my coworkers tell me my diet will kill me, employee is missing too much work, and more

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

1. My coworkers keep saying my diet is going to kill me

I eat McDonald’s for breakfast or lunch somewhere around 4-6 times a week. I get high-protein options like egg McMuffins, double cheeseburgers, or chicken nuggets and never order fries or regular soda.

A couple of coworkers frequently ask about my cholesterol levels and make comments like “you’re going to die before you’re 50.” I would be fine with them saying stuff like that if I actually had any health issues, but I don’t! I’m in really good shape and I’ve never taken a sick day.

I’m worried that I’m going to clap back at them and say something hurtful (they’re both obese). What’s an appropriate/gentle way to get them to stop?

It wouldn’t be okay for them to make comments like that if you had health issues either! They’re being rude and intrusive, and the way you manage what you eat isn’t their business. That’s true regardless of the choices you’re making, good or bad.

Here are a variety of ways you can try to shut it down, depending on what wording you’re comfortable with:
* “I know you mean well, but I don’t want to talk about my health or my food. Thanks for understanding.”
* “I really don’t want to talk about my cholesterol or my eating choices at work. Can we declare a cease-fire on this?”
* “All this commentary on my diet is getting old. Can we leave it here?”
* “I’m taking my eating choices off the table for discussion. So about that (insert-related topic here)…”

2. Employee is missing too much work, but has excuses

I have a direct report who always has something happen that prevents him from coming to work on time or at all at least once per week. He will text me that morning and say “My dog was sick all night and we need to take him to the vet” (both he and the wife are going which to me is so odd) or “My wife is ill and I need to stay with her.” It’s always something. This has been incredibly frustrating and it happens so often (at least once a week, I actually keep track) that I don’t really believe him but who can argue with someone that says those things? I don’t know how to handle this.

It sounds like he has a different idea of what you expect as far as attendance than he does, so the first thing to do is to be clear about your expectations. (You’re probably thinking it should go without saying, but since he’s clearly on a different page than you, that’s step one.)

Also, you’re falling into that thing that managers sometimes fall into where you feel like if the excuse sounds even a little legitimate, you have to accommodate it. But you can actually say, “I understand that you’ve had a lot going on recently, but I really need you to be here consistently and reliably. While things of course will come up from time to time, you’ve been late or out at least once a week for months now. Going forward, I need you to consistently be here, on time and as scheduled, except in rare circumstances. Can you do that?”

Then figure out what consequences you’re willing to impose if it keeps happening. Is it something you’re willing to fire him over? If so, you’d want to make that clear to him (“I need someone in your job who can reliably and consistently be here — if this keeps happening, I will need to let you go”). To help you figure that out, ask yourself whether you’d want to keep him on if you knew that this was going to keep happening for the next six months; that might make it clearer. Or there might be other consequences that feel appropriate (more on that here). But get clear on what you’ll do if the problem continues after you’ve told him it needs to stop, so you’re prepared if it does continue.

3. Using professional development funds to get a new job

I currently manage eight people who are in entry-level positions. I am very new to my role in this company as I started six months ago. Each of my reports is allotted a certain amount of professional development funds that they can use to attend conferences, webinars, get certifications, etc.

In my field, there is a yearly national hiring conference, as well as smaller regional hiring conferences. Employers and candidates from all over the U.S. meet up for a few days and conduct on-site interviews. One of my reports will be attending one of these conference as someone looking for a new job. She wants to use some of her professional development money to help cover the cost.

Apparently, this is the first time this has ever come up at my company. I asked what I should do and told it is ultimately up to me. On the one hand, I recognize that she is in an entry-level position and moving up at our current company is not exactly an option for her. On the other hand, I feel weird allocating off-time as well as hundreds of dollars to help someone leave. I would rather her use the money to attend webinars and conferences based off the feedback she has been given this year. Is a manager allocating money for a hiring conference standard practice?

No, at least not in any field I know of — and I’m guessing not in yours since it hasn’t come up at your company before.

It’s not just that people don’t normally ask their employers to spend money helping them leave, but also that this is money that’s intended for her professional development, and this conferences isn’t that. It would be reasonable to say to her, “This money is intended for professional development to improve your skills and knowledge of our field. I can’t approve it for a hiring conference, but here are some things you could attend that I could approve it for.”

4. How should I say thank-you for a raise?

I work at a university in an administrative position. My department consists of two — my director and myself. I have been here for a little over three years and it’s my first job at a university. Annual performance appraisals are conducted by my director each January. I consistently garner high ratings and my director is known to be a straight arrow; he is supportive, but not overly flowery and will give “exceeds expectations” ratings only if I truly do exceed the standard. Our salary increases come the following January, so there is a huge lag time in between the two.

My merit raise letter came today, via email, from my boss’s boss (email delivery of this is pretty standard). She never has worked with me 1:1 and we have a cordial but not particularly warm and fuzzy relationship. She commented in the email that “the pool was 2.5%; I was able to squeeze out a tiny amount more than that this year for you. Thanks so much for all you do.” My raise was 2.69%. I’m satisfied with this — in past years, I have received only the pool amount.

Here’s my question: I never ever know how to respond to this. Email thank you? Something to the effect of “thank you for letting me know–I appreciate the bump?” (obviously more professional — prior to her current post, she was head of the writing program). Do I send her a hand-written acknowledgement? I just don’t really know what is expected. I know it’s not a lot, but it was more than the minimum, and I do appreciate it, and the fact that she went to bat for me, even though she doesn’t really know me all that well. Some of the staff here have not had a raise in several years. Normally, I’d ask my director, but he’s out this week, and I’m out next, and I’d like to say thanks before I leave for the break.

No handwritten note is necessary! You can just reply to the email and say something like, “Thank you — that’s great news, and I really appreciate the increase.” If you want, you can add something like, “I’m really looking forward to the coming year!” But you don’t need to do a lengthy thank-you. Just something simple like this is fine. (And really, much more than that would be too much unless there was additional context. It’s courteous to say thank-you for a raise, but it’s also a business decision on their part, because they want to retain you.)

5. Attending the holiday party when I’m being laid off

I recently received notice that I would be let go due to economical reasons. I work in a small business and they simply do not have the means to keep me on after several unexpected changes in the past few months and given that I was the last one hired. They have given me four weeks notice, meaning I will continue working (while looking for a new job) for the next four weeks.

Our office holiday party is coming up (while I am still employed). I’m not sure whether I should be going or not. I already RSVPed a while ago, but frankly find it weird to attend a holiday party given the circumstances, despite getting along great with everyone. On the flip side, only the higher-ups know I’ve been let go and if I don’t go, it will certainly raise some questions earlier than I would like among everyone else. What should I do?

It’s completely up to you! If you’d like to go, no one else should find it weird. It’s not strange to attend a holiday party even when your time with your employer is going to end soon … but it would also be fine for you to skip it if you’d prefer to. If you decide not to go, you can just say that you have a conflict with the date and are sorry that you couldn’t be there.

{ 613 comments… read them below }

  1. Robbie*

    For #1, sometimes, I find it best to find my inner Miss Manners.
    Rude Person: You are going to die before you’re 50!
    You (impersonate the Queen as necessary): Wow, what a rude/odd/unnecessary thing to say to someone.
    Feel free then to either stare them down or ignore them and go back to your breakfast. Some people simply do not register that what they are saying is rude, under the guise of “caring about your health”.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      Take out notepad. Add to running tally. Click pen shut. Put notepad away. “Was there anything else?” Or say, as if to yourself, “Huh, s/he’s still on that?”

      Or you could just imagine Phoebe Buffay saying “This is what’s going to kill me!” (while Ross talks about sediment flow).

      I think you might well still mind even if you had health problems as it’s none of their business what you eat!

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Oh and I also like:

        “Can I stop you there?”
        Open mouth as if to speak.
        Walk off.

        (Green Wing fans may recognise this)

        1. Lissa*

          I’d only do this if I was prepared to pretty much burn my relationship with that person going forward. I am afraid this falls into “sounds good online, would probably come off as mean in person” And yes you can certainly argue, well, they were mean first and that’s true, so if OP wants to do it, go ahead! But this is the conversational equivalent of hanging up on someone, with an added bit of mocking with the “pretending to speak”. I doubt the person on the receiving end will think “oh gosh, I was being really inappropriate by talking about OP’s food and they made a great point by doing that” but just “…wait…what just happened?”

          But I acknowledge I am sensitive about this kind of thing (and I see it recommended a lot!) because I was bullied in similar ways as a kid (deleted unnecessarily long sentence about details of this, LOL.)

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Well, these people are arguably acting like *they* don’t care about burning the relationship.

            But, uh, some of my suggestions here were not entirely serious!

            1. Orlando*

              Yeah, I’m torn. If it was purely social, I’d say “the relationship is already burned: the commenter burned it. The response was appropriate.” The work setting is what makes it trickier- you’ll have to speak to them afterwards.

              For the record, a good portion of my childhood was “WHY ARE YOU SO THIN? YOU’RE LIKE A STICK. EAT THIS [insert huge pyramid plate]. NO, NO IN THESE TINY BITES; YOU NEED TO GULP IT DOWN, GIRL.” So I totally get where you’re coming from. :D

              1. Jesmlet*

                If I had to guess, maybe they’re just frustrated because OP eats what’s largely considered unhealthy food and is healthy, and whatever they’re doing is having a different result. It’s probably just a mild case of resentment. I wouldn’t go this far… friend, coworker, or anyone else. I think a simple “my doctor disagrees with that” should suffice, or if you need to take it further, just a polite “please stop commenting on my diet.”

                I’m just curious what OP has been saying thus far, or if they’ve been saying anything at all?

                1. J*

                  Yes, to me it seemed like preemptive defensiveness over their own lifestyle, when OP never commented on their choices to begin with.

              2. Anony*

                That’s where I was too. A purely social relationship could be burned to the ground over constant diet criticism. A work relationship can’t. The OP has to interact with them everyday. I like the original response of “Wow, that’s a rude thing to say”. Or even “Why are you constantly criticizing what I eat? I would never presume to criticize your diet and I would appreciate it if you would return the favor”. Be blunt but not overly rude.

          2. Susanne*

            Sometimes people need a bit of conversational shocking. And it’s all in the tone. “What an unnecessary thing to say to me!” can be delivered with a smile and a laugh and a shake of the head to indicate good humor, but it still makes the point.

            Half of the questions that AAM answers are situations in which someone simply hasn’t expressed clearly what their objection/concern with a work-related issue are, and she helps give them scripts to “use their words.” I think these general scripts are fine and I think Miss Manners is a great model to emulate. The essence of the thing here isn’t whether frequent McD food is indeed healthy because that gets into this nutrition expert versus that one, etc. The essence of the thing here is that it is inappropriate to be speculating on someone else’s diet / health issues unless you are invited to do so or are their health care professional. And there’s nothing wrong with saying, in a politer fashion, “Butt out.”

            1. Lissa*

              Sure, I don’t even disagree with that But I think that for this to work, they have to “get” that it was specifically *what they said* that caused your reaction, not just being mean. That’s why I really prefer “Whoa, that was a mean thing to say!” instead of putting a hand up and walking way, or just saying “Wow.” *We* might think it’s obvious what those things mean, but in my experience, most people won’t. Let them know that what they said was inappropriate/hurtful, or else they are just likely to leave the interaction thinking you’re the rude one (and again, if you don’t care, especially outside work, sure, do it, but they’re unlikely to take that as a conversational shocking, and more as confusion…)

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I actually like the idea of making a bingo sheet – that you only use personally (ie: not in front of the people making the comments). I’m great at letting isolated comments roll off my back, but repeated things really get to me. I can see this being a great way for myself to just “let go” of some of those stupid things (the kind that you can’t control – along the lines of your boss sucks and isn’t going to change)

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            Oh yeah, might indeed be a good idea for private use. Just DEFINITELY NOT in front of the people making the comments – shouting “BINGO” in the workplace like that only works in TV shows (sadly).

          2. Emalia*

            I had a classmate in a grad school class who regularly interrupted the professor. I had another class where I had an assignment to do a behavioral observation. So I chose to observe the interruptor for my assignment and became significantly less annoyed with my classmate because I was counting the interruptions.

            Might be helpful for you if one of the scripts above don’t work to channel the comments into something humorous (but something only you see)

      2. Paper Librarian*

        Stare at the commentor and tell them “I’m counting on it.” Maintain eye contact and take a BIG bite of burger.

    2. Intel Analyst Shell*

      I second this approach wholeheartedly! I got the whole “you’re huge! you’re not going to make it to your due date! your baby is going to come sooo early!” when pregnant. I finally looked the chief offender dead in the eye and said “Why do you keep telling me my baby will be early? You know that means she’ll have to immediately go to NICU and spend her first few weeks of life away from me and possibly fighting for her life?”. It stopped immediately.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Well, I guess that it might mean that that due date had been miscalculated, or that you were having twins (which I believe are often early) but in these days of routine pre-natal scans I think either of those is a lot less likely than it might have been in the past.

          But I think maybe people’s ideas / comments lag behind medical norms a bit in stuff like this

          1. XF1013*

            That brings to mind an alternative comeback to the rude coworkers: “Wow, what are you doing working here when you have a medical degree?”

            1. CMFDF*

              Haha, my brother-in-law, who had never held a baby before my daughter was born (he was in his 30s), told us when she was six weeks old that she should be “eating” three meals a day, it was weird I was “still” breastfeeding her, I shouldn’t be doing it on demand, she’ll never learn to eat on a normal, 3 meal a day schedule if I kept doing that, we were spoiling her, etc. (He was uncomfortable that I wouldn’t hide when she had to nurse, basically.)

              My husband finally was like, “I can’t believe you never told us that you graduated from med school!” (he did not have any experience working with the medical field. Obviously.)

          2. Samiratou*

            Most people haven’t come into contact with very many full-term pregnant women, so I think a lot of them just don’t realize how big they can get at the end so they assume a woman is bigger and/or farther along than she is. The assholes and/or clueless then feel the need to comment based on their ignorance and…yeah.

            1. VerySleepyPregnantWoman*

              I think this is it. I have been told, repeatedly, that I’m “huge for only being X far along,” that “there must be twins in there” (standard reply: “The contents of my uterus have been thoroughly examined by medical professionals. I would know if there were two in there.”).

              But being a pregnant woman, doing pregnant woman things like pregnant woman exercise classes, I can see *I’ve been totally normal* this entire time. Maybe a bit more forward in the belly than some, but that’s because I’m short. Yep, 5’10” chick looks less pregnant than 5’2″ me. But I’ll bet good money she’s gained the same amount of weight/her uterus has grown by the same amount.

              It really does seem like people have no clue about how big pregnant people get. Women who have been pregnant seem to forget. Men have no idea. Kids are unfazed (best child comment: after being told I was “huge” by a friend, her toddler looked at her and said “Mama, there’s a whole baby in there!”).

              I feel very lucky that I have gotten no comments on my food choices. But I wholeheartedly agree with flat, fact based responses when someone makes rude comments about food/bodies/health.

              1. Susan K*

                Wow… How on earth could anyone think those are appropriate things to say to a pregnant woman?! I love your response, though.

                1. Guacamole Bob*

                  I got comments about “not long now!” and such from staff members in the halls when I went for an appointment with my maternal fetal medicine specialist, who I was seeing because I was at high risk of very early delivery with my twins. I was, in fact, far enough along that I had stopped panicking, but still. If you work at a place that caters to high risk pregnant women, maybe lay off the commentary?

                2. Cercis*

                  Guacamole Bob, I got the same comments when I was pregnant with my 2nd (who was 9lbs7oz, so not small). I gritted my teeth and said “I have *8* weeks to go, I have a LONG time left” and then walked away. I did count down by week, but the comments seriously started at 32 weeks. Yes, I was large, I have a short torso so the baby had nowhere to go but out, plus my family has large babies.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                That child has better comebacks than I do! I’m going to remember that “there’s a whole baby in there” line.

              3. Sterling*

                I had the same thing happen. I actually gain on the lower end of the weight scale but had people constantly commenting on how big I got. But I had a 9 lb baby and I am only 5 feet tall. He didn’t have anywhere to go but out.

            2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

              I feel like a lot of this comes from media – when you see someone pregnant on tv or in the movies it is just an actress with a fake baby bump shoved under her shirt – which is not even close to what the real thing looks like at the end. Even when an actress on tv is really pregnant and they write it into the show, they will film all the stuff with the birth of the tv child and then she’ll take the last month off before she actually has the baby. Much like many people are fuzzy on what a 15 year old really looks like because they are all played by 25 year olds in the media – I think we have a very skewed idea of what a pregnant woman actually looks like in her last trimester.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                It’s better than it used to be – one of the “Blondie” movies was on TV, and in trying to figure out why people ever watched them, I discovered that even though the whole theme of the movie was that Blondie was going to have a baby any day now (with all the sitcom silliness you’d expect), the Hays Code didn’t allow women to look pregnant.

            3. Robin Sparkles*

              Alternatively – I was smaller than expected and got equally rude comments (for both pregnancies) about my weight too! “Oh she is too small-you need more time” or “wow you don’t look at far along at all…are you sure that’s correct?” (OMG you mean I haven’t been keeping track of each week of my pregnancy and my ultrasounds and scans are all incorrect?! THANK YOU for letting me in on that *sarcasm*)

              All this to say that people are rude and insert their business no matter what and it’s futile to identify their reasoning – best to just politely remind them it’s not their business and disengage.

        2. Intel Analyst Shell*

          Yes to what everyone else said. I got “are you SUUURRREEE there is only one baby in there?” until 6 or so months, then when it was obvious there was only one it changed to “you’re so big!?”, with the assumption that I absolutely must have been given the wrong due date and I was going to go into labor at ANY MOMENT. Our HR Director was one of the worst offenders but she’s terrible anyways so that was no shock.

          Funnily enough I had to have some help with the aid of fertility meds so I knew the exact day of conception.

    3. Steve*

      Whats yhe point of deliberately making someone feel bad? Allyson’s advice directly answers the problem . We dont know the motivation of the people saying things so wjy not sssume its ignorance to begin with? Be harsher if it doesnt stop. Start with the golden rule. If you would rather have your transgressions seen as a faux pas over deliberate hurtfulllness treat others thst way.

    4. MLB*

      Personally I find a more blunt approach better in these situations. Clearly these women have no boundaries, so why should she be extra polite about it? I’d tell them that my eating habits are really not their business or up for discussion. Plain and simple. People like don’t really respond to passive comments.

      1. Anony*

        Telling them that their comment is rude isn’t really passive. I think that falls into the category of being blunt and direct without being unnecessarily rude.

    5. Anon.*

      I managed to shut down comments like this without doing any of these things. I simply stopped eating at my desk or in the break room. You can’t comment on what you don’t see. I get more peace and quiet out in the park anyway.

      1. Important Moi*

        I get what you’re saying, but you shouldn’t have had to stop eating at your desk. Other people should not be rude.

        1. Anon.*

          I know, and also knew it was inevitable someone would say that! All good! I’m just happier getting away from the office. What started as a temp thing last summer has turned into a much needed mid-day decompress. I love it.

      2. WinterWinds*

        That’s not shutting them down. That’s just avoiding the issue. Fine if you want to, but it should not be necessary.

    6. Former librarian*

      I had a situation almost exactly like #1 a couple of years ago.

      My response “I don’t comment on your food, so maybe you should shut up about mine.”

      Blunt, yes. Rude, yes. But by that time I had had it with the commentary. (“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it is soooooo important to make sure you eat something healthy and not junk!”) Also, I could see what they were eating for breakfast, lunch, and snacks in-between, and trust me, it wasn’t yoghurt, salads, and string cheese. They had not a single leg to stand on, they knew it, they knew that I knew it, and I didn’t hear anything else out of them about my meal choices.

    7. Student*

      I always invite the person complaining about my meal to join in my “food crime”. And I refuse to have any shame on what I’m eating.

      “Those chicken nuggets will kill you when you’re 50!” -> “Would you like a nugget? Try it, they are GREAT!”

      If they take you up on the food, then they are complicit in your “food crime” and they’ll stop complaining because they’d be criticizing themselves too. Minor downside is sharing your food, but I find that tapers off fast after a couple of incidents.

      If they recoil from temptation, they’re at least leaving you alone. They’ll quickly associate you with food temptation and leave you be when you’re eating.

      “You will get so fat eating that for lunch!” -> “Yep! Then I won’t be so cold in the office all the time.”
      or “Yep! Due to high demand, I’ve decided there needs to be more of me to adore/love/worship/obey/fear.”

      “Your food choices are so unnatural!” -> “Yep! I figure if the preservatives keep the food good for so long, they’ll keep me around for hundreds of years at the rate I eat them.”

      The key to these is to say them like you mean them, like you do not care at all about the bad health effects they are talking about, or even embrace them. It’s mostly bravado, but it’s effective. If they see you can be shamed, that’s showing them a weakness, and they will key in on that and try to make the shame bigger. If there’s no shame to start with, it’s more like they face a brick wall and they won’t know what to do about that.

    8. Killiara*

      I don’t think I could resist the urge to look at the person and deadpan, “So, I’m guessing you’re immortal then?” Direct eye contact, another bite of the burger. “Valar Morghulis.”

    9. JessaB*

      Ragen Chastain at Dances with Fat has really, really, really good scripts to use with people who comment on food choices, health, weight, etc. especially now, she does a bunch of posts around the holidays about dealing with coworkers and family and seeing bunches of “lose weight now,” adverts and stuff around food. Because the holidays are particularly fraught. But her advice is really good for any time of the year and she’s been blogging constantly on this issue for years now. She’s got a lot of good go to advice for dealing at work too. She’s kind of like a Captain Awkward for size acceptance and food issues, but she doesn’t take questions, she just blogs on issues. And yes her advice works if you’re not fat too. Link in next post since moderation.

        1. Anonimouse*

          That woman is a proven liar about her education and athletic achievements, not to mention promoting morbid obesity as a healthy lifestyle. She has advised her followers to disregard their doctor’s advise on serious medical issues if it doesn’t jive with her worldview. I would not recommend following her advice OP.

          1. Rebecca*

            I’m going to strongly disagree with you here. Her scripts are excellent for learning how to cope with dude sizist language. It is not promoting obesity to discuss fat stigma; it is humanizing.

    10. Traffic_Spiral*


      Co-Worker: “you’re going to die before you’re 50.”
      You: “Keep talking about my food and you’re gonna die before that.”

  2. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 For the record, it’s not odd to want to both go to the vet – presumably they both care about their pet. And it can be a two-person job. We’d rather both take our cat, but as adults with jobs we know we can’t always do that in practice.

    Now that’s out the way… I wondered how his performance is when he does come to work and how he gets on with his colleagues. It might be worth asking some more general questions about how work is going to get a feel for whether there’s an issue at work that’s feeding into all this.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I think that’s a great point. You want to go to the vet. You want to stay with your spouse when they’re ill. But you don’t because it’s work.
      It would be different if these were major things – dog had an accident, had to take spouse to emergency etc. But it sounds like these are run of the mill life events. The real issue is that your employee has a sustained pattern of taking sick days. It’s the pattern that needs to be addressed. It really doesn’t matter if the excuses sound legitimate. There are simply too many sick days.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Exactly. You have to prioritise. I have a generous amount of leave, but I’m not going to attempt to use it once a week.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        I would note that it might be important to find out if the employee has had a lot of recent life changes that increase the personal load of managing of this kind of thing, particularly if he or she is in general a solid performer.

        When I started my new job, I actually got in writing that I could be flaky (it was phrased more professionally than that) due to my dealing with my husband’s suicide. It turns out that I was way less flaky than I expected to be, but there were times when I literally had a day that was “my cat is barfing uncontrollably and also I can’t handle facing the fact that my cat might die three months after my husband so I will be gone all day to take the cat to the vet and then manage my emotional reaction to that.” It was far easier to be able to be “I’m having a pet emergency that will probably take up the whole day” or “I’m sorry, I need to take an emo day” than to have to explain the whole situation every time.

        If the employee is having some kind of reaction to a traumatic life event, that might explain the frequent issues and then you can maybe timebox it (“It’s fine if you’re late more frequently for the next six months; let’s check in after that.”).

        P. S. The kitty is fine and now has thyroid meds.

        1. Else*

          Very good point. And we can’t know if that’s the case for this person, and neither can his boss without him disclosing – I think that using Alison’s script will give him a chance to disclose if this is the issue, and then it would have some kind of likely timeframe before this eased off. I’m so sorry for your loss, and that you had to learn to think about this. And really happy your kitty has a manageable issue and is doing well!

        2. Sans*

          My daughter’s boyfriend recently committed suicide and she is trying to find a way to cope at work, as well. Certain things set her off and she just started this job a month ago — and she’d rather not tell everyone what happened. It is a tricky and very hard thing indeed to deal with – my sympathies to you!

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Tell your daughter to look into Camp Widow. A friend of mine lost a partner to suicide last year and found it very supportive and helpful.

        3. Jadelyn*

          I’m glad the kitty is okay, I’m so sorry for your loss, and I love the phrase “taking/having an emo day” and am going to add it to my lexicon immediately.

        4. isubmittedthequestion*

          I’m the question submitter. So he is new to this position but I have heard from his past coworkers that this was an issue in his other department as well. I didn’t have much power/choice in hiring him, I brought those concerns to my boss but she chose to not believe them and she doesn’t care much about the day to day (she’s based in a different office as well) so I’m largely left to be the bad cop and she doesn’t always set a good example (she works lots of half days, teleworks whenever she wants, etc) so I’m a little worried he is seeing how she acts and thinking he can do the same.

          The dog ended up being fine. I was told later that the dog didn’t even end up going to the vet! The vet didn’t think there was a problem, the dog just had diarrhea and was fine the next day. Based on conversations I’ve had with him, it doesn’t sound there has been any sort of life event here. I think his idea of attendance may just be very different than mine.

          1. klew*

            I was like your employee in my last job. I didn’t miss once a week but did stay out a few times a month at the least and I always had an excuse like his. The reason I missed so much work was due to my anxiety and depression. Some days I couldn’t raise the energy to get out of bed or, if I accomplished that, take a shower and get dressed.

            I never mentioned my mental health issues to my employer because it didn’t seem like they would be understanding since they referred to a co-worker’s migraines as “headaches” and chastised her for missing work because of them. That meant that I never brought up ADA accommodations when my boss talked to me about the time I was missing or when I was laid off.

            I did get my work done correctly and on time but that isn’t always enough. At my next appointment with my psychiatrist after the lay off she adjusted my medications and I found a part-time job that I love and the shorter day helps me power through the “can’t get up” feeling.

        5. TardyTardis*

          During the last few months before my retirement, there were some emergencies (husband with lymphoma with a side of kidney issues from chemo) where I got a phone call where I had to leave right then, one reason I took early retirement. My boss was incredibly tolerant, especially since I always made up the work, but I was always aware that I was pushing the boundaries. I can’t imagine that someone who misses the way that employee does without some kind of other issue. (well, an employee that you want to keep, anyway).

      3. Tuesday Next*

        Also, if my spouse was truly too ill to stay home alone, or needed to be driven to a medical appointment, I’d be asking to work from home. If they need intensive nursing which would prevent me from working, they should probably be under proper medical care. (I realise that this could be different if your spouse has chronic or long term health issues but that doesn’t sound like the case here. It sounds very ad hoc.)

        And unless you have a heck of a commute, the dog can be taken to the vet (sometimes it is a 2 person job), but you come to work afterwards. Or WFH.

        I have a very understanding manager, who is always okay with with me needing flexitime and WFH arrangements, but I’d be embarrassed and anxious to be taking this much time off work on a consistent basis.

        That this employee doesn’t, make it seem as though he thinks it’s really fine to take this much time off.

        1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          This is what bothered me about it – as Adults it is very rare that you are sick enough that you need someone to stay home and take care of you. Kids are a totally different kettle of fish – but if my husband was so sick he couldn’t drag himself to the kitchen to heat up soup then it would probably be emergency room time. Unless she has a condition, if he has used this excuse more than once then something is as smelly as aforementioned kettle of fish. It seems like he is using any excuse at all to stay home.

          1. Observer*

            I just wanted to respond to “if she can’t drag herself to the kitchen to warm up a can of soup she probably needs a hospital.”

            Not necessarily so, I’ve been in that situation. There are a lot of ways it could play out.

            I still agree that the conversation has to happen. Both because it’s happening so often and also because of the slew of different issues that could be legitimate, but which sound like, at least in some cases, employee doesn’t quite get the order of prioritization.

            1. VerySleepyPregnantWoman*

              This was me some days in my first trimester of pregnancy. I made sure my husband set me up with lots of food/water/receptacles for vomit all within reach.

              1. Anony*

                I was so ill I could not easily move around the house but not so ill that I had to go to the hospital. At the time I was a teenager. My mom set me up with food in easy reach, tea in a large thermos and tons of water and went to work. She wanted to stay with me but she had a job. She put the phone within easy reach as well.

                I think the issue is that the employee in the letter prioritizes his personal life over professional life and has a much looser definition of an emergency. The fact that it is always a different reason suggests it isn’t one big thing that is overwhelming him temporarily and would make looking into FMLA or some other resource make sense.

          2. Temperance*

            FWIW, I was actually that level of ill after leaving the hospital. I could get myself water from the water dispenser in our room, and get to the bathroom, and that took a ton of effort. I couldn’t get to the kitchen on the first floor.

            So my husband bought a bunch of protein bars and snacks for me and then ordered dinner. It was fine.

          3. Jynna*

            Eh, after I had gallbladder removal surgery and came home, I couldn’t get off the couch on my own to go to the bathroom. My husband stayed home with me for two days so he could help me. By the third day, I was able to get off the couch with a lot of effort, so he went in for a half day.

            1. Anony*

              I’ve been there too. My sister took a week off of work when I had my gallbladder removed because she was worried about potential complications (turned out she was right). I think that the main thing about the letter is not that staying home to take care of a spouse or pet is never appropriate but that it is unlikely that it needs to happen every week for different reasons each time.

            2. Bea*

              My parents took care of me thankfully my dad is retired! I couldn’t have been alone those first couple days. I had to be woken up to take meds after a scary moment waking up in so much pain I started screaming.

              But when your loved one has surgery you tell an employer that and the attitudes switch to “of course they need you!”, it’s different than calling in at 7am for a 9am start time “wifey needs me, she’s been sick all night!”. Also if she starts puking at 8pm, I’m calling my boss to say what’s happening. I texted my boss from the ER when my gallbladder was jumping ship at 11pm. Argh.

            3. agmat*

              But I’d hazard a guess that your husband explained some of that to his employer. “I will need to be home to help my wife after a surgery” is way more explanatory and understandable than “My wife is sick so I need to stay home.” I know employers aren’t entitled to all sorts of gory details about employees’ health (or especially about someone else’s health), but a little more detail goes a long way in not cultivating an air of flakiness.

              1. Bea*

                Yes! It’s about keeping it to a “need to know” basis in these situations. We have mandatory sick leave here, we’re not allowed to ask. But this dude is burning through that so quickly after the mandatory time is spent it’s up to the employer to understand the situation to navigate if the absenteeism is going to be a deal breaker. To best cultivate a relationship with your boss a little heads up and a detail like “she had surgery, doc says I should stay with her x amount of days!” goes so far. No need for telling even the kind of surgery in my opinion. A friend had breast implants and needed her husband a few days, nobody needed to know that detail so we didn’t go down a rabbit hole of “but that’s elective!!” etc.

                1. JessaB*

                  Exactly. There is a level at which it becomes TMI, but a heads up that this thing is a thing – partner is pregnant, intermittent severe morning sickness means I may have to stay with her some days, but it’s not at hospital level thank gods. Is one thing. Always taking off for whatever without actually understanding how it impacts the office is another. Also, it’s marginally possible that in the moment this worker doesn’t realise the amount of time involved or the frequency. They’re not thinking in those terms, so maybe just having the conversation mapping this out might help.

              1. Adlib*

                Yes, vertigo is pretty immobilizing. My long-suffering roommate helped immensely in college, and I recovered from the main issue so I don’t have to go through that anymore. I never want to experience that again.

            1. MaureenS*

              Migraines, herniated low back disc, recovery from surgery. All reasons to stay home & not move. But always I end up staying home alone, no spouse, child or parental supervision required.

          4. Else*

            Nah, the flu can do that to you for a day or two, or strep, or any number of one-time acute things. That’s the point, though – one-time. If this person has just had one of those runs of terrible luck, that’s one thing, but if it is becoming more his go-to response to any minor trauma in his life – that’s another. She needs to talk to him to find this out, and let him know that it can’t be habitual.

          5. many bells down*

            I recently had a very bad reaction to what was supposed to be some routine medical tests. I lost consciousness. There was a crash cart. There was vomiting. I ended up in the ER for 5 hours.

            The doctor flatly told my husband to stay home with me all that day and the next, in case I passed out again. Also, he was in such a panic he wouldn’t have gotten anything done at work anyway. So sometimes it’s AFTER the ER when you still need someone with you.

        2. Queen Esmerelda*

          There are lots of jobs that can’t be performed at home, so it may not be an option for this person.

          1. copy run start*

            The type that you can work from home with also tend to be more flexible with hours (typically salary exempt) in my experience as well.

            1. justsomeone*

              I can physically do my job from any computer with network access. However, my job doesn’t allow remote work. So just because I have the type of job that can be done remotely doesn’t mean that’s an option.

        3. the gold digger*

          1. The last thing I want when I am sick (which happens – well, never) is someone looming over me. Leave me alone. (Oh! I want them when I am well, too!)

          2. As far as taking our two cats to the vet – the only point where we need two people is in getting two cats into one carrier. That is a four-hand job. But once that is done, only one person needs to be involved.

          3. Taking care of a sick spouse? My husband BlessHisHeart is my complete opposite and wants total, unrelenting attention to his Man Cold/Man Flu. Which is why I go to work at the office. I would get nothing done if I worked at home and took care of him.

          1. agmat*

            Yeah, a pet visit oh so rarely requires two people (I mean, come on, single people handle their pets all the time).

            Just like explaining how you need to take care of a sick family member, it’s all about the little details you provide. For the pet you don’t need to even explain anything about why you’re going to the vet – just say “I’m taking my dog to the vet” and leave your spouse out of it. By not making it a “we” statement your boss never has to wonder “why are they both going?”

          2. Else*

            We have a cat bubble backpack as well as the carrier – I highly recommend it if you are trying to take two cats to the vet. Makes it much more doable for one person, if your cat will tolerate it. One of ours loves it, so easy. And, yes, they can breathe easily through the mesh sides, and yes, it can be easily buckled into a car seat.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, I agree with Engineer Girl – the real problem is the sustained pattern. You want to go with your dog to the vet, even though your wife is taking him? Fine, by itself. You’ve missed part or all of a day of work every week, and you still want to do this? Less fine.

        1. Samata*

          This is where I keep coming back to. The weekly pattern/occurrence no longer makes these one-offs, so it really does need to be addressed.

    2. JamieS*

      Absolutely. If I had a sick dog I’d be at the vet holding her paw regardless of who else was there. It’s the pattern of behavior not the employee taking his pup to the vet one time that’s the issue. Particularly since it sounds like OP may think he’s lying.

        1. JamieS*

          I interpret ‘I don’t really believe him’ to be a nicer way of saying ‘I think he’s lying through his teeth’.

          1. Someone else*

            It can sort of be both or somewhere in between. As in, he says he “needs” to be out/late because of reason X, and so far OP has been taking him at his word that “need” is an accurate description. He could be lying in that either the situation doesn’t really exist and he’s just making excuses (lying through his teeth) or the situation could exist but it totally doesn’t actually require him to be there, he just wants to be there and thinks he can get away with it (this is partly lying, partly not prioritizing), or it could be that he really believes he absolutely needs to be there because of his personal preference when, if anyone else had full details probably 90% of average humans faced with exact same scenario would say, nah bro, you didn’t need to call out for that, you just wanted to. I think it’s good that so far OP has been just trusting her employee (ie no grilling on what is a “valid” excuse) but if he’s abusing the privilege, it’s worth setting clearer expectations that he’s doing this way too frequently. I think it’s equally possible that he has no idea this is a problem or that he thinks he’s pulling a fast one. Neither is the case.

            1. JamieS*

              Well I mean literally everything that doesn’t directly involve you (such as you personally cooling your heels in a
              jail cell, you personally being admitted to the hospital, you personally being court ordered to be somewhere else, etc.) is 100% subjective on whether you need to be there so I don’t think that should have a bearing on whether or not someone is considered to be lying.

              Regardless that’s getting more into semantics than actual substance. In common layman’s terms when someone is told something by another person about that other person and says they don’t believe that person that generally means they think the other person is lying.

              If OP doesn’t trust the absentee employee to be truthful that to me signals there may be a larger issue at play than lack of understanding attendance expectation norms.

      1. isubmittedthequestion*

        I found out later that day he never took the dog to the vet. The vet didn’t think the dog needed to be seen so I was actually pretty annoyed. The dog had diarrhea and was fine by the next day. He had asked to work from home fifteen minutes before he was scheduled to be at work via text and I had told him that he could take PTO and that I need him to tell me with more notice, especially since he said he was up all night with the dog.

    3. Gen*

      +1 depending on the dog it might really be a two person job (ever tried to get a limp full grown St Bernard in and out of a car?) but it shouldn’t be an all day job.

      Has OP ever actually explained the absence rules, does the company actually have any in place? Most employers I’ve worked for (admittedly in the UK) have had some kind of ‘X number of unauthorised absences will be investigated’ with details of how that behaviour will effect ongoing employment. It sounds like OP is just saying ok when the employee calls in, here we’d usually receive a lecture and push back about whether the absence was actually necessary or whether it could be only part day. The employee might have worked at very lenient places in the past and not fully realise that there’s an issue yet.

        1. Clewgarnet*

          If the employee has been calling in this often, it’s totally normal to address the issue as soon as it arises.

          Unless this slightly tongue-in-cheek use of ‘lecture’ is UK-specific?

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            Addressing issue is one thing – giving a lecture is quiet another! You’d give a lecture to a naughty schoolchild.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        For a one-off, I’d not expect to get a lecture. Repeated pattern, yes, but a one-off “I really need to be there…” – it happens.

        And even for a repeated pattern … lectures are neither normal nor professional. I’d expect to have a conversation – probably an uncomfortable one – if I were taking the piss, but a culture where lectures are given isn’t one I’m going to be working in for long (even if I don’t get them myself).

      2. paul*

        and that’s one event. Not a weekly event. I mean, you can explain away any of them as probably but if the guy’s literally missing a day a week and has been for a couple months for various things that is absurd (says the guy that missed two days this week for unrelated family emergencies…but that’s not normal for me).

    4. Erin*

      We go together whenever we can. I’d go crazy waiting for my husband to get back to me, and if the dog was really sick, maybe they were afraid for his life. I’d take a sick day for myself if I had to, rather than be there if I’m needed (usually last-minute PTO isn’t possible where I work).

      1. Samata*

        But does this happen to you every single week? I think its probably been pointed out, it’s not the wanting to be with the dog that’s the issue here at all – it’s the regular pattern of everything being an emergency. Kinda like the boy who cried wolf.

    5. Delta Delta*

      For us to get our 8-lb escape artist of a cat to the vet it takes both my husband and me (once we catch her), and about 45 minutes of planning and household logistics. She’s a sly one.

      1. the gold digger*

        1. Put cat(s) in bedroom and close door.
        2. Bring cat carrier into the kitchen.
        3. Close door to basement.
        4. Close door to bathroom.
        5. Close door to living room.
        6. Close door to upstairs.
        7. Any other possible escape routes? Identify and secure.
        8. Party 2 removes Laverne from bedroom and closes door behind him.
        9. Party 1 opens carrier door and secures carrier so it does not slide.
        10. Party 2, who has changed into long-sleeved, thick clothing, takes Laverne, pushes her front legs against her torso, and slides her into carrier. Laverne begins yowling the Song of Something Bad Happened Watch Out Shirley They Are Coming For You!
        11. Party 1 closes carrier door.
        12. Party 2 gets Shirley from the –
        13. Party 2 chases Shirley –
        14. Party 2 gets broom from broom closet (closes door) and tries to remove Shirley from under the bed.
        15. Party 2 finally gets Shirley.
        16. Ow! Ow! Ow!
        17. Party 2 approaches carrier.
        18. Party 1 watches carefully and times opening of carrier to the proper positioning of Shirley, who is very very strong for a living being that weighs only 7.5 pounds.
        19. Party 2 shoves Shirley into carrier.
        20. Party 1 closes carrier door.
        21. Shirley is pissed.

        At the vet, Laverne runs out of the carrier and hides. Shirley must be dragged out. The vet holds her back legs and tugs lightly as Shirley spreads her front claws and desperately seeks purchase on the carrier to prevent extraction.

        1. Pebbles*

          Events #16 and #21: LOL, and also sympathies. I know the pain of this dance. Usually our #14 involves taking a king-sized bed apart.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          I don’t know how you do it. We have two cats, and our step 18 would include Laverne exploding out of the carrier as soon as it is opened enough to shove Shirley in. Thus, we use two carriers, because once a cat has been put in the carrier (which takes two people), that container is not opening again until we’re safely at the vet.

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            Last time I had to put my cats in their carriers, either something happened to the carrier, or Olive (whom we suspect is a little too smart for her own good) managed to open the door. I was shoving Verny in one carrier and noticed a little brown fuzzball streaking for the upstairs, door to the other carrier completely open.

            Or option #3, which is that she managed to turn fluid and poured herself out of the carrier. I hadn’t considered that until now.

        3. AKchic*

          This is exactly why I got a dog carrier for the two cats. It’s bigger and there’s only one crate to manhandle the fuzzballs in. 16lbs of 10 year old cunning, and 6lbs of black furred fury.

          The dog is happy to be going on a car ride and still hasn’t figured out that the vet isn’t fun yet. Because “car rides are awesome!”.

        4. JessaB*

          OH gods, laughing my head off til I’m wheezing and literally reaching for my inhaler “singing the song of OMG Shirley they are coming for you.” So true, we had a two cat household at one point and we used to say the 2nd cat belonged to the first one. She did not want people within five feet of her. Getting her into a carrier was a half day issue because she was tiny and once hid inside the rack system of the stereo and closed the magnetic latch cover on herself and crawled behind the turntable. No joke if you didn’t know she could do that you’d never find her. Seriously she could hide like no cat ever hid. The other one? She was born into my hands and I carried her around, all I had to do was stand there and she’d let me put her in.

          1. Your Weird Uncle*

            Haha, our frightened little Olive managed to crawl into the ball return of my parents’ pool table. Cats are truly liquid form.

        5. I Love Thrawn*

          I got a top loader PTU (cat version of the prisoner transport unit) years back. Changed our world!

          1. nonegiven*

            I set the carrier up on one end and lower the cat in by the scruff of the neck because that is the only way they’re going and I still have to pry the nails loose one by one.

            Except one. I leave the carrier sitting open and have to shoo her out to tip it up for the one that needs the trip. If it’s her turn, all I have to do is close the door behind her.

        6. klew*

          My Maine Coon is so difficult to get in the carrier at home but he is even more difficult to put back in when I pick him up from the vet. He gets in the back corner of the cage and screams like a cougar while attacking arms, hands, anything that gets near him. Since he is such a jerk they call me back to deal with him now and he just as combative with me but he’s my responsibility.
          I don’t think they believe me when I say he is not anything like that at home. At the house he is just a cat who want to sleep, eat and be petted, sometimes.

          1. nonegiven*

            Mine are all tucked in, as far back in the carrier as they can get. I have to reach in and drag them out. When it’s time to go home, every one of them is all too happy to go back into the carrier.

        7. nonegiven*

          I told DH they grow 8 legs and use them all to prevent being put in the carrier. I don’t think he believed me. Then he managed to put one in and he said the same thing.

        8. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          “Laverne begins yowling the Song of Something Bad Happened Watch Out Shirley They Are Coming For You!”


    6. Falling Diphthong*

      If it’s a large dog deeply ailing, you might need the larger person to carry it.

      (Now realizing that while this leapt to mind because our 80 pound dog lost leg control when my husband was gone–that’s the sort of one-off that doesn’t lead to the situation here.)

    7. Jesca*

      I do like your last point. I have found the frequent absenteeism can very well be due to the person feeling poorly about coming to work. This may also be because something is going on. If the OP feels like it, she can certainly approach it this way as part of the “I really need you here consistently” conversation.

      As an interesting aside: There are management practices in Japan that do just this.

    8. Liz2*

      This was/is my ex- a chaos vortex. Yes, all his many excuses are legit. But they are all completely avoidable or manageable if he would actually care about things beyond himself occasionally. The chaos makes people sorry for him because he has “so much” all the time, and eventually just let it go because “that’s how he is.”
      Definitely hold this guy accountable- he can find alternatives 90% of time.

      1. Anony*

        This does seem to be the issue. The problems are legitimate but his go to solution of calling in to work needs to change.

      2. caryatis*

        Yes–we all have potential excuses. But your level of willingness to exploit those excuses tells me something about your character.

      3. LBK*

        I did have an employee who was a chaos vortex but I gave her a lot of leeway with it because she was aware of it and made up for it by a) delivering stellar performance when she could make it in to work and b) doing as much extra as she could during times when the chaos was a little quieter (eg always being the first to volunteer to cover someone’s shift if she was available).

      4. Bea*

        This is a good explanation of the most likely scenario. I was having a hard time figuring out how to explain “I don’t think he’s lying, probably just bad at management of his time and priorities.”

      5. Elizabeth H.*

        I am like this! There is always something and there wouldn’t be if I was more plan ful which I would be if I prioritized getting to work on time more highly. I’m sure that is the case with this guy. I’m just late though (albeit sometimes really late), I’m out sick just the normal amount I think.

  3. Engineer Girl*

    #3 Professional development is meant for increasing one or more skill sets. Networking to get another job is not increasing a skill set.
    There’s no way I’d pay for the conference.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Agreed. Although I admit I’m struggling because I find the request so outlandish. Outside of the severance/layoff context, does any employer pay for staff to get hired somewhere else?

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I agree. The request itself sounds rather tone deaf. Especially since the manager has given the employee feedback on skills that need improvement.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        As it’s an entry-level role I’m wondering if the person just doesn’t get what professional development is, or that it’s generally intended to improve staff retention as well as your skills and knowledge – it’s an investment.

        I do also wonder if some “helpful” person in their life has tried to persuade them that they should ask.

        1. Artemesia*

          That’s what I thought — very young, very clueless person getting advice from a very out of touch person. Of course you don’t pay for an employee to go to a hiring conference unless perhaps you are laying them off and want to provide that as a placement benefit.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            That’s what I assumed, someone who is new to the professional working world and didn’t realize this wasn’t ok. However, I have worked with someone who is so, so cheap that she could rationalize spending any kinds of available funds on whatever she needed. Well, she is super cheap and also good at rationalizing to justify getting whatever she wants, and it’s possible that this person is the same. But I’m guessing it’s that she doesn’t get how clueless her request seems.

            1. Anony*

              I’m guessing that they misunderstood some advice. In my field it is typical to attend a professional conference, paid for by the employer, and take advantage of hiring fairs while there. The purpose of the trip is not to find a new job but that can be an added benefit. Some people even choose the conferences based on hiring fairs, but the stated goal of the conference to the employer are the seminars, not the hiring fair.

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                You could be right! In my field, this never happens. Professional conferences are not at all where you’ll find hiring fairs or employers interviewing. But from the comments, it seems like it’s a common thing in other fields. I don’t think this particular conference is like that, though, judging from the OP’s letter.

          2. Koko*

            Or it could be that Person A giving her advice might have said something about how taking advantage of her professional development budget was important because attending those conferences is a big part of networking, and Person B said, “Hey, I know this really great conference in our field where you can network and get hired,” and the young employee conflated the two types of conferences in her mind, not having been to either type of conference before and assuming all professional/industry conferences are roughly the same.

        2. Mary Quite Contrary*

          At a previous job of mine, it was written policy that company-subsidized “professional development” was intended for not just the employee’s benefit but the company’s as well – which is entirely reasonable, they’re the ones paying for it! Sounds like OP’s company should look into clarifying their own policy.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            I really don’t think you need to rewrite a policy just because one person is misinterpreting ‘professional development’ to mean ‘finding a new job’. It’s not like you’re obliged to pay for things if you haven’t explicitly ruled them out!

            1. Mary Quite Contrary*

              Rewriting a policy in order to clarify it would not necessarily make said policy overly restrictive, if that’s what your objection is. I can agree that it’s not always the correct response.

              On another, rather surreal note – it sounds like the company doesn’t seem concerned at all about subsidizing this employee’s job search, seeing as the OP “asked what I should do and told it is ultimately up to me” – if OP approved this, the company would go ahead and pay for it. Nuts!

              1. Tuesday Next*

                It sounds as though there is no room for growth at this company and the employee has been open about looking for something else. I guess that would change things slightly

                1. Engineer Girl*

                  No, that’s not what was said. There’s no room for advancement (promotion) at the company. That is in no way the same as professional growth.
                  Since the employee is entry level I suspect that there’s plenty of room for both widening and deepening their expertise in their current job. Especially since the OP gave the employee feedback on growth areas. The employee could look at the professional growths budget as a way to enhance their resume for later.
                  But to be honest, many companies would pull the professional development money if they knew the employee was bent on leaving.

              2. Ramona Flowers*

                Nah, I just don’t think this warrants going into the policy – it’s a bit infantilising.

              3. Fortitude Jones*

                it sounds like the company doesn’t seem concerned at all about subsidizing this employee’s job search, seeing as the OP “asked what I should do and told it is ultimately up to me” – if OP approved this, the company would go ahead and pay for it. Nuts!

                That would be awesome if they did that. Then I’d want to know the name and location of the company so I could apply for a job there.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Normally I’d agree, but in this case I think this is such an out-of-norm request that it should be handled with a one-on-one conversation. Generally, folks should not create policies for rare or one-off situations that can be remedied through managing. OP can just have a straightforward conversation with the employee where OP explains why this kind of conference doesn’t constitute professional development.

            I’m with RF—I think “professional development” is pretty widely understood to be an investment in staff that also benefits the employer. I have literally never heard of someone mistaking “hiring conference” for “professional development.” I don’t think the company needs to clarify their definition or rewrite policy simply because one (hopefully just painfully naive) entry-level employee is confused.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              I mean, my employer says it invests in prof dev so people can develop in their roles either there or elsewhere – the head of HR has said that they want to help people progress there or go on to the next thing. I suppose someone could take that to mean they want to help you get other jobs. But the nuance is that saying “we want to help you develop here or elsewhere” is in fact a retention strategy!

              1. Akcipitrokulo*

                Yes. We get fairly generous training, and boss and big boss are quite open that they know at some point that training will appear on our CVs when we are ready to move on, and that’s OK.

                We have a very low staff turnover rate :)

            2. Gen*

              I wonder if someone it confused between “professional development”- getting better at your job with a view to progressing up the ranks – and “professional advancement”- going up the ranks. Since the second isn’t an option then they might think that leaving is the only way to progress. A fund you can access to get better qualified in a locked in role might seem a bit strange to someone just starting out

          3. hbc*

            Mayyybe the next time policies are being reviewed or changed, someone can take a look if they can phrase it a little better with the same amount of words, but it’s not worth a revision on its own. And I’m always leery of over-specifying for a one-off because it usually leads to excluding things you didn’t think of–like in two years when they want to send a higher level person to this conference to get practice networking or talking with potential new hires.

          4. Yorick*

            They don’t need to clarify the policy. This has never come up before, so everyone else must get it.

            I’m confused how the employee thought this was ok. Your employer obviously pays for professional development opportunities so you can improve your work at that company.

        3. Amy*

          I think this is likely. I can see how someone who had never gotten a real definition of professional development could think something like, “Professional development…that sounds like development that’s supposed to further my professional career….right now, the next step I see in my career is moving to somewhere else with room for advancement, so taking steps like attending this conference is professional development, right?”

          That seems outrageous when you know the actual norms around professional development, and it doesn’t reflect well on the employee (a quick google search, or asking someone more senior what counts as professional development, could have cleared up their misunderstanding right away!). But I can see how someone could get there.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Or just a helpful relative saying: “It’s a conference! You should put in for the funding!”

            My (now-estranged) father once tried to convince me I should sign on for Jobseeker’s Allowance (UK equivalent of unemployment) because I voluntarily left a two-week break between ending one job and starting another. You have to be looking for work to claim…

            1. Akcipitrokulo*

              Yeah – I’m getting “well meaning help” vibes from this. I think it would be kind to take her to one side and say “can I explain how these things actually work….”

              (I think you do get JSA if you’ve got a start date… but unless desperate I don’t think I’d bother either. I haven’t signed on for a long time so not sure!)

        4. Natalie*

          That’s what I was thinking, and if I was the LW I’d clue them in. This could have really backfired with a less understanding boss, whether by unconsciously holding it against them or deliberately pushing them out.

        5. Iris Eyes*

          I can totally see how this could be interpreted by someone in this way. This money is for my professional development, it would help my professional development to get a non-entry level job, therefore this is an acceptable use of professional development funds. A conversation to clarify especially pointing out that the money is an investment the company makes in their employees that is as much for the company as for the individual.

          Side note: I haven’t been to a ton of industry conferences but the ones I have been to almost always had some sort of a job/employee seekers element. Whether it was as low key as a job board or had some sort of booth/workshop/networking lunch thing. So presuming someone used these to job search while using professional development money while also doing more “legitimate” things, would you consider that wrong?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think there’s an element of networking that could always lead to “job hunting” at most professional conferences. But a hiring conference seems distinct from other professional conferences. For me, it all depends on how much of the event is “hiring conference” vs. how much is “skills development.”

        6. Rusty Shackelford*

          I do also wonder if some “helpful” person in their life has tried to persuade them that they should ask.


        7. Turtle Candle*

          That was my first thought: just straightforward confusion as to what professional development was. In which case a direct but kind discussion would be doing them a favor for the future.

      3. BethRA*

        I can think of people I’d have wanted to do this for (because dog forbid we fire them).

        But I’ve never heard of anyone doing such a thing, either.

    2. Ainomiaka*

      Well, my one question when I read that was if it was something like a professional society annual conference that a lot of hiring is done at. I know there are academic societies that do that, but also have other learning too. For something like that I think it’s overly restrictive to say they can’t go just because you know they aren’t getting the opportunities they want in their current job. But if it’s 100% hiring? I’m less convinced that would be legitimate.

      1. Antilles*

        You’re right that there are professional society meetings where people make a lot of connections that lead to hiring…but it doesn’t seem like that scenario to me given that the conference includes “on-site interviews” (OP’s words). I’ve never been to a professional society conference where they actually include interviews; that really sounds like it’s much closer to a Job Fair.

        1. Ainomiaka*

          The one I’m most familiar with is the American Chemical Society national meeting-they absolutely have on site interviews, research talks, and professional training. I have been giving a presentation while the friend I share a hotel room with had an interview. I would absolutely scoff at an employer that said that conference wasn’t professional development.
          The writer did comment that the meeting in question doesn’t have much else, though. And that changes my thoughts a lot.

      2. ShutemDownOpenUpShop*

        HI OP3 here. It is a 100% hiring conference. The only things is that there is a session the day before that helps candidates with their interviewing skills. Other than that, it is only interviews. I really appreciate all of your comments. This person is newer to the field and I think she does have a misunderstanding of the term “professional development.” I don’t think a re-write in policy is needed, but I do think a warranted conversation about how to use the funds is appropriate. We recently asked the entire staff to list all the conferences attended and certifications they have gained using their professional development funds while at the company in a google doc. The idea was to help those new to the field see conferences that have been approved in the past as well as skills they can gain outside of their day-to-day job functions. She might be disappointed the hiring conference,but maybe I can get her excited about something else that would be helpful to us as well as look good on her resume.

        1. nonymous*

          Came here to say that adding a sentence to the end of Allison’s script pointing out that continuing ed is useful for moving up in field by developing XYZ skill might be helpful. It sounds like your direct report is ambitious and continuing ed – with guidance and increased responsibility coming from you – will really help her build her resume. In the meantime, your company will see increased capacity from an entry level employee.

          Re: hiring at academic conferences, a lot of interviews happen at these. Sometimes they are super-formal recruiting events hosted/facilitated by the conference (JSM has a few days of this) and other times they are just because it’s convenient.

        2. Anony*

          If there are professional conferences that include a job fair component maybe you can suggest them to her. It sounds like you aren’t opposed to helping her get a non-entry level job, you just want the funds to be used correctly.

    3. BananaRama*

      My company has a pay back policy for professional development. I can use their funds all I want, but I’m obligated to stay with the company for a year after the training or else I have to pay the money back. They consider it as they invested in me, I need to share that knowledge/investment with them. It’s actually pretty standard in my area to have a pay-back period after taking training.

      That being said, I would not allow professional development funds for someone going to a hiring conference.

      1. Koko*

        Wow, a year seems like such a long time! Assuming you attend one conference a year, you’re essentially always going to be on the hook for paying back the most recent one whenever you leave. I would hesitate to use my professional development benefit if I knew I was going to owe $2500 to my employer when I left =/

      2. AMPG*

        My old company had the same policy. I personally think a year is a bit restrictive, but I think the policy itself is understandable. If it had been up to me, I would have made it six months or so.

      3. Fortitude Jones*

        That’s an awful policy. I can see having something like that in place for tuition reimbursement assistance because degrees are expensive, but having to pay back a company because they sent you to a seminar they should be sending employees to in the first place is crazy to me. I’d never in a million years partake in this program, and this is coming from someone who has 10 major industry designations in the insurance field.

  4. nnn*

    My favourite answer in situations like #1 is a deadpan “Then you can dance on my grave and say “I told you so!”” (As ever, use your own judgement about whether this should be used in the workplace.)

    1. Snorks*

      I actually might prefer taking out my wallet, putting $100 on the table and saying ‘I’ll take that bet! Who’s in?’

      1. LavaLamp*

        I enjoy McDonalds and foods similar to it and am super thin myself. Growing up I’d be told that I’d get fat and die whenever anyone would see me enjoying a big mac or whatever. My response is always “Well then I’ll die happy.”

  5. Engineer Girl*

    #5 A holiday party is usually a celebration of work performed over the last year. So you’ve earned it.
    You could use it to hang out one last time with the people you really like. If that’s too painful, then the schedule conflict certainly works.

    1. Bostonian*

      That’s how I see it. OP gets along with everyone, so it might be a good time to spend time with coworkers before having to leave. As Alison said, it is 100% up to OP, as there would be no faux pas with deciding to go, and you could easily explain away changing the RSVP as having another commitment pop up.

    2. JulieBulie*

      Yes you earned it, and it will be a good chance to spend time with colleagues you won’t get to see for much longer.

      Go to the party. Eat and drink as much of the free stuff as you can. Enjoy whatever festivities are taking place. Keep your thoughts in the moment: don’t think about the future. Just make that party a happy memory.

      Also, do something wildly indiscreet, and let your coworkers wonder later if that’s why you were let go. ;-)

    3. Bea*

      I also think most coworkers who attend parties (when there’s no forced BS) want everyone there as well, despite if they’re on the way out. I was welcomed by everyone to ours and have only been here a few weeks, it’s a place to enjoy each other’s company and socialise together. No need to over think who should or shouldn’t be there. It reminds me of comments about companies who don’t invite everyone and gives me sad feelings.

  6. Enough*

    Also what’s on his plate the days he takes off? My husband had a co-worker, who while not missing as often, always seemed to be missing on the days he had a report due or a presentation to make.

      1. On Fire*

        This. Is it always Monday/Friday? The day after his team plays late, or his favorite show comes on late? I had a coworker who almost every week called out on Monday or Friday – the kids were sick, she was sick, etc. Everyone saw that she was consistently taking 3-day weekends, but she seemed to think she was fooling people.

        1. Tuesday Next*

          We have to provide a doctor’s note for Monday/Friday sick leave. Annoying when you’re actually sick but understandable when you have people trying to take advantage.

          1. Doodle*

            I don’t actually think reasonable — good employers trust their employees until there’s a reason not to. I’d try really hard to avoid working at a place where I had to drag myself to the doctor just because other people aren’t trustworthy.

            1. Bagpuss*

              Also, someone who is playing the system might well be wiling to get a note – which can then make it harder to go down the route of disciplining them

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            In middle school my son pretty routinely got sick at the end of the week, I believe because of lack of sleep as the week wore on. I know he wasn’t faking because I would then get sick at the start of the next week. (And I freelance, so a Monday spent sneezing through the latest middle school cold wasn’t really different from a Sunday.)

          3. Observer*

            Generally, totally NOT reasonable. I’ve yet to see any evidence that people take unreasonable advantage.

            Mon and Fri are 40% of work days. So, even if you looked at just totally random stuff, you are going to see 40% or all sick absences come out on those days. I would actually expect it to be higher because there are a lot of things that make it more likely for someone to be sick those days and it makes more sense to schedule stuff Friday or Monday than in middle of the week in many cases.

        2. Oryx*

          I had a manager do that. “Oh, look, he’s here on Friday. That means he’ll get mysteriously sick and can’t be here on Monday.”

        3. Pine cones huddle*

          I worked with a guy who was really late on Thursdays reeking of old booze. No one else noticed the pattern until I pointed it out. Turns out he had a food and alcohol addiction. He would talk to me about it sometimes. He’d tell me how he would stop at 4-5 different fast food places on the way home from work. He said that was years before and he had it all under control. On Wednesday, he would go to a midday weight watchers meeting and do his weigh in. Then apparently he’d binge on food and alcohol and the next morning he’d call in and say his hot water heater was broken so he didn’t have hot water to shower. He’d arrive to work 2-3 hours late and still not showered.

          1. Pine cones huddle*

            I’m sure he was also attempting to avoid the staff meeting. But the boss started delaying until he arrives so he could present his reports.

        4. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          Ugh – I get it – but there still might legit reasons.

          EX: I kept missing Mondays a while back because I’d wake up Monday mornings with a debilitating migraine. Not every Monday, but it happened enough that it would look like this.

          Finally figured out that dehydration is a major migraine trigger for me, and while I was very good at drinking water through out the week (while at my desk), and I thought I was keeping up on the weekends, I wasn’t actually keeping up. Cue Migraine Mondays.

          My preferred approach remains the same – talk to the employee. Ask them, genuinely, what’s up (assuming that they’re just flaky/hungover won’t help). Point out that this is happening more often than normal and explain the business impact.

    1. JulieBulie*

      Interesting question. And not just what’s on his plate at this job, but whether or not he has other plates…

      A few years back, I was working for a failing company and we didn’t have a lot to do. One of the directors was out of the office a lot, supposedly working from home for a long and varied list of reasons. (Because business was so slow, his absence did not inconvenience anyone.)

      Eventually it emerged that he was actually working a second full-time job from home.

      OP’s employee probably isn’t working a second job, but there is something at home that is appealing enough to get him to risk losing his job over frequent absences.

    2. isubmittedthequestion*

      It’s not always the same day and he hasn’t been missing any projects. There was one day where he did miss something but out of these ten or so times, I don’t think missing that was on purpose. His job performance is good and I do enjoy working with him otherwise.

  7. Susan K*

    #2 – I have a coworker like this. He calls out (or comes in hours late) all the time and always has some crazy story involving his wife/kids/dog/car/all of the above. It would be understandable if these things happened once in a while, but this guy has more of these incidents than everyone else in the department combined. Anyway, OP #2, I hope you are my manager and take Alison’s advice on this!

      1. LKW*

        I had a co-worker with a similar problem. We suspected he was either looking for a new job and had interviews or an alcohol problem. I don’t know if the boss even noticed he wasn’t there.

        1. Bagpuss*

          We used to have an employee like this. They are no longer with us, but it did take a while to ensure that we could do it fairly . (We’re in the UK so there are employment protections and processes , you can’t normally just fire someone)

          Ironically they shot themselves in the foot – we had offered them redundancy (which would have meant they would have received a severance payment) but they refused, so we then started the process which could have resulted in dismissal on the basis of capability, and they chose to resign rather than cooperate with a medical assessment to see whether they were fit for work (having repeatedly called in sick and claimed they had ongoing medical issues…)

      2. GG Two shoes*

        Yep. we had to do the same thing. There was a gal I worked with that hadn’t worked a full week in 30 weeks! She was put on a pip and told not to miss any work for 2 months except for very rare circumstances. She was able to do that, but immediately went back to her old ways after two months. We let her go. She was SHOCKED.

    1. MLB*

      I’m wondering more about the details of the job. He does sound like he’s making excuses because he can’t or doesn’t want to come to work, but I think a lot of it depends on other things. Is it the type of job (like help desk) where he needs to be in a seat at a specific time to do the job? Or are others counting on him to be there during specific time periods? I work in IT, and my jobs have always been fairly flexible with my schedule (within reason). And I’m salaried, so I may come in late sometimes but rarely go out for lunch, or work over time as needed so it all evens out.

    2. Doyouthinkanyonesaurus*

      I was the manager of someone like this. Unfortunately, before I read AAM. She didn’t always call out sick, a lot of times it was adjusting her schedule to come in later or on a different day. The problem was, I was covering for her and not getting my own work done. Eventually, I had a version of The Talk with her in which I offered to change her schedule to later hours if that would help (I could then schedule someone else on the earlier hours) but she declined.

      Shortly thereafter, someone else requested a schedule change. That person was hard working and had done a great job with what was arguably the worse shift we had. I allowed her to change to a Monday-Friday shift. Fergusette had a fit, although she never told me personally she was upset and I didn’t find out until much later. She decided that she’d just spend the first half of her Sunday shift working from home. Without requesting permission, without telling anyone. We needed someone in the office to handle incoming calls, so this really wasn’t an option. She was the only one scheduled at this time, so it was several weeks before I figured out what was going on. I really thought she should be let go for this, but my boss thought we should give her another chance.

      Less than a month later, we had a bad snowstorm while I was at a conference. A couple of the other scheduled workers lived out of town. They both contacted me and asked if they could wfh until the weather and roads cleared. That was fine. I asked them to send emails so the other people scheduled a.) wouldn’t worry and b.) would be able to plan how to handle calls. Then Fergusette, again without asking permission, sent around an email saying that she would be wfh because…her car was out of gas. My boss finally agreed that it was time for her to leave.

      Urgh, it’s been years and I’m still annoyed. A good part of the annoyance is with myself because I think I could have handled it much better. I’m very glad to have AAM as a resource now!

      1. Anony*

        That is frustrating. Sometimes their are legitimate reasons for frequent absences or schedule changes but those need to be addressed head on, not just default to calling out. Turning down a schedule change that would make it easier to be on time is so strange to me.

  8. Middle School Teacher*

    OP #2, tracking it is a good idea. Some people really don’t not realise how often they are late or away until they see it written down, with dates. We see it a lot at school — kids are late a lot and then the report card comes out and when parents see their child has 50 lates in a term, the behaviour usually improves. You can’t really blow it off when it’s there in writing. (I’m just thinking that this guy might feel like late once a week isn’t THAT much— but those lates add up.)

    1. TL -*

      Most likely he’s focusing on the times he got in on time, instead of the times he gets in late. So to him, getting in late/missing work is an aberration, not a pattern.
      I second showing him the written record. It’ll help.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Yes – you should add up how many total hours he has missed. Is this coming out of sick time/PTO time/vacation time? I am also curious how often he is late vs. not in at all. If he is missing one day of work every other week that is huge.

      1. isubmittedthequestion*

        I don’t have the list in front of me since I’m at home but I think it’s been 25% call out and 75% late. When I say late, I’m talking 3ish hours late usually. For the call outs, I push back (he usually asks to work from home) and make him use his PTO generally. That’s what I did for the dog example that I gave. He and I each have an assigned work from home day so it is possible to telework in our job but I feel like he is trying to take advantage so I make him use PTO on any other day.

  9. msroboto*

    #4 I guess it is good that you got a bit extra but it really is not likely the extra is significant.
    If you make 100K it would be 190 extra per year or 3.65 per week. If you make 50K it would be 85 extra per year or 1.63 per week. It’s better than not getting it but it’s not going to change your life.
    The 2.5 percent is alright and using this same range would be 1250 – 2500 per year which is something for sure.
    I would concentrate on that and not the itty bitty extra that you got.

    1. Wilder*

      OP said they were happy with the raise and appreciated the boss’s efforts to get them a little more. Is it really necessary to try to make OP feel bad about that?

      1. Specialk9*

        Because OP is new to the game and is asking for advice on workplace norms. Specifically, how effusively to thank a boss for a raise.

        So, OP, I’m very into the somewhat old fashioned end of social niceties.

        But they didn’t really raise your salary, they adjusted it in line with inflation. (With a miniscule extra)

        As a rough rule of thumb, any raise under 3%, they basically just gave you a pay cut, due to inflation. (Actually, inflation is an average of 3.22% from 1913-2013. Right now it’s about 2.43% for the past 10 years… But 3% is a good inflation rule of thumb.)

        Meaning that unless you get at least a 3% raise or return on your investments, you are making less every year (technically that your buying power goes down because every dollar is worth less than a dollar in what it can buy).

        That said, even for just an inflation adjustment, the proper professional etiquette is to thank your boss. You don’t need to go overboard, but you can reflect appreciation that they tried a bit harder for you. Nice gesture even if it’s not a big thing financially.

      1. Morning Glory*

        Yeah, I think this is the important part, that it was a testament to their appreciation of the LW, and her performance, that they worked to get her higher than the annual average.

        I would personally rather get a 2.69% raise knowing everyone else got a 2.5% raise than to get a 3% raise knowing that everyone else got a 3.5% raise.

        1. Competent Commenter*

          Me too but…manager at a university gave me a big song and dance this year about my 3% raise and exceptional rating, and that felt pretty good until it turned out my teammate got the same on both counts. It’s like she doesn’t understand that we talk to each other. I was so irritated. If she hadn’t made such a big deal out of it I wouldn’t have felt this way. It really cheapened it.

        2. Specialk9*

          I disagree so heartily. I think that’s an attitude to money that is promoted (especially among women) to get us to accept less, AND to make salary a zero sum game in which we’re competing with our fellow workers. Which… gosh why would companies want that?

          I *expect* a non-struggling company to pay me at least the same as last year, which with inflation means a 2.5-
          3% raise. I *appreciate* any pay raise that puts actual extra money in my pocket, in real dollars. How my coworkers are paid isn’t really relevant.

          1. Morning Glory*

            I think you may be reading what I said as my being satisfied with less? I see it more as my not being satisfied with less than what my colleagues get (no matter where the number falls), as long as my performance is equal to theirs. My perception is that women who think about their pay without considering it in relation to their colleagues’ are actually more vulnerable to being underpaid. Our cultural norm of keeping salaries private and taboo to discuss has historically enabled a system where men were – and sometimes still are – being paid more for the same job as women.

            Or perhaps, you are rejecting the notion that most businesses allocate a certain budget to raises and then it really is a zero sum game for who gets what? That is a reality of how many businesses and organizations work.

            However, we do not have to agree, and I respect that you feel differently.

          2. Fortitude Jones*

            I *expect* a non-struggling company to pay me at least the same as last year, which with inflation means a 2.5-
            3% raise. I *appreciate* any pay raise that puts actual extra money in my pocket, in real dollars. How my coworkers are paid isn’t really relevant.

            Agreed, and this is partly why I left my last company. My division alone brought in $268M last year, and they had the nerve to only give me a 3% increase when I kicked ass for them in 2016. My supervisor even knew it was bullshit because she started off apologizing for how low it was, but then went on to say, “But some of your coworkers only got .5-2% raises.” And that means what to me? There was an air to that statement that sounded to me like, “You should be grateful we’re screwing you slightly less than we’re screwing your coworkers!” Ummm, no. That company needs to stop being so effing cheap and increase the budget and they won’t have to have these awkward ass conversations.

      2. Adlib*

        Yeah, that happened to me recently, and I GREATLY appreciated it! In some companies, it can be like pulling teeth to get a merit increase raised or even just a raise in general due to the layers of management required to approve something like that.

        1. JulieBulie*

          Yes, that’s how it is here. I don’t know the exact process, but I know the managers have to negotiate and spar over every last fraction of a percentage point. If someone gets more, someone else has to get less, so this is a tooth-and-nail fight that sometimes has lasting political repercussions.

    2. HS Teacher*

      Itty bitty extra? Why can’t people be civil when responding to posts? That was unnecessarily nasty and not what the OP wrote in about!

    3. Ramblin' Ma'am*

      As someone who’s been in this situation, it really is a big deal because the manager is essentially saying, “I really value you as an employee, but I’m restricted by higher-ups as to how big of a raise I can give you. I hope I can convey this by giving you more than the average employee, even if it’s not a huge difference.”

      1. AdminiGoddess*

        OP here–yes, Ramblin Ma’am! This is it exactly. She is not known for going out of her way, and is pretty socially awkward and seems rather at odds with her position. The pools are distributed to unit heads to distribute as they wish. Some of them divide equally, regardless of performance evaluations and some of them give the whole kit and caboodle to a select few. But don’t get me started on performance appraisals and how subjective and in some cases meaningless they are. We are a state school, so this is the biggest pool since I’ve been here (last three years it was under 2%). And now the plot thickens–I am relatively positive that my director has applied for a job outside of the university and his position will be opening. I am 56 years old and do not have a degree (life happens, and I have extensive experience), but am a little over halfway through a bachelor’s and working on it. The director has been here for only about seven years and between the two of us, we have brought things up to speed from using hand-written rosters to track things, to using a personally developed relational database and electronic tracking. I hate to see him go–he’s the best boss I’ve ever had, but wonder if the powers that be would even imagine considering me for that slot….and I kind of anticipate it with glee and dread it at the same time. Hoping that this indicates some kind of a give on their end.

    4. Betty (the other betty)*

      #4, it would be polite to say “Thank you.” But no need to stress the exact wording. (I was just running the numbers, too. Your boss knows that the amount isn’t huge, but it’s nice that they tried.)

      And you can use the fact that you had a larger than standard raise in the future to show that your boss valued your work. If you want to and it’s possible at your company, you could have a mid-year chat with your boss about what you can do to move into a different (higher paying) position in the future.

  10. GM*

    For #4 if you’re genuinely grateful for the increase and want to let your boss/grandboss know, a one-liner email like “Thank you for your support and recognition of my efforts.” might do the trick. I’ve used that in the past and its generally well-received.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree!

      You got this tiny bump for a business reason, but that doesn’t mean you can send some positive reinforcement their way!

      “It feels good to have my work recognized.”

      1. GM*

        Thanks, Samata and TootsNYC!

        Btw, “positive reinforcement” is one of my favourite phrases and I keep a separate mail folder that contains…you guessed it – glowing emails I’ve received from people about my work!

  11. HannahS*

    OP 1, it wouldn’t become ok if you did have health problems! Because if you did, every unsolicited coworker comment on your diet would be them saying that the reason you’re unwell is because of solely because of your diet–upsetting, intrusive, incorrect, and thoroughly none of their business.
    It’s kind of you to want to not hurt their feelings, but it’s also fine to recognize that they’re being VERY rude–telling you you’re going to die before 50 is heinously inappropriate! It is not wrong for you to show that you’re not happy with how they’re speaking to you. You can certainly smile, compliment their intentions, and gently ask them to stop. Sometimes that’s the fastest and easiest way to elicit change! But a lot of times people–young women especially–feel like they have to be sweet and gentle and not hurt anyone’s feelings when saying, “Hey, can you not mistreat me?” So, you know, don’t attack them, don’t be a jerk back, don’t comment on their bodies and food choices in revenge, but you’re also allowed to be visibly annoyed, and to be firm in telling them to stop:
    “My doctor and I are not concerned about me dying before 50. That was a really inappropriate thing to say.”
    ” You know, I’m an adult, and if I choose to do something that you think is unhealthy, I’d like you to keep that thought to yourself.”
    “My cholesterol levels are none of your business, and asking me about them is not appropriate.”

  12. Seal*

    #2 – I had an employee like this. Her excuses always sounded legitimate, but I later found out that she made many of them up. To make matters worse, when she did show up she rarely got much work done. Whenever I leaned on her, her performance and attendance improved for a time, but she always regressed. She quit before I could fire her, but in retrospect I shouldn’t have put up with her nonsense for so long in the first place.

      1. Seal*

        Part of her job was to do on-site work in a different location. She would claim to be working there, but then leave early without letting anyone know or simply not show up at all. Due to the poor quality of her work I checked up on her at the other location; she wasn’t there when I dropped by. When I sat her down the next day she fessed up.

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      I had this employee too. My take on alcohol or marijuna use is: whatever floats your boat as long as you aren’t at work drunk/high & it doesn’t interfere with you showing up to work. This guy had trouble with both of those parts. He works for our competition now & is making better decisions these days I hear.

    2. CCF*

      I had a coworker who was out just as often as LW #2’s employee. And when they did come in, they arrived late and generally left early. People started keeping track. No one could figure out why management allowed it to happen. Even with their tenure, there was no way they could’ve had PTO beyond, say, June of any year.

      The only time I ever saw that boss lose their cool was over this person’s tardiness and absences. And, oh boy, it was a spectacle. Eventually, they were let go during a departmental reorganization.

  13. ScoutFinch*

    LW #2 just brought back memories of Henry Blake pulling out Klinger’s file. Half the family dying, the other half pregnant.

    1. Emi.*

      Hah, or the marvelous Mrs. Maisel getting better stage times for Joel. “Lotta health problems. Your family should eat some fruit.”

    2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      “Aren’t you ashamed, Klinger?”
      “Yes, sir. I don’t deserve to be in the Army.”

    1. The Wall of Creativity*

      Kind of beat me to it. I was going for

      “And excessive masturbation will make you go blind, but do I keep going on about it to you?”

  14. Kate the Teapots Project Manager*

    OP #1, I was you at one of my first jobs, because I wasn’t super good at planning to pack food and there were limited reasonably priced options in walking distance of the office (and I didn’t have a car). And, like you, I was always very specific about choosing healthier options.

    After a couple of remarks, I just started eating most of my meals outside the office, which was more relaxing for me anyway because I got to go for a walk, and I found if they only saw it here and there nobody said anything.

  15. Kc89*

    It’s deff best to let the employee know you aren’t okay with it.

    I had a co worker like that, on any given day I would say there was a 50/50 chance of her showing up (always some excuse of course)

    Management never said anything until they finally fired her “out of nowhere”

  16. Jules the First*

    #5 – heck, last year I went to the christmas party for the company I’d quit working for six weeks earlier (I did get an invite – I did not crash the party!). Go to the party if you want to.

    1. Eve*

      My company invited the 3 people who had quit this year too. We are a small company and everyone left on good terms. Only 1 could make it but it was nice to see them.

    2. Oryx*

      I quit a job right around Thanksgiving, thought I was leaving on good terms, but my boss’s boss very vocally disinvited me from the Christmas party in front of other staff. So. That was fun.

    3. GriefBacon*

      I just went to my old company’s holiday party, and my position was eliminated about 6 weeks ago. I was one a former coworker’s +1. Another former coworker, who left in June, also came as a +1. And it wasn’t weird at all! Everyone was happy to see us. Definitely go if you want to!

  17. Just Employed Here*

    1. I’d raise my eyebrows and pointedly say “Maybe you should focus less on MY dietary choices.”. Followed by silence and getting back to whatever you were doing.

    (I wouldn’t straight out say that they should focus on their own health (not only to not be nasty, but also because I wouldn’t want to be reprimanded for commenting on their health/weight), but that’s the implication. It’s not like they can complain about your comment, anyway, after all their comments to you. And if they are ridiculous enough to complain, you didn’t actually say anything out of the order.)

    1. TL -*

      I wouldn’t do that! It’s unnecessarily mean and they probably get way more judgement about their weight than the OP does about their diet.

      I would just second Alison’s suggestions, maybe with an added, “Okay, I appreciate your suggestions but I’m actually really happy with my diet and it’s not going to change, so can we please stop talking about it.” And very markedly ending with a period and not a question mark.

      1. Moonmodule1998*

        I really agree. I think the letter writer shouldn’t comment on their weight at all, and to be honest, that’d be worse than the original offense in my eyes. At the very least, I think we can agree that it wouldn’t actually help to stoop to “their level”. This isn’t high school, it’s a job, and there are better ways to handle the situation. (Something I often tell myself at work, lol.)

        That being said, this does sound aggravating, and if they don’t stop, the LW would likely need to get progressively more firm (and less “polite”). But that process should still not involve their weight whatsoever, because that would not only be cruel, but it’s actually irrelevant to the real issue, which is essentially: my coworkers are rude to me and not respecting my boundaries. That’s my take on it, at least.

    2. MuseumChick*

      I would go with “Wow…that’s a really weird thing to say to co-worker.” Because it is really weird to tell your co-worker “You are going to die by age X””

    3. Oryx*

      Nope. If it’s not okay for them to comment on OP’s diet, then it’s not okay for OP to comment on theirs — implied or otherwise.

    4. Gaia*

      No. Just as it is rude for them to assume the OP is unhealthy (and comment on it) it is rude for the OP to say/comment on their health because OP cannot possibly know that either.

      Do not encourage this behavior. You do not know someone’s health by looking at them.

      1. Anony*

        At a previous job my coworkers tried telling me that I need to eat less salt because eating that much salt was not good for me. I told them that my doctor put me on a high salt diet and it would be physically impossible for me to eat too much salt (which is true). I hate when people give unsolicited health advice. They never know the whole health history of the person that they are trying to help and are often wrong. Even when they are not wrong, they are obnoxious.

      2. Just Employed Here*

        I know it’s not taking the high road, but I feel it might accomplish what the OP wants: for the comments to stop.

        It’s not positioning yourself as the winner, or suggesting that the commenters are less healthy, it’s just a fact of life that we should all care about our own health. If someone who frequently feels the need to comment on my choices feels a bit picked on, that’s their interpretation. Maybe they’ll think twice about commeting on the next person’s choices?

        1. TL -*

          No. The OP has already included their size when it’s completely irrelevant to the question. The problem isn’t their size or diets. The problem is only their comments and that’s what the op needs to address.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            But that’s what I’m saying — everyone should focus on their own health, whatever their health and size. And the commenting colleagues have forfeited their right to any special treatment (that some commenters here seem to suggest they should be given due to their size) by behaving obnoxiously in the first place. OP is not a kindergarten teacher (or at least those making the comments aren’t kindergarten children) and is not obliged to treat colleagues who are out of order with kid gloves.

            If they can dish it out…

            1. tigerStripes*

              The OP should take the high road. Commenting on other people’s weight will make the OP seem like a jerk.

    5. Susanne*

      No, no, no. Because now you’ve changed the game to “it’s OK to comment on others’ weight/diet” (and positioning yourself as the “winner” because you’re not obese like they are). The goal here is not to “win” discussions on weight/diet/nutrition. The goal here is to not have these discussions occur at all.

      1. London Bookworm*

        Right. With that response you’re legitimising their comments in a sense. It could actually open the door to more of this.

    6. Susan K*

      Nooo… I can understand the impulse to give them a taste of their own medicine, but don’t stoop to their level.

  18. KatyO*

    2. Wondering why there doesn’t appear to be an attendance policy for these unplanned absences. No matter the reason, everyone gets a set amount of sick time and when it’s gone, you start disciplinary action, which may lead to termination. You’d expect your team to be adults but there have to be clear rules in place to ensure people don’t abuse it & keep things consistent.

    1. Soon to be former fed*

      Nope. Real health conditions, acute or chronic, can lead to greater consumption of sick time. Chronic conditions may qualify for reasonable accomodations that would reduce the use of sick time. Compassion is good.

      1. nonymous*

        I dunno, it seems entirely legitimate to say that self-certification is okay up to (x days in y period or z consecutive days) and after a certain% of sick leave is used up, start a convo about the FMLA documentation procedures. Even if someone has a chronic condition that lets them come in most days, they may qualify for intermittent FMLA (my coworker switched to part time after her baby to extend mat leave and we just asked one of the hourly staff if they wanted to come in more). There might even be short-term disability available. The convo doesn’t need to be restrictive, but having policies in place help guide staff to appropriate resources, and keep both management and direct reports from abusing the situation.

      2. Anony*

        Compassion is good, but that is what FMLA is for or other accommodation. Someone with a chronic health condition or disability should proactively address the effect that might have on attendance at work and find a workable solution.

      3. tigerlily*

        Sure, but OPs employee isn’t calling out sick with a chronic condition, he’s calling out so he can take his dog to the vet and stay home when his wife has the flu.

      4. Sarah*

        Sure, but it doesn’t sound like this employ HAS a chronic health condition that’s explaining the majority of his absences. (Perhaps his dog does, but that’s not exactly covered by FMLA…)

    2. Isabelle*

      This is what I was thinking too. I wonder if OP’s workplace does have a policy in place, but it only covers absences and not lateness. So HR may be tracking the days this employee was absent but not the days he was 2-3 hours late and they have no idea how severe the problem is.

      1. isubmittedthequestion*

        HR doesn’t keep track of this. We don’t clock in or out. He is entering the days off as PTO but for the late days, there is no formal record except for me creating my list.

    3. Beatrice*

      My company doesn’t have rules like that for salaried workers like me. You are expected to be an adult, and you are also expected to have the occasional once-in-a-lifetime run of bad luck that you shouldn’t be penalized for. People who abuse that tend to have performance problems that are dealt with quickly. Absences are almost never the focus.

  19. Agent Diane*

    OP2: does employee always text in? And what’s the company policy on calling in? Ours is that you actually call and have a conversation. Most of us text instead, but most aren’t doing it once a week.

    One option next time he texts to say his wife is ill may be to call him back, explaining you want to have a chat about when he’ll be able to return to work. His reaction may give you a sense of how plausible his reason for staying off is.

    If the workplace policy is to call, start asking him to do that. The one time I suspected someone was swinging the lead, I asked them to call me next time rather than texting me. Their attendance miraculously improved.

    1. isubmittedthequestion*

      That’s an interesting approach! I’m not sure what the policy is. Our whole office tends to communicate via text. But I’ll look for it! I’m sure it says call, it’s probably pretty old.

  20. Former Computer Professional*

    I’ve been hearing “you’ll be dead before you’re [number]” for much of my adult life, merely due to being fat. Generally, people pick 40 or 50.

    These days, I just smile sweetly and congratulate them on the Nobel prize they must have won for creating time travel!

    1. Susanne*

      I mean, hey, there ARE people where I privately think – due to their health/nutrition/exercise, they aren’t going to live past 50. Some of them are morbidly obese, can’t walk up a flight of stairs without stopping and frankly they are heart attacks waiting to happen. But it’s not my place to say anything to them. It’s not like they aren’t aware of these things, and either they are motivated to do something about them, or they aren’t.

      “It’s inappropriate to comment on people’s weight/diet unless you are their medical professional” doesn’t magically make the health detriment of a lot of excess weight (or for that matter, frequent McD food) go away. It just means that it’s not your place to comment on, unless you are their health care provider.

      1. Kelly Bennett*

        I can’t walk up a flight of stairs without stopping because I have knee issues, I’m considered obese due to the outdated and useless BMI, I have perfect heart health and your comment is offensive.

        Stop assuming people can’t do things for being fat.

        1. BananaRama*

          She said “due to their health/nutrition/exercise.” It was a list of things; not all fat people are out of shape. Stop assuming insult.

          1. Oryx*

            But does she really know the entire wholistic, 360 degree view of their “health/nutrition/exercise” or does she just think she does?

          2. Perse's Mom*

            Unless she’s their doctor/dietician/personal trainer, she does not KNOW anything about their health/nutrition/exercise and is therefore making judgments based on very limited information.

        2. Susanne*

          We all know the difference between the person for whom the BMI says that they are overweight/obese but they are just built sturdily and have a lot of muscle, and the person who claims that the BMI means nothing because they’re in denial about having 100 extra pounds. Of course the BMI isn’t a perfect measure and no one says one should bow to that measure as the be-all-and-end-all, but carrying 100 extra pounds isn’t great either.

          1. Kelly Bennett*

            The BMI was created in the 1800s as a population metric that was never intended for individual use.

            Stop commenting on other people’s health and weight.

          2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I am a tall, naturally skinny, small boned ectomorph, and if I have even a little bit of muscle or just enough fat to have some boobs & hips the BMI calculator tells me I am “overweight”. Apparently my BMI is only “correct” when I am scrawny & anorexic looking with arms & legs like sticks of uncooked spaghetti. Yeah, NO, weighing in at 5lbs short of looking/being downright sickly isn’t any healthier than carrying “too much” weight, despite what our thinness obsessed society loves to think.

        3. Susan Calvin*

          Seriously. Weight isn’t even a solid indicator for good eating habits, because of people’s different metabolisms alone. The idea that it’s even a useful proxy for overall health can die a fiery death already.

          1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            I am a natural ectomorph- tall, skinny, small boned. It didn’t stop me from being born with severe chronic illnesses that have caused me a lifetime of serious issues, despite a (lifelong) very healthy diet & lifestyle.

            At one point I gained (and also subsequently lost) an enormous amount of weight as the side effects of medications for both mental & physical illnesses, medications which unequivocally saved my life. Those who lectured me on my “unhealthy” weight are no longer people I associate with, since the imaginary “health issues” of my being overweight were so much more important for them to harp on than supporting me through the devastating effects of the entirely too real and extremely serious health issues I was *actually* experiencing at the time.

      2. Natalie*

        I’m not sure if you notice this, but you’ve made multiple comments on people’s diets/health, but with a caveat of “of course I would never tell someone that to their face”. I don’t think that’s an out. You’re not actually keeping your thoughts to yourself – you’re sharing them here where they almost certainly apply to some other reader’s body or diet.

        If you’re not going to say something, just don’t say it.

        1. Former Computer Professional*


          “I don’t hate fat people, but fat people gross me out/are lazy/are stupid/are obviously unhealthy/other judgement stuff” is something I see on a daily basis.

      3. oranges & lemons*

        It’s comforting to think that we are all able to control our health, weight, diet, environment, etc, but much of this is out of our hands as individuals.

  21. legal ed*

    #3 – if this is higher ed, which it totally may not be, I know a number of schools where, if someone is going to be an interviewer for the school, the people who want to go may approach them about splitting a room. This is usually worked out before hand, and the person interviewing as a candidate is responsible for all other costs. But at least at the three institutions I’ve worked at, if it’s not one of the conferences with a development portion, the school doesn’t direct fund it in anyway.

    1. Alice*

      The conferences that have a big hiring component in my industry (complete with interviews in people’s hotel rooms, yuck) all have some kind of professional development aspect as well. I wonder if this one does too? Not supporting a “hiring-only” conference is one thing; not supporting a “hiring-and-also-professional-development” conference would be another.
      Of course, if this is the case, the employee has out everyone in a difficult situation by telling everyone she’s looking for a new job.

      1. legal ed*

        I think it probably depends on the industry standards for length. In higher ed, there is a big focus on developing people professionally for the industry, although we do want to keep qualified ones. But old HR head really struggled with why SA averages 3-5 years when maintenance, IT, etc, all average 10+. I don’t think she ever got that there were different length expectations by division.

      2. ainomiaka*

        yeah I wondered about this too. Though I still don’t think the answer is to withhold from everyone who says they’re looking for a new job by taking away actual professional development. What that’s going to lead to is a bunch of employees that feel they need to lie. And that’s not better for the business.

  22. Kali*

    I used to work at McDonalds. We were allowed a free meal every shift and sodas whenever we wanted. That’s an easy recipe to ill health, but I found, like the OP, that avoiding the sodas is the trick. I’d generally go with tea, a small fries, a fruitbag for dessert, and a grilled chicken wrap. I actually lost weight working there.

    1. Awesome*

      A steady diet of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and breakfast sandwiches IS unhealthy. Sure they may be high in protein but that doesn’t make them healthy. If someone I cared about was eating like that 4-6 times a week, it would worry me and I would talk to them about it (though I don’t believe that’s the case here). If OP’s coworkers were actually concerned with their health, it’d be different…but saying that I almost wonder if the reasoning for their comments is because they are obese and maybe they haven’t always been? So maybe their concern for OP is that they used to do the same thing OP is doing which resulted in their obesity.

      Either way, if you’re actually concerned about someone’s health and their food choices, telling them they’re going to die is not the way to help anyone. I would flat out ask them, what makes them an expert on healthy eating and why they feel their comments are necessary or appropriate.

      1. paul*

        Wendy’s 10 piece only has like 22 grams protein and 450 or so calories. Makes me sad because I’d eat them every day if I could fit them in my macros. Sooooo good.

      2. KellyK*

        I’m not sure it would be different if they were actually concerned about the coworker”s health. It’s still not their business. Even with a close friend or family member, they should *ask* first if it’s something the other person is comfortable discussing, and back off if not. Adults get to make their own choices, even if you don’t like those choices.

      3. Anony*

        Nope. Actually being concerned about OP’s health does not make it different. Unsolicited diet advice does not belong in the work place full stop. The only exception would be to tell someone if they are about to eat something they are allergic to or that is poison. If someone is eating a salad of rhubarb leaves in front of me I will tell them that they don’t want to do that. If a coworker with a peanut allergy is about to eat a cookie that contains nuts I will warn them. If a diabetic decides to eat cotton candy for every meal I will keep my opinion to myself.

        1. Awesome*

          KellyK and Anony

          You seem to be blatantly ignoring the last part of my comment (I so love when people do this) where I say that the behavior of OP’s coworkers is inexcusable. I think if they were concerned with their coworker’s health, then I can understand why they would want to say something (doesn’t mean that they SHOULD). When I say it might be different, I mean the place the coworkers are coming from might be different.

      4. AnotherJill*

        There is nothing inherently unhealthy about a cheeseburger or chicken nugget. A diet can only be judged in its entirety, not on breakfast 4-6 times a week.

        An overall diet is balanced to an individual’s personal nutritional needs can include any kinds of foods and be perfectly “healthy”.

        1. Kali*

          To add, a McDonalds Egg McMuffin is literally just an egg, cracked into a mould on the grill, on a bread muffin with a squeeze of butter. I’m certainly not saying that all of their menu items have that low level of processing, but that specific one isn’t that different to what you could make at home.

      5. Kelly Bennett*

        “If OP’s coworkers were actually concerned with their health, it’d be different…but saying that I almost wonder if the reasoning for their comments is because they are obese and maybe they haven’t always been”

        That is still definitely none of their business. None of this is their business.

        1. Awesome*

          I didn’t say it made their behavior excusable. I just wonder if that’s where they’re coming from.

      6. nonegiven*

        Watch the movie Fathead. The guy did a diet of fast food as an answer to Super Size Me and had his doctor monitor him.

      7. Mookie*

        A steady diet of cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets and breakfast sandwiches IS unhealthy.

        Well, there’s a non-sequitur. How is this a response to what Kali wrote, which was:

        I’d generally go with tea, a small fries, a fruitbag for dessert, and a grilled chicken wrap.


        Nary a hint of cheeseburgers, nuggets, or sandwiches there. Anyway, you’re wrong, besides.

    2. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      When I was in the vintage clothing business, it required going to warehouses in really bad, semi-industrial areas of Big Urban Sprawl City, where literally the *only* place to get any kind of food or coffee for quite some distance was a McDonalds (that had multiple security guards and bullet proof plexiglass windows at all counters!) I don’t like their food AND am vegetarian, but I was often starving after hours of digging through piles of filthy rags, so I managed to find things that were edible and less unhealthy- salads, fruit & yogurt cups, fruit pies, or occasionally a small fries. And coffee, of course.

  23. MuseumChick*

    #2, this may not happen but in my experience with people like your direct report when you talk to them about consistently being on time their first response is often defensiveness “Well I’m not being late on purpose!” Don’t let yourself fall into the that trap. Keep focused on the matter at hand: He needs to be consistently on time which means only being X times in Y time period.

  24. CatCat*

    For #3, I think it’s a little disingenuous for OP to say she “can’t” approve the professional development funds for the conference when the company has told her she can (“I asked what I should do and told it is ultimately up to me.”) She chooses not to, which is fine since it’s discretionary, but it’s not based on company policy that funds aren’t to be used for what the report is asking, it’s based on OP’s feelings about it.

    I’d probably say something more like, “There is limited funding for professional development and I need members of my team to use it to improve skills and knowledge of our field. I won’t approve it for a hiring conference, but here are some things you could attend that I could approve it for.”

    And for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s outlandish for an entry level employee to think professional development involves their professional advancement, especially since the use of the funds appears to be discretionary at the company. Also, I think it’s possible the employee has heard of it being used that way elsewhere. There’s a large employer where I live that gives employees “professional development days” as time off. No professional development is actually required to use those days. They’re basically oddly labeled vacation days.

    1. LKW*

      I think the company has not had to deal with this before and so they’re concerned about making a decision without having a well established policy to back them up. I’ve seen this kind of paralysis before.

      LW#3 – Your company provides professional development funds as an investment in its people and by extension, itself. If you send this person to a conference so she can get a new job, you have not invested those funds wisely. Plus, you’ll have opened the door so that others can use professional development funds to find a new job. That would be the loss of current talent and knowledge, pretty much the exact opposite of what those funds are for.

      When you speak to your report I think it would be a courtesy to explain the reasoning behind professional development money from the company and that it took so long to deal with her request because no one had ever asked to use company money to find a new job before so her request caught everyone off guard. While you understand she wants to move in to a higher position, using company funds is not the way to do that. However if she would like to find another conference where she can expand her industry knowledge, she is still welcome to do so and those often provide excellent networking opportunities.

    2. Karo*

      I think that’s nitpicking the language a bit too much. I say I “can’t” do things all the time when it’s really just an internal voice saying that I shouldn’t. Like I can’t cheat on my husband – physically I can, and there’s no law stopping me, but for all intents and purposes I cannot.

      And honestly, it all comes down to the same thing. Whether OP says “I can’t” or “I won’t,” it’s not going to happen.

      1. CatCat*

        It’s potentially problematic since it’s not true. (I’ve worked places where managers exercise discretion differently on different teams and then act like their discretionary decisions are out of their hands. It doesn’t go over well. Just be honest. Why is that hard?)

        It’s okay to be truthful here. I’m not saying OP is unreasonable not to approve this in her discretion. There’s no need to create a false idea here about it.

    3. Yorick*

      Saying “I can’t” doesn’t necessarily mean “someone else won’t let me.” Here, it would mean that the request doesn’t match up with what the funds are for, and so OP can’t approve the request.

  25. Lv*

    Well, I’m going to be that person #1. You may be fine now but it will catch up with you. Cutting fries won’t save you. It’s the processed meat and oils that will.

    They are concerned for you and it is really strange for most that someone would eat mccy dees every day. The only person i know that did that was a 350lb 42 yr old woman. She could barely walk.

    Once or twice a week is fine…

    Please take care of yourself.

    1. MuseumChick*

      Can we not shame or attack people for their diets? More and more evidence is showing that diet is far more complicated than has been thought and varies wildly between individuals. Here is one fascinating study about it: (Summary: Healthy foods vary wildly by individual).

      Unless her co-works are doctors or nutritionist and she is asking for advice they need to stop.

      1. Susanne*

        Yes, definitely healthy foods vary by individual – some people do better when they heavy-up on the protein, others can handle more carbs – it definitely varies based on inherent body composition and one’s level of activity. However, let’s get real – the healthiest diet features in some form plenty of vegetables/fruits, good servings of lean protein, and healthy fats, with relatively little processed food. There are many versions of a healthy diet, but none of them include frequent Big Macs. This falls under “people kidding themselves.”

        However, that still doesn’t make it right for the coworkers to point it out to him. It’s not their concern.

        1. MuseumChick*

          I know people working with nutritionists who don’t eat fruit (to much sugar), this scientific study found some people do best with ice cream in their diet, something conventional wisdom would seem obvious to cut out. We cannot (an the OPs co-workers) cannot say that is best for him. Its rude and invasive.

          1. Susanne*

            No reputable diet says to “cut out” ice cream (barring a lactose-intolerance type of issue, of course). They say to keep it as a treat within reasonable proportions and make sure you’re getting the good stuff in first, that’s all. We needn’t jump to the belief that a healthy diet means non-stop celery and kale and nothing else, or that it means a life of deprivation.

            But there’s no reputable way of eating in which frequent McDonald’s fast food figures in. It’s the smoking of eating. Which is not to say it is the end of the world to have an occasional treat from there – key word being occasional.

            1. Amtelope*

              Is there a reason that it matters in this context whether you think that the OP’s way of eating is “reputable”? Is this the best forum for expressing the opinion that there are “reputable” and “disreputable” ways of eating? I would think that a site where people go for advice about diet and nutrition would be a better platform for your thoughts on that subject. As you’ve said, it’s not the OP’s coworker’s business; it’s also not ours.

        2. TomorrowWeDie*

          The healthiest diet, barring medical neccessity, is one where you think “mmm… lunch! Yum!”

    2. Foxtrot*

      Nooo, it comes down to how their decisions affect you personally. I was in the minority on the budgeting letter because poor financial decisions can end up with another person picking up the slack. And people who are bad with money often don’t realize that buying concert tickets and letting grandma/cousin/aunt pay your rent and car insurance is putting an undue strain on the people you’re supposedly closest to. (I and my dad are the “natural savers” in the family and it gets old fast. But at the same time, I love my cousin too much to see her be literally homeless. It would be so nice, though, to spend *my* money on *my* concert ticket one of these days…)
      The thing is, these poor decisions also really only affect your family and closest friends. I’m not going to cover rent for a coworker. I’m not going to take in a coworkers kids if they pass away early from crappy diet. I’m not going to clean out their house if they’re a hoarder. The list goes on.
      Unless you are or have reasonable suspicion you will be the one compensating for how a coworker eats, leave it be.

      1. London Bookworm*

        Right. My eating, spending and drinking habits might be my partner’s business, or my mother’s business. But unless I’m giving my office mate an allergic reaction with the peanuts I bought with money I embezzled from the company while drunk….. It’s really not my coworker’s business.

        It’s not affecting work, it’s not relevant.

    3. Sarah*

      Yes, the LW shows an amazing lack of knowledge about health. (And not having a sick day may mean he hasn’t caught any colds, but cardiovascular health is a whole different beast. Having no obvious health problems now doesn’t mean he doesn’t already have the beginnings of atherosclerosis or high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Those are silent killers.) That being said, he is an adult and can eat what he wants. Other things he could say:

      “That’s between my doctor and me.”
      “At least I’ll die happy!”

      1. Bird*

        Or, the LW is perfectly knowledgeable about her own health. We don’t know. And that’s not the point anyway, since it’s no one’s business but hers.

      2. Amtelope*

        You can really judge the LW’s level of knowledge about health from a brief description of their lunch choices? That’s interesting.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          I think LW does show some naivety about nutrition. High protein is good and all, but that is way more sodium than anyone should be consuming, and fitness/lack of sickness ≠ health. If she does seem genuinely convinced that her diet is not unhealthy, and has expressed that to her coworkers, they might genuinely be trying to enlighten, not criticize.

          1. Amtelope*

            The answer for the coworkers is the same, whatever their motivations: don’t make negative comments about a coworker’s lunch choices. Adults should not be monitoring what other adults eat, with the exception of medical professionals who are actually employed to do so.

          2. Observer*

            It’s highly unlikely that her coworkers are trying to enlighten her – they just keep on saying the same (information free) things over and over and over and……

            If they REALLY wanted to enlighten her they would – ONCE – point her to some good resources and encourage her to talk to her doctor about her food choices. ONCE.

      3. Kelly Bennett*

        Literally anyone could have the beginnings of an illness and not know. Why is OP being subjected to it more based on Mcdonalds.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        Some people do need to hear it. I’ve been watching my father do this for years. I keep my mouth shut because I know he has a good doctor who has been trying to help him, but it gets harder and harder. It doesn’t help that I’m a recovered anorexic and I have competing impulses to never talk about food or weight ever and to want to help people who are edging into disordered eating (my father is, not saying the OP is!).

        1. Dust Bunny*

          If his doctor is working with him, then *he is hearing it*, or at least he’s being told, since you can’t force people to hear what they don’t want to hear. So he doesn’t need to hear it from coworkers who are not his doctor.

          1. Anonymous for this*

            It goes in one ear and out the other.

            I don’t want to be obnoxious, hurt his feelings, shame him, or hit on any body image issues. I just also really don’t want my dad to suffer from this.

            1. JulieBulie*

              It sounds like you might be more focused on your own suffering. That’s understandable. But you can’t help your father or anyone else if you pretend it’s about them when it’s really about you.

    4. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Is this something you would really say to a coworker?
      You would really be this person: “hey, I see a McDonald’s bag five times a week, so I am going tell her that it’s unhealthy and she needs to stop. I’ll tell her about morbidly obese people I know so that she will change her eating habits.”
      And you don’t see what is inherently wrong with this?

    5. embertine*

      So I guess you can be added to the list of people who can mind their own business when it comes to LW’s diet.

    6. Cassandra*

      So, there’s an Internet-common name for what Lv is doing here: “concern trolling.”

      It’s not kind. It’s not appropriate, ever. Please don’t.

    7. Bird*

      I think you missed the point of the letter, which is that the LW’s food choices are in fact no one’s business but hers.

    8. Amtelope*

      Alison, is this really cool for people to do here? Because this feels very uncool. Judgmental remarks about others’ diets isn’t what I come here for.

      1. Katniss*

        Yeah, I’d really rather not see this kind of crap here. It’s needless, it’s shaming, and it isn’t useful.

        1. Susanne*

          The fact that commenting to a coworker about her diet/nutrition is inappropriate doesn’t change the fact that, indeed, factually, the diet/nutrition may be bad/harmful. These are 2 entirely different things.

          I”m not going to tell my coworker to stop smoking on her personal time, but that doesn’t change the fact that smoking is a bad habit with dangerous health consequences.

          Our goal here was to figure out how to help the OP get rid of these annoying conversations / comments from co-workers, not to change his or her diet. Alison and others provided helpful scripts for such conversations. That’s great. That doesn’t now mean that indeed, the OP’s diet is a good one just because now his coworkers aren’t nagging him about it. That’s the OP’s business, of course, but I really despise the fooling-oneself aspect of denying that either excess weight (of his “tormentors”) or frequent fast food consumption (his or hers) doesn’t have negative health consequences. Of course it does.

              1. STG*

                You are doing exactly what the coworker’s are doing though. In fact, you went above and beyond saying that she’s fooling herself.

                Adding that doesn’t change how rude it is.

          1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

            But that’s completely not the point of this letter, and this comment section is absolutely not the place for criticizing the OP’s diet.

          2. Ronald is innocent*

            But it’s not a fact. The lunch may or may not be harmful depending on exercise and the rest of LWs diet.

          3. Amtelope*

            Commenting about it here is inappropriate. You don’t have to believe that the OP’s diet is healthy. You also don’t have to say so, in public, in a forum where people have not come to ask for advice about what they eat. It is not polite to comment on what kind of food you think other adults should be eating or whether a stranger is behaving in a way you think is healthy.

          4. Observer*

            If it were just about providing information, that comment would have looked different. There is no need to comment about how “strange” the OP’s food choices are – in fact it is utterly and totally irrelevant. Lots of healthy food choices are also “strange”, so anyone who pretends to care about anyone’s health should just SHUT UP about how “strange” someone’s food habits are.

            Secondly, LV explicitly defends the co-worker’s rudeness and lack of factual basis. (No, not everyone who eats this way ends up dead before 50.)

            In short the person who called this concern trolling was totally on the money.

          5. Alli525*

            I absolutely agree with you, and I’m honestly surprised that more people aren’t making this point. Yes, OP doesn’t need to hear about this daily from their coworkers, but that is an AWFUL lot of McD’s considering how few nutrients their food has. I eat McD’s roughly once a week, and I consider it my “cheat meal” as part of an otherwise mostly-healthy, mostly-veggie diet.

            The smoking analogy is an excellent one.

            1. KellyK*

              Perhaps more people aren’t making the point because it’s completely irrelevant to what the OP asked. The OP came to AAM looking for ways to get their coworkers to stop nagging them about their diet. I’m pretty sure they weren’t secretly hoping that a bunch of internet strangers would take over that role.

            2. The Other Dawn*

              I don’t really think smoking and eating what many people deem to be unhealthy food are the same thing. People can survive without smoking. But people need food to live. Sure, it might be unhealthy depending on what someone orders, but maybe the person can’t afford anything more than what’s on the value menu. Maybe she’s pressed for time or is stressed and this is easiest. Maybe she loves McDs. We don’t know anything about her health other than what she says here, we don’t know what discussions she has with her doctor, if she exercises, or anything else. And it’s really no one’s business other than hers and her doctor’s.

          6. Yorick*

            No one was saying the diet was great. People are saying we shouldn’t comment on it because that’s not what OP wrote in for.

        2. Jessica*

          +1 to the request for Alison to shut down the food-policing, fat-hating, body-shaming, judgmental concern trolling that is going on in this thread. LW wrote in for help and advice about coworkers who were behaving rudely and inappropriately, and instead what she’s getting is some of the commentariat here duplicating this behavior at her.
          To everyone who has commented in the vein of “but it’s ok for me to get up in some other grown person’s business about their health and dietary choices, because I’m right,” first of all, no it’s not, and wouldn’t be even if you were right, and secondly, you don’t know that you’re right. You only think you know best because of your own ignorance.

          1. Ramblin' Ma'am*

            It’s context-dependent. If a smoker wrote in because her coworker wouldn’t stop leaving anti-smoking literature on her desk, and all the commenters chimed in with anti-smoking statistics, that would be equally unhelpful.

      2. a different Vicki*

        The way to get Alison’s attention is to put a link, any link, in your comment, which will send it to moderation. (I just flagged this thread for her with a random link to a weather site.)

      3. The Other Dawn*

        Agreed, Amtelope. This happens every time there’s a letter about something related to diet (sometimes other “hot” subjects, too, but more so with diet). Lots of judgment, lectures and nitpicking. Do people truly think that they can shame or lecture someone into “eating right” or losing weight? Apparently so.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I would normally remove this if I’d seen it in time, but I think the many responses to it explaining why it’s not okay are pretty helpful for people to read — so I will leave this one, but yes, this kind of thing is not cool. The whole point is that the OP’s diet is no one’s business.

    9. Bagpuss*

      Even if they are concerned, it’s not appropriate for them to be commenting unless OP ass them for advice.
      And unless you have detailed information about her diet the rest of the time, her medical history, lifestyle etc, you, we and her colleagues are not really in a position to judge how healthy (or not) her diet is.

      And some people do have medical conditions which mean that they have very different dietary needs and definition of what is healthy or appropriate. I had dealings with someone who was caring for a child who needed to be fed a very high fat and high sugar diet. Her diets would have looked incredibly unhealthy to an outsider, and she did mention that it was becoming difficult, as people would often take it upon themselves to comment and to criticise her for being an ‘obviously bad parent’, and the child was getting to an age where they were starting to notice the comments and becoming self-conscious as a result. That child would literally have starved to death on a ‘healthy’ diet.

    10. HS Teacher*

      Please mind your own business. That’s not the question the lw asked anyway. You’re sounding as bad as her rude coworkers.
      I have no idea what my coworkers eat for lunch. I can’t imagine being that nosy or intrusive. Unless someone asks for nutritional advice, don’t give it.

    11. Lynca*

      As someone that has high cholesterol, policing what I ate did nothing. Exercising and losing weight did nothing. Statins were the only thing that brought my numbers in line.

      The only two people that need to have a conversation about this are the OP and their doctor. And only if there is an issue to actually discuss.

    12. Gaia*

      You don’t know anything about the health of the LW (or the person who you feel you need to judge by weight). You know why? Because you aren’t their doctor. Stop judging people. It doesn’t help (in fact with people who are overweight it has been shown to actively hurt weight loss efforts), it isn’t necessary and it makes you sound pompous, arrogant, and self righteous.

    13. Kathletta*

      I agree with you – that much McDonald’s is extremely unhealthy and I think OP is kidding themselves by saying they choose ‘high protein’ options (when it’s all processed crap).

      Regardless, it’s not up to the coworkers to continuously bag out her lunches and she should tell them to put a cork in it. These coworkers, although totally out of line, are probably trying to be helpful and have their hearts in the right place. I think some of the suggestions here have been too harsh since it doesn’t sound like OP has told them how much it upsets her. I would just be straight up with them and say “please stop commenting on what I eat – it makes me really uncomfortable” and any reasonable person should back off.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Most of the vegetarians I know eat various prepared vegetarian foods that are at least as processed as McDonald’s. A McMuffin is an English muffin, an egg, some cheese, and a slice of ham. It’s literally no more processed than probably 95% of the food we make at home. The irony of all the people I know who brag about never eating at McDonald’s because it’s “processed crap” is that since they haven’t eaten there since 1992, they don’t actually know what they’re talking about.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Well, no, an English muffin at McDonald’s is definitely highly processed food, whether you consider that “crap” or not. That’s not the same muffin you’d make homemade, it’s processed American “cheese,” and that ham is processed, too. But you’re right though that most people (at least in the US) eat a diet of mainly highly processed food, and they just don’t realize how processed it is. And it doesn’t really matter because what other people eat isn’t really anyone’s business. We don’t have to debate the healthiness of McDonald’s or what anyone else eats because it doesn’t matter–it’s nobody’s business what the OP eats or what you or I eat.

          1. Decima Dewey*

            Everything we eat has chemicals in it. Including the Treviso radicchio I bought at my favorite farmer’s market last weekend.

            I have to be careful about carbs because I’m diabetic. Someone I used to work with had to avoid dark greens because the vitamin K in them affected her heart condition. Other people have serious food allergies.

            Don’t be the office food police. Unless you’re your coworker’s nutritionist, nurse practitioner, or primary care physician, it’s not your job.

    14. boop the first*

      Why do so many people think a special diet is going to make us live forever? None of us are getting out of here alive.

        1. Yorick*

          Then you can do what you think will make that happen, but there’s no need to nag other people about their choices.

      1. Susanne*

        Some of us have experience with older people who didn’t eat well and who didn’t get a healthful amount of physical activity and we see how their quality of life is low compared to similar-aged people who did eat well and did keep their bodies moving and who can still participate in activities with vim and vigor. It’s as simple as that.

        1. KellyK*

          Then, you’re welcome to save that advice for people who are interested in it. As a hint, when people write into an advice column asking how they can get their coworkers to stop commenting on their food, they are probably not interested in your comments.

        2. Katniss*

          To be quite frank, why do I care how you feel about how those people live? I get to make my own life choices. They aren’t any of your business. You really need to back off in this thread because you’re acting horribly offensively.

        3. oranges & lemons*

          And yet I also know a number of people who did all of the “right” diet and exercise things and have terminal illnesses at a relatively young age. It’s impossible to know the whole situation about someone’s health from the outside.

      2. Catarina*

        I’m having lard-cooked potato chips for dinner while scrolling through all the concern t-r-o-l-l-i-n-g comments.

    15. Chapeau*

      No one should comment on #1’s diet, only his/her doctor is qualified to do that.

      I’m on the other side of the spectrum, I am obese (caused by various reasons, largely – but not solely – because I have an, to most people, invisible handicap). Yet I rarely eat fast-food or eat any candy/sweets/desserts/… you name it.

      However, on the rare occasion that I do, for example, eat an ice-cream in public, there are people commenting like “Of course she eats that” while rolling their eyes, or “No wonder she’s fat.”

      Diet and nutrion are way more complex than most people think, those who are not doctors (or are “the” doctor of the person) shouldn’t be commenting on it!

    16. Willoboughy*

      Wow, you missed the entire point in spectacular fashion. It’d be impressive if it wasn’t so sad.

    17. Katie the Fed*


      OP is a grown adult and can handle his/her food choices without anyone else’s assistance.

    18. Observer*

      Your first paragraph is probably mostly true. The rest? Not so much.

      Maybe her coworkers are really concerned for her – but maybe they aren’t. You have NO way to know. Eating McDee’s that often may be strange to you, but they are not the size they are because people only go in there on occasion.

      And at some point it stops mattering – these people are adults and the “wonder” of something like this should have worn off a long time ago, if it ever existed. And while a comment or two could be seen as a legitimate expression of concern, the repetition really doesn’t qualify. Nagging people is never a useful thing even when you do have the standing (eg a parent of a non-adult child). When it’s a *co-worker*? No.

    19. Likely*

      We don’t know the LW’s situation, so it’s best not to judge. I ate like this when I was just starting to work on my diet – an egg mcmuffin isn’t the best thing, but it was better than the donuts I used to grab every morning. Before I could get to eating homemade, healthy food throughout the day, I started preparing just one meal at a time. For LW, she might be trying to improve her lifestyle gradually too. Instead of a double cheeseburger meal with a large fry and Coke, they’re just getting one sandwich – big, sustainable shifts don’t happen overnight, and it’s important not to let perfect become the enemy of good. Maybe it’s true that their diet is concerning, but it may also be true that it’s an improvement for them. This isn’t really the place to make judgments about a stranger’s health situation based on a very limited view of their life.

    20. Anony*

      They can be concerned silently. This is concern trolling and doesn’t really offer any useful advice. You have control over your diet and that of your young children. You do not have control over your coworkers diet or random people on the internet. Unless they ask for advice or help on their diet, telling them that their diet is killing them is 1) ignorant since you lack the details (and likely lack the degree) you would need to actually offer informed advice and 2) unhelpful.

    21. Madame X*

      This is completely beside the point. The LW does not deserve to be berated by their officemates because of their food choices. Any discussion about their diet is between the LW and their doctor or nutritionist.

  26. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I used to work at a place where the office bully had every reason in the book for being late. Important meeting at 8 on Tuesday? She’d sail in at 8:25 with an excuse that her dog threw up. The dog only seemed to throw up on meeting mornings. If anyone questioned her lateness she gaslighted and pouted and gave the silent treatment. She got rewarded with a promotion and I don’t work there anymore.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I have a cat who has a habit of eating too fast and barfing. Even if she barfs on the rug and I don’t find it until it’s dried on, it doesn’t take 25 minutes to clean up.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        Me too. I don’t consider it an emergency. Maybe I’m not as clean as other people, but if it happens and I have to go somewhere, I make a mental note to take care of it when I get home.

        1. KellyK*

          Yeah, it really depends. My start time is flexible, so if I have nothing urgent, I can take the five minutes to deal with it. But *no way* would I be late for a meeting unless the cat threw up on me or my clothing. (And I’d be texting or calling someone to let them know, in that case.)

        2. Samata*

          I started to comment the same thing above and got sidetracked! When my cat would get sick and it was close to when I’d have to leave for work I’d just throw a towel over it (as a reminder to me) and deal with it when I got home! If I was burning a “late b/c of emergency day” it wasn’t going to be over cat puke!

      2. Catarina*

        I have experience with fostering and adopting cats with food insecurity who bolt down their food and throw it back up. Food puzzles are helpful (Google or Amazon for info) or, for an inexpensive home fix, just put ping-pong balls in her food bowl. They are too large to swallow, easily washed, and will slow her down by making her work around them for her food. HTH!

        1. nonegiven*

          We got one of those puzzles. One of them pays any attention to it at all and for her, it’s not an obstacle.

  27. sssssssssss*

    I have a coworker like #2 – there’s always something. She is genuinely sick a lot of the time because we can hear and see her coughing away (bronchitis twice this year, I think) but then there’s her child, a couple of funerals, a couple of gastros, the washer flooded, her car broke down, the car needed replacing, she got lost at lunch trying to find a place so she was back late, morning traffic, appointments, appointments, appointments, a day care event, banking issues…

    Our employer has a truly golden leave policy (almost 20 sick days for starters) and even then, people notice just how often she’s gone.

    And she desperately wants to advance her career and get promoted.

    1. Project Manager*

      We have unfortunately been this person this year. We haven’t had a week straight since our 19mo was born where at least one person in the house wasn’t sick or injured, including multiple surgeries and hospitalizations, plus constant, sustained sickness for the baby to the point where I have genuinely been afraid he wouldn’t make it to the age of 2. (We never figured out the cause, but he seems to be doing better now…fingers crossed…) Between the illnesses and all the specialists both kids and I see, I work from home a lot and on evenings and weekends to make up what I have to miss and make sure I hit all our deadlines and get actions completed on time. All I want for Christmas this year is health. (We spent Christmas in the PCU last year because the baby had a horrible case of RSV.)

      I hope my coworkers don’t think I’m making all this up…it’s been awful, and I would definitely rather be at work than lying in bed in between attacks of rotavirus and astrovirus (at the same time) while my 14mo is in the hospital severely dehydrated from the same thing.

      1. Shiara*

        That sounds utterly terrifying and miserable. I hope the new year brings you all better health, and continued understanding and compassion from your coworkers/employers. Jedi hugs if you want them.

      2. Tired and emotional*

        Not to this extent, but when toddler was under two it seemed like she caught everything going. Fortunately both OH and I have understanding managers, and he can often WFH or flexitime, but I still ended up with a lot of unpaid leave last year. Keeping my fingers crossed for you all.

    2. strawberries and raspberries*

      I recently had to write someone up because after being spoken to about a general pattern of lateness, he was 90 minutes late to a big all-staff event because he said that his wife didn’t believe he had to go to work that day and they got into a fight. He offered no apology and acted like I was the unreasonable one for not being moved by his story, and the rest of the team was obviously annoyed. Getting a written warning that made clear the next time would be a fireable offense seemed to make him take his time management a little more seriously.

      1. Aeon*

        Wait, he stayed home to argue with his wife about working that day instead of just leaving and, you know… go to work?

        1. Brandy*

          Yeah, the manager at my mechanics wife gives him hell about going to work. Like what do you want him to do? He has to work.

      2. Temperance*

        Okay my shitty intern from last summer actually was over an hour late with no explanation and then he claimed to me that he was in an argument with his dad and that’s what took him so long to come to work.

        1. SnowyCold*

          To be honest, if an argument gets involved or heated enough, it’s very difficult to disengage. It’s not a good reason to be late but I can see this happening with some intense folks.

          1. Susanne*

            “I need to go to work now. Think about what I’ve said, and we’ll continue this conversation tonight.” (door slam, sound of car starting)

            That’s a horrendous excuse, unless the person he was fighting with was holding him at knifepoint.

      3. SnowyCold*

        My husband wrote up someone because he didn’t come into work…because he had too much laundry to do. Seriously.

  28. Volunteer Enforcer*

    #5, I’m in the same position as you as we’re having a little party on Friday when next Friday will be my last day, due to a restructure. I’m going and nobody minds, but deciding not to is fine as well. I agree with Alison’s advice.

    1. Say what, now?*

      In Volunteer Enforcer’s case I’m guessing people know so they are able to make this a sort of “goodbye party” as well. They can express gratitude for time spent working together or best wishes for the future. It’s true that the OP’s coworkers don’t know yet but that doesn’t mean that you couldn’t do something similar while you’re all in a group together socially. You can still tell them that you appreciate whatever support they’ve given you or express how much you enjoy working with them. That way if someone is out on your last day you’ve at least covered those bases.

  29. Say what, now?*

    OP #3-

    I’d explain it to her as this money is money that the company is investing in your skills that will hopefully pay off down the line with better ideas/increased productivity/whatever applies. You may get another position before this comes to fruition but the intention is to elevate your skills for the benefit of this company. Paying for you to travel to get another job is investing in an outcome that, guaranteed, will not result in a pay off for the company. It’s taking resources to bolster a competitor.

  30. I Am Now a Llama*

    #3 – Would it be prudent to start the process to replace this person since they are clearly not looking to stay?

    1. CatCat*

      Seems premature. The employee is still there and hasn’t put in notice. How would you “start the process”?

    2. Shiara*

      This really doesn’t seem necessary. It sounds like this is an entry level position with an expected degree of turnover where most people move up by moving out. There are industries where it’s normal and expected that after a certain period of time, you assume people are looking, and generally those places have structured their teams and hiring calls so that when someone does leave it’s not a particular hardship.

  31. Shoe Ruiner*

    #3 – University housing/residence life? I haven’t heard of anyone using PD funds to go to OPE, TPE, or the like.

  32. Pollygrammer*

    LW #1: Are you eating at your desk? Is it possible that you are bothering your coworkers with the smell? The smell of fast food is fairly strong and very distinct, and some people find it unpleasant. (Think of that one guy who brings McDonalds on an airplane). They may be couching their objections in concern for your health, but they could actually just find fast food coming into the office almost every day unpleasant.

      1. Jujubes*

        Agreed! I feel like if it’s a smell issue they should just be more direct and say that is the issue. Then LW#1 can find a different place to eat their food, and everyone would probably be much happier in this scenario.

      2. Pollygrammer*

        I do agree, and it’s definitely a terrible idea, but “your food smells bad” is almost as contentious a complaint as “your food is too unhealthy.” And it could definitely be both. Either way, fast food is a lot more obvious to your office neighbors than lots of other equally unhealthy options.

        1. Kelly Bennett*

          There’s been multiple stories here of people talking about smelling food etc. Many office have bans on microwaving fish, etc because of the smell.

          Telling someone they’re going to die early because you don’t like the smell of their food seems like a drastic trade off. Maybe a good example of how easy it is to fatshame someone.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Nothing he described smells that bad, though. My mom likes McMuffins and we get them twice a month on the way to church–they mostly smell like warm English muffin. They’re not actually that greasy, unless your McDonald’s is a lot worse than ours.

      People just need to butt out of others’ food choices.

      1. Sara*

        Strong disagree on the smell of McMuffins. Those things are nauseating to me. On family roadtrips, I refuse to let them in the car.

        That being said, if the smell of something was bothering me, I’d be way more likely to say that rather than mocking someone’s food choice. And in an office setting, I’m still not sure I would say anything but that’s just my office persona.

        1. CubicleShroom#1004*

          I’ve put Vic’s Capo Rub under my nose when I worked in a tiny office, and my coworker brought in fast food x5/days a week.

          It’s the combo of cheap meat/cheap grease/ketsup and mustard that is gag inducing. Worse is leaving the wrappers in the trash.

          I’d deal with curry/Kim chee/tuna/burnt pop corn/ than any fast food.

          Never said nothing. It wasn’t the kind of workplace that would care about coworkers’ sensibilities.

      2. Temperance*

        FWIW, pork/ham whatever is on those things has an incredibly strong smell to me because I have an aversion to pork. But yeah, they do have a smell to some people.

    2. Temperance*

      That’s a bit of a stretch, and it would be way less rude to point out that the McMuffin has a strong smell than to pretend to care about LW’s “health”.

  33. Kix*

    Back when he did stand-up comedy, Drew Carey had a perfect comeback for asshats who comment on what people eat:

    Nosy asshat: “That cheeseburger is going to kill you!”
    Drew: (spits out cheeseburger) “Why, thank you, kind citizen!”

    As a fat girl, I find that people feel free to comment all the time on my food choices. Years ago, I used to manage community flu clinics, and at one clinic, an old lady came up to me as I was eating a donut and said, “Do you really need that, dear?” I replied, “Well, since I’ve been here since 5 AM setting up the flu clinic so we can give free shots to the community, and this is the first bit of food I’ve had in 18 hours, I would say, ‘Yes, I do need it.” Hmph.

    1. Kelly Bennett*

      I have a sign in my office that says ‘this is a diet talk free zone’ with a bunch of stuff about how ‘clean eating’ ‘earning food’ etc is problematic. I’m fat too, and I refuse to listen to it.

          1. paul*

            But you have signs up about eating clean is bad; you’re not vocally saying something but you sure as heck are still talking about other people’s food choices.

            I’ll say I’ve been both pretty lax on diet and pretty strict on diet depending on where I’m at weight/activity wise and I get *far* more flack during periods where I’m being relatively strict on diet. It royally chaps my ass.

            1. Kelly Bennett*

              I said that clean eating is a word often associated with dieting. So are things like quitting sugar, cleanses etc.

              I don’t allow people to talk about diet in my office, period.

              The size of one’s body doesn’t determine their worth or their health.

              1. Anonymous for this*

                I find “clean eating” to be kind of nonsensical (and often too vague to offer any real guidance anyway); I think we’re on the same page on “cleanses” and other junk. However, you are engaging in diet talk. Or diet signmaking?

                1. galatea*

                  sincerely: do you not see the difference between “clean eating implies other eating is dirty or morally bad, so don’t use that language in my office” versus “hey, are you eating that? do you know how many calories are in it? hitting the gym later then, are we? i’m being good and eating a salad”?

            2. KellyK*

              It’s not the diet that’s the problem. It’s talking about it as “clean,” which implies that other ways of eating are “dirty.”

              1. AKchic*

                I tell people that “Diet” is a dirty four-letter word. It is the only dirty four-letter word I won’t allow to be uttered around me.

          2. Anonymous for this*

            Yet anyone who sees your office gets to read all about it, and about how their own choices may be wrong and oppressive.

            1. galatea*

              eat however you want; however, casting moral judgment on other people’s eating is a pretty crappy thing to do. i’ve eaten a specific way for my entire life due to certain medical problems, but they’re MY medical problems — i don’t need to either proselytizing or using moralizing language around it.

              just out of curiosity, how do you feel about evangelical vegans?

            2. KellyK*

              She’s not actually saying their choices are wrong, though. They can eat all the organic salads and vegan smoothies they want. They just don’t get to talk about how “clean” (i.e., pure, virtuous, morally superior) their food is *while they’re in her office.* They have the whole rest of the world in which to do that.

            3. Foxtrot*

              You’re coming at this from one side only. My coworkers and I talk about food a lot – new restaurants that opened up, Pinterest recipes to try, some go gaga for every fad diet that ever existed. Not allowing food to be part of the conversation would severely limit your chitchat opportunities.
              BUT, Kelly is totally within her right to say what can and cannot be discussed in her office (assuming she means her particular closed door space/cubicle and not entire office building). She also doesn’t seem to mind at all as to how this translates into other people’s actions. For my work, that would probably just end up with a lot of people not in Kelly’s office, chitchatting elsewhere. That is also work heaven for some people.
              Until Kelly comes here complaining that she can’t control other people’s actions or is mad she’s getting left out of little social things, let it go and just grab coffee with Jane down the hall.

    2. Other Duties as Assigned*

      I once used a snarky line from David Letterman in a similar situation years ago. I’m like OP: healthy, no sick time taken, etc. My work schedule at the time had me working from noon to 8:00pm with no way to take a mid-point break for a meal, so I often came in a bit early with fast food to eat at my desk, then plow through the day and have dinner after I left at 8:00pm. One day, this exchange occurred while I was eating my burger and fries:

      Coworker: “You should eat better–that’s no good for you!”
      Me: “Well, I had a healthy breakfast.”
      (Suddenly-intrigued) Coworker: “Really? What did you have?”
      Me: “I had a stick of butter.”

      No more comments after that.

  34. Kelly Bennett*

    Why why WHY do people still think it’s okay to comment on other people’s food choices. It shouldn’t matter WHAT you’re eating. They’re not your doctor, they should stfu.

  35. Kate*

    On #2, could it be that your employee is searching and interviewing for a new job? I’ve experienced a similar situation with regular absences and strange (but not unbelievable) excuses twice before and in both cases the employees were checked out and looking to leave. I’d have a direct conversation soon to find out if that’s a possibility or if there’s another bug stressor in their lives to cause the absences.

    1. Pollygrammer*

      If that’s the case, then I’m impressed. When I was job hunting, I would have killed for an interview every week :)

    2. Another person*

      Good point. Even if not going on interviews every week, this person may be mentally checked out and taking care of various things before starting a new job somewhere else.

      I wouldn’t expect an honest answer to the question of whether they’re looking for another job if asked.

  36. Jujubes*

    In response to #1- Can we all just go into 2018 in agreement that we aren’t going to make comments about people’s food/lifestyle choices? Because in my experience it doesn’t matter if you’re making “healthy” or “unhealthy” choices, people will find a way to negatively comment about it. I’m a vegetarian and a runner and I constantly get annoying comments like “Are you sure you don’t want a cheeseburger?” or “If you ever see me running, call the police!” I don’t get why people feel like making comments like this about food/health/lifestyle choices is helpful.

    1. The Other Dawn*


      I find it really weird that when I was obese, I rarely got comments about what I was eating. It was almost as if people saw soda, a huge plate of food, appetizer, bread basket and dessert and thought, “Yeah, that totally makes sense she eats like that. She’s huge, after all!” But when I had weight loss surgery and lost the weight, I started to get comments about my portion sizes. (Granted, it can be really weird to see someone eat literally just three bites and then ask for a doggy bag. But those were the very early days; I can eat more now.) People see me eat half a burger (if that) and two or three fries and ask me if my food was OK, am I not hungry, is something wrong, etc. Um, no. I’m full. Why do you care anyway??

      1. Catarina*

        I’ve always been a grazer–I get full fast, but need to eat every couple of hours. I cannot tell you how many waiters have gotten uneasy about my portions, thinking I was unhappy with the food. They’re always anxiously questioning me about how little I ate. You’re not alone in that.

    2. Samata*


      Whether your choices are perceived to be healthy or unhealthy there’s just someone waiting to shit on them. All. The.Time.

    3. oranges & lemons*

      Yeah, in both cases I think it comes from a place of extreme defensiveness. People are trying to feel better about their own choices and their own health by crapping on the choices of others, one way or the other. Another common tactic is to pressure others to join in activities that they feel guilty about.

  37. Not So Super-visor*

    Thank you for the response to LW #2, Allison! I struggle with the same thing. I always feel like I can’t say no because it sounds like a legitimate reason to miss work, but it’s always the same employee whose life always seems like its on the verge of falling apart.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I encountered this with a former employee and I totally fell into that trap, too. It’s so hard to figure out where the line is. Some people are like a magnet and attract all the crap in the universe (my niece and sister are two such people) and their life is always on the verge of falling apart. She was one of them. I always felt like I had to just put up with it because she typically had a good reason. It was really annoying and disruptive, and after a while I just didn’t believe her anymore. But, yeah, I should have said something to her about it.

      1. Another person*

        True, some people really are crap magnets, but since they’re so focused on their personal problems they might not realize what a negative impact their absences are causing at work unless someone outright tells them.

        There’s a chance that if you say something even the people with the messiest lives might be able to make arrangements to lessen the impact on work. Can’t hurt to try.

        1. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

          I really like this approach. I’ve had a horrible year. Just awful. It was a shit year, and it is what it is. I’d write out everything that happened/went wrong/encountered, but it would be incredibly identifying. Nothing was avoidable. Some of it was medical related and I did my best to find providers that have weekend hours or early/late hour, but that’s just not always possible (or I can’t wait for 4 months for that one open Sat. appt).

          I was absolutely this employee. I’m actually a tiny bit terrified that OP#2 is my boss, but just changed the specific details. If so – well I’m hoping for a better 2018 and I do believe that I took care of some ongoing things that hopefully will set me up for a less chaotic/problematic 2018.

          I tried to be very aware of the impact on my co-workers and always worked late or from home or from my phone to ensure that all of my responsibilities were taken care of in their appropriate time frames, but there were many times that I simply could not physically be in the office.

          My advice – focus on the work issues, not the abscences themselves. What is the effect of these abscences? Is work not getting done? Are co-workers needing to pick up the slack? Is the OP, as the manager forced to pick up slack? Are deadlines being missed? Focus on that. Not the number of abscences. If they are good employee just having a tough time they will figure out to remedy those issues. If they are not – then you will have business cause to fire them.

          1. KellyK*

            I like this. It sounds from what you describe like you’re probably not OP #2’s employee, because you’re being really conscientious about the impact on your employer & your coworkers.

            For OP #2, if you’re not sure whether this is someone going through a really rough patch or someone with a cavalier attitude toward showing up at work, pay attention to how they handle those things. Do they get stuff caught up when they are there? Do they appear to care/notice when people have to cover for them?

            1. isubmittedthequestion*

              This is the only issue I have with this employee. Otherwise things are going very well! So I think that’s part of why I’ve been so lenient but once I started tracking it, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m being conned!

    2. AKchic*

      I tell people that if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. And for the most part – it’s true. However, I am as organized as I possibly can be and I keep my ish together enough to get my posterior to work and do my job. Its rare that I’m not at work. Why? Because I don’t want to be homeless again. My terrible immune system, my vehicle problems, my addict teen, my ailing grandmother, my stalker ex-husband, my other health problems, my husband’s health problems, my other kids and their schedules – it can all be managed outside of work. Work is a constant. It is what puts money in the bank to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. It is sacrosanct.

      Some people have to have drama in their lives. They thrive on it. They are dysfunctional and don’t know how to live without it. Me? 2017 just happens to be a bad year in an overarching not-so-great life. It won’t make the highlight reel of my life. Maybe the blooper reel.

    3. a-no*

      But you should try and give some grace is the work ethic is there. For example – I had just started my current job (like 3 months in) and then I had a couple fluke accidents a few weeks in a row, then I got vertigo so I worked half a day in one week then about half the following week, then I had a bunch of appointments the weeks after (vertigo is a very dangerous symptom of thyroid issues which I’m high risk for so it wasn’t optional on monitoring and tests).
      To summarize: I think I missed a day every week for 4 weeks, an unexpected week off followed by almost no time in the office for the following 2-3 weeks.
      But since that awful 2 months, I haven’t missed a day without pre-booking a vacation and I have never been more than about 8 minutes late (and even then, I’ve been late 3 times due to traffic or bad weather) in the last 6 months. Sometimes when it rains, it pours and there isn’t much you can do about it but hope you get some understanding.

  38. Kelly Bennett*

    I hope the people in number one also comment on every single smoker they see and tell them the same thing, then.

  39. anon66*

    My husbands workplace has a policy where if you call in sick 3 times during a 60? Day period then for the next 60 days you need a doctors note for any absences, cuts down alot on non legit sick days while not making the legitimate ones go to the dr for no reason other than to get a note, the manager also has some discretion in it as well

    They do get 10 days sick leave paid per year which is alot here

    1. Temperance*

      Eh, I don’t like policies like that, though. I tend to get very sick in the fall and winter (bronchitis due to exposure to secondhand smoke as a kid), so I’ll miss like 4 days in two months and then nothing for 6 months.

      1. AMT*

        I hate those, too. My workplace has a ridiculously strict set of policies that mean that I sometimes have to come in when I’m sick, be miserable and unproductive, and risk infecting other people. It’s a better idea to focus on actual work impact. Are deadlines being missed? Are you overburdening the people who have to cover for you? No? Fine, carry on.

    2. Yorick*

      That’s ridiculous though. If you have a cold (or some other medical issues), the doctor can’t do anything for you except tell you to rest and drink fluids. You would have to pay and take time for a doctor visit just to get a note for work.

      1. KellyK*

        Yep, and possible catch something worse in a waiting room full of sick people, or give your cold to someone else.

        I think it’s reasonable to ask for doctor’s notes from specific people who you think may be abusing the system, but as a blanket policy, it’s always going to screw people over. If you hear Fergus coughing his head off all afternoon, and he doesn’t come in the next day, you can safely assume he’s sick. And that absence is still going to be counted toward his limit of absences before he needs a doctor’s note? Now, if managers have enough discretion to only enforce this policy when they have reason to suspect someone’s playing hooky, that’s different.

    3. Bea*

      This is the exact policy that makes me happy to be in a state with a sick leave policy that strictly forbids it.

  40. Dust Bunny*

    LW2: What is your time-off policy? If your company has PTO he must eventually run out, and I would think getting his paycheck slashed would get his attention.

    If he’s hourly–all the hourly jobs I’ve ever had required me to find my own shift replacements, which was a massive pain and incentive not to call in unless I was dying or something.

    Either way, surely there is something you can do to make calling in a lot more trouble and less appealing.

    For the record: Taking the cat to the vet for non-routine stuff always ends up being a family affair at my house. I can literally leave my parents pages of notes to just hand to the vet, and explain everything to them multiple times in advance, and they will still ask me to take time off to take her because she’s mine and they feel more comfortable with me handling it. But she’s also their grandkitty so they want to be in on it, too.

    1. SallytooShort*

      Unlimited PTO isn’t terribly uncommon nowadays. It’s far from the norm, of course, but lots of places do it.

  41. AMT*

    I’ve always been the OP #1 at my job. I’m a powerlifter and fast food is a cheap, protein-rich lunch when I’m putting on weight. It’s only “unhealthy” because it’s got tons of calories, which is not a bad thing when you’re bulking! But try telling coworkers whose entire conception of fitness revolves around weight loss. (Actually, don’t try telling them, because nobody should have to justify their food or fitness choices, even if they’re genuinely risky.)

    1. The Other Dawn*


      I think a lot of people tend to forget that weight loss/gain is really simple math: if you eat more calories than you burn, you typically gain weight. And if you eat less than you burn, you usually lose weight. Even if you eat veggies and meat all day long, you’re going to gain if those calories total more than you burn. Obviously I’m not a nutritionist or dietitian, and there’s more to it, but that’s the gist of it.

        1. EatDrinkAndBeMerry*

          Yes, but there’s also a lot of snake-oil salespeople peddling bullshit complications, so that simplistic explanation isn’t so bad

          1. paul*

            CICO is the heart of weight management; different approaches work for different people. High protein vs higher carb vs higher fat, IIFYM vs “clean” eating, whatever, there’s lots of approaches that can work depending on the person and circumstances. But if you’ve found people with bodies literally violating the laws of thermodynamics, we’ll see you in Stockholm when you publish.

            I don’t want to comment on the OP’s diet–I don’t know their diet beyond this, and it’s rude anyway, but comments about CICO not applying to weight management are just baffling to me.

            1. Sue No-Name*

              Tell me your guaranteed-to-work-formula for assessing the calories burned by every organ and cell in an individual’s body, as well as any component of their intake that is metabolized by the microorganisms in their gut, and I’ll be happy to see YOU win the Nobel prize. Seeing as the “calories out” side of the equation is always assumed to be the easy part, yet new research is demonstrating that variability in basal metabolic rate between individuals is wide and impacted by things we do NOT fully understand yet. If your body has a predictable CICO pattern using the rough approximations of fitness apps and magazines, that’s great for you. It’s not universal.

              1. paul*

                CICO being valid does not rest, at all, on everyone’s metabolism being the same. You start with a baseline from TEDEE calculators and go from there; if you’re losing too fast, increase intake. If you’re not losing, decrease caloric intake.

                You seem to be saying that because not everyone’s caloric needs are the same that CICO isn’t valid, which is wrong.

                1. Sue No-Name*

                  You’re also saying, though, that because there is some number of calories being burned by every body, it is realistic, feasible, and the responsibility of every individual to identify that number and consistently eat less than it so that their body is an acceptable weight. In a society where everyone has wildly different demands on their time and attention, and wildly different interest in “weight management”, and wildly different access to healthy foods, and wildly different intestinal microbiomes, and at least SOME variability in metabolic rate…meticulously identifying that number is not realistic for every individual. Not to mention the way food labels are legally allowed to be created has a good bit of wiggle room as compared to true measurements using a calorimeter. So while it may be physiologically valid that this unit we have all agreed to define as a “calorie” can be used to describe every individual’s intake and output, measuring input is inexact and measuring output is inexact.

                  You’ve made it clear that the only definition of output that matters, though, is “how much you have to do to make your body less fat”, so I would not guess that you are interested in these caveats about feasibility and variability. As it is relevant to the workplace, then, please consider that not everyone wants to hear about YOUR priorities and preferred definitions.

    2. VintageLydia*

      In the last year I’ve found myself in a friend group consisting mostly of athletes (mostly martial artists, but a few weight lifting/power lifting folks as well) and my concept of what a “healthy” diet is has been completely flipped on its head. It varies so much based on activity levels and types of activity that, although I never really commented on other’s diets much to begin with, I don’t silently judge much anymore.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        There’s also the thing where everyone’s bodies are different.

        I have low blood pressure and have been encouraged to eat a high salt diet to keep me from getting woozy/passing out. The low salt diet that is recommended for people with high blood pressure would not be healthy for me.

  42. Observer*

    #1 I want to point out that even though you have not had a single sick day, your food choices are probably NOT healthy. Please consider a thorough conversation with your doctor or a good nutritionist.

    The reason I’m pointing this out is that, whatever you decided to do about this personally, it affects the most reasonable way for you to address it in the office. Alison is right – your coworkers are definitely being rude regardless of whether you are making terrible or perfect food choices. If you notice, NONE of her scripts gets into how healthy (or not) your food is. It simply states that it’s not up for discussion. Stick to that – they may not like it but it’s kind of hard to make a factual case that they have standing to force the issue when you’ve made it clear that you don’t want to talk about it. Which means that trying to force the issue at that point exposes them as the rude ones and people don’t like to do that.

    1. Kelly Bennett*

      You are not this person’s doctor and don’t know their situation or the rest of their diet.


    2. Amtelope*

      Why? Why do you want to point this out? This person DID NOT ASK whether strangers on the Internet thought their diet was healthy or not. Why are you telling them?

      1. Observer*

        You apparently didn’t read the comment.

        The (slightly) shorter version. The OP says that it would be OK if their coworkers were correct but that they aren’t based on some very poor measures of health. They seem to think that they have a chance of making them stop by making that argument. However, since it is highly likely (although not certain) that the OP is actually not correct about the health of their food choices, taking that tack is not going to be useful in getting the coworkers to shut up. Totally avoiding the argument is far more useful.

        1. Anony*

          If your main point is that they should not focus on whether or not their diet is actually healthy when trying to get their coworkers to stop commenting on their diet, you could have done that without offering unsolicited health advice.

          You actually do not know whether their diet will have any long term health impacts. No one knows that. It is very difficult to research different diets without having weight and fitness level as confounding factors.

      1. Observer*

        The OP asked how to shut their coworkers up. Avoiding a losing argument is always a good idea. Knowing that you have a probably losing argument is a good start.

        And, yes, it’s probable not certain.

    3. sheila_cpa*

      It’s no more your business than it is that of OP’s coworkers. Please stop, it’s not appropriate.

    4. KellyK*

      Why do you feel the need to do the exact same thing to the OP that their coworkers are doing? For that matter, it’s interesting that you assume that they can’t possibly have already discussed this with their doctor.

      1. Observer*

        If the OP had discussed this with their doctor they would know that not taking a sick day is not an indicator that their diet is ok.

        As to what I’m doing, I’m not riding the op, and I am not making definitive statements much less making declarations about their lifespan. I AM pointing out that getting into this argument is not going to get them the results they want. Refusing to discuss the issue, as Alison suggests, avoids the whole thing and has a good chance of shutting down the discussion.

        1. Anony*

          Except you are repeatedly saying that their diet is in fact unhealthy. That is not the issue and you can’t possibly know that for a fact.

        2. KellyK*

          You could point out that getting into the argument won’t get them the results they want *without* making sweeping assumptions or providing advice that they specifically have stated is unwelcome.

          If the OP had discussed this with their doctor they would know that not taking a sick day is not an indicator that their diet is ok.

          Not necessarily. It sounds to me like they’re assuming their diet is okay because they’re at a “normal” weight, which is pretty standard conventional wisdom. It’s not *true,* but plenty of people manage to believe it just fine while seeing their doctors regularly. “I never take sick days, so my diet must be fine, right?” is also an oddly specific question that isn’t necessarily going to come up, even if they’re getting a yearly physical and all the bloodwork that would show whether their diet was causing problems.

          It seems like you really want it to be okay for you to provide the very same advice that they’re trying to avoid.

          1. Observer*

            It actually seems to me that you are not reading what I wrote. Because your response actually doesn’t answer what I said.

            I’ll leave it at that. I’ve made my point and a discussion of the OP’s health and discussions (or lack thereof with their doctor) isn’t useful.

    5. AKchic*

      I am currently eating a BEC McGriddle at you. Because it tastes amazing. And it’s unhealthy and will probably be the only thing I eat until I get home and then I’m going to eat a cupcake because I’m awesome.

      1. Observer*

        I have no idea what you are trying to say. Not that it matters – it doesn’t sound like you actually read what I wrote.

        1. AKchic*

          Ah, yes. BEC is the acronym for bacon egg and cheese. Unfortunately, it’s also an acronym for something else.

    6. oranges & lemons*

      I mean, the LW wrote in about how they want other people to stop harassing them about their diet, so they probably aren’t looking for this advice.

    7. oranges & lemons*

      Since the LW wrote in about how they want other people to stop harassing them about their diet, they probably aren’t looking for this advice.

  43. Sara*

    for #3 it takes real guts to ask for your job to pay for you to find another one. I can’t imagine ANY company would be ok with that. I would be afraid of asking and risking my job. The fact that you’re even considering this is very kind but unnecessary.

  44. Antti*

    OP1: Reminds me of one time in undergrad. There was a friend of mine who loved to rag on me about drinking diet soda (I’m diabetic, so if I’m drinking soda it better not be regular…), with the whole “you’re pickling your insides” line, etc. If this happened again now I’d absolutely handle it differently, but back then I tolerated it until it just got to be too much, and I finally just shot back one day: “Well, I’m already not going to live as long as almost everyone else in this room!”

    I’ll admit I’m still amused by her shocked reaction, just a little, but yeah, if I could do that again I definitely wouldn’t say that. I think Alison’s wording is great.

    1. Nervous Accountant*

      Same. Diabetic. I stick to diet drinks. Theoretically, I’ll take the “but da kemikalzzzzzz” over high blood sugar.

    2. Lumen*

      I love this. I can’t number the times I’ve wanted to respond to someone commenting on how much creamer I put in my coffee with a snapped “How do you think that comment would make me feel if I were recovering from an eating disorder? Oh, you don’t know if I’ve ever had an eating disorder? That’s not something you can tell about someone just looking at them? Then maybe you SHOULDN’T COMMENT ON WHAT OTHER PEOPLE EAT.”

      But I don’t. Because self control. But man, the rage I feel for the food moralizers and diet police. Think for three seconds about the damage you could do to someone who may already be struggling, and keep your mouths shut.

      1. KellyK*

        As long as you make the comment politely and matter-of-factly, without rage, I think it would be totally reasonable to say, “You know, you really shouldn’t comment on what people are eating. What if you said something like that to someone who was recovering from an eating disorder?”

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Why should Lumen be polite and matter of fact in response to someone who is being rude?

  45. Tobias Funke*

    Things like OP1’s letter make me really grateful for the fact that I have culled my social circle to not include food moralizers. Honestly, it’s so inappropriate.

  46. CubicleShroom#1004*

    Buddhists monks start Dharma talks with the phrase, “Friends in aging sickness and death…” No one is getting of this rock alive.

    If the LW is eating schmaltz spread on Wonder Bread, who cares? That’s between LW and their health care providers.

    The conversations that make me want to stab my eyes with sporks, and give the sporks a good twist is anything diet related. There is nothing more tedious and dull than that.

  47. C*

    I am 100% guy no2 :( I always make my contracted hours, meet deadlines and attend all client meetings in a timely manner but I suck at the day to day routine. I have anxiety which makes it difficult to get going in the mornings. The more the situation continues the more the anxiety builds and I’m stuck in a loop of bad habits I cant seem to escape from. I wonder if the person is making excuses to cover something up? Worth talking to them. And, anyone got anyone advice to person 2 of how to turn things around, or what to do if it’s too late?

    1. KellyK*

      The first thing I’d suggest is getting the anxiety managed as best as you can. (Whether that means meds or therapy or yoga or whatever is for you to figure out, and way beyond the scope of an AAM post.) I’d also figure out your worst-case scenario for getting out the door and set your alarm based on that. It’s easy to plan based on the days that go perfectly well, then be derailed by finding out that the shirt you were going to wear has a hole in it, or it snowed and you have to brush your car off, or whatever.

      To help motivate yourself to get out on time, maybe you can reward yourself for it. Like, if you leave the house by 7, you have time to stop for a fancy coffee drink. Or, however much time you’re early to work is time to sit in your car with music and a book.

      1. C*

        Thank you for the reply. Yes, the main problem is I’m struggling to get on top of the anxiety. Medicated, been through counselling but still trying to work through things. Recovery is a long frustrating process and there’s a lot going on right now which is triggering my urge to run and hide :/ I like the idea of a reward and have been using that to successfully be on time two to three days a week. I’ll give myself other incentives to get going rather than a reward per say, something smaller and less scary than work to get to first. (getting Starbucks, putting in petrol, going to the post office, that kind of thing) the problem is the days where my brain sees through my attempts at tricking myself, like “I see what you are doing and I won’t go along with this.” :/ Maybe I should try thinking more in terms of rewards. I should definitely try that approach with my alarms, even on good days I do get caught out by those unexpected things!

  48. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, please stop criticizing OP #1’s diet. That’s not what she wrote in for advice on, and it’s exactly what her coworkers need to stop doing. It’s not relevant to her question, and it’s intrusive.

    1. Sled Dog Mama*

      I have a coworker who regularly comments on the fact that my lunch includes carrot sticks every single day. I bring carrot sticks every day, every single day this person asks what I brought for lunch and says “you’re going to turn into a carrot”, every day I respond “I haven’t yet”.
      This got old after about two days and I think it’s equally inappropriate as commenting on any food choices any adult makes.
      So looking at the question from that perspective helped me think about the question of coworkers commenting on food choices rather than OPs specific example.

      1. Lumen*

        This. You’re right: comments about people’s food and diet is inappropriate, especially in the workplace. Period. The only thing I think is appropriate is stuff like “Oh, that looks tasty!” “Did you make that?” “Something smells good!” etc. Talking about our food is a social thing, and it’s fine. Criticizing or joking about what someone else eats is just dickbaggery.

        1. AKchic*

          I had a coworker who’s favorite word to describe her food was “tasty”. Her second favorite word was “yummy”, followed by “delicious”. Every. Single. Lunch. Two years of “hey, I’m going out to lunch, want to go?” and me declining, followed by her returning with whatever she bought and the rest of the afternoon with her discussing just how “tasty” her lunch was and how I really should have gone with her and if I wanted, she could have brought me back some really “tasty” and “yummy” food because it was “really delicious”.
          The only time I’ve ever complained about anyone’s actual food was the payroll clerk microwaving her fish. Because it made the whole 3rd floor smell funky.

    1. Queen of Cans & Jars*

      Ha! I did just that, but not out of spite. It just got me thinking about how long it’s been since I’ve had a Filet-O-Fish. :D

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        I totally ended up going, partly because this whole post made me crave their fries but mostly because I can get a large Diet Dr. Pepper for a dollar there (killer headache today).

  49. Nervous Accountant*

    I’m cracking up at #2 bc it seems like we all have that coworker. Mine is also late many times or calls out often. Strep throat, car accident, terrorist attack. Otherwise he’s a great worker and a nice guy, so there’s not much we can say….things happen and I believe some people can be unlucky at times.

    We had another guy here who called out mostly on fridays and after work events, and worst of all on deadline days. We think he really had a bad drinking problem. Eventually he was let go bc the rest of his performance wasn’t great either.

    1. isubmittedthequestion*

      Yes, other than this, he is great and I think that’s why I’ve mostly let it slide!

  50. MaureenS*

    Re #2 – I was in the position of being the manager of an employee like that. Taught me a lot about what not to do as a manager.
    1. Shut it down, now. Don’t let it drag on.
    2. It’s a new year – good time to lay out expectations as vacation rolls over anyway.
    3. Monitor and enforce any rules. This is WORK for the manager, you have to force yourself to do this.
    4. Are there consequences if too much time off is used? I (eventually) had to enforce days unpaid. A hit to the paycheque did help a bit.
    5. Document! You can’t have enough documents. Write down every meeting. End every meeting with an email to the employee on what was discussed and what rules will be enforced.
    6. Give notice that regular (you define it) attendance is an fundamental expectation of the job, if they can’t commit, then their job will be terminated. Document it.
    7. It gets better for a while, then happens again. Consult with HR / employment lawyer that documentation is sufficient, dismiss with cause, post job ads.

    I really wish I’d known about step 5 earlier – would have saved me a lot of grief.

  51. Lumen*

    #1 – It’s not okay for them to be making these comments to you in the workplace even if you did have health issues related to your diet. (Started writing that before I even started reading Alison’s reply to you, but I’m not deleting it because it’s important!) It’s none of their business. And I don’t think people in general will learn that this behavior is unnecessary and rude until they start seeing pushback for it. So speak up!

  52. AKchic*

    LW 1- I feel for you. Unsolicited and unqualified “medical advice” is one of my pet peeves. To the point that I want to get extremely violent with the offending quacks/snake oil hucksters/morons. I do not consider them well-intentioned at all. Only idiots make unsolicited comments about another person’s health, diet, or (possible) medical conditions. You have been far nicer than I would ever be. Of course, I have also been in a few offices with “well-intentioned” (not) people who always felt the need to comment on my health, diet, size, and medical issues.
    Their comments are a reflection of their own insecurities and quite possibly, their frustration at restricting their fast food intake. You can follow Alison’s script, or a Miss Manners-style shut down since you still have to work with these food patrolling trolls. Either way, shut it down. Set strict boundaries when it comes to your food, diet and size, otherwise they will move from your fast food to your size in general, to your appearance, and just keep going.

    LW 2 – Of course your report has a good excuse for missing work all the time. Does your report have actual proof of these events? A doctor’s note? I mean, even a vet can give you a note. Wife was so sick he had to care for her, did they see a doctor? Chronic absenteeism and a string of bad luck. Hmmm. Either this worker has more bad luck than I do right now, or he just doesn’t want to be there. My husband does this when his depression acts up and he doesn’t want to have it treated. He finds any excuse not to go to work. Including taking care of me when I have a cold. Even if I went to work. He’ll call in to say he’s taking care of me while I’m very ill. I’ll find out later when I get home from work. He doesn’t notice the gradual slide and onset of symptoms (or at least, he claims not to), but I do, so I get to be the one to call him on his bs. You aren’t this guy’s spouse, but you can at least show him a calendar of tardies and absences and his excuses and say “we’re done. No more late days, no more absences.” Follow up with actual consequences. Any absence must be verified with an actual doctor’s note.

    LW 3 – You don’t use company funds to find a job elsewhere. It’s just wrong. Your report is telling you that your money is only good enough to be used to get them a job elsewhere, and they don’t see your company as worthy of developing any new skills or honing their existing talents. That’s a pretty big insult, whether they meant it to be one or not.

    1. Plague of frogs*

      “To the point that I want to get extremely violent with the offending quacks/snake oil hucksters/morons.”

      I’m picturing you: “Oh, you’re giving me medical advice? Let me give you some–you should get that broken arm set. What broken arm? THIS ONE!” *savage attack*

      1. AKchic*

        If they left with only a broken arm – I was being nice and held back. I’m like a rabid Rocket Raccoon. Short, plump, and vicious. Foul-mouthed and armed too. I attribute it to my weird upbringing. My mother disavows any and all knowledge of these alleged events called “my childhood” and maintains that I was raised “properly” and “as best as she could”. I say “poppycock” and “malarkey”. She rolls her eyes and changes the subject.

  53. Aeon*

    OP 5- I was in your situation and I sat the party out. I’d been told about the layoff a week before, but no one else knew yet. I was still upset about it and worried about what to do next. It was hard enough to be on all day at work, and I just didn’t have it in me to do the emotional labor of pretending I was having fun and everything was fine. People did wonder why I wasn’t there, but I said I had a scheduling conflict. If you want to go, I would do it. But there is no shame in not being up for it, either.

  54. Ghost Town*

    OP #1: I straight up walked into an 8:30am meeting with a holiday themed shake yesterday. It was delicious. Enjoy your McDonald’s; I love their fries. And know that the food police are being rude and insensitive. You have every right to ignore them, give them icy-death-stares, or comment on their rudeness.

  55. Noah*

    OP1’s co-workers are totally out of line if they’re saying this out of the blue. But if OP1 is going around talking up the fact that their diet is healthy because it’s high in protein, it’s understandable that they’d say, “Um, dude, those food you’re eating are REALLY unhealthy. The fact that you don’t get fries doesn’t make those items, which are about the highest fat food available, and not the good kind of fat, healthy.

    1. Observer*

      It doesn’t sound like the OP is talking up anything about their diet. In fact it sounds like all they want is to have the conversation stop. It also sounds like the OP gets that making comments about their co-workers’ weight is inappropriate.

      Also, the OP says that they are not just saying “you know, this stuff is not healthy”. They are making gross comments to and about the OP. Even if the OP WERE saying “Oh, this is so healthy. Blah Blah Blah.” responding with “well, actually you are going to drop dead of a heart attack before you hit fifty” is outlandishly rude.

      So, even though it possible that the OP is mistaken about the long term health effects of their diet choices (and the people who have pointed out that we really don’t know that for certain), it is still not fair to essentially blame them for their coworkers’ rudeness.

  56. Plague of frogs*

    For #1: “You talk about my death a lot! Let’s talk about yours for a while. Do you think it will be drawn out? You might be in terrible pain!”

    1. AKchic*

      *laugh* “Have you planned your funeral yet? I planned mine. But please, let’s discuss yours. Will there be an open bar to celebrate?”

      Coincidentally – yes, there will be an open bar at mine. I want people to celebrate. It’s also stipulated in my will that all of the personal benefactors in my will must dance the Funky Chicken at the funeral or they forfeit their inheritance. I want them cursing my name and happy I’m gone. That seemed like the easiest way to do it. I’ve been planning this shindig since I was 20.

      1. Plague of frogs*

        As a matter of courtesy, I attend all functions that include an open bar. Give me a shout if you’re ever terminally ill.

        1. AKchic*

          Engraved invitations, with gold filigree. I’m not leaving my kids any cash. They are already fighting over my weapons. Between them and my brother, I had to make the decision to have the majority of my weapons either donated to specific organizations or sold and the proceeds then used to either pay off any debts I may have (depending on how I snuffed it) or paying off the bar tab for my funeral or maybe having a giant statue erected in my honor. Because nothing says class like having a giant bird poo collection point in a park, right? I just hope the statue is of me picking my nose.

  57. Katniss*

    Man, it’s impressive how many people who are clearly concerned about the size of other people’s asses are happy to show their whole ass in the comments here.

  58. Sue No-Name*

    Shorter version of many #1 comments:
    You may not like being insulted but did it ever occur to you that you are gross and wrong?

    1. Matt*

      Amazing that so many AAM posters – where usually everybody would agree that whatever the matter discussed is none of well-meaning coworkers business – cannot resist the urge when it comes to playing food police …

  59. Argh!*

    Late to the party, but I have had to deal with a food nazi at work, and it was unpleasant when I couldn’t take it anymore. Even though I was yelling (not where others could hear, fortunately), the points I made did get through to her: if you’re not my doctor you don’t have a right to lecture me about my food choices. I wish I had said something earlier and not wait until I got super triggered.

    She had just assumed that because I’m fat I’m a walking time bomb. I’m over 50 now and still alive! Amazing!

    In that organization I would have had a right to report her for fat-shaming (they had a different word for it), but she did shut up about it and left me alone after my little blow-up. It’s just rude to comment on food (unless it’s a compliment on your cooking) and definitely super-wrong to comment on the food choices of people over 40 or who are fat. It may not be illegal discrimination but it is discrimination!

Comments are closed.