my boss is shirtless in his staff photo, bug bites at work, and more

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

1. My boss is shirtless in his staff photo

I work for the Southern California branch of a large, multinational corporation. The company recently rolled out a new internal employee directory/intranet platform that allows us to customize our profile photos, resume information, skills and interests, etc. The information is only accessible to other employees, but that’s thousands of people! The platform is what we use to find another employee’s phone number, email, work location, supervisor, and so on.

In their profiles, most people use their default (security badge) photo, a corporate-style headshot, or a casual on-the-job photo. My immediate supervisor, however, is an avid swimmer. He uploaded a profile photo of himself in swim trunks, swim cap, goggles, but no shirt. It’s not prurient, but also not an image I want to have in my head during work discussions.

Although our workplace is casual, it’s not shirtless-casual. I’m no manager, but the photo looks inappropriate/unprofessional to me.

Should I just ignore it, address him directly (“Boss, the photo of your bare chest makes me uncomfortable” would be a very awkward conversation!), or share my concern with his supervisor (I don’t know if she has seen it yet, or if she cares)? I don’t want to get him in trouble, because otherwise he is a pretty good manager. But eewww….

Oh, California.

Okay, that’s not fair. But still … California.

I agree with you that it sounds really off-key, but I don’t think this is a battle worth fighting or a serious enough thing to escalate to his own manager. I mean, he could have a similar photo displayed in his office — because people sometimes display photos of themselves engaged in sporty, outdoor activities, including swimming — and you wouldn’t really have standing to ask him to remove it there. Assuming it’s not the kind of photo that’s moving out of the G-rated realm (like if he were wearing a thong and facing away from the camera), all you can really do here is roll your eyes and let it go.

2. Bug bites at work

I’ve read previous columns in which you’ve discussed visible cuts/bruises at work, and I was wondering what you thought about visible bug bites. I’m one of those unfortunate people who can’t step outside for five minutes without acquiring five new bug bites, even with bug spray. To add insult to injury, when I get a bug bite my skin reacts very badly — it goes bright red, then usually purple and bruised-looking, and it can take months for a bug bite to fade away completely. I live in the deep south now, and there’s no way to avoid mosquitos for about half the year, and my work wardrobe is mostly dresses and skirts. I was looking at my legs this morning (currently very splotchy with bug bits at varying stages of healing) and wondering if I should be subjecting anyone to this sight, or if this is different in some way from cuts and bruises. I do wear opaque tights during the winter, but in the heat of the other half of the year I’d rather avoid stockings (which, frankly, don’t always do much to hide them anyway).

There’s nothing about a bug bite that’s inherently unprofessional, just like there’s nothing about a bruise that’s inherently unprofessional. But in both cases, having a bunch of them that are visible, or having one really gnarly one, can be alarming and distracting to people you work with.

But that doesn’t mean you should have to buy a whole new wardrobe, or wear clothes that are too hot for the season, or walk around inside mosquito netting. Plenty of people have things that make them look slightly less than perfectly professionally polished — whether it’s frizzy hair or unruly eyebrows or a slightly rumpled shirt or some nasty bug bites. The reality is that yes, these things may make you look less polished, but it’s not “omg, you cannot appear at work like that” territory. (It might be “try to make the rest of your appearance polished if you can” or “cover them up if you have an important client presentation” territory though.)

3. My two jobs are both insisting I work Christmas Eve

I’m in a bit of a conundrum. After being laid off early this year, and unable to find a job in my field, I picked up two retail jobs to get me by while I job hunt. They don’t pay well (I don’t make enough to pay all my bills), and that’s with working seven days a week. One shop is open daily 9-9, the other 11-7, and they are each an hour on the bus from my home (I sold my car to make extra money), and two hours from each other as they are in opposite directions.

I’ve received notices from both jobs that all employees are required to work both Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (December 26). I spoke to both of my managers and they are inflexible on this. They both require me to be there for eight hours on both days, and expect the other job to capitulate to their needs. I understand that these are busy days and I am a high performer in sales, but I can’t possibly be in two places at once!

I’m still looking for a job in my field but I am not optimistic I’ll find one before December. How do I navigate this without quitting (or getting fired from) a source of income that I desperately need?

The reality is that you may not be able to. If they’re each absolutely unbending on this, you might need to pick one. However, if you’re good at sales, they may not be willing to lose you over this when they see that you’re really serious.

I’d try saying this to the one you’re most willing to lose (or the one you think has the most chance of compromising): “I fully understand that these days are a requirement for everyone. But my other job is requiring the same thing. I can’t be two places at once, or otherwise I would absolutely be here. Is there anything we can work out, since my work has otherwise been good and I’m always here reliably when you need me on other occasions? I would hate to lose my job over this, but I’m in a situation where I can’t do what you’re asking.” (If true, you might throw in that the other job pays you more and you can’t afford to lose it.)

Sometimes retail jobs really won’t bend on this, given how busy those two days are. But this gives you a good shot at seeing if one of them will.

4. I can’t get a response from the two people who agreed to meet with me

I just moved to a new state for my husband’s job, but did not have a job lined up beforehand. I decided I don’t want to be a scientist anymore and instead want to pursue teaching scientists to communicate better, something I did while both a graduate student and postdoctoral fellow.

I have been emailing the departments at the major university to try to see if they have interest or if there is a group that I could join. I received two emails back from different parties who are interested! Both suggested that we set up a meeting, but when I email them back to try to find a time, I get no response. Were they just being polite asking to set up a time? I sent out at least 15 other emails and no one else responded, so I think they genuinely are interested. In my emails I suggested Wednesday or Thursday mornings. Should I be more specific with times? Thank you!

No, I wouldn’t think they were just being polite; people don’t usually offer to meet if they don’t really intend to follow through … but sometimes people have good intentions in the moment and then the reality of a busy schedule gets in the way. I would assume they’re simply busy. Give it two weeks and follow up once more. If they don’t respond at that point, I’d leave it in their court and move on.

If possible, though, you should offer up as wide availability as possible. If someone looking for a favor from me told me they could meet Wednesday or Thursday mornings, I’d probably say no because I’m generally busy then — but if they said “let me know when is convenient for you, and I’ll come to you,” I’d be much more likely to be able to make it work.

5. Explaining I left my last job because of a family emergency

I am unsure how to answer the question “Why did you leave your previous position?” when asked by a potential employer by phone or in person.

I was working at a company in customer service for 2.5 years until February. This winter, my mentally ill parents needed my help with some major life events. I was unable to keep working and help them, as they live in a city that is 2.5 hours away, and the amount of support they needed could not be provided over one or two weekends. I chose to leave my job and help them sort things out. Everything is taken care of now and I am looking for a new job.

I feel awkward when employers ask why I left my previous company. I have been saying that I had a family emergency in a different city but it is over now. I don’t feel right lying by saying I traveled or that I was looking for a new challenge. Both of those answers make me sound like a flake. However I feel that by saying there was a family emergency, I am giving the impression that I will bring drama to the work place. Do you have any suggestions on non-alarming yet truthful answers I can give?

The answer that you’ve been giving is just fine! That’s a thing that happens to people in life, and it’s not going to make you sound drama-prone. It’s a normal part of life, and any reasonable interviewer knows that. Plus, you presumably have a stable job history before this.

But if you want to say something that doesn’t contain the scary word “emergency,” you can say it this way: “I had to temporarily move to Chicago to help with a family health situation that has since been resolved. Everything’s taken care of now, and I’m itching to get back to work.”

{ 439 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty*

    Even for California, OP #1’s boss is wack.

    OP #1, this is probably something that will be self-correcting in time since it will be seen by thousands of people, some of whom DO have the authority to tell him to knock it off.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was going to say the same thing. Unless OP works for a surfing/snorkeling supply store that is literally located on the beach, this would not fly in 98% of California organizations. I don’t think this would even fly at Patagonia, and it wouldn’t even be ok at R.E.I.

      It totally sounds inappropriate, but it also sounds like it doesn’t quite merit escalation. OP, will your boss’s managers see the photo, also, or would they not use it? I suspect in a multinational corporation where there are tons of other offices that this kind of informality will read as bad judgment on OP’s boss’s part.

      1. Artemesia*

        Classic example of something which no subordinate should burn up influence on. What is it to her? Not her monkey.

        1. Mookie*

          Yeah. LW, don’t go to your supervisor’s boss with this and, incidentally, you are not responsible for your boss’s boss’s reputation or judgment nor does it really reflect anything on you, either, if one or both of these people end up looking like a dope.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. I would just ignore it. Aren’t the pictures usually thumbnail size?
            The obvious solution for the boss here would be to crop the photo to a headshot.

            1. bookish*

              Hmmm, yeah, maybe there should even be an across the board policy that all the photos should just be headshots, cropped no lower than the shoulders? That would eliminate any potential concerns of impropriety when it comes to attire, I’d think.

          2. Specialk9*

            I would also agree that “ignore it” is the best course.

            If you just can’t let it go, try checking with HR that it’s ok for your profile pic to be shirtless, since in this state it’s illegal to discriminate* against women for going topless, and I see that (boss name) is allowed to have a shirtless pic. And then report back here. :D

            *Check first that that is actually the law there!

        2. Lora*

          One day I had bought a hat in the shape of a bear, as one of the guys I worked with had a thing about bears – they were his favorite animal and he was always looking for bear conservation charities worthy of his year-end bonus, sort of thing. I wore the bear hat to work and one of my subordinates told me that he could not take me seriously as long as the bear hat was on my head. It had like…paw-mittens attached and everything. So, fair enough.

          1. Nervous Accountant*

            That’s adorable, I’d totally wear a cat hat if I could. Maybe on the weekends I will. As it is, right now my desktop wallpaper is of pusheen and I have a bunch of her stickers. I’ve put them on my monitor, and I’ve “surprised” a few cw/friends with a sticker on their desk. (yeah, we’re pretty relaxed for a bunch of accountants).

          2. Gaia*

            I had to read this three times before I read it as “bear conservation charities” as opposed to “bear conversation charities”

    2. FTW*

      I work for large corporation… based in California. There are one or two of my colleagues, fairly senior, who don’t use typical photos for the internal system. Think runner in a singlet and motorcycle racer. It is what it is, and has not hindered their promotion or their credibility. Not what I would do, but also not a big deal.

      And no… I’ve never come across one of these photos from a non-Californian colleague.

      1. Mookie*

        I’ve never come across one of these photos from a non-Californian colleague.

        Between this and “Oh, California,” I’ve just discovered how abnormal this is for huge swaths of the world. I can’t actually think of an example, in my professional history, where displays of management photos didn’t feature at least one person in cosplay / surfer gear / powerlifting Converse, or standing in front of a bookshelf artfully arranged with empty micro-brewery bottles and cans. We really are so corny and weird, I can’t get over it. Everyone is ~expressing~ their unique and individual selves. I kind of like it, but in certain fields it’s almost painfully inappropriate, both for clients and colleagues. Also, I’ve worked with more than one person who used a wedding photo (both were cutting highly ambitious cakes that turned out less cake and more Cake Wreck), and one of them was no longer married at the time they were hired. So cringe-y.

        I had a manager who toyed with the notion of hiring a photographer to give us all ironically normcore glamour shots (with pets or without them), but, erm, that never came to fruition. I liked that idea, too, because I have no taste and no shame.

        1. SchoolStarts!*

          Expressing themselves – yes, because a corporate photo which is the same for everyone is boring. It says nothing about YOU. While I don’t think wedding or vacation pictures are appropriate for those tiny thumbnails, unless there is a strict office policy on it, people should be able to put whatever they like and most will use common sense.

          I had a clip art sunshine for mine (to match my Scouting name) and someone had Goofy (her fav Disney character) and someone else had a squirrel drinking whiskey (don’t ask) and someone else had an emoji (which totally matched his personality) and we were all told, out of the blue, to change them as they were “unprofessional.” There’s no official policy! But vacation pictures are okay? I was unhappy but it wasn’t worth complaining about (for more than an hour spread out over a week).

          I did a “LinkedIn photo shoot” a few years ago where I took several photos of me with make up and nice hair with a Nintendo DS as the profile pic on LinkedIn is tiny and therefore, the pictures don’t have to be hi-def or high quality, just recognizable. One of my rejected LinkedIn pics is now my profile pic…but I miss my sunshine.

          1. Lindsay J*

            But generally the point of these things is so that people from other departments can recognize you in person, etc. Vacation photos and wedding photos (generally) still allow you to do that, but clip art and cartoon characters don’t.

            If people are just going to use the photo slot to “express themselves” it might as well be eliminated all together.

            And if I had a staff member that spent an hour of work time complaining about something like this I would be a bit annoyed. Most things in work aren’t about expressing yourself or saying or telling people something about you, they’re about performing a work-related function. You can express yourself via your outfits (within reason), words and behaviors, and office decorations. Requiring the email directory photo to be a photo of you doesn’t stop you from expressing yourself.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              THANK YOU. I get annoyed enough when people use cutesy images as their Facebook profile photos, because while I’m pretty good with names, that’s generally because I tend to associate them with faces. When I get friend requests, I look at the face first, then the “about” section, if I don’t recognize the name right away. Kind of the opposite of prosopagnosia.

              But at least on Facebook, it makes sense for people to want to express themselves and/or protect their identity somewhat. (Although don’t get me started on the people who change their fake names every couple of months AND don’t use a photo of their face…) When you’re talking about a work directory, the whole point is for people who don’t know you well or at all to be able to recognize you! Especially if you’ve been emailing someone, and it turns out you wind up riding the elevator with them in the mornings more often than not! That’s nice to know, so you can put a face to the name, and talk with them in-person, which definitely makes electronic communication less fraught. (Lack of attributable identity is a huge factor behind flame wars — there’s a reason people act that way more on the internet than face-to-face.)

              1. Emi.*

                Oh golly, remember when it was a thing for boys to use their girlfriends’ pictures and vice versa? That was, imho, a knock-down argument against the wisdom of dating in high school.

            2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              I’m in Ebola PPE in my picture. It is a professionally relevant picture, but you can’t see my face. I don’t really want to be recognized by any random coworker who was copied on an e-mail.

            3. Anna*

              I don’t put my headshot on LinkedIn because I see it less as a way to recognize someone and more of a way to bring something that doesn’t belong into the hiring/networking process. To me it’s no different than including a headshot with a resume. Sure, there are some industries where that’s a thing and appropriate, but most industries it’s not and I’m not going to play into the idea that how I look (my race, my gender, etc.) has any affect of how professional I am.

            4. Specialk9*

              Yeah, I get so annoyed when people get cutesy with photos. Listen, you, I know you’re not a freakin cat because you work in an office. I’d really appreciate if you stopped being So Super Special And Unique, and just put your picture there. We’re not friends, we’re co-workers, and now I’m starting off our work interaction disliking you.

              Though I’ll admit you’d never know I thought that, because I’d be perfectly nice in person.

          2. FiveWheels*

            I don’t really need to know anything about a colleague’s personal life to work with them. And if we’re close enough that it could help, they really don’t need a photo.

          3. Antilles*

            Expressing themselves – yes, because a corporate photo which is the same for everyone is boring. It says nothing about YOU.
            The corporate photos aren’t really intended to be a statement about you or your personality, though. Nor are they intended to be fun and exciting. Photos on the intranet exist for purely business purposes: So you can recognize each other while in the hallway, to put a face with the name, etc. Therefore, anything that doesn’t work for that kinda defeats the whole purpose.
            It’s also worth noting that from the other end, we’re likely to perceive those differently than you do. I can tell you I’d certainly wonder why someone thought Goofy (a total idiot who messes up constantly*) was the most appropriate representation of herself. And even though I’m only 30, I never really used emojis beyond the typical smiley face, so there’s a non-zero chance I’d view it differently than others would.
            *This may not be accurate – I haven’t actually seen anything starring Goofy since I was like 8.

        2. Allison*

          I tend to go easy on people’s LinkedIn pictures. Selfies, outdoorsy shots, cartoon avatars, as long as it’s simple and more or less looks like you, go for it. My LI picture is cropped, but if you see the full picture it’s a bit obvious I’m dressed like Black Widow from the Marvel movies. It doesn’t have to be a professional headshot, at least not in my industry.

          But I hate wedding photos as LinkedIn profile pics. Can’t figure out why, just looks really out of place. I know that for some people, the professionally taken shots from their wedding are some of the few current pictures of them they actually look good in, I get that, I’m not photogenic either, but I just . . . again, I don’t have a great argument why and I certainly can’t tell anyone what to do, but I don’t like seeing them used in a professional context. Same with family portraits.

        3. Hillary*

          Interesting. Mine (in Minnesota) is technically a vacation picture – it’s a cropped selfie in front of the ocean. I don’t usually like pictures of myself, so I jumped at the chance. A lot of us use pictures other than professionalish headshots if we’re internal-facing, but they’re all our faces and we’d be fine with our grandmas seeing them.

        4. another person*

          Although I am a little jealous that my husband can use a wedding photo for his formal headshot (cropped so it is just him) because it is basically a picture of him dressed in a suit and I had to go find my own somewhere else, because my wedding pictures are very clearly wedding pictures/I had a strapless dress so if you crop to a headshot it looks like I’m naked, which is also inappropriate.

      2. AdAgencyChick*

        I’m in NYC. The photo we use of me for new business pitches is of me deadlifting 300 pounds. But I do have my shirt on. :P

        My internal directory photo is the standard-issue badly-lit picture taken by an HR staffer in the elevator hallway. Meh.

        1. Aurion*

          Does your amazing deadlift help your pitch in any way? I’m trying to figure out how it’d be helpful for ad agencies!

          (I am envious of your deadlift!!)

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That actually sounds totally normal to me for California—folks in race gear, skin-tight bicycling uniforms, wetsuits, and any other “sports” attire that cover at least half the body (and most of the torso), even if that coverage is skin-tight. But no shirt and only swim trunks? That doesn’t sound normal to me.

        1. anoniest*

          FWIW, what makes it generally within the realm of normal shots to me is the swim cap and goggles. They says “this is an activity I’m doing,” not “here I am flexing shirtless!” I think it also helps that swim caps and goggles tend to make people look a little goofy, which contributes to the tone of the photo–sort of like Anna’s comment about the universal truth of wetsuits. I understand why others would feel uncomfortable with it; just offering why it doesn’t give me the kind of visceral INAPPROPRIATE reaction that I might have to a different shirtless photo.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Yeah, I’ve got a director in my org whose profile photo in Outlook is her in a bikini on a sailboat. I really think to a certain extent seniority *allows* that – those of us at the lower levels have very normal profile photos, most people just use their favorite selfie, but at the higher levels you start finding the weird ones.

      5. many bells down*

        I could see this happening in Seattle, actually. People up here are really big into their outdoor activities and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had a shirtless rock-climbing or kayaking picture.

      6. Elemeno P.*

        One branch of my organization is in California, but I’m currently in the Florida branch. My network picture is me dressed as a dinosaur.

        It’s actually relevant to our brand!

      7. CheeryO*

        I work for a state environmental agency on the other side of the country, and we are very fond of slightly quirky Outlook photos – it’s more common to see people hiking, canoeing, or holding a large bird of prey than it is to see a regular headshot.

    3. Hrovitnir*

      I must say, I laughed out loud at the mental image of discovering the picture he’d picked. And again at “assuming it’s not the kind of photo that’s moving out of the G-rated realm (like if he were wearing a thong and facing away from the camera)”.

      (I think Alison’s take and advice is great, as usual, I just personally am not bothered by it. It does depend on the person as well; from some people it might evoke an “eugh” from me.)

    4. many bells down*

      I went to college at UCSB and people would often come to class in swimwear (the campus literally ends in the beach on two sides). And this was the same time Naked Guy was attending UC Berkeley. So I can’t say I find it overly surprising, but still … weird.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Although to be fair, Naked Guy was arrested many times for public indecency and often wasn’t allowed into class if he was naked.

    5. Chaordic One*

      Some time ago there was a national advertising campaign that appeared in several business magazines that featured the company’s president wearing a black speedo. I don’t know what they were trying to demonstrate by it. The guy was in his 50’s, although in good shape, but it was just weird.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          My thoughts too. And as a Silicon Valley Californian, I think shirtless is going too far (assuming this company isn’t at all beach related) and I might drop some hints about how Putin-like it looks.

        2. Cherith Ponsonby*

          Heh. I thought of Australia’s last prime minister, Tony Abbott, frequently photographed smuggling budgies (to be fair he is active in surf lifesaving and has competed in Ironman events, and the photos are usually in that context). Maybe this is why he hasn’t got an official portrait yet!

      1. Fern*

        I actually laughed out loud at my desk at the phrase “Although our workplace is casual, it’s not shirtless-casual.” So thank you.

        1. Gaia*

          Right? I have so many questions! What is shirtless casual? Do you have to wear slacks or are jeans okay? What kind of industries have shirtless casual dress codes in California?

    6. bookish*

      I’m definitely wondering how often this image would be seen – I feel like I don’t have to look at my colleagues’ full address book entries when I need to contact someone, because their email pops up when I start typing it into Outlook and that’s usually all I need. But I don’t know what it’s like at this company and with this address book. I think it’s an important distinction too that only the employees can see it, but I do have to think eventually someone superior to the boss will see it and think it’s in poor taste.

      I definitely don’t think it would be good to bring this up to the boss, because I do think it would come off as sort of priggish and insubordinate, but I also think it might be a decent idea to get in touch with HR and see if they could send out a general email to let people know that they should be dressed in their photos as they would be for the office /abiding by office dress code for a photo that’s used for the office. Don’t bring up the boss’s picture specifically, and of course ask not to be named as the reason they’re doing this – but maybe you can just say it would be a good safeguard against pics that wouldn’t be quite appropriate for work, as you’ve noticed some that aren’t scandalous but do show a lot more of your coworkers than you want to see.

      I think this is particularly annoying to me because men can be shirtless in public/swimming but women can’t, and if a woman’s bare chest was in her office directory photo, that would be a huuuuuuge problem. No women’s nips in office photos = no men’s nips in office photos. Certainly men and women have different types of work clothing but it does seem like you don’t want to treat men and women differently when it comes to full shirtlessness in an office photo.

      1. Nonsenical*

        Maybe I am the only one raising an eyebrow but men go shirtless all the time. I don’t see it as ZOMGZ skin as it seems to be here.

  2. Greengirl*

    #2) I am with you man. I can sit in an office and get bitten by a mosquito. I once spent ten minutes outside and came out with 13 bug bites. I erred on the side of “important meeting” wear pants but it was ok if they showed some on regular days. On bad days I also occasionally covered them with makeup.

    1. NotoriousMCG*

      Ugh I’m 100000% in the same boat. All mosquitos all the time on my arms and legs and back and stomach and…ugh just everywhere.

      I haven’t tried this (my office is not formal so I’m generally in nice jeans and a nice top) but I don’t think that pantyhose or tights would be too irritating on the bites and would allow for some coverage as well as decent access for scratching through the fabric (an issue I have when I wear my otherwise awesome jeans)

    2. Chrissi*

      When my eczema on my legs gets bad enough that I’m slightly embarrassed of it, I use this spray from Sally Hansen for your legs that I think is supposed to be like nylons kind of? Whatever – it works great, doesn’t rub off (you wash it off with soap), and has great coverage. It’s around $7.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        I love that shit. It’s also great for hiding tattoos, assuming you can find a good match for your skin tone and/or blend the edges well enough before it sets.

        1. SarahKay*

          That sounds awesome! I, too, suffer with bites showing horribly on my skin and tend to go with concealer followed by pantyhose, but that mostly makes it ‘less bad’ rather than actually good.

        2. 30 Years in the Biz*

          I agree about the Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs too. They also have a cream in the tube which is a little neater to apply than the spray – more control. It’s great! I have pale skin and bruise easily. It’s a lifesaver. A tube lasts a long time.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Joining you in the club of empathy. I was the kid who came home from summer camp covered head to toe in welts. As an adult I typically get them only on my arms and legs, but boy do those little @*&#!!s like to bite in places where the seam or hem of pants lie, which means more itching if I wear pants.

      Fortunately advertising is informal enough that even for a client meeting I can get away with a jersey maxi dress. Because OMG pants + mosquito bites = miserable me.

    4. always in email jail*

      I, too, would err on the side of wearing pants for important external meetings if possible.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      Yup, I’m in the same boat. I’m very fair-skinned, so anytime I get a bug bite the redness lingers for quite awhile. And I’m also someone who steps outside with bug spray, pants and long sleeves, and comes in with multiple bites. I’m a mosquito buffet; they love me for some reason. I often get them in clusters of three or four in one spot. Luckily I don’t ear skirts anymore, so I can usually hide them all.

    6. Lora*

      I am extremely grateful to live in an area with cold winters to keep the bugs under control. I spend most summers wearing pants and sleeveless tops (with a jacket) or some kind of tights, drenched in citronella and gerianol, and they still bite me through my pants. Through jeans, even. Benadryl is magic as far as I’m concerned.

      This year it was fleas. We had a mild winter and my cats got fleas that were resistant to every flea treatment short of covering the entire house, cats, and dog, in diatomaceous earth. It was BAD. And of course the cats sleep on the bed and are more than capable of opening the bedroom door, and then I got flea bites.

      I have no help for you. The only thing that’s helped is covering my arms and legs in tea tree scented cream and peppermint shampoo. It’s been miserable this year.

      1. shep*

        Fleas were also a problem for me this year, although I live in an extremely hot climate. They were awful. We don’t even have pets, but a family of possums started nesting under the house (which is an old rental with zero insulation and creaky joints, so it’s unsurprising the fleas made their way into the house). My ankles were COVERED in flea bites.

        We finally managed to get rid of them with a cocktail of occasional Raid, diatomaceous earth, and sprinkling fox urine granules to keep the critters away, but it’s nearly a month post-bites and my bites are still fading.

        1. Murphy*

          Oh god. We had fleas once (no idea how my dog got them).

          Burn everything to the ground. And then nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way.

          1. MechanicalPencil*


            However. Dish soap. Cheaper than any of those fancy schmancy flea shampoos and more effective.

          2. Meh*

            I was actually able to get rid of fleas (I don’t have pets so I have no idea how they got in) by getting a dehumidifier and going room to room and getting the humidity below 40. That killed pretty much all of them and the remaining living ones I was able to catch in those water flea traps. And also, apparently they can’t stand the scent of lavender so I covered my house with that scent (and myself and the biting stopped not long after that). It seemed to work overall, though burning and nuking the house did seem to feel more efficient at times.

          3. Jadelyn*

            Ugh, my poor kitty wound up with fleas last week. Genuinely no idea how that happened, since she’s an indoor only cat! She’s taken to hiding upstairs, which has a wood floor where fleas can’t hide, and won’t come downstairs to the carpeted areas. We’ve given her meds, so they’re not *on* her, and we’re vacuuming every corner of everything everywhere every day. I haven’t seen one for a couple days now, so I’m hoping it won’t be necessary to call in an orbital strike.

          4. Liz Lemon 2*

            I honest-to-god have PTSD from our cats getting fleas a few years ago. My husband got zero bites and I had 50 or so on each leg. I remember pulling up to the house after work one day and not wanting to go inside because I didn’t want to get bitten. It was awful!

      2. NoNoNoNoNo*

        We don’t get fleas too badly and the cats are treated luke clockwork. Mosquitos on the other hand…just ugh! If there is even one within 10 miles it will seek me out!

    7. Samiratou*

      My kid is the one who attracts all the mosquitoes and gets big welts. With his doctor’s blessing, we give him a Zyrtec daily during the summer, and that helps quite a bit.

      1. HannahS*

        Yeah, I take a Claritin or Aerius when I get bites. It completely changes how itchy I am, and while I still get more swelling than is normal, I can at least get some sleep and focus on work instead of the unbearable itch and massive swelling. Like, welts larger than my hands on my arms and legs. It’s awful. So antihistamines it is! I wish I’d known about that trick when I was little.

    8. paul*

      My legs and arms are totally covered with mosquito bites right now, and look like something out of a horror movie. My legs are covered, but my forearms…I don’t think I even own any long sleeve shirts that fit right now :/

    9. OP#2*

      Thanks for the sympathy, everyone! Yes, I have just sort of accepted that bug bites will always be a fact of my life. I’m just wondering if it’s too icky or somehow offensive to other people that they are so visible on my skin. I’m an academic, so I don’t have to worry so much about formal “clients” in the traditional sense – but I do wonder if the students notice!

      1. Sarah*

        Oh, if you’re an academic, I think this is no big deal. I mean, your students are probably coming to class in pajamas if they’re anything like mine. :) If you’re having a big name guest speaker or a job candidate visiting, I might do a bit more to cover up, but I would not worry about it for teaching.

    10. Elizabeth H.*

      I too am extremely allergic to mosquitos. I got a bunch of bites on my thighs about a month ago, from wearing shorts in a house that had mosquitos flying around inside (why?) and I actually broke out in bruising ALL over my thighs from the anti-coagulant effect and reaction. That was the most extreme. It seems to be getting worse as I’m older too but yeah, Benadryl helps.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, is there any way they’d let you substitute covering another coveted (but retail-heavy) holiday? Based on your use of “Boxing Day,” I suspect you don’t have “Black Friday,” but perhaps there’s a similar equivalent?

    But I think Alison is right that they’re probably going to play chicken and force you to pick one. At least that was my experience when working retail :(

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      If it’s the UK, we do kind of have Black Friday. Another bargaining chip could be New Year’s Eve.

      And if you are indeed in the UK, I’d encourage you to do the following things, if you haven’t: check your eligibility for tax credits; contact your utility companies to see if they can help (some have ways of reducing your bill if you’re in financial difficulty); visit the Turn2Us website to check if you’re missing out on any financial assistance you could be getting; and check out the Trussell Trust for food banks in your area.

      I hope you find a job in your field very soon.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      “OP#3, is there any way they’d let you substitute covering another coveted (but retail-heavy) holiday?”

      Doubtful. Back when I worked retail, there weren’t any retail-heavy coveted holidays that weren’t also mandatory everyone-is-working-or-don’t-bother-coming-in-the-next-day days. It’s a systemic problem in retail that they tend to hire exactly the “right” amount of people to cover all the necessary hours without any margin for absences.

      Sorry OP. :(

      1. Mookie*

        It’s a systemic problem in retail that they tend to hire exactly the “right” amount of people to cover all the necessary hours without any margin for absences.

        It’s also a strategy for letting people default themselves into joblessness because these places have no interest in cultivating good morale and are cheap on payroll and promotions. There’s always bound to be a handful of current staff who simply can’t be there, and they know it and often plan for it by hiring on seasonal labor, but would rather make things difficult than pursue smart management strategies that wield carrots and not sticks. They’re not interested in fostering employee loyalty because the company is disloyal to its employees. I think a boycott for unreasonable expectations in order.

      2. VioletEMT*

        Yeah. When I worked retail, the policy was “No days off between Halloween and New Year’s.” Black Friday, Christmas Eve, and Boxing Day were all-hands-on-deck.

        1. FunTillSomeoneLoosesAnEye*

          Which also is why also, from my experience, you got a good deal of “I am indicating my quitting due to just not going to show up nor let you know I am no showing” going on.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        That was my experience, too, but sometimes if you had been with your employers long enough, they’d let you sub out Black Friday for Christmas Eve, for example. It was suuuuuuuper rare, though—the more common default was “no days off between Thanksgiving and Christmas.” They were more likely to fire you or severely discipline you if you called out or missed anytime during that period, but especially on the actual high-demand retail days.

      4. LBK*

        I mean, the flip side of permanently (over)staffing for your busiest time of the year is that it means fewer hours for everyone the other 80% of the year when it’s not as busy. I don’t know that that would necessarily be better for the employees in the long run.

    3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Maybe she could try to negotiate with both jobs and split Christmas and Boxing Day? That way each place gets half of what they ask for. Although, having worked retail, I don’t give any negotiations a high chance of success.

      1. always in email jail*

        I was thinking the same thing. Again, still probably not a high chance of success, but maybe splitting will make each one feel a bit better?

    4. Drowning-in-paper-Anna*

      Rather than a retail-heavy holiday, you can try a retail-dead, everyone wants off that day. We have a horse race every year that flat out shuts the city down. The day before and day of the race are dead sales wise, and everyone wants off to go party.

      When I worked retail, I used to get some consideration on other days by offering to work those 2.

      But, you are probably out of luck and will have to choose one or the other.

    5. Bertha*

      When I worked in retail, on Black Friday we were open some crazy hours, something like 7am to midnight. If you have different hours that day, maybe in the vein of what PCBH is saying, you could offer to work the less coveted hours of that day. I know the positions are two hours apart, but maybe if you offer to work a shorter shift, as long as it’s two hours after your other shift ends?

      While they don’t want anyone to take these days off, the scheduling reality on those days is that they probably WILL be more flexible than they are letting on. If you build up some goodwill with coworkers, and see how the scheduling works, it’s possible that you may be able to come up with some sort of compromise/suggestion for scheduling. I used to work two jobs years ago, and there were definitely a couple of times I worked 16 hours in one day.. but my boss at least took pity on me and gave me one of the easier tasks when she knew I was working that much.

      Of course none of these ideas could work, but you still have some time..

    6. T C*

      Lots of US retailers “celebrate” Boxing Day by launching their post-Christmas sales that day. Sales + gift card users + returns/exchanges lead to that being one of the busiest days of the year.

  4. Caitlynne*

    Both 1, the staff photo, and 2, bug bites, probably depend a ton on corporate culture. I could imagine an internal directory with less professional, even slightly irreverent photos (like one of a guy in his cap and goggles maybe!) for many staff members; maybe his photo style will catch on. At my work bug bites would be nothing to worry about except maybe if you had a 1-on-1 with the president. But I think bug bites, most bruises/injuries, etc. are just facts of being human so your colleagues should be able to deal.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I would tweak the script a little to say:

    “Let me know when is convenient for you, and I’ll come to you. Or, if you’d prefer, I’m happy to suggest possible times for next week.”

    1. Myrin*

      That’s a good tweak, I really like the language and have used similar in the past.

      I think OP followed the advice that is often given in advice columns, where it says that one shouldn’t say “Yes, let’s meet sometime!” but rather “Yes, let’s meet next weekend or the one after!” or something so there isn’t an endless back-and-forth and that the other person knows you’re serious about this and not just saying something to placate them (I see this advice usually when it comes to friendships or dating). But in this case, it’s probably better to offer up as much availability as possible and let the other party narrow it down.

      FWIW, OP, I was actually in a somewhat similar situation only a few months ago – my mentor gave me the contact info of someone in the field I’d like to break into more deeply (I’m only scratching the surface via my doctorate at the moment) and she answered me after six weeks. She apologised profusely and explained why she hadn’t contacted me before and we managed to meet up shortly after.

      I also feel like that has to do with different styles of emailing – I’m usually an immediate-answer-er because I want to get it out of my way but I know many people who read their emails all at once and then answer by priority and push some to the back of the queue or similar, so you might just be dealing with something of that.

    2. Mary*

      OP #4, I was also wondering if you’d got the original “let’s meet!” email back in early-mid August and everyone’s gone quiet now because term has just started and it’s ridiculously busy? Even people who aren’t directly involved in teaching can find that the last couple of weeks of August and first few weeks of September is desperate fire-fighting time.

      If you can find a good person to call – maybe someone at admin-assistan-level – it could be worth getting in touch and going, “Hi, heard back from X but since then everything’s gone quiet. I’m asssuming now might not be a good time to follow-up since term’s just started, but have you any suggestions for when would be a good time?”

      Generally speaking, letting people know that you’ll follow up by phone a week or two after an initial email concentrates the mind and improves your chances of getting a response. But also, two leads going cold is pretty typical odds for marketing. You probably need to be generating a LOT more leads to get to the point where you get actual business, so it might be worth thinking about how you can widen your field of potential clients.

      1. Wahida*

        OP here, thanks everyone! I really like the tweaks suggested! I had responded with Wed or Thurs morning because one of the letter writers had asked me if I was currently on campus to chat. I was not, but said that I could come in if it was a convenient time or I could come in Wed or Thurs morning if that would work better (I wasn’t sure if they meant currently like, right that second [because she had emailed me back minutes after I had emailed her] or if I work on campus, which I don’t). For the other letter, she had said we should plan to meeting in the upcoming weeks so I had said my Mondays and Thursdays are pretty flexible if she had a time on either of those days coming up that could work. I work from home so I can really go in whenever, I just picked a time to try to focus, but I’ll try again in another week. I got all of these responses within the last week and I am a person who responds immediately so waiting is hard. I know everyone is busy and I really appreciate any responses, but I know I need more to get this off the ground. Thanks everybody!!

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          Since you’ve worked as a scientist before I’m assuming you have experience with this, but IME there’s an expectation that you have ~a week (or more depending on how busy and fancy-important the person is) to reply to any email. For the fancy-important people it’s often more, and often talking to a department admin or someone who knows their schedule and trying to nail down a more direct contact or see when they have their next “administrative time” slotted is necessary. Turnaround, at least in my experience, is reaaaally long for these folks.

          If they have an admin, asking the best way to contact them can be a good idea. With a lot of the folks I used to work with, I would know Dr. Soandso had admin time blocked Thursday afternoons so I would not see any responses from him until then no matter when I emailed him or how important it was. Or I’d need to reach out to Dr. Person and I didn’t know her at all, so I’d talk to her admin and her admin would advise that I should actually call her when she had some slot of office hours on a specific morning and she appreciates you trying to track her down so she doesn’t have to keep track of you… Whereas if you demanded Dr. Otherdude’s attention like that, he would be furious.

          If you try this route, though, you have to make it clear that you have already spoken to the person and they have already agreed to meet but you’re trying to schedule, because they may get a lot of people trying to arrange meetings cold and be used to having to buffer people out.

        2. InternWrangler*

          I often have to schedule meetings at least 3 weeks in advance. I would suggest providing several different times, but not all the following week. Some people’s calendar fills up quickly.

    3. Trout 'Waver*

      Some people, especially in academia, need to be prodded with an actual date and time. I’d suggest something like, “Let me know when is convenient for you. Tuesday or Wednesday at 10:00 would work just fine for me, but my schedule is wide open if you prefer another time.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah—that’s the motivation for my tweak :) In my experience, folks frequently want a specific day/time suggested, but including Alison’s language is important for making it clear that you’re asking for a favor and value the other person’s time.

      2. Naruto*

        Yup, I like this. In my field (law) people often respond better to “how about this specific time, otherwise I’m generally available the rest of the week” than “when would you like to meet/talk?”

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think I would even go ahead and suggest a time but then say you’re really available whenever. Like “Tuesday at 3 would be good, but I’m super flexible so let me know if there is a time that would be better for you.”

      1. Wahida*

        Great suggestions!! In a follow-up email, I will definitely try to make it clear that I’m happy to come in whenever! I will also try to figure out if I need to be coordinating with admins and see if I can get times worked out. I appreciate all the suggestions! It’s really nice to hear all the different perspectives :).

  6. Sherm*

    #1 You can be glad you don’t work for a boss that I know of. At his house, where he has invited employees, there is a picture of him from his bodybuilding days with his back to the camera. He is not even wearing a thong…

      1. Anna*

        It’s his own home, so it’s not that shocking. He can have photos of his naked butt in a competition in his own house, even if he’s invited employees over.

    1. H.C.*

      Oh, similar situation here with a senior VP and OldJob except it was from his go go dancing days… the kibbles and bits are covered, but still very little left to the imagination X_X

        1. Decima Dewey*

          That calls for George S. Kaufman’s response when someone he had an appointment with opened the door in the nude: “Did you know your fly is open?”

        1. CMart*

          I’m still gonna clutch at my pearls at the boldness of leaving a bare-assed picture of oneself on display when non-intimate company is over. Put that in a drawer or hide it behind a flower vase or something.

    2. Myrin*

      I was actually at a workplace where that was okay – it was a gym! And my boss was showing off the merch, so to speak (and also, it wasn’t immediately clear that this was him anyway because the pictures were from like twenty years ago, and most of the other pictures in that gym weren’t of him but of random muscle models so you wouldn’t immediately connect it to my boss anyway).

      1. Gigi*

        On the other hand, one gym that I’ve worked at had a personal trainer who advertised his business by putting up posters featuring photos of himself on stage in bodybuilding competitions … but he had also (very sloppily) photoshopped a pair of Hawaiian-print board shorts over his legs — I guess to make it a bit more conservative? Well, it was bizarre and hilarious. I have no idea how well those posters worked for him.

    3. BouncingBall*

      I’ve seen some of my bosses naked.

      We have a swimming pool on campus and morning swim is quite popular with a lot of people. So I see the men in the pool in their trunks and speedos, and then in the women’s changing room I see everyone in various states of undress while showering and changing for work after the workout. I was actually thinking to myself, during yesterday’s morning swim, how weird a lot of the AAM commenters would probably feel about this set up. But it’s normal for us and everyone is very chill about the nudity.

      My only problem with the photo of the swimmer in OP1’s situation is that I find a swimcap can really disguise a person. And especially with a tiny photo on a screen, the manager’s appearance might be drastically altered, which kind of defeats the purpose of this big directory.

      1. Oryx*

        My job offers workout classes and have lots of runners who go outside and we have locker rooms, so while I haven’t seen any of my male colleagues naked during summer I’ve definitely seen them in running shorts and singlets and I’ve seen my female colleagues — including my manager — in all states of undress, and they’ve seen me, too.

      2. Emilia Bedelia*

        I’ve seen several of my coworkers fully naked in the on-campus gym after they shower…. I don’t understand why we can’t all just use our towels, but, power to them for their confidence, I suppose.

        1. the gold digger*

          I will wrap a towel around myself to step out of the shower at the work gym, but at some point, I have to drop the towel and be naked. There are a few women at work who tuck themselves in the tiny space in front of one of the two showers and pull that curtain to dress, but I am not going to do that – my clothes are on the hook by the bench and my locker and I am lazy.

          I feel a little bit bad being naked in front of the ultra-modest women (because they do eventually emerge from behind the curtain), but not enough to contort myself to hide the bits.

        2. Katniss*

          It’s a locker room. I find it really frustrating that people expect me to carefully cover myself up in a place where people are meant to change. It’s cool if people want to use towels, of course, but if I’m in a place where I am meant to change, I’m not going to expend effort to make sure no one sees anything.

        3. sb*

          Most people at my work gym do the towel dance of covering up, but I am a bigger gal and the gym towels do not, in fact, fit all the way around me. And I’m not changing in the shower cubicle and getting my clothes drenched and possibly making people wait longer for a shower. People can deal. I don’t, like, hang around naked for long periods of time, but I don’t try to artfully drape tiny towels over bits of me.

    4. Another Liz*

      I’ve seen one of my bosses wearing nothing but a Boa Constrictor. His beloved dog had just passed away, and it was in the photo album he brought in with pictures of said dog.

      1. paul*

        OK, I have boa constrictors….that just seems like a *great* way to get bit somewhere you really don’t wanna get bit. Even with as calm as mine are.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      What happened in your past that saw the need to implement such a rule?

      (I ask as I get my popcorn out.)

      1. Jadelyn*

        You know, we’re working on updating our handbook this month. Maybe I should propose a no-nipples rule. Just in case something ever comes up.

    2. MissGirl*

      My friend works at a call center that had no dress code. Shirts are now required after a woman wore jeans and pasties. The woman quit after the shirt rule was implemented.

    1. Not Captain Archer*

      I play water polo (competitively in college, master’s now) and swim. With due respect, stop being so prudish. They’re normal gear for these sports, and outside the us are nothing to “shudder” at, thanks. In France you can’t even go to a public swimming pool in shorts.

      1. Gaia*

        It is normal gear for those sports. It is not something I’d ever want to see my boss wearing. That is the reason for the shudder.

      2. NaoNao*

        Well, okay, but there’s leisure wear you consent to seeing, and expect, in France, at water polo, etc, and there’s the workday, where social conventions dictate that the outline of your reproductive organs not be on display.

        That’s what the commentor is “shudder” about. Not the idea of Speedos. Most people in the US *do* kind of overly sexualize bodies and nude bodies, but it’s totally okay to be like “uh, yeah, I’m at work right now” and decide that thinly covered kibbles and bits are not cool.

        1. Anna*

          I wouldn’t necessarily want to see photos of it, but come on. Photos of someone in a Speedo or bikini or whatever are a little surprising, but they aren’t walking around the office in them.

          This does not apply if person in photo is nude.

      3. JamieS*

        As others have said the shudder was in reference to not wanting visual confirmation on whether or not my boss is circumcised. In general I don’t have an issue with a Speedo.

        Also men are required to wear Speedos in France in order to swim? That seems overly strict to me but I guess different customs and all.

      4. Specialk9*

        We’re still going to shudder at it. You’re welcome to wear them, but it’s a pretty universal US thing that a Speedo is hugely off-putting in any but a competitive sport environment. Europe clearly has different rules. But to American rules, you’re walking around in tidy-whitey underoos.

      5. LS*

        Yeah, they are perfect for water polo. Inappropriate for a work related profile pic. Which is what we’re talking about here.

      6. Hrovitnir*

        Yes, I really wish people would get over the horror at Speedos. Honestly, men should be able to wear swim gear that’s good for swimming and not feel like they have to hide their bodies/justify it by only wearing them for sports.

        I can appreciate people not wanting to see their coworkers or bosses in swimwear if that’s how they roll, but it’s a personal hate of mine the way men are shamed for wearing fitted swimwear.

        For a second-hand example from my partner’s coworker: I can’t imagine how expressing disgust at men wearing Speedos to swim/tights to run and exclaiming that they need to cover up around your young son could possibly have a negative effect on self-image. /s

        1. JamieS*

          Yes I think a young boy being able to clearly make out a grown man’s package can have a negative impact on the boy’s self image. Clearly you’ve never heard Dane Cook’s bit about his dad in a robe.

          I think you’re going a little far saying men are being body shamed by being asked to not wear Speedos in public. Both sexes would be asked to cover up if their genitals (or the outline) could be fairly clearly seen and in addition men already have far more freedom than women (case in point: being able to go shirtless) so it’s not like men are being unjustly discriminated against.

          Yes I know it’s normal in other places to wear tight swimwear outside of sports but since this is an American site, written by an American, who’s giving advice on a problem in an American office I think it’s reasonable for American norms to be the default even though the readership is international.

          1. UC-Berkeley water polo*

            I’m American, work abroad, and normally (although not today) read this site from overseas. It’s called the World Wide Web, not the American web. Rethink your attitude.

            And yes, Hrovitnir is right that this is about body-shaming men.

            1. JamieS*

              I need to rethink nothing and I already acknowledged people read and post from places other than the U.S. That in no way negates my point and I stand by my statement it’s reasonable for an American based site to default to American norms barring some additional info that would make it unreasonable just like it’s reasonable for a site based in a country other than America to default to that country’s norms. I’m not going to change my opinion on that.

              I know it’s the world wide web but I still appreciate you took the time to tell me that and to speak briefly about your travels outside the U.S.

    2. The OG Anonsie*

      I used to date a dude who was big into swimming and one time my team at oldjob had an afternoon family-invited day at the pool after finishing a big project. My boyfriend showed up in his jammers (think swim trunk length but absolutely skin tight) because that’s what he always wore swimming, and he thought I was being nuts for hissing at him that he should go put on my board shorts* because it was not appropes for my coworkers. He refused to change.

      A couple of my coworkers gave me wide-eyed looks when he walked away the first time, I just had to say I know I know… I don’t… I told him not to, he didn’t listen. I was so embarrassed. Luckily this was a skilled manual labor gig and not some kind of professional office where it would have been taken way worse.

      *I wear men’s board shorts over my swimsuits most of the time

  7. Restaurant Girl*

    I feel like the phrase “family emergency” has lost its useful meaning and it sometimes means “something going on in my life that I prioritize over work” or just “important sounding excuse”. In the context of op5 the excuse interpretation isn’t relevant… But it’s what my lower performing employees frequently cite when they call out (text out?), and I’m curious if anyone else has a negative association with that phrase.

    1. HMM*

      I think the negative connotation only comes if you already have a negative impression of that employee. A model employee goes out on a family emergency? Totally OK in my book. An employee with a history of performance issues? I’m suspicious.

    2. SusanOC*

      For me it’s just a confusing term – I don’t understand what it means. It seems like it could cover everything from drug addiction to death to homelessness – and as such, it’s problematic – because you don’t know what kind of situation you’re potentially getting into. I think citing medical issues/illness is maybe better. Although I actually got a resume recently from a guy who has been off work for a few months because of illness in the family (his daughter) and the main question in my mind is why he didn’t take FMLA instead of apparently just leaving his former job. It sounds like this person would also have been eligible for FMLA, so as a hiring manager I think would wonder why resigning was a more attractive option.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “as a hiring manager I think would wonder why resigning was a more attractive option.”

        Lots of reasons, but they mostly come down to reducing that person’s stress level while dealing with a horrific situation. Alternately, some companies are absolute shit at this and handle FMLA poorly, like refusing to discuss FMLA options or making it sound like it’s not really a possibility, or contacting the person while they’re on leave even though they aren’t supposed to. When companies do these things, their employees know about it even if they haven’t personally been affected by it.

        Storytime. I worked for a company that was the corporate equivalent of a trash fire. The woman who handled our payroll got diagnosed with cancer. She asked about FMLA a month into treatment when she really started struggling with coming to work, because her doctor told her FMLA would cover this. The company dragged their feet as much as possible, lost her forms twice, and weren’t willing to negotiate accommodations in good faith (they said 40 hours a week was mandatory for her position, no way around it). Eventually she managed to get reduced hours (7 hours a day instead of 8!) while she was on chemo (back to regular hours wheb she was in between rounds) and, later, time off for surgery and recovery (a whole week!).

        The company refused to hire a temp to help with the extra work (she wasn’t doing 7 hours worth of work because chemo makes you tired and you could tell she was floor-crying in her office most of the day). Their solution was to shuffle her “most necessary” functions around onto people who had no idea what they were doing, then they told those people to call “Sandy” to answer payroll questions—while she was at home on painkillers after surgery.

        Even though this was (probably—I’m no lawyer) illegal, she chose to quit without notice and lose her insurance with the company because fighting their treatment was more than she could deal with at the time.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Oh my God. And she *lost her insurance*? That’s horrifying and another reason having health insurance tied to employment is an awful idea.

          I am constantly flabbergasted by how many people in our society are devoid of compassion and downright evil. I should stop being shocked, but the floor keeps getting lower.

          1. blackcat*

            Situations like these make me so angry that insurance is tied to employment in the US. The pattern of get sick -> lose job -> lose insurance -> go bankrupt -> die more quickly/more painfully than necessary has happened with a terrifying number* of friends and acquaintances.

            *So 4 isn’t a huge number, but it’s terrifying that it happens at all.

            1. MadStuart*

              Maybe I just don’t have a lot of friends and acquaintances, but 4 seems like a terrifying number to me!

        2. Turquoise Cow*

          One of my former coworkers had cancer and was going through chemo. She was a major trooper, coming in even though most people said she had every right to stay home. Her boss apparently insisted that she make up time she took off, though, counting hours down to the minute and making her stay late another day if she left early. Despite the fact that she was salaried.

          Granted, I only heard this from the POV of the woman who was sick; it’s possible the boss was far more accommodating than that and I know they had a history of butting heads occasionally. But it still rubbed me the wrong way.

          She ended up working basically until about a month before she died.

        3. Anonnynonny*

          Also, not every employer follows the law, and while dealing with serious family / medical issues, finding the energy, time, money, etc. to immediately begin a lawsuit is very, very difficult. And I doubt I would disclose to anyone in the professional realm that I WAS suing my former employer, no matter how justified I was. So that resignation may have been less of an actual choice, and more of a smoothing the details over for the purpose of not torpedoing an interview.

          I was once fired for taking days off, previously arranged with and approved by the company president, to go to chemotherapy. And yes, he knew exactly why I was taking every other Friday off; he also fired me by phone over a weekend with no prior warning so I had no chance to collect any documentation before leaving. When looking for new work later, if asked why I left I simply said “family emergency” (I am in my own family, after all) with no further explanation, because imagine trying to unpack THAT in an interview where I was trying to keep them focused on other things like my skills.

          I don’t even think it’s that unusual for companies to be crap about FMLA. They know how to stick to grey area legality and create plausible deniability. It’s pretty easy to ouster someone by wearing them down when they’re already worn to nubs by their illness. They work the system so they can get away with it, because they have more money and more lawyers than the clerk who’s seriously sick.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I think it’s intentionally vague, because you don’t necessarily want to go into the details of family issues (which can be complicated) with someone you’ve just met.

        FMLA doesn’t necessarily help either. Even if you work for an eligible employer, if it’s your inlaws, or a sibling, FMLA doesn’t apply, or if it’s something other than a health problem. And if you know a crisis is going to last more than 12 weeks, you may decide to quit right away rather than pretending that you might come back, and you might be eligible for unemployment rather than no income at all. Or if you need to move to deal with the issue.

        1. peachie*

          Plus, it’s my understanding that when taking FMLA for someone else, you need to provide the same doctor’s paperwork you would for yourself, right? I can think of about 12 situations off the top of my head that are legitimate emergencies for which some doctors, fairly or not, wouldn’t sign an FMLA form.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            I only have experience with taking FMLA as maternity leave, but yes I had to get the same form filled out by my doctor for myself and my husband. Even though we work for the same company and were coordinating with the same HR person. All so they could have two copies of the form telling them I was in fact having a baby.

      3. Sam*

        I am not a supervisor or hiring manager, but I am very uncomfortable with this implication that the details of someone’s personal issues are your business, beyond how long it might take them away from the office. The only time I’ve had to beg off of work duties because of a “family emergency,” it was because of the very unexpected death of a family member. I chose the phrase deliberately, and I wouldn’t have appreciated a boss who pushed for more. At the time, even discussing “a death in the family” would’ve had me in tears in their office. Granted, I tend to be a model employee (and before that, student), so I’m used to being give the benefit of the doubt on things like this, as HMM suggests.

        1. Temperance*

          I was more speaking to the hiring context rather than for a current employer, but I have heard it used (including to me) for a buttload of things that weren’t actually emergencies.

          Of course a model employee would get more leeway, and I would trust them to provide the relevant information.

            1. Temperance*

              Where did I say that a person who “isn’t perfect” is “not allow to have lives”? It’s more like a person has more goodwill and trust than a person who is known for dishonesty and a low-performer. Of course bad things happen to everyone, but if someone has cried wolf in the past, or if I have to question their judgment, that’s a diferent story and gets more scrutiny.

      4. Floundering Mander*

        Intentionally vague, I’d think, and designed to cover exactly the range of things you mention. It’s not really my employer’s business to know that my severely depressed mother tried to commit suicide, or my sister was in a coma, or I had to go to rehab for alcohol abuse, or whatever. They need to trust that there was a legitimate issue, that typical solutions like FMLA or a leave of absence weren’t practical for some reason, and know that it is resolved, and that’s about it. Like others have pointed out, sometimes companies don’t do FMLA or time off correctly, but the prospective employee probably doesn’t want to tell you the whole story of why their previous company sucked because it really doesn’t matter.

        1. Temperance*

          This is a serious question, though. Why would someone just trust that another person is being totally forthright and has good judgment? If I’m interviewing several candidates, and one is cagey about a resume gap and gives that excuse, I wouldn’t feel super comfortable with them.

          1. MakesThings*

            Well, I hope you realize that people are human, and that life happens? Please don’t use the word “cagey” to describe someone who might have gone through a really bad period in their life, and doesn’t want to bring up the details in a job interview.
            In some cases, mentioning exactly what happened would be oddly TMI, and perhaps even wildly inappropriate for an interview setting.

            1. Temperance*

              I think you can give some details without providing TMI in most cases. If someone didn’t want to provide even a very cursory explanation, I would feel that they’re being cagey. This could very well be because I’ve seen the phrase “family emergency” almost exclusively used to describe situations that aren’t actually emergencies and don’t necessarily require time to handle during work hours.

              1. Someone else*

                Counterpoint: I’ve never encountered the phrase “family emergency” when it didn’t involve death and/or some major medical thing happening, usually in a “rushing to hospital” type scenario. I wouldn’t find the use of the phrase inherently indicative of avoiding some more concrete explanation. If you find the person is being cagey in general, other things about their demeanor, sure that’s a red flag, but just use of the phrase “family emergency that was resolved”, absent other avoiding-seeming body language or statements is not inherently suspicious.

          2. MakesThings*

            Also, “I had to take time off work in order to deal with a family emergency which has now been dealt with, and I’m back in business” isn’t an excuse, it’s an explanation.

          3. NW Mossy*

            For one, you can listen to all of the other things they say in the interview to assess their overall credibility. For another, you can ask questions directly tied to professional judgment and honesty – behavioral “tell me about a time when you…” questions about owning up to mistakes, critical thinking/analysis, and navigating tough conversations are all good ones. For another still, you can check references and ask former bosses how the candidate did in those areas.

            This is not the kind of answer that’s so egregiously bad that it’s worth ruling someone out over. And honestly, enough people in the world have had to deal with really difficult situations that aren’t easy to talk about or fit for an interview setting. An interview is high-stakes enough for candidates – it’s a kindness to let them speak generally about their personal lives if they’re forthcoming about their professional lives.

            1. Looking For Work*

              Thank you for this response. I am hoping that potential employers will give me the benefit of the doubt, especially after speaking to me. I was at the same job for over 2 years before leaving and was at my previous job for almost 3 years before being laid off. I hope that this shows employers I am dependable and trustworthy.

            2. Wheezy Weasel*

              That’s such a great explanation NW Mossy. I wish I would have thought of this when I was a young and green supervisor: it was just easy to ask personal related questions instead of asking another more experienced manager how to ask work-related questions that get the same answers but are more professional.

            3. SJ*

              Thank you for this. I had an interview where the interviewer pointed out that my MA took 2 years to complete instead of the usual 1 (and I wasn’t working at the same time) and asked why. I used Allison’s language and said I’d had a medical problem at the time that had since been dealt with and I was totally fine now. The truth was that I had been suffering from major depression and it took meds and many months to get myself back on track to finish my degree. But I could just TELL the interviewer didn’t buy it and immediately shut down on me, and that was so disheartening, especially when I’d established an excellent 3-year work history with an organization after getting my degree.

          4. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            If you had something happen in your family (or to yourself) that was a sensitive or painful issue, you were not able to use FMLA (or used it and ran out), and so you had a gap in your resume, how would you address it with an interviewer without going TMI?

            1. Temperance*

              This is probably a class thing, but I’ve never been in the situation where I could just stop working and quit a job without anything lined up, regardless of what was going on in my life or in my family.

              If I did have that kind of situation, I would probably give the barebones details (as in, my sister had an immediate, unexpected health crisis and I needed to step in to care for her kids, but she’s fully recovered).

              I worked with someone, years ago, who took some time off after a very traumatic incident (his best friend was killed by a drunk driver while the two were walking back to their hotel from a wedding). He was open and forthright about it, and it was NBD in the interview.

              1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

                Life sometimes doesn’t give you a choice about quitting a job. If you can’t pay for someone to go in and care for a relative and they can’t care for themselves, you either leave them to suffer or move in with them, get someone to take over your lease (if you had a house you’d sell it), sell every belonging, find every free support service in the area, and hope that what money is there lasts long enough (ask me how I know!).

                Why would you accept “$relatives’s immediate, unexpected health crisis” over “family emergency”? Aren’t they nearly identical in vagueness? I’m not nitpicking your language, but genuinely curious because, to me, those phrases are the same and equally likely to be misused.

                1. Temperance*

                  I think for me, at least, I would see the first phrase as more legitimate because I’ve had “family emergency” misused so many times. I’m okay with some vagueness so long as there is a kernel of evidence there that there were no other options and that this situation won’t happen again.

                2. Temperance*

                  FWIW, I’m really sorry that you were forced to do this. I don’t have any form of safety net beyond my own savings, so if I was stuck in this situation, I would move the person in with me, and use Medicare nurses to provide care during the day. (The only reason that I’m being so weirdly specific is that my husband was asked to move in with his grandparents to help provide care when there are others in their town who are trained nurses who they refuse to ask. So we discussed what we are and are not okay with. They also refuse to use services available to them because they prefer family, which is a choice on their part that i don’t feel th need to support. ) A lot of it is my own mental block and experience with poverty as a kid.

          5. Nea*

            I know someone who is resigning because her mother is dying. Slowly. Painfully. Requiring a lot of help and then the breakup of her mother’s extensive estate dying.

            How many of those details do you want to hear in a job interview?

            1. Purple Jello*

              I’m not sure I could give any of those details in an interview without breaking down. Which is better during an interview? Giving a vague explanation, or giving details and crying?

          6. peachie*

            Temperance, I find life much, much more pleasant when I “just trust that another person is being totally forthright and has good judgment” until I have a reason to think otherwise. Wouldn’t you want others to have the same trust in you?

          7. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Whoa, this is not a good attitude to bring into hiring! If someone has a stable job history and explains they took time away for a family or personal health crisis, most interviewers will accept that. Because people are human, and this stuff happens to most of us.

            I think you’re bringing your own baggage to this one, and I’d encourage you to rethink it!

          8. micromanaged rat*

            To describe that as “cagey” is really unfair. I have taken time off for health problems, and I have shared some details with people (because it doesn’t bother me to talk about it) only to discover that I’ve made them really uncomfortable because they feel it’s overshare. So you can end up being screwed either way.

      5. Murphy*

        Taking FMLA does not guarantee that your job will actually leave you alone while you are “off”, so I’m thinking he either needed a complete break and/or he didn’t know how long he’d end up needing to be off and that it could have been more than 12 weeks.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          David Sedaris described this as turning off the burner under one of the pots you are stirring. Handling the remaining pots then gets easier.

          Sometimes, no amount of clever time and stress management is going to let you do everything.

      6. Looking For Work*

        I live in Canada and we have compassionate care leave, but that does not cover mental illness. My employer was gracious and understanding and gave me the month of February off unpaid. I decided to leave because, by March, we had just started resolving everything. While my employer was understanding, they would not have been able to allow me the 6 months I needed to be with my family.

      7. Janonymous*

        There are so many reasons someone might not be eligible for FMLA that you might not be aware of. For starters, there need to be at least 50 employees at that particular location (or in the vicinity) for the employer to be eligible, which exempts huge swaths of people. I had a friend who worked for a very large organization, but thier particular regional office only had about a dozen people so they denied her, and there was too much else going on for them to try to fight it.

        Not to mention that 12 weeks is not actually all that much time for serious illnesses. That’s barely 3 months.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          FMLA is also supposed to be used only for the condition it’s meant for. A chronically late coworker who has a diabetic mother lost the FMLA he’d been using for her care when he tried using the time to cover latenesses unrelated to his mother’s medical needs.

      8. Anna*

        For all sorts of reasons that aren’t really any of your business. “Family emergency” is vague, but unless you have reasons to suspect it’s something else, it’s not your place to try to suss out what kind of emergency it is.

    3. Anonymous for this*

      LW stated that he quit his job because his parents were mentally ill and needed assistance. The reality is that mentally ill people often avoid seeking treatment and his parents are likely to demand his assistance again. I would avoid citing a specific reason in an interview, because the company will know this.

      My own mother, who suffers from untreated mental illness, has on multiple occasions demanded that I take a month off of work to help her purchase a car, demanded that I fly thousands of miles to set up a computer (!) for her, demanded that I take a month off of work to clean out my dad’s office, harassed my employers when I’ve said “no,” etc. The reality is that these kind of requests will never stop unless you set boundaries and enforce them. I’ve had to curtail contact with her due to this.

      1. Temperance*

        Maybe this is why I reacted so strongly – my own mother has been known to pull this, and I just don’t give in.

        1. Looking For Work*

          My father didn’t demand help, but he wouldn’t help himself and was in serious danger of becoming homeless. I had not set boundaries previously but there was no way I could watch my dad lose his house and live on the street. Unfortunately/fortunately my dad is just functioning enough that there aren’t any government assistance programs available to help him sort it all out.

          I am not rich by any means but I am fortunate enough to live in a city with low living costs and have a husband that earns enough to keep us comfortable.

          1. Temperance*

            I’m honestly really, really sorry that you went through all of that, and that your dad has fallen through the cracks.

            What I might do, in your situation, is, if pressed, state that you had to step in as an emergency caregiver for a relative while they made other, more permanent, arrangements.

            1. The OG Anonsie*

              This is a really good response.

              And Letter Writer, I’m really sorry you had to deal with this, too.

          2. Anonymous for this*

            @Looking, I am sorry that you are in that situation. However, I’d urge you to reconsider whether living in a low-cost area and relying on your husband’s salary is wise and justifies quitting your career to deal with mentally ill parents. The reality is that even if you don’t need cash immediately, it will affect your retirement years from now. It will affect your employability and career prospects well before that. I understand you need to make a decision that works for you, but in my view no one has the moral right to impose those consequences on you.

            1. Looking For Work*

              @Anonymous for this – I don’t understand why living in a low-cost city is a bad thing? I live in a large Canadian city where rent is cheaper than the rest of Canada, and I am happy to be living here. Also, I am relying on my husband’s income for a short period while I look for work. As my question states, I already made the choice to leave my job (which is not my career), I did not say anyone made this choice for me. At the time I felt is was best for my family. I don’t understand how your input is constructive or relevant to the original question.

            2. YouCanHaveCompassion*

              Sometimes compassion and care are more important than your career. As LookingForWork mentioned, their father didn’t “demand” help, but needed it nonetheless. The consequences weren’t imposed. They chose to help them. If several months off work correlates to permanent ramifications for your career, I’d imagine there will be a lot of people in the coming years (due to aging babyboomers) with a similar fate.

              1. Anonymous for this*

                You can certainly make that decision for yourself, if that works for you. But you have *no moral right* — none whatsoever — to judge other people for making a contrary decision for *themselves*.

                My mother refused over the course of 40 years to have a single serious conversation about household finances, with predictable results. She has not once looked at her bank account or tax returns. To this day, she refuses, blithely saying that “I’m too upset.” I *will not* be the person to bear the economic consequences of *her* behavior. I *will not* give up my career for her — period. I worked too hard to escape the toxicity. And you *will not* lecture me about compassion. Again, period.

                A cursory glance at sites about toxic parents reveals, unfortunately, that this situation isn’t that uncommon. And the reality is that giving up a career has lifelong consequences, including for your own financial security in retirement. @Looking for Work can make that decision if he/she wishes, but should go into that decision with eyes open. Also: “I’ve tried setting boundaries, but…” is equivalent to saying “I’m not *really* setting boundaries.” What it says is that with enough drama involved, you’ll jettison the boundaries. You don’t build a dike for days with sunny weather.

                If people are determined enough to destroy their own lives, you’re not obligated to destroy yours to help them. Life is not a financial suicide pact.

                1. YouCanHaveCompassion*

                  I think you are equating your situation with that of LFW. While your situation is difficult, it may not be the same. I agree with some of what you’ve said, but the issue at hand isn’t whether they should leave their job. They’ve already made that choice. Now the question is “How should I approach this gap in my resume with a potential employer?” Telling them that they will have career and retirement challenges isn’t helpful. I don’t agree with “destroying” your life to help theirs, but I do understand the need to help.

                2. Anonymous for this*

                  But my point is that OP should not, under any circumstances, attribute the three-year absence to a mentally ill parent.

                  The reality is that explanation will trigger alarm bells to anyone who has suffered through a similar situation themselves. It will say “this potential employee is unwilling/unable to set appropriate boundaries” and when the next flare-up occurs could well acquiesce to the parent’s demands and again withdraw from the workforce.

                  I’ll be candid and say that in 2014, I, personally, would have recommended to OP that he not take this three-year leave, but that’s ultimately his/her call, and what’s done is done. The best course of action now is to explain it as a non-recurring medical issue (hopefully the employer will be tactful enough not to probe), not “family drama” or “mental illness.”

                  A few years ago, someone we hired as a financial analyst, but who had not yet begun work, had some family drama. Her ex-boyfriend called our office and said that she had, several years prior, been in an insane asylum in a developing country. This had all my alarm bells triggered as gaslighting, again based on my own experience. Frankly, I doubted the allegation was even true. I tried vociferously to persuade my colleagues that the offer shouldn’t be rescinded on the basis of a nasty e-mail from an ex-boyfriend, certainly not without more, but to no avail.

                3. Anonymous for this*

                  One other point: women often face societal pressure to be caregivers, including to mentally ill parents. To the extent that we care about equal opportunity for women in the workplace, this advice of “don’t sacrifice your career to cater to the mentally ill” is doubly true.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          It being related to mental health doesn’t mean it’s enabling to be involved, though. Helping someone get through a crisis isn’t the same as giving into some kind of unreasonable demand.

          The mention of parents made me think immediately of dementia, too– something like that would also fall under the umbrella of mental health.

    4. Temperance*

      I have a pretty negative association with the phrase, but I think it’s because I’ve had people use it for things that I might consider drama and not missing work for. I agree with your interpretation.

      I also don’t really trust the “the situation is resolved” language so much. My first and probably most uncharitable thought would be that I can’t trust it because I don’t know what they consider an emergency.

      1. fposte*

        Unless you’re going to check and confirm that their kid had cancer, though, you won’t know for sure even if they’re being specific. You just have to make the call based on aggregate information.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I also don’t really trust the “the situation is resolved” language so much. My first and probably most uncharitable thought would be that I can’t trust it because I don’t know what they consider an emergency.

        And I would just assume that the ill person had died, or the parent who needed care was finally put in a nursing home, or something along those lines.

          1. Xarcady*

            That’s what I mean when I say it. My situation–got laid off. Two weeks later, Dad fell and broke his hip. I went back home to help during surgery and recovery. Recovery was delayed by infection. Basically, I was not able to return to full-time work for three years, until Dad died, due to the level of care/advocacy he needed. And by that point, I needed to deal with an injured back and knee, and wasn’t able to start looking for a job for another 9 months.

            Really, really, really don’t want to get into all those details during an interview. Was one time asked, how was the medical emergency resolved. Told them Dad died. One interviewer came back with, “So we can expect you to take three years off when your mother gets sick?” So I had to tell them Mom died many years ago. Not my best interview ever.

            1. Looking For Work*

              Oh my god, that is awful. I’m so sorry you had to deal with all of that and then have such an insensitive interviewer. I think it’s way over the line for anyone, much less a potential employer, to ask how it was resolved.

              1. Myrin*

                Right? And so dumb, too. Like, if I see someone’s been out of the workforce for more than three years and explains it as a medical thing which only ended when the father died, I’d immediately assume there was more going on there than “father gets sick – father dies – not do anything for three years for whatever reason”. Man.

            2. hbc*

              “No, if I take the job I’ll probably end up quitting within 6 months because anywhere that would ask that question has to be a toxic wasteland of a work environment.”

              Seriously, that is a special kind of horrifying. I’m sorry you had to go through it.

            3. Hrovitnir*

              Wow. Things like this always make me fantasise about getting up and walking out of the interview, because what is wrong with you that that would be your response? Sorry you had to deal with that.

        1. Temperance*

          Maybe I’ve honestly just had a negative experience with this and it’s outside the norm? I’ve had people use “family emergency” to mean that they had to help someone move, only during a workday, for example, or that they had to give someone a ride somewhere. To me, those aren’t really emergencies barring extremely exigent circumstances.

          1. Anna*

            The clients I work with “family emergency” can be:
            1. My father is dying and has a medical appointment today and I want to be with him.
            2. I’m on the verge of losing my housing and need to move all my stuff out ASAP.
            3. My mom’s car died and she’s stuck out in *city far away* and I need to go get her because I’m the only person with a running car.
            4. I don’t wanna come in.

            Basically, it runs the gamut and even if we suspect the emergency is less emergent and more convenience, we wait to pass judgment until we can talk to them.

          2. Science!*

            But did those people quit their jobs to help someone move? I imagine if someone leaves their job citing “family emergency” it’s probably not to help a friend move or to give someone a ride. As another poster pointed out, quitting your job is a pretty big decision, most likely a lot of thought went into it.

      3. neverjaunty*

        What you’re really saying here is that you don’t trust candidates to be honest unless they go into extremely specific detail?

        1. Dulf*

          I think what she’s saying is actually that she doesn’t trust candidates’ judgment of what is/isn’t a good “excuse” (scare quotes intentional; as has been pointed out elsewhere, these are explanations, not excuses) to be out of work for an extended period of time. She expects detail not just because she doesn’t trust them to be honest, but because she wants to decide for herself whether a candidate was unemployed for legitimate reasons. Which is inappropriate and remarkably lacking in compassion.

          That said, I do hope it is something she pursues in interviewing, because I’d personally want to know if my employer were going to be aggressive about these matters.

          1. The OG Anonsie*

            That said, I do hope it is something she pursues in interviewing, because I’d personally want to know if my employer were going to be aggressive about these matters.

            Yeah, to be honest, this is exactly the kind of thing I’d want to screen out for if I was job hunting. Go ahead and ask, give me that information about how you scrutinize your employees, let me know that’s how this job is gonna be up front.

        2. Temperance*

          Not “extremely specific detail”, but I would want to know VERY GENERALLY what the situation was, and that it’s resolved. I’ve heard the phrase used so often for such a wide variety of issues that it almost has no meaning.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Would you trust someone if they’d said they had a health issue that was now resolved? That’s one that I’d likely be intentionally vague about given how many employers don’t want to hire anyone who isn’t perfectly healthy. Any skepticism from an interviewer on that point would make me conclude this was a place that would probably penalize me for daring to get the flu at an inconvenient time.

    5. Oryx*

      So, is it the phrase or the person using the phrase? Because it honestly sounds more like the person using the phrase (your lower performing employees) which means there are probably other issues at play that are making you suspicious and can probably be addressed.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Also – considering situations like OP #3’s, often people (especially in low-wage jobs like restaurant work where employers are often inflexible and often make unreasonable demands) really don’t have any better options than an “important sounding excuse.”

        1. Murphy*

          Yeah, I had a job previously where it was really hard to take off. I called in sick (not a typical occurrence for me) and was told I had to come in anyway. I asked off a weekend several weeks in advance, and was asked to come in anyway (because someone else had asked off, after me). I never lied or made up important sounding reasons, but I can almost understand why someone might.

        2. Antilles*

          Even more depressingly: In many retail/restaurant jobs, even an “important sounding excuse” often isn’t good enough.
          I spent several years working restaurants. In that time, I saw excuses from “skipped funerals” to “major illnesses” (pinkeye, doctor’s appointment for cancer, pneumonia) be ignored under the very common “Come in, find coverage, or never show up again” policy (note: this was never the ‘official’ policy formally listed in the handbook, but was still the well known unofficial policy).
          The part that still worries me a little when I go to restaurants is that at *every single restaurant job* I ever had, I can name *at least* one instance where an employee was sick enough that they vomited in the bathroom, cleaned up, than went right back to preparing/serving food.

          1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

            Yep. Even after three years of great job performance and near perfect attendance at my grocery store job, they didn’t believe me when I called out sick for a few days. It wasn’t until I came to work sweaty, pale, and with pinkeye gluing my left eye shut that they recognized that maybe I did actually need the time off. That’s when I knew it was time to job search.

          2. The OG Anonsie*

            I needed to go out of town for a funeral once, and at my request they didn’t schedule me for the three necessary days without an issue. But when I came back I got an official reprimand for not being available, in which they told me “I know you can’t stop people from dying, but you need to be here.”

      2. Temperance*

        Calling out is vastly different, IMO, than a long resume gap in interviewing. That being said, one of my interns once didn’t bother to call, text, or email out until 2 hours after our day started and I reached out to him, and he said “family emergency” and half-ass apologized for not reaching out sooner.

        The “emergency” was an argument with his dad about him starting a second job (not our work, somewhere else). I found this out the next day when I asked him, very vaguely, if everything was okay and if we needed to make schedule adjustments, if he needed time off, etc.

    6. always in email jail*

      I think “family emergency” is an over-used phrase, and I like Alison’s wording better.

    7. Purplesaurus*

      To me, “emergency” means something unexpected and short-term. So I would understand it as a reason to miss work, but would be confused about why someone leave a job because of it.

      1. Looking For Work*

        It’s true. It wasn’t exactly an emergency (this was a situation that had been simmering for a while and finally came to a head) and it definitely was not short-term. When requesting my leave, I had no idea how long it would all take. I thought a month was sufficient but after a month I realized it would take much longer.

        1. Purplesaurus*

          Sorry for this very late reply. I hope I didn’t come off meaning I’d view a candidate negatively for using the word “emergency” in your situation (I wouldn’t!). But it would cause me to play mental fill-in-the-blank, and thus distract a bit from the interview, in a way that “dealing with health issues” would not.

      2. Anna*

        Because not all emergencies are tied up neatly, and frankly, it’s nobody’s business what the emergency was. If someone says a family emergency came up and they had to take time off to deal with it, then I think you could safely assume it was an ongoing illness or something that had a huge impact on the person’s life.

        1. Purplesaurus*

          Oh I agree that circumstances can be complicated and isn’t anyone’s business, but that’s why I like Alison’s wording.

    8. Stellaaaaa*

      I kind of agree, if OP is reading this thread and is interested in feedback. If someone is being vague and leaves it at “family emergency,” I’d wonder what their personal threshold is for “This thing going on in my life is worth quitting my job.” You really do need to provide a bit more information so your interviewer doesn’t get nervous that you’d leave their company the next time there’s something going on in your private life.

      1. Looking For Work*

        It’s a tough call. I don’t really want to get into the details with a potential employer and I am sure they don’t really want me to either. If I say what happened- that I had to help my father clear out his home, renovate it, sell it, file for separation from my mother, and move to a different province, it sounds like I’m an overbearing daughter. If I mention that he is mentally ill and unable to do all this on his own, it gets awkward. I think Alison’s wording works best and gives enough information without giving too many details.

        1. nonymous*

          I don’t have any advice, but you have my sympathies. I have a parent that is not highly functioning for her age and there’s a lot of skepticism when I take PTO to help her. It’s really hard for people with parents that are capable and independent to understand that a simple visit to the lawyer means my mom will spend hours crying over how to find a “good” lawyer (and more pursuing professionals who won’t take her case or are sketchy in other ways), hours crying about how overwhelming it is to do any prep work (my words, she’s usually an incoherent wail), hours complaining how the lawyer isn’t fixing her situation (because she has completely unrealistic expectations), and possibly not following the direction of her lawyer (which cues the stress wheel regarding the origin issue).

          It doesn’t help that I have a few coworkers who are my mom’s age, so they don’t understand that a peer could be so non-functional, and that the ones who are closer to my age have very capable parents. I think for people who haven’t faced the impact of low functioning parents (whatever the root cause), there is a huge cognitive dissonance barrier.

          1. Looking For Work*

            You have my sympathies as well, nonymous. For every step we took, we took 2 back. Whether it was because my dad wouldn’t do something or because the government had a bunch of processes that extended the one step.

          2. Temperance*

            FWIW, and I’m sorry if I came off as callous on this thread, my mother has pretty significant mental health issues and I had to set a boundary that she can’t interfere with my job. She doesn’t know where I work. That being said, I’m not very close to her, so this was easy for me to do.

            You also have my sympathy. I work in law firm pro bono and am regularly contacted by people that we can’t really help, and who unfortunately have unrealistic expectations of their options.

            1. Looking For Work*

              Thank you Temperance. You have my sympathy as well. I had to cut ties with my mother completely for the sake of my mental health. However, she lives in a nursing home so I can rest easy knowing she is taken care of. As I mentioned in an above thread, my father is high functioning enough that he can live on his own and doesn’t qualify for any government assistance. He is an alcoholic and has, in the past, stopped functioning completely (lost his license, his job, stopped eating, went into major debt, stopped paying any bills). He often finds some tasks overwhelming, so if he was left on his own, he would have lost his house and been left with nothing.

          3. Tris Prior*

            I have a parent like this too. I understand, and I’m so sorry. You’re right that others don’t get it, unless their parents are also, as you put it, low-functioning. Especially if the parent in question also refuses help that isn’t EXACTLY the help that they want (which may not be even possible or reasonable!). It sucks.

          4. Anonymous for this*

            @nonymous, you have my sympathy as well. But I agree with Temperance that you have to set boundaries. My mother has done exactly the same thing with lawyers (and plenty of other service providers) in her city, to the extent that many of them refuse to work with her. It’s not incumbent upon me, or you, to charge in to the rescue when she does things like that. This is yet another example of when “but faaaaamily” is NOT an excuse.

      2. the gold digger*

        “This thing going on in my life is worth quitting my job.”

        I would suspect for most people, who work to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table and not as a hobby, the threshold for QUITTING THE THING THAT GIVES THEM MONEY TO LIVE is pretty darn high.

        1. Matilda Jefferies*

          Yeah, I have to say I’m a little surprised at the tone of some of the comments here. We have people splitting hairs on the exact meaning of “emergency,” and debating whether or not job candidates are trustworthy based on the use of the phrase, and insisting they need more information so they can judge for themselves if the person’s response to their own emergency was appropriate.

          As others have noted upthread, “family emergency” is code for “something that was a BFD at the time,” and also code for “it’s private and I don’t want to talk about it.” If an individual person has given you reason to think that they’re looking for a reason to get out of work, then of course you should act on that information. But in general, when someone says they had a family emergency, especially as a reason for leaving a job, why would you not trust them? And what possible reason could you have to ask a virtual stranger for details on something like that?

          1. nonymous*

            It also depends on the pay involved. For a while I had a parent who needed 20hrs/week of home health care. Luckily it was covered by insurance, but even a decade ago the licensed/bonded/certified org that provided staffing was charging $20/hr. At the time minimum wage was <$9, so I can definitely see that for a large swath of working adults (especially those paying for childcare), it would make sense to choose being a caretaker. Doubly so if the family member can get dshs subsidies for providing at-home care and multiple daytime appointments are needed.

            And there are tons of stories out there of families demanding that elderly parent be cared for in a family setting, regardless of consequences to the caretaker.

            1. Anonymous for this*

              “And there are tons of stories out there of families demanding that elderly parent be cared for in a family setting, regardless of consequences to the caretaker.”

              Agreed – but unfortunately, this is a great example of why you sometimes have to say “no” to family. The wherewithal to say “no” is the greatest gift a parent can teach a child.

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          Seriously. Maybe if their whole job history is sketchy then you’d have cause to be suspicious, but otherwise I’m not sure why there’s a suspicion here that people with otherwise stable job histories will piss off from their employment for a while just for giggles and then plaster over it with a fake emergency.

          1. Anonymous for this*

            It’s not that it’s a “fake emergency,” but the notion that they’ve let the emergency consume three years of their life.

            No one likes crises, but the reality is that the outcome of crises depends on reacting well during the crisis. If you react irrationally or overly emotionally during a personal crisis, you’re telegraphing to employers that when a crisis occurs at the company, you’ll react that way as well.

            1. Looking For Work*

              @ Anonymous for this – I have been unemployed since February of this year- not for three years. I don’t think anyone- you, a potential employer, my friends or my family- have the right to tell me how I should have reacted to, as you said, a personal crisis. Your comments have told me what I should have done and how I have overstepped boundaries. You and I do not have the same set of boundaries and you do not speak for me or anyone else who may have experienced a similar situation. I wrote to AAM for feedback on what to say to potential employers about the gap I have on my resume from February 2017 to present. I did not come here to be told how I should have acted and how I have ruined my future. I understand you may have had some really negative experiences with your family but please keep in mind that everyone has a different family dynamic and everyone has different boundaries. Your comments are coming off as condescending and hostile.

            2. The OG Anonsie*

              @Anonymous for this – This is actually stranger to me than the supposition that people are just lying about it. Like, you’re aware that a lot of things one could call an emergency last for years, right? Especially if you’re helping someone through a health crisis, you can’t effectively project manage someone’s treatment or SSI process into being faster and easier through good employee magic. The supposition that something taking a long time means the helping family member has lost their head is… I don’t have a better descriptor than crazy, but seriously that idea is crazy and misguided.

              @ Looking for work – I’m with you on this. Some folks here are really vehemently projecting problems with their own family onto not just your situation but any situation where someone is helping a family member. And listen, I hate and resent my family as much as the next guy, but some of the stuff flying around here about boundaries and priorities are kooky and honestly not worth addressing.

        3. Anna*

          Precisely this. People are commenting as if someone walking away from employment is a flippant last-minute “whatever” kind of decision.

        4. Anonymous for this*

          “I would suspect for most people, who work to keep a roof over their heads and food on their table and not as a hobby, the threshold for QUITTING THE THING THAT GIVES THEM MONEY TO LIVE is pretty darn high.”

          @gold digger, you assume people behave rationally. They don’t, particularly when there’s a chorus of people chanting, “but they’re faaaaamily.”

          1. Anna*

            People for the most part are rational. The majority of them are not going to drop everything and go running for a family member unless it’s their last resort.

            1. Anonymous for this*

              How many times do you hear of abused people continually returning to their abuser because “this time it’s different”, when it’s perfectly obvious to disinterested parties that they’re just enabling the situation?

    9. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I think the big divide in how to look at this is in the culture of the work places. In any workplace where you have more low skill and inexperienced workers who haven’t learned (yet) what is truly worthy of missing work you will run into high absenteeism. Once you are in that environment where people frequently miss for all kinds of reasons, more people feel like it’s no big deal to miss work. It just builds on itself. Family emergency (IME) is an easy excuse to give – and it does become pretty eye-roll inducing because it’s usually code for “I don’t wanna work today”. What I’ve seen is that people in these types of workplaces (think fast food), typically become friends and if there is a true emergency everyone knows because they are getting the play-by-play on social media or in text. If they just call and say “family emergency” and then there is silence? I’d have a negative reaction.

      I do want to state that I would not have that same reaction in a professional environment. I don’t text my coworkers unless they need to know something work related while I’m out and we aren’t all connected on social media. And no one would pry on family emergency or wonder why they were really missing work. It’s just the difference in how coworkers relate to each other in the different environments.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Wow, that’s really classist.

        People in low-wage, generally unbenefited jobs miss work LESS in my experience than people in more “professional” jobs, but it’s treated as much more of a big deal because they don’t have paid time off that they’re expected to be allowed to use – AND because they’re mere disposable and interchangeable cogs – how *dare* they do things like get sick or have families, they’re not even really *people*!

        If you’re a manager who fires people for illness, a conflict with another job like OP3 has, or having a family emergency, or who won’t hire anyone who doesn’t have a perfect spotless resume with no gaps of any kind, *YOU* are part of the problem. YOU are contributing to the rampant poverty, unemployment, and often premature death of people with disabilities and their families. YOU are contributing to the feminization of poverty, since the burden of family care usually falls on women. YOU are keeping people trapped and poor. Take some damn moral responsibility.

        1. Lissa*

          This makes sense, but has not been at all my experience. I worked in retail/fast food for over a decade, and had people call in hung over, walk out in the middle of their shift because they were told they needed to tie their hair back in food, and all kinds of odd things. I think it’s a matter of being new to the work place in *some* cases, or feeling like the job is easily exchangeable for another similar one in others.

        2. Temperance*

          I worked in jobs like that for years, and my experience was honestly the opposite. That’s part of the reason the phrase “family emergency” doesn’t work for me.

        3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          It’s interesting you assume I was a manager in these places. I was speaking based on my experience of working for minimum wage for more than a decade. Also, my mom worked a low-wage, no benefits job the entire time I was growing up and still works in a fast food restaurant today as a cashier for minimum wage. We were literally poverty level. I’m the only person in my entire family to have more than a high school education and several of the older generation do not even have a diploma. As I stated, this was the behavior I have *experienced* from years of watching my mom get called into work on every day off because someone didn’t show up and then experiencing it myself for years. It sounds like your experience was different and that’s great. But it’s very much not what I experienced first hand.

  8. Aldyn*

    To OP#4,

    Offering as wide of availability as is possible is paramount here. I work as a webmaster at a local university, and when I need to collaborate with faculty members on projects, it’s not uncommon to schedule meetings one to two weeks out from the initial point of contact – especially when school is in session! If you are making contact with department heads or directors, I would offer to contact their secretaries to set up an appointment (do not do this without their explicit approval first!) to make it easier on them. Our Dean relies heavily on his secretary to manage his schedule. Alternatively, you could try contacting the school’s career development (or similar) department to see if they believe there is a need for your services.

    1. TL -*

      OP, if you’ve been in academia for a while, I’m surprised you’re worried at this kind of timescale. And I also agree that you need to offer at their convenience, not yours. I’ve worked with someone whose job is communicating scientists’ work and it’s a lot of contacting/following up/trying to schedule things/shouting into the void.

      Chances are if the university is big enough to consider hiring someone to help scientists communicate, than it’s big enough that the professors are going to be really busy (and everyone else is also going to be busy around the start of fall semester too.) I know my professor usually needed meetings scheduled 2-3 weeks in advance (unless you were important enough to bump somebody, but he really tried to avoid that.)

      But I would NOT suggest offering to contact somebody’s admin; if the admin usually handles the scheduling, they’ll be looped in at the appropriate point by their boss. It would strike me as very out of touch to offer to do it yourself, for a person and department you don’t know. (Different if I told *my* boss: Hey, I need a meeting, can I ask Admin to schedule one?)

      1. Wahida*

        OP here! Thank you for the advice!

        Yes, putting together committee meetings was fun with doodle! I actually offered specific times to try to focus a bit more. I had read that putting in a specific time shows you’re serious about meeting and if that doesn’t work for the other person then they suggest a time that does. I am happy to go in whenever, perhaps I need to make that more clear. I will try a follow up email next week trying to emphasize that.

        I’m not so much worried about the time scale per se, more so that one woman emailed me back within minutes asking if I was currently on campus to chat and didn’t respond/hasn’t responded since when I suggesting going in then (because she had responded so quickly and I wasn’t sure if she meant currently like right now or currently as in do I work on campus, I don’t). But yes, I am talking to very busy people and was wondering about contacting an admin, but both responded to me themselves and didn’t cc an admin. I do know it is a busy time though and am trying to remind myself to have patience.

        Thank you!

  9. Elder Dog*

    OP #4:
    Try another way of contacting your contacts besides email.
    A spammer may have set up shop on your email provider’s system, and there’s no way to tell wanted mail from spam without opening and reading each individual message, and nobody has time for that.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      That’s unlikely to be the issue from the letter.

      I did wonder how recent this letter is? Because the people I know in higher ed are busy with enrolment right now and barely have time to change their clothes, let alone answer networking requests…

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        We’re in week 2 where I am, and most places in my state are in week 2 as well. There are also grant-funded projects that needed to coincide with the beginning of the academic year and I believe some deadlines for major grants coming up at the end of this month too.

    2. TL -*

      I think to schedule a meeting that they’ve already agreed to, it’s going to come off as a bit pushy to call and say “Hey, please email me back.”

      OP4 should just send a follow up email after a week and simply say, “Hey, sorry we couldn’t get that scheduled last week. I have a lot more flexibility this & next week – would you still be interested in meeting?”

      1. Wahida*

        OP here, I think that sounds like a great email! Thank you!

        I had thought about calling, but did think it might come off pushy. I know they’re getting my emails because they responded so I think I will try again next week. Thank you!

  10. Emma LA*

    Re: #2 The severity of reaction OP experiences to the bites, and that they take so long to heal tells me she would do well to see an allergist and sort out what kind of meds would help to minimize her symptoms. I grew up in a family that didn’t believe allergies were “real” (like “so you’re a little itchy, so what. that’s no biggie! “) Meanwhile, I suffered a great deal. Finally as an adult I got tested from an allergist who helped me know the triggers and prescribed medications that prevent me from reacting to those things. You may benefit from a daily pill/inhaler treatment, or maybe just something to take when a reaction is especially bad. Why suffer at all!

    1. kms1025*

      OP #2 : you have just described me! I thought I was weirdly singled out by these flying pests. I have all the same, severe reactions that you have and was hoping to see some advice here on how to address. I feel your pain :(

    2. Turtlewings*

      I was thinking the same — that that severe a reaction really isn’t normal, even among “bug bait” people, and she might want to get that checked out.

    3. OP#2*

      I wonder about this too, but I haven’t had time to go to an allergist. I practically live on Benadryl and other allergy meds year-round already, and it hasn’t seemed to make a difference.

    4. Basia, also a Fed*

      I agree. I react to bug bites in a similar way and taking Zyrtec daily has helped greatly. I still react more than more people, but it makes it more bearable. I should note that I started taking it for sinus allergies and was pleasantly surprised by how much it helps me with bug bites, hives, and other various rashes.

  11. GermanGirl*

    E-mail is fine for a lot of things but usually bad for the back and forth that is required to schedule a meeting with someone who’s schedule you don’t know.
    Better call and have your calendar ready.

    In my experience, scheduling meetings by e-mail only works well with people whose availability you can see through a shared calendar system or if you have some other prior knowledge about when they’ll probably be available.

    1. Murphy*

      Most of the faculty I work with rarely use the phone though. I’ll only call when someone isn’t responding to email.

      1. A professor*

        Yes indeed! I don’t even have a phone number for my office (I removed the phone), and I would be profoundly creeped out if someone managed to get my cell phone number. I only have my email listed because I only want to be contacted via email. But yes, as others have said, right now is a busy time of the semester – you might want to follow up in a few weeks once things settle down (you can check the school’s academic calendar to see if this does seem to be the case).

      2. another person*

        Yeah, my PI doesn’t answer the phone if it is an unknown number (and if he’s really busy, he doesn’t answer at all unless it is the Dean’s office or something). Faculty (frequently) just suck at scheduling things with, in general. (Several of my friends have committee members that they have to physically track down to get them to answer scheduling questions).

      1. hermit crab*

        Us too, and we’re not even in academia. When we miss a call, we get an automatic email alert, which includes an audio file (and a bad computer transcription) of any voicemails. It makes it sooooo easy to email back and say, sorry I missed your call, how about Thursday at 11 or anytime before 2 on Friday. And then you also get to amuse the other person with how badly the computer transcribed their message. :)

        1. Wahida*

          I do have phone numbers from their emails, I’ll probably try email with more flexible times next week and then maybe switch to phone. I thought calling might seem pushy and my advisers have not been phone people, but maybe they’ll be more like you guys :). I’m very new to putting myself out there this much, but I’ll give it a try! Thank you!

          1. fposte*

            To be clear, I’m saying the opposite–we’re so *not* phone people that you won’t get a return call from me even if you telephone me. Unless you know your advisers are telephone people, I’d stick to email, because I think calling does seem pushy.

  12. MommyMD*

    California born and bred and the swim/sports photo doesn’t bother me on an intranet profile page. I wouldn’t do it, but I wouldn’t think twice about it.

    1. Is it October yet?*

      I don’t see the big deal either and I’m not even from California. (Of course, if the photo was on the company website, that would be a different story.)

  13. Roker Moose*

    Re OP #5, if it were me I’d start saying that (like Alison suggested) the family issues have resolved themselves. I don’t think ‘family emergency’ is inherently eyebrow-raising, but if you make it clear that your parent/family member had a health issue which is now completely sorted, that will sound to employers that you’re able to focus on work full-time.

    Hope all is truly well with your parents.

    1. Looking For Work*

      I am going to start using Alison’s wording, sounds a lot better and put together.

      Thank you so much.

      1. nonymous*

        Another option I’ve heard is “took time to be a caretaker for parent”. Sometimes people add that the parent has passed or that the health concern has stabilized but it’s not necessary. As I mentioned elsewhere, the blame-game can be an obstacle (not malicious, just an inability to comprehend), and the potential employer’s support of hands-on care can really vary (I have some coworkers who state that they’re caring for an elderly parent, and what they really mean is that the parent’s health has declined to the point they have to visit nursing home weekly).

        1. Looking For Work*

          This is a great response as well. It shows that it was serious but does not go into detail. Thank you for this!

  14. Lulubell*

    I’m in California and have the same photo intranet directory at my company. We don’t have anyone posing topless, but there is one guy who regularly changes his photo to anime or other fictional characters. I think it’s super unprofessional and I don’t know how no one has said anything. What bugs me is that I like the photos for figuring out who people are – it’s a big company, and I don’t have face time with everyone. This guy is in a department that I email w occasionally, but never meet with. So I have no idea who this guy actually is. I’d feel the same irritation at the swimming photo – surprised at the content, and irritated if I couldn’t see the face. Because I’m assuming that in a photo where you can see his torso, his face probably isn’t that recognizable. People are weird.

    1. Colette*

      I suspect that’s someone who doesn’t like either his picture or the idea of a picture. After all, if you needed to meet him in person, you’d do so whether or not his picture is in the directory, right? It’s possible he prioritized his ability to go to the cafeteria without people starting a conversation like they know him above your ability to recognize him in the cafeteria.

      Pictures should always be opt-in.

      1. Mookie*

        I agree that, in many instances, they’re unnecessary. And there’s the issue of stalkers whose victims have changed or slightly altered their names but can’t physically alter their faces. It probably makes up an infinitesimal portion of this phenomenon, but it’s what I immediately think of when I see someone using a ‘toon in place of a photo. *waves hi to Alison’s avatar up top*

        1. Lulubell*

          I think those are good points, but plenty of people in my office leave their photos blank. We’re not forced to use a photo at all.

        2. Stop That Goat*

          I’ve had a previous employer require photos for a directory but it was largely for security reasons. It was a bank though.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        I do not take good pictures.

        I look fine in person but when I take a picture, I don’t know what happens. Definitely opt-in and also wearing clothes if you do opt–in.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Definitely opt-in and also wearing clothes if you do opt–in.

          And another AAM embroidered throw pillow is born…

      3. Yorick*

        It can be hard to find people if you need to go over and talk in person one day. If that’s the case, I want to have the extra help of looking for their face.

        1. Colette*

          Does what you want overrule what the person you’re going to talk to wants?

          I mean, I get that it’s nice to have, but if someone feels strongly about it, does it really matter?

          1. babblemouth*

            Well… yes? I don’t think asking people to have a photo in a staff directory is a massive demand, and it helps smoothing a lot of working relationships.

            1. Colette*

              I really don’t see that it helps.

              I don’t love having my picture in a staff directory, but it’s not a big deal to me. Other people loathe it, though, and I don’t really understand what value there is to it.

              How do you see it smoothing out working relationships?

          2. Kelli Too*

            They are mandatory and strictly vetted in my company. Facing the camera full on, no hats, neutral background, et cetera.

            1. Someone else*

              Photos aren’t mandatory at my company, but it is an “if you have a photo it must meet X criteria”. So they’re all professionally photographed, neutral background, business-wear, blah blah blah. The options are that or no photo.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          Why not just set a time and place to meet? Seems more efficient than wandering around looking at faces

          1. myswtghst*

            In several of the offices I’ve worked in, it wasn’t uncommon to set up a time to meet in a large / indistinct place (like a break room or cafeteria) because it was an informal meeting and no conference rooms were available. I’ve also had several meetings recently which were “come find me at my desk” (where of course there isn’t a name tag). In those situations, having an idea what the person looks like can be very helpful, so I’m not wandering around aimlessly wasting time. (And yes, I’ve done the “I’m wearing a green shirt” bit, which is a lot less helpful when 3 other people in the room have green shirts on too.)

      4. neverjaunty*

        I really really hate photos as well, but this is a company intranet. If the dude is putting up photos so co-workers who don’t already know him can’t recognize him and talk to him at work, that seems not only at odds with the purpose of the photos in the first place, but rather hostile. (And passive-aggressive re the company requirement about photos.)

    2. Temperance*

      I work at a fairly conservative law firm, and this is something that a good number of people do. There are a few women with Wonder Woman, someone with She-Ra, someone with Batman … I think it’s really fun.

      I’m not photogenic. I look weird in almost every photo that I take, no matter how much I might have prepared. I don’t really see why my colleagues might need to know what I look like if we aren’t in the same office.

      1. neverjaunty*

        It’s because you don’t work in the same office! I already know who Fergus is because I see him every day, but not the people in other offices. Which can be especially awkward when you run into them at firm events of professional conferences.

        1. Temperance*

          Okay so this is totally valid, and something I wasn’t thinking of. Maybe that’s why we have name tags at pretty much every event.

          1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            I wonder if I would even recognize someone from a thumbnail picture if I saw them in real life? Especially if it wasn’t a recent picture and one I only saw in a passing fashion when e-mailing them? I kind of feel like I wouldn’t.

            1. Colette*

              Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t. It might help me narrow down which person in a group is the person I’m looking for, but I’m still going to ask.

            2. another person*

              For me, it helps to have a list of pictures to study before meeting people that I should theoretically be able to recognize by now (but in actuality cannot, because of abysmal facial recognition skills). Even if they are just small thumbnails, I can usually get enough information out of it to be able to, for example, distinguish between the two people I am meeting with and not get their names wrong.

        2. Lehigh*

          I don’t understand what’s awkward about, “Hi, I’m Lehigh from accounting at XXX Swimsuit Photo Company.”

          “Hi, I’m Fergus, I’m in sales there!”

          Or, when looking for someone, “Hi, I’m from accounting and I was sent over to talk to Jerry. Can you direct me to his desk?….Hi, are you Jerry?”

    3. Kelli Too*

      We have very strict rules about our photos, basically the same as the rules for taking a passport photo. IT explicity states that the photos are a security measure, and no messing about like that is tolerated.

      1. Colette*

        Photos on a badge or in the internal directory/email?

        I understand the purpose of badge photos, it’s the internal directory ones that don’t seem to add any value.

  15. Bree*

    #2 – Allison’s advice is good, but I sure do wish/hope that we’re broadening our ideas about what “professional” looks like. My disability means I have a limp and some visible scarring, and that some of my clothing choices are limited, and I really wish I didn’t need to worry about those things before an interview!

  16. Employment Lawyer*

    It’s a long way from Christmas.

    If you say “Yes, I can work” then you have bought yourself three and a half months of time to find a new job, move, or convince the boss.

    If you’re going to get fired anyway, which it sounds like you will, why would you push the issue and get fired now?

    1. Lindsay J*

      Honestly, this is what I would do st this point.

      And if it gets to a couple weeks before Christmas, etc, and you still don’t have a new job, at that point I’d make it clear to your immediate boss/whoever makes the schedule that you have a conflict, you’ve been working on it but the other job won’t budge, and that you just won’t be able to be there.

      And even if they say “show up on Christmas or your fired” I would show up your next scheduled day ready to work. If they really intend to fire you at that point they can and will.

      But I found a lot of times in retail that firing was a threat to make you comply, rather than something that they actually intended to do. In a lot of retail environments (especially big box stores) we were perpetually understaffed – especially around the holiday season. They kept on low performers, even people who just plain didn’t show up for scheduled shifts, because having someone was better than having nobody. (And also because firing people involved looping in HR, having proper documentation, etc, and they didn’t want to bother and generally hoped the situation would work itself out by the person quitting). And nobody wanted to lose a high performing sales person, especially because management’s compensation was tied in to how well their department performed.

      If it’s a choice between getting fired now or potentially getting fired on Christmas Eve, I’d just push the issue off as far as possible to allow you to make the most amount of money before getting fired. And then I’d make them do the dirty work of actually firing you face-to-face rather than letting them get away with “if you don’t show up you’re fired”.

      1. neverjaunty*

        But you’re advising the OP to be one of those low performers who, by not showing up because “they aren’t really going to fire me”, adds to the understaffing problem – and the burden on other employees who might also not want to work those shifts.

        1. the gold digger*

          Not the OP’s problem. If a store is understaffed, perhaps management should consider ways to increase staffing.

          If only there were a way to make work more desirable. If only.

          1. neverjaunty*

            I’m a little confused here. If the company hires enough people, but then some of those people decide not to bother showing up, that’s understaffing, yes?

            Perhaps I’ve just spent one too many shifts working twice as hard or putting in extra hours because Fergus decided to sleep in or acquire a hangover, and management’s response to Fergus was a big ol ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

            1. the gold digger*

              I define understaffed as not enough employees, period. You get more employees by paying more.

              And if holidays are hard because people don’t want to work, you pay more for working that day. You keep increasing the pay until you have enough people who would rather work than not work. (As my local unionized food co-op did with Labor Day – they announced that they would be open on Labor Day because the employees decided they would rather make time and a half by working than have the day off.)

              If, with increased pay, the costs of keeping the store open exceed the benefits of keeping the store open, then you don’t open that day.

              I am tired of companies whose business model appears to be, “We can make money as long as we keep wages low.” You don’t get to pay people crap and then be upset when they don’t want to work.

              1. Lehigh*

                YES. Seriously, how is it the problem of the guy making $7.50 an hour that the guy making the big bucks can’t keep his stores staffed? Strategize, dude. That’s how you earn profit.

              1. Sas*

                I agree completely. And people doing your work are underrecognized by the people that MANAGE them. How terrible around.

        2. Employment Lawyer*

          Well, yes. That’s my job: I’m telling OP what would be good FOR THE OP, because OP did not ask for advice on “how to cure the holiday staffing issue in retail,” and OP did not ask for advice on “the ethics of skipping work when it may cause stress for other people.”

          That said, “the burden on other employees who might also not want to work those shifts” is part and parcel of the job. Sometimes you will cover for other people who have a hangover on a Monday. Sometimes they will cover for you. Such is life.

        3. Colette*

          Well, she has already told them, they just think she’ll cave and shaft the other job instead. There is no solution that will allow her to be in two places at one time.

      2. Ellen Ripley*

        This has been my experience as well. OP, don’t press the issue now – hopefully you’ll have a new job by the holidays, but if you don’t, choose which job you hate least and tell the other one that you would work if you could but your other job requires you to work those days too. They might fire you, but I doubt it, especially if they need all hands on deck as much as possible and you’re a competent employee who isn’t normally flaky. These kinds of jobs tend to be very crisis-management, deal with things as they come up, kind of places, and not ones that do well with planning ahead and sticking rigidly to a schedule, because that kind of approach is just not sustainable.

    2. INTP*

      I was going to say the same thing. Give yourself three months to replace one (or hopefully both) of the jobs instead of giving them three months to replace you. Once you’re a week out from Christmas, go to the more disposable job in a panic and say your other job is now insisting you cover Christmas again because someone called out. You’ll probably be fired but no later than necessary.

    3. Zinnia*

      Or wait until mid-December and resign with your last day scheduled for the 23rd. And then put in an application saying you can start work Jan 2.

      Some company’s central HR won’t let a manager rehire someone that’s been fired, but if you officially leave in good standing, even at an inconvenient time, you are eligible for rehire. Even if they choose not to take you back immediately, leaving voluntarily with proper notice would keep you from permanently burning the bridge.

      1. T C*

        This is not the smartest idea… unless it is “big box” or big enough chain that you could specifically reapply to a different location, the managers at your store would likely not rehire you if you pulled this kind of stunt. Also, most retailers are not looking to hire in January. I’m sure there are exceptions, but in my (10 years) retail mgmt. experience, that has not been the case.

    4. Sas*

      Maybe, if we think about it with compassion, it gets tiring to take the high road for someone in this position. To be treated so worthlessly. It can burn people out. Maybe this person knows they might need that time to find another job and the hours it takes to fill out each application. To go to the interviews. It’s not like companies sometimes accurately represent themselves and people have to turn down positions. Could be is all ….

  17. Gazebo Slayer*


    Your situation sounds awful, and your managers would be completely unreasonable to both absolutely refuse to budge.

    If worst comes to worst, and you don’t have another job lined up by December, and you can’t swap shifts with anyone, your best option to buy a little more time might be staying on schedule at both jobs as long as possible to keep your income, then calling in “sick” at the last minute at the one you care less about. They might hold off on firing you for a while so as not to be short-staffed during the holiday season. Sure, not very honest, but what they’re asking is literally impossible so they really have no moral standing.

  18. Roscoe*

    #1 I think since this is more of a hobby photo, its ok. Now it may be different from others, since most have their ID photo or a headshot, but its still ok. Its like if someone was big into Softball and they had a picture of them in a Softball uniform. Kind of the same thing to me. It doesn’t sound like its him flexing a beach, just him exercising and partaking in his hobby.

  19. Temperance*

    LW3: I obviously don’t know the specifics of the jobs you’re working, but I would maybe see if you could slyly find out whether this is a blanket requirement, or whether you’re being targeted specifically. Not saying that this is the case for you, but I know that my previous CS jobs allowed some folks (mostly parents) to take off any holidays that they wanted while telling others that they were “mandatory”.

    Do you prefer one of the jobs to the other? Does one pay more?

    1. RVA Cat*

      Also, since OP3 mentions Boxing Day, is the UK version of the AAM adage “Your boss is a bellend and won’t change”? (Yes I am a Yank who just learned this word. Do not Google it at work!)

        1. RVA Cat*

          Yes, I was mostly saying NSFW due to the image memes. Isn’t its non-anatomical use along the lines of jerk or bastard?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Why? All it would tell him is that someone in his office has some sort of weird hang-up going on, that they’ve decided to anonymously leak about. And if it ever got linked back to OP, it would be far more embarrassing for her than for the shirtless boss–it’s not like anyone in the office doesn’t know what’s in his profile pic.

      If this is a problem at the company, someone senior to him will say “Wakeen, put clothes on”; this is not a message that’s going to be effective coming from a subordinate.

  20. FiveWheels*

    Shirtless boss does sound odd to say the least, but I don’t really understand why it’s uncomfortable to see a photo of a colleague in their sports gear.

    1. Garrett*

      Yeah, a lot of people have this association that skin=sex and that’s not true. People need to get over seeing some flesh, especially when it’s tied to something mundane like sports. I realize it’s not the most professional picture, but it’s not like he comes to work that way. My photo is me on a hot air balloon because my ID pic makes me look like a bloated clown.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think one should have a rough guideline that the amount of skin shown in the picture is concordant with the amount of skin normally shown at work.

        1. FiveWheels*

          A business photo should probably reflect normal business attire. To me a photo in swimming gear is no more or less appropriate than a photo in hockey gear. It’s weird because it’s not work related, the amount of skin is irrelevant.

      2. Specialk9*

        I’m fine with the company allowing men to have official photos shirtless… So long as they let women have shirtless photos too. Oh wait, you mean there is a gendered rule at play about nipples? Well gosh. That seems awfully odd. I’d even say gender based discrimination.

  21. boop the first*

    3. I’ve been quietly omitted from “Every Employee Must Attend” sales events, without asking, without warning, and weirdly without drama (from teen coworkers). So anything is possible. Maybe you will get lucky.

  22. Jessen*

    As far as bug bites and such – what about leg hair?

    I had bad poison ivy down one leg for a couple of weeks. Pants were absolute torture, and pantyhose or anything would stick. Given the distribution of the blisters, any form of hair removal was absolutely out of the question. Personally I just wore shorts, but I was working overnight and with a small crew, which means no one cared how I dressed and even if they did they’d have asked me directly.

    1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

      Not everyone shaves their legs. The US has a weird hangup about body hair on women anyway, and it needs to not be a thing.

  23. The Other Katie*

    For OP#4: Remember that US universities have just started back to classes and as such, everyone is mad busy and their schedule is in flux. This may not be the first priority right this second if you’re talking to lecturers or researchers, but they may have more time to devote to it in a bit when things settle down. If you don’t get a response within a few weeks, try contacting them again.

    1. A Higher Ed Staff Member*

      +1! I work in higher ed and the start of fall semester is always insane! Orientations, onboarding of new people, getting students in the right classes, and so much more! Definitely second what The Other Katie said regarding following up.

      1. Wahida*

        They did just start at the end of August and I got emails around Labor Day so I was afraid I got lost in the pile of miscellaneous/extraneous emails. I do think I should give it another week before I try a follow up email. Thank you!

  24. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#5, Given how common temporarily leaving a job to be a caregiver for family has become, I think you can just openly state what you did, if you’re open to sharing that much. You don’t have to, of course.

    Also, although not everyone can afford to be choosy about employers, do you want to work for an employer that wasn’t understanding about such situation?

    1. Looking For Work*

      They were understanding, they allowed me a month unpaid. At the beginning, we both believed I would be back within a month, at the max 2. They asked that I check in every week or two after the first month to give them an update. When I realized how long everything would take, I decided to leave. I was already under an incredible amount of stress and did not want to have the pressure of going back before I was ready. I am not in the position to be choosy but I needed time to help my family and to recover emotionally from everything. Had I gone back right after everything, I would have been a mess.

  25. Clumsy Clara*

    OP#4 – If the people you are contacting have an administrative assistant listed somewhere publicly, I would try CCing that person when you follow up. If there’s already an email thread where they say they’re happy to meet with you, it’s possible the assistant will jump in and set up a meeting (or at least potentially remind the person they assist to respond). Good luck!

  26. Sarcastic_Bard*

    For question #4, if you just reached out to them in the last few weeks you could have contacted them right about when Fall 2017 term starts. I work at a university myself, and the first two weeks or so of term starting can be nightmarish especially during the add/drop week. We usually get so inundated that hiring new non-teaching employees can get moved to the backburner until it quiets down. I like Clumsy Clara’s suggestion of looking up the admin staff and CCing them in a follow up; the admins usually have a big handle on schedules and hiring procedures.

    1. Wahida*

      Yes, definitely looking into it! It is a busy time so I’m going to give it a week or two before I try to follow up. Thank you!

  27. AndersonDarling*

    I hope to get an update from OP#3. I’ve always wondered what would happen in this situation. There must be more people working two jobs that both require working the same holiday.
    I’d actually try to use this as leverage for a full time position. “As you know, I work here and at Acme Department Store and I need to choose which employer to work for since I will be terminated at one or the other on Boxing Day. I would like to continue working with you, but I would need to know that I will be given enough hours to support myself. Can we discuss what that would look like?”
    Also, I know people who quit in November and then are rehired in January just so they can get around the mandatory holiday shenanigan shift days.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I may also add, “This requirement means that I will loose half my income. What can we do to negate that impact. Can you permanently increase my hours?”

      1. T C*

        This would be a dicey game to play…. typically, retailers can’t guarantee hours for anyone that’s not salaried/mgmt, and once you get into January/February, that is the retail doldrums. Most stores run on bare bones staffing and even the people who are classified as FT for benefits and such, get their hours cut down closer to 30 per week.
        Even if one of the jobs says yes, that they can take her for more hours, that is probably only true now, during this very busy season and she could wind up screwed if she puts all her eggs in the one basket.

    2. Danielle*

      I’ve been in that exact situation. I had 2 retail jobs at Christmas time and both were REQUIRING me to work the same day. Job 1 paid about $8/hr while Job 2 paid something like $9.50. I just told Job1, “Hey Job2 is requiring me to come in that same day and they pay more, so I’m gonna be there instead of here.”

      1. KR*

        This is the route I’ve gone for. Whoever pays me more and generally treats me better/gives me more hours gets me on the holidays. For example, I had a grocery store and office job. On Sundays and holidays the grocery store paid me time and a half, so if I wasn’t doing something that would take me all day, it was so much more worth it for me to work at the grocery store than the office job even though the office job paid more and was more in line with my career and what skills I want to develop. In the end, cold hard cash is what matters.

        1. KR*

          Also OP, I think an important point is that you are a valuable asset to your team even if retail managers like to pretend everyone is disposable. Your managers are essentially fighting over who gets your work for the holidays so don’t be scared to choose which gig is the best for you, not which boss is scarier or more unreasonable.

    3. mrs__peel*

      I don’t think there ARE many full-time jobs in the retail sector these days, unless you’re at management level.

      Entry-level retail employees are generally treated like replaceable cogs in a machine, especially now that the retail sector as a whole is declining and shedding jobs.

      In my younger days working retail, we were intentionally kept under 30-35 hours a week so that employers wouldn’t have to provide any benefits like health insurance. That’s part of the business plan of many retailers (along with having their employees apply for food stamp assistance).

  28. this post is sarcasm*

    I do a lot of thong-wearing-and-facing-away activities as recreational events. I don’t see why that should be excluded from company intranet photos.

  29. Typhon Worker Bee*

    #1: my former boss (actually my PhD supervisor) is shirtless in his LinkedIn profile photo. I’ve thought about saying something to him, but eh – he’s close to retirement and recently moved to a university on a tropical island so he could indulge his love of sailing while winding down his research, so I don’t think it’s going to hurt him.

  30. Zip Zap*

    #1 – I would make a joke or a friendly comment about it. Something like, “And now we get to see Bob in a bathing suit!” In front of the boss and his other subordinates. Most people would get the message. If not, keep making jokes about it until they do!

    1. Roscoe*

      She is his subordinate. I’m going to say repeatedly making a joke about your boss isn’t a good way to go about things

    2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      That would be childish and unprofessional. And why are you assuming that the uber bosses are unaware of the picture? For all anyone knows he asked them before using it.

  31. Lady Blerd*

    Off topic: there is an issue with the comment page that freezes AAM and sometimes my entire browser if I have other tabs open on my office’s network. It’s possible that our crappy browser it at fault but it’s something that only happens here. I think it may be related to the ad issue that some where having but I’m not sure.

  32. Mehkitty84*

    OP #3 I agree with others that you should put off a little longer to see if you get a job in your field. I am not sure if both jobs know about the other, but be careful if they don’t. By spouse had someone at his work fired because they disclosed they had a second job and went against their policy of not working for a competitor. It was really dumb because the “competitor” wasn’t even close to the 1st job, but had similar responsibilities. Also, my retail experience and in my spouse’s case they have what’s called black out days where you cant ask for certain days off. It might be good to talk with your managers in a vague way if that applies or not. I would just word it that you will be out of town that day or have another engagement, but could work the 26th or something that way each job gets some availability on one of those days.

  33. T C*

    #3… I just got out of 10 years of retail management, and it depends so much on the company and the individual managers as to how to navigate these situations. Many times, we would request that all staff have availability on high volume/high traffic days and wouldn’t allow requests off via our traditional methods. However, in reality, not everyone needs to be scheduled for that length of shift on those particular days. A couple of thoughts… and things that I would appreciate when people came to me with requests off for tricky days….

    *is the manager you spoke to already the same one that creates the schedule? if not, then maybe speak with the scheduler (if he/she seems reasonable) and see if they can accommodate you.
    *is it possible to change your availability NOW and then as it gets closer, you have an argument that working Sundays/Tuesdays are not part of your specific availability that was approved previously (maybe see about getting Sundays off at one store and Tuesdays off at the other)
    *typically in retail (and esp. this year with it being Fri/Sat), Dec. 22 and 23 are higher volume than Xmas eve. If you have access to info about LY sales, maybe you could try and make a fact-based (polite) argument, that it would be more valuable to have you there those days than Xmas eve.
    *depending on your company and your store manager, this could backfire, so be careful…. but right now, so many retailers are feeling squeezed to find good talent and margins are tight, so pay is low, etc. Especially if your store has high turnover, they would hate to lose someone heading into the busiest season of the year…. I know that my District Manager (or whoever supervises the store manager) would have been livid if I lost a great associate over one day off… so, you could try to exercise any kind of “open door” or “open communication” policy and go to that person and see if they are willing to sign off on an accommodation for your situation.

    Good luck! It’s hard being in retail full time.

  34. JD*

    The no visible bruises thing always really irks me. I happen to have fair skin and bruise easily. This is how I was made, just like some people are dark skinned and some have long legs and some short. I cannot change how I was made. Why should I have to be uncomfortable and constantly cover myself head to toe because I was made this way? I get that a bruise might be something someone notices but people also notice red hair and rosy cheeks. It just bugs me. I spent my whole young life being made fun of for being fair skinned, I really don’t feel I should continue to worry about how I came out in my professional career.

    1. Temperance*

      I have thrombocytopenia, which basically means that I bruise super easily. I’m also really pale, and really clumsy.

      I honestly don’t care if people see bruises on me, but I’m enough of a known quantity (and notoriously clumsy person) that it’s just kind of assumed that I hurt myself and everyone moves on. I’m the kind of person who accidentally throws pens across the room, drops things, and falls off of stepstools, though, so I can’t quite hide it.

      1. JD*

        I am the same way. I don’t know why they keep moving these walls in my house. Silly designers. My friend says I need to bubble wrap myself and my whole life. The amount of phone I have cracked even with cases and screen protectors.

        Honestly I personally don’t mind my bruises but I get tired of people saying it looks bad. One guy I dated a long time ago said to me “you’d be beautiful without bruises”. He nearly got a bruise that day.

        1. Temperance*

          What a weird and rude thing to say! I’ve had the bubblewrap comments, too, and I find those funny, at least.

          1. JD*

            Ya bubble wrap comments amuse me, and would likely be helpful as I nurse my hurt finger I smashed last night.

            I must also admit that almost every man I have ever dated would see bruises on my hips or legs and kind of get worried they came from some bad behavior. ha. After a few months of seeing me in action (falling for no reason, running into walls) they drop that.

    2. Specialk9*

      I’m pretty clumsy too – regularly walk into walls, on a memorable first date ended up slipping, and ending up on my back looking up at the sky. But how do you accidentally throw pens across the room?

      1. Temperance*

        Trip while holding a pen and fling it, lose balance while holding a pen and sitting in a chair … I’m a mess. ;)

    3. mf*

      Honestly, I think the no visible bruise thing is dumb. Human beings bruise. It’s a thing that happens, like gray hair or bags under your eyes. Plus, as Temperance points out, some people have medical conditions that cause them to bruise a lot.

      My only caveat to this is that if you have bruises that look like you’ve been a domestic violence incident, you should probably be prepared to answer some questions. People will worry about you if you come with a black eye.

      1. JD*

        My boss questioned a bruise on my thigh one day. Caveat I wouldn’t normally show my boss my thigh but I was helping her carry something and was literally stuck to an extent in a door jam moving this item and my struggle to get out caused my skirt to lift up a bit. She very kindly took me aside later to basically ask if I was ok or needed help. I asked her to follow me. I walked by the filing cabinet that was perfectly at thigh level and showed her. She had a good laugh. I ran into that darn thing daily and had a 8″ across bruise the entire time I worked for the company. It looks gross and for sure would be concerning.

  35. LoiraSafada*

    OP #4 – this does happen. I’ve had 4-5 people reach out to me in the last two years or so requesting to meet that just never bothered to respond once I responded to their invitation. Honestly, I would be less bothered if I had reached out first, but how rude to tell someone you want to meet and then just ghost them.

    1. Wahida*

      I’m sorry that happened to you. I know, I’m afraid they don’t really want to meet with me that’s why I’m so worried about no response even though they said they do want to meet. I know they’re busy and the advice on here seems to be to wait longer to follow up so I’m trying to be patient and hope that I just got put on the back burner, not ghosted completely, but it’s really hard to keep putting yourself out there!

  36. Fuzzyfuzz*

    #1 – Maybe I’m unusual, but this would not even register on my weirdness scale (I work in NYC in the arts, but in a fairly typical office environment). I just don’t see the big deal…

    1. Lehigh*

      Yeah, I don’t concern myself with what other adults are wearing. I get that HR and management sometimes needs to have dress codes, etc., but outside of those specific responsibilities I think it’s a bit silly to take an interest controlling in other people’s outfits or photos.

  37. Diamond Minx*

    I work at a University that has a very popular nude beach on campus. I’ve run into Grad Students at the beach, and we just say hello (slightly awkwardly) and then never talk about it in the office. (Then again, that’s sort of the culture at the beach – if you run into someone you know, you just behave as if nothing is odd about seeing them naked – since, well, you’re both there because it’s a nude beach)

  38. Noobtastic*

    #1 – If you do decide to address the photo issue, my advice would be to focus on the goggles and swim cap. The whole purpose of these pictures is to give people a face to put with the name. But no one will recognize him from the goggles/cap picture, when they are faced with a dry person, with hair and visible eyes. Whether it’s “professional” or not, it’s simply ineffective for the purpose.

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