either.

      2. Ghost Town*

        To echo Rapunzel, stomach (think belly button) to arm pits is drastic; on me, that’s about 10 inches of hair. My hair, in a braid, reaches past my waist. It has been around this long for years and is a length where I can get 5/6+ inches cut and no one else notices b/c it still reads as long or they still see a braid or a bun.

        I do agree that crying daily for a month is about more than the hair (or that the hair stands for something else).

      3. Temperance*

        My hair fell out in clumps last year following a serious illness. It was fairly traumatic and weird, but I didn’t cry over it more than once or twice. Definitely not every day, all day, and that was an actual awful experience, not a minor haircut. Something else is going on with this employee.

        1. K.*

          I got a bad haircut about a year and a half ago. I went to a new place for a trim and she took off 4″. I didn’t cry over it at all. I was annoyed and sulky for a couple of days and I didn’t like how it looked, but there were no tears. (I’d also cut it of at the roots intentionally about six years prior, so I knew I could deal with it at various lengths because I’d grown it out before.) It grew back and I moved on. I understand that people have a lot of their identity wrapped up in their hair, but if the employee is still spontaneously sobbing over a bad haircut weeks out … I mean, extensions and wigs abound. You can get extensions at the drugstore. This is a very minor problem with possible solutions. Something else is definitely going on. If nothing else, I’d be very concerned about her coping mechanisms.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          This is where I land, too. If it truly is about her haircut, then the length and severity of her reaction is not within normal bounds. I’m inclined to think it’s about something else, but it may be a personal issue that she’s not comfortable sharing with others.

          1. JessaB*

            I am wondering if the hair cut was her idea, or whether someone in her life imposed it on her without her clear and uncoerced consent. It may well be a symbol of bunches of other things in her life

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Oh, that’s a great point (and an angle I hadn’t considered). I can imagine being genuinely upset for more than a month if it were related to a power dynamic like the one you’re describing.

      4. emw*

        I just got a pixie, after having long hair for years, and I’m loving it :) I cut it all off this past Saturday, and it’s SO short!

    3. Julia*

      I really hope that you are feeling better now and that you know the reacher-settler concept is terrible? In a good relationship, both people should be equal. Not saying that partner A cannot have things they’re better at than partner B, but partner B is usually also better at some things than partner A, and both people know that they are lucky to have each other. Not just with regards to looks, but in every aspect of the relationship.

      1. Indoor Cat*

        I feel like the whole reacher / settler thing is, like, half internal insecurity, and half external criticism from “society” regarding the importance of physical beauty and personal wealth.

        Like I know a loving, committed couple where one person is significantly “hotter” and, also, makes more money (not hugely more, but definitely enough more that, if they lived separately, the wealthier person could live in a better neighborhood than what their partner could afford). But in terms of personality traits, personal values, and work ethic, they’re very compatible. Each person brings joy and peace of mind to the other; each person makes the other feel loved.

        People who don’t know them sometimes say, “Oh, why is this person settling for that person? They could be with someone so much better [that is, hotter and richer]?” But you can’t put a price on a relationship that feels fulfilling, loving, and joyful.

    4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I really feel for her. I once went from hair a few inches past shoulder length to short. Not quite a pixie, but short. When I looked in the mirror, I saw my mother. I knew I resembled her, but with short hair I didn’t even look like myself anymore. It is beyond jarring to look in the mirror and not see yourself. No, I didn’t cry at work every day for a month but it really did mess with my head and I guarantee you I was upset about it for longer than a month.

      1. Gen*

        I went in to have a trim and my hairdresser announced my hair was overprocessed and ‘had to come off!’. Then she just shaved a strip up the side of my head so I couldn’t do anything but allow her to ‘fix it’. I ended up with a fauxhawk and looked terrible for about six months. Very much my mother in the mirror. I was also suffering from severe post natal depression but it did make me cry every time I looked at it or touched it for a few months. It was the icing on the cake that I couldn’t ever get away from.

        There may well be something else going on in the employees life that OP doesn’t know about and the employee is focusing on the visual/tactile thing. Or it’s not something they’re comfortable talking about at work.

        1. No, please*

          As a former stylist I am appalled by your experience. My job was to help people feel better about their appearance, not bully them into certain styles that I preferred. That’s so disturbing to me.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Can’t tell you how many times that has happened to me. A stylist fired me last year because I asked her for the same thing she had done last time, and she gabe me a completely different cut and instead of dark blonde I was orange. When i went back to get it corrected, she actually wanted to charge me (“just for the product “)!, we argued and parted ways.

        2. Whats In A Name*

          I just think my eyes actually bugged out of my head for a moment.

          I am SO SORRY.

        3. Karen D*

          I had a very modified version of that experience as well — my hairdresser cut about 8-9 inches off without my ever agreeing to something that drastic (it went from being about two inches above my elbows, with my arms relaxed down by my sides, to just below shoulder length). Her statement was “I know you’d never agree to it but it needed to go.”

          I actually flashed back to that moment watching a particular news event on TV last week, because in the moment I did not know what to say. I felt massively betrayed but I dutifully admired the cut in the mirror, agreed it looked much healthier (though I didn’t really feel that way; I take great pains to keep my hair healthy and in good condition) and left. And went home and cried and cried. The whole thing was exacerbated by the fact that she’s a close lifelong friend (and still does my hair.)

          But I calmed down, and I sat down with her the next weekend and said “I know you didn’t mean it to, but that was a huge betrayal of my trust and it needs to NEVER happen again. If you feel that a drastic change is needed, talk to me.” It was ultimately a good discussion and in the years since, she’s told me it actually prevented her from doing something impulsive like that again. She had no idea how it felt as someone on the other end of the scissors.

          I felt sad about it until it was grown out again. I do have some sensory issues that involve my hair, so not feeling that weight and length was unbalancing for me emotionally … but crying for a month? No. Agree with those who say there is probably something bigger going on here.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That is so deeply out of line. I’m really sorry that you had that experience. Your hairdresser is no longer your hairdresser, right?

        5. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          This is horrible! I would have been livid. I’m so sorry you had that experience.

        6. Not So NewReader*

          Oh, you are reminding me of the time I got the worst cut of my life. It was supposed to be a poofy style. But I have no patience for styling and poofy is so not me. I washed it and it was then that I realized entire sections of my hair had been cut down to about 2-3 long. I went somewhere else and the lady had to cut off most of my hair until it was all about 2 inches long. She tried to give it a little shape so it looked like it was doing something.
          While I did not cry over it, I did wear an imaginary bag on my head for months. And I could not go five minutes without thinking how bad it looked.

          I think this employee has something else going on and the hair issue is tangent to whatever that other thing is.

          1. Scareah*

            I’m always wary now when a stylist does a LOT of styling due to a similar experience. I got a cut which seemed like it had a lot of volume but kept some of my length, when I washed it though, I realized she basically had given me a bowl cut up top with one long later below it. I wore lots of hats for a few weeks until I could get a friend to fix it (at which point the salon owner exclaimed “We should’ve done a before and after disaster pictures!” :'(

      2. CAA*

        The part about seeing my mother in the mirror happens to me too! All my life people have remarked on our resemblance and relatives have called me by her name, so I do know that we look alike; but whenever I get my hair cut to the length she wore at my age it’s just extremely disorienting to suddenly see her face instead of mine and it takes a couple of weeks to get used to it.

      3. jj*

        Hasn’t anyone heard the phrase “It’ll grow back”? Everytime I got a bad haircut, that’s what I was told.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          Sure, the hair grows back. And it’s what I repeated to myself daily while looking in the mirror and being upset with what I saw. The hair’s ability to grow does not negate the experience of having someone butcher your hair and having to live with it.

        2. Callie*

          Sure it grows back but depending on how long it was and what kind of cut they give you, it takes forever and looks ridiculous in the meantime. And it’s super annoying if you expend any effort at all in keeping your hair healthy (and keeping long hair healthy takes serious effort).

          1. Annie on a Mouse*

            I graduated school and moved to a new city for a job I knew was great (intellectually), but wasn’t excited about. I left my friends, my family, and my long-term boyfriend (and complicated and fraught doesn’t even begin to describe that relationship; things were in the strong fizzle stage when I moved). I’ve always felt like my long hair was my best physical feature, so when I went to the hair stylist and said “give it some shape, cut off the dead ends, but I must be able to pull it back for work” and instead she took off four inches and hacked some “face framing” that was really just an abrupt shift to an enormous chunk of hair on one side that was six inches shorter than the rest of my hair, with no blending? Sure, it’s just a haircut and sure, it grows back. But when I got upset and teared up and snapped at my favorite cousin, you’d better believe the haircut wasn’t what was really upsetting me . It was feeling like I didn’t have control over my life anymore – over anything.

            Basically, yeah – it’s about more than thehaircut .

      4. Missy*

        While mine wasn’t a cut, I had a similar situation of a hair change that really messed with my head. I have been blonde my whole life until I dyed my hair a “crazy” color one summer I was taking a six week long break between jobs. That color wasn’t the problem, the problem came in when I ended up dying my hair a dark brown to hide the stubborn crazy color. Every time I saw myself with the dark brown hair, I got startled. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. I suddenly felt like a total stranger in my body all the time. It felt like I was wearing a mask to the world that I couldn’t pull off. It legitimately messed with my mental health and I fell into a deep depression over it. While I wasn’t crying every day at work, it definitely affected the way I interacted with people and I actually ruined friendships and relationships because of how dysfunctional this hair color made me. It was months and months of regular hair appointments to slowly lighten my hair until it got back to a shade that felt “normal” again.

    5. Malibu Stacey*

      I know the insecurity of dating somebody you are afraid is more conventionally attractive than you, but seriously, that show is The Worst when it comes it comes to a model for relationships.

    6. Hair Apparent*

      I had hair past my butt all through my childhood and through college. The summer before grad school, I knew I was ready for a change so when my best friend was visiting me, we went to the salon and I got a pixie cut. That afternoon, we also dropped acid. I looked so different that every time I passed a mirror, I wouldn’t recognize myself, and would end up in long conversations with the stranger in the mirror :)

      It took me a few weeks to get used to having such short hair, and I definitely felt some regrets, but crying over it for over a month seems like there has to be something else going on. Awkward as it is, it is something that needs to be addressed with your employee. Definitely make it about the behavior (crying so often at work) and don’t go into her appearance at all, and offer resources if available (because in my mind, even if it is 100% about her hair cut and nothing else is going on, that is even more reason for her to get some help.)

    7. NotTheSecretary*

      I tend to knee-jerk when people cry over haircuts simply because I’ve never been all that attached to my hair (I’ve buzzed it all off on multiple occasions, gone from mid-back to pixie and back, bleached it, dyed it, had a mohawk, cut it myself with craft scissors while drunk in college, etc) so it’s hard for me to empathize with the crying employee.

      BUT – I really think focusing on WHY she is crying is the wrong approach. The manager should be focusing on how to stop the disruption of her outbursts. That may mean connecting her with the EAP, coaching her on professional expectations, or accommodating her while she works through it. I’d say the same thing if there was any other reason she was crying. She needs to be told that she must address the problem.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, if you’re going to have work pay for items like a monitor/printer, be ready/prepared to give them back to your employer if you switch jobs in the future. I mean, at that point they may be totally obsolete, anyway, but it’s important to categorize things like printers as separate. Utilities like high-speed internet and increased electric costs are a little harder to justify (or to properly quantify and document).

    Or you could pay out of pocket and write down the business expenses, including the increased cost of utilities, on your personal income taxes (assuming you don’t take the standard deduction).

    1. Engineer Woman*

      If the company is providing/purchasing a monitor or printer, of course it’s the company’s asset and would need to be returned when you leave or perhaps even when you move into the new office. That said, if there isn’t a good set-up or space for a printer and monitor, OP#5 does have the option to print when she rotates into the other offices.

      Regarding companies paying for internet connection or phone charges – I think this is relatively common, especially for people who need to work from home or make / receive calls while working from home. In this instance of the company requiring OP to work from home 3 days a week – reimbursement of internet and/or phone is absolutely reasonable. I wouldn’t ask for the extra utilities as it’s difficult to separate out what usage is due to work and what is personal and as mentioned, you’re saving on gas as well as wear & tear on your car, so it cancels out in my opinion.

    2. Jen*

      That is hownl it works with my work at home equipmemt. They provide pretty much everything attached to the computer (they will cover internet too if you need it) but all equipment is barcoded and checked out and must be returned.

    3. Natalie*

      The home office deduction is only available if you’re going to be setting aside a room that is only used for work, among other things. It’s a widely abused deduction so the rules are pretty strict, and I’d consult with a tax professional before assuming you’ll be able to deduct anything.

      1. Karen K*

        Plus, there are additional tax implications when you sell your home. We determined it was more trouble than it was worth.

        Now, I have written off equipment purchases (chair, printer, etc.), but I have a home business, and file a schedule C for it. We don’t take any utilities, real estate taxes, or anything else associated with the property.

      2. Rat in the Sugar*

        The rules are very complicated, and so prone to abuse as well as innocent misinterpretation that in my experience just having a home office on your taxes can be a red flag to the IRS. Definitely echoing the advice to consult with a professional while figuring all these costs out.

        1. DaniCalifornia*

          Just so you know it’s not a red flag with the IRS if you have a home office. Yes many people don’t understand it and don’t report it properly but with the help of a good CPA it can be done correctly. We have many clients in our office that take that deduction.

          1. Fiennes*

            Agreed. I work for myself, from home, and the IRS has never blinked once at that deduction.

      3. Thinking Outside the Boss*

        Exactly this! And besides, she doesn’t have her own business. These are out-of-pocket expenses of an employee and not a “business expense” where you would file a Schedule C for U.S. tax purposes (e.g. she has no business income, no business license, etc). Besides, a $1,000 deduction at the 25% tax bracket saves you $250 on your taxes but you are still out $750. The $1,000 paid by your employer is not income to OP and it is a business deduction for the employer. Now that’s a win-win!

        It’s much better to have the employer cover the costs. I think everything but the utilities and other home expenses is too much to ask for, but a laptop or PC/monitor, connecting to high speed internet (if needed), cell phone or landline, etc., are all reasonable requests.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m referring to the unreimbursed employee business expenses deduction, which is distinct from the home office deduction and the small business/self-employed business expenses deduction.

        It still requires documentation and is worth discussing with a tax accountant prior to opting for it, but it does not have the same requirements as the home office deduction (which, under the simplified rules, can make sense for self-employed folks who work from home, although that is not OP’s situation).

      5. nonegiven*

        According to my sister, a CPA with a home office, the home office deduction is usually more trouble than it’s worth.

    4. TootsNYC*

      actually, do discuss the high-speed Internet w/ a tax accountant.
      Once upon a time, if you were required to have something for work, but weren’t reimbursed for it, you could take it off your taxes. There were documentation requirements.

      There may also have been a requirement that it wasn’t something you ever used for personal–so high-speed Internet might not be a possibility for that.

      Or, you could see if your company would allow a stipend that would pay for PART of the monthly fee; maybe whatever would be the difference between an ordinary Internet charge and whatever capability they want you to have.

      1. Collarbone High*

        “Or, you could see if your company would allow a stipend that would pay for PART of the monthly fee; maybe whatever would be the difference between an ordinary Internet charge and whatever capability they want you to have.”

        This is probably the best approach. My old company did this with cell phones — you could either accept a company phone (and carry two around with you) or use your personal phone and get a stipend that covered the increased use.

    5. Moya*

      In Ontario, the minimum wage for people working from home is a little over a dollar more than the general minimum wage. I don’t know what this means if you are already working for more than minimum wage though.

  3. Sami*

    For OP#2: I can almost empathize with your employee. A few years ago, I was having health problems and was losing my hair at an astonishing rate. There were MANY MANY MANY tears. Luckily my doctors figured it out and prescribed medication but it took a long time to work. I ended up having about 7 inches cut off- just to try to mitigate the damage. I still cried after that.
    Still, your concerns are not unwarranted and hopefully the scripts Alison has provided will help. And that your employee gets the help she needs.

    1. Annabelle*

      Seconding this. I have an endocrine disorder that causes hair loss and I cut about 8 inches off 6ish months ago. While I think crying every day for a month is…excessive, hair is an identity signifier for lots of women and femme-presenting people (and probably other folks, too).

      That being said, I think this has risen to the point of needing to be addressed. Alison’s script is spot on.

    2. N*

      Oh lordy yes, but I hope that OP doesn’t leave out the second part of the script.

      When I was a manager in college there was a girl whose apartment was broken into and she had to barricade herself in her closet with a samurai sword. (True story.) Obviously that’s a terrifying experience, but she was talking about it so much that it was distracting to the other workers…and this was a call center, so the side conversations are supposed to be kept to a minimum. I had a chat with her before shift to ask how she was doing, but had to ask that if she felt she couldn’t focus on work because of what had happened, that she please (PLEASE!) take some mental health days.

    3. Tiffin*

      I think losing your hair because of a medical condition/haircut to mitigate loss from a medical condition is a lot different from just getting a regular haircut (and I say that as someone with long hair that used to be much longer and who felt her hair was part of her identity). Crying this long over a simple haircut that still left her with long hair isn’t normal, and it makes me think something else is up with this employee. I definitely hope she gets help dealing with whatever issues she’s having.

      1. AMPG*

        I think the point they’re trying to make is that maybe there is a medical reason for the haircut that she’s not sharing, and that’s where the crying comes in.

        1. Annabelle*

          Yup, this was mostly my point. I didn’t cry at work after having to cut my hair, but I did have a few moments of “do I look ridiculous” panic that led me to whip out my compact way more than I ever would during most work days.

          Obviously none of us know for sure, but I wouldn’t rule out the medical aspect.

        2. azvlr*

          Any chance this was a Locks of Love donation, so everytime she sees her hair, it is not only a shock to her sight, but a reminder of someone lost?

      2. JessaB*

        There is a reason why haircutting and shaving as a mark of criminality in women during WWII is a thing. There’s a whole lot of culture, religion, nationalism etc in what haircuts women wear when. Length, style etc, are important. Men get away with most everything because the shaved head, the high and tight, etc are what are given to honourable soldiers so shaving a man’s head or cutting his hair very short is not the same. For women this can be a huge thing. Depending on various cultures short hair on women is bad or good. There’s a huge history of women’s hair being used as punishment (heck a year or so ago there was this father who you tubed cutting off his daughters hair as punishment.

        If she went in and wanted it done herself, that’s one thing, but if some outside force is driving this, anything from “cut it off before it falls out,” to “I want my woman to look like x thing,” she still should be handling it better at work (this is when you have different rules for different places, you can get upset at home, but more than once or twice at work is a thing.)

        And sorry to go all deBecker on people here, but if she has a controlling partner who knows how it would effect her, the partner could be angling into forcing her into an extreme reaction that could get her fired, which serves them quite well.

  4. Kathlynn*

    Op1, you have my sympathy I’m 27 and people still think I’m in high school. I also have acne issues.

    1. SignalLost*

      I’m 40 and just got carded for cigarettes last week. I also have acne. Of course, I also had pink hair, but I wonder sometimes about the acne.

    2. Jeanne*

      I looked younger also and had acne for a long time. But my career involved working in a cubicle. If your looks are causing concern, it’s less likely about the acne and more about you looking younger than your students. However, if you’re anywhere near me, your problem isn’t your looks. It’s that budget cutbacks have reduced available positions and you’re competing against many other people. Keep trying!

    3. Julia*

      28, married, young-looking face and stubborn hormonal acne here. A good skincare routine helps (I like the skincare subreddit for information), and maybe a good prescription topical. It could also be something you’re eating or your shampoo/laundry detergent, but I’m sure a doctor will have more to say about this than a stranger on the internet.

      1. NewBoss2016*

        +1 for the skincare subreddit, and I also learned about Curology from several posters here on AAM. It has done wonders for my adult acne and is really affordable vs. going to the dermatologist in person

        1. Annabelle*

          +10000 for the Curology mention. I started using it a few months ago and tbh I’m borderline shocked at how clear my skin has gotten.

          1. Lee*

            First time I’ve ever commented but just wanted to echo that Curology has changed my life! I used to have horrible acne and seriously have not broken out in months since I started using it!

        2. many bells down*

          My skincare routine ended up having to be … none. I only rinse my face with water now and use an oil-free moisturizer. Since I almost never wear any makeup beyond eyeliner, I don’t need cleanser. And lo and behold, at 40 years of age, the acne finally almost entirely stopped.

      2. spocklady*

        Another +1 to the skincare subreddit — I’ve learned so much! I also finally caved and went to my doctor for a prescription, and that has made a ton of difference.

    4. Software Engineer*

      If you’ve really tried everything, and it sounds like you have, it might be time to ask your doctor about Accutane. It’s a medication of last resort, but it can completely clear up your acne – permanently. Just be aware that there can be some serious side effects.

      1. AMD*

        +1 to Accutane – miserable experience where you accidentally chew your lips off because they are so dry, but it totally cured my acne that was resistant to everything else.

        1. SignalLost*

          It can be a mixed bag. I developed pseudotumor cerebri from it and my eyes are in textbooks! I think the acne was better, but Accutane is not a lifelong solution and for those of us with cystic acne, menopause is pretty much the cure.

          1. Sarah Leigh*

            I was just about to post the same thing about Accutane! I was 29 with stubborn acne. Enter Accutane. It cleared my face well enough but I then started getting horrible headaches out of nowhere. I thought it was my eyeglasses prescription so I went to get my eyes checked. They found swelling in the back of my eyes and sent me for an emergency neurologist appointment at a hospital in Boston because she said I looked like her patients who have brain tumors. They called what I have “idiopathic intracranial hypertension” aka pseudotumor and they told me that it is often linked to birth control and/ or acne meducation, and some antibiotics. Thankfully I have not lost any of my vision. I know others aren’t as fortunate.

            OP: I am truly not trying top alarm you. If they put you in Accutane or any topical antibiotic, please tell your Dr straight away if you experience new headaches, ringing in your ears, nausea, or any strange visual symptoms. I wish you luck. Adult cystic acne robbed me of my confidence. I know quite a few people who cleared right up after their seem prescribed spironolactone.

      2. always in email jail*

        I used it in my early twenties, it’s been about 5 years and i now occasionally get a TINY whitehead, but nothing like the cystic acne I had beforehand. Side effects weren’t super great (super dry lips, joint pain) but it was severely impacting my self esteem, my relationships (due to the self esteem impact), etc. and it has made a world of difference since.

      3. Saby*

        I am one of the unlucky 20% or whatever whose acne came back a few years after Accutane. But I don’t regret having been on it — it did give me a few years of wonderfully clear skin (and the occasional gushing nosebleed — the worst side effect I experienced — wasn’t that huge a price to pay)

      4. AwkwardKaterpillar*

        Accutane was a life saver to me in high school. I wish I had started it sooner – maybe I could have avoided some of the acne scars I still have.

        It sounds like you have an apt scheduled OP – which is the perfect thing to do. It also sounds like you’ve tried everything you can OTC, so hopefully they will be able to provide something stronger and more effective.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        I did two rounds of Accutane. I had minimal side effects–diminished night vision and slightly raised cholesterol–that went away when I stopped taking it. But, wow, did it help. Should have done that sooner. The topicals did nothing for me except chemical burn my skin (without clearing up the acne).

        OP, if you haven’t, see a dermatologist, not a GP. GP’s are great but they’re not meant to treat specialized conditions, and that’s what you need.

        1. Charlotte*

          Two rounds for me too. Worth it 10000%. Wish I had taken it sooner (in high school, instead of mid-20s!).

      6. Garrett*

        Add me to the list. Aside from a not-so-fun nosebleed in a mall parking lot, it totally cured my back-ne in my 20s and I am so thankful for that.

      7. Holly*

        I was on Accutane for several months. It did cause some anxiety to come out, but that would have come out anyway at some point. The other side effects were very manageable. Having to put on chap stick every 20 minutes and keeping a bottle of lotion at my desk for a few months vastly superior to taking antibiotics forever or other solution, One dermatologist tried to put me on a blood pressure medicine indefinitely. Much much rather be on a Accutane for a couple of months and then be acne-free forever.

      8. the_scientist*

        Chiming in here to nth this suggestion to OP with acne. I did 6 months of Accutane two years ago, when I was 27 years old (so a little older than the average Accutane user, but I’ve also encountered lots of people who waited until their 20s to use it!). The side effects are no joke and the monitoring can be annoying/expensive but it works when basically nothing else will — I had tried every prescription cream, medication and lifestyle change, including hormonal birth control, dietary changes, etc. and this was the last resort once my benefits kicked in.

        Maybe this sounds cheesy (and/or very “first-world problems”), but not only is my skin about 1000x better than it was pre-Accutane, like the best it’s ever been in my life, but my MENTAL HEALTH is about 10x better as well. I can’t even explain the difference not having to worry about my skin has made to my overall self-confidence, the way I present myself to the world, and the amount of time I spend in self-critique. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!

        OP, if your skin is really bugging you, ask your doctor for a referral to a dermatologist. Most importantly, if your acne is negatively impacting your life, don’t let a doctor brush it off as “not that big a deal.”

      9. Dorothy Lawyer*

        Accutane was a lifesaver when I was 15, saved me from a lot of scarring. I also didn’t have acne issues again for a decade.

        1. Olivia*

          I had pretty bad and painful cystic acne starting in college. The best thing I’ve ever done was go on Spironolactone, which is like a sister drug to Accutane. It’s a lot milder and you don’t have to get blood tests every month. It cleared up my cysts in about six months and actually even helped get rid of my oily skin and thinning hair. OP, I highly recommend asking your doctor or dermatologist about Spironolactone!

        2. London Expat*

          Accutane saved my life when nothing else would work. I’ve been there OP, trying every prescription topical under the sun, and my face was a war zone. As previous commenters have said, it will dry out every part of your body (I was applying chapstick every 20 minutes and getting cracks at the corner of my mouth), but it’s now over a decade later and my skin is gloriously clear. My only regret was not doing it sooner. Seriously ask your doctor about it now.

      10. Risha*

        I always have issues (because of my issues) when people say things like this; it’s absolutely worth trying, but the truth is that even the prescription medications don’t work for everyone and I hate when people make it sound like there’s a guaranteed route to clear skin. The dermatologist told me flat out a few months in that there was nothing that was going to make me acne free, so I would have to settle for somewhat better.

        I had the best luck with Tazorac, and my skin is so oily that I didn’t get any drying issues from it, but it still left me with what most would consider a fair amount of facial acne and I get zero carryover effect from any of these meds – one late or missed application and I’m completely broken out five days later. So I eventually ditched the prescription route and went back to a routine of daily salicylic acid scrubs and carefully calculated washing-but-not-overwashing.

        At 40, it’s no longer quite as bad, or as distressing, but I have no doubt that it’s cost me somewhat both romantically and in my career. On the upside, I’ll probably never get a wrinkle!

      11. Tara*

        I will chime in again for Accutane, but also for seeing a dermatologist. Regular doctors that I saw for years could only do so much (doxycyline made me throw up, monocycline wore off, creams were useless), and I avoided going to the dermatologist because I thought my insurance wouldn’t cover Accutane. I almost cried after I saw my first derma, because not only did she say should would fight with insurance for me to get on (off-brand) Accutane, but she gave me other options too (Spironolactone).

        I’m only two months out from finishing my first round of Accutane (at 25, don’t wait that long, omg the clear-skin years I could have had) but I couldn’t be happier. The side-effects during treatment weren’t fun (dry lips, constant runny nose from dry skin, DEPRESSION) but everything went away within two weeks of stopping treatment. Standing where I am now, even with the constant doctors appointments and side-effects, everything was totally worth it. At the very least, talking to an actual dermatologist will give you some options. I don’t know why it took me years to get there.

      12. Elizabeth H.*

        It can have serious mental health side effects too and interact with other medications in serious ways, including mental health related medications. I like framing it as a medication of last resort.

    5. Lora*

      I’m peri-menopausal and still get acne AND grey hair, although it’s not as bad as it was 25 years ago. On the plus side when your skin is naturally oily you tend not to get wrinkles too much. I can afford a lot of dermatologist co-pays, and the only thing that works to keep it under control is expensive Sephora acid peel stuff. One dermatologist told me it has to do with sun damage, if you’ve had a lot of sunburns your skin cells get too damaged to shed properly, thereby providing the bacteria with more food and better hiding places.

      Yeah, I got nothing. When you’re my age it will help, it’s easier to get a job when people think you’re in your mid-30s. Not *mumblemumble*4*mumble*

      1. Misc*

        Oooh yeah. If I get even mild sunburn, my shoulders and face suddenly sprout major acne afterwards. Apparently sugar does it for me too (something something inflammation), as well as just eating too much in the way of oily food. On the upside, I don’t have terribly acne issues outside of that (which is why it’s so noticeable when it gets set off!).

        Of course, you can look plenty young without a single spot; I’m 30 and the local teens all just assumed I was ‘just slightly older than them, maybe first or second year of uni’. Which was… amusing. It probably says more about my maturity level than my looks :D

        1. many bells down*

          That’s funny, because a sunburn is what clears UP my acne. At least on my face. I think it dries out my skin enough that it stops the clogged pores. I used to deliberately forgo suncreen in my 20’s when I had a bad breakout, just long enough to get rid of it.

          1. Misc*

            I found sunscreen gave me acne too, I stopped using it years ago for various reasons (including that I basically avoid sunlight most of the time anyway).

      2. Callie*

        My skin is super oily and I don’t have a single wrinkle, and I’m about to be 42. I hate the oiliness because it makes my glasses slide down my nose, but I am very pleased about the lack of wrinkles!

    6. Jen*

      I will say the dermatologist can often provide way more help than you would believe. Noting OTC worked for me as a teen but the prescription stuff did.

    7. StarHopper*

      I can relate. I once got asked to leave the grounds of the high school I worked at because the custodian thought I was a kid hanging around after hours. I’m a teacher.

      I’m turning 33 this year, and have always suffered from hormonal acne. Coupled with being baby-faced (I stay out of the sun!), I have felt quite self-conscious about my looks.

      If OP (or anyone reading this) has the means to get to a dermatologist, please do so! I avoided it for years because I thought that I could just find the magical over-the-counter solution. I saw a derm last fall, and she agreed to try a spironolactone regimen. (She really thought I was a good candidate for Accutane, but I was afraid of the side effects.) What a difference! I normally just leave the house now with some translucent powder instead of a full face of foundation. Seriously, it has been amazing, and I’ve spent less on the co-pays and prescriptions than I used to on OTC products.

      1. Allison*

        Yes! Some doctors just tossed some benzoyl peroxide stuff at me and hoped for the best, I finally found a derm that figured out I had mild rosacea too, which was why so many common treatments weren’t working. My horrendous acne was reigned in by a topical retinoid, oral antibiotics, and clindamycin (the antibiotics were just for a year, in case anyone’s concerned).

        Differin’s over the counter now, too! That’s stuff’s absolutely worth a try if you wanna skip the doctor. To think, when I was in middle school health insurance wouldn’t even cover it because it was so new.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          + 1 with Differin.

          My androgens are probably out of wack, so I take the pill and it keeps my skin clear, mostly. I could get really angry, burning and itchy cystic pimples on my chin, nose and cheeks and the pill eliminates that.

          I have an appointment with an endocrinologist later in the summer to see what’s going on. eps my skin clear, mostly. I could get really angry, burning and itchy cystic pimples on my chin, nose and cheeks.

          I have an appointment with an endocrinologist

      2. Gov Worker*

        Spironolactone is a milder diuretic, I’ve taken it for years as a heart patient. Never heard of this off-label use, but you learn something every day!

        1. Brogrammer*

          Pharmacology is weird, isn’t it? Spironolactone is also an anti-androgen, which is why it can be effective for acne. It’s also commonly prescribed to men with prostate issues and to transgender women.

      3. Red Reader*

        Shortly after I moved into my neighborhood last year, one of the neighbor girls invited me to join their church’s youth group for high schoolers aged 15-18. I was like “… well, uh, thanks for thinking of me, but … I’m 35?”

        She goes “… huh. Well, that would explain why I haven’t seen you at school. I thought you just maybe went to one of the private schools.” I about died laughing.

        1. Control*

          A few years ago, I went on vacation and was swimming in the resort pool. A boy who looked to be about 12 or 13 asked me if I was 16 yet. I was 29 at the time.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Oh boy I would have so much fun with something like that “no but i have my parents car keys wanna go for a ride around the block?”

      4. Holly*

        Doctors put me on spironolactane at first. It did kind of work, but not totally, and I was afraid of the side effects of indefiently taking heart medication when I had a healthy heart would have. Not to mention having to keep going back to the derm forever. The hassle of Accutane for a few months was totally worth not being on anything at all now and no doctor visits needed.

      5. SkinCare Addict*

        Also, check out the Skincare Addiction Reddit. It is such a great community that has helped people get control of their skin. An amazing resource!!

        1. Anon1010*

          I came here to recommend this – it really has completely changed the way I interact with my skin for the better and has given me calm, blemish-free skin for the first time in my entire life (even as an adult).

          As SkinCare Addict says, it’s also a great community where you can find people with similar experiences with acne. It’s VERY supportive and could be a great place for you to learn some ways to deal with your acne while also finding camaraderie.

          But, first things first, OP – definitely see a doctor/dermatologist. For severe, persistent acne, prescription-strength skincare is really where you have to start.

      6. Fruitcake*

        Super super super rec the dermatologist over just your gp. Esp. if you’re also on birth control, because that can really make a difference and sometimes your GP doesn’t know all the tricks/interactions.

      7. many bells down*

        I got asked “whose class are you in, honey?” by a teacher at my daughter’s elementary school, while I was there volunteering for picture day. The school only went to 5th grade. I was 33. :(

    8. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

      23 and looking 15-17 here. No acne here, though – just a chubby babyface, no talent/time for makeup, and a rather… let’s say ‘undeveloped’ figure. I get carded for everything and asked if I want under-16 bus tickets. Just this morning got asked if I wanted an adult or youth rail ticket. The bright red Wonder Woman graphic tee probably didn’t help. (Confession: I would have said youth in a flash, but for the fact I need to photograph my train tickets to claim travel expenses from my employment programme.)

      At the few jobs/volunteering gigs I’ve had, I looked like the high schooler working for pocket money over the summer hols when I was really the bachelor student working for pocket money over the summer hols! :P

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I thought that was intentional! I use my phone to take pictures of my receipts, and then I just attach the files to the online expense report!

          1. Judy (since 2010)*

            Yes, I can even text the photo to a specific number, and it is waiting for me when I log in to the expense report system.

      1. Sans*

        My high school and middle school were across the street from each other. Once when I was in 12th grade, a teacher sent me across the street to the middle school for something. Teachers kept stopping me in the hall, asking me why I wasn’t in class (thinking I was a middle school student.)

        I was carded regularly until my early 30s. Now, in my 50s, it’s finally come in handy. People think I’m about 15 years younger than I am. My daughter is going through the same thing. I never tell her “you’ll be happy when you’re older” because it never made me feel better to feel it. lol

    9. Allison*

      28, babyfaced, still struggle with adult acne (kept largely at bay with birth control and tea tree oil, but I still get breakouts), and I’m absolutely treated like a little girl by older women, people are shocked when I tell them my age. They say I’ll appreciate it when I’m older, and I’m sure I will, I just really hate the condescension and patronizing crap I put up with now.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Ugh, I *hate* when people tell me I’ll appreciate it when I’m older. It’s so dismissive, and who even knows if that’s true! Maybe I’ll shrivel up like a prune overnight when I hit 40, they don’t know!

        1. Jaydee*

          You won’t appreciate it when you’re older. I have a friend in her early 40s who regularly complains how unfair it is that she has both wrinkles and acne.

          1. Caroline*

            Same here. Needing acne cream and wrinkle cream at the same time is a cruel trick of the universe.

        2. Alienor*

          I was mistaken for younger all the way through my 30s — I had my daughter when I was 27 and in her baby and toddler photos, I look like a teen mom. I started looking my age pretty much as soon as I turned 40, despite not tanning/smoking/drinking or doing any of the other things that are supposed to age you prematurely. It’s the worst of both worlds!

    10. textbookaquarian*

      OP1, I would definitely speak with your doctor about your acne problem. I had a similar problem in my early 30s and mine prescribed Doxycycline pills. It has completely cleared up my acne with minimal side-effects. The only thing I have to be careful about is sun exposure because the medication increases sensitivity. That’s not a big deal for me since I have fair skin and avoid the sun like a vampire anyways. LOL So yes, talk to your doctor. I think you’ll be very happy that you did. :)

    11. HR Gal*

      My partner is a 25 year old high school teacher, and other teachers regularly mistook him for a student when he first started. Honestly, other than dressing a bit nicer, there wasn’t anything he could do; over time, people began realizing who he was and it stopped being an issue. But he never had an issue when he was interviewing. Sure, he looked young, but his incredible experience spoke for itself. OP, so long as you demonstrate your maturity through your work experiences, your younger-looking appearance and acne shouldn’t be an issue.

      1. Jaydee*

        My husband actually grew facial hair for his first few years of teaching for this very reason. It was *not* more attractive, but it helped him look a bit older, which also made him more confident as a young high school teacher. He’s now in his 30s and just rocks a perma-stubble.

    12. Jessesgirl72*

      I was still being carded in Vegas when I was 40. And then had to put up with the tedious comments about how I didn’t look my age, when I just wanted to get on with the game or drink or whatever I was doing.

      I suspect that the OP’s self consciousness about her acne is hurting the “confident” act.

      Or, as people say, it’s just hard to get a teaching job.

  5. This Daydreamer*

    OP#4 Just in the past twelve hours, I have thanked at least four people for taking my money and giving me merchandise in return, and three clients for signing paperwork that they are required to sign. If thanking people for doing something required is unprofessional then I guess I’m just a complete amateur at life. Oh, well. I can live with that.

    And I might be making it a little too obvious that I used to work in customer service….

    1. Artemesia*

      I laughed at the idea that these people don’t need thanks because ‘they are required to provide this information.’ The bureaucrat who has what you want has enormous power to make your life miserable by passive aggressively being slow, or failing to give you what you want, or ignoring the request indefinitely. Heck currently the executive branch is withholding documents they are required to provide from Democrats who request them.

      Making positive relationships with people you do business with repeatedly is just basic business smarts. The people who do are the people who are most successful in having people go the extra mile for them.

      1. OhNo*

        Right. Just because they are required to give you this information doesn’t mean they are required to do it quickly, or give it to you in any kind of order, or even just generally be nice about it. Pretty much anything you can do to limit their desire to be jerks is only going to be for the good, especially if it’s something as simple as saying “thank you”.

        I mean, think about all those people who pay for parking tickets or fines in pennies. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of that.

      2. Thinking Outside the Boss*

        As a faceless bureaucrat myself, it’s so rare to be thanked that when people do thank me, I remember them. And if it’s late on a Friday afternoon, and I only have time to get one project done before I leave for the weekend and there are two projects on my desk, I’m always going to prioritize the work of the person who is warm and kind. Susie can get her stuff next week.

      3. General Ginger*

        Just because they’re required to provide the information, doesn’t mean they’re required to do it in a helpful/useful/quick/organized manner, exactly! It costs absolutely nothing to say thank you, but might make you that one stand-out person who appreciated their work that day — why would Susie not want that?

      4. Ama*

        Yes, I am in charge of executing the paperwork for the grant funds my org gives out, and you better believe I thank the institutional officials who help me get that done, even though technically we are giving them money that they wouldn’t get if they didn’t complete the paperwork. For one thing, you never know when they are going to get another grant and we’ll need to work together again, for another it makes them so much more likely to give me a heads up if a question arises with the grant project,because they think of me as someone who is approachable and happy to answer questions.

      5. 2 Cents*

        Yeah, that’s how I ended up “tipping” the title guy at my house closing ($200!), even though he was walking away with $9k of my money to do his GD job in the first place. (Who’s bitter!?)

      6. jojo mcscroggles*

        susie sounds like the more typical government employee who is completely worthless, doesn’t care about her customers (taxpayers) and has no incentive to do so. i would say her behavior would be unprofessional in an actual professional setting…but par for the course with the government.

    2. Jeanne*

      It is never bad to say thank you to those you encounter. I bet you’re a happier person than Suzie too. She must be a lovely colleague. Keep doing what you’re doing.

      1. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

        I’m a miserable so-and-so and I thank everyone for everything. I think my average is five or six thanks, even for something like buying some chewing gum at the shops.

    3. Jen*

      Yeah everyone from the guy at the sandwich counter to your coworker is just doing his or her job, but you still say thank you.

      1. INeedANap*

        Ha! Me too! Thanking someone after an interaction is just such a common bit of courtesy that it’s almost automatic for me now.

        1. Red Reader*

          “Thanks!” “You too!”
          “Have a nice day!” “You too!”
          “Enjoy your dinner!” “You too! … wait.”

          1. Risha*

            “Happy Birthday!” “You too! … wait, no, sorry, I meant thanks!” <- I have actually done this.

    4. a Gen X manager*

      I agree, Susie is ridiculous. Our regulators always thank us for having provided all of the documentation on time and thoroughly indexed even though we are required to provide it to them and their appreciation of the countless hours it takes to pull together all of the documentation and our effort to deliver it on time just makes the whole process feel more cooperative and human.

    5. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      I thank the bus driver when I disembark, the cashier when they hand me the receipt, the barista when they give me the coffee, the server when they deliver the food/drink, etc. I was just raised to thank people when they do something for me. My grandma used to say, “Courtesy greases the gears of civilization.”

    6. Froggy*

      Another amateur here…
      My husband regularly responds to wishes to “have a nice day” by workers he has been served by with, “Thank you, but you can have it – you’re working!” Presumably he’s already having a nice day because he’s not working.

    7. Lady Blerd*

      Just yesterday I hesitated a short second about sending a thank you to another department for sending a promotion file over in a very short amount of time. And she sent a smiley back which I figured meant that she appreciated getting it.

      I don’t expect a thank you every time I do my job but I have to admit that I get irritated if I go out of may to satisfy a request or if it’s outside of responsibilities and don’t even get a quick thank you. Suzie is just putting herself on someone’s crap-list and her next file request may not be actioned as quickly has one received from OP4.

      1. Nolan*

        Yes! I do ticket support, and we usually end responses with some form of “did this help” to engage the clients and prompt them for a reply/confirmation. Every time someone just replies “yes.” I glare at my monitor and say “you’re welcome!” at it. We remember those people. I’m much happier to handle a million stupid questions from someone who acknowledges the effort I’m putting in than one quick question from someone too rude to say “yes, thanks”

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Totally agree.
        Your coworker is missing a few key points. Please and thank you are like grease, they lubricate relationships.

        I deal with a lot of government people and a lot of the public. I tell all of them thank you, even though they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I cannot tell you how many of them react in a manner that telegraphs to me that they have not heard a thank you in QUITE a while.

        No one HAS to do anything in a pleasant manner. I had a friend who said, “If I don’t feel good, then I can’t be nice to people”. I almost said, “Yeah, we all know this. And we know you don’t feel good every other day.” Her constant frown set a tone for her workplace.

        Your coworker gives bad advice, OP.

    8. Nolan*

      I thank toll booth attendants! Nothing bad will ever happen to me if I don’t say “thank you, have a good one!” as I drive away, but I still say it because it’s a nice thing to do. Thank yous aren’t just for favors.

    9. jj*

      Having worked for the government for many years, thank yous can go a long way to greasing the slowly turning gears of a bureaucracy. It’s also the nice thing to do.

    10. Stranger than fiction*

      Thank you. Because manners are just falling by the wayside these days in general.

    11. Melissa*

      Adding to this, OP#4:

      I work in state government. By law, organizations we interact with are required to keep records and furnish those records at our request. They also have to file paperwork and make payments regularly. The kicker is we largely rely on voluntary compliance with the laws. It keeps our costs (and ultimately the taxpayer’s costs) low.

      We earn that voluntary compliance in part with excellent customer service. Yes, we’re government and we’re backed by laws, but making the process easier and more pleasant usually results in more cooperation. And that’s better for everyone.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, Susie is being unreasonable. It’s really kind of you to thank people, particularly because the process of pulling records/documents is usually not enjoyable, requires attention to detail, and is time consuming. It’s really helpful when someone does their job completely and competently, even if they’re legally required to do it. If Sally doesn’t want to say thanks, then she doesn’t have to, but it’s silly to try to police your gratitude.

    Susie’s ticket analogy is not on point. If I have to get surgery, and I heal well, I’m probably going to thank my doctor even though it’s her job to be competent and try not to kill/injure me. If a police officer is guiding traffic and signals for me to go, I’m going to thank them. If our custodial staff is handling a massive cleaning job, I’m going to say thank you. There’s certainly a line between being patronizing and being gracious, but it doesn’t sound like you’re near it. Go forth and spread kindness!

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      So much this. Being compulsory and being thankable are not mutually exclusive. It sounds like Susie thinks ‘thank you’ is only for use when someone has a choice, and is missing its use as a very normal form of social exchange.

      It’s a bit like talking about the weather. You’re partially thanking the person for doing the thing but also using it to say: “I acknowledge you, fellow human.” The world would be a colder, sadder place if we didn’t warm it up with these sorts of exchanges.

      1. Obelia*

        “I acknowledge you, fellow human” – exactly! You’re not saying “Congratulations to Organisation X for fulfilling its legal obligation” – you’re just recognising that there is a real person there doing the work.

        I work in a very bureaucratic job, and while obviously I’m always going to carry out my required duties, it’s not always a lot of fun and a simple acknowledgement rather than radio silence can make such a difference to my day.

        1. Jadelyn*

          “you’re just recognising that there is a real person there doing the work.” – this times a million. As the junior employee on my team who gets hit with most of these kinds of records and data-gathering requests, it makes all the difference in the world to have someone acknowledge to me that they’re aware their request caused me a few super-busy, stressful days while I got everything together for them. It’s the difference between someone whose request gets me glaring at my emails and debating just how long I can get away with putting them off, someone whose requests I fulfill dutifully but without much great sense of urgency, and someone who can text me on my personal phone during an executive meeting with a question, knowing that I’ll get them an answer in under 5 minutes.

          That “thank you” isn’t for the company fulfilling its legal requirements, it’s for the probably low-level worker bees who did the actual labor to get everything together and send it to you. You can never go wrong acknowledging the people who do the work.

      2. Hermes Conrad*

        OP here. Yeah, that was sort of my take. I imagine if we all took the time to be kind to each other the world would be a much better place. For the record Susie is a WONDERFUL person, and says thank you generously outside of this context. She just got some bad advice about professionalism when she started working. That’s all.

        1. hbc*

          How very odd. Can she justify why she thinks it’s unprofessional? Sometimes we internalize early advice without really analyzing it, but you’d think at this point with all of your push back, she’d be reconsidering the logic.

          I mean, if she was arguing that it wasn’t *required,* I’d agree, but the only harm would be in fawning all over them and acting like they did you some enormous favor. There is literally no downside to confirming receipt with a social nicety, and a lot of upside if you want people to talk well about your government agency and to keep sending you the documents well-ordered, in a timely fashion, and with no surprise jagged staples.

          1. ket*

            I wonder if someone said that saying “thank you” makes it seem like compliance was a gift, or that it put the thank-er in a lower position in some social hierarchy. Maybe it’s about social dominance.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              I wondered that too. There certainly are people who consider social niceties to be a sign of being less-than-dominant in the workplace. Like, subordinates have to say please and thank you, but bosses don’t, and so if you want to be treated like a boss, you don’t either. Usually the people who act that way are in my experience kind of jerkish on top of it, but I could see someone who wasn’t getting bad advice along those lines and following it (especially if it was couched as “women too often act overly deferential in the office, so here’s how you can counteract that…”).

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Bingo. I had a boss who got mad at me for thanking my subordinates. But I knew I was on the right track when THEY thanked me for thanking them.

                Avoiding basic polite words is a very odd way to assert power. AND, if that is the only way a person has to show power then they have not got much power to begin with.

                The reality of it is that people who cannot say please and thank you are on shaky ground. They have the false belief that they will lose parts of themselves by being polite. If you can, indeed, give up your power by saying thank you, then you do not have much power to begin with.

        2. Anon for this*

          I worked as a state regulator in the 90s and got similar instruction (and worse!). It is one reason that makes it easy to poke fun at “those uncaring robots that work at X agency.” Simple courtesy (not effusive overboard gratitude) can really help the.public perception of many regulatory agencies.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            A DMV located a little bit away from me, had a boss who told her people to be rude to the folks who came in, “It keeps the line moving,” she said. Everyone who worked there was MISERABLE because of their job.

            1. jojo mcscroggles*

              pretty sure that’s SOP for the DMV. it’s like air travel…you walk in the door and you don’t know if you’re actually going to get what you want or not because it’s such a piss-poor excuse for an operation.

    2. Artemesia*

      I live in a city with excellent public transport and bus drivers who are as a rule very gracious to passengers and helpful to tourists. I think they every time I get off the bus.

      1. blackcat*

        Do you live in Ireland? Bus drivers in Ireland are SO HELPFUL! I have thanked many Irish bus drivers when traveling there.

        1. Chinook*

          I know that there can be a huge difference from city to city when it comes to the helpfulness of bus drivers and the politeness of their passengers. When I rode the Calgary bus system, the drivers were usually surly and the passengers somewhere between oblivious and rude. Now that I ride the Airdrie commuter bus, I have drivers that are helpful (even to those who mistake them for Calgary bus drivers) and kind and the riders all are polite (to the point of everyone saying thank you when they disembark and lining up in the bus and getting on in that order regardless of where the bus stops in relation to said line). It takes about 2 weeks for new riders to pick up these new kindness habits as the silent peer pressure is strong.

          I often which comes first – the kind drivers or the polite riders. I honestly think you can’t have one without the other.

      2. bus rider*

        I always thank the bus driver too – that person got me to my destination safely, so even though it was his/her job, I am appreciative that the driver showed up to work that day!

      3. Allison*

        Yes, I’ve also gotten in the habit of saying “thank you” or “have a good night” (when it’s nighttime) whenever I get off a bus, shuttle, or above-ground train using the front door near the driver.

      4. Gaia*

        I always thank my bus driver! I had a friend ask once why I thank them to which I responded “they take me to the correct place and I do not die in a fiery bus crash, therefore I am grateful.”

      5. greenlily*

        I’m in a major Northeast city where public transit is an ongoing and very politically charged issue, and it makes me so sad to see how many commuters take it out on the bus drivers. I mean, yes, there are some drivers who are clearly having a terrible day and yell at everyone, but there are also amazing drivers who go out of their way to be helpful.

        Not only do I say thank you, but when I see a driver do something extra nice I drop a note at the public transit authority’s main Twitter account with the date and time and bus number. They can use that to figure out who the driver was. I have no idea if they put anything in a driver’s file when someone compliments (pretty sure they do when someone complains!) but I figure it can’t hurt.

        1. nhb*

          I wish more people would do this. That’s awesome you take a few extra minutes to send the information that is probably so meaningful to the drivers, since they probably rarely get that kind of feedback.

      6. LabTech*

        Heh, this just reminded me of the time I was traveling for work, and the bus driver literally screamed at me – top of his lungs – for asking a question. On both trips. That’s pretty much the only distinctive thing I remember about that city.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      Furthermore, it is downright churlish to look for fewer places to be pleasant rather than more (federal government employee speaking here: and that goes double or triple for a govt employee who has just asked you to perform a time-consuming, annoying task that does not benefit you immediately or directly).

      Much like when people get all high in the instep about how no one cares how you *really* are when they use “how are you?” as part of a standard greeting to an acquaintance*, the fact is that these are pleasant and well-meaning things to say. It’s seldom wrong to be pleasant and /or well- meaning, and we already have social conventions around them that you won’t change by being the one cranky person who picks them apart. If “thank you” bothers you in this context, find another pleasant phrase to use, but “thank you for your time; I know this can be onerous” is almost never wrong. Coworker is overthinking it wildly.

      *I will note that when the person leading me to the room to see the doctor at urgent care asks,”how are you?” I often respond with a chuckle, “I wouldn’t be *here* if everything were wonderful, would I now?”

      1. Gov Worker*

        Fellow Fed here, thirty years. I’m a thanker, and more of us are needed in the Federal service.

    4. Fellow Moomin fan*

      I bet Susie is one of those people who don’t apologize when bumping into someone by accident, because they believe that apologizing signals that they did it on purpose and now regret it after all…

      1. Hermes Conrad*

        OP here. Actually Susie is one of the nicest, kindest and most generous people I have ever had the privilege to work with. She got some bad advice when she started working, that’s all. This was all about what she was told were the standards of professionalism for employees in our job, not some character flaw. I just felt it needed to be said.

        1. OhNo*

          What a weird dichotomy, though. I hope you can convince her to thank people in this context, too, because I suspect that the people she interacts with professionally are jumping to the same conclusions we are about her personality. It would stink if this little hiccup made people think poorly of her.

        2. LCL*

          I have worked with two people that were like Susie, very professional and hardworking with a strong sense of duty, and both had bad reactions to being thanked for doing their job. Both were men, and both had military service in their distant past. We work with many people here that have more recent military duty, and they are all nicer than the general public in their work interactions.

        3. Jaydee*

          I wonder if there is a gender component to it. Sort of like how some women tend to apologize for everything so it is fairly common advice to women not to apologize too much. If you are in a compliance field where you need to have some level of authority to make people do the things they are supposed to do, she may have been given advice intended to tone down “feminine” traits in order to seem more “business-like” or to “command respect” or something.

          Of course with any of that type of advice there is the risk of taking it too far and being unwilling or unable to use these social lubricants (apologizing, thanking, etc.) effectively.

          I think there’s a happy medium. No need to gush or use dozens of exclamation points. Just a simple “Thank you for responding so promptly!” or “Thanks for your attention to this matter.”

        4. Observer*

          Well, someone should enlighten her that this advice is wildly unprofessional, and will also almost certainly make her life much more difficult.

        5. Not So NewReader*

          You could tell her that is old fashioned advice and many people no longer believe it is viable advice. You might say that when she does not say thank you it stands out like a sore thumb to others. She could become known as the one who never says thank you.

    5. Kate*

      I otherwise agree with you, but I draw the line at people who clap when the pilots land the plane successfully! :)

      1. Lora*

        I clap if there was turbulence or storms or something. Flying a giant pressurized bus full of angry people through a thunderstorm and avoiding lightning and hail can’t be easy.

      2. Beancounter Eric*

        I try to thank the pilots as I leave the aircraft – after stopping for a second to ogle the cockpit. (Bad eyesight put an end to my aviator aspirations).

    6. OtterB*

      I think of it as social lubricant. In every little interaction you have throughout the day, you can be kind and make things run a little smoother, or you can be rude and obnoxious and throw sand in the gears. Accepting things without thanks doesn’t make the interaction rougher, but it doesn’t make it smoother, either.

      A big part of my job is an annual report I produce for my organization. When I send it out to our 200+ members, most don’t respond (and I genuinely don’t expect them to). Maybe a dozen will send back an email ranging from a simple “thanks” to something like “thanks, this information is always so helpful” and those are always a little boost to receive. It’s my job. That report is the single reason I was hired. I get thanked for it with a paycheck. Nevertheless, it’s always nice to have a brief pleasant human interchange to go along with the data interchange.

      1. Super Anon for This*

        I couldn’t agree more. I used to be a sales associate. I would get criticized by clients for how I handed them their change, how I bagged things, how long I took to scan in their coupons, etc. All day long people readily complained. People rarely thanked me so easily. But I remember them. They really did brighten my whole day. It is so easy to make people happy. Why doesn’t everyone do it more often?

        1. jojo mcscroggles*

          i work in a fairly thankless field and actually created an email folder called “Thanks” and every time i got an email where someone thanked me i put the email in there. Nice to review some days…

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I have to send a report to a higher ranking person twice a month. Each and every time he says, “thank you”. I am going to make darn sure he has his report on time and when he needs it.

    7. Misc*

      Perfect example from a few minutes ago: I help run promotions for people in related fields to my work, which is both massively beneficial for them and neat content/promo stuff for us. I *always* thank them for taking the time to send in materials, because even if it overall is in their favour and I *could* quite legitimately act like I was graciously offering them an opportunity now hurry up and meet my deadline, I still appreciate that they put the effort in to help make us look good/worked with me/like our product. I want them to go away thinking ‘that was nice, and I feel so appreciated, maybe I should promote them more’ and ‘they were pleasant and didn’t take me for granted, I should approach them again if I ever need […]’.

    8. Temperance*

      I say thank you regularly to everyone. I say thank you to my husband when he feeds our pets. I thank my intern for doing his job. I thank our copy people for delivering my copies. I thank my caterer for doing a good job. It’s .. normal and polite.

    9. Elsajeni*

      Although, actually, I HAVE been thanked for paying a parking ticket! Not effusively or with a personal note or anything like that, but when I had to pay a ticket that involved going in person to an office, yes, the clerk did say something like “Thanks, you’re all set, have a nice day.” Even online forms will tend to display a “Thank you, your payment has been received” message. It is, as people are saying here, a little social lubricant, but even if you don’t care about brightening anyone’s day, it’s also a polite and convenient way to convey the message “Our business together is finished.”

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I had someone thank me recently for paying something that I had to pay. It made me feel less crappy about shelling out the money. She did not have to say thank you, I did not have pay it and she could have done a ton of paper work that would have made her miserable and in turn made me miserable. She would have gotten the money out of me eventually. But this way was just so much easier and quicker. She understood that.

    10. nhb*

      My stepdaughter passed away at 15 years old after a failed heart transplant. All four of her parents still thanked the team of doctors and nurses who worked on her.

      1. Obelia*

        nhb I am so sorry for your loss. That is very touching and I am sure it meant a great deal to the team.

  7. Rosie*

    OP#1, I hope your doctor is helpful – my brother got some really useful lotions and potions from our doctor which helped him a lot. I remember a science teacher I had as a teenager who looked looked younger than me, had acne, and wore enormous suits which swamped him. He was many students’ favourite teacher because he was so good at his job! Don’t let this put you off :)

    1. Janet*

      I think it’s great that OP #1 made an appointment. In my early 20s I had terrible cystic acne. It was absolutely brought on by stress and a little bit of hormones. It totally affected my confidence. I tried so many over-the-counter cures and finally made an appointment with a dermatologist and that worked. He had me on antibiotics for a while and then I got a cream that took care of the rest of it. I still get break-outs every so often (I’m 41 and have a giant cyst right on my forehead – and also wrinkles which is so much fun) but for the most part, it cured it. I highly recommend the dermatologist.

    2. Lindsay*

      I agree – I have adult acne and going to a dermatologist was one of the best things I did for myself. It can take awhile to figure out the right combination of what works for you, but it’s worth the time and cost, in my opinion. I hope you and your doctor find something that takes care of your acne.

  8. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I have a feeling you’ll do great at writing this thank you note, if the tone and attitude of your letter are anything to go by. You sound really mature, gracious and reflective. Major kudos to you for that. Good luck with your next steps.

  9. Caelyn*

    I’m in a similar situation to OP3 and I just wanted to chime in and say that I wrote a note very similar to the one that Alison suggested. I don’t know how it was received, but it honestly made me feel so much better afterwards. I’m also glad to hear that I (most likely) made the right call with both the note and my word choice!

    1. Newby*

      I had to fire someone and they sent me a similar note. It definitely changed my impression of them for the better and the last impression I have of them is not the awkward firing meeting but rather the gracious note.

      1. Tuckerman*

        I think it depends on how bad the parting was. There’s a huge difference between a. leaving quietly after it’s determined the role is not a good fit, and b. throwing a tantrum on the way out after several contentious months.
        If the former, I would appreciate the note. If the latter, I would be wary of the fired employee’s intentions.

  10. paul*

    op4/Gov’t employee: Your coworker is being unreasonable and (as someone who deals with state employees regularly) I’d much rather deal with a state employee that observes social niceties vs one who is all asking, demanding, feels like they can just tell us to jump, etc. This is a basic bit of social greasing the wheel.

    And I can tell you which one of you I’ll respond more quickly too as well, at least if I deal with your department often enough to know you!

    Work from home OP: Is it definite that you’ll be expected to print stuff out at home or do they expect you to just print it out the days you’re at the office?

    1. Agatha31*

      I was *sure* I wouldn’t be the first to point this out! I work in a law office so a HUGE portion of my job is requesting or providing paperwork. I always say please and thank you when requesting anything, and I always remember when someone has shown me the same courtesy – and when shit hits the fan and we have to choose who gets priority when dealing with multiple urgent matters… you bet your courteous butt that if one person was brusque and you are both in line – you’re getting first priority. It’s my own small way of acknowleging (and therefore hopefully encouraging!) approaching with a pleasant manner! Which isn’t to say your co-worker is wrong to just send out requests and not follow up – but she IS wrong if she thinks there’s no benefits to your method! And yes the other benefit of you sending those notes is that the person on the other side will appreciate *knowing* you got very important paperwork! In addition I also like it because it’s one more valuable track in a paper trail when I’m revisiting a file a week or month or YEAR later (or even stuff done before I started). Or for someone else to follow if I’m not the one reviewing the file. In short (too late!) your practice has many benefits both for you and the people you’re sending acknowlegments to. Thank you for being a pleasant, thoughtful person to deal with, and keep it up! ☺

    2. Fish Microwaver*

      OP4 I agree with Paul. I am also a gov employee who has to work with different agencies and provide and obtain information. The wheels turn a lot smoother with those agencies where we exchange social niceties than those where people are one dimensional bureaucrats, often not very nice ones. I also appreciate when I am thanked for my efforts.

    3. Jen*

      My sister is a government attorney and people are legally required to cooperate with her info requests or face criminal penalties. She still says thank you.

  11. MommyMD*

    Appearance does indeed matter in the job market. It’s been well documented. You may be eligible for a few months treatment of Accutane which clears up even the worst acne even when discontinued. It’s a very strong drug but you may decide benefits outweigh risks. Best of luck.

    1. Gen*

      If OP is suffering from stress that’s something to definitely raise with a doctor before medicating since some acne meds have a heightened suicide risk.

      I’m 35 and still have acne, I can definitely see it being a hinderence for educational jobs, especially high school age where you could struggle with disruptive pupils. I know OP said they got a concealer but didn’t feel it was effective- it might be worth looking for local beauty places that can do a tutorial on how best to work with it. I did that a few years ago and it made a big difference

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        Exactly. My cousin is a teacher, and she once confiscated a notebook from one of her students. The notebook was filled with doodles of my cousin carrying bags marked “Wendy’s” and “Burger King.” She is technically overweight, BMI-wise,, but she’s really not even that heavy! Kids are vicious.

        1. Zip Silver*

          I did something similar in middle school. My homeroom teacher was a female coach with a particularly bad attitude, and 13 year old me drew a doodle in my notebook of the classroom with all the kids with one big speech bubble calling her a b*tch. Naturally she was upset. Rather than bringing it up to the principal, she brought it to my football coach and he gave me a talking to and I had to run 20 miles before I could play again. The funny thing was that he basically told me that he agrees, but not to put stuff like that in writing, which has been a valuable lesson indeed.

    2. Woah*

      Accutane is a big step for normal levels and types of acne. There a ton of medications and treatments the dermatologist is likely to offer first. I had horrible cystic acne and Accutane was not something they just handed out- the psychiatric risks, needing to use hormonal birth control, seeing a provider for blood work every month, etc are all big things to consider. I used antibiotics and then some other prescriptions as first tries.

    3. JanetInSC*

      Please don’t do Accutane. I knew two people, one young and one middle-aged, and both had dry, scaly skin as a result of the treatment. It aged them terribly. There are also other very serious side effects.

      1. NJ Anon*

        Everyne is different. My niece used it successfully but I do agree with others. Go to a dermatologist and see what they revommend first.

      2. Holly*

        I don’t know about your friends, but having permanent dry skin afterwards is not usual. You are suppose to use a lot of lotion and chap stick while on it. I know someone who got some scaring on their lips because they kept forgetting to bring chap stick with them. But I just put it on my key chain and had extra chap sticks everywhere along with lotion bottles. No premature aging.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I have to say, I am baffled that you would give this advice. Accutane is indeed a strong drug– which is why I’m surprised you didn’t preface that with, “Please see your doctor.” You don’t know the OP or her medical history.

      1. Important Moi*

        Everyone who offered that advice already knows that Accutane is only available via prescription and has requirements associated with being able to receive it and take it. They slso know it is a last resort treatment. It is for acne that can’t be treated by topical treatments like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Those who have taken Accutane, myself included, wouldn’t that advice cavalierly.

      2. Holly*

        You don’t need to say “Please see your doctor” as you can’t get it without a prescription, signing off on multiple releases, signing up in a government data base, and getting a blood test beforehand. And if you’re a woman, pass 2 pregnancy tests.

    5. Former Retail Manager*

      As others have mentioned, Accutane is indeed very strong, comes with potential side effects, and requires a great deal of medical oversight. (Also, Accutane, the brand name, is no longer being manufactured by Roche, but there are many other equivalents). I had moderate to severe acne, non-cystic, from age 13 to 26 and was under a dermatologist’s care the majority of that time. I tried every antibiotic, cream and potion under the sun (prescription and non-prescription) and NOTHING worked….until Accutane. It took me three rounds of Accutane over a period of about 5 years to clear my skin completely and I have some lasting side effects related to my joints that rear their head every once in a while. All that said…..I would do it over and over again without a second thought. The medication was life changing for me. If you haven’t gone the antibiotic and topical cream route, the doc will likely do that first. Accutane and its equivalents tend to only be an option if your physician can confirm that other treatments aren’t working for you. Please look into it. A note of warning about cost….if you don’t have insurance of some sort, don’t even bother. The medication is unbelievably expensive without insurance and that’s not even considering the required monthly monitoring and blood work.

      Another option…..along the makeup lines, there is a YouTuber that I LOVE….ThaTaylaa….she has moderate to severe cystic acne and covers it amazingly with makeup. I assume you’re female, but regardless, please look her up and watch the magic that she can make happen on her own face. Even if you’re a guy, if your acne is impacting your confidence significantly, I think it’s beyond okay to consider full face makeup until you can resolve the issue. There are some great, affordable full coverage foundations out there that could definitely help out significantly when applied with the right technique.

      I had acne when I was interviewing for my current job and I remember feeling very self conscious about it and had to really make a mental effort to not allow that to translate into my demeanor during the interview. When you’ve taken a hit to your self-confidence as a result of your acne, it can be hard to put “your best face forward.” (no pun intended) Best of luck….don’t give up!

      1. PizzaDog*

        Seconding the recommendation for Taylor’s videos! She’s incredible – she really does her research and it shows in her videos

    6. Sara*

      My brother had some serious depressive issues after he used Accutane. He has great skin now but was on anti-depressants for years because of it. I would seriously look at other options

  12. WomanEngineer*

    OP1 – Differin is OTC (it’s a retinoid that used to be prescription only) you can get at any drugstore, it’s great just make sure you start slow and wear sunscreen. I started using curology (online derm prescribed medicine) when I hit 35 and got acne I couldn’t kick. It took at least 3 months to improve and almost 9 to disappear. Good luck, i had such a hard time dealing with my acne.

    1. NewBoss2016*

      I found out about Curology when I saw some AAM commenters talking about it a few months ago. It has REALLY helped me when I stay consistent. I am going through a rough patch right now because I would fall asleep before I put on the medication waiting on my face to 100% dry (eyeroll at myself), but now I am back on a good routine and it is working really well again.

  13. Not Australian*

    Re: OP2 – as a person who has battled with depression on and off over the years, I’ve found that when things are getting really bad I seem to rush off and get a drastic new haircut and then spend a lot of time regretting it. In fact it’s generally true that, the longer my hair is, the happier I am. That being the case – and without attempting to diagnose someone over the Internet etc. – I think it’s likely that the hair cut is a symptom of something bigger rather than a problem in itself, and it might be useful to look at the situation from this POV.

    1. Manders*

      Yep, I also tend to make drastic hair changes when I’m going through a period of iffy mental health (I rarely regret them, but a lot of spur of the moment cuts and colors generally happen when I’m feeling stressed). So it could be the symptom of a bigger problem.

      It’s also possible that something happened to the employee that she doesn’t want to talk about at work, the first time OP saw her crying she blamed the haircut, and now she feels the need to maintain the lie. I can imagine blurting out something similarly weird in the moment in order to avoid talking about, say, an abortion or sexual assault with my boss.

    2. Tiffin*

      My hairdresser has sworn she will never cut my hair when I’m upset. I’ve been going to her for years and she knows me well enough to know I’d regret it. That’s why I followed her when she switched salons.

    1. Jeanne*

      With many insurance plans, you have to start with the PCP to get a referral to a dermatologist.

      1. KellyK*

        Specialists can also be further away, harder to get an appointment with, and pricier. Additionally, if you get a prescription from a dermatologist, it’s the dermatologist you’ll need to follow up with, not your GP. (I’ve had a specialist say “we think your issue is well controlled and your GP can take over managing this for you” once, so it does happen, but it’s more common that you keep seeing the specialist.)

        There are plenty of first steps that a GP can prescribe before you go straight to a dermatologist, and a good GP will refer you to a specialist when your issue is serious or unusual.

        1. Observer*

          There are steps that often SHOULD be taken before seeing a dermatologist – general health stuff should be looked at because it’s always possible, and not uncommon, that there is a more general underlying issue that needs to be taken care of.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      A dermatologist is a physician, btw. I realize you assume the OP means her primary care doc, but I don’t want anyone out there thinking their dermatologists aren’t medical doctors.

      1. LBK*

        IME colloquially, people typically use “physician” to mean a GP, even though technically by definition it’s a synonym for MD (I have a vague recollection that you’re not from the US so might be a regional thing?).

        1. fposte*

          Wow, I’m very US and I’ve never heard that–I had the same reaction to the original comment. I guess it has some advantages over saying “PCP,” but I’d be annoyed if I were a specialist.

          1. AvonLady Barksdale*

            Yup, I’m definitely in the US and I have never heard people referring only to a PCP as a “physician”. I hear “my doctor” or “my primary care”.

    3. Book Lover*

      As above, a dermatologist is a physician. And I don’t know where you live, but here it takes months to get in to see one and sometimes requires a referral. A pcp can do some blood work, check into potential underlying hormonal issues, and start up topical therapy and sometimes even oral antibiotics in the right setting. We are not totally useless….

  14. KelsBells*

    OP#1 – definitely go see the doctor and get a referral to a dermatologist! I struggled with serious acne through most of my teens – the over-the-counter stuff did absolutely nothing for me. But my doc tried me on several prescriptions (Accutane was what finally did the trick for me, but there are lots of less hardcore options before you get to that one) and my skin is now super clear. Good luck!

  15. Woah*

    I got a thank you from the clerk when I paid my parking ticket- they are thanking me for responding to their request in a timely and competent manner. I can’t imagine why you, especially as government employees working in compliance, wouldn’t want to thank people for responding to your request in such a fashion.

    As long as you’re not sending responses like “OMG THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! NO ONE ELSE IN YOUR LINE OF WORK EVER BOTHERS AND WE DON’T GET AROUND TO FINING THEM LOLLL YOU’RE THE BESTEST!!!” I think you’re in the right here. Plus as someone who dealt a lot with the social security office a lot, I appreciate it when people are polite and say “thank you for sending me proof you’re a human” or whatever.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Your LOLL YOU’RE THE BESTEST” made me chuckle, because I often wonder exactly when “lol haha” started replacing punctuation.

      That goes double because why do you need the “haha” if you just LOLed?

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I think the clerk was probably thanking you for not screaming at them and blaming them for the ticket and the fine!

      Related but slightly OT, I’ve had people literally speechless when I’ve asked for a supervisor so I could complement/commend a nice, helpful CSR. After working retail, waiting tables, and answering phones years ago, I remember not only how much it meant, but as a supervisor how much it helped morale and helped me know how we were doing.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        So true! When I was a teenager and worked at the local movie theater, a customer found my manager and told them I was “a gem”; because of that praise, I ended up making Employee of the Month, which was a huge deal to me and made me really give my best effort going forward. Ever since then, I’ve tried to be like that guy and make a point of saying when I get good service.

  16. Poppy Bossyboots*

    OP #1: I know what you mean when you say you feel “so gross and frustrated.” I had terrible cystic acne all through grad school. Talking about huge red cysts all over my chin that wouldn’t go away for months at a time. And the topical antibiotic the doctor prescribed actually made it *worse*. Ugh! So much sympathy.

    You’re probably tired of advice, but at least mine is cheap: what finally worked for me was using a very simple, homemade scrub of honey and sugar twice a day, followed by pure aloe vera gel. No creams allowed, no moisturizer other than aloe vera, and not a ton of makeup on top either. I still have a little sprinkling of acne during *those* times of the month, but nothing at all like what I dealt with in grad school.

    Good luck!! I hope you find what works for you soon!

    1. Julia*

      I would like to caution against using sugar (or lemon juice, while I’m at it) on the face. The particles are too big and abrasive for the sensitive facial skin, and could cause more damage than they might help.

      1. Super Anon for This*

        I don’t know, a lot of people I know use sugar successfully, and one book I was reading, which collected beauty tips from different cultures, had one where everyone recommended a sugar scrub. As long as you aren’t ramming it into your face and pressing as hard as you can, I think it’s fine.

  17. New Bee*

    OP1, for what it’s worth, I started teaching at 22 (and was 25 when I moved to high school). I was definitely on the shorter, younger-looking side (still am), but my presence and maturity communicated that I’d be able to manage a class, which is a key factor principals consider when hiring novice teachers. I also know several teachers who started the same year I did who had/still have very severe acne. In all of their cases, their skin hasn’t held them back–I think it even humanized them to their kids a bit (and in case you’re wondering, they all taught 6th and up).

    Hopefully your program supervisor or mentor teacher can give you some candid feedback on your interviewing skills while you’re doctor works to find a solution for your skin. Good luck!

  18. Apollo Warbucks*

    #OP5 is there any way you could claim tax relief on the increased utility bills? In the UK there are certain circumstances you can claim for costs associated with working from home I wonder if that’s the same in the US.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If you itemize on your taxes, there’s a home office deduction where you calculate the portion of your home used for your home office and then apply that percentage to your utilities too.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I have a CPA friend and have inquired with her about this, so I just want to add that the rules for the home office deduction are fairly strict; might be worth inquiring with a tax expert first if you (OP) wants to go this way. But it absolutely can be helpful for people who work out of their home a good deal of the time.

        1. Judy (since 2010)*

          We looked into it at one time and decided not to pursue it. When you own your home and deduct for a home office, it does things to your cost basis and taxes when you sell your house.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      It is possible, but I would encourage anyone claiming home office deductions to use a tax professional (since you’re itemizing, the cost is deductible next year anyhow). The rules for home office deductions are finicky and a big red flag saying “audit me!”

      1. Regular Lurker*

        I’m fascinated by the fact that this comment has come up a few times. I worked from home for 12 years for a Fortune 500 company and itemized my home office every year without being contacted by the IRS once. The company paid for my phone and internet via monthly expense processing. They provided my computer, monitor, printer and a company cell phone. I was able to take a deduction for utilities and rent/mortgage. The deduction was based on the percentage of my home I used for the office.

  19. Kerr*

    OP 1, I’m sorry. I’ve dealt with acne while job hunting, and like you, stress seems to exacerbate it. I think it matters a great deal less than your worries want you to think! So many people deal with acne, or have in the past, and know it’s not caused by being “dirty” or even being young. (Also, the idea that only teenagers get acne is a bald-faced lie. *shakes fist* I had more pimples in my 20s than my teens.) Following Alison’s advice about making sure you have a well-tailored suit, mature hairstyle and accessories, etc. will convey that you’re not a teenager, pimples or no.

    Definitely see a dermatologist, and discuss a variety of treatment options with them. (Also discussing cost and available generics, if cost is an issue.) A lot of people jump to Accutane, but there are way less serious options available. A sodium sulfacetamide/sulfur wash helped me, and I’d never heard of it – so many options! A doctor should be able to point you in the right direction, versus shelling out $ for medicated OTC treatments, and give you samples to try before filling a prescription.

    1. Blue*

      Just wanted to second the reassurance that many people are familiar enough with acne to recognize how complex it can be. It may be influencing their overall impression, but I agree that can be mitigated. I personally find that no one cares about a breakout as much as I do, and it’s my own self-consciousness about it that has the biggest impact.

      And it’s definitely worth asking your doctor! I didn’t pursue the acne issue in a medical way until I was in my late 20s, but once I did, it didn’t take long for me to end up at an endocrinologist’s, who confirmed that I had a hormonal deficiency that caused this and gave me the appropriate meds. I’ll never have perfect skin, but it made a huge difference.

  20. Anon.*

    Regarding number 3, sending a thank you note to the boss that fired you:

    One of my professional regrets, after being in a job where I was not a good fit for, was not taking a second to write a thank you note to my boss after being laid off. It was nearly 10 years ago and I still regret it. I love Allison’s advice here. I think I might send a thank you note now. Hopefully, it’s not too late??? (Also, would a physical paper card be better or would email?) Thanks!

  21. Daria Grace*

    #1, I haven’t tried this so I don’t know how well it would work but maybe it’s worth getting help from a stylist to pick colours and styles of clothing and accessories that suit your skin tone, hair colour, face shape ect. If you can reduce accidental clashes in elements of your look that you can control, hopefully ones you can’t like the pimples won’t stand out as badly

  22. lamuella*

    #4 yeah, thanking people for things they are required to do is common courtesy. You don’t need to be gushing, but a thank you both acknowledges what has been done and greases the wheels in case you need to deal with these people again. Thanking people for doing what they have to do makes it more likely they’ll go above and beyond what they have to do later.

    It’s also just a nice thing that humans do to be nice to each other.

  23. WhatTheFoxSays*

    Op1, I’d also try a dietary test. I never realized how much dairy/milk and I don’t get along until I switched to almond milk, etc. Perhaps something in your diet is similarly contributing.

    I had epic acne beginning in my teens too and worked with a dermatologist to find some topical medications that helped. I did not go the accutane route. Also the derm’s assistant had great recommendations for make up that helped cover and improve the acne. Hugs! It doesn’t clear up over night, but don’t lose hope and don’t let having acne keep you feeling down.

    You might also try a shopping consultant/stylist for putting together a couple new interview outfits (eg Macy’s has this service), and maybe visiting the makeup counters to learn some new tips and tricks on how to minimize the appearance of the acne. Even a new hair cut or color can help you present yourself in a new angle.

    Also, do you have contacts in the field from whom you can get feedback on your interview mannerisms and answers? Maybe you need to focus more on a particular strength etc.

    Good luck!!

  24. FD*

    #1- If nothing else, I wonder if your acne is making you self-conscious in interviews, and therefore making it harder for you to perform well. You might also work with a friend or mentor on practice interviews and see if they have any feedback.

    I will share that two of my brothers had absolutely horrible acne, and they tried all the things you talked about without success. But once they saw a dermatologist who prescribed something (and it was only one visit, not an ongoing one), it cleared up almost completely. I’m just sharing this because all the things you mentioned in your post were OTC solutions, so I wasn’t sure if you’d considered that option.

    #2- I think in a way, the hair is distracting from the core issue. Crying that often at work and in meetings would be a concern, no matter the issue. And Alison’s recommendation to refer her to the EAP would be equally valid whether it is her hair, grief over a family member, or general depression.

    #3- Nobody likes firing others. This is a kind thing to do, if it can be done honestly, because it shows that you understand and do appreciate what you leaned. This is doubly true if the firing was because of a bad fit–i.e. they needed someone who could make chocolate spouts too and you didn’t have that ability and couldn’t learn it fast enough.

  25. Annie Mouse*

    #4, I definitely think you’re right in that thanks are welcome, even for things that the person you’re thanking has to do. Although not thanking isn’t necessarily ‘wrong’, a thank you is likely to be noticed.

    A few years ago, we were walking back out of a hospital and spotted an ambulance crew who had rushed a patient into the er but were struggling to get him onto the bed as the nurse/doctor hadn’t got there yet. My crewmate and I grabbed the slide board and some gloves and gave them a hand. It took 2 minutes at most. We then carried on back to our vehicle. One of the guys followed us out to say thank you for helping. Which felt great (especially as I was fairly new at the time) but it was for something we hadn’t even had to consider whether to do or not, we just did it. And I still remember him taking the time to thank us. So even if it seems insignificant, it’ll make the person you’re thanking smile.

  26. Stardust*

    OP1: I’m 28, and I’m a high school teacher despite frequently mistaken as a high school student. I’m petite, have hot pink streaks in my hair, wear studded leather cuffs and jelly bracelets, have multiple piercings, and wear combat boots with everything. Every time I enter a new school, or take my students on field trips, people think I’m one of them. Hasn’t stopped me from having a successful teaching career. In fact, I have been more successful than people I know who are older than me and have been trying longer to become teachers. Appearance is nothing. It’s all about confidence, knowledge, and being one of the best in your field!

  27. Rookie Manager*

    OP #5; in a previous job I had to work from home for about 6 months due to having no office. This was not what I had signed up for and is very different to occasionally working from home. I negotiated a small monthly payment to cover utilities and, effectively, the rent of my spare room. I don’t know how much stuff you’ll be expected to store at home but records, printer, supplies, monitor etc really infringed on our ability to use the spare room as a spacr for guests.

    In my experience it is worth bringing this up. I also asked for the purchase of a locking filing cabinet so I could keep the laptop and personal docs safe. Good luck!

    1. Person of Interest*

      Agree – the simplest solution is to ask them to temporarily provide you the hardware you will need, get reimbursed for any supplies you have to buy (like printer paper), and a monthly stipend to put toward your phone/internet bills. This is what I negotiated when I moved away and started working remotely full-time. For a temp situation like your office move I wouldn’t bother with the tax deduction piece – not worth the hassle.

  28. blackcat*

    OP1, I feel you. I was a very young looking 22 year old high school teacher, with acne (though it wasn’t that bad during my first few years when I was still on hormonal birth control).

    How you carry yourself and how you dress matters A LOT. You need to make sure you’re not hunching and to project confidence. This might sound really nit-picky, but make sure your interview pants don’t make your butt look good. They should fit well, but should not be tight around the lower butt. Wear a conservative top that fits but is relatively loose. Basically, you want to exude professional without any hint of attractiveness, if that’s at all possible.

    FWIW, my students really didn’t notice how young I was. They thought I was like 30! When it became widely known I was 22, they were super surprised. And even the ones who were 16-17 still thought of 22 as “adult” (the 18 year old were more skeptical). The parents I met were always like “How are you old enough to teach?” One parent mistook me for a student when dropping his child off for a field trip, and encouraged his son to ask me out! So how I was perceived by students & parents was really different.

    If you project confidence, a good administrator is going to know you’ll be *fine* with the students. They’ll put you in a “teacher” box and think of you as an adult. Dealing with parents when you look very young is harder, so a good administrator interviewing you will ask questions to probe how you’ll deal with parents who think you don’t know what you’re doing. Having good answers to those sorts of questions is much more important than the acne on your face.

    1. Stardust*

      That’s funny, cuz my high school students all think I’m YOUNGER than I am! They all think I’m 22 and I’m really 28!

      I always love it when parents come in for interviews and think I’m a student! It’s funny seeing them go from “cutesy” or “condescending” to “oh shit respect”.

  29. Ali in England*

    OP4, this reminds me of an issue I had with a colleague (a direct report) a few years ago. We worked for a national medical regulator, dealing with complaints, and some of those complaints related to patients who had subsequently died. My colleague felt that when responding to the person making the complaint, we shouldn’t acknowledge the bereavement and offer our condolences because we didn’t know them so it might come across as condescending, and because it might be seen as admitting some fault on the part of the medical team. My counter argument was that it wasn’t in any way an admission of liability, that we shouldn’t be afraid to give a normal human response to someone’s bereavement and that to do otherwise risked giving the impression that our organisation was a faceless and uncaring bureaucracy. Colleague accepted that she might have been overstating the risks, and changed her writing style accordingly, though I don’t think she was ever 100% comfortable with it.

    1. DaisyGrrl*

      And let’s face it, complainants are already feeling unheard and dismissed if they’re at the point of going to the regulator. There’s no need to reinforce the impression and give the feeling that their complaint will not be treated fairly. There are enough nightmare stories in the media as it is when it comes to medical failures and subsequent regulatory failures (the Morecambe Bay report that looked into the response to Joshua Titcombe’s death comes to mind).

      Treating others kindly and with compassion should always be the default. Thank you for challenging your colleague to do better by the complainants.

      1. TheLazyB*

        A very long time ago and for about five minutes i worked for the guy who did the Morecambe Bay report.

        *Waves at people who probably work in related areas to mine*

      2. specialist*

        In some jurisdictions, saying that you’re sorry can be construed as an admission of guilt. Specific patient apology bills going before legislatures all over the country are designed to allow the medical staff to say they are sorry that someone had a bad outcome or that someone has died without opening themselves up to litigation.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      When I worked for Huge Evil Retailer, our training included the instruction to never say “I’m sorry” to someone who had hurt themselves in the store, because it could be seen as admitting fault.

      1. Super Anon for This*

        Mine too! And in movies, whenever someone says “I’m sorry” to a grieving character, the inevitable response is “Why are you sorry? It’s not like you had anything to do with it.” So I think a lot of people do see an apology as admitting fault.

    3. Thinking Outside the Boss*

      I can’t remember where I read the article, but they said that when a doctor says “I’m sorry” after someone dies in the ER or hospital in the U.S. that the family is 30-40% less likely to sue than when the doctor says nothing.

      Ali, I like your approach.

    4. TheLazyB*

      I work for a medical regulator in England (!) and someone recently emailed my team and mentioned in passing (it was relevant) that his parent had recently died. I replied and added on the end ‘my condolences for your loss’. I did wonder whether to or not but he emailed back to say thank you (and my email didn’t need a reply).

      I’d rather say it and risk being wrong than not. So many people don’t acknowledge death as it is, is just a tiny thing but maybe it helps.

      I also say thank you too. Possibly too much :) again it’s an acknowledgment as much as an actual thank you (trying to wrench myself back on topic!!)

    5. Observer*

      In fact, there is a ton of evidence that when doctors and others respond with some humanity and caring FEWER lawsuits happen.

  30. LW 1*

    Hey everyone, thanks for all of the commiseration and stories thus far – I really appreciate it! I’ll address some of the bigger things here and try to get more individual after I get home tonight.

    1. Alison, I laughed at the wording of blowing smoke up my butt – I watch a lot of Kitchen Nightmares and he always says that. I hoped that’s it was about what you said – that it could be a factor but other things are bigger. The bigger things I can more easily change and I think that’ll help me more. Thank you for taking the time to answer!

    2. I’m starting with my physician because I don’t think my insurance covers a dermatologist. Also, !ecause of my own mental health issues I’ll probably skip accutane unless my doctor or dermatologist can assure me that I’m okay.

    3. I’m certified to teach 5th – 8th grade; I actually chose not to get certified for high school for a variety of factors but my young face was indeed one of them.

    For now, I’m trying to maintain a good relationship in the district in which I currently am a building sub and keep my ear to the ground. This district picked me once; maybe they’d do it again? I’m also going to check the fit on my suit – I always thought it fit well but I want to make sure it doesn’t fit *too* well! Thank you, everyone :)

    1. Saby*

      Good luck!! I have been in a similar boat — I work in higher ed and even though I’m in my late twenties I do get mistaken for a freshman more than I would like. I finally have my acne under control but I still wear makeup every day to cover up the acne scarring.

      I’ve found what helps is looking as put-together as possible, i.e. making sure my hair and makeup are done in a professional style, all my accessories coordinate with my outfit, everything fits well, nothing looks really cheap, etc. These are the cues that people use to gauge your age/professionalism/maturity level other than your face itself. It took some time investment in terms of learning how to do hair and makeup nicely and some financial investment in terms of trawling Winners for shoes that match my blazer, but it paid off with a job offer!

      FWIW, there is definitely a lot your GP can do in terms of prescription medications and topical creams and such before you go to the realm of the dermatologist. And Accutane is usually a last resort (it has a ton of annoying-but-not-serious potential side effects that are pretty common, as well as the depression risk which is extremely rare but very serious) but if you do go on it your doctors watch you like a HAWK in my experience.

      1. Manders*

        Speaking of makeup, I recommend finding lists of “things you shouldn’t do because they make you look older” and then trying out those things. I have a few tricks I use when I need to look my age.

    2. Natalie*

      Good luck with the doctor. There are tons of prescription options besides Accutane, for what it’s worth, so I’m sure they’ll have some things for you to try that will not affect your brain so much.

      And it’s okay to care about this and decide you want to invest some time/money to resolving it. It doesn’t mean you’re vain or irresponsible or whatever.

    3. Jesmlet*

      Not sure if you’re open to this idea as checking with a physician should be the first step, but I had exhausted pretty much everything except Accutane in my efforts and then finally tried the natural route. 1 part apple cider vinegar, 1 part water, a tiny bit of tea tree oil as a toner morning and night, and a big change in diet worked wonders on my cystic acne.

      I’ve got a baby face too so I get it. No one likes to take orders from someone who looks like they’re still in high school. Confidence in my own competence was really the key to me getting over that.

    4. Bye Academia*

      I also had pretty bad acne in my early twenties, and there are a ton of things your physician can try. A prescription retinoid and topical antibiotic were what worked for me. I think my brother also went on a low grade oral antibiotic for acne on his back. Hope it not lost!

      Also, I highly recommend googling Caroline Hirons. She knows a ton about skin care. While things like wipes and scrubs and foaming cleansers have been marketed really well, they can actually damage your skin and make things worse. A lot of my remaining hormonal acne and old acne scarring has gone down since following her advice to use gentle nonfoaming cleansers and moisturize well. She does a lot of product reviews (often high end $$$), but has a lot of general posts about basic info and good routines if you look on the side bar.

      As for interviewing, I hate wearing makeup so I just decided to say screw it and ignore that I had a ton of acne. I think the confidence helped, though it was much easier said than done. Good luck!

    5. Sara*

      I sympathize, I struggled with similar issues when starting out in public education (teaching all ages outside of a school setting). I agree with all the advice around focussing on your overall presentation and that most people do absorb the entire package so you hopefully will be able to start feeling more confident about how great you already are. I hope things go well with your GP, in my experience acne and depression often exist with other illnesses so I hope your doctor is patient and helpful. My acne and joint pain were greatly (and unexpectedly) helped by a low FODMAP diet I was prescribed along with western medicine for my Crohn’s disease, and I’ve known others who were helped by vitamin d and their antidepressants and other things their doctor suggested.

    6. Tara*

      Best of luck! If you can get a referral in-network for dermatologist, it will just open up a lot of options.

  31. Emm*

    “If I wanted smoke blown up my ass, I’d be at home with a pack of cigarettes and a short length of hose.”

  32. Ali in England*

    Apparently, years ago that was actually employed as a resuscitation method for people who had drowned. I’m pretty sure a device for literally ‘blowing smoke up the ass’ was once produced for inspection on the ‘Antiques Roadshow’. #nobodyneededthatmentalimage

    1. LabTech*

      I learned this fact the other week (thanks to the Wikipedia rabbit hole). Apparently it gained even wider usage for a range of ailments. I’m wondering if the popular usage of that phrase is due to the fact that this treatment turned out to be a load of crock.

  33. Buffy*

    OP #1: I had a very similar issue. Mine was likely compounded by the fact I was so self conscious of my acne that it was hard to feel confident at all.

    When I was 25 and planning my wedding, my dermatologist suggested Accutane. It’s an extremely powerful drug (my skin and hair got pretty dry) but hands down, one of the best decisions for my career. I felt like I gradually became that person I wanted to see in the mirror not just with clear skin, but more importantly with poise and strength. I know it may sound silly, but it really was a turning point for me. It’s not for everyone, however.

    1. Buffy*

      (I see you commented above about Accutane – I also have depression and anxiety issues that weren’t affected by the medication.)

  34. Miss Teacher*

    OP #1, in my district and in many around where I teach, it can be really hard to get into the district. Depending on your certification it can be even more difficult. So that’s something to keep in mind too. If you’re competing against however many stellar candidates, you might be awesome but someone might be just as awesome with a little something else. Good luck!

    1. LW 1*

      Oh, I’m sure my certification doesn’t help. I didn’t go into STEM because I can barely wrap my head around it, let alone explain it, and I think there’s an abundance of ELAR teachers in this state =\ Thank you so much! I know I’ll find the right fit soon!

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        If you’re willing to relocate, some areas are screaming for teachers. Pretty much the whole state of Utah is having a teacher shortage, and many districts just upped salaries to try to attract more talent.

  35. TG*

    #4, whatever your job is, “please” and “thank you” go a long way in developing good relationships with the people that you need to work with, whether that’s the public or other agencies or coworkers. I don’t think that showing common courtesy is ever the wrong thing to do.

  36. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP #1: My heart goes SO out to you. So much. I am 39 and I still deal with acne, and I’ve been dealing with it for 30 years now (I still remember my first zit in 4th grade!). I want to tell you two things: first, I would bet you that people notice your acne waaaay less than you do. People have told me that I have “beautiful” skin while every time something brushes my chin, I wince because I have a massive cystic zit there. I have complimented girlfriends on their lovely clear skin and been told they’ve been fighting giant zits. Also, remember that most people are so self-absorbed, they’re not going to notice or care about your face. This is not to dismiss your concerns about your skin or tell you that it’s probably not as bad as you think it is– this is to say that even if it IS bad, you’re the one who sees it the most.

    Second, for many of us, there is no single cure. I have done everything from Differin to Accutane to OTC creams to honey-and-aspirin masks, and sometimes they work. Then they stop working. And I just have to move on to the next thing. So don’t get discouraged if you try something and then a year later it loses its efficacy. Our hormones are funky things and sometimes do complete 180s on us with no notice.

    I wish you lots of luck, a deep breath, and a solution.

  37. CarolineK*

    For #1- trying all that stuff- the pads, the wipes, the over the counter potions, will actually aggravate the acne problem. Going to see your physician is a good step, but only if the visit ends in a referral and (long overdue) appointment to see a dermatologist. An antibiotic like Doryex combined with daily/nightly applications of Epiduo ointment are the only things that cleared up my son’s persistent acne. I know other acne sufferers who used other treatments prescribed and guided by a dermatologist that worked as well.

    Your young appearance and the acne may not be holding you back in getting hired, but an employer may wonder why your judgement leads you to just covering up a (usually solve able) health concern rather than taking care of it. I’m sure this issue cuts into how confident you feel going in and that affects your interview. Much luck to you and great that you’re seeing a physician!

    1. not really*

      “an employer may wonder why your judgement leads you to just covering up a (usually solve able) health concern rather than taking care of it.”

      I can’t imagine any employer actually thinking this way. There are so many under-the-surface causes and treatments and side-effects that how would an employer even know what steps a person has taken? It’s great that your son’s acne cleared up permanently. For a lot of people (hi, me), it can also be a recurring issue, and that’s WITH the treatment and the antibiotic. It’s super weird to think that an employer would draw any conclusions at all from my medical treatment.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Yeah, I disagree pretty strongly with this as well. As others have noted, most people don’t think twice about this kind of thing unless there’s some overall pattern to be concerned about. I think it’s important not to wander too far from Alison’s very practical advice here: yes, it may have an effect, but it is unlikely to be the single factor keeping you from finding a job.

      2. Julia*

        Thank you! I mean, what if you’re on a medication that causes acne, or pregnant and can’t use a lot of stuff?
        I still get acne at 28, but it’s not bad enough that I’d want to go within a ten mile radius of accutane considering I’ve experienced depression and it’s the pits…

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        Acne isn’t exactly life-threatening and some of the prescription treatments have serious side effects. I would hope most employers trust their employees to decide how they want to deal with their own health problems that don’t affect their job.

        1. Gabriela*

          Yep. Accutane was a miracle drug for me in high school, but there were a ton of really unpleasant side effects and I had to have my blood drawn once a month to ensure my liver wasn’t shutting down (and also to make sure I wasn’t pregnant, because the birth defects can be devastating).

        2. Allypopx*

          Yes, this. I agree that humans can be gross in their own brains and it might be a hiring turn off, but not for valid reasons and definitely not as a reflection of judgement or health management.

      4. Allison*

        I think there are a lot of reasonable people who understand acne is tough for people, but as a fellow acne sufferer, I’m also aware that there are meanie-faces who think anyone who has acne isn’t washing properly, doesn’t eat right, isn’t taking care of themselves, trying hard enough, washing their pillow cases often enough, or some other stupid thing. It’s terrible, but it’s out there.

        1. Observer*

          Well, those are not really good people to work for, acne or not. So, I don’t really think it’s something for the OP to worry too much about.

      5. Annabelle*

        I also really disagree with that sentiment. Lots of adults (self included) have recurring breakouts because of hormonal things or other factors. I would want to work for an employer who thought my inability to completely eradicate my breakouts was a flaw in judgement.

      6. Temperance*

        I have had acne since I was a teenager. My own mother used to insist that it was from me not washing properly, and there are dumbasses out there who genuinely believe that it’s a hygiene issue rather than a medical problem. For some people, medical treatment isn’t effective for various reasons. For example, I have a serious allergy to sulfa drugs, so one of the first lines of treatment is very dangerous for me. I also managed to get eczema and overly sensitive skin, so the topical prescriptions would make my skin turn red, crack, and peel off, which is exactly what every high school girl dreams of.

      7. fposte*

        Yeah, while obviously there are always some misinformed people, I suspect most employers either know that lots of conditions aren’t manageable or don’t think about it either way.

    2. NaoNao*

      I have to take polite issue with that remark that acne is “usually solvable”. It has been shown that acne is a chronic condition, not a disease or acute flare up. If you Google “is acne a chronic condition” respected, peer reviewed articles pop up to back up this point of view.
      There are also many, many factors here:
      -Age and gender of subject (how old was your son when he got his treatment? if he was dealing with male teenage acne, it is *not* the same as adult, female, hormone-triggered acne. At. All.)
      -Dietary concerns or other things that may be co-morbid with acne
      -Hormones that change throughout age and may be affected by birth control or diet

      I suffered (and I mean suffered) from both teen acne (which was on forehead and chin and upper cheeks, and very mild. Usually small red breakouts that healed easily) and adult acne (along chin and jawline, deep, painful cysts that took weeks to surface, took weeks to heal, and left terrible scars).

      I was on hormonal BC, I used OTC stuff, I got a prescription for antibiotics in an attempt to “stop the cycle”, I got topical prescriptions, and it only basically cleared up the existing, visible pimples. It did not address the source of the breakouts: excess oil being triggered by hormones, which lead to plugged pores and breakouts.

      I lived in SE Asia, where medical rules are a bit more relaxed, and I “treated” myself to a prescription for Accutane. (The procedures are strict, but much more affordable and do-able), at age 31.

      It changed my life. It took about 4 months, but it cleared up my skin completely. Month 1 I had no more body acne. My skin was 100% acne free and I remember crying the first day in 20 years I didn’t have a pimple.

      I also didn’t have many side effects, as I suspect the dose may have been lower than what is commonly issued in the US. My hair and skin are more dry now, but I did not have the intense symptoms that many others have listed. However, all my life I have been “resistant” meaning that many drugs both don’t quite work on me *and* don’t seem to have the side effects that others register. Not sure why, maybe I’m just “strong like ox” :)

      When I got back to the US (and was off Accutane), I started breaking out a bit, and found Curology, an online derm site. You take and upload pictures of your skin (face or other affected areas) and fill out a survey. Then you get a custom-made topical PLUS I specifically asked for a prescription to Spironolactone. It’s a mild diuretic that lowers testosterone and androgen production, meaning the *source* of the excess oil is stopped. Less oil means less plugged pores, and no immune reaction of inflammation and white blood cells.

      I have been on it for 3 years and I will likely be on it until menopause.
      I get 1-2 small pimples around that time of the month but otherwise my skin is very manageable.
      I only wish, as many other commentors do as well, that I had gone on Accuatane at a much younger age. I have scars that will likely never go away and it hurts me on occasion to see the texture of my skin in a brightly lit mirror or surface, knowing no makeup can cover the texture. It’s not terrible, but it’s visible.

      If you yourself have not suffered from adult hormonal acne, I think it is best to simply offer solutions that have worked for people you know and not judgement. It is already painful enough; no need to add to the pain.

    3. Observer*

      I can’t imagine that being my reaction, and I would hope that no sensible employer would ever think that way. It’s totally not fact based.

      And, by the way, it doesn’t matter if she covers up or not – if it’s visible the question would be the same. And equally stupid, to be honest.

    4. Super Anon for This*

      My insurance (the best I can afford, and I make well above minimum wage) is pretty bad. It’s extremely unlikely I could see a dermatologist, never mind getting the prescriptions s/he recommends.

  38. DaisyGrrl*

    OP4: In addition to the excellent points already raised, your practice of acknowledging the effort of the organizations has an impact beyond the simple act of thanks. As a government employee, you are representing what can appear to be a faceless monolith. You are humanizing your organization and providing a positive experience to people who vote for political candidates that will determine your organization’s funding and future. People who have a positive experience will be more inclined to think well of the services your organization provides and see the value in what you do.

    I’m a government employee and I admit I’m not a fan of clients who say “I pay taxes so I pay your salary!” But I’ve also found that these people have often been on the receiving end of poor service, bad attitudes, and opaque processes. You are helping counter that impression and providing your client with proof that their documents were received. From one faceless bureaucrat to another, thank you and keep up the good work!

    1. Temperance*

      Seriously, I would love if my interactions with government employees were more positive. There’s one awesome woman at Social Security who I just love and who really helped me get set up so we could represent SSi clients, which actually makes HER job easier because she isn’t dealing with pro se applicants. Then there are the weirdos who make you call them “Mr.” or “Mrs.”, and act like they’re doing you a favor by doing their job. They are the ones who make me shift to Angry Taxpayer. (OKAY, it’s just my local post office who “misdelivered” a package and then lied to close the Customer Service case instead of providing the GPS information about where this package was delivered. It’s clear that they stole my clothing.)

  39. Courtney W*

    #4 – Susie sounds like the kind of person who gets snippy with friends/family for thanking retail works and waiters/waitresses too. “What are you thanking her for, this is her job.” While statements like that are true, they come across as rude – you’re being friendly and polite, and should continue to thank these people at your work.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I had a family member like this. I made extra sure to thank the waitperson for their care and concern. With my family member I think it was because not too many people thanked her who should have thanked her. Yes, I thanked her, also.

  40. Temperance*

    LW5: I do not think that you could ask your employer to pay for your utilities. I would probably tell you, as my employee, to head to the library or a coffee shop if you were that concerned about the energy usage in your home. I see it as the tradeoff for not having to commute. You don’t ask your employer to pay for mileage, and this is a similar expense, IMO.

    I think asking for computer equipment is fine. Asking for a land line, if you use your phone for work, is fine. Anything else is too much, IMO, and might impact your ability to telecommute going forward.

  41. Argh!*

    Susie is a jerk!

    Being polite is never wrong! Also, if you’re dealing with people in different parts of the country, you may violate some social code by *not* being polite to them.

  42. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I agree with AAM but want to share a story. I had a colleague at OldOldJob who had really bad acne. Or something that looked like acne. She never made a big deal about it. She did what she could to cover it, I assume but otherwise ignored it. She moved up the ranks within OldOldJob and left for a great position at a new place. I would say that your awareness of your acne might be coming across as anxiety in the interview. My BIL has horrible acne that he will cover with make up and he’s the regional AVP for a multinational commercial underwriting company. Work on your resume and interviewing skills but I think it’s good to check with your doc as well.

    #2-I’m pretty vain about my hair but this is excessive in my opinion. Especially as it’s distracting other people. Her coworkers might feel differently if she or a family member had just gotten a horrible diagnosis or something like that but crying this much over a hair cut…that’s not a look that’s going to endear people. For right or wrong. I think the script is excellent. I would also hazard a guess that there is probably something more than the hair cut.

    #3-Yes! Say thank you. There is one person I fired who, if she’d written a thank you note, I would’ve reconsidered my opinion on her should a reference come up. (Peer pressure led her to time card fraud, basically. Otherwise a fantastic employee. And she made some really dumb decisions on the time card fraud.)

    #4-Say thank you. It costs you nothing and builds good will. Generally being polite to people is an appropriate thing for humans to do to one another.

  43. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    LW1, I’m guessing it is more to do with the fact that you may be in a state that has a glut of teachers than it does your young face. (And if you do, this probably means its because it is a state that actually pays teachers an appropriate wage, which is what you want obviously!)

    That said, when I was 22 I developed adult onset acne and mild rosacea, after being one of those people who could go to bed with makeup on with no adverse effects all through my teens. After trying multiple things (including steroids, which was a DISASTER), I finally settled on a Proactive-like system for my face. It only kept it at bay, though, it didn’t really cure the root cause, and if I missed more than a day or two I had problems. I wouldn’t leave the house without makeup on because my skin was so uneven.

    A friend talked me into trying mineral makeup (in this case, Bare Minerals, though there are now multiple brands), not for any other reason than she liked it and thought I might as well. I was skeptical it would have the coverage I needed to cover up my imperfections, but within a month of using it my skin was completely clear. I tossed the benzoyl peroxide and never looked back.

    That worked for me – but everyone is different and different things work for different people and most of it is just trial and error. Good luck in finding a solution, and good luck on your hunt for a teaching job! (Though like Alison, I really don’t think the two things are related.)

    1. Camellia*

      I second Bare Minerals! I once saw a dermatologist for a scalp issue, and while he was looking at my scalp he asked me if I had any other issues. I mentioned redness in my cheeks and wanted to know if it was rosacea. He said, “You don’t have redness.” “Yes, I do.” “No, you don’t” “Yes, I do”. Finally he asked, “Are you wearing makeup?” When I said yes he handed me a moist towelette to remove it. After it was gone, he looked at my skin for a moment, then said, “What makeup is that?” (BTW, it was not rosacea, just common redness that fair skinned women tend to get.)

      So a dermatologist literally standing a couple of inches from my skin couldn’t tell I was wearing makeup and just thought my skin looked perfect.

      My daughter resisted using it for years; she didn’t want to wear “Mom’s makeup”. Finally she got tired of battling the breakouts and asked to try it. I happily bought it for her. She called me a week later and said she hated to admit it but her breakouts were gone. This was a decade ago and it is still her go-to foundation.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        +1 for Bare Minerals.

        I love, love, love the Mineral Veil powder. I’m fair with some redness (Irish complexion) and this actually offers some coverage for day to day, which is really nice. I use the original Mineral Veil and it also keeps shine at bay all day. Just make sure to clean your brushes weekly.

      2. ancolie*

        I wish I could find a shade pale enough for my skin. Even the palest ones oxidize to a very noticeable orange color on my skin. :(

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Try Everyday Minerals. I switched to that a few years back because my skin is super pale, and there are a lot more choices. (Also, it’s cheaper!)

  44. nnn*

    #4: You say thank you when someone hands you something. You say thank you when someone emails you something. This is equivalent.

    Not to mention that thank-yous are a renewable resource. You aren’t going to run out of them and they don’t cost you anything!

  45. Spreadsheets and Books*

    OP #1: please see a dermatologist specifically, and ask about hormonal causes of acne. I had horrible skin through high school, college, and into my 20s. I tried every single prescription on the market outside of Accutane and not a thing worked. At least 30 different pills and creams in 8 years and not one of them helped. Nothing.

    My then-dermatologist left the practice suddenly and I saw someone new shortly after college. Within the first 30 seconds of my appointment, she called out that my acne was almost certainly hormonal (location thing, she said… cheeks and chin) and wrote me a prescription for one of the birth control pills that is approved to treat acne.

    Kid you not, I had clear skin in a week. It’s been fine ever since. I’ve now enjoyed 6 years of wonderfully clear skin and she figured it out in 30 seconds.

    1. Holly*

      On the other hand, I kept having dermatologist convinced my acne was hormonal for years. And while hormonal control helped a tiny bit, it never totally cleared it up. Then I finally had a derm tell me that because I’m a woman, they were required to try something else before offering the A-bomb (Accutane) and if I wanted it, I’d have to reject the alternative options. Did so and 5 months later, totally clear. Only wish I had done it a lot sooner before I got some scarring.

  46. RVA Cat*

    #3 – You sound more gracious and mature than many people twice your age. You will do just fine.

    I do have to wonder, though, how you could “not be the right fit long-term” when you held the job for 4 years? This must have been a company that expects people to stay in the same role for decades. Looks like it’s just as much that they were a bad fit *for you* as I think you need an employer where you can develop and grow. The good judgement you are showing by writing the letter (and asking Alison) tells me that you are ready to move on – and up!

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      The job could have changed from when the LW was originally hired; that happens pretty frequently.

      1. RVA Cat*

        In which case, it probably should have been done as a layoff, as the LW’s original position was eliminated.

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          I’m not suggesting that it was a sudden reclassification, but just that the needs and duties of the job might have migrated and different skills are being emphasized now. Is this an industry-specific thing? It would be really odd for my workplace to rename a job just because the duties shifted.

  47. Gov Mgr*

    At my public-facing government office, we have a lot of authority over the customer. “You want X, you give us Y and Z.” For that reason, it is *especially* important that we are polite and courteous and say “thank you” when none is technically required. Not only is it kind and professional, but we recognize that we are sending a message: “This is your government and we respect you.” OP may not be working with individual customers, but businesses and non-profits are staffed with people. OP–you are 100% right here.

  48. Fifty Foot Commute*

    I was once the hair crying woman. People with long hair have already chimed in with how a change that seems minor to some people feels drastic, but the aspect that really shook me up was looking in the mirror every day and seeing not-me. For about a year. It’s incredibly unsettling. (I wasn’t working at the time, so no comment on the crying at work specifically.)

  49. Allison*

    #1 When I was somewhere in my late teens and interviewing for a waitressing job, my mom told me to put on some makeup because my acne was very off-putting and could keep me from getting the job. It was tough to hear, but I think it’s an unfortunate truth. It might not read “young” to employers, but it could put people off. Also, there are people who assume that acne is only caused by poor hygiene, so you may encounter some jerk who thinks you’re not washing your face, eating well, or taking care of yourself, which is a BS assumption, but it’s out there.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Many, many, people assume this. I’ve heard it all–don’t eat sugar, don’t eat fat, wash your face, wash your face less, wash your face with [fill in the blank], OMG don’t you ever wash your face?? . . .

      1. Allison*

        I hated the assumption that if I had acne, surely I hadn’t tried that thing that worked for the person I’m talking to. Just sleep on towels and you’ll be fine! Just get Proactiv! I hated all the unsolicited advice. Haaaated it.

        Different things work for different people. For me, a cocktail of prescriptions cleared up the worst of it, and a combination of facial scrubs and tea tree oil keeps it at bay, but I’m very hesitant to tell people they should just do what I do. Unless they’re actually asking, which they usually aren’t.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        AHHHHHH!!! Yes….all these people are beyond ignorant. As a long time acne sufferer, I eventually just stopped responding except to tell them that they should educate themselves about the causes of acne…which aren’t pizza, chocolate, or hygiene.

    2. Allypopx*

      Definitely a possibility. Also, sometimes it just makes people subconsciously uncomfortable. Which sucks, but can definitely impact things like job hunting.

      Alison’s advice is good here. I hope the doctors can help you out.

      Re: Coverup – even if it’s obvious it’s coverup, I think it’s still worth practicing. Hopefully it makes you feel more confident and if others can tell it’s heavy makeup, it looks like you’re taking steps to present yourself in a professional way* and that will reflect well on you.

      *NOT that having acne is unprofessional, but makeup can be a tool against the unfair biases you might be facing.

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

  50. Anon today...and tomorrow*

    #1 – my sister is very young looking. She recently turned 31 and still gets mistaken for a high school / college student. Her first several years of teaching she would be mistaken for a student by her students. In the beginning she felt like her youthful face (and voice) kept her from getting hired and then later, when she’d been hired, from being taken seriously. She worked on this by making sure her wardrobe is very professional and conservative to give her an air of authority. She also took a theater class at a local university that was specifically geared to help with body language for business people. That really helped her. She said until the class she’d never realized that when she entered a room she was so focused on where she wanted to go (a desk, a chair, to a specific person) that she never gave thought to how she appeared when walking in. Now she takes a minute to pause, make eye contact or case her surroundings, before walking purposefully to where she wants to go. I noticed the changes she made almost immediately. She may not look older, but she doesn’t act like a student and it’s immediately clear that she’s in charge.

    1. Anon for this*

      Please elaborate! Where can you take a theater class on body language for business people?

      1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

        It was in Massachusetts. I don’t know if the college where the class was held was the one offering it or if the theater group just used the space. She saw the ad for it in one of those brochures that offers things from certificate programs to hobby classes. It really helped her. I’ll reach out to her and see if I can get the exact course info. I was a Toastmasters member for a while and remember thinking that a lot of the things she’s been taught were similar to what I had learned there, minus the public speaking aspect.

  51. Rachel Green*

    #1: I am 27 and have been struggling with adult acne for a few years now (I started getting it when I was in my early 20’s). I highly recommend you see a dermatologist and not just a general physician. A dermatologist will have a ton of experience treating patients with acne and can prescribe creams/medications stronger than what is available over-the-counter.

    1. Dust Bunny*


      I wrote this below but I’m seconding it here. I wish I had gone to the dermatologist sooner. I’m not saying your GP isn’t great but this is a specialized problem and that’s not what GP’s are for.

    2. Jerri Blank*

      I am also 27 and struggle with adult acne. I think OP is doing the right thing by starting with her GP. The GP may be able to recommend dermatologists in the area that may be more experienced or well known than others in treating hormonal/adult acne. Also, depending on OP’s insurance, she may actually need a referral from her GP in order to see a specialist in her insurance network. And lastly, lots of specialists are booked weeks to months out; she may be waiting a while for an appointment and perhaps the GP could prescribe or suggest a temporary remedy to her in the meantime to hold her over while she waits for her appointment.

  52. Fifty Foot Commute*

    Re #1: People’s judgement of age gets all messed up around school settings anyhow, so don’t take it too personally when you get mistaken for a student. My spouse is a high school teacher, I look about my age (30) and I’m equally likely to be mistaken for a student and a parent of a student. People see what they’re expecting to see, not necessarily whatever is in front of them.

  53. agmat*

    OP1, I sympathize. I’m almost 30 and am occasionally treated like I’m fresh out of college. I really try to ensure that it doesn’t affect the way I carry myself. I work for a regulatory agency so I have to come off as professional and authoritative.

    The first year of my job I was still battling acne and it just made me miserable and so doubtful of myself. How is anyone going to listen to me when I have two big obvious pimples and look even more like a kid?

    The only thing that has ever truly worked for me was a prescription-strength topical (Aczone). I wish I had gotten it years ago. It got everything under control and now I only use a bit for expected time-of-the-month flares.

    That said, I don’t think I’m at all judgmental about others’ acne. I never distrust their opinion or question their knowledge because of something they don’t control. But we’re all more harsh on ourselves.

  54. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: From somebody who fought acne since elementary school–see a dermatologist. A GP is a good start but won’t have the answers you need, and your self-esteem needs real answers. Yes, I know that nobody ever died of acne, but your face is your face and you deserve to have it taken seriously.

  55. Audiophile*

    I’ve never really had very long hair. At most it might come to below my ears and I could put it in a small ponytail.

    Even with short hair, I’ve had really drastic haircuts that have really upset me for quite a while. I still won’t go back to the salon when the stylist took clippers and that’s how she cut my hair. I was not pleased. I can’t say I cried about it, but I was visibly annoyed.

  56. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Could my acne be keeping me from getting a job?
    Yes; people are unfortunately visual. It could be a pretty major factor. But there’s not much to do about it which you aren’t already doing, so focus on other stuff instead.

    2. My employee is crying almost daily
    Escalate to HR immediately. If you have an EAP (employee assistance program) you might want to use it.
    Also, hate to say it, but: Emotionally unhinged swings a lot of ways, some of them personal and some of them very unpleasant for other folks; if you can’t assist, adjust, or accommodate you may need HR support to terminate.
    3. Writing a thank-you note to the boss who fired me
    No. It is too soon. You can do it after 9-12 months but doing it immediately will look like brown-nosing.

    4. Should government workers thank people for doing things they’re legally required to do?
    Yes. Things like “Thanks” are cheap, fast, and effective.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I really disagree that writing the note now will look like brown-nosing. People are usually upset, bitter, or angry after a firing; they’re not thinking of brown-nosing.

      1. Allypopx*

        Agreed. I’d actually argue that waiting 9-12 months makes it seem like you were bitter initially and are reaching out after calming down. Offering the note as a reaction to the firing shows grace and professionalism, it doesn’t come off as brown-nosing – unless it’s worded in an overly campy way, which Alison’s script isn’t.

    2. Here we go again*

      #2. You want to fire someone just for crying? I get that this is disruptive but it’s been pretty well-established that this is probably about something more than her hair. Maybe she is dealing with a sick relative or some major financial issue that could cause her to be homeless. I think this is an extreme reaction to something that is probably temporary.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        No, I don’t. That is why I suggested an EAP referral. And which is why I listed “assist, adjust, accommodate” first.

        However, from a business perspective, it can be really damaging to have someone constantly crying on site.

        1. NotTheSecretary*

          I agree. It’s not sustainable to have someone crying at work all day every day. It’s the employee’s responsibility to manage her emotional state and it’s her manager’s responsibility to manage the work site which includes making tough decisions about employees who are negatively effecting coworkers.

          1. Here we go again*

            Managing her emotional state is something the employee has control over. Crying is an involuntary response. She could be crying but still be capable of having a coherent discussion. It sucks that it is distracting, but penalizing people for having emotions and involuntary responses to them is cruel.

            1. Employment Lawyer*

              I don’t think we are disagreeing that it is an undesired outcome. But I am focused on behavior, not causes.

              As an example: I see John shouting at the wall. Is John shouting at the wall because he is violent? Depressed? Confused? Did he just lose a gamble; did his spouse just dump him for his best friend; is he in recovery; did he forget his meds? Is it voluntary or involuntary? Temporary or permanent?

              I don’t care, because those things are not really my business, and are not really my interest. I care that John is (a) shouting the wall; (b) at work; (c) disturbing the business. And so it needs to stop, somehow.

              The humanitarian but optional thing for an action like this (facially non-dangerous and suggestive of a non-work problem) is to provide as much support as possible, including an offer of a leave if appropriate. And if it’s a really valued employee the company might want to do something else, or dig deeper, even if it cost more.

              But that may not work. And in the end the company is well within its rights to consider whether the disruption is acceptable, even if the underlying cause is not precisely the employee’s “fault.”

              1. NotTheSecretary*

                Yes, exactly.

                And just because something isn’t your fault doesn’t mean it isn’t your responsibility. It may not be the crying worker’s fault that she is crying and she may be doing so involuntarily but it is her responsibility to address and resolve the issue. If it is something she has been working on, she needs to let her manager know that when he brings up the crying to her and perhaps he will be able to support or accommodate her during the time.

              2. Here we go again*

                If you cannot understand why a coworker screaming and a coworker crying are not in any way comparable, then I have no words.

                That being said, I do agree with NotTheSecretary that the employee has a responsibility to try to manage this, but we really don’t know what is actually going on. It’s possible that she is taking steps to address this and hasn’t said anything to the manager because she is embarrassed or isn’t ready to come out about something, but we have no way of knowing that.

      2. Temperance*

        At my first job, one of our managers had severe, diagnosed depression and she wasn’t taking her medication. (She told us this, it wasn’t mere conjecture.)

        She would start crying and have weird outbursts at random. While she wasn’t fired for it, they declined to allow her to return on school breaks because her behavior was so distracting and impeded the work we were trying to do.

    3. tiny temping teapot*

      Someone wrote a thank you and apology to my boss after something similar to firing happened, my boss thought it was very mature and made a note to make sure to reply. There was no intimation of brown nosing, or whatever.

  57. Holly*

    #1: Right around when I turned 30 my pores went crazy and I got very bad acne. I am in a professional field and I did feel like people were treating me like I was a lot younger (“Are you the secretary?” “How long have you been in this field?” “Oh, you’re the teapot professional? When did you graduate?”).

    Persistent Acne is NOT caused by anything you eat or what you wash with. It’s caused by overactive pore glands that cause shedding skin to get stuck in the gland. On top of the actual dead skin sticking in there, bacteria sit in the gland and eat it, is is what forms a pimple. That’s right, the pore is being clogged from the *inside*, not by dirt on your skin getting trapped, but by something happening inside the gland that you can’t do anything about.

    The solution is dermatology – and acutane is the stuff that works the best. If you are a woman, the doctors will try to steer you away from it or make you do something else first due to the horrible birth defects it causes. Unless you thinking of having a baby soon, though, you should seriously consider taking it. 6 months or less and your acne is gone forever in the vast majority of cases.

  58. Tina*

    #2 – My first thought was “Is this employee a cast member on America’s Next Top Model”?

  59. Annie*

    #1 I feel your pain. I’m 26 and still occasionally get asked what grade I’m in, and people regularly assume my younger (by five years) sister is the older one. I also struggled with acne for years. I met with multiple dermatologists and tried every treatment available, but nothing worked. What ended up working for me was hormonal birth control, prescribed by my GP not a specialist. That might not be the right option for you, but it’s worth talking to your doctor about. I hope you find something that works for you.
    Also let’s not forget the perks of being baby faced. Do you still have your student ID? I’m thinking I’ll be eligible for student discounts until I’m 30.

    1. Fabulous*

      I’m 32 and still use my student ID from undergrad 10 years ago. I look exactly the same, except a bit heavier.

  60. Fabulous*

    #1 – I’m in my 30’s and have only JUST figured out how to control my acne. I have genetic cystic acne on my face and back and tried literally everything, aside from prescriptions. In the past 15+ years I’ve tried Dove, Jergens, Neutrogena, Oil of Olay, and charcoal soaps, along with every type of face wash, oil cleaners, masks, medicated lotions and creams, toners and “acne systems”, and medicated makeup. Literally NOTHING helped.

    Oddly enough, I recently stumbled upon glycerin soap (instead of antibacterial or “for sensitive skin”) – plain old glycerin soap from Dial does it!!! On both my face and back!!! Since I started using the glycerin soap, I literally have not had a cystic breakout ANYWHERE on my body **knock on wood** but it’s been almost 5 months! Longest I had ever gone without a breakout previously was MAYBE 2 weeks.

    I also have a baby face. I regularly get people guessing my age around 21-23 or so (add a decade…) and I’ve only recently started to not get carded at bars, etc. I agree with Alison that the way you dress and present yourself also does a lot for how you are perceived. I wish you luck in your job search and with your acne! It really is a beast to figure out what works for you.

  61. NotTheSecretary*

    OP 2 – The issue is not *why* she is crying, the issue is that her crying is effecting her and others at work. I would address it in that way. It would be the same even if the reason she was crying was more reasonable. She simply cannot cry all day, every day at work.

  62. Yet Even Another Alison*

    I have not had a chance to read all the comments so this may have already been covered….To the letter writer with acne, has anyone ever discussed Accutane with you? It is a treatment (drug) for severe acne. I had severe acne, took this drug and have never had acne again. It is not without controversy and side effects so do your research. You must be under a doctor’s care to use Accutane. The only downside I recall is the drug is expensive. Since I was in college and on my parent’s dime, they paid for it but it proved to be much cheaper in the long run as I did not need any more dermatologist visits, no other acne treatments or pricey skin care.

  63. Karyn*

    OP1: I’m really sorry you’re having this problem. I work at Fancy Makeup Store That Rhymes With Mephora in the skincare department, and I’ve actually had people tell me about this same kind of problem before. What I recommend is based entirely on the individual, but I can say that if nothing else, I’ve found that these problems usually seem worse when you look in the mirror than they do to other people (I speak from personal experience as well). However, if you are very self-conscious about it, which is understandable, then I definitely think a trip to your dermatologist will help. Also, if I were a manager, I honestly would be more sympathetic than dismissive, because I feel like at some point, we’ve all been there.

    OP3: I did this same thing when I was laid off by the company I worked for for three and a half years. I got the job at a particularly difficult crossroads in my life/career, and they gave me a chance when a lot of companies wouldn’t have. The day after the layoff, I sent a note to the managing partners and individual notes to the partners for whom I worked, thanking them for the opportunities they afforded me and for the chance they took. From what I gather, it was well-received and appreciated, particularly since they really didn’t want to do the layoffs at all. I think your note would be even more appreciated, since you were fired and could easily be bitter. Kudos to you for taking this so professionally.

  64. Matilda Jefferies*

    #3, that’s a lovely idea. I’m sure your boss will appreciate it.

    I was fired from a job a few years ago, and a few weeks later I found myself in an interview where they insisted on speaking to my current/ most recent manager as a reference. So I had to swallow my pride and contact the person who had just fired me to explain the situation. She was happy to provide a reference, and we actually have a much better relationship now than we did when we were working together. I hope your situation works out just as well!

  65. Amber Rose*

    I have cried over a haircut exactly once. Three people worked on it for over an hour, it was several inches too short to the point it was almost above my ears (I wanted shoulder length) and it was painfully obvious that it still wasn’t even. The worst.

    But from a “it’s probably something else” standpoint, women in particular tend to change their hairstyle in response to life changes. Statistically, following a divorce, the majority of women with long hair will chop it all off, for example. After I left home, in fact, I chopped off my nearly waist length hair in favor of an uneven angle cut with layers. It’s a confidence thing.

    Hair is also something that abusive partners tend to fixate on. My MIL was forced to grow hers long because her SO thought short hair was too masculine, though she hated it. She’s rockin’ a pixie cut these days.

    So what I’m wondering is, what is the cause of the haircut to begin with? That’s probably the source of the stress. Which is none of my business or yours, but it’s definitely a good reason to point out that hey, this isn’t good for you or anyone the way it is and here’s some phone numbers you can call.

  66. Camellia*

    “Hair is also something that abusive partners tend to fixate on.”

    I came here to mention this, and one other possibility – some religions place significance on the length of women’s hair.

    Perhaps she thought the new length would be acceptable, but the people in her life continue to make her miserable over it.

  67. Princess Carolyn*

    This might be regional, but… when I pay a ticket online or in person, the city does say thank you. It’s polite, and in the case of things like records, it makes sense to keep working relationships pleasant. You don’t give people awards for doing their jobs, but you do say thank you when they do something specifically for your benefit – even if it wasn’t optional.

    Generally, people should use “thank you” more freely and “sorry” more sparingly.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Agreed. It’s one of those social contextual things, where the definition of thank you in this case is not “you did me a favor” but instead is more like “this is now complete and we can part on good terms.”

      Polite punctuation, really.

  68. Jerri Blank*

    OP1: I am in the same boat. I am 27, but look younger, and struggle with adult acne. I have the same concerns. I am the youngest person in my office and am a newly appointed supervisor. So, I’m already looked at as being youthful and “green”. I feel like I have to overcompensate to earn the respect of my staff, who are all older than me. When I have a breakout, it’s very noticeable and not easily covered up by makeup, and I do worry that it draws more attention to the fact that I am younger than everyone else. I also worry that people have trouble taking me seriously when I’m leading a meeting or trying to give feedback, and I have a solar system emerging from my face.

    I’ve learned that other people definitely don’t notice it as much as you do, they don’t fixate on it, and they certainly aren’t sitting there judging you for it. As long as the rest of your appearance is clean, neat, and polished, and your demeanor is mature and confident, most reasonable people realize that it’s something that’s out of your control, have possibly also struggled with it at some point in their life, and don’t give it much of a thought. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m just like whatever, yeah, it’s there, but it doesn’t have to define me and I’m not a lesser person because of it. Also, it helps to realize that most people have things that they’re insecure about that are out of their control, and to them it might seem like a huge deal, but other people probably don’t even take notice or think twice about. At the end of the day, your personality and the quality of your work are what matters, so stay focused on those things!

    Best of luck to you with your appointment!

  69. peachie*

    #1–I know from experience how unhelpful other people’s skincare advice is, but if you’re interested in makeup tips, I’ve found Lisa Eldridge’s video on covering acne to be very helpful. You don’t have to use all the fancy products she uses, but she explains the concepts behind how to do the makeup very well.

  70. CAA*

    #5 – your company will have to store all the furniture, equipment and supplies from your current building for 6 months (and probably longer because the current construction delay is unlikely to be the last one). Ask if you can move the monitor, keyboard, mouse, docking station, etc that are in your current cube or office to your temporary home office with the expectation that you will bring them back to the new building when you move in there. If everyone does this, it’s a win-win because the employees are actually moving a pretty significant portion of the equipment from building to building instead of the company having to pay for packing and transport.

    A previous company I worked for did this, although it was for less than a month. We just had to list the items on a form and turn it into IT before we took them, then they came through and checked everything off about a week after the new building opened. They even encouraged us to take consumable office supplies so they wouldn’t have to move post-its and pens, though they didn’t track those. It was quite successful because you were guaranteed to get the same stuff you had in your old space into your new space without anything getting lost or substituted during the move.

  71. TheBard*

    My dad spent his entire career working for state gov’t, starting as a lowly teapot designer for a state agency that he was the Deputy Commissioner in charge of operations for when he retired. He gave me some of the best career advice I’ve ever gotten. He said that you should never get through a day without thanking at least one person (and ideally, more than that). He said it’s especially important the higher up you get, so people feel appreciated, which makes them happier to work with you and just generally makes everyone’s workday better and easier. I’ve noticed since that the best bosses I’ve had are people who regularly thank people around. So I’m a thanker. Maybe excessively, but I rarely have trouble getting people to do what I need, and I think a big reason is that I’m always very appreciative, even when someone is just doing their job. It never hurts to say “thank you.”

  72. DevAssist*

    Hey OP #1! I’m in the same boat, looks-wise. I look younger than I am and despite trying Accutane, my acne has been consistent since Jr. High.

    If your looks are a factor, it’s probably just because you look young, not because you have acne! Maybe a haircut or more professional clothing can help you look more mature? I’m sure your acne is not the issue.

    I have all the sympathy in the world for you. Acne sucks. I hope your doctor is able to give you some good advice! Also, if you can budget for it, getting professional facials once a month or so can greatly improve your skin’s health as well, especially if your skin is highly reactive.

    Good luck!!

  73. ...with a K*

    #1 – the way it might be holding you back (which has been my experience) is that you are probably self-conscious about it and that might hurt your chances. When I have bad breakouts I feel like I want to hide and I know I don’t sell myself well. Your visit with the physician is a good start to help with this.

  74. Katie Fay*

    OP1: this may be holding you back. Unfortunately, before people even talk with you, perceptions are being formed. My suggestion is skip your GP and go straight to a dermatologist. A GP is, well, just general and you need a specialist. And too many over-the-counter products promise the world; you’ve probably spent a LOT of money trying to conquer this problem.
    Go to an expert.

  75. Marisol*

    OP 1 you might like the acne products that Paula’s Choice makes. I’m not knowledgeable enough about acne to make any specific suggestions (and agree that finding a good dermo is probably the best action to take at this stage) but should you decide to get something with retinol or salicylic acid or whatever other acne-fighting ingredients exist, this would be a great place to look. Her products typically have the highest possible concentration of medicine without a prescription and are incredibly reasonable, so you just get a lot of bang for your buck. Every product has a thorough explanation of the ingredients and the research behind the claims she makes and there are also a lot of good skincare articles on her website. I don’t want to include a web address in this comment but you can google Paula’s Choice for the website.

  76. Wendy Anne*

    I had an online acquaintance who claimed to never say thank you to people below her in the company because it detracted from her “station” as a manager to thank them for doing their job. And then she complained that it was hard to find people to work/stay in her department.

    1. RVA Cat*

      Eek. Even the Dowager Countess would find that an abuse of one’s “station” (and would have a far more witty comment about it).

    2. ArtK*

      Funny how that works, isn’t it? Sounds like someone who is not going to get promoted any farther until she learns the lesson.

  77. Taylor Swift*

    As a government employee who frequently gets information together for requests from the public, I hope I never run into Susie or anybody like her. We bureaucrats are actually real people, which a lot of times folks like to forget.

  78. Brett*

    I’m going to appeal to Susie’s practical side. Sending a thank you also creates a quick and open paper trail that the documents were received and acknowledged. If there is ever litigation down the road about the timing of a document, that thank you email or fax could be very important!
    (And as a suggestion, when you send a thank you fax, send a thank you email with it just because emails are much easier to retain and search, just in case.)

  79. ArtK*

    #4 I’ve run into the attitude that you don’t thank people for doing their job in a few places. It always puzzles me. As Alison says, it warms the interaction. At worst, it acknowledges that the other person didn’t turn the interaction into a PITA. It acknowledges the fact that the other person is a *person* and not a machine. I will *always* say thank you.

    1. Holly*

      I think there are times when saying ‘thank you’ are rude. Specifically, if you say ‘thank you’ *before* the person actually does something. For instance, ending an email with “Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter,” or “I can’t make it to the meeting. Thank you for understanding.” A general “Thanks!” I think is okay, but I still try to avoid it because it’s presumptuous. I can also see it be annoying to send ro say a “thank you” email for something very small each and every time the person does it, just because it would spam up their email/life. For instance, sending a “thank you” to your secretary every time he calendars something or telling your co-workers “Thank you for having lunch with me” when you eat lunch with them everyday. Get a little weird.

  80. anonymouscontent*

    #1 – I recently started going to a dermatologist for Acne medication after years and years of trying “everything” and it turns out that stuff that you get prescribed by a doctor actually works. I’m now convinced that over the counter acne products don’t really work at all, or only work for people with very light acne. There was a great Science Vs podcast episode on this that says basically the same thing. So I’d say def go to a dermatologist if you can afford it, because it’s likely what can make a difference.

  81. nhb*

    LW #2: I am a 34-year-old woman who also looks young (most people judge me early-to-mid-20s), and I have dealt with acne since puberty. I had never been to a dermatologist until February of this year (so: 4 months ago). At that appointment, the dermatologist diagnosed me with “severe acne”! Since then, I’ve taken daily antibiotics for four months, and I have tretinoin cream to use at night. I have noticed some improvement with the acne, but I do still get some.

    I have held 5 professional jobs in my adult life, and have never had an issue with my acne being a factor in holding me back. I think that your attitude, and how you carry yourself are what matters. Just be sure of yourself, and confident in your abilities , and honest about skills/abilities you don’t possess, and you should be fine. That’s not to say, as Alison notes, that you won’t ever have any professional issues because of your acne but there are always sucky people out there. And you probably wouldn’t want to work with/for them anyway. Good luck, and hold your head high!

  82. Indoor Cat*

    OP#1 –Ughhh that sucks, I’m sorry :(

    Unfortunately, looking unattractive by society’s standards does contribute to the “Horns Effect”. Horns Effect and Halo Effect are cognitive biases that almost everyone has to some degree, where we subconsciously assign good, positive traits to beautiful people without evidence, and, vice versa, negative traits to “ugly” people. This is actually why “Black is Beautiful” and “Fat Acceptance” are such important campaigns, even though it might seem like people of color and fat people face more serious problems than whether or not people think they’re beautiful. If it becomes commonplace to believe that dark skin or fat can be beautiful, people are less likely to be affected by the horns effect when applying for work (and other things).

    Also unfortunately, I don’t think there are any similar campaigns surrounding acne acceptance. Or, for that matter, more serious scarring, disfigurement, serious visible disability, etc.

    The good news is, the horns effect can absolutely be counteracted by demonstrating positive attributes. People considered unattractive nevertheless manage to have a lot of success in their careers! It’s not the be-all end-all by any means. Good luck!

    Finally: I’ve noticed a lot of comment

  83. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)*

    I’m a government employee with the power to shut a business down with a letter. I still thank the people I work with at the businesses when they’ve done something even a little unusual. I won’t send a thank you email when I get their normal monthly report, but when it’s time for a reapplication,I will. It takes a lot of work.

    As far as the crier goes, EmploymentLawyer summed up my thoughts pretty well. Whatever is going on, she needs to get her stuff together at work. Offer all the help you can, but if she’s disrupting work, it needs to stop.

    How do I tell her she can’t keep crying at work without upsetting her further?
    You probably can’t. Don’t be unnecessarily cruel, but blunt may be required.

  84. specialist*

    Letter 1
    Please get yourself in to see your primary care physician. Do not take medical advice off the internet. You start with your primary, then you move to a dermatologist if needed. Primary care docs are really amazing at what they can handle. You can utilize a medispa, preferably associated with a core specialist (dermatology or plastic surgery) and will find that some of the treatments offered can be really helpful with acne. Stay away from the “holistic” and “natural” places and those without physician supervision. You want a medispa where they are used to dealing with people under a physician’s care for their skin issues. Again, you want to be under a physician’s care.

    Letter 2
    I don’t know how you are tolerating the crying at work. That would drive me insane. I think you are well within your rights to ask her to control her behavior at work. The employee assistance plan would be great. Should she refuse, she can still be asked to control the crying. Once again, what lovely wording on the part of Alison.

  85. Willow Sunstar*

    #2 could be due to something really personal that the employee just doesn’t want to divulge and had to come up with an excuse for. What if they were diagnosed with a serious medical condition? Or a family member was? Or had a mis-carriage? I would encourage this person to see a counselor for whatever it is, but they need to talk to someone outside of working hours, maybe take a day or two off to get it together, and then come back ready to work.

  86. teaandoranges*

    This will probably get buried and I know is super long, but hopefully helps somebody out there…in my experience the greatest impact of acne is on your self-confidence, which is a vicious cycle where you feel self-conscious and uncomfortable which is distracting and then you come off as less capable and perform poorly and so on…the amount of daily stress is something that those without serious acne often don’t really “get”. While some of it is no doubt changing your internal beliefs/thoughts/feelings (“I’m not worthless because I had a bad skin day” “no one is scrutinizing my face as much as I do”), there are also some very practical steps that I’ve found greatly reduced the impact acne has on my professional life.

    In the short-term, I strengthened my makeup skills so that I could at least not want to hide on bad days: there are a ton of great youtube videos and online tutorials, including from folks with very intense, cystic acne. Experiment with different products to find what works for you (there are many high quality, inexpensive drugstore options, as well as samples that go a long way from places like Sephora) as well as building truly effective application techniques so the cover up isn’t more embarrassing than the acne itself (practice, practice, practice, use weekends and low-key days to see how a product performs throughout the day, etc.)

    The second long-term solution (which you’re already taking a first step towards), is talking to my doctor to address the underlying issue. For me, I ended up doing Accutane, which while a commitment really wasn’t that bad (they increased the dose slowly) and made a *huge* difference. I know other people have had success with medicated prescription washes, antibiotics, birth control, etc. but Accutane worked really well for me.

    Again, I think it’s important to not diminish the toll of acne on self confidence and thus professional life, but know there are real things you can do to address it immediately and long-term.

    TL;DR acne really sucks, but you have options to lessen the impact on your confidence (and professional performance)

  87. Nieve*

    @ OP1 , I have genetically oily skin and had really bad skin issues till past my 20’s. Im 25 now and having much less skin issues, I still have some acne scars left but no more ridiculously oily skin, and hardly any breakouts! All this change happened AFTER I decided to quit palm oil and sugar. As a student I ate a lot of instant noodles (almost all of them are fried in palm oil) and when I cut palm oil, I quit pretty much all noodle products as well as other palm oil fried stuff like many brands of crisps, fast food etc. After watching a documentary called That Sugar Movie, I quit sugar (almost) too. So thats checking all your processed foods for sugar content (including cereal, muesli, bread, cake, fruit juice etc) and not having ANY sugar for coffee, tea etc. Im doing pretty good staying away from these, and my skin is just so much better! :) If skincare products don’t work (hardly ever did on me) try changing your diet.

  88. Lona Manning*

    If a co-worker cried *every* *day* because she hated her hair, that would seriously damage my respect for her. Tear-ing up a little at first, sure, but now she just comes off as incredibly immature and superficial. She has to be told how she is damaging her own reputation. But that might be tougher coming from a male supervisor than a female, IMHO.

Comments are closed.