my coworker chews tobacco all day long, sketchy request from an interviewer, and more

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

1. My coworker chews tobacco all day long

I work in a local government agency that has a very clear policy stating no form of tobacco use is allowed on duty (it covers cigarettes, cigars, electric cigarettes, pouches, and chewing tobacco).

I have a coworker who unabashedly uses chewing tobacco all day long; when talking to coworkers, he will continuously spit into a clear plastic water bottle. There are multiple water bottles under his desk full of spit and tobacco that have been knocked over. He also uses chewing tobacco when talking to the public or at an event; he will turn around to put tobacco under his lip, and then resume his conversation.

I work with him on a daily basis and in close proximity. I am physically nauseated by the constant sights, smells, and sounds of his chewing tobacco use. I am not the only one who finds this disgusting; I am just the closest one to his desk and the only one lucky enough to experience the tobacco usage throughout the day. Not only is this disgusting, it is a poor representation of our agency. The only time he is not using tobacco is when he thinks a supervisor or manager is nearby.

I voiced a complaint once to our shared manager, who said he would handle it. For a few days, the employee stopped using tobacco at work. Within a week, he was back to using tobacco. My question: what should I do? Accept that he is allowed to break written company policy? Speak with our manager again? Speak with HR? Request a transfer? I don’t want to constantly harp on his tobacco use; however, his actions are driving me crazy!

Talk to your manager again. It sounds like he told him to stop, since he did for a while. It’s very unlikely that he then told him “never mind; you can keep doing it”; it’s more likely that he just started up again without your boss’s knowledge.

So speak to your boss again. Say this: “After you talked to Fergus about the chewing tobacco last time, he stopped briefly. But it’s back to being constant. He uses it all day, constantly spits into a water bottle while talking, and there are bottles full of spit and tobacco under his desk. It’s really gross — can you address it again?”

If there’s a repeat of last time — he stops for a while but then starts up again — let your manager know again. This time, you could spell it out: “He’s clearly stopping for a few days every time you tell him to, and then starting right back up.”

Frankly, you could also say something to your coworker directly — as in, “Hey, can you not use that at work? It’s against work policy, and the smell really bothers me.” Of course, if you do that, he’s likely to know it’s you who mentioned it to your manager, so you have to factor in whether you care that he knows that.

2. Request from a prospective employer seems sketchy

I recently applied for a remote position and they’ve decided to move forward with my candidacy. The second step in their hiring process is an assessment. I saw that and thought sure, no problem!

However, they’re asking for a three-day turnaround (they sent it during the week and I work full-time, in addition to doing school online, all of which is on my resume) and it’s likely to take 1.5-2 hours. On top of that,  I did a little searching, and what they’re asking me to do is a lot of prep work for upcoming projects and events that are actually on their calendar — not hypothetical scenarios.

This seems sketchy, and my instinct is to withdraw my application. However, if I choose to move forward, I don’t want to do all this work for free, and I certainly want a more reasonable time frame to do it in (at least give me until the weekend!) What would be the best way to respond to this, if I choose to move forward?

Ugh, yeah, this is definitely sketchy. Best case scenario, they’re clueless about how to hire well and about why this will put candidates in a really unfair position. Worst case scenario, they’re asking you to do free work that they might end up using.

As I’ve said here many times before, using exercises that simulate the work someone would be doing is a really important part of hiring; you need to see people in action. But you don’t ask people to invest two hours before you’ve even interviewed them, you don’t give people unreasonable turnaround times when they may have other commitments, and you definitely don’t ask them to do work that appears to correlate to real-life projects that you have coming up.

If it were just one of these factors, I’d say to push back a little and see what happens. For example, you could say, “I’d be glad to do this, but my work schedule and other commitments mean I won’t be able to return it to you until next Tuesday — will that work on your end?” Or you could say, “I’d be glad to do an exercise to demonstrate my work, but I feel uneasy about doing it for actual projects that appear to be ongoing. Can you tell me how what I send you will be used?”

But when it’s all of these factors rather than just one, I’d back away.

3. Interviewing with a visible disability that looks like something else

I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a genetic disorder of collagen production. I’m “out” about having this on Facebook and in the rest of my life, and I am friends with colleagues and potential supervisors on Facebook, as I’m in academia and it would be odd not to be friends/friendly with them. However, there’s no guarantee that everyone I encounter, whether Facebook friends or not, has heard of EDS or my problems with it.

Because of the syndrome, I have two visible manifestations of disability — I walk with a cane, and I use ring braces for finger stability. The problem: the ring braces look like…rings. But not like the kind of rings that would be acceptable to wear to an interview. (I’ve attached a photo.) I’ve been advised by various friend, to take them off in an interview situation, but I’d rather not — first of all, they’re support for things like typing, reading, and writing, all things I’ll have to do heavily in the jobs I’m applying for so whether or not I interview in them they’re going to be part of my work-life, and secondly, it feels to me like erasing my disability, something that makes me quite uncomfortable. Can you assist with phrasing that I can use to address them during the interview?

I’m a big fan of just saying something up-front when you’re worried someone will be looking at and wondering about something like this in an interview. So in this case, you could say, “Before we get started, I want to mention that these aren’t evidence of unusual taste in jewelry — they’re supports for finger stability.”

What do others think?

4. I’m interested in one job but was asked to interview for a second at the same company

I recently interviewed at a company with a great opportunity for something that would be my dream job. The manager seemed very interested in my qualifications and even said they would like to follow up with me after he gets back from vacation, and he also said this new position wouldn’t be starting for about 3-4 weeks.

This week while he was on vacation, the recruiting HR lady emailed me out of the blue and asked if I would like to interview for a different position at another office. This new position is less than ideal, and isn’t something I am really interested in at all. I responded by saying “I don’t mind interviewing for this new position, but I was waiting to hear back from Mr. So and So from the other office about the previous position I interviewed at with your company.”

I received an email from the manager who interviewed me today saying he referred me to this office as it has an immediate opening while the position I interviewed for might take a month for it to materialize, and that he told the manager of this office I had excellent qualifications.

I am really not interested in the other office’s position, as it would be like being an entry-level file clerk when you have the expertise of an office manager. Should I still interview for this other position? I really am not interested in it, and would like to wait until the position I originally interviewed for opened up (which as I said, I was told and understood that the position wasn’t opening up for several weeks). However, I don’t want to cast myself in a bad light with the company, and don’t want to throw away something good which would be a foot in the door for something I may or may not get.

If you’re not interested in it, it’s okay to say that! You can just say, “I really appreciate the offer, but I don’t think this role is as strong of a match with what I’m seeking. But I remain very interested in the X position and hope that I remain under consideration for that.”

5. Leveraging a possible counteroffer from my my current job to get a higher salary somewhere else

I currently work in a corporate entertainment industry environment and am interviewing for a lateral position at a rival TV network that I think I am a good fit for. I consider myself very valued at my company because I began my career here as an intern and have been at the company for five years now. I know my current company wants to retain as much talent as they can and does not want to lose me to one of their competitors.

After a lot of thinking, I’m ready for a change. I do not want to leverage an offer at the new company for a higher salary or better position at my current company for the very reasons you have mentioned on Ask a Manager. However, I do want the highest offer possible from the new company and am wondering if there is a way to position that if the salary offer is too low, I feel confident that my current company would definitely come back to negotiate with a better offer in terms of title or money. Is there a way to do this without totally offending the new company?

Not really, no. You can absolutely negotiate, but you should do that based on the market value of your work. If you base it on the idea that your current company will counter for more, you’ll look like you’re selling yourself to the highest bidder and aren’t really all that motivated to leave your current job for the new one. (You very well may be selling yourself to the highest bidder — there’s nothing inherently wrong with that — but it’s not something that makes a new employer excited to hire you.) You risk them saying that it sounds like you should stay with your current job since they can’t match what you can get there.

There are some industries that are exceptions to this rule (and hell, it’s possible yours is one of them — I know nothing about the entertainment industry), so you should take this as general advice rather than field-specific advice.

{ 301 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    I actually don’t think the rings need to be mentioned. They don’t look like traditional jewelry but they are not so outrageous that I would be scandalized by them. But, if you want to mention them, I would just refer to them as braces or stabalizers for your fingers and leave it at that.

    On another note, until 3 months ago or so I had never heard of EDS and all of a sudden I am seeing information about it everywhere. I don’t know if there’s been an awareness campaign around it or if it was just a blind spot before but it is interesting to me.

    1. Sami*

      Agreed. I’d go with the script from Alison.
      I love jewelry and particularly rings, so I think they look pretty cool. I can’t imagine interviewers having any problems with these. Good luck!

      1. Gen*

        Having worn similar items before I’d simplify it to ‘please excuse my finger splints/braces’ when OP first shakes hands.

        1. FiveWheels*

          This is good. Handshake is a perfectly natural way to mention the braces without making it “a thing”.

        2. Duck Duck Møøse*

          I agree with this. Address the elephant in the room, so you can both get on with the interview.
          It’s nice to see splints that look more attractive than the plastic ones.

        3. Aurion*

          I think this is the perfect opening! And this alerts the interviewer to give OP a light handshake too.

        4. 11P*

          That’s actually a great opening. I was trying to think of a way for it to be natural in conversation and coming up with nothing. If I was wearing any other kind of brace, I wouldn’t mention it unless it was organic to the conversation though I understand the OP’s concern.

          I also think that they look perfectly fine even for a job interview, but I’m in an industry that has very lax dress code ideas so I’m perhaps not the best judge. I’ve had jobs where they would raise an eyebrow at it, but I would hope anybody worth working for wouldn’t bring it up unless they wanted to hire you and thought you’d be breaking dress code after you came on, and then you’d just say “actually I need these for medical reasons” and that’d be the end of it.

      2. Sylvia*

        I would specifically state that they’re for injury recovery/prevention, because “finger stability” is pretty vague.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I totally agree. OP, I’m sorry because EDS is really rough and not very well known/recognized (although the WaPo has done a series of articles on it, lately!).

      I don’t know the norms of the industry you’re in, but your braces would likely pass at almost all of the places I’ve worked, which would mean there’s be no need to disclaim. If you’re in a more conservative industry or interviewing with a conservative (in the fashion sense) employer, then perhaps I’d mention they’re braces. ‘m sure there are workplaces where this would be more concerning to people (ironically, labs and medical/health providers). But I don’t think they look so egregious or ostentatious that they wouldn’t pass as non-noteworthy…

    3. Mike C.*

      I have to disagree here. I’ve never seen these befor, and if I were interviewing I’d spend too much time wondering what the heck they were rather than paying better attention to the candidate. Not their fault, but I’m certainly going to be more understanding if I know it’s a medical situation rather than someone wearing renfair jewelry.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like Allison’s script, and the short direct up-front approach “This thing about me that might look/sound odd, it is actually really boring.”

        1. Faith2014*

          Exactly. Be upfront about it, and it will be out of someone’s mind in seconds. Otherwise, they may be thinking about it during the interview.

          Addressing things that are out of the ordinary immediately is very simple. It dispels the notion that you are unaware of professional norms – I might spend time later pondering what else you might be clueless about.

          Interviewing is not a chance to “be yourself”, but to pass the tests designed to winnow you out. Don’t let something silly possibly disqualify you.

        2. LKW*

          At that time you can also mention if you prefer a less firm grip. Some people like to use a crushing handshake and if that will hurt, you have a perfect opening to explain the braces.

      2. Antilles*

        I’m with you on this one. Wearing multiple rings is far enough outside the norm that my first reaction would be “wait, that’s not really appropriate”. An analogy would be if someone had to wear sneakers at all times due to a foot injury – my first reaction is to be stunned that you’re wearing sneakers to an interview (with a suit, no less!)…but once you explained that there’s a medical reason for it, it would be a complete non-issue.
        The only real trick is that OP needs to explain it casually and simply. “In case you’re wondering, I have a medical hand condition and use this apparatus for bone stability”. Unless they have personal experience with EDS, the interviewer will likely take their lead from you – if you act like it’s an enormous and critical issue, they’ll worry about it; if you act like it isn’t a major deal, then they won’t.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I might go with something like, “I know the hand hardware is a bit much but I need them for joint stability.” It acknowledges that you know the braces look like jewelry that might not fit in professional norms (while simultaneously indicating that you know what professional norms are) and explains why you are wearing them.

          1. SometimesALurker*

            I disagree, “a bit much” sounds like the speaker thinks there’s something wrong with them, and they are assistive devices, so that’s not appropriate. They might be “a bit much” if they were actually jewelry (as their primary function, I mean) but they’re not primarily jewelry, and the point here is to clarify that they’re not. I like the intent of your suggestion as you explain it in the following sentence, but I think that Allison’s suggestion or others work just as well for that.

        2. Optimistic Prime*

          I think that depends on the industry, too. I work in games and nobody would bat an eye at this – this looks like the normal jewelry that a lot of employees already wear.

          I also generally assume that someone wearing sneakers with a suit is doing it for a specific reason.

      3. Shay*

        I would notice too (but just because I personally found the photo to be beautiful).

        1. Nea*

          I know someone who wears a lot of stability rings, and I only found out what they were when I complimented her taste in jewelry.

          1. ChickenSuperhero*

            Yeah, pretty! If only all medical devices looked that nice. I hope they are as comfortable to wear.

            But yes, outside the rigid interview attire norms, so it’s worth casually mentioning it so people know you are *aware* of professional norms.

            You might use the handshake moment so it’s not even as big a deal as making an excuse – “(wave hand briefly) As you can see, I have stability braces on my hand, I can do handshakes but please don’t squeeze hard.” (Even if hand pain is actually not an issue, it is a good explanation in a natural setting.)

            1. OP3*

              They’re mostly comfortable, but do occasionally get caught in things (as in “whoops, accidentally stapled my hand to my hair, won’t be a mo…”)

              1. ChickenSuperhero*

                Lol I mean who hasn’t stapled their hand to their hair at least thrice?

        1. ChickenSuperhero*

          Your column has the most graceful and gracious moderation I’ve ever seen on the internet.

      4. KTZee*

        I agree. I think they look perfectly fine and professional, but I would be extremely curious about them which would distract me from the interview itself. As Mike said, totally on me, not the candidate, but a simple one-sentence explanation takes care of it and helps ensure the interviewer is paying full attention to what’s important, namely, you!

    4. Stacy*

      I have EDS too! (hEDS) If the interviewer shakes your hand at the beginning of the interaction I would just cheerfully say something like “Don’t mind my amazing taste in jewelry! My joints are hypermobile and these actually give me a little extra support!”

      1. straws*

        I like this idea, because it allows you to say something in response to a natural part of the interview. I’d even offer my hand if they didn’t, since it would be normal and provide an opening to explain. Then you can go into the interview without worrying and without an awkward interruption to the flow of conversation just to explain.

        I also have hEDS, and have just started looking into finger splints! The photo threw me off at first. I thought my Google search got into my blog feed somehow. I never expected and EDS post on AAM!

        1. Veruca*

          Me too! Just finished putting the KT tape on various joints to get me through the day.

          1. GOG11*

            I have HSD (it’s like hEDS but without the skin portion – I think? I haven’t seen the write up from my geneticist yet and I’m still a bit confused by the new diagnostic criteria)!

            I’m starting OT and PT today and I hope they can help me with braces, tape, etc. I hate to think that other folks are dealing with the same struggles I have, but it’s heartening to see that there are more of us out there!

          2. FiveWheels*

            KT tape is amazing. Even if it doesn’t medically help (anecdotally, I think it does, but I don’t think the studies are there) it gives me a big psychological boost.

            1. JessaB*

              Psychology can be half the battle. And tape can be so good for so many things. And whether it’s anecdotal or not, if it’s YOUR anecdote, go for it. Seriously. It may not work for a lot of people, but if it works for you, ignore em.

            2. Red 5*

              I don’t have EDS, but I do have some joint issues and I find KT tape to be very useful too. I think the science isn’t there for them on what some of the companies claim the tape can do (some of the stuff sounds a bit woo-woo) but for my knees I need something that helps provide just a touch of support but doesn’t impair mobility because that could lead to other problems. So the tape is better than any brace I’ve ever found, and I can get all kinds of fun colors, AND it won’t start to smell like every other brace I’ve ever used.

              Now if I could just figure out how to tape my own wrists for the carpal tunnel, I’ll be set. Wrist braces don’t make a dent in that pain.

              1. Veruca*

                I find that the tape can supply the support that the joint has lost due to faulty collagen. It works better on some joints than others, but its great at keeping my wrists from dislocating and keeping my hip in place.

                There are some great videos on youtube for taping–i hope you can find one that helps your carpal tunnel!

        2. AB*

          Same! I have EDS and am very familiar with ring splints and didnt expect to see them here. OP3, I’d be casual about it during interviews. I am very very open about my EDS because there isnt a lot of awareness about it and having an invisible (or almost invisible) illness is really hard. Big hugs to all you zebras out there.

      2. nnn*

        Personally, that script wouldn’t communicate to me that they are medical devices. From that script, I’d get the message that they’re eccentric jewellery that just happens to be helpful to you. (Of course, I’m not the target audience because I wouldn’t see them as something that needs to be apologized for – I think they’re gorgeous!)

      3. Fictional Butt*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t use that (“amazing taste in jewelry that give my hypermobile joints extra support”) wording because I think you want to emphasize the fact that they are NOT actually jewelry, they are 100% medical devices. As someone who has never heard of EDS before, I have to admit that if you told me you wore a bunch of rings to give your joints extra support, I’d probably file you in the same category as people who wear crystals to prevent cancer. (But now I’m not so ignorant anymore! Thanks AAM!)

        1. OP3*

          And that’s the other part of things. I had to get over how absolutely freakin’ ridiculous I feel sometimes wearing them, like a cinema-Gypsy, even though they’re doing a world of good–as in, I used to journal, with fountain pens and different colors of ink and all sorts of fun, pretty things, and I pretty much stopped because fifteen minutes of writing would give me days of pain and fatigue, and I’m thinking of starting again type of WORLD of good. But yeah, the braces look a bit woo. *sigh*

          1. Fictional Butt*

            Aww, sorry :( FWIW, I think they look really nice as jewelry, I would just be a bit confused if someone told me that had medical benefits but didn’t make it clear that they were actual medical devices. And I also tend to be a pretty judgmental person (which I’m working on!) so I might be more skeptical than the average interviewer.

            1. OP3*

              16 year old me would be SO STOKED, because I went through a period where I wore like 20 rings at a time all through high school. 36 year old me is a bit steamed, because I literally went down to one ring–a heart shaped diamond heirloom from my grandmother–and now I’ve got a double fist of jewelry that I *have* to keep wearing… But I do like the aesthetic, even if I find it cumbersome on occasion. *grin*

        2. Stacy*

          Re: Fictional Butt, that’s kind of the point — some of us don’t want to/think it’s a good idea to announce “well, I have a connective tissue disorder..” at a job interview. With EDS it can be tough enough to hold down the job you have, let alone the process of finding, starting, and being successful at a new one with chronic health issues that can be unpredictable, since the comorbidities that come with EDS aren’t exactly a walk in the park either. The “amazing taste in jewelry” part is a bit facetious and lighthearted, and we can either leave it at that or expand and/or explain however much we would like to (or not), but either way you’ve already introduced the subject in a way that is way less daunting to the untrained ear than “Ehlers Danlos Syndromes” and “Connective Tissue Disorder” can sound.

      4. Optimistic Prime*

        I don’t know what hypermobile joints are, so that would raise more questions than answers at that point. (Of course, now I am going to Google it, but still.)

    5. Hey Nonnie*

      Honestly? I doubt anyone will ever mention it. I have worn three rings on my left hand (including a thumb ring), one on my right, and an ear cuff for two decades, since I graduated college, and have never taken them off for an interview. I’ve worked at conservative places like financial institutions, start-ups, and everything in between. No one, not once, has ever mentioned my rings in an interview. I don’t think anyone has ever mentioned them once I was on the job, either.

      I wouldn’t say a thing unless asked, because they probably won’t care. If they do ask, a one-sentence factual explanation is enough.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        No one will mention it, but that doesn’t mean they won’t mentally count it against the OP in the interview.

      2. ChickenSuperhero*

        I would count it against you. And I have a noise stud and other piercings. It would tell me you don’t know professional norms in a conservative environment. But maybe your region is more informal, or you’re in IT.

        1. Zombii*

          I can’t follow this logic. Is it supposed to be obvious that you remove the nose stud and other piercings while at work, or are multiple rings on one hand/per hand further outside of conservative professional norms than facial piercings now? (Seriously asking.)

    6. Kella*

      May was EDS awareness month so that may be part of why you’re seeing so much of it suddenly!

      1. straws*

        I was going to post this too. There was a huge awareness push last month, and I’ve never seen so much information out there at once! The new diagnosis guidelines were also released, and I wonder if that contributed as well.

      2. Free Meerkats (formerly Gene)*

        I think another reason is that Yvette d’Entremont (Science Babe) has been making some posts on it now that she discovered what was causing her physical problems.

        Sad, but there’s nothing like having an attractive female “come out” with a disease to push it into the public consciousness.

    7. Catalyst*

      I agree, I honestly would not even notice the rings personally, and if I did it would likely be to say I like them. Hopefully they won’t be an issue, but if you are concerned, I think Alison’s script is perfect.

    8. Shay*

      Gaia, I don’t know if there’s a term for it, but there’s a little phenomenon where once you learn or see something you didn’t even know existed before, suddenly you start noticing it everywhere. I think it just has to do with what the mind selectively notices/brings to conscious attention/filters out.

    9. nnn*

      I was thinking just that – suddenly I’m hearing about Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome everywhere (including in library books that I put a hold on months ago and only just made it to the front of the queue, so it’s not just a current media push.)

      And I’m glad that they’ve figured out a way to make medical devices so gorgeous!

    10. GOG11*

      The classification criteria were updated in March, so that may have been why there’s been more buzz about EDS.

    11. Bibliovore*

      In my interview for my present position five years ago, I addressed the cuff crutch that I use by saying. You may have noticed that I use a crutch, I have a genetic connective tissue disorder. I didn’t say EDS because any time that I brought that up, the conversation became dominated by what EDS was, who had it, bad things that happen to me because of it, etc. I have been struck by the number of mentions of it on AAM. I would mention the rings just because they are out of the ordinary.

      1. ChickenSuperhero*

        Good idea. In mentally rehearsing the interviewer’s reaction to different explanations about the brave, I would have done exactly that, “oh my friend has EDS”, and you’re right, that doesn’t need to be a big part of the conversation. (Reminder to me too, to keep on topic, even trying to tell someone “oh don’t worry that’s cool” can be uncomfortable.)

      2. TootsNYC*

        I so agree with you about how the conversation gets dominated by the medical condition–but for that reason, I wouldn’t even say “genetic connective tissue disorder. The less information, the better, because more information brings a message that for some reason we need to focus on it.

        I’d say, “You may have noticed the crutch–it supports my joint.”
        But even that just seems so obvious–why else would someone need a crutch of any kind?

        I honestly think you can just not mention anything. Or, if you feel awkward about it, mention it toward the end.

    12. Grey*

      In this man’s opinion, it looks like normal, acceptable jewelry to me. Kind of cool.

    13. kittymommy*

      Yeah, until I read the letter in full I couldn’t figure out what the issue was. The rings didn’t even occur to me.

    14. TootsNYC*

      I would ignore the rings completely. They’re perfectly attractive, and I would never classify them as “not something you could wear to an interview.”
      I think that any other attire can help you counter any impression they might leave. If you’re applying at some place where people only wear suits, then wear an extra-conservative one, etc.
      Remember that you will have already made a first impression with your attire by the time they get close enough to really notice the rings. So focus on that impression, and the rings will be totally secondary.

      But I don’t think they’d leave much of a negative impression anyway.

      And the reason I wouldn’t explain them is because I wouldn’t want the attention to suddenly be on my health issues. Not that I need to hide them, but because I want the interview to be focused on my skills, etc.
      And I think an interviewer will move on from the rings pretty quickly. Talking about them, even to explain them, only lengthens and intensifies the distraction.

    15. super anon*

      I have a coworker who wears these rings. I had no idea they weren’t normal rings until I asked her where she got them because I thought they were pretty and I’d never seen interlocking rings like them, and she told me they were actually custom made braces that she wears because she has lupus.

      Personally before I knew what they were, I wouldn’t have looked twice if someone interviewed with the rings aside from thinking they were cool looking, but I also live and work where shorts on men are perfectly cromulent work attire, so my perspective may be off.

    16. Winger*

      Genuine question – would this be akin to revealing a health issue that would make the employer get worried about unusual accommodations, liability, etc? Does this issue put the letter writer in a protected class?

    1. Sami*

      If the OP notices more than one glance or a single comment, it’d be wise to be proactive.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Agreed. But I’d be loath to bring up the issue if no one does a double-take / glance / comment. But maybe I’m more stuffy about not having to disclose medical devices/hardware?

        1. katamia*

          I agree. I probably wouldn’t notice (or would just go “Huh, rings” and move on), so I’d think it was weird if someone preemptively made it seem like an issue. But if people really seem to be looking at them like they’re really weird, then OP should definitely mention it.

          1. neverjaunty*

            But then it seems like the OP noticed the interviewer staring at them and felt the need to explain. It’s better to just mention it before that happens.

      2. Mabel*

        If the thought of NOT getting it out in the open is making the OP anxious, I think it’s worth mentioning.

        1. Tau*

          +1. Making yourself more confident and giving yourself peace of mind in an interview can be worth a lot.

          I also wouldn’t recommend the “wait and see if the interviewer looks taken aback” approach for similar reasons. That’s basically asking OP to use mental real estate to focus on something other than the interview proper. I don’t know about you, but asking me to split my attention that way (“OK, what kind of tree *am* I like, and also did they just give my ring braces a weird glance? Should I bring them up?”) would almost certainly lead to more anxiety and a worse performance at the interview than otherwise. At that point, if you’re OK with disclosing which the OP seems to be, it’s probably better to bring it up once at the start and then put it out of your mind.

          1. Mookie*

            Yep. The best outcome is to put her at her ease. And I really don’t believe the majority of interviewers would find a passing reference to them — “see these things, they are medical devices, moving on…” — odd or uncomfortable.

        2. Loose Seal*

          Agree with this.

          I was working a show once when the lead actor cut his finger badly at home that morning. He came to the matinee performance with stitches and an enormous, blindingly-white bandage. About five minutes into the play, he stopped suddenly and addressed the audience, explaining what the injury was and that the bandage had no bearing on the plot of the play. Then he picked back up with the play like normal.

          I gasped when I realized he was addressing the audience because that’s so rarely done. But as the play went on, I realized he may have helped quite a bit by just stating the obvious. As an audience member, I probably would have been wondering why he was costumed with a bandage if it never came up in the plot. Furthermore, it had obviously been preying on his mind and, by making an announcement, he was able to get back into character.

          So I agree that an upfront, casual mention is the way to go even if the only person’s mind that is put to rest is the OP’s.

    2. EE*

      But surely no interviewer would hold it against OP that she explained why she was wearing something strange?

      Everybody – including the interviewer – knows that the rule of thumb for interviews is to err on the conservative side. The interviewer would understand why OP wanted to give a brief explanation for the outré jewellery.

    3. blackcat*

      Honestly, I’d agree if she hadn’t included a picture! If I was picturing “finger braces” or “finger supports” of some generic sort, like what I’ve worn for tendonitis, I’d say it wouldn’t need any comment since the medical purpose would be obvious.

      But even as someone with a couple of EDS friends, I’ve never seen such lovely braces as those! I wouldn’t immediately peg them as a medical thing, and I would think that they were slightly odd jewelry. Depending on the context, that could be a problem.

      So I think Alison’s script is great.

      1. Sutemi*

        Those are lovely and do look like jewelry, but if you have another set that appear more medical then perhaps wearing them would make you feel more comfortable?

        1. GOG11*

          I saw recently that Wal-Mart carries band-aid colored ones, but many braces like this are custom made so I’m not sure how the generic, less jewelry-esque ones would work for OP. Also, I’ve only seen the kind that OP has on the pinky and index fingers. The thumb and other one (sorry, don’t recall the names of the braces) I’ve only seen as metal, custom braces.

        2. LBK*

          Yeah, that was going to be my suggestion – if there’s more utilitarian ones out there that are more likely to read as a medical device than jewelry, it might be worth getting a set for interviews or other more formal work situations where the rings might look out of place.

          1. Karen D*

            I think OP3’s are just about as simple and classic as they come, to be honest. They look durable and purpose-built. I’d have no problem taking them seriously.

            If I were going to change anything (and I suspect OP will do this anyway when she’s getting ready for any interviews) I would go for a more subdued manicure, probably a French or American style or a muted neutral pink. As a Woman of a Certain Age, I do occasionally get comments because I get glitter on my toes (hey, nothing makes a pedicure last longer than glitter! Plus, sparkles!) I’m a little less adventurous with my fingers, usually a pearl shade that harmonizes with the toes, minus the glitter — and in an interview situation I would definitely go American, oval and short.

            1. OP3*

              Yeah, I’ll leave the custom Harley Quinn polish on the vanity when I’m interviewing. ;)

              1. Karen D*

                It’s pretty as the dickens, though! I didn’t know it was Harley Quinn, my first thought was “little constellations at your fingertips.”

                (Actually, my first thought was “that picture is a whole bunch of want for me,” starting with the fact that you have lovely hands. The architectural simplicity of the braces is just really elegant , but the minute I knew they were medical devices I was like “Oh, I can totally see the functionality too.” With just a tiny bit of information, it becomes immediately clear that they are carefully placed for support.)

            2. Optimistic Prime*

              Maybe it’s the West Coast life but I can’t imagine anyone caring about the glitter polish – not in that color, anyway. I had to peer close to even see that it *was* glitter.

              1. OP3*

                No one in academia is going to care either…but I still wouldn’t wear it to an interview. *grin*

        3. PM&R MD*

          As an MD in a relevant specialty, I can say that the braces on the first, second, and fifth fingers are made in a very typical style.

          1. OP3*

            The over the hand ones kind of look like paper clips, don’t they? I was a bit surprised when I got them, and yet at some point I ordered them and I knew what they looked like then…

        4. TootsNYC*

          Actually, I think this is a good idea. If you don’t have any more-medical/utilitarian ones, maybe just you put an Ace bandage over them.

          (if the compression bandages you can find are too long and bulky, just cut one down to size–you only need enough to wrap around and stay put)

          Then they’re clearly medical, so no negative judgment of your sartorial tastes, and you also don’t really need to discuss much. If the interviewer says, “oh, did you hurt yourself?” you can say, “The extra support is good for my joints,” or something bland.

    4. Is it Friday Yet?*

      This is how I feel as well. I had never heard of this before, so I would have all kinds of questions in my head that would unfortunately distract me from the interview.

      1. Is it Friday Yet?*

        To clarify — not questions that I would ask the OP. I’d Google them because I’m a curious person.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, you have my sympathies. I have no productive advice—other than what Alison has described—but this would drive me up the everloving wall. I have all sorts of baggage related to chewing tobacco (i.e., I find it to be aurally, visually and olfactorily nauseating), but you shouldn’t have to deal with this. Particular since it violates your employer’s policies and basic etiquette. It sounds like your colleague is dealing with a pretty advanced addiction, which of course requires more than simply banning tobacco (which already exists and has apparently had no effect on his behavior), but I think those bigger questions are for his manager and not for you. Good luck!

    1. Killerrabbitwithpointyteeth*

      I am finding it hard to fathom how the employee can get away with that. Bottles of chewing tobacco spit under a desk, putting in a wad before talking to customers, the express flouting of company rules. I would expect severe penalties be applied, up to firing – complain again to the manager. This isn’t ok even though it’s chewing not smoking tabacco

      1. Loose Seal*

        Don’t companies have an obligation to work out accommodations with workers with addictions? I think there ought to be something worked out about the spit bottles and other chaw leftovers but firing seems a bit cruel. He clearly cannot stop. I feel for OP and their coworkers for having to deal with the grossness but I feel more sorry for this guy who is so obviously addicted to a pretty gross and dangerous thing.

        I do think the OP should continue to bring it up to the manager, using Alison’s scripts. The tobacco-chewer may need to have his feet held to the fire in order to get help.

        1. Tuckerman*

          I was also curious about accommodations for addictions, but I don’t think they would center on accomodating the behavior. For example, an employer might accommodate a heroin user by allowing her to leave each day at a specific time for methadone treatment, but she wouldn’t get a 15 minute heroin break every 2 hours to shoot up.

          1. Loose Seal*

            No, but we don’t know what the manager and employee worked out. It could be that the employee is waiting to get into some sort of program and tried to cold-turkey it for a few days, and after discovering it didn’t work, he and the manager may have agreed that he could continue using in the office until his intake appointment with the cessation program.

            Or it could be that that employee just quit when he was caught and started up again when he thought he could get away with it. Either way, the OP’s option(s) remain the same and telling the manager there’s still an issue is the best one.

        2. a different Vicki*

          I think the accommodation would be the same as for people who are addicted to nicotine in other forms, e.g., allowing the use of nicotine patches or gum while at work. OP’s employer isn’t allowing other employees to smoke at work, and many people who smoke cigarettes, cigars, or pipes are addicted to the nicotine.

          Nobody is suggesting that OP’s coworker be fired if he chews tobacco while he’s at home.

      2. (another) b*

        I’m disgusted just reading about it. Chewing tobacco is so nasty. And it’s a harder habit to hide than someone going outside far away to smoke. I’d keep bringing it up to the manager. SO gross.

    2. Drew*

      I would not be able to work in proximity to or, honestly, on a team with someone who was dipping or chewing tobacco at work. I find the habit vile and the ONLY redeeming feature is that at least I don’t have to breathe it. If my employer didn’t already have a policy about that, I would be fighting like hell to institute one, and then I’d be reporting the hell out of a colleague who was so obviously flouting it. OP, I hope you do report this person to your boss again, pointing out that this is a pattern and it’s starting to affect your ability to work near him. (BOTTLES OF SPIT UNDER HIS DESK I CANNOT EVEN.)

      I, um, have FEELINGS about the topic.

      1. Mookie*

        Honestly, why is he not putting caps on them and why is he saving the bottles at all? Toss / destroy or sanitize thoroughly. This is not a wild west saloon; stop turning things into spittoons.

        1. Anon for This*

          Seriously I find the spit-hoarding to be the grossest and weirdest part of this. The only way he could be more in-your-face is if he was spitting on the floor! (True story – the baseball players ruined the carpets at my high school by spitting tobacco everywhere after hours. This was at an affluent suburban school by the way.)

        2. LBK*

          I don’t understand it either but this is A Thing with everyone I’ve known who chews. As if it’s not a gross enough habit as it is.

          1. Hotstreak*

            You don’t put caps on bottles you think you might use later. If they are capped, the odor builds up inside (especially if it’s in the sun), and can become intolerable even to the user. If it’s open it can air out and be re-used. Someone with an addiction as hard as OP#1’s coworker is probably chewing tobacco faster than they are using plastic bottles, so leaving them open starts to make sense. Obviously they should switch to gum or snus at work, though, which are both much less offensive.

            1. Witty Nickname*

              My dad used to leave his open cans/cups in my car, which sat in the sun all day. I loathe chewing tobacco so much, to the point where wintergreen or spearmint anything makes me slightly nauseated (he did the flavored stuff. So gross).

        3. paul*

          That part of it honestly kind of turned my stomach. So. Frigging. Disgusting.

          Chew isn’t uncommon on ranches or farms, so I’ve been exposed to it a fair bit. It doesn’t engender the same “OHGODDIE” reaction in me that it does others, but it is a nasty habit, and hoarding the spit from it is beyond gross.

          And frankly, I don’t care if it’s an addiction; he can chew on his damn lunch break off premises.

          1. BeautifulVoid*

            “So. Frigging. Disgusting.”

            My exact reaction. And if there’s any sort of cleaning crew or custodial staff in the building where this is happening, I’m surprised they haven’t said anything about this. Because if I were told to clean around/near the bottles, I would be NOPE-ing right out of there.

      2. Lora*

        I’m right there with you. EW EW EW. I grew up in a rural area where people chew tobacco, and it’s still vile and disgusting. I’m also grossed out when people hock up snot and spit it on the ground. I’m not squeamish or dainty in general, I’ve hunted and processed and butchered my own meat, I’ve done veterinary surgery and midwifed cows and goats, shoveled literally tons of manure, but spitting is just nasty.

        Bodily fluids can either stay in your body or go in the toilet or in a Kleenex. The only other times I should ever see human bodily fluids is if there’s an ambulance on the way.

      3. Sadsack*

        I can read no further because this topic is truly making me feel nauseated. All my sympathies to you, OP! Say something because this is just nasty.

    3. Anony-Non-Non*

      Maybe it needs to go above the immediate manager to HR or whatever health-concern office you have? I work in a gov’t agency and we had someone vaping in the office which is against policy. It took about a week, but suddenly one day they were gone, never to return.

    4. nofelix*

      Hopefully anyone can see brown spit bottles in the office are not okay.

      Yes agreed he’s addicted and needs to be pointed in the direction of resources to quit or manage his habit. It has to be clear that his job is on the line. I wouldn’t insist that he quit entirely, but perhaps have a “let’s be real here” conversation about what steps will likely be successful in stopping it from being an issue at work.

      1. the gold digger*

        needs to be pointed in the direction of resources to quit or manage his habit

        I wouldn’t care if he is addicted or not or if he quits. I just wouldn’t want him to do it around me. What he does when he’s not at work? His business.

        (Although – does he know about mouth and tongue cancer?)

      2. Dawn*

        Being addicted is not the problem, as an adult he can legally ingest, chew, or smoke tobacco. However, as a tobacco consumer myself, you do not use tobacco products “on the clock”. Go over the managers head on this.

      3. Antilles*

        Yes agreed he’s addicted and needs to be pointed in the direction of resources to quit or manage his habit.
        I absolutely would *not* discuss resources to quit/manage the habit, because that derails the conversation and probably leads him to take the conversation as an indictment of his perfectly legal choice to use tobacco. You want to stay focused on the fact he’s (a) indulging in it at the office and (b) doing so in a way that causes issues to others because that’s the real thing that matters to OP/company.

        1. RVA Cat*

          There are all sorts of things that are perfectly legal for consenting adults to do that still don’t belong in the workplace. *quack quack*

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think the suggestion is that the manager may want to suggest to the coworker resources for managing his addiction while on the clock (i.e. not using tobacco at work). Anything more than that would be inappropriate, and OP certainly shouldn’t make the suggestion.

    5. E*

      I just wanted to note that this is a behavior showing poor consideration for coworkers and customers. My husband uses chewing tobacco (trying to quit which is harder than cigarettes), but he is very considerate about anyone around him. Your coworker should pick up his spit bottles, keep the one in use out of sight as much as possible, and avoid this gross behavior in front of others. It’s common courtesy, which this coworker seems to only have for managers.

      1. TL -*

        Where I grew up chew/dip was quite common, and it was an unspoken rule that you didn’t indulge inside, you didn’t spit in front of ladies, and you are super careful with your spit bottle. (And I never saw anyone with more than one!)

    6. JessaB*

      I’m with you on this being an OMG no, not where I am. It’s also very unsanitary, and doing anything like that in front of customers is a no-no unless you work at a rodeo (for some reason chew is okay around people who ride rodeo.) If I were the boss there I’d be getting extremely annoyed that he’s a: not listening to instructions to NOT, b: being unsanitary about it by keeping more than the bottle he’s currently using under his desk, c: doing it in front of clients/visitors to the office from other offices.

      Now I do get that chew is possibly even more addictive than smoking is, and can cause absolutely horrid mouth cancers and stuff that smoking doesn’t. But if it’s a smoke free workplace, it needs to be a chew free also. Just because he’s not smoking, doesn’t mean he’s not doing nicotine.

      And if your company has a “don’t smoke and get more off your insurance policy,” policy, he needs to be marked as a nicotine user. Maybe that penalty would make him pay attention. Because really non smokers getting a bonus, or smokers paying more, is one of the FEW documented medical things that can be insisted on to make people MORE healthy. But the point of that is to mitigate the proven increased cancer risk (and emphysema with smokers) of cigarettes and chew.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It sounds like OP’s employer, a local government, has a “no tobacco” policy. So I think the use of chew is already not allowed (although I wondered, how has the manager not noticed?).

        I think chew is seen as ok at the rodeo for the same reasons it’s ok on the baseball field (although I find it repulsive regardless of location).

        1. Loose Seal*

          Major League Baseball has frowned on chewing tobacco use for years. It’s pretty rare to see a player with a chaw nowadays. Mouthful of chewing gum, yes. Sunflower seeds plus spitting the shells out, yes (also gross in my opinion but since I don’t have to clean the dugouts, I don’t really get to complain). But actual tobacco use, not really.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes, I agree! I apologize for being broad in my statement—I’ve seen this most frequently in amateur leagues or super minor (i.e. non-AAA) baseball teams. Overall there’s been a significant decline, but at least in the places I’ve lived, there’s still a visible minority of (non-MLB, non-AAA) players using chew. But I also live where there are rodeos. So this could be regional.

    7. MashaKasha*

      I feel a lot better about my coworkers’ hacking, gurgling, etc noises after reading OP1’s letter! Talk about putting things into perspective.

      I honestly do not know how I’d force myself to come into work every day if a coworker I sat closest to was chewing and spitting tobacco all day. I feel so bad for OP1 now. I’d seriously hate my life if I had to deal with that. I would complain. And I very rarely do.

    8. TootsNYC*

      I thought about Alison’s suggested wording:

      “Hey, can you not use that at work? It’s against work policy, and the smell really bothers me.”

      I wouldn’t include the “against work policy” bit. I don’t think that’s helpful even if it is true. It casts the OP in the “rules stickler” role, and that’s not the person who can persuade other people to modify their behavior.

      I’d stick with “the smell bothers me” and maybe even “It’s grossing me out, actually” ina rueful tone of voice.

    9. Lil Lamb*

      Honestly, I have a thing about spit and vomiting in general. For some reason seeing it on the ground, witnessing someone spit, or hearing someone throw up is enough to make me want to throw up. In fact seeing the word spit so many times on this thread is actually making me gag. I would have probably already barfed if I worked near someone who did this, and then you’ll have to deal with an even bigger problem.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I’d run. As Alison noted, either they’re kind of clueless and not very good at interviewing, or they’re (worst case) openly predatory and shady. This doesn’t sound like an opportunity that merits this level of investment this early on.

    1. neverjaunty*

      This. OP, something about this company made you double-check on that assignment. Your instincts are very likely correct.

      1. JamieS*

        Completely agree. Even if the assignment turned out to not appear sketchy there was still a reason OP looked into the assignment in the first place. The fact the assignment is sketchy is just the icing on the Run Like Hell cake.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          Exactly. And that Run Like Hell cake is fresh from the Trust Your Instinct bakery.

        2. JessaB*

          I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re both right. The OP’s instincts caught something, or why research at all instead of just saying “this’ll take me longer than the turn around you want, I have a job and school.”

          Writing to AAM about it is a sure “I need to dig back through this and find out what was ringing my ‘this is bad,’ bell.”

    2. paul*

      I can’t come up with anything other than predatory and shady given all the circumstances OP outlined. Like, one or two, yeah, that might be aggressively clueless. ALL of that though? Ooh boy.

      1. OP2*

        Yeah, I ultimately decided to back out, I’m just really glad I wasn’t crazy for thinking it was sketchy! Instincts are almost always right. :)

    3. TrainerGirl*

      Absolutely. In training, you often get asked to create a sample eLearning course, but it’s never about something that could be used for actual work product. My favorite was being given a page out of the Blackberry manual, and coming up with an interesting and engaging course about the do’s and don’ts of using a Blackberry. It only took an hour and was a lot of fun. That’s the type of thing you should be asked to do if an employer wants to see you demonstrate knowledge/experience.

  4. Stellaaaaa*

    The finger supports look like midi rings. They might not be appropriate for a super conservative workplace but personally I would assume they were just trend pieces, since midi rings have been popular over the last few years. Alternately, if I saw someone using a cane and then noticed an unusual handpiece, I would mentally assume it was a medical thing and simply not mention it.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Agree with your last line. The fact that the OP is using a cane would clue me in that there’s a medical issue, and I probably wouldn’t think further about it. I think OP can briefly mention the rings (something like, “In case you’re wondering, these are medical braces for support”) or not, and either is fine. But if OP is already on a cane, I’m likely going to assume anything unusual they are wearing is related.

      1. Bibliovore*

        I agree with getting the mental real estate out of the way with regards to needing assistive devices. Stating the need up front casually takes away the anxiety and allows us to focus on the interview.

        1. ali*

          ^This. The “should I/shouldn’t I mention it” is causing the OP enough anxiety to ask about it, I’d get it out of the way upfront.

          I wear a cochlear implant, and while I CAN hide it with my hair, I don’t always. I would address it upfront as well. I say something along the lines of “I’m sure you can see I have a cochlear implant, and while I am deaf without it, with it I function just as a hearing person and don’t ask for any special accommodations.” It addresses their questions and allows everyone to move on without anxiety on their part or mine.

      2. FiveWheels*

        I have hypermobility issues (not EDS) and the cane wouldn’t make the braces look more medical to me. I’d probably be more likely to think “Huh, using a cane while wearing rings looks super uncomfortable to me.”

        Then again, when I need any kind of brace I prefer it to look obviously medical.

        Ultimately I think mentioning it can’t hurt, but not mentioning could, so I’d err on the side of mentioning.

  5. Mike C.*

    I don’t see anything wrong with repeatedly and publicly saying things like, “Why do you keep bottles of used tobacco and your spit on your desk whether the rest of us have to see it? That’s gross.” in front of other coworkers or his boss or whatever.

    Not only is it against policy, but it’s f•ucking gross.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, this in particular makes me throw up in my mouth a little. It’s not bad enough that it’s bottles of spit (which is gross in and of itself), but rather, clear bottles of used tobacco and spit. Seriously?? Aside from the aesthetic disgustingness, how is this not a health hazard?

      1. Mike C.*

        Clear bottles too, like what the hell is up with that??? That’s absolutely disgusting.

        1. ..Kat..*

          AND, he does not put caps on the bottles! He stores multiple bottles under his desk and has knocked them over repeatedly!

        2. kavm*

          most chewers i know (and i know a lot in my profession) use clear bottles. i don’t understand why. the habit is revolting but then having to see it like that?? EW.

          1. TL -*

            Because your unsuspecting family is less likely to accidentally take a swig from a clear bottle they can see the contents of than a can that looks just like their Dr Pepper can.

            Less likely.

            1. Statler von Waldorf*

              TL has it. A clear bottle may look disgusting, but taking a swig from an opaque can and finding out that it’s discarded chew is far, far more disgusting.

            2. Renee*

              My ex dipped, and if you had a drink, you did not leave it anywhere. In my experience, not only is hoarding spit a thing, but so is picking up any container from any surface and spitting into it, regardless of what it is. It’s a weird sense of entitlement and I don’t know where it comes from, except that he grew up in lumber country where dipping is a ubiquitous part of the culture.

              It’s gross and working with someone that dipped or chewed would be a not happening kind of situation.

              1. TL -*

                Oh my god, plenty of men/boys dipped where I grew up and that would not have been okay on a very deep level. They were all super respectful. Once, one spit while standing beside me (we were outside) and then, he realized I was a girl and immediately apologized. That was the worst chew/dip thing that I’ve experienced.

                Both my uncle and cousin dip/chew (or used to? I think they’ve both quit) and I don’t I’ve ever seen them spit in front of me.

          2. Mischa*

            Yep, my sister’s boyfriend does this and I despise it. Finally got him to stop chewing in the house.

          3. JessaB*

            Possibility – they use clear in case they end up spitting up blood? I mean I dunno, I don’t know anyone anymore that chews, and he always used a drink can, in his case usually a beer. Maybe also to make sure nobody thinks it’s drinkable stuff under the desk?

            But whether or not you get him to stop chewing, those bottles HAVE to go. The cleaning crew needs to be warned about the health hazard there.

      2. Linds*

        I once took a college stats class and the guy who sat next to me chewed tobacco in class, spat into a clear bottle, and tried to flirt with me.

        It did not work.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          Nothing screams “make out worthy” like kissing a human Muk. /sarcasm and Pokemon reference

        2. (another) b*

          A guy I dated had a roommate who did it and I couldn’t even go near him bc he did it all the time. I wanted to vomit.

    2. Still Discovering*

      Yea, I get that tobacco is addicting and adults are welcome to have whatever habits along these lines that they choose but can we not make me look at your slobber covered used tobacco in plastic jars at work (or ever)? And they fell over!? I think I would have puked right then and there.


      1. FiveWheels*

        Yeah but being addicted doesn’t give you licence to shoot up at your desk. Chew nicotine gum or pop on a patch.

    3. K.*

      Yeah, I don’t think I’d be able to control my “UGH!” response, loudly and often, because really, this is nasty. I can’t imagine you’re the only one who complains about this, particularly when the bottles of spit were knocked over (UGH UGH UGH). And he dips before he talks to customers? Unless you are in a location where chewing tobacco is common, I’d imagine that many people he interacts with find this gross.

      1. ChickenSuperhero*

        I saw a lot of chewing tobacco users, including teenagers, in the South. I have seen it once in 2 decades above the Mason Dixon line. It’s possible he thinks this is normal, but since he’s been reprimanded and he hides it from the bosses (if halfheartedly), he knows better by now.

        And yeah, OP, it’s stomach – flipping revolting and awful to be around. Knocking over spit bottles – ugh I am actually gagging.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It’s possible, but he’s totally not abiding by the etiquette that most dip users follow. I don’t run into chewing tobacco all that often (mostly on farms/ranches, as paul notes, or among former baseball players), but I’m pretty sure there are social norms around its use that the coworker is ignoring. Chewing tobacco is gross and extraordinarily harmful, but OP’s coworker has found a way to adopt the second-most disgusting practices around it.

        2. K.*

          I’ve never met anyone who did. I’ve spent my entire life in major northeastern cities and it would be jarring to see here. I did have a coworker who went to school in rural MA and he said he took it up while he was there, but he’d quit by the time I knew him. His then girlfriend, now ex-wife, apparently told him “We will not be dating if you keep that up.”

          Common or not, it’s gross AF.

        3. LCL*

          A lot of people north of the Mason Dixon line chew. We have one that just joined our work group. He’s working on controlling it, I haven’t seen him bring a cup into the office in awhile. It will probably be a non issue until he forgets and leaves a cup in the shared company vehicle.

        4. Lora*

          Thank you for the diet assistance, OP1. I was going to eat oatmeal and a yogurt for breakfast but now I’m not hungry.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, can you not just use market data, as Alison notes? Trying to increase your salary by suggesting your current employer would counter-offer (which you don’t really know is true) sounds a little… desperate? (I apologize, I was trying to find a less cruel word but am struggling.)

    It seems like if you know what you’re worth, you should be able to openly negotiate for that. I’m assuming you don’t fall under any of the major unions associated with TV networks, in which case, you should be able to identify the market rate fairly quickly. But I also know very little about show business outside of PR, so I apologize if I’m operating with faulty or inaccurate assumptions.

    1. Pinkyout*

      I should have mentioned that my current company is known for great benefits and pay. Since it’s a lateral move, hoping the new company will still be in a competitive range!

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The good news is that you can bring this up when they ask for your salary range or during the offer/acceptance negotiations (or both, if appropriate!). Good luck!

    2. ChickenSuperhero*

      I’d also caution you against thinking that *FIVE* years in a field, from barely above an intern to now, makes you a super valuable employee. You are just now getting duly seasoned enough for people to trust that you know what you’re doing; you’re not the irreplaceable cog that the whole office runs on. Even if you HAD been there for 20 years and were a VP equivalent, you still would be entirely replaceable, because that’s how businesses are these days. I’ve seen so many smart, dedicated, decades -in knowledge centers who actually WERE irreplaceable, let go for cost cutting reasons. It’s all about the bottom line.

      1. ChickenSuperhero*

        Oops, that came across way harsher than I meant!

        I was trying to say, walk a line between confident and over-confident, and be aware that companies have no loyalty, like none. But absolutely, look for raises, including by playing job offers off each other. But if you want out, focus on getting the new place up to snuff – negotiate more salary, and more paid leave.

  7. Cam*

    #1 – I used to work in the same room as a guy who did this, and oh my God is it ever gross. Like seriously, I couldn’t even look in his general direction without wanting to throw up and I never got used to it. I don’t make a habit of criticizing other people for their tobacco use, but multiple bottles full of brown spit all over the place is a step way, way, way too far. You need to speak to your manager again – and again and again and again, until this is finally taken care of. I guarantee you aren’t the only one grossed out by this behavior, even if you’re the only one who has spoken up!

    1. Susan*

      It is SO gross! I never knew anyone who chewed tobacco (at least not in public) until I started my first job after college, when I had a coworker who chewed tobacco at work. He spit into an empty soda can, and I had nightmares of accidentally switching my can of soda with his at lunch. Also, there were times we worked with chemicals and chewing tobacco was strictly forbidden at those times, so this guy would leave his lump on top of the soda can in the breakroom. Oh, it was nasty.

      Since then, I have encountered a few other people who are even worse! At least the first guy had the decency to spit into an opaque container instead of clear bottles like some people. I knew one guy who didn’t bother with a spit container, and he would just spit into a trash can. I would be talking to him and he would just turn his head and spit a disgusting stream of tobacco into a trash can two feet away. And where I work now, if you go anywhere outside, you’ll see blobs of tobacco spit all over the ground. I don’t care if people want to do this at home on their own time, but I do not want to see this at work!

      1. the gold digger*

        At my high school, there was a smoking yard and a spitting yard. There was no grass in the spitting yard and the big live oak was losing its bark.


        Yes, I know what a white circle on the back pocket of the Wranglers means.

        1. SignalLost*

          I went to a very suburban fairly affluent high school and I still don’t understand why junior year all of a sudden all the cool guys decided to dress like the cowboys they weren’t, but chewing tobacco and that stupid ring became the hot fashion trend. Ugh ugh gross.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            It was such a trend at my dad’s high school that he knew a guy who kept a can of tuna in his pocket, since he didn’t chew but still wanted that cool-guy ring.

    2. Jessesgirl72*

      I used to work with a guy who chewed, but he at least spit into either a soda can or sometimes lidded disposable coffee cup and then disposed of the can when it was full. He didn’t store multiple containers of it at his station. It was still pretty disgusting, but what the OP describes is really gross!

  8. Snork Maiden*

    Those rings are fairly common in my city – people (usually women) with arthritis wear them. I see no need to draw attention to them – heck, your interviewers may not even notice, if you’re calm with your hands. (I remember reading an interview with a person who had a prosthetic, and they were so good at directing attention that often times people did not notice they had a prosthetic at all.)

    1. MerciMe*

      I have a lot of experience with … oh, loosely, call it sleight of hand to conceal my own disabilities. When I notice other people performing similar tactics, it’s distracting until I figure out what they’re trying to distract me from. I’d never enquire or judge someone for it, but it makes me more likely to disclose my own stuff proactively, to keep other people from being similarly distracted or jumping to wrong conclusions. Definitely a personal choice, though, and I would expect personal preferences to vary widely by individual.

      1. Snork Maiden*

        Oh, I absolutely agree. I should add, I jumped to comment after seeing the picture of the rings and I have only just noticed the OP’s request for no advice on how to minimalize it, so my comment about not noticing and the prosthetic is unnecessary and a bit off and I apologize. What I meant to say is, the rings have become normalized through widespread use in my city and would not be considered unusual.

  9. LadyCop*

    #3. Generally, I don’t think you need to mention it , as the rest of your appearance and behavior will speak to your professionalism.

    However, in my line of work it wouldn’t fly, and oddly, the braces look almost identical to a slave bracelet/ring combo I saw a friend wear a week ago. So…if it’s necessary to mention, I agree being up front…and saying they’re braces for a diagnosed condition. No need to elaborate further.

    I myself have run into the do I/don’t I situation with my PTSD, because so many people hear that and assume “crazy rage attacks,” but I also know many people are mature and professional enough to know that I can be trusted with my own medical care.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’ve been disclosing my dyscalculia because it’s fairly severe, and I don’t want someone who hires me to later think I’m expressing concern about a particular task simply because I don’t like it.

      1. LawBee*

        You are literally the only other person I’ve met, online or off, who has dyscalculia. Hi, fellow numbers sufferer!

        I have a theory that it’s not diagnosed more often because it’s mostly found in girls, and we all know that “girls are good at reading, boys are good at math”. (Seethe.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          \_0_/ Hi! Sucks, don’t it? :P

          When I was in school, nobody even mentioned dyslexia—I never heard of it until Theo on the Cosby Show said he had it. It was from watching a George Lopez rerun that I found out about dyscalculia. When I looked it up, I thought, “Holy catfish; that’s me.”

          I’d almost rather have something else, if it meant I could get a damn decent job. :P

          1. LawBee*

            I found out about it in my thirties, decades after my algebra and calculus related tears. A friend’s son was diagnosed with it. One quick google search later, and my whole world was explained. Had I only known…
            And yes, Theo! First time I’d ever heard of dyslexia, too.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          Hi! Not officially diagnosed, but the more I look into it, the more convinced I am that I probably have at least mild dyscalculia.

    2. ChickenSuperhero*

      Oh! Slave gear is a twist! Yeah, better to mention it’s a brace up front.

  10. Elizabeth West*

    #1–I had multiple coworkers who used chewing tobacco and even dated a guy who did, back when I smoked (I would never tolerate any form of tobacco now because I’m an addict and can no longer be around it. No, I didn’t use chew!). The coworkers were very discreet about it; even if it were allowed at the OP’s workplace, Fergus is doing it wrong. He should not be doing it, of course, but ONE spit container is more than enough and he should be getting rid of them regularly. When they sit around, the smell gets really bad. I can’t imagine cleaning it up off the floor if they spill. Ugh.

    I think Alison’s right–he waited until the smoke cleared (sorry) and started up again. I’d take her advice and go back to your manager.

    #3–I probably wouldn’t say anything about the finger supports unless the interviewer seems quizzical about them, or comments on them (“Unusual rings,” or whatever). I did think they were rings at first, and even with your cane, they might think the same. They might not even care.

  11. SL #2*

    OP #3: I have multiple friends with EDS of varying severity, but all of them have similar splints to yours and I’ve seen them deal gracefully with all sorts of questions about what they are and what they do and why they’re needed. I definitely agree with Alison’s advice, and definitely not with your friends’ advice to take them off!

    When you go in for the interview, you’re more than likely going to have to shake hands with your interviewers. That’s probably going to be your best opening to mentioning the splints, because a lot of interviewers are going to say something along the lines of “that’s some interesting/beautiful jewelry” when they notice it. Something along the lines of “thank you, but they’re not jewelry, they’re medical splints for a condition I have” will probably fly for an interview. No need for too many details yet, but just enough to acknowledge that yes, the splints are interesting, but they’re also medical equipment and shouldn’t be considered a reflection of your professionalism.

  12. Woah*

    Hey! Another EDS-er here! I’m hypermobility type. Made me so happy to see here! I’m also in academia so how to address my odd array of braces, canes, tape, and other supports has long been a question. :)

      1. straws*

        It’s amazing how much of a community there is, once we all start speaking up and connecting!

          1. Ween*

            Another here! I also thought Google was glitching with a remarketing image when I saw the photo.

          2. GOG11*

            Great idea! Would anyone be interested in discussing accommodations and coping mechanisms at work in the Friday thread and then doing a meet up thing in the weekend thread?

            1. hEDS Academic*

              Its a date- next Friday on AAM. Work accommodations. Flex scheduling and OT/ PT. Disclosing in or after interviews (or at all). What do you do on really bad days?

          3. Stacy*

            I love this idea! I’ll probably miss the Friday thread because I’ll be working, but maybe i can catch up later & see you all in the weekend thread!

    1. GOG11*

      Just got my diagnosis of HSD (on the spectrum with hEDS, but I didn’t have the poor wound healing and skin hyperextensibility that would have made my geneticist go with hEDS).

      I start OT and PT today and I’m so excited!

  13. Former Computer Professional*

    I’m in the say something pool for #3. I’d say something like, “Please ignore the medical braces on my hand.” and possibly add, “It doesn’t affect my work.” That covers the issue simply while not getting into the worry that they’re cosmetic in nature.

  14. Kella*

    I was pretty excited to see a letter writer who had EDS because I have it too! I like Alison’s advice, but here are my additional thoughts:

    When I’m discussing my disability with someone in a professional setting, I tend to prioritize two things: 1. I avoid letting the conversation get too heavy or serious since many people hear unfamiliar health condition and get very grave about it right away and 2. I avoid paths to discussing my health in any detail.

    I like to use humor for the first one, so if someone shook my hand and commented on my unusual jewelry I might say, “Thanks! They help me lift frying pans!” which would be likely to catch the interviewer off guard enough to make them laugh, but I tend to have a sassy personality.

    For the second, if I want to out my disability but not discuss it, I like to casually drop it into conversations where my disability is not the focus: ie “this one time my finger braces got stuck in my earrings…” or “I was talking about this same thing with my physical therapist last week…” This is a bit harder to do in an interview where it’s less social, but I imagine it would be possible to find a way to mention your finger braces casually if you don’t want to directly point them out or are worried about the interviewer wondering.

  15. anonintheuk*

    I also have hypermobility EDS, but my hands are not badly affected so generally I don’t need bracing.

    Following an incident where a client squeezed my hand so hard my thumb subluxed and I had to spend the afternoon with an ice pack on it, I have taken to wearing a large amber cocktail ring on my right hand for interviews and new client meetings . One of my staff refers to it as ‘an upper middle class knuckleduster’.

    1. GOG11*

      Fellow zebra here! I find it funny that my hand can fold in on itself when it’s inconvenient but when it would be useful for it to turn into a hypermobile blob of no use to me, like when in a crushing handshake, it doesn’t happen.

  16. Florida*

    I’m not sure how helpful all the comments are that say, “you don’t need to mention the rings.”

    OP said she wants to address the rings and wants help with how to do it. Maybe we should help her with wording that would give her confidence to do it rather than telling her it’s unnecessary.

    Having said that, I like the comments were people suggested mentioning it during the handshake. It is relevant at that point and won’t seem awkward. I think Alison’s wording or something similar is perfect.

    1. Charleston*

      I would certainly notice the rings because I like unusual, simple jewelry. I might comment on them for that reason alone. Since a handshake could cause her discomfort, I like Alison’s wording as well.

  17. Poor Fergus*

    #3 – Some people may see these braces and make assumptions about you. So I think when you shake their hand when you meet them, just say something like “excuse the braces, they’re for medical reasons.” Or whatever. They can already see you’re using a cane, so they’ll accept it and get on with the interview.

  18. Rebecca*

    #1 – I would have thrown up on his desk by now. The very sight and smell of “chew spit” makes me physically nauseated, as in, if I don’t turn away and get out of there immediately, there will be consequences. This is beyond gross in the workplace, especially an office! And even at that, I think the worst part is he’s flouting his behavior in his manager’s face by blatantly breaking the rule against tobacco in the workplace. Please speak to your manager again. You shouldn’t have to put up with this. If Fergus is that addicted, he can buy nicotine gum to make it through the work day.

  19. Lady Phoenix*

    You can bring up that the rings are accomadations that you need for the job, since the rings give you stability to do your job.

    1. Jessesgirl72*

      I would advise against this. Already bringing up the word “accommodation” in the first interview might lead interviewers into the temptation of breaking the law. (I loved that framing of it from a couple weeks ago)

      I’m on team “mention they are braces before hand shake” and move on.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree. And to be fair, they’re not accommodations—they’re medical devices the same way a pacemaker, diabetes pump, splint, kinesiotape, or eyepatch is a medical device. They require no accommodation from the employer.

        But it’s fine to mention them up front if it would make OP feel more comfortable and if it would avoid speculation/distraction on the interviewer’s part.

  20. MommyMD*

    I wish I could unread the chewing tobacco letter. What a foul, disgusting habit. I’d turn him into whomever it took him to stop and not care if he knew.

    1. Kasia*

      My former boss chewed. It was a federal facility and tobacco use indoors was forbidden but that didn’t stop him. He used pepsi bottles to spit into, but if he didn’t have a bottle with him would spit into a trash can. As far as I know, he didn’t hoard the spit like this dude.

      God. It was so gross.

  21. Aloot*

    #1: How disgusting! Please talk to your manager again, then again if he doesn’t knock it off permanently! Bring up that he keeps spit bottles *under his desk*. (Gross!!) Bring up how he uses it when speaking to the public! (Cause yeah, if I was in that crowd I would not have any warm thoughts about your company afterwards.)

    #3: I feel very strongly that either you take them off entirely, or you tell the interviewers that they’re medical braces. Just a casual “please pardon my finger braces” before shaking hands is more than enough. You can follow up with “yeah, they make me type like a racer!” if you want.

    Like you say yourself, they don’t look like rings that are acceptable to wear to an interview, and I think it’s much better to adress them from the getgo than chance having the interviewers think that you are making a bad judgement call by wearing purely cosmetic jewelry like that to the interview. (“If she’s wearing that to the interview, what kind of style will she have once she starts working with us?”)

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, the habit is gross enough, but the fact that he keeps his old spit containers sounds like he’s crossing over into pee-hoarding territory.

          1. bridget*

            In Bossypants, Tina Fey wrote that she came up with that plot because that actually happened to her while working on SNL (discovered that her co-workers were keeping jars of their own pee on shelves in their offices).

          2. Cath in Canada*

            I might possibly have seen this in a previous job, when the big boss was on deadline. There was plausible deniability that it was in fact diluted yellow Gatorade, even though he never usually drank anything sugary. I prefer to think that it was Gatorade.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I hear you, but I don’t think we should advise OP not to wear her braces. I know that’s not your core suggestion, but it just seems so cruel (imo) to encourage someone to forego essential medical treatment because interviewers may be ignorant. Would we tell someone in a wheelchair not to use it?

      1. OP3*

        Thank you, that’s one of the issues I have with it: there are so many of my friends who *can’t* hide their disabilities, that it seems disingenuous of me to try to ‘pass’ just because I can (temporarily). And I could end up in a wheelchair (though I’m trying desperately not to…) Like it or not, and most of the time I do not, this is now an essential part of who I am. It took me a while to stop being self-consciously waffling about using the cane, but then I decided to get a cane with a skull as the handle and get on with my bad self, so…I’m sure when I get a few interviews under my belt, Alison’s wording will start to feel like a part of me too. *grin*

        1. fposte*

          Though a lot of us “pass” most of the time just because different disabilities are differently visible, and presumably you have friends in that less visible category too. Either approach is reasonable.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I wasn’t going to say this. I would not worry about passing, OP. But it sounds like, even if you can go without braces temporarily, they’re pretty important for you to use on a regular basis. I’d rather you have that support than worry about dislocating bones during the handshake process!

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Stupid autocorrect! I was trying to say that I WAS going to say the same thing as fposte.

        2. Jessesgirl72*

          Good for you! My husband’s aunt has MS (so does he, but so far, so good) and uses a cane. So she got the most awesome decorative cane she could find.

          She is much happier than another aunt who always is trying to leave hers behind, and snapped at me once for even referring to it as a cane- insists it’s a “Walking Stick”

          If my husband has to go to a wheelchair, he insists that he’s going to get the type that will raise you to standing level, to minimize the psychological impact for both him and the people he’s speaking with. Not everyone has seen or heard of them, and thought I’d throw that out there, in case it’s of interest to you in the future. :)

          1. OP3*

            It totally is! I’m crossing my fingers (HA) that medical technology will advance fast enough to give me some pretty awesome options when they’re needed.

            1. JessaB*

              When I get to wheelie status with my Rheumatoid arthritis, I want one of those go everywhere chairs that have those treads that walk you up and down stairs. Those things are awesome and look like mini tanks. Right now however, I’m braced up and have a cane, forearm crutches, and a roll-ey Zimmer frame with a seat, depending on how bad I am on a given day. But those wheelchairs (there’s a group that makes em, and makes ATV like chairs, for veterans,) are awesome.

          1. OP3*

            I thought about the secret compartment/flask/sword, but I travel a lot. *sigh* The skull still gets side-eyes, though. *grin*

      2. Anonymous for EDS*

        Thank you! People with connective tissue diseases wear braces to prevent their joints from dislocating or to help their joints recover from recurring injuries.

        My kneecap dislocated five times in April. Imagining going without support or asking anyone to “pardon the brace” is kind of hilarious. OP doesn’t need to take their finger splints off any more than someone with broken fingers needs to take their casts off, and OP has nothing to apologize for.

          1. N*

            Hey OP3! I recently was in a conference put on by a disability rights organization that assists with employment, and they recommend just being upfront and saying, “As you may have noticed, I have ____ aid to help me with _______.” They recommend then making a quick comment about how your experiences and abilities are your strength in the workplace or how it gives you a different but important outlook that will be an asset in your job.

            I agree with the other commenters that you don’t need to mention the medical braces at all (and of course, there are many reasons why you might not want to delve into your medical history in an interview) BUT this is a way that I have heard some people successfully use this strategy to address their disability or illness while cementing why they are the best fit for the job. Good luck!

            1. Tuckerman*

              I like the “as you may have noticed” wording.
              I hesitate to agree with the second suggestion (how it gives you a different but important…) because I’ve read that some people with disabilities feel they are expected to be inspirational at all times. They can’t just be normal folks living their lives. They can’t resent their limitations. They have to constantly demonstrate how they have “overcome.”

              1. N*

                This is a fair point, Tuckerman. To clarify, I don’t mean: “This is how I have overcome my disability.” It would be more how it gives you a unique viewpoint, experience, or skill. An example I heard recently was from a deaf reporter who talked about how being hard of hearing changed the way that she interacted with those she interviewed (in a positive way) and motivated her to care about certain causes that were relevant to the topic on which she was reporting.

                And again, no job candidate has to go into it if they don’t want to. This came from a few different advocates who were working to break down stigma–in which case, the second wording could be used. It’s up to OP–I just thought I’d throw it out there. :)

  22. Jessesgirl72*

    OP1: If the second attempt at your manager making him stop these disgusting habits don’t work (at minimum, to make him be more discreet about it! Yuck!) then I might add in a “Since Fergus seems unwilling or unable to stop this, would it be possible to move me to another work station out of his view?”

    A lazy and ineffective manager would probably be willing to do that, if he can- to avoid having to deal with the complaints any more, if nothing else. It’s not ideal, but at least would help you!

    1. JessaB*

      This is true, and at least for the OP would be a possible solution, if the location is as nice as the one OP is currently in. But even if they can’t make Fergus stop chewing (they should be able to, however,) they NEED to make him police up his bottles every single day. The cleaning crew should not be exposed to this, and the company should not have to bear the costs of carpet/floor cleaning under his desk all the time.

      1. Jessesgirl72*

        I am pretty sure the OP would think any location away from that disgusting scene is a better location!

        And I agree that the manager needs to put a stop to it, but I don’t know of any way to force a bad manager to do what he’s supposed to do. So the OP should save herself!

  23. Anonymous Poster*

    OP#3: I’d suggest the script just addressing the rings up front, since they are unusual. Another option would be to use a more medical-y brace if you have one for some reason, because then it would look like if you had a foot brace or something. In the end though, it’s best just to be straight up about it either way, so that people aren’t getting distracted thinking about it. I wouldn’t suggest going without your braces though, because you’re exactly right about how important they are medically for you in the roles you’re interviewing for. There’s a good chance they’ll ask you to do something and demonstrate your skills, and there’s no reason to hamper your ability to demonstrate your ability to do the job because someone might think your braces look funny.

  24. Delta Delta*

    #1 – Wish I wasn’t reading this while eating breakfast because now I want to throw up. Since the manager can’t get seem to rein in Fergus based on a co-worker’s complaint, maybe what the office needs is for a customer/consumer to complain. I believe the letter says he does it in front of the public. Someone from outside the office also needs to complain. I think I would if I was at a public government-sponsored event and the person presenting was spitting into a bottle. There are probably people in the community who would do the same.

    #3 – The ring brace is really neat. I’d explain it simply like many others have suggested by saying something like, “this is actually a brace to help with my joints. Kinda neat how they made it look like jewelry, huh?”

  25. OP3*

    Thank you all for the advice and support! To address a few points:

    Yes, there are braces that look more ‘medical’ but I don’t use them for a couple of reasons–they’re plastic, less rigid, and I’m allergic to so many things (latex, adhesives, etc.) that I don’t want to chance getting something and having a reaction; plus, my hands are kind of small, and they don’t make them as small as the metal ones I use on my pinkies.

    I’ve had comments from SO many people in life that they just look like rings, which is why I wrote. I’m an anthropologist, so we’re pretty much expected to dress a bit eccentric and I’m not too worried about the ‘once I have the job’ portion of things. I talk with my hands, so they’d be quite noticeable.

    And between writing the question and having it answered, I got a job!! It’s a one year position, though, so I’ll be interviewing again next fall and summer, so this advice is great. Thank you Alison and commenters, particularly all my fellow Zebras (and if you’re interested, I got these on Etsy, searching EDS ring braces or splints.)

    1. Making myself nuts...*

      Thank you for explaining what these rings are. I’ve always found them beautiful and wondered if they had a specific intent. Also explains why I got a weird look and an awkward thank you the one time I complimented a customer on hers.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      Congratulations on the job! Given the other allergies, it makes complete sense to avoid other braces. A quick acknowledgement of them being necessary and treating it like it’s no big deal – because it is no big deal – is perfect. You’ll do great, and best of luck when you start looking again!

      1. JessaB*

        Also great idea for people who work in labs and places where other materials can be reactive with/to whatever they’re working on. Given the OP’s allergies, I’m going to assume they’re stainless steel, or titanium.

        1. OP3*

          Sterling silver. Which is good, because silver, gold, stainless, and titanium are the only things I don’t react to. Everything else is corrosive. *sigh*

    3. Observer*

      Congratulations on the job.

      From what you say, Allison’s advice seems perfect. If you run into a situation where you think it might not work so well, consider taking of the rings just for the first interview. I realize that the issue of erasing your disability might make that a non-starter, but if not, I think you can do that and then put the rings on once they know that you are otherwise professional and where bringing up the issue would be less fraught.

    4. The OG Anonsie*

      Ooh if you’re in anth you can just wear those without anyone wondering about your jewelry. That’s a bonus. Congrats on the job!

      I need to get some braces like this. Those normal ones are a nightmare and make it even harder to work with my hands IME, plus the latex issue. I gotta look for these.

      1. OP3*

        I like “Lovethebugs” on Etsy. He takes a while, and you may have to prod him a bit to get him to ship on time, but they’re half the cost of the others, just as useful, and there’s several styles available.

  26. Lady Phoenix*

    OP #1: Never has the phrase “Gag me with a spoon” have been so perfect. I HATE chewing tobacco and see absolutely no appeal for this stuff. The fact he keeps that crap under his desk like chewing gum is frankly mind boggling, considering the cleaning staff would have to clean his mess.

    Talk to the manager again and explain that he is doing this in front of potential customers, hiding the stuff under his desk and letting it make messes, and generally being flagrant about your manager’s orders like if he’s some rambunctious child.

    I would also request a move too because like Hell am I gonna stay in the mess any longer.


  27. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    #1 is so gross, and since spit/tobacco after use is technically a bio hazard, has LW considered OSHA?

    But if I were a dictator (for a college class we had to write about our perfect political utopia), smoking would be banned due to health effects from secondhand and third hand smoke. But, because I’m also a big believer in personal freedoms where they don’t infringe on someone else’s, chewing tobacco, vaping, possibly some hard drugs that aren’t smoked, and edibles would be allowed. With strong penalties for hurting someone else while under the influence of course.

    I sympathize that chewing tobacco is gross, and he should stop or be fired, but it doesn’t affect your health like his smoking would.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Just FYI, vaping has significant second-hand health effects. It’s not safe/non-toxic/non-carcinogenic for direct users or those in the vicinity.

      But we don’t really need to get into the policy prescriptions, here. OP doesn’t have to shobail a direct health problem for this to be intolerable in the workplace. I’d argue the stress and feelings of being nauseated from the smell/sounds and open bottles of used tobacco and spit is an adverse health effect, even if those are distinct effects from direct use.

    2. fposte*

      This gets mentioned sometimes, but OSHA doesn’t really label substances biohazards per se, and their concern is mostly for people in fields that occupationally require exposure . It’s an industrial-level focus on health care and bloodborne pathogens; they’re not really going to spit-police individual offices any more than they’re going to insist a retail worker doesn’t have to clean a poopy bathroom.

      1. TL -*

        Yup. If you’re working with biohazards, including bodily fluids, you don’t hear about OSHA at all, actually. There’s a whole bunch of other regulations and regulating bodies you go through.

    3. Statler von Waldorf*

      This post makes my head hurt. If your utopia bans people from doing things that you don’t approve of, I find it hard to believe that you’re a big believer in personal freedoms. That’s like me saying that I’m a big believer in free speech, as long as you don’t say anything that offends me.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That’s not really what overcaffeinatedandqueer said, though.

      2. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Personal freedoms…that don’t affect the health and safety of others. If smoking is allowed, people who don’t smoke are going to have to breathe in secondhand smoke and deal with third hand smoke. Which causes lung cancer and other problems and exacerbates asthma and allergies.

        Decisions like drinking (if you don’t drive drunk), and chewing tobacco, though bad for the user, do not directly affect the health or safety of those around. That’s the difference.

        If it’s not causing health or safety problems, make whatever decisions you want.

  28. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    No 1. As well as speaking to the manager again, if you have a Health and Safety person, get them involved. Bodily fluids in open containers must be against health regulations in any workplace.

    1. fposte*

      The US is less inclined than the UK to that kind of thing, but it wouldn’t hurt to check (might also be state guidelines, though usually they’re pretty focused on specific industries).

    2. Statler von Waldorf*

      Out of curiosity, I check the HSE regs for my location. From my reading, it would not be against the rules to have bottles of bodily fluids in the workplace, although you would be required to wear gloves and proper PPE to clean it up if it spilled.

      In my option, this isn’t really an HSE issue, it’s a “manager need to follow-through” issue.

  29. OldJules*

    #5 Please don’t do that. You risk looking like you are playing companies against each other. It would leave a bad taste in hiring manager, recruiter and HR’s mouth. Normally, when we make offers, we are making a good faith offer. If you want to negotiate, feel free but if you use the well, my company counter offered with, X% more can you sweeten the deal further, it leaves a terrible impression. We are not going into a bidding war. This is not ebay.

  30. Jessica*

    OP3, I had never seen or heard of those braces before, and would have read them as funky jewelry. I agree doing it around the handshake is good, but maybe more toward right after? If we’re about to shake hands and you suddenly reveal that your hand is covered with medical splints, I might feel a bit anxious, like Am I going to maim this person and dislocate her bones with a normal handshake? Is she really telling me she’d prefer not to shake, but wasn’t assertive enough to be clear about it?

    1. OP3*

      *grin* To put your mind at ease, handshake have become easier since I started wearing these. The person’s hand closes on the rings, which don’t compress. It’s like tiny, pretty armor.

      But you’re right, after the initial handshake might be best.

  31. Allison*

    #1 Ewww! Workplace policy vs. individual freedom aside, what he’s doing is inconsiderate and obnoxious. It sounds like he really doesn’t care how his nasty habit impacts others.

  32. neeko*

    Yuck yuck yuck yuck. I want to barf just reading OP 1’S letter. Definitely, bring it up! So foul.

  33. AnonyMouish*

    OP #5 – I’ve been in your exact position, industry and all. I’d remind you that the business is small — no matter how big a market you’re in — and it’s clannish (after all, what other industry discussed on AAM uses expressions like ‘rival network’? Our business is weird). When you cross from Current Network to Rival Network, they are going to want to make sure you are swearing allegiance to Rival Network forever, that Current Network shall never again pass your lips. Saying you think Current could improve on Rival’s offer is going to signal that you don’t really want to be working at Rival, which won’t help you rise in the ranks.

    Entertainment in general can be notorious for low pay, because “a million people would kill for this job”, so I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t ask for what you’re worth. But at your level, chances are good that if you try to play one off the other, they’ll shrug and move on to the next bright-eyed up and comer.

    1. Pinkyout*

      Thanks for your perspective!
      Yes, our industry is so weird. I have so many stories that aam readers would find bonkers.

  34. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#3…Alison’s wording is perfect. I’d definitely mention it briefly because, as so many others have said, the rings might be distracting. I believe it could also lead some interviewers to wonder if you are not familiar with professional dress norms, which extend to jewelry. If this were jewelry, and you did not have a medical reason for wearing it, I would say that I don’t believe it is interview appropriate.

    And for what it’s worth, I think they look really cool. Good luck on the job search!

  35. the wall of creativity*

    #OP1 Just ask you boss to come over to your desk. Then show him what’s under the other desk. Sometimes showing is better than telling.

  36. formerly Nina*

    OP 3: I think your ‘rings’ are beautiful. I would add to Allison’s comment “finger stability … as I have a connective tissue disorder.” I wouldn’t mention EDS or Ehlers-Danlos in the interview. It is so unknown and a well meaning person will ask what it is then how to spell it (it is not easily spelled when heard) then later they will google and it may lead to further misunderstanding. There so many types and degrees of suffering and symptoms … I just wouldn’t get into it during the interview.

    My 13 yr old has HEDS, pending the genetic testing right now. I am so grateful for early diagnosis. I truly hope you are not suffering as many EDS people are.

    Best of luck to you.

  37. The OG Anonsie*

    #3 I have EDS and I… Think I would personally do something the LW would not want to. I take pains to hide my disability in hiring because people, generally speaking, are disgusting in how they react to it and file it away for later trouble with me. I don’t hide use of braces or mobility aids at work, but I never ever volunteer information if I can avoid it. Every time I have done this I’ve regretted it later. I don’t trust people to not be ableist shitheads anymore. I can’t stop them from seeing the cane but I can leave it at that and not give them any more information for them to play Ultimate Judge Of My Disability with.

    Not sure what I would do about the ring braces. I’d probably leave them on any particularly problematic joints but not wear all of them, and not say anything about it. Alternately, I might tape those joints instead if that worked for me, just for those couple of hours.

  38. ggg*

    It would never have occurred to me before reading AAM to comment on, or even give a second thought to, someone’s jewelry during an interview. But now I feel I should be on the alert for stealth collars and medical devices.

    The script is fine. I like the idea of addressing it during the handshake.

  39. Ali in England*

    As usual I learn something reading AAM. :)
    Never heard of Ehlers Danlos syndrome before today – have put that right. And the ring splints look amazing, though not something I would immediately identify as a medical device, so the advice to provide a (brief) explanation to interviewers seems sound.
    Tobacco Chewing Guy – to paraphrase Stephen Fry ‘Sometimes there isn’t enough eeeurrrgh in the world!’

  40. Kimberly*

    #3 I like Allison’s script. I’ve had to decline to shake people’s hands because of a potentially deadly peanut allergy, so I get how awkward it can be.

  41. OP #1*

    Thanks for the comments and support!

    I spoke to our manager today who said he will address the issue, (again). He said he was surprised that my coworker was chewing again and made mention that ‘Fergus’ has been under a lot of stress lately, (not sure if I buy this as an excuse, but at least there is movement in solving the problem).

    I asked to be left out of any conversations– Manager said that he will approach the problem as if a complaint was lodged from the a community member and not an employee.

    Reading all of your supporting comments and suggestions has helped me realize that I am justified in my complaints– thank you all!

  42. AlaskaKT*

    OP #3, I also have EDS. While I don’t have those rings, I have other signs of my disability. I’ve never mentioned anything until after I received an offer, if I needed an accommodation. Since the rings aren’t gaudy, I’d leave them on and only mention what they are if the interviewers ask, or if they look pointedly at them.

    Good luck on your job search!

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