should I talk to a coworker about how she dresses, I live with my bosses, and more

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

1. Coworkers want me to talk to another coworker about how she dresses

I am in a very awkward position. Two housekeepers approached me about my coworker because they think her attire is inappropriate. Another colleague made a comment to me a few days ago saying, “Does our dress code policy allow us to wear clothes that look like they are painted on?”

My colleague is in her mid-20s and I am in my late 20s. We have the same role at our organization, which involves working with the public 75% of the time we are at work. She often wears tight dresses and clothes (think #teacherbae) that draw attention to her chest and bottom.

The two housekeepers who approached me are older women. They had several harsh things to say but suggested that I pull my colleague aside and tell her to wear something more conservative. I am not this person’s boss. I have worked at the organization a bit longer but I don’t feel it is my place. I have also complained about this particular coworker to my boss before for different reasons (work performance related) and don’t feel comfortable going to my boss about another problem for fear of looking like a tattletale. I also personally feel weird about telling another woman how she should dress as I feel it comes off as judgmental. I am also curvy and understand how some clothes look inappropriate on me while they might look appropriate on someone else. Our organization has a very specific dress code but it is not consistently enforced.

Should I stay out of this situation? Should I talk to my colleague? Should I go to my boss? Other people are talking and coming to me but I don’t really want to be involved.

Stay out of it. You’re not her boss, and so you don’t have standing to tell her to change how she dresses — and you definitely don’t have any obligation to do it just because your coworkers want you to. If your boss has a problem with it, your boss can address it. If your coworkers come to you about it again, say this to them: “I’m not Jane’s boss so I’m not sure what you want me to do. If you think there’s a dress code issue that’s posing a problem, you should talk to Lucinda, who has the authority to address it.” If they keep mentioning it to you after that: “I’d appreciate if it you’d leave me out of this, since I’m not Jane’s boss.” And “Like I’ve said in the past, this isn’t something I want to be involved in.”

2. Work social activities that don’t feel forced

We’re trying to promote a more unified team in office. I’m on the “committee” to have events outside of the office that people can go to. We’re looking for more than just happy hours, possibly even some volunteer work. My question is, how can we come up with ideas that don’t feel forced? One idea was to do karaoke some place but I remember a letter of someone being forced to do karaoke and being miserable. I don’t want anyone to dread these out-of-office adventures, but I also want people to participate. Any advice?

Honestly, anything you can come up with will probably feel forced to someone, unless you have a very small and very homogenous group. Some people would love to do karaoke with coworkers; others would hate it. It’s the same thing for bowling, baseball games, volunteer work, movies, picnics, escape rooms, and pretty much anything else you can think of. That’s just how it goes when you have a diverse group with different interests, and different levels of desire to socialize with coworkers outside of work.

Given that, if you definitely want to have social events outside of the office, the solution is to either (a) make them voluntary (and that means truly voluntary; no unofficial frowning at people who don’t participate) or (b) accept that some people are going to hate what you come up with. A is a far better option than B.

3. I’m stuck living with my bosses

I originally moved out of state to work at a new job. I am a recent college graduate, and this is my first professional job.

This job started out as an internship with housing given to me free of charge (a small apartment owned by the company). Six months ago, they officially hired me. I am the only full-time staff. I began paying them rent on the apartment. Later, the opportunity arose for me to rent a house. My bosses encouraged me to take the house. Plans fell through and I couldn’t get the house. But now they’ve rented the apartment out so … I’m living with my bosses. The cost of living is VERY high here and I can’t afford a place in a safe neighborhood on my own.

The person staying in the apartment now is supposed to just be there for the summer. If that’s the case, I can move back in August/September. I hope.

My bosses are husband and wife. The are really nice people and clearly don’t think there is anything weird about this. But I feel like I have to be on my perfect behavior all the time. This is weird, right? What should I do?

Yes, this is weird. It’s not normal to live with your bosses.

It’s also true that you’re much more likely to see weird stuff like this when you work for tiny companies and you’re the only employee. That doesn’t make it okay or less weird though.

If there was a house you were going to be able to afford to rent (even though it fell through), there might be something else out there that you can afford. I’d be actively looking every day for other housing options, even if it’s with roommates.

4. Should I take a cubicle or a shared office?

I have been working a few months at my first out of college job, and an interesting question has arisen: my organization is hiring two new people at a higher level than me (and I am on a 1.5-year contract, as opposed to indefinite), and there is only one open office currently available. Since I am the most junior person who would typically get an office, I will have to move sometime in the next few months.

My options are either moving to my own cubicle, or seeing if a particular coworker is okay with sharing an office. This particular coworker, who I don’t know very well, works at a remote location and usually comes to the main office on Fridays, and occasionally other days as needed. Location wise, the cubicles and the (possible) shared office are very close to my current office, so physical location isn’t in question. Would you recommend taking the cubicle or the shared office?

A cubicle versus a private office that someone else will only be in about 20% of the time? I’d take the office.

But it depends on what you value most. You might be happier in a cubicle that you never have to share with someone else, or you might value the greater privacy of an office enough to be willing to have it compromised on that one day a week.

5. Asking to work from a different office

I really enjoy my job (and while I’m entry-level, my employer values me and is helping me become more profitable for the company), but the hour-long, traffic-clogged commute is awful. It wasn’t this bad when I began, a year and a half ago, and I’m worried it’s only getting worse. I tried taking transit (unreliable, expensive), as well as working early (better, but the PM is the worst). So I’d like to ask to move from the suburban headquarters to the NYC satellite office, which is a mere half-hour from me by subway.

What I’m really struggling with is that there’s no way for me to feel out how much of an “ask” this is. The problem is that this is a coworking office, and adding me would add several hundred dollars a month. It could also set an expensive precedent if additional coworkers wanted to move there, too. Plus, there’s the change factor.

On the other hand, as a partner observed, it would be a lot better for us; as a coworker observed, it would make a lot of us a lot happier (including future recruiting and retention). I also suspect that if a few people moved there and we switched to a non-coworking office space, cost might be a wash. Plus, although I try to get in earlier (to miss the worst traffic) and leave at 5 p.m. exactly, there are days when I’d work a bit longer except that I know staying 15 minutes late means I’ll run into additional traffic — maybe ten minutes, maybe an hour. It seems like they might eventually lean towards expanding NYC anyway, but it’s hard to tell.

So — is it even appropriate for me to ask about this? How do I do so tactfully and in a way that doesn’t imply not getting this would make me start looking for a next job (even though it likely would)? Beyond mentioning how much I like my job and am excited by my increasing responsibilities, is there anything else I should know or say?

I think you can ask as long as you do so in a way that makes it clear you understand it might not be possible. I’d say it like this: “I love working here and I’m really thrilled with the increasing responsibilities I’m taking on. I’m finding, though, that my commute is getting worse and worse, even when I try switching up my route, taking public transit, or coming in earlier. Would it ever be possible for me to work from the NYC satellite office instead? That would save me about X amount of time off my commute each day, and it would let me stay later sometimes without worrying about putting myself in the worst part of rush hour. I realize, of course, there might be reasons it wouldn’t work, but I wanted to raise it and see what you think.”

{ 304 comments… read them below }

  1. Gaia*

    OP #2 My office is big on social activities. It is a significant part of our culture that we have these events. However, we have taken a very firm stance that these are *completely* voluntary. There is no official or unofficial requirement to attend all (or any) of the events (with the exception of those you have RSVP’d to, where the company has paid for your attendance. In those cases you’re expected to attend unless something unavoidable comes up). This is such a big thing for us that we have a dedicated budget roughly equivalent to that of twice a manager’s salary each year to pay for these events. We have some people that attend nearly all events, some people that attend a few and some that will never show up. All of that is fine.

    If you don’t want events to feel forced, don’t force them. And make it clear that it isn’t unofficially forced (as in: it is okay if you don’t come but then you’re going to be mentally marked as ‘not a team player’). Also, ask people what they want to do. You can’t please everyone all the time but you can offer a variety of events that people say they want to attend.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is excellent and on point. It’s also worth planning a wide variety of events so that people with different preferences can find something they enjoy (again, emphasizing the voluntary aspect and not subconsciously or consciously penalizing someone who opts out of everything). We had a group that would do this from time to time—sometimes we’d go see a new play, or we’d do pub trivia, or happy hour, or catch a baseball game, or go to the cherry blossom festival, etc. We also tried to keep the cost of participation down for folks. If the employer is sponsoring these events, it would be helpful if they can help defray costs, as Gaia notes.

    2. periwinkle*

      Along with a variety of activities, seek out activities which offer a variety of ways to participate. If there’s a volunteer event to clean up a walking trail, for example, more active folks could pick up trash while less active ones could hand out water or mark maps for progress. I avoid karaoke and my bad knee prohibits team sports, but I would sign up immediately for trivia night or an Escape Room activity.

      And yeah, participation should never be mandatory or expected.

      1. Gadfly*

        Along with this, OP needs to remember accessibility in a broad sense. I belong to some support-ish type groups where issues like not being able to participate in a lot of activities because of low (often arbitrarily) weight or size limits, or there are stairs/no elevators/one stupid step in a bad place and someone uses a mobility device or similar things are problems. Really think through what could cause people problems. Because not being able to be part of the team for reasons like that, being overlooked and erased, is worse in some ways than insults to your face.

        1. (Different) Rebecca*

          Yup. Joint issues mean I can’t bowl or hit balls, and PTSD means an escape room is WAY out, so…

        2. Temperance*

          Yes. Plus, as someone who was really physically weak for a long time but didn’t LOOK it, it’s hard to navigate these things when the default is “healthy” and “able”.

          I also don’t think I’d like my colleagues more if we were out picking up trash together or what have you. If the goal is bonding, why don’t you let us go to happy hour, with the first beer on the org?

          1. NLMC*

            Because not everyone drinks or feels comfortable in a bar setting. People avoid happy hours for religious reasons, being in recovery, not wanting to drink (even one) and drive, not wanting to spend more time away from family than they already do.
            Happy hour’s can be good options, but definitely don’t include everyone.

          2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            Yeah, I think happy hours are definitely a good place to start with employee bonding activities, but they are a terrible place to _end_.

          3. Monique*

            I would flip your question around – for me, I’d ask – if I have to do some sort of work bonding event (and really, I am not a fan), why can’t I be volunteering? I don’t like bars, and it’s hard for me to hear people speaking when we’re in large groups, let alone with the ambient noise of a restaurant or bar …

            I worked at a company that gave us three optional “service days” – two of them, if taken, had to be done with other co-workers. One of the group ones was trail work – moving rocks etc. Obviously not something you’d have been able to do, but for *me* infinitely preferable to sitting around drinking with co-workers.

            All of which just to say, YMMV.

            1. teclatrans*

              I think this is a great example of why rotating activities is so important. I have limited mobility (also not obvious), and also have a physical intolerance to alcohol that can sometimes be intense enough that just the smell of hard alcohol makes me queasy.

        3. teclatrans*

          Oh, this hits home. Back when I was in college I struggled with this so much, because bowling was somehow the go-to group bonding event. I have an invisible disability that makes bowling a go-to, and felt so unwelcome and erased when people I (haltingly, nervously) brought it up with just shrugged it off and said I could always just watch.

    3. New Bee*

      I’d add that if possible, you should try to have some social events during the workday (lunch activities, tea time, etc.). I no longer participate in social activities because I have to get to daycare pickup, and you may have folks who take public transit/need to let the dog out/carpool/etc. who can’t stay late.

      Maybe you can send out an interest survey?

      1. the gold digger*

        I was thinking the same thing. Your company has a very generous budget for this. But you know what I would rather have than an evening with co-workers, all of whom I really like but it’s still work if I’m with them?

        An extra day off.

        And if I can’t have that, I would like an activity during the work day. But spending money to do things in the evening? It’s all wasted on me because I am not going to participate if it’s voluntary. I’d rather be home.

        1. Anononon*

          My company has a bunch of smaller events throughout the year that happen at lunch time, which is really nice. Also, our two big events start around 1 or 2 so people can either attend without worrying about having to stay late or, at least for one of the events, they can leave early when the event starts and still get paid for a full day.

        2. Xarcady*

          Count me as another person who would rather be home than participating in a work -related event after 5 pm. I’m single and I don’t have kids, but as an introvert, I need my alone-time in the evenings to recharge and regroup from a busy day.

          If my company had after-work events, I’d maybe attend 20-25% of them–and only because I would feel I had to go to something., not because I thought I’d enjoy the event.

          Events held during work hours would be great, though. One place I worked for had a monthly lunch with a speaker–there was a physical therapist who talked about work station ergonomics, a archaeologist who was working on a Roman dig in Turkey, a nutritionist, and a lawn care specialist, someone who gave us all sorts of tips for using MS Word, among those I recall. Those lunches were very well attended.

          Especially if people are working a lot of overtime already, after-work events will appeal to only a few.

          And I remember that my brother was dinged on a performance review once for not participating in “voluntary” team-building activities one year–when all the team-building activities were after hours or on weekends. That was the year his new baby spent 7 months in NICU and finally came home, on a ventilator and with 24 hours a day of home nurses. My brother was spending every available hour at the hospital, and then at home. And his manager knew about the situation. But there was no reason my brother should have skipped the events–surely my sister-in-law could take care of the baby while he was gone, and when the kid was in the hospital–why did his parents need to be there? That attitude was a large part of why my brother is no longer working at that organization.

          Sometimes people choose home over optional work events for good reasons.

          1. kavm*

            uhhh, wtf @ your brother’s employer?!?!?!??!!

            I definitely agree that the vast majority of events need to occur during working hours. I like the idea to have speakers at lunch!

          2. teclatrans*

            Wow, what a punch in the gut. My heart goes out to your brother and his family. What a terrible human being that boss is.

          3. Parenthetically*

            The monthly lunch speakers sound amazing!! A local organization here does monthly pre-work seminars featuring a well-known entrepreneur or creative (and coffee and a light breakfast!) and lots of local businesses will attend corporately.

            And all the scowling faces to your brother’s ex-employers! Good lord.

          4. Xarcady*

            Well, you know, he “wasn’t setting a good example for the people he supervised.”

            And the baby in question graduated from high school last night!

            1. JessaB*

              Yay. One of the best updates EVER. So glad the kid is now okay. What a wonderful milestone.

            2. PersephoneUnderground*

              Sorry for re-posting to an old thread, but agh! He was setting a GREAT example to the people he supervised. Namely, that when your family needs you or an emergency comes up, it’s perfectly normal and expected to put work second. Probably meant if any of them had similar issues come up they knew they could trust him to understand if they needed flexibility. If only his own manager could have been trusted to get it the same way.

          5. Aeryn Sun*

            Yeah, as a very anxious introvert I need time at the end of the day. Add to that that I have a lot of plans / activities / hobbies, even though I’m single I don’t really have time to go out after work most days.

        3. paul*

          99 times of 100, I’m right there with you. Daycare, pets, hell, household chores…I’ve got things to deal with once I’m outta work you know?

        4. Gaia*

          Yea, unfortunately the nature of our work means that outside occassional celebratory events we really cannot hold events during the workday. We are under heavy regulation due to the work that happens in our lab and it would would inevitably mean we’d invite trouble in our door. I think it is understood among our teams and it is one of the reasons there is such a heavy emphasis on these being completely voluntary – because we can’t do a lot of events during the day and no one should feel pressured to spend time outside of work in any particular way.

      2. K.*

        Yeah, after-work activities are a non-starter for the team I’m on. Half have kids they have to attend to. Two of them have commutes that are over an hour (one on public transportation) so they have very hard stop times in order to pick up their kids from their respective day cares, which are close to their homes. If you have to scramble to find child care for a work social event, I’d imagine it would feel stressful. I don’t have kids but my after-work time is pretty full, as I’m training for something so my workouts are pretty scheduled (e.g. I made plans with a friend last Friday, but after my workout). I also have a biweekly evening appointment. I COULD do an evening event with some advance notice, but if it were voluntary I’d almost certainly say no – and there’s a good chunk of my team that couldn’t do it at all.

        1. Gaia*

          To be fair, we also take this into account and most of our events have families invited as well. Luckily we live in an area where commutes are a non issue. At worst you’re going to hit 5 minutes of traffic. And that’s on a bad day :)

      3. Jane Anony*

        In addition to the time it takes to socialize with coworkers outside of work, I just can’t afford it. I’m on a pretty tight budget to pay down my student loans early so I have to sit out of socializing unless I know that my meal, drink, registration, whathaveyou, is going to be covered by my employer. Not really a big deal in my office because we don’t do too much outside of the office, but something for OP to think about.

      4. aebhel*

        Same. I generally like my coworkers and would be happy to go to (certain kinds of) non-work events with them, but I’m the one who picks my kid up from daycare, and missing a pickup means that either my spouse has to do it–which messes with his schedule–or my daycare provider charges us for late pick-up. And generally, a lot of people have stuff going on outside of work that they don’t want to (or actually can’t) put aside for Mandatory Fun activities. Scheduling some activities during the workday would allow those people to participate as well, if they want to.

      5. Sam*

        Completely agree on this, but OP should keep in mind that the “someone will hate it” rule also applies to mandatory fun held during work hours. My office has one day a year for “fun” activities or team building (barf), and the people that organize it hate it because inevitably people are grumpy about it, no matter what they pick. (Personally, I dislike it even when I theoretically enjoy the activity because this “fun” day always coincides with a major deadline in one of my projects, and they won’t let me out of it, even though my time would be far better spent on actual work.)

      6. Meri*

        I like the idea of a survey, asking for a list of things the person would enjoy and things that they would absolutely HATE doing. Because karaoke might have me rolling my eyes, but softball or something athletic would leave me crying in the bathroom.

    4. Planner Lady*

      Slight segue here, but how much do you think that not participating in these kinds of activities marks you as “not a team player” when you actively and visibly act as a team player to assist others when they need it? My optics for a lot of these after work activities are awful as I have significant scheduling issues (balancing work, study and volunteering) but when I am at work I’m more than willing to pitch in and help – Say, for example, someone is working from home and logging out early, I’d email them to ask if there’s anything they need me to help with to make that happen for them.

      1. Observer*

        It depends on the office. In the better places, it’s not a big deal, especially if people know what you’re dealing with. (This is one of the ways chit chat can be useful as it helps people create a mental map of who has what commitments in a general way.) In others? Well, there is a reason why Alison always warns that “voluntary” really needs to VOLUNTARY not “voluntold”.

      2. Tuxedo Cat*

        I’ve worked in offices where these things matter, even though they are voluntary. It was one of many reasons why the places I have in mind suck.

        Other places don’t care. Those places I found were better.

    5. AcademiaNut*

      I think it’s also worth noting that some people won’t like *anything* you do – they simply don’t want to engage in social or quasi-social activities with their coworkers, no matter what the activity is or when it is held.

      I’d come up with a list of a variety of feasible events that include a variety of activities, keeping in mind cost, accessibility and family/schedule friendliness, and send out a survey to see what people would be interesting in attending, to gauge the preferences of the office, and work from there. And make sure to have at least one of the activities be during office hours and free, for maximum possibility of participation.

      As has been said before, if the office is dysfunctional, activities won’t improve things, but if you’ve got a reasonably good workplace and morale, then having activities, if done well, can provide a benefit. I find the comment section here tends to skew towards people who dislike office social activities in general, but there are a lot of people who do genuinely enjoy them when it’s done reasonably.

    6. Kate*


      I thought my team really struck a good balance with an event last year.

      It was a cooking class- everybody got together to make lunch at a specific venue.

      -it was voluntary.
      -dietary restrictions were canvassed beforehand so nothing anyone was allergic to was on the menu
      -if you wanted to participate but didn’t want to cook (or weren’t comfortable eating stuff your coworkers made), there was an alternative thing right in the same area (it was a wine and cheese tasting thing, some people had wine, some people stuck to cheese)
      -it was completely paid for by our company
      -it was during work hours
      -everyone got to go home early afterwards

      I remember leaving thinking “THAT is how you do a work event”. I should add that there were about 30 of us, so it was not a small challenge to organize, but we also weren’t trying to cover 200+ people.

    7. OtterB*

      My office is also big on social activities. We have about 18 staff members and do several social things a year (not counting our holiday luncheon). Activities are never required. Boss asked recently what people wanted to do, and one of the staff volunteered to collect suggestions and collate into a list that people could pick their favorites from, which resulted in us doing an Escape Room. That was not my top choice, but I went and enjoyed it more than I expected to.

      Some of ours activities are during work hours and some are after work or on a weekend. Some are more active than others – climbing wall, bike ride, movie, Escape Room. Most often they are just staff but sometimes significant others and/or family are invited. We do an annual baseball game outing with family in nice seats where we can expense our meal at the ballpark. That comes closest to getting everyone, but somebody is always unavailable for one reason or another and that’s no big deal.

      So, as others have said: Must be voluntary. If you have a variety of activities, people have a better chance of getting to something.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        What is an Escape Room activity? I have NEVER heard of this thing before and it’s been mentioned many times already. I find the name of the activity rather ominous, LOL!

          1. JKP*

            But you’re not really locked in, only pretend locked in. You can leave at any time or use the restroom.

            1. JessaB*

              Yep it’s kind of like those mystery dinners, where someone acts out getting killed and you have to figure out who killed them. Kinda like live action Cluedo.

              But some people really can’t do those things because of prior incidents. I did remember one job where they always did this physical stuff (except for the annual barbecue, where the boss grilled stuff, and brought in pans of sides from a vendor,) that I pretty well negotiated “I’m the one who’ll stay here and answer phones and put out matches.” It wasn’t the kind of job where you have fires, more like lit matches.

              And it worked out, because people who really wanted to go could, and they knew I’d pick up ALL their slack that day. And he usually paid me time and a half for that day for covering for everyone.

              The only other time we did a team event that cost ANYONE any money was (it was an answering service,) and we all were asked (not coerced and not voluntold) if we’d give up an hour’s pay to charity. We would take after disaster calls for the Red Cross. It’s probably not labour legal (it’s on a really iffy scale, if everyone donates x bucks and the guideline is an hour of your pay,) but we did it anyway.

              There’s a consortium of nationwide answering services companies that call for free to the Red Cross and other relief agencies, the ones who become instantly their massive post disaster phone banks. Even if we did get paid to do it, the bosses didn’t bill anything at all for it. So those who wanted to would “donate x dollars to the cause,” which matched part of all of their hourly pay. And the boss always fed us good stuff while we were doing it.

    8. Tuxedo Cat*

      I really love all the comments about diverse activities, diverse times, diverse roles in the activities.

      The one I’d add is try to make sure that the event coincides when people will be around, particularly for workday events like a lunch. My current office habitually schedules office lunches during periods when people are traveling for work.

      1. JessaB*

        I think despite a lot of annoying companies, that it’s really good we as a people have become more aware of cultural and medical difficulties.

    9. Temperance*

      I’d like to add that events that start super early on the weekend are the worst. I still remember the anger/annoyance from events people when most of us declined doing a physical labor project at 8 on a Saturday. For me to get to the city by then, I’d need to be on a train by 6:30 a.m. I’m not getting out the door earlier than I would for work to go do manual labor when my own house is a damn mess.

    10. Alex*

      I hope you make it known to potential employees during the hiring process that this is something your company does. It sounds like my nightmare.

      1. Gaia*

        Of course. It is a huge part of our culture (again: that we have these events, not that people attend – we also make it clear that it is truly voluntary). And we are known for it within our industry.

    11. Jane Dough*

      Completely, truly voluntary is the best way to go. Your work sounds like they’ve got it figured out. Some people just can’t manage the spare time, for whatever reason.

      I’m working FT, going to grad school, and taking care of a terminally ill family member. It’s all I can to do to get a functional amount of sleep and show up for work with freshly-pressed clothes. If someone told me I needed to find a few hours at night to “hang out” for some team building, I would break down in tears.

    12. Newby*

      You can also come up with a list of options and send out a poll for people to fill out to indicate which ones they would actually be interested in. This will increase the chances that you will have a decent turn out.

    13. Liz2*

      I also want to say it’s important to know if this is being pushed just to have a report for the company look shinier or is genuinely organic to what the group wants. Is the team performing generally awesome across the board? Cause sometimes you just get the right mix who do work well but have no social impetus. The “why” of change is as important as anything and missing from the question.

      We all have competing priorities and people can tell if you genuinely want to make opportunities to connect or if you have a corporate agenda and are just asking for another slice of my time. I think if larger companies spent half the resources they do currently on promoting their feel good activities and instead actually raised benefits and resources for their existing work force they would be much better in the long term.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Your last sentence is so true! (But the op doesn’t seem to be like those companies)

    14. Lisa*

      My company is similar. Tons of activities, all completely voluntary, and a huge range of types/times/etc. I’ve only participated in probably less than half of what’s been offered since I started, but I still really love that it’s all there. They do a great job of formal vs. informal (big events at rented spaces a couple times a year, vs. occasional emails that anyone who’s interested can join for a happy hour after work, or walk to a nearby coffee shop in the afternoon); physical/athletic activities vs. volunteering vs. food-based vs. artsy/creative, all kinds of stuff; and even outside of work vs. in-hours things. I especially like the days when there’s a coffee bar & barista brought in, or donuts, or chips and dip, etc, and we’re just invited to come have some in the kitchen or lobby. On those days, you can go to hang around in the space to eat/drink and socialize, or you can take some back to your desk, or you can ignore it altogether. Some people ALWAYS or NEVER participate, sometimes it might just depend on your mood or workload for the day.

      But again, ALL VOLUNTARY. I have never gotten any blowback or judgment myself from not attending, nor have I seen or heard about that from anyone else. My manager, for instance, has only occasionally joined an on-site meal/snack, and as far as I’ve seen, has never participated in anything outside the office or outside of work hours, and it’s totally cool.

    15. Geoffrey B*

      Good advice. At my work, when organising things like end-of-year parties, we’ll ask people to suggest activities and then coordinate a vote on them. We use a method where everybody ranks the options from 1 (first preference) to n (last preference); we add up the numbers on each option and the one with the lowest total is selected.

      Normally that gives us something that works reasonably well for everybody. But if the winning option is somebody’s last preference or close to it, we’ll check whether that event is a deal-breaker, and if it is we’ll look down the list for something that everybody can enjoy.

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 You say you’d like to have a more unified team. I think it might be an idea to take a more focused look at that. Sometimes you can settle on something that feels like a solution without really working out what the problem is or what solution you really need.

    I’d have a think about what it is you really want to change. What does unified mean? Do people not get along? Do they not work well together? Are social events the right solution to the right problem or might you be better off thinking about other things like training or internal communication?

    1. Kerr*

      OP, if your company just wants to make more social events available, and you think there’s enough call for it, the completely voluntary option is the way to go.

      But if there are team issues within the office, or lack of communication between departments, that speaks to an actual workplace/team dynamics/management problem that’s never going to be solved by asking people to give up their free time to “team build” or paint houses or drink or do embarrassing karaoke in front of coworkers, or whatever.

      My workplace has been “encouraging” people to attend occasional after-work happy hours, and I feel annoyed even though it’s infrequent and non-invasive, and a lot of people enjoy it. Don’t tell me where to spend my precious few hours of productive free time.

    2. Caro in the UK*

      This was my initial thought too. You need to make sure that you understand why the team isn’t as unified as you’d like before trying to fix it.

      If department A resents department B, because B’s manager lets his team flex their schedules and work form home occasionally, whereas A’s manager is a rigid “butts in seats” type, then no social activity is going to fix that.

      If you’ve already done this, and found that everyone really loves their jobs, and has no gripes about equality, working conditions or pay, and their only issue is feeling like they do’t know their coworkers well enough, then go ahead with the (voluntary) social activities. But they’re not going to be worth anyone’s time (especially yours in organising them!) if there’s other, bigger problems lurking under the surface.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        Good point. We have a strong line between building a and building b, whereas I’m in building a and building b is not held accountable for anything. No amount of after work activity is going to change that. It’d just be a bandaid.

    3. MK*

      Also, it would be wise to take into consideration that initiatives like these can blow up on your face, or at least produce the opposite result. There have been colleagues with whom I had a perfectly amiable and smooth working relationship, but when we happened to spent time outside of work, I found them supremely annoying, which didn’t improve our working relationship.

    4. LQ*

      This was absolutely what jumped out at me. What is the real problem you are trying to solve here? Forced/Voluntary Work Fun is basically never an answer to a question at work. Or never a good one. If the problem is that morale is low because people aren’t sure they are going to get laid off? Corporate Outing is NOT the answer! Overworked? Corporate Outing is NOT the answer. Not getting alone? Corporate Outing is NOT the answer. Figure out what the real question is before trying to solve it with Corporate Outing.

      If the problem is people love each other and their job so much that the completely flexible and relaxed 9-5 schedule which pays them well doesn’t give them enough time together and they are clamoring to hang out on weekends and want someone else to organize it…then…MAYBE then then answer is entirely voluntary Corporate Outing.

      1. Isben Takes Tea*

        YES. Really evaluate your goals and make sure your proposed actions work toward them. If your goal is to have a more unified team, then voluntary social events street going to accomplish it, because not everyone is going to come. That means you’re going to be disappointed in those who don’t come (at least subconsciously), which means these are not truly voluntary.

        Having voluntary social events facilitates social activity and relief of tension, not work cohesiveness or problem solving.

        Crew problems on the Enterprise were never solved by a party on the Holodeck unless the only problem was a need for relaxation. Everything else was solved by managers managing.

    5. JessaB*

      Or another person. Sometimes teams look like they barely talk to each other, because they’re so busy doing the job that there’s nothing left because in the last ten years you’ve slowly but surely let three people in that department go, or be transferred, and at the time it was “they’re doing great,” but in the now, they’re floundering even though at the time each person left they picked up all the slack.

  3. Susan*

    #4 – In the choice between a cubicle and a shared office, I think it’s a no-brainer to take the office. If I’m reading this correctly, though, the shared office isn’t actually being offered — OP #4 would have to ask the coworker who occupies this office if she can move in. That could complicate things, because the coworker might consider it an imposition and be resentful of the OP for taking over her office. In that case, you have to consider whether it’s worth potentially upsetting a coworker to get a slightly better space.

    1. Mookie*

      I agree with your summary of LW4’s two options. It depends on what “seeing if [co-worker] is okay with sharing an office” entails. Does that co-worker have a veto? Will they feel comfortable using it if they do strongly object? One can certainly plan a script for this conversation that lightens that co-worker’s burden, such that the LW can make it clear she won’t be resentful if the co-worker declines.

      When reading this letter, I initially had a flashback to third year-undergrad accommodations: by lottery I won an opportunity to share a pre-furnished flat+loft with another student, and she ‘offered’ in advance that I could take the swelter-y loft as my living / sleeping space (for ‘privacy’) while she’d move her bed and micro-bureau below and take the rest of the flat, minus toilet and kitchen. For a small moment, I felt a thrill of violent resentment at being fobbed off upstairs until I realized that my own personal idiosyncrasies could not possibly be contained for an entire term in one-half of a L4′ x W6′ x H8′ cubbyhole, and I’d probably end up on the sofa downstairs every night if they were forced to try. So upstairs I went.

      My point being, LW, and as Alison says, know yourself and what you need and consider just as carefully the drawbacks of the semi-private office (and the possibly irate co-worker). It’s doubly important to do so when you’re presented with two options, one of which, at first glance, appears to be universally desirable, the obvious choice. Take a recce, if you don’t already know, of the office as it stands at present. Is it clean? Organized? Smelly? What do you know of the remote colleague’s work habits in-office? And will you have an option during your limited tenure to switch out to a cubicle if the going gets weird? Is there any shared space you can piss of to that one day a week, if the co-worker wants the space to herself? Would that sweeten the pot for her if it there is?

    2. CoffeeLover*

      I may be one of the few people on the planet that prefers open spaces over offices. I find offices too isolating and I’m amazingly good at drowning out noise while working. I actually find I’m less productive in an office because I tend to slack off more. On the isolation front, I’ve found it takes longer to get to know your co-workers when you’re in an office. People can stop by your cubicle on their way to the kitchen for a chat, but stopping by your office seems to almost be a barrier (ie like they need more of a reason to drop by). You also tend to get more visibility just from sitting at your desk.

      Honestly, I would really weigh hard on asking a co-worker to share. While it doesn’t seem like a huge ask from the outside, people can be really really resentful about these kinds of things (didn’t we have a whole post about people over reacting at work). They may feel forced to say yes even though they really mean no. There’s no way for you to know that and you may end up sharing with someone who can’t forgive you for stealing their space.

      In the end this is a completely personal decision, but if it was me, I would take the cubicle.

      1. MK*

        Also, they might agree to “share”, but actually feel that it’s still “their” office primarily and the OP is there on sufferance. I would prefer a cubicle that is exclusively my working space to being a perpetual office-guest in someone else’s.

        1. Arjay*

          This was my feeling too. I’m not sure of the logistics involved. If sharing the office means they share the same desk, storage, etc., on that 80/20 basis, I’d prefer my own dedicated space in a cubicle.

      2. LW#4*

        I’ve been giving it some thought over the weekend, and I’ve definitely been leaning toward the cubicle. I keep my office door open 99.8% of the time anyway, and I think having a cubicle might help me be a little more open/sociable with my coworkers, since I am not a naturally gregarious person. Also, I’ve been thinking that having my own cubicle 100% of the time would probably be worth it, especially since the thought of sharing work space in a smallish office is becoming less attractive the more I think about it. After several younger siblings, four years in a dorm, and two years as a grad student, I can pretty much do work anywhere, so a cubicle wouldn’t bother in terms of noise. And, really, when I first started out I was surprised to get an office and not a cubicle, so its not like I wasn’t prepared for it.

        1. DB Queen*

          I’d be leaning toward the cubicle too. I currently am sharing my office with my intern and it’s not so much that their presence bugs me, it just makes me crazy self conscious about everything I do. I am now painfully aware of every little quirk and noise I make. I’d much rather them have a separate space, but it’s just for the summer and we just don’t have any space.

          1. LW#4*

            Yeah, the self consciousness has occurred to me. I also bounce my leg(s) constantly, which would probably make me bad office-share material. I’m almost certainly going to take the cubicle, it just seems like less fuss and aggravation all around, with only a little less privacy.

      3. Jen RO*

        I’m another weirdo who likes open plan offices. I worked in a shared office for a while and I felt completely isolated, so I moved to the larger office space as soon as it was possible.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      I think LW2 should ask the co-worker and if it isn’t ok with her, then go to the bosses and have them come up with a solution. They have 2 work spaces and 3 employees. One would hope they have some thought to this when they hired the third person.

      1. Antilles*

        The bosses already *have* a solution – OP can have her own cubicle. They hired two new senior people with only one office available, so OP loses her current office and ‘downgrades’ to a cube…but there isn’t any other practical solution. This is just the way it works when you’re the most junior person on the team.

        1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Ahhh. I totally misread that. I thought there were more employees than space. Half my advice still holds: ask the coworker with the office and if it is a no, accept moving to a cube. It is not a good idea to take it to the bosses if the coworker is not onboard.

    4. Justme*

      I would much prefer the cubicle (a small area of my own space) versus an office I would share with someone. To each their own, though!

    5. AnotherAlison*

      In my opinion, TPTB should ask the person who is in the office only 1 day per week to take the cube, and they should not object to this. I would rather have a cube than shared office, but it doesn’t make sense for the person who is there 5 days per week to have the cube. However, if that office-dweller is at a higher level and would object to being moved out even though she is not there much, I think the OP’s best bet is a cube rather than asking to share the office.

      1. Justme*

        I’m losing my large office (for a smaller one) to someone who will be using it one day a week. But this person has seniority. So it sucks, but it’s how things work sometimes.

      2. Koko*

        Yeah, at my organization the employee who is in the office 5 days a week would have priority claim to a private office over someone who is only there one day a week. Even though there is a minimum job level to have a private office, and seniority/tenure plays a role in deciding who gets one, space is too scarce for an office to sit empty 80% of the week. Not matter how senior or tenured an employee is, if they’re in the office less than 50% of the week they go way down the priority list for offices.

    6. aebhel*

      It depends on the size of the office and the type of work that’s happening, too. For a long time, I shared an office with our part-time book-keeper, and it worked fine since she basically needed a desk and filing cabinet to do her job, while I needed a lot of extra table space for materials processing–there was enough space that we weren’t sitting on top of each other or getting in each other’s way. But if it’s a tiny office, or if both people need a lot of extra space outside their desk to do their job, that can be a different story.

      And yeah, definitely consider the coworker’s perspective. She might be fine with it, but she might really not, and she should definitely have power of veto; even for one day a week, you do not want to be sharing office space with someone who resents you for being there.

    7. Marisol*

      Good assessment. I think the political cost to moving into someone’s office could be high.

    8. Emi.*

      Having shared a bedroom with someone who really considered it *her* bedroom, I agree with this.

  4. Someone*

    OP 1: the example of #teacherbae is problematic. I agree that you should stay out of it.

    1. MadGrad*

      I had to look it up and agree, that is not a damning example. The fact that this woman has a body and it shows is not inherently evil, and if your boss hasn’t brought it up it clearly isn’t that big of a problem.

      I’m much more concerned about this gossip train going on where you work. Older women making nasty comments about a younger coworker and snide comments in the break room reflect much worse on your workplace than curves in my eyes!

      1. Mookie*

        Older women making nasty comments about a younger coworker and snide comments in the break room reflect much worse on your workplace than curves in my eyes!

        Particularly because Writer of #1 notes that the dress code is regularly flouted by many people. That the colleague is being singled out speaks volumes about what’s motivating this ‘concern.’

        1. Mookie*

          Actually, to clarify that because I’m misrepresenting what Writer of #1 has written, the rules aren’t always “consistently enforced.” That could signify several different scenarios.

        2. Siobhan*

          On top of which – these two older women are bothered, but are trying to manipulate OP into speaking up about it? Hell no.

          1. Lance*

            Agreed. Make them fight their own battles; don’t let them draw in someone of comparable age to be their paragon of ‘this is how it should be’.

          2. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

            This is really what stuck out to me the most. They need to stop gossiping and either 1) accept it 2) go to the boss about it or 3) go to the employee themselves (not recommended or encouraged btw)

    2. Writer of #1*

      That is really the only thing I have to compare it to. Also see that I wrote: “I also personally feel weird about telling another woman how she should dress as I feel it comes off as judgmental. I am also curvy and understand how some clothes look inappropriate on me while they might look appropriate on someone else. “

      1. Artemesia*

        The real issue here is not clothes; it is that you feel compelled to do what co-workers push you to do. It is common in offices for people to manipulate gullible people into stepping forward to ‘fix things’ that they themselves don’t have the courage to complain about. They are manipulating you. You are not the boss, why is it more your job to direct the co-worker than theirs? don’t let co-workers co opt you or use you as a human shield.

        1. Writer of #1*

          You are completely right. It frustrates me when other people I work with come to me about peers who are in my same role to complain. When I give them the manager information they are not willing to reach out. The people who said something do not have the same manager and they don’t really know our manager either.

          1. Bea*

            They need to stay with the chain of command. Which means talking to their management who then would go to your manager. These are catty, rude women who should know better.

            Disengage every time you have someone bring it up to you. “I am not Jane’s manager and I do not like you speaking like that (regarding harsh comments) about her to me. Speak with management and do not bring it up again with me.”

            Will it make these housekeepers happy and friendly with you? No. However they are not nice and you do not have to listen to them insult anyone to you simply because they cannot follow the right steps to complain.

            They seem like mean girls to me, so I have zero tolerance. They complain about this other woman’s wardrobe when their actions are grossly unprofessional, what a couple of nosy hypocrites.

          2. Artemesia*

            Fall for it and you become the office busy body. Been there learned not to do that. I am something of an initiative taker and had the ear of the boss and found that people were happy to push me forward to deal with things rather than dealing themselves. I had to learn to be very careful to not be used like this. Not your monkey, not your circus. Although be careful of the context in which you use this cliche.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            They’re doing this on purpose, OP#1, in part because they’re being cowardly and Mean Girl-ish. Why take the risk that comes from sharing their inappropriate, judgmental remarks when they can con you into taking that risk for them?

            I agree with Artemesia and Bea. Keep shutting this down, and shut it down every. single. time. You can pick one of at least four approaches, tone-wise. You can say they need to take it up with your manager, and you don’t want to hear other complaints cheerfully, with a blank/disengaged/1000-yard-stare, with slight annoyance, or in a bewildered tone. Vary as needed/appropriate, and repeat often.

          4. Ramona Flowers*

            A few more scripts that might help.

            Oh dear, I hope you figure out what to do. Anyway, got to get on with these teapots.

            That’s not an issue for me.

            I’m not able to help so there’s really no point talking to me about this.

          5. Observer*

            Give them the information and let them do what they want with it. Don’t even get into enough of a discussion to know that they don’t want to deal with it. “Her supervisor is Lucinda. This is her extension, and this is her email.” And then end the conversation.

            I agree the the dresses look a size or two too small, but I agree even more that it is TOTALLY not your problem. And, if the policy is not consistently enforced, then you REALLY, REALLY need to stay out of it. In fact, if you do wind up discussing this with your supervisor for any sensible reason, I’d just point out that if your coworker is a minority or in any other group that is commonly discriminated against, enforcing the dress code with her, when it hasn’t been enforced with others is not a really great idea. Better that the organization rethink it’s dress code and then start enforcing whatever it is *consistently*.

            Oh, and I agree with the others about the gossip train. If it hasn’t reached toxic levels yet, it surely seems to be heading that way.

          6. Mookie*

            If you’ve the time, Writer of #1, a couple of questions: are these housekeepers addressing or voicing these views to your other colleagues? Are they shopping around ‘concerns’ to anyone who will listen, but have otherwise been discouraged or fobbed off? Is there any history between you and them that explains why they’re talking to you about this? I could see why people you don’t directly work with might be confused about the level of your authority over this co-worker, but why do you think a colleague is doing this, too? Do they think you have your boss’s ear or something?

            1. Writer of #1*

              No they just mentioned it to me because I am in the same role as this worker. We are also 2 of 3 people with our role who work nights and weekends. Our manager typically works normal business hours. We actually work in a hospital (a very large one with multiple departments and a huge top down structure) so there are many different people in different roles and we all work as a team. I was also approached by a couple of members of nursing staff about it as well. It is very awkward. I think a few people approached me due to me being “the most senior” of the night and weekend people but I am not the boss at all. As I also said in a post below “What else makes this awkward is I am white. My colleague is Black. The 4 colleagues who have approached me are all older Black women in their 40s and 50s.”

              1. Mookie*

                Thank you, Writer of #1. That’s a very complicated dynamic. I hope the advice given here will prove fruitful for you. Best of luck. :)

          7. Lora*

            Adding a script: “huh. Have you spoken with her about it?” If the answer is no, say something like, “well good luck with that”.

            I cannot abide that nasty Mean Girls nonsense. The worst is when it is permitted to get to the point that HR is dragged in to tell everyone to play nice. By then it’s unsalvageable by any means other than firing the worst offenders as an example to others. Easier to put a stop to it before it escalates.

            Signed, a member of the Can’t Wear Button Shirts Club.

            1. Ann O'Nemity*

              I’d don’t even know if I’d use that script, as it could be assumed that the OP agrees with the concerns and supports the others confronting the person.

            2. Anonymous Educator*

              I agree with Ann O’Nemity. This approach addresses only half the problem (co-workers trying to get you to do their dirty work for them) and not the other half (co-workers judging your co-worker’s appearance).

          8. Bagpuss*

            I would stop giving them the manager information. It’s not your issue to solve, it’s nothing to do with you.

            If they other staff members are trying to get you involved just stick to “I’m not Xs manager” if they push expand it to “I’m not X’s manager, it is not appropriate for me to speak to her about your views. If you have concerns, you need to either speak to her manager, or speak to X directly, yourself.”

          9. Antilles*

            Don’t bring the problems to your manager for them unless *you* think it’s an issue big enough that *you* would raise the concern regardless of what they push/argue for.
            Because here’s the thing: The instant you bring it to your manager, *you* now own that complaint. Your manager isn’t going to view it as “OP simply passing this along from Margaret and Edith”, she’s going to view it as “OP’s complaint”. Any ill will from the co-worker, any irritation from the manager, any headaches of dealing with HR, etc – all of that will fall on you and you alone, because you complained to the manager.
            Do these women think the clothing is an important enough issue to be worth complaining to your manager about? If it’s not a big enough issue for them to step up and address it personally, then it’s clearly not important enough for them to be hassling you to address it.

          10. bookish*

            Yeah, I find it so weird that everyone’s coming to you about this. It seems more gossipy than “I would like to make a formal comment about this to the manager.” Which is what they should be doing if they really feel like the manager needs to know. I agree with Alison – tell them that if they have a problem, they can bring it up with the manager – you’re not going to do it for them.

          11. aebhel*

            I have a couple of coworkers who like to do this. I fell for it a few times, but in my experience, they mostly either just want to complain, or want someone to talk to management about it but know it’s objectively trivial and don’t want to face the blowback from management themselves. Either way, it’s not your problem and you shouldn’t get involved.

          12. CurvyGirl*

            Then you definitely have to shut them off. When they come to you, let them know its not your place and that you wont continue to entertain the conversations. They’ll stop pretty quickly if you say it firmly but calmly and stick to your guns.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I think the only situation where it would be appropriate for you to say anything to her would be is you and she were friends, and you the conversation was in that context, where as a friend you were giving her a heads-up that other colleagues were gossiping and criticising her behind her back. And even then it is highly dependent on your friendship.

        As it is, stay well away, and if they continue to pressure you, become a broken record – stick to one response (Something like “I’m not Jane’s manager, so it’s none of my business. if you have an issue with how she dresses you need to speak to her directly, or to her manager” If you think that she is sticking to the dress code but that her body shape means it looks different on her then your response could be “I’m not Jane’s manager, so it’s none of my business, but as far as I can see, she is sticking to the dress-code”

      3. Howdy Do*

        Yeah, I wonder what they meant by “problematic”. People being judgey about the woman dubbed#teacherbae is problematic because it seems to stem from her being curvy and a black woman. But the hashtag itself seems to just describe a teacher…who is lookin’ bae i.e. pretty or hot. And it’s a pretty particular Instagram kind of style that’s very in right now (and I’d have a hard time telling another woman not to wear while I, like you, am personally conscious about how a tight fitting dress like that on me looks much more provocative on my shape than a thinner or less curvy woman but what I choose to wear myself shouldn’t dictate what someone else is wearing.)

        1. Writer of #1*

          What else makes this awkward is I am white. My colleague is Black. The 4 colleagues who have approached me are all older Black women in their 40s and 50s.

    3. JamieS*

      I think it may actually be the perfect example. OP #1 doesn’t say her coworker wears inappropriate clothes. She just says others have complained and then mentioned the appropriateness of clothes based on body types. This leads me to wonder if OP’s coworker is wearing appropriate clothes but people are taking issue due to her body type. If that’s the case, Teacherbae is the perfect example to illustrate that since she received backlash for clothing that’s objectively appropriate (good length, no skin showing that shouldn’t be, etc.) because of her body type.

      1. Mookie*

        Fair point. I’d never heard of Patrice Brown and for a moment wish I hadn’t, but that’s my privilege talking and I’d much rather know about her experiences then be figuratively blind to them and end up enabling the on-line bullying (and school board concern-trolling) that has made her famous.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        Right – I thought it was a perfect example, I immediately understood what she meant – the woman who posted outfit photos and was nicknamed #teacherbae by the internet, posted some photos of herself in outfits that met the standards of professional wear but that some people thought were inappropriate and got really upset about because some of her outfits were tighter and figure-hugging. So it seems like a good analogy for the situation. Good article here.

        1. JamieS*

          Exactly. Honestly I thought it was ludicrous people took issue with her dress. I saw the pictures and my thoughts were that she looked on point not that she looked inappropriate. I won’t go on about this because I don’t want to derail but suffice to say *head blown*.

      3. The OG Anonsie*

        That’s what I took from it as well. Her clothes are objectively work friendly, but due to her figure other employees are making inappropriate comments about it. Bzzzzt. Shut it down.

    4. LoiraSafada*

      Seriously. I cringed. “Draw attention to her chest and bottom” also reads like “has the audacity to go out in public in possession of a body.”

      1. Kate 2*

        Yep. I always think, women have chests and bottoms, unless someone is wearing a sign saying “look at my chest and bottom”, they are just existing.

    5. Newlywed*

      So…I have a coworker who routinely wears clothing that is way too “sexy” for the office. I’m not talking about just figure flattering (I wear figure flattering dresses that may cling to curves; I’m not a prude). I’m talking about specifically:

      – tops that are completely off the shoulder (not just a cold shoulder top)
      – tight tops that are transparent (as in, I could completely see her bra cups and her full breasts through this top…)
      – tops that are very low cut and show at least 6″ of deep cleavage – (she was in a meeting the other day and bent over the table for several minutes and it was like “say hi to the gals”…I’m a woman and I had to keep forcing myself to look at her face because it was so blatantly on display, and the poor man next to me kept looking all over the room to avoid looking down her shirt.)

      I don’t have an issue with women wanting to look attractive, or with the fact that we have female body parts and some of our bodies are more curvy than others, and I don’t think you should be forced to wear a caftan to go to work so that you don’t “distract” other people with your boobs or butt. But there is a difference in a shapely, well fitted dress (like Selina Meyer in VEEP) that still looks feminine AND professional, and a bodycon dress from forever 21 that leaves little to the imagination. BTW…this woman is 50, not 20. She should know better, and I think she does. They just won’t enforce the dress code with her. It’s super annoying because even as a woman, I don’t want full on boobs shoved in my face on a daily basis :p.

        1. Newlywed*

          True. As someone who went from being more of a body type like Audrey Hepburn in younger life to a body type closer to Marilyn Monroe (due to weight, not surgery), I understand that styles look different on different body types…I’ve had to completely relearn how to dress myself. In this particular instance the person I’m referring to doesn’t have a body type that precludes them from being able to find work-appropriate attire that is flattering and fits well (I know that’s a real issue for some women with different body types). The person I’m referring to is fit and in shape, about size 4, so it appears to be a very intentional choice on her part to wear more revealing clothing, not a lack of ability to find clothing appropriate to her body type. I think the real reason that it frustrates me is having worked in offices where there was blatant sexism prevalent, I get frustrated when I see other women dressing in a way that says “pay attention to me because I’m sexy” not “pay attention to me because I am a valuable member of this team.” Again, I don’t think it’s wrong to be a little bit sexy at work or that women should have to cover up in shapeless caftans. But I don’t think sexiness should be the primary focus of your work apparel.

          1. Elizabeth H.*

            In response to your comment, what you said “I think the real reason that it frustrates me is having worked in offices where there was blatant sexism prevalent, I get frustrated when I see other women dressing in a way that says ‘pay attention to me because I’m sexy’ not ‘pay attention to me because I am a valuable member of this team'” really jumped out at me. To me, it actually seems like this itself is part sexism – that looking sexy and being a valuable member of the team are mutually exclusive or one or the other. I get what you are saying that the way she dressed was legitimately distracting (as it would if her outfits attracted attention because they were incredibly unkempt or in bizarre colors) and that it creates a bad effect when it looks like someone is paying a lot of attention to their appearance during work hours (many many discussions on this site about that issue…) but the idea that it would be impossible to be BOTH I don’t like.

          2. JamieS*

            You want to stop sexism by controlling what women wear and taking the stance a woman has less value the sexier her clothing is? I don’t agree with your coworker wearing see through tops to work but it’s your implication that a woman’s value is dependent on her clothes that’s the bigger issue for me.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 I agree that it’s weird, although it’s better than you ending up homeless. What’s confusing me is that they went ahead and rented out your apartment anyway – it sounds like that might have happened a bit prematurely? I really hope you find something else.

    1. CoffeeLover*

      It’s possible OP’s house fell through at the last second. Like a week before they were supposed to move out or something. I can understand why the bosses would have rented out the place by then. I don’t think leaving the second person without a place would have been a kind thing to do when they had the option of letting OP stay with them temporarily (as weird as that solution can be).

      It doesn’t actually sound like the living sitaution is all that bad though, and if I was OP, I would just stick it out. It’s only for the summer after all and were already halfway through.

      1. MK*

        Eh, it’s still June, hardly halfway through the summer. But, to be honest, I am not sure what the OP is asking here; it sounds to me she is more concerned that her bosses don’t find the situation weird than anything else, so maybe she just wanted confirmation that it’s not usual. Which, it’s not, but live-in positions are not completely unheard-of either. And it’s not as if they inappropriately insist that the OP should live with them: they just gave her a place to stay when she was out of other options. By the way, maybe they do find it weird too, but don’t want to make even more awkward, so they act as if it’s no big deal.

        1. Chinook*

          “it sounds to me she is more concerned that her bosses don’t find the situation weird than anything else, so maybe she just wanted confirmation that it’s not usual. Which, it’s not, but live-in positions are not completely unheard-of either.”

          Live-in positions are quite normal around here when you are in more remote areas. DH even talked about one this weekend that would be a dream one for us because it came with Force Housing for everyone posted there, unlike other areas where there is limited Force Housing where you can be knocked out if someone with a larger family was posted there. Places where this type of accommodation is available is usually because a)there are no rentals available at all (think small village) or housing is out of the price range of mere mortals. In fact, if OP were a cop in Canada, I would suspect she was posted somewhere like Banff, AB, where this could happen. Fortunately, those you ended up sharing with for a short time period often understand that this is not a choice nor ideal and are willing to make do with short term housemates in exchange for no one being homeless.

          True, it is awkward but the OP can learn to live with it until something better opens up. And, if they need to decompress away from anything work related, I recommend ensuring they make their bedroom a comfortable place to relax in (i.e. think of it is as a living/bedroom) and get to know the local public areas where you can hang out for free (like a library or park) or for little cost (like a coffee shop).

          1. JamieS*

            I don’t want to get off topic but this is going to drive me up a wall. What is Force Housing? Is that military base housing?

      2. kavm*

        It might just be for the summer, or the intern might be offered a permanent position the same way OP was… And then what will happen with the apartment?

        I would say OP needs to continue looking for other places. Maybe that means not looking for houses specifically, but for apartments or condos at a lower price point.

        1. CoffeeLover*

          Hm, that would be different, but the OP didn’t mention the other person was an intern. It sounded like they were just a random person the bosses found to rent the space for the summer. Of course, there’s no harm in looking for other places, but I also don’t think the OP should force herself too much (ie finding a place that’s less than ideal just to get out of the current living situation.)

    2. Breda*

      Oh my god, #3, ROOMMATES. I GUARANTEE that 90% of the single people your age in your high-cost-of-living city are living with roommates (she says, as someone in her late 20s living with two roommates in NYC). It’s not ideal, but it is many many times better than living with your bosses! Ask around to other people you know in the city, put out a call on Facebook, look on Craigslist – where I have found both great living situations and great new people to move into a vacant room in my apartment. A little bit of care with screening and you can find something you’ll be happy with – whether it’s just until the company’s apartment opens up again, or long-term.

  6. Teach*

    Also think about how to be accepting of all kinds of personalities – our Christmas party went from 25% attendance to around 98% when it was changed from an evening sit-down meal to a late afternoon-leave-your-desk-for-a-drink-and-catered-appetizers deal. Some people had lots of energy to socialize and the rest of us knew it was ok to drop in and duck out. Same with sportsing type things: I will never, ever be able to cheerfully hit a thing with another thing or my body parts, but I’m more than happy to design a hell of a t-shirt, hand out Gatorade, and put down my knitting briefly to cheer from the stands. I’m sure others feel similarly nervous about doing a painting party or learning a complex board game, which would be in my comfort zone.

    1. Organised fun? Time to run!*

      We made board games once. As a department. I was horrified when grandboss told us what we were doing – I don’t really like organised fun and I don’t like being made to make things in groups as it brings back memories of how badly I sucked at that stuff at school.

      However, it was actually loads of fun. People made really funny, witty games full of work in-jokes (that everyone would get). Ours was based on a campaign we’d done. Someone else did a version of Monopoly that we still talk about months later as it was so funny.

      1. Mookie*

        Ooh, that sounds fun! The only risk, I guess, is exposing someone with really bad sportsmanship who also consistently wants to be in on every game (hello, my mother during my childhood). Then again, that kind of character flaw is probably not closely or well-guarded when at work, anyway.

        I wish workplaces were like those on television, where there’s always a drinking establishment around the corner where the drinkers can bonding over drink and the abstainers can bond over failing miserably at darts and the boring ones can stand at the back and bond over play-by-playing critiquing, in loud detail and camp asides, the various failed methods employed for drinking and darting.

    2. Jen*

      Yeah, just poll the employees and figure out what the majority would want and go with that. My office now is huge on happy hour events (and I’ll go to those if I get enough notice to have someone else pick up my kids from school) and sports events. I never go to any of the sports events because honestly the idea of having to go sit and watch a hockey game sounds like torture. But the majority of my co-workers love these events so that’s why we do them. They also occasionally have events that I like to think of as “Are we all 7 years old now?” like bowling, mini golf or Dave & Busters and literally everyone grumbles about having to go to these events.

      Poll them. See what they’d like to do. See if they want it to be on their own or with family.

    3. Parenthetically*

      I work in a pretty introvert-heavy environment so social events are few and far between, but the best things are always drop-in, drinks and snacks-type things. If you want to stay for four hours and talk to everyone and get pleasantly sozzled and solve US politics with the admin’s wife, swell. If you want to duck in for 30 minutes and mingle over a cranberry juice and then go home and watch Kimmy Schmidt in your pajamas, that is also a possibility.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I would be stuck on what to do here, too. For me it would depend a lot on the person sharing the office. Presuming they’re willing to share, for me I’d want to know whether I’d get advance notice of when they might show up, as I would find it stressful if I didn’t know beforehand (though that may just be me).

    The other question in my mind is whether any other office is likely to become free and if so which arrangement means you’re eligible for it. I do also wonder if this colleague will be willing to share – I’m intrigued as to how they have a private office to themselves when they’re mostly remote but guessing it may have to do with seniority or perhaps they weren’t always remote?

  8. Oscar Madisoy*

    In response to 1. Coworkers want me to talk to another coworker about how she dresses:

    I agree with Alison’s response: “You’re not her boss, and so you don’t have standing to tell her to change how she dresses — and you definitely don’t have any obligation to do it just because your coworkers want you to.”

    You didn’t say how you feel about the co-worker’s attire but I infer you’re neutral. So my advice would be that if this is something that bothers the housekeepers, let them talk to the individual involved or file a complaint with management. It’s their issue – not yours.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I got the impression that OP feels the clothing isn’t ideal, but doesn’t want to make a judgement call or take a position – and that’s wise. Alison’s script is great!

    2. designbot*

      I inferred that it bothers LW less than the performance-related issues she’s tried to address about this coworker already. Even if it bothers her to some degree, bigger fish to fry!

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        If I were OP 1, I’d expend my capital with the boss on the coworker’s performance issues and not on the housekeepers’ issues with her clothing. Always use your capital for your own interests, and don’t give it away to other people for their pet peeves.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      I will admit I spoke to a coworker about this once! But we were very friendly so I thought it was ok. She wore flip flops to work every day and we are not a casual office. She got away with it on my team but when she was moving to a different department, I warned her that the boss there probably would never say anything to her about it but would silently judge her. She didn’t get upset with me for warning her but she decided not to take it seriously and continued to wear the flip flops. I was wrong about the boss silently judging her -he judged her out loud instead and told her she was not allowed to wear them.

      1. Anon for this*

        Ugh. Why do people ignore good advice? I had a friend at an old job that was downsized. My new job needed some temp help and I got her a job there. Friend had dressed really casual at old job but new job was a much more formal place. Her attire mostly looked casual because she would wear bright colored leggings/tights over dresses with flip flops. I told her that it wouldn’t fly at my current job and she would need more traditional attire. She didn’t follow my advice. She ended up negotiating a work from home arrangement but I still had to hear my boss gripe about her attire (when she was in the office) and I felt like it reflected poorly on me since I got her the job. She did great work but was just totally tone deaf on office attire — or dgaf which is a luxury you don’t have when you are facing unemployment. I understand new attire costs $$ but many of her outfits could have been made professional by just taking off the tights and adding $15 payless pumps.

      2. Newby*

        If you are friendly, warning someone that the way they dress can go well, especially if it is an “FYI, that is technically against the dress code. We are lax about enforcing it here, but sometimes it happens.” If you’re not friendly it never goes well.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          I realize now that she didn’t care because she knew she was going to leave for grad school in the fall and would never need that boss for a reference. We are still friendly and she has a private sector job now and wears suits and heels every day.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Ugh. I had a coworker who disregarded the dress code all the time, and it aggravated me so much because I didn’t want to be wearing stuffy, matronly office clothes, either, but I did it. Come to find out, she didn’t give a hoot because she was going to grad school in the fall. I took my resentment of her cute outfits and tweaked my own office dress; I still meet the dress code, but I don’t wear things that I don’t really like. Before I became irritated with her carefree wardrobe ways, I was wearing office clothes that I didn’t really like because I thought I had to. I mean, I still wouldn’t choose to wear my office clothes on the weekend, but I don’t resent wearing them now.

      3. HerNameWasLola*

        I did this too although I completely agree with Allison’s answer since the letter writer is not the person’s supervisor.
        My situation was with someone that I was friends with before we worked together (we still are friends). We didn’t work in the same department but in the same building and she came on through a temp agency. She is very good at what she does but felt that her supervisors weren’t taking her seriously or would only give her simple tasks. We met up for lunch one day and I saw that she was wearing loose knit pants, a t-shirt and ked like shoes but had stepped on the heels. While we were on the more casual side of business casual and didn’t have an explicit dress code, I had a feeling her supervisor was judging her based on her attire. I asked her if she thought it was the case and she said no one has brought it up so she didn’t think she needed to change. We had a few more conversations about what everyone else was wearing versus what she was wearing but she insisted that her work should speak for itself and that they must not have an issue if they haven’t addressed it. Her contract wasn’t renewed after whatever term they had her on and she somewhat agreed that maybe her attire appearance had something to do with it. It’s an unknown though since they never said anything. I do know that she has adopted a more traditional business casual form of dressing and that I will never say anything about it again!

    4. Anon Anon*

      Even if you feel that a co-workers apparel is inappropriate it doesn’t mean that you should say anything. For example, I have a co-worker who wears clothing at least 2-3 sizes too small (camel toe is a regular part of her look), and while I think it look bad, I won’t say anything to her or anyone I work with. She’s a good employee aside from her choice of clothes. She’s not wearing anything not part of our dress code. And more importantly I am not her boss. I do think that it hurts her professionally to some degree, but it’s not my place to address the issue. And it’s not the OP#1’s either.

      1. sam*

        When I was in college, my roommate and I worked together in one of the administrative offices. It was the 90s, and we had some…interesting…ideas of appropriate clothing, both in work and in life. I basically lived the grunge life, and she was a baby goth – like I said, it was the 90s. Since we were student assistants, we were not expected to dress “professionally”.

        At one point, the ladies in the office (the more permanent employees), were not happy with the way my roommate dressed because sometimes it could be a bit…revealing. So they started hinting around to me that I should talk to her about it – mind you, never actually asking me outright. I just played dumb/ignored them. She was my friend and roommate, and *I* certainly wasn’t her boss. If they had an issue with they way she dressed, they could talk to her. Certainly, they could sack up and say something outright rather than trying to “trick” me into saying something “as her friend”.

        I mean, this was a 20-hour-a-week/barely-over-minimum-wage job that we would both leave far behind as soon as we graduated. I was going to law school and she had a full scholarship to study engineering from a regional company that would employ her after graduation. If she wanted to wear leather mini skirts while she still had the figure to pull it off? good for her.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Ah, the 90s office fashion. I can’t believe how short I wore my skirts back then! I blame Ally McBeal. I also lived the grunge life, ha. Baby doll dresses and hiking boots 4EVA!

  9. Cambridge Comma*

    OP#5, is there anything else you could ask for to help with the commute? E.g. working from home twice a week, arriving and leaving later to avoid rushhour?

  10. Blurgle*

    For #3, it depends on why the cost of living is so high. There’s a huge difference between, say, San Francisco and Iqaluit; in the latter case there might not actually *be* another house or opportunity to share.

    1. HR Caligula*

      Iqaluit- Never heard of it so did a Google. Throw a rock hard enough and you’ll hit Greenland.

      Current temp 43 degrees F.


      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Oh my god, I want to move there!

        j/k, but over the last few years I have gotten so exhausted with the sheer existence of summer. Right now, 43° sounds like pure heaven.

          1. Statler von Waldorf*

            I live and work in northern Canada, and it’s not actually the three months of dark that gets you, though the cold winters might. If you buy full spectrum light bulbs it helps a lot with the constant darkness, and you tend to be inside for most of the winter anyways.

            What gets me is the opposite, the fact that it never gets dark right around the summer solstice. The sun drops below the horizon for a few hours or so, but it doesn’t actually get dark and you won’t see any stars. After spending at least eight months hiding from winter, you want to spend time outside while it’s nice. Then you see the sunset at midnight and remember that you need to go to bed …

            1. Chinook*

              I agree that this is an issue. Not being able to rely on the sun to tell you when to sleep is a problem I have had even here in Alberta. As a child, we would complain about going to bed before it was dark. Even now, especially around the solstice, I need an eye mask just to be able to go to bed at 9 pm so I can get up at 5 am because there is light at both times. And camping without clocks means maybe only getting 5 hours sleep because it is late when you realize it is time to go to sleep and yet you feel the need to get up at 6 am. At least constant darkness can be solved by good light bulbs.

              1. Statler von Waldorf*

                I use a CPAP machine with a full face mask, so I can’t use a sleep mask anymore. The next best thing is tinfoil over the windows. I’m way up north in Whitehorse this week, and I’d guess at least a third of the houses have tinfoil covering at least one window. They even run their schools a few weeks early up here so the kids don’t have to do exams during the worst part of the year.

              2. Anja*

                I’m only Edmonton and blackout curtains have very much been my friend. I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve actually considered whether I want to invest in motorized blackout blinds with a timer so I can wake up with the sun, but when I choose.

            2. LNZ*

              People really underestimate how hard the polar day is. I knew a teacher when I was in the arctic who told me about the complete breakdown she had her first summer in Alaska. I mean a complete and total breakdown, she full on went outside around midnight and actually started screaming at the sun. Thankfully her principle lived next door and had been there long enough to see quite a few summer breakdowns, so she came and collected her.

    2. Chinook*

      Canada – the land of job postings where housing has to be included otherwise your employees may not have a place to live. Words to look for: Teacherage, Force Housing, Band Housing, Government Housing, Salary includes rent, etc. Words to avoid: hot bunking (especially during boom times in Ft. McMurray) because that means you get to rotate who uses the bedroom because there is literally not enough rooms in the community to house everyone working there.

  11. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 Is a few hundred dollars a month actually that much if you’re a profitable employee who could be happier and more productive? That doesn’t sound like a huge amount of money really, especially compared to the cost of hiring someone new. It doesn’t have to set a precedent – that depends on how it’s handled.

    I have a coworker who did something similar. She’s in a position that’s normally based in one office but she moved out of area and now works out of a different office so is effectively remote. I don’t know of anyone who assumed that meant anyone who wanted could have a similar arrangement – it was understood that this was worked out on an individual basis.

    What might help is to look at the everyday impact on your team and your communication and think about how it might work day to day. For example, are there meetings you’d need to attend via video link? How would you keep in touch with your colleagues and your manager – are you already set up to collaborate or might you need to explore new ways of doing that? Could you visit your current office at times? (My colleague comes in for certain important meetings.) How would 1:1s with your manager work? It might help if you can explain how the nitty gritty stuff would work and what you already have in place – in terms of technology or just how you work – that would help. For example we use Slack and Trello a lot.

  12. LS*

    OP 2, we have a monthly Beer Friday. Many of my colleagues go every time. I’ve never been to one, and nobody has ever asked me where I was. Works for me!

    1. Carla*

      My old office had something like this, and it seemed exclusionary. We were a very large company and there were a lot of people who couldn’t drink or didn’t drink, and our company never provided anything aside from alcoholic drinks. Not even water. So if you wanted to join in, but didn’t want to be around alcohol or drink it, you were plumb out of luck.

  13. MommyMD*

    Can we just go to work, do our jobs to a high standard and go home and live our lives? Very few people I’ve met want ANYTHING to do with work outside work hours. We want to decompress, spend time with our families, and just be away from it all.

    We don’t want karaoke, baseball teams, “volunteering”, needlepoint, or anything else. I don’t even want a text from coworkers when I’m off.

    1. Caitlyn*

      Obviously many people are willing to socialize with their coworkers, and some even enjoy it. It seems very clear to me from reading this site and meeting people in life that opinions on this vary, hence the LW’s question. LW isn’t demanding that anyone do anything, and in fact made sure to specify that in the question.

      1. MommyMD*

        LW states he/she wants participation. I think a minimum of 80 percent of employees are not interested in company-held social events with coworkers. Getting together with a coworker on your own is a different ballgame. After-hours social team building is not popular.

        1. Music*

          That’s an odd statistic to be making up out of thin air though when it’s clearly just your preference. I don’t like alcohol-based events, but I do enjoy my coworkers and would like to see them outside the pressure cooker where we all work. Doing that helps the pressure cooker run easier.

          1. Allypopx*

            Yeah my coworkers are huge on socializing. We have monthly 4oclock drinks, special outings, someones trying to organize a karaoke night and it’s a hugely popular idea – and I have a pretty introverted company on the whole, we just happen to like each other. It’s a good way to blow off steam and make work more tolerable when things are tense. 80% seems arbitrary and high.

          2. MadGrad*

            It also varies so so much by industry. In smaller, more casual companies like mine it is absolutely the norm to do things together both on and off normal work hours. People are hired for fit for this reason. It’s voluntary and a lot of us are younger without many local friends, so I honestly appreciate it.

          3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            Also, there’s a fair bit of evidence indicating that workers who have strong trust relationships (note, not necessarily friends, but still personal trust-based relationships) with each other perform better and are more innovative. Not to say that there’s no such thing as a workplace that’s innovative where people don’t have those relationships, but ultimately, there are lots of bottom-line reasons that companies decide to do these activities beyond retention and providing competitive perks.

            Tony Hsieh, for instance, has a well-developed theory that some of the best work outputs are a result of “collisions” of people who do not collide in the ordinary course of their day-to-day. Happy hours and the like where I’ve connected with people in other parts of the company whose jobs have nothing to do with mine have _dramatically_ increased my understanding of my company (and the challenges it faces, defined and undefined) as a whole.

            I can understand people not liking or wanting to participate in those types of activities. And they should be voluntary for sure, if only because hanging out with grumpy people is worse than hanging out with nobody at all. But they have benefits for the company, as well as for people who aren’t you personally (who get to interact with you!). I would be upset at an employer that _didn’t_ provide any space for those things to happen, and I would be less effective at my job to boot.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I think there are plenty of people who enjoy socializing or at least don’t mind doing it on an occasional basis.

          It should be completely voluntary, as Alison and many others have pointed out, but I don’t see any harm in offering the opportunities to those who are interested.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, lots of people actually enjoy this stuff. The comment section here skews heavily toward disliking it, and I think disproportionately so. I dislike this stuff too (and wonder if my vocal dislike for it has attracted a disproportionate number of readers who dislike it), but there are lots of people who genuinely enjoy and appreciate it.

        So it’s fine to offer it for the people who want it; the key is just to ensure it’s not obligatory.

        1. Artemesia*

          Back in the day when I was a high school teacher, people went to the bar on Fridays after school (except in winter when they went night skiing) There was also a district bowling league. There was no pressure to do any of this, but the people who were movers and shakers, got promoted, etc etc were the people who participated. It wasn’t that they ticked the participation box, it was that they made political alliances, impressed people in positions of power etc etc and so they got singled out and rewarded. I suspect that is true in a large organization. These informal events are a way to build capital and to come to the attention of people higher up in the hierarchy.

          I am sort of appalled by the notion of hiring people for ‘fit’ who will enjoy this sort of activity. Sounds like a thinly veiled way to opt against women, mothers, older people etc etc etc.

          1. KK*

            I can understand mothers (and fathers for that matter) and old people, but how would taking socialising preferences into account when hiring for a position would be disadvantageous to women in general? Karaoke and happy hours are hardly gendered, it’s more of a character thing in my opinion.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Well, plenty of employers (and maybe people in general, really) seem to think of women as either mothers or mothers-to-be, unfortunately (see: all the young women who get asked all. the. time. when they’ll have a baby). But mainly, if hiring for fit means “who would I want to hang out for beers with at our company parties” then you are going to end up with a far more homogeneous group of employees, and outside of a few industries, that means more men. The issues with how companies hire for fit have been talked about a lot. Fit is important, but a focus on “will karaoke be fun with this person” = not a good way to go about it, and lends itself to discriminatory practices.

              1. KK*

                I am still not convinced that it applies to this particular context, but thank you for the reply.

              2. MadGrad*

                I still think it’s a big stretch. Hiring for fit means hiring people who match the culture and wont be miserable there (I suspect I’d hate Artemesia’s dream job, for example). Whether that means people who want to do things or people who hate doing things, neither is by nature harmful. I would have to disagree that a place that encourages social outings is by default any worse for women or parents than a place where no one goes out but overtime work is highly rewarded, for example.

        2. Elizabeth H.*

          I enjoy and appreciate it. I like the people I work with and have fun talking with them outside of work (some a LOT, others the normal amount). I’m not enthused to the degree of playing softball (had an opportunity to do so, didn’t) but I like happy hour stuff in the evenings and during the work day. The difference to me is if it is social vs. team building activities. I’m not super into the idea of the latter although I’ve never actually done it at work. But I like interacting with my coworkers socially and the kind of stuff where it’s like simple trivia type games or ongoing competitions you play at an office party.

        3. Statler von Waldorf*

          I suspect that those who really enjoy social events are probably out there being social in real life, while us introverts so are more likely to socialize over the Internet.

          1. Chameleon*

            I’m a total introvert, but I actually love work social events because it lets me get to know my co-workers; since I’m an introvert I rarely would be able to make the effort otherwise.

        4. Anonymous Poster*

          Yeah, this is what my work does. Our events along these lines are voluntary and there really isn’t any stigma if someone opts out. Social events are around every quarter, and people come and go as they please.

    2. Ramona Flowers*


      Some stuff in the workday is okay. But extra-curricular activities are rarely the answer to curricular (as it were) issues.

      1. HisGirlFriday*

        Some stuff in the workday is okay.

        I agree with this. Every year, my office (~6-8 people) does a Secret Santa gift exchange, in which participation is voluntary; if you want to participate, you write your and three gift suggestions, each less than $15, and give it to the Office Manager, and then we all draw names. We also go out to a long lunch, during the work day, at the company’s expense, usually somewhere on the higher-end scale.

        Every.single.year, one of my co-workers complains. She doesn’t like the food. She doesn’t like having to drive together. She doesn’t like that she has to give up her hour lunch and doesn’t get paid for it. (NB: She and I are both salaried.) She doesn’t like that some people choose to split appetizers.

        She will never be happy, ever. She would prefer that we just close the office three hours early, rather than have a paid-for lunch. The rest of us recognize the generosity of this and are grateful.

        You’ll never please 100% of people doing any company-sponsored or suggested activities, but if you are able to make them either during the work day, when people are at work anyway, or truly truly voluntary after work, you’ll please more people than otherwise.

        1. Squeeble*

          Yeah, we do something similar. Roughly once a month we have a kind of in-house happy hour, where people can congregate on a late Friday afternoon in our common area for food and drinks. It works well because it’s not mandatory at all, and also takes advantage of the Friday afternoon lull when possibly there’s not a lot getting done anyway.

    3. JamieS*

      This is the crux of my issue with work sponsored “fun” activities. I know this may sound negative but I don’t want to spend time outside of work with my coworkers regardless of what the activity is. I’d probably enjoy trivia or an escape room but they’re things I want to enjoy with my friends not something I want to be a work outing.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          That’s an important observation but also I think part of the point and the goal – it’s an important skill in many professions specifically those that require marketing/networking.

          1. aebhel*

            Sure, but you’re not going to make people who don’t get along to like each other by forcing them to participate in extracurricular activities, and professions that require strong networking skills should already be hiring for them; you’re not going to create that skill-set with work social events if it’s not already there. No amount of happy hours/volunteer activities/baseball games/trivia nights is going to turn an awkward introvert like me into an extroverted salesperson with strong interpersonal networking skills. Fortunately, I’m not in a line of work where that’s required.

            And I say this as someone who’d generally be fine with participating in work social events, if and when my schedule allowed for it (and it wasn’t something that I hated doing, like sports).

          2. JamieS*

            True hanging out with coworkers may be an important skill for some professions. However I’d assume people in those professions would know that going into the profession so it seems like a month point to me since that’d be part of doing their job and not something extra.

            1. Case of the Mondays*

              I see your point. For me it was kind of a “duh, that’s why we do this crap” moment for me. I’m in law. I avoided a lot of these activities in law school. I begrudgingly went to them in my firms. The first 5+ years of a lawyers career, you really aren’t expected to bring in business. After observing other people as I got more senior, I realized if I was going to be really successful in my field, I needed to put some fake socializing as a priority. Doing it at work activities was a good trainer for doing it at outside work activities. Surprisingly, it doesn’t say anywhere that this is a requirement. No one schooled us on this during law school. The events are all “voluntary.” I didn’t come from a white collar household. I just had to figure it out.

              1. mrs__peel*

                This is why I ended up in administrative law (where an endless amount of work magically lands on my desk, without my having to schmooze with anyone to get it!)

      1. Caro in the UK*

        Yes, me too.

        This question got me thinking about the kind of thing I might like to do as a work social activity, and I made a list of maybe ten things that I’d LOVE to do with friends (or even non-work acquaintances). But when I came to thinking about doing them with coworkers, it was nope, nope, nope…

        I realise that it’s not the activity that’s the problem, it’s spending time with coworkers outside of work. It’s not that they’re bad people, not at all, many of them I really like and have a good relationship with. But being around them means being my professional self, which means never being able to properly relax. Now, I’m an introvert, which means that socialising is tiring for me, even when it’s with friends and I want to do it! But having to keep a professional eye on myself at the same time? Way too energy sapping to be fun, no matter what the activity.

    4. Mookie*

      Compulsory fun is wretched stuff, but I could see how in certain kinds of work — particularly if the workplace is rural and/or is located in a company town — performance could dramatically improve if teams bolstered their intra-group interpersonal skills.

      But I, too, am a leave-work-at-work-with-rare-exceptions person, and most activities like this exhaust me and leave my nerves a wreck because they cut into my physical and psychological not-in-work-mode downtime.

    5. Anon Accountant*

      I’d love this. Do my job, go home and not have this “fun” with coworkers unless I choose to invite them to a baseball game, etc.

      In my experience a lot of the “voluntary” activities are more “you participate or you aren’t a team player” and it’s held against you in subtle ways.

      1. Allison*

        Right. Nearly everywhere I worked that had “voluntary” social activities outside work, there was at least one person on the team who caught crap from the rest of the team for hardly ever attending bonding events, regardless of their reason for not going. It sounded like playful ribbing, “just giving him a hard time,” but it still rubbed me the wrong way.

    6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      The times my various workplaces had well received work events were those done during work hours.

      For example, we did a park clean up and catered picnic. We came to work in our outdoor clothes, worked until 1, then had a picnic, and were off the clock at a normal time. Those without cars who wanted to participate were given the option of getting a cab/Lyft/Uber paid by the company to get home. Those who didn’t want to come could skip without judgement, but did have to go into the office. I want to say we had almost 100% attendence as compared to after work hours events where a well attended event was maybe 50%.

    7. Discordia Angel Jones*

      I mean, I do go for drinks with my coworkers and always have.

      I have even become friends with a few of them and we keep in touch once whomever is the first person to leave has left.

      I didn’t think that this was so unusual, but reading the comments on this post, maybe I’m the minority?

      I also really don’t see the harm of offering voluntary activities outside work either (as long as they truly are voluntary).

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Nah, back when I worked in a permanent office job I used to go to happy hours every week or so and enjoyed it fine, and maybe a trivia thing every month or so. I’m not a big people person, either, but it was perfectly normal. I left that job eight years ago and I’m still in touch with a couple of people.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          That said, I don’t think any of those happy hours or trivia were actually work sponsored, as in organized by an official committee and partially or fully subsidized. Maybe that would make a difference.

      2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        If you are, then I am too. I always ended up with 4-5 work friends, 2-3 of which ended up remaining really good friends after we scattered to the wind. Every place I have worked, I have also socialized with coworkers.

      3. KaraLynn*

        I think it’s because AAM’s commenters skew extremely heavily toward self-identifying introverts – maybe they’re more likely to read and leave comments on a site like this in the first place. If you were to survey people on the whole who work at companies that host activities and events, I think you’d hear many more people who enjoyed participating in these things. Or else why would companies have them in the first place?

    8. Liane*

      The discussion reminds me of an old Miss Manners essay on office holiday parties. She stated that ideal one began with the boss telling everyone to take the rest of the day off, which has among other advantages not leaving the workplace “littered with cups and personnel problems.”

      For me, I like the company to stick to one holiday party (possibly a separate or concurrent kid party also) and one summer family event. If there are other organized events I will go if I like the plans and it fits my schedule & budget. Otherwise, no.

      1. aebhel*

        Our workplace buys lunch for the employees and everybody takes a long lunch break the day before the holidays, and that’s just about our speed. I mean, we do socialize, but it’s not an edict handed down from on high, and nobody gets hassled if they want to stay at their desk.

    9. LaurenB*

      I am an introvert-y introvert and I like that my workplace has occasional social activities. Some are officially organized by the staff association and some are groups that have sprung up organically (e.g. a book club). I wouldn’t be devastated to not have the option but the camaraderie is definitely one of the things that makes me pause when I consider moving on to other jobs. There was a golf night last week and I was asked once if I golfed and could they interest me in joining a team, and when I laughed and said not at all it was never mentioned again. But a good number of people went out and presumably had a good time.

      We’re also in a small city far from anything and there are lots of “ex-pats” from other regions of the country here, so the lack of other entertainment options and external social networks may play a role in people’s willingness to take part.

  14. Combinatorialist*

    Op#3 is there an extended stay hotel that is reasonably affordable you could do for two months until you can get the apartment back? I’m in one now for an internship because it was cheaper than a short term lease and it’s super convenient and pretty comfortable. I have a small kitchen, all the utilities are covered, and it’s everything I need. You might have to get a storage unit for some of your stuff (though your bosses might also keep it) but it’s something I would consider. I wouldn’t want to be here forever but it was the right decision for me for the summer.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Or a youth hostel? Not sure if ymca is a thing in your country but I once stayed in one while working on a freelance project and it was so cheap I sometimes fantasise about selling all my belongings and moving into one permanently (only my husband and cat are preventing this).

  15. Drew*

    OP#5, I don’t think it’s a huge ask as long as you’re clear that you are asking, not demanding, and that “no” would be an acceptable answer. You could always ask for a trial run, too.

    It’s also possible that this might start your boss thinking about other possibilities – maybe you could work a 4/10 rather than a 5/8, leave later four days a week, and have a three-day weekend. Or work a 4/9 and a half-day on Friday, which is a popular option at my office where the commutes aren’t horrible but they aren’t trivial.

  16. MommyMD*

    Office unification is not promoted by subtly forcing or highly encouraging workers to socialize outside of work. It isn’t. It’s promoted by having a fair, professional, comfortable work environment with invested and reasonable administrators.

        1. SevenSixOne*

          My last boss was big on mandatory fun as a morale booster… but would also only provide a budget of $7 per employee per month for it. You know how it can be much more insulting to leave a lousy tip than to leave no tip at all? Seven dollars per person is the activity budget equivalent of a penny tip.

          (NB: This is the same boss who gave me an ANNUAL raise of $75.00– wow, an extra TWO DOLLARS per paycheck after taxes? You really shouldn’t have.)

    1. Friday*

      Yes. In the office, pay for it, and also do NOT make it mandatory. I’m an introvert who usually does like the teambuilding stuff (I’ve even had loads of fun on actual trapped-on-the-boat booze cruises). But right now I’m hiding a pregnancy in the first tri and can’t be around most foods without going green and gagging, and also I’m exhausted and not up for anything physical at all. My ideal workday right now is one where I hole up in my cube and talk to next to nobody. Assume anyone at any time could be dealing with a medical issue that they are not ready to share with their boss or coworkers (be it a temporary or permanent one) and never badger them to attend things like this.

      I’m actually ditching a work dinner this week that if this were any other time in my life, I would have loved to go to. Props to my bosses for not making a big deal out of my planned absence.

  17. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2… I’m on the social committee at my work. We do at least one event a month and it varies…. we organise subsidised nights out to theatre (Grease this year!), or laser tag, do in-office lunchtime barbecues, quiz nights, hallowe’en drest up competitions, mini-golf, board game nights. … and a few others including Diwali, July 14th Bastille Breakfast aand the unofficial Christmas party :)

    We’re independent of the company. They give us money to spend each year and let us get on with it.

    We advertise the events a lot, but it is SERIOUSLY voluntary only. Some people come to everything. Some people only go to laser tag. Some people give it all a miss unless we are feeding them at lunchtime! (That gets a lot ; ) )

    There is also a, company run, 15 min slot once a week for people to mingle from other departments… sometimes used for a theme (like on May 4th we had a star wars quiz, Nov 5th they brought sparklers) but often just social. They put out food to attract people.

    We use one of them at the start of the year to get suggestions of what people would like us to do. That works well too!

    1. Mookie*

      Your social committee sounds like how a lot of student associations organize non-professional, low-key events and parties. Nobody ever seems to mind those and nobody ever resents someone for not or even never participating. They’re meant to be relaxing and for soft networking, plus letting the association book tickets usually garners good discounts and that’s sometimes reason enough. Putting out the call for suggestions and input from colleagues outside of the committee, encouraging them to broadcast the events they’d be participating in outside of work anyway, could help to boost morale because it’d end up pairing like-minded people with similar interests and would keep the number of employees involved in any one event low.*

      *for me, this is key. These events should rarely be gargantuan affairs because you can’t as readily bond with a crowd.

    2. JAM*

      Ooh, I love your 15 minute ideas. I work for a team that is cross-department, cross-sub department, and crosses age groups and are spread out among 4 different floors of the main building. Our team also changes often enough, a few leave and a few join so there’s always some people who will just never know each other. We need a way for them to get comfortable with each other so they can form client teams depending on needs. We can all easily look up each other’s bios but sometimes you have to know if personalities pair well and develop a bond so you can feel comfortable with each other. I feel like those mini events are the perfect way for us to do that. We’ve done lunches and happy hours but those just feel so formal that we need something fun to help get our real personalities out instead of just putting on the usual show.

  18. Anonymous for this*

    #2: please no volunteer work, which isn’t really voluntary. (And if you’ve got non-exempt workers, you should check to see whether “volunteer work” could make the company liable for back pay.)

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Volunteering through work should be done on work time, as far as I’m concerned.

    2. Natalie*

      Typically when companies do a volunteer activity together, the employees are being paid their normal wage, so I can’t imagine how back pay would become an issue.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        Here’s the way my company handles it: volunteer time, whether or not it’s during your normal shift hours, is paid time, as long as the volunteering is scheduled through the company, and you can use up to X hours per week volunteering during any week when overtime isn’t being offered. One of my coworkers does an every-other-week free financial education gig; it overlapped his old work schedule, and now it replaces part of it. He does this on Friday morning, and he gets to come in two hours later on Saturday. He gets to spend part of his time on doing good, the company gets to say “Ah yes, this is a Company thing!” the clients get assistance from an active finance professional — everyone wins.

  19. Anonymous for this*

    #4: another strong argument in favor of the office is how people perceive you. You’ll be perceived as more powerful and authoritative with an office (even a shared one) than a cubicle.

  20. Anon for privacy*

    #3 – Weird, weird, weird, and also very very risky. Move out to your own place, and do NOT move back in to the bosses’ apartment! You do not ever want to be in a position where problems at work can threaten your housing situation this directly; there’s a ‘chilling effect’ that makes it very difficult for you to truly relax at home or to disagree with decisions or stand up for yourself at work.

    I have to admit, I’m biased on this issue. But when this work-housing stuff goes wrong, it can go so wrong, so quickly. The house I grew up in was tied to my Dad’s job. It was fine, for years. Then there was a serous maintenance problem that nearly killed me. (We had to sue them for negligence! They settled out of court.) But it was very, very awkward. That made problems for Dad at work: his immediate boss was great, but the grandbosses held a bit of a grudge. Then, some time later, the grandbosses decided to restructure: Dad was let go with a good severance package, and we had to move out. Then, they gave Dad his job back, on a new contract (they’d thought they could replace him on lower pay, but they couldn’t). Then it came out that the grandboss had decided to sell the house on the ‘open market’ – but they refused to let Dad buy it; Mum was convinced they were being vindictive, because we’d sued. This whole housing-work mess dragged on for several years, and made us all miserable.

    This was an extraordinary situation and a unique set of decisions. I’m not saying anything like this would happen to you.

    But – if you had to ask your boss-landlords to do an expensive fix to your apartment, like the electrics or the plumbing, what would happen? Are they lovely people who’d be happy to throw 10-15k at the apartment to make it safe and fit for you to live in, if that ever became necessary? If you quit your job, would they give you 6 months (or however long it would take) in the apartment to let you find a new place? What would happen to your housing if you made a serious mistake at work and they disciplined you, or sacked you?

  21. Mookie*

    I am also curvy and understand how some clothes look inappropriate on me while they might look appropriate on someone else.

    I asked above if the LW had any idea why these housekeepers and her peer are asking the LW to address this, but is this the reason why? In the past, I was sort of treated similarly, a Good Fatty commissioned to whip the other fat co-workers in line without fatphobic bigots, tipping poison in my ear (leaking like a sieve, thankfully), directly risking their necks. There may be a similar dynamic at play here, where the LW is regarded as exhibiting behavior befitting a modest ‘curvy’ person.

  22. Nottingham*

    #2 – can you remove any time or money costs for workers from your participatory activities? Can you do the activities in their usual working hours, at their usual location? If it’s out-of-hours, can you pay for childcare, travel costs, or people’s time at their usual hourly rate, or offer time off in lieu?

    Because asking people to do this sort of thing builds enormous resentment when you’re also expecting them to eat the extra costs associated, and to take time away from their own hobbies of choice, friends, and family.

    1. Rebecca*

      I totally agree with this. Many of us have issues with pets, children, elderly parents, etc., and having an after work activity means arranging care for someone or something. I commute from another county, so if I had to go home first, that’s at least 2 commutes in 1 day (extra expense) or arrange care (extra expense).

      Case in point – a few years ago, ex-manager was pushing the idea that we would all go to a local minor league baseball game as a group, except it wasn’t voluntary. I’m a non-exempt worker. Said baseball game would be in the town I work in, 20+ miles from home, and I’d have to go there directly from work due to the start time, and not get home until after 10 PM. Yeah, no thanks. Not to mention that baseball is not something I’d ever watch willingly. I pushed back, stating if it was a compulsory work related activity, I needed to be paid. Of course, ex-manager was annoyed with me, not a team player, it’s going to be fun, etc. We ended up not going at all, as there was “not enough interest”. She could not understand why no one wanted to go spend hours at the ball field when the ticket was paid for (no food or drinks, just the ticket) on a work week day evening.

      I think if there are activities, they need to be done during working hours and people should be paid for them.

    2. Cercis*

      I agree. One place I worked used to do an annual christmas party in the evening. For something like $50/couple. Well, they didn’t have enough participation so they figured it had to do with being during evening hours (which was probably part of it) so they decided to do it as a luncheon. Except it was still $25/plate and it was a set meal. I declined to go because 1) I didn’t like either option for the set meal (pro-tip, when choosing meal options make them completely different, don’t choose two seafood dishes with heavy lemon sauces) and 2) $25/plate was more than I was willing to spend on a lunch out without my husband. Spending $25 meant that we’d have to forgo our normal date night because that was my portion of the budget (and I was already bringing my lunch to work to cut costs that way, there as literally no way to come up with an extra $25 with only a couple of weeks’ notice especially at christmas time).

      Some of the bosses paid for their reports to attend, but mine wouldn’t. And boy was she pissed when the admin and I declined to attend. She didn’t want to pay for us, but she sure wanted to guilt us. We said “someone has to stay behind to watch the office, we’ll do that and the rest of you can enjoy your lunch” that wasn’t good enough and it demonstrated that I wasn’t a team player (the admin got somewhat of a pass because someone legitimately did need to stay behind to watch the office). It made her look bad because the other departments had an almost 100% participation rate.

      This, of course, came after I declined to contribute to the Thanksgiving potluck meal citing the fact that I wasn’t going to be there. So of course I couldn’t contribute a dish – I wouldn’t be able to bring one. So I was told to pitch in $5. I just looked blank and said “well, I won’t be here” and continued with the blank look on my face. So yep, branded as not a team player. I also learned early on to sign up for the potlucks at the very beginning, because otherwise the people who made the most money would volunteer to bring the cheapest items (a can of chili, in one case) leaving the lower paid staff to bring the more expensive items (hot dogs for 100 people). I didn’t “know their lives” and maybe the people making a lot of money had a lot of expenses, but they were more likely to be able to afford $50 than the lower paid administrative staff.

      It was a very dysfunctional workplace that wanted to pretend that it wasn’t. If they’d just accepted their dysfunctions, it would have been one thing. But being expected to deny the dysfunctions really bugged me. And every time there was an employee survey, I’d bring them up. I was never so happy to leave a place as I was there. The next place I went was dysfunctional as well, but they totally admitted it and owned it and said “yeah, we don’t like it either and we’re not going to pretend that the problems don’t exist, but we’re not really able to make the changes we need to make” for whatever reason, just having it out in the open made the dysfunctions more of a thing to laugh at than be annoyed by.

  23. AlwhoisthatAl*

    Agree with Mookie completely re#2. If the two housekeepers have a problem, it’s their problem not yours. I’m fat and I would be gobsmacked at the thought of speaking to someone else who was fat regarding their dress on behalf of other people who were making an issue of it. ‘Cos we’re overweight are we somehow “Comrades in Obesity” ? Tell them to do their own dirty work.
    I’m a biker too and I get people saying stuff like “I saw a biker yesterday and he was going too fast you bikers should slow down” and I’m like:
    a) Why should I have any idea who they were and why they were speeding just because they were on a bike ?
    b) I really don’t care
    c) No, really I don’t care

  24. Jessesgirl72*

    OP2: I think the housekeepers are “mean girls” who are trying to stir up drama. Stop engaging with them- if they even comment on what she’s wearing, tell them you’re not going to talk about that kind of thing anymore, and if they have a problem with dress code violations, to report it to her supervisor. And then walk away or otherwise cut them off. Don’t stick around to gossip about her- or anyone else.

  25. Busy Manager Who Doesn't Have Time for Hypotheticals*

    Re #5, I completely agree with Alison that you should be careful how you ask, since you don’t want to come across as entitled. However, I’m not sure that framing it as “would it ever be possible…” and ending with “I realize, of course, there might be reasons it wouldn’t work…” is the best format. A busy manager might seize on those words and reply, “I’m sorry, it’s just not possible, it won’t work” and that could be the end of it. Less work for the manager, issue closed in a few minutes and no need to investigate, seek input from any higher ups, get approval to finance the co-working space, etc. Considering that the OP has stated that they would be looking to find another job if they couldn’t change offices, I would use Alison’s script except I’d omit the sentences above and change it to something along the lines of “I’d like to explore the possibility of working from the NYC space…”.

  26. Lady Bug*

    OP #5, there is no harm in asking to move to the NYC office, I assume you are in one of the boroughs since you have access to the subway. But, assuming your company is on Long Island (expensive, unreliable mass transit), your company might not see a 1 hour commute as a big deal. Its fairly typical out here. The only people I know with shorter commutes moved closer to their jobs or work non standard hours.

    1. WS*

      Yeah, this was my experience commuting through NYC. An hour long commute wouldn’t necessarily be seen as unreasonable, unless for some reason you’re the *only* person in your company with a commute this long. But with your concern about setting a precedent I suspect that that’s not the case and there are other coworkers in this position too.

      If your company won’t let you move to the NYC office I would ask about working non-standard hours (if that would help with your commute- it might not, depending on where you live and what route you have to take) or working from home a few days a week.

      1. OP #5*

        Thanks! You’re right, it’s the nature of the NYC area commute.

        I think that one thing which I might not have emphasized (because I think I’m in a minority here) is that I’d rather have a subway than a car commute partly because it’s safer, greener, and I’d rather be able to read on the train (I can read standing up, but NOT while driving a car) than listen to podcasts. So shorter is an aspect, but so are safer and cheaper.

  27. boop the first*

    4. Maybe it’s different for offices, but even sharing tills as a cashier over the week and onward can get annoying. I sort my things, tidy up and go home. When I come back, everything is moved elsewhere, there’s random crud and bits of trash, and the stapler’s jammed and broken. Now I work with food, and it’s the same thing: leave everything clean and sanitized, come back to find personal belongings in my workspace and all of the knives suddenly have huge chips in them.

    (-_-) I would take the cubicle but that’s just me.

  28. Librarian*

    4) I would personally prefer my own cubicle to a shared office, so that would be my choice. Pros and cons to both–I just like having my totally own space best.

    1. Artemesia*

      If I were assigned the shared office, probably prefer that. But as the interloper in someone else’s office, no way I am going to request to share it. That will never end well. The boss needs to take ownership of the assignment at minimum not tell you to ‘see if Senior office holder is WILLING to share their private space.’ No one shares that happily.

      1. LW#4*

        The situation is kind of “we were going to move you to a cubicle, but it occurred us that you might be able to share with coworker. If you’re interested, we might be able to talk about it.” In any case, I’ve really been leaning toward the cubicle because I think I value my own space over having a door I only use .2% of the time.

  29. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW1. This sounds almost like my work! We have a strictly enforced conservative dress code. It’s been hot for a few weeks so most people change into something more casual before heading home. One young person came bouncing (literally) down the hallway in shorts that I first mistook for a pair of tight whities and a sheer top that made it clear no bra was underneath. Several other workers were aghast and asked me if it was appropriate even though she was on her way out the door. My response was that she’s old enough to know better. Don’t do the dirty work for these women, if they are truly bothered, then they have to approach management, not you. Not my bouncing monkey, not my half-dressed circus.

    1. Fronzel Neekburm*

      I’m confused. If she was leaving, why does anyone care? i work out after work, I often leave in a Superher0-themed T-Shirt and gym shorts.

      Also, I’m so tired of this clothes policing in general. It’s 90 Degrees outside, but we have to wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and ties because… reasons? It’s not client facing 90% of the time. IT’s just “the dress code”

      Everyone needs to lighten up, and focus on what they’re wearing.

      1. MashaKasha*

        I’m also confused. Why were they aghast if she was on her way out the door and it was after hours? I sometimes go on group hikes after work. I finish my work, change, and leave. Where else am I supposed to change, in a porta-potty over at the trailhead?

        1. Marisol*

          I would assume that it’s a problem because showing your nipples and wearing tight, high-cut shorts is a severe violation of the dress code and not something that could be overlooked, whereas, wearing something like hiking shorts and a modest t-shirt, while technically perhaps a dress code violation, isn’t really a big deal enough to be actionable. The degree to which the dress code is violated is what matters here, I would guess.

        2. Toph*

          For me, I think there’s a difference between “clearly just changed into exercise clothes and is walking out the door” and someone who has changed into exercise clothes that are sheer/translucent. Sure, if you change as you’re leaving the dress-code probably needn’t really apply anymore, but shirts you can see through are not really appropriate in a work environment (or frankly at the gym either), so if you’re visible to other humans who are still in the office while leaving and the top is not opaque, that to me crosses a line. But it does depend on if we really mean sheer in the sense of you can see thru the top (or bottoms) or if the outfit in question were just thin and exercise-looking. The latter is fine for the two minutes it takes you to leave after changing.

      2. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        It’s just pot-stirring in my opinion. Though there is a chance for clients to get an eyeful as she exits the building.

    2. E*

      “Not my bouncing monkey, not my half-dressed circus.”
      This exact phrase should be used to reply to these women. If all they want to do is stir up trouble but not actually follow the rules to complain to the manager, they can find someone other than you to engage in this drama. You are out!

  30. Applesauced*

    #2 – Seconding (thirding?) the idea that work social events should be during work hours, should be varied in activity, and should be completely voluntary.

    I tried to set up a volunteering event through work; we’re architects, so I thought doing a build day for Habitat would be a great fit – the company put SO many restrictions on it (specifications for branding the event, getting a variety of levels of staff on the event, submitting photos and text after wards to various trade publications… oh, and there’s no billing code for time you spend on this, and we won’t give you a day off to volunteer) that I scrapped the plan and made a note to do in on my own next year.

  31. WS*

    The person staying in the apartment now is supposed to just be there for the summer. If that’s the case, I can move back in August/September. I hope.

    LW #3: Are you absolutely sure that you can even get this apartment again? You don’t sound completely sure of the arrangements here. Have your bosses confirmed that this person is moving out in August/September, and if so when in that two-month window? What happens if the person stays on past September? Do they have to leave the apartment, or do they get to keep it because they’re living there now? I’m also a little wary that your bosses seemingly rented the apartment to someone else before your new living arrangements were completely secured- to me, that would be a red flag about the security of your living situation in company-owned apartments.

    I would definitely look for another house or apartment that’s not owned by the company, if that’s feasible for your area and situation.

  32. Amber*

    #3 as someone who lives in a high cost area, everyone that I know who is starting their careers here shares a place, they all have roommates. You should do the same and not with your boss.

  33. Alex*

    OP#4- Take the office! I had the exact same situation, and realized something later that you may be missing in the moment- perception of your role and value based on your real estate.

    I came into a large project where 5 other people shared my position (we each managed different country portfolios). Our office set up had 4 options- large single offices with windows, large shared offices with windows, small single offices no windows, and cubicles. I was offered a shared office with window, but since I would be on the other side of the building from the other 5 people in my position (all with small single offices, no windows), I initially said I might prefer a cubicle that was closer to them.

    A mentor told me to take the office, for the authority it projected, if nothing else. She was absolutely right. I was the youngest of those in my position, and everyone else on our project that was my age was in a cubicle. I know that having the office (which I found out later was only even offered if you were at/above a certain pay grade) helped set me apart from the others members of my team who were socially my peers, but held lower level positions on our team.

    And for what it’s worth, I ended up enjoying sharing a space. We both had at least one day a week where the other was teleworking, and once we worked out a system for phone calls, etc., it was rarely truly distracting to be working alongside each other.

  34. lemonjelly*

    For OP#2 – This is one thing my last job did really well. They did a variety of social events as well as volunteering, and it was stressed that everything was truly voluntary, there was never any work blow-back for not participating (and I speak from experience as someone who did not always participate). I actually really liked the way they handled volunteering – every employee in the company received two volunteer days a year in addition to the normal PTO bucket. They had several company-sponsored volunteer days throughout the year, including building days at a local Habitat for Humanity house, as well as time spent helping at local food banks, but you were also welcome to use your volunteer days for an activity/organization of your choice as long as the organization was a verified 501(c)3 non-profit. Like any other sort of time off this had to be coordinated with your manager/team calendar, but the company as a whole was really enthusiastic about giving back to the community and this was never an issue (the same company also would match up to $1k of charitable donations).
    They were also big on social events – there would be a couple company-sponsored/organized events a year, but mostly this was individual groups deciding to go out on their own. I actually still go out for our “regular” Tuesday night dinner with several former coworkers a couple times a month. There was also a group that would regularly get together to go do local brewery tours. I think what made stuff like this work was that it was usually arranged by the employees, not management, so definitely no pressure to go if you don’t want to. You have to be very careful with company-sponsored “fun”.

  35. Allison*

    #1 Oh boy . . .

    So first of all, I’ll give the coworker the benefit of the doubt and figure she’s probably not, as these older ladies seem to assume, “showing off” her body on purpose. I recently gained weight, thanks to life changes and hormones (turns out, my older friends were right, your metabolism *does* change in your late 20’s) my clothes are tight, and it took me a while to accept that I need to buy new clothes that fit the body I have right now (I know, I know, I’m sorry). But I’m not loaded, I can’t run out and immediately buy a new wardrobe over the course of a weekend, this is going to be a gradual process. So in the meantime, I may need to wear clothing a size smaller than I should. I’m not trying to “show” anything off, I’m just working with what I have at any given time.

    Second, gahh I hate how many women judge women younger than them for every little thing. I know not all women do this, but there are women who do it and it’s awful. All the tsking and tutting and hemming and exaggerated sighs and vaguely passive aggressive, ominously upbeat staccato humming over clothing they don’t like, clumsiness, wardrobe mishaps, minor rule breaking, or even the occasional cell phone use. It’s like, these women are convinced we’re a disgrace no mater what we do, will continue to think that way and actively look for reasons to justify that internalized misogyny.

    Third, I agree with the other commenters that it’s management’s job to set and enforce the dress code, and talk to anyone who continuously dresses inappropriately. I think if you’re close with someone, you might be able to help rein them in if you notice their hemlines getting too short or their necklines getting too low, but in general, if you’re concerned with how someone dresses you should talk to management and let them decide what’s appropriate.

    1. Newlywed*

      My body shape changed to due to weight gain and it’s taken me a while to find and build up a new flattering wardrobe. So I totally get where you’re coming from.

    2. CurvyGirl*

      It might not even be a weight issue with her. If you look up the #teacherbae hashtag it is just a shapely woman (large breasts, thighs and butt) and not someone who has put on extra weight in that sense. Her attire was perfectly fine, she just happened to have a different body shape than some other people and suddenly her opaque tights and knee length skirts were a problem.

      1. Kate 2*

        I totally agree. The author of that article someone on this thread linked seemed to think the pink dress was inappropriate, but I didn’t see it that way at all! She wasn’t showing cleavage at all, never mind too much of it, it wasn’t so tight as to show her nipples, it wasn’t short enough to show her underwear, it just fit well. Which I actually find refreshing when so many people tend to wear things two sizes too big or small, myself included in the big category. I gained some weight, and now I have curves, I used to be straight up and down, really. I would be furious if someone told me that having breasts meant I couldn’t wear things that fit.

  36. Temperance*

    LW1: if these women are housekeepers, they really have no business telling the office staff how to dress. It sounds like a case of “they’ve been here longer, they run the show”, but I could be totally misreading.

    Ignore them, direct them to your manager, but make it clear that you aren’t going to be manipulated into causing drama.

  37. Sup Sup Sup*

    #5 – A good, quick commute in New York City is like a unicorn. Everyone talks about it, but no one has seen one. I don’t see the harm in asking, but I would caution you against leaving an otherwise good job because of an hour long commute. The City is not kind to commuters. I live in Queens and my commute to midtown should be 15 minutes. It regularly takes twice that long, if not longer. I completely understand your frustration and while commuting (and its associated costs) should be a factor in job selection, I think it’s also important to accept the realities of NYC commuting. (My brother lives in upstate New York with a 20 minute commute, door to door. It makes me cry how simple it is)

    1. OP #5*

      It’s definitely worth considering. Another factor– which is at least salient to me– is that if I worked in NYC I would be able to sell my car. Other than the fact that I hate driving– I’m a competent driver, and I have been driving in north jersey my whole life, and I think it’s insanely dangerous in short term (car crashes) and long term (climate change)– and it’s also really, really expensive. Swapping from a sensible, low-cost driving commute to transit would be an instant $7500 raise (including occasional car rentals), which is not exactly small change.

      1. Sup Sup Sup*

        Ahhh well, if the costs of driving are prohibitive then that’s definitely an issue. I can’t speak to the savings you might get by moving to a job in the City. Entry-level jobs in the City are not usually cost effective, because they’re in great demand, so they can afford to be picky and cheap. I don’t say this to dissuade you from deciding what’s important to you. If you feel unsafe or not environmentally-friendly, then those are personal factors for you to consider. But, as someone who has experienced the start of a new career in New York City, I felt compelled to add my two cents. (Still think there’s no harm in asking though and wish you luck with it!)

  38. seriouslythough*

    OP #1: I worked at a job where I was a receptionist along with one other person who was described off the bat in my interview as “easily overwhelmed”. She could not retain information, was lazy, and didn’t like to work. She was more interested in Facetime and taking selfies than doing work. She could not wear anything professional — jeggings, skin tight mini dresses, chest tight leopard print off the shoulder numbers and high heels were her standard of professional office work attire in a corporate environment. The company hoped I would rub off on her as they wanted me in business suits which I happen to own and had no problem wearing for the front desk. One time she went out for over two hours to shop for more appropriate office wear because she forgot federal regulators were going to show up at the office and had already been scolded for her attire. Yet she kept her job, despite dressing like she did. Looking back, I can see she either honestly didn’t know how to dress, or was insecure and felt the only way she’d keep her job was to dress provocatively to excite our married boss who more than once mentioned that the way she dressed, she was “trying to kill” him. Despite her laziness and lack of care and tacky outfits, she’s kept her job. Go figure.

    1. Amber Rose*

      That last bit about your boss’s reaction is really unsettling.

      Or if I’m being bluntly honest, pretty gross.

  39. seriouslythough*

    OP #3: Yes, you must be on your good behavior because you are staying in another person’s home and not your own. Be diligent to look for a new place or start looking for a new job elsewhere if their hospitality infringes on your right to live as you want.

    1. Natalie*

      I don’t think the LW is complaining about the normal level of good behavior that a room rental or houseguest situation would warrant. Living with one’s boss (especially in a relatively new job) probably feels like it calls for an unsustainably high level of perfection.

  40. Luke*

    Off site social events are well and good by intent,but they are no substitute for a properly sorted internal company culture. Unfortunately , far too many company managers believe a toxic culture can be painted over with hot dogs and soda on the company dime.

    Starting with the goal of making employees happier means examining what makes them unhappy.Like repairing rusted paint,you have to treat the cultural problem at the source first. Holding an off site social without addressing a toxic work environment is like painting over a rust spot. No one is fooled and the result is uglier then before.

  41. Amber Rose*

    Two weeks ago, my boss hauled the BBQ out of the closet, dusted it off, and made burgers and hot dogs for everyone. He also ran out and bought like, salad and fruit and stuff like that. People grabbed food as they pleased, ate together or not, wandered in and out, etc. He does this a couple times a year when it’s nice out. During the winter, petty cash usually goes towards soup lunches or pizza or something. It’s a faux-social event, in that it’s less event than it is just lunch, but it does get a lot of people together in one place.

    We usually do one Saturday event every year also, which people attend or not, with family or not, as they please. Not everyone shows up to every event, but since the events are diversified, we usually manage to interest everyone at least once. So far I have only been to one from my company, the murder mystery dinner theater thing.

  42. the_scientist*

    Regarding #1, I’m inferring that the woman who is the subject of complaints is in the same role as the letter writer, while the women who are complaining to the letter writer are housekeepers, which is a different role. Not trying to be elitist, but what business is it of the housekeeping staff what people in other roles are wearing to work? Unless I’m not reading the letter correctly and the woman in question is also a housekeeper, I really don’t see how it affects their work at all; even then, they aren’t her boss so it’s really not their place.

    It just sounds like these women are gossipy/meddlesome, and for whatever reason are trying to rope you into their drama. Don’t fall for it.

    1. Writer of #1*

      Well it was them but I have been approached by 2 other people who have different roles in our organization as well. They are all women in their 40s or 50s.

  43. Risha*

    #3 – Consider moving into a hotel until the apartment opens up. Not an Extended Stay hotel, as those are ghastly expensive when you’re paying for them yourself. But many regular hotels will have an unadvertised flat weekly rate, usually with housekeeping only coming in once or twice a week and possibly with other restrictions, that is frequently used by people living there for months at a time.

    They’re more common in cheap places, but I’ve found them at every price point. Call the front desk of a place you’re interested in to see if they have one. It’s still more expensive than a normal apartment, but since you’re not paying for any utilities or your tv or internet, not as expensive as you’d think. If it’s a chain with a rewards program, be sure to sign up immediately, because you’ll really rack up the points. Look for one that has a fridge and microwave in the room. Try to move in on a weekday – some places’ weekly rates beginning on a weekend are higher than their weekly rate beginning at other times. You can have a small amount of mail and packages delivered to the front desk.

    I had to do this for a while, and it did get annoying to live without all of your stuff, and never knowing who is going to be next door, and to always have to be paying for another week every week and remember to make reservations far enough out in advance that the place won’t fill up on you around holidays, or to occasionally be forced to change rooms. But it’s workable, and all sorts of seasonal workers and people with housing issues like fire damage or landlord disputes do it as a matter of course. I spent several months at a Red Roof Inn in North Jersey where a woman had lived there for almost 20 years (as confirmed by two people, including an employee). She had received a small inheritance, moved in, and apparently liked the lifestyle because she never moved out.

  44. Beancounter Eric*

    OP#2 – A “dumb” question – What is the desired result of, as you put it, a “more unified team”, and how does forced socializing promote that goal?

  45. SoMuchAttentionNotEnoughDetail*

    OP #5 – entry level after a 1.5 years? Unless they have set up a progression plan for you, time to start sending out resumes. Not to be rude, but taking up space in an entry-level job when you are trained/ready to move is just causing someone else to sit at home on unemployment for this so-called ‘lack of skilled workers shortage’.

    1. Web Marketer*

      1.5 years is not long at all in an entry level role, and nowhere near the point of ‘progression plan or leave’. There might be some industries where such short stints are expected, but it’s certainly not universal. Besides that, OP is responsible for their career only – they have zero obligation to leave a job they enjoy just to open up a spot.

      1. KaraLynn*

        I agree. Most people new to the working world can barely get up to speed in that first year.

    2. OP #5*

      I’m eyeing new positions but as long as I’m still growing in my current role I’m interested in making it work.

      Also, as an aside– there’s so much confusion about entry level (I’ve seen ‘entry level’ jobs that ask for a decade of experience, but 2-3 years is extremely common) that I think focusing on growth rather than churn makes more sense for my career.

  46. Roker Moose*

    Re #4: privacy is super important to me, so I’d take the cubicle. It lacks a door, but sharing an office would be a nightmare for me. If you have any similar qualms, definitely the cubicle is better.

  47. Marisol*

    OP #3 you may not need this reminder, but just in case–for as long as you live there you’ll want to make sure you are pulling your weight with chores such as dishes, taking out the trash, etc. You don’t mention paying any rent so I’m not sure what the agreement is, but especially if they are letting you stay rent-free, you’ll want to devote some time to helping out each week. And maybe as a one-time thing right before you move out, you could do a big gesture like clean the garage out, or whatever. This does sound like a really hellish arrangement even if your bosses are nice, and doing chores won’t make it any less hellish, but personally I wouldn’t want to run the risk of engendering any ill feelings by being a less than impeccable houseguest. Good luck!!

  48. CurvyGirl*

    #1 – I am also curvy and understand how some clothes look inappropriate on me while they might look appropriate on someone else.

    This is the main reason why people need to stay out of this. I’ve dealt with this since I was in 4th grade. It’s not my fault I’m curvy and me wearing the same shirt as my bff looked different on me than her. I shouldn’t have to take on an additional burden for others’ comforts. If she isn’t actually dressed inappropriate for the office (like too short hems, or too low of a blouse) but people just have an issue with her body, that is something those people need to get over.

    When the #teacherbae thing happened on social, people were finding images of the same dresses on models who were thinner and less shapely than she was and suddenly the opinion on the clothing pieces changed. What should someone with curves wear? A burlap sack?

    Are they equally disgusted with a man who might be wearing slimmer fitting slacks than the next male colleague? I doubt it. Leave this one alone.

  49. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    OP # 1: I’m going to suggest something different: what if you talked to your boss the way you just asked Alison?

    Theoretically, your boss is there to help you grow, right? You’ve been presented with a difficult situation, in which you know that it really isn’t your business, but 1)other people are trying to make it your business, and 2) the coworker does have a real problem.

    I don’t see anything wrong with going to a boss to say that you’re in this situation, you’ve thought about all the different sides of it, and you’d like her advice on how to cope with it. If I were your boss, I’d see you as an honest, incisive person who is really trying to make the best decision possible, and is coming to me as an experienced person for guidance.

    1. Observer*

      Why? Why should the OP make this her problem just because others are trying to make it her problem? This is as good an opportunity as any for the OP to practice setting and enforcing boundaries.

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