approaching a hiring manager in public, coworker keeps nagging me about diet soda, and more

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

1. Approaching a manager in public for an impromptu chat about a job

Let’s say I visit a cafe close to my office every day at 3 p.m. for a cup of coffee. I also see a manager whose team has an opening, and it just so happens that I possess the qualifications required to join his team.

Are managers in general open to being approached by potential candidates in a public setting such as a cafe, and having a 5-10 minute chat if they genuinely had time to spare? What if the manager works for a company that is different from the candidate’s? Would they still be willing to talk to the candidate for a few minutes? They may stumble upon a very talented individual for their team.

Don’t do it! There are some managers who are always in recruiting mode and are happy to talk to potential candidates any time, anywhere. But there are far more managers who would be annoyed to be interrupted while they’re trying to have a quick coffee (and who may be doing something else they don’t want to stop).

And it’s not like interrupting someone in public is the only way to reach them and you have no other options. If you’re interested in approaching a hiring manager, you can do it over email or LinkedIn, where they can respond when it’s convenient for them and where you can include a copy of your resume, so they can figure out right from the start if it even makes sense to talk. (And if you’re really just interested in applying for a specific job with them, go ahead and apply, following the application instructions, since otherwise you’ll come across as if you’re trying to circumvent their process.)

The one exception to this is if the person works for your company. In that case, it’s reasonable to talk to them informally — but I still wouldn’t do it when they’re trying to relax.

2. My coworker keeps nagging me about drinking diet soda

I have a coworker, a retired doctor from Colombia, who wont stop badgering me or making comments when he sees me drinking diet soda. I am unsure of how to approach the situation because he is a director of an overlapping group to the one I work in, which is much higher up than my position (I’m practically entry-level but I’ve been here for almost a year and a half). Although he was an MD before coming to the U.S., he is no longer practicing and is very into alternative medicine and makes it a point to comment on the things that he believes are bad. One example is that he is strongly against microwaves and will comment if he sees anyone heating up their lunch.

His office is very close to where I sit, and it all started about eight months ago when he struck up a conversation about why I was drinking diet instead of regular soda. I have a lot of reasons, some personal taste and others because I have an insulin sensitivity to carbohydrates and sugar. I know diet soda is not great, but I will gladly drink it instead of risking pancreas failure and diabetes before I am 30. Although none of that information is anyone’s business except my own, I don’t feel like I should have to justify my choices even if I didn’t have to take my health into consideration.

My problem is that nothing I say seems to deter his comments, even explaining my health reasons. He’s even gone so far as to question if I want children or not (because he thinks the artificial sweetener will affect my fertility). He seemed taken aback when I told him that I’ve never wanted kids, and even if it did have fertility side effects it wouldn’t change my mind. After my initial rebuttal where I made my stance clear, he has resorted to only quick comments like “Still drinking diet?” or “What’s that on your desk?” when he passes by my desk about once a week, but it is frustrating nonetheless. I’ve tried to explain myself, ignore it, laugh it off, and act like it doesn’t bother me, but it has really begun to get on my nerves the longer it goes.

Ugh. He’s being rude. It doesn’t matter that he’s not practicing medicine here; even if he were, he’s still not your doctor, and thus he’s butting into business where he doesn’t belong.

On the other hand, you may have inadvertently signaled to him that you’re fine with all this — the laughing, explaining, acting like it doesn’t bother you, and engaging with him about your fertility all may have reinforced for him that this is topic you’re totally okay discussing. So I think you’ve got to make it clearer that you’re not.

I get that there are hierarchy issues in play here, but is this the kind of office where you can just directly say to him the next time, “Hey, can you stop commenting on my soda? Thanks.” Or, “I think we’re done with this debate, so can we put the soda comments to rest? Thank you.” Or, “I have a ban on soda comments now. The window of opportunity has closed.”

If your office culture is such that you really can’t do that, then I’d try to ignore the offhanded comments (looking slightly incredulous that he’s still talking about it might help though) and only address it if he starts another real conversation with you about it. If he does the latter, then you can say, “You know, I appreciate the info you’ve shared with me, but I don’t want to keep talking about it.” And then stick to that — if he keeps trying, keep declining to engage.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Should I report a former employer to the IRS to save money on taxes?

I worked as a 1099 contractor for a few months, introduced to the position by a former coworker. At the end of the contract, I was promised further work just around the corner. That work has never materialized. Now taxes are due, and my accountant noticed that by IRS definition, it looks like the company had me on 1099 status to save them paperwork and taxes. I was, by the manner in which the work was done, a traditional if temporary employee. (There was no intermediary agency.)

My accountant informs me if I notify the IRS of this discrepancy, it will cut my taxes due by about 25%, a not insignificant amount for a freelancer, but will cause the IRS to start poking around the company’s records and likely start levying fines and penalties. It would almost certainly sever my relationship with the company and possibly their employees, who are still among contacts. Do I have my accountant blow the whistle to save money on my taxes, or do I pay the penalty and keep my employment options open?

That’s really up to you. But if you were really an employee, you’re paying a pretty big tax penalty to protect them. And it’s on them to know how to pay you correctly; if they are chronically misclassifying people, that’s something that needs to be corrected, and if it takes the IRS poking around in their practices to make that happen, that’s not a terrible thing.

But I’d give them a heads-up about the situation. You could send your contact there an email that says something like, “My accountant has pointed out that I was incorrectly classified as a contractor while I was working for you, and that as a result I’m being assessed taxes that I shouldn’t actually owe. I’m going to file with the IRS to get my status corrected, and I wanted to give you a heads-up in case there’s anything you want to do to address it on your side.”

(Of course, do make sure first that your accountant is correct and that you really should have been paid as an employee rather than a contractor. There’s more on that here.)

4. Avoiding handshakes

I have fibromyalgia, an autoimmune disease, and it causes my muscles, bones, joints, etc. to hurt and ache. I understand that the handshakes are a part of doing business. However, there are days that my hands hurt terribly, and having to shake someone’s hand makes the pain worse. Men seem to be the worse when it comes to handshakes. Some men squeeze my hands so hard, I literally wince from the pain. I have even shaken hands with people when my hands were not hurting, and afterwards, my hand begins to hurt because they squeezed it too hard.

Aside from lying and saying “I think I have a cold,” what can I do to avoid handshakes on days my hands are aching? I don’t want to explain to people that I have fibromyalgia, especially if I am networking. I do not let fibromyalgia hold me back from my work for my job or from my community service work, and I do not want to be seen by other people as weak or a liability.

“I’m getting over a cold” works well with people you don’t see often (and less well with people who see you all the time, since it’ll be weird to say it every time). But another option is “I have a hand injury so won’t shake your hand.” It’s not exactly correct, but it’s close enough to what you need to communicate without requiring you to get into details about your fibromyalgia. And if anyone asks what happened to your hand, you can demur with “oh, it’s some chronic pain that comes and goes” or “I won’t bore you with the story” or anything else vague that serves the purpose.

{ 460 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    #2 Office food shamers are the worst. The. Worst.
    And you can’t win–I’ve been called out for eating healthy and called out for eating junk. I shut it down with a quick, “Why is it you feel the need to comment on my food?”. No one ever has much of a come back for that.

    1. Mike C.*

      I would have a field day with someone who was not only doing that, but was spreading BS about microwaves of all things. We might not understand everything about the human body, but microwaves are much, much simpler.

        1. Agatha_31*

          Ugh, and his nosing right into her reproductive business with that lame “you want kiiiiiiiiiiids one day riiiiiiiiiiight?” “Yes I do, but it’s fine – I hate children. So you see, I’m not drinking this diet soda so much as I’m *spite* drinking this diet soda.”

            1. paul*

              It’s harder to do than you think :( I’ve looked at a soda fountain for the house, very expensive.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  Plus whatever exorbitant fee they are charging for CO2 refills these days. My husband bought me one because I love seltzer, and it quickly became apparent that the $0.60/bottle sale price at the grocery store was more cost-effective. And I wasn’t even using flavoring. (We had found a paintball store that would refill them for $5/canister, but they went out of business.)

                2. Margaret*

                  We did the math on it when we bought a Sodastream about a year ago. We still got one because of the environmental savings, but it’s little to no cost savings (when account for both cost of the machine and the syrup), depending on what you’re replacing.

          1. Bigglesworth*

            Even though I’m open to the idea of having kids someday, I still tell people who ask questions like that that’s I don’t want kids. My opinion is that the decision to have children is between me and my spouse. Nosy questions like that don’t deserve an honest answer.

            There was an older man that I used to work with that was terrible about saying that all of the young women in the office would want kids someday, but I did get him to stop for a very long while. My husband and I were packing for a camping trip last summer and he mentioned (in front of the entire office) that young women needed to be careful while camping , because otherwise we would get the Zika virus while camping and then have issues with our pregnancies. Obviously pointed at me without mentioning me. My response was something along the lines of, “You assume that all women can get pregnant in the first place.” That shut him up really fast. Unbeknownst to him, there were a few women in my office that were trying to get pregnant and couldn’t. I apologized afterwards to one of those women who might have overheard me and she said she was glad someone stood up to him.

            Uggg…people like that make my blood boil!

            1. FiveWheels*

              “How are your testicles?”
              “Oh, you seem really interested in everyone’s ovaries, I thought you were just trying to make conversation”

              I come from a long line of feminists and didn’t pay much attention to house training :-P

              1. Jo*

                “How are your testicles?”
                “Oh, you seem really interested in everyone’s ovaries, I thought you were just trying to make conversation”

                LOL. This is a brilliant response!

              2. OP#2*

                This is DEFINITELY something I would say if I weren’t at work! I’m going to save this for my comeback vault if I ever need it in the future…

            2. peachie*

              This is the absolute worst. Sooooo many assumptions!

              Having kids should be opt-in, not opt-out, and it’s very weird to me that our cultural expectation is the opposite.

          2. Caitlin*

            I would LOVE to be the one to answer that! “No, and I’ve known since I was 18 that I can’t have them. Bye!”

        2. blackcat*


          I know *exactly* how a microwave works. If I had the materials (you need a HUGE capacitor), I could probably build a semi-functional one from scratch.

          All of the microwave related dangers are due to making them blow up/catch fire (see: huge capacitor). They’re super safe! And such clever inventions.

          There’s a debate to be had about aspertame’s safety. Not microwaves, though.

          1. OP#2*

            He’s convinced that the radiation from microwaves will seep into the food or absorb into your body if you stand too close and then you’ll get cancer. I’ve seen him chastise people for standing too close or telling them they should use a toaster oven instead to heat up their lunch. It’s truly baffling.

            1. Shop Girl*

              Honestly if you think this is bad try working in a health food Co op. The one I worked at would put Porlandia to shame.

            2. Sadsack*

              Solution: Install microwave on desk, start running it when he is near. Instant pest deflector!

              1. Esme Squalor*

                You are brilliant! I’m picturing him coming over to her desk, pointing at her soda and opening his mouth bossily, then, with zero expression and without saying a word, she presses “start” on her desk microwave, sending him scurrying.

              2. swingbattabatta*

                I imagine the OP chasing the dude through the office with a microwave held in her outstretched arms… “Back! Back, I say!”

            3. anon for this one*

              I had a coworker who combined the fertility police with the microwave tin-hatters, and was convinced our office microwave caused her “infertility” and would do the same to any other woman in the office. (Quotes because it took her 6 months to conceive, which doesn’t fall under the definition of infertility.)

            4. Cambridge Comma*

              At least he’s only talking. My colleague unilaterally threw out the office microwave because she thought it was dangerous.

            5. Eh? Non Y. Mouse*

              He seems like the kind of guy who’d make me want to give the microwave a full body hug while he watched, giving it gentle pats while he went on his tirade.

              Or maintain eye contact while I took a long solid drink from my soda. maybe even give it a kiss and an affectionate stroke to the can while I was at it.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I worked with a microwave-shamed once. She genuinely didn’t understand how they worked or, for that matter, how heat works. I didn’t want to get in to a thing about physics with her, so I just ate my microwaved lunch and said I’d take my chances.

      2. Koko*

        Seriously. I’m a very health-conscious person and the microwave’s greatest danger is that it won’t ever give you crispy skin on your baked potato, so you should finish in the oven.

        1. paul*

          and what it does to leftover pizza or pasta is a crime.

          Toaster oven FTW-nice crisp hot leftover pizza.

          1. A. Non*

            Actually if you reheat pizza with a shotglass full of water tucked into the microwave as well, there’s no problem. And re: pasta, heap it into a donut shape on your plate and voila.

          2. tigerStripes*

            I cut the leftover pizza into thin slices (maybe 3 centimeters wide) and heat them in the microwave – that seems to work.

      3. Lindsay J*

        I had a professor in college insist that having my laptop on my lap would allow the waves to irradiate my uterus and make me sterile.

        I think my question to him was if that were true, why didn’t women just sit with laptops on their laps rather than paying for expensive sterilization surgeries. He didn’t really engage with me after that.

        (And yes, a laptop does expose you to some radiation. But so does going outside, eating bananas, flying, etc. And yes, having a hot laptop in your lap can lower sperm count, but that’s not something I need to worry about.)

        1. Annabelle*

          Oh man, this reminds me of a guy I dated in college. He was convinced that using his laptop on his lap would give him testicular cancer, so he carried around a little pillow to put under the laptop.

        2. Accountress*

          I once had a visiting nurse for my cancer-patient father tell me that I would end up with breast cancer because I consistently tucked my cell phone into my bra, and didn’t I know about the radiation risks???

          I told her that my mother had died from breast cancer less than 2 weeks before and she never kept her phone in her bra. “If I’m going to get it either way, at least I’ll always know where my phone is.”

          Another visiting nurse finished off the rest of my dad’s treatment, without any suggestion from me.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      But this guy is just being helpful and behaviour change is totally all about nagging, isn’t it? /sarcasm

      The passive aggressive option would be to grab a piece of paper, write down what he says, then click your pen and ask: “Anything else?”

      Or, hey, send him a link to the Bob Newhart – Stop It sketch and say: “Hey, this guy reminds me of you.”

      You probably shouldn’t actually do those things…

      1. Dinosaur*

        My favorite response to things like that is to stop what I’m doing, look the person dead in the eyes and raise one pissed off eyebrow, then silently return to whatever I was doing. Works like a charm, especially after you’ve told them to cool it. So long as you engage normally on non-MYOB topics I haven’t seen it harm one’s reputation.

        1. OP#2*

          I think this is the route I’m going to take… He obviously doesn’t respect any boundaries, so I need to make it clear that I’m not even willing to engage on the topic any more and that the conversation is over. Part of my job is admin support for the entire department, so I’ve been trying to stay positive and polite but I think it’s time to put my foot down.

          1. Lance*

            It’s definitely time; this guy clearly isn’t going to stop until it’s made very clear that you’re telling him to stop.

          2. Future Homesteader*

            Being admin support adds an extra layer of difficulty, definitely! But admins are just as entitled to a professional and personal-intrusion-free workplace as everyone else. I agree with Dinosaur – be chilly and silent on this one topic, and faultlessly warm, polite, and helpful in everything else. If nothing else, you’ll condition him by only engaging when he’s good.

          3. Alton*

            I think that’s a good strategy. The problem with intrusive people is that sometimes engaging with them just gives them ammunition to keep being intrusive. For example, if you say you have health reasons for drinking diet soda, some people might realize that they’re getting too personal and back off, but really clueless/pushy people might start grilling you about your health.

            This guy sounds persistent enough that putting your foot down is necessary.

          4. MillersSpring*

            I’d have to say to him, “Please STOP commenting on my food and drink.” Then commence with stern eyebrow raising at every later occurrence.

          5. animaniactoo*

            My inclination would be to say “The same thing that’s usually there.” and “We’ve discussed this and I’ve made my choice. You can take it as read that it will appear there regularly. Thanks for the concern.”

            And then stop engaging. “We’ve covered that, about X meeting today did you want Y setup?”

          6. TootsNYC*

            Another option is to always respond with exactly the same words. By now I’d make them ones that point out how boring this is getting.

            Like, “You keep making that same point. Repeatedly.”

            But for it to work, you must use exactly the same wording, without the tiniest variation, every single time.

            Even if they come back with something else. Like:
            Him: Diet soda again? Hmm?
            You: You keep making the same point. Repeatedly.
            Him: Well, I just worry about you.
            You: You keep making the same point. Repeatedly.
            Him: But you never listen.
            You: You keep making the same point. Repeatedly.

            Or maybe: “I’m still not interested in your views on diet soda.”

            And if you have to just don’t respond at all–but NEVER respond with any other phrase, and never address the actual words he is saying to you (like, “why won’t you answer me?” or “you’re being rude”).
            Let your tone be polite and mild. But never vary the wording.

            Pretty soon they feel kind of stupid and they quit.

            It works best with prying, but I think it can work here as well.

            1. Susana*

              On this and other “you’re not listening” responses…. the thing is, we ARE listening. Just rejecting what you’re saying!

          7. SusanIvanova*

            All the more reason to shut him down – workplaces run more smoothly when people understand that they should respect the admins :)

          8. ENFP in Texas*

            “I’m not interested in discussing it.” Then change the subject to something work related. Simple, to the point, and no room for misinterpretation.

            You don’t owe him any explanation about your personal choices – they don’t affect him in any way whatsoever, and feeling like you to justify your choices to him gives him an importance that he doesn’t deserve.

        2. winter*

          I think it always helps that it’s hard to complain about “And then they gave me this … look!” Whereas if you say “Mind your own business.”, they can repeat it to others and everyone can give their opinion on how rude you supposedly were.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          “look the person dead in the eyes and raise one pissed off eyebrow”

          Oh, man, if only I could raise one eyebrow at a time. There is a world of facial expression nuance available only to those whose eyebrows function separately.

          1. BetterInGreen*

            It is the thing I like most about my face :) especially given how often I want to convey that kind of silent snark.

          2. Perse's Mom*

            Both eyebrows are necessary for the equally useful Completely Bewildered That You’re Still Bringing This Up expression, though.

          3. EH*

            It’s possible to learn to raise one eyebrow. I did it as a kid. I can’t say my method will work for everybody, but it definitely worked for me.

            Look in the mirror. Imagine raising one eyebrow. Hold one eyebrow down and do the “raising your eyebrows” muscle movement – but only one brow will rise since you’re holding the other one. Do it enough and eventually your brain figures it out. Amusingly, at first when I raised one eyebrow, the ear on that side would go up too. I had to practice to separate them, but eventually managed it. Plus now I can also wiggle my ears when I want to. :)

        4. jso*

          I like to create awkwardness with people who really don’t get it. I just stare at them long enough to make them feel uncomfortable then walk away. They’re usually really confused at that point so they have no words.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I would be sorely tempted to fashion a tin-foil helmet and offer it to him the next time he made a comment. But I like KarenT’s direct calling-it-out question, too.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Oh, I also like raising one’s eyebrows and saying (in a monotone or incredulous tone), “Wow, that’s rude.” This may not work with the power dynamics at your office, but I find bluntness particularly effective with persistent, obnoxious busy-bodies.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          My mom’s old craft books had the perfect thing – hats made from cut-up soda cans crocheted together!

    4. Birdie*

      They are the worst! I love Diet Coke. My solution to get people to leave me alone is put it in a black tumbler so nobody knows if it is Diet Coke or Water.

      1. Eli*

        Diet Coke for LIFE. Yeah, I hate any confrontation, so I’d probably go with an opaque tumbler as well, though it’s probably just postponing the inevitable in the OP’s case.

        1. Eli*

          Also this is pretty off-topic but reminds me… apparently Alexis Bledel hates coffee, so on Gilmore Girls, her coffee cups would have Diet Coke in them instead!

    5. Gabriela*

      Diet Coke Truthers are one of my biggest pet peeves. They all act like they just read some article written by the Science Babe or some other equally dubious source. Or they assume you are drinking it to lose weight and smugly let you know that Diet Coke can actually make you gain weight. Like all Diet Coke drinkers are fooling ourselves into thinking it’s miracle water.

      1. LBK*

        I thought Science Babe was fairly reputable and Food Babe is the one whose posts are basically 100% unresearched fearmongering BS?

        1. Anon Accountant*

          Thank you for posting about science babe. I’d never heard of her but had read the food babe website and was skeptical.

      2. a1*

        One of my colleagues used to get on me for my one diet Coke a work day. Saying how it contributed to weight gain or issues. And that she drinks several large bottles of water a day (the reusable kind), and how much healthier that was. She was more overweight than me! And not that it matters, I drink a variety of liquids each day. I get plenty of water, sometimes iced tea or hot tea (both unsweetened), etc. And I’m in better physical shape than I look. If my doctor is OK with me have 1 diet Coke a day, I’m good with it, too. I started doing the non-reaction, or maybe a shrug and it stopped. The really catty part of me wanted to start pointing out every time she was eating candy, but I held back.

        1. Annabelle*

          Ugh, that’s so annoying. Not that it matters either way, but you can get Diet Coke without aspartame, which is the thing that’s technically linked to sugar cravings and subsequent weight gain.

    6. Allison*

      I’d add that even “playfully” teasing coworkers about their food choices is rude if you don’t already have a good relationship with that person. For some reason, men loooove to tease me about what I eat. They intend it to be in good fun, and I’m sure they have fun with it, but I kinda hate it and wish they’d stop.

      It’s just none of your business what other people put in their mouths. It’s not up to you to scold them, side-eye them, tease them, or gently guide them to a healthier diet. Your coworkers are adults, not your children.

      1. JanetM*

        Pretty much the only things I will say about someone else’s food are, “That looks / smells delicious [, what is it?],” and “It was green and fuzzy, so I threw it out.”;

        1. Linzava*

          I have the opposite problem, I don’t drink soda, almost ever. I drink those real sugar bottled sodas maybe once or twice a month in the summer. It’s not health related and it’s not something I think about, just just don’t like the taste. Coffee in the morning and water for the rest of the day, that’s it for me. I’ve had a few coworkers kindly offer me sodas here and there. When I gratefully decline, they often act strange around me with their sodas. I now always go into how I have no judgment against sodas and have to explain that my boyfriend drinks soda like a fish and we keep it in the house and it doesn’t bother me. I blame the food shamers and the aspertane police for putting me in this position.

        2. Koko*

          This great rule reminds me of a wonderful piece I read and bookmarked years ago, “How to Be Polite.” One of the author’s rules was for situations in which he would touch a person’s hair. 1) If there was a large poisonous spider in the person’s hair. 2) If he were doing a magic trick. 3) After six or more years of marriage.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      Totally true – food is a no-win situation, so don’t bother engaging.

      OP#2, your coworker is truly an impressive ball of overstep. He manages to hit food, reproduction, AND conspiracy theory. That’s an amazing level of annoying and inappropriate for one person!

    8. Anonymous72*

      My coworkers love to comment on anything healthy. “Oh, you’re eating HealthyFood – you must be on a diet?” “Why the healthy food?” “Oh, so you’re one of those.” “Why no bread with your brat? That’s so weird!” It’s a total junk food culture with lots of doughnut boxes and cookies being pushed at faces, even after a firm “no thanks.” I really, really, really want to say, “Actually, I’m Type 2 with Celiac” with a flat stare, but my health is 100% none of their business. (Once, I told one coworker that I can’t have sugar, and her comeback was, “Oh, don’t be silly – you’re young and healthy. I’ll leave it on your desk.” AHHHHHHHHHHHHH!)

      1. Perse's Mom*

        That last bit just makes my teeth grind.

        I have a major over-sharer near me. All day long, I hear about the daily gym and diet adventures. There’s no pressure at all on me to do the same, there’s no food policing of other people on this person’s part, but it’s exhausting to even passively listen to it.

        1. Allison*

          Same here! I support people who are trying to get healthy by way of diet changes and exercise routines, it can be tough to get into that stuff and stick with it, but I do. Not. Need. To Hear. It. Every. Day. Seems like every morning and evening it’s those three women summarizing what they’re eating, what diets they’re trying, what gym or class they’re going to that night. It’s too much!

        2. Anonymous72*

          I have the exact opposite problem. The junk food culture at my work polices me, while I’m quite content to never discuss food at all. The lady who said I’m young and healthy, after I told her I can’t have sugar…left a box of doughnut holes on my desk. For flipping real.

          I don’t care what anyone eats. I care about it being forced on me.

    9. Anon anon anon*

      This is one reason I don’t like to eat in front of other people at work. But when I do have to deal with that situation, asking, “How does it affect you?” sometimes helps. I think some of those people are just trying to make conversation and don’t realize they’re being annoying.

    10. many bells down*

      Seriously, I used to be really really underweight, and I was afraid to eat a salad in public because *total strangers* would comment on it. “Oh no wooooooonddderrr you’re so thin!” No, I just like salad. And also steak but no one commented on my 12oz Porterhouse.

  2. Mike C.*

    OP2: I’m personally a fan of the various sugar free energy drinks that come in very brightly colored cans. While I only consume one per day, I let the empties stack up during especially busy periods of work because the reactions I get are hilarious. Perhaps you may find some entertainment in a similar strategy.

    1. FiveWheels*

      Ha, me too. Especially funny when someone in their tenth coffee expresses concern about all the caffeine I’m drinking.

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        I have a colleague who drinks red bull, but not tea or coffee. We work with doctors. We both came into a meeting, and she got a lecture from all five doctors in the room. Sequentially.

        1. KC without the sunshine band*

          I don’t drink coffee or tea. I showed my doctor a caffeine option being pushed at my gym and she said she would rather I drink red bull. LOL

        2. Mike C.*

          This drives me nuts, because the standard 8.4 oz can of Red Bull has only 80mg of caffeine. Drop coffee is around twice that!

        3. Specialk9*

          Nobody’s business what you eat or drink, except someone you pay to advise you on what you eat and drink.

          So what’s latest on energy drinks? Last time I did research, several years ago, there seemed to be a lot of unknown and unregulated stuff in energy drinks (not Red Bull specifically – that one just kills you sometimes if you mix with alcohol, which at work seems unlikely). I used to drink them a lot – a giant can with espresso and presumably B vitamins and other stuff. It woke me up but it felt like my heart might actually be having issues, so I stopped. I figured I’d let other people guinea pig the initial data.

          1. paul*

            I had a cousin get in the hospital with heart palpitations after drinking too much 5 hour during his finals week. So I’ve been kind of skittish, but OTOH, the kid consumed something like 2-3 dozen of them in one day so…mega dose.

            1. peachie*

              Yeah, my understanding is that the danger is mainly in the high caffeine dosage. I think it’s relatively safe if you know your caffeine tolerance and limit.

            2. Iris Eyes*

              Umm yeah you aren’t supposed to have more than 2 a day and not within the same 5 hour period! They even suggest a half now half later dosing schedule. An overdose of caffeine can kill you (like just about any other drug)

            3. Infinity Anon*

              I can see warning people about overdose, but other than that people get to make their own caffeine decisions.

            4. Lindsay J*

              Holy crap. I drink a lot of energy drinks but I’ve never gone above 6 servings in a day. On second thought it *might* be 8, but that would be maybe one or two times. Now that I work a day shift I’m down to 1 or 2 a day.

              There is a website out there somewhere that tells you how many of various products is needed to consume the LD 50 dose of caffeine.

              The only ones I found conceivable were pills, powder, and some sort of concentrated iced coffee syrup. I’ll have to find it again and check out what 5 hour energy drinks are because I can’t conceive of drinking 36 of them but apparently that won’t kill you etiher

              1. Lindsay J*

                Just checked. My lethal dose would be around 52.

                For someone that weighted 210 lbs the lethal dose would be around 72.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  And the website is I like the “death by caffeine” tool on there, but they have some other tools, and a pretty comprehensive amount of advice.

                  It’s funny because their mission seems to be to prove how dangerous caffeine is, but from the information I’ve gotten from the website I’ve found that it is actually safer than one might think. For example, a lethal dose of Monster for me would be 68.2 cans, and it lists the safe dose (the amount I could drink without expecting to feel any side effects from caffeine) as 2.7 cans. Or 5.7 shots of espresso for a safe dose and 141.8 shots for a lethal dose. (Assuming I have no undetected heart conditions, etc).

                  I can’t find on there how they calculate the lethal dose. I assumed it was the LD50 but I don’t see that stated anywhere. I’m sure the criteria they use is somewhere, but I’m at work so I can’t spend too much time poking around for it at the moment.

          2. Eli*

            I’m not proud of this, but in college a Red Bull and vodka was my go-to when I was out with friends and in a bad mood. Always perked me up! Haven’t had one since, cringing at the thought.

          3. Fiennes*

            I take a medication that reacts poorly with caffeine, which means I twice wound up having “normal” levels of caffeine and then experiencing an overdose. A caffeine overdose is no joke. It’s like a panic attack times ten (and I’ve had panic attacks, so I’m not underplaying them.) Hours of heart palpitations, extreme nausea, flop sweat, chills, and — the second and final time it happened to me — dizziness almost to the point of losing consciousness. (I was in a situation where passing out would’ve been a profoundly bad idea; to stay awake, I repeatedly bit my own hands. This lasted about an hour. The next day I looked like I’d fought back a school of piranhas.)

            I’ve learned how much caffeine I can have, now, which is a whole lot less than before. A Red Bull would probably lay me flat for a day.

            1. Marillenbaum*

              I don’t think I’ve had a formal caffeine overdose, but recently I was exhausted and drank three cups of coffee in fairly short order. I also have an anxiety disorder. I spent the rest of the day FREAKING OUT and feeling like I might literally die.

          4. PhyllisB*

            Ha Ha!! That reminds me of when we kept our two oldest grand-children during the week and take them to their mother on the week-end. (She was in college and there was no reliable day-care where she was.) My husband would threaten to give them a Red Bull and a Hershey bar before we took them to her.

        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          Mr. Shackelford referred to my sugar-free Monster energy drink as “cancer in a can,” and for some reason I didn’t ask how that daily Diet-Coke-and-peanut-M&Ms habit was working out for him. (I mean, it’s healthy. Because peanuts.)

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            Peanuts have protein! Don’t criticize the diet soda and M&Ms diet, I’m on that one too!

            1. Emi.*

              According to my old classmates’ mothers, you shouldn’t eat peanut butter because it’s too fatty. Replace it with Nutella, which has protein and dairy, so it’s good for you.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                I saw a couple in a grocery store having a conversation about Nutella. The woman wanted to get it, the man said it was healthy so he wouldn’t like it. I guess their ads work. :-/

                1. Eppie*

                  I got some cash from the class action settlement they had for advertising their product as healthy. Guess not everyone got that measage!

              2. not normally a food commenter*

                Yes, right. Nutella is mostly sugar, I believe. Followed by an unspecified vegetable oil. No, thanks. I’ll stick with crunchy almond butter with nothing but added salt. Nutella marketing is apparently effective.

            2. Nolan*

              Hahaha I’ve definitely bought peanut m&ms for days/weekends that I knew were going to be a lot of work without any time to stop for a meal, because protein!!

              1. Koko*

                I did a week-long cycling tour with a company whose price included, among other things, an unlimited supply of free “energy bars.” Come to find out, their idea of energy bars was Snickers, Mars, and Galaxy bars. Naturally I chose the Snickers bar every time – peanut protein!

                1. ket*

                  Gotta say I compared the stats on the back of Snickers and the back of PowerBars back in college and decided that for camping, Snickers were the more efficient choice. Not so different — almost the same amount of sugar — and Snickers were tastier and half the price, or less!

                2. EH*

                  A Diet Coke and a Snickers bar was a meal replacement for me in college! I sometimes wouldn’t have time to eat, but I could hit a vending machine combo and have my hunger sated until my next meal for under two bucks.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              I won’t criticize anyone’s M&Ms as long as they don’t criticize my Monster. But if you’re living in a glass house, keep the stones in your pocket.

        5. phyllisb*

          When the grands were young we could keep them on Friday and Saturday nights. My husband would joke that he was going to feed them a Red Bull and a King-size Hershey bar before taking them home.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      There was a researcher who lived on soda and peanuts. (He put the peanuts in the soda.) A meal you can easily put together using vending machines near your lab. Proof that one can live on just about anything.

      1. Antilles*

        He put the peanuts in the soda.
        What. Wait, wait. I’m going to need an explanation on this, because I’m not sure I understand how this even works.
        Did he dip the peanuts in to the soda like you’d do with chips and salsa? Or did he dump them entirely in and drink it like a sodanuts milkshake? Or did he just put so many peanuts in it that it absorbs the liquid and it’s basically like eating sponges?

        1. Specialk9*


          I knew a scientist who ate a cup of noodles every day for lunch. He was really thin, wore threadbare clothes and the most jacked up shoes, and was super absent-minded. I often thought that he needed a wife or a boyfriend (no gay marriage then) to help him with the parts of life he didn’t find as interesting as physics.

          1. Murphy*

            I often thought that he needed a wife or a boyfriend (no gay marriage then) to help him with the parts of life he didn’t find as interesting as physics.

            I love this description! It describes a particular professor that I work with sometimes perfectly (just not physics). And he has a wife! But I’m assuming she’s too busy with her research to help him out…

          2. Aspiring Professional*

            I am married to a Physicist and as a result I have met a lot of Physicists, and that description could apply to like a solid half of them. The worst part is that they think there are experts in everything and they can’t figure out how to do basic shit like laundry or make a meal that doesn’t come frozen, canned, or from a box. I pity their future spouses, imagine having a kid with someone who can’t even take care of themselves properly but thinks they know better than their partner.

          3. GeekyDuck*

            I’m a scientist, and this strongly resembles my life. My supervisor asked me if I was going to list Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwiches and Diet Pepsi in my PhD thesis acknowledgements, because that’s all he ever sees me eat. Work meals are unfortunately the intersection point of “stuff I don’t really care about enough to put effort in” and “set patterns make me feel better.”

        2. Macchiato*

          Generally, you just put the peanuts in the soda bottle/can they kind of float on top and when you take a sip, you get a couple of peanuts, too.

          Confession: As a child, peanuts in soda was my favorite snack.

          1. Eloise*

            I think of this as a generational/regional (Southern U.S.) thing. My parents and grandparents would occasionally do it. I’ve tried it, but I prefer soda and nuts to sodanuts.

          2. Eli*

            Doesn’t the drink get all… salty? I hate anything floating in liquid, so I’m gagging at the thought of this. To each his own!

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yeah, you float the peanuts on top of your drink. I had a teacher who did that with Dr. Pepper. It’s pretty nasty IMHO, but not as nasty as peanut sponges, so thanks for putting that in my head. :-P

          1. Not a Morning Person*

            Boiled peanuts! Yum! (And don’t eat the shells, no matter what some people might think.) It is a southern treat.

        4. nonymous*

          peanuts in cola is a Southern thing. You dump the peanuts in (regular) Coke or Dr Pepper and some of the salt dissolves into the drink while the nuts get the cola flavor. Then you eat the flavored nuts at the end. But they don’t turn into sponges – it’s more like an infusion :-)

        5. paul*

          I’ve seen farmers and ranchers do this for years. They just toss a handful peanuts in their coke/dr pepper (always seems to be one of those) and crunch em as they come out.

        6. Esme Squalor*

          Just here to add to the consensus that this is a southern thing. My parents’ generation grew up pouring peanuts into their bottles of coca cola and RC cola. Something about the salt on the peanuts supposedly makes the soda taste better, and then when you get to the bottom, you have an extra treat of soda-saturated peanuts.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Yep. This is something that was don by a lot of people in my grandparents’ generation, a few people in my parents’ generation, and hardly anyone in my generation.

          2. Lala*

            I’ve lived in the Deep South my entire life(Alabama& Georgia, extended family all from there or Mississippi/Tennessee/South Carolina), and have never heard of, let alone seen, people putting peanuts into Cokes.

            Of course, I’m also a weirdo who hates peanuts, so maybe they were just hiding this from me?

            1. Esme Squalor*

              It’s kind of an old timey thing, fizzling out around the 1960s, from what I can tell. I would guess you never encountered it because it’s not really a thing anymore, and none of the old folks you know happened to mention it.

        7. Turquoisecow*

          I have literally never heard of this.

          I don’t like carbonation or the flavor of soda, so I’m slightly disgusted, but to each their own.

        8. Annabelle*

          Wait this is a big thing in the South. On long road trips my grandparents would buy everyone bottles of coke and little sleeves of peanuts. You pour the peanuts into the coke bottle and then drink it. It’s actually a really delicious salty/sweet combination!

        9. NaoNao*

          No, it’s a southern thing. From what I can recall, you put a handful or less (like a small palmful) of peanuts into the can via the hole in the top, and drink that way, crunching peanuts if you get them in the mouthful. They just stay in there, salting it up and making it sweet and salty and slightly acidic.
          It would be kind of like a balsamic taste, I imagine.

        10. phyllisb*

          Antilles, it’s a Southern thing. Get a bottle or can of Coke (in the South, it’s always Coke, even if it’s Dr. Pepper or Pepsi.) One small bag of (usually) Planter’s Salted Peanuts and pour the bag of peanuts into the drink and imbide. If you’ve never tried it I know it sounds weird, but that sweet cola and salty peanuts together is sublime. Haven’t had that treat in over 30 years because I don’t drink soft drinks anymore, nor do I eat salted nuts. Somehow I don’t think unsweet iced tea and unsalted nuts would be as good. :-)

      2. Construction Safety*

        Oh yeah! Open soda (I’ve only ever used cola), take a big swig, open peanuts and pour gingerly into soda (it’ll fizz, hence the “gingerly”), cap soda, rotate slowly to submerge & marinate peanuts, drink, chew & enjoy.

        It certainly is a southern thang, though my NJ sister says she learned it at a NASCAR race.

    3. Allison*

      Is it the stuff advertised to last a certain number of hours? That stuff is my JAM, but people I barely know tease me for buying it. “Ooh, is this breakfast?? Jeez . . .” “Oh, were you out partying last night? Yeah, you were! You’re a party girl, I can tell.” Or just generally assuming I’m going to drink all of it in one sitting. Couldn’t possibly be stocking up when I buy a 6-pack! Sure I’m caffeine dependent, sure it’s a problem that I need one every day, even on weekends, but is that the business or various cashiers and coworkers? No!

      Sorry I don’t drop $8 a day on lattes like a “good girl.”

      That said, I do know there are risks. I only drink 2 a day, spaced 5+ hours apart, like the box says, and I try to only drink what I need and try to go without when I can, but I am aware this could be making my kidneys work overtime to process all the vitamins . . .

    4. A Non E. Mouse*

      I too prefer the sugar free energy drinks and oh, the looks of sheer panic those that have seen me overcaffeinated get when they see me walk into a meeting with one.

      I like to think of it as keeping everyone on their toes.

    5. with a twist*

      I used to keep several varieties of powdered coffee creamer on my desk for my entire team to share, like kind of a makeshift coffee bar (we were located far away from the break room, so the refrigerated kind wasn’t feasible). I would often get comments about my supposed coffee/creamer addiction from people who thought they were all for me.

      I thought about filling an empty creamer container with sugar and just pouring it straight into my mouth whenever someone asked about it, just to see their reaction. “I JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH!”

  3. Misclassified*

    #3 – I was in a similar situation; although, in my case, I was a permanent worker who had been with the company for four or five years before I went to the IRS. An option is, if you have the money now, to pay the taxes and take a wait and see approach. You have three years from the time the taxes were due or paid (whichever is later, but to be safe I’d go with due) to file an amended return. The Form SS-8 instructions explain what to do if also filing 1040-x (amended returns) if filing an SS-8. That’s the approach I took, and I’m happy I did so. There were enough other problems with that job that I filed Form SS-8 while employed with them (and wasn’t fired for it, strangely enough, despite my state having no protections and federal law not recognizing any anti-retaliation protection for filing).

    Also, there is a not insignificant chance that the IRS won’t levy back taxes/penalties/interest/etc due to Section 530 safe harbor. Section 530 isn’t actually section 530 of the IRC; it’s instead Section 530 of some tax bill from around 1978 and is codified as a footnote to some section of the IRC. From what I recall, in order to qualify for 530 safe harbor, the employer must have filed appropriate tax forms consistent with the misclassification (1099s and whatnot), must have qualified all workers within the same type of work the same way (for instance, all paralegals in an office must be classified as employees or all as ICs), and the employer must have had a reasonable basis for the (mis)classification. The first two are easy to meet, and the third one is the sticky wicket. However, the courts have interpreted that third prong VERY liberally in favor of employers. A reasonable basis can include, but is not limited to, prior IRS determinations that the (mis)classification was proper, advice from an accountant or attorney, to it even being a standard industry practice in the geographic area to (mis)classify people doing that kind of work (and by standard industry practice, that has meant even as low as only 25% of similar employers misclassifying). It’s a really powerful one-time-only Get Out of Jail Free Card for employers, at least with federal taxes.

    1. neverjaunty*

      This is an excellent explanatipn, but the OP isn’t working for them anymore. It seems like an unnecessary hassle to protect them and file an amended return later under the circumstances.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It sounds to me like she wants to keep her options open, since she worked for them as a contractor and hopes to do so again (or with other employees in a different setting) in the future.

    2. IRS Agent Here!*

      This is indeed good information and good advice from Misclassified. These types of issues are handled by employment tax agents, which I am not. However, I routinely encounter these sorts of issues in my own income tax audits all the time. This is a list of 20 factors that the IRS formerly utilized. That list has now been revised and consolidated into an 11 factor test.
      Here’s the link address for that info:

      Quite frankly, there is not enough information in your letter to determine if you were in fact an employee or independent contractor. At first blush, it sounds to me like you didn’t do your homework, agreed to the contract that treats you as an independent contractor, and now have a bit of sticker shock. In the future, you really need to decide if you’re willing to be 1099’d or not, and if you are, ensure that you are setting aside the adequate amount of pay to cover your tax liability and making estimated tax payments.

      As Misclassified mentioned, the courts (and IRS appeals) tend to side with the employer in many cases, especially when the classification falls into “gray area.” The determine really requires consideration of all facts and circumstances, of which the complete picture isn’t painted by your letter.

      If it were me, I would take the tax hit, assuming it isn’t HUGE, and as a lesson learned and move on. If you work in an industry or town that are small or where people talk quite frequently, don’t assume that word won’t get around, especially if you use Alison’s suggestion. Even if you decide that you are okay with being an independent contractor and working freelance, the work coming your way may dwindle if word gets around that you are willing to contact the IRS so readily. The fact is most business fear the IRS, even when they’re doing everything right, so there’s no reason to hire someone who might someday bring me to your door. Just my $0.02. And for what it’s worth, you have my sympathy. Having an unexpectedly high tax bill is definitely stressful.

      1. HRTripp*

        I agree! OP It sounds like you want to report them because they have no more work for you and not because you were classified incorrectly so I would take the hit as well. While I agree that it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure their employees are classified correctly I find it hard to believe that OP has NO idea that he was listed as a 1099 employee. It should have been an indicator when completing a W9 instead of a W4 and the beginning of your assignment. Regardless, it should have been an indicator when taxes weren’t being withheld from your paychecks.

        1. Misclassified*

          In my case, I’ll admit I was ignorant as to the law at the time. I didn’t complete any tax forms when first starting with the job that misclassified me (neither a W4 nor a W9). When I received my first paycheck, I approached the small business owner and asked why there were no deductions. She responded that the office just found it “easier” if everyone paid their own estimated taxes “but don’t worry; we still pay the employer taxes on you.” The next January, I asked when we would receive our W-2s, just out of curiosity, and was given a date. She then gave me a 1099, and I will admit I was ignorant, at the time (since this was my first professional job), as to what that truly meant. And this was after going to undergraduate and post-graduate professional school. Sometimes people just don’t know what the various forms, and lack of other forms, means.

          1. IRS Agent Here!*

            I HATE employers that do this, and I assure you, there are tons who do, and they are taking blatant advantage of folks that don’t know the law or are young and inexperienced. My own husband’s boss (knowing where I work and what I do) asked if he’d be okay receiving a 1099 when he was first hired. Uh, hell no. My husband is 100% an employee in all respects. Be a responsible employer. He kindly told her that he would not be willing to work there if he received a 1099. He was and is treated as an employee. But I’ve seen many an employer who will tell you to hit the bricks if you refuse their 1099 classification.

            1. Beezus*

              Hilariously, we have trouble insisting that “freelancers” come on as temporary W2s when they want to be a 1099 and we’re like “Uh, no. You’re a temp Producer. We have staff Producers ergo you go on payroll” and the FUSS people will make. Like get a biz license and an LLC and your own work comp coverage then, fool, and become a legitimate vendor.

              1. HMM*

                Yes! We had a similar situation when we brought on a temporary person to cover for a staff member while they were out for a long vacation. They put up a fuss and insisted up and down that they should be 1099 because “that’s what all they other companies I work for do”. Sorry, I don’t know what your other companies do, but we do it by the book here.

                It’s a PITA to bring people on board as an employee, especially for something short like a 2 week temp gig. But we do it because it’s the law, not because we want to annoy you!

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think that’s unfair! The OP is wondering about reporting them because she’s paying 25% more in taxes if she doesn’t. That could be a really large amount.

          1. Misclassified*

            I know it was going be large for me if I hadn’t. Over the years I was there, had I paid all of the employer side, I’d have paid about $20k extra (which I frankly did not have savings for). I know my bosses tried to convince me, after learning that I filed Form SS-8, that I should have been taking $30k in deductions (on about $55k annual pay) each year to offset the additional tax burden. I did some very, VERY liberal estimating and could come up with around $15k in deductions, most of which I knew I actually wasn’t entitled to (e.g. writing off my entire rent as a home office deduction).

          2. TootsNYC*

            I think it’s also unfair because the OP didn’t realize she was being misclassified; her accountant told her.

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          “I find it hard to believe that OP has NO idea that he was listed as a 1099 employee”

          I think the issue is that the OP didn’t now she wasn’t supposed to be classified that way, not that she didn’t know that’s what the employer was doing.

      2. Misclassified*

        Could OP#3 use Form 3949-A to anonymously report? I guess it wouldn’t solve the issues with their taxes at this point, but it might change future classifications without confirming for a fact that they were the ones to blow the whistle.

        In my case, I actually haven’t really suffered any negative consequences. In any job interviews, when asked why I quit that job, I’ve had a positive, unrelated reason AND I’ve used a script similar to “And this is a very weird situation. It turns out that they were misclassifying me, and all other [Professionals with same title at that job], and all of their support staff all the way down to their receptionists [as an aside – I know this for a fact due to having accidentally been given some of their paychecks], as independent contractors. It appears it was my taxes which caused the IRS to investigate, and when they learned that, they made my work relationship with them very difficult. At about the same time, [GOOD THING HAPPENED], so I saw it as a reason to not renew my lease and leave.” So I’ve avoided directly saying I blew the whistle, and when any interview has heard about the misclassification, they’re just dumbfounded at what the company was doing.

        1. IRS Agent Here!*

          Yes, OP could absolutely use Form 3949-A to report anonymously. All of these forms are reviewed, additional research conducted, and a reviewer determines whether or not action will be taken based on the referral. The more detail OP could provide (assuming that there is more than just what is in their letter) the easier it will be for the reviewer to assess the referral. If OP could review the link above and address as many of those factors as possible, it would greatly increase the likelihood that the referral will ultimately be assigned and worked. Also, worker classification issues is definitely one of the top 3 issues worked by employment tax agents and it continues to be an area of widespread abuse.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Thanks for providing an expert opinion!

            Report them anonymously and don’t feel bad about doing so or not giving them a warning. If they didn’t want to be in trouble with the IRS, they wouldn’t have misclassified people and stuck them with a big tax bill.

            – another former misclassified employee, who tried to report but got a rude nasty IRS agent on the phone who wouldn’t take the report

          2. Ursula*

            The widespread abuse is the reason I would love it if the writer reported their company. As someone who knows HR law, I hear so many stories of people being misclassified, either the 1099/w-2 classification or the exempt/non-exempt classification. Most agencies that cover this stuff don’t have the man-power to randomly audit companies to find these issues, they depend on people reporting them. Everyone who reports employers for this type of issue is a hero!

    3. Dorothy Lawyer*

      My first job out of law school was a firm who did this – nobody ever explained how I was to be paid, never explained what a 1099 was. I was treated just like an employee. When tax time came, I was shocked. That first year, since I was still working there, I took the hit – I entered a payment plan with the IRS. The second year, I had been gone for several months (doing the SAME kind of work and being paid as an employee with all appropriate taxes taken out) so I filed the appeal or whatever it’s called with the IRS, telling them that I was misclassified. The IRS found that I was misclassified, fined the law firm $10k, and reduced my tax burden by about $800, which was huge for me. This particular firm also treated me and others in my position very, very poorly, so that was the reason I didn’t go to the firm first.

      1. Misclassified*

        I think the firm I worked for got Section 530 Safe Harbor. They’ve been misclassifying people since the 1980s at least; I was, weirdly enough, the first person to say “wait, no, this is wrong.” The managing partner also got her start at the company as a receptionist in the 1980s. She told us stories about how the only reason she was able to get a job for the summer was because she agreed to work for less than minimum wage, and she laughed about it.

      2. Renee*

        Yes, I’ve been misclassified as contractor by law firms as well. When I was still a hungry lawyer it was standard practice in my community for firms to take advantage of desperate young attorneys by hiring them as contractors instead of employees. The firms assume you won’t complain because you need the work, and there’s another desperate attorney ready to take your place. They would also short their “associates” on pay by deducting discounts they gave to clients because something “took too long.” You would still be required to work a regular work day and do all of the duties of a regular employee. It was horribly abusive and I hope that it’s been cracked down on (I work for a company now so I don’t know). We all knew it was wrong but the market for law school grads here is so poor that we did what we had to for steady work.

  4. LS*

    I have rheumatoid arthritis in both hands, and the “sorry, I have a hand injury” complete with a warm greeting works very well.

    1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      OP4: I have some early-onset arthritis and just generally don’t like touching people I don’t know well. Living in the upper Midwest, I find that everyone accepts a laughing “Sorry, I don’t shake during flu season!” from October through April. The other five months, it’s “Bit of arthritis, sorry, but I’m so pleased to meet you!”

      A genuine smile and a casual tone go a long way.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        When I worked in college admissions, there were a LOT of teenagers who were so insistent on shaking hands when they were sick, that October to December was fist-bump season for me. My boss teased me a little for it, but after the time one of the students gave me strep-throat, I wasn’t taking any chances.

        1. Anonymoose*

          Strep is the absolute worst as an adult. I read somewhere that each time you get it, the symptoms are worse for some reason. I should go find that article.

          (later) Okay, couldn’t find the journal article but I *did* find a nice blog post about antibiotics and strep. But I swear that journal article exists, and the note of the blog post about how taking antibiotics during strep can worsen the ability to build immunity for later occurances of step, maybe it’s the same argument, but expressed backwards. All I know is that the last time I got it, I thought I was practically dying, and when I was a kid it was like ‘yay, I get to stay home’.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I think that a great many illnesses are harder on us when we’re adults (reference: a fever of 102 degrees in a toddler, vs. in a 50yo), because we just lose some of our biological resilience!

    2. McWhadden*

      My manager has the same issue and usually says something similar. And gives a friendly wave.

      People really don’t think anything of it, for the most part.

  5. Sami*

    OP#4: I completely sympathize. I, too, have fibromyalgia AND arthritis in my hands. I’ve used variations of Alison’s script and it works just fine. Good luck!

    1. BetsyTacy*

      A former coworker had hand issues that impacted her ability to handshake. She used a script similar to Alison’s and it was never an issue. One thing she did on big meeting days/for conferences and networking events was wore visible braces on her hands which did a lot of the explaining for her.

      She always kept it light and factual. She would break up potentially awkward moments with little comments like, ‘Besides, my 7 year old tells us that we’re supposed to bump elbows to keep germs from spreading.’

      We also work with a lot of diverse populations that have cultural hand-shaking norms different than what we’re used to. It’s actually much less weird in practice than in theory.

      1. wendelenn*

        Off topic, but hello to a fellow BT fan! Are you familiar with the BT Society, the MHL Society, and the Maud-L email list? :)

      1. RachelA*

        This. I was coming out of lurk-dom to express my sympathy to you, since I probably have fibromyalgia (waiting on an official diagnosis). The change of season (my first) has definitely hit me hard, and intellectually I knew it was a thing that makes people feel worse, but actually experiencing has been eye-opening. Good luck avoiding the handshakes, and continuing the networking efforts despite all the pain you feel.

        1. LW4*

          Make sure you have a strong support system in place. My first winter with fibro was two years ago; after spending all my time outside of work in bed, because I hurt and it was so cold, one of my friends started making me leave my house. I would hate her each time, but she was right. Having a strong support system is key.

    2. Belle*

      I had a coworker who didn’t shake hands with men for religious reasons, and she would just put both her hands up and say “I don’t shake hands, but I can wave at you!” She had a very sweet voice and demeanor, and people never gave her a problem for it. If you don’t want to wave, something like “I don’t shake hands, but here’s my card” or “I’m sorry, I don’t shake hands” with a nice smile will probably do the trick.

    3. Ashlee*

      This may sound silly, and I’m not too sure how the pain would affect your hand strength on those days…but would holding something in both hands be a way to kind of side-step the shaking tradition without having to talk about it? Like if you held your notebook in the left and a cup of coffee or a water bottle in the right?

      I personally don’t try to shake someone’s hand if they’re both clearly unavailable, because then they have to do that awkward juggling think to make it work. And if someone does try to shake you could kind of gesture that both hands are full and just say “nice to see you” (or whatever). I suppose that kind of depends on the situation or event you find yourself in.

    4. oldfashionedlovesong*

      This may need to be modified by people with inflammation in their hands that makes it hard to bend their fingers, but what I usually do is clasp my hands lightly together in front of my chest and tilt my head slightly with a warm smile and whatever verbal greeting. I actually don’t explain the lack of shaking at all.

      People respond very pleasantly and I’ve never noticed anyone seeming put-off that I didn’t extend my hand to shake. Now, it’s worth mentioning that while I do this because (a) I don’t like being touched and (b) I have poor circulation so the squeezing hurts, I do have an ethnic appearance that makes a lot of people assume I’m culturally/religiously conservative. So it’s possible they’re being pleasant to accommodate me according to their assumptions! Which I don’t love, but if it means I don’t have to touch them I’ll take it, haha.

  6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, could you get away with an alternative way of greeting someone? For example, by doing the partial bowing thing, or firmly keeping your hands in your pockets? Otherwise, I vote for saying you have a nerve issue or a chronic hand injury.

      1. GermanGirl*

        Yeah, hands in pockets would strike me as awkward or even rude, too.

        I’ve heard of people using alternatives like hand over heart and a slight bow, or just waving the hand, but I don’t have any first hand experience with those.

        1. Catherine*

          I do finger guns a lot but I also make an effort to present myself in a way that makes that kind of body language seem consistent with my character.

          1. Elemeno P.*

            Oh man, finger gun greetings would be great!

            When I can’t shake hands for some reason, I like to offer instead to “shake hands,” and then shake my hand in the air. It looks super silly, but people always laugh and then shake their hand in the air too.

            1. JanetM*

              Your ideas intrigue me, and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter. (Also, your name for the win.)

        2. Specialk9*

          With Orthodox Jewish men, I wave with a smile. I think they usually find something to do with their hands, like beyond their back.

    1. Alice*

      If someone avoided shaking my hand without explaining it, I’d be pretty annoyed – at least, here in the US. When I lived in East Asia the context was different.
      You don’t need to give people details, but I think the hand injury language is great. I don’t like the cold version for people you’re going to see more than once – when they start to notice you always ‘have a cold,’ they will start to wonder why you are fibbing. But an injury, even if it’s not actually accurate for your fibromyalgia, could be long-term and indeed permanent.
      With this explanation (which is IMO a better word than excuse – you’re sharing information, not asking permission), I’m sure that people will think nothing of it, b beyond wishing you a quick recovery. If you want to avoid even that, say “chronic injury.”
      I hope that you and y o ur hand feel better in the future, not having to do and worry about the hand shaking.

      1. MicroManagered*

        I think keeping your hands in your pockets might come off like you’re refusing the handshake and seem a bit strange… but I don’t think every alternative gesture would be interpreted that way.

        For example, I knew a guy once who, if you went for a handshake, he would say “Oh! Here we go!” and offer his elbow for an elbow bump. He didn’t explain why, but it was clear that he wasn’t into shaking hands. I never thought I needed an explanation for it or felt annoyed by it. He had a way of making into “his thing” where it almost felt more fun to do the elbow bump with him than a handshake. (Probably industry and personality dependent, though!!)

        1. MechanicalPencil*

          Doesn’t Howie Mandel (?) do a fist bump because he’s afraid of germs? Kind of a similar concept. Also, why do I know this.

        2. Specialk9*

          Oh I’ve known someone who did elbow bump. I forget why. Indeed, it was fun and we laughed together.

      2. FormerEmployee*

        Being annoyed because someone doesn’t want to shake hands with you is like being annoyed because they aren’t eating whatever you brought in (donuts, brownies, etc.) to the office.

        Unless they shake hands with the 10 other people in the group and pointedly avoid shaking hands with you and only you, their behavior is none of anyone else’s business.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      firmly keeping your hands in your pockets

      Assuming you have pockets… (walks away muttering angrily about the lack of pockets in womens’ clothing)

      But yeah, bowing or keeping hands in your pockets seems really awkward.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yeah, okay, but there’s not a single pair of pants on that site that I’d wear to work, so…

        2. Specialk9*

          Oh, yeah, their pants are a nightmare. Why they can’t do a simple chic 50s cigarette pant or basic jeans I don’t get.
          Stop trying to make palazzo pants happen, they’re not going to happen! But pockets in pants is something you can gets lots of places.

      1. SarahKay*

        Yes, why are there no pockets? Why?!?
        Actually, my mum has an awesome pocket pattern for inserting them into dresses and skirts – I must get a copy from her.
        But still…I want pockets too.

        1. NaoNao*

          Well, for this reason:
          Side “slit” pockets, if not made using top of the line couturier methods, will often poke out or gape open due to women’s curves, and create an unflattering “pooch” at the hip, where many women don’t want or feel they don’t “need” extra fabric or extra weight.
          Patch pockets on the front of pants, again, create a “volume” issue and look less than professional.
          Jeans-style pockets are the best bet, but can make a formal pant look too casual.
          What we need is more draped formal pants with a seam allowance at the side for a deep slit that follows the drape of the pants. But that would be like 200 dollars a pair, and most of us are like “um, no.”
          However, there’s no excuse on dresses and skirts.

    3. bohtie*

      it may depend on where you’re from, but in my city, it’s not uncommon to just say “Oh, I don’t/can’t shake hands.” (There’s a lot of people who don’t do it for religious reasons, but also, a lot of people whose hands are gross or who work in kitchens or something where they’ll have to go wash their hands if they touch somebody so I’m used to being offered a wave or an elbow bump in return.) One of my friends, who has fibro, will say something like, “Oh, I can’t shake hands. Arthritis,” and everybody just nods. I think the key is the tone – that it’s super light and over with in a second or two, so no one really even has time to get flustered about it and it also doesn’t come across as “i’m not shaking hands WITH YOU” if that makes any sense

      I have to shake a LOT of hands – I do combat sports, and one of the rules is that you shake EVERYBODY’S hand before and after practice. There’s like 60 of us, so that often doesn’t happen, but I’ll greet people from across the room either by bowing or waving (I’m hard of hearing, and “hello” in ASL is basically a cross between a wave and a salute? So even people who don’t know ASL understand that I’m greeting them).

    4. LW4*

      Most of my clothes do not have pockets. (Women’s clothes; why cant they have pockets?). However, keeping my hands in my pockets seems rude. But I do like the chronic hand or never injury excuse.

      1. AMPG*

        You can even say “an old injury is giving me trouble” if you think that might discourage follow-up questions.

    5. LW4*

      Also, why are men so insistent on crushing your hands? Maybe with another man, it’s one thing. But with women? That just seems insensitive.

        1. FormerEmployee*

          PCBH: Good point. You know who seems to have an issue with handshakes – bone crushing, last too long, etc.

      1. CanCan*

        Maybe they’re afraid to be outdone by a woman? I have a strong handshake, and with my petite (woman) frame it often surprises people. I don’t think I crush anybody’s hand though, and I tone it down for frail old ladies.

  7. Ramona Flowers*

    #1 Oh, dear sweet letter writer. The way to convince a hiring manager that you’re talented is, and will almost certainly always be, to send them a good application.

    1. Triplestep*

      I don’t know, this isn’t really fair. I’m not suggesting that anyone approach a hiring manager in public, but I can see why someone would ask about it. There’s so much information out there now about networking to get jobs, and the high percentage of jobs that are never even posted. It can be hard to know where to draw the line.

      Also, let’s face it: So many hiring managers will never even see some of the good applications because those applications are missing some key word or other to get past an Applicant Tracking System. With an ATS and/or recruiter involved, it’s technically not even accurate that you’re sending *the hiring manager* an application. So it’s understandable that job-seekers want a chance to prove they’re a good fit to the actual human being who is best equipped to judge that.

      1. MK*

        A short conversation at a coffee shop (or any other “social” occasion) is not a chance for a candidate to prove that they are a good fit to the actual human being who is best equipped to judge that. The only thing the hiring manager can evaluate, that would make them even pull the application for consideration, in these circumstances is the applicant’s social graces; and I often find charm a highly overrated quality.

        1. Triplestep*

          Yes. My comment was more about the characterization that “The way to convince a hiring manager that you’re talented is … to send them a good application”. I think it’s common knowledge that hiring managers often won’t see some of the good applications, and this has job-seekers wondering about alternate methods. While approaching a hiring manager in public is not a good idea, I don’t think advising (in a somewhat condescending manner) that “a good application will always pave the way” is considering the whole picture.

          1. Snark*

            I think the notion that managers “often won’t see some of the good applications” is kind of a job-seeker’s myth. Outside the federal government, it’s not like every application is run through some mysterious algorithm before it ever reaches human eyes. If your application is actually good, and actually speaks to the vacancy announcement, and you’re qualified to be applying for it, chances are it’s not getting screened out.

            1. Where's the Le-Toose?*

              Totally agree with Snark and Ramona on this one. I work for a state agency, and we review all applications. We’re not passing on good applications because some mysterious HR genie is putting the kibosh on wonderful applications and only forwarding terrible applications.

              I just finished hiring for full time employees and right now I’m recruiting for externships. And I can tell you that the number of absolutely terrible cover letters out there is overwhelming. At least 80% of the cover letter has the person describing themselves “as a rising star” at whatever job they are at. Not impressive and not helpful. Those cover letters simply parrot the information in the person’s resume. Right now I have one front runner because the candidate actually wrote an exceptional cover letter and has great credentials.

            2. Fuzzyfuzz*

              I can speak from experience that this is not the case. Our HR department routinely screened out competitive candidates and forwarded on lackluster ones based on answers to easily misinterpreted/bad HR-generated questions. For example, a position required 2 years of experience; it would automatically screen out anyone who answered ‘1-2 years of experience,’ which included some people who had exactly 2 years of experience and didn’t feel comfortable saying ‘2-4.’ Our boss fished a few people out from the reject pool when the other interview candidates were mediocre, and was incredulous as to why they hadn’t been forwarded. These people were hired and ended up being some of the best performers the department had ever seen. This happened so often, that now she looks at all resumes that come in no matter what.

              1. Snark*

                Is that really not the case, or is it an example of dysfunctional employers serving as the exception that proves the rule?

                1. Triplestep*

                  The size companies I have worked for and applied to in the last 10 years use Applicant Tracking Systems and these kinds of stories are common. My team had a similar experience last year with a recruiter passing along two resumes – one iffy and one horrible – and no others. They are beholden to their ATS and just shrug like it can’t be helped. Take what you get. Linkedin (especially Linkedin Career Premium) is littered with complaints about ATS systems both from job-seekers and recruiters finger-wagging their colleagues to use them more thoughtfully.

                2. SusanIvanova*

                  Dysfunctional is more common than functional.

                  I worked at a company that had just been acquired by one that was coasting on startup money. They had grand ideas, they had people with PhDs thinking about those ideas, but they had no money-making products. We had years of experience shipping products, and what we knew was: you need people who can think *and* code. But interview candidates kept being the kind who believed they’d do the thinking and someone else would code. Turned out HR was changing our requirements to our new overlord’s standards and filtering out the people we were looking for. Our manager had to push hard to get the recs to be exactly what he asked for and to get all resumes.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                But would the fact that a random stranger approached you in the coffee shop to talk about their application help here?

                When I’ve heard of people circumventing this stuff, it’s always in the context “Wakeen, who knows the applicant and the hiring manager in enough detail to be certain applicant wouldn’t have been passed over, checks with both and brings the screening problem to hiring manager’s attention.” It’s not “so fortunately candidate walked up to hiring manager while they were trying to eat their waffles and said ‘I applied for a job designing your llama spouts, clearly you need to rescue my application from whatever HR hell it’s been consigned to’.”

            3. Triplestep*

              No, not an algorithm … an Applicant Tracking System filter.

              Many companies (mine among them) issue cryptic job postings that are filled with jargon. Even if you feel you are qualified for the job, editing your resume to “speak to the vacancy announcement” in these cases becomes a guessing game. What can I write that will allow me to pass the first hurdle of the ATS, but will still make sense if it ever reaches a human?

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Yeah, I think that, if it within the same organization, asking the hiring manager for 10 minutes to get more information about the position would be a better way to get in front of them than accosting them on a coffee break. I take internal transfers on occasion, and I’m always happy to spend 10 minutes with someone to make sure they know what they’re getting in to. Someone who’s make personal contact and a favorable impression (by reading out, asking good questions, and showing genuine interest, not by being charming) may get me to call HR and at least talk to my (amazing) recruiter about their resume/ask for a copy, but I’m not going to pull someone based on having a nice chat with them at the coffee stand.

          1. Infinity Anon*

            Even sending an e-mail to ask if they would be willing to get coffee and talk about the opening. If they are open to talking about it on their coffee break, they will suggest that.

          2. Decima Dewey*

            I can put myself in the Hiring Manager’s shoes. He/she stepped out to get a cup of coffee, get a moment to himself/herself and boom! Jobseeker is accosting him/her. Like when I worked at the library in a shopping center and prospective patrons would stop me as I as on lunch break to ask if the library had books on angels.

    1. Basically Useless*

      Alternative Medicine people can’t be argued with. He’s clearly more on the whackadoodle end than the Andrew Weil (whom I detest) end so you really can’t argue with him because to him you are wrong. Deluded and wrong.

      The only thing you can do is shut him down by stopping responding. Research-since it’s not research he approves of-is a ploy of Big Pharma or Coca Cola or Splenda or whoever and he won’t listen.

      Just pretend he’s a conspiracy theorist and treat him the same way.

      1. Mike C.*

        Time/Place/Manner concerns aside, in a very general sense I think it’s important to fight this stuff not because you’re trying to convince them (though it can happen!) but because you want to ensure that these often dangerous beliefs don’t go unchallenged around others.

        And that’s not to say that everyone needs to do something like this, but public health is being undermined by folks like this, so that’s why I often jump in when I hear garbage like this.

        1. Jesca*

          Its sooo off topic, but this is not untrue. My SIL is like this. It is awful. She has stage four breast cancer, and believes in so much alt-medicine stuff. No matter how many times my brother sends her scientific articles that prove coconut oil and butters are horrible for you to ingest, she just won’t believe it. She is like this about a lot of alt med things. And I have mentioned to her that she really really needs to tell her oncologist what she are taking! Some over the counter vitamins, herbs, minerals, etc can have terrible reactions with certain medications. But, I only do this once or twice and let it drop. She was let know, and makes her own decisions.

          BUT I would NEVER EVER tell a coworker if they chose alt medicine and I would NEVER EVER promote it at work either. It is just not appropriate to be that involved in someone else’s personal decisions. Like if my coworker is spreading coconut butter all over every meal, it is none of my business.

            1. Basically Useless*

              Butter I haven’t heard of but lots of people believe essential oils will cure everything. St. John’s wort has proven no better results than a placebo yet people will honestly tell you that it’s all a big cover-up by Big Pharma.

              1. Jesca*

                Haha yeah it is like A Thing. And somewhere someone started touting that it had all these health benefits and was chock full of “healthy fats” and amino acids, and studies have shown this is all dangerously false. It is the very worst kind of fat and there are much better foods for amino acids. But, people just keep on believing what they believe.

                I mean I also pointed out that there is no regulatory body that oversees supplement and vitamin manufacturer, and when studies have been done? The findings were awful! You have no idea what is in those pills. Honestly, the manufacturers don’t really know either. They follow no best practices.

            2. Jennifer Thneed*

              Coconut “butter”. Whatever that is. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so maybe it’s just that? (Eww. I cook with coconut oil, but I wouldn’t spread it on my toast.)

              1. oldfashionedlovesong*

                It’s basically pureed coconut meat with much of the oil taken out so its solid and creamy at room temperature. It really is delicious, like hard, coconut-flavored Nutella. But it’s not going to cure cancer!

          1. Infinity Anon*

            Telling her that she should inform her doctor of what she is taking is not the same as telling her not to take it. Personally, I think that is helpful rather than judgmental.

            1. Jesca*

              Exactly. And only then I would tell her those facts only because I care about her personally. We have a personal relationship. I would never even care what a coworker was doing. I am not put on this planet to police other’s behaviors. I generally feel like people should only worry about 10% of my decisions and the 90% left are mine and mine alone.

          2. Dorothy Lawyer*

            This is so sad – at Stage 4, she doesn’t feel she has much to lose by turning to alternative medicines and essential oils and such.

        2. Basically Useless*

          The problem is that trying to educate everyone by engaging with Mr Whackadoodle is Mr Whackadoodle has all these “facts” that trump anything you say and it’s incredibly tiring to fight them, especially when they retreat to “that’s what they WANT you to think” and “you’re such a sheeple for believing that”. I worked with a conspiracy theorist/Alternative Medicine (and weed) will cure EVERYTHING guy and there was nothing you could cite that he would believe if it wasn’t on a website he trusted.

          1. Specialk9*

            At the end of the day, the argument in a nutshell becomes “you’re gullible and not very smart” – the ones who you down the rabbit hole are usually pretty sketchy on the science, and get caught up in the drama and emotion.

            (I get it, I dabble in fringe things that doctors don’t reeeeeally believe in… Like vitamins. MDs won’t freaking test your vitamins, except for D. It’s too out-there and woo-woo.)

              1. Candi*

                A gets tested too. Too much is toxic.

                (Interestingly, it seems moderation is a primary key to a healthy life, barring health problems. Whoda thunk?)

  8. Drama Llama*

    LW4: I think a ‘hand injury’ comment is totally fine. You don’t need to explain any other detail about your health. I wouldn’t use ‘I have a cold’ as an excuse because it’ll be weird with coworkers who might start to notice you’re always recovering from a cold. Plus some people are really germaphobic and you don’t want them thinking you’re contagious when you’re not.

  9. Knitting Cat Lady*

    I’m very touch averse so I avoid hand shaking as much as I can. I usually do a small wave at shoulder height.

    Also, hand crushers are the worst! One cousin’s husband doesn’t know his own strength. When he lets go I always think I’m getting a glove full of bone pieces back.

    The opposite, however, is also terrible. People who just hold out their hand and don’t grip back so you’re shaking this limp thing. Totally squicks me.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Right but given the context of this particular letter can we please remember people may do this because they have fibromyalgia or arthritis or etc?

      1. misspiggy*

        Yes! I do the limp fish thing in hopes that people will get the message to end the handshake as soon as possible.

        1. Stardust*

          In that case, wouldn’t it be better to not shake hands at all? That way, people like KCL don’t have to feel squicked by the limp fish and you don’t have to have your hand painfully crushed.
          (FWIW, I wouldn’t interpret a limp handshake as your wish of ending the shake as soon as possible, mostly because it’s such a short interaction anyway.)

          1. anonintheuk*

            I have a large (and spiky) cocktail ring, which I wear to meetings, and which has been very effective in dissuading people from squeezing my hand. Maybe something like that, where the design is raised from the band?

      2. Knitting Cat Lady*

        Heh, I’ve shaken hands with many people who have various issues with their hands.

        My grandma’s hand is partially paralyzed due to nerve damage.

        Everyone I’ve encountered had at least some kind of muscle tone.

        And honestly, if people tell me they don’t want to shake hands due to some kind of issue with their hands?

        I’d be happy.

        I’m autistic. All form of touch is the tactile equivalent of nails on chalkboard for me!

        Let me give my little wave from beyond arms reach.

        And don’t get me started on huggers.

      3. Alice*

        I think it would be a good idea for people who don’t want to shake hands… not to shake hands – but a brief explanation (which doesn’t have to be true or detailed) will make the wheels of social intercourse run smoother.

    2. Had Matter's Pea Tarty*

      I limp-fish because I’m so touch-averse that touching strangers – or even family members, when I’m in the wrong mood – feels like grabbing a good handful of stinging nettles and giving them a good squeeze.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        See, I’m the same way, only when someone limp fishes things are a million times worse for me!

        I’d rather we get rid of hand shakes alltogether.

  10. GovSysadmin*

    OP1: Assuming you didn’t know me, the only time it would be appropriate to approach me in public about a job posting would be if we were both at a professional conference, and I was wearing a ribbon that said “I’M HIRING” on my badge. If you did that in a coffee shop, I would definitely get your name so I could add you to our “do not hire” list.

    1. January*

      I think if the hiring manager has an open rec and they are in your company (so you know of them, perhaps they know you or your manager) OR it’s someone you know from some other context, I think at fine to say “hey, I saw you were looking for an XYZ. Do you have a few minutes sometime to chat more about the role/what you are looking for?”

      But if you’ve already applied and/or you only know this person from LinkedIN creeping, that’s a hard NO.

      I’ve been the hiring mgr in this situation and I’ve often had people run into me at the water cooler to ask stuff like this.

      1. Zinnia*

        I think I’d stop at, “I saw you were hiring for XYZ, I’m planning to / have put in an application. That allows them to either ask you to chat or gracefully end the conversation with a “Great, I’ll look for it. Enjoy your coffee.”

        There’s a great Maya Angelo quote – people will forget what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel. No matter how well it’s phrased, most of us feel a slight discomfort at having to tell someone no, and that’s not how you want them to feel about the interaction.

        1. Snark*

          Even that makes me feel annoyed and imposed upon, honestly. I had an applicant I knew socially try this when we bumped into each other on a hiking trail. He was a little more annoying about it, in that he tried to start up an actual convo about it, but I was like, dude, the only person I want to spend time with right now is my dog.

          Maybe I’m just letting my own stress and overwork speak right now, but if I’m in a coffee shop during the day, it’s probably the only 20 minutes that day where I can sit peacefully and I’m not anxiously pinging from one to-do item to another. If you come and intrude on that, that is not going to make me want to know more about your application.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      On the other hand, I think the fact that they see each other in the coffee shop is an opportunity in another way: the OP could send an email (either with resume or referencing their already-submitted application) and ask if they might speak informally, maybe even at the coffee shop they both frequent.

      The hiring manager might say no, we’re going through the formal process and that’s it, but I think they could be open to it.

      Note: this is only not creepy if the hiring manager knows who the applicant is. Otherwise, it’s a little stalkery.

      1. Snark*

        “Could we speak informally at {coffee shop} sometime” strikes me as “hey, can I side-door my way into an interview for this job in your free time?” And the answer is a lotta nope. If I want to interview you, I’ll interview you. If not, don’t impose.

    3. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      Anytime I’m out of the office is me time. And if I’m out getting coffee or lunch, I really want to be left alone, no matter how stellar the applicant thinks they can do the job.

      And believe me, I have been in those shoes. When I was a very green new attorney back in the mid-90’s, I applied for so many jobs in my first 12 months that I stopped counting at 150. It took me three years of contract work to finally land a full time attorney job. I didn’t come out of law school with the guaranteed paycheck and the silk suits. My road to my big government job was a tough one, lined with little pay but great experience.

      So I remember those days when someone cold calls me at my desk, and I will spend 15-20 minutes talking to them about the job and their job hunt. If you email me, you’ll always get a response within a day, and if you want to schedule a time to meet, I will always be accommodating. If you’re an internal candidate and just pop in, I will always meet with you to discuss the job.

      But even for me, if you approach me while I’m getting coffee, I’m going to be highly annoyed.

  11. Greg M.*

    Ah the diet soda. Ok I’ve been in this exact situation. Alison’s advice is spot on. Basically it’s shut the conversation down. This is not the time to defend yourself or justify your actions or choices. It’s the time to be a grey rock, not give any leeway at all. When you try to justify something that says to people “this is someone I can convince and argue with”. And half the time it’s nothing to do with your health but is instead it’s to make them feel smart and good about themselves. Sorry gets a little personal for me.

    But basically with any topic you want a boundary on you stonewall, you don’t defend, you don’t engage. You make it 100% clear there is 0 entry on the topic. You get to practice how to be polite but firm.

  12. Al*

    #4- My boyfriend has fibromyalgia, and he’s started wearing a wrist brace or ace bandage on his right hand/arm on days when his pain is bad. That can still look professional, and it deters anyone from wanting to shake your hand because they can see without any explanation that you are medically unable to shake hands.

    Two things I would keep in mind, though:
    1. Nosy people who you see frequently might notice that you don’t wear the brace consistently and comment on it. Using the phrase “chronic pain disorder” is specific enough to satisfy their super obnoxious curiosity without disclosing specifics.
    2. Y’all to your rheumatologist/doctor about what brace/wrap is right for you. My bf wore braces without consulting a doctor first, and he lost muscle mass in his wrists for awhile because he was stunting mobility.

    Good luck!

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Same here. Like if you want to get someone’s attention you just “y’all” them.

          I didn’t grow up in a place where “y’all” is common so I figured it was a thing already and just didn’t know it.

      1. ThatGirl*

        If it helps, I am shaking laughing silently and trying not to be out loud right now. So thanks :)

    1. Em1*

      I have a ton of hand/wrist issues. I’ve found calling them “carpal tunnel but its no big deal” is a very effective way to 1) explain the braces and 2) get people to stop asking questions. Leaving it as a vague pain disorder unfortunately only invites a host of more questions.

      1. Czhorat*

        Blerg. I get this, but Fibromyalgia is a poorly-known, invisible, and debilitating disease. I don’t think you need to be a walking billboard, but “chronic pain condition” is not only more honest, it paves the way to broader understanding.

        The bigger picture – and it isn’t fair to expect the OP or other sufferers to shoulder this burden – is that we don’t treat chronic pain conditions seriously enough and aren’t well-enough educated on them. I was hoping that having one of the biggest pop-music stars cancel a concert tour because of fibromyalgia would raise more awareness, but I’ve still heard relatively little on the topic.

        1. Alison Read*

          Calling fibromyalgia autoimmune is medically incorrect and to add a fake medical device – a splint, an ace bandage, etc. compounds the air of not being completely forthright. Having multiple auto immune diseases that affect my joints, the old fashioned “ladies’ hand grasp” works most of the time but conveys an odd image if people aren’t used to it. Most people get it immediately when I hold my hand palm down and only allow my fingers to be grasped. Why not just say, “forgive me, my joints/hands are tender”? When dealing with a person above you, you can say this with the modified hand grasp and allow the other person to save a little face. I realize that is being very accommodating when most likely feel that’s not necessary… but I’m older and normally around more, errr… traditional folks.

          1. Czhorat*

            Agreed. As I said “poorly understood”.

            I DO understand the OP wanting to keep their medical conditions private, but also think we need to be able to have honest discussions about this sort of thing.

            1. Sarah*

              Sure, but until we’re there as a society, I feel like it’s not OP’s responsibility to take on this task.

              1. Viva*

                Thank you. This verges on the ‘Teachable Moments’ nonsense. In a professional setting it’s none of any one’s business about my private medical info. A vague answer is neither unprofessional nor unethical.

          2. fposte*

            I can see that phrase working socially, but “tender” isn’t an adjective I recommend applying to yourself in the workplace; there you want it to be as dispassionately medical as possible, and there I would say a good phrase is more important than a strictly accurate one.

          3. Al*

            I agree to an extent, but I would like to point out that certain braces and bandages ARE medically prescribed/recommended to add pressure to pain areas; they aren’t fake at all.

            And even if they’re entirely unnecessary in a medical sense, we unfortunately live in a world where people take visible injuries more seriously than invisible health problems. So the braces/wraps are an easy way to ensure that people don’t insist on physically hurting you via handshake just because they don’t understand your disease. My bf is a comedian, and whenever he hosts a show or open mic without the brace, his wrist is on fire for DAYS after (comedian protocol means the host shakes every performer’s hand). When he wears a brace, people are super gentle, which minimizes the pain by a huge margin. If OP is at a networking event where she potentially faces dozens of handshakes, that same logic will apply.

            It’s not up to OP, my bf, or anyone else with fibro to educate others. If they’re in a good mental space and are willing to put in the emotional labor, that’s great. Otherwise, it’s their imperative and right to protect themselves before anything else, “fake medical devices” and social etiquette be damned.

  13. Greg M.*

    I wish handshakes would just go away. I work retail and customers want to shake my hand sometimes and I do it but frankly people are gross and I don’t know where that’s been or if you wash your hands after going to the bathroom.

    1. FormerEmployee*

      Yes! I, too, wish that handshakes would go away. At one time, it was only men who shook hands; somewhere along the way, women got roped into it, as well.

      Make it stop!

  14. Elizabeth West*

    #2 — Fergus isn’t getting the hint. Tell him to STOP.

    “Fergus, please stop commenting on my drink.”
    *blabhablabhbh drink*
    “Fergus, I don’t want to discuss this with you any more. Please stop.”
    *blabhalbhalbabhlahblabh health crap*
    “That may be, but you need to stop now.”

    Repeat as necessary.

  15. PrivatePublic*

    OP #4: I don’t have chronic pain, but I hate handshakes because I’m one of those lucky people whose hands are always embarrassingly clammy. Although there’s also the fact that I hate the mutual sharing of handshake germs – bleh.

    Anyway, I used to use the “recovering from a cold” excuse, but now, all I say is “oh sorry, I don’t do handshakes” + a smile and a kinda sympathetic hand gesture, swiftly followed by moving the conversation onwards. Just being straightforward and non-embarrassed about it has always worked well for me, and I’ve never had anyone question it.

      1. Karo*

        ugh, yes I have a guy that works two desks away from me that ends every conversation we have with a fist bump and it’s so weird. It was bad enough when he was doing a handshake every time, but the fist bump is so out of touch.

  16. HA2*

    For #3 – I think the key is to treat it as an honest mistake that you’re correcting, not “ratting anybody out”. “Hey, my accountant told me of a mistake in my classification, I’m gonna file to get it corrected for me, just a heads up for you guys!” It’s not malicious, it’s not revenge or ill will, you’re just correcting boring paperwork.

    1. Misclassified*

      This might not be a bad idea. Instead of a worker filing a Form SS-8, I believe the employer can in order to correct past mistakes. There is something called the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program which allows employers who have been misclassifying workers to correct their mistakes and pay only 10% of back taxes with no interest or penalties attached. It might be worth looking into seeing if they would do that before going and filing on your own (especially since filing on your own will then deprive them of the ability to enter VCSP), especially if there’s a good working relationship.

  17. Story Nurse*

    #4, I keep meaning to get a button that says “Hi! I don’t shake hands” to wear at conferences, so I can dodge at least a few of the millions of con-crud germs. Depending on your working environment, something like that might be useful.

    Also, you never need to disclose or explain a medical condition to a colleague or client. “I don’t shake hands”, perhaps combined with a small gesture like a little nod or putting your hands palm to palm or putting your hand to your chest, is sufficient. It could be because you have a hand injury or an autoimmune disorder or OCD, or you’re an Orthodox Jew, or you’re getting over a cold, or any number of other reasons. None of their business. If someone is rude enough to ask why, smile quizzically like you just heard someone fart loudly and are too polite to mention it, and move on to a business-related topic of conversation (or, if all else fails, the weather).

    If there are certain colleagues who are most likely to introduce you to strangers or accompany you to client meetings or conferences, you might want to make them aware of this proclivity of yours (again, you don’t have to explain why) so they don’t act surprised or concerned or upset by your refusal to shake hands, and instead treat it as totally normal and unremarkable, leading the non-colleague in the equation to follow suit.

    1. Triplestep*

      I would find a button like this really off-putting, even with the exclamation point after the word “Hi”. If one is going to go to the trouble of accessorizing to avoid shaking hands, I would go for the brace suggested elsewhere in these comments. New people you encounter will assume its injury-related, and co-workers attending with you (if any) can simply be told you have an issue that flairs up when you shake hands and you’re being proactive to avoid the problem.

      1. Oryx*

        See, I’m the opposite: I’d find a button like that perfectly acceptable and helpful, especially at conferences where people have all manner of buttons and badges and such.

        1. paul*

          It wouldn’t bother me but I imagine a lot of people would just miss it given the hustle bustle of conferences.

          1. fposte*

            Yeah, if I’ve got time to read the name badge I’m doing well at a conference. Additionally, it’s cognitively swimming upstream–we don’t generally read people before we interact with them. But maybe it functions more as an “it’s not just you” backstop when people offer rather than an initial prevention.

      2. pop*

        Agreed. A button like that would seem incredibly snarky, rude and frankly a little tooo “Im sooooo important that I dont even have to explain why I wont touch you in a personal and professional way”.

        It screams immature and millenial entitled to me. I wouldn’t even go up and talk to the person wearing that button.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Yeah, I know it’s not intended that way, but I often feel like germaphobes are implying that *I*, personally, have some disease or hygiene issue and they are above me and clean and need to avoid the unwashed masses like me. (Part of this stems from an excessive amount of childhood teasing.)

          If someone I was meeting simply said that they had a pain issue or just didn’t shake hands, I’d be fine with it. I have touch issues and hate the awkward “should we shake or hug or what?” dance that appears with acquaintances. It seems many people feel the need to hug women while shaking men’s hands, and that’s even MORE awkward. If someone said, in that moment, “oh, no handshakes, (reason),” I would be fine with it, but if they had a sign or button in advance? It might honestly turn me off a little.

          1. Another person*

            Ugh people who hug me and don’t know me are the worst. Just shake my hand. It hasn’t really been an issue for me professionally but it is socially and has become one of my Hills To Die On. If you shake my husband’s hand but then go to hug me (unless you are someone who knows me significantly better, like my grandfather), that is not OK. I’ve successfully trained most of my husband’s family by now to either hug him or shake hands with me. (Which I think is a win-win, because I think that it is good for men to be able to show physical platonic affection towards other men and this has definitely increased the number of male relatives who hug my husband). But I’ll just shove my hand in the middle of a hug and explain my rule, and no one seems to argue with it (to my face, at least).

        2. ThatGirl*

          That seems like your problem, maybe? I mean … why think less of someone for trying to politely explain, quickly, that they’re not being rude, they just don’t shake hands? Especially in a convention setting where you see/meet dozens or hundreds of people?

          Also can we stop with the millennial bashing? You realize the oldest ones are now in their mid-30s and that you can’t paint a generation with such a broad brush?

          1. FormerEmployee*

            I’m a boomer and I hate shaking hands.

            My not wanting to shake hands is no more about anyone else than the many other choices I make in life.

        3. SarahTheEntwife*

          Especially if it’s a one-off conference setting, why do you need to know why someone doesn’t shake hands? The button neatly tells you the information you actually need, without an awkward conversation.

        4. NaoNao*

          I feel like a button isn’t a great solution only because I used to work in retail and if there’s one thing I know about “the public” it’s that they can’t read worth a dang. :)
          But I feel that there’s no one generation that is responsible for the Collapse of Society.
          In the 1920’s, young women shocked society by rouging their knees, cutting off their hair, and wearing makeup.
          These young women would be about 90 today.
          The millennials that are so maligned are actually parents and will someday be grand and great grandparents.
          If you ever want to broaden your thinking or even just have a laugh, look up the history of “the younger generation is ruining society!!!” alarmist pieces. It goes back to about 1800 or so. In 1800, people were using movable type and quill pens to write “click bait” about the Demmed Yung Neww Generation. Soooo. Yeah.

          1. FormerEmployee*

            Actually, the ancient Greeks and Romans despaired for the future of their respective civilizations based on the proclivities of the younger generations.

        5. The Other Katie*

          Why do you think you’re owed any sort of explanation why someone chooses not to touch others?

    2. JJJJShabado*

      Mensa has an informal system for meetings for hugging with stickers on name tags. Green means hugs are ok, yellow means ask, red means no. As someone who is awkward, I like a system like this, which can also apply to handshaking as well.

    3. Snark*

      This would be offputting and bizarre. If you need a go-to excuse, stick a big bandage on your palm or something.

    4. Viva*

      The badge thing would strike me as supremely unprofessional, verging on childish.

      As Alison and Carolyn Hax both often advise – use your words. It’s clear, direct, professional. I absolutely understand the impulse behind what you’re suggesting but I’ve learned that direct communication is faster, professional (ergo gets the wanted outcome) and it’s really not that scary once you do it a couple of times.

  18. Jeanne*

    #3, I think your first step is to determine as accurately as you can if you were a contract employee or not. I read the link Alison gave. You mention not using an outside agency but that is not required to be 1099. You say your accountant says you meet the definition. Are you sure he is educated on the difference? My first question would be did you sign any contract? If you did, you need to go back and read it carefully. If you did not, that probably helps to show you were a regular employee. Once you have this figured out, you can decide on what to tell the IRS.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Can one not just ask the IRS? If the IRS says, “Oh, no, it was done right,” you’re not out anything–are you?

        Maybe the IRS won’t investigate unless you actually make an accusation–but wouldn’t they investigate on their own? And if they found out you were mistaken, would they come after YOU?

    1. Florida*

      I don’t know if it’s helpful to second guess the competence of OP’s accountant. I suppose it is possible (as in a tiny sliver) that we know more about the specifics of OP’s situation than her accountant. It’s also possible that we know more about IRS regulation than OP’s accountant. But either of those situations are extremely rare. I think it’s fair to assume to OP’s accountant is educated on the difference between employee and contractor and is more familiar with her situation than we are.

      1. Jeanne*

        That depends. A real CPA with an independent or group practice? Sure. Somebody trained to work at H&R Block for the season? I don’t know.

    2. Misclassified*

      The existence, or non-existence, of a contract is one of the things the IRS looks at, definitely. While the existence, or non-existence, is not determinative one way or another, it plays a factor in determining the Intent of the Parties. However, if all off the other factors point towards the opposite classification, then basing it all on a contract probably won’t win.

  19. Tealeaves*

    OP1: If you want 5-10min with that person, just email them at work and ask to setup 5-10min for a chat. So they will speak to you at their convenience rather than being pounced on during their break. It will benefit you more as well since they will be more mentally prepared to deal with your questions.

  20. hbc*

    OP3: Maybe I’m unusual, but I’d operate more from a spirit and intent perspective than a letter-of-the-law angle. Most important, did they pay me like a contractor? (It should have been substantially more than they would have paid a real employee, temporary or not.) Also, did it seem like they did this obliviously or as a tactic? (That might be overt comments showing knowledge, or maybe just an army of pseudo-contractors who they treated like employees only when it benefited them.)

    So if they paid the contractor premium (partially meant to balance the fact that I’d be covering my own taxes) and simply misunderstood the rules, I wouldn’t go after them, though I’d make clear if they had more work that they had to change things if we were going to do this on a contract basis. If they didn’t pay me enough and/or they’re seeing what they can get away with, well, they deserve a visit from the IRS.

    1. Runner*

      But whether you agree to the rate of pay is really something a person ought to consider before accepting a work offer (or signing a contract).

      1. Beatrice*

        The legality of the contract is really something the company ought to consider before entering into it. (Both parties, really, but in the case of a misclassified contract worker who is not being paid enough to compensate for the additional tax burden, the company is reaping a hefty benefit illegally from the misclassification.)

      2. hbc*

        Sure. But if I did a little research after the fact and found that they were knowingly benefiting from my ignorance, then I’ve got no problem pointing out where they’re behaving *illegally.* It’s the same for someone agreeing to be a salaried “manager” at $11/hr and working 70 hour weeks. Maybe the employee should have done better up-front, but as Beatrice says, the company also should have known that they were opening themselves to a hit later.

        I mean, if you want to get into what everyone agreed to, the employer is in breach of the contract, since they didn’t follow the rules for treating OP like a contractor.

      3. Candi*

        One of the reasons this site exists is people don’t know the laws, regulations, and rules going in. The law can allow for this lack of knowledge by providing the opportunity to make things right, whether it’s a gentle reminder the law is a thing all the way to the appropriate government department cleaning their ornery clock.

  21. Channel Z*

    OP2: Can you use those foam can or bottle coolers that cover up the label? Then when he asks if it’s diet, say no it’s lite beer.

    1. AMPG*

      My suggestion is similar – come up with an increasingly absurd list of alternate drinks.

      “What’s that on your desk?”
      “A Diet Coke can filled with kangaroo milk.”

      “Diet soda, again?”
      “Nope, switched to lead-based paint.”

      “Diet soda is so bad for you.”
      “Oh, I’ve refilled the can with diesel fuel.”

      You get the picture. This might not get him to stop, but it will be more fun for you.

      1. Anonymoose*

        ““Nope, switched to lead-based paint.”

        Just spit coffee through my nose. I’d be irritated, but that was too funny!

  22. CityMouse*

    Op1, adding to the chorus if “don’t do it”. I think there are a lot of people who would find that seriously off putting and a boundary violation. You can ask for a meeting or approach at aa business event, but ambushing someone on their private time is never going to come across well.

  23. Not Today Satan*

    OP 1 – I’m a hiring manager. A few days ago I answered the main phone at work who “had some questions” about the job I was hiring for (he didn’t know I was the manager though). The questions were all about how to better position himself for the role. I wish I handled it better (in terms of explicitly shutting it down), but I just tersely told him the job ad lists the preferred and required qualifications. And he kept asking questions until I eventually did shut it down. My biggest regret though is that I didn’t take down his name, because his entitlement and refusing to follow my social cues (not to mention thinking that any admin answering the phone would have insight into the hiring process) were a huge turn off. So basically: just don’t.

  24. Mel*

    LW4: I also have fibromyalgia and have the same problem with painful handshakes. My solution is to quickly say “Gentle handshake please” right before. Of course, I’m very open about my fibromyalgia, but if there’s any questions you could just say you find handshakes very painful without further explanation.

  25. Narise*

    Next time he makes a comment look him straight in the eye and ask -Are you still practicing medicine without a license? In case you didn’t know that’s illegal in the US.

    It would be great if others in the office said the same thing to him until he becomes annoyed by the comment.

      1. Beancounter Eric*

        He’s already not a friend….what’s to lose?

        It’s well established the guy is a noisy excretory orifice. I’d suggest to OP they lodge a complaint with HR regarding the intrusive commentary of the orifice, and suggest they rein him in before he finds himself with a soda can rammed someplace very uncomfortable – sideways.

    1. Florida*

      Generally, it never helps a situation to be passive aggressive. It might make you feel better, but how does that help any sort of working relationship?
      The more direct approaches that have been recommended are much better. (ex. Please don’t discuss this with me anymore.)

  26. HannahS*

    LW4: Also fibro person here. If someone sticks out their hand, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a warm smile, a nod, and “Oh, sorry, I don’t shake hands, but I’m pleased to meet you” and then ask some kind of follow-up question (just, like, “How are you” or “Did you find the room ok? I know sometimes visitors get lost in this building”).
    That way, there isn’t a pause where they’re scrambling for how to respond.

    That’s actually how I handle a lot of awkward situations–anytime I need to deviate from a social script, I deviate and then GET US BACK on it as fast as possible. That way, the other person can just follow my lead back into territory where they feel they know how to be polite.

    1. HannahS*

      Oh, sorry I forgot to tell you what I do in reality, which is just to tell people that I have “joint problems.” Why am I sitting when everyone is standing? Joint problems. Why did I get to write my exams on a computer instead of by hand? Joint problems. It’s not a lie–I do have joint problems; I just also have problems with everything between my joints.

      So you could also say, “Pardon me, I have joint problems, so I won’t shake your hand, but I’m pleased to meet you.” + lead the conversation forward.

    2. Florida*

      I think a minor explanation is better. “I don’t shake hands” leaves too much room for interpretation.
      She didn’t shake my hand because she’s a weirdo germophobe, or because I’m a minority and she’s racist, or whatever other crazy reason that is not accurate.
      If you use the joint condition, hand injury, or similar explanation it eliminates this.
      Yes it’s true that you have no obligation to explain your reason, and people shouldn’t make assumptions, but I’m trying to focus more on how it is rather than how it should be.

      1. HannahS*

        I mean, I think you can trust people with literally the same condition as the OP to understand “how it is.” Minor explanations are fine, but can also come across as oversharing. I have heard, “I’m not shaking hands” many, many times; it seems pretty common where I am. You have to know your own culture, both geographically and of your field.

        1. Florida*

          I trust that people with literally the same condition as OP do understand. I also trust that anyone who has had someone not shake their hand (which I’m going to assume is everyone on this blog) understands how it is from that side. I am talking about how it is from that side. You don’t need to have fibromyalgia to have had someone not shake your hand before.
          I agree with what you said in your response that minor explanations are fine. That was my point. I never suggested anyone overshare. I suggested that OP offer a minor explanation (which you agree in your response is fine). You don’t have to have literally the same condition OP has to have dealt with people. If you did, there would be far fewer responses to this post.

    3. SaraNoH*

      I have a coworker with fibromyalgia who does this same thing. “I don’t shake hands, but it’s nice to meet you/see you,” and then follows up with something else. Because she’s very matter-of-fact about it, it’s not awkward.

    4. Her Grace*

      Once upon a time I had someone refuse to shake hands with a polite medical reason. I wish i could remember what she said, because, unlike other dodges, it wasn’t awkward.

      Since my name was already outstretched, I said, “Long-distance handshake. ”

      She found that funny.

  27. Temperance*

    LW2: you should write “KOMBUCHA” on a piece of masking tape and wrap it around the can next time. When he goes on a tirade, just keep saying that it’s KOMBUCHA, not diet soda. ;)

  28. saffytaffy*

    #2 I used to live in China, where it’s very normal for older people to do this kind of shaming to younger people as a sign that they care about you- think of mother cats fussing over their kittens. I had VERY good success saying, plainly, “please don’t comment about x” because the people doing it were trying to show love, not exert control. If this gentleman is coming from the same place, I believe a firm “stop” will work.

    1. Bleeborp*

      While I don’t know since I haven’t talked to the guy but I got a similar impression, that he might not realize it bothers this much (because she’ll engage out of politeness and deference to his higher position) and that he’s doing it more as a small talk, playful ribbing, and/or a show of “love” (concern for a work acquaintance’s health because you consider yourself an authority since you’re a doctor, in this case.) Regardless, she’s well within her rights to tell him politely that she’s not going to engage on the topic any more. But that doesn’t mean he won’t take offense so she should be prepared for that as well (since he again, he sees himself as an authority and only trying to help.)

    2. Anonymoose*

      I was thinking the same thing.

      As well as it now being the only topic the two really have in common so it’s a default comment, the equivalent of ‘hi, how are you’ in the hallway.

      OP #2:
      I would suggest being proactive in conversations with Ex Doc and bring up a different topic that he may be passionate about – not health related, to see if you can change the context of your acquaintance (hey, Marcos, did you see that the ____ museum has a new Frida exhibit? I remember seeing your Friday coffee mug last week and wanted to tell you it’s fabulous and that they have discounts on Sundays if you want to check it out….blahblahblah).

      I’d also give him one last shot to make a comment and then you inform him that the next time he mentions it, you’ll be forced to tattoo it on your own forhead and then you’d lose your job, or something ridiculous/innocuous, and then immediately change the subject.

  29. Long time lurker*

    #2 – There are some offices where you can’t say that? That’s… really awful. I get that you might not feel comfortable pushing back on something that’s work related due to hierarchy issues (although even that can be a bad dynamic if it goes too far, because entry level employee s can still have good ideas), but this!?

  30. neverjaunty*

    OP #3, please remember that business relationships go both ways. If they paid you 25% less than agreed on, you wouldn’t quietly eat the loss for the sake of future business.

    If their error was in good faith, they will want you to fix this. (The next contractor likely won’t be so nice, and if the IRS starts digging, the situation will be much worse.) If instead they did the far more common “let’s just call them something different for tax purposes”, then they stole money from you.

    Definitely follow AAM’s script. But a company that would be angry you politely insisted on full compensation is not a company you want to work for.

  31. Long time lurker*

    #4 – I’ve seen people who aren’t comfortable shaking hands with people of the opposite sex due to religious reasons, and a common suggestion is to put your hand over your heart or some other gesture. I think there were other ideas as well that I don’t remember, but a quick Google search would probably show you what they are. In your scenario, it might be less awkward to just bring up health reasons, but there are other options if you don’t want to mention that.

    (PS if anyone is thinking about discussing conservative people not shaking hands with people of the opposite sex or making assumptions about the intentions of said people, please don’t)

    1. Grayson*

      One of the common ways to express sincerity after a handshake in Afghanistan is to put your hand on your heart. That’s also the go to for opposite sex handshakes. (Source: Taught cultural courses on Afghanistan for a year, and lived there for another year.) Even though I’m no longer interacting or working with Afghans, I still do this.

  32. Dave Wheeler*

    OP2 : I’m all for the Drew Carey approach to anyone commenting on anything I eat or drink, when they make their oh so helpful comment spit out whatever they are unhappy with and exclaim ” What??!!!, They should put a warning on this !!! Thank You for saving my life !!!! ” And then simply go back to what you were doing .

  33. Czhorat*

    OP1 – I get what you want to do and DO understand the impulse, but this might belong in “the gumption files”. The way to get noticed and get a good position is to be a strong candidate. It’s not by finding clever and inventive ways to bypass the normal procedures. Think of it this way: how would you feel if someone interrupted your lunchbreak to ask you to do your job? That’s kinda what you’re doing.

    1. Esme Squalor*

      I’ve seen references throughout this thread to gumption and the gumption files. Am I missing some Ask A Manager cultural reference?

      1. Czhorat*

        Yes, lots of bad career advice hinges on “gumption” – showing initiative in taking questionable steps outside of norms. At worst, it’s the idea that you can game the job-seeking process by moving outside the system to call the manager at home/”force” an answer at the end of an interview/etc. Most of this advice seems to us here to be a combination of gimmicky and desperate.

        There might have been a reader-response on the worst gumption advice, but I don’t recall. It is a recurring theme here.

          1. Susana*

            Isn’t there an Onion story on how 97 percent of grandfathers got their jobs by walking into an office, insisting on seeing the manager and asking for a job?

        1. Esme Squalor*

          Got it, thanks for explaining! I too have had retired baby boomers give me career advice, so I’ve definitely heard some gumption pep talks.

      2. Emi.*

        “Gumption” is something that gets thrown around a lot in bad career advice, usually advice to be really pushy in person. “You should walk in the front door of Goldman Sachs with your resume and demand to speak to a hiring manager, because it shows gumption,” “I called HR every day to schedule an interview because my grandfather told me it would demonstrate gumption and now they said if I don’t stop they’ll call the police,” “HR said to apply online but I had my resume couriered on special paper because I wanted to stand out by showing gumption,” that kind of thing. It’s become a sort shorthand for “going outside normal channels in an obnoxious way.”

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Send the hiring manager a shoe with a note attached to it that says you wanted to get your foot in the door!

          Send them a video resume!

          Send them flowers, or cookies!

          (Sadly, all real advice I’ve seen.)

          1. FormerEmployee*

            “Send the hiring manager a shoe with a note attached to it that says you wanted to get your foot in the door!”

            It might work if you were hoping to get a tryout at The Comedy Store or a chance at a writing gig for The Onion.

    2. Nolan*

      OT, but now I want a Gumption Files tv series. I’m picturing a collection of one-off episodes, each focusing on one egregious case of gumption, shot like Law & Order.

      1. NaoNao*

        Gumption and Moxie: Interview Intent.
        In the job search, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally terrible, ideas, gumption, which gives you the bad idea, and moxie, which lets you carry out that terrible idea. These are their stories.
        “In the job search, gumption-based offenses are considered especially heinous. In New York City, the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious felonies are members of an elite squad known as the Gumption Victims Unit. These are their stories.”

  34. Princess Carolyn*

    OP #4, if you feel comfortable, you might consider explaining a little about your fibromyalgia to people you work with closely. If they know that you simply don’t shake hands (rather than believing it’s a temporary or one-off situation), they may do a better job of restructuring their introductions or perhaps warning relevant people ahead of time that you don’t shake hands. This is an approach some people with severe germ phobias use. Most people are fine with knowing that you never shake hands; it’s when they feel you’re specifically avoiding them that people get weird.

    If you’d rather play it closer to the vest, I think Alison’s advice is great as always. Just wanted to throw it out there that people are likely to be pretty understanding and accommodating with these issues if you choose to be more forthcoming.

  35. Matilda Jefferies*

    #1, when I’m out getting coffee, I’m thinking about a) coffee, and b) the ten thousand things I need to do when I get back to the office. Even if one of those ten thousand things happens to be thinking about the open position I have on my team, I don’t think I’d be able to switch gears well enough to start talking to an unknown candidate on the spot.

    I think this is one of those situations where there *might* be someone who is impressed and with whom you would have a useful conversation, but most people would likely fall somewhere between “unprepared” and “actively annoyed.” I just don’t think it’s worth taking the chance.

  36. AnonMarketer*

    Re: #3 Ooh boy. I had an employer where we worked as misclassified 1099’s for a year before someone left and must have informed the IRS because we were switched to employee status soon after. Almost another year later, I was laid off and filed for unemployment. I guess the IRS somehow got my now-former workplace on their radar again after that, and they got slammed with another huge set of back taxes again, on top of my unemployment. A co-worker I used to work with said the owner complained about me “not deserving” unemployment and how much he was paying for me and the IRS, even though I didn’t actually report him. I’ll assume that ruined any professional relationship we had after.

    Good times.

    1. FormerEmployee*

      Yeah, I love it when people get caught doing something they shouldn’t and immediately look for someone else to blame.

  37. Janelle*

    LW2: He really needs to shut it down, it is rude. That being said that stuff is banned from my office and I am that asshole who bugs loved ones about it. However, my very small staff all decided to ban it after a coworker spent a month in the hospital and now has very strict dietary requirements and not the best self control. They all (only 5 of us) agreed to eliminate the bad stuff we keep around for all of us due to seeing how diets can nearly kill you over time. Mainly it is the energy drinks I said no to however.

    1. Susana*

      Seriously, why are you that “a-hole who bugs loved ones” about it? What impact do you think yo are having? It’s like saying to an overweight person s/he needs to lose weight, or saying, “do you know how many calories are in that bagel?” Or telling someone that smoking causes cancer. They know. We ALL know. We make our own decisions about our own bodies. The fact that you’re a “loved one” does not give you the right to interfere – and it’s honestly a little narcissistic to imagine your comment is the thing that will make them change their behavior.

    2. FormerEmployee*

      If I were in the South, I would say, “Bless your heart.”

      And continue to do exactly as I pleased.

    3. Eli*

      Labeling certain foods as “bad” and others as “good” is part of the problem here. Food has no intrinsic moral value.

        1. Eli*

          You really think Janelle was talking about the labor aspects of food and not the health aspects?

          1. Czhorat*

            You said “no intrinsic moral value”. I was playing on that.

            Overall, I agree – being a busybody over what one eats is rarely helpful, and there are few foods so harmful as to be worth scolding over anyway.

    4. nnn*

      Do you have any insight about what your loved ones could do to stop you from bugging them about it? Because that would be very helpful to LW, I think!

  38. Argh!*

    I call them “Food Nazis,” and the alt-medicine group are the worst of the bunch in my opinion. One of my comebacks is “I only eat foods with preservatives, because they’ll make me live longer.” Level 2 is “Thanks, but I have a doctor. I don’t need your advice.” Level 3 is screaming at the top of my lungs to mind your own business, but I have only gone there once. It was effective, though.

    1. Dave Wheeler*

      ^^^^^ This!!!!! Think Drew Carey used that exact term, Food Nazi , might have been Fun Nazi but basically the same. lol

    2. MissDisplaced*

      I worked at a “health” startup and they were horrible for that kind of behavior.
      They believe in a lot of pseudo-science in my opinion.

      And no one believes diet soda is a health food! (we don’t care and drink it anyway)

  39. Kristine*

    I think I’d get a mug that says, “None of your business” and put my drink in it. Then, the next time he asks “What’s on your desk?” I’d lift the cup and smile.

  40. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I drink A LOT of Diet Coke. I’m a contractor, and in my current role there’s no recycling bins on my floor, so all the cans get crushed and put into a box until I’m on my way to the ground floor, which has a can bin. This means, of course, that people do comment on my habit. I simply look over my glasses and ask them if they’d like to see what I’m like without my caffeine…

  41. Hiring Mgr*

    On #1, I’m assuming OP and the manager work for the same company, but do they know each other? The OP at least recognizes the mgr as working there, so it’s unclear to me.. But if you both work for the same firm and you know each other at least a little, I don’t think it’s taboo to start a convo

  42. Liz T*

    Re: #3, thanks for reframing this AAM! OP wouldn’t be Doing Something in order to Save Money–OP’s former employer was Doing Something to Take Money. That money is OP’s, so OP is absolutely paying to protect the old employer.

    There are still other considerations, as OP says, but this isn’t about using a loophole to “save” a few bucks.

  43. Because i got a post-grad degree in this*

    The frequency of electromagnetic waves emitted from a microwave oven is safely in the range of nonionising radiation. You’re not going to get cancer, especially from food because it’s been heated in a microwave.

    (Apologies if someone already said this. As a scientist it’s our job to debunk stupid myths like this. But don’t take my word. Go look up the scientific studies proving it yourself. )

    1. Because i got a post-grad degree in this*

      Okay, I’ve read the comments. Y’all reassure me.

      Like Mike said, we must challenge incorrect info, if only to put the benefit of doubt in spectators.

    2. Nancie*

      Is that still the case if someone* who weighs less than 20lbs always has their face mashed against the microwave door while it’s running?

      (* My youngest cat. I’m not sure whether she’s hoping the door will suddenly vanish, or just enjoys watching it spin around.)

  44. Allison*

    1) I’m not a hiring manager, but I am on the company’s talent acquisition team, and if someone approached me outside of work (out to lunch, running an errand, walking to or from work, etc.) to chat with me about an opening, I’d be very put off. They might be the most qualified person, but if they approach me like that, to me that shows they have a poor understanding of boundaries and professional norms. Often, these “casual introductions” are done in the hopes that they can skip some steps in the process and get an interview for the job on the spot, perhaps figuring that catching the person off guard would make it harder for them to say “no.” I don’t conduct interviews, but even if I did, interviews are work, they’re always work, even for the hiring manager, and when I leave the office, even for lunch, I’m off duty. It’s one thing if I do happen to meet someone, who happens to be looking for a job and possibly qualified for an opening I know of, but in my free time, I don’t want to be fielding active job seekers hoping to get employed with the company.

  45. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    OP4: I have some early-onset arthritis and just generally don’t like touching people I don’t know well. Living in the upper Midwest, I find that everyone accepts a laughing “Sorry, I don’t shake during flu season!” from October through April. The other five months, it’s “Bit of arthritis, sorry, but I’m so pleased to meet you!”

    A genuine smile and a casual tone go a long way.

  46. LeisureSuitLarry*

    #2. I’ve used several strategies to get people to stop commenting on what I eat, drink, do, say, whatever. In one case one of my co-workers took issue with the diet sodas I was drinking first thing in the morning. I don’t know what her problem was with them. I didn’t ask her and I really don’t care. It’s my body. So, every time she said something about my soda, I just said “thanks, mom.” Considering she’s 20+ years my junior, she stopped doing it eventually.

    Second, just ignore the problem. Dr. Nosey: “Are you drinking another diet soda?” You: “Did you see Game of Thrones last night?” Dr. Nosey: “Those things will kill you!” You: “Did you see that shit Dany did with that dragon?! Insane!” Once they stop getting a reaction, they stop talking about it. Reacting only gives them the feeling that they’re making an impression, so take it away from them.

    Third, do take AAM’s advice and tell them that the comment section is closed. “I’m tired of talking about this, so I’m just not going to anymore.” Then back it up by ignoring questions and comments (see option 2).

    Once Dr. Nosey figures out that you’re not going to participate in the conversation anymore, he’ll stop bringing it up.

    1. Snark*

      “Dr. Nosey: “Are you drinking another diet soda?” You: “Did you see Game of Thrones last night?” Dr. Nosey: “Those things will kill you!” You: “Yeah, they breathe fire.”

    2. Susana*

      My favorite was the (very obviously) pregnant woman drinking a glass of wine and a stranger (!) says to her, “don’t you know that’s bad for the baby?” And she said, you know what’s bad for the baby? Suicide. And that’s what’s going to happen if I don’t relax with a glass of wine.

  47. MeowThai*

    LW 2, the window for niceties has passed, in my honest opinion. I would pull a Jane Fonda and say, “You really want to talk about this?” In fact, I might print out a picture of her face when Megyn Kelly brought that up on her Today Show segment, put it on some posterboard, tape a popsicle stick to the back and use it as a mask every time he brings it up.

  48. INTP2017*

    *insulin sensitivity to carbohydrates and sugar.*

    Not knowing OP’s particular sensitivity, … it sounds like/the internet says diet soda has been found to be worse than sugar, overall.

    “The work, done with mice and humans, suggests that artificial sweeteners could raise your blood sugar levels more than if you indulged in sugar-sweetened sodas and desserts.

    Blame it on the bugs in your gut, scientists say. They found that saccharin (a.k.a. Sweet‘N Low), sucralose (a.k.a. Splenda) and aspartame (a.k.a. NutraSweet and Equal) raised blood sugar levels by dramatically changing the makeup of the gut microorganisms, mainly bacteria, that are in the intestines and help with nutrition and the immune system. There are trillions of them — many times more than the cells of the body — and they account for roughly 4 pounds of your body weight.”

    Also possible ….. “Obin said the new research might provide an explanation for mixed findings in previous studies. As in the people studied, drinking artificial sweeteners did not affect blood sugar levels in all of the mice. That points out differences in the gut bacteria collections from person to person or animal to animal. Besides diet, genetics, health status, and sex all contribute to these differences. “Perhaps not all of the (individual) microbial compositions would indeed be susceptible to the action of the sweeteners,” Segal said.”

    Regarding the man in particular, I had a coworker that would comment on open toe shoes, “Your toes are showing” … I’d answer “yup,” shrug & keep walking. He seemed to just want an opening to ANY conversation. He would let the topic go if I didn’t engage.

  49. Job Seeking Newbie*

    Now I’m so ashamed to see that I committed the mistake from OP1! I hope I didn’t put them off too bad. I interviewed several months ago and ended up pulling my application to go back to grad school. I saw the hiring manager a month or two later at a brewery and did a quick 5-10 minute hello. What I saw as being friendly/ sort of networking must’ve been off-putting to him. Well dang!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s different. That’s you running into someone you know and being social. What the OP is asking about is interrupting someone’s private time to try to advance her own agenda.

  50. Clever Alias*

    OP#1 reminds me of a scenario I saw recently in my local Starbucks. A very eager young intern was clearly delighted to have caught the ear of an older gentleman at his company. Older gentleman politely listened, but anyone could see the dagger-eyes he was shooting the barista to please. just. make. my. latte. appear. now.

    1. Snark*

      Oooooh. Erk. SO AWKWARD I LOVE IT

      That’s not the kind of clear-cut “yeah, do not approach” as it would be with a hiring manager, but anything beyond a, “Hi, Older Gentleman, my name’s Fergus, I’m one of the llama agility training interns this summer! It’s really a great experience, I’m enjoying working for CamelidCo so much. Have a great day,” is a huge nope.

  51. Susana*

    Regarding the diet soda exorcist: what’s really troubling is his remark about having children someday. It signifies first of all that he imagines all his female colleagues just want to haaaaavvvvee baaaaaaabeeeees, which pretty much undermines them professionally (the attitude, not actually having kids). And the second is his idea that all women of childbearing years are basically public incubators in waiting – allowing anyone to judge what they eat, drink, how and how much they exercise. Taking the pregnancy police and expanding their beat to include the pre-pregnancy police. This guy is a problem on so many levels beyond soda.

  52. what's my name again?*

    As a Diet Coke addict myself, I’ve gotten a lot of the same comments. There’s a site called “EtiquetteHell” that has a forum page and there was a thread about comments and potential comebacks. My favorite:

    “Yeah, you know they give points for how much you drink and I’m saving up for the fighter jet!”

  53. MissDisplaced*

    2. diet soda
    Ugh! The worst!
    I used to work at a “health” company and every time I would crack that cold can of Diet Coke in the afternoon, the owner would come into my office to lecture me how about how bad it was, and that I should uphold the company’s values that swore off all those processed food things. Annoying! Thing is, they would cook/eat at the office and would let their dirty dishes pile up in the sink and also leave the butter out unrefrigerated for days. Gross!

  54. Snitchy the #3 OP*

    (I’m a she, accountant’s a he)

    1. I knew what 1099 vs W4 classification meant before going into this job. I’ve done both types of work, and my husband and I use an accountant because our taxes involve multiple 1099s and W2s.

    2. That’s what tipped off my accountant, who is an independently practicing tax specialist. Other 1099 jobs, I’ve submitted expenses related to the assignment, like material and supply costs. This one, all I had was bus fare.

    3. They were paying me at the hourly rate I usually charge for contract work, but I was using their materials, including computer, on site twice per week, on what we can say is a cross between my schedule and theirs (8-4 business hours). Checks came on their payroll schedule.

    4. The job was for one quarter; a contact brought me in to advise on creating a special kind of teapot arrangement I’m good at. Let’s describe it as they gave me a box of teapots, I repackaged them in a manner the company can sell to its vendors, and the job finished when we were out of that brand of teapot.

    At this point I’m leaning towards filing as misclassified and betting they’ll get a safe harbor exemption.

  55. CharmedGeek*

    OP #4 – if you don’t feel up to explaining the no-handshake thing, here’s a little tip I picked up from my partner: if you stick your index and middle finger out straight when going in for a handshake, so that they go up the wrist of the other person, it makes it much harder for them to squeeze your hand.

    It’s a little hard to explain the positioning – kind of like making a “pistol” with your hand. Your ring and pinkie finger go under the bottom of their hands as normal. It’s saved my knuckles a few times!

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