breakfast on business trips, employee’s chair is way too big, and more

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

1. Eating breakfast with coworkers when traveling for business

I often travel on business with colleagues, and there seems to be an accepted pattern that you get together with your colleagues in the morning for breakfast, and then head off to whatever client you’re visiting.

For me, successful business travel involves trying to make the experience as close to home as I can. In the morning, I prefer quiet, coffee, and a newspaper. I also prefer to have breakfast before I got dressed for the day. I assume that most people do this at home, so I don’t know why they do it the opposite way on the road.

What are your thoughts on this? I have a job where I deal with clients all day, and my quiet, reflective time in the morning helps me to get in the frame of mind for that. I often make an excuse, saying that I couldn’t sleep, so I got up early and had breakfast. Sleeping in hotels can be a challenge, so people understand. Of course, I make an exception if we really do need to strategize for the upcoming meeting, but I try to do that before the day of the meeting. What are your thoughts?

That’s entirely your prerogative, and a lot of people feel the same way and would understand. Since it’s not the norm in your office to do that, you might mention it ahead of time so that whoever you’re traveling with can plan accordingly — “I usually eat breakfast in my room, but why don’t I meet you in the lobby at 8:45 and we’ll head to the client together?” But I don’t think you need to make excuses or come up with cover stories.

This should be absolutely fine in the vast majority of offices. But there’s a very small portion of them where it could impact the way you’re perceived. If you get the sense you’re in one of those, I’d say to try to do breakfast with your colleagues at least one of the mornings on the trip so that you don’t seem like you’re desperate to avoid them, but then continue on with your own thing on the other days.

2. My company is insisting my employee using a chair that’s way too big for her

I am newly promoted manager. I have five reports. We work in a satellite office for a large company that has offices all over the state. We recently moved into a new office and with it the company provided all new office equipment and furniture. My question relates to an issue one of my reports is having with her chair. The new chairs the company gave us are reinforced and expanded and meant to hold people up to 350 pounds, according to the receipts. I’m not afraid to admit that I am overweight myself and without sounding judgmental, four of my reports are as well. The fifth report is not and her chair is uncomfortable and doesn’t work for her because the seat is too wide.

What she is saying is true. Another person of her size could easily sit beside her in the chair at the same time as her. She has asked the company to provide her with a different chair but they have declined, saying it is in the best interest of every employee to use the new chairs. They won’t authorize our office to order one and say they won’t pay for one if we do. They also say we aren’t authorized to use any office furniture or equipment provided by them.My manager, the health and safety office, and the HR department are all located at the main headquarters, which is a three-hour drive away. I want to advocate for my employee because it’s affecting her work and, more importantly, her comfort. How do I get my manager or the health and safety office to listen when they dismiss both her and me at every turn? She is getting fed up and I don’t blame her.

Any orders for supplies or anything else out of our budget must be approved by our finance department and the company has stated any order for a new chair will not be approved and they will cancel the order and not pay for the item. If it was up to me, I would order a chair, but the company will not allow it.

So you’ve talked to the health and safety office and they too are saying she should use the chair she doesn’t fit in? If I’m understanding that correctly, that’s absurd. (If I’m not understanding that correctly and you haven’t talked to them directly, do that as a next step.)

Doctor’s notes aren’t legally binding for employers but a lot of employers take them very seriously, so it might be worth having your employee bring in a note from a doctor saying that the current chair isn’t ergonomically correct for her and that she needs a smaller chair for ___ (insert health-related reasons; I’m sure there are legit ones). She could also send a note to your HR department with the subject line “official request for medical accommodation” and a formal request for an appropriately sized chair. This too won’t obligate them legally (unless she’s citing a condition that would bring the ADA into play), but it’s really common for employers to play it safe and accommodate people when they get formal requests like that, especially when doing so would be so easy and so inexpensive.

They are being ridiculous here.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Career advisor wants me to use stuffy language in my cover letter

A university career advisor reviewed my cover letter and made some points that I don’t entirely agree with.

In my cover letter, I mentioned that I was following the company’s blog for a year and wrote: “I must say, I love what you do.” Advisor’s comment was: “Never use the word ‘love’ in business correspondence – I am impressed by your commitment to X – is more appropriate.”

To explain that I have been teaching myself about marketing I wrote, among other things: “…whenever I can I go about my day listening to podcasts on the topic of marketing and communications.” He again pointed out that this is too informal and I should have written something like this: “…actively examined podcasts on the topic to improve my analytical ability.”

I wrote: “I don’t shy away from sharing my ideas.” The advisor said I should write: “I am proactive in sharing my ideas.”

The language the advisor proposed sounds stuffy and contrived to me. I’m having a hard time imagining anyone thinking this kind of language communicates professionalism. Am I wrong?

Oh my goodness, this makes me so angry. Ignore this advisor. Your original language is far better than what she wants you to change it too. The best cover letters are written conversationally, with personality … the worst ones are stiff and formal. This person is doing you and others a disservice and should be kicked out of his field, seriously. (The exception to this is if you’re applying in a notoriously conservative field — and even then, you’d just need to tone it down slightly, not suck the life out of it the way he’s suggesting.)

Stiff and stuffy doesn’t make you look professional; it just makes you look like a bad communicator.

4. My coworkers are bossing me around while my manager is out

My boss is on paternity leave, and in his place two of my coworkers are filling in. My boss never officially made it clear that they would be his replacements when he was out. He has also told me in other contexts that I don’t have to do anything that anyone else on the team tells me to do, and that the only person I need to report to is him. The two people who have replaced him are good at a lot of stuff, but also clueless about just as much, and when I correct them, they bristle. They also order me to do things that I’ve never had to do when my boss is actually in the office, like coming in early and working overtime. What should I do in this context?

There was never any real discussion of instructions for who would handle what when my boss went on leave. I work at a very large organization, where you would assume (or at least I would assume) such discussions of hierarchy would be more straightforward to avoid such confusions.

This all puts me in a difficult position where I feel like I’m being bossed around by people who have my boss’ blessing, but that’s never been made clear to me.

It’s possible that your boss really did ask them to manage things (or you) in his absence. The fact that he’s told you in the past that you don’t need to take direction from anyone but him wouldn’t necessarily carry over while he’s on leave … and actually would be more likely not to, since normally you would report to someone else while he’s away.

But why not just ask them? You could say this: “Can you clarify your role with respect to me while Fergus is out? He’s always told me that I shouldn’t take direction from anyone on the team but him, and he didn’t tell me before he left that I’d be reporting to you. Did he leave you with different instructions?”

If you find out that yes, this is the arrangement Fergus made before he left, you can ask, “Can you tell me more about what the set-up is, so that we’re all on the same page? Are you managing specific projects of mine or managing my performance more broadly, exactly as he would?”

It’s also reasonable to say, “My arrangement with Fergus is that I work 8-5 and don’t typically work overtime. I’m hesitant to change that while he’s on leave. Will it work on your end if I stick to that during this period?”

5. Will not being on Facebook hurt me in my job search?

An online application form I recently submitted asked for links to social media profiles. Fortunately, they were optional, so I just left all but the LinkedIn one blank.

I never made a Facebook account, and the only reason I have a Google+ account is because Google decided to make one for everybody who had signed up for Gmail. I’ve heard that having no Facebook presence at all can be worse than having an embarrassing account, because the lack of an account makes me look like I have something to hide. However, all the articles and comments I’ve seen on this seem to be based on information that is secondhand at best. I understand that nor being on Facebook is unusual in this day and age, but suspicious seems to be going a bit far. What would a hiring manager actually think of somebody with zero Facebook presence?

No sane hiring manager cares. Even hiring managers who are only halfway sane don’t care. It’s really, really common for people not to have Facebook, or to have your account locked down tightly enough that it won’t come up in a search. It shouldn’t be a thing that matters in your job search at all. (One possible exception to this is if you work in social media, but even though they’re going to be more interested in seeing that you’ve used it successfully at work than checking out your personal account.)

You might wonder why that application bothered asking for your social media profiles, in that case. Sometimes employers ask because they’re interested in seeing what kind of public image you cultivate if you have those accounts, but that’s a different thing than being shocked if you don’t have them at all.

{ 366 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    #1 I don’t think that would be a big deal at all, unless there’s a pressing need to strategize. I will sometimes eat breakfast with co-workers but I don’t sleep well in hotels so like to stay in bed until the last possible second.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Even if you do need to strategise, it’s reasonable to say you need time to eat and reflect and wake up before doing that.

      1. Kevin*

        Actually, Ramona, in my experience, very extroverted people don’t understand the need for quiet time.

        For me, being more introverted, but in a job that requires a great deal of customer interaction, I find my morning quiet time to be essential to being able to “turn it on” later.

    2. Specialk9*

      I think it depends on frequency of travel, and how much you interact with the other people.

      The travel I’ve done is often with people senior enough that at work I only get a bit of time, infrequently, or with co-workers with whom I mostly just talk business, and so on travel I want to maximize my informal chat time, even if it cuts into my introvert chat time. (Wow super convoluted sentence, but we’re mid coffee here.)

      But if we knew each other well and had an established friendly/cordial relationship, then yes absolutely take the time you need. Travel for work often *stinks*, so ways to relax and recharge are good.

      1. BananaPants*

        Yeah, at some point my desire to get more face time with a manager or executive – even in an informal setting – is going to override my introvert tendencies. Folks can feel free to skip those opportunities, but I care about my career development and I’ll suck it up and socialize.

        Then again I say this as a person with small children, for whom my morning routine is NEVER leisurely or relaxed. My spouse and I have no choice but to hit the ground running. Business trips are relaxing because I don’t have my usual 5 AM wakeup from a 4 year old…

      2. Liz2*

        I used to think work travel was glamorous and meant you were on some exec level- HA! Not only was I not getting my real world at home stuff done which I’d have to shove into the shorter time, I would be expected to have MORE meetings with people during meal times, figure out directions and be on my feet in new places with tech problems hiding on every corner. SO exhausting!

        1. Kevin*

          It’s funny how people who don’t travel for a living think it’s glamorous. It used to be OK. These days, it’s awful.

      3. Typhon Worker Bee*

        I go to the same conference most years, where I get to see some truly awesome people for a few days. They live in various different countries and I really wish I could spend more time with them – in general. I do NOT want to spend time with ANYONE* at breakfast. I go down to breakfast as early as the hotel allows, usually carrying a book, so I can at least have a few sips of tea and a little quiet time before I have to talk to anyone. I’m a very social person in general, but breakfast is an exception to the rule! I can do it if I have to, but it’s really not my favourite thing.

        *including family. We rented an apartment with my parents and sister for a week last year, and my parents are extremely chatty first thing in the morning. My husband, sister, and her partner are all more like me. So when my sister and I spotted a big sign in one of the churches we visited saying “SILENCE and RESPECT” in a bunch of different languages, we did think about stealing it for display in the apartment before 9 am.

        1. Kevin*

          Thanks, Typhon. Clearly, we are kindred souls.

          I remember reading a story once about Peter Falk, who played Colombo. He valued quiet at breakfast time so much that his wife made a sign that said “QUIET,” with a string to hang around his neck.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Unfortunately, I think it depends on who OP is traveling with. If they’re peers, I think OP can safely say, “I’ll meet you guys at 8:45 so we can head to the client.” But if it’s OP’s boss or grandboss, then I think she needs to feel this out. If she mentions liking to have breakfast in her room before getting dressed and the boss gives her the side eye, then the boss may think of pre-client meeting breakfasts as important prep time, even if nothing terribly important actually gets discussed.

      Learned this one the hard way. :/

      1. Czhorat*


        You likely CAN get away with skipping, but if everyone else goes it’ll make you stand out in a bad way. If you’re going to opt-out of something and lose face-time with the team, I’d suggest making it for something more meaningful than the chance to break your fast while still in your nightclothes. If it’s THAT important to you, there’s no reason you can’t wake up early, eat something, then just have a second cup of coffee during the group breakfast.

        1. MillersSpring*

          Came here to say exactly this. Get up early to have coffee and newspaper in your room, get your quiet time, then have breakfast, even if it’s just a second cup of coffee with your coworkers.

          Hibernating in your room and not joining them will make you stand out in a negative way. You could miss critical conversations and/or bonding.

      2. BananaPants*

        Yes, this. When we travel it’s typical that colleagues traveling together will meet for breakfast to strategize and prep. If traveling with senior leaders, it would be crazy to *not* participate in that. It would be fine to only go and have a cup of coffee or whatever at the team meeting/breakfast, but it would never occur to me NOT to participate.

      3. Green Goose*

        This is very true. I have to travel about six times a year for work, and who I’m traveling with definitely impacts how enjoyable the trip is. I went to a long conference with a colleague and friend and we had a really good time, but it was also easy for one of us to bow out of something if we were tired or didn’t want to do it with the other being very understanding.
        I then went on a multiple day work trip with two of the execs and while it was a very cool city that is interesting to visit, I felt it was harder to push back on activities. One of the days we were out of the hotel room for eleven hours and I was totally exhausted but the execs kept wanting to see “one more thing.”

    4. Noobtastic*

      This thread will make history as “The Great Breakfast Debate of 2017.”

      Seriously, I’m amazed at all the comments on OP#1.

  2. an.on*

    “I also prefer to have breakfast before I got dressed for the day. I assume that most people do this at home, so I don’t know why they do it the opposite way on the road.”

    Just a quick comment on this because it stuck out to me – I’m not sure why you’d assume that everyone does things the way you do! I’ve never once eaten breakfast before getting ready for work in the last 20 years. (Maybe on a Sunday, if I’m just lounging around.) At home, I eat breakfast as either the last thing I do before I leave my house, or the first thing I do when I get to the office. When I’m traveling, I get completely ready for my day and then eat at the hotel or a restaurant before my work day starts (with or without colleagues, depending on what the nature of my trip is).

    1. TeacherNerd*

      Indeed. I don’t eat breakfast myself, or if I do, it’s shortly before my students arrive, after I’ve arrived at school. (It takes me a good hour to be ready to eat something in the morning after I’ve woken up, and I don’t care to get up at 5 a.m. just so I’ll be hungry enough to eat breakfast before I leave for school.)

      There are a lot of variations here with what people need, OP, and if you need to take the time for yourself in the morning, you should – I value my quiet time as well since interacting with a few hundred teenagers daily tends to take it out of me, socially – but I like Alison’s suggestion about occasionally putting in an appearance.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yes, take the time you need. I don’t eat breakfast like you do (I eat mine on the train to work so I definitely have to be dressed!) but I share your need for reflective time first thing especially if I’m going to be peopled out during the day. Some people aren’t rating to be social first thing and that’s okay. Alison’s advice is excellent.

        1. Ramona Flowers*


          I could do breakfast with colleagues in this way if and only if nobody expected to engage me in conversation.

    2. Al Lo*

      The only time I remember eating breakfast before getting dressed was Sunday mornings before church as a child, on special occasions (like Easter) when we had more than toast or cereal. I distinctly remember getting my hair done, wearing my tights and a full slip, eating a fancy breakfast, and then going to put on my fancy dress.

      As an adult, I don’t understand people who get up and have an hour or more around the house before leaving for the day. My MIL is like that — she needs to eat a sit-down breakfast, read the paper, do some light cleaning, and take an hour or two to wake up before leaving. For me, almost no matter how late I go in to work or leave the house, I’m in bed until as close as possible to when I leave.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m like your MIL (but without the cleaning). I need time to wake up and adjust – my husband is like you but I can’t just get up and go. I need time to potter and read. I need to leave at 6.30am for work and I choose to get up between 5-5.30am so I have that time, though I don’t tend to eat breakfast until I’m on the train to work. The kicker is that I was a total night owl until I got this job that I commute for and people think I’m joking when I say I get up at this hour but it suits me. I like to read in the morning (and love that the five question posts go up when they do).

        On weekends I eat breakfast without being dressed because I can.

        1. Al Lo*

          Actually, when I stop to think about it, I guess I do some of that, but I just do it in bed. I’m lucky, in that I have a job with no particular set start time most days, so I’ll often wake up around 9 (or whenever, since I don’t set an alarm unless I have a meeting), sometimes read for a bit, check my work email and respond to the quick questions that I can get off my plate before I ever hit the office door, and then get up and get out of the house within 20 minutes. I just do all of my pottering before I roll out of bed. :)

          But on the days when I have meetings or otherwise have to be at work at a specific time, my alarm-to-car window is about 30 minutes.

            1. Matilda Jefferies*

              My ex was like that too – eight minutes, alarm to door. My preferred time for that activity is somewhere around an hour to an hour and a half – I’m not very fast in the mornings!

            2. DecorativeCacti*

              Mine can be under five. I never PLAN to be out that fast but I can do it. I always pick out clothes the night before and have my lunch packed just in case. And keep a spare toothbrush at work.

          1. Willis*

            I’m the same…alarm to door in about 30 minutes. It throws me when I’m travelling with coworkers and one of them texts in the morning asking if we can leave 10 or so minutes earlier than planned. I’m like…uh, that’s a third of my getting ready time!

            1. Not Rebee*

              I’m the same. I can do faster – it really just depends on how fast I manage to shower (the more asleep I am, the longer that takes haha). I can’t shower the night before (my hair dries in weird configurations and I’d have to actually style it in the morning, which would take more time than the shower), but I’m pretty lucky to have hair that styles itself after a wash with only a little help from a comb and some product. It cuts down on a ton of time for me. Bed to shower to dressed and out the door is a very easy 30 minutes most days, but that doesn’t include breakfast (which I do at work, if I do it at all) or coffee (which I definitely do, but not until 10am or so, about an hour after I’ve gotten to work).

          2. Rookie Manager*

            I’ve just realised ‘pottering in bed’ is what I do! I have a wake up alarm (take meds, radio on, read news/blogs, plan my day) followed by a get up alarm 15-30 minutes later and a leave the house alarm 15-30 minutes later again. Today i’ll be out the house 15 min after getting up but nearer to an hour after waking up.

            I also don’t eat breakfast till I get to work (or sometimes en route). Staying in a hotel for work I find myself getting up artificially early so I’m able to eat before leaving and try to eat as quickly as possible. I know colleagues who like to stretch out a multicourse breakfast then go back to their room to potter. I’d previously suggested ‘first one there get a big table and we can come and go as needed then meet in lobby at x ready to head off to y’. That way everyone gets to use their morning how they want without ‘shunning’ anyone else.

        2. Rebecca in Dallas*

          I’m the same way! I like to be able to work out, eat a leisurely breakfast and drink my coffee while I read the morning news, check Facebook, etc. Then I start actually getting cleaned up and dressed. I’m not one of those people who can just roll out of bed, get dressed and go.

        3. DataQueen*

          I’m a morning putterer too! I’m up at 6 at the latest, and I drink my coffee in bed, I watch the news or an episode of whatever I’m binging, and then I start to think about getting ready. I can do my hair and makeup and get dressed in 20 minutes if I have to, but I don’t want to! I putter around the house, clean, hang up yesterday’s clothes, maybe stop at the store on the way into work – I don’t like being rushed. I do my makeup and hair in bed too while watching TV, so what could take me 15 minutes draws out for an hour. It’s great!

        4. MacAilbert*

          Sounds a lot like me. On a typical weekend, I leave for work at noon, so I get up at about 11, maybe a bit earlier. I need to read a bit and shower and eat and brew coffee (though I typically drink the coffee on the train and the bus, not at home).

    3. JamieS*

      There’s also the consideration that a lot of people eat breakfast in the hotel lobby area instead of in the privacy of their own room. While I may do so at home I know I for one sure don’t walk out into a hotel’s dining area in my underwear and start filling a plate. I assume most others do the same and get dressed prior to leaving their rooms.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        In most hotels I’ve been to it also costs extra to get breakfast in your room.

      2. Antilles*

        If you’re eating breakfast in the hotel lobby, I think it actually might come off as a little weird to *not* sit together. We’re going to the same open breakfast room, at approximately the same time, grabbing food from the same continental breakfast buffet table…but we’re not going to sit at the same table? Uh…huh?

        1. Caro in the UK*

          I would totally do that :) I’m an introvert and need my “brain space” especially in the morning (the constant socialising is one of the hardest parts of business travel for me, it is genuinely exhausting). But I also like to eat breakfast in the hotel breakfast / dining room.

          Unfortunately I often end up eating in my room or skipping all together, because I’m worried my coworkers will have a reaction like yours and take it personally, when in realty it’s noting at all do do with them, it’s just about me conserving my mental energy for the stuff I really need it for.

          1. BeezLouise*

            I totally agree with this — especially if there are night/evening activities. Traveling for work is exhausting for me, mainly because of having to be “on” all the time. I’ll grab every minute possible in the morning.

            I also get up early (life with a toddler at home) and am super cranky if I don’t eat right away, so the idea of waiting around for everyone, burning my mental energy, and potentially waiting a bit to eat (especially in the morning) are all horrifying for me.

            But I usually end up eating in my room.

        2. Kevin*

          Agreed, Antilles. What I described in my letter is eating an hour or an hour and a half earlier than my peers. I certainly wouldn’t sit separately from my peers if we were there at the same time.

      3. Hopefully not coworker either*

        Not me! I totally slog to the communal breakfast area in slippers and PJs, gather my breakfast items and take them back to the room. I am usually down the minute it opens – less chance of getting seen. If I happen to be travelling with someone I work with I will go down in yoga pants and at least put a bra on in case there is a run-in, but for most part I am just like the OP.

      4. Kevin*

        Yes, I don’t like eating in my room. My morning routine, which I described in the letter, typically means being the first one in the hotel restaurant.

    4. Execut Assistant Barbie*

      Yes, I came here to say the same. It’s even a bit of a flow thing, because I get myself and my kid clean and dressed on the second floor, then travel downstairs to get him breakfast before heading out the door (I eat at work). It doesn’t make sense to me to go downstairs for breakfast and then travel back up to do the rest of the morning routine unless it’s a weekend where we have no time constraints (rare). But to each their own!

      And OP is definitely not alone in preferring relaxing solo time when ramping up to the day, regardless of the routine…it’s why I have a “no meetings before 9:30 if I can help it” policy.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I reject attempts to schedule meetings before 10. You wouldn’t like me before 10.

        OP, it’s totally reasonable to protect time for yourself when you need it.

        1. BananaPants*

          You must have very flexible management. Around here, refusing to participate in a meeting before 10 AM would be considered impossibly high maintenance.

          1. Turquoise Cow*

            I’ve had managers who I am almost certain scheduled meetings at 8:30 (start time was 8:30) just to force people to not be even 2 minutes late. I mean, seriously. There was no reason that same meeting couldn’t have been held at 9:00.

            This was also the same place where they’d walk around at 8:28 and demand to know why so many people weren’t in yet.

            1. DataQueen*

              I think I remember someone talking about a study (or maybe it was Alison in a post a while back) that said that people perceive those that come in early as more productive than those who stay late – even if you’re working the same hours. As a 10-7 person, i TOTALLY get attitude from people – and those people are probably the same ones walking around at 8:28, unfortunately.

          2. Ramona Flowers*

            We have flexible hours. Core hours are 10am-4pm with a lunch break – some people start at 8 or 9 while others leave at 6. Some do a bit of both. You can refuse meetings outside of those hours.

            1. Noobtastic*

              We used to have that sort of situation at a former job, and it was great. Then, we went global, and the whole thing went off the rails.

              6 am mandatory meetings became a thing, regardless of your regular schedule. As did late meetings. And then, they told us that we were spending too much money on overtime, so non-exempt employees were not allowed to work overtime, at all. So, the exempt employees were spending ALL DAY at the job, while the non-exempt were taking four hour lunches.

              It was weird.

              Then, they started saying we had to work holidays and weekends, and then…

              They got all confused about why so many people were quitting.

              On the plus side, it did become a lot easier to get a conference room between the hours of 10 and 4. They weren’t so booked up as before.

              1. Noobtastic*

                BTW, I think that even in a global company, having local teams that do their own thing, and compare notes over email, and the rare, maybe monthly, everyone-get-together-to-be-on-the-same-page meeting is MUCH better than trying to make all the teams global, all the time.

                Trying to find a time that works for people on every continent, and making that a mandatory weekly meeting, is just… HELL.

          3. Ramona Flowers*

            And around here scheduling meetings before 10am would make you very unpopular… I think only two people have tried.

      2. DataQueen*

        Ditto. If it’s with enough people that 9 was the only time to get everyone’s schedules open, I’ll come in for the meeting. If it’s 1 on 1 – even with my boss – I’m gonna try to move it. Admittedly, you have a certain level of seniority – longevity or position – within your company to be able to have that power, but it’s a nice one to have!

    5. Annie Mouse*

      I refuse to eat at home in my uniform (it’s bad enough doing that at work!) and I find I need to eat within about half an hour of getting up or I start to feel a bit off. So I eat before I get dressed. But on days off, if I’m heading out early, I’ll sometimes get dressed first. I’m not too bothered whether I have company or not as I do my waking up before I leave bed, I have to add extra time in in the morning for getting up. I used to be able to be breakfasted, dressed and out the door within about 20 minutes of getting up but now I’ve got a cat it’s about 30 as I like to give her some time before I go out.
      Speaking of which, I’ve just finished breakfast and it’s time to get ready and go to work!

    6. Bagpuss*

      The line about having breakfast before getting dressed stuck out to me, too! The only time I ever have breakfast before I get dressed is if I’m having a lazy weekend, and even then, it’s normally only if I have a reason *not* to get dressed first – for instance if I am planning to have a long bath after breakfast and don’t want to get dressed and undressed twice.
      I need to have been awake for at least 45 minutes before I can face eating anything, so I build that time into my morning routine, and eating is normally the last thing I do before leaving the house.

      In a hotel, there is normally an extra charge for room service so eating in the dining room makes sense, and I think most people are more comfortable being fully dressed in public spaces like a hotel dining room. (I don’t have to do overnight travel for my job, but would it be common for room service to be covered by a business?)

      That said, I think OP#1 would be fine to get room service (if her business is happy to pay, or if she is willing to cover the extra cost) or to simply say to her colleagues ‘I’m not really up for conversation until after I’ve had something to eat / my first coffee of the day – I’ll join you after breakfast once I’m ready for company”
      She may find that other colleagues feel the same way and are grateful for her speaking up!

      1. Anon Anon*

        I think the room service thing is YMMV and it’s up to your employer. I know many employers who do not permit their staff to expense room service, given the high costs associated with it. However, there are other employers who wouldn’t care about room service being expensed, or they provide a per diem which can be used at the employee’s discretion.

        1. Oryx*

          We have a daily amount that can be expensed towards food and while they have “guidelines” for each meal, they really are just guidelines and it’s really at our discretion as long as we don’t go over the daily max so I’ve definitely ordered room service breakfast if I knew my lunch or dinner for the day was included because of daily events, or at a super inexpensive restaurant, etc. Likewise, if I want to splurge at a particular restaurant for dinner I skimp a little on breakfast and lunch that day (or opt to not expense those meals and just pay for it myself) so that money can go towards dinner.

          1. BeezLouise*

            Yes, this! I get a daily per diem, and I’ve never even gotten close to using it all (you get to pocket what you don’t spend). I definitely splurge for room service breakfast (which is still usually close to what I’m allotted for breakfast anyway) some days.

          2. Anon Anon*

            I think this is quite common. Where I work, expensing a room service meal isn’t a big deal if it’s only one or two per trip (say for a trip that lasts anywhere from 4-7 days), but more than that and it would be frowned upon and may even result in expenses being denied.

            1. Bibliovore*

              I have meds that I need to take with food when I wake up. I have to take them before I do anything else. My go-to is cold coffee with a cup of milk and fruit w/ a yogurt w/ granola or an apple with peanut butter. I stock up when I get into the hotel. I join the group for breakfast and have a second cup of coffee with them then. Turns out no one ever cares if I eat anything.

      2. Kevin*

        But, in my case, I’m typically the only one in the restaurant at 6:30 in the morning, when most hotel restaurants open, so it’s no problem being in jeans and a T-shirt.

    7. nonegiven*

      I put my clothes on absolutely last thing before I leave the house. I’d spill and have to change anyway.

      1. Chloe Silverado*

        This. I do a full face of makeup and have more than 1 cup of coffee every morning, and I’m clumsy as all get out. The last thing I do is put on my clothes to avoid an unfortunate spill right before I walk out the door!

      2. Kevin*

        Yes, that’s also a factor. I’m afraid I’m prone to part of my meal ending up on my shirt!

        Even a tiny spot drive you nuts the rest of the day.

    8. Mookie*

      For me, dressing is one of several steps under the rubric of preparing for a workday, and that includes bathing and cleaning my teeth, so breakfast precedes all that otherwise I’d have to clean my teeth twice in a two-hour period. Eating after dressing ends up making my clothes crumb-y and wrinkled and sometimes smelly if they’re very absorbent. The exceptions to this are physically laborious days/gigs, because the uniform for that type of work is more stain-resistant and I like as recently full a belly as possible if I’m going to be burning a lot of energy, or if I’m sleeping on-site (which generally means eating something someone else prepared, at a canteen or hotel restaurant, et al). When I was younger, I’d bathe first thing because it helped wake me, but doing so often meant I had to skip breakfast entirely because I’d cut it too finely. Now it’s a long, slow slog to wakefulness and one less hour of sleep just to make sure.

      That said, I wouldn’t really assume the majority of people do this, though that feeling may be the result of watching too much kitchen-sink drama, where fictional family members rush around with dry toast in their mouths as they scramble out the door.

    9. OhBehave*

      I always eat breakfast before I get ready. I brush my teeth after I eat! The only exception is Sunday mornings. I eat at church.

    10. Oryx*

      Yes, I am a dress first then eat kind of person.

      I love Breakfast and always make a point of giving myself time to eat and mentally get prepared for the day while eating breakfast. The only way that works if it’s the last time I do before I leave (aside from brushing my teeth). So I get up and shower and get ready, which takes maybe 15 – 20 minutes total, then spend a good 30 – 40 minutes preparing and eating breakfast (while reading AAM!). By then I’m good and ready to tackle the day.

    11. Steph*

      That line really stuck out to me, too – OP, have you really never heard of people doing the “barely even had any breakfast, dash out the door to work” morning? I kind of assumed (based on my experience, that of my spouse, my friends, my family, tv shows, movies, blogs, magazine articles, advertisements…) that getting dressed and raving out the door with half a cup of coffee and a price of toast was more the norm. I’m curious as to why you assume
      Most people do as you do?
      (Not that I don’t respect what you do – I think it sounds like a lovely way to start the day and I think Alison’s advice makes total sense).

      1. Specialk9*

        I am out the door in 40-50 minutes of arising, and that includes 10 minutes of drinking coffee (which my awesome spouse brings me because it needs doing) and staring stupidly at the wall. Then getting up and (in sync w the hubs) changing a baby, feeding a baby and making breakfast, packing lunches, dressing me and then the kid, then getting in the car. It’s not too crazy, but it might get more so as the baby ages and needs to be reasoned with and cajoled at every step.

        1. Steph*

          Yup – I’m currently practising getting myself and three kids under 5 out the door in time for me to get to work. Luckily day care does their breakfast and there’s Macdonalds on the way to to work for me (and bags and lunches are prepacked and mostly in the car already). The getting dressed part is the easiest bit – getting the 3 downstairs and into the car without the distraction of wanting to “play Frozen” or “I just need to make a garbage truck with the mobilo” or wresting one’s brother or any number of things is nye impossible. I’ve got it to just under 60 mins, but then I go to work for a rest.
          Try dressing the baby in day clothes night night before – eliminates the need for a change of clothes!

    12. Allison*

      I must be weird, reading this comment thread has made me realize how uncommon and possibly lazy it is to eat before getting dressed. I guess my thought is I want to eat as close to getting up as possible, and I don’t want to get food on my work clothes. My routine is breakfast, then bathroom to brush teeth and wash my face, then makeup, *then* I get dressed. And, I’ll admit, I do sometimes hang around in my PJs for an extra hour or so on weekends if I don’t have anywhere I need to be right away. Never occurred to me that I should change out of my pajamas the second I wake up.

      1. Allison*

        PS: if anyone reads my comment and goes “gee, must be niiiiice,” I assure you it is nice! But I get up early enough to accommodate that kind of routine, and it helps that right now I don’t have kids, elderly relatives, or husband to care for, no one to drop off at school, nor do I tend to have crazy early morning meetings. I understand that not everyone has this privilege.

        1. GigglyPuff*

          I didn’t read it that way, no worries. Probably because I’m worse than you, lol! For the most part, I’m a complete roll out of bed and go person. When I started working full time though, I’m horrible now. I’m completely the annoying person who hits their snooze for about 40 mins, because that’s how I wake up. When I do get up, the only thing I do, brush my teeth, get dressed, walk the dog, feed the dog, turn on the tv for the dog and leave.
          On the weekends, good luck getting me out of pj’s. If I’m not going anywhere they are staying on, and if not horribly ragged ones, totally walk the dog in them at my apartment complex. (Although I do still do the alarm goes off, if I set it on the weekends, jump out of bed and go thing, but that’s because it’s usually a more exciting reason than work.)

      2. Not in US*

        I have three kids and they are young. I don’t get dressed before breakfast or I would have to change. My kids don’t get dressed normally before breakfast for the same reason. I look forward to the day we can change that. Mind you I also look forward to the day I don’t have to get up at 5:45 am in order to function before the kids get up around 6:30 am so we can get out the door around 7:30 am. I need that time! I am not a happy person before I’ve been up for a while (my oldest has figured out – leave mom alone until she’s been awake for a while) and I don’t even get to drink my coffee until I get to the office (thankfully a very short commute ~15 minutes after dropping off kids).

      3. an.on*

        My routine is to wake up, use the bathroom, shower, towel dry my hair so it’s not dripping, get dressed, go downstairs, make an iced espresso and pour a giant ice water for the road, grab a protein bar to eat during my long commute (90+ min if I drive, 25 min drive +52 min train+ 28 min walk if I take the train). I put my makeup on when I get to work – I guess theoretically I could do it at home but it always needs to be freshened up after that long of a commute so I prefer to just do it once. Once I’m at my desk I eat a yogurt and fruit as I go through my to-do list for the morning. Second breakfast, like a hobbit.

        I don’t think anyone’s routine sounds like the norm, and none of them sound lazy or weird to me either. Personal routines are expected to be totally different, right?

      4. Joe X*

        I don’t think it lazy. An nothing wrong with hanging around in your PJs. I was just struck by the OP’s comment of “I assume that most people do this at home”. Why would she assume that just because she does it that way?

        1. Allison*

          Fair enough, I think what a routine makes the most sense to you, you figure most people must be doing it the same way because why wouldn’t they? I’ve definitely encountered people, both personally and on the internet, who do things a certain way and get confused and frustrated when they see people doing it differently.

          1. TootsNYC*

            And those people are so wrong, it’s not even funny.

            This is either the height of conceitedness, or the height of insecurity, to think that everybody must be just like you.

      5. Observer*

        While I don’t think it’s all that typical to eat first on a normal work day, I can’t imagine calling it lazy. It’s just a different way of doing things.

        And, yes on a typical day, I’ll get dressed first.

    13. Jesmlet*

      Eating breakfast is the least important thing I do in the morning before going to work (since I can just eat at work if I want to). I can’t wrap my head around the idea of eating before getting dressed and fully ready.

      With no real explanation I think what you’re doing could potentially come across as anti-social and uncooperative, because people may still want to do some last minute strategizing. If you really want to relax and have coffee, you could do that in your room a bit earlier then head down and sit with them. If you don’t want to do that, then just be honest and say you’d prefer to stick with your normal routine but that you’d join them at X o’clock.

      1. skunklet*

        I can – I cook a full breakfast every morning – scrambled eggs and bacon. I’m up at 615, out the door at 730. I eat before I get dressed so I get nothing on me. I drink coffee in the car on the way in. It’s a routine I’ve had for many years and I prefer to stick to it (even on the weekends). My husband is nothing like that, but he never really eats breakfast anyways. To each his own.

    14. many bells down*

      I can’t eat anything until at least an hour after I get up, for a couple of reasons: I have to take thyroid medication, which needs to be on an empty stomach, and my digestive tract just doesn’t seem to wake up when the rest of me does. If I eat first thing I’ll have terrible stomach trouble.

      On days when I’m not working I’ll eat breakfast in my pajamas or right after my shower. When I do go to work I like to treat myself to Starbucks on the way and eat it when I get there. Their breakfast sandwiches are heated to the temperature of molten lava anyway, so it cools down enough to actually eat during my commute.

    15. Nevertheless*

      I wish people would just not assume in general. The same goes for whoever is arranging these morning breakfast meetings. Some people can’t eat breakfast, others prefer not to, etc. It seems it would be easier to say “do you all want to get breakfast together at 8 am or do you want to meet in the hotel lobby at 8am to strategize for a few minutes?” It would give people an out for awkward conversations without altering their ability to do work.

    16. TootsNYC*

      “so I don’t know why they do it the opposite way on the road.”

      Another thing that I don’t know why you’d assume this.

      It’s fun to have company for breakfast, and I’m a flexible enough person that I can totally function with a change to my routine.

      In fact, it’s nice to change my routine.

      If you like to keep the same routine, great, fine–but please don’t think you need to deny the wide reality that is other people, and argue that everyoe “ought” to be a certain way, just like you, to justify your own preferences.

      1. Shhh*

        Your responses to this thread are unreasonably harsh and bordering on rude. Just because people have a set routine & think everyone else probably does it too, does not mean they’re selfish awful humans. It means they probably haven’t thought that much about it. Lay off.

        1. Taylor Swift*

          I’m sorry, what? This isn’t harsh or rude . . . And it’s right on the money. OP made some weird assumptions here and calling those out specifically to let the OP know not everybody thinks that way isn’t bad.

      2. TootsNYC*

        thanks for the support!

        One of my points (not well expressed) that it is not necessary (“please don’t think you need”) to justify your own preferences by claiming that everyone must be like you.

        We’re not like you. (We’re not like each other.) Which means you’re not like us.
        And that’s totally OK–you can hold firm to the way you like to manage your mornings, even if you ARE different from other people.

    17. Noah*

      I always assumed it was the opposite. I almost never eat before dressing, but (like OP), I probably shouldn’t assume everybody does it the way I do.

  3. MadGrad*

    #3 All of what Alison said, but with an extra note that Marketing is a PARTICULARLY bad field to be overly stuffy in. You can’t connect with most people with that kind of language, especially not when you’re trying to sell them on something.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Seriously. I’m not in marketing, and his advice would be inappropriate in my (stuffy, conservative, overly formal) industry, too. His edits would make OP sound like an automaton, and they completely strip it of meaning and of (an appropriate level of) personality. Frankly, if someone told me they “actively examined podcasts,” I would think that they had no idea what they were talking about (you can’t examine a podcast like it’s a book!).

      The advice is bad, your gut is right, and you should feel comfortable going forward with your own voice, OP#3.

      1. Daria Grace*

        And even if they were talking about books, examined would be an odd sounding word choice unless you were talking about a very detailed analysis.

        1. LizB*

          It puts an image in my head of someone inspecting their phone/computer with a magnifying glass.

          1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

            That’s exactly what I thought. Exactly how am I examining podcasts by passively listening to them whilst doing the dishes? And how is that related to my analytical skills? It seemed as though the advisor wanted to cram as many buzzwords in there as possible.

            I’m glad Alison said his advice is bunk. I started to think maybe I’ve sent over 20 cover letters making a grave mistake of writing like I’m talking to a human being.

            1. Zombii*

              To be fair, if the advisor’s thought process was to load the cover letter with keywords so the software evaluating the cover letter and resume would pick up those keywords and move the LW’s application into the “interview” pile, that’s not as stupid as it sounds. But if that’s their thought process, they also should have mentioned the rationale.

              1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

                His approach may have moved up my cover letter in the pile, but what happens when an actual human being reads it?

          2. Noobtastic*

            OMG! I had that exact same mental image!

            My person was wearing a deer-stalker hat and a trench coat. Was yours?

      2. Purplesaurus*

        Frankly, if someone told me they “actively examined podcasts,” I would think that they had no idea what they were talking about

        It makes me wonder if the writer thinks you can “passively examine” something.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Actually, if you can passively examine anything, I’d think it would be a podcast! Hit play, start walking (or whatever), and it just keeps going without your intervention.

          Although “examining” would be a stretch.

          1. Karen D*

            The proposed wording is just horrible, all the way around.

            It is certainly possible to be *too* informal – if I were to reel the OP in on anything, it would be use of the word “love.” But even that is just about 1 percent over the line; it certainly pales in comparison to the magnitude of fail in the proposed revisions.

      3. LQ*

        Agreed! That is such a strange turn of phrase. I have a (somewhat “formal”? highly edited at least) podcast and if someone said they were actively examining it I would be completely sure they hadn’t listened. I would be more sure that person hadn’t listened than the people who want to be a guest. I feel like the career counselor who suggested it just doesn’t know what podcasts are.

      4. Beltalowda*

        It would also come off to me as somewhat insecure – like a bad case of impostor syndrome, badly concealed by the adoption of ridiculous jargon to sound like a big kid pants professional. There is literally no circumstance where that kind of language would sound natural and appropriate.

      5. Observer*

        The line about “actively examining podcasts” hit me to. Does this adviser even know what podcasts ARE? Does he know ANYTHING about marketing?

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      Completely. And while ymmv, I’m not sure anyone would care to hear that someone brand new to the field is ‘impressed’ – he isn’t just changing your language into stuffy stuffiness but also the meaning into something incoherently boring. I don’t even know what it would mean to examine a podcast – do you think he even knows what a podcast is?

      Thank goodness you knew better because it is not right that someone whose entire job is to advise you is giving you such terrible advice – you will sound like a robot with a thesaurus if you take it said advice. I bet the blog you’ve been following isn’t written in stuffy language, either.

      If your letter to Alison is anything to go by, you will have no trouble sounding professional! Good luck with your job hunt. And do consider complaining about this advisor, because he is going to wreck people’s chances by giving this kind of advice – not everyone will know to ignore him.

    3. Artemesia*

      Pretentious jargon isn’t even ‘conservative’; it is just pretentious jargon. This kind of stiff silly language doesn’t work anywhere. Natural language with personality need not use slang or overly casual wording and is fine for most any cover letter.

    4. FTW*

      I am in consulting, and the original language used was too informal… But I also don’t agree with the advisor’s edits.

      ‘I must say, I love what you do’ might be better phrased as ‘I am genuinely excited about the work that Company does in XYZ; the innovations in XYZ are something I am passionate about because of ABC.’

      With the podcasts… I really wouldn’t care unless you can talk about how you have brought them into coursework or internship work. I think this is where your advisor is going, but they could be giving you better direction.

      1. MadGrad*

        Again, I would consider this a part of knowing your industry – my small youngish firm (marketing in a fairly laid back city) would love to hear about that podcast, as a) that’s shows that you are sincerely interested in the work and may be on to industry trends and b) that you are at least a moderately interesting person we can connect with. If you’re looking smaller/more casual atmosphere, I think your original language is fine.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I disagree. The language was not too informal and, crucially, it was based on actions: OP loves what they do, follows their blog and listens to podcasts. That is great because it is showing and not telling. It is about what OP actually does.

        Your alternative suggestions are not just a shift in formality but have moved the sentence structure into being based on telling and not showing. OP is excited. OP is passionate. Anyone can say that. The original language showed how.

        Saying you are genuinely excited is weird. Either you’re excited or you’re not – saying it’s genuine is protesting too much. But the main problem with the language you propose here is that it’s starting to sound like a robot again. If you wouldn’t say it in person (and being passionate about innovations is going down that road) don’t put it in a cover letter.

        As to the podcasts, I think it’s a positive that OP can demonstrate a genuine interest in the industry. I’d only mention it in passing, but I think it’s fine – it’s good if OP sounds engaged in the field overall, and like an actual human with a personality.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          PS I meant to just bold the verbs, but left out a bit of HTML.

          Of course YMMV but I think it’s important to differentiate between a change in register and a change in meaning from showing to telling.

          1. Karen D*

            Oh yes x1000. Verbs, verbs, verbs, people. Verbs are your friends.

            I had one editor who (back in the day of paper copies) would circle every passive construction with a red pen. I need to get back into that habit.

            1. Artemesia*

              Get rid of passive construction and adjectives and you are well on your way to being a writer. And did ‘proactive’ in a sentence ever endear anyone to a hiring manager except the one who would be entranced by ‘actively examining podcasts in order to improve their analytic abilities.’ Yowza. I would assume anyone who wrote like that had no clue.

        2. Thermal Teapot Researcher*

          I agree with this. I am in astrophysics (which is moderately stuffy at the government lab level) and we would be much more interested in hearing about what you love/listen to/follow than excitement/passion which is generic to the point of being worthless in a cover letter.

          1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

            This was the reason why I wrote that cover letter the way I did. I thought just telling the company I find their work interesting will be empty words. When I’m reading cover letter advice from people whose job it is to actually hire people, they always say don’t use clichés.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes! This is a great breakdown of exactly what works with OP’s letter and what doesn’t work in the rewrite. Even if OP ends up introducing greater formality (a change of register) in the rewrite, they should not do so at the expense of showing why they’re interested in that particular job.

        4. Zombii*

          I fully agree with your disagreement. :)

          Oddly, I take no issue with someone saying they love their job or a company or the company’s work (or whatever) but hearing that someone is passionateabout their job or a company or a company’s work (or whatever) squiks me hardcore. I think it’s probably down to what you said about distancing oneself from the statement by using passive language and speaking as a human would instead of like a real, genuine person.

      3. Specialk9*

        I’m interested in the cover letter verbiage discussion because I’m always nervous about being too effusive or informal in a cover letter, but that’s exactly how I am in real life.

        1. MadGrad*

          I’m the same way. I try to present just a slightly more polished version of my usual chatty self because that gives a clear picture of who/how I am for consideration. It’s worked out for me so far, but YMMV.

          1. Chloe Silverado*

            I think that’s the right way to go, if we’re looking at job hunting as a two way street. I’d rather present my best professional self than a stuffy imposter since I’m looking for a company that will appreciate my best professional self! If a company wants a very conservative individual, that’s not me – and on the other end of the spectrum, I’m also not the right fit for a company looking for a rock star ninja!

        2. k.k*

          I think your cover letter should be written in the same tone you speak with in real life. It shouldn’t be super informal (most people choose more professional language at work than when chatting with friends), but still sound like you. It’s your first introduction to a potential employer, so give them an idea of who you are! If a company has a laid back culture they may throw out a stuffy cover letter assuming the person wouldn’t be a good fit; and a conservative office would be disappointed to meet an applicant they thought was very formal who turned out not to be.

        3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          I am the same way (I tend to use a looooot of exclamation points)! I think effusive excitement in a cover letter is perfectly OK until it gets in the way of readability or content. Like, read it aloud to yourself, and if you find yourself stumbling, might want to change some language. Same with if you find yourself sounding repetitious (the ultimate sin in cover letters and resumes, where you only have so much space!) or if you find that you’re not really communicating anything other than excitement. You can excitedly talk about your accomplishments, but use a heavy hand in your edits. :)

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it’s ok to be effusive as long as you’re also a bit balanced. I remember a more-established-in-the-field-person noting that italicizing for emphasis once on a page could be effective, but 3+ times made you sound like a crank (his words, not mine).

          I think effusiveness is similar. You don’t want every sentence to end with an exclamation point—I struggle with this myself and have to actively weed it out when I edit. But I think Ramona Flowers’s comment about (1) showing not telling and (2) being mindful of your register (i.e., how formal/informal) you are is helpful. You should strive to do #1 in all cover letters. #2 varies by your industry and employer. In my field (law), the most effective letters I read are in a moderate-formal register. They’re roughly the same level of formality as if someone were giving a presentation. The language is precise, organized, and conversational as opposed to legalistic, formal and pretentious.

          At bottom, your cover letter is your first communication with an employer. Do you want to speak to them like a Victorian butler, or like a contemporary human?

        5. Optimistic Prime*

          Me too, especially because I tend to use lots of exclamation points. But that’s how I actually talk! I’m highly excitable.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m not saying that my opinion is the absolute end-all, be-all, but I have had a fair amount of success as a writer who writes conversationally, not formally, and I have a truly overwhelming number of letters from readers who say they started getting loads more interview requests when they followed my advice about writing less formally.

        1. Backroads*

          As a teacher, I encourage students to “write like they speak”. The matter generally isn’t so much a deficit of formal writing as it is a lack of eloquence in informal speech. Fancy schmancy formal writing is hard to do well and so rarely needed it’s best to focus on well-done informal writing.

      5. Jujubes*

        I agree with FTW that I’m somewhere in the middle on the language. As a fellow recent graduate in the workplace (I’m assuming the OP is/will be as well since they’re utilizing university career services, but I could be wrong), I typically air on the side of being more professional in my language in cover letters. I do agree though that the career advisor’s advice was over correcting the language. I disagree with using a word like “love” in a cover letter, to me that comes across too informal. But I also think the “examined podcasts” phrasing is way too awkward and formal. As FTW said, the key with your cover letter is making sure that you’re answering the “why?” and “how?” questions. Why do you love the organization? How will the skills/knowledge that you have gained benefit their organization? You may already have these elements in your cover letter, I’m just going based off of the information that was provided in the original letter.

        Finally, my advice to the OP would be to try and have someone in the field you’re trying to enter look over your materials (i.e. a Marketing Professor on campus, internship supervisor, etc). As others mentioned, there are variations by industry that your career advisor/others may not be aware of. It’s possible that informal language is preferred for your field, in which case the way it was originally written may be fine.

    5. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

      Especially given the fact that the job ad mentioned several times that personality is the most important thing in their decision to hire someone.

      I was apprehensive to ask for any advice from our uni’s career service since they’re not hiring managers and also don’t need a degree to work there. I thought they’re quite out of touch with the graduate job hunting world for these reasons. But my friends convinced me to use them and said they were helpful. One of these friends have been using the career service for every application since graduation and have no had an interview for a graduate job in two years. No wonder why.

      P.S. I’m the OP#3.

      1. Artemesia*

        I developed and worked in an undergrad program at a university where we literally had to duplicate the work of the career office (that we were paying taxes to the University to support) because their advice was so bad. We couldn’t fix them, so we made sure our internship program had training in resume writing, interviewing, how to identify potential positions, how to use the internship to network. Our placement rate was far superior to the rest of the programs.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        So your friend isn’t getting interviews but still thinks they’re good?! Wow.

        1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

          I know, I offered her some help with her CVs and cover letters, but she thinks the people in the career services at uni are trained and I’m not, so what do I know. Plus, given how much awful advice there is out there that reiterates the same things, she probably thinks the advisors are doing everything right – telling her to use buzzwords and action verbs, etc.

          I’ll show her this page and maybe she’ll change her mind.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ugh, that is awful and disheartening (and also alarming that she still thinks they’re useful after 2 years of poor help!). I’m sorry for your friend and sorry that she’s received so much poor advice that she can’t come up out of it.

            I think showing her this page will be helpful, and it might make sense to refer her to Alison’s posts about how to write cover letters, etc., since she’s looking for advice from someone with formal “training.”

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      Yes, and I wanted to add the cover letter should sound like you, and not like someone else wrote it.

    7. Noobtastic*

      I always thought that the cover letter was the place to wow them with your personality. CVs and resumes are already stuffy and formal.

      They aren’t hiring a machine. They are hiring a person, and you need to show that personality. Before they meet you in person, the cover letter is usually your only avenue.

      Also, s this guy the same guy who says that more syllables is better, and you should say “utilize” instead of “use” because of it?

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, your company is being weirdly aggressive about refusing to accommodate your employee. I’m also concerned that your health and safety people don’t seem to understand that objectively, using the new chairs is not in the best interest of all employees. Frankly, this is a basic ergonomics problem, and it’s worth it for them to get her an appropriate chair in order to avoid later injuries that could stem from sitting weirdly in a too large chair (which could easily trigger worker’s comp if she does in fact become injured).

    But even if they’re unwilling to acknowledge that their stubbornness is putting your employee at risk of long-term physical harm, do they really want to risk someone leaving over something so trivial? Surely the cost of an appropriate chair is less than the cost of replacing your employee. Her request is extremely reasonable.

    Do you have an employee manual that details things like changes to workstation formats for occupational safety/health? E.g., I have a back injury and need access to a standing desk (granted, I paid for mine and fully intend to take it with me when I leave). Your employee’s situation might be covered under those provisions. I wish they would see reason, but it’s very kind of you to go to bat for her—it also lets her see that at least one person cares about her workspace and workspace-related happiness.

    1. Mike C.*

      What’s really pissing me off here is that their obstinance is going to end up with this employee getting back problems or worse. All this employer has to do is read some science and quit being stupid. Yes, this is nothing more than being willfully ignorant at the fact that people come in different sizes and you’ll need different sized things that accommodate them. Basic office ergonomics is not a terribly new field and the fundimentals are all about customizing the space for the person.

      The primary responsibility of management is to the safety of their employees. That includes “small stuff” like ergonomic issues.

      OP, keep fighting them on this until your employer gets a new chair. Safety first is not some trite message, you altered them to the issue and if anything happens very expensive people are going to want to know the reason why.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes! This is the part I find so weird. Do they really want their employee to become injured because they won’t outfit her with an appropriate workspace, including an appropriate chair? If we changed the language from body size to gender (a real issue when it comes to ensuring employees have proper desks, chairs, tables, etc.), it would be obvious that they’re being ridiculous. This doesn’t inherently involve protected classes, but it’s still ridiculous from a basic occupational health and safety perspective. And it’s so easy to fix. It’s just so very dumb that OP and OP’s employee even have to deal with this.

    2. Jennifer*

      I have enough issues with my chair being too wide for me to use the armrests (unlike my previous “junk” chair, they won’t push in and are so wide out I can only use one at a time and certainly not while typing), but my company won’t do anything about that either. They spent soooooooo much money on those already, you know!

    3. Myrin*

      This letter reminds me of the one by the nonbinary OP who also behaved in a “weirdly aggressive” way with regards to coworkers using gendered pronouns for themselves.

      Obviously, the topics are completely different, but it’s the same in that they are about a situation you’d usually expect to see exactly the other round, i. e. we hear quite often about people refusind to use gender-neutral pronouns or companies not wanting to accommodate heavier/broader employees and it’s quite unusual to run into the exact opposite.

      This leads me to wonder if maybe OP’s company might have a skewed understanding of “being inclusive” and in a misguided attempt to accomodate heavier folk went like five miles too far in the opposite direction and now refuses to budge on it (maybe starting from the mindset that since technically, slim people can sit in broarder chairs – as opposed to a fat person who might not even be able to sit down on one – the big chairs are a good compromise).

      I’m obviously completely speculating but I feel like it would make sense. Along with the excellent actionable plans suggested by Alison and other commenters, OP may want to try and find out what exactly is the root of this stubbornness.

      1. Boo*

        “This leads me to wonder if maybe OP’s company might have a skewed understanding of “being inclusive” and in a misguided attempt to accomodate heavier folk went like five miles too far in the opposite direction and now refuses to budge on it (maybe starting from the mindset that since technically, slim people can sit in broarder chairs – as opposed to a fat person who might not even be able to sit down on one – the big chairs are a good compromise).”

        This is my suspicion also. I wonder if the company sees this employee as being a bit of a Goldilocks wanting a chair which fits exactly “what do you mean the chair doesn’t fit, we bought the biggest chairs so everyone can fit in them, we’re not going to buy a smaller one for this employee as then everyone will be wanting their own custom chair”.

        As a teeny 4″11 person myself, I feel the employee’s pain. I’ve never had a job with a comfortable chair. If I did, I would then be too low for the desk and look even more like a child which is a bit humiliating, so I’ve always put up with being mildly uncomfortable. I’m wondering now if I should do something about it now. Good for you OP on sticking up for your employee’s wellbeing.

        1. Mookie*

          I think that’s what’s going on, as well, which ends up proving the pro-inclusivity, pro-diversity side’s point: catering to many needs is difficult and sometimes we mess up but getting it right, for all the right reasons, is important. This just swings the pendulum the other way and demonstrates that whoever is making these decisions at the LW’s company are not being nearly thoughtful enough about why accommodations matter and are ignorant that how and when they choose to provide them is just as crucial as the form they take. This is simply ticking a different box with no follow-up, no way to manage unexpected outcomes, no desire to predict them.

          And if they do frame this issue as an attempt by employees to acquire customized ergonomic gear, they’re being ridiculous and obstructive. The problem is not a figment of some greedy person’s imagination. Companies leasing or selling wholesale office equipment could have easily created a package deal for differently sized- and shaped-chairs (petite is a category), so that even if they’d not gotten rid of all the original ones they wouldn’t be forcing this particular employee to use ‘old’ equipment or depriving her of the ‘fun’ new stuff.

          That being said, this really isn’t an issue without precedent or close parallel at all: ask any woman of average size who was among the first female professionals to work in their specialized trade or field, and they’d tell you all about how most of the equipment and a good deal of their workspace in general was not built for their bodies. Office furniture, medical equipment, diagnostic tools: what is perceived as male physiology, male genetics, male body shapes and sizes were the default for ages, to the great discomfort of many women and to the detriment of their health and well-being.

          1. blackcat*

            On this note, I greatly appreciated it when my department chair asked me (the shortest person who teaches in a lecture hall) about how to position the blackboard in the new lecture hall. In the old one, I could only use about 1/3 of the blackboard. And I’m not that short! (5’3″) The default assumption seemed to be that the person lecturing would be at least 5’8″ since that was basically the minimum height to use the entire board. Most men (in the US) are over 5’8″, but most women are solidly below that.

            That said, I do understand the logic with only getting big chairs a bit more. I grew very young–I was my full adult height in the 5th grade at age 11. Fitting into those tiny child-sized chairs and desks was THE WORST in 4th and 5th grade. I had knee and back problems from it. As much as I hate sitting in chairs that are far too big for me now (I am rather thin in addition to being short, so I am 1/2 the mass of many of my male colleagues), it’s not nearly as bad as being crammed into something much too small.

            1. HannahS*

              This is my bug-bear! It pisses me off to no end that all furniture–including counter heights in the kitchen–are designed around the average height of a man. I’m 5’2 and am seriously considering taking up carpentry just so I can build a comfortable surface to chop vegetables on.
              I just got a small-scale hand-me-down armchair from someone’s elderly mother. It looks ridiculous next to the other average-sized armchairs, but oh my word, I have NEVER sat anywhere so comfortable.

              1. bearing*

                I’m 4’11”, love to cook, and feel your pain. (Maybe three more inches’ worth of it.) I stand on a stool to roll out pie dough and often move my entire operation to the kitchen table.

                Someday, I would like to get one of those old-fashioned freestanding butcher’s blocks to use as a cutting surface. They are exactly the right height for me.

                1. DouDou Paille*

                  Heh, I have the opposite problem. As a 6′ woman, most kitchen counters are slightly too low, and after prepping a complex meal, my lower back always hurts from all the bending over. And don’t even get me started on basic office chairs — my legs extend so far off them it’s comical. They basically just hold my butt, and nothing else. I also battled with my company’s HR department about getting an ergonomic chair, and when they refused I just brought my own. It was technically against company rules, but my manager let it slide because she saw how uncomfortable the old chair was making me and how it negatively affected my health and productivity.

                2. Nevertheless*

                  I was just going to say this DouDou. I’m not quite 6′ and a woman and I loathe the short counters. My lower back kills. I think these “standard height counters” were probably made for people who are exactly 5’5 and no one else.

              2. blackcat*

                I have a kitchen cart that is designed to be on wheels. I just put felt on the bottom, and left off the wheels when I was building it. This means is 3-4 inches below the counter height, and it is the best for rolling out dough.

              3. JAM*

                I’m basically average height but when I bake my counters give me pain. At my last house I had a window below counter height and I actually ended up designing the kitchen to include a lower vanity height for that section while the rest of the cabinets and counter were at standard height. It accommodated the window and gave me a lower surface to roll out dough. I miss it so much at my new house.

              4. Cercis*

                I’m 5’8″ and, therefor, on the tall side for a woman. I was aware the shorter people had problems with things, but I really didn’t get it until I bought our current house. The house was owned and remodeled by 2 men who were both over 6 feet tall. They remodeled it to fit their height. Now, I can’t reach the clothing rod in the closet (I had to buy a rolling stool), I can’t use half the cabinets, the shower head was so high (and a rain shower to boot) that by the time it reached my head, the water was about 10-15 degrees colder AND the spray was about 3 feet wide. And the bathroom counters are above my waist level (so no propping the leg on the counter for shaving, unless you LIKE having water and shaving cream run into uncomfortable places). The only thing they didn’t change is the one thing that would have been very useful to me – a higher toilet. I’m stuck with a “regular” toilet, and it’s really hard to get up from because my legs are bent much too far.

                Now, I get to experience a little of what it’s like to be shorter than average. I realize that it’s not the “full experience” by any means, but I definitely have more empathy.

                (I also worked someplace that was designed by someone shorter than average. I couldn’t get my knees under the desks unless my chair was at the lowest setting – that’s when my knee issues started – and all the light switches and door knobs were about 3 inches lower than standard. It was interesting – you don’t realize that you just automatically reach for light switches without looking until they’re not where you expect them to be.)

                1. LCL*

                  The toilet is relatively easy to change. It’s kind of a PITA job, but can easily be done by 2 persons. Just go to a plumbing supply store and ask for a handicap compliant model. We ordered the tallest available on the American market at the time, 17″ height. Some homes actually have 11″ height toilets, which is great for children’s bathrooms but not so much for adults.

          2. Future Homesteader*

            Beautifully said. Also, I must now find out about these petite chairs. I’m 5’1″ and even with a footrest and extra lumbar support, my chair is rather too large and I have a hard time sitting properly.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            There’s actually a really great law paper about ensuring that offices are properly outfitted for women as well as men. It essentially argues that employers should consider the universal design imperatives of the ADA when crafting gender-inclusive offices. As someone who reaches the average height for an American woman (5’5″) and still cannot sit at a table/desk without my feet swinging in the air like a child, this particular issues makes me so deeply angry.

            I actually also think it’s ok for each person to have an ergonomically aligned workspace. As you noted, it wouldn’t have to be customized by individual, but they could certainly buy in sets or purchase a variety of options all at once to decrease the costs. This is harder for small companies, but when I’ve worked at larger institutions, they were extremely proactive about handling workspace issues that could be resolved by a visit from an erg-specialist from the occupational health division (and then “filling” the “prescription” that erg-specialist provided with appropriate furniture for the employee, when feasible).

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          If you’re shorter then at the very least they should get you a foot rest.

        3. (Different) Rebecca*

          Fellow short person here: Is a footrest too much to ask? I’m thinking of bringing my own…

          1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            Even at 5’3″, I use a footrest. This is the first employer where there was one already provided. I’ve brought my own everywhere else. Maybe my legs are unusually short, but if I sit all the way back in almost any furniture, my feet will not touch the floor.

          2. hermit crab*

            You should ask! My office provided me with a footrest for a while. (I don’t need it anymore as we now have –wait for it — adjustable-height desks. They don’t just adjust from “sitting” to “standing” but rather from about knee-height on up. I can finally sit with my chair at a comfortable height and still reach my keyboard!)

          3. Chinook*

            As an average woman (5’6″) with short legs, it is not. Whenever I start a new job, I request one otherwise my back aches by the end of the first day. I always get odd looks when I request it until I show them what happens when I sit down in an office chair and my feet are dangling 2 or 3 inches off the floor (and I have the scuffed toes on dress shoes to prove it).

            1. Chinook*

              I also miss the old telephone books. A city yellow pages made an awesome foot rest back in the day when they were harder to buy.

          4. Cedrus Libani*

            It doesn’t hurt to ask. I’m a tall person who was once an office manager…I didn’t even know foot rests were a thing until somebody asked for one, and then I ended up buying them for about a third of the office. (I had bought risers for the same company-issue desk, it was too short for me.)

          5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Not too much to ask. I’m very average in height (5’5″) and need a footrest to avoid knee problems from having my feet swinging in the air like I’m on a swing when I’m at conference tables. They’re an extremely affordable adaptation, and most sane employers are willing to let a person buy/bring one.

        4. Government Worker*

          I’m 5’5″, so about average height for a woman in the US. I’ve always had a tendency to sit cross-legged in my office chairs, at least when I’m at my desk and not in a meeting or other formal situation. It’s unconscious – I’d have to make a pretty concerted effort to train myself out of it – but I wonder if it started in school and office environments where the furniture was too big for me.

          1. Willis*

            This! I’m short and tend to curl up on my office chair like I’m sitting on a couch. (And then I wonder why my knees hurt at the end of the day…)

        5. Marillenbaum*

          One thing I’ve found helpful when I worked in an office with a really high desk was a footstool–my chair was high enough to feel comfortable at the desk, but I didn’t end up with the unfortunate leg-dangling thing.

        6. Collarbone High*

          Office furniture is a real struggle for short people. I’m an even five feet, and I once worked for a company that had an excellent ergonomics program — they had an onsite specialist who would evaluate each workspace and give recommendations, and the company would buy whatever she said was needed.

          She spent an hour looking at my cubicle, trying out various monitor heights and desk adjustments, and eventually said she was stumped because I was too short to comfortably use adult office furniture, and that honestly the best move would be to get me a child-size desk.

          1. periwinkle*

            My employer has ergo experts. They require new hires to work with an expert to set up their work area and strongly suggests scheduling a consultation if you get reassigned to a different workstation. My desk surface is cranked all the way down and the monitors are set nicely just below eye-level.

            And hey, did you know that the seat pan of your desk chair might be adjustable? Mine is slid most of the way back so the backs of my knees aren’t even touching the edge of the seat. OMG, what a revelation… I’m 4’10” and this is the first time I’ve been comfortable at a desk!

        7. Kate 2*

          Me too!!! Gosh I am so glad to hear this. Sometimes it gets kind of lonely being a short person in an “average is okay, tall is better” world.

          When my chair is at an appropriate height for my desk, I tend to slid off it because the seat slants down slightly. If I put it at a comfortable height, I can hardly be seen behind my tall backed desk/monitor.

          1. Noobtastic*

            My last job, I slid out of my desk chair twice in the first week, and then they decided it was a safety issue to get me a chair that fit me a little better. Not a new chair, of course. No one got new chairs. Just one that fit me a bit better.

            Then, they “upgraded” everyone’s chairs, and everyone got new chairs. Wow, I sure do miss my old chair that fit me.

            1. ST*

              I was thinking along these lines. The employee needs to “slip” or “fall” out of the too big chair a couple of times. Maybe even a slight head bump on the desk on the way down. The paperwork involved in filling out incident reports and handling workers comp issues would quickly convince them to get an appropriate chair.

        8. Magenta Sky*

          My first thought is that chairs in workplaces have actually become a somewhat complicated business. There have been lawsuits over people overturning chairs that do not have the proper number of feet/casters on the bottom.

          I can’t help but wonder if this is the result of a badly written, horribly misunderstood communication with their worker’s comp carrier about what is an acceptable chair, possibly even after an on-the-job injury. There might even be specific ratings involved (other than weight capacity), and this is the only chair they’ve bothered to find that carries it.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Bingo. I think a messed-up, simplistic idea of “being inclusive” is it. (Possibly motivated by what Sandrine suggested: that they think having a smaller chair would be fat-shaming.) With a side of “everything has to be uniform for everyone” – some employers (and schools, and…) are really big on that, even when it makes no sense.

      3. TootsNYC*

        These two examples (the company with the one-size-must-fit-all chair policy, and the nonbinary person who insisted that other people must use nonbinary pronouns despite their own preferences) are not unlike this:

        For me, successful business travel involves trying to make the experience as close to home as I can. In the morning, I prefer quiet, coffee, and a newspaper. I also prefer to have breakfast before I got dressed for the day. I assume that most people do this at home, so I don’t know why they do it the opposite way on the road.

        People are different–different things work for different people.

      4. Noobtastic*

        Yeah. This is a textbook example of “Too much of a good thing.”

        Getting the wide, solid, sturdy chairs for larger employees is FANTASTIC! I wish more offices would do that. But as soon as a smaller employee said, “This isn’t working for me,” they should have come up with a workable option for her.

        If it were clothes, and they said, that getting size 36 choir robes would accommodate everyone, they would be correct in that everyone who works there would be able to physically wear the costume. But a size 2 person is going to be tripping all over the place.

        This is what happens when companies shift from “Personnel” to “Human Resources.” They stop looking at the employees as individuals (persons) and look at them as objects (resources).

        OP, I’m proud of you for fighting this fight. This IS a hill worth dying on, or at least getting a bit wounded. If you don’t, you’ll lose a good employee, and the word will spread, and the whole company will look ridiculous. I know, if I were a customer, and heard about this, I would not want to do business with them, and I am fat!

        They are being profoundly foolish about these chairs.

    4. eplawyer*

      My thought too. They don’t want the larger people to be embarassed by needing bigger chairs, so they bought bigger chairs for everyone. If they bought a smaller chair for the smaller person, they feel it would stand out about the other chairs and be fat shaming. So the smaller person has to be uncomfortable so as not to make the others stand out. After all, the smaller person should not mind being singled out for being small right?

      1. SandrineSmiles (France)*

        This is so weird o_o . I am morbidly obese (so says my Samsung Health App haha) but I wouldn’t even dream of being, what, offended because there are smaller coworkers needing smaller chairs… this is so bizarre to me. OP’s company seems ridiculously rigid on this issue.
        I mean, it would be one thing if they allowed a chair to be purchased, no matter who spends the money… not even allowing that strikes me as quite peculiar.

      2. Us, Too*

        But this is absurd. It’s just like insisting on buying the exact same size t-shirt for every person. It’s ridiculous. (Though it may be true).

        1. Gadfly*

          Not like that hasn’t happened, however. I’ve worked at the ‘a large should fit everybody’ places….

          1. Em*

            Which also sucks on the other end when people assume that the largest STANDARD size shirt will fit any larger person. Um, nope, just because that company goes up to 3X doesn’t mean that 3X will fit everyone — there’s a reason plus size stores go up to 5 or 6X.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This sounds like the leather jackets from the blog post re: working as a female engineer at Uber.

        2. a.n.o.n.y.m.o.u*

          At my last job, my manager bought me a men’s large for my field safety jacket. The reasoning was that the department didn’t want to have to buy another one for the next person whenever I left (not planned at the time), and a men’s large would probably fit whoever came next. Like Gadfly said, as absurd as this sounds, it does happen.

          1. Observer*

            That blows me away even more than this company. The idea of buying someone PERSONAL SAFETY GEAR without any thought of fit is just insanity. Better skip the jacket altogether!

        3. LCL*

          The last thing I did that got many of my group annoyed with me was, I was ordered by management to order gimme T-shirts for the group on Friday afternoon, orders were due now. We are a shiftwork group so many people weren’t anywhere near the office, or even the city. I knew people would be unhappy with the results, I was right. The one guy who angrily gave his back stating he didn’t wear anything with corporate logos on it was a surprise, because his public persona is kind of country and one doesn’t expect those two attitudes to coexist, but that’s how we roll on the left coast.

      3. Natalie*

        I’m a fat person who has a larger chair at work and I’m simply croggled that this company has defaulted to the larger chairs–they cost a fair bit more than the “regular” sized ones (and weirdly have fewer features–the seat pan doesn’t move, for instance). So it doesn’t even make cost sense for them to proactively order the larger chairs without figuring out what sort of chair each employee was going to require.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I think you’re right that this is what’s likely motivating their approach, and it’s so profoundly stupid. Fat-shaming is obviously wrong, but “skinny-shaming” is, too… which is what they’re doing in order to support a rigid policy that, if applied in the opposite direction (i.e., no accommodation for larger people) would be considered horrific.

        People have bodies, and bodies are differently sized and shaped, and they come in different weights. Equity and inclusion is not about issuing everyone the same chair—it’s about acknowledging that they may need different-sized chairs to have a workable space.

    5. Mina*

      My new employer bought me a new chair – the old one I inherited was way too big for me, I felt like a 5 year old sitting in my dad’s chair. It really makes a big difference to have a proper sized office chair.

    6. Lauren*

      I’m concerned that the employee may be forced to visit her doctor to get the note. This is one of those ‘frivolous’ office appts that can cost $500+ with a meeting the doctor fee, facility fee, hospital affiliation fee, xrays or other tests that the doctor may require before giving a note. Even with insurance, what if there is a deductible that hasn’t been met, and her doctor won’t write the note without tests or coming in?

      This sounds like an expensive route if it won’t be considered. OP should ask first by email, if a doctor’s note will let them get the chair. It would be cheaper to purchase a chair on your own, but it sounds like they won’t even allow different chairs in the office even if you brought one in.

      1. Noobtastic*

        Especially aggravating if the employee is perfectly healthy, because being small-sized is not an illness/disability that would require accommodation, or have any such medical legal standing.

        I mean, really, can you imaging the doctor visit? “So, you have no health issues, except that you’re a size small? Seriously? You want me to give you a doctor’s note for being a size small?”

        Cue the ranting and raving about how America is blowing up, and skinny-shaming, and yeah, in this case, that rant is justified, because COME ON!

        And yes, a doctor’s visit CAN cost $500 out of pocket, depending on your insurance.

    7. MillersSpring*

      OP, if you haven’t already, take a photo of your direct report sitting in the chair to demonstrate its too-big size and send it to Health & Safety. Then research the cost and availability (e.g. Staples) of a chair of the appropriate size.

    8. Stranger than fiction*

      I would also send in a picture of her sitting in the chair so they can plainly see how ridiculous it looks and I’m sure it gives her no support.

  5. LadyL*

    Asking for your social media info (for a non social media job) is the new drug test. By that I mean the practice is invasive, utterly useless, and a disgusting overreach that will continue on unchecked because most workers are not in a position to refuse. If your online self is related to the job that’s one thing, but I’ve known of employers who will straight up say the only reason they ask is to verify that there is nothing they find “objectionable” on there. And by “objectionable” I mean anything (see the teacher that was severely penalized for posting a vacation picture of her holding a single beer to her personal page).

    1. Dinosaur*

      I completely agree. I have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, but none have my full name linked to them. I just wouldn’t give them an employer my info. That’s above and beyond what is reasonable to ask and I wouldn’t feel bad “lying” about having accounts.

      1. Amber T*

        That’s what I was going to ask – assuming you’re not applying for a social media top job (and even if you are, I still think it’s a stretch), if an application asks you for your social media accounts, would they consider it weird if you don’t put them on? I agree with Alison that no sane manager would really care, but it’s a weird request in the first place.

        (I don’t use my full/real name in any social media accounts, but unfortunately I have a relatively unique name/spelling and there’s one young woman who shares it who loves to post how much she hates school/her parents/her brother/literally everything, all under the username firstname.lastname. If you google my name, you’ll find a bunch of random things that are mine (like when my track team in high school took fourth in some county competition – super important here), and then her ranting twitter page. Very annoying.)

        1. Rhodoferax*

          It’s a manufacturing position in a medical device company. They’re well-known enough to be on Wikipedia, but any social media presence is rudimentary at best. I’m guessing someone thought it would be a good idea at some point, and so they just slapped it on to their standard application form.

    2. Michael*

      Depends on the field. If you’re working in a job in public eye, social media comments can be super damaging. It’s never fun to be in the news because your new hire retweets racist jokes, or whatever.

    3. Rhodoferax*

      Hi, I’m OP5.

      Fortunately drug testing isn’t really a thing in my country – as long as you don’t actually show up under the influence, you’re normally fine. It’s probably not a coincidence that the company I was applying for is American.

      I can understand Googling someone’s name to confirm they’re not an actual Nazi or something, but mandatory Facebook never seemed right. Thanks to Alison I can just link here whenever that discussion comes up.

    4. MechanicalPencil*

      As someone with a…stalker? overzealous follower? whatever, all of my online presence is now as locked down as possible, which in my industry is actually harmful since both social media and online portfolios are generally expected. I’m dreading the day I start job searching.

      1. Lora*

        I don’t have Facebook for this reason. I don’t need Evil Ex to have any notion of my doings. No good can come of it. Fortunately I am in STEM so I get some odd looks and “what are you, a Luddite?” type remarks, but nothing very much that would affect my career. Usually the people who give me more nonsense about it are in hobby groups (dance, dog rescue) because they like to organize events via Facebook and nowhere else. Then they complain about low attendance, not getting enough volunteers, etc.

    5. Antilles*

      By that I mean the practice is invasive, utterly useless, and a disgusting overreach that will continue on unchecked because most workers are not in a position to refuse.
      The ironic part is that unlike drug tests, checking social media actually becomes LESS useful over time because the more people realize that Your Employer Will Ask, the more likely candidates are to take steps to prevent it from being an issue – lock down your account with crazy high privacy settings, set posts to automatically delete after a set time, create a ‘dummy’ account, be super-bland, just stop using social media, etc.

    6. Zip Silver*

      I have a Facebook that is basically a sock puppet account. It’s crafted as carefully as my LinkedIn is, and I don’t publicly post anything more inflammatory than doggo memes, because you never know who will go searching, even with the privacy settings locked down.

      1. Nevertheless*

        What’s frustrating is that its against FB TOS to have another account. In addition to all the reasons for wanting a second one for job hunting and the like, some of us have to use groups or pages in the course of our job and may not want our personal accounts linked to or publicly announcing our every move. While some of it can be locked down, not all of it can. I hope someday we can get a social media bill of rights or something – given how much of our lives are lived online now, we should be entitled to some privacy and decisions, especially when these social media outlets are becoming less optional and more mandatory.

        1. Rhodoferax*

          Some other social media sites do allow for multiple accounts, but unfortunately Facebook came along at just the right time – it was better than MySpace and Bebo at a time when the Internet was tipping over from ‘useful for some people’ to ‘mandatory’, so it became the de facto standard and now it’s so big and integrated into our lives that it’s too much hassle to try and get people to try a scrappy new upstart.

    7. k.k*

      I don’t have any problem with an employer searching your name on Facebook to see what is public, or even just asking which social media platforms you are on so they can take a quick look at your public profiles. Only because any client or business contact could do the same, and you want to know if there is anything wildly offensive on there that would impact your business. But that is where I draw the line. I’ve heard of companies asking for access to private profiles, and for a while there was even a trend of them asking for passwords! I am careful to keep my privacy settings so that very little is publicly visible. There is no reasonable explanation as to why an employer would need access to any social media that isn’t public. Even if you work in social media, your personal page isn’t always a good example of how you’d run a business page.

    8. MacAilbert*

      The funniest part about it is that drug testing new employees seems to have really gone out of fashion, at least here in California. I imagine some places that work with firearms or children or whatnot might still do it, but I’ve never seen it here in the service industry. My current company threatens to drug test new hires, but Boss Lady says that’s too expensive and she doesn’t want to have to start rejecting new hires over it. Since San Francisco has a law stating that employers must have reasonable belief that drug use is occuring before they can drug test current employees (not new hires, they can still be tested), I don’t even hear people talk about drug testing much. It’s just not really a thing now.

      1. Antilles*

        That’s definitely a California specific thing. Every professional job I’ve ever had in the Midwest or South included (i) mandatory drug testing when hired as a condition of employment and (ii) the company reserving the right to test you at any time afterwards as they see fit.
        Obviously, due to the cost involved, most companies tend to only do post-hiring checks if they have a specific suspicion, but they could if they wanted to.

    9. Zombii*

      Asking for your social media info (for a non social media job) is the new drug test. By that I mean the practice is invasive, utterly useless, and a disgusting overreach that will continue on unchecked because most workers are not in a position to refuse.

      Except drug-testing tends to be mandatory and prospective employers don’t have the alternative of checking your drug history via Google if you decline to disclose it on your application (unless you are/were in the habit of posting poorly-considered photos online, I suppose).

      These are both overreaches but they’re not similar enough to try to conflate them to make a point about both things being stupid policies.

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 A couple of things stood out to me in your letter. I wondered why your boss has told you that you don’t have to do anything anyone else tells you to do – this seems like a strange thing to say unless you have ongoing problems with people trying to instruct you when they shouldn’t. Is this part of some ongoing dysfunction? It sounds like it might be (and I’m really surprised your boss didn’t leave any clear instructions on who’s in charge).

    I did also notice that you mentioned your colleagues bristle when you correct them. That’s not necessarily egregious, depending on what you’re correcting them on and how – it’s a bit difficult to really picture this one without knowing how you’re delivering the feedback e.g. if it’s in front of other people.

    Whatever else you do, I’d keep a note of their requests to come in early and work overtime in case they later claim they didn’t ask.

    1. PatPat*

      I would clarify with your boss if the coworker is in charge when boss is out.

      Personally, what I do when someone who has no authority bosses me around is to either ignore them outright or say, “You think I should use the green labels instead of the blue? That’s interesting. I’ll give it some thought.” Then I carry on using the blue labels. But I’m incredibly stubborn so that may not be the best advice.

      1. MillersSpring*

        Many employers really don’t let employees contact their fellow employees who are out on medical or family leave, whether to clarify, ask questions, anything.

    2. Misc*

      I had a reeeeally similar situation once; our manager went away and someone who had a higher role that was *not actually a chain of command role* announced that they and the other person in that role were ‘in charge’. Everyone just kind of stood around awkwardly going ‘…okay? this is not actually relevant, has never happened before you joined us, and there is nothing for you to do but we have no evidence this is not the case and technically if an Authority is needed I guess we might point to you?’.

      It was dead quiet over that week so that person just ended up telling us to do *exactly the things we were all going to do anyway* so we just kind of ignored them (we had ONE project and had all been there many years longer than them so it wasn’t exactly complicated).

      Unfortunately I was the youngest by far and the part timer who gets mentally filed as ‘random pair of hands who isn’t actually a professional’ by that sort of person (I also look way younger than I am, which doesn’t help), and they gave up on bossing everyone else around after day 1 because they were all competent adults and just followed me around/jumped on me when I came in micromanaging me constantly.

      Of course, as I mentioned, it was a dead quiet week so they literally could only tell me to do the exact thing I did yesterday and would do the next day. I couldn’t NOT do the thing I was already going to do, so I basically pushed back by:

      – going ‘that’s nice, I have to do this thing first and then obviously I am going to do that thing’ and basically just trying to establish that ahem, I manage my own schedule and have already identified my tasks for the day I don’t need marching orders and also I am not following them, I am doing the thing because I WAS ALREADY DOING THE THING (don’t you hate it when you’re about to do a thing and then someone tells you to do it? It was that. ALL THE TIME). Both for my own sanity and to try and break the rapid slide into me becoming a drone-minion.

      – ignoring them if they told me to do something that actually wasn’t a thing I should/would normally do (extra easy given they were really reaching for orders to give so most of those examples were actually pretty unworkable)

      – bursting into tears when they pulled me aside to discuss my Attitude (I cry easily. I’d actually been crying half the day, I think they were trying to minimise the damage at that point. I think that actually scared them because they realised they’d maybe gone too far, because they backed off after that, but I put up with it WAY too long).

      Stuff that helped a lot:

      – I knew I had the full confidence of my manager and that I could go to them if there were complaints waiting after they came back.
      – I knew how to do my job and that the micromanaging was stupid and unnecessary, so I didn’t spend time doubleguessing myself
      – I TRAINED them when they first showed up. TRAINED them.

      The rest of the staff were all rather taken aback and not very impressed with their attempts to take over, but like me, were going to do that stuff anyway. I really wish someone would have taken me aside and said ‘actually, this isn’t okay’, once I started getting targeted, but I think it escalated so fast they didn’t really realise what was happening and were just generally sympathetic/annoyed.

      I would do a LOT of stuff differently if it happened again (I was young and totally thrown by this as it seemed to come out of nowhere). Specifically:

      – call out what they were doing. I did a bit, but more in a ‘I know to do that thing duh’ way, not a ‘you are not actually in charge of me’ way (which would have been complicated because they seemed to truly believe they WERE in charge). But establishing that I did not see them as my manager may have helped escalate it to a decision point quicker. Some kind of ‘actually, I do know how to do my job and [manager] trusts me to get on with it’ statement. Tricky to pull off right, but better than increasing passive aggressiveness from both sides because we both know I’m THINKING it.

      – not gotten into any discussions about the Way To Do Things because that just validated that they had a right to discuss it. It was IRRELEVANT if my way was better or not (and actually, it was. FOR ME).

      – checked in with the other staff for a ‘please back me up’/’reality check’ rather than just suffering alone for the most part.

      – just gone home sick/stated I was not working under those conditions once it became actively upsetting (if you’re ducking into the bathroom to cry, YOU SHOULD NOT BE AT WORK). They didn’t actually NEED me, I was just stuck in ‘must hide tears and do job and ignore bully’ mode. It was temporary, I could have just opted out.

      Though like I said, it escalated FAST. A single week, I was singled out on day two, in tears on day three, mutual avoidance mode from day 4. And yeah, they weren’t actually ever officially meant to be in charge, they just decided to Impose Order On Imaginary Chaos And Claim Their Rightful Place. Going forward, our manager made a point of specifically saying which single person was ‘in charge’ to avoid this (we didn’t need it, it was mostly to avoid the power grab mess).

      I also wish I’d filed some kind of HR complaint, it just never occurred to me that this was an option at the time. I did very bluntly tell my manager later that this person was horrible and I refused to ever work under them again :D I like to think its why their contract wasn’t extended, though that may not have happened anyway. We also heard much later that they used to pull this crap on Lowly Underlings all the time at a previous workplace so I went round going HA SEE while people were bewildering going ‘but they seemed so nice’.

      1. Misc*

        Whew, that got long >.>

        But also, never underestimate the power of being respected by your manager. If stuff goes to crap, resolution can wait until your manager returns if you trust them to listen to you and they are decent at their job. Resolving stuff like this IS their job.

      2. Lora*

        OMG you worked with my ex-colleague too! And one of my current colleagues!

        Yeah, I tried saying “Um, I actually know what I’m doing as I’ve been doing it for seven more years than you have, and with more and bigger things,” but zero impact. I’m having a Talk with the legit boss next week. I hope there is some kind of resolution that will come out of it, because if there’s not…I don’t know what I’m gonna do. In my current co-worker’s case, he is the least experienced and least educated manager in all the managers, so it’s an insecurity thing, but DANG he doesn’t know how to shush and listen while the grownups talk. Of course, he is a world champion-league Splainer on every front…

    3. Purplesaurus*

      Yeah, if there had been previous issues where boss needed to say OP doesn’t have to do what the others say, I’m curious why he potentially placed these others in charge.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #5 I’d far prefer an employee who isn’t on Facebook to one who is and leaves too many things public.

  8. Sylvia*

    #2: Would a photo of her in the chair make any impact? They might not grasp the problem until they can actually see it.

    I used to work with a very short person. Furniture fit issues could only be brushed off as “complaining about nothing” by people who hadn’t seen my coworker, a grown, professional adult, sitting in a too-tall chair with their feet dangling an inch or so above the floor.

    1. xyz*

      A while ago, I read an article that pointed out that explicit/implicit design standards have traditionally been based on the average man. I always think of that when I sit on a park bench or something and my feet are dangling – and I’m 5’7″ which I don’t think is especially short for a woman.

      1. Grits McGee*

        I could go on for hours about this. I work in a job that requires me to carry 40lb boxes up a ladder that was clearly designed for someone 5 inches taller and 50lbs heavier than me. (I am 120lbs, I physically cannot boost a 40lb copy paper box over my head while balancing on top of a wobbling ladder.) My bosses stopped ignoring me when I put how unsafe the situation was in writing (ie, put the fear of discovery int them), but our facilities/health and safety people have refused to get higher ladder “because a tall person might hit their head on something.” I’ve thought about hinting that the lack of appropriate ladders is probably discriminatory against our female employees (about 60% of our staff), but that’s pretty much the nuclear option and I’m not ready to die on that hill yet.

        I’ll be honest, the whole experience has really negatively affected my opinion of the agency and management, and it’s definitely going to be a major factor in deciding how long I’m going to stay at my current position. OP 2, this is definitely a battle worth fighting for your employee (and good for you for taking it on)! If any of my supervisors had been a real advocate for me, it would have been frustrating, but I wouldn’t have been angry like this has made me.

        1. Misc*

          “because a tall person might hit their head on something.”

          …can’t they just… NOT stand on the top step??!

          1. Misc*

            Wait, no, better response:

            “because a tall person might hit their head on something.”
            Like the nearest keyboard?

        2. CopperPenny*

          Tall people might hit their head? Because it’s not possible to stay a step or two lower on the ladder. That makes sense. As someone who is 5′ nothing that annoys me. A lot.

          1. Amber T*

            Cheers. 5′ here too, and it’s ‘cute’ when my feet can’t touch the ground. Thankfully the only chair that’s an issue is my assigned spot in our 30min weekly meetings, so it doesn’t last long (if it was my regular desk chair I would absolutely push back). But seriously, when your colleague is literally struggling to push in her own chair because it’s a broken piece of crap that’s stuck in the top most position, the appropriate response is NOT “haha awww.”

          2. TootsNYC*

            Well, if you’re lifting something and putting it on a shelf, you lose a lot of leverage and arm space if you have to stand too low, with more of the ladder in front of you.
            and especially if it’s a “platform” ladder, designed with a big platform as its top “standing on” step..

            It’s just not that expensive to have ladders in a couple of sizes.

        3. LCL*

          If your office has any money tell them to get a little giant ladder. There are many versions available, and the ladders themselves are adjustable. The one downside is they are heavy, if you must stow it on top of a truck or the top shelf it isn’t a good choice, but otherwise it might be just the thing for your job. Are the health and safety people just blowing you off because you work in an office? There can be an attitude held by people responsible for production safety that office safety is for sissies, you don’t face anything more serious than a papercut.

    2. LizB*

      When I read the title of the post, I thought the employee in #2 was going to be a little person whose company wouldn’t get them a chair appropriate for their height. I would hope in that case it would be even more obvious to the higher-ups that they need to provide the employee with a chair that works for their body, but this company might still be too clueless. Why is it so hard for people to understand that individuals have different needs, and inclusion/equity means giving people what they personally need to be successful, not what some fictional one-size-fits-all person needs?

  9. LizM*

    #1, I’m picky when it comes to breakfast foods and I need to eat as soon as I wake up, so I usually bring my own breakfast with me when I travel for business and eat in my room. When I know my coworkers are going to meet in the breakfast room to eat, I try to make it down 10-15 minutes before we leave and have a cup of coffee or tea with them. It’s nice to be able to touch base as a team, and I know some of my coworkers really value that time, so I try to accomodate them while still sticking to a rouine that works for me.

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      That is a perfect compromise. You’re still able to have a routine that works for you without being too antisocial.

      When I travel for work, having breakfast with coworkers is no problem. What I always wish I could get out of was dinner. Work trips usually mean working with, training, or otherwise talking to people all day long, and by the time the day ends I’m completely drained. But it’s hard to say, “No, I don’t want to have dinner with you, I’ve been trapped in a conference room with you for the last 10 hours,” tactfully. Usually I beg off one night during the trip and enjoy some alone time, and suck it up for the remainder of the trip.

      I was pleasantly surprised last week when I travelled with my boss to Vegas to visit a client to kick off a project. We had a great time together in the evenings having dinner and seeing some of the sights. She’s fun to travel with.

    2. Harriet*

      I came here to say this too – this is what I do while travelling with colleagues, and it works well. I get my quiet time, by the time I go down I’m in work mode, and nobody seems to mind I’ve not made the whole meal.

  10. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. On the few occasions I have travelled for business, I found it depending on the other colleagues on the business trip as to whether they would eat breakfast or not. Knowing the days would often be full and busy, I would have bacon and eggs, which would horrify my then boss, who was a fruit and yoghurt person. Certainly, we would usually assemble and travel to the site together, however we breakfasted.

  11. Oscar Madisoy*

    In reference to 4. My coworkers are bossing me around while my manager is out, specifically Alison’s suggestion that the OP simply ask the coworkers if the boss really did give them temporary managerial authority in his absence.

    My first reaction was that there’s nothing to prevent them from saying “yes” even if he didn’t. If the OP were to follow up with a request to see something in writing as proof, they might bristle and create trouble for the OP.

    Of course, this could come back to haunt the coworkers if, upon the boss’ return, the OP complains and it turns out the boss didn’t give them that authority.

    In any case, regarding the OP’s statement that “They also order me to do things that I’ve never had to do when my boss is actually in the office, like coming in early and working overtime.” – I would suggest documenting the things you never had to do under the boss’ command that the coworkers are making you do, and share that information with the boss upon his return. It may amount to nothing, or the boss may see it as the coworkers exceeding the authority they may have been granted.

    1. MK*

      Well, they might. But while there are people who would take advantage of a junior colleague and boss them around, not many would take the risk to actually lie about it point blank and then have the lie exposed.

    2. TootsNYC*

      yeah, I had that thought–I don’t think I’d trust the integrity of overly bossy colleagues if they were asked point-blank.

      I’d want to go to boss’s boss.

  12. Michael*

    #3, I basically agree with Allison, but I do think there’s a middle ground. I work in consulting (and a relatively conservative field thereof), and ‘I love what you do” would probably come in a bit chatty; I doubt it would really damage your application, but it would stick out as not-quite-right. I think I’d write something equally conversational but just a hair a more ‘professional,’ and also a bit more specific if possible. Something like

    “I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for more than a year now; I especially enjoyed your series of articles on how automation is revolutionizing teapot manufacturing. I’m excited about the opportunity to work alongside the team that’s doing such fascinating work!”

    Something about the ‘love’ sticks out to me, for whatever reason.

    “…whenever I can I go about my day listening to podcasts on the topic of marketing and communications.”

    Again, I think this is fine but could be better; this tells me that you’re interested in marketing and communications, but not much more. How about mentioning a particular podcast or podcasts that you listen to?

    1. Hellanon*

      Just chiming in to agree; Michael’s suggestions nudge the language into a more professional register while also, and crucially, adding more specific info. Getting into the particulars shows you are paying attention, and by naming names, so to speak, you give your interviewer a good opening for conversation.

    2. Tiffin*

      I agree with all of this. The original language was a little too informal for my field and, importantly, didn’t really give me much useful information.

    3. Tomato Frog*

      I’m not too keen on analyzing the effectiveness of these sentences outside of their context. I write moderately formal and very informative cover letters, and I work in a field that tends to look for formality in cover letters. Yet my cover letter has sentences that in isolation could be identified as overly casual or chatty or uninformative. They’re part of the balancing act of my cover letter, and as such they’re very effective.

    4. always in email jail*

      Completely agree with this suggestion. There’s a middle ground between being overly formal and writing like you’re chatting on AIM. These suggestions show enthusiasm and personality without being too casual.

    5. Angelinha*

      The “I must say” feels weird to me, as well as the “Whenever I can I go about my day.” Not unprofessional necessarily, just kind of overly wordy/not very polished writing. But I agree that the informality is way better than the stodgy “I Am Writing Like A Business Person” suggestions that the adviser made.

      1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

        This is useful advice, I do tend to use way too many words to express myself and have to edit and re-edit my writing to sound more coherent. Will have to re-edit this cover letter again and get rid of all the unnecessary words.

    6. MsEsq*

      I work in the career office of a law school, so students are applying in a very conservative field – and I always tell them to shy away from “love.”

      I keep a collection of phrases that my students use when trying to explain that they are very interested in an employer that would be more appropriate for a romance novel-
      “I have an insatiable passion for”
      “I have a unyielding desire to”
      “inflamed my passion for”

      1. Zombii*

        Are those phrases something your students came in with or were they failed attempts to follow your instruction about not using “love”? If the latter, I’d stop shying away, because it’s clearly doing more harm than good. O_o

    7. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

      See, I wouldn’t use phrases like ‘avid reader’ because it’s such a cliché and it’s not true. I just browsed the company’s blog over the year and thought it interesting. But I can see that ‘love’ seems to be a no-no for many, so it’ll be best for me to avoid it next time I write a cover letter.

      I can agree that my cover letter is not very formal, but the job ad wasn’t very formal either. As an example, they say “personality is key” and “we’re also very proud of our heritage and culture and we work in a sociable, friendly environment; take a look at our Facebook and Instagram pages for a closer look at what we get up to socially”. Their social media is filled with employees playing sports, having meals, and doing yoga. That didn’t tell me I should avoid informal language.

      I agree with you about naming specific podcasts though, will put that in the next cover letter.

    8. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I don’t like the adviser’s advice either, but I will say that without context it reads like “I’m not qualified, but I’ve listened to podcasts”. I might not worry so much about tone as I would talk up more concrete qualifications.

      1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

        Out of the whole one-page cover letter, I provided three sentences. Believe me, I wrote about my actual qualifications too.

  13. CandyTeapot*

    I am a superfat professional. (Superfat is a self-identifying term for people
    on the very large end of being a fat person–usual plus size clothing lines are too small, spilling over in seats on transportation, certain chairs being issues, etc). I spend a lot of time discussing these things with other superfat people.

    I’ve heard dozens of stories like letter #2, but in reverse. People struggling with too-tight seating in their office, never knowing what to expect walking into client meetings, debating whether to raise the issue, dealing with retaliation, guarding their special self-purchased chair from thin coworkers who try to sit in it first, figuring out a not-humiliating way to roll one’s special chair into the conference room, etc. I myself chose courses in college by what classroom each section was in, and once had a chair stuck to my bottom standing up in an important meeting. You should see the bruises and welts I’ve received on my hips from chair arms, and experience the sharp leg/abdominal cramps from struggling to keep yourself perched on the rim of a chair you’re terrified is going to explode under you.

    Point being, I’m in utter disbelief at question #2. Supersized chairs are specialty items and priced as such. This is wild. On the miniscule chance this is true though…..where do I send my resume? The idea of a whole, entire office filled with only chairs that fit me comfortably is unfathomably idyllic to me.

    1. Myrin*

      It’s custom on this site to believe what letter writers are saying – whenever the topic of “this letter must be fake!” has come up in the past, we’ve been asked to not speculate in that direction since it can make OPs feel unwelcome and we don’t want to discourage someone with a serious problem.

      And just because a situation is the opposite of what one would expect doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Remarkably, whenever such “fake!” accusations happened in the past, there were always multiple people in the comment section who’ve been in almost that exact same situation so I’d go easy with the disbelief.

      1. PatPat*

        I don’t think she was accusing the OP of lying, just saying the situation was crazy.

        1. Mookie*

          Myrin might have been confused, as I am, about what the phrase “on the miniscule chance this is true though” means.

          1. Anon for this*

            Because overweight people are always told to suck it up and deal with the furniture available. It’s hard to believe there might be a place where it was considered that larger furniture should be the norm.

          2. Liane*

            It is a more sarcastic way of saying, “I think OP made this up,” which is against the posting rules, as Myrin pointed out.

            1. LCL*

              Could be sarcastic. Could also be ‘this is so rare it is like a rainbow unicorn, my life experience tells me it doesn’t exist but oh please I want it to be real’. Since we are supposed to assume the best of commenters, maybe take it that way. That’s how I read it, as a not superfat but kinda tall person.

            2. Arjay*

              I agree with the Countess that this is maybe a little dismissive, but I don’t think it’s an accusation of being fake either. It sounds to me like, “Oh, where is this wonderland where *I* could sit in any chair I wanted and not feel uncomfortable or actually in danger.”

        1. Myrin*

          I don’t see how to interpret “On the miniscule chance this is true though…” as anything other than “it’s extremely likely that the situation presented in the letter isn’t true” but even apart from that, I’m not really sure how the original comment was supposed to be helpful to the OP who, as a big person herself (and as someone living in today’s society), probably knows exactly how unusual this situation is.

    2. DArcy*

      It sounds like since four out of five people at this office location require the oversized, reinforced chairs, someone at corporate has decided that it’s logistically convenient to designate it the fat person office and order *all* chairs that size. The same someone clearly doesn’t understand that an oversized chair is unsuitable for a smaller person, they’re thinking of them as expensive upgrade chairs so their mindset has become STOP BUGGING US FOR MORE CHAIRS, YOU ALREADY GOT THE FANCY ONES.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Yo, I think this is a bit dismissive toward the OP’s issue here. I’m having my own chair debate at work right now (I think I just have a permanent bruise on my backside at this point, the padding is so thin and useless) but ‘I’d love to have your problem’ and its variants are not really helpful.

    4. Almond Milk Latte*

      I’ve dealt with the same issues, CandyTeapot, and it’s made me such an advocate for remote work. It really levels the playing field for *anyone* who has needs outside of the most common of common denominators. I don’t have to waste time scoping out conference rooms for good chairs, or spend my goodwill arguing for common-sense accommodations, and it makes me more productive. I hope that more workplaces embrace WFH as an inclusivity option.

    5. Tobias Funke*

      Right? I’ve never seen a situation where they tried to one size fits all to “benefit” the fats. Usually it’s “wait but here are some men’s size large t shirts ok wait you’re not wearing it ugh such a non team player”. Truly bizarre.

        1. Cercis*

          Mine too. I actually took over ordering the swag for a conference just so I could get a tshirt that I would wear. And I’ve been refusing to take tshirts saying “yeah, I already can’t shut my tshirt drawer, so why should I take one that I will NEVER wear and just donate immediately?” It’s not just about the way they look (although that is part of it), it’s also about comfort, I don’t find too wide t-shirts comfortable, especially when they’re still tight in my hips and then ride up to be extra bulk around my waist that gets caught on door handles and such (that’s always fun, walk through a door and be pulled back by your shirt).

    6. always in email jail*

      I think CandyTeapot was just lamenting about size-related office furniture issues, much like the original poster was. I didn’t take it as actual disbelief, more like “oh man my workplaces have been crazy about not providing the opposite kind of accommodation and now yours is drowning in large chairs wish we could switch!”

  14. cncx*

    OP1, i am right there with you, i really need to have breakfast alone when i am on business travel. I have made exceptions for last minute events/meetings, but i need that time to be in the proper state of mind for “peopling.” I have had success just pushing back and saying casual stuff like “i need time to wake up/I don’t sleep well in hotels.”

    OP4 i have been in that situation. my best suggestion is to document, document, document, deal with it the best you can now, and regroup when boss comes back. Regarding overtime, especially, this is something that in my job would be my boss’ decision alone and affects other metrics like headcount- so my boss would be absolutely furious if he found out team members were working overtime without his express approval or at the very least him being looped in (i can get that if the boss is out there are more tasks that mean more hours…but this is something my boss would have talked about before he left).

  15. Edina Monsoon*

    #1 I used to do what you do because a. I’m prone to spilling food on my clothes and didn’t want to risk it before a big conference and b. I usually need to go to the loo after eating a cooked breakfast and I prefer to do that in the privacy of the hotel room rather than a public restroom.

    I used to meet my colleagues while they were having breakfast and have a coffee with them and no one thought that was weird.

    1. MechanicalPencil*

      I don’t really eat breakfast, but I enjoy a cup of coffee in the mornings, so this would be my solution. Maybe join them roughly halfway through the scheduled time (depending on how much time they’d allotted) and go from there.

  16. Eve*

    Skipping breakfast with your coworkers is fine but don’t be annoyed if you miss discussions/plans relating to work.

    I was recently at a conference and one member of the team skipped breakfasts/left early from evening networking events then got annoyed we knew people/information/stories she didn’t because she had left. It was like she thought all discussions stopped because she left.

    1. Czhorat*

      Unless you’re spending weeks and weeks travelling, I’d suggest just going to the group breakfast. It’s – at most – an hour out of your day. That isn’t that big a price to pay to appear to be part of the team, and act more connected to them. Given a choice, it’s better to be seen as part of the group as not, even if it means not doing things exactly as you would back at home.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I’ve gotten up earlier to do my waking up routine and then joined a travel team at breakfast for that very reason.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            Hah, I hadn’t refreshed the page so I missed this. Second breakfast FTW! I always eat two breakfasts myself, although both are very small: coffee and a string cheese at home, tea and a second string cheese at work.

          2. an.on*

            I made a comment above about eating a second breakfast like a hobbit! I do a protein bar on my long commute and then a midmorning fruit and yogurt at my desk. :)

      2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        My thought is, why not do both? Eat your quiet breakfast in your room first, but leave room for something light (fruit, yogurt, whatever) and a cup of coffee (or tea or whatever) with your coworkers.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. When travelling for business, I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that the way you do things at home is the way you can always do them 100% of the time while on the road. Go to breakfast a few times and do your own thing a few times. You get some of your normal routine, but you also won’t miss out on too much discussion and networking.

    2. an.on*

      Like Rachel on Friends when she took up smoking so she could be in the know at work. ;)

  17. Traffic_Spiral*

    In the immortal words of Jim Hopper, “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.”

  18. Call me St. Vincent*

    With regard to #3, I do work in a rather conservative field, but I have worked in non-conservative fields where I was involved in hiring in the past (fashion) and I think the OP’s word choices in #3 would be really off-putting even in artistic and generally more casual environments. When you write so informally in a cover letter, in my view (and this has been a view shared with me by others), it can be interpreted as having a sense of entitlement. That isn’t necessarily fair, but for some people (me included), it can be a huge turn off. Maybe there are different norms, and hey, maybe the OP wouldn’t want to work for people who thought her informal style was too informal anyway, but I think that type of informality in a cover letter could close some doors for the OP. I was surprised how hard Alison was on the college advisor because I didn’t think her language was that crazy and I liked her language better than the OPs. To each his own?

    1. evan*

      It’s not only that but a lot of the time you have to dual market to the people who will pick up your product and also to the people who will sign off to buy it. In my field, podcasts and youtube videos to the people who may punt it up to the approvers are the norm, but the people who have the approval to sign off on the purchase will be a demographic that won’t listen to podcasts and need to see the product specifications in writing (because due diligence and compliance is part of their job description).

      OP3, you say you have spent an amount of time following your target company’s external marketing strategy so you’ll have a better idea about what might fly, but don’t forget as the new kid on the block, you may be slated to draft up the marketing report to the executive level (which everyone hates but which needs to be done) and they will probably expect that in stuffy terms not young hip terms because they are concerned about the dollars and only care about the branding as long as it makes dollars.

      If you are in a dual market like I am (I sign off on the purchasing) then I totally accept the ‘love your work’ marketing at a base level but if you can’t deliver the stuffy backup, then you won’t get my dollar and your marketing will fail. Bottom line, you need to be versatile in a changing market so best case scenario marketing yourself for a job is to demonstrate your potential diversity because when you take the job, you need to look after your internal customers (eg CEO) as much as you look after your external ones.

      1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

        OP here, thanks for the advice. Greatly appreciated. I can do stuffy (though through gritted teeth), but you’re right, their style isn’t overly formal and their social media is filled with their employees on walks, doing yoga, having meals, and dabbing. I reckoned they don’t need someone sounding like they’re sending the cover letter via fax.

        1. evan*

          Even tho I am probably (actually) in a ‘stuffy’ demographic, I grit my teeth too.

          But that’s what Nick Cave is for on your headphones!

    2. Myrin*

      I have to say I’m somewhere in the middle. I wouldn’t bat an eye at the OP’s word and syntax choices – which is why I’d be really interested in knowing what exactly you find “informal” about her wording! – but apart from the “actively examined podcasts” sentence, I honestly don’t see anything wrong with the advisor’s suggestions, either.
      (I’ll fully admit that this might well be a cultural thing, though (one I seem to remember other non-US people have even brought up before) – the “great cover letters” that sometimes get posted here usually come across as very… boisterous?… hyper?… well, too enthusiastic to me.)

    3. Emotionally Neutral*

      I’m slightly confused by your “sense of entitlement” part. What about the informality suggests that as opposed to just inexperience in the professional world or an overly casual writing style?

      I think the problem with the advisor’s advice is the almost-buzzword-y nature of the phrasing suggestions. The use of “proactive” and “actively” in the changes sounds like someone trying to impress with action language, not someone trying to be appropriately professional with careful word selection. I won’t bog OP3 down with more suggestions, but this blog illustrates clunky advice given by university advisors multiple times and that style of writing isn’t surprising given the context.

      1. SprinklesTheUnicorn*

        I kind of see it. To me, writing informally in a cover letter feels like going to an interview and putting your feet up on the table, like you’re just going through the motions and you don’t have to try to impress anyone because *of course* you’re getting the job, you’re so awesome there’s no way you won’t get it.

        1. Call me St. Vincent*

          I don’t think that’s fair. I would be considered young in my industry. I think the entitlement is that there is some level of deference that is “supposed” to be given to people when you’re applying for a job, or to someone higher than you in the chain. It just is that way–I’m not saying I think it is a good or bad thing. The sense of entitlement is from what many would consider not giving the proper formality, signaling deference, to the person to whom you’re sending the application. That has nothing to do with “reading young.”

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Honestly, someone who bristles at thinking they’re not seeing that sort of deference from job applicants is more the person with the entitlement problem, not the applicant.

            1. Call me St. Vincent*

              That is probably true! I think to combat the perception though you’d have to reform the hiring practices of entire industries. I do work in a really conservative field where the sense of deference at every level is expected, as obnoxious as that can be (and it really can be). When I worked in fashion, I think there was definitely a sense of entitlement and deference because the field and the place where I worked was considered cachet and the people hiring felt that everyone should be desperate to work there. My only real point was that this perception exists and is out there, even if that is crappy.

          2. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

            In all honestly I’d rather not work for a company that requires such deference from applicants. I’m not sure how it is in the US, but in the UK at university no student is required to be overly formal with lecturers. There’s no sirs or madams, we just need to be polite.

            Similarly, when I worked as a researcher in a lab after graduation my line manager refused to have our lab named after him because he didn’t like that it put him above us. We convinced him it’s fine because everybody referred to us as John Smith’s lab anyway. In the UK we generally don’t like the idea that someone in work is higher than you (unless you go corporate, of course).

            1. Call me St. Vincent*

              That’s really interesting because my experience was the opposite! I did a year in the UK and I found lecturers to be incredibly formal versus the U.S. I remember raising my hand in a lecture once and everyone looked at me like I had murdered a puppy. It just wasn’t done, at least at the university I was attending. There also were certain lawn areas where students were not allowed to walk and only senior faculty could walk and certain parlors only for senior faculty. It was very formal to me!

              1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

                I think it’s just because we’re not supposed to ask questions during a lecture, questions are only for the end of the lecture. Raising a hand and asking something during is considered rude and distracting to the lecturer, that would be why everyone stared at you :)

                With regards to lawns, in my uni all the lawns were free. I find it quite funny that in your uni the lawns were divided.

                Certain places designed for the lecturers doesn’t seem formal to me though. I think it’s just cultural differences. I’m originally from Eastern Europe and there’s so many things that we do that are considered rude in the UK and plenty that the Brits do that would be rude back home but not here.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Having hired a few people and being in a conservative industry, conversational cover letters (assuming I even get a cover letter) are a breath of fresh air to me. I hate reading cover letters that give me the feeling of someone playing dress-up in their parents’ formal clothes. A more informal letter gives me an idea of how the candidate might be in real life. Obviously that’s not always the correct impression, but they seem like more of a real person to me.

    5. Carla*

      I found the suggested language terrible. There are ways to formalize writing without making it stiff or pretentious. The adviser didn’t formalize the LW’s language so much as she altered it unnecessarily. You don’t need another word for “listen” when you’re talking about podcasts. If I received a letter with the adviser’s edits, I would think the LW pulled out a thesaurus or a list of “action-words” and replaced a few words in her letter without knowing how to use the new words correctly

      Formal language is great when it’s organic. I want to know what the cover letter writer is like from her cover letter–not what her college adviser is like.

      1. Call me St. Vincent*

        I didn’t say I thought it was good–only that I liked it better than the OP’s version. I didn’t really like either of them honestly.

    6. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

      The company’s social media accounts have photos of their gradute cohort of 2016 dabbing. That’s why I thought a relaxed cover letter would be more than welcome.

      I wonder though, what did you think was so informal about my language? I see it as relaxed language, but it doesn’t sound overly familiar to me. I’m curious.

    7. Artemesia*

      Interesting because if I for that stuff jargon ridden cover letter suggested by the advisor, the application would have gone in the ‘no’ stack immediately. It is to me the language of someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about.

    8. Observer*

      I can see that the language of the original might be considered too informal. But, to be honest, the adviser’s suggested replacements are information free, at best. At worst, they are nonsense (ie the line about “actively examining podcasts.”) Why would you want that kind of writing?

  19. nnn*

    Reading the description of the chair in #2 and without applying my independent knowledge of ergonomics, it sounded like the complaint is that there’s a lot of extra space in the chair. However, with some knowledge of ergonomics, I’m nearly certain there would be other problems.

    So perhaps in future correspondence, you could spell out the actual ergonomic problems this employee is experiencing.

    For example, last time I sat in a chair that was too big for me, the lumbar support was taller than my actual lumbar curve, forcing my spine into an awkward position. And even on their lowest setting, the armrests were higher than my elbows, forcing me to hunch my shoulders up by my ears all day.

    It might help if you could make your argument in these kinds of terms. Certainly couldn’t hurt.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      She’s also likely finding that the seat is too wide, front to back, for her legs to accommodate; she’d be either sitting away from the chair back (at which point, isn’t it basically a stool?) or having the edge of the seat press awkwardly against the back of her legs or knees.

      1. nnn*

        She’s also likely finding that the seat is too wide, front to back, for her legs to accommodate

        Until I read this sentence, it never would have occurred to me that “too wide” might mean front to back (i.e. the length of the femur.) I would have interpreted it as side to side (i.e. there’s some extra space between the user’s hips and the armrests.)

        Since OP also said “too wide”, I wonder if it’s the same communication issue? Maybe the problem is as you described – either the user can’t reach the chair back or the front edge of the seat is in the way of her knees (which could cause knee problems and nerve problems), but senior management is interpreting it as “there’s a bit of extra room on the sides”

        1. LCL*

          Wide isn’t the word. The word is depth. The seating area is too deep from rear to front, so the backrest isn’t useable and the armrests aren’t useable.

          1. teclatrans*

            Yes, this. Although, too wide is also going to be a significant ergonomic problem if the armrests don’t support her arms.

            I like the suggestion of detailing all of the ergonomic problems.

  20. AlwhoisthatAl*

    #1 – Anyone who talks to me before I have had my first cup of tea is dead. And I don’t mean just sipping at the full cup, until it’s drained all the way down, anyone is in serious danger of being throttled especially if you sing, whistle or tap your fingers on the tabletop. So when I travel, I make it plain to everyone that if they approach my table they will be snarled at. Sit down with a cup yourself and just nod -that is fine. When the tea has done it’s work and cleansed the cerebral lobes I will initiate conversation, please be patient under normal service resumes….

    #3 – I wrote “professional” cover letters for many years – boring, like I’d swallowed a thesaurus, millions of buzzwords etc etc. Then when I quit my job without having one to go to (Try it, it’s a lifechanger !) I thought sod this and started to write enthusiastic, chatty ones even with a slight in-joke or two. I got so many more interviews that I mentally kicked myself for months for not having done it before. I try to write a letter like I’m just met the person at a networking event so not too familiar but honest, genuine and showing you know what you are talking about.

    1. Allison*

      I think one reason why I’m in BEC territory with my current roommate is that he likes to chat first thing in the morning. First it’s his super annoying “Hellooooooooooooooooooooo” and then he asks me about how ___ was, stares at my computer while I’m eating breakfast until he figures out what I’m watching and then comments on it, and I wish I knew how to indicate to him when I don’t feel like people-ing. But I also get that for him, it’s probably awkward for him to be in the same room as me and not say anything.

      I miss having a roommate whose morning routine didn’t overlap with mine.

      1. AlwhoisthatAl*

        I did have a work colleague who was the same as me – we’d travel all over Europe and I would go to to breakfast in the hotel and either she’d be there or I’d be first. We’d kind of make eye contact and grunt and sit together. I would stare over the rim of my teacup into space while she would drink coffee. Then one of us would slope off for toast or something, then the other one would…. still silence. Then one of us would notice the other was on their second or 3rd cup and there would be a gentle clearing of the throat to indicate that conversation was now available on a social level…. pure bliss. I really miss those breakfasts.

      2. Junior Dev*

        I had a college roommate who would hug people and sing Disney songs first thing in the morning. I think one or two instances of my coffeeless death glare fixed that.

      3. Zombii*

        Have you tried… wait for it… talking to him about it?

        After that, use headphones since you’re already watching something on the computer and/or try displaying a sign that says I can’t people right now, please check later! :)

        Fwiw, my younger brother is a chatterbox to the point that he once talked over a Walking Dead marathon for 2 hours straight about a completely different topic. I was watching it on my laptop, with earbuds (which I put in after failing to end the conversation normally, in a not-rude way). After I realized he was still talking 2 hours later, I pulled one earbud out and said “Wait. Were you talking to me?” He just started over. I put my earbud back in and went back to the Dead. Eventually I got my own place with my girlfriend, who doesn’t talk like it’s part of a compulsive disorder. Sometimes you can’t solve it, but I hope it works out for you.

  21. always in email jail*

    #1 I run into this issue, I have ulcerative colitis and I feel sick if I eat breakfast before about 10 am. I’d rather skip completely than eat too early and end up feeling sick. I can, however, stomach black coffee first thing in the morning (I know, counter-intuitive, but true) and on work trips I’ll join people and have a coffee. I usually make up an excuse like “Oh I woke up crazy early and didn’t want to go back to sleep, so I had a muffin and read the paper already. I’m always a light breakfast eater! Do you mind if I sit here and have my coffee, though?”

  22. Rebecca*

    #2 – would it be possible to buy a smaller office chair at a big box store or office supply store using cash? Maybe the employee has a chair at home that is comfortable for her, and you could purchase the same model for in the office? Yes, I’m suggesting circumventing this crazy policy! Do you have any discretionary funds for employee morale? IMO, this would certainly qualify. For the life of me I cannot understand why a company would rather lose an employee than spend a comparatively minute amount on a chair so the employee can simply be comfortable for 8+ hours per day!

    True story along these lines. About 10 years ago, we returned to the office on a Monday, flipped on the lights to our windowless cube farm, and we were “Blinded by the Light”, so to speak. Our normal fluorescent lights had been replaced over the weekend with “improved” lights, X candlepower, and mirrored reflective light fixtures. It was so bright we had headaches in a very short time. Those of us who had hats or visors wore them, and some people even wore sunglasses. We all approached our manager, whose office wasn’t affected, and she told us that HR said that this was the optimum light level for our area, number of people, etc., all scientific, and we just had to get used to it. It was utter nonsense. 3 days into this mess, we got tired of the visors and sunglasses, so we found a step ladder, and went around to each fixture and took out half the light tubes and put them in an unused trash barrel in the storage closet. Problem solved. Surprisingly, manager never said a word.

    Long story short – one size does not fit all, nor should it, and I hope you can help your employee somehow.

    1. LavaLamp*

      I have the same problem, at 5’2″ and 108lbs the office chair I use at work was just made for a larger human than I am. I can quite literally sit cross-legged in it, which makes me feel a bit like a child . There is a wonderful desk chair at IKEA for petite people, that’s only 50$. ( I have no idea if it’s really for petite people or teenagers, but it’s comfortable. My 6′ tall father can also sit in it without being uncomfortable either) but I thought I’d toss this out as a suggestion from someone who experiences the same thing.

      When I have more discretionary income; I’ll be purchasing a second one and bringing it to the office because I really hate my current char.

      1. HannahS*

        PLEASE PLEASE which chair is it?? I’m also 5’2 and in desperate need of a small chair to study at a desk in. I get such back and leg pain from normal chairs!

        1. LavaLamp*

          It’s the Renberget swivel chair. It’s a regular office chair it’s just small. I can sit in it properly.

  23. ChairProblems*

    LW #2: Are there ANY other chairs that she could temporarily use that might be a slightly better fit for her? Coincidentally enough I am in a similar situation and my manager doesn’t seem to care that my chair isn’t a good fit, though it’s likely not as obvious as what you’re describing. My temporary fix was to use a smaller chair that is intended to be used in a waiting area, more or less. It’s really not ideal in the long term but at least my feet touch the ground and back can rest against the back of the chair!

  24. always in email jail*

    #3 I often find there’s a fine line between conversational and trying to be “cute”. For entry-level positions, a lot of the more conversational letters I get stray into gimmick territory very quickly. It’s really a fine line, and I personally would rather have someone too formal than employing a weird gimmick.

    1. Grad Looking to Steal Your Jerbs*

      Oh, absolutely. I don’t intend on having any jokes or personal stories about my childhood or anything like that. That’s too weird for me. But I also don’t want my cover letters to contain clichés and be loaded with buzzword action words. And that’s mainly because I don’t write like this.

  25. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    People dress after breakfast? My routine now is wake up, feed cats, pour two coffees while I am in the kitchen, juggle coffees and packed lunch, distribute coffee to spouse, pack my lunch and thermos, bathroom, dress, and then eat in my car or at my desk.

    Seeing all the comments makes me think how different each of us is.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      I do typically dress for breakfast, but that’s just because breakfast is the last thing to happen before I leave the house–that way, if I end up falling behind schedule, I can still leave when I need to. I find it’s way easier to grab breakfast on the way to work than it is to get dressed.

    2. Rebecca*

      I know, right? My routine is to stumble to the bathroom, then get my elderly dog out into the yard, put up bird feeders (we have bears so the bird feeders come in at night), feed outside stray cat, make sure indoor cats/elderly dog has food, shuffle back to the shower, then get dressed, coffee, food, and out the door. More coffee at work. And a snack later :)

      I like to make sure I’m dressed for work in case something goes awry, at least that way, I can dash out the door and worst case scenario I can grab a Larabar and shove it in my mouth while driving down the road.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        After all the discussion of pets and their needs, I skimmed the end of your post and read “Labrador”. :)

    3. Kiki*

      Getting dressed is the absolute last thing I do. Between two cats, a clumsy husband, and uneven floorboards there is a 0% chance I’ll make it through my morning without a spill.

  26. Aaron*

    #5 – if you’re applying in a marketing / digital marketing / social media field, it “could” be to your detriment not to have active social media profiles. I manage a digital marketing team myself, and I tend to find it odd when someone claims to be a savvy digital or social marketer but does not have active social media profiles.

    1. Chloe Silverado*

      Genuine question – how active is active enough for you?

      I’ve worked in marketing for 7 years. I have samples of successful posts and campaigns I’ve done for businesses, but I’m not a social media power user in my personal life. I’m happy to be the voice behind a brand, but I don’t personally enjoy social media use. My life just isn’t that interesting and I prefer to keep my opinions to myself. I also have some (comparatively minor) privacy concerns due to an abusive ex. That said, if you searched for me, you’d find me – there just wouldn’t be much to see.

      Is that enough, or am I doing myself a disservice? I’d truthfully rather switch fields than spend my free time cultivating a larger online presence.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I’m like you. I “do” social media for my work, but I keep my private social media accounts private. Never shall the two meet.

    2. Rhodoferax*

      I get that, but I (LW5) work in manufacturing. I didn’t think that un- or barely-used social media presence would be a serious detriment, but I did have some concerns over how an absolute lack of Facebook would be perceived.

    3. Zombii*

      Another genuine question. Do you expect their social media presence to function as a secondary portfolio, or are you hiring people who are new to the field and don’t have formal accomplishments yet?

      There are so few careers where it’s expected that your hobbies should be an accurate reflection of your work, this just seems kind of off to me.

  27. JC*

    OP1: I feel you on this issue. I’m a fellow introvert and don’t like talking to anyone before I’ve had coffee. I also wouldn’t like forced breakfast socializing and am glad it is not the norm at my office when folks are traveling together.

    I also eat breakfast at home before I’m dressed, but FWIW, when I travel for work I typically grab breakfast after I’m dressed and otherwise ready for the day. I rarely do room service and don’t bring my own breakfast when I travel, which means breakfast necessitates leaving the room (dressed).

    1. BananaPants*

      On my business trips, it’s not “forced breakfast socializing”, it’s “we have a 10 hour day ahead of us on a sweltering hot factory floor where none of us speak the local language – I’ll keep an eye out for A, B, and C and you keep an eye out for X, Y, and Z. They’re going to try to get us to go out to dinner with them at 8 PM again, so let’s present a united front on that.”

  28. Chatterby*

    #2, your first step should be to speak with your local custodian staff.
    Usually, there is a storage room somewhere crammed full of old office gear. Perhaps one of the old chairs is still around and can be used for this employee, free of charge. Or maybe there is a conference room chair she can swap out. Also ask if they know where any footstools are.

    If there are no readily available free options, you have two paths:
    1) Never mention this to the main office again and just solve the problem without them. This is recommended if you think further action would not only be futile, but actively cause harm. Tell the employee she won’t be reimbursed for it, but she can bring in any chair she likes, or offer to pay yourself, or reallocate some petty cash funds intended for a party or similar towards the cost of the chair.
    2) Re-read what you told the main office and make sure it sound pressing and legitimate. “Her chair is too big” does not seem like a real issue. Say “I feel I explained the situation poorly.” then mention that the chair is A) causing significant pain for this person, B) not appropriate for her body type and needs, and C) the employee needs to be accommodated to be effective and prevent long-term repeat stress injuries. Send the employee’s doctor’s note and a reasonably priced chair option (make sure she goes to an actual office-supply store to sit in it and ensure it’s a good option so you don’t have to re-do this mess if it ends up being a horrible chair) and CC the contact’s higher up on the e-mail.
    Do not choose this route if it will result in the main office going feral and actively policing the chairs to the point of punishing the employee if she decides to just bring in her own.

    Lastly, it’s too late now, but you may find it more effective to tell people, rather than ask them, next time this happens. As in, you ordered the chair and then sent a note to the budget-approval person “An employee required a new chair” rather than giving a long and convoluted excuse that skirts around body shaming issues to ask for permission, which they can preemptively deny.

    1. LCL*

      Best answer. Boss shouldn’t have to explain it to the health and safety person, but in this situation when health and safety isn’t seeing reason, it is required. I admit, speaking from my position as a kind of big kind of tall person, if someone told me they had extra space in their chair my first response would be ‘and?’ It’s hard for a person who doesn’t do ergo to understand why an oversize chair is a problem. The ergo person in this case should know this, and isn’t doing their job. Ccould this be a case of some HR person got ergo added as extra duties, and really doesn’t know what they are doing in this area?

      1. Marty*

        Also, rather than a doctor’s note, consider an ergonomic review. Autonomic is pretty important for worker safety, when it is ignored people tend to suffer form things like back pain or carpal tunnel symptom. Perhaps phrasing it as a safety issue will help. This is something that OSHA cares about as well…

  29. Sue Wilson*

    #4: I wouldn’t ask for clarification from the co-workers. Presumably your boss has a boss, who should know who is in charge? I would ask for clarification of scope (i.e. Mary and Todd said that their are standing in place of Boss, does that include all performance evaluations and feedback? new duties? etc.)

    1. always in email jail*

      ^I agree with this, where is boss’ boss in all of this? They would probably be an accurate source for information

    2. Arjay*

      I’d also take into account how long the paternity leave is. If it’s a week or two as is common in the US, this is less of a problem to just deal with for now, than if the boss will be gone for months.

  30. Here we go again*

    #2 – This is an insurance claim waiting to happen. I would express your concerns to HR/Safety/whomever has authority in a financial/liability capacity by saying, “I am worried we are putting the company at risk by not accommodating this employee. What will happen if she files an insurance claim against us and shows that there were multiple requests for a different chair that were ignored?”

  31. RMF*

    #5: Many people who DO have Facebook profiles choose to make them totally private, and thus un-searchable. A hiring manager who can’t find your profile might just assume you’ve set up privacy restrictions.

    1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      Yeah, this is really common as far as I can tell. I’m honestly surprised that the “invisible on social media is bad” idea hasn’t been squashed by now.

  32. Allergist*

    #2 I personally sit on a yoga ball most of the day. It is awesome and you can purchase for less than $30.

    Just tossing options out there.

    1. Fifty Foot Commute*

      Do you have any sense of how this is perceived in terms of professionalism? That would be my ideal sitting situation, but as the first person someone sees when they walk into the office, I can never decide if it would be okay or not.

      1. Statler von Waldorf*

        I hate to say it, but in my experience yoga balls are not seen as professional. Especially if/when they squeak.

      2. BMO*

        Hm, yoga ball vs. blanket over your head battling over perceived professionalism in the AAM ring… ;)

        Just thinking of ergonomics, seeing someone sit on a yoga ball or using a standing desk seems normal for the most part (as always, there are exceptions. Lawyers at big firms come to mind and other very conservative offices).

        1. KR*

          Now a blanket over my head… That may not be professional but it would be so comfy at work. You’ve really got a good idea there.

        2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I know of attorneys at big firms who sit on yoga balls and use standing desks. As far as I’m aware, you never meet with clients in your office anyhow.

      3. Zombii*

        This is probably obvious, but if the yoga ball is a neutral color and it isn’t rolling all over the place when you stand up and you’re not bouncing on it I think it would appear sufficiently professional, especially if you’re behind a desk or something so it’s not super-visible in the first place.

      4. Noobtastic*

        I once had a co-worker who did this. She kept her “official” chair in her cube, because it was required. Although the company actively encouraged exercise, so she used that excuse to hold onto the ball in her cube, so she could “take quick exercise breaks every hours,” she actually sat on the ball, unless some bigwig came around.

        And then, they finally made her get rid of the ball, completely, because they caught onto her scam. Told her to walk around every hour, instead. I think it had something to do with cube space, because shortly after that, the cubes were all redesigned to be smaller, and everyone who had a “guest chair” in their cube had to give it up.

        Used to be, people visited each others cubes all the time, for collaboration, and guest chairs were common. Then, guest chairs were only in offices, and collaboration was supposed to be done via web meetings, or the phone. Also, they took down the cube walls, so that everyone could hear everything.

  33. YarnOwl*

    Okay, on letter #3, I feel like two of the re-writes are things I could get behind, but “…actively examined podcasts on the topic to improve my analytical ability.” is such nonsense. You don’t “examine” a podcast! That doesn’t make any sense!

    1. Beltalowda*

      It’s inherently a passive activity. I listen to podcasts on the way home from work to give my brain a break. Click and Clack may use the deductive method to figure out what’s wrong with Bubba’s ’72 Gran Torino, but it ain’t exactly like that rubs off on me; my analytical ability is not improved.

  34. Michelle*

    The Office Chair Wars!

    Seriously, why is getting a comfortable chair for an employee such a huge hassle? I think trying the route with the doctor’s note is good or try explaining more clearly as Chatterby suggested.

    I’ve worked in this particular office for approximately 9 years now. 75% of my duties require me to be sitting in a chair. When we moved to our permanent office 8 years ago, they purchased new chairs that were, quite honestly, crap. The cheapest, crappiest chairs I’ve ever had the displeasure to sit in. These chairs were falling apart (screws coming out, arm rests breaking off with normal use, etc.) within months of having them. Director-level and above got nice, comfortable, safe chairs to go with their private offices. After having several screws come out and almost falling backwards when I dared to lean back in my chair, I decided enough was enough and I went to a local office supply store and bought the same exact model chair the managers had. You would have thought I murdered kittens or something. Coworkers questioned me about how I got a new chair (with very suspicious tones). I told them I purchased it myself and showed them the receipt. When the COO told me I “could not” have that chair, I explained my position and stated that until proper, safe chairs were purchased, I was keeping my chair. 3 days later, a coworker was injured due to one the of the crappy chairs falling apart. (She hit her arm/elbow area when the chair basically collapsed when the majority of the screws has fallen out and cracked/broke something in her arm) New, safe, comfortable chairs were purchased within a week. To make sure I matched all the other cube dwellers, I was reimbursed for my “manager” chair, they put it in a back room until it was needed and I received the first chair off the truck.

    1. RB*

      I like your story but it also makes me sad and angry. How dare you behave differently than the other peons? How brazen of you to not know your place. (is what their behavior and words are saying)

    2. FemGeeek*

      Sometimes, you just have to take action…About 30 years ago, I had back surgery, and was in a lot of pain. My department had just bought new furniture for everyone, and, while it was much better quality than it sounds like yours was, the chairs just didn’t work for me. The curve in the back of the chair was just wrong, and instead of giving me lumbar support, it put pressure on the most painful part of my back. But management wouldn’t hear of getting me a chair that worked.

      A couple of weeks later, while on a business trip to another branch, I found The Perfect Chair (for me, at least). So perfect that I lingered behind while everyone else headed out for lunch. I turned over the chair and copied the manufacturer’s name and the model number from the label on the bottom. When I got back to home base, I tried to talk them into getting me that particular chair, but to no avail. Then, to my amazement, I found the exact chair in one of the labs…Several of them, to be exact. So I borrowed one and brought it back to my desk. Management wasn’t happy, because it was the wrong color – didn’t match all the other chairs – so they finally broke down and ordered me one in the appropriate color. And, proving that they hadn’t figured out that one size does not fit all, they ordered one for every person in the department who had any sort of back problem. Sigh…For a company known for its brilliant engineers and scientists, that place had some clueless managers. But at least I could finally sit at my desk with minimal pain.

  35. CatCat*

    For #2, how about ordering an ergonomic evaluation instead of ordering the chair, since you already know the actual chair won’t get past the finance dept. at this time? Will they pay for an ergo evaluator?

    If so, they might be willing to believe an evaluator over the employee.

  36. RB*

    I realize it wouldn’t work with your site rules but I really wish we could find out the names of the truly jerkface employers like #2, so that those of us looking for work or who may be looking for work in the future could stay far away from these firms. Hopefully most people know about Glassdoor and won’t hesitate to put a negative comment/review on there to alert others.
    Also, I tend to write formally. I hope that isn’t working against me in my cover letter.

  37. KR*

    As a short person, I feel for the employee in the chair question. My office bought chairs before I came aboard and it seems like such a waste to ask them to buy me a different chair. Mine is meant for a bigger person because we have no use for the old chair and while I can sit in it with my feet flat on the ground and access my keyboard, I end up suffering from bad posture because the back rest is 6-8 inches from my back. I can’t pull it closer to my desk because the keyboard is on a tray and the arm rests end up pushing the tray in when I try to scoot up to my desk. Some good suggestions. Please continue to advocate for your employee.

  38. Jenny*

    #1: I do think it’s important to weigh your preference here against the opportunity for bonding/networking with colleagues, especially if you’re the only one in the group sitting it out. And if you’re traveling with people senior to you who expect you to join for breakfast, I probably wouldn’t push back on it. When I’ve traveled for work, the most senior person generally sets the expectations in terms of whether you’ll eat together/have “working meals”/etc. This strikes me as a similar situation to office social events – even if it’s not required, your colleagues may well frown on skipping it (which isn’t necessarily fair, but again worth weighing how important it is to you).

    #3: I think there’s a middle ground between your language and the advisor’s. “I must say, I love what you do.” doesn’t strike me as very professional-sounding, but I’m not sure what he thinks he’s getting across with “actively examined podcasts” – I would definitely roll my eyes if I saw that in a cover letter!

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