can I take birth control pills at my desk, paying more than my share for gifts coworkers, and more

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

1. Can I take birth control pills at my desk?

I was wondering if there is any sort of etiquette concerning taking birth control at the office. I recently started taking the pill around noon at my cubicle and I’m not embarrassed if someone sees me and I obviously don’t announce what I’m doing to the whole company, but I wanted to check to see if this is something that is okay to do in the office or if I should zip off to the bathroom or other private location.

I started to write that you should probably take it in the bathroom, but I wouldn’t tell you to do that if it were Advil or pretty much any other pill, so it seems wrong to do it with birth control. It’s of course coming from the fact that some people associate birth control pills with sex (even though they can also be taken for reasons that have nothing to do with contraception) and you wouldn’t, for example, leave condoms sitting out on your desk (and birth control pills often come in pretty identifiable cases).

But they’re pills, not sex devices, so I want to say you should treat it the same way you’d treat an aspirin. The reality, though, is that there are still lots of people who would expect you to be more discreet about them. I’d love to not care about that, especially because there’s nothing weird about this, but particularly if you’re junior in your career, you might be better off being semi-discreet about it. You don’t need to take them into the bathroom, but I might not wave the pill case around either.

I’m annoyed by this answer.

2. I’m paying way more than my share for gifts for departing coworkers

I work for a small public entity with staff of about 20. Whenever someone resigns, we organize a cake, a card, and a gift from the staff. We do not have an office budget for this (or any employee perks, really) so this is staff funded. Prior to the person’s departure, a card is circulated along with an envelope for contributions. The suggested contribution is $5, but there’s always a note saying that people can give what they are able to. The envelope is anonymous, so you don’t know who gave what or if they contributed at all.

At some point, it became my responsibility to organize these efforts. I enjoy arranging these things, so I am not bothered by it in principle. However, with every other employee departure, I end up paying for a majority of the costs. For our most recent departure, I was given $29 to cover a $130 bill.

I haven’t brought this up with anyone because I can’t think of a way to address it without turning it into a super uncomfortable shake down or a passive-aggressive cash grab. I don’t think people realize how much I’m subsidizing these efforts, as I am the one who handles the final count.

I have no reason to believe it’s malicious — it doesn’t happen with every departure, either, which makes me think it might be dependent on whether or not people have cash. I’m fortunate to be in a financial situation where I can cover an unexpected $101 expense (and I don’t mind kicking in extra in general), but this is three to four times the amount that I would expect to contribute.

I absolutely do not want to make assumptions about anyone’s financial situation, nor do I want to shakedown coworkers for cash. I also want to make sure that departing coworkers get a nice send-off. At the same time, this isn’t what I signed up for when I agreed to do this and it’s a bit frustrating to foot the bulk of the bill for something that was intended to be a team effort and is presented as a gift from everyone.

Is there a way to gracefully and tactfully address this without making things weird? Should I tell my boss or talk to people as a group? Hire a skywriter and a marching band? Any advice or perspective would be helpful because I am out of ideas.

It sounds like people don’t want to donate the amount that it would take to fund these send-offs and so it would make sense to switch to something lower-cost. Maybe you can switch to just doing a card and a cake, and skipping the gifts. I’d just send a group-wide email letting people know that the money being raised in most cases isn’t enough to cover the costs, and so effective with the next departure, you’re switching to card/cake only. That way, whoever’s next won’t feel that they’re being deliberately shafted when they see they didn’t get a gift and everyone else did.

If someone thinks that won’t be a nice enough send-off, you can ask them what they propose doing with an average budget of $30 (or whatever the average is). But really, most people will find a card and a cake enough.

3. Asking staff for feedback on me when I’m doing their performance reviews

My organization’s annual reviews/evaluations of staff are coming up in March (at least, that’s when they’re supposed to happen). I have frequent one-on-ones with my team, and they are also accustomed to frequent conversations/emails/etc, and it seems like we have some good communication going between us. When I started in my position, I had one-on-ones with each of them and told them the same thing: My job is to support you, and help you do great things (and enjoy being here at work, at least as much as I can in my capacity). My first round of performance reviews went well, but now that review time is rolling around again, I’d like to do something a little different: ask them for some feedback.

I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable, or feel like they’re in the hot seat. Basically, I’d like to know if my communication style works well for them (because I always want to be adjusting as needed) and I’d like to know if there’s anything they’d really like support with in the new year. I don’t know if any of the other managers do this, but I thought if I just asked about those two things, my staff might find it helpful, and it could be really helpful for me. But would this be too weird?

Not weird at all! It’s a very normal thing to do, in fact! You’ll probably get better insights if you ask them to think about those questions ahead of time and come prepared with thoughts when you meet so that you’re not putting them on the spot; this kind of thing is usually more useful if people have a chance to reflect and gather their thoughts (just like you probably wouldn’t want to give a performance review off the cuff). But it’s a great thing to do.

4. Working with no bathrooms

We had a water main break last night at work and were told it will take around 24 hours to fix. However we were all instructed to come in today anyways despite not having any bathrooms or running water for the day. Management told us that the closest restrooms are 2.5 miles away and we are to drive there any time we need to use the restroom.

I came in. I’m not in a position of management to make waves by pushing back and didn’t have enough time to organize a group of people to push back with so I’m just trying not to be too bitter. I have two questions though:

Is it legal to make us come in when there are no bathrooms on site? Would it be petty of me to charge them mileage for every time I drive my car to the restroom?

Nope, it’s not legal. OSHA says that toilets and hand-washing facilities must be available at every work site, with the exception of mobile work sites. The advice from last Friday’s post about the office with no heat applies here too: Point out to your employer that the lack of on-site toilets “is a violation of OSHA standards that we could get in trouble for” and say “should we work from home, or from some other space, until it’s resolved, or should we just close down for the day?” (And as with last Friday’s post, it’s even better to say this with a group of your coworkers, which gives you extra protection for speaking up.)

5. Voicemail etiquette when I’m getting lots of scam calls

Next fall I will be heavy into a job search and have a question about voicemail etiquette. Unfortunately, my long-standing cell number has gotten into the hands of scam callers. These aren’t telemarketers and I’ve been current on the “Do Not Call Registry” for years. In the few instances I’ve answered the phone, the scammers reference loans that I have not taken out or a utility company associated with my area code. As you may know, these illegal calls are on the rise and now spoof local area codes to shield their identity and skirt number blockers.

Recent recommendations are that people do not answer any unknown numbers, regardless of area code, and that if you are on the phone with the scammers, do not say “yes” or your name to prevent authorizing unwanted charges. The hope is that the scammers think the number is a dead line and stop calling.

I’m concerned about how my new cell phone practices will impact my future job search. Right now, my voicemail says, “the [service provider] customer you are trying to reach is unavailable, please leave a message.” I have already had issues with legitimate businesses not leaving messages and either being upset that they cannot get ahold of me or not relaying information that I truly needed in a timely manner.

I’ve thought about changing the recording to something like, “Hello, you’ve reached ###-###-####. Because this number is on a scam list, all unknown numbers are screened. If you leave a message, I will be sure to return your call as soon as possible.” Would this come across as odd to potential employers? Do you think I’m best keeping my current non-descript voicemail? I’ve thought about changing my number, but since these calls are spreading across the U.S., I’m worried that I would lose my ~15 year number only to end up with scam calls on the new number.

I wouldn’t understand what that message meant if I called you and heard it. It almost sounds like I’m calling someone that’s been accused of running a scam. It’s likely to turn off potential employers, who aren’t going to be sure if they’ve reached the right place.

But the thing is, it’s pretty normal to get someone’s voicemail and have to leave a message. You don’t need to explain why you’re asking callers to do that. It’s enough to just say “You’ve reached (number). Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you.”

If someone gets upset with you that they can’t reach you because they didn’t leave a message and thus didn’t get a call back, that’s on them, not on you. And employers calling for interviews generally aren’t going to fall into that camp because leaving a message in that situation is a normal thing to do.

{ 756 comments… read them below }

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I was about to say the same. I have a tiny daily pill case (it has an AM/PM space) that basically serves as an “OTC emergency meds” kit, and I’d probably move my daily pill to that case because it’s a little less obvious. Or you could keep it in your purse/drawer and pop each pill out within the desk/purse (a little out of sight). But the more I think about it, the more dissatisfied I am with the stealth options.

      1. Namelesscommentator*

        I wouldn’t change my BC routine in any way that jeapordized my fidelity to it (and therefore it’s efficacy)!

        Unless OP works in a place where there’s 0% privacy it sounds like she can just discretely take it, or walk to the bathroom if the office busy body is RIGHT THERE.

        For women’s health I’m also a proponent of just owning it if asked, because maybe being honest will detract some of the shame for the next women, but that inclination is a very judge your situation type thing before acting on it.

          1. Amber T*

            This. When my (quiet) alarm goes off (either my calendar reminder or my watch buzz), I open my purse, grab my pill, and take it. I’ve done this while sitting at an open desk while working with no one around, in front of plenty of people, and while holding a conversation. I do the same thing while taking my other meds and vitamins too. Treat it normally and everyone else will too. Many don’t realize it’s birth control anyway.

            1. Sydney Bristow*

              This is my approach too. I’m not at a level to make changes, but my work is valued here so I don’t feel that it is risky. I’ll do my part to normalize it in hopes that it ultimately helps others down the line.

              1. Annoyed*

                The fact that in 2018 any woman would even consider such a mormal part of life “risky,” or something that needs to be done covertly is pretty sick. Not you sick…society sick.

            2. Ted Mosby*

              I did this for years with meds for a genetic condition and my BC. It’s easy enough to open a bottle or pop out a pill without taking anything out of your purse or desk. I think going elsewhere is honestly overkill.

              Like Allison, I don’t love the answer, but I honestly wouldn’t have taken my other medication out in the open either. it’s no one’s business and nothing I want questions or speculation about. It’s nothing to be ashamed of but health is one of our last taboos.

        1. Mike C.*

          That’s something I was thinking about. I have to take certain meds where if I don’t it can contribute to me forgetting to take them, so habits are really, really important.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Same–I have to take my thyroid pill every day no matter what. I usually do it when I first wake up. If I tried to do it later in the day, something would come up, and of course I’d forget. This has happened to me with antibiotics before, the ones where you have to take them several times a day.

            1. Kelsi*

              I take mine on the drive to work (because I don’t eat breakfast until I’m at work so it’s still in the “no eating for half an hour” window)

              Except…that means remembering to take it on weekends/holidays is a total crapshoot, because I’m out of routine.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Same here, both with not eating breakfast right away and being out of routine. That’s why doing it first thing helps me remember. And I try to keep my weekend getting up time within an hour of my weekday time (doesn’t always work), which helped me when I was on BC also.

                1. Red 5*

                  Yeah, I have meds that I mix in with a drink (yeah, I’m on a lot of medicine) and at work, I can put it into my morning mug of coffee and not worry. But weekends when I don’t get a cup first thing? I forget it about 75% of the time.

          2. INTP*

            I have to do this as well, and I have a few meds where timing is really important (can’t be taken together, must be taken on empty stomach, must be taken early to not mess with sleep, etc), so anything that helps me stay in my pill-taking habits takes precedence. Plus birth control pills are tiny, and you can’t afford to lose one if your insurance will only cover prescriptions three weeks apart (because you already only get 21-24 days of active pills), so it would make me nervous to separate them into pill cases.

            However, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be possible to just leave the birth control pack in the purse, and discreetly pop the pill out without taking the entire pack out of the purse. (All the ones I’ve been on have been in a blister pack, this might be harder if there’s a childproof cap.) If you don’t want to dig through your purse, they could also go in an opaque makeup bag that you leave in a drawer during the day. I just think that there must be some way to be discreet so OP can take the pill when and where it’s most convenient for her without necessarily letting people see what the pill is.

            1. Game of Scones*

              I now take my pill at bedtime because my kids ruined the sanctity of my purse. But for years, I kept my blister pack of bc pills in my purse and discreetly took them at noon just like INTP (twinsies!) described. Never had a problem, but YMMV.

          3. Red 5*

            I have to take an inhaled medicine every day. With my previous inhaler, I remembered it every morning because it was next to my alarm clock. Hit the button, pick up the inhaler, breathe, done.

            Then I had to switch to one I have to take twice a day and it’s become a complete mess since then. You’d think it’d be a simple switch, but I just can’t get the hang of it and my health has definitely suffered for it. The tiniest thing can change a habit in a way that’s a problem.

            1. GG Two shoes*

              Hey Red, I had the same problem when my inhaled meds went from twice a day to thrice. An alarm on my phone (and on my outlook!) really helped me get in the habit. It can certainly take a while. Good luck!

        2. WerkingIt*

          I agree with Alison’s answer on this. Especially that she acknowledges that she doesn’t really like her answer. You wouldn’t tell her to take a pain reliever in private. But she isn’t (hopefully) going to take a Tylenol or Excedrin each day at the same time. Eventually someone may ask about it. And just like an anti-depressant or anything else that she may not want to answer questions about, she may just want to be discreet.

          Recall the Dear Prudence letter where the employee saw her supervisor taking pills and snooped in her desk to find out what they were and then spread rumors about the supervisor having an STI or something like that? I know it’s problematic, but I would err on the side of unless you want everyone to know and discuss regardless of what it is, then you should try to keep it private. That said, I think if we have learned nothing else about nosy co-workers it’s that even if it was just a Tylenol, they can make something out of nothing (like asking her why she’s taking it every day and giving her medical advice) and if LW doesn’t want to field questions or rumors, then it’s best to avoid it.

        3. Red 5*

          Yup, with BC it’s very important that you take it correctly and if you’ve got a routine that works for you, you shouldn’t just change it unless you’re 100% confident that the change won’t really affect anything.

          Taking my pill out of the case it came in would have completely ruined my ability to keep track of what I was doing, I know because I tried it a few times. It just never ended well for various reasons.

          If you’re not embarrassed by it (and you shouldn’t be but I could see where some people would be) then it’s a perfectly normal thing to be doing and you should just do it. If anybody asks or comments, I’m a new fan of saying “What a strange thing to say” or “what a strange question to ask” and moving on. Is that from Captain Awkward? I can’t remember now where I first came across it.

      2. Stranger than fiction*

        Then you don’t get that clue if you took it or not by the days on the package. I don’t think it’s a big deal at all. They don’t all come in that round dial package anymore and lots of meds come in those sheets of punch through pills so if no one is right over ops shoulder trying to see what it is, meh.

      3. TrainerGirl*

        I’ve been taking the pill for so long that I’ve gotten stealth without realizing it. I keep the pouch in a zippered pocket in my purse and take them right after lunch. I just slide the pouch out, pop the pill out of the blister pack and take it. People take so much medication these days that someone would have to be paying way too much attention to you to notice. I had a coworker at my last job that gave himself insulin injections at his desk while sitting across from me, and it never bothered me at all.

    2. paul*

      Or just keep it in the top drawer? I never feel right leaving pill bottles out and visible (is it normal to feel weird about that or am I just strange?) but I just leave any bottles I need there and take ’em when it’s time.

      1. Theodoric of York*

        There was a letter to AAM where a woman’s coworker rummaged through her desk, found her pills, took one to identify it, and then blabbed it around the office. Don’t leave medications other than generic headache relief where anyone could get to it.

        1. Mookie*

          took one to “””””identify””””” it

          There are not enough scare-quotes in the world to convey what I’m feeling here.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            Yeah, oh my gosh, I have so many questions. Who the heck takes a random unknown pill? And how would taking it necessarily identify it? WHAT DID THE WOMAN THINK IT WAS? Hahaha. Wow.

            1. fposte*

              Theodoric’s phraseology was unclear–she didn’t *swallow* the pill; she appropriated it to look it up.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m similarly dumbfounded, but at least with that action you can get how it would identify the pill.

              1. Theodoric of York*

                Yes. You’re right. My word choice was ambiguous. My apologies.

                I think that any medication that somehow involves sex or mental hygiene arouses an unhealthy amount of speculation among people who should know better. For that reason, extra efforts should be made to keep them private.

                I also agree with a later commenter on this thread, that this was an extreme situation, and is unlikely to happen to the OP. However, it is easy to work out a routine that keeps your coworkers out of your private business.

        2. Julia*

          I had my pill in my purse (in a little necessities pouch) and if anyone had gone into that, I would have raised hell. Let’s expect a normal workplace first before we come up with plan Z?

        3. Speechless*

          What the…..?!? I missed that one. But I have so many questions…mainly why on earth you’d jeopardise your health and someone else’s by taking a pill to “see what it is” I’m speechless.

          As for the OP, I say keep them in your purse, take it at your desk and if anyone asks “what’s that” look blankly and say “… A pill” that should shut most people up. If they are that nosy to then ask what, id be blunt “im not really sure that’s an appropriate question”

          Ugh, I hate the world sometimes.

            1. Karen K*

              Yep, every prescription pill has a number on it to identify it. That’s how I found out my vet’s office gave my cat atenolol instead of his antihistamine.

                1. Speechless*

                  Thanks guys. Still shocking (obviously) but less worrying now I know that. I’m in the UK and I don’t think our prescription pills have that (I could be wrong though)

              1. Stranger than fiction*

                Yes, and a few years back (several?) pharmacies started putting descriptions on pill bottles like “small round yellow…” for that exact reason

              2. Red 5*

                Yup, I recently found out because the refill for my prescription came in and it looked completely different from the previous bottle (new shape, new size, etc.) so I looked it up online to make sure I’d gotten the right medicine. It was right, just from a different manufacturer.

                But it’s extremely easy to find out what a pill is if you have google handy.

              3. teclatrans*

                Yes! My cat was close to dying and only prednisolone kept her from vomiting up all food shoved down her feeding tube, when suddenly the protocol stopped working. I was able o investigate the pill marking to learn that the refill had been prednisone instead of prednisolone (the former being something cats cannot absorb). My figuring this out on the internet saved her life.

            2. Chalupa Batman*

              When I worked in a mental health facility a few years ago, we would have to investigate anytime we found a loose pill. (Clients sometimes tried to hide or “drop” a pill to avoid taking meds, and sometimes one would just get dropped accidentally. We had to report it to a nurse, who would take action if a missed dose of that med would be problematic-it never was on my watch, so I don’t know what would happen after that.) None of us were trained in pharmaceuticals or really had any medical training at all, we just went to a publicly accessible internet site and searched the shape, color, and number imprinted on the pill.

        4. Natalie*

          I don’t think this is worth worrying about – it’s pretty clearly an outlier, and unless the OP works in an incredibly anti-birth control area there’s basically no fallout to having your coworkers know you take the pill.

          The reason I wouldn’t leave them in the desk is that you need them on weekends, too.

          1. Say what, now?*

            Very good point about not wanting to forget them in the desk over the weekend. But I think she has them in her purse? Or maybe I’m remembering a comment.

            1. Natalie*

              Oh, I’m not sure where the LW keeps her pills, I was just responding to this thread’s general discussion of keeping them in a desk.

            2. RedRH*

              Op #1 here!

              I keep them in my purse, which I realize wasn’t clear. I specifically wanted to know if someone were to see my take the container out at my desk and pop a pill, would that okay etiquette in a professional environment.

              Background for why I asked is because this is my first office job out of college and after finding AAM I’m still trying to figure out what is a “typical” office norm and what is seen as normal in my particular office, because I’ve learned that a lot of the things done in my office are really, really weird.

              For instance, we have a bit of a “snitch” culture as I call it. Managers typically call in team members to report anonymous complaints like “I hear you leave your desk too many times to grab snacks,” or “Your teammates see you’re on your phone too much and it’s creating negative morale” (that last one happened to me, but anyway) so I’m operating under the assumption that someone sees what I’m doing when I’m taking my pill, but if someone theoretically complained and my manager told me about it, would this be seen as a “my office is weird” matter or “I deviated from a typical office norm by doing that, woops.”

              1. stradbaldwingirl*

                “For instance, we have a bit of a ‘snitch’ culture as I call it.”

                This sounds horrible. In this case, yes, definitely be as discreet as you can without undermining your routine. Personally, that type of workplace would drive me batty—wishing you the best!

        5. Say what, now?*

          This is insane, when you blab that you took a pill from someone’s desk and that you identified it as a contraceptive pill all you are advertising is:
          “Coworker X is taking responsibility for her sex life and unlikely to show up pregnant out of the blue. I on the other hand am an adult who can neither respect boundaries nor operate with enough maturity to handle the fact that other people have sex at times.”


        6. Karo*

          Obviously this has happened to someone because that letter exists, but I feel like that’s a little “not everyone can eat sandwiches.” That woman and that letter were WAY outside the norm. You can’t plan your life around these insane outliers.

          1. Julia the Survivor*

            You can if you work with uptight chauvinists or fundamentalists. They are just waiting to cause some trouble over this. Any woman who has had a man freak out over seeing a tampon knows what I mean. :p

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              I’m a man, Julia, and if any man around me freaks out over seeing a tampon, I’m calling him out as not a man, but a boy.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I think this is too personal to leave out unless they’re in a nondescript case or whatever (I keep my pill sheets in a nice pouch with squirrels on). YMMV.

        1. Grant Us Eyes*

          Is this a thing in the USA? I mean here in the UK hormonal contraceptives are so normal it’s boring to talk about them…

          1. Karo*

            I think it’s just a person-by-person thing. I’ve never worried about people identifying any of my medicines.

            1. Anony*

              Some carry more stigma than others. They shouldn’t but it is true, mainly because it can identify a health condition that you would rather keep private. Unfortunately, birth control can be a polarizing topic and I can see why someone would want to avoid potentially bringing it up at work.

              1. Agnodike*

                In this case, though, the health condition is likely to be “has a uterus and ovaries.” I think it’s actually very reasonable to push back against the idea that one should be discreet about the routine maintenance of one’s human body in all cases, but especially when the stigma comes from the fact that our culture is very very uncomfortable about the female reproductive system.

                1. Anony*

                  I agree. In the ideal world everyone would push back on the idea that birth control should be secret. But as Alison pointed out, it may or may not be worth it to the OP depending on their position and overall office environment.

                2. Liz2*

                  Yes, but in a work setting you have to weigh the potential consequences of being that person to break the trail versus potential backlash. I have a friend whose obgyn refused to let her on the pill after 35. You still need a dr approval to get the pill in the first place. It’s craziness.
                  I decided popping my pill easily and quickly at lunch was no big deal and I could treat it as such. However, if I were very young and new still, I could easily see being worried.

                3. Agnodike*

                  Liz2, being over age 35 increases the risk of blood clots and stroke for OCP users, especially in patients with other risk factors (high blood pressure, family history of blood clots, migraine with aura). The reason it’s a prescription medication is that it can have really serious side effects. Not saying that’s necessarily the case with your friend, just that there may have been a medical reason for her doc’s reluctance.

                  I totally hear the argument that there’s a personal cost to pushing back against oppressive norms, and I would never suggest that someone is obligated to take it on. But I am pushing back on the idea that having a uterus counts as a medical condition; I rather think that having a female reproductive system falls within the norm.

              2. Yomi*

                Yup, exactly. I wouldn’t have any qualms taking my inhaler in front of somebody at work (except that they might think it’s a more serious thing than it is, if I’m reaching for my inhaler myself then I’ve still got it under control). And I took one of my other medicines while in the middle of a conversation with a coworker the other day, I just waited until he was talking and grabbed it, no problem.

                But I have another medicine that I actually carry in a nondescript bottle and try to avoid having people notice it and ask about it because well, it’s for GI issues and nobody wants to talk about that at work.

            2. Kathleen_A*

              I am in the U.S. and I personally wouldn’t worry any more about birth control pills than any other form of prescription medication. That said, I’m not sure I’d want coworkers to know if I had to take Prozac or even see me take one of those big horse-pill-type antibiotics either. Nor, come to think of it, would I want to know similar things about them. I’d really rather not know that much about most of my coworkers.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                I can’t swallow the horse pills. Last time I had to take antibiotics, I had no choice but to do it
                publicly at work, since it was necessary for me to 1) grind them up in a little pill smasher, and 2) mix them with applesauce I kept in my lunchbox.

                No one asked–I guess they just assumed I was taking some kind of medication and weren’t nosy. Coworkers I was friendly with already knew I had an infection from an injury.

                1. Cactus*

                  I also cannot swallow the horse pills. I can barely swallow anything bigger than 50 mgs. But I’ve had multiple outbreaks of shingles, and the valacyclovir dose for that is 1 GRAM, 3 times per day. Those aren’t horse pills, those are dinosaur pills. It is awful. I haven’t been working any of the times I’ve had an outbreak, but I dread the possibility of that one day happening.

              2. Jesmlet*

                Any time I take anything that comes in anything other than an identifiable bottle (Advil, Tylenol, etc.) I do find the need to explain what they’re for. I just personally feel awkward about the idea of coworkers making assumptions or guessing why I’m taking medicine. With that said, I’d probably feel weirder about normal prescription medicine than I would about birth control, which usually comes in a very identifiable package and has a limited number of uses. I’m annoyed by this question because it’s annoying that it has to be a question. I’d take them discreetly at my desk… bathroom seems like overkill.

                1. Specialk9*

                  I encourage you to stop doing that. Your coworkers don’t generally want to know, and the ones who do you don’t want to encourage. But mostly, you deserve privacy.

                2. Jesmlet*

                  @Specialk9 – Yeah it’s mostly an insecurity thing. In my head, what they’re thinking is worse than reality so I supply them with the reality, which is usually as innocuous as, “I’m having muscle spasms so my doctor prescribed me relaxants”. It’s one of a million things I’m working on lol…

                3. Safetykats*

                  I also encourage you to stop explaining random medications to coworkers. I think this is oversharing, and I also think it’s unlikely that everyone is wondering what you’re taking, unless you work with a group is serious busybodies who don’t have enough to do.

                  If your coworkers are only normally curious about each other, and generally are reasonably busy, it’s probably appropriate to view your office like a game of golf. You can worry a lot about what the other golfers think of you – but unless you make a big deal about YOUR game, you can actually be sure that everyone else is a lot more concerned with THEIR game. It’s likely that nobody is really paying attention to your medication unless or until you bring it to their attention.

              3. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

                I was very nonchalant about taking my anxiety meds at work back when I was at ToxicJob. I figured, why not? It was the job’s fault I was on the meds to begin with.

              4. oranges & lemons*

                I am particularly averse to answering any questions about my health, so I would probably be discreet about taking any kind of pill in the office, even a painkiller.

                1. Noah*

                  Yeah, this is me. I don’t even want most people to know when I have a headache so I duck out and take Advil in private. That’s not to say that everyone should do that, because I don’t really care if someone takes one at their desk or whereever. I just prefer not to answer questions.

            3. Anon anon anon*

              I agree. And, unfortunately, there are different consequences for different people. For example, if you’re well liked and have friends at work, it might not be an issue. But if people consider you a little odd or an outlier, they might make an issue of it. People suck and it’s not right, but I think it is a, “Choose what’s best for you based on your situation and priorities,” sort of thing. Ie, some people might choose to do it despite potential criticism whereas others would choose not to take that risk.

          2. boo*

            Yes. It depends on where you live and other factors; it’s generally religious objections, as far as I am aware.

            1. boo*

              Oh, I am specifically talking about birth control. Other medications may be stigmatized for other reasons, but the religious objection I was referring to was just about contraception.

              1. Amber T*

                What irks me (in general) is that there are so many health reasons for taking birth control – the fact that it’s still called birth control annoys me. Preventing pregnancy is one side effect in a long list of benefits – I had started taking it when preventing pregnancy was not a concern to help control migraines, awful cramps, acne, irregular cycles, and other symptoms. Sure, pregnancy prevention came in handy later. I’m currently off hormonal birth control because it conflicts with other medical stuff, and I miss it, not for the pregnancy prevention (because there are other ways of doing that with my partner), but for all the reasons above. It’s frustrating that the assumption still exists that when a woman is on birth control, she’s a sex crazed lunatic.

                1. Amber T*

                  (In rereading my comment – Boo, this was certainly not directed at you, just at the religious objection in general. Sorry if that wasn’t clear!)

                2. Agnodike*

                  What I find frustrating is that we have to find “excuses” for the validity of oral contraceptive pills. Everything you’ve said is absolutely true – estrogen/progesterone pills are used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions, and that’s really important! But a huge number of people with uteruses take the Pill because they want to have sex and don’t want to get pregnant, and trying to deflect from that or argue that the Pill’s legitimacy comes from its other uses really reinforces the argument that that’s not a legitimate reason to use it in and of itself. That’s WHY there’s an assumption that women on birth control are sex-crazed lunatics: because we don’t have a good cultural narrative in North America for hormonal contraception just being a part of routine uterus maintenance, or for wanting to have sex without pregnancy being so normal and valid that it doesn’t require further justification.

                3. fposte*

                  @Agnodike–yes, I agree. I want it to be okay because contraceptives are okay, not because it might not be a contraceptive.

                4. Everything Bagel Fan*

                  I take a specific birth control for medical conditions. If someone is that against the pill, they need their head examined and I would question a workplace who had that antiquated of views.

                5. Elizabeth West*

                  This. I couldn’t work without it, when I was taking it. No employer is going to give you two or three days off a month because you have cramps and Niagara Falls in your pants. (Thank you, Planned Parenthood, btw, for enabling me to afford it.)

                6. A grad student*

                  @Agnodike and fposte- sure, in an ideal world, that would be absolutely true. But as Amber T says, the pill is useful for SO many things that there aren’t good alternatives for, that I feel it endangers women’s health to say “taking contraceptives should be okay!” when some people sincerely believe that that’s not true, and have the power to enforce those beliefs on others. It legitimately changed my life when I started taking the pill, and I think it might help move those who are opposed to the pill for anti-contraceptive religious reasons to hear stories like Amber T’s, Elizabeth West’s and mine.

                7. Specialk9*

                  Contraception is still a hot topic in the US, especially if it can rob a strong woman of her voice.

                  Sandra Fluke was demonized by Rush Limbaugh etc for advocating the purely *medical* uses of birth control. She wanted a Catholic university health care system to allow birth care when medically necessary for reason unrelated to birth control. She was very careful in what she said. She was *crucified* by the right wing media, called horrible names, her (utterly irrelevant even as they were untrue) sexual practices imagined and thrown around as fact, the most ruthless and ugly slut-shaming I’ve ever seen.

                8. Relly*

                  @AmberT have you looked into an IUD? I can’t go on hormonal bc because of my migraines, so it’s been a lifesaver. (You no longer need to have kids first in order to get one, which helps.)

          3. Antilles*

            It’s definitely a thing in the US. If OP is not married (or at least in a committed relationship), there’s definitely still a bit of a stigma/judgment against using birth control (i.e., having premarital sex) among certain segments of the population.
            Most Americans really wouldn’t care, but the small minority who do are so vocal about it that it’s worth just dodging that whole issue.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              I live in the U.S. – and in a pretty conservative area – and I never knew it was a thing. I’m not saying it’s not, but if this wouldn’t be a problem here (in Indiana), I think it’s safe to say there aren’t that many places where it would be a problem.

              But as I mentioned above, I’d probably treat BC pills like any other prescription medication, which means that I probably would prefer that random coworkers not know what prescriptions I’m taking – and I’d rather not know what they’re taking, either.

              1. Kelsi*

                Uhhh…having also lived in Indiana, it IS an issue in plenty of places there.

                Sorry :( It’s pretty sucky that anyone thinks they should get to have opinions about anyone else’s prescription meds, but it’s a thing.

                1. Specialk9*

                  Yeah, it’s still a big deal across the US.








                2. Specialk9*

                  Yeah, no Hobby Lobby for me either. I’m all good with someone making an ethical decision for themself. I’m NOT ok with someone making an ethical decision for someone else. I’m even less ok with a single RICH person making ethical decisions for tens of thousands of financially struggling people, just because they’re rich. (In fact, I feel really confident that is NOT what Jesus would do, the opposite in fact.)

                  So Hobby Lobby can pound sand.

              2. sin nombre*

                I can’t really think of a gentler way to say that if you live in the US and didn’t know this was a thing, you have not been paying attention. It’s come up repeatedly as a national issue both recently and not. Perhaps the people making it a national issue are a small and vocal minority and there aren’t that many people running around in the real world who actually care. That seems pretty plausible in fact and I certainly hope it’s true. But the fact remains this is very much A Thing.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  I realize it’s A Thing in the media, but – and I, too, am trying to be gentle – I don’t think it’s nearly that much of A Thing in most people’s day-to-day lives (though of course there are exceptions – which is why I very carefully said “most”). If it were something that everybody in the U.S. had to worry about, surely Alison would have said so.

                  And I also have to think that if the OP worked in a place conservative enough that it would *definitely* be A Thing, she wouldn’t write to AAM about it. She’d have the answer out of her own knowledge. So however much of A Thing it is in a few places, that doesn’t mean it’s A Thing everywhere, nor that it’s A Thing in the OP’s workplace.

                  But as I’ve said a few times now, if she’s got any doubts, she should be discrete about what she’s taking. I’d recommend that no matter what the prescription is for, but that’s because I don’t really want random coworkers to know what my doctor has prescribed – and I’d rather not know what their doctors have prescribed for them, either.

              3. Kathleen_A*

                I don’t think I’ve missed much, actually. I’m sure there are jobs in which it matters, but I don’t think (even in Indiana) that those places are all that common. I work for a fairly conservative organization, and I don’t think anyone would so much as blink an eye here.

                I’d still recommend discretion, personally – I wouldn’t want random coworkers assessing any of my medications, even those that don’t involve reproduction – but if the OP doesn’t want to, it’ll probably be OK. But if she has any doubts at all – and she must, or why write in – it would certainly be safer to just keep speculation about those little pills to to a minimum.

            2. WerkingIt*

              I think the “certain segments” is key here. While I have definitely worked with people that I would have no problem taking my BC pill or most other things in front of, I have also worked in environments where I would probably be more discreet.

            1. Anna*

              Yes to this. A nosy person is going to ask about the pill you’re taking whether it’s prescription or OTC. Nobody is required to keep it on their desk to eliminate stigma. I don’t leave my bottle of insulin sitting out on my desk even if there is a lot less stigma attached to it. It’s still a prescription medication that I prefer to keep in my purse.

      3. Birch*

        I’m with you, IMO all medical stuff is personal and not OK to be left lying around or in a desk, even Advil. It goes in your personal bag and stays within your reach, like your wallet. I just keep medications in my bag, take one out at a time without removing the whole bottle if possible and take it with water at my desk. Doesn’t matter what the medication is, I think it should all be done not secretly but discreetly. Not because it’s shameful and not assuming you have office busybodies, but just because of the etiquette standard that personal things are personal, so if you want other people to respect your privacy, you have to avoid giving them an obvious opportunity to ask what you’re up to. If someone doesn’t respect that, it’s on them at that point, but if you’ve got pill bottles and blister packs all over your desk and someone comes to talk to you about work, they might notice and ask about it because it looks like you’re making it into a public thing.

          1. Say what, now?*

            I completely misread your response at first (saw the r as a t) and thought you were being harsh on the commenter or really, emphatically agreed. Made me giggle so thanks.

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Ha, me too. Plus another group I’m in used “birch” as the euphemism (?)/soundalike for that word, so I was a little surprised o.o

        1. Nico m*

          #1. It’s perfectly ok to take any medication at your desk. Of course, if you work with utter arseholes you might pick another hill. But it’s them not you.

          #2 Quit the task.

          #5. Don’t change. If your recruiter is so rubbish they can’t leave a message or send an email , it’s hopeless anyway , they’ve probably eaten your resume or something.

        2. Susanne*

          This reminds me of the thread in which a woman kept pads /tampons (I don’t recall which) in a box on an open shelf that was accessed by many people and then scratched her head and wondered why people thought she should be more discreet, and it turned into a discussion of how we should not be ashamed of periods. Well, I’m not ashamed of my period, or my need for birth control pills (or whatever medication I might be on) but it’s pretty much assumed that one is going to be discreet – not because of “shame” but because that’s just plain good manners. I, too, would keep medications in a personal bag just like I would feminine hygiene products, and I would be discreet.

          The problem is that we all know people who know how to do these things discreetly, and people who sort of wave them around for the world to see.

          1. Undine*

            If I recall correctly, that was the only available storage space in her office. It was a choice between have them on an open shelf or not have backup for emergencies. But her boss wouldn’t give her anywhere else to store stuff AND pretty much took the attitude she was waving it around.

            1. Hildegard Von Bingen*

              They’re on an open shelf at the grocery store, aren’t they? Why would it be any different at work? If the sight of a box of tampons or sanitary napkins makes somebody uncomfortable, I’d advise them to steer clear of Safeway, Publix, Kroger, etc. Perhaps Amazon Fresh is their best option?

              1. MK*

                Toilet paper is also on an open shelf at the store, but people don’t place them on one in their offices.

                1. Lehigh*

                  Really? I feel like toilet paper would be pretty normal on an office shelf – wherever other things like tissues, extra soap, etc. are kept.

                2. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

                  Agreed. I would find it just as odd and unprofessional if I walked into someones office and they had toilet paper stocked on their shelf.

                  I missed the original letter, but ‘bathroom’ things shouldn’t be on display in people’s offices.

                3. Owlette*

                  Actually, in my office they do. The company-provided tissues at my office suck, so sometimes people keep rolls of toilet paper on their desk to use to wipe their nose. No biggie.

                4. LaBelleFleur*

                  This made me laugh because I work for a paper company and thus the bookshelf in my office is filled with nothing but toilet paper.

          2. Natalie*

            then scratched her head and wondered why people thought she should be more discreet

            Uh, no, you may want to go reread the letter because that’s a ridiculously incorrect characterization of what the LW wrote in about.

            1. This Daydreamer*

              Wow. I hadn’t seen that post before. My head hurts from all of the eye-rolling I had to do. If I were that OP I think I would have gotten a Crimson Tide lunchbox and labeled it PERIOD STUFF and stuck it right on top of the computer. “What? They’re completely hidden!”

            1. essEss*

              I do. I keep my tissue box tucked discreetly behind my monitor so it’s not just out in the middle of my desk.

              1. Elizabeth H.*

                “Discreetly”? That seems strange. Most people have tissues out on their desk and often there are tissues on reception desks so that general public can take one if they need it. Unless it’s a clutter thing in general the same way you might have your pencil jar and post-it dispenser “discreetly” behind your monitor?

                1. fposte*

                  Or because they’re just for her, she knows where they are, and she doesn’t want them sitting prominently on her desk. I leave mine out on the desk because I leave everything out on my desk and because of speed of access, but when I clear things up I don’t really like them being out there either.

          3. Annie Moose*

            It was a shelf under a desk in a back office where there was no other storage space, and the problem was that her manager told her she was “unprofessional” and “gross” for having pads in the office at all.

          4. INTP*

            I wouldn’t do that myself because tampons aren’t the hill I want to die on, but I don’t disagree with her in principle. Snotty noses are gross and personal, and yet no one thinks that Kleenex should be hidden away so as not to remind us that our coworkers produce mucous – they’re always out in the open. A pack of bandaids displayed in public isn’t as ubiquitous as Kleenex but wouldn’t raise eyebrows, and it has the exact same purpose as tampons and pads – to contain bloodflow. There is definitely a stigma against period-specific products that is silly.

          5. Specialk9*

            I’m confused as to why you think discretion exists, if not due to shame. A world in which it’s ok to openly display hygiene items for mopping up certain bodily fluids – nose tissues – but not others – tampons – is clearly rooted in shame and disapproval of the act of menstruation. Snot happens to everyone, vaginal blood only happens to the lesser gender. It’s ok to recognize that’s the source of the ‘discretion’ and decide that it’s not your hill or your circus. But denying the shame is odd.

        3. AndersonDarling*

          Also, if you keep a supply of painkillers and allergy pills out in the open on your desk, people quickly deduce that you are the office apothecary and will start asking for them. I keep vitamins on my desk but “drugs” are kept in my desk. If someone really wants a fiber/vitamin pill, I’d be happy to share.

        4. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is the culture at my office as well, but my sense is that we are much more conservative than other organizations that at which the commentariat here works. Generally, no personal or medical products should be out and visible. No one’s going to care about throwing back the pill at your desk any more than they would an aspirin or something, but personal care products and medicine are not typically left on desks. That includes nail clippers, deodorant, medication (OTC and prescription), etc. I think the most I’ve seen someone leave out is hand lotion in the winter.

          1. Not My Circus*

            I agree with this desk policy as conservative as it is but I am also of the mindset that your desk/office/cubicle is not your personal space (unless you work from home) and should not be treated as such. Beyond a box of tissues and a couple of photos and maybe a plant, I don’t think there should be anything not work related on your desk and minimal things in your desk (I usually keep a small make up kit with the back up/emergency items in it). But after working in HR for years and watching people extend their walk of shame because they have to make three trips to their car, I strive to never have more than what I can fit in my purse or a small box. While I am not a particularly private person, I also don’t feel a need to provide my coworkers with any more information than I choose to tell them.

            To specifically respond to this question, I don’t think it is anything to be ashamed of, but the management can’t use the fact you take an Rx medication against you for employment decisions in most situations so why give them the information. I’d say the same if it was heart pressure medicine or Dramamine for vertigo.

            1. Specialk9*

              I personally disagree with that policy (I like to make my space feel a bit homey) but also have worried about the ‘layoff fighting-tears walk’ so I keep my stuff lightweight or disposable.

        5. Rebecca in Dallas*

          This, I take all of my medication at home, with the exception of my migraine medication because I never know when I’ll need that. But it stays in my purse. I was beginning to wonder if I was a weirdo!

        6. Anja*

          I’m one of those people who keeps a “personal” drawer in my desk at work. Nothing in an office is truly personal, but I also don’t care if people in the office go into my drawer of teas, lotion, tampons, wrist brace, granola bars, advil, antacids, allergy meds, muscle relaxants, dental floss, etc.

          Colleagues in my immediate team know about the drawer and will ask if they need something from it. And if a male colleague comes by an needs an advil he can deal with the fact that he might see a box of tampons when I open the drawer. It’s never seemed to be an issue.

          If I were still on BC I don’t think anyone in my office would even realize that that’s what I’m doing even though it’s a rather open floor plan – my colleagues are working, not paying attention to me. I don’t think there’s anything unprofessional about it (in many offices I don’t think anyone would even notice) but if you feel uncomfortable or feel that it’s drawing unwanted attention then lots of people on here have given options on how to be discrete about it.

        7. Ted Mosby*

          How is advil personal? It’s in no way specific to any person/condition/age/symptom and you can buy it anywhere.

          1. Lissa*

            This thread is really showing me people have different standards when it comes to these things – it would never occur to me a bottle of pills of any kind (well, legal) would be a problem for other people to see! Same with things like tissues etc. Hope I haven’t offended anyone in the past with my Kleenex-showing ibuprofin taking ways. :D

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              Same here! I do keep my Adderall in an unmarked bottle that’s not out in the open because that’s something someone could actually want to steal, but I frequently have OTC stuff out on my desk.

              1. Lindsay J*

                I keep mine in the marked bottle just for legal purposes. But I do keep it buried at the bottom of my purse where it can’t be seen.

    3. Sami*

      I wouldn’t keep your pills in your desk during the week. There are always nosy coworkers or any other variety of scenarios where you might suddenly not have access to your desk.
      I’d keep them in your purse or bag, maybe in a less conspicuous container. It’s just no one’s business what medication you take.

      1. Safetykats*

        There are a lot of assumptions being made about the kind of container the pills are in – but I don’t know that birth control necessarily comes in the old fashioned round 30-day container anymore. Mine comes in a rectangular blister pack, in a white box, that actually looks a whole lot like several other maintenance prescription medications. Maybe this is because we use a mail order pharmacy?

        Anyway, it’s pretty common to see people in my office taking medication with lunch, if only because so many meds recommend taking with food. I wouldn’t think there would be any issues with taking any medication at your desk.

        I also wouldn’t keep prescription meds in my desk; I keep them in my briefcase or my purse.

        1. Gen*

          I haven’t seen one of the circular ones since the 90s, all the different brands I’ve had have been on discreet rectagular sheets like all other kinds of medication. Unless you’re peering at the back to read the text I don’t know how anyone would know.

          1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            Ditto. Unless you should actively go ‘Oooh, I wonder what Cilest is’ and look it up…or unless you’re taking Cilest…you wouldn’t know, and that’s with the box. Blister pack is again labelled ‘Cilest’ but not easily visible.

          2. Else*

            Mine’s in one of those obvious little clamshells – it’s one of the most basic generic ones you can take. They are definitely still in circulation.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Yes, me too. I had a lot of different brands and generic formulations over the years, and they’ve all been in the clamshells.

              That being said, I would absolutely take them at my desk, for the same reasons I don’t hide my tampons in my sleeve when I carry them to the bathroom.

        2. Myrin*

          I was just thinking that – I don’t take BC but I remember when I saw friends take them and also just did a quick Google search and both the packaging and the pills themselves look almost exactly like my sister’s antidepressants or my mum’s pills for blood pressure (or really any kind of pill you’d need to take daily, I suppose).

        3. Paige Turner*

          I’ve had both circular and rectangular packs, but either way, those pills were all tiny (like half the size of round Advil) and I could easily swallow one dry. I agree that OP should just be able to take one at her desk no problem, but personally, I would likely keep the pack in my bag and just take the pill out when needed while keeping the pack still mostly in the bag. Also, this is assuming that OP’s desk is out in the open (open-plan office or a reception desk, etc.). In a cubicle or office, I wouldn’t even bother to keep the pill pack mostly in the bag.

        4. INTP*

          I’ve been on various birth control pills since 2005 and all of mine have come in a small rectangular blister pack. They also come with something that looks like a little credit card case for carrying them, and a sticker to label the days of the week so you know if you’ve taken it – I wish all my meds came like this! I thought this packaging was pretty specific to birth control pills though and would assume that’s what someone was taking if I saw it, but maybe there are other pills with similar packaging that I just have never had to take? (I’ve taken other things in blister packs but not a tiny blister pack with 4 rows of 7 pills). That said, I feel like it would be really easy for me to reach into my purse or drawer and take out a pill without bringing the pack into full view.

          1. nonegiven*

            Someone I know was recently on a med that had a blister pack for each day. The box had a strip of days so you could label the day of the week if you wanted.

      2. Grant Us Eyes*

        My medication sits on my desk. If anyone asks what it’s for I tell them – I don’t think my long standing, largely controlled health issue is overly personal.

        Unless there was an emergency, I can’t envisage not having access to my desk, and on an emergency I’d probably not grab my briefcase anyway. I have a supply at home for weekends, but desk is to be the most sensible place to keep my medication.

      3. Scott*

        Maybe it’s because I took a controlled substance growing up, but I would NEVER pop pills in front of others or have a visible container.

      4. peachie*

        I hadn’t thought about that, but that’s so true! I wouldn’t leave a pack of gum on my desk, either, but it’s sure not because I’m ashamed of it.

    4. Artemesia*

      This. Any pill taking on the job should be discreet and this is the way to do it with BC pills.

    5. Kate the Teapots Project Manager*

      An Altoids tin would probably hold the whole sheet for most birth control pill setups, unless you’ve got one of those odd circular ones, in which case you might want to look for mints that come in a round container.

      1. hermit crab*

        Just a warning: if you keep pills in a repurposed Altoids container, they can end up tasting super duper minty! So if you aren’t into that, learn from my experience and be sure to clean the container out really well first. :)

      2. Merci Dee*

        Many birth control pills have a graduated hormone level for each day. There are more of certain hormones and less of others in the early pills, and then the balance flips toward the end of the month. Putting all of the pills into a single container and then taking whichever one you grab is not a good strategy, as there would be no way to determine you were getting the proper pill with the correct hormone mix for that day.

        1. Merci Dee*

          Yikes. I thought you were talking about popping the pills loose from the blister pack, and not just putting the whole pack in the tin. Though this wouldn’t work for my pills.

      3. Amber T*

        This reminds me of high school – we weren’t allowed to keep ANY medication on us, including advil/tylonel (if you wanted to have advil, your doctor would need to write you a prescription, for advil, and it would need to be kept at the nurse, and she would get to determine if you could take any. And it could only be for what the doctor wrote it for. So I had a prescription for advil for headaches, so when I showed up for advil for period cramps, I couldn’t take any. Ridiculous.). Students would regularly hide advil in Altoid containers, so anytime certain teachers would see an Altoid container passed around, they would check to see if was actually advil. A friend of mine was notorious for always keeping a real container of Altoids, and a secret container full of advil. I still always expect advil to have a peppermint flavor, years later.

        1. Dinosaur*

          I remember people doing that in middle and high school, too. My mom told me to just keep them on me and not do anything that would require teachers/admin folks to go through my belongings, but she said I wouldn’t be in trouble at home for carrying Advil on me. School really is hell.

          1. Annie Moose*

            Ha. I was the local dispensary for Tylenol in middle and high school. I used to get both cramps and migraines, and I needed something to take the edge off! Luckily I never got hassled about it by teachers, but I was always careful to only give out pills in the bathroom or otherwise out of sight. (I was also a “good kid”, so I flew under the radar a lot.)

    6. Jen S. 2.0*

      Coming to say this. If it’s a concern, and you have no privacy whatsoever, just bring your supply in an unmarked container. It’s no one’s business what you are taking, and that includes BC, Valtrex, Valium, Amoxycillin, Advil, or Mucinex.

      That said, I’ve seen people taking what seemed to be BC pills in the bathroom and didn’t think anything of it either way (neither that they indeed should have been hiding in the ladies’, or that it was weird that they weren’t at their desk.) I assumed they did it there because that’s where they could get a cup of water.

        1. Blue Anne*

          Gosh, I remember that! Do they still have those inserts trying to sell you “pretty” circle pack holders with flowers and stuff on them?

    7. Senior Technical Writer*

      From CVS or Walgreens, you can purchase these keychain pill holders. Every morning, I drop my lunchtime pills into it, and take them out when it’s time to eat (the small canister screws into the lid; the lid is attached to the keychain). No one knows what pills I’m taking!

      1. Katelyn*

        Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada sells those, and they have a waterproof seal on them. I toss in two or three of my daily meds and then if I’m unexpectedly out of town (and forget to pack my pills) or end up staying at a friend’s place I still have what I need for the short term. I only had to go to a doctor once to get an emergency extension of the prescription because I was gone a week and only had 4 of each pill on me.

    8. Tyrion*

      I could hot rail in my cube and no one would notice. What’s so hard about popping a pill discreetly?

    9. trigger*

      This is a good idea. But I think it’d be just as easy to pop it from the blister pack while it’s on your lap, under the desk or in your handbag then pop it into your mouth and fake a sip of drink. Seriously how many times do you see coworkers do that and assume it’s paracetamol, if you ever think that deeply about it? The letter seems like the OP is crying out for someone to notice: I only say that as there are so many easy alternatives that she could use other than placing the packed proudly on her desk and taking it as obviously as possible.

      NONE of my coworkers have ever asked what my medication I just took was. And if one did. They’d be exposing themselves as being so nosy and rude I’d have zero qualms responding with a ‘did you really mean to ask that?’ And a cool glare!

    1. Monday Anon*

      Same. Just take your pill like you would normally take your pill. Do not overthink this.

      1. Hello...ello...ello..ello..llo..llo..lo*

        I’m scratching my head as to why this is a question? Even if I pull out my ibuprofen I generally just shake a few out while my hands are in my purse and take them with a quick gulp of water. Of for those dratted blister packs of pills I pull it out, pop out the pill, and take it (probably in less time than it took me to type this sentence!)

        I mean unless one has an audible running commentary about what they are doing, it’s such a quick and non noticeable thing I don’t know that anyone would ever notice or care.

      2. DJ Roomba*

        I agree completely! The more nervous you act about this (ie going to the bathroom to take it, furtively glancing around your desk to make sure the coast is clear) the more likely it’s going to look like you’re doing something suspicious. TBH, if I walked in on someone taking a pill in the bathroom on multiple occasions I’d think they were doing drugs.

        Long story short, there is nothing to be ashamed of here. And if you don’t make a big deal about it then I doubt anyone else will think it’s a big deal either.

        1. fposte*

          See, I think it’s fine to take pills at your desk or in the bathroom; I’m surprised that somebody taking medication in a bathroom, which is where most of us take it at home, would make you suspicious.

          1. DJ Roomba*

            In 15 years of working, I’ve never seen anyone take medication in the bathroom at work. At the water cooler? Definitely. Desk? Break Room? Yes, yes. But never in the bathroom. I could be way off base but it would look a little weird to me if it happened multiple times.

            1. fposte*

              But if somebody’s on medication they take regularly, surely they’d be taking it multiple times; I don’t see how that makes it more suspicious. Are you in a workspace where people mostly have private offices? That might mean they’re less inclined to feel the need to.

              1. DJ Roomba*

                I’ve worked in mostly open plan offices – and people taking advil or any type of medication at their desk is totally normal. Maybe the environments I’ve worked in are less conservative than others so no one thinks twice about taking what they need to in plain view and that’s why going to the bathroom seems suspicious to me.

                Anyway, the whole point of my original comment wasn’t about the drug thing, it was if you don’t act weird about it no one will think it is weird. And taking birth control is not weird at all!

            2. Perse's Mom*

              I think to me it’s that I would either go get drinking water to go with a medication at my desk, or I would take the medication to the drinking water. As I would never go to the restroom at work for drinking water, I would therefore never take medication there either.

          2. Agnodike*

            Slightly off-topic PSA: please don’t keep your medications in the bathroom or kitchen! Changes in temperature and humidity can affect drug potency, so they should be stored somewhere that stays pretty stable. Keep them in your bedroom instead! If you have small people in the house, please also make sure not only that your pills are in a bottle or other container with a childproof top but that they’re in a box with a hard-to-open lid like one of those snap-side Tupperwares, and keep them out of easy reach.

            1. fposte*

              It’s a standard warning, it’s true, but my doctors know I keep my meds in the bathroom, and they’re fine with it. With most medication practice compliance is going to be more of a problem than than bathroom storage.

              1. Agnodike*

                I definitely agree with that – on my list of things I discuss with patients, “Take this medication exactly as prescribed and please tell me if you’re not doing that so we can figure out why” ranks much, much higher than “Keep these meds away from steam, please!” :)

              2. Tiny Soprano*

                Seconded. My medications live in my bag so that they’re always on me. I know I’m forgetful, and even when I kept them on my bedside table I used to forget them an unacceptable amount.

                1. sap*

                  I’m like this too. At this point, I always refill early and have one little bottle of all the different pills I have to take in my bag, bedroom, and office… So I can fish out the correct pill from the mix when I remember to take it.

            2. Allison*

              I prefer to keep my medicine in my room, or in a hallway closet, or some other part of the household that doesn’t become inaccessible any time someone’s in the shower, shaving, pooping, etc. Especially when I had a roommate who’d play his Nintendo every time he went #2, and would spend 20 minutes on the can.

            3. Elizabeth H.*

              Right – I know people often keep medications like aspirin or ibuprofen or something in the bathroom cabinet but I keep all of mine on my dresser/in my dresser drawer, even when I lived alone. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but they feel like “dry storage” items to me not “wet storage” items like toothbrush, retainers, first aid stuff that should be stored in the bathroom.

            4. Megpie71*

              I take thyroxine, and I live in Australia. The pills live in the fridge, because they have to stay under 18C, which means the only time I can leave them out in the open on the regular is the middle of winter. Actually, for us Aussies, there’s a lot of meds which basically need to live in the fridge. My partner and I have one of the door compartments reserved for them. The ones which don’t need to be temperature controlled tend to live on top of the fridge, because it’s easier to have them all in the one place.

          3. Q*

            People take medication in the bathroom at home because that’s where we’ve been trained to keep it. You don’t keep your medication in a public bathroom at work. It looks like you’re trying to hide something.

            FWIW, I don’t take medication in a bathroom at home, either, and didn’t know anyone really did that. I take it in the kitchen or living room, where ever I have a drink.

            1. fposte*

              We keep it in bathrooms because that’s where the water is, though; it wasn’t some random social practice. Water is in the bathroom at workplaces as well (unless you’re OP #4).

              I’m not saying that the OP shouldn’t take her pills at her desk, but if you came to me with a concern about an employee taking pills in the bathroom, I’d tell you to MYOB same as if you were concerned about her taking pills at her desk. I don’t understand why relocating the stigma is useful.

            2. DJ Roomba*

              Yassss! Thank you for getting my point Q!

              Also, to be clear, I wouldn’t Narc on a coworker if I caught them taking a pill in the bathroom. I would be curious/suspicious/find it odd but I wouldn’t run to anyone to tell them about it. If they started behaving erratically in the coming weeks, I’m sure though that my mind would make the connection to the strange incident of the bathroom pill.

      3. J*

        I’m thinking of a coworker who constantly points out that she’s a minister (especially when defending herself against any attempt to coach her on mistakes) and has other boundary issues to boot. I could easily see her swatting a birth control blister pack out of someone’s had is she saw it. I’m sure just taking any kind of pill would set her off on some moral crusade. If it’s time to take a pill it seems like a good excuse to try to take a break away from my desk and stretch or get some fresh air or just get away from said coworker for a minute.

        1. DArcy*

          A coworker who pulls that shit should be fired posthaste — seriously, that’s assault. And “just” a moral crusade should be a disciplinary writeup; it’s none of her business and disruptive to business operations.

          1. Yorick*

            Don’t get me wrong, it would be super wrong to take pills out of someone’s hand, and someone who did should be fired or at least disciplined. But that’s far from assault, even if they slapped it away. Let’s not overreact.

            1. eplawyer*

              Assault is defined as any unwanted touching. If they even lay a finger on you that is assault. Someone slapped my meds out of my hand? Oh yeah, I am saying it is assault. My medical issues are none of your business.

              1. Forrest*

                “If they even lay a finger on you that is assault.”

                No it’s not and ridiculous and belittling to say it is.

              2. DArcy*

                My understanding is that it’s *battery* that is defined as “any unwanted touching”. Assault is any attempt or threat to initiate harmful/offensive contact; slapping someone’s pills out of their hand would be both assault and battery.

                1. sap*

                  In many jurisdictions, civil battery/assault and criminal battery/assault have different definitions, so while lots of things are “technically” batteries in the sense that they would be actionable for civil damages (except not, because these ones are never something that causes damages), they wouldn’t be criminal batteries that could support a conviction.

          2. J*

            It’s easy to say what should happen. But
            1. This is a small company that is 100% against providing health care based on the owner’s and upper management’s politics. And
            2. Birth control is a trigger for many people who feel this way.
            I’d just as soon take a breather than expend more time worrying about the “what ifs” with a volatile person lurking around.

        2. Observer*

          So here’s the thing. What you do when you are dealing with people who are boundary crossing is separate from “what’s appropriate.”.

          To be honest, I’d like to know why someone thinks they can get away with swatting anything from someone’s hands at your workplace. That sounds like a major failure of management.

        3. BananaPants*

          This is firmly into “not everyone can eat sandwiches” territory. The overwhelming majority of workplaces won’t have people like this working there.

          1. Lissa*

            I agree and honestly unless the situation were *really* tenuous having someone around like that would not stop me from taking whatever pills I needed to! I’m not doing anything wrong, if she overreacts that’s her issue. (though I would not of course blame anyone who chose to do it more discreetly to not have to deal with a PITA)

    2. Sam*

      Same, though I have a private office. But if someone walks in to ask a question while I’m getting my meds out, I don’t throw it all back in my bag or anything. (I don’t know if it’s relevant, but I carry one pill bottle with a mix of pills inside – two RXs and motrin – and the whole blister pack.) I do work in a more liberal and female-dominated field, and I don’t leave any of my medications out on my desk because that’s not the place for something personal, but I’m not at all concerned if someone happens to see.

      I did once see someone take their birth control on the express bus to work. An alarm went off on her phone, she pulled the blister back out of her purse and dry swallowed the pill. I admit I was a bit taken aback, but mostly because she did this while standing on a moving bus and there’s no chance I wouldn’t have dropped the pill if I had attempted that.

    3. MadGrad*

      Agreed. There’s a distinction between personal and shameful, and this one certainly isn’t the latter. Don’t risk messing up your order (or, worst case, someone looking for a buck on the street willing to chance unmarked pills) by moving it to a new container, either. If you can proceed as usual without making it a thing, chances are everything will be fine.

      If someone hassles you about taking meds or being on birth control, be openly bewildered at how weird they’re being (Because they are).

      1. Observer*

        If someone hassles you about taking meds or being on birth control, be openly bewildered at how weird they’re being (Because they are).

        I think the question for the OP isn’t aout being hassled, because seriously, that’s just waaay out there. Sure, it can happen but the OP doesn’t indicate a dysfunctional workplace.

        The real question is will people look at her differently. I don’t think so, as long as she’s being discreet. Like, no announcements, the medication stays in her bag rather than on her desk, etc.

    4. PersephoneUnderground*

      This! Honestly, birth control isn’t controversial unless you live in a VERY conservative area, and even then it’s none of their business what medication you’re taking. I take other meds that might be more stigmatized at my desk, and no one has ever asked me what they are. Lots of people take pills. Heck, one of my coworkers mixes up a big glass of that orange fiber supplement every afternoon- no one suggests that since it’s about “staying regular” and therefore squicky that he drink his supplement in the bathroom!

      Don’t overthink this- I think Alison’s answer errs too far on the side of worrying about others’ potential reactions when it’s a perfectly normal thing to take. Seriously, 92% of *Catholic* women take birth control at some point in their lives- and that’s a religion that explicitly condemns it. Don’t know the stats for general population, but my point is it isn’t your problem if someone is so incredibly sheltered that one of the most common everyday medications offends them- and you’re not likely to run into anyone important in your office who (1) notices and (2) cares what you’re taking enough for it to actually effect you.

      The US has a Puritan heritage (dammit why couldn’t we have exchanged them with Canada for the French, or Australia for the convicts? Why?), but that was a very long time ago and worrying about something so normal is ridiculous.

      1. TiffIf*

        I’ve been taking my birth control pills at my desk at work for as long as I have been on them…it never crossed my mind to ask if I should/shouldn’t take it at my desk and I live in a very conservative area.

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        I love this comment as someone who was raised Catholic, is on BC to “stay regular” and takes it at the desk too. Though TBH if BC only came as an orange fibre supplement-like drink, I’d take the irregularity over it…

    5. nonegiven*

      I was taking mine with an antidepressant when I got to school and ate what I had brought, to cut down on the nausea. It didn’t help. The next month I took the antidepressant with breakfast and the bcp at lunch. Didn’t help, OK in the morning, nausea all afternoon. I ended up taking them at bedtime, no need for food and no nausea. Bcp at bedtime solved my problem.

    6. Sleepy Librarian*

      I take Adderall at work, and the generic for that is amphetamine salts. So I whip out a bottle that says amphetamine salts on it at work and nobody says anything. *shrug*

  1. Anonicat*

    You could also dispense the pills into a small container that doesn’t have the birth-control-look packaging – in the past I’ve transferred my midday medications into a little plastic tub each day and packed it with my lunch.

    It’s annoying to feel you might have to conceal a perfectly normal healthcare routine though.

    1. the gold digger*

      My husband saw the little purple velvety sleeve my pills came in and said, “Those are the perfect size for business cards!”

      I told him I couldn’t possibly use a bcp sleeve for my business cards.

      And then I realized I sure could.

      So now, that is how I keep business cards in my purse.

      1. hermit crab*

        I have an IUD now, but in the past I have definitely used the little plastic sleeve as a wallet replacement while on backpacking trips. It works great for a couple cards and a small amount of folded-up cash!

      2. INTP*

        I’ve used the little sleeves for credit cards and to hold gift cards I didn’t want to carry around, lol. It seemed like such a waste to throw away a perfectly good card carrier every month!

      3. CleverGirl*

        What kind of a fancy BC do you use that has a purple velvety sleeve? Mine just comes in a cardboard blisterpack wrapped in plastic. I need to upgrade!

    2. Victorian Cowgirl*

      I feel like discretion is always a good idea when it has anything to do with your health in the office, regardless if it’s a gendered medication.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, why are you paying for this out of pocket? Whenever I contributed to a going-away or similar party, we conferred with the colleagues chipping in to set a budget and then contributed accordingly. It sounds like you’ve started with specific requirements that are above what folks are willing to budget/pay.

    Would it be possible for folks to potluck and/or contribute $5? That way you could do a group card/flowers or card/cake at a minimum, and if folks want to do more, they could.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      It also sounds like they’re passing out the collection envelope AFTER everything has been purchased/paid for. Switch to doing it before any purchases are made, and maybe give people a couple of days so that if they don’t have cash on them that day, they can still contribute.

      You may run into the issue of having more money for some employees and less for others, so maybe make a benchmark (say, $30) and anything over that gets saved in case the next collection is short. Won’t be perfect, but it’ll help hedge any major discrepancies.

      1. Ron McDon*

        Agree with your first para, but I wouldn’t keep back money from one collection to fund a possible shortfall in a future collection. If I donate money I would expect it to go to that person; I might not like the next person who leaves!

        1. Lars the Real Girl*

          That’s the whole point though – to prevent it from becoming a popularity contest. It can create a bad environment/culture for no reason. And the person is leaving, there’s no need to throw in a “we didn’t like you as much as we like Shelly” on their last day.

          If it makes you feel better about a deferred donation, consider it a small price to pay for having a coworker you don’t like leaving the company!

          1. Ceiswyn*

            On the other hand, you can bet it’ll create a bad attitude if Haroche, the junior who’s been in role for under a year, annoyed everyone, and is just about managing to leave before being let go for poor performance, is given exactly the same sendoff as Ilyan, the senior who’s been there for five years and is a rock star with good relationships throughout the company.

            If Haroche just gets a card and a quiet farewell lunch from his manager, and Ilyan gets a public sendoff and a generous gift, is that really going to create a problem? Or will people just appreciate that it reflects their different contributions to the company?

            1. Birch*

              It’s the colleagues who are supposed to donate though, so it’s not really an objective indicator of the person’s work contribution and could easily feel very personal. If the leaving person didn’t work as closely with as many people, for example, they could get much less than someone who wasn’t as effective but had more interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I think the whole thing is a bit first-grade, but it’s not true at all to say this could ever be done by objective merit. Nor should it–it’s not any of Sally from accounting’s business exactly how good at your job your manager thought you were!

              1. Julia*

                But isn’t that okay?

                When I left my last job, I know that my behated co-worker did not give any money toward my gift and didn’t sign my card, and I was super okay with that. Only the people I worked with closely and/or who liked me gave me a farewell, which means I actually kept the card I got.

                1. Ainomiaka*

                  The company should not be encouraging a popularity contest. Nobody is objective enough for that to be a good idea.

                2. copy run start*

                  @Ainomiaka Exactly… I’m surprised by some of these comments. I don’t think we need to encourage childish behavior in the workplace.

                  The one public office I worked in had a monthly contribution towards gifts, parties, etc. It was ~$2/month, which is about as affordable as you can get. Everyone who left got a cake and card and call out during a staff meeting, but only retirees got gifts. No one was laid off or fired while I was there, so I’m not sure how that was handled, but it seemed a fair and effective policy to recognize and celebrate people. There were a few folks I was happy to see go, but frankly it just made the send off party and cake all the sweeter….

              2. Ceiswyn*

                I am fundamentally not OK with someone else mandating where my money is going.

                This isn’t a tax, it’s a voluntary contribution. If I know that somebody may just decide to take my gift of appreciation to Ilyan who has been amazing, and instead give it to Haroche who has been causing me grief for months, then the most likely outcome is that I’m not going to contribute.

                Yes, I have the option of instead giving Ilyan a card and a little gift privately. And if everyone else does that too, then the inequality you’re trying to prevent actually becomes worse.

                1. ainomiaka*

                  and you should take the option to do it quietly. Work should not be encouraging that kind of favoritism. One could make the argument that was literally Haroche’s problem in the book referred to.

                2. Natalie*

                  The OP can just tell people ahead of time that this is how it’s going to work. Then if that bothers you, don’t donate.

                3. fposte*

                  @Natalie–at that point, though, I think you just go the way of some offices and have a fund for gifts and parties that everybody (or nearly) donates to, and the party maestra doles it out by occasion.

                4. Luna*

                  I think this is much closer to being a tax than voluntary. This is a not uncommon part of working in an office (especially in an office that cannot spend it’s money on things like this, like a nonprofit or grant funded environment, which seems to be the case here); it’s a standard expectation, like expecting everyone to treat their co-workers respectfully. Everyone should be willing to give a least a few dollars, whether you personally like that individual or not, and it’s more than reasonable for the person in charge to keep any leftover money for the next person. If the amount given is more than is needed, there’s no need to get someone an overly lavish gift, and it’s not like the leftover amount can be returned anyway.

            2. I try to be an innocent bystander*

              I love this so much!
              (Also, I’m pretty sure they don’t give you a card and a quiet lunch for treason, but I digress…)

              1. Ceiswyn*

                I knew I could rely on someone to get the reference!

                (And it depends on the, ahem, ‘quiet lunch’…)

            3. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              …I recognised the character names, and given that that workplace could fund an entire AAM site all on it’s own, that’s the least of anyone’s worries.

              Including Haroche’s, seeing as he poisoned his boss.

              1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

                ‘I lied to my boss about an important medical issue and it compromised my work. I’ve been fired. How do I leverage my political capital to retrieve my career?’


                1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

                  ‘My boss has an overly close relationship to one of his subordinates. He’s known the junior since he was a child– the junior used to call him ‘uncle’. The junior is publicly benefiting from nepotism. He’s been given a newly created role, and a huge budget, though he mostly works off site. Now there are rumours he’s going to take over from the boss! How can I express my concerns without ruining my own career?’

                2. NOTarocketscientist*

                  “My twin brother has taken over my department while pretending to be me, and all my direct reports are going along with it. He’s a disaster. What can I do?”

                3. Ainomiaka*

                  My cousin keeps pressuring me to use my work resources and time to help with his professional ambitions. How do I avoid getting dragged in?

            4. ainomiaka*

              yes, it absolutely will create a bad environment. Nobody is as objective as they think-work should absolutely not be encouraging that kind of popularity contest.

            5. Anony*

              I don’t think it would work that way in practice and it definitely isn’t working that way in this case. OP suspects that the fluctuating level of contribution is just who happens to have cash when the envelope goes around. So with this system, Haroche might end up with the lavish send off and Ilyan gets a cake. That could damage morale.

            6. Luna*

              If the recommended donation is $5, then everyone should give at least $5 every time, no matter how popular the departing colleague. If the person who is leaving is very popular or has been there longer it’s fine to give more (and also fine to keep extra for next time), but there should still be a minimum standard met for everybody.

                1. Luna*

                  I didn’t mean to imply that the OP can just force people (although I do think reminder emails would be appropriate in this situation, including letting others know that only X amount has been collected so far), it was more of a response to people asking why it isn’t okay for one co-worker to have a better sendoff than another.

                  It’s not that going above and beyond for a person who has worked at that company for a really long time is bad (and I think most people would understand a situation like, “Bob has worked here for 20 years and is retiring, so we want to get him something extra nice”), but that there still does need to be some standard minimum so that some employees are not getting just a card while others get $100+ gifts. And at least from the original letter OP does not seem to indicate that the disparities are occurring due to seniority, though that could be the case.

        2. kittymommy*

          Perhaps the excess money is but going to the gift but towards the purchase of the card and cake? That’s how I’m reading it and I would think that would likely be the same lettuce regardless.

        3. Genny*

          The problem with turning office farewells into popularity contests isn’t that Wakeen who is objectively a terrible person doesn’t get a nice farewell. The problem is that Jane and Tina are both solid performers, but Jane, who’s quiet, ends up with a card and Tina, who’s more outgoing, ends up with a card, cake, and gift. Honestly, I’ve been Jane more times than I’d like to recall, and it sucks to see lavish praise bestowed on your coworkers while you get a generic “good job”.

          1. Clare*

            +1, I too am a Jane, and it’s disheartening, though not surprising, to see how many people on this thread are trying to justify this kind of treatment of coworkers.

      2. Luna*

        Yes, exactly this. If for some reason OP does on occasion need to purchase a gift before money is collected (which should be the exception, not the norm), she should figure out how much each person owes and tell them that.
        Unless, of course, the issue is really that the OP is choosing to buy more extravagant gifts than are necessary, in which case it would not be okay to demand extra money from co-workers. A cake, card and decent going away gift should not add up to $130.

        1. CleverGirl*

          Seriously. How much do cakes cost? My estimate (and I could be off) is that you could get a grocery store sheetcake and a card for $30. People don’t need farewell gifts of $100 in value. $10 or $20 should be fine.

          1. Oilpress*

            Exactly. The answer is to simply spend less on each departure. It isn’t even important. These people are leaving the company. They aren’t the ones you need to keep happy anymore.

            Card + cake is plenty. I would be inclined to just cancel the thing altogether.

    2. Woodswoman*

      Alison’s suggestion to ditch the gift is spot on. Offering a card and a cake not only removes the headache of spending a lot and finding the right gift, but avoids what might otherwise turn into a popularity contest of who gets more stuff. I’ll bet that others you work with would be equally relieved not to have the financial pressure next time around. If someone wants to give an individual gift for someone they’re close to, they always have that option.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Yep. I bet the co-workers would be horrified to find out the OP has been footing the bill. People may be donating less thinking that the company is picking up the tab.

      1. Anony*

        Or they are assuming that almost everyone else is contributing the $5 or they secretly hate having to contribute money to give a gift to a resigning coworker and decided not to participate.

        1. INTP*

          Yeah, the tradition probably doesn’t matter that much to them so they have decided not to participate, not necessarily with the intent to take advantage of coworkers willing to pay their share, but because they’re fine with the send-offs being smaller in scale so they don’t feel responsible to pay for larger ones. A generous send-off for departing employees is more of a concern of management that want former employees to think/speak well of the company than coworkers who are probably content to send them off with warm wishes and a little snack break in the afternoon.

      2. Luna*

        I think the co-workers are more likely to be horrified at the amount the OP is choosing to spend…I used to organize these things for my office and have no idea why a cake for 20 people, a card, and a decent gift need to cost $130 as OP states.

    4. NinerNiner*

      I think sending people who have quit off with a gift might send the wrong message, like, “Hey, congratulations for moving on to something better!” We stopped doing it at our office, and no one misses it.
      At a different job (that had really high turnover), there was a “Who’s Next” club: if you wanted to participate, you put $10 in the till. When you were “next,” you got the jackpot, whatever was in it. If you didn’t participate, you didn’t get anything.

      1. Manders*

        That’s funny, I’ve never heard of the “Who’s Next” club but I can definitely think of workplaces where it would have been a good way to blow off some steam about turnover.

        I think sending people who quit off with a small gift or a cake is actually a wise idea, especially in small industries where the person who leaves your company today might be the one in a position to bring your company on as a vendor three years down the road. We talk a lot about how employees should do everything they can to make a good impression during their notice period, but the company they’re leaving also has a chance to make a good impression in ways that could pay off for them later.

      2. Jesmlet*

        I agree, there’s a difference between giving a gift to someone who is retiring and giving a gift to someone who quit. Small cake and card sounds nice enough for people who resign and if you cut out the gift, the money shouldn’t be an issue. Personally, I’d reserve the nicer send offs for people who have been there a while and are leaving the workforce. The job they are deeming to be better is gift enough, no?

    5. INTP*

      I don’t know, I don’t feel like it would be fair to ask people to contribute more than they want to contribute for something so optional, and I would assume that they’re currently contributing the amount that they want. Potluck dishes cost more than $5 to make or buy most of the time, so you’re not really giving people an alternative to the suggested contribution that they’re already not meeting. I like Alison’s answer for this, just let people know that the collections haven’t been meeting the cost of your current gift/cake/card, and in the future you’ll be taking the collections and then doing whatever is possible with the amount collected, probably a cake and card.

      1. CleverGirl*

        A box of brownie mix cost $1. Then you have to add an egg and some oil. If you’re really cheap or strapped for cash, you can just bring brownies to all the potlucks. I did this in grad school and no one complained because who doesn’t like brownies?

        1. INTP*

          When you factor in the time value of money, that’s still a lot more than $5 when you add in the going to whatever stores sell $1 brownie mix (I never see it that cheap when I shop), baking the brownies, and cleaning up after the brownies.

          But it’s not that $5 or a baked good is a MASSIVE burden, it’s just that if employees are expressing disinterest in the generous sendoffs tradition by not even throwing in their $5, why on earth would you respond by doubling down and implying that participation is now mandatory, instead of scaling back these gifts that employees clearly aren’t that invested in? If the company thinks a big send-off gift is important for business, they can pay for it. If you’re asking employees to pay for it, their degree of interest should determine the budget. It’s not very wise from a morale standpoint to force people to kick up their contributions to a program that they don’t care about and doesn’t even benefit them, just employees that are already leaving for better jobs.

    6. OP#2*


      We do a $100 gift card for every departing employee ($5 times 20 employees = $100), so the budget doesn’t change. I would personally feel kind of uncomfortable not keeping it at a prescribed amount–as others mentioned downthread, there’s a distinct possibility that it could turn into a popularity contest and I’d hate for the departing person to walk away with the thought that they are not as well-liked as so-and-so. So if I don’t raise enough money, I usually pay the difference to avoid that.

      The remaining $30 is my fault and an expense that I have no issue covering, so I probably should have left it out of the email. I live by an excellent bakery. Their cakes are $25. It is totally worth it and I am completely fine covering that cost 100%–it’s really the $29 for $100 that is more frustrating.

      I should also clarify that this doesn’t happen with every departure. Many times, I do receive enough money to cover the gift and there’s no issue. My problem was more that I don’t really know what to do about the times when it’s not enough to cover the cost.

      1. Clare*

        Thanks for clarifying! That makes sense, and also makes it worse that people won’t chip in when they know there is a set amount! You should definitely let your boss know when this happens, you should not have to pay the difference. Also sending out reminder emails that specifically say something like “we’ve only received $30 so far for Johns going away present so still need to raise another $70, please remember to chip in if you haven’t yet” would be perfectly fine, IMO. It’s possible no one realizes how little is sometimes raised, they might all be thinking they are the only one who forgot and it’s only $5 so no big deal. If they knew everyone was thinking the same thing hopefully they would step up!

      2. INTP*

        Can you change the GC to $50 or $75, and spend the extra on the cake and other snacks when you collect the full amount, giving you less to cover when you can’t collect enough? I don’t know that there’s a way to enforce the donations without backfiring.

        What do you think causes the discrepancies? If it’s a seasonal thing, then maybe reducing the gift amount year-round would keep it from being overly burdensome during the times of the year when people have less cash (like during and after the holidays). If it’s just disliked employees, then I don’t know that you could prompt people to donate (if someone has been a jerk to their coworkers, then the coworkers might be fine with them receiving a smaller gift card than normal and not feel responsible to cover the standard amount) but a smaller amount would reduce the difference when you do have to cover.

      3. nonegiven*

        If you insist on the gift card, and I think maybe you should think about getting rid of that if you are the one having to make up the short fall, maybe send the envelope around again saying you can’t afford to cover it yourself and the collection is $xx short of what is needed.

      4. nonegiven*

        I, myself, would not contribute $5 for anyone leaving. That is just not in my budget, and what if more than one person leaves in any month? You can’t make it mandatory.

        My husband’s office deducts $2/month from everyone’s check and that’s supposed to cover any of the occasions that isn’t something covered by the company, itself.

      5. LAI*

        I suggest that you first do some kind of anonymous poll to find out if everyone in your office likes the gift card tradition, and doesn’t mind giving the $5 every time. If they all agree and it’s just a matter of not having cash on hand, then the other suggestions of giving them more advance warning and an option to contribute electronically are great. Personally, I think a $100 gift card would only be appropriate for someone who was retiring or otherwise leaving after a very long tenure – I would probably only chip in for those people, and not every person who leaves after a year or two of service.

      6. Woodswoman*

        I still think the easiest fix to all this is to ditch the gift card. Clearly it’s not working well for you or your co-workers. You can follow Alison’s suggestion to just say the change is in place before anyone is actually leaving, and then you’re all set. Your group is still being generous with a cake and a card for a good send-off without the financial stress of coming up with an additional $100.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, this is so very illegal. I suspect it violates your state’s local employment laws, too. It’s not reasonable for them to make you come in without arranging for restrooms and wash/drinking water. So yes, you can expense your mileage, but it would be better if they came up with an alternative to working in a space with no water.

    1. MK*

      What I don’t understand is why the OP arranges the send-off before they have the donations, and so before they know how much money is available for it. That a backwards way of handling it, since the donations are voluntary, so you can’t know the budget beforehand. And suppose the money turned out to be more than needed, what would you do? Return it? To whom?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yeah, I found that confusing, too. I usually start with budget based on donations or a prior conversation with the whole group about what they’d be comfortable donating (i.e., kind of a “pledge”-based budget). I’ve returned money to people on the rare occasions when we received more than we needed, usually based on evening out the donations (so if one person donates $10 and another $5, the refund goes to the $10 donee first).

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          You have a conversation with people? I have to say I wouldn’t like to be asked. Here you send the envelope round and spend what comes back.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            When I’ve worked on teams that donate, we’ve been small and tight-knit enough that it often made more sense to ask folks over lunch how they’d like to approach the send-off. I don’t ask for donations—I ask what they’d like to do, and then I ballpark how much it will cost and ask if they’re comfortable with that amount. I think it would be more coercive/uncomfortable in larger offices or if we didn’t like each other.

            1. Ramona Flowers*

              Okay. As someone with financial problems this would make me super uncomfortable but you know your colleagues.

              1. TL -*

                I’ve definitely worked in places where we all have a general understanding of what everyone is comfortable spending – small, close knit workplace, where we were all familiar with each others’ lifestyles and knew a reasonable ask would be (and it was okay to say no.)

            2. Mookie*

              Just to clarify, are you asking the senders-off this question or the sendee (or both)? Does the amount people want to spend noticeably vary depending on who the sendee is? This would make me uncomfortable. I’d prefer to settle this kind of thing in advance with a general rule (like, “everybody gets a twelve-serving-ish cake + balloons, and that costs on average $x per officemate”) rather than leaving it up to the discretion of the group and its current mood (or the present financial condition of its individual members). Otherwise, feelings may be hurt if an officemate leaves, knowing they got a “cheaper” send-off.

              1. Birch*

                Yes, this. Personally I don’t care about the send off itself but I might worry how much it was reflecting my colleagues’ feelings about me, especially as someone who doesn’t get super social with a ton of “work friends.” It’s pretty terrible to get the impression that people don’t like you when you thought everything was fine.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I ask the sendees. Honestly, we’ve never had a problem with it. I understand how, in the abstract, this could be uncomfortable, but the approach can work for certain offices. It also allows us to do different send-offs that are meaningful but not identical. We’re lucky, however, to work in a place where people are mindful of inclusion and not wanting people to feel disfavored or like it’s a popularity contest.

          2. Else*

            Yes – that seems more standard. That, and sometimes it’s been an actual office expenditure out of petty cash or whatever they call the “good relations with staff” budget. For one small office without such a budget, the boss treated all of us to a nice friendly pub lunch and we made a memory scrapbook together for the departing staffmember – I thought that was nice. Everyone could contribute their thoughts and good wishes, and only the boss had to pay. Presumably, she only offered because she could afford it.

    2. OP #4*

      I wonder if those employment laws cover non profits? Not sure if that factors in at all. I know for example, since we are a seasonal company that makes most of our money in the summer the whole overtime if you make under a certain amount didn’t apply to us. It seems like there can be a lot of loop holes with regulations sometimes.

      1. Natalie*

        There are no US federal labor regulations that make a distinction between nonprofit and forprofit that I’m aware of, although there could be some obscure one somewhere. Government employees are exempt from some major labor laws (overtime, for one) but they are frequently covered by a union and very bureaucratic procedures that can counterbalance that.

        *Some* seasonal workers are exempt from overtime pay, but you have to be in a certain industry – it doesn’t apply to all seasonal workers. I’ll put a link in a reply with more information, but the short version is that if you are not working for a “seasonal amusement establishment” than you were wrongfully denied OT and can (and should, IMO) pursue your back wages. If you are a seasonal amusement establishment, you might want to double check your state laws since not all states allow them to be exempt from OT.

        (There are also a couple of industries exempt from overtime pay regardless of seasonality, including farm labor and weirdly movie theater employees.)

  4. Weekday Warrior*

    Re #3. It’s great to get feedback from your reports but I would separate that from their performance review conversation. The goal of that conversation is to focus on them and it feels strange to make them focus on you, especially if they’re feeling vulnerable or nervous. I did have a manager try to get this kind of feedback in this way, with the best of intentions, but the reports, including me at the time, found it jarring. Once a manager myself, I separated the conversations and even better, advocated for a true 360 feedback process.

    1. Weekday Warrior*

      I should say, though, that asking what support they’d like from you sounds just fine and in fact, really good. It’s just that you need to be careful about asking them to evaluate you when you hold the power of evaluating them in that interaction.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        Yes, hold off on asking for this and having them give feedback until AFTER you’ve completed their entire review process and “submitted” it – if that’s something your company does.

        That way, if they ask for changes in how you do things or have any negative-ish feedback, they’re not concerned that you’ll reflect it on their reviews – and you’re much more likely to get more honest answers.

        1. sunshyne84*

          That’s a good idea or they could make a suggestion box type thing and have people submit their thoughts anonymously.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I always say, as the LAST part of their review:
        -Are you getting what you need from me (or, from the company)?
        -What can I do to help support you better?
        -Is there anything problematic that I could change?
        -Is there anything that’s working particularly well between us, and why, so we can expand that.

        That’s different than asking for a review of my work.

    2. Daria Grace*

      I agree. When I’m nervous about my own performance review, I’m not in a good headspace to give my manager feedback

    3. foolofgrace*

      I agree. If it were me getting evaluated, I would be afraid to say anything negative-ish for fear it would impact the review I’m getting,

    4. Hildegard Von Bingen*

      I agree. My first reaction to that question is that it’s great to ask for feedback on your performance, and to ask about how you can more effectively help your direct reports, but decouple conversation that from the performance eval you give them. Consider the power differentials in those relationships – they’re not irrelevant, no matter how well you get along.

    5. Shiara*

      I think this is a know your culture thing. By the time I’m actually in the room having the performance evaluation conversation, the evaluation has already been written down on paper and is not likely to change (for better or worse). The conversation encompasses how I did on my goals for the previous year, and what my goals for the next year are, and so it’s fairly natural to segue into a discussion of how I felt my supervisor/the company as a whole supported me the previous year and what I think could be done better in the next year.

      My performance and professional development are tied up with the company and my manager, so it seems oddly artificial to me to try to separate those things into different conversations. Clearly this is a YMMV situation though.

    6. Phoenix Programmer*

      Agree. My current boss does this at the end of my performance review. Even though he gives me the questions ahead of time like Alison suggests, I still give fluffy positive answers and only neutral “critical” feedback in the form of process soft ball answers.

      The risk of being honest is that my raise is lowered – it’s just not worth it to me.

    7. Anonymouse*

      I agree, its difficult to answer honestly due to the power dynamic at play. Although, I do have a manager who has a bit of an ego and gets defensive.

  5. SignalLost*

    #2 – I have nothing to offer constructively, but having hit the combination of age and genetic lottery where when I have to go it is usually NOW, driving 2.5 miles four or five times in a day would be untenable. I wonder if another point to bring up is that this “workaround” discriminates against people who may fall into protected classes, and people who also don’t – but it’s still pretty crappy to discriminate against someone who doesn’t have a car.

    1. LadyKelvin*

      I am well below that age and still if I had to drive 2.5 miles to go I would have an accident. I’ve even pulled into a gas station across the street from my destination because I couldn’t wait for the light to change. Also, I pee about once an hour, so I’d never be at work!

    2. Tau*

      I have to admit that as someone who’s taken and most likely will have to keep taking BC pills for medical reasons, I would be absolutely unapologetic about taking them and anyone who wanted to make a big deal about it would get my TMI rant about why fibroids are the devil. Buuut Alison’s suggestions is probably better for the purpose of maintaining peace between coworkers.

      1. Another Woman of a Certain AGe*


        Look into Uterine Artery Ablation,
        Saved my “life”, and I could tell some real horror stories, but TMI

      2. Jesmlet*

        You’re ranting to the choir here… If I didn’t take BC, 25% of my time at work, I’d be curled up in a ball sobbing, wracked with pain. My last fibroid was 11cm and caused uncontrollable sciatica, never mind the cramps that felt like childbirth and the other TMI stuff. Nevertheless, I still take my pills at home because I just don’t want to have to risk that type of conversation with coworkers. You never know who’s the closet BC bigot.

    3. Ceiswyn*

      It’s possible that this also strays into gender discrimination; a bathroom 2.5 miles away is in no way workable for a woman with a heavy period.

      1. Elspeth*

        It’s illegal to have employees come to work when there are no bathroom facilities. Can’t imagine why the manager is telling them to drive all that way to use the restroom. The company should hire portable restrooms till the situation is resolved, or let the employees work from home.

        1. Church Lady*

          Our office nearly had to close for a day because we weren’t sure we could get the water turned back on immediately after a plumbing repair. No clean running water = building closure. What is wrong with these bosses?

        2. Church Lady*

          Our office nearly had to close for a day because we weren’t sure we could get the water turned back on immediately after a plumbing repair. No clean running water = building closure. What is wrong with these bosses?

        3. SignalLost*

          Since it’s only for 24 hours (barring something unexpected) I assume by now the situation has actually been resolved, but my comment at least was meant in the spirit of “this is aaaaallll the reasons this is illegal and a bad idea anyway, and I will be back with Volume 2 later.” Personally, I think the office should just be closed for the day – unless everyone is set up to work from home, and that includes knowing that they might be (I once doubled back to work when I realized there was no way I was getting in the next day due to snow so I could have the hardcopy I was editing) and being prepared for it. This is beyond ludicrous (as well as illegal). But anyone coming up with the idea in the first place probably needs some help thinking about why it’s illegal.

        1. OP #4*

          It’s definitely predominantly men that work here so I would not be surprised at all if that happened…

    4. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      This. When I read this letter my first thought was “Well, I hope there aren’t any pregnant women, older women, IBS/Chrohn’s sufferers, or people who ate something dodgy last night working there.” Also, what happens to people who ride-share or take transit to get to the office? How are they supposed to get to the bathroom?

      1. OP #4*

        The employees here are mostly young fit outdoorsy (think woodsy backpacker types) so I can see someone in management just completely not thinking about any of those other people. Which is definitely Messed. Up. I’m glad to see so many people see the lunacy of the situation.

        1. Lissa*

          Yeah, I’m not surprised – I figured it would pretty well have to be an environment with mostly young healthy guys for someone not to realize super quickly how bad it is. (I mean, it’s still bad, obviously.) This is one of many reasons why I think having a workplace that’s all one demographic can lead to huge blind spots.
          For myself that bathroom thing would not work at all, and I already imagine about half of AAM commenters would also have reasons why this would be a giant NOPE. But I have also known a lot of younger guys where they wouldn’t even care. (lucky them.)

          1. sap*

            Yeah, for me this would be like “lol today I got paid to drive back and forth from the office to the bathroom several times, also I did 30 minutes of actual work.”

  6. Stellaaaaa*

    OP2 – There’s no way to get people to chip in more than they currently are, unless you want to become the object of all of those AAM letters about workplaces that pressure people to spend money they don’t want to spend. You shouldn’t be asking for the money in the first place if your office can’t otherwise afford this stuff.

    That said, the suggested donation is $5 for 20 people, but you’re spending $130. Setting aside what I’ve just said about not asking for donations at all, you shouldn’t be asking for a $5 donation and getting annoyed when people don’t give $10.

    1. Artemesia*

      I am having trouble believing that anyone would make up the difference between big plans and what people give more than once. It should be made clear that the collections average about X and that it is cake and a card hence forth as Alison suggested.

    2. TL -*

      Well, they said they expected to spend 2-4 times less than what they were – so presumably they’re budgeting $25-50 to add on to everybody else’s $5.

    3. Former Temp*

      I think it’d be a whole lot better to send the envelope around *before* and make the plan based on what comes in. At least that way, the plans can be reined in so that there’s not a big discrepancy, but I do agree that a “it’s going to be a card & cake going forward” should be sent out before the next departure.

      1. Ron McDon*

        Agreed. Where I work we do a collection when someone has a baby/gets married/retires. We see what money has been collected then buy a gift based on that amount of money. I think the OPs coworkers would be horrified if they knew she was putting in £100 of her own money!

        In the past a colleague of mine has contributed a large amount to ‘bump up’ the amount donated for a particular person; however this was because she is a manager; she was really close to the person leaving; and she wanted to buy the leaver a particular item which was very expensive.

        I also think the OP would be wise to tell everyone that she’s receiving donations totalling x amount; in a previous job this was how we discovered someone was stealing money from the envelope….

      2. Enya*

        Yes, this is how we do it at our company. We send around an envelope and people put in what (and if) they want. Then someone buys a gift based on how much was collected. Frankly, it’s shocking to me that OP is subsidizing the gift to the tune of $100- that’s ridiculous , doesn’t matter if OP can afford it or not. I think Alison is right about skipping the gift from now on and just having a card and cake.

        1. a1*

          She said it’s inconsistent though. It sounds like many times, there is quite a bit of money, but sometimes there’s a LOT less. She doesn’t know why and in those cases, she adds in the rest. She probably does this because the person leaving that only got $30 would notice the big difference from the last person that left that got $100+ worth of gifts, so is trying to make it more equal.

          1. OP#2*

            You are correct. It’s maybe every other departure where it’s an issue. There are many times where it’s fine.

      3. Steph*

        Also in agreement. Andnpribably stop this “suggested constitution of $5” – people don’t like that.
        I just wanted to add make sure when you do circulate the envelope do it weeks ahead of schedule (or as much ahead as you can).
        I work only two days a week and sometimes short hours and often I see the gift envelope being put out as I am about to leave, then when I come back nearly a week later it’s been collected and taken away and i’ve never had the chance to contribute.

    4. MK*

      By the way, if 19 people’s donations totalled 29 dollars, it’s pretty obvious that most people didn’t donate at all (since it’s pretty unlikely that everyone gave 1,… dollars). Maybe you should rethink the whole send-off idea if most of your coworkers are unwilling to donate. Also, how often does this come up? Your letter implies that it’s common; if you are a workplace with high turnover or many temps or seasonal workers, it doesn’t really make sense to do this.

      1. Amy*

        I wonder if it’s because they don’t have cash when the card comes around. It sounds like this is being done pretty close to the leaving date so if they don’t have it today there is no other opportunity to donate. We always designate a person to collect the cash and give everyone a week or two to drop it off. This gives people time to hit up an ATM and the person collecting also can make change for them if they need it. If someone asked me for $5 right now it would be a hassle since I’d have to run out in the freezing cold to the AMT and then go somewhere else to break that bill to get a 5 .

        1. WillyNilly*

          Seriously! I just don’t live a cash lifestyle, I need a few days heads up to contribute cash.

          If its a tech-using office a Venmo collection might garner better results.

        2. OP#2*

          The card usually goes around as soon as someone gives notice.

          I never have cash either (this is one of the reasons why I don’t mind doing the collection!).

        1. hermit crab*

          To be fair, OP says they’re at a “public entity” and a lot of government agencies actually can’t provide food/gifts/kleenex/etc. for their staff. My husband is a fed and all his office parties are potlucks in the middle of the work day; the only thing his agency is allowed to provide is paid time to attend them.

            1. Nerdling*

              Sometimes, and a going away or retirement is often one of those times, people want to do something a little more relaxing than a potluck. We do potlucks pretty frequently. When it’s time to send someone off, we pitch in. Especially when it’s a heavily male and conservative environment so a potluck is, more often than not, placing the burden of cooking on the female employees and the male employees’ wives.

              It’s a whole other ballgame when you’re working somewhere whose every expenditure and use of time is at risk of being scrutinized by anyone and everyone capable of filing a FOIA request. I’d love it if I wasn’t out of pocket for going aways, but I’d rather chip in than have to spend my evening cooking most of the time.

            2. doreen*

              We can’t even technically have them on “state time” , so we have to do on-site parties during our lunch break. There really isn’t any way to do these things well in the public sector – the agency can rarely pay for a party (although they can sometimes provide a plaque or something for a retiree) , you can’t mandate that coworkers chip in money or food for a potluck and you can’t prevent people from having a $100 per person party on Thursday night. So some people end up with 200 people at that party on Thursday night while others get coffee and cake with their 10 immediate coworkers after lunch.

      2. Anony*

        If the OP does want to continue the gift and voluntary donation, they should at least set up an anonymous poll for their coworkers to give input into what amount they think is reasonable (with $0 as an option). That way they could see if a significant number of their coworkers want to stop altogether or reduce the amount to $1-2.

      3. Antilles*

        This is a good point and something to actually check – look at how that $29 is split up. Most people aren’t so focused on exact amounts that they’d ‘get change’ for their bill from the donation bucket.
        So if you’re seeing four $5 bills, 3 $1 bills and a handful of pocket change, what’s actually happening is that a couple people are matching the suggested $5 donation, a couple people are just putting a couple bucks or loose change from their wallet…and then the majority of the office isn’t putting in one red cent.

    5. OP#2*

      Oh, I’m not expecting that! We do $100 gift cards for departing staff–$5 times 20 employees = $100. That amount is always the same, as there were concerns about it turning into a popularity contest.

      The remaining $30 is my fault and an expense that I don’t mind covering and I probably should have left it out of the email–I live by an excellent bakery. Their cakes are $25. It’s 100% worth it and I don’t mind paying for that. It’s more the $29 for $100 that’s an issue.

      1. Specialk9*

        You keep making the same comment, defending the $100 gift card, despite getting stiffed every other time and despite our collective advice to stop with the gift card. Really. It’s not normal or necessary or expected in most places.

        I worked for over a decade for a place that had plenty of money (I got a fancy espresso machine with steam wand and cup warmer for a work anniversary), but management had a policy of not rewarding people for leaving. When I left, I got a really nice happy hour with people I had worked with, everyone buying their own food and drink, and I was so touched by all the people who showed up. That was my gift.

        So seriously, stop with the gift card. Announce it as a new policy for 2018, and just stick with a card and cake. Because that is so nice already!

        1. Natalie*

          You keep making the same comment, defending the $100 gift card, despite getting stiffed every other time and despite our collective advice to stop with the gift card.

          I really don’t think this OP is trying to “defend” anything – they left their various comments around the same time, responding to the different threads that discussed this letter. That’s really normal when the letter writers aren’t actively engaged with the comments all day. They come in once, respond to each thread discussing their letter with clarifications or whatever, and then pop out.

        2. OP#2*

          There were several questions about how those expenses work out. I was answering them. If that came off as defending the process, that was not my intention.

      2. Huddled over tea*

        If you’re budgeting $100 based on every person donating $5, then it’s not really a voluntary donation, is it?

      3. Anon Anon*

        If the $100 gift card is non-negotiable, then it should be a company expense, not an employee expense.

        1. Natalie*

          I think they covered that in the letter – it can’t be a company expense because it’s a state agency.

  7. Diamond*

    #5, I agree with Alison about mentioning the scam thing but I’d still change your voicemail message to a more personal ‘Hi you’ve reached Letter Writer, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible’. Those generic automated voicemail messages are really off-putting because you don’t know if you’ve reached the right person or whether they even check their voicemail.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Agreed. I mostly hear “subscriber’s voicemail box” in conjunction with “is full”. If a potential employer won’t talk to you if they have to leave a message, that’s certainly at least a yellow flag and useful information.

      1. Triplestep*

        Exactly. Seems like people have gotten so used to the fact that friends expect a call back even if they do not leave a message (assuming you’ll see the missed call) that this expectation is now being assigned to companies. Companies that want to talk to you leave a message.

      1. PollyQ*

        The scammers probably aren’t checking the message, though. They’re just robocalls that are trying to find a live person.

        1. Naruto*

          Agree. Everyone gets spam calls from fake companies nowadays.

          You can let everything go to voicemail, or answer and then hang up on the scammers, either way is okay.

          1. Anony*

            If the OP does decide to get a new number, if it is possible to get an area code from another part of the country then they can easily screen calls for scammers. My area code is from another part of the country from where I live so if the area code matches mine I know it is a scam call. I had used my parents address when getting the phone since I was in the process of moving and the area code thing was an unexpected bonus.

      2. Penny Lane*

        This is just a strange reaction on the OP’s part, IMO.

        Either the scammers are robocalls, in which case anything said on the voicemail is completely irrelevant, or the scammers are live people, in which case they’re not REALLY “listening” to the voicemail – they’re just waiting for it to be over so they can leave their pitch.

        It’s kind of amusing to think scammers are all of a sudden going to get manners!

      3. MLB*

        Those scam calls are not leaving messages. I had a bunch of them coming in recently. I just blocked the number each time and eventually they stopped. My people know I screen and won’t answer a call from a number I don’t know, so if they call from outside of the numbers I have from them, they know to leave a message. And any potential employer will have no issue with leaving one either. In fact I’ve had recruiters call and leave a message, and when I call them back I say “sorry I didn’t recognize the number” and they just laugh it off.

        1. Specialk9*

          That has stopped working for me. The same company keeps calling me with the same fake pitch, but with a rotating number. It keeps getting closer and closer to my own. One time I listened and hit the ‘yeah I’m interested in being scammed, let’s do this!’ button, got a person, demanded the name of the company (“Solar Panel” uh no, no dear, that wasn’t even clever), and told them to remove me. But nope. I don’t know who to file a complaint against, or the number, and blocking doesn’t work. It’s getting so aggravating.

          1. nonegiven*

            The only thing to do is report it to the FTC and FCC. They only go after the ones that get the most complaints, so complain. Especially if they are robo calling a cell number.

            I get those on my cell number and I get them on my Google Voice number which is in a different area code. I have not gotten any of the local number ones on my landline.

            I can’t use nomorobo on any of mine because they don’t offer simultaneous ring, but my sister uses AT&T and Vonage, she says it is great.

            1. Naruto*

              The problem is they often lie about who they are. Or they shut down and pop back up with a new name. So reporting them might not be able to help.

        2. nonegiven*

          Don’t block those. What if the scammer randomly spoofed an employer’s number? Those local scam calls are not coming from that number, they’re coming from somewhere else and randomly picking a local phone number that may be out of service or it may belong to someone who has no idea until they get a call from themselves.

          1. Naruto*

            Seconding this. Don’t block the numbers, the number you’re seeing isn’t the number they’re calling you from.

            1. EH*

              I add scammer numbers to a contact in my list for just that purpose – then I set that contact to go straight to voicemail (I use a side-eye emoji at the beginning so it’s at the top of my contacts list and easy to add to. Plus, you know, it’s amusing). They almost never leave a message – but if they do, I always listen. So far it’s always been an obvious robo-call/person on autopilot who took too long to hang up, but anything is possible.

          2. Lindsay J*

            Someone uses my work number for these scam calls!

            I pretty frequently get people calling me going “Hi who is this you just called me?” when I haven’t called anyone recently. It took me awhile to figure out what was going on.

            I feel like the chance of the number that has been spam calling you actually belonging to an employer you applied to is pretty small. But blocking them also doesn’t really do anything because they just move on to a new spoofed number in a few days anyway. I just save the number as the name “Spam” in my phone so I know not to bother answering if it comes up.

      4. Julia the Survivor*

        She could do like one of my friends “Hi this is FirstName, please leave a message…”

    2. Kat A.*

      If scammers are calling, the last thing she should do is have her name on her voicemail greeting.

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        I mean….maybe? But most numbers can be reverse-looked up on a basic google search. I just searched for my long-time cell phone number (which I actually don’t even have anymore) and it comes up with my name, age, city, etc. It was never really listed publicly, but most of that information is out there to the public.

        1. Bye Academia*

          This is not true. I have the same problem as the OP. The calls come from a bunch of different spoofed numbers that begin with the same area code and first three digits of my number. Some do indeed leave voicemails, and it’s clearly a robot talking. I never considered that they continue because I say my full name in my voicemail (recorded when I was also job searching). Maybe I’ll switch it to just my first name and see if that helps.

          I will say that even when they leave a voicemail, it’s not like there have been any real consequences to my bank accounts or my credit report or anything because they don’t know anything about me other than my name and phone number. They’re just annoying.

          1. Natalie*

            It’s really, really unlikely that the robot is somehow listening for you to say your full name on your voicemail. I wouldn’t worry about it.

      2. M-C*

        What could it possibly matter if they already have her number? And she can use her first name alone (good luck understanding the details of mine if you don’t have it on a resume) which is utterly unconsequential if she’s not answering scam calls

    3. Lurker*

      I never have my name on my personal voice mail (or answering machine, when I had a landline) out of safety precautions. But I agree that they should at least change it to something not pre-recorded. Mine is just, “Hi you’ve reached xxx-xxx-xxxx, please leave a message after the tone.”

      1. FD*

        Yeah, that’s what I’ve done in the past. I don’t like saying my name on the recording due to a couple of creep calls I’ve gotten, but that way the person feels like it’s an inservice number.

      2. EleonoraUK*

        I’ve got around this by only including my first name – I figure it’s common enough that the scope for maliciousness is small, yet people know they’ve got the right number.

      3. SophieChotek*

        That’s a good point. Maybe I need to have a slightly more personalized message – since like LW5 – I have left my VM very impersonal due to the high number of scam calls and telemarketers I get too.

    4. Mookie*

      There are also other, perfectly valid, sometimes safety-related reasons why people might not want to use their name or their speaking voice. There was a noticeable drop-off in the number of random serial phone harassers* on my mobile when I stopped using my own (female) voice on the outgoing message and instead switched to the computerized default. There’s nothing weird or inherently unprofessional about that kind of message on a private phone, provided you’re not working in an industry where you regularly expect to phone and be phoned by clients or customers using a non-business number or extension.

      *usually a case of someone mis-dialing and then perpetually calling, rather than a random dial to see if they can find a woman to bother

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I think her scam-avoidance practices have gotten too severe, especially in terms of indicating to the person who called that this is in fact the phone of Letter Writer (or at least Letter), 123-45-6678.

      For a time, to deal with email scammers, some people’s addresses gave out a default “Hi, you are not on the list, just go fill out this form and we will officially add you.” It ended because man was that a lot more work than people trying to arrange the soccer schedule wanted to have to wade through. As with stores not having procedures so secure that potential customers feel they are assumed to be felons, you need to make it straightforward for employers to get in touch with you straightforward, and that means no “first off, I assume you might be a criminal scam artist” or “I am robot You message leave Party call.”

      As a person with kids and elderly parents, my default is to answer in case they are on a borrowed phone and, if someone doesn’t immediately start talking (as the program searches for its robot) hang up. I get the default Grrrrr feeling at a ringing phone when dealing with this, but you need to dial that way back when companies are calling to talk about a job. (And–at some point, one of you is going to need to pick up the ringing phone, rather than leave a message?) About once a month I have a ritual back and forth with someone calling my home line to talk to Falling Water, whose extension at the senior center matches my home number, and even though these people aren’t offering me jobs it’s as well I was civil long enough to determine why they are asking me about a bus.

      1. Laura*

        Just leave your first name on your voicemail message rather than your full name. They’re unlikely to use “Percy” on its own to say you’ve agreed. It would have to be “Percy Dovetail”.

        1. Natalie*

          It’s very unlikely that those spliced together recordings have any real force, anyway. They mostly use them to try and scare people into paying. These companies don’t want to be exposed to sunlight – they’re never taking you to small claims court or whatever.

          1. Sara*

            Agreed, the scam is that they would play the recording back to people and hope to confuse/scare elderly folks or others who may get confused by the recording of their voice. It’s not that someone having a recording of your voice saying the word “yes” is legally binding in a court of law.

            1. fposte*

              The thing is, there’s no report I can find of anybody actually *doing* that. The reports are of people getting such calls and being afraid of them.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I am trying to find a plumber this morning. I was glad for the voicemail message with a human voice “This is 123-456…” because I was trying to dial 123-465 and so didn’t leave them a long message explaining my tub drain.

        And my scams will run in cycles–so I got a bunch from the resort lady whose husband tickled her (this was to cover the pause before the voice came on the line) and then two months later my husband got a string of calls from her. They’re just pounding through the robo-dials and not forming any theories about how likely I am to fall for a given scam. And Natalie is very right that no one is going to take you to court and play a hacked-together tape in which you agree to something.

    6. SystemsLady*

      OP #5, I can basically guarantee that 95% of these callers are robots, no matter how human some of them sound, and they aren’t able to leave a voicemail. The rest are trying to pull a computer scam on you that won’t work if they leave a voicemail, because then they’ll be giving you a number somebody can trace. They’ll hang up the moment it goes to voicemail.

      You have nothing to worry about using your name.

    7. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

      My message specifically says that I don’t check my voicemail often and that the best way to reach me is by text or email. My most recent employer emailed me before calling me so that was a non-issue. I actually responded to the email and that was how we handled the interview time. They called me once but I was unavailable to take the call and after that it was only email or text until I was hired. My supervisor prefers email to the phone anyway so it all worked out.

      1. Natalie*

        Oh, see, I have thought about changing my voicemail to say I don’t check it because I hate voicemail and have a mild anxiety around it (long story) but I would definitely not have this voicemail greeting if I was actively looking for a job. It seems like a small but nonzero risk that a prospective employer would hear that message and and either decide not to send an email because it doesn’t fit into their process, or intend to send one and forget.

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          I pay an extra dollar or two a month to Verizon and they transcribe my voice mails, almost always well enough I can understand them. This has been so worth the small amount of money to keep me from having to listen to my VM.

          1. Natalie*

            Supposedly I have voicemail transcription through my provider, but it’s been broken for a while! I really should call them and find out wtf is going on because I absolutely loved it and I was way better at returning messages during the year or so I had it.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            I’ve been using a Google Voice number for job searching — it transcribes and emails you the voice mail, though not always very well (and it can be amusing). But I check my email on my computer much more than my phone so this way, I know I got a message and can listen to it. Generally, I will answer if someone calls that number from my area code.

            I get a lot of scam calls to the GV number also. If they don’t leave a message, I just ignore or block them. I’ve never had an employer call and not leave a voice mail if I don’t answer.

            1. nonegiven*

              I check numbers at 800notes (dot) com or google the number before I block them. If there are pages of scams going back years, yeah block it. If nothing or only one or two complaints that they left no voicemail, I will leave it, it may be spoofed or just a wrong number.

          3. SignalLost*

            I have no idea if that’s a built in feature of Credo Mobile or a feature of the iPhone 6, but I found that I get those auto-transcribes now too. I switched providers at the same time I upgraded my phone, so I don’t know which it is. I personally love the feature, not least because some of the transcriptions are HILARIOUS. I had a callback from the Kent Police Department a while back, but according to my transcription it was the cat please department. (I would like a cat, please.) A friend who works for Amazon has seen some funny ones. What was said was “Hello Amazonians” but what the transcription recorded was “Hello am I onions”. (That said, it is a generally good service; it just stumbles on certain names and accents.)

        2. M-C*

          My message says I’m a lot more responsive by text or email. I think that’s useful because I’ve had myself a few snafus with landlines that eat texts silently (!!). And I don’t think there’s any need to explain WHY I don’t like voicemail, especially since orally I can fall back on the absolutely true thing that when I’m on one job I’m certainly not going to pick up a call and chitchat about anything else, even/especially to do an interview.

          1. Natalie*

            I think a voicemail greeting that says “I am more responsive by X method” reads a lot differently than “I don’t check voicemail often”. If I was calling job candidates I wouldn’t blink at the former, but the latter would make me wonder if it was worth leaving a message at all, which is probably not the response one wants from prospective employers.

    8. Kathleen_A*

      I don’t see any real risk to the OP using her name, but I think using the phone number would be fine, too. So long as your message sounds friendly and professional and lets legitimate callers know that they’ve reached the correct person and that person will call them back soon, she should be fine.

      I do think it’s weird that the OP thinks there’s a problem letting messages from employers – or anybody else – go to voice mail. But then I am middle aged and reeeeeeeally don’t understand how come so many of us are held hostage by our phones and are expected to respond instantly to ever call/text immediately or be considered The Rudest Friend Ever. That’s just so odd. I hope that expectation goes away eventually because it’s…well, it’s silly.

    9. Turquoisecow*

      I have a generic voicemail, and I get scam calls at least once or twice a day. I don’t answer the phone unless I know the caller. The scammers don’t usually leave voicemails, and if they do, they’re silent. I don’t think most of them listen to the voicemail message long enough to be encouraged or discouraged by what’s left there, but a legitimate caller (calling about a job) might.

      I think OP5 is safe using the script provided – giving a long, drawn out reason about how she gets lots of scam calls is just going to confused callers. A simple “I’m not available to take your call, please leave a message and I’ll get back to you” should suffice. It’s not like you update the voicemail with reasons why you can’t answer the phone, so why give a reason in this case?

    10. OP #5*

      Hi Everyone, OP #5 here. Thanks for all the advice! I figured my proposed voicemail would be off-putting, so I’ll definitely avoid that. Truth be told, my biggest issue has been not with scam callers (I’ve had both robo-calls and humans) but with businesses refusing to leave voicemails. As much as that’s their issue, when I bear the brunt of their practices it’s particularly aggravating.
      If you’ll excuse my quick rant, I’ll give you my worst 2 instances– 1) My previous (government) employer was holding up my travel allowance for a cross country move that was substantial. They kept calling (8am their time, 5am mine!) and not leaving messages. When I finally answered the call and explained the time difference and preference for voicemail, the persons response was, “well if you want your money, you should answer the phone!” Naturally, it turned out that my paperwork was actually correct and they just needed to reread it instead of me filling out new forms.
      2) Bank mixup ending in a small fee. My bank, which is otherwise great, uses a phone system that makes it sound like a robocall came through–pauses, clicks, and all sorts of stuff. I’m signed up for e-mail/internet contact with them and let them know my complaint about them not leaving a message or e-mailing me.
      At least with a bank I’m a costumer with the power to move my business elsewhere. Government agencies and doctors that take my insurance and have appointments…not so much. Alas, trying to lecture businesses to leave a message via a confusing voicemail prompt isn’t the solution!

  8. HA2*

    #3 – have that conversation only after your team’s performance reviews are done. If you do it before, every single team member is going to have on their mind “how will what I tell my supervisor about his performance reflect on me in my performance review”, regardless of how much they trust you and want to keep those thoughts out. I’d be willing to bet that some people who have serious criticisms or want to have some difficult conversations would not feel comfortable doing so right before their own performance review.

  9. GT*

    Re: #1 – It’s annoying that we still have a stigma about this, and even have to debate that it’s appropriate medication, period. I mean, I guess you can just use an aspirin between your knees /s.
    There is more than one type of pill that comes in a pill pack like that. Additionally, it’s fine to relocate them to a pill bottle.

    1. Feotakahari*

      Just make sure it isn’t one of the brands that gives you a placebo on the fourth week. It would be bad if you got them all mixed around in the bottle and accidentally took two placebos in a row. (Yes, there are brands that actually do this. No, there is no good medical reason for it.)

      1. Lars the Real Girl*

        It’s a practicality reason more than a medical one; it keeps up the habit of taking a pill everyday and you know when you’re supposed to start the new pack when those are done, instead of having to remember/put it in your calendar.

        And I’m sure there’s an exception out there but those are almost always a different color so that they can be easily differentiated. (Even packs with different hormone levels throughout the month are different colors for each “level’.)

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          Yes, but there’s not actually a medical reason to take the placebos and have the period. You can just double them against each other.

          (I recall from the Journal of I Saw It Somewhere Studies’ that the placebos were introduced because doctors had a vague feeling that women OUGHT to have periods.)

          1. Betty*

            I was on hormonal birth control (combined pill that didn’t include placebos) for ten years before coming off it recently to TTC. I went on it as a teenager because of the most horrendous periods (and wow, it really did work like magic!). I recall being told very firmly that I was never to take more than two packs in a row in case I got a blood clot AND DIED. (Obviously it was communicated more professionally than that, but that’s the message teenage-me got.) Also, that I could expect spotting at the time I would have normally had my period – and I would rather have had a planned (virtually pain-free!) period than unplanned spotting.

            1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              I think the formulation may have changed since, as I was not told that. (Possibly difference between combined and estrogen only?)

              (I went on the Pill for horrendous periods, came off, went back on again, discovered my body no longer cooperated with them…)

            2. WillyNilly*

              I started taking the Pill in the mid-1990s and consistently used it through to 2013. Over those 2 decades I had about 6 different Rx, and I read the insert for each, as well as discussed them with my Dr(s). None had any such danger. In fact the last 5 or 6 years I was on a Pill that was continuous for 3 months, with only 4 placebo weeks per year. It was explained to me even that was optional but was recommended for insurance coverage (skipping would lead to too many refills in a year) and just to make sure all was functioning as it should be.

          2. Agnodike*

            When the Pill was initially introduced, it was described as a medication to treat “menstrual irregularity” rather than being framed as contraception so that the Catholic Church wouldn’t oppose its being brought to market. The placebo pills were there to support that framing, and have just kind of hung on from there. Of course the bleed you get when you’re taking hormonal contraception isn’t a true period since you don’t ovulate, but many Pill users find it reassuring anyway. (And some don’t and just take the Pill continuously, starting a new pack when the active pills from their old pack are done.)

            1. Milli*

              It is called “extended cycling” and bless my Dr for noticing that I was basically already doing it, giving me the ok, and noting it on the prescription. Definitely no “you’ll die!” convos, though I’ve seen many women on the internet who still seem dead set on the not having a period = death thing. Maybe old school doctors?

              1. Penny Lane*

                If your ob-gyn doesn’t discuss with you the possibility of taking the pill for extended periods (so that you only get withdrawal bleeding every couple of months vs every month), you need to find a new doctor. This doesn’t work with every formulation, but the safety of the extended-pill regime has been well documented for a good 15, 20 years. This is not some newfangled thing!

                1. kitryan*

                  I also am on continuous control – where you just keep taking the active pill – and it was recommended by my doctor, and two subsequent primary care docs and two gynecologists have been fine with that protocol as well. Obviously anyone looking to change their medical routine should consult with their own physician, but there is no medical reason for the 7 days off each ‘cycle’.
                  The New York Times magazine had a great article about the inventor of the Pill that talkes about his attempts to get the Catholic Church to support it.
                  Also, there’s a hypothesis I read about that states that as most ovulating people in modern society will begin menstruation sooner and have more periods over their life (due to fewer pregnancies and less time spent breastfeeding), they may experience higher levels of uterine cancer due to the higher frequency of cell turnover, so rather than being unhealthy, skipping periods may have heath benefits.
                  But again, everyone is different and this is definitely not one size fits all. One pill I tried gave me a solid month of bleeding and cramping, but the one I’m on now is fine.

          3. Natalie*

            You don’t have to take the placebos no matter what- I always got terrible breakthrough bleeding if I doubled up cycles, so I had a period week, and I just took no pills. I think some older brands used to have iron supplements in the placebo pill but honestly if you need those you’re probably already taking them.

          4. MCMonkeyBean*

            Right but some people prefer them, if you don’t want them you can just ignore them. I don’t bother with the placebos and just skip the pill for a week and set an alarm for the next week, but I don’t want to skip my period all together. I have done it a couple of times when I had something happening that week that made having it impractical, and I had terrible spotting that was unpredictable. I would much prefer to just have the period and know exactly when it will start and end because the pills made me super regular.

            Plus I want to have it because not having it means I wouldn’t have way to know for sure that I wasn’t pregnant every month.

          5. Ersong*

            I prefer getting my period because it’s an easy and free way of knowing I’m not pregnant. If I doubled up to skip the periods, I’d be taking a pregnancy test every other day out of paranoia.

          6. Specialk9*

            I read that the monthly cycle was an attempt by the manufacturers to woo the Catholic Church into ok’ing birth control by showing how ‘natural’ it was. It was a very close thing, in 1966, then Pope Paul VI doubled down on the birth control position. Sadly.

  10. Sami*

    FYI to OP#5 and everyone else: It’s not a smart idea to leave your phone number in your outgoing voicemail message. That confirms your number to people (scammers) who are blind calling.

    1. FD*

      Blind calling just means dialing randomly or from a database. They would ‘know’ (I use know because in many cases they use robo-dialing) the number they called already.

    2. Natalie*

      People that are using autodialers 100% don’t care about finding out if the number is valid. The whole point of using an autodialer is to call a giant block of numbers quickly and easily. Actually listening to voicemails to determine if the number is valid and then adjusting their database would defeat the purpose.

      1. nonegiven*

        Some of them do look for numbers that are answered and especially if they can get someone to press 1 to speak to someone or press 2 to be taken off the list. The list of numbers that are answered by people willing to push buttons is valuable, they can sell it and doing that will increase the number of calls.

        1. Natalie*

          That I could see, but the idea that having your number in your VM greeting is somehow bad just doesn’t make sense. If they’re trying to determine if the number is working, just getting a voicemail of any kind is sufficient.

  11. Lady Phoenix*

    #1: i get nervous leaving ANY medicine out because of thieves. I would take one and keep it in a secure place after.

  12. Soupspoon McGee*

    #5, Consider getting a Google Voice number if it’s available to you, then use that for all job applications, doctor’s offices, etc. I like it because it transcribes messages and sends them to text or email.

    1. Laura*

      I do something similar. I use my google voice number almost exclusively. There are literally two people who know my phone’s number. Almost every call I get to that number is spam (despite being on the do not call list). I very, very rarely get spam on my google voice number. It makes it really easy to screen.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I thought I could tell whether a call is forwarded from my Google Voice number, but I just tried it, and I’m not sure I can.

        1. Stishovite*

          You can set your Google Voice number to display instead of the incoming number. It’s a buried setting, and you might need to use the old interface to do it, but I just changed my GV number to do this, because I’m job hunting.

          If you have the new interface, I’m not sure how to get to the old. Hmmm.

          1. Stishovite*

            Ah, found it. This is on the computer-based web interface, not an “on-phone” or app setting.
            – Upper left hand corner, next to the colorful “Google Voice” text, are the three horizontal lines of “settings and stuff.”
            – Scroll down and select “Legacy Google Voice.”
            – Upper right hand corner, click on the gear icon, and select “settings.”
            – Select the “Calls” tab.
            – Scroll to “Caller ID (incoming)” and choose “Display my Google Voice number.”

            See, obvious! *massive eye roll*
            The “old” google voice was a treasure. I hate that they’re scaling it back so much. I’m not sure how much longer it will be useful to me.

            1. TootsNYC*

              This is really going to be useful. (and I’m with you on the frustration that useful things are being eliminated)

    2. OP #5*

      I’ll definitely check this out! Unfortunately, my mobile carrier is Google Fi and I’ve heard that you can’t have a Google voice number on accounts linked to Google Fi (I’m sure their entrance into the mobile carrier game is why their voice service is decreasing). Sounds like a new/dummy Google account should be an easy solution though!

  13. Lumen*

    OP#1: Sometimes I need to stay at work past 8pm, which is the time I need to take my oral contraceptive. So I make sure I put it in my purse that day and I take it out and take a pill. I try to do so with water, because dry-swallowing is not a skill I’m great at. At least where I work, my coworkers neither notice nor care, just as they don’t notice or care when I take some ibuprofen or put in eyedrops.

    No one has ever asked me about it and if they did, I’d say “Ooh, are we trading medication stories?” because that’s incredibly rude and intrusive.

    None of your coworkers should be asking you about pills you take at your desk. Honestly, I think retreating to a private place to take a really basic and non-invasive prescription makes it look suspicious when it really isn’t.

    1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      I’ve taken various medications in places where other people can see it, and after middle school I’ve never had anyone comment anything about it. And contraceptives are also a medication that is prescribed for many different conditions. Mine are for period pains and though they also work as contraception now, I wasn’t sexually active when I started taking them, so I don’t think they are associated with sex in any way. If something is associated with sex in my visible work things, it’s my wedding ring, and nobody has suggested I couldn’t wear it! (Yes I know that not all married people have sex, but I believe it has a stronger correlation to sex than contraceptive pills!)

      1. Julia*

        Wedding ring or talk about the honeymoon! You’re right, this is ridiculous.

        I took my pills during lunch (it made sense for my life) and mostly no one was around, but if they were, they just saw me taking a tiny pill out of a generic blister in a pouch. I’d only wait to take it if my boss could see me, because I didn’t want him to assume I was sick, which is another maddening story.

    2. EleonoraUK*

      I so agree with you.

      Pills, from painkillers to contraceptives to other medication, are a part of life, and not something I think we need to hide away or shroud in secrecy. I wouldn’t be standing on my chair announcing to the open plan office that I’m about to take my contraceptive pill and/or ibuprofen, but neither would I hide the fact. Just take it without making a fuss, odds are people won’t even look up or notice.

  14. Kiwi*

    OP5, how about getting a throwaway phone and using that for job apps etc? Something really cheap would be perfectly good enough.

  15. Stormfeather*

    OP 2: You talk about an envelope, and it being anonymous- is there any chance someone is just stealing a bunch of the cash (and the difference at different times may depend on if they get the envelope circulated to them early or late)?

    I mean, 29 bucks for 20 people sounds amazingly low – even if half of the people are really stingy and give nothing, you should have way more just from 10 people. And you’d think not everyone would be that pinched for cash all at the same time, every time.

    Plus if it is just an envelope full of cash circulating with no accountability that just sounds like an open invitation for theft.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      Lots of people don’t carry cash. If an envelope were passed around without advance notice, I couldn’t chip in even if I wanted to.

      That said, these things can be dependent on specific politics and relationships. There might be other morale problems, or the last few gifts might have been for employees that weren’t particularly well-liked. You risk turning these things into popularity contests when you loosely base your budget on what other people are donating.

      1. Triplestep*

        This is what I was thinking. (Both points, actually!) Even if I wanted to give to one of these efforts, I rarely have cash with me, and I’d probably forget to bring it even if I had advance notice. I might use Venmo if I felt like giving, and I am in my fifties so I’m guessing there would be plenty of people in the office younger than I who would be comfortable with some electronic way to collect funds (although it is not anonymous).

        But I think the more important point is that people are signalling that they don’t want to do this. LW values these send-offs and enjoys orchestrating them to the degree that the many possible reasons other people DON’T value them aren’t factoring in.

        1. Willis*

          +1 to your second paragraph. If people are often not donating, it’s probably because they don’t want to and/or can’t. I’d take Alison’s advice and dial it back to cake and a card. And assuming you’ll still have to ask for donations to get the cake, maybe send a reminder email the day before so that people can bring cash if they want to contribute.

          1. K.*

            A friend of mine is in a similar situation at work – she keeps trying to take up collections for various things (usually local charities at holiday time), and people don’t give. She told me she expressed her frustration to her father, and her father told her to “read the room,” and I agreed. Same thing here. OP’s colleagues don’t want to chip in and she can’t force them, so she needs to figure something else out.

            1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

              I used to be fine with giving the odd donation until my last job ruined it. They were always hitting us up for money for charities, causes, and events. And then there was the infamous “birthday club”. The club was started with the idea of giving everyone a birthday party. For $2 a pay check the idea was that when your birthday rolled around there would be funds to get a cake and card. The math worked out to $52 a person but most people had cakes that were far cheaper than that so there was a surplus. The person running the group decided to use the surplus funds to purchase Christmas gifts for the two managers on our team…to the tune of $200 each! The day I watched my hated manager accept that gift card like it was owed to him was the day I decided I was done giving at the office. I don’t give money to anything.

            2. MLB*

              Yeah, you can’t assume that others will be willing to or can donate. At my last job, I used to organize a family adoption for Christmas for my department. But I never chose a family that I couldn’t afford to buy everything for myself. Thankfully my department was very generous and didn’t have to use much of my own money. It’s best to keep things simple, and have low expectations.

            3. Kate 2*

              Gosh, I hope your friend stops doing that. I get paid pretty well, but my student loans eat a huge part of my budget, so I don’t often have the money to donate even 5$. When I do have the money, I donate to one of my 5 favorite charities. They all are related to a specific cause and are all thoroughly researched by me. I wouldn’t donate to her charities either, if I was a coworker. I hope she doesn’t think badly of them, there are just a lot of reasons people don’t donate when asked.

        2. OP#2*

          It’s not an issue for every departure. There are many times when the cost is fully covered. If I had to guess, I think it’s more related to whether or not the person has cash on them or not (I never carry cash and one of the reasons I don’t mind doing these is that it saves me a trip to the ATM that I never visit).

          1. A grad student*

            Can you send out a notice in advance that the collection envelope is coming around, put a collection box somewhere it stays for a week or so so that people have the chance to get cash, and/or send out emails as someone suggested above saying that you’ve only collected X amount, when usually these things cost around Y? Probably any of those or a combination would fix it if the problem really is that people just don’t have cash on them when the envelope goes around.

      2. Pickles*

        And if you get cash out of an ATM, it’s in an inconvenient amount with (sometimes) no way to make change.

    2. JamieS*

      Definite possibility but I wouldn’t focus on it too much if I were OP. It sounds like OP has more often than not contributed a disproportionate amount of the cost so the low amount is more indicative of other coworkers lack of interest than theft.

    3. Legalchef*

      Yup, this. Whenever I was in charge of collecting for someone I would keep an envelope in a locked drawer and people had to come to me to sign the card/give money. When people gave me money I would write their initials and the amount on the envelope so I could track it.

      Then, before buying the gift (which was almost always an amazon gift card), I would add my contribution and round up if necessary so it wasn’t a weird amount (so if I would normally give $10 but the amount I collected was $47, I would give $13 so it was an even number). I didn’t mind doing this, because I was one of the higher paid people in my department due to my title/seniority, and it was a nonprofit where some people were paid diddly. But I only did it so the amount ended in a 5 or 0 so it was only a couple bucks extra at most.

          1. Legalchef*

            Theft wasn’t a specific problem, but I also wanted to make sure things were accounted for.

        1. LJL*

          That would worry me only if Legalchef is the manager. If s/he’s a senior person with additional raises, I don’t find that awkward but rather responsible.

        2. Legalchef*

          I didn’t make a show of noting it, and didn’t show others the envelope. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even write it down in front of the person – it was just more for everything being accounted for than anything.

        3. Oilpress*

          I also find that awkward. Tracking the donations is too much. My employer tracks our direct charitable donations from our pay, publicizes “results” by department, and pushes everyone to make the minimum donation. I don’t like when employers or coworkers push people to donate at work. That’s not what people go to work to do.

    4. CG*

      My first thought wasn’t necessarily stealing so much as collection fatigue. More than once a month someone puts out an envelope that people can anonymously contribute to for birthdays? After about a year, I’d lose the will to put in $5 too, let alone put in extra. Alison’s solution is spot-on!

  16. KAZ2Y5*

    OP3, I have worked at a company where the employees had to evaluate their manager. How they did it was to do our evaluations first (so it wasn’t tainted by anything we might say) and then about a month later we filled out the evaluations on our manager.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      We do something more like the letter describes. The suggested agenda for our monthly 121s asks what went well and didn’t with the managerial support and it’s covered somewhere in the appraisal form.

      I suspect I have a slightly different take on this than most. I’m not new to the world of work (I’m 13 years into my post-college career) but my employment history is such that I am not used to these questions and I don’t get what they mean or what’s okay to say.

      I was self-employed for years, used to having clients rather than managers, and while management here is great it’s just so completely counterintuitive to comment on this that it kind of freaks me out even after about 18 months.

      I can’t say if the letter writer’s staff will feel the same but I would prefer to see a couple of examples of what people mean when they ask me things like this, so I know what it is they’re actually asking me!

      1. Em Too*

        I do, and try to frame it in terms of ‘what else could I do/what should I stop doing’ because I want something I can act on. Asking me for more feedback is fine. Asking me for feedback specifially on skill x is even better. You can tell me you prefer phone calls to email or vice versa, or you wish the team meetings spent time on x instead of y. ‘I appreciate you being supportive’ is less use that ‘I appreciate having weekly catch-ups, expecially where we discuss what’s gone well or not so well’ – and if you go with the latter I will make sure we keep having them and make an effort to discuss what’s gone well or not.

        Going to stop having them in performance reviews now, if I can just think of another good time…

    2. Legalchef*

      We had to do anonymous upward evals at my old job. The way it *should* have been done was that we submit the evals, then supervisor gives us our evals, and then supervisor gets the results of the upwards. This way neither person could be influenced by the results of their own eval when doing the eval for the other person. However, the first year it was done my supervisor was given her (very bad) upward eval results before giving us our own evals!

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, we do a 360 review, where people at a certain level will be given scores from peers. bosses, subordinates, and themselves, with comments optional. All forms are submitted to an external agency that averages the data from others and shows how you ranked yourself. Your boss usually summarizes the comments or shares common themes.

        This makes it nearly impossible to point fingers at individuals. And even if it’s obvious that my team thinks I suck at something (ex: I get a 4.9/5.0, so it’s impossible that anyone gave me a good rating), we’ve all submitted our input before we get our reviews, so I can’t decide to take it out on anyone.

  17. Steve*

    WI think the bathrooms and osha thing, if there is no water, wouldn’t the company have to just close down for the day in many instances. Meaning people don’t get paid for that day?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      That can certainly be a result. But it doesn’t change the OSHA requirements, and it’s really not safe for people not to have access to restrooms or running water.

      1. Steve*

        It’s really not unsafe. People drive on trips and can be five minutes away from a bathroom. You are right though, it doesn’t change the rules. Good thing there is a rule, instead of letting people think on their own about the best way to deal with it. It can’t hurt anyone to have to miss a weeks pay if it takes that long to fix. Not near as much as the hardship of having to drive 2 miles to pee.-

        1. TL -*

          Some people go on trips. Others don’t and arrange their lives so that they can always be near a bathroom – I had a friend with Crohn’s who wouldn’t go to movies because of the risk of an attack. Just because you don’t see people needing bathrooms and running water doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
          If the company shuts down for a week they’re going to going to lose a lot of money. If they’re not required to provide bathrooms and water, they (historically) won’t. That’s why it’s a law.

          1. OfficeParkingLotPooper*

            Yeah, for a year after giving birth, I had a max of 3 minutes from “oh hey gotta go” to pooping on the floor. Or actually pooping in the work parking lot, like I did once!! (Miraculously nobody was around. If they caught me on tape, nobody said anything. I cleaned it up with a plastic bag. Ugh.)

            I would be so pissed if work decided I should just poop my pants several times a day, instead of following the law.

        2. TL -*

          Also, the company could have just as easily brought in portapotties and something for a handwashing station. Easy enough to do. Then, people can work, OSHA compliance is met, and everything is okie-dokie.

        3. Ceiswyn*

          So you’re basically advocating that fully able-bodied people should be able to choose to come in and get paid, while people with certain disabilities, age-related issues or merely being female at a certain time of the month have to stay at home?

          Do you want to think about that some more?

          1. Steve*

            So you are basically advocating that because you do not want to drive 2 miles to use a restroom, single parents who might be living paycheck to paycheck, should be deprived of work for a day or 2 or longer depending on how soon they can fix the problem?

            Why don’t you think a bit longer?

                1. OfficeParkingLotPooper*

                  To be fair, all of the points Ceiswyn made were spot on, and Steve is arguing that breaking the law and screwing over people like me is reasonable and just. Yeah we get tetchy about it.

            1. Ceiswyn*

              Tell me, how exactly did you manage to turn people being physically unable to use a bathroom two miles away without resulting in pain or bodily fluids on clothes/carpet into me just not wanting to drive?

              1. Steve*

                There’s not a working bathroom. It sucks for those who need one, but there was a broke water main and now no bathroom. If you can’t be away from a bathroom you can’t be there as there is no bathroom. The business is getting it fixed in 1 day. Until it gets fixed there is no bathroom. Old people who need to pee can’t pee there. Woman who need to use it and need running g water cannot use it as there is no running water. Some people can get by without a bathroom for 8 hours. Others can deal with having to drive 2 miles to use one. Those who can’t do either of those things cant. Sucks for them, but things are what they are. Why punish people who can deal with the problem? It is not an intentional problem. It is getting fixed in a timely manner.

                I gave my opinion, for what it’s worth and will leave the conversation now. Best wishes to all.

                1. Ceiswyn*

                  And if one of those people ‘who can deal with the problem’ suddenly comes down with a virus or has a bad reaction to their lunch, everyone else gets to deal with their bodily fluids on the floor.

                  Which is why nobody should be there without a working bathroom.

                2. Sailor_mouth*

                  Dude, what is your beef with OSHA? This is the second time in, what? A week? Where you’ve posted ridiculous comments against safety regulations. Your opinion really doesn’t matter: the law is the law!

                3. eplawyer*

                  what if you are a single mother who has no car and can’t drive 2.5 miles to the bathroom?

                  We can get into what if’s all day. The basic fact is — it’s the law to have a working bathroom ON SITE. There is no way around that. The company must come up with a way to comply with the law. The employees should not bear the burden of the company’s non-compliance with the law.

                  Besides, how productive would the office be if everyone is leaving to drive 5 miles round trip to go to the bathroom? Might as well shut down because not a lot is getting done anyway that day.

              1. Steve*

                You have your view, i have mine, how aboutique we don’t insult each other because they differ?

                1. music*

                  well, there’s your view, and then there’s the law, which seems to be something you’re willing to ignore.

        4. Isben Takes Tea*

          But…it is. Unsanitary = unsafe, and no running water and no working plumbing = unsanitary. As TL mentions, the difference between “inconvenience” and “impossibility” exists for more people than you think. What about people who don’t have their own transportation, or are on such a tight budget they can’t afford to drive an extra 8-10 miles per day?

          This is a really weak argument against OSHA regulations. Yes, it can affect workers’ pay (though it shouldn’t). It also affects the employer’s profits, giving them a really good impetus to make sure the basic health and safety needs of its employees are met.

          1. Steve*

            It’s not like management broke the water main on purpose. Maybe the 2 best options are drive the 2 miles to pee or take the day off. Why should those who can effectively deal with problem have to miss work? If portable potties are the answer, go with that, but I don’t think many people would want that. They would have to be outside. They are small and do not have running water. Im a guy and won’t sit in one unless it is dire.

            It’s just an unfortunate problem that has to be dealt with somehow.

            1. the raven*

              Why should any of this fall back on the employees. The best option is that the company brings in porta John’s. This happens all the time and is something that can easily be done in an emergency. I know because I have seen companies do just that.

              1. KellyK*

                Exactly. It’s the employer’s job to provide restroom facilities. It’s not the job of those employees who need restroom facilities to take a voluntary pay cut and cover for the employer’s choice to ignore their legal obligations.

              2. LCL*

                The company will have to bring in portajohns. I don’t know but best guess is the water main break is in freeze country, and a promised ‘only 24 hour fix’ will become a 7 day fix, because everyone who can do that kind of plumbing is completely booked. Of course portajohns in the freezing cold are a special kind of hell, but if it’s that or close the business, hooray for portajohns.

            2. hbc*

              Cool, and management can dock you for leaving the worksite, possibly even fire you for leaving without authorization in this magical land free of legal encumbrances.

              After all, if it’s okay to have a workplace where you need to be able to hold your waste until you can get to your car and get through traffic, surely it must be okay to make people hold it until their breaks. Presuming the mandated 30 minutes for lunch still stands, of course–otherwise you can hold it eight hours or make some tough choices.

            3. Undine*

              I get that OSHA is big bureaucracy and I’m sure that it doesn’t always function efficiently or wisely. But I’m also betting that almost every regulation that OSHA has, was put in place as a response to real-world horrific working conditions. Without those regulations your hypothetical single parent who’s struggling to get by might have to accept a job where there were no on site toilets or water, which over time can lead to bladder problems and infections as well as being horrifically uncomfortable. (Those places are rare today, but without OSHA, they’d be all over the place.) And there’s no magic OSHA fairy who can go around and determine, “You are a fundamentally good employer, so you can break the rules.”

              If you want to know what life would be without OSHA and similar agencies, look at countries like India and China. You might say Americans would never accept those working conditions, and it’s true, they won’t — that’s why they made laws to prevent them.

              1. RVA Cat*

                Also look at history, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. There were no rules about employers locking the doors and having no fire escapes, leading to 146 people burning alive.

              2. KellyK*

                I think daycare workers and teacher’s aides do have this very issue. I’ve definitely read about people wearing pantyliners because they don’t get bathroom breaks.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  They do. Having access to close sanitation is really important and also has basic human dignity impacts. Even in the fields, in some states farmers must provide drinking water, wash water, and restrooms to their farmworkers. (Often this is a combination of large gatorade-style game containers or jugs of potable water, and port-a-potties.)

                2. Totally Minnie*

                  I’m a former daycare worker, and this is definitely an issue. The school I worked with had floating relief staff to make sure everyone got a lunch break, but their shifts were usually over by the time I came in to do my afternoon shift and there was rarely anyone available to cover for me if I needed to use the bathroom. I started limiting my water intake and having dehydration problems.

                  One of the major selling points for the next job I took was that I could use the bathroom whenever I needed to.

                3. SignalLost*

                  A lot of teachers functionally don’t get bathroom breaks. It’s great that there’s five or ten minutes between classes – there is also someone with a quick question, someone who needs a form signed, someone who didn’t catch something, the list goes on. And that doesn’t include what happens if you have to move classrooms between classes. I actually think it’s part of why I have difficulty holding it in now.

            4. Falling Diphthong*

              It’s not like management broke the water main on purpose.

              Intent really doesn’t matter in these things. It’s not bad only if management broke the water main on purpose. If the facility has no heat in the winter, or no running water, or is now underwater or smooshed under a tree, the relevant rules don’t ask “Okay, but did management cause the river to flood on purpose? If it’s not management’s fault, then employees need to find some canoes and get to their desks.”

            5. essEss*

              Without the law, an employer can say “you have to work without bathrooms or be fired” so those who don’t have the ability to drive 2.5 miles, or have medical conditions and try to stay home would have their jobs in jeopardy. That’s why OSHA is needed. Historically, some companies couldn’t be trusted to do the right thing without it being legislated.

              1. Skunklet*

                oh AND this – if the company DID force you to drive 2.5 miles to the bathroom, and you hit someone, then the COMPANY is on the hook – because you did it on the clock – so how much cheaper would it have been to shut down or pay for a porta potty rental???

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Seriously. And just wait til someone’s in a car accident while driving 2 miles away to the restroom. I would love to hear why it’s better for a company to take on that worker’s comp risk (or the risk/cost of an employee developing a UTI or related problem, or exacerbating a preexisting illness) instead of fixing the on-site restroom problem.

            6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              It’s management’s responsibility to address the problem or re-site until the problem is fixed. Whether they broke the main is an issue to take up with their landlord (if they rent) or that they need to take on as a facilities owner (if they own).

        5. Aveline*

          It is unsafe if there are no working sprinklers.

          Water for drinking and bathrooms are not the only concern.

          I’ve seen entire downtowns shut down in water main breaks because the fire department pointed out the fire code required they shut down.

          A few eeeks ago, there was a water main break in Louisville, KY and my friends who work there tell me the fire department forced all the buildings affected to close. Only exception was hospitals.

        6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Steve, do you play devil’s advocate because you enjoy it, or because you believe what you’re saying? Because what you’re saying is really outlandish.

          We have workplace regulations so that people don’t have to trade off their personal well-being, health, and sanitation for a paycheck. OP’s company should do better, although we know some companies will choose to penalize their employees before they fix a problem. In some states, they put limits on how long a company is allowed to do this without compensating their folks. I think the preferred option is to advocate for better workplace and compensation policies for workers, not to treat legitimate public health and personal dignity needs as “luxuries.”

        7. Temperance*

          Uh, not everyone drives to work, not everyone could wait the approximately 30 minutes it would take to get to a bathroom over 2 miles away (counting putting on a coat, packing up your things, going to the parking lot, warming your car, and driving over).

        8. Kate 2*

          2.5 miles one way to pee, poop, get a drink of water, wash your hands, change a pad or tampon. Change a bag, like the person in last week’s letter. Give yourself an insulin shot in private, if you don’t have your own office. Not get to pee or poop at all if you don’t own a car. You do get to crap your pants though if you have Crohn’s.

    2. Aveline*

      In my state, it’s also a fire code violation. So the office must close if the sprinklers don’t work. Period.

      No way around it.

      It’s not just an OSHA bathroom violation. There are likely other fire codes, etc. that make this really problematic.

      1. Natalie*

        Although it is worth noting that in some states (mine) you can keep the building operating if you post someone on fire watch. We had to do that after a water main break that shuttered all water to our property, although most of our tenants shut down for the day since there were no bathrooms!

        1. DArcy*

          Depending on the state, you may not be able to use an employee as fire watch. Some states require trained personnel for that role (training requirements are fairly minimal, and are generally satisfied by security guards).

          1. Natalie*

            Good point. I was in property management, so our employees were maintenance personnel who were sufficiently trained to do fire watch.

      2. mugsy523*

        I was coming here to mention about the fire system, as well. In my area, we wouldn’t be allowed to be open.

        There are so many problems with this plan, beyond the fire system. As AAM mentioned, no restroom availability is an OSHA problem. Are people getting reimbursed for the mileage if they do drive to this off-site restroom? (Who own this off-site restroom, BTW? If this is a local coffee shop or fast food place, I can’t imagine how they’d feel about being the local restroom for another employer. My building houses 1,000+ people….) Also, what about folks who use public transportation or carpool? Are they supposed to walk 5 miles round-trip to relieve themselves in sub-freezing temperatures?

        Geez, oh man, just shut the building down & pay folks who cannot work from home for the day. Gain some goodwill from your hardworking employees. Forcing them to do this will just destroy the morale of the entire workplace!

        1. K.*

          I was wondering what the nearest bathroom was too – if it’s a coffee shop or restaurant or something, odds are good that you’d have to buy something in order to use the bathroom. A lot of little expenses adding up just to go to the bathroom!

      1. fposte*

        This is like the snow day question, though; employers don’t have to pay the non-exempt employees if they’re not working that day, and many of them won’t.

      2. LCL*

        I’m not going to be sarcastic at you, and I believe you asked an honest question. But no, many companies that employ hourly paid workers won’t take the hit. You don’t work, you don’t get paid, doesn’t matter whose fault it is. These types of jobs are the same ones that have minimal or no sick time.

        Those posters who are angry at what Steve posted kinda missed the point. He said that the place should have stayed open anyway and let workers decide whether to take the hit. Being without sanitation is an OSHA violation and must be fixed. But there are jobsites out there, especially new construction, that are kind of casual about providing working sanitation.

        And Finderskeepers, you have found the statement that some people can get along without a bathroom for 8 hours gross. Was it the statement, or the concept, or were you doing the modern accusatory gross-as-shorthand-for-sexual harassment? Have you ever worked for 10 hours in a car, during a storm, with no bathroom in site because all the businesses have closed? I have. It wasn’t gross, it was annoying, and the least of my problems at the time.

        1. Mary Connell*

          Let me guess. You were a healthy 20- or 30- something male when you performed this unfortunate feat.

          1. WillyNilly*

            I am woman in my 40s, with 3 kids. I can, and have consistently in my life, go 8-10 hours without a restroom break so long as I have notice.

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              So the speculation about what type of able-bodied person you were was perhaps unfortunately chosen but I think the overall point remains, just because you as an individual are happy (or at least willing) to work in such circumstances doesn’t mean that other people will be – and it’s a moot point that is kind of useless to debate, because nobody NEEDS to be happy, willing or capable of working in a fixed location that does not have onsite or reasonably accessible bathroom facilities. Regulations mandate onsite bathrooms for permanent work sites as well as drinking water, hand washing facilities and other standards that promote a reasonable standard of health.

              I’m not sure why things like sanitation and extreme heat or extreme cold can be such a sticking point. What if it was that the office building lost power, and it meant that a person who used a wheelchair wasn’t able to access the workspace without power lifts/elevators etc.? We don’t really hear people claiming that it’s their prerogative to work someplace without fire exits either if they feel they’re able bodied enough to be able to escape in the event of a fire.

              1. WillyNilly*

                Oh I absolutely see the point of and agree with the point of the OSHA rules. I just absolutely bristle at the implication that only men in their prime could operate under these conditions. This is not an age/gender issue.

                There are women who can easily hold in, who don’t have period concerns for various reasons, etc. And there are “healthy 20- or 30- something male[s]” who would not be able to function effectively without toilet breaks.

                Being female and out of the 20-30 something age range is not a handicapp.

                1. a1*

                  Being female and out of the 20-30 something age range is not a handicapp.

                  Exactly! I’m a woman in my 40s and could deal with the drive to the bathroom. That doesn’t mean I think it’s right for the company to do that, of course. It’s definitely wrong. But to assume everyone who says they could deal with it must be a “young healthy male” is wrong. And as WillyNilly notes, on the flip-side, there are plenty of “young healthy males” that would have an issue with it, too.

                2. Elizabeth H.*

                  I didn’t really get the implication from that comment that only men can function w/o bathroom breaks (I sort of interpreted it like men don’t have as much difficulty/potential embarrassment/social disapproval going outside/next to the car or whatever than women) – what bothers me is simply equating being willing & able to go 8-10 hours without going to the bathroom, as some kind of physical ability or signifier of able bodiedness or just a positive capability in general. I would describe myself as super fit but I go to the bathroom all the time. I find it bothersome when people act like it’s some kind of virtue or achievement to go hours w/o using the restroom. It just means you either have some unique physical characteristics or don’t drink enough water. I can go hours and hours and hours without eating and not be bothered and still be completely functional, but a lot of people become miserable, get headaches or have difficulty working at their best when they don’t eat – I recognize that this is true for a lot of people so I don’t act like it’s some kind of feat or accomplishment to not take a lunch break.

                3. Mary Connell*

                  Er, yes, that was the result of a Venn diagram of the person most likely to be able to deal without an operational restroom for an entire workday.

                  Men tend to have certain additional options for dealing with the issue given even a bit of privacy, and they don’t menstruate. “Healthy” meant the absence of food poisoning, IBS, Crohn’s disease, etc., and many people, both men and women, develop urinary incontinence as they get older.

                  But even a population consisting entirely of robustly healthy young males could develop serious problems without access to working restrooms and wastewater treatment. Think cholera, dysentery, etc. The government has an interest in keeping its population healthy and working, and it’s strange that anyone would argue that people should ever be expected to work without the most basic protections of their health.

        2. Specialk9*

          I don’t think we are missing the point, no. Steve was arguing that companies shouldn’t have to follow the law, because won’t someone think of the workers. Baloney.

          Do you know who usually benefits from labor violations? Companies and rich people. The Industrial Revolution taught us that capitalism results in low paid workers being ground under the heel of the super wealthy. That’s the utopia to which our current administration wants to return us.

    3. Elizabeth H.*

      This is a false equivalency. If the company must close for the day and employees are unable to work from home, and the company doesn’t pay people for the day that they are unable to work, THAT is the problem in and of itself. You can’t cherry-pick laws or federal regulations based on which seems more or less preferable to you personally. That is what makes them federal regulations that apply to all private sector and federal workers, rather than a Choose Your Own Adventure game.

      1. RVA Cat*

        This. It’s kind of like it might be more convenient for an employer to steal the supplies they need rather than pay their vendors, but that’s, ya know, illegal.

    4. WillyNilly*

      It seems perhaps a nice solution would be to offer a paid vacation day, to be used immediately (for those who can’t, or don’t want to, deal with the 2.5m drive) or banked for future (for those who can deal with the drive. Its easier than arranging for Porta-potties, treats everyone equally, and would likely keep the business from having to completely shut down for a day.
      Hypothetically of course, since OSHA.

  18. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 People may be donating different amounts depending on who is leaving. I only donate to leaving gifts if it’s someone I know well.

    I think you need to stop spending more than is donated and I’m wondering what it is you’re buying.

    In my workplace the gifts we give people are worth maybe £20. Nobody needs a $100 leaving gift.

    1. Fish Microwaver*

      I’m in a small office of about 20 staff and the amount I contribute to any given collection depends on how much notice given (impromptu cakes are sometimes a thing, or flowers for illness or condolences , how much change I have on me, how much leeway in my budget that week. It’s not about how much I like someone.

    2. Luna*

      For such a small company though, everyone should know everyone at least well enough to be willing to chip in $5. Though as someone else pointed out, 20 x $5 (or really 19 x $5 since one person is leaving and obviously not contributing to their own gift) is only $95-100, yet for some reason OP is choosing to buy more expensive gifts and spending $130 in total. I’d be interested to know what kind of gifts these are, because that just seems like an excessive amount to spend (even including a cake & card).

      1. OP#2*

        $130 for the cake and card. I probably should have left that out of my letter–I live by a very nice bakery and their cakes are $25–I’m fine covering that cost. It’s the $29 for $100 that’s the problem.

  19. BoredNerd*

    OP #4

    Honestly if this was me this situation would probably make me seriously consider my future with the company. That might sound extreme but basically anyone that would look at this situation and come up with that solution doesn’t sound like a terribly component individual and I could easily see it being part of a larger pattern.

    1. Luna Lovegood*

      It would certainly be a red flag for me, too. Toilets and drinking water are about the most basic things you should provide.

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      Is “component individual” some kind of autocorrect error or does the word component have a meaning I’m not aware of?

      In this toilet case I also wonder what place their back-up toilet place was? Another site of the same company, or literally the closest building that has a functioning toilet? If the latter, then this person really works somewhere in the middle of nowhere (and it’s probably reasonable to believe all employees have a car because how otherwise could they get to such a remote place?). But if it’s the former case, then I wonder if the company could have asked some other place nearby if the employees could use their toilet that day. It would seem odd that nobody would allow this. Maybe they were too embarrassed to ask? Maybe relatives of the “office poop police”?

      1. Kyrielle*

        OP says it is due to a water main break – the entire area may be out until that’s resolved.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Which implies it’s not that they’re 2.5 miles from the nearest other location, it’s that there’s an area at least 2.5 miles in diameter with no water? Yeah, I’m sure that coffee shop or whatever really appreciates all the local businesses sending their employees that way.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, man, I bet you’re right. What a treat to be the Starbucks just on the other side of the break.

      2. OP #4*

        We are basically a facility that is in the middle of a bunch of neighborhoods with the nearest grocery store/ CVS strip mall area being 2.5 miles away which is where we were told to go. Ya I definitely feel weird just going into a business a couple times a day and being like sorry have to pee!

    3. Karen K*

      I work at a hospital, the largest one in my state. So, we can not just shut down. When we had a huge flooding rain in the area which led to a water main break and no water, we lined up port-a-potties outside on the sidewalk and literally inundated the place with special anti-bacterial, no water needed, hand-washing foam. I can’t remember how long this went on, but it was at least a couple of days. It was a huge break, and involved the main inflow line from the city’s water supply.

      All this is to say, OP#4’s employer should get on the phone to the nearest purveyors of outdoor facilities and get one on-site. I will grant they’re not the most pleasant thing to use, especially at this time of year, but it’s better than driving 2.5 miles. If there are concerns about accessibility, there are larger ones which will accommodate.

      1. OP #4*

        Wow that’s definitely rough but that makes sense! It sounds like they thought on their feet proactively to get in those port a potties. The sad part is we are an outdoor recreational facility and in January in the cold we really had no reason to stay open at all bc we get so very few people. They just told the public there were no restrooms on site as they came in to park and let them decide if they wanted to come in or not.

    4. OP #4*

      I don’t think it sounds extreme. I think that the individuals here care about their employees but that their business decisions don’t always reflect that. :(

  20. Bea*

    #5, scammers are auto dialing usually and aren’t listening to your voice message, so leaving a personalized one shouldn’t be an issue. They will never take your number off their list until they’re shut down. Jeopardizing your current job search by trying to outsmart them isn’t going to do you much good.

    They presumably don’t already have your financial information and the old idea that they’re trying to get a recording of you saying your name and “yes” is used by unscrupulous vendors who are trying to bill you for expensive toners and copy paper.

    Say your first name and tell them you’ll call back as soon as possible. To much information is never your friend when you’re job searching. I would be put off by someone talking about screening calls in general, it comes across poorly. All you have to do is answer and if it’s a scam call, hang up. We had them with landlines just the same as with mobile phones.

    1. Jess*

      I agree with this. I was a little confused by the whole thing about being on a scam list though. I mean, I get a ton of those robo-calls (and screen them as well). I thought that happened to a lot of people, especially if you’ve had your cell # for a long period of time. Having it mentioned on a voicemail message would seem weird to me simply b/c it’s so ubiquitous. I think I might be a little put off too by someone feeling the need to preemptively explain in an outgoing vmail message why they didn’t pick up the phone. People can’t pick up the phone for all sorts of reasons every day. There shouldn’t be a need to explain that.

      Side note: Am I the only one who loves the area code spoofing? It totally works in my favor b/c I changed my cell # in college to a # from that area code, and I haven’t lived anywhere near there since. (Even most of my friends from college don’t have that area code b/c they had #s with their home town area codes.) So I just don’t pick up calls from my own area code. It makes it so easy.

      1. Murphy*

        Yup, my phone number is from a state I do not live in, so any unknown numbers from that area immediately get ignored. (I actually usually don’t pick up any unknown numbers unless they’re local to where I live now.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I did the same with my Google Voice number. I picked a Los Angeles number (wishful thinking, haha) and now when I get unknown calls from that area code/geographical location, they go straight to VM. I did answer them when I was applying out there, but they were mostly junk numbers so now I let the VM handle those.

      2. Ten*

        Pretty much every scam call I get now is from a number with the same area code and first 3 digits as mine. Supposedly people are more likely to answer a number that resembles their own? I never do!

        1. Natalie*

          Right? I’m way less likely to answer a call from the exact area code and exchange as mine precisely because the only calls I’ve ever gotten from that combo are scams. I feel like this would have made more sense 20 years ago when everyone had land lines and a group of neighborhoods shared one exchange, but now it seems silly. I guess it must work on a few people, though.

        2. Elsajeni*

          Right? This might have worked in the mostly-landline days when people still had phone numbers that had been assigned geographically — all the landlines in the neighborhood where I grew up started “669,” so it might make sense to answer those calls in case it’s a neighbor you don’t know calling to say “Did you know your shed’s on fire?” or something. But I’ve literally never had a legitimate call from a number on the same exchange as my cell phone.

        3. SusanIvanova*

          I could almost see the logic – you see something familiar, you’re more likely to accept it. Except that it’s no longer the days when you have to have your own number memorized to hand it out – I just emailed the new number and forgot it.

      3. Bea*

        Yep, I have an area code from my hometown and everyone I know from home is programmed in already.

        My favorite scam is the one trying to lower my student loans. I don’t have student loans.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        The area code spoofing is annoying on my landline (because 123-456 says local and thus may involve kids or neighbors) but a helpful screener on my cell.

      5. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, I get all these scam and spam calls from my same area code, but what they don’t know is that I don’t live anywhere near where that area code comes from anymore. I’ve just kept my same number forever.

      6. businessfish*

        There are actually apps (Mr. Number is one) that will block or warn for calls that are from known spammers as well as area code spoofs! game changer.

      7. OP #5*

        I used to have your luck with area code spoofing and I miss it! That’s actually how I know I’m on some list somewhere, all the calls are spoofed not to the area code of my phone number, but the 2 area codes where I live! When I answered one, it was a human (with a distinct accent) pretending to be the utility company for my area. I googled it later and sure enough, that’s a scam going on around here. Frankly, I’m a customer of that utility company, so I’m pretty sure my name and number were leaked from them (luckily, no fraudulent charges, yet!)

        1. OP #5*

          Just to be clear, I don’t think an accent automatically means someone’s a scam artist! In this case, the awkward phrasing of the call, pauses/background noise, plus the accent led to me hanging up and googling potential scams with the utility

        2. Natalie*

          For what it’s worth, it’s entirely possible your number hasn’t been sold. It’s really easy for software to dial through all 8 million phone numbers that can possibly exist in a given area code. And since most US states only have one power company, one electric company, etc, it’s not hard to pretend to be “your” utility company. Unless they’re using your name or providing some other genuinely personal detail (address, account number) I think it’s far more likely they’re just phishing.

          At an old workplace, I used to hear scam autodialer calls come through on the emergency telephone in the elevators. Those are completely unpublished numbers that literally only ring to the elevator company. They weren’t on a list anywhere, they just happened to hit the autodialer lottery that day.

  21. Lady Blerd*

    Op1: Unless you make a big to do about taking BC, most people wouldn’t know what you’re taking if they noticed at all that you’re taking anything, it shouldn’t be any more complicated then popping a gum packet. Personally I wouldn’t leave said pill pack on my desk as I fetch a glass of water simply because I don’t want people up in my personal business and asking questions of my personal life. It’s really up to you.

  22. Some sort of Management Consultant*

    LW1, I feel you.

    I take quite a few medications but only one of them during time I’m at work.

    Only it’s ADHD medication and I’ve not told anyone at work about my diagnosis.

    I keep them in my purse and don’t try to hide my taking them because I don’t want to hide it.

    But I still worry that people must see and hear and wonder what I’m taking.

    1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

      Nota bene: no one has ever asked, commented or made a deal out of it.

    2. Julia*

      If you really want to hide it (which is your right), you could say a vitamin. I used to take my iron at work because it works best on an empty stomach before a meal, so not after dinner, and I can’t take it in the morning due to my thyroid meds. No one ever asked, but if they did, I said “vitamin” – same for my pill I also took during lunch.

    3. Oranges*

      I’m really glad of my office right now. I can be 100% transparent about my mental issues and no one bats an eye. The flip side is that we have zero boundaries but I’m okay with that.

      I once “ghosted” a client meeting (by accident) because I was having issues; the kind that you need to call someone now issues. My manager called me and asked where I was, I said that I was having issues and was on the phone getting help. Then she asked if I needed someone to be with me (I said no) and when I calmed down and was able to go back to work I told her I just wanted to be treated like normal. It happened. It was awesome.

  23. Jessen*

    It kind of sounds like there needs to be some sort of established sendoff fund. I’m wary of collecting money right beforehand because it sounds like the kind of thing where if one person gets a lot more money than the next, it’s going to cause hurt feelings. Having a general “office stuff” fund and then getting roughly the same thing for everyone would work.

  24. MommyMD*

    BC pills are not aspirin. They are a personal type medication. Popping them discretely at work is fine. Hauling out pill container is not. It’s not fair but it is what it is and it’s not professional.

    1. Mookie*

      All medications are personal. Do you mean by prescription? You don’t necessarily need a prescription for contraception and contraceptive dosing is pretty uniform, no different than following the OTC directions on a bottle.

      1. MK*

        I think it’s personal in that it gives out medical information about the person taking them that is not only personal, but, for lack of a better word, non-generic. At first glance/thought (which is what most people will expend), a person taking aspirin is a person who has a headache, while a person taking birth-control pills is a person who is likely sexually active but not willing to have a child. It’s bogus, but it would feel to a lot of people as a visual form of oversharing.

        1. Mookie*

          Sure, and I’ve no quarrel with your reasoning, which is sound and reflects an unfortunate reality (like, at any given moment, plenty of people are having regular PIV sex while simultaneously not wanting children), but roughly one-half of the adult population under a certain age could, theoretically, be using it for a variety of reasons that have to do with anatomy, genetics, physiology, and medical history, not just Life Choices. This population outnumbers people who, say, suffer from migraines or epilepsy or who use insulin, an inhaler, or an epi-pen. Barring playing around with your reproductive organs at a financial cost and medical risk, people who can become pregnant and people who have a headache are sort of in the same boat. You deal with the cards you’re dealt, I guess. The headache sufferer could try (and fail) at homeopathy or just willing the thing away or maybe stop having a head altogether, but there are easier methods. In either scenario, a pill needs to be popped and no bystanders risk injury in the process. They’re free to infer whatever they want. Some, no doubt, will chide the headacher for her lack of bootstraps, I guess.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I’m confused as to why you think it isn’t professional. Would you thin the same if the medicine were something else ? For instance, would you see me as unprofessional if I use me (prescription only) asthma inhaler at work, or if I were to take (prescription only) antibiotics?
      And if so (or indeed, if not!) why?

      (This isn’t snark, I genuinely don’t understand why it would be perceived as unprofessional)

    3. Knitting Cat Lady*


      The way my psych meds work I take them in the morning and before going to bed. If I had to take a dose around lunch time I would take it at my desk.

      I know plenty of people who have to take stuff during the day.

      A colleague of mine has a transplanted kidney and takes enough pills that he rattles.

      I have insulin dependent colleagues who inject themselves at their desk.

      How is the BC pill any different from the above?

      Also: Taking out the container, removing pill, replacing container in bag, take pill takes 30 s at most.

      I don’t see what’s not professional about that.

      Honestly, she’s not shouting ‘I’m taking my BC pill now!’ through the whole office…

      1. Louise*

        Right? Like my psych meds are what help me stay in a place where I can be professional! I don’t, like, run around telling people my dosage, but I don’t think taking medication in the middle of the work day is unprofessional in and of itself.

        1. Tiny Soprano*

          Hear hear! And to be honest, most people will have had to take meds of some kind during their lives, sometimes at work. Most people, even if they see you during the ten seconds it takes, aren’t going to think anything of it. It’s not disrupting your work or anyone else’s, it’s not gross, it’s not performative or sloppy, so I fail to see why it’s unprofessional.

          Plus there are plenty of medications that need to be taken daily, not just BC. It’d be way more unprofessional to be that person who actually notices you taking a pill each morning and comments that it MUST be *gasp!* a contraceptive. No buddy, those are my antidepressants.

    4. HannahS*

      I’m a bit confused as to how a palm-sized blister pack is “hauling out a pill container.” You know she’s not struggling to yank out a rattling gallon-sized container full of pills. Taking the pills out of a drawer/bag where they’re stored and taking one and then putting the rest back in the drawer/bag is pretty much the definition of discreet desk-pill taking.

      1. fposte*

        And I don’t care if it is a pill container. You probably don’t want to pull out a 500-capsule container of anything for sheer unwieldiness, but my colleagues and I take out prescription bottles all the time. It’s NBD.

        1. HannahS*

          I agree with you, but the image of an unwieldy pill container being “hauled” out confused me in this case because birth control, specifically, isn’t generally dispensed that way. It seemed a dishonest interpretation of what the OP is doing.

        2. blackcat*

          I have a 500 count bottle of ibuprofen at my desk. It’s the smallest size I have ever found at Costco….

    5. Angelinha*

      I don’t see how it’s possible to ‘pop’ a birth control pill discreetly without ‘hauling out’ the pill container. Birth control in the year 2018 is one of the most unassuming, least controversial pills you could be taking and I think it’s ridiculous to ask someone to hide it (unless they are, like, a receptionist at a Catholic church?)

  25. Lissa*

    #1 I would just take the pill without making a show of it. My time is 5pm so I’ve been out with friends, or having dinner with my parents when my alarm goes off. Just be casual about it and it probably won’t be a big deal.

    #5 My voicemail message is basically identical to my mom’s old landline message, which I had memorized by the age of ten. “Hi, you have reached Firstname Lastname at 000-000-0000. I’m not able to come to the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Thank you!” That or something like that should suffice. I appreciate when people’s mailboxes have their names on them so I know I called the right number.

  26. Lars the Real Girl*

    #1 Who are these people beyond the age of 15 that are poking around people’s medications? I think if anyone did approach me about it or ask, I would put on my best “what is wrong with you” face and say “what an odd question to ask someone”.

  27. Elizabeth H.*

    I try to be pretty discreet about taking any kind of prescription medication at work. (I get the pills out of the bottle without taking the bottle out of my bag) I would try and be discreet about putting on a bandaid or taking vitamins or something also because I don’t want to call attention to some banal health related thing. I wouldn’t be more discreet about birth control in particular than another prescription, I don’t think. I think the “birth control” aspect might be a red herring because I think it’s normal/appropriate to be discreet about taking medication in front of people you’re not incredibly close to. Not because it’s shameful but just because it’s personal/private. I take my prescription meds openly in front of my SO but I wouldn’t in front of all but my absolute closest friends.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      A band-aid is a really good analogy! I wouldn’t avoid putting on a band-aid for a paper cut at my desk or something because it’s “shameful”, but because it’s just not something to wave around and advertise. I also wouldn’t make a production out of it.

    2. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Yeah, when I get my lithium levels tested I have to wait to take my dose until after the blood draw.

      I put all my pills for a week in a pill sorting thing with time of day compartments and just take the relevant day with me.

      Then, when I’m at work and at my desk, I only have to slide open the thingy and swallow my pill.

      Takes a few seconds at most.

  28. Fake Eleanor*

    OP #5, you could consider getting a spam call blocking app for your phone.
    I installed one on my mother-in-law’s phone because she was getting 4-5 spam calls a day, and she noticed an immediate difference.
    I used Nomorobo, but google “best spam call blocking app” and you’ll find recommendations for the one that suits you best. Note that most of them charge something, though, because they’re constantly updating the list of blocked numbers.

    1. J*

      I did this and it blocked 3 calls from my state’s unemployment office. Meanwhile I continued to get daily calls from MLM companies that got my number from the state’s mandatory job board. Unfortunately when job searching one may just have to get in the habit of hanging up on unwanted calls.

      But OP may want to look into changing their outgoing message to the next less generic offering from your provider. Like the one where you say your name and they include it in the recorded outgoing message. Spam callers likely aren’t listening to an outgoing message, but at least potential employers will know that they reached you. If they get that upset over reaching your voicemail, OP may have dodged a bullet anyway.

      1. Bea*

        This makes sense because an app that blocks robocalls will snag an employment department call because they are indeed robocalls who only connect to a human when they get a live result. So that backfires in this case. I’m glad you mentioned it!

      2. Fake Eleanor*

        The one we used, at least, gives you the option to just send robocalls to voicemail. So calls are not blocked, but you don’t have to actively ignore or dismiss them.

  29. Former Computer Professional*

    #1 People (coworkers) who assume why someone takes a medicine are rude and thoughtless, and nobody should be ashamed about the medicine they use, no matter the reason.

    I use insulin and the reactions of people floor me. The most common is “go do that in the bathroom!” — I am not poking holes in myself in a place designed for human waste! I have some sympathy for people who say that “needles” bother them. What they really mean are syringes. It’s common enough that if I’m using a standard syringe I’ll warn people first. I usually use an insulin pen. It looks like a giant Sharpie and you twist a needle (in plastic) on the end. In both the syringe and the pen, the actual needle is too tiny to see, and with the pen people are rarely bothered, if they even notice.

    And then there was the time I gave myself IV medication in my office. There were no needles involved (I had a temporary PICC line, which uses screw connectors, which I kept covered), and, hey, my boss had been giving me crap for “always being sick” and “claiming to be in the hospital”…

    No shame.

    1. Triplestep*

      I’m surprised that the reactions of people floor you. I’m on medication that I self-inject right now and I would not liken it to taking pills on a schedule, which I will be switching to next month.

    2. Julia*

      I’d be deeply uncomfortable with seeing someone’s IV, but I’m not sure if that means the person should go somewhere I can’t see them. Maybe I’m too squeamish to be objective here.

      1. HannahS*

        If you’re deeply uncomfortable seeing an IV, you should look away when you see one. Former Computer Professional is describing something that was attached to their body 24/7. I’m sure that they injected the medication in a quiet moment, when they were alone at their desk, and did it with minimal nudity. If you happened to catch sight of it–to me, it’s like if I look over at someone and they’re trying to quietly blow their nose at their desk. Whoops, they’re attending to a bodily need and this isn’t the right moment to call out a greeting.

      2. Tiny Soprano*

        From my limited knowledge (not a nurse or doctor, but am related to people who are), a PICC line generally wouldn’t be visible in most business attire, right? Or at least, the connection may be but the actual insertion site would probably be hidden, reducing potential colleague squickiness.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think it depends a bit *where * (on your body) you are administering the injections / IV.

      I wouldn’t expect you to use a bathroom if you didn’t wish to, but I would think (for a traditional injection with a syringe, or if you are dealing with IV lines) that it would be appropriate for you to be able to go into a room where you could close the door – for your own privacy more than for others. Would asking for access to somewhere private not be a reasonable accommodation to ask an employer to make? Even in open plan offices there are generally some more private spaces.
      As you describe it, the insulin pen sounds like something you can use without other people really being aware, so unless you wanted privacy or needed to adjust your clothing in a non-office appropriate way, i wouldn’t see that as being inappropriate.

      1. Viktoria*

        I’m sure it would be a reasonable accommodation. But for people with diabetes, injecting insulin is utterly routine- it takes just a few seconds. Barring some unusual reason or personal preference, it would be extremely disruptive and unnecessary to go to a private room and close the door for an insulin shot (typically multiple times per day).

        I understand that people can be squeamish about needles, and if I were in the middle of a conversation with someone or sitting across from them at dinner, I’d give them a heads up so they could look away if needed. But for the most part people aren’t closely observing you at your desk, injections are often given on the midsection which would be partially blocked by most desks anyway… like I said below, no one has ever noticed when I’ve done it at work. I wouldn’t suggest brandishing a syringe around or encouraging people to watch or anything like that. As HannahS above mentioned (in a different context), it’s more along the lines of blowing your nose than a complicated medical procedure.

    4. Viktoria*

      I use insulin too and some of the comments have made me giggle. What would people think about me injecting insulin or changing my pump site at my desk? I also keep some insulin in the work fridge. I suspect that diabetes and insulin use may make people less concerned with “discretion” out of necessity.

      I also do not inject in a public bathroom as I find it unsanitary. To anyone concerned about people noticing you take a pill at your desk- people don’t even notice when I inject or change a pump site. It’s usually done around my midsection which means partially hidden by my desk. I don’t draw attention to myself but I don’t go out of my way to hide it either. People are typically not observing you that closely when you are at work, in my experience.

      1. WellRed*

        I cannot imagine if I had to go to a private room to check my sugar or take my insulin. I do it discreetly, of course, and I have my own cube. Bu, at dinner with coworkers (or anyone), they really don’t notice, I am so quick. Besides, I make no secret of the fact I have diabetes.

      2. Arielle*

        I have totally changed my pump site at my desk! The only thing I wouldn’t do in public is change my CGM site because I use my thighs so I would have to pull my pants down. :)

        1. Viktoria*

          Despite what I said above, I am *at this very moment* changing my pump site in the bathroom at work, lol! Only because I switched to Omnipod and often use my thighs also. Even I would think twice about pulling down my pants at my desk, haha!

    5. Anon anon anon*

      Needles push people’s buttons. Some people are really squeamish about them or associate them with bad memories. If I had to take an injected medication in an office with co-workers nearby, I’d let them know what I was doing so they could look the other way if necessary.

      1. Arielle*

        I think you would draw more attention to it that way than if you just did the injection. I don’t know if you’ve seen what an insulin pen looks like but it literally looks like…a pen. The needle is very small and if you’re injecting under your desk or whatever someone would have to be in very close range to see what you were doing.

    6. Case of the Mondays*

      I have a diabetic cat that gets human insulin injected twice/day. He takes it like a champ. A few New Years Eve’s ago, I was having a party and people were milling about my kitchen having drinks. I took out a syringe and started drawing up the cat’s shot. A man promptly fainted onto my kitchen island, breaking his wine glass. I now ask everyone if they are okay with needles before taking out the syringe if I have people over!

  30. PrincessShrek*

    Although Alison’s statement that “people associate birth control pills with sex” may hold a lot of truth for the US, here’s a friendly caveat that in most of the parts of Europe I’ve lived in (Germany, UK, Iceland), that’s absolutely not the case. People are more likely to link it to your period – which is also maybe not something you want your coworkers thinking about, of course! Most of my friends and I started taking “birth control” as teenagers not because we were sexually active but because we had excruciating PMS, or wanted to skip a period on a holiday, or had strong mood swings we wanted to control. ;) Either way, feel free to take the pill where you feel most comfortable taking it and in the way that poses least hassle to you.

    1. Jess*

      I think this generally describes what I’ve experienced in the US too. I’m actually the only person I know who is not regularly on birth control (the exception being when friends are actively trying to get pregnant). Maybe it’s a generational thing? BC was so ubiquitous by the time I came of age that I actually assume most women take it. Most of my friends started taking it in high school. (Actually so did I, but for some reason I never had a good experience with it and finally just gave up on trying to find one that worked for me.) But I could see it being linked more closely with sex in people’s minds if they didn’t have that experience where nearly everyone took it. I could also see men linking it more closely with sex too simply b/c they’re more likely to know about the contraceptive aspects than all the random hormonal & period-related uses.

      1. Reba*

        Yeah, I think there’s a generational factor; it’s so normal for the youths.

        That said, there are definitely still places in the US where it remains unaccepted and absolutely linked with (unsanctioned) sex. Even if it is widely used, it’s stigmatized. I’d feel much less sanguine bringing in my pills to my job at Hobby Lobby, for example, or in a private religious school.

  31. Neeta (RO)*

    OP #2 Throwing a lunch “party”, for colleagues who leave is so nice.
    Here, it’s generally the one who leaves that brings some snacks for the office. Gifts from colleagues are nice, but heavily dependent on the office culture. So far, I only got a parting gift from 1 company (out of 4). Same with chipping in to send-off presents.

  32. Bagpuss*

    LW1 – I think you should be fine taking it at your desk, just as you would any other medication. If you would be comfortable taking (say) a painkiller or antibiotic at your desk, then taking BC is no different. If your office culture is such that taking *any* medication would be weird, that’s a little different, but otherwise, do it, and if anyone comments on it or question you then a surprised look and a comment along the lines of “Wow, that’s a weird question to ask a coworker” or “Did youreally as me about my medication? That’s a strange thing to do”

    LW2 I agree with those advising you to make the collection first, then buy the gift. If you want to top it up a little because you are comfortable contributing a bit more than of course you’re free to do that, but I’d suggest scaling down the gift to match what people donate, which might mean reducing it down to a card and flowers, or card and cake.
    Where I work, most people seem to give around £1 – £2, with senior managers maybe putting in £5. I think suggesting $5 is perhaps too high.

    If you think there is any possibility that someone might be stealing then you could consider having the envelope at your desk and asking people to drop by, but I think it is more likely that people simply don’t want to donate. Also, as you are topping it up each time, and people presumably see the gifts when they are presented, it seems to me quite likely that people are assuming that the company is contributing, or that senior managers are, and that their personal contributions are not really needed.

    I’s send a mail round now, before anyone else gives notice, and just say either that as the collections normally average around $30, moving forward you will wait until the collection is complete and then buy a gift using whatever is donated, or alternatively, say that the average collection is about $30 so moving forward, you’ll just arrange cake and a card, rather than a gift.
    I wouldn’t suggest holding back part of one collection to subsidise another. For one thing, it means you have the responsibility of holding the cash between departures, which could be awkward, but also, I think you’d find people would give less as many people will want to chose whether or not they donate for a specific person. I’ve definitely had coworkers leave where I’ve made a conscious choice *not* to chip in, and I would not have been happy if that choice were taken away from me. (now, as I am in a more senior role, I have a policy of giving the same amount evey time, but when I was an employee I didn’t do that)

    LW5 Can you get a cheap Pay as you go / sim only phone, if you don’t want to change your number? Or use google voice or something similar. If not, then I would change your outgoing message to include your name – in my professional capacity I am always wary of leaving a message if the message doesn’t give me someone’s name, as I don’t want to leave a message about a confidential issue on the wrong phone.

  33. Cedrus Libani*

    For #5: I get more spam calls than I’d like, so I’ve gone to whitelisting my calls – if you aren’t on my contacts list, my phone doesn’t ring, but goes straight to voicemail instead.

    My voicemail is: “Hi, you’ve reached Real Name. If it’s urgent, please send me a text.” 99% of spammers / scammers won’t text you, but 99% of new friends will, and it tells them what they need to know (text me and I’ll see it, voicemail gets checked irregularly at best).

    Admittedly, when I was on the job hunt, I turned this off and just dealt with the spam.

    1. Chriama*

      Were spammers leaving a huge volume of voicemails too? I think it would be easier to just tell callers to leave you a voicemail and screen through them as necessary. That way you don’t turn off potential employers by telling them to leave you a text (which is still seen as unprofessional in a lot of places) — or you could mention both. “This is x, sorry I missed your call. Please leave me a voicemail, or if it’s urgent send me a text.”

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        It’s less the volume of voicemails, and more that there’s basically nothing of value in them. I get maybe 1-2 PER YEAR that I actually need, out of 3-4 per day. So I empty them when the “voicemail full” notification comes on, but that’s about the limit of my motivation. I’m that way about physical mail too, which is good for my yearly Christmas check from Mom, and does literally nothing else but fill my recycling bin. I did once find a months-overdue jury duty notice…whoops. My current physical setup requires me to empty the mail bin every week or two (small bin), which was intentional.

  34. Matt Rutherford*

    #3 – This is often the best (and most important) part of any performance review.

    I always keep a mental image of a pointy finger whenever I am giving feedback to a report during a performance review, noting that while 0ne finger points to the employee, three of them point back to me. This makes me actively solicit feedback on what I can improve on as a manager, I set the expectations with my directs that I will always be asking that question in reviews and 1:1’s

  35. Zip Silver*

    #5: I screen pretty much all my calls as well, unless they’re on my contacts list already. However, if you’re getting that many calls referencing loans and utility bills, you might ought to pull your credit report. It’s entirely possible that that calls are legit, and somebody has stolen your identity and opened up a bunch of different accounts. No harm in double checking.

    1. FD*

      Always a good idea to do. However, where a lot of people get ‘tagged’ is if they sign up for rewards programs. Many of them have hidden in their terms and conditions something like “We may share your contact information with our vendors and affiliates”. It’s ideal if you can use a GVoice number for those or something that you can put on mute.

    2. Bea*

      Possibly and checking your credit regardless of flags is essential. However there are hundreds of scam calls that reference loans because it works to trigger panic in people to just open up and send money without thinking.

      I get them frequently enough and I’m a hawk when my credit is concerned. These are Nigerian scams that the OP is getting targeted for.

  36. Chriama*

    #2 – I’ve seen this play out badly in my office. Our company does actually pay for this stuff (baby gifts, send-offs) but it’s applied inconsistently and the dollar amount is different. I have a policy of not contributing to this stuff, but there are times when someone gets $30 in their circulated card and someone else gets $100. It turns into a popularity contest very quickly. In my case I think our office should set a dollar limit for each person and not solicit money from coworkers, but management is too ineffectual to think or care about this kind of impact. Same with birthdays — we’re supposed to do a monthly celebration but what ends up happening is people who have a birthday in that month and a company card (or are close friends with someone with a company card) end up organizing the cake.

    Bottom line for this stuff is I think the company should pay for it with a standard amount for each person or people should circulate a card. I’m not a fan of potlucks at work in general but if your office likes them then that’s a reasonable addition. If someone is particularly close to the employee they can organize their own activity or gift, and that way public recognition isn’t overshadowed by the popularity contest.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think the fact your company pays is the problem there. If they are making it official, then it should absolutely be consistent.
      In my company, the only time the company contributes is when someone retires, and then the gift from the company is separate, the the retiree will get a card, flowers and a gift (often vouchers tailored to their interests) from the company, and there will be a separate card, and a gift bought with money donated by staff. For staff who leave fr other reasons there will just be the collection and any gift.
      They do vary, someone who has been there for a year is unlikely to get as large a gift as someone who has been there for 10 years

    2. essEss*

      I agree with the popularity contest thing and it really lowers morale. Since you are only doing it for people leaving, the morale lowering wouldn’t be as much of an impact but it does hurt.
      I worked for a company that would do a collection each month for a ‘flower fund’ to send people flowers when they had weddings, funerals, or hospital stays. I used to donate about $30 each month because I liked the idea and wanted to support it. Until I ended up in the hospital and received NOTHING, and again for my wedding I received NOTHING from the flower fund. That was the end of my donating anything to the flower fund.

      1. fposte*

        Wow, that’s horrible on general principles, and then I also think $30 a month is a whole lot of money.

  37. Rebecca*

    #4 when this happened at my office, our company brought in Porta Potties with handwash stations. We already had bottled water, so we had drinking water and bathrooms until the problem was solved.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That is 1000x more reasonable and acceptable than making someone drive 2.5 miles to pee.

    2. Garland Not Andrews*

      This is what I was going to suggest. Easy, quick, not too expensive. The staff needs are met on site. And most companies that rent them have a reasonable delivery time for emergencies.

    3. OP #4*

      I was told that if it was going to be something longer term they would find a solution like that but since it was predicted to be fixed within 24 hours they weren’t. It was actually fixed in 44 hours. It turns out that most of the employees were told it was up to their discretion to come in or not but three departments were left out of that notice including mine. :-/

  38. Erin*

    #1 – I usually take mine at work. I have a large purse and I just pull the pill out of the packet while it’s still in my purse. It could be any pill as far as anyone else knows. I can’t imagine anyone noticing my taking any pill, or caring, though. I think you’re good!

    1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      And I think in most offices the first assumption when witnessing a pill-taking is that it’s for a headache from staring at the screen.

  39. Aveline*


    OSHA isn’t the only concern. If there are no working sprinklers/fire suppression system it is likely a serious violation of the fire code and other local and state safety refs to remain open.

    The bathroom issue is fixable if a reasonable alerternative (eg using a neighboring building) is available. The fire safety is not so easily remedied.

    I once worked for a gov contractor. Bathrooms were out. The sprinklers worked. We were allowed to continue so long as the neighboring buildings allowed us to use the facilities. In another building, the sprinklers were out. They had all be sent home or rehoused in buildings w working sprinklers.

    Almost all North American states and provinces require functional sprinklers in commercial buildings. ( I don’t know of any that don’t require but I’m not going to say all because I haven’t checked the issue.)

    Bathrooms are the most noticeable issue here, but not the dispositive one.

    1. Aveline*

      The call to remain open but use other building’s facilities was made by our OSHA compliance officer, While I think being forced to drive to another location would not be OSHA compliant, lacking functional bathrooms in a building for a short time is not a show stopper. It depends upon what alternatives are offered.

    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      It actually depends on the building zoning. Offices, retail, and (I think) certain types of manufacturing require sprinklers. Other types of manufacturing and warehouses don’t. Imagine my dismay when I realized that the warehouse/factory I worked in that produced both massive quantities of sawdust and chemical fumes, and heated with a ‘never-been-cleaned’ massive blower type furnace was not required to have sprinklers.

      1. Natalie*

        There are workarounds for temporary sprinkler shut downs as well – we always did work on the fire system (and thus took it offline) during the day when the building was open, so we posted a couple of people on fire watch. Similarly, we had to do that two times for emergency reasons, one water main break and one fire in an underground electrical transformer that knocked out power to the whole area. In both cases most of our tenants sent their employees home, but we weren’t required to close the building.

    3. Catarina*

      Just to provide some additional info because I like learning random things here: there are also places that use waterless fire protection, such as various combinations of gases or chemical agents for server rooms, wet benches, and the like. In those cases, a water problem may not affect fire protection.

      1. TiffIf*

        Oh I had forgotten about gas/chemical fire suppressors. That’s what the library I used to work at had wired into the special collections area (ie really expensive and rare items not easily replaceable that you don’t want to douse with water).

  40. nnn*

    My workplace has always done departures like #2’s workplace, and all this time I assumed they were working within the dollar amount raised! (In other words, they get the envelope back, see what’s in it, and then shop within that budget.) It could be that the co-workers don’t know how it actually works.

  41. Huddled over tea*

    OP #2 – other people have mentioned it already but we also pass round an envelope to collect cash first and then buy a present based on how much we get.

    I also find myself without cash more often and not and what really helps is sending round an email about two weeks in advance to everyone (minus the recipient) saying that the envelope for collection is now available and will be circulated or they can come leave cash at your desk.

    That reminds me to both get cash out and know where to leave it – otherwise, I see the envelope, go ‘Oh I need to get cash!’ and then by the time I’ve got it, the envelope’s travelled around to the next room or whatever and I never put money in it.

  42. Pickles*

    Regarding scam calls:

    – At least two companies have already developed voice technology software that can sound like you (Adobe & Lyrebird off the top of my head). They aren’t the only ones and it’s no longer science fiction. This technology is only going to get better and require less “real” input. Give them as little of your real voice as possible.

    – Whether or not scammers leave voicemail, record the entire call including your VM message, verify real numbers, etc, depends entirely on the scam/scammers. It’s not a homogenous entity or group with one goal & method, although I kind of like the idea of being able to shut down Villainous Scammers, Inc.

    – The more I give out my real number, the more I get spam calls. Keep in mind that if you purchase something at a shop and they ask for your phone number, you can say no. If it’s a number needed for delivery or can’t get past an online system without it, suggest like others that a Google Voice number is best – then the spam can be directed there.

    1. boop the first*

      Yeah but what is the issue with having a recording of your voice? My voice sounds exactly like my mom’s voice. My coworker’s voice sounds exactly like my former roommate’s voice. I had a substitute highschool teacher who sounded exactly like Piglet from the Winnie the Pooh cartoons. That’s probably why voice-activated bank accounts aren’t a thing.

  43. Christy*

    In reference to #5, I’m pretty sure everyone’s cell phone gets spam/scam calls nowadays. I certainly do. And I’ve never, ever had a spammer/scammer leave me a voicemail. Questions for the commentariat: does anyone here not receive spam/scam calls, and has anyone ever gotten a spam/scam voicemail?

    Maybe I’m off-base on this.

    And (so probably unsurprisingly) I agree with Alison’s about your proposed voicemail greeting. It’s confusing and totally unnecessary.

    Oh! And I would encourage you to save the numbers of actual job contacts in your phone, if only temporarily, so you know to pick up when they call again. Or maybe remember that 123-456-xxxx is probably an employer’s phone number and pick up calls that start with 123-456. (Since I know at least my office has us all with the same first six digits and you may have more than one person call you.)

    1. Natalie*

      I’ve occasionally gotten a voicemail, but it’s clearly a mistake since the voicemail starts somewhere in the middle of a pre-recorded message.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. Also, robocalls for political action seem happy to talk to my voice mail for some reason.

    2. AVP*

      I get a lot and yes they leave voicemails about 1/3 of the time. Sometimes it seems like a mistake – my voicemail picking up has triggered their auto-speak so it drones on into my messages. Other times it seems on purpose which is wierd and pointless to me but I’m not a spam caller.

      OP, can you put the app Hiya on your phone? I really like it – when an unknown caller comes in it notes on your screen if the number is spoofed or if it’s a known spammer. It’s not 100% correct but works maybe 90% of the time.

    3. Pickles*

      I get voicemails from spam calls *all the time.* This isn’t uncommon if you get a lot of spam calls. Thanks probably to my crazy ex who keeps giving out my number, I get between 5-8 spam calls a day. Easily.

      Sometimes they’re cut off in the beginning, as if the robot started when the voicemail generic greeting did. I might hear “press 9 to be removed from the list,” or “please call us back immediately,” with nothing else. A robot claiming to be Life Alert usually leaves a message.

      Sometimes it’s the exact same recorded message from various spoofed phone numbers. I always enjoy how the same IRS man calls me five times in one day from NYC, Philadelphia, San Diego, Wyoming, and Tampa. He’s very concerned I pay my (not) overdue taxes to call me in between such vigorous and rapid travel!

      1. nonegiven*

        MIL had the Life Alert pendant. She was supposed to test it once a month. They used a robocall to tell her to test it. She was just supposed to press the button and tell the person that answered on the box that it was a test. Even with her hearing aids and a special phone, she was never able to understand robocalls. Live people, she could usually understand on the phone. No trouble at all with the live person answering on the box. Every time she got a robocall, she’d get mad and hang up, often not even thinking about it being the Life Alert people.

        After they tried a certain number of times and she still hadn’t tested, I’d get a robocall about asking her to test it. She must have tested it most of the time, though because I didn’t get the call every month, just every few months. I told her every time she got a call she couldn’t understand she should test it, just in case it was them.

        Anyway, so maybe the last person who had your number was someone’s back up notification number or they put someone’s number in the system wrong and used yours by mistake. The calls always came from a number that had the caller ID of ‘Care Center.’ (They were calling our landlines.) She didn’t have an answering machine or voicemail but it would leave a robocall message on my answering machine. A recording with her name inserted by a different voice.

          1. trigger*

            Exactly. Perhaps they did have other options like that for people if asked (for example someone who is deaf).

    4. Jenny*

      I get a lot of spam calls and occasionally a message, but it’s always VERY obvious it’s spam. Most recently I got a few voicemails where a (very very bad) robo voice informed me that if I didn’t call them, the IRS would put a warrant out for my arrest. LOL.

      1. Catarina*

        Dang, mine have always been a real person! Wish I got the robocall version instead, they’re easier to tell sooner.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      We have an answering machine on the landline (because I appreciate being able to see there is a blinking light) and it occasionally gets spam messages. As Natalie says, they tend to start somewhere in the middle. Same with the cell voicemail.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      I have, but it was mostly on my (now defunct) landline. Auto warranty calls, a few credit card calls, and those damn charity calls and politician spam that were exempted from the do-not-call rules. And interestingly, my number on that line was one digit off from the local child support enforcement office, so I had to deal with their misdialed calls as well. When I canceled the phone, The Death Star (AT&T) said they would retire the number so that wouldn’t keep happening. Good luck to the next person if they didn’t.

      Generally, I do this–I know in what areas I’ve applied (ha) since I’ve been looking in other cities and out of state. If they don’t leave a message, I assume it’s spam and block it. If I’m unsure, I won’t block it just in case, but most of the time employers will leave a voice mail or email me. So I don’t worry too much about missing contacts.

    7. nnn*

      I’ve gotten voicemails from that tax scam where they say they have a warrant out for your arrest, and from the fake microsoft tech support. Both of them are robocalls, and it’s apparent that the bot doesn’t wait for the beep, it just starts playing the recording as soon as the voicemail greeting starts.

    8. nonegiven*

      Yes, I have gotten voicemail or answering machine messages from autodialed scam calls, most of them ring less than it takes to trigger vm, but not all, a couple times it was just a hangup, maybe the robo message finished before my beep or maybe someone listened to my outgoing message and then hung up.

      None of these spoofed local number calls are leaving a message. I had one repeat number on my GV number that did, more than once leave an unintelligible message, it sounded like the phone had been dropped in a puddle more than once. I called it back out of curiosity, using my GV number and it was a guy using his work phone trying to call another phone in his company, he just had the number wrong. I’ve had the number from the time GV went live without an invitation, so he must have programmed it into his contact list wrong. None of the other local number calls have even triggered vm, they must be programmed to hang up after 3 rings.

      I have also gotten live people who got assigned my call by an autodialer, even though my answering machine picked up. They obviously didn’t hear the outgoing message because all they did was say “hello?” a few times and hang up.

  44. Bossy Magoo*

    Re #1: Our assistant at work takes hers every day at her desk and no one gives s crap. Another employee takes his thyroid pill every day at his desk…zero craps also given there.

  45. Jwal*

    We’ve now changed it to only collecting donations for ‘milestone’ birthdays or other ‘big’ events (eg leaving, having a baby, off work for ages due to a big accident). We put a card in a giant envelope and it’s circulated ahead of time. People write their name on the envelope when it’s been past their desk, and then if they want to donate but don’t have money on them they write “pass back” next to their name. That way the organiser can pass it back to the specific individual without other people feeling nagged. The recipient never sees the envelope of course.

    The bonuses of this have meant that
    a) people don’t get ‘donation fatigue’
    b) nobody has to know whether a specific person donated, and nobody monitors how much
    c) people who don’t normally carry change but want to donate can
    d) the person buying knows exactly how much is available beforehand
    e) there is less comparison between presents as they aren’t so frequent
    f) nobody gets put on the spot to donate or sign if they don’t want to. They just put their name on the envelope and pass it on.

    Maybe this could be something that OP could implement?

  46. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    OP1: Medication (no matter what type) should always be consumed as discretely as possible. That means keep it in your purse. If it’s just a pill, take one out when you need it, pop it quickly, put the rest back in the purse. If it’s something bigger/louder (nasal spray, bandage that needs changing, etc.) go to the bathroom.

    OP2: Do the money collecting first, then buy the gift. That’s how it works in our office and it ensures that the recipient gets something they like that’s also within the budget. Alternatively, if you are worried about jealousy issues (“Sarah’s gift was worth $200 and I only get something worth $50!”), just do as Alison suggests: quick mail to everyone and after that only cake and card.

    OP3: In our office, team lead reviews are set up once every quarter through anonymous surveys. There are plenty of websites that let you create your own, so just set one up, send them to your team, and re-assure them that the survey is 100% anonymous and no-one is forced to participate. Encourage them to talk to you in person if they are not shy about it or if they have any needs that need to be addressed immediately. For example, I hold by the opinion that anything I’d say about my boss in a survey, I’d say to their face, too, so I usually follow up on my survey entries.

    OP4: I had that happen once, a few years ago, when I was still working in Canada, and it was one of the most miserable working experiences ever. Do as Alison suggests. It’s an OSHA violation.

    OP5: If they think they are so super-important that they cannot wait the slightest bit for you to answer your voice mail, then those are probably not people you want to work with anyways. That said, I’d personalize your voicemail message a little more, because right now it really sounds like some generic robot and gives a completely icy reception. I know you want to avoid using your name to discourage the scammers, but really, as a bare minimum, your name should be in the voice mail greeting unless you want to sound really rude and make people wonder if they even got the right number. Just record something like: “Hello. You have reached Michael’s voice mail. Unfortunately I am not available at the moment. Please leave a message and I’ll respond as soon as I can. Thank you.”

    1. OP #4*

      I’m confused about what exactly OSHA is. Does it apply to non profits? Is it a guideline? A recommendation? Or a YOU MUST DO THIS?

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        OSHA is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and publishes workplace health and safety standards that employers must comply with. You can find information about OSHA at It applies to all private sector and federal workers. (Not state employed workers unless the state itself has a comparable set of regulations that is similar to OSHA’s standards.) Here’s a specific link about sanitary facilities

        The standards are not a recommendation or a guideline, but a regulation (requirement), so it’s a “you must do this.” Employers must comply with all applicable OSHA standards. There are financial penalties for violations. (Of course, prompt enforcement isn’t necessarily implied simply by the existence of the rules.) There is a ton of info on their website, FAQ for workers, etc.

      2. Natalie*

        OSHA is a federal agency and their laws and regulations apply to all workplaces, although not all regulations will apply to every workplace. For example, there are different regulations for offices versus warehouses versus outdoor workplaces.

        They have both regulations, which a business must follow, and guidelines, which a business is not legally required to follow but are considered best practice.

      3. Specialk9*

        My megacorp trembles at OSHA. The fines can get huge, especially if they do a site inspection and find other problems. If your employer is violating OSHA, report it anonymously online. Several people have posted the link.

  47. Candi*

    #5 -I’d be put off by that message a bit.

    I’d recommend something along the lines of “You have reached (555) 555-5555. Please leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as possible.” Scammers and telemarketers never leave messages, while any sensible employer will. The reciting of the number confirms they’ve reached the right number without giving out your name.

    A lot of scammers work out of foreign countries these days, so they don’t give a flying leap about US/Canadian/Aussie/etc. laws. And the locations where they are generally don’t care as long as they don’t break local laws and pay their taxes. It bites hard.

  48. Chriama*

    #1 – I think it’s also very likely that many people won’t know what the pills are. Many women don’t take BC, and I suspect many men haven’t noticed even if they know their partners are taking it. So I get that it’s one of those things where you should consider what the risks are and whether you’re comfortable with them. But personally I think the risks are pretty low.

  49. Nox*

    ….. the spyware ads on the site are really bad today. There are too many for me to email exact examples without my device.

    1. Quacktastic*

      Yes!! I’ve had 3 instances of that fake Facebook-looking “you’re the lucky 100th user!” while trying to read this.

  50. Guy Incognito*

    Take your pill. If anyone asks what it is, tell them it’s a very special type of pill called a “Nunya.”

  51. MissDissplaced*

    #1 There is nothing wrong with taking your birth control pills at work. Even if someone sees you, so what?
    We all need to take pills sometimes, be they Beano, GasX, asprin, vitamins, Tums or Mucsinex, and shouldn’t be worried about the perception of any.
    I do generally keep my stuff in my purse though, not because of anyone seeing, but just to keep it with me.

  52. AnonInfinity*

    OP #5: First, you should be blocking every spam call # that you get (after the fact). It doesn’t seem like it should help, but it has helped for me. And second, and perhaps more useful, you can set up a Google Voice number that will go to your phone and I THINK you can set it so it’s the voice number that shows up when people call, not the incoming number so you know it’s people who are reaching you on that number, which you can choose to give only to potential employers.

    1. Nerdling*

      Spammers are now just spoofing local phone numbers. I’ve had both my personal cell and my work cell spoofed, and our office number has been spoofed. Blocking those numbers isn’t anywhere near as effective as it used to be, and, in the case of our office, means you’ve just blocked an actual law enforcement number. :/

  53. Peppermint Mocha*

    OP 1- Back when I had a cubicle I always just took my pill there. The only person who ever noticed was the guy who sat right next to me, and even though he probably knew what it was he never cared or said anything about it. Unless you work in a conservative office or have proximate coworkers who make a fuss about such things, don’t worry about it too much.

  54. Natalie*

    #5, I can’t tell from your comment if the calls you are receiving use your real name or anything to give you the sense that the callers actually have some information about you, rather than calls working off of automated dialing. Unless you’ve been scammed before, it’s most likely the latter and I think you’re going a bit overboard. These are people calling from a boiler room somewhere, probably outside of the US, that don’t even get connected to your line until something answers, and if they hit voicemail or a fax line or silence they just hang up. They don’t need to mark numbers as “active” because the point of using automated dialing is to let a computer do the work. They’re trying to get payment information from someone immediately. Getting a recording of the person’s name of them saying “yes” is meaningless if they don’t have your credit card information. They’re not sending you a bill.

    The types of scams that are trying to get you to fake authorize something are more targeting, and they generally *already* have your name or company name, address, and enough information to seem semi-legitimate. So again, it’s not going to matter what’s on your voicemail.

    The only thing I would do, if you haven’t already, is contact your cell carrier and make sure third party billing is blocked on your account.

    1. Leslie NOPE*

      As someone who also gets a lot of spam/scam calls, I don’t think he’s going overboard. I tend to notice an uptick in the number of calls I get if I start answering them. Plus the calls are just plain scary sometimes. I’ve read online never to answer “yes” so that they can’t record it and use it as authorization for something else and I blew it off as ridiculous. However, I received a call once that began with an automated voice saying “hi, can you hear me okay?” (obviously trying to get me to say “yes”) and it really freaked me out. I think better safe than sorry.

      1. Natalie*

        This is a risk comparison though – the risk that a recording of you saying “yes” is going to be used for some kind of nefarious purposes, versus the risk that an employer is going to be confused by your voicemail mentioning scam calls and just move on to the next person.

        The “can you hear me” recording isn’t trying to trap you into saying “yes”, it’s a program that doesn’t connect the telemarketer to the line until they reach an actual person. How would that even work? A recording of a completely disembodied, anonymous voice saying “yes” isn’t going to be evidence of anything. The only thing it would be good for is trying to scare someone into paying immediately. These types of scammers are taking a shotgun approach, trying to get any amount of money out of people as quickly as possible in a way that can’t be clawed back. They aren’t going to file against you in small claims court. They’re not even in the same country.

        1. fposte*

          This is an interesting one, in that the FCC issued a warning about this in March–but that was after a flurry of alarmist media reports and it seems likely to have been in response to them, since it states only that people are reporting getting calls that say “Can you hear me” and no incidents of anybody actually having an answer used against them. Snopes lists it as “unproven,” and I remember variants of it being around for a couple of decades. So I’m going with urban legend that the FCC obligingly fueled.

          1. Natalie*

            I actually have had the “record someone saying yes” experience when I was a brand new receptionist, but it wasn’t a robocall that started with “can you hear me”. It was a yellow pages scam in which they told me I was just renewing this listing. I was recorded saying a) my name, b) that I was authorized to make this purchase and c) that I authorized renewing this listing.When the bill came it became clear that it was a new order and not a renewal.

            Even with all of that on tape, we weren’t trapped. After about 5 minutes of research we had everything we needed to tell this company to eff off (in about those words) and they backed down immediately. And they were actually located in the US.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              This. I’m perplexed by the “trapped” theory because as you note upthread, it’s not like these companies are going to meet you in small claims court and play their spliced-together tape.

              1. Natalie*

                Now that I think about it, I suppose scammers themselves reinforce this idea, to up the pressure to pay immediately and make the “problem” go away. Shady debt collectors and other con artists sometimes use similar kinds of manipulative tactics.

                Contract/business law isn’t a magic spell where if you accidentally say the wrong word you’re forever bound to give the scammer your first born child’s social security number.

            2. Bea*

              That frigging yellow pages scam lives on. And all it takes is a solid knowledge of AP to tell them to kick rocks. Please send me a physical invoice, oh my you don’t do that? Guess it’s not a real bill.

              They do not mail true invoices, it’s a federal offense to send fake invoices. That’s why the stuff they send out has a small print “this isn’t a bill” located somewhere. Despite the them trying to mock the layout of an invoice.

              1. Natalie*

                The one I got caught up in was actually a little different – it wasn’t that order form that looks soooooo much like an invoice they hope you just pay it. We received a call from the company itself (1800BusinessDirect, I will never ever forget it even though they’ve probably changed their name 100 times by now). After the whole exchange I described above, where they claimed we had a listing and I was just renewing it, they did send us an actual invoice. And after my boss yelled at them we got a form letter by fax “releasing” us from any obligation to pay, that was clearly written by a non-lawyer trying to sound lawyery.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I ended up having to email the state AG at OldExjob because of Business Direct. A caller got around me and tricked someone into ordering an expensive newsletter, then dunned the crap out of us trying to get payment. We had a company policy about trade publication subscriptions; some folks did subscribe to legit publications, but the preference was for free ones to keep costs down. I ended up having to send out a general email that renewals/offers should always go through me so I could vet them with management.

          2. Leslie NOPE*

            Thank you guys for your explanations, I guess I CAN chalk the “yes” thing up to those dumb things your relatives share on social media. Still going to play it safe, but no need to be scared of the calls as long as I recognize them as spam. Thanks!

      2. Natalie*

        Oh, and I should clarify that I’m not actually suggesting you answer the calls. I don’t answer unknown calls to my phone either. That doesn’t mean this obtuse voicemail greeting the LW has is remotely necessary.

    2. Catarina*

      I’m also unclear on whether this is the usual vague “call us about your refinance” phishing, or the hardcore “This is the IRS, this is your name and social, pay us or we’re putting out a warrant” type of call. I am a victim of both the IRS and the Equifax hacks, so I get a lot of both types of calls, and letting unknown numbers go to voicemail has not been a problem thus far. I also have not been arrested.

      1. Natalie*

        Yep, but if some scammer does have the LW’s name and social, they have bigger problems than their voicemail greeting could possibly solve. :(

  55. Catarina*

    LW #1, Good on you for taking your pills at lunchtime. It took me stupidly long to figure out that it made the most sense for me to take time-dependent medication in the middle of the day, rather than messing about with differing bed/wake times as a shift worker.

    LW #2, This seems excessive, and cutting down is definitely reasonable. The unspoken rule I’ve seen in most companies is that people leaving who are not doing something else or who are leaving involuntarily get recognition. This means retirees, or the woman at my last job who left because her husband was in the military and was relocated overseas. People leaving for another job don’t get anything, other than perhaps verball well wishes.

  56. Karo*

    I’ve always taken my birth control at my desk every morning because the only way I remember to take it is with a task on my computer. No one has said anything in the ~10 years I’ve been working here, and I can’t imagine no one has noticed it in that time. It’s a daily medication and should be treated the same as if you took an aspirin every day or something. There’s no need to feel weird about it – unless you work for a religious organization that has declared birth control anathema or something.

    I’ll grant that it can feel a little different because of it’s not in a standard pill bottle, but then I’d do what others have suggested and invest in a pill box of some sort.

    1. Isobel*

      Oh, interesting! Here (UK) almost all medication comes in blister packs, contraceptive pills included. You don’t see pill bottles very often now.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        My (US) contraceptives all came in blister packs, but everything else is usually a bottle. The leftover bottles do come in handy for tiny craft supplies. :)

  57. hbc*

    OP1: I would say how discreet you should be with your meds depends on how much information you want other people to have and what they might do with it. If you’re open about your migraines, you can pretty much leave a bottle on your desk at all times. If you’re a young unmarried woman in a conservative office, you might want to make sure that no one gets a good enough look to identify BC and make all kinds of assumptions. Or maybe you want to be one more step in the right direction of people not being judgmental jerks by treating it just like the migraine meds.

    Though there might be some office culture differences that have an effect too. If you’ve never seen a coworker pop an aspirin, maybe Medical Things just aren’t done openly where you are.

  58. I See Real People*

    Being the birthday/going away/etc. organizer of lunches and such, I have made it my personal and business policy that I will not be the cash collecting person for any gift or event. I have been burned a couple times in the past, like the OP. There’s always one or two in the bunch of givers who say “Cover me for $20, I’ll bring it tomorrow”, and they forget or just blow it off. The most I’ve been stuck for at one time was $75. Never. Again.

    1. anyone out there but me*

      Mmm hmm. I was that person in my old office and I got tired of having to constantly chase people down for their $5 contribution. Or having to keep track of the “I’ll buy you a Starbucks then I won’t owe you” or what-have-you deals. Or making change. Or just not getting paid back at all because I lost track or got tired of asking.

      So I just stopped. The next time the occasion rose and a gift was suggested, I stated, “One of you will have to take the lead on the gift, I simply don’t have the time to devote to it. Let me know who is in charge, I have my $5.00 today” and left it at that. I think there were a couple who ended up not getting a gift or anything, then there were 1 or 2 that got a gift card at the last minute before someone else finally picked up the ball and ran with it.

  59. Anon anon anon*

    #1 – I’ve always played it safe and been really discreet about taking any kind of medication at work. People can be nosy and judgmental about stuff like that. Even with Advil, sometimes people think you’re hung over. I’d rather not have to worry about it. I discreetly take any pills to the bathroom and take them there or I’m just really sneaky and take it quickly when no one is looking.

    1. Anon for this*

      Sometimes people think you’re hungover if you take an Advil? Who are these people who don’t know that people can have headaches for benign reasons? Why pander to people with such messed up assumptions?

      1. But you don't have an accent...*

        Seriously. As a migraine sufferer, if someone asked me if I was hung over because I was taking a pill, I’d tell them to nope right the heck off with that nonsense. Replace nope and heck with your favorite choice of word, of course.

          1. Anon anon anon*

            Ok, I thought about this one and realized that the Advil thing was probably regional. An area of the US where there is a lot of recreation as well as a personal responsibility sort of attitude towards health (ie lots of preventative home based remedies and saving doctor’s visits for really serious stuff). So there was a stigma around taking pills at work. I guess it isn’t like that in most places.

  60. Kate*

    #1 – Just some food for thought – I recently switched to taking mine in the evenings. I used to be totally fine with sitting at my desk, but I’ve recently taken on a role with so many meetings, there was no way to guarantee I’d be at my desk anywhere near the needed time.

  61. NotMyRealName*

    OP #1, do YOU feel comfortable taking them in the open? If you do, then by all means, DO IT. I work in the deep south, and honestly, if someone has a problem with watching you take it, then chances are, that’s a person you don’t want to work for or with. I know that’s a privileged answer, so weigh that in your choices, but my God. I take mine at my desk every day, and if one of my male coworkers asked me what it was, I would answer honestly and savor the looks on their old-white-guy faces. YMMV.

  62. Leslie NOPE*

    OP #5, I also get a lot of spam/scam calls and don’t answer my phone for unknown numbers. I have the default automated voicemail and have found that legitimate calls will leave a voicemail and ask me to get back to them. That’s on them if they don’t leave a message and then say that they couldn’t get ahold of you. However, if you’re worried about it my suggestion would be to do the same generic message as the automated voicemail (Hi you’ve reached [number] please leave a message and I’ll get back to you) so that whoever is calling will know that they did reach the correct number and might feel more comfortable leaving a message.

  63. Mona Lisa*

    #2, could you do a monthly collection whether or not there is someone leaving? I’ve worked at a few places with “morale committees”, and what they did was request a low donation each month ($2-3/person usually). This was the fund used to pay for retirement parties, baby shower gifts, and to round out potlucks. This way you aren’t budgeting each time someone is leaving, and you can circumvent the inevitable popularity contest between employees. If you find you have too much leftover, some of the money can be used to buy surprise doughnuts or cupcakes for the staff a couple of times a year.

  64. Allison*

    #5 That’s an unnecessary voicemail greeting, as others have said. Screening your calls is so normal that any employer worth talking to will know to leave a voicemail, and/or follow up via email.

    When I was young and looking for a min wage job, my dad told me I had to answer the phone every time it rang, because employers have long lists of people to call and if someone doesn’t pick up they’ll just move on to the next person and not bother with a voicemail. That may have been true of some employers (as in very few of them), but I’ve managed to get jobs despite missing some calls here and there.

    1. boop the first*

      Dad technically has a point, in the sense that I missed a request for interview (because I was at work), but by the time I called back (four hours later), the interview slots were full and I was denied.

      But that’s crappy jobs for you. Not much of a loss, there!

  65. CassidyYates*

    I’ve started taking my medication, out of the clearly labelled bottle, deliberately in front of coworkers for this reason: it’s just a pill, it’s necessary to life, and since my workplace culture freely trades around aspirins etc., it just doesn’t make sense to go out of the way to hide something.

    1. Michelle*

      I agree. If people would just mind their own business, so much unnecessary drama could be avoided. I don’t care what pills/meds my coworkers are taking. They are taking them for reasons that are none of my business. If I have to take any meds/OTC pills, I just take them and don’t worry about it.

  66. copier queen*

    OP 1, No judgement on taking birth control pills, because I take them daily too, but unless you are on a medication that you are required to take during the workday, why not take all pills before/after work? I have two chronic illnesses and take multiple pills every day – in the evening. I don’t want my co-workers to see me taking any medication because I don’t want them to make assumptions about what kind of medicine I’m taking (and they would). Just my two cents.

    OP4, I was in the same situation years ago, when I was really young and didn’t understand professional norms. I was working at a small community newspaper. The main sewage line to our office became clogged (disgusting, I know) and a huge hole was drilled in front of my desk. We were without bathrooms/running water for several days and were told to use the restroom at the library across the street, which was only open part-time. I have Crohn’s disease, so having access to a bathroom close by is mandatory. It took 3 days before the owners finally rented a portapotty and put it behind the office building. Still no running water for a few more days after that. Looking back, I *wish* I had banded together with my co-workers and demanded that the owners get the portapotty sooner, or relocate us to another place to work.

    1. Nerdling*

      BC is one of those pills that needs to be taken at the same time every day to be fully effective. For me, when I was taking it, taking it at work was the best way to accomplish that because it meant I wasn’t having to wake up early on the weekends or try to remember to take it during a night out on the town. My current antidepressant needs to be taken with breakfast to release properly during the day, so I take it at work – I’m already dragging out of bed ridiculously early just to get to the office; I’m not interested in getting up earlier to eat breakfast at home when I can just take my pill at my desk.

    2. OP #4*

      I did take off early and come in late the next day. It was just so awkward because I was literally the only one who brought it up and it sounded like some managers had given their employees a choice whether to come in or not but ours hadn’t. When I brought up the OSHA regulations to him he said that it was fine if I had restroom problems and needed to go home. I truly believe he wouldn’t have held it against me if I left but I didn’t want to be the only one on our small team that went home so I waited it out a bit longer. Ours was only off for 1.5 days I can’t imagine 3 days with especially with Crohn’s disease. I probably should have just gone home on principle.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        It sounds like you handled it pretty well by bringing up the regulations and it’s great that you think your manager wouldn’t have held it against you, though it bothers me that he alluded to “restroom problems” as the reason you’d want to go home rather than work without sanitary facilities (which is a very personal thing to allude to, and really not necessary or relevant to not wanting to be at a worksite that didn’t have running water). If I had been in your position I would have been frustrated that my employer didn’t simply close for the time period of being without water. Glad it only lasted a day and a half!!

  67. ThatGirl*

    So #4 happened to my husband last week; he works in a trailer-style building on a college campus and the pipes froze, due to about 10 days (at that point) of sub-20 degree weather, often below zero.

    It was discovered Tuesday when everyone went back to work, they sent everyone home for the day, but told them to come back Wednesday around noon as facilities was working on it. He got there Wednesday and no water yet, but everyone was told to stay and go use the bathroom in the nearest building (5 minute walk, in 5 degree weather). Same for Thursday until they finally got a trickle of water going. I don’t know how it is today; it’s finally warmed up a bit but he said Thursday and Friday it was just barely enough to qualify as “running water.”

    While he does work with students and can’t really work from home, the students were not back yet last week and I think they should’ve given them all the whole week off, myself.

    1. OP #4*

      Oh no! It’s like they did the right thing and then stopped! He totally should have gotten the week off since the students weren’t there.

  68. Audiophile*

    #1 while I don’t take the pill, I do take a controlled drug. There have been a few times when I’ve taken it at work, though I usually try to take it in the morning before I leave the house. I’ve been lucky that no one has asked, I’m not even sure they noticed.
    I like the recommendation that you put them in a pill box.

  69. DevAssist*

    LW #1- if you take any multivitamins or other supplements, I would recommend taking them at the same time as your pill (if it is safe to do so). You could your pill in the morning into a different small pill case to take to work so it would be less recognizable.

  70. Owlette*

    Sorry if this is repetitive, OP#1, but please don’t be ashamed of taking any type of medicine at your desk. I have an anxiety disorder, and if I feel a panic attack coming on at my desk, you better bet I’m taking one of my pills. I don’t even bother transferring my pills to a different container; nope, I just pop open my big orange prescription pill bottle and take my pill. Obviously I’m a bit more discreet than that (I’m not running through the office saying I’M TAKING MEDS NOW), but I don’t see anything wrong with just casually taking medicine at your desk. There are many people in my office too who have prescriptions they have to take when they eat, and lunch time is a great time for that.

    I don’t take birth control pills, but there are several women at my work who do. You know how I know? They have alarms set on their phone and they take out their pills and take them at their desk. It doesn’t matter if we’re in the middle of a conversation; they’ll just take it at their desk while talking to me, no running to hide in the bathroom. The women in my office are also open about sharing OTC medication too, whether it’s Advil or even a Mydol, we’ll openly ask each other for specifically what kind of pain medicine we need.

    Now, your mileage may vary of course. I work in a very casual office, but everyone is very professional and there are no office busybodies bugging us asking why we’re taking medicine. Even the men don’t bat an eye if they overhear one woman asking another for Mydol. Just do your business, be professional, and you should be perfectly fine. :)

  71. Kelli*

    to LW #5: I spent almost 2 years looking for a job and I don’t think I got one unplanned phone call from a potential employer. It was pretty much all e-mail to set up calls and I knew who was calling me at a specified time. Every recruiter and hiring manager understood I had a job and wasn’t free to take calls at random times. Even when a call was scheduled (and I was in an office on another floor) the interviewer (even very senior people) asked if it was still a good time and did I need to find someplace to take the call.

  72. Pollygrammer*

    This is making me desperately want to keep my NuvaRing 3-pack in the fridge at work. :)
    (They have to be refrigerated).

  73. Where's the Le-Toose?*

    Re #1, reminds me of the time when my sister’s roommate left her clam shell birth control pill holder on the coffee table and when I came over for a visit, I flicked it open and said “Scotty, two to beam up.”

    Re #2, I’m also in a public agency and we have the exact same problem. How we solved it is take the donations and buy a gift card plus a greeting card with the money. So in your situation it would have been $4 for the greeting card and $25 for the gift card. It still irks people that not everyone donates but the card is signed by all coworkers. However, our thought on that has been if it bothers you that much, do an individual gift for the departing coworker.

    And re #3, when you ask your direct reports for feedback about you, don’t do it at the same time as the performance evaluation. We tried that, and even though the performance evaluation was already written, people felt compelled to be positive or say nothing at all in their feedback because they were getting their evaluation too. Call it superstition, but the feedback was not useful. What worked best for us was to wait a week, and then ask for feedback about your management style. The results were night and day and the feedback was amazing once we waited a week!

  74. Leenie*

    Why would anyone notice if a person takes 12 seconds to take a pill at her desk? It’s not a big deal if you don’t make it one.
    Also, do a lot of people get going away gifts for their coworkers? I’m in a private industry that has a reputation for profligate spending, and I still don’t think I’ve ever seen a going away present. A cake and card is thoughtful enough.

    1. Leslie NOPE*

      People get stigmatized/judged for weird things at work, especially women. She was just asking to see of there was etiquette surrounding this. I equated it to a question along the lines of “is it okay for my bra strap to show?”

        1. sin nombre*

          Tell that to the people stigmatizing them, not the people worried about being stigmatized. Jebus.

    2. I'm here*

      If you think people don’t get into their co-workers’ business, you haven’t been reading AAM long enough.

  75. stitchinthyme*

    #2 – Nowhere I’ve ever worked has made a big production when someone leaves. The most I’ve ever seen is a good-bye lunch out, sometimes paid for by the company and sometimes the coworkers. There’s certainly never been gifts; the closest I’ve ever come to that is some company swag given to me by the marketing people I did work for at one place. It’s a nice gesture if people want to do it, but it shouldn’t be expected, since as you say, no one knows anyone else’s financial situation. So I’d say tone it down, maybe take the person to lunch and chip in to cover the leaving person’s meal (split among even 5-10 people, a lunch for one shouldn’t cost more than a few bucks a person, plus the cost of your own lunch), skip the cake and gifts, and wish the person well.

  76. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

    OP 5 – people might have already suggested it, but why not set up a Google voice number for your job search? I’m not sure how it all works, but it might help.

  77. Brett*

    OP is in an office that presumably has no public contact, so this is not a consideration for this particular letter.

    Anyone who is an a workplace with any public contact should definitely consider being discreet with any pill (not just birth control). All pills have a tendency to go walking away around people you don’t know. When previously working government, it was crazy how quickly even a bottle of ibuprofen or asprin could disappear in any office the public could physically access (which was most offices).

  78. JC*

    This isn’t going to be helpful to OP#5, but I am so glad that I kept the phone number I had when I lived elsewhere when I first got a cell phone. There’s no reason someone with that area code would call me unless it was a number that’s already in my address book, so I can easily ignore robocalls that are spoofing my area code (and I get a LOT of them!), while always answering calls from unknown numbers with the area code I currently live in. Because businesses usually use landlines that have the local area code, I don’t miss legit calls.

  79. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

    #1, I take my Thryoid pills and vitamins at work on occassion. I’m pretty open about most things, but no one has ever asked me about the pills. They’re pretty timed so I’ve got to take them where I am (eating restrictions around some of it).

    I also know another woman that took hers at the office every day. The only reason I know is because it became a running gag between her and a pregnant colleague (the pregnant one was her reminder to take her pill). :D I worked with her for years and don’t think I ever noticed.

    1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      “hers” meaning “her birth control pill”.

      I should stop posting on Mondays before some ridiculously late time…. so many cryptic statements and typos….

  80. Naruto*

    #5, definitely don’t make your voicemail message like that! It’s going to sound like you’re pretty seriously–and bizarrely–overreacting to receiving spam phone calls. Everyone gets them, and I doubt you’re on a particular list.

    But regardless, it’s fine to let a call go to voicemail. But don’t leave that message, or it’s going to sound like you don’t understand telephone norms, including the fact that calls go to voicemail. You don’t need to apologize for the fact that your call went to voicemail, or explain, with your message. What you do need to do is say something like, “Hi, this is Fergus. Please leave a message, and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

  81. Kat*

    #1 Honestly, just take the pills at your desk. There is no reason not to. Anyone who’s watching what you take can, to be frank, mind their own flipping business. I would never dream of looking at someone else taking a pill and then making any sort of judgement on it. I’m sorry you’re even worried about this. Today I took a pill with codeine in it at my desk. If anyone had asked what I was taking they’d have got short shrift. The only issue that’s ever arisen is that the pill is soluble so it fizzes in water. Someone once wondered what the noise was, as our office is pretty quiet, and from then on I’ve made sure to put something over the glass while the pill dissolves so it doesn’t bother anyone. That’s literally the extent to which I think anyone should adjust their taking of a legitimate medication.

  82. publib manager*

    Alison, your last line for OP#1 made me laugh – sometimes I have to give annoying answers to questions too, and I’m reassured that you feel the same way once in awhile.

    OP#5, I’ve used Google Voice in the past for job hunting. Would that be a possibility for you? I downloaded it as an app on my phone and selected a number through Google. I put that number on my resumes and nowhere else.

  83. Student*

    #1 – Take your pills where you feel most comfortable and are most likely to remember to take them.

    Also, expect that people who see you taking a pill might ask about it. Have an answer ready that you’re comfortable with. That can be whatever’s right for you and your office culture, anything from the straightforward, “It’s birth control,” to a more dissembling topic-change of, “It’s nothing serious; how is Project X going?”

    Expect that if you tell somebody it’s birth control, or they recognize the container, you might get rude responses. Have something appropriate prepared for that too, and keep in mind that such responses are more about the person who’s being rude than about you. Such people would probably criticize you for taking an aspirin just as readily and there’s no pleasing them.

    And, unsolicited advice – if you’ve never looked into the other options beyond the pill before, and you are finding it an inconvenient method at the moment, consider asking your doctor. There are lots of options. If you’re in the US, they’re required to provide any of the methods for free still; take advantage of it while you can.

    1. Rainy*

      I had a friend who, if anyone asked what she was taking, said “oh, it’s my allergy pill”. (The allergy involved was to babies. :D )

  84. Dcer*

    OP #2 – Please set up a Venmo account for yourself. On the envelope write “Contribute by sending Venmo payments to @MyUsername” (With your venmo username.) I’m certain that will help solve some of the problem. Lots of people who don’t carry cash use Venmo.

  85. The Luidaeg*

    I’m OP# 3 and REALLY appreciate the feedback from everyone. I personally follow the mindset that Matt wrote about “I always keep a mental image of a pointy finger whenever I am giving feedback to a report during a performance review, noting that while 0ne finger points to the employee, three of them point back to me. This makes me actively solicit feedback on what I can improve on as a manager.” If I send emails to someone because I don’t always overlap into their schedule, that might be convenient for me . . . but the team member might really hate it. With communication, it’s definitely helpful to get some feedback.

    I appreciate that people pointed out that it’s a good idea to ask about this kind of thing after an evaluation. I really don’t want people feeling uncomfortable or put on the spot. What I do want to know is whether the “lots of emails” or “let’s talk in person pretty frequently” style works ok for them. We do talk about projects for the new year on a pretty routine basis, but if there’s something in particular they’re thinking about that they’d like my support on, it’s helpful to know that, too.

    The last comment, from Where’s the Le-Toose? made me decide on this (but thanks, everyone!) — I like the idea of having our evaluation conversation, and then waiting a week and then asking for a follow-up conversation which is just about upcoming projects and their preferred communication. That way, both of us have time to digest the initial evaluation conversation and the follow-up is more just touching base on going forward in the best way possible.

    Thanks again!!

  86. Anna Marie*

    1 – I take my birth control pills at my desk. I reach into my bag and pop the pill out of the blister with my hands still in the bag and then take it as I would any other pill. If anyone asks (which no one ever has in my 10+ years of doing this) I can simply say I’m taking some medicine. It’s highly unlikely that people will press the issue any further.

  87. Radar*

    As for Letter #1 I’m having a hard time understanding why this is even a concern? I mean, you can discreetly pop a pill in your mouth, take a sip of water and swallow it down in literally three seconds. I do it at my desk every day and I can’t remember even once being caught “in the act.” If someone is wacky enough to comment, they’re the one with a problem. It’s nobody’s business; do what you need to do and get on with life.

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