a coworker is using Google Translate to cheat, sheet masks at work, and more

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

1. I think a coworker is cheating on her work using Google Translate

There is a person in my department, Jane, who gets paid a premium to translate our printed materials into Spanish. Several others in my department do the same for other languages. We work in communications, and this line of work is well within our job duties. Recently, I suspect Jane is using Google to translate materials instead of doing them herself. Several of her translations are verbatim to what Google spits out if you copy and paste into the search box, word for word. The subject matter we write about involves technical descriptions. What Google provides doesn’t usually match the message we’re trying to say and often needs to be further edited. I often use Google translate as a place setter when laying out materials, which I don’t think Jane knows, so I’m familiar with it before even getting the official translations.

Another coworker has thought the same but is also known to drum up drama in the office. I’ve reviewed my files, and if I’m correct, this has been going on for a few years. She’s fluent in Spanish—I’ve seen her speak and write it at public events, so I don’t think it’s a matter of making good on a resume lie. I’m not sure what to do—I could be way off base here, or I could be identifying a problem. What the tactful way of addressing this?

If you’re going to address it with Jane directly, you want wording that asks her about it without implying that she’s deliberately shirking work. For example: “I’ve wondered if you’ve used Google Translate on some of these recently. I use it to provide placeholder text when I’m laying things out, and I’ve noticed some translations recently have been the same. I don’t know if you realize, but what Google provides usually needs a lot of editing, so I wanted to flag that for you in case it’s something you’ve been doing as a time saver without realizing that.”

But if your relative roles mean that it would be weird to talk to Jane, or if Jane has a history of being defensive or difficult, then you could say this to your manager: “I might be wrong about this, but I think Jane might be relying on Google Translate for translations recently. I use it to provide placeholder text when I’m laying things out, and I’ve noticed some of her translations recently have been word for word the same. That’s only an issue because what Google provides usually needs a lot of editing. I can’t be absolutely certain that it’s happening, but since the text is verbatim to what Google provides, I wanted to flag it for you in case it’s something you’d want to look into.”

Note that in both these cases, you’re keeping the focus on the impact (the text needs a lot of editing) and not characterizing what she’s doing beyond that (like “she’s slacking off on her work”).

2. Can I wear a sheet mask at work on days I don’t have meetings?

I’m a software engineer, one of the desk jobs with generally lower standards for office apparel and general standards. But how low is too low?

In my office, we don’t have meetings on Wednesdays, so that people can really have some heads-down coding time.

It would be totally unacceptable for me to wear a sheet mask at my desk on Wednesday, right? Even though I’m practically hidden by monitors, and don’t have meetings? Because I really want you to say, “it’s fine, go ahead and do it” so that I can have a relaxing, cooling, post-lunch ritual for myself (even though it makes me look like a human-skin-wearing-psychopath).

I was so excited when I saw a question about sheet masks in my inbox. (Here’s info and photos for people who don’t know what they are. They’re like other facial masks for your skin, intended to moisturize, deliver serums, etc., except that they make you look like a mummy.)

I am sorry to say that you cannot wear a sheet mask at work. This is nothing against sheet masks, which I quite love; you also cannot wear an old-timey Queen Helene mint julip mask (remember those?) or cover yourself in cold cream or so forth. I mean, I suppose if you worked with no coworkers and no one ever appeared at your office unannounced, you could wear a sheet mask while you work … and you can certainly wear a sheet mask while you work from home … but if you’re in an office building with others, it’s a no-go. Even with engineers, sadly. Sheet masks are super weird looking, and you’ll seem way too focused on a beauty regime when you’re supposed to be in work mode.

That said, if you choose to ignore me and do it anyway, please report back.

3. Talking about my future goals when I lack ambition

I have a question about interviewing when you feel that you lack ambition. I was lucky enough to land an amazing job very early on in my career. I am in my early 20s and I am currently a teacher at a large and prestigious international school. My initial contract expires soon and, rather than renewing it, I would like to move to another country and teach at a similar school. This means that I will soon be job hunting and going on interviews again.

I have no problem talking about my strengths, weaknesses, and professional achievements in interviews, but there is one area that I’m worried about. Interviewers often ask about what your professional goals are and where you see yourself in five or ten years and, I assume, want candidates who are ambitious and go-getting and are open to taking on increasing levels of responsibility. However, I am none of these things! I’m very happy that I work for a high achieving school and I love my work and take great pride in it, but I don’t want to move any further up the ladder. In education, taking on more responsibility and rising up in your organization means spending more and more time managing other adults, analysing data, planning finances, and similar tasks that I don’t enjoy — and less time teaching students and planning lessons, which I enjoy and am good at! My only goal for the future is to continue working at well-managed and academically focused schools. In terms of the actual role I would work in these schools, I would be very happy being a classroom teacher and nothing more for the rest of my career.

How can I communicate this without coming across as someone with no higher aspirations or professional goals? I see it as a positive attribute — that I am passionate about the job I’m applying for rather than desperate to move up the ladder and teach fewer and fewer actual lessons. However, I’m afraid that, to an interviewer, it will look like I lack drive and purpose or don’t have confidence in my own ability to handle higher levels of responsibility.

Most interviewers who ask about where you see yourself in five or 10 years aren’t asking because they’re testing to see if you’re ambitious enough or not. They’re usually asking because they’re trying to get a sense of how this job fits into your plans for yourself. It’s useful to know if you’re planning to go to grad school in a different field soon, or if you have goals that this position won’t do a thing to prepare you for, or if this position fits perfectly into what you’re looking for. Sometimes your answer won’t tell them any of those things, but still gives more insight into how the job fits into where you’d like your career to go, overall.

So I think you’re just fine! You can explain that you love teaching and you want to stay in the classroom and get better and better at what you do. And you even happen to be in a field where it’s not uncommon for people to stay in one role for decades; this will not be a weird answer for them to hear at all.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

4. My coworker negatively compares himself to me

I have a coworker who started at our company just a little while after I did; for both of us, this is our first job in this field. We’re on the same small team, and I’m the team lead. Here’s the problem: almost every single time we talk, this coworker makes some comment about how much “better” I am than him. He’ll say that I’m a genius and he’s an idiot, or that I’m making him look bad by being so good. If I finish something faster than he does, he despairs at how slow he is; if he finishes faster, he despairs that I was more thorough. Whenever I figure out the solution to some small problem, he gives me exaggerated compliments while rhetorically flagellating himself for not figuring it out himself. He has literally told me, multiple times, that he’s jealous of me. He says these things in a half-joking tone, but they don’t feel like jokes when he says them so often.

The truth is, I really am better at this work that he is. But it’s not that he’s bad — it’s just that I’m really, really good. I’m one of the top performers in our whole company. My coworker doesn’t have to be “as good” as I am to be an excellent employee. He does a great job, and I’m glad to have him on my team! Plus, even though he doesn’t seem to believe it, there are things that he’s better at than I am and that I rely on him for.

The way he constantly compares us makes me really uncomfortable, especially since we work in an open-plan office and so a bunch of other people are overhearing these interactions. I never know how to reply – it’s hard to take a compliment gracefully when the compliment is way over-the-top and comes attached to self-insults, you know? So how can I talk to him about this? I don’t want to be too harsh when it seems that he’s feeling pretty insecure, but I really wish he would stop talking this way.

Yeah, that’s uncomfortable. It’s hard to graciously accept a compliment when he’s framed it so that you’d be agreeing with his self-flagellation.

A few options in the moment:
* “Thanks. I actually think you do great work too.”
* “I’m pretty fast at this, but that doesn’t make everyone else slow.”
* “Ha, I’m hardly a genius. You should see me (insert something here that you’re comfortable admitting you suck at).”
* “You’re being weirdly hard on yourself — cut that out.”
* “Geez, I think your work is great — and if I’m so smart, I must know, right?”

But if that doesn’t work, you might need to address it bigger-picture with some of the advice I have here.

5. My position is being renewed, but my manager doesn’t seem to be considering me for it

I was hired for a year-long position at a college, and it was made very clear that the funding for my position was going to run out in May of 2018. Period, end of story – there was not going to be any money for me to continue my job. (It’s funded by a private grant.) However, my director made a strange comment during our one-on-one weekly conversation. She held up the funding approval request she was going to get signed from one of the deans of the college and said, “I’m so pleased to apply for funding for your position. I hope we can find someone just as skilled as you!”

I didn’t really say anything in the moment, but felt hurt and confused. For many months now, my director has been making comments about my moving on to a different position, because the funding for this position was expected to run out. Yet now I see that she can apply for funding whenever she wants. I’ve done an exemplary job in my position and feel hurt that she wouldn’t consider renewing my contract, which could be easier than hiring and training someone new. What’s more, she expects me to post the job listing and train the new hire. Is there a polite way to ask if I was even considered to continue in my position?

It’s possible that your director somehow got it in her head that you planned to leave in May regardless of the funding situation, but this is still odd. Normally I’d think she was avoiding telling you outright that they want to look for someone new, but her comment to you about being so pleased and wanting someone as skilled as you doesn’t quite fit that narrative. It’s not that people never say things they don’t mean but it’s … odd. And it’s worth talking to her about.

You could say something like this: “I’d been going on the assumption that my position was ending when the funding ran out. If you’re applying for more funding for it, is it possible for me to be considered for the extension of the role? I’d be very interested in staying on.”

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 641 comments… read them below }

  1. blondie*

    I love sheet masks, too! I’ve been dying to try using a sheet mask on a plane ever since I read an article somewhere about how it helps so much from being stuck in all that dry air (and stressed).

      1. Purplesaurus*

        Based on the images Alison linked, I would love to see that play out. Creepy mummy face starts off down the hall, ensuring a quick evacuation of everyone else in the area.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          Yeah, I’ve never heard of them before and holy cow, that photo! Hahaha. I would definitely be weirded out if my coworker was wearing one at work.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      I haven’t tried them, and I’m sure they’re fantastic, but … they definitely would fall in the “excessive grooming in public at work” category. This is not just reapplying lipstick, brushing your teeth after lunch, taking a pill, or smoothing a snagged nail with a file, all of which should still be pretty discreet. Nopity nopity nope.

      That said, on a long flight sounds like a GREAT idea.

      1. Steph*

        I just want to mention here (as it seems somewhat topical) the person that sat next to me on a train, once, clipping their toenails.

          1. Sal*

            OK I should mention the toenails usually only happen if they have a private office, although they leave the door open. Fingernail clippings happen in our open cubes (like 4 people to a cube open). It’s weirdly prevalent where I work.

            1. MashaKasha*

              At an OldJob, Coworker A once complained that Coworker B had walked up to his desk, nail clippers in hand, and proceeded to stand in A’s cubicle, asking A work-related questions, while at the same time clipping his fingernails. Not going to lie, I would’ve probably gotten physically sick. Luckily B (or anybody else) never tried that with me. Very weird.

              1. Teapot Tester*

                I worked with a guy who clipped his fingernails anywhere and everywhere in the office. It was disgusting.

          2. Kate 2*

            Yesssss! Especially when they have carpet. You know they aren’t going along after and prying each and every clipping out of the carpet, which means every toenail clipping they have ever done is STILL in that carpet! Ten toes once a week for years! Gross!

            1. Ego Chamber*

              I used to work with half a dozen rogue toenail-clippers at a call center that didn’t have assigned cubicles, and toenails in the carpet are nothing compared to toenails in the keyboards.

        1. Oilpress*

          I saw/heard someone clipping their nails on the subway. They let the clippings just drop to the floor of the train, as if that’s where their discarded body parts were meant to be stashed.

          1. Legal Beagle*

            I sat next to a guy clipping his nails on the subway but he collected the clippings and put them in a baggie. That seemed even grosser than letting them fall on the floor, somehow.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                It’s what you do if someone used your publicly discarded body parts to put a curse on you in the past, and you drew the wrong lesson from that.

          2. Your Weird Uncle*

            There’s a woman who clips her (finger)nails on the bus into work and my view of her has been forever tainted. Now whenever I see her, I can only think ‘Fingernail Woman’.

        2. Aiani*

          When I read this I remembered that I once had a co-worker who practiced acupuncture. He once brought his acupuncture needles with him to work and stuck them in his own foot in front of other co-workers. I didn’t witness this but I was told all about it. I’m both very glad and sort of sorry that I didn’t see it for myself.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          A vendor came into OldExjob one day to meet the purchasing manager for lunch. While he was waiting, he stood in front of my desk in the reception area and began clipping his nails, letting them drop to the carpet. I was completely squicked out and asked him please to stop. He got all pissy, but he quit. Dude, I do not care if you’re offended–you don’t clip your damn fingernails all over someone else’s office. *shudder*

          1. CM*

            I’m so glad you said something! Leaving parts of your body behind is NOT OK unless you’re at a salon or hospital!

        4. Esme*

          I can go one better. My seatmate was a toenail clipper (she actually put her foot up on the armrest!), then proceeded to pick off her old fingernail polish, and as a finale, peeled sheets of dead skin (she’d had a sunburn) from her arms, chest, and shoulders. This was on a redeye from LA to Philadelphia.

    2. Midwest Marketer*

      I’ve used them on international trips before. A few weird looks on the plane, but so worth it. Usually my skin is a mess for days after a long flight, but not now! I also use them several times a week at home.

      But yes, don’t use them at work. I had to tell a direct report recently to stop plucking her eyebrows at her desk. Awkward conversation for both of us.

      1. Engineer Woman*

        Me too. I felt a bit self conscious on the plane, but on long haul flights – well, lights are dim, people are sleeping, shoes come off, some people change into pajamas. I’ve sheet masked a few time in flight and it does seem to help counteract the super dry air on the plane.

        But for at work: No! Not appropriate no matter how casual your work environment is.

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I love sheet masks and use them weekly – but am not brave enough to wear them on a plane. I have read about that too – and it made me wonder if the person who wrote the article took a private jet or something. But I always use one once i’m off the plane and back at my hotel.

      1. boo*

        I feel like you could get away with it in first class, if you’re sitting next to someone you know and/or have a death stare that could penetrate the sheet.

        I have a friend who found some that have animal faces printed on the front, which is maybe more weird but less creepy? Anyway. I have lots to say about sheet masks, apparently.

        1. lost academic*

          I think a redeye or a long haul flight where people expect to sleep for at least part of the journey it would be acceptable – if the airline is going to give me a sleeping mask and socks and stuff (if I’m lucky enough to be traveling business class) then I think breaking out the sheet mask is on that level. But not for a standard trip during the day.

        2. Engineer Woman*

          Yes, only do it on long haul /red eye flights where people sleep. Less conspicuous if first class or business for sure, but I’ve sheet masked while squeezed into economy class also. Not sure if anyone noticed but I don’t feel as if I’d be bothering anyone (I choose ones with less fragrance).

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Late comment, but anything marketed as “hydrating” is what you want to look for to counteract the dry, recirculated plane air. If you can find one that’s supposed to be for a hangover, those are great (Leaders has one called What Happened Last Night?—that premise is dumb as hell, but the mask does work).

    4. boo*

      Less conspicuous on a plane but also effective is just to use a ton of intense overnight face cream or an invisible, non sheet-based moisturizing mask -I was surprised how much it helps; I have a mask that’s kind of too heavy for actual overnight use (stains the pillow, sticks in my hair, gives bedfellows nightmares about being stuck in grease-traps). On a plane, however, by the time I land, it’s just a pleasant moisturizer.

      It also helps to drink a lot of water on the flight, but if you can’t pair that with an aisle seat you just annoy everyone.

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        Huh. I am flying next week and have an overnight mask that is too heavy for regular use. I will do this. Thank you boo!

      2. First Time Caller*

        This. I bring a really heavy night cream or hydrating cream and slatherrrr it on during long-ish (longer than 4 hr) flights. I used to go to the bathroom to do it, but I also like the window seat so finally I just got over it and now I slather the cream on while in my seat. My face looks a little shinier, but no weird colors that would immediately make it apparent.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          PSA: Anyone who hasn’t tried Vaseline on the face before, please patch-test it first. That shit breaks my face out with the deepest, most painful cystic acne, just horrible red welts that take weeks to go away.

    5. Willow*

      I’ve done this. I recommend using the “silk” masks–the material is transparent. You can still see the mask but it doesn’t look as creepy.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        So I’ve only worn a sheet mask once but I feel like it left my face kinda goopy, like I needed to go right away and wash it and I also think it dripped a little on my shirt when I put it on. Which would be messy in a plane and definitely weird at work.
        Was I just using a bad mask? Are they not usually like that?

        1. Mikasa Ackerman*

          They are usually goopy. There’s a lot of excess moisture in the pack. Pull it out folded, let it drip some into the pack, and put it on. Use the leftover moisture in the pack to pat dry spots or if you’re like me, rub it all on your face after you’re done with the mask to make sure none goes to waste.

    6. Madame X*

      LW2: Do you have the option of teleworking? I love the idea the idea of sheetmasking while working, but would only be comfortable doing that from a home office.

    1. Espeon*

      One of my old workplaces was in an old building and got very cold, then the heating broke between Christmas and New Year! Management issued snuggies until it was fixed.

      Pros: You get to feel like a wizard at work
      Cons: RIP loose papers on your desk with those sleeves of fury

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        No, see, you’re doing it wrong in this picture. What you need to do is scrunch up those papers and use them as insulation. Or a pillow.

      2. Wintermute*

        Why am I imagining that you guys looked like a very comfortable cult? Or a snuggly jedi order (the jedi hugs order?)

              1. Lady Phoenix*

                Or the Salamander Cult from Homestuck eho made robes out of John’s Bedsheets

                “Behold my robes…..”

      3. Kris*

        My building’s heat also broke during that time period, when the temps in my area were in the teens and 20s. Sadly, no snuggies were issued. But I looked really fashionable sitting at my desk in my down puffy jacket, gloves, and hat!

      4. Klew*

        A ex-boss used to keep his meeting room at arctic temps. We had weekly Monday morning meetings and it was just so cold. I found a sale that had 2/$5 snuggies. I bought four. Next meeting four of us walk in wearing Snuggies…ex-boss thought it was a good idea. That was not my intention.
        He then started offering them to clients in case they were cold.

      5. myswtghst*

        Our dress code explicitly says that you cannot wear snuggies / blankets as clothes or while walking around, but you can wear them at your desk, which I love.

    2. Sabrina*

      We had an intern come into the office in cute pajamas once. When she walked by my desk I asked her why she choose that outfit and she explained that she had no meetings and since her desk was in a back row she didn’t think anyone would notice.

      It should not surprise anyone that this was not the only time she was sent home to change in her time with the company.

          1. Wintermute*

            wait, what?! I’ve read the archives back to like 2010 and I don’t think I’ve EVER seen that one!

              1. Wintermute*

                I’m not sure if that’s horrifying, or awesome. I’m going to split that middle and go with horrisome. If I were a visitor I’m not sure I’d be able to resist making plenty of bad jokes, potentially including some deep geek Vampire LARP references; I run vampire LARPs for a charity organization and for my own amusement and have played in more than a few.

              2. Mookie*

                The thing that I love best about that anecdote is that the commenter who shared it, H.C., never learned why she was doing it in the first place. I wish we knew, though, whether the admin greeted people using an appropriately theatrical all-purpose vampire accent or if she played the whole thing very straight. I’m also impressed she could greet them at all, because in my mouth most fangs have a tendency to behave like loose dentures, so I’m all sibilant and sloppy and everything I say sounds pained.

                1. Wintermute*

                  I can only imagine her at the work luncheon, “here are your drink tickets”… “I never drink… wine”

                  “Listen to them, children of the light industrial office park, what music they make!”

                  “the TPS reports are the life!”

          2. AKchic*

            I’ve never worn fangs to work. Occasionally I’ll wear a corset, depending on what else I’m wearing, and if I need to break it in.

            And I’ve worn complete costumes for Halloween. My last place would host trick-or-treating events for client’s kids. I had that AND Parent/Teacher conferences scheduled the same day. Wore my ren fair costume. Yeah… parent/teacher conferences were interesting, to say the least. One teacher felt the need to warn the teachers for the next year that I liked to “dress up” for p/t conferences. Uh, no. It was Halloween dude.

          1. Happy Lurker*

            It really is addictive – I have so much work to do, but I come here to read while I eat lunch.

      1. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

        Oh, the “Med student with anatomy class that day” outfit. The smell of formaldehyde and the expensive books are to blame.

      2. Justme, The OG*

        We have an admin who’ll wear yoga pants and a t-shirt and that’s bad enough. Dress code is business casual.

        1. AKchic*

          I had one for a while that wore yoga pants and t-shirts too! Then she started wearing those toe shoe things. All at the same time that one of the bosses was trying to make us start looking more corporate, and here she is wearing yoga pants (and one day, holey sweatpants and a flannel over a pajama tank top).

          I didn’t know whether to laugh at the nerve, or cry at the heavy-handedness of my boss who kept coming down on *me* because she was also an admin assistant therefore if he policed *my* clothes he could somehow reinforce appropriate clothing to *her*. That didn’t work. She ended up getting fired for something completely unrelated to her clothes.
          Another boss wanted to unilaterally ban all new hires under 24 because we hired a younger assistant who wore some pretty strange outfits. I could only term them as a mix of bohemian/How-To-Train-Your-Dragon-Inspired fashion.

          1. TardyTardis*

            We had a middle manager who was frustrated by the lack of dress code in our building, and whenever she got really worked up over it, the founder of the company would waltz in, surrounded by suits, in his charming short-sleeve shirt, blue jeans, and dirt boots (as opposed to the fancy kind).

    3. Wintermute*

      at the call center I came from, snuggies were somewhat de rigur in winter. Now we have C-level execs in the same building so even though it’s still jeans and T-shirts for technical staff (god I love my job), I’m not sure a snuggie would cut it. But if you could take it off and stash it under your desk if the CTO walks in, you’d probably be fine.

    4. Melissa*

      A Snuggie would be way more appropriate. You can pull it off at a moment’s notice. It’s of course silly but it’s essentially a blanket, vs a sheet mask which is like, coming in with curlers in your hair.

      I *love* sheet masks. But I wouldn’t wear one to get the paper or the mail from my driveway (I live on a main road), but I might rock a Snuggie :-)

      1. Anony*

        A sheet mask can be pulled off quickly too (unlike face cream). I could see it if someone had a private office, few people stopping by in general and could lock the door. However, taking that level of precaution to not be seen is usually an indication that it is not work appropriate.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          “However, taking that level of precaution to not be seen is usually an indication that it is not work appropriate.”


        2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          Yea – but if you pull it off quickly then your face looks kinda wet and sticky. Even when you finish using a face mask and take it off on time you generally have to pat your face for a little until it is dry.

        3. sap*

          I could see myself doing this while I was on a long call (door closed, if someone knocks they will hear I’m on a call and leave, calls last longer than I leave sheet masks on for)…

          But I’d have to take off all of my makeup first, then put it back on, and that
          A. Seems wasteful
          B. Requires me to go wash my face in the bathroom before I do calls, with makeup remover, which would *not* be inconspicuous
          C. Requires me to bring *primer* and *foundation* and *setting spray* and a well-lit mirror and… This sounds really involved and bad!

    5. plot device*

      One of my co-workers does. Not gonna lie: I’m a little jealous of it. The temperature in this place fluctuates wildly.

    6. k.k*

      In a previous office we had a snuggie wearer, and no one so much as batted an eye at it. It was a very casual dress office, and there were never outside visitors, and they always blasted the AC too much in the summer.

    7. Sheet Mask OP*

      Not a snuggie, but I do tend to get cold in offices. Rather than wearing my winter coat all the time, I keep a decent looking throw blanket at my desk. I have definitely brought it to a few meetings, because I don’t want to leave my warm blanket burrito.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, is there any chance your boss considers the position to be a limited-term position without renewal, anyway? I’ve worked in jobs where funding is uncertain, but the one thing that is certain is that a person cannot extend/renew the position.

    But of course, she may be legitimately odd and not realized you’re interested in remaining onboard if it’s a possibility.

    1. JamieS*

      That was one of my first thoughts as well. Either that or OP is a student and the manager thinks OP’s graduating. Regardless only thing to do is bite the bullet and ask.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      That’s what occurred to me too. At my institute we have positions that are along the lines of an internship (but full time and paid). We might have issues getting the funding to hire them, but even with funding it’s intended to be a one year, non-renewable position. We also have summer student positions that are one-time only, and part-time undergrad research positions that are one year only. The main purpose of all of this is to provide research experience and training, so we want to spread it around, no matter how good an individual student is.

      1. Anonymoose*

        At my university we are only allowed to have a contractor for up to 2 years max, otherwise it automatically turns into a permanent position. Perhaps this organization has something similar but their max is only 1 year.

        Frankly it sounds to me like a misunderstanding and it would be silly if the LW didn’t at least approach her supervisor for clarity.

    3. Jenn*

      This was my thought too, I often have grant funded positions intended to help people start their careers and the funding is renewable but not for the same individual

    4. NoMoreMrFixit*

      When I worked at a college there was a rule that if a person’s contract was extended past 2 years then the college was forced to convert the role to full time permanent and give the job to the incumbent. Due to this most contracted people were replaced if contracts needed to be extended for any great length. On the plus side there were cases where creative managers used this rule to get people switched to permanent by renewing repeatedly until they passed the magic number.

      1. JHS*

        We have something similar here in Ireland, where colleges/universities are public sector employees, and if something has a contract that continues for over three years, they have to be made permanent, so when they don’t want to do that, contracts are generally only 1-2 years and then the person is replaced. Not really the nicest thing to do, but when they don’t have permission to make someone permanent, their hands are tied…

    5. PB*

      This was my thought. My first position out of school was similar. It was funded by a grant, and time limited. My manager applied for funds, and she didn’t get them. She may not know if she’ll get the funds. Also, higher ed can move very slowly. Even if the funds are approved, there may be a gap between when your position ends and the new position begins, and since these things happen at a high administrative level, she probably can’t control the start date. In that case, she’s likely assuming that you wouldn’t want a gap of several months in your employment. Or, maybe there are administrative requirements that she needs to conduct interviews. If this is a different funding stream, the college may consider it a “new” position, even if it’s exactly what you’ve been doing.

      There can be a lot of bureaucracy around these kinds of positions. Either way, I think talking to her is a good idea. She might just be assuming, incorrectly, that you’re not interested, especially since it sounds like she thinks highly of your skills.

      1. Peter the Bubblehead*

        If there were a gap of any kind between the end of the old funding the the start of the new, it is doubtful the manager would be telling the OP that she wants her to train her own replacement.

    6. lulu*

      Yes, most likely it’s a one year fellowship, not something that can be renewed. OP could always double check of course with their boss.

    7. punkwich*

      Yes, that’s what I thought too – my position is like that as well right now (I’m funded as a government ‘casual’ worker approved for 90 days/fiscal year, so when that runs out I can’t work here anymore without applying for a contract or indeterminate position, but they could hire another casual for another 90 days!)

    8. Ophelia*

      Yes – my company has something like this – sort of a combination between an entry level job and a paid internship to learn about the industry – once the year is out, candidates can definitely apply to FT positions (and many do/are hired), but they can’t stay on in the learning role. We’re very clear about that at the outset, though, so I agree OP may just need to have a chat with the manager to find out what’s up.

    9. Lil Fidget*

      I also wondered if there’s going to be a long gap between this position and any new funding kicking in. If she’s aware that there’d be a six month lag, she may not even consider asking you to wait around (especially if it’s uncertain they’ll even get new money). Still, it should be easily cleared up in a quick conversation, if that’s the case.

  3. Marnix*

    Oh OP2— Please don’t. Just don’t. It’s wildly inappropriate for anywhere outside of your own home or a spa. And doubly so for work.

    (I do indeed remember Queen Helene AND Noxzema!)

      1. Julia*

        They still sell it in Japan, and since Japanese summers are brutal, I bought the body wash once. Do NOT use on, um, every part of your body.

      2. Augusta Sugarbean*

        When I was in junior high (early 80s), some marketing person (I assume) got the idea to give out packages of samples of skin care stuff to students. I don’t recall if it was just the girls and I don’t know what else was in the packages but it worked – I used Sea Breeze for *years* after that easily into my college years. That scent takes me right back. I’d probably still use it if I didn’t have such dry skin now.

        And Noxzema was the best. My older sisters used that and I thought it was so grown up!

        1. boo*

          Oh wow, I have purchased Queen Helene, Sea Breeze and Noxzema in the last two years, possibly more recently (I have other, less painful products, but one gets nostalgic). From these comments I am forced to conclude one of two things:

          (1) they do still sell all that stuff in the US, you all are just not looking hard enough.

          (2) the non-chain, family-owned stores where I got them stocked up in 1995 and have been quietly selling these torturous teen rites of passage in some sadistic game of… well, selling off overstock, I guess. That started out more evil in my head.

          1. Natalie*

            Eep, I probably wouldn’t use the 90s stuff that tingles or burns. That doesn’t mean it’s cleaning extra good, it means it’s damaging your skin or at a minimum irritating it for no reason.

            1. boo*

              Ha, yeah, I kind of bought it all when I saw it, used it once and remembered why I stopped using it in the first place…

              Ah, the 90s, when we assumed skin problems were caused by lazy skin that needed proper motivation to work harder and solve its own problems. And nothing motivates like pain and irritation for no reason!

      3. Farrah Sahara*

        What about the amber coloured 10-0-6?
        That stuff also burned, while it was supposedly toning and tightening your pores.

            1. Fact & Fiction*

              That is awesome. As a Zumba instructor, I wonder whether 20 years from now people will view our ads with the same nostalgia. Alas, I was too young to get into Jazzercise during its heyday.

      4. Broadcastlady*

        The burn was how you knew it was working, lol. Meanwhile, I’m 36, and Noxema is still my go to face wash. It handles everything.

        1. twig*

          I still use Noxema too!
          Also: Noxema is soothing to sunburns. The smell of it still reminds me of childhood blistering sunburns… but somehow in a good way? (maybe it just reminds me of summer)

    1. neverjaunty*

      Yes. You don’t want people to forever identify you that way. “Not sure I remember her… oh right! The one with that freaky mask thing!”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OMG, now I kind of want to wear a sheet mask to work just so people will refer to me as the one with that freaky mask thing.

        But I did once work someplace where a coworker routinely wore a Mexican wrestling mask.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            He would do it when he thought supervisors weren’t around because he said it made him feel better when he was fidgety. He said it felt like a “hug for his face.”

            He was in a different department (but next door to my office), and I honestly was not sure what anyone could possibly say about it. He would frantically make sure to take it off if he saw his manager, but if his manager and the Exec Director were out of office (a very common occurrence), he’d go full lucha libre.

              1. Jesca*

                At first I thought it was going the way of he thought it was funny … but nope. Total backspin. Hug for his face! I love everything about this!

        1. Purplesaurus*

          At former workplace, one of my coworkers wore dinosaur slippers every day. She wouldn’t tell me where she got them because she thought I would copy her style and wear them to work myself. And I would have.

        2. Katiedid*

          I might be alone here in my random early-’00s TV references, but am I the only one picturing the last season of “Angel” when the gang inherited the devil law firm and the mailroom guy who delivered the mail always dressed in full Luche Libre gear?

      2. Wintermute*

        you could get one of these: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/SXcYVh-W14E/hqdefault.jpg

        I think they were called “rejuvenique” or something you can find them at Goodwills and St. Vincent De Paul stores now sometimes. I own a few for movie prop and costuming purposes, they’re great for a lot of costumes in the “70s golden age sci/fi” genre, but I’ve never been brave enough to install a full set of 12-volt (!!) batteries and try one out!

        1. Allison*

          I’ve seen more modern versions of this, you can buy light therapy masks to help with acne. Where the hell were they when I was a teenager??

        2. FD*

          It’s like having your face electrocuted, apparently! There is an absolutely hysterical video of a guy trying one out. Look up “Infomercialism: Rejuvenique” on YouTube if you’re curious.

      3. London Bookworm*

        That was my thought. Only one or two people need to see it and then suddenly it’s one of the most memorable things about you.

      4. LBG*

        We had “creepy pipe smoking dude” in our building. He also wore a cape when it was chilly outside. People left him alone, which I think was his goal. I often wondered how far I would need to take it to get the leave me alone status. I’m pretty certain the mask would do it.

    2. MK*

      I would go further and say that work hours is not really the time to have a relaxing ritual. Having one on your break, fine, but while working, you want to avoid the appearance that you are relaxing.

      1. Safetykats*

        Actually I’m opposed to most grooming at work. I suppose there may be an office where it’s appropriate to come in, flat iron your hair, give yourself a facial, and do your nails while you’re on a conference call – but seriously, make time for grooming at home.

        1. On Fire*

          +1. I had two former colleagues who regularly applied their makeup after arriving at work, while they were already on the clock. We’re talking full makeup, not a quick dust of powder or flick of lipstick. Another would arrive with her hair in a messy bun and proceed to spread curling iron, hairspray, etc. across her desk to finish getting ready. (This was all in three different jobs.) I and others thought very poorly of their professionalism. OP, please don’t do this. Even if you don’t see outsiders during this time, you will take a hit in your colleagues’ estimation.

          1. sssssssssss*

            Then they leave the office and call you in a panic because they think they might have left the flat iron still plugged in and maybe on at their desk, could you please unplug it? And it was plugged in, not on, but on the floor on the (flammable) carpet. I was not impressed.

          2. Parenthetically*


            I mean, I will cop to ducking into the bathroom to do lipstick and mascara when I’m running late, very, very occasionally, but full coiffure AT YOUR DESK is 1000% ridiculous.

          3. Ophelia*

            Oh, yikes. I’ll arrive in the office and do my makeup sometimes (in tBATHROOM), but that’s because I work offsite and sometimes have to take a gruesomely early train to get there, and I can’t bring myself to put on makeup for a 5am train ride.

            1. Your Weird Uncle*

              Saw a woman once on a 7am bus balancing makeup and an open beer can on her lap while she applied said makeup. And drank said beer. I was more impressed than horrified. But still horrified.

          4. Rusty Shackelford*

            I have one colleague who applies full makeup at work. She’s exempt, so I assume she’s getting all her work done and it’s not an “on the clock” situation, but still. That’s just more familiar than I want to be with my coworkers.

          5. Bea*

            I wouldn’t be able to take anyone who acted that way seriously. That’s bad time management to start with.

        2. Allison*

          I’m cool with reapplying/fixing lipstick, putting on powder and even brushing your hair in your cube (as long as you’re not super visible) but yeah, facials, manicures, and flat ironing is a bit over the line. Flat ironing may be okay in the bathroom though, if you have a special occasion after work.

          1. sap*

            Yeah, I’ve brought hair spray to the bathroom at work long ago when I would have a date I needed to get to that I wouldn’t be able to go home ahead of, but honestly flat ironing in the bathroom after hours would still strike me as a bit much.

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I do know people who go and sit in their car during lunch. You could go sit in your car and do a face mask when on break? But not if you park on public streets – don’t want to be confused with a bank robber.

    3. Casuan*

      If you do go Sheet Mask, just remember that it isn’t the norm in all environments.

      Probably you can get away with this if you Tom Sawyered wearing a sheet mask. Convince your colleagues of the many types with various benefits (a spreadsheet can really sell it) & how efficient it is to multitask skincare & coding (a DOS pixelated animation can sell it, if “DOS pixelated animation” is really a thing)… also the mask can help to curb peripheral vision so one is thus focussed only on the display… take orders, buy in bulk, this save money for everyone… then Tom Sawyer that task out too, so you can have your original goal to code whilst wearing a sheet mask & for it to be acceptable.

      1. CarolynM*

        Do you have a newsletter I could subscribe to? :)

        (I love verbing nouns – “Tom Sawyered” has been added to my list of favorites!)

        1. Casuan*

          Thank you for the compliment!!
          Sorry, no newsletter… just my mind run amok as it sometimes does…

    4. Emilia Bedelia*

      I still use and love the Queen Helen Mint Julep mask. I’m not old enough to have experienced the heyday, I guess, but I like the mint!

      One thing I would suggest to the OP though is to look into a non-wash off “face mask” (sometimes they’re sold as “sleep masks” or similar) – there are a number of creams/gels that are supposed to have the same “mask” properties, but are sold in a jar/tube/whatever. This is easy enough to apply discreetly in the bathroom, and is less obvious. A facial spray or eye cream rollerball might also be a nice option for a midday pick-me-up.

      I would see that kind of thing as being on the same level as brushing your teeth after lunch in the bathroom – unusual, but if done discreetly I wouldn’t really question it. The sheet mask at the desk is definitely an unacceptable level of Weird though.

      1. sap*

        +1 facial spray. There are some really great rose and cucumber mists that rehydrate you and only take 10 seconds.

    5. Aphrodite*

      OMG, I can’t describe how freaked out I was at Alison’s link. I’d be beyond horrified to turn a corner or go into an office and see that mummy sitting there. I’d undoubtedly scream horribly and scare everyone, including you, to death. Please keep this at home–and if I am coming by to visit you, warn me first.

  4. Casuan*

    What Alison said, with a caveat: When you ask to be considered for the extension, be prepared for feedback. Also be prepared to sell yourself in the continued role, if you are asked why you want to stay &or what you can add to the role as it is now.

    My first thought was that perhaps your director didn’t think that you were interested & there’s no major downside to asking about it.
    Hope it goes well!

    ps: Could there be by-laws or conditions to for the continued funding that specifies how long one can stay in the role?

    1. Let's Sidebar*

      Is there any chance this was a misinterpretation of the director’s language? As in “I hope you will apply”?

  5. periwinkle*

    #2: If you do this, we want pictures. Extra bonus points if you use a mask that makes you look like a panda or kitty.

    Every Friday we are encouraged to dress in the jerseys of our favored sports team; this being Seattle, there’s a lot of bright green Seahawks gear on display. The Queen Helene masque would fit right in (and yes, you can still buy it). So tempting…

    1. Melissa*

      This begs the question: is there a market for things like a Richard Nixon sheet mask? Customizable perhaps by office so you could wear a CEO sheet mask?

    2. Sheet Mask OP*

      I’ve got plenty of memorable qualities, but I think you are right.

      I do have pictures of wearing a sun hat at my desk. A very, very ugly sun hat that my boyfriend wants me to burn…

      (they moved us to a new space and the lights were bright as heck (there were tons of them and it turns out they were on max brightness for some reason). I couldn’t look at my monitor because one of the demon beams was just above in my peripheral, being distracting. So I wore a sun hat. Others did things like construct cardboard light shields. Eventually they dimmed the lights to a more manageable level, which was a surprising difficult thing that took like 8 hours)

      1. Bea*

        People still wear Sonics gear here. Why would they wear a fake teams stuff? Well I did see a Goon sweater at the hockey game the other day soooooo maybe it’s a thing.

      2. Detective Right-All-The-Time*

        Seattle is still very salty about that. It would probably do more than ruffle feathers, to be honest.

      3. periwinkle*

        Not that I’ve seen, but I did once spot a brave soul walking through the factory wearing 49ers jersey. Not sure he survived the journey.

      4. swingbattabatta*

        Seattle is SO salty. When the Thunder and the Heat were in the finals, years, back, ESPN ran a color-coded map ostensibly showing which teams each state was predominantly rooting for. The entire map of the United States was blue (for the Thunder) with the exception of Florida, and Washington.

        Also, I don’t know if anyone saw the newscast in Seattle where they were showing a Thunder game, but changed the name to “Former Sonics”. I’ll try to link the image in a comment.

    3. Reba*

      Yes I was coming to suggest the masks that have cute animal features! They are cute but somehow extra freaky looking.

      My real suggestion is one of the moisturizing sprays. They are kind of a ridiculous product but they do feel really nice and cool going on. And they can be applied in the bathroom.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      We had sports Fridays at Exjob–it ticked me off because we weren’t supposed to wear graphic tees except for those with company logos, which left nerds who weren’t sports fans out completely. My subtle rebellion against the Empire was to wear my nerd shirts any time I damn well felt like it.

      I stopped worrying about it when I went into the HR coordinator’s office for an ADA meeting and she had on a BBT Sheldon t-shirt.

  6. Former Prof*

    1. I honestly am not sure it would be so bad for the coding engineer to wear the sheet mask; I assume it’s only for an hour? And if she’s in an office full of coders, who are busy coding, what would they care? It kind of depends on the office vibe. I could see a super-casual office, where you’re measured entirely by your output, where it really wouldn’t matter.
    2. I think the guy with the endless self-criticism is actually trying to drag the smarter woman down to his level. He’s turning HER achievements into something that’s about HIM. He’s trying to keep her back, to make it about him, to force her to constantly take care of him emotionally, to waste her time and energy–even if it isn’t overtly conscious on his part. It’s a kind of sub-rosa sexism. There’s no part of this that is remotely helpful to her. She should take no part in it. At all. She should smile brightly and thank him when he “compliments” her, and go on about her day. Her focus should be on what SHE needs and on HER work. She’ll soon leave him in the dust, anyway, and why waste emotional energy on a problem that has nothing to do with her or her undoubtedly bright future?

    1. JamieS*

      Re #2 I think that’s quite a stretch. We don’t even know for sure that OP is a woman. Even if OP is a woman that doesn’t make this guy’s behavior sexist. Obnoxiously self-deprecating to the point of annoyance yes but not sexist. The guy probably just has low self-esteem.

    2. attie*

      I’m a computer engineer in academia (double whammy of “professional norms? what are those?”) and I wouldn’t think twice about someone wearing a sheet mask at their desk. It’s entirely harmless, we all know we practically live here and barely get to go home anyway, and who wants to start their beauty routine at 2am when they’re about to drop dead?

      1. attie*

        On the other hand, some people in academia do think badly of you if you exhibit overt signs of caring about your appearance. So I still wouldn’t do it just in case one of my colleagues concludes I am insufficiently detached from superficialities…

    3. YoungTeach*

      1. As someone who frequently uses sheet masks, they only typically take a mac of 20 minutes. Not very long at all… if it’s a casual environment i don’t see the harm if it’s only occasionally… Personally, I’d ask someone higher up if it’s ok, with an explanation of why you desire to do such at work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Don’t ask a higher up if it’s okay! It’s going to reflect really badly on your judgment.

        My mind is being blown that there are people saying this would be okay to do. This is really not okay to do unless you’re in an incredibly unusual and quirky office. It would be like wearing a mud mask at work.

        1. ali*

          hahaha this is seriously cracking me up! i can barely wear one at home alone with a straight face and i truly cant imagine doing it at work literally ever. i am also having my mind blown by this.

          1. Mookie*

            I am deeply invested (emotionally rather than financially) in skincare but I just can’t do one of those masks. (A) because far too many contain irritants nowadays but mostly (B) because I feel like Leatherface the second I drape it on, like I’m walking around trying to go incognito by patching together my victims’s skin. Also, I’m a small person and they dwarf my fetal-y head and I have to crick my neck and go around blind without my eyeglasses for twenty minutes to keep them from slipping off and down my chest with a creepy slug slimetrail.

            The bulk of these commercial masks are delivering hydration, serums, and/or chemical exfoliants, and most liquid and cream products that deliver the same are not nearly as ostentatious. You can, actually, use a non-washable product any time you feel like it, provided it doesn’t make you look disruptively wet or goopy. You’ve got options here, LW. Save the wash-off treatments and masks for home. If you need a relaxing ritual and have access to a comparatively private or single-use bathroom, you could always wash your face, apply the product, and head back to your workspace.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              My main objection to these is definitely that I would expect the wearer to launch into a V-for-Vendetta style speech and then blow something up.

          2. Jesca*

            I have ones someone got me as a Christmas present. Its black. Scared the absolute hell out of my 10 year old son the first time I wore it. I doubt it would be less jarring for adults in a work place haha.

            1. teclatrans*

              And, like the 10 year old, I think a lot of us have no idea what they are. Sadly, I think this is a bad idea.

            2. RabbitRabbit*

              Google (or don’t, if you want to save your sanity/search history) “Dr. Jart rubber lover mask.”

              It’s a face mask for skincare. I swear. The packaging is horrifying.

          3. Allison*

            When I put on masks, or even face strips, on at home, I try to do it as privately as possible, avoiding contact with my roommate, or family, whoever I’m living with. I’d figure it’s going to make people feel uncomfortable at best, and at worst absolutely freaked out.

            1. Allison*

              Come to think about it, I wouldn’t wear a sheet or mud mask if I was working from home all by myself either. Appearance aside, a mask is for relaxing (like in the tub, or with a glass of wine and some TLC reality shows), and if I put one on I wouldn’t feel like doing any work.

          4. Sunshine on a cloudy day*

            I have a great picture of me in a sheet mask, holding my dog, who has a look of pure terror on her face. I figure if it terrifies my dog, then it’s not appropriate for my co-workers.

        2. Fake Eleanor*

          This is ultimately a variation of “can I perform grooming functions in public?” And the answer to that is almost always no, not without a goodly number of people being put off, even if they don’t come out and tell you so.

          Not as noisy as clipping your nails, but still more personal than I’d do in a shared space.

        3. Wintermute*

          I feel like this is a good point. Mud masks are used in cartoons to indicate when a character is “checked out” or “on vacation”, you know, in a comedy hero cartoon they kick in the villain’s door and he’s in a mud mask and carrying a tiki drink relaxing on a lounge chair, possibly with cucumber slices over his eyes.

          It’s a modern-day update of the hair curlers to indicate someone is decidedly not in Work Mode in the lexicon of cinematic visual shorthand.

          1. pope suburban*

            True. I did feel downright cinematic when I tried a sheet mask. Unfortunately, it’s because I looked a bit like Mason Verger.

            I would so not wear one at work.

        4. Lora*

          I know, right??? I practically die of embarrassment if someone else is in the restroom stall beside me where they can hear me doing my business, even though the door is closed and we are both pretending the other person doesn’t exist. Going to work with actual mud mask on my face would cause me to fall directly into hell, I am convinced.

          FWIW, I will never stop using St Ives Apricot Scrub. Dermatologists be damned, it’s the only thing that keeps adult acne AND that weirdly porous old people skin at bay.

          1. Allison*

            I was using a similar apricot scrub with white tea from Bath and Body Works, and I’m so sad because my last bottle is almost empty and they don’t sell it anymore. I’d been using it every day for 4 years, what will become of my skin now?

              1. RabbitRabbit*

                Good Genes did nothing for me above and beyond my normal AHA/BHA usage, even after over a month of usage. I’m glad I figured that out with a deluxe sample rather than dropping the $100/oz on a bottle of Good Genes, though.

            1. a-no*

              Slight de-rail here, but I switched to the Jack Black Face Buff from the apricot scrub and holy, it’s good. My face is like angel-bottom soft and my skin feels so refreshed, it is kinda minty though. You can get it in the men’s section at Sephora and probably a few other place. Way less ingredients then most ladies scrubs I looked at for the switch and my stupidly delicate skin hasn’t protested.

        5. MLB*

          I don’t get it either. I don’t care where you work, unless it’s in your own home, it would never be appropriate to wear a beauty mask in the office, I work in an office with 3 other people, and other than once a month we never see our client and my manager is super flexible and awesome, but I would never even THINK to ask if something like that was okay.

        6. Snargulfuss*

          A few months ago I went down this rabbit hole of Korean skincare regimes. I watched several dozen YouTube videos of people talking about the products they use – weird, I know, but oddly entertaining. Anyway, one of these presenters started a company selling Asian skincare products in the US, and one of the videos showed her and her co-founder wearing sheetmasks in their office. This, understandably, is one office where wearing sheet masks at work would be totally acceptable.

        7. Epsilon Delta*

          re:mind blown – Alison I think you are underestimating the IDGAF that comes with being a professional programmer!

          I mean, OP, DON’T wear the sheet mask… but I can see where it doesn’t seem that far out of place. We’ve got people wearing cold-shoulder tops and exposing their armpits and calves around here in the summer. And that’s “business casual.”

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            I think all the things you mentioned are miles away from a sheet mask though! (And..calves? But that’s normal, because skirts and dresses are perfectly appropriate. Unless you are thinking only of men and men’s calves?)

        8. oranges & lemons*

          I used to work in an office where you could probably get away with it, except that everyone else would likely either copy you or make fun of you forever. They’ve had weirder.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Naw dude, you can’t wear sheet masks at work! You can’t wear them in a movie theater, or on the sidewalk, or in any other public place that isn’t a spa, Sephora, a magazine where your beauty editor invited the person to the office to demonstrate for an article, or TV ad.

        And you definitely should not ask a higher up about it! It would be like getting a facial at work.

        It kind of cracks me up that folks are entertaining the idea of doing it at work. But if you’re serious, then I’m alarmed!

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          A movie theatre is dark though, so maybe you could get away with it?

          Unless you were staff at the movie theatre. That might startle the patrons.

          1. Engineer Woman*

            Yes, but how sanitary is it to open the packaging of the face mask and put it on your face after having munched on popcorn with the fake-buttery topping?

            Unless you’re talking about your home movie theatre: then by all means, pause the movie, face mask away!

        2. Kewlmom*

          PCBH, the lilt of your post reminded me of Dr. Seuss….
          You cannot wear sheet masks at work,
          your colleagues would then from you shirk, nor on the sidewalk, public places; so to do ‘d be quite disgracious. Not Sephora? Not a spa?  Not even with your Ma and Pa! Never in a movie theater, not at your work computer either!

      3. Sylvan*

        I don’t think so. Work isn’t the place for hygiene/skincare – that’s your bathroom at home – and also they look hilarious. When I used a charcoal mask earlier tonight, I closed the blinds and laughed whenever I saw my reflection.

    4. Gingerblue*

      I tend to agree on the self-flagellating coworker. That sounds like a whole lot of emotional labor he’s asking for, deliberately or not. I’ve had a colleague like this, and it was exhausting. In the case of my fellow grad student/eventual colleague, it was clearly coming from a place of profound anxiety that had more to do with her than with me, and she approached conversations with everyone like this. I eventually just started ignoring the compliments if there was any other content to reply to. (I also took to avoiding her whenever possible.)

      Her: “Oh my god, your llama is so pretty! Look at all the ribbons! I could never groom my llama so perfectly! You have such an awesome future in llama grooming and I’m going to flunk out and be miserable for the rest of my life!”
      Me: “So the library got these new llama ribbons in. I really like the blue ones.”
      Her: “Of course you found some awesome, wonderful ribbons that match your llama’s eyes so perfectly! I never even thought to try that color; I am such a failure and will never amount to anything. Maybe my llamas should just trample me.”
      Me: “Getting a good match is so satisfying. Scuse me, gotta run to the library to footnote a couple of 4th century alpaca combs before lunch.”

      It felt incredibly rude the first couple of times, but she rarely seemed to mind; I think she needed to get it out more than she needed someone to reply to it. It was kind of background noise you had to ignore in order to keep a conversation moving forward instead of circling round and round her and her anxieties.

    5. TL -*

      Honestly, though, even in a super casual office, you’re going to be judged by more than just your output. And maybe nothing will come of it in a super casual office, but maybe something will. And if the office you’re in is so casual that you think a mask is acceptable, I doubt anyone will say you’ve overstepped; most likely the repercussions will be in nearly invisible ways – your boss doesn’t think of you as “conference material” so never suggestions one, or doesn’t put you in front the higher ups unless absolutely necessary, so your other coworker gets more face time. Or your reference hesitates before stammering through an answer about how well you adhere to social norms, and the hiring manager goes with the other candidate instead.

      Most of the time when people are punished for not adhering to small social norms, it happens very insidiously.

    6. Mookie*

      He’s turning HER achievements into something that’s about HIM.

      No doubt, there are people who play this game for validation or because they have a compulsion to advertise and air their insecurities. When I’ve seen this happen in person, however, my impression is often that the speaker is aggrieved (they are being outshone in a world that owes them the only spotlight and where they are accustomed to being the best) or is being backhanded (in that they didn’t initially have high hopes for the compliment-receiver’s skills and talents). Often that’s NOT what’s being communicated, but the co-worker should realize why the ambiguities of this makes it a dangerous game.

      1. lost academic*

        I don’t know. My brother is this person to the point he’ll even respond that way in interviews. He is simply deeply anxious (some of it is PTSD) and truly believes he is inferior. It doesn’t have anything to do with bringing attention to himself (which he hates in all forms) or dealing with not being the best – he’s truly delighted when people around him succeed in all ways, outside of this he has an irrepressibly cheerful nature.

    7. sap*

      OP2, I think this might be right if you work somewhere that provides things like nap rooms and on-site swimming to their employees. But if you work as a coder in an environment that isn’t clearly telegraphing “relax here” with something like a nap bed, the casual environment of most startups/tech companies is not this casual. Also, if you’re a woman and you’re in a male-dominated office, this is still probably a bad idea even if you have nap spaces because of sexism.

  7. Al Lo*

    I’ve definitely worn rollers to work before, but then again, it was backstage before a show.

    I feel like it might be less inappropriate to wear a sheet mask on your lunch break, rather than as a post-lunch ritual.

    Also, I now want to take a sheet mask to work tomorrow to try it out.

    1. Anony*

      On your lunch break in your office with the door closed could work. It is your time and no one will see. If someone can see you though it is probably a bad idea.

  8. KWu*

    I feel like the “rule” you’d go by on the sheet mask question is whether you would do this in public. So if you’re working somewhere where there’s a low but nonzero chance someone would see you with the sheet mask on, then no. What if you were working from a private office or conference room though and you could apply and remove the mask while in the room, and you knew that no one would come in?

    1. Todd Chrisley Knows Best*

      I feel like this runs the risk of being worse. What if there’s a fire, or some sort of emergency evacuation? A boss barges in? Being so isolated I think it could look a lot like the LW spends a lot of time goofing off. It’s also going to be startling (and even traumatic maybe for some) for anyone who catches a glimpse of OP with it on.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I’m not pro-sheet-masks-at-work, but this is the second comment I’ve seen about a fire and I find it confusing–If there’s a fire or evacuation you could take the mask off in less than a second. Honestly the hard part is usually getting them to *stay on* until you’re finished.

        1. Michaela T*

          Yeah, isn’t that the deal with them? That they’re easier to put on and take off than non-sheet masks?

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Yes, but they leave a residue, or so I’m told (I’ve never tried one but I’ve been thinking about it so I’ve done some reading). The residue is moist and/or goopy, depending on the type you’re using. The column that Alison linked talked about how happy the writer was that the residue on one disappeared “by the next morning.” So it’s not like “Whip that mask off and all the evidence disappears.”

            Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a beauty treatment. You shouldn’t do it in the office.

            1. sap*

              They leave a residue but you can wipe it off in another 5 seconds with your sleeve. There’s really no risk that an emergency will leave you standing on the street with your sheet masks on, and the residue would dry by the time you got done evacuating anyway–it doesn’t leave like a layer of yellow goop on your face, it leaves small patches of clear liquid that would be indistinguishable from sweat, if someone didn’t bother taking 5 seconds to blot it.

          2. Peggy*

            I use sheet masks at home once a week and while I think it would be kind of silly to do one at work, it would take a fraction of a second to pull it off and wipe your face. the residue that’s left after you pull the mask off is like you just put on moisturizer. Rub it in or wipe it off, maybe 4 seconds max. The worst that could happen if there was a fire would be someone might go, “hey did you just put on moisturizer?” Not really a big deal.

            While I am of the “don’t do this at work because it’s odd and you might as well just do it when you get home” camp, there aren’t any big dramatic reasons why you can’t do it at work. You open the pack, put it on your face, leave for 10-20 min, and then take it off and throw it in the trash. I’ve worn them while driving before! :)

            1. sap*

              I’d be afraid about the obstruction of my peripheral vision when driving, personally, but maybe your face is shaped differently than mine and you don’t have it bag at the corner of your eyes?

              1. Peggy*

                Nope, not at all.

                I think there are a lot of us on this thread who use different brands or types of sheet masks because I see a lot of comments that I find confusing – about them being bulky or goopy or scary or hard to take off. The ones I use are thin and stretchy, soft and moist – they fit onto my face like a glove and I can form them around my eyes, nose, mouth, hairline, and chin so they stay put. They don’t move, they aren’t flappy, they don’t fall off, and they don’t leave a residue – they just leave my face moisturized. You might not even notice I’m wearing one if you’re more than 10 feet away, they’re basically the color of my skin.

      2. Mr. Rogers*

        The idea of it being traumatic for people to see another person in a sheet mask, even unexpectedly, is honestly hilarious to me. I know the OP made a joke about it looking like she’s wearing human skin, but it actually doesn’t look like that at all. It might be awkward and look unprofessional, but that’s very different!

  9. JKP*

    I had no idea what a sheet mask was until I clicked the link. I initially imagined an actual sheet draped over the programmer and their computer, like a kid’s fort. I wondered if this was the new solution to open plan offices.

    1. Kewlmom*

      This is genius! Affords some privacy and maybe even some insulation from cold/flu germs in an open office space!

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      So I totally know what a sheet mask is, but I had the same visual that you did! I was like, “like a snuggie? Like a backwards ghost?” because the idea of wearing an actual (cosmetic/skincare) sheet mask did not even register as a possibility to me. I will say that I liked the idea of a backwards ghost.

      1. sap*

        I had this reaction too! Sheet masks are for the 20 minutes of reading in bed before turning off the lights!

      2. Ann Onimous*

        Ever since I cam back from a trip to Korea, I’m in LOVE with sheet masks, and use them regularly. But my first thought still went to Halloween ghost costume.

        I also work in IT, with a very casual dress code (i.e. at least wear some sort of pants). And we all have weird quirks here. Still a sheet mask would definitely raise more than a few eyebrows. I’m picturing myself wearing a sheet mask at work, smiling blandly at bemused colleagues: “Yes, this is your friendly neighborhood serial killer. How may I assist you today?” :P

    3. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      I would totally do this, with my old school folders and 90’s style pencilcases.

      1. Lora*

        I am one of the people who buys ALL the pretty notebooks and folders at Staples because I miss my Trapper Keeper ever so much and would get way too much side-eye at work if I actually had any Lisa Frank things in my office.

      1. Lora*

        Have known folks who built forts out of cardboard boxes around their desks in open plan offices. One dude decorated his like a castle, made little flags out of sticky notes.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            Cool! Like Les Nessman (for those who don’t know: a character in the late, great show WKRP in Cincinnati – google “Les Nessman office” and you’ll see what I mean), but on steroids.

      2. Pebbles*

        For a work holiday cube-decorating contest, I turned my cube into a gingerbread house using cardboard, cotton for snow, and candies/gumdrops glued on. It even had a door and a roof with a skylight. Inside were Christmas lights, wrapping paper, and tinsel. Sadly I did not win.

    4. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      I totally thought it was one of those medical masks people wear to keep from getting the flu, until I read the letter!

      1. teclatrans*

        Yes, I was envisioning a medical mask that somehow draped over your entire head. I couldn’t figure out what the added benefit would be; the one significant orifice it would cover is the nose, but why would an hour or so at your desk be useful if you had all the other hours without it??

  10. HannahS*

    OP4, this kind of behaviour is exhausting and uncomfortable, and I feel your pain. I realize that people who do this are doing it because they’re not coping well with their own anxiety and insecurities, but I’m also currently dealing with a peer who responded to some very gentle (and solicited!) feedback about constantly eliciting reassurance by throwing a temper tantrum and trying very hard to get me in trouble…so I’m not feeling too charitable towards this kind of thing at the moment. I find I wind up getting really irritated at this kind of behaviour because they’re putting me in an awkward position where they’ve offered me a compliment that isn’t grounded in reality, where accepting their compliment means agreeing to insult them, and where there’s now a social expectation for me to reassure them and do all kinds of emotional labour to make them feel better.

    I’d say, do none of the above, and make your only response a neutral “There’s no need to insult yourself, John” and then immediately segue back to what you were talking about before. Don’t accept the compliment, but don’t deny it. Don’t agree that he’s awful at his job, but don’t deny it. Take away any sense that you’re a soothing person for him to outsource emotional labour to. If he argues back that he wasn’t insulting himself! It’s all true! Wait, no, he’s only kidding!–I think it’s fine to say something like “Well, they don’t sound like jokes, and you do it a lot.” Or a gentler “Well, if anyone else said that about you, even as a joke, I’d tell them to knock it off, too.” In the words of Captain Awkward, return the awkwardness to sender.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I think these are really great responses – and I’m sorry to hear about your ridiculous colleague.

      I also think it could be worth being really direct about the problem and saying something like: “You weren’t to know, but it’s really difficult for me when you say things like that, because you’re basically asking me to join you in ganging up on yourself, and that feels quite uncomfortable for me. If you’d like feedback on your work, I’ll happily tell you why I think you do a great job. But I’m not able to keep responding to these sorts of comments where you criticise yourself. I know some people struggle with imposter syndrome, and I’m sorry you aren’t feeling confident about your work, but I did want to let you know I’m not going to continue responding to comments like these.”

      1. HannahS*

        Thanks! I complained about him at length last Friday and have since learned more from someone else about what’s underlying some of his behaviour (severe anxiety and panic attacks that developed following extensive drug use earlier in life) which on the one hand oof that sucks for him, and on the other we’re in medical school and he has less than a year before we’re faced with circumstances much more challenging than “my peer gave me constructive criticism I didn’t agree with” and also he’s in his thirties.

        You know, I missed that the OP is the team lead, and might actually be pretty well positioned to have a more meta-style talk with this guy.

        1. HannahS*

          And actually (sorry for rambling at you; I can’t sleep!) it all lines up pretty well between this guy, my guy, and people like Amy-who-had-cancer-and-an-ED from earlier this week. Sometimes, people have real, serious problems that they don’t deal with well. It’s a mistake to view them without compassion, but it’s also a mistake to think that being compassionate means allowing them to behave however they are, or shielding them from the consequences of their behaviour. It might hurt this guy’s feelings to be told to stop (and obviously, my guy was really upset by it too), but ultimately it’s a kindness to him to teach him that his behaviour is not appropriate.

        2. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

          I remember your thread, that guy is going to be eaten alive in the real world. Strangely enough I had to deal with a student this week who has the same issues. It’s exhausting.

          1. HannahS*

            Right?! It’s so tiring, and I think it can cause a lot of doubt, because when I set a boundary it’s like, “Am I being uncompassionate? Am I convincing myself that this is for their benefit because I find them really annoying?” but it IS for their benefit. You’re doing such a service to your student by trying to help them.

            1. Observer*

              While I agree that it is generally to their benefit to have this response, I also think that it really doesn’t matter. Because even if it doesn’t wind up helping that person, it’s still perfectly legitimate and totally NOT selfish to set a reasonable boundary around behavior like this.

      2. Reba*

        Yes, I agree it’s time to name the pattern with this coworker!

        I’d say something like, “It’s hard for me when you do this negative self-talk, like (example). It puts me in an awkward position *and* it distracts from getting on with our work or talking about projects in a productive way. I’m letting you know that I’m not going to engage in those going forward, and I hope that you’ll try to curb those comments.”

  11. Berry*

    I still love the Queen Helene mint julip mask, didn’t realize it was “old-timey” haha!

    Kind of a caveat question about sheet mask usage (I was thinking about this recently, though it’s been purely hypothetical).
    Sometimes people use sheet masks when traveling on airplanes, especially as that air dries out skin – yeah it’s weird but if you’re just staying in your seat it’s 10-15 minutes so not too bad. If you’re traveling for work with coworkers (so, professional-ish, but also you’re on a plane and not expressly working at that moment), are sheet masks still a bad idea?

    (I guess this question falls into the realm of what habits are weird and what habits are okay when traveling for work, something I haven’t done myself yet.)

    1. YoungTeach*

      I’d say it depends on how long three flight is and if you’re around higher ups or just peers in your company/org…

      1. EW*

        16 hour flight to China, on plane with peers, boss, and grand boss? Please weigh in.

        Does it make a difference if no one is sitting near you (the plane is huge)?

        I typically fly solo cause I live in a different city, but for this China trip they wanted everyone on the same flight, so I have an added 6 hours of travel time on the front end to get to their city.

        1. Etak*

          Every time I fly to China from my East Coast City, I bust out the sheets masks. I get horrible dry skin/swelling so for me it worth looking like a maniac. Also, the whole reason I found out about sheet masks 5+ years ago, was a flight from nyc to beijing where my Chinese seatmate pulled out her own sheet mask and offered me one. Look around on the flight and I bet you’ll see a few.

          1. Mike C.*

            Try and fly on a Dreamliner if you can. The carbon fiber fuselage allows for a much lower pressurization altitude and much higher humidity than a more typical aluminum fuselage.

            1. JessaB*

              I had no idea about this. This is amazing information. Is the type of plane info available on the carrier websites?

            2. EW*

              Delta doesn’t have any in their fleet :( I fly almost exclusively Delta. I did get to fly in one on British Airways and it was so lovely. I worked on the plane design back in college so it was an extra special treat.

              The other reason it’s higher humidity is because the cabin air and the electronic cooling air are two separate systems. Most airplanes don’t add in extra humidity because it would do damage to the electronics.

        2. Ophelia*

          I miiiight do it, but if so, I’d wait until the lights are off and it’s time to “sleep.” That said, I do have to take a decent number of long-haul flights for work, sometimes with colleagues, and I just bring good toiletries on the plane, and wash my face with a fancy wipe/put on moisturizer in the bathroom quickly at “bedtime” and “morning” before landing.

          (My other pro-tip re: dry air is to bring a little bottle of saline nose spray, and use it every time you go to the bathroom – I find keeping my nose hydrated means at least 50% fewer travel colds)

        3. nonymous*

          if you’re worried about how the skin mask looks, try finding a clear moisturizer that’s extra thick. I sat next to someone who did this (it looked like she had a layer of Vaseline on her face). Not creepy at all, but you lose any benefit of having a made up (makeup) appearance.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      I’d say no. Bring some face moisturizer and apply it in the airplane bathroom, and do the sheet mask in the privacy of your employer-paid hotel room that night.

      On the other hand, if your employer is cheap and making you share a hotel room, go ahead and wear a sheet mask in front of your roommate… I think it’s fine to do any kind of normal beauty/hygiene routine that doesn’t produce intense smells or prevent your coworker from accessing the bathroom for 90 minutes in the morning.

    3. hbc*

      I’d say a good rule of thumb is to avoid doing stuff in public that you wouldn’t want everyone and anyone in the world to see. If you’re calculating how far away your coworker is and what the chances are that they’d pass by on the way to the restroom, that’s a sign that you shouldn’t be doing it, period.

    4. WellRed*

      I don’t think grooming should be done in public spaces, especially close quarters like a plane. Don’t paint your nails, tweeze your eyebrows or apply a sheet mask (which I find runny and drippy). And keep your shoes on and your feet down.

      1. EW*

        A lot of these norms go out the window on an overnight flight. I’m not wearing shoes on a plane for 6+ hours, sorry. I’d also apply makeup on a plane where I wouldn’t consider that acceptable in most other public places.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Yes, exactly. I’d tried using those water facial sprays on my last flight from Asia, and it helped, but not enough. I’ve been seriously considering breaking out the sheet mask on my next flight over. My skin just looks awful after one of those flights–dry and tired.

        2. Ophelia*

          Agreed. If I’m spending 11.5 hours in economy, I am wearing slipper socks and doing whatever else I can to be comfortable, as long as it isn’t loud, overly scented, or otherwise obtrusive into someone else’s space. If I have to go right from said miserable long-haul to a meeting, especially if getting picked up by someone affiliated with work at the airport, I am definitely doing my makeup on the plane. I think the rules for short flights are way different – but long-haul overnight flights occupy a weird liminal social space.

        3. JessaB*

          Yeh it’s no longer about grooming but about health. It’s about not having skin so dry you get a bruise or skin tear. It’s about being healthy when you get off the plane. And I’d totally go onboard with a clear face and put makeup on before I landed if I needed makeup on the other end of the trip that is. We no longer live in the fancy suits and dresses and stockings and heeled shoes and hats and gloves just to board an airplane. It’s understood that incredibly long flights are no longer “special occasions,” but a necessity of life. Anyone who got upset at me using a masque or putting those gel moisturising socks on my feet on a flight of more than 3 hours, is going to get some serious side eye. It’s a fact of flying that your skin dries out, that you can get nauseous from dehydration if you’re not careful, that you can get blood clots etc. Heck I don’t even do an 8 hour drive somewhere sitting down where I don’t get a shot to prevent clots. I’d need to take one to get on a flight that long.

        4. Mr. Rogers*

          Since it sounds like you’re fine going sans-makeup for most of the flight, I would recommend using a sleeping “mask” instead! Instead of a sheet mask, it’s more of a super moisturizing lotion that’s meant to be worn overnight to fully sink in. You’ll look a little extra oily but they’re great protection, and you don’t have to worry about looking particularly odd.

    5. Lauren*

      My mom still uses it too! I always said she looked like the wicked witch of the west with it on and just needed a black hat to complete the look. In retrospect, I really should have used it when I went as a witch on Halloween as a kid … live, learn, making my future kid do this on Halloween while I can still control his/her costumes!

    6. Casuan*

      My first thought re sheet masks on a flight with colleagues was “No.”
      After reading comments my thought is changed to wondering if wearing a sheet mask, especially on a long-haul flight, is really so different than other accommodations?
      These days, many people wear compression socks & surgical masks, so is a sheet mask really any different?

      On a flight, if my colleague donned a sheet mask I think I’d be impressed by one’s confidence to do so… & secretly I’d hope one would offer one for me to try.
      However, in an office setting I still don’t think it’s appropriate because the conditions aren’t as… um… pressurized?… as on an airplane. (not trying to be funny; I just can’t think of how best to phrase what I mean)

  12. neverjaunty*

    OP #2 – take a shorter lunch break and do your post-mask ritual in a private area (maybe reserve a conference room) during the extra time.

      1. Peggy*

        Why is it better to sit with a cosmetic mask on your face in Starbucks than in a private conference room at work? I think that’s a thousand times weirder.

        1. Lynca*

          I’ll be honest. It’s equally as weird as reserving a conference room to do a facial treatment. I get they’re really nice (I like them) but this is something I’d only do in the privacy of my home/hotel room/etc. because it’s super outside the norm to do it elsewhere.

          1. neverjaunty*

            I don’t see how it’s equally weird? Personally I don’t think the LW should save the facials for home, but since she’s basically said she’s going to do it anyway, her least bad option is to find somewhere relatively private.

            1. Sheet Mask OP*

              Where did I say I’m going to do it anyway? I was on the fence leaning no going in, and am definitely on the side of no now (unless I can turn it into a team activity)

              1. neverjaunty*

                I am super in favor of suggesting facials as a team activity, especially if you work in the kind of office where the team building activities proposed lean heavily bro.

            2. Lynca*

              I honestly don’t know what to say other that I find it weird (and unprofessional) to want to wear a facial mask out in public/during work.

              If the bosses actually do have an issue with it (and we don’t know that they don’t), using a conference room to get alone time to use the mask would likely make the outcome worse.

          2. Anony*

            I wouldn’t reserve a conference room for it. Using conference rooms for a beauty regimen is really weird and could be seen as extra unprofessional because not only are you doing it at work, you are preventing other people from using the the conference room so that you can have privacy for grooming.

            1. Peggy*

              Well that really varies from office to office. The floor of my office that I sit on has an open desk environment but many people work remotely or are in meetings all day, and I’m in a corner so I can sometimes go hours without seeing a person. We also have 20+ focus rooms plus conference rooms with anywhere to 3-25 seats, and that’s just my floor. If I wanted some me time at work and i sat in a focus room, and I sat on a couch and put Netflix on my laptop and put on a sheet mask, A) no one would know, B) it wouldn’t be anyone’s business but mine because when I take a break, that’s my time.

              You can’t assume that every person works in an environment where conference rooms are in limited supply and taking private time in one during a break would be disrupting someone else’s work or seen as slacking. At my office we go into rooms for breaks and personal calls all the time, it’s the norm. Many of us work 10-12 hour days to accommodate multiple time zones and some people blow off steam by playing video games or ping pong for a little while during the day. If you have a PRIVATE space to do a 20 minute moisturizing routine, I say go for it if you’d enjoy it and have the time.

              I wouldn’t do it at your desk, and that’s really just because people would think it was weird. I wouldn’t want a reputation of being the weirdo – no one thinks highly of the person who clips their nails at their desk or microwaves fish or takes loud personal calls, and I think sheet mask at desk might veer into this territory.

              I said above that I was against it but now I’m rethinking it. If you can do it in private on your break time, why not.

      2. Jule*

        Oh, no, please don’t anyone do this where people are eating. They’re wet with chemical solution. That’s not cool.

      3. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

        Please don’t, especially if the Starbucks has only 2 single room bathrooms and these things take 20 minutes. The one I go to is in the same parking lot as a yoga place. The amount of people who come in, use the bathroom to change / put on makeup / whatever after yoga drives me insane because, quite honestly, I have to pee! Use the room to do your bathroom business and another place, aka the yoga studio, to change and do stuff there.

    1. Sheet Mask OP*

      Good idea re: doing it over lunch. I like to walk over to the park during lunch in nice weather anyway, I suppose I could lay out with a mask on my face. Bonus: it should block some UV rays.

  13. AcademiaNut*

    I do coding in a STEM based research institute, so the standards for dress are about as low as they can be and still require you to wear pants. But a face mask would be too much.

  14. Jessica*

    Well, once again I have learned something new on AAM. Thanks for the link, Alison! I have used all kinds of other facial masks but didn’t know about this sheet mask thing. After reading the headline, I was just delightfully relieved to learn that this letter-writer did not have KKK coworkers.

    1. YoungTeach*

      I think they’re more commonly used in the East. I didn’t see any until I moved to Asia and now they’re common place for me, though I still never see any when I visit family in the states…

        1. Miso*

          That might explain why I knew what it was.
          I have almost no clue about all that cosmetics and beauty products stuff, but I knew right away what a sheet mask is – but then again I watch tons of Korean shows, so…

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      My first thought was Klan hoods too! So glad it’s not, so we can have a much more chill comment section than if it had been about actual sheets.

      1. Sheet Mask OP*

        I’m SHOCKED at the number of people who are somehow thinking it’s klan hoods! Tech really does have a bad rap these days…

    3. Slartibartfast*

      My first thought was KKK hood? No that can’t be right…( Also relieved mine isn’t the only brain that went there)
      Kid’s fort for an open office sounds awesome though. My son has a fort kit that’s basically foot long tinker toys that you throw a sheet over, made by Discovery Kids. They get a lot of use.

  15. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    Possibly stupid question – what is the purpose of a sheet mask? I’ve never heard of it before.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Similar to any other type of skin mask — they deliver various things to your skin — most commonly moisture, but some have various types of serums in them to improve your skin in different ways (some target acne, etc.).

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          I will say that whatever the reason, my skin looks way better after I use a sheet mask. The ones I use calm redness and add moisture, and I can definitely tell a difference (albeit temporary) after I use one.

      1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

        Ah, OK. And thank you for the link that explains what it is. I saw the picture and was none the wiser! They look slightly creepy and I can’t see myself using one – I hate the feeling of something on my face, which is one reason I never wear makeup.

          1. JessaB*

            Oh I never thought about them after being out in the very cold. Yeh that would help prevent chapping or heal some if you were already. great idea. Stealing this.

    2. Kc89*

      And the point of it being in a sheet is that theoretically it allows the ingredients to sink deeper into the skin since the sheet acts as a barrier and helps to prevent the ingredients from quickly evaporating.

      1. Mookie*

        Right, that does seem to be the purpose. But, really, any looser occlusive could do the same and would be far less noticeable, except when very close to the user’s face.

  16. CA Teacher*

    OP3: I think it is beyond fine to express your desire to grow within the classroom environment. I have no plans to go into admin, as I don’t see that as being a promotion, I see it as being a different job (and not the job I want). I love being in the classroom and making the daily connections with my students, and think that there is NO shame to indicate that this is what you plan on doing with your career at this point.

    1. YoungTeach*

      I agree with this. I used to say I wanted to eventually get a higher degree and go into higher ed just to look more ambitious, but once I started admitting that I just want to stay an elementary teacher the only comments I’ve gotten are “you must really care about these kids/your work!” Which certainly isn’t untrue!

    2. VioletEMT*

      I don’t think not wanting to move into administration is lack of ambition. You want to be a master teacher. That is something that I’d think admins would want, someone who isn’t using the job as a stepping stone, but rather as a place to further hone their craft. It’s admirable.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        I agree, I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with your aspirations being to stay in the classroom. I also don’t see this as a lack of ambition. It’s more a recognition of your strengths and what you love. I would emphasize it that way in an interview.
        I’m not in classroom education but there are times when hiring when I do NOT want to hire the super ambitious candidate for a variety of reasons. I was interviewing last summer for an entry-level librarian position and one candidate, who was less than 6 months from receiving his library degree, stated that his goal was to be a Dean at an academic library. He came off as extremely out of touch to the entire committee and did not progress to the next round of interviews.

      2. Em*

        Exactly what I was going to say. Your ambition is to become a master/expert teacher. Or maybe your future goals are to increase your mastery of different subjects or grade levels.

    3. Media Monkey*

      i also think this is totally fine to say. one of the teachers at my daughter’s school is amazing. she is the head of the stage (in the UK, primary/ elementary schools are divided into infants/ key stage 1/ key stage 2) and deputy head of the school. she has been asked to apply for the head teacher post so many times but she says then she’d not be able to be in the classroom and that’s what she got into teaching to do. no one thinks less of her as a result. one her admin days where there is another teacher taking her class so that she can do all of the deputy head/ stage stuff, she gets really lonely without the kids and sneaks back into the class to see and chat to them.

    4. Sans*

      Exactly what I say. I’ve basically had the same title for over 30 years, but for different companies. But my role has grown more complex, more independent, more varied. And I’m happy with that. I don’t want to be a manager. I want to do what I do — and be recognized as being very, very good at what I do. So when I’m asked what my goals are, I say I want to keep growing within my role. I mention things I’d like to learn about. And even though I’m in a corporate environment that prizes ambition and moving up, that seems to work. People are happy with my work, they give me more responsibility within my role, and I’m happy with what I do.

      I’ve seen people say they want to be a manager just because they think that’s what they are supposed to do. And then they are given duties that don’t really fit them and take them away from what they really want to do. Don’t do that. Be true to your real goals.

      1. Irene Adler*

        Thank you for this. I’ve been interviewing for jobs and they all get hung up on the fact that I’m not corporate ladder-minded. I want to learn and grow in a position where I can do things, not direct others on how to do things. You’ve given me a way to convey this so I don’t look like a loser/slacker.

  17. Turtle Candle*

    I have to confess that I didn’t know the word for ‘sheet mask’ (though I know the thing–I got one as a gift in a Japanese hotel and have never looked back), and my first image was of you dressing up in a ghost-wearing-a-sheet-with-holes-cut-for-eyes and wearing that to work. And I was AMAZED and WANTED TO HEAR MORE.

    My current coworkers: if you want to dress up as sheet ghosts, please do. It would make me so happy.

  18. Cambridge Comma*

    OP1, there are two versions of Google Translate. In the one for professional translators, you can (clunkily) do the editing work in the app and it learns from your edits. You might want to find out whether the simple version of Google translate incorporates this learning. There’s a chance that the translation is the same after she’s done the work because she’s the one who taught it.
    Another way to test, if you have the text before she does the translation, is to run it through then, save that version and compare.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      Another question — translators usually translate into their native language only. Is Jane a native speaker?

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m so glad you asked this because I was wondering the same. If she’s fluent in Spanish but not a native speaker, she should arguably only be translating from Spanish.

        1. Junior Dev*

          I really disagree with this. The dividing line is whether you’re fluent, not whether you grew up speaking it. Native speaker does not mean the same thing as fluent speaker.

          I get that there are different levels of fluency but it is quite possible to learn a second (or greater) language well enough that you have an intuitive sense of idioms, connotations, and what sounds right.

          1. bookartist*

            Be that as it (possibly) may, the industry standard is native fluency.

            OP1, I wonder if Jane is using Google Translate as a poor man’s translation memory? If your company doesn’t make translation software available, she may be using the Google tool to ‘store’ her standard phrases. That doesn’t excuse the lack of editing (although, again, I understand industry standard is to have someone else edit your translation so maybe your company doesn’t have the optimal process in place) but it may be a somewhat legit use of the Google tool.

            1. rudster*

              Google Translate doesn’t “store” anything, unless they already have it in whatever corpus the suggestion came from. It never actually sees any edits that you make to the GT suggestion, unless you use the “improve this translation” feature, though that would be a silly thing to do for many reasons (confidentiality of your text, not to mention helping Google to put translators out work sooner, etc.). That said, there’s nothing inherently wrong with using GT as a rough pre-translation/draft, but it does require extensive post-editing (not just “editing” – no sane translator would ever take a GT post-editing job at typical editing rates) in order to come even close to customer-facing quality.
              I also wonder how this translation operation is organized. If it’s just “let’s save on professional translations by having the ‘bilinguals’ in the office do them when they have some free time”, that’s doomed to produce terrible results.

                1. rudster*

                  That may be. There are also several free CAT/Translation Memory tools that can be used if the company doesn’t want to provide them. Some are browser-based so no installations are necessary (in case IT wants to make trouble about it).

          2. rudster*

            Just because most native English are terrible writers (and would therefore be terrible translators), it doesn’t follow that being a native speaker is not a condition for performing quality translations. It’s certainly not the only condition, but in almost all cases it’s a necessary one. While someone might think that with (hypothetical example) their BA in Spanish and a few years in Spain or Mexico their written Spanish is now “fluent”, but it would probably still get red-lined to heck by a professional Spanish editor.

            1. Scarlet*

              This. I’ve lost track of the number of (self-proclaimed) “fluent” people I’ve met whose writing reads like a bad translation. There’s a pretty big gap between speaking fluently and writing fluently. The latter is much harder.

              1. AnnaleighUK*

                Agreed, I am marrying a Frenchman and he can speak English perfectly but his writing isn’t great. He ends up dictating things he wants to write down into a voice recorder then typing them up, which makes more sense to him because he is writing as he speaks. Maybe that could be a solution for others in the same position.

              2. Lora*


                Have received official business communications from people who were perfectly easy to understand on the phone, but their writing was so atrocious I actually thought it must be some kind of overseas scam trying to mis-direct payments. This was a huge multinational company you’ve heard of, who had acquired one of our vendors and was trying to tell us how to re-set our payment information. I called the sales contact asking what in heck even was this nonsense, and he was like, “yeah…” He didn’t have English as a first language himself, but his written communication was always so carefully done that it was clear this was coming from a professional business and not a long lost Nigerian prince.

                I speak, read and write several languages, and they all have a certain style to them which you have to translate on top of the language itself in order to get the correct meaning across. It’s hard for non-native speakers to get that style correct: French has a lot more descriptors than other languages, German has a lot of meaning in word order and context than other languages, Spanish has many unique colloquialisms depending on whether you’re in Spain, South America or the Caribbean…

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              This. Especially when you’re doing technical writing. There’s an argument to be made for, for example, literature translation that having a translation hark back to the original language/culture has value, but technical writing does not have that.

            3. Kathleen_A*

              I know two non-native English speakers who are so fluent that you truly can’t tell they aren’t native speakers. One moved to the U.S. (from Austria) when she was about 8, so it’s not surprising that she’s fluent, but the other (a native of Sweden) never lived in an English-speaking country until she was in college, and you’d never, ever guess it, not in a million years. And both can write, too – the first is good and the second is *excellent*…

              …But they are so amazing (particularly the *really* good writer from Sweden) that they really illustrate how very rare this is. So I can see where the industry standard came from.

              1. Someone else*

                My experience is that it is extremely common for people in Scandinavian countries to know English, from a very early age. Many are essentially as a bilingual as someone who moved to an English-speaking country at age 5, but continued using both languages, nearly equally, to adulthood. So your Swedish colleague does not surprise me. But that’s nowhere near as common elsewhere.

                1. Kathleen_A*

                  I’ve known other people from Scandinavian countries who were extremely fluent, but I don’t know anyone else who is so fluent that she has literally *no* non-native accent and writes so fluently that you’d never guess she hadn’t grown up and got her journalism degree here. She used to freelance for me sometimes so I’ve edited many of her stories, and I can think of only one – one! – mistake that even hinted she wasn’t born and raised here, and that was when she spelled the name of a country the way they generally spell it in Sweden rather than the way it’s spelled here. (She spelled “New Zealand” with “Zee” instead of “Zea-“, which is apparently how it’s spelled in Sweden.) But even there, if her spelling hadn’t otherwise been so perfect, I wouldn’t even have thought twice. I would have just assumed it was an error. But since I knew she didn’t make that sort of error, I knew there had to be a reason for it.

                  That said, it takes more than great fluency to be an actual, professional translator.

              2. Hikers*

                I think 8 is early enough to acquire native-level fluency. I’m Russian and moved to the US when I was 10, and my written English is excellent and spoken English unclockable. My spoken Russian is also pretty good, but I could never translate into Russian – I tend to struggle when the conversation strays from regular topics, such as when I had to explain what I do for work to my grandmother. That has been the experience of other immigrants in our community.

                1. Julia*

                  The Critical Age Hypothesis says that children before ages 8, maybe 10, definitely before puberty, have a high chance of acquiring a new language like their first one, if they have sufficient exposure.

                  Bilingual theories say that most people have a dominant language, but this can mean you have a dominant language depending on the topic, so e.g. you could be better at writing in English because you learned how to write in English. There’s also the theory of semi-lingualism that you could look up if you were interested.

          3. TL -*

            Writing is so much more complex than speaking, though. With speaking you have tone, pauses, facial expressions, and (for non-native speakers) often accents that “smooth out” awkward phrases and suboptimal word choices – you just don’t need to be as deliberate to produce a nuanced product when you’re speaking.
            In writing, the bar is much, much higher. And it’s much more unpleasant for the reader if the text is “off.” That’s why there’s UK and USA versions of Harry Potter; it’s not because Americans can’t figure out that “loo” means bathrooms, it’s that it’s quite jarring and almost subliminally unpleasant to read something that just doesn’t quite evoke what it’s meant to.

            1. JessaB*

              It’s also the reason why character names in Harry Potter change due to the language of the translation. Tom Elvis Jedusor becomes Je suis Voldemort in a way that Tom Marvolo Riddle won’t. The names are incredibly important in their meanings. Nearly every name she gave someone meant something in the language used. Normally I’d throw a fit and say look a French reader can understand I am Lord Voldemort, but it really doesn’t work for some of the other names. Professor Sprout is Chourave in French for instance. Those are the ones off my head, but there are websites that compare this stuff and it’s fascinating when you’re using character names that specifically have meaning (Lupin, Umbridge, etc. oh and were Lupin’s parents psychic or something I mean Remus Lupin turning out to be a werewolf is pretty naff.)

          4. Hoshi Sato*

            “I really disagree with this. The dividing line is whether you’re fluent, not whether you grew up speaking it.”

            …and as a native English speaker working abroad in a company where we use English and the local language, I profoundly disagree with you, Junior Dev. There are plenty of people who speak a second language fluently but whose writing would fail the Turing test (“do you know whether this was written by a native speaker”)? If it’s not acceptable for your organization to publish Spanglish or Ruglish or Arabeeze, you don’t want “fluent,” but non-native, speakers producing your translations.

          5. Julia*

            Yeah, linguistics actually question the concept of the “native speaker” because where do you draw the line? How do you categorize people whpo grew up speaking several languages (there are almost no “perfect” bilinguals, everyone is stronger somewhere) or people who moved when they were kids?

            I’m not a native speaker of English, and I know my grasp of language is not perfect, but when I look at some people who are considered “native” (which many people conflate with “perfect”) users of their language, I feel like I could do better. I mean, I have German friends who need me to proofread everything they write because even though we’re both “native speakers”, their grasp of the language is not that good (meaning they make spelling and grammar mistakes, awkward sentences etc.), and I’ve corrected my Japanese husband’s use of polite Japanese because I as a learner actually learned the correct rules for that in school.

            1. Julia*

              That would be “in linguistics” or “linguists” – which is why I should start doing proofreading again…

            2. Scarlet*

              Of course, you’re supposed to be a native speaker AND have an excellent command of your language. Being a native is only the most basic requirement, obviously.
              It’s not about nitpicking linguistic concepts, it’s about an industry standard.

            3. Mookie*

              I’ve corrected my Japanese husband’s use of polite Japanese because I as a learner actually learned the correct rules for that in school.

              Actually, this is what distinguishes a first language from other kinds of acquired languages (acquired in childhood, formal education, exposure as an adult, et al) and this is especially true when differentiating acquisition of a secondary oral versus a written one. The “correct rules” are not definitive because idiom drives linguistic change and reflects present norms (which will vary according to class, community, distance, and dialect). If a person is failing to communicate sensibly to a native speaker because they’re wed to the rule book or their idea of “perfection,” they’re the one who lacks grasp and proficiency, and they are demonstrating their own ignorance and inability to adapt to their environment. Neither of which are a crime, of course, but there is no stasis in a living language, its grammar or its lexicon.

              As an aside, there is no language, there never has been a language, of which its speakers are 100 hundred percent accurate in use, never flubbing a case or a tense or a pronunciation or a conjugation. Consistently making the same quirky errors does not render a person illiterate or mean that they are not “native” when they demonstrably are. That is not how we define a first language, by spelling error or some such.

              1. Someone else*

                Hence in My Fair Lady, “Her English is too good, which clearly indicates that she is foreign.” The dude who thought Eliza must be Hungarian royalty.

              2. MM*

                Exactly. In Modern Standard Arabic classes, native speakers often struggle even more than people who are coming to Arabic as a second language, because formal Arabic and spoken Arabic are very, very different, and their instincts/knowledge as a speaker get in the way. This doesn’t mean that the second-language learner is “better at Arabic.” I experienced it myself when I came back from months of immersion in colloquial Arabic and had to switch back into Modern Standard for class. Throw somebody who’s only ever learned MSA into a real life situation and they are going to be stumped for a while.

                I used to copy edit the English-language content of an Egyptian news site. The writers all spoke English as a second language, and for the most part the copy they produced was very good. But I spent hours and hours coaching them through the nuances of pluperfect tense vs. present perfect tense, for example. There are some things that are really hard to get a handle on if you don’t have the instincts born of long use and/or early education. (See also: the subjunctive in Spanish. I put 12 years into Spanish and I still don’t think I could confidently get that right, even if I weren’t currently rusty.)

              3. Julia*

                Not sure if you’re disagreeing with me, dissing me, or agreeing with me.

                Usually, when we miscommunicate, that’s on me. But there are rules in polite Japanese language (keigo) that a lot of Japanese people pick up “naturally” and not often correctly, and that non-native speakers have to learn in class or from books. There are books and TV shows about Japanese people’s misuse of polite language that my teachers showed to us in the lessons. This is not about miscommunication – we don’t use polite language with each other. This is about wrong grammar, in a way that Japanese people who are good at keigo often pick up and complain about in young people just starting to work.

          6. Scarlet*

            In the translation industry, one should always translate from a foreign language into their native language. That’s a basic quality standard.
            And no, no matter how fluent you are, you will never quite get to native-level, unless you’re actually a native.

            1. EleonoraUK*

              From a linguistics point of view that’s not true, actually. It’s rare to achieve true native-level fluency, but it can be done by a small percentage of people.

              It’s been a while since I got my linguistics degree, but I believe the percentage that was bandied about in my course on bilingualism is that about 5% of people have the ability to learn a second language after early childhood and achieve a fluency that is indistinguishable from native speakers.

              1. Scarlet*

                It’s extremely rare and a lot of people overestimate their own fluency. So even though it’s not absolutely impossible, it makes complete sense to use “only translate into your native language” as an industry standard.

              2. Scarlet*

                I should have said “you cannot translate to a native-level standard”. You can speak and write a language fluently and still fall short of the standard you’d need to meet for translation.

                1. EleonoraUK*

                  Well sure, translation is a profession that requires training, quite apart from the bilingualism, in the same way that you can’t automatixally teach your second language to others, because teaching is a specific professional skill. Of the 5% of people who can achieve true fluency, an even smaller percentage train to be translators, so it is likely indeed a very small pool. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible, though.

              3. sap*

                If only 5% have the ability, it’s pretty reasonable to say that “generally, translators should not be translating into a language they began learning after early childhood,” because the average translator will not be able to translate into a later-learned language well.

          7. Liane*

            Agree with Junior Dev. I have an acquaintance who does Japanese translations, such as novels. I think he does both Japanese to English and English to Japanese. He is definitely not a native speaker of Japanese; in fact, he is white and born and raised in the US.

          8. Humble Schoolmarm*

            As a fluent, but non-native language speaker, I would love to be able to agree with you but… I’ve been speaking my second language since I was 5 and am fluent enough to teach so I was stunned when the translating course I took last summer kicked my butt. There are so, so many nuances that are so subtle that you just won’t learn in a language course, even one of the highest quality. In direct communication the erreurs aren’t enough of a problem to matter, but when you translate the spotlight is on every tiny flaw.

            1. Scarlet*

              This is so true and something that is often overlooked by non-translators. A lot of people assume that if you’re fluent in two languages or more, you can easily become a translator, which is absolutely wrong. It’s a specific skill that needs to be acquired. The smallest misunderstanding can lead to big mistakes.

            2. Kuododi*

              I’m also non-native fluent. (Began studying Spanish in 2nd grade SE USA. Continued through undergraduate) I have extensive experience, both paid and volunteer as a medical interpreter and one of my specialties as a mental health counselor is Spanish language counseling services. That being said…over the course of my professional life, I have been called on to translate various health care documents for different agencies. (Management logic being if I can interpret and work as a bilingual counselor…well translating would be NBD right? Besides…hiring out the job would be so expensive when I was already on staff.). :( I got the task accomplished out of sheer force of will however, God willing I will never be in that position again!!!! I shudder to think about the poor quality of information transmission immigrant clients received because management was too …. Let’s stick with cheap to hire out for a professional translator. Gaaack!!!

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                Same. I have Spanish-speaking family, I’ve been speaking Spanish since about 6 years old, and I lived in Spain for a while. I’ve been a phone rep for Spanish-speaking clients. I took classes with the aim of becoming a professional translator, and good lord, I’ve never been so humbled.

                It seems like a lot of the people here weighing in on the side of “you shouldn’t have to be a native speaker to translate into a language” are people who don’t have experience with pro-level translation. It is very much its own beast, entirely separate from everyday fluency.

                1. Scarlet*

                  Exactly. People outside the industry don’t understand the difference between general proficiency and translation-level proficiency.

            3. Skunklet*

              I worked in the US for a French owned company; my boss was a native Frenchwoman, moved to the US for college at 18 and stayed. I saw her in our library grabbing a French-English dictionary. She was in her 30s or maybe early 40s at that point – I asked why she needed a dictionary – because of our industry, she had never been exposed to certain words when in France, so never learned those specific words – and since she learned them in English, she had to reverse the process… maybe Google Translate is being used for something like this?

              1. Five after Midnight*

                Same here. There is business terminology I know backwards and forwards in English, but trying to explain to my parents in my native language what I do at work fails on so many levels… I literally couldn’t hold my job in my native country (at first at least) because I wouldn’t be able to communicate.

              2. MM*

                Ooh, this is extremely real. The vocabulary you get in a class or even in daily life simply is not going to cover everything. I might be helping somebody interpret in a situation involving affordable housing in a few days, and if so I’m going to have to look up some vocabulary because affordable housing simply never came up in my Arabic classes or even when I was living in Arabic-speaking countries–I never had to go past things like “rent” and “apartment.”

            4. SnowyCold*

              Yep. The nuances…

              Two jobs ago, I used to get asked to translate from French to English to save money; I am not a translator. And I had to remind them “Do you know how much time it actually takes to make a good translation?” when I am not a translator and I am also at reception? I could spend a half-hour sometimes on getting one sentence just right. They insisted they had no money for translation. They got, then, what they “paid” for. My translations were workable but I won’t brag about them, ever.

              1. Kuododi*

                Oh it’s as bad if not worse in the medical interpretation world…If I had a dollar for every time I encountered medical professionals calling up housekeeping, or cafeteria workers because it was easier than putting the money into hiring qualified medical interpreter I would be worth more than Bill Gates!!! Don’t get me started on the chronic, horrific, inappropriate use of bilingual children to interpret for their families. Eeek!!! ;(

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Translation industry norms.

            Source: several close friends are translators and one is director of a translation agency.

          2. rudster*

            Professional translator here. The “native speaker” rule is the prevailing Western philosophy, supported among others by the American Translators Association. Only a native speaker (a term that is also open to interpretation, but is usually understood to mean the dominant language of your upbringing and education up to the critical period for language acquisition) can really be expected to reliably produce translations that read like a native speaker has written them. I know only a very tiny number of non-natives who can produce quality translation in English, but they all came the US fairly young (college students or early 20’s), are talented linguists generally, and have spent decades studying translation and honing their craft. Even then I can usually spot tiny flaws when I edit their work. The “non-native translations are fine” philosophy is more common today in Central and Eastern Europe, where there were always very few native English or other non-local language speakers who were familiar enough with the local languages to translate from them, so translators from the region were always accustomed to translating out of their native language (with predictably spotty results, but this was considered acceptable under the circumstances).

            1. TL -*

              That makes sense. I’ve known a lot of (learned as an adult) ESL speakers and most of them were fluent. Most of them were ‘can easily and consistently use humor and have in-depth and complex conversations ranging from pop culture to experimental design to explaining culturally nuanced frustrations with my parents’ fluent.
              But I only knew one ESL speaker who I would think of as a native level speaker, and even then, he spoke English with a British accent, which meant when he didn’t understand idioms not used in New England (as happened more frequently than it would with a New Englander), people thought it was because he was British and he got a bit of a pass.

            2. EleonoraUK*

              That’s really interesting, thanks for commenting!

              I wrote this above, but it differs from what I remember from my Linguistics MA. One of the modules on bilingualism stated that a small percentage (single digits, 5% from memory, but I now want to dig out my old textbooks to check) of people have the ability to learn another language after the critical language acquisition period and achieve full native-level fluency.

              It’s definitely the exception, not the rule, so I can see why official bodies would regulate against it, but it can be done to my knowledge. (Of course, the phrase ‘fluent’ in and of itself is problematic and often applied too liberally.)

              1. Cambridge Comma*

                Full native-like fluency is one thing, being able to translate professionally is another. And many perfect bilinguals are not gifted at translation. It’s a different skill.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          And also, mistakes in her output shouldn’t be used as evidence that she is cheating, should you be taking the complaint further. They should be expected if she’s translating into her L2.

          1. accidental manager*

            Yes, I think that whether she is “cheating” is the wrong issue. It’s not an exam, where the expectation is to do well enough without external aids. It’s a job, where the expectation is that you will use all the aids provided to do well enough, and if you can’t do it well enough you advocate for getting better aids or paying someone who can do it well enough.

            If she isn’t good enough at her L2 (or aware enough of the shortfalls of Google Translate in general) to know that she isn’t doing a good enough job, that’s Dunning-Kruger concerning.

            1. beanie beans*

              Yes, this is where the emphasis should be! If anyone else can check her translations and they aren’t good enough for your company’s standards, that’s the issue.

      2. Casuan*

        This depends on what is being translated. Often technical translations don’t require as much fluency as a
        fictional novel.

        An exemplar: If you have a product with multiple languages, read the ingredients in each language & you’ll see similarities in the names.
        As for accuracy, complacency can result in compromised care: A physician can read a lab report or test results & understand the basics, yet the translations still need to be precise for patient care.
        Translations are also tricky because words in the same language can differ, especially between countries, eg: British English & American English. Then there are the dialects…

        Jane might have become complacent & just assumed that the same phrases in one language will always translated to the same phrases into Spanish.

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          I don’t think fluency is the issue for literary translation. It’s more of a craft.
          With technical translation, it’s accuracy and precision, rather than fluency.

          1. Casuan*

            Such as understanding various idioms & when to apply them?
            If that is part of what you mean, then I agree. If not, I think I agree anyway. Would you please better explain?

            Definitely I agree with accuracy & precision for technical translations.

            1. TL -*

              I don’t know what Cambridge Comma meant exactly, but I definitely read it as recreating the mood and style of the author.

              Which is about word choice and metaphors but also word placement and rhythm and drawing upon cultural understanding to understand what choices and rhythms are going to draw the reader into the scene the author was intending.
              For instance, when I think about someone urging me to hurry up in Spanish, I hear them yelling with shortened, quick syllables and a stress on vowel sounds, often with an upward inflection.
              But someone yelling at me to hurry up in English might draw out the word just a little so they can add more inflections, with a forceful emphasis on the consonants, and use their diaphragm to belt it out, almost using a base in music.

              A good author would use that kind of cultural knowledge to inform how a passage infused with urgency should sound; recreating that heavy thudding beats in English. A translator would need to understand (consciously or unconsciously) that those beats should sound like quickened, upward inflecting vowels in Spanish.

              (although my Spanish is minimal at best; this is just what I remember from my teachers yelling at us in school so y’know, take my explanation of Spanish urgency with a grain of salt.)

              1. TL -*

                Compare “he ran.” to “el corrio y corrio y corrio”. “He ran” is perfect for an urgent sentence in English – you can use your diaphragm easily, stretch out that “a” sound to drop hard on the “n” – if you’ve seen Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, they deliberately use the phrase “she ran” to drop you into an incredibly tense and urgent moment musically.

                Wheras “El corrio” means the same thing, but if you wanted to convey urgency by quick syllables and upwards inflections on the vowels, it’s really hard to do because of that long rolled r in the middle.

              2. Casuan*

                TL, that’s a good description. Thank you & thanks to all who clarified this for me.
                That’s what I was thinking although I couldn’t quite grasp the words.
                [O, Irony…!]

                There’s an old SNL skit with Alec Baldwin. He was a French teacher who was intent on inflections as opposed to vocabulary. Then he went to Paris…
                [If you haven’t seen the skit I don’t want to ruin the joke.]

            2. Scarlet*

              It is a craft because you need to be a very good writer in order to be a literary translator. In fact, some French novelists are/were also literary translators.

              1. EleonoraUK*

                Exactly, literal translation won’t suffice for fiction, in the way it can bridge most of the gap in technical writing.

                It’s the difference between conveying information only, and telling a story.

                1. Stormy*

                  This is not my experience at all. Assuming literal translation is sufficient for technical writing sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen. In fact, a large part of my choice of translation service provider has to do with their guaranteed backing and insurance.

                2. EleonaraUK*

                  Literal as in – convey the exact same instruction correctly in the second language, not necessarily word for word.

                  Literature would also have you mimic the author’s style, character’s speech patterns, any clever foreshadowing, moods, the significant choice for certain phonetic/pragmatic/semantic/etc options, and so on.

                  Technical instructions wouldn’t derive so much of their meaning from the stylistic subtext – it’s designed to be straightforward and plain spoken exactly to avoid such ambiguity.

            3. Jenn*

              In my field we use craft to mean a combination of talent and technique – with only the technical being teachable

              1. Cambridge Comma*

                Yes, I don’t think most people, even most competent translators, can be or can learn to be good literary translators.

            4. Mookie*

              In literary translations, it’s about conveying for readers the complete meaning and subtext of the text (often taking into account the translators’s own values and idiosyncrasies, which is why translators have superfans, because they are literary phenoms in their own right) rather than faithfully and mindlessly following its grammar or construction with one-to-one transliteration that obscures the value, historicity, and beauty of the source material.

            5. sap*

              There’s a concept called “dynamic” translation, which refers to the process of taking words in one language and picking words that may not be the literal translations but are the best way to convey the tone and meaning behind the words. It’s essentially the practice of translating idioms on a wide scale–like translating “hair of the dog” into a different language. Most have a phrase that means “drinking more to cure a hangover” but mostly it’s not their equivalent of “canine fur,” right?

              That becomes very important when translating literature, because you lose a lot of Terry Pratchett if you translate it literally–instead, you have to balance picking *irreverant* language with picking *accurate* language, which may not be irreverant in the second language.

          2. Julia*

            I’d argue that fluency is the prerequisite to achieving accuracy – unless you want to spend hours on one sentence because you’re not fluent enough to know all the words.

            1. Scarlet*

              I think what Cambridge Comma means by “fluency” is whether the translation “flows” naturally. Technical translations require mostly accuracy & precision and it’s not such a big deal if it sounds a bit “clunky” (the source text generally is anyway).

        2. Artemesia*

          google translate is increasingly accurate but it is still pretty bad and I would think outrageous to use when dealing with technical or medical issues. It is really helpful for non speakers trying to communicate to a doc in a foreign country or a tourist trying to translate a web site that is not in English, but the translations are always rater leaden and certainly not what you are paying a professional translator to achieve.

          1. JessaB*

            An old test to show how bad computer translation can be (esp Google,) is to do it twice. Translate it into your target language and plug THAT back in and translate it to the starting language and you’ll see how bad it is. A truly expert translation should go from one end to the other reasonably close. If you give English to Spanish to one person, then give the Spanish to another, you should with really good translators get really close to the original document when translating back. Obviously this can be subjective if you’re translating literature some people prefer one metaphor or slang term over another, but you should still come really close to your original. Google has not yet perfected this even a little bit.

    2. Clorinda*

      If OP is running it through Google and getting the same result, doesn’t that mean Jane is doing just that? OP’s Google account won’t learn from Jane’s edits.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        From what I understand, in general, Google the search engine is always learning. Every search every user makes has the potential to change something about how Google works for all users. I can’t find out with a quick search whether the same is true for Google Translator’s Toolkit (not the same as Google Translate, as I said above) but it could be.
        Google Translate (simple version) does learn if you chose the option ‘improve this translation’ (and that learning isn’t for an individual’s account) so it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. Other translation software works this way.
        I just think that OP, who doesn’t seem to be a translator, should consider this possibility before starting to make waves.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It seems like OP would usually be using Google Translate before Jane though? If she’s doing it as a placeholder while waiting for the official translation.

          1. Cambridge Comma*

            I read it as if OP were using it for different texts that were placeholders (although why not use Lorem Ipsum? Badly translated placeholder text in another language seems like a printing accident waiting to happen).
            If your interpretation were correct, that would work if OP could be sure that Jane hadn’t started working yet.

  19. Cat owner*

    I once wore a stick-on cold patch (like one of those one use hand warmers you can get except it’s cold and it sticks on your forehead) when I had a bad headache one day. It was probably a weird thing to do.

    I do work in a science faculty though so I’m definitely not the only weird one in here.

  20. Lionheart26*

    #OP3 I am also an international school teacher and I’m in mid-management. I think many schools would love hearing exactly what you said – that you prefer to concentrate your energies on doing a job that you love in the classroom.
    Also, there often isn’t much opportunity for growth in schools, so knowing that you are happy where you are, and won’t be frustrated if you’re not a grade level leader in 2 years might be a relief to the school.

    I think the question “where do you see yourself” has a different meaning in international schools anyway. Most schools are primarily interested in finding someone who is going to stay a while, and doing the initial 2 year contract and then moving on is generally frowned upon in well-established schools. So just be aware that too much moving may make it difficult to get top schools in the future.

    I would personally answer this question with “I’m hoping to find a position where I can settle down for 3-4 years, so that I can really focus on buildng and developing my class program” (but of course that answer only works if you think you could stay that long!)

    1. Humble Schoolmarm*

      I was coming to say exactly this, OP3! I’ve been at the teaching game for almost 10 years now and where you are in terms of your very much the norm. Actually, in most places I’ve worked it’s a little bit…off… to publicly say that you want to move up to the administrative level. You got into this profession to work with small humans and you want to keep working with small humans. That’s a really great thing! My bet is, if this question comes up, it probably is more about evaluating your education to the school and the country instead of your ambition.

  21. Pudgy Patty*

    OP3: I am very similar to you; I just don’t have great ambitions because I struggle with living my life and stress management as is, and I have little responsibility compared to leaders in my organization. I never want to move up because I can’t sacrifice any more than I already have.

    While I bet Alison is right, I will just share my experiences from being on the hiring side — hiring managers and HR staff I’ve worked with in the past DO look for ambition. They have tossed out resumes because someone stayed in a job for more than 5 years. They didn’t stop to consider that someone could have experienced growth of experience within the role; it was just, “Oh, they didn’t get a promotion, they must not be good.” Of course, when you have a ton of resumes, I suppose you need some way to weed through people, and this was one unfortunate way of doing so.

    The people I work with and the field I’m in probably breeds this culture of ambition. My tactic has been to sort of pretend I’m ambitious (but not too ambitious!), get the job, and then do my own thing. I suppose I have moved up wherever I’ve stayed a significant amount of time, but I think once I built my reputation, my companies have been open to me pursuing the work I want rather than gunning for a director/VP level position. I have found the people that are hell bent on a particular title or role have actually had a harder time getting what they want, but that might just be a misalignment of expectations.

    Anyway, just another POV. It’d be great if we could all find employers who are on the exact same page as us, but that doesn’t always happen. My strategy of addressing that question in a way that shows I’m looking for growth (although not exactly a senior position) has generally served me well to date.

    1. CA Teacher*

      I agree with you, but (as with many questions here), I think education is a different animal. Alison mentioned in her answer that this is one of those few careers where people stay in the same role for a looooong time. So while I think you are completely right for most careers, I don’t think LW 3 needs to worry about this aspect of the hunt as much.

        1. CA Teacher*

          I’m in my 30s and plan on retiring at my current school (if the culture stays the same). None of my friends in other careers would even have that on their radar!

          Education is a weird world :)

          1. Talia*

            And library science, too! I plan on getting a full-time job and then assuming I like the environment I’m just going to stay there forever. Because you can do that at a library; it’s normal. I’ve actually gotten into trouble in interviews for displaying ambition– I had an interview for a part-time in a rich snooty town where they asked where I thought I’d been in five years, and I was enthusiastic about getting the skills to handle a full-time inner-city library where I could really serve the underserved, and they were obviously put off by this answer and despite having interviewed there for a couple of different positions prior to that interview, I have never gotten another interview there. The job in question was a part-time job that no one would have actually stayed in for five years, but I’m guessing they wanted some answer like “here” anyway.

  22. Casuan*


    Linguist here- written & verbal translations in multiple languages. Hopefully these comments & [rhetorical] questions are helpful. The nutshell is that you should make your concerns known because you owe it to your company.

    There are different levels of fluency. Spanish is common enough so I assume Jane was tested appropriately for the job & you said that you’ve seen her speak & write Spanish (of course, Spanish might not be common in your locale). Translation is much more nuanced than daily communication. Sometimes there are only so many ways to translate text & the more technical the subject, the more precise the translations. If Jane really is proficient then she shouldn’t need to rely on Google Translate, although it is reasonable to use it as a quick reference. From your description, I’m thinking that she is trying to save time & for some reason she isn’t proofreading the results.

    What made you suspicious in the first place? Could Jane be assuming that the text she’s translating will always be the literal translation? Could she be translating phrase-by-phrase, as opposed to translating the entire sentence? Does she understand the text that she is translating so she can accurately convey the technical concepts? Are her translations on par with how others translate the same phrases? Was she hired as a translator or did she come into the job because she could speak & write the language? If the latter, she might not understand the nuances involved & if no one questioned her work then she would have assumed that what she is doing was working.

    The thing is, automated translation services are notoriously imprecise, especially with technical documents. If Jane has been doing this for years… Hasn’t anyone mentioned errors in the translated texts? Aren’t there proofreaders for the translations? I can understand that proofreading isn’t always viable (especially for certain languages), however periodic unannounced reviews can help to monitor the work in general.

    You seem to already understand this & you said you’ve looked at her past work. Use that as your guide. If feasible, you could ask Jane for impromptu translations (eg: “Jane, I’m trying to come up with alternate wording for ‘attach the spout to the teapot,’ any suggestions?”). How she responds might tell you more as to her need for Google Translate. Also, run her translations through a few other services. That will give you more insight as to a dependency on any service.

    analogy: Not reviewing translations is like how someone who is bad with numbers, doesn’t want to be bothered with accounting details so he hires an accountant & trusts this accountant implicity & never audits the finances. There can be serious risks involved.

    1. Samiratou*

      I think this isn’t just an issue of fluency or translation, but there is possibly another “language” at play–the technical one. Tech writing, done well, is very difficult, as you can find people who are good writers and find people who know the technology, but finding people who are both is hard. This is why most tech descriptions/manuals/specs suck.

      If Jane isn’t as fluent in the technology she’s describing, its going to be difficult-to-impossible for her to then translate it into Spanish.

      So, the Google Translate and “cheating” thing doesn’t seem to be the main issue here, it’s that Jane doesn’t have the skills to write technical descriptions in Spanish (she may not in her native language, either).

  23. LouiseM*

    #2: I don’t see why you shouldn’t wear a sheet mask. In my office (academic division of a large university) some people have space heaters, wrap themselves in blankets or shawls, wear fingerless gloves, and put on fuzzy slippers. They don’t look professional, but it’s something they do to make themselves comfortable in our office when there are no visitors at work. Wearing a sheet mask alone in your office doesn’t seem that different than closing your office door and listening to music without headphones.

    1. Kc89*

      I agree. In my office people walk around in their socks and fuzzy slippers and wrapped in blankets and play with makeup, if I wanted to do a sheet mask I wouldn’t even question it.

    2. DouDouPaille*

      The difference is that a sheet mask is a personal grooming activity, whereas space heaters and fingerless gloves are not. Personal grooming should be limited to your house or the bathroom, IMO.

    3. dr_silverware*

      Sheet masks really make you look like a serial killer, though. And they’re wet. They look like you’re wearing the bones of murderes wet wipes. And they’re not common.

      So they’re a highly personal grooming item, they are extremely startling to see, many people don’t know what they are, and they’re wet.

      If you work in a locker room then might as well go for it. Otherwise it’s like filing & optioning your bare feet, with the extra spice of looking terrifying to someone who catches a glimpse of you.

      I’ve worked in extra-extra-casual offices and it’s really over the line and it would not be wise to try.

      1. dr_silverware*

        *“lotioning your bare feet,” sorry, I don’t think that autocorrect typo came through.

        For what it’s worth sheet masks are really fun but there are always things that won’t fly even in casual offices, and sheet masks are one.

      2. WellRed*

        Wet, drippy, you have to pull your hair back off your face (assuming you don’t have a pixie cut). I am shocked by all the people who think this is ok.

        1. dr_silverware*

          My guess is that most folks wouldn’t actually do it, are miscalculating their office culture, or are not understanding what the consequences would look like.

        2. Arielle*

          Or even if you do! I have a pixie cut (well, now it’s an undercut) and I have a set of those big elastic bands that I bought specifically to push my hair back for sheet mask application. Otherwise all the sticky goop gets in your bangs.

    4. EleonoraUK*

      In my office, we’re so casual people don’t necessarily even wear shoes or socks, including to meetings, and a sheet mask still wouldn’t fly.

      1. Birch*

        What I don’t understand about the in-public maskers (on planes?! really?!) is, do you not wear any makeup or style your hair? I can’t imagine getting all ready to go to work in the morning with nice looking hair and makeup and then ruining it with a mask halfway through the day! I don’t wear a ton of makeup, but I would not be comfortable with my still wet recently-masked face and sticky hair flyaways at the office. And I really wouldn’t want to immediately ruin the effects of a great mask by redoing makeup either. Masking is for at home when you can let your skin breathe afterward and relax.

          1. Birch*

            Would you be comfortable with someone walking into your office while you’ve got a mask on your face?

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’m confused about this too. It seems like the Venn diagram of people who use sheet masks in public and people who wear makeup in public is not what I thought it would look like.

        2. Peggy*

          My hair is always in a messy top bun. I only wear mascara. A sheet mask wouldn’t disrupt my face much, I’d just look much lovelier and glowier afterwards and people would be like “wow, what happened to you on lunch break, you’re so dewy and luminous?”


    5. SarahTheEntwife*

      Blankets and gloves and space heaters all seem like things someone is doing to make it easier to work in an environment that’s too cold for them. Wearing a sheet mask looks like you’ve mistaken your office for a spa.

    6. essEss*

      In my opinion, I would lose respect for a coworker that was doing their grooming at a desk. Using blankets/shawls sounds like they are necessary to maintain the ability to do work when it’s too cold to focus. However, hygiene and grooming rituals are supposed to be done in private. I wouldn’t want to watch a coworker applying their deodorant or clipping toenails at their desk or putting curlers in their hair and facial grooming masks really falls under that grooming ritual.

    7. Snark*

      The norms and practices of academia should basically never be taken as an indication as to professional norms, the permissability of a given behavior, or the degree to which an eccentric behavior would be viewed with forebearance by the general public.

      1. Not that Anne, the other Anne*

        Definitely not. There’s a reason that many academic conference “survival guides” remind people they need to bathe. And wear shoes.

    8. Anonymous Poster*

      There’s a big difference between people trying to stay warm in a cold office environment, though, and people having their hair up in a towel and clipping their fingernails, though.

      In many offices the latter is just not professional.

    9. MassMatt*

      It goes beyond “this is personal grooming”. In general it’s weird to wear masks in public!

      I have to wonder what an office with masks would be like. “OK, Mummy, you and Lone Ranger work on the TPS reports. Guy Fawkes and I will prep the presentation”?

      1. AKchic*

        “Swiper! No swiping the lunches from the breakroom fridge!”
        “Oh man!”

        Sorry… I could not resist adding that in there. It seemed so appropriate for this workplace mask thread.

  24. Jennifer*

    I’ve never been asked the 5 year question. But I’m a clerical worker so there’s no way I’m ever moving up from that :p (At least not here, I have hit the limit that anyone is willing to promote me.)

    I was told once that one of my coworkers told our boss that he would be happy just doing the same thing until retirement. The boss was fine with it, but later the boss left and coworker got transferred out…so so much for that.

    It might depend on your business/industry.

  25. Crystal*

    I was introduced to sheet masks at Coachella, probably about 3 years ago? Sephora had one of the sponsored rooms there and they had sheet masks. I was like WTF is this but everyone was just sitting around with them on. So if you need a laugh just visualize a bunch of people sitting around in a makeshift room in the desert with sheet masks on.

    I have found a photo! https://www.theprnet.com/gallery/126

  26. AJ*

    #1 – Is anyone else thinking of the episode of IT Crowd when Jen lies about being fluent in Italian? (Only to have to fake translate when she doesn’t have the password to Moss’s laptop)

    1. Teacher*

      That is one of my favorite episodes! I showed it to a couple of Italians and they told me that the actor playing the Italian was clearly not a native speaker (I did not fact check this) which made it even better!

  27. Thimbledore*

    I actually started reading this post about 5 minutes after putting on a sheet mask! Uncanny! I can’t even imagine answering the door like this, let alone sitting among my coworkers in my (on the casual end of business casual) office.

  28. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    I’d add a “no” vote to the sheet mask question for another reason as well, though I’m annoyed at this reason even as I bring it up. OP#2, you say you’re a software engineer in a place with “generally lower standards for office apparel.” Am I right in guessing that women are a minority at your workplace, as in so many software offices? If so, in your place, I’d be a bit wary of doing anything that might make me seem “too” appearance-focused. I have definitely noticed that women in tech sometimes get thought less of for putting too much care into what they look like (or *appearing* to do so). It’s a bit of a thing for tech people of whatever gender (“Why’s John wearing a shirt with buttons? We’re not a law office here!”) but more so for women, who are also already less likely to be taken seriously. So wearing a sheet mask might label you as “girly” and “not serious”. UGH I HATE THAT THIS IS A THING.

    1. CheeryO*

      I would think that a man wearing a sheet mask wasn’t exactly serious about work, either. It’s more akin to applying makeup at your desk than wearing makeup to work.

    2. Sheet Mask OP*

      Don’t worry, my fashion choices are so bad that I don’t have to worry about being “too girly”! My hair air dries under my helmet, and apart from religious application of high SPF face lotion, I don’t really do anything to my face.

      But, still, I won’t do sheet masks.

      1. Observer*

        I’m afraid that Elizabeth is right though. People are going to see this and this ONE item is likely to tag you as “GIRL” (who of course probably needs to have every line of code checked by a “real” coder, who is male.) It’s not just that this is feminine, but it REALLY stands out.

  29. please*

    OP 1 has two separate issues.

    One is that the product is bad.

    The other is the concept of “cheating” by using Google.

    I’m not sure that using software to produce something more easily or quickly is “cheating” in a work environment (as opposed to an academic or testing environment, where what you know is being assessed). If the Google translate was producing quality output (which is not true, but bear with me) the issue would be that person not sharing that s/he is using the tool in this way, which would be a benefit to the organization as a whole.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I didn’t read it as saying that OP says that Jane’s product is bad. I understood that in OP’s experience, the output of Google Translate is not suitable for her needs. If Jane were using Google Translate, and had been for years, I would imagine there would be a lot of complaints by now.

    2. MissGirl*

      I would stay away from the word “cheating” if OP brings it up. It sounds so high school. But teacher she was cheating.

      Stick with the problem, that translating from Google is not sufficient. She’s not cheating as much as the work is lacking.

    3. Anony*

      But if they were going to use google translate, the OP would do it herself. This work was delegated to the coworker with the clear expectation that she would translate it, not run it though google.

    4. Chriama*

      I’m pretty sure anyone who has ever used google translate knows that it does not produce a good finished product for translating anything longer than 1 or 2 sentences.

      I agree that google translate *that is then reviewed and edited* is a very valuable tool. Work smart, not hard. But OP has made it clear she also uses google translate and Jane’s results don’t look to be polished. Google translate is an intermediate step.

      1. MM*

        Yeah, in the rare event that I have to write in Arabic, I do sometimes put a sentence I’ve written into Google Translate to see how it comes out in English–it can help catch errors. What’s also interesting is how much GT’s output changes depending how much context you give it, so I’ll often try first a sentence I’m not sure of on its own, then the whole paragraph. If the result is wildly different then possibly I have erred in my word choice or syntax. (This is obviously not foolproof, and requires a good enough knowledge of the target language that you sort of understand how certain kinds of errors happen, so you can tell the difference between Google screwing up and a screwup produced by you.)

        But the whole thing has to be supported by further resources: a very good dictionary and sometimes other web-based tools (for example, Aratools is much better if you want to find options for a single word; not so much on the sentence or paragraph level). One of my friends definitely uses GT a lot (his job involves monitoring a lot of Arabic-language social media) just to quickly get the gist of something, but if he’s translating he certainly does not stop there.

  30. Wintermute*

    #1 — Google translate has gotten a LOT better in many ways. It’s quite possible that if she is fluent that she can enter them, have them translated and what comes back is good enough to use, especially now. Google Translate isn’t perfect but it’s not babblefish either. Remember that old site? It never got the right word because it didn’t understand context, so you’d type “a track meet will be held at the high school gym” and it would translate them separately and some words it wouldn’t know and you’d get you’d get a translation like “the animal paw-print satisfy will be carried in the arms of the far above the ground school Gym”.

    In any event if you’re not conversant in the language I’d be very hesitant to judge, because the obvious question is “how do you know enough to vette your co-worker’s work?” and “it looks like what I auto-generated” isn’t really ironclad proof, unless the employee is a known skiver.

    #2 — I am so glad this question isn’t about what I thought it was about.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I remember when everyone would type something in to babblefish and translate it into a foreign language, then translate that back to english and laugh at the results. Like a solitary game of telephone.

    2. essEss*

      I wondered that too… whether she is saving time by popping it into Google translate, then making minor edits if parts of the translation are inaccurate.

      1. Anony*

        It seems like it would be a good idea to run it by a native speaker to ask about the quality. That might be difficult for the OP to do herself, but could be a part of a bigger conversation about whether google translate is in fact good enough in this case.

        1. Wintermute*

          In my experience as someone conversant in German, you need to correct for some things especially if you’re trying to talk idiomatically, or informally. And some phrasings will come off as, while not as unintelligible as in days past, stilted and obviously unnatural.

          It also appears to prefer older constructions, part of being formal, like it will use the obscure German dictionary word not the common foreign loanword sometimes.

          It also varies by languages involved, as well. German to English seems to come off okay, Spanish is not lexically or contextually very complicated and I’m told it’s okay too. Languages with single words that perform a dozen different functions and have highly contextual meanings like Japanese and to some extent Russian always machine translate poorly though Google’s gotten better at picking the right meanings. Languages with highly synthetic grammar like Russian are difficult too. No one seems to be able to translate Mandarin with any proficiency though Cantonese is getting better it’s still often word soup.

    3. Mephyle*

      Google Translate has gotten a lot better. It comes up with a lot less nonsensical sentences than it used to. Often it will produce a series of several fluent, well-written sentences in a row that a native speaker can’t tell from a human-produced text.
      BUT someone who knows both languages has to compare the texts to check that they are saying the same thing. In particular, in translating English to Spanish (the opposite of #1’s colleague’s task), the following features can cause problems:
      1. slight differences in the way the two languages build negatives, especially when there are auxiliary verbs in the English sentence
      2. adjectives usually come after the noun they modify in Spanish, and before the noun in English
      3. the subject is often left out of a sentence in Spanish
      4. Spanish doesn’t distinguish between ‘his’ and ‘her’; in fact, su can mean ‘his’, ‘her’, ‘your’ or ‘their’.
      So, while the translations generally give the reader the gist, it’s easy for Google Translate to get the subject of a sentence wrong, and to be confused whether a sentence is talking about a man or a woman. From (1) and (2) above, can sometimes get a perfectly formed, fluent translated sentence that says the opposite of the original.

  31. Not Australian*

    #4 I’ve known people who did this, and you’re right – it can be very uncomfortable. Usually it’s possible to turn it around and say “Well, maybe, but you’re really good at (X) ” or “I wish I could (Y) as well as you.” In may case, I can’t drive and I’m also really impatient – both attributes I can easily admire in other people if nothing else comes to mind. (No, I’ll never learn to drive now – but I’m working on the patience. thing.)

    1. CM*

      I wouldn’t try to make the coworker feel better — I’d say, “I wish you would stop comparing us,” or “I feel uncomfortable when you say things like that.” To me, these comments seem passive-aggressive. Or, giving these comments the most charitable interpretation, this coworker is projecting his anxiety and jealousy on to OP#4 without realizing what an awkward position he’s putting her in. This is a rare occasion where I’m not crazy about Alison’s suggestions. I don’t think it’s necessary to praise the coworker and it’s DEFINITELY not necessary to explain something that OP#4 is bad about to make the coworker feel better.

  32. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP3, it’s totally fine for a teacher to say they still I want to be a teacher in 5, 10, or 30 years. But you might answer this kindness of question with more specifics about how you’d like to improve as a teacher, or what specific things you’d like to incorporate into your teaching. For example, I might talk about how I’m currently trying to learn more about teaching to foster a gender-inclusive environment in my classroom, and how I want to develop more units that involve student-directed inquiry, and how it would be interesting to me if I someday got the chance to teach more in outdoor settings. All of that fits with my intention to stay in the classroom, but it shows that I’m not planning to just coast on autopilot doing the same thing I did last year (and the year before, and the year before…) without any goals of growing.

    1. Zahra*

      Oh, I like this one!

      Another thing to consider: think about your favorite teachers. What made them cool?

      Sometimes it’s about what you teach or how you teach. But it could also be about fostering that confidence that students can come see you about anything and you’ll hear them. Gender inclusivity (and all the other kinds of inclusivity: race, gender identity, gender roles, class, sexual orientation, etc.) is a great way to do that. And you don’t need to do a big speech about inclusivity. It can be as simple as, on the first day during roll call, asking students what name and pronouns you should use when talking to them. Making sure that the material you’re presenting shows a variety of people (change a “he” for a “she”, a white person for a person of color, etc.). Nipping in the bud any hint of micro-aggression that you can see.

    2. [insert witty user name here]*

      Was coming to say something similar. While I am not a teacher, I did go to college for elementary education (decided too late it’s not what I want!) and have lots of friends and family who are teachers. What Elizabeth said is exactly what you should be aiming for, both in your career and in your interviews. You want to show them that you’re committed to being the best classroom teacher you can be, which is what it sounds like you want! It does sound like you have ambition, just different from what you might think it’s “supposed” to sound like in a generic interview (I want to be a manger in 5 years! I want to have my own team! I want to climb the corporate ladder!). Focus on what you want to do to make yourself the best teacher you can. Do you want to focus on new methods for teaching STEM? The next step in reading comprehension? Writing skills? Incorporating technology? Working on community and parental involvement? These are all ambitious things and I bet they’re things you want to work. Administration is not the only “ambitious” goal for teachers and any good interviewer will know that. You’re in the right place for finding good interview advice; oftentimes, the advice given from an academic perspective/source can be dated, so hopefully what Alison and the other commenters have said here will help re-focus what “ambition” means for you. Good luck! It sounds like your classroom is lucky to have you!

  33. Translator*

    For #1: If the question of whether or not Jane is using Google Translate should become relevant (as opposed to the question of whether her translations meet quality standards), one thing to look out for is mistakes generated by Google Translate that a human being would never make.

    I’m not familiar with Google Translate’s Spanish output, but a mistake Google Translate sometimes makes when translating English to French is using incorrect grammatical gender for people but correct grammatical gender for inanimate objects. (A human being would never get the usually-obvious gender of a specific person wrong, whereas second-language speakers often slip on grammatical gender of objects.)

    A mistake Google Translate sometimes makes when translating Polish into English is inconsistent use of definite vs. indefinite articles in parallel contexts. (A human being would never caption the before picture of the construction project “The Old Building” and the after picture “A New Building” – even a second-language speaker who wasn’t clear on when to use definite and indefinite articles would use the same caption for both article.)

    1. Translator*

      That last sentence should be “…the same article for both captions”. (In the ongoing tradition of making mistakes when talking about other people’s mistakes)

  34. Tuesday Next*

    OP1 – does your colleague’s work quality actually affect you? If not, I’m not sure why you need to get involved. Am I missing something?

    1. Myrin*

      It sounds like OP as a graphic desinger of some kind who needs to work the translations into the “printed materials” she mentions (I was thinking brochures or posters?); she says “I often use Google translate as a place setter when laying out materials, […] so I’m familiar with it before even getting the official translations.”

      However, I think that even without this layer, OP would be will within her right to get involved. She works in communications and writes about a subject matter that includes technical descriptions, so I’m assuming there’s someone on the receiving end of these translations – customers? the general public? coworkers in a different-but-related branch? – and it wouldn’t be a good look for her company to regularly distribute materials every native speaker can immediately identify as not having been translated by an actual person/by someone who is very inept.

    2. EleonoraUK*

      Quite apart from how it affects the OP’s own work, if she notices behaviour that could harm the company’s standing, I see nothing wrong with speaking out about it.

      There’s no such thing as tattling when it comes to work – if you’re concerned something/someone is harming the company, you have not just a right but an obligation to speak up.

      As a manager, I wouldn’t be too impressed with an employee of mine admitting to having known about a problem for months but not acting on it as it wasn’t technically their responsibility.

    3. Oryx*

      It sounds like the OP works in communications. The work they produce reflects on the entire company: it’s the messaging arm of the brand. If a company is producing copy in languages other than English, they are, obviously, doing it to reach a global audience but if they are handing out shoddy work or poor translations, the speakers of that language will notice and it reflects poorly on the company.

    4. Scarlet*

      If it turns out her translations are gibberish, it will reflect badly on the whole company, which might lead to loss of clients and eventually have repercussions on employees as well.

    5. Amy S*

      I agree. Stay in your own lane. If Jane’s work is not great because she’s “cheating” then it will be found out eventually. I think OP needs to just focus on her own work and not worry about it. Or as someone suggests below, just let Jane know what the errors are and ask her to correct them.

      1. Oryx*

        But Jane’s work DOES affect OP’s work because OP is using Jane’s translations.

        I’m imagining the brochures and info sheets we have at work that detail the services we provide. OP is doing the layout and possibly graphics, whereas Jane is providing the translated text. That’s where the spaceholder part comes in — OP is using Google Translate to have something in there so they can visualize the entire project the same way English speakers use lorem ipsum.

        1. Amy S*

          I get that. But I still think this is out of OP’s scope of responsibility to police how her coworker does her job.

          1. Anony*

            She isn’t policing her coworker. She noticed that the output is the same as the placeholder. She didn’t go out of her way to find a problem. If the company is producing a subpar product, it matters. Also, if her coworker is just using google translate, which the OP already did, then the coworker doesn’t even need to be on the project. It is a waste of the OP’s time to have to make a placeholder. wait for the official translation (which is no different than the placeholder) and then replace the placeholder with an identical product.

          2. Natalie*

            It’s not about how she’s doing her job, but whether or not the work is getting done to required level of accuracy.

            If someone brought me a spreadsheet where all of the sums were off slightly because they copied a formula without bothering to check if it was outputting correctly, I’m not going to just use their crappy numbers because it’s outside of my scope. That’s ridiculous.

            1. bonkerballs*

              I’m not of the mind that OP needs to stay out of it, but I think there’s a difference between the scenario you’re describing (where you can see the sums are wrong) and the one OP is describing. It doesn’t seem to me (and OP can correct me if I’m wrong) like OP actually speaks Spanish herself and therefore doesn’t *know* the translations are wrong. All she knows is they match the placeholder which very well could mean that the placeholder was just also correct in its translation. And I can understand people saying its not OP’s business is she doesn’t know for sure there’s a problem. Especially when you add in the way this was framed as “cheating” which isn’t really a thing in the working world. If I’m a manager and this issue was brought to me and it turned out these bits that match Google Translate are actually accurate, framing it as as Jane is “cheating” makes me feel like OP is immature and stirring up drama whereas re-framing it as Alison did in her scripts makes it more of an actual work issue.

              1. Natalie*

                I mean, it’s a bit of an oversimplification, but I think you can imagine a more similar scenario where I have good reason to think a spreadsheet is wrong without being able to identify exactly why. And from the discussion upthread, it sounds like it would be an absolute miracle if the Google Translate documents turned out to be translated correctly.

                1. bonkerballs*

                  Sure, but I’m far more likely to bring up an issue when I know for sure something’s wrong and can articulate what actually is wrong, than when I just have a suspicion. And I can see people feeling like “unless I know for sure there is a problem, it’s not my business to comment on how my peers do their job.”

                2. Natalie*

                  @ bonkerballs, it’s not that I don’t understand that someone might feel that way, I just disagree.

              2. Arianne Farah*

                I’m a translator, and in a nutshell, here’s why the behaviour is cause for concern. I wrote 2 sentences in French on the subject and ran them through google translate.

                Here’s the English (French at the very bottom) : To give you an example of what a translation looks like that is not sloppy, but rather made from scratch by assembling words here and there, here is a somewhat lengthy but correct sentence. a grammatical point of view in French, subject to the automatic translation process. It should be noted that a seasoned but inexperienced copywriter will take about 4 hours to correctly translate a thousand words, which means that it is not only counterfeit, but also time theft because it would be surprised if the employee would be transparent by submitting these texts immediately, but instead use the time earned on her own.

                Now, it doesn’t read too badly, but, notwithstanding the weird sentence structure and grammar, things don’t actually make sense, how can one be a ‘seasoned but inexperienced copywriter?’, who exactly would be surprised if the employee were transparent?

                The answer is surprising and a well-kept google translate secret… when it doesn’t find a translation for something… it just ignores the text completely- drops words here and there, sight unseen – the original French mentioned ‘a seasoned copywriter inexperienced in translation’ and that ‘it would be surprising if the employee were to be honest’, and also that she ‘would use the time as she pleases’ and not ‘on her own’, in the first sentence, it should be ‘not so much sloppy as…’ instead of ‘not sloppy, but rather’, instead. So not only are you losing meaning, but also nuance. Now of course if you don’t speak a word of French, you get the gist of what I was writing about… but would you publish that text? Would you spend thousands of dollars and plaster it on flyers to pass around town and promote your business? Of course not. To each tool its use, you don’t use the same brush to paint your walls as to paint a portrait and while most people can improvise the first task and get a decent result, the second is best left to a professional.

                French just as an FYI (Pour vous donner un exemple de ce à quoi ressemble une traduction qui n’est pas pour ainsi dire bâclée, mais plutôt fabriquée de toute pièce en assemblant des mots par-ci par-là, voici une phrase quelque peu longue, mais correcte d’un point de vue grammatical en français, soumise au processus. À noter qu’un rédacteur quelque peu chevronné, mais non expérimenté en traduction mettra environ 4 heures à traduire correctement mille mots, ce qui veut dire qu’il s’agit non seulement de contrefaçon, mais également de vol de temps, car il m’étonnerait que l’employée fasse preuve de transparence en soumettant immédiatement ces textes, mais qu’elle utilise plutôt le temps gagné à son propre escient.)

          3. Us, Too*

            It would be different if OP were going out of her way to find issues. However, if you find a problem during the normal execution of your job, it’s appropriate to bring it up. That isn’t policing, it is just not being oblivious.

      2. Us, Too*

        “found out eventually”… Yes. And someone like Jane’s colleague reporting it *IS* how it is found out. Let’s hope that happens before a client or member of the press brings it to management’s attention. Because then the next question could be “Wow, Jane. How did you never notice that Jane’s translations are exactly the same as the placeholder text? Aren’t you looking at the final product carefully?”

    6. Us, Too*

      A few thoughts here.

      1. If I witness someone doing something that could harm my company, it can come back to me. Plenty of “normal” people lost their jobs when Enron went under, for example. It could also mean something less serious like the company decides that my department’s work can be outsourced since it appears someone else can do it better/cheaper.

      2. I own equity in most of the companies I work for. I have a direct financial interest as a shareholder in the overall quality and value of the company’s output.

      3. If my company does shoddy work or is perceived as not-so-great for other reasons, it impacts my professional reputation as well, potentially. When the name of an “iffy” company is next to yours on a resume…. not good.


  35. Melissa*

    #1.- why not have the convo without even mentioning the specific tool (google)? Say, “I’ve noticed lots of errors in the translation”. Because that’s the problem, right? If google translate were perfect, there’s be no issue.

    1. SarahTheEntwife*

      Depending on what they’re translating, it may not be clear-cut errors so much as “this phrasing is weirdly awkward and not what a real human would say, even though it’s technically grammatically correct”. That’s harder to critique unless it’s actually your job to review the translation.

  36. eve*

    1. If your colleague Jane is a professional translator then she will know not to rely on google translate in any iteration to actually translate. Assuming she has professional accreditation (which she should if she is professionally translating) then she would lose it if she were caught out using google translate (sorry others above, it has way too far to go) Having said that, it could be that she is just checking spelling, words she is not sure, context etc. If you are not a native Spanish speaker yourself, it will be difficult to know where the boundaries lie. If you have major concerns, raise it with Jane’s boss but at the end of the day, if your expertise is not in this area, don’t be surprised if Jane keeps her job and keeps accessing google translate to check whatever she needs to check.

    2. #4. I had one of those a few years ago. I wasted about 3 months trying various strategies to get the chap to stop talking about it and just get on with the job. I got it to stop within 2 days when I finally pulled the trigger and said, yes I AM better at my job than you would be. Don’t waste too much time on soft options. Tell him once nicely, remind him again gently, then just be firm and say ‘you are right.. however this topic is now tabled for discussion forever’, turn around and walk away. The person you are dealing with is an emotional black hole of energy. This doesn’t mean they don’t need help, assistance and compassion but you are doing them no favours in a working environment to humour them (plus it’s not your job).

    Assuming they are not just playing you (and it sounds like they are) then it’s their responsibility to work out what’s going wrong in their lives that would make them repeat this soundtrack ad nauseum and fix it. If they show some insight and ask for genuine help by all means be supportive, otherwise leave it to the professionals who have the toolkit (psychologically speaking) to actually help them grow secure etc rather than reaffirm their insecurities every day

    1. Natalie*

      I think it’s really unlikely Jane is a professional translator. At least to me, it sounds like Spanish is not her native language – I never hear people describe native speakers as “fluent” rather than “native X speaker” – and per the discussion above that is a common requirement. Plus if she was a full time translator she wouldn’t be being paid a premium for this translation work, it would be her job.

  37. Myrin*

    Ugh, OP #4, that sounds highly irritating and uncomfortable – what an annoying situation to be in!

    I’ve met a few of those people in my life (although certainly not as persistent as your guy seems to be but then again, I didn’t work with them and see them daily) and in my experience they’re either 1. fishing for compliments (like the old “ooooh, I look so ugly in this!” just so you tell them no no, they’re looking good!), 2. genuinely anxious and fishing for compliments because of that, or 3. just genuinely anxious.

    Not matter the reason, I think you need to be blunt here. I’m going back and forth on whether it’s necessarily to acknowledge that yes, you are better than him, but I feel like that might not even matter, ultimately. I think it would be best to say in a kind tone something to the extent of “Ferfried, I don’t know if you realise it but you’re bringing this up a lot and it’s making me feel really awkward. I don’t know what kind of reaction you expect from me but I can’t really do anything about it – if you’re afraid your work is not up to par, maybe you can talk to Supervisor about it?” Maybe treating this like a problem with his work and not like one with his confidence will shake him out of it?

  38. Loopy*

    OP5, I’ve worked in several similar projects where funding ran out at a hard stop (grant funding) and I’ve had it go both ways! Once I was up front that I would like to stay and they applied extra funding for an extension of about six months. And there has been a time when an external candidate beat me out.

    It’s hard if they choose to go with someone else but I never regretted pursuing it. I would absolutely agree that you should make clear to your boss that you’d like to stay.

  39. EleonoraUK*

    For OP#2, quite apart from the suitability in an office, anytime I’ve used one I’ve had to have my head either horizontal or at least tilted back a bit to keep the sheet mask in place.

    With that in mind, wearing one at work probably also makes you less productive (can’t look straight ahead at the screen like normal, or down to your notes), and would therefore be even less suitable.

    1. Sheet Mask OP*

      Really? I don’t recall tilting my head (but it has been a few weeks). Maybe the ones I use are exceptionally sticky.

      1. EleonoraUK*

        Or perhaps my face has an unusual slant to it that means this is an issue only I have come across, haha!

  40. Jen RO*

    #2 – I work in a fairly relaxed software company. A sheet mask would make you “that person” (as in, “OMG did you see Marie wearing a sheet mask at her?? WTF!”). Sorry, but leave it for home.

  41. Too Witches*

    In re: OP #1

    UGH people using a translation tool and just pasting whatever it craps out, just UGH.

    I’m a translator/proofreader and project manager in the industry, and I happily and freely admit to using DeepL (amazing!!) to take a lot of the mental legwork out of translation when I have huge projects (not to plug a translation tool, but DeepL lets you rephrase right in the window and it’s pretty sophisticated off the bat. I would marry it if I could).
    But I pay extremely close attention to the output, and I do not just plunk whatever into the target text. That is lazy, sloppy and risky. If I get so much as a whiff that one of my translators is one-to-one’ing their work from Google Translate and its ilk, they are given a stern warning and put on probation, because honestly it sometimes costs my proofreaders more time to correct machine translations than erroneous human translations. I trust my translators to know their strengths and whether machine translations help them create better texts, but I do not suffer those that think Google Translate will let them pump out more words so they get paid more. It’s still surprising to me how many try this approach.

    OP #1, I don’t personally classify using machine translations as “shirking work” because, used correctly, they can allow good employees to produce amazing output. But I do not accept translations that are noticeably unedited MTs, so I would absolutely approach either Jane or her manager with Alison’s wording. I guess if you’re not having anyone proofread texts, then your company could decide to ban all translation tools (being in the industry I find that counter-intuitive, but it honestly may be the best solution for a different industry and depending on how those premiums are paid out).

    1. Scarlet*

      I’ve been a professional translator for over 20 years and there’s a big different between proper translation tools (relying on translation memories that have been created by human translators) and machine translations. Translation memories are a great tool, but machine translations actually make my job harder. It’s more time-consuming to correct a bad translation than it is to translate from scratch, in my experience.

  42. Gary*

    OP#1: Whether or not you think your translator is any good, why don’t you have a quality check in place? Either have someone else in your company or a third-party translate a sample of Jane’s work and compare the results.

  43. former flight attendant*

    Sheet masks should not be worn anywhere outside of the home unless you are at a spa or store that sells beauty products and does facials.

    When I was a flight attendant, anyone who wore a sheet mask on the plane would be the subject of inside mocking and laughter among the flight crew and any respect that airlinr staff may have had for that person would go out the window. People who do it would definitely be looked down on by the flight attendants and the other passengers on the plane who noticed for doing something so stupid looking public. The only place I’ve ever seen people wear them in public was South Korea and even then I never saw them do it on a plane.

    I like wearing sheet masks too OP #2 but work is not the time or the place.

    1. Arielle*

      Oh, man. I was reading the comments and just starting to get excited about the idea of wearing a sheet mask on my next flight to Europe. The last time I had a long flight I was so gross and dried out by the end of it, but I don’t think my fear of dry skin is greater than my fear of being mocked by a flight crew.

      1. Amy S*

        I say go for it and not give what they think a second thought! They are strangers and you likely won’t ever see them again. I think that would be the perfect time to use one.

      2. Sheet Mask OP*

        I give 0 fucks about being mocked by a petty flight crew. Honestly, it’s almost a gift to them; gives them something to talk about on a long, boring flight. So I say: rock the plane mask.

    2. Etak*

      I have to say, flying back and forth from Asia to the US, I see sheet masks all the time. They’ve become a lot more popular in the last 5 years. And…to be honest, we do a lot of things on planes that don’t look brilliant. I wouldn’t wear a neck pillow anywhere else, for example. But if it’s not a disruption to other passengers or a safety issue, what’s the harm?

      1. fposte*

        I can’t see wearing one, but I also can’t see making my decision based on whether the cabin crew respected it or not. We’re not going into business together.

    3. Amy S*

      Wow that seems a bit harsh. You’re sitting there for hours with not much else to do. Why not use the time for a little self care. I’ve never used a sheet mask but I’m guessing it’s not something that is going to hurt or bother anyone else so why the harsh judgement? I try to be polite on planes to both the crew and other passengers, beyond that I don’t really give a flying fig what the flight attendant thinks of me.

    4. Inspector Spacetime*

      My skin breaks out really bad after long flights because the air is so dry. I haven’t used a sheet mask yet, but I’ve considered it. Honestly, the fact that the flight crew might make fun of me behind my back is not as bad as having acne for five days.

  44. JapanAnna*

    OP 1, ask a native speaker. Ask a native speaker. Ask a native speaker!!!!!
    Ask that native speaker about the general quality of the work and whether they think it’s just done through Google translate.
    The native speaker is your target audience and they’re the one who can tell whether the translation is acceptable or not.

    1. Birch*


      ALWAYS ASK A NATIVE SPEAKER. I live in a country where everyone under age 40 speaks fluent English, and somehow we STILL get entire businesses with names like Athlete’s Foot (a sports store), Hoochie Mama (a secondhand clothing shop), Daddy’s Girl (a clothing boutique), and Cholo (a Mexican restaurant). I even saw a jewelry making business called Areola! None of the natives understand why I have issues with these names until I explain the cultural significance of these words. They’ve just seen the phrase somewhere and use it because it being in English makes it seem more trendy. I also used to do language proofreading and once had to take out literally *hundreds* of occurrences of words like “evidently” “supposedly” and “apparently” because the writer didn’t know that those words used in certain ways have a connotation of distrust– they don’t just mean “this evidence shows that…” Native speakers know these subtle things that even the most fluent nonnative speakers often don’t.

      1. John Rohan*

        ” Athlete’s Foot (a sports store), Hoochie Mama (a secondhand clothing shop), Daddy’s Girl (a clothing boutique), and Cholo (a Mexican restaurant). I even saw a jewelry making business called Areola!”

        Hey, I love those names! Don’t you dare let them change them.

      2. please*

        There’s a chain of stories in the United States, which is full of native English speakers, called Athlete’s Foot. I don’t understand what is wrong with that name.

        Oh, looking deeper I see it is a global brand headquartered in Switzerland.

        In any case, it does well in a number of countries with many English speakers.

        1. please*

          Also, sorry to nitpick, but I don’t think you can judge “English” names targeted to a non-native English speaking audience. (If the target audience of these names is native English speakers, or perhaps global markets including native English speakers, then yes they should involve people with more awareness of native English sensibility in the decision-making.)

          1. fposte*

            Yes, foreign branding is a thing everywhere. The U.S. is full of things that sound like they came from France or Scandinavia but didn’t and aren’t great to native speakers of those languages (Frusen Glädjé, anyone?).

          2. Lora*

            People have been judging these things for a very long time, since long before All Your Bases Are Belong To Us. The Ikea names for things have been a source of much hilarity to English speakers for decades, too, so what goes around comes around.

            True story: In Spanish, my name means “female parrot”. In Argentinian slang, it means “prostitute”. I had a lot of fun in South America, but if you’re a professional translator it is important to know these things and take them into account.

          3. Birch*

            I think my point wasn’t coming across very clear–yes, foreign branding is very much a thing and I understand that’s sometimes the point. I don’t believe that all of the funny names are intentional even though some may be, and it’s off-putting. I just think companies should be aware of how their branding is coming across in different languages and cultures. Clearly, Athlete’s Foot is going for the funny factor—personally I think that’s a bad decision because calling up images of fungal infection is disgusting and not what I want to be thinking about while I shop for sneakers, but in a non-english speaking area, it’s often not possible to tell whether they’re being intentional about it or not. I have friends here who don’t understand what “hoochie mama” or “cholo” mean in English and will use those phrases in ways that can be offensive, because they’ve only seen them on shop fronts. That, I think, is a problem.

        2. essEss*

          Well, looking just at the name of “Athlete’s Foot”, that is the name of a foot fungus disease that can be picked up by walking barefoot in moist areas, especially locker rooms which is why it’s rather ironic to name a sports store with it. :-D

      3. Cambridge Comma*

        The first Athlete’s Foot store was in Pittsburgh, so I’ve got to think it was an intentional pun.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      Read the comments page of an average US or UK newspaper. How well do those native speakers spell? What’s their grammar like?
      Some native speakers can’t read or write their native language at all.
      Ask a language professional if you want a professional output :-)

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think the point is to have them correct the work, but just to read it and see if it seems right. Most people have a feel for what reads naturally in their native language even if they are atrocious writers and got an alligator in spelling.

        1. Birch*

          Yes, this. It’s about identifying things that pop out to native speakers, and it’s often very odd little idiosyncratic things. Here, non-native speakers will put the word “also” at the end of sentences because of the structure of their native language. Proofreading will catch those.

  45. John Rohan*

    #1 – I don’t see Google Translate as “cheating”. But if the person just uses it verbatim, they are certainly doing their job poorly.

    I speak German, and I use Google to translate stuff between German/English all the time. It’s easier to let it do most of the heavy lifting. HOWEVER, then I always read through it and correct the parts that don’t make sense. Even when it is gramattically correct, Google invariably gets the pronouns wrong.

    1. the anonymous translator*

      Actually, the most commonly cited objection of translation agencies to translators’ use of GT is not quality but “confidentiality”. They are all somehow convinced that Google is reassembling all these secret documents from your entered sentences and then using them for some nefarious purpose. Obviously that ridiculous (it’s not how the GT interface works and the amount of time and effort needed would astronomical, even if Google were so inclined), but it seems to be everybody’s (stated) fear in the industry. In reality, the agencies are simply frustrated that there is a potential productivity-boosting tool for translators (that’s all GT is, a tool – which like any tool can be used for good – or evil) that they haven’t quite figured out how to skim off translators’ productivity boosts from it yet, and it’s driving them nuts, so they ban it entirely. Some have tried to market machine translation post-editing services, but most translators are smart enough to avoid those jobs (and who wants to help dig their own grave anyway?)
      When CAT (translation memory) tools were introduced a couple decades ago – they were supposed to be a productivity boon for translators, but instead the software makers marketed the server version to agencies, who immediately used them to create a “grid” of price reductions (based on the theoretical – and in many cases imaginary) time savings on matching snippets of text before sending the job out the translator. So translators have ended up constantly investing in software licences, upgrades and training only have their overall incomes stagnate or decline. So most translation tools have really just turned out to be expensive ways for translators to just barely maintain their status quo.

    2. SallytooShort*

      I agree. It’s totally appropriate to use it and then correct it. But it sounds like she isn’t doing the second part of correcting.

  46. nonprofitjane*

    For letter writer number one, does she actually speak Spanish? I am bilingual and routinely would translate produce documents for my job. Google translate is always a little off, but it can be used as a base and I would change/ edit things so they make sense. If the letter writer isn’t fluent in Spanish it may be easy for her to miss small subtle changes anything from changing the order of words or accent placement.

    It’s a time saver and as long as her co-worker has edited it and made proper changes to ensure that the information and grammar is correct; I don’t see anything wrong with this unless her job is strictly to be an interpreter / translator. If it just one aspect of her job duties, I think it’s rather common .

    1. Natalie*

      No telling exactly what her proficiency level is, but it’s higher than zero:

      She’s fluent in Spanish—I’ve seen her speak and write it at public events, so I don’t think it’s a matter of making good on a resume lie.

      1. bonkerballs*

        I don’t think that’s proof at all the OP has any Spanish proficiency. I can firmly say I have zero Spanish besides what’s on a Mexican restaurant menu, but I can tell someone is speaking Spanish near me.

  47. Argh!*

    Re: #1

    Even the best translator would use a dictionary in the old days. It’s not cheating. Now google translate is used in place of dictionaries. I wouldn’t consider it “cheating” just to use it. Does your office have old-fashioned book dictionaries on hand?

    It’s also a short cut as a first step for routine translation, but only a first step. If accountants can use Excel formulas or a calculator instead of working out math by hand, a translator ought to be able to use a tool, too.

    If your coworker doesn’t recognize the weaknesses of google translate, perhaps you could convince her by sending links to Jimmy Fallon’s google translate songs. He runs it through to the foreign language and then translates it back to English. The episode with Miley Cyrus is hilarious. “I’m in love with your body” in Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” comes out “I like that cadaver.”

    1. Scarlet*

      Except it’s not helping with translation at all, and it is certainly not a proper “first step”. There’s a whole bunch of translation tools out there, Google translate isn’t one of them. It’s just not reliable in the way that a dictionary is reliable, for example.
      I wish people would start recognizing that translation is a skill that requires a specific training and not something that can be done by anyone who vaguely speaks two languages and can use a dictionary (or Google translate).

    2. Lady Phoenix*

      There is a youtuber that makes a living on making covers of popular songs where she tuns the lyrics through google translates a ton of times.

      I highly recommend “Google Translate: My Heart Will Go On”… which then translates to “And I will be in my bowels”.

    3. Natalie*

      But it doesn’t sound like Jane is using it as a first step – the whole reason the LW knows about this is that when she put the English text into Google translate she gets the same Spanish text back. So Jane isn’t doing anything to the machine translation to fix it.

  48. Sarah*

    OP#2 – Another thing to consider, the letter doesn’t explicitly state that you’re a woman, but I’m taking a guess. It’s common knowledge that unfortunately software engineering is still a male-dominated field. While being feminine/expressing femininity is fine, sheet masks seem like something that may make your colleagues not take you very seriously, especially the men, and could have repercussions in how you’re perceived (even aside from the general work inappropriateness of completing hygiene/grooming activities at your desk).

    1. Sheet Mask OP*

      True! I’m fortunate in that I’ve never explicitly faced any sexism. Maybe I’m oblivious, maybe I’m lucky. But I’ve been in the field for many years, so I’m not too worried about it at this point.

      Sometimes not giving a heck about social norms can be a power move. “I’m so good I can wear manky t-shirts to work and you need me so much there’s nothing you can do.” But that’s more on the dev ops side and such, not really the full stack stuff I do, and probably isn’t the best strategy for me to follow.

      1. Jennifer*

        It’s also hugely class and race dependent – I have always gotten away with a lot more than some of my peers at school and work because of my family/status

  49. Sheet Mask OP*

    Alas! I suspected “no” would the the answer to face masks, thanks for confirming it.

    Unless maybe I can turn it into a team building exercise someday…

  50. Craftyluna*

    For OP #3,

    I am a classroom assistant in an international school, and I also have no ambition to “move up.” However, we do have to set professional goals each year, so mine are always just about acquiring more skills to help me better do my job, in alignment with the school’s overall goals. So I’d suggest finding out what the school’s own 5-year-plan is, and talking about goals for yourself that would align with their goals. Are they looking to integrate technology more? Your goal could be learning and utilizing more technology in your classroom. Are they wanting more diversity and inclusion? Your goal might be to incorporate perspectives from more under-represented cultures into your lessons. Are they focussing on STEAM? Well then, you’d want to make sure your lessons are interdisciplinary and innovative with a STEAM focus. Teachers need to be learners too. There are always new things to learn to improve or broaden your teaching.

    As for where you see yourself in the future, I agree with Allison that “still in the classroom, but with more skills in my toolbox” is fine. There also may be leadership roles that don’t take you out of the classroom, like grade level leader, or getting involved in committees that occasionally meet during planning time or on professional development days.

    Good luck on your adventure!

  51. rosiebyanyothername*

    I have a coworker who reminds me of #4… very self-deprecating and sometimes it casts a weird vibe over the team. Might use some of Alison’s tips to be more encouraging of him!

  52. Jady*

    OP5: I’m wondering about things like ‘how long does approval take’ and ‘how likely is it to get approved’.

    Some fields move pretty slowly. Boss may put in the request today, but not get approval until long after your end date has passed.

    Or it could be a coin toss in getting it approved.

    You should certainly ask about it, there’s no harm in doing so. But don’t take what you’ve heard personally – there could be a lot of reasons for what she’s saying.

  53. Molly*

    The solution is gel masks! Peter Thomas Roth makes a few really lovely ones that just look like normal lotion or sunscreen but still have all the soothing, refreshing, skin-improving benefits. The cucumber one is great straight from the fridge. OP could just apply it in the bathroom the way anyone might refresh their lotion after lunch, and rinse it off whenever (you can leave them on overnight, if you want to). It’s not visible on the skin at all. The rose one is great too but has a stronger scent.

  54. TeacherNerd*

    LW #3; I think many (maybe even most) teachers might not want to move up to administration – which is not to say I’m not seeing a surge among my colleagues in getting the administrative license, mostly because of pay. That said, there are a LOT of ways to become professionally involved that don’t involve that. You can co-found clubs; you can work on committees; you can continue your professional development; you can introduce new classes into the curriculum. I would even go so far as to say that you should be doing those things anyway; there is, I think (in my opinion) a danger to ONLY being in the classroom and not collaborating, but there are a lot of ways of doing that. I’ve seen enough teachers try to do the thing where they only teach (which I know can exhausting, especially earlier in one’s career), but look at “moving up in my career” as a means of DEVELOPING your career.

  55. Gay Drunk Patriots Fan*

    46 year old gay guy here who LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURVS Queene Helene Mint Julep Mudde Masques!!!! Oh God, in college we’d get lit on a Tuesday night, smear that goop all over our faces, do all of the substances and then head out to the club around midnight. Good times. Bad G.P.A. that semester, but good times.

  56. Catherine*

    Commenting for the first time just to say I saw a girl, during rush hour, wearing a sheet mask on the NYC subway. She had her eyes closed and totally had her zen on. It was amazing and she is my hero.

  57. Jaybeetee*

    LW5: Sometimes when you’re in a temporary position, people really get it into their heads that you are a Temporary Employee Who Is Here Temporarily, especially if it’s at a workplace that doesn’t have many temporary employees. If your boss really does like your work, she may have just mentally filed you as someone who isn’t staying there. As Alison suggests, she may think for whatever reason that *you* intend to move on after the end of the contract and wouldn’t be interested in staying on if it’s extended. If you do want to stay on, there’s no harm in asking. If it turns out there is a problem with your work where they wouldn’t want to keep you in the role, that’s something they should tell you.

    It could also be something else, like if the new funding goes through, they may restructure the position so that it needs a different skill set or different pay level or something, where it wouldn’t work for you to stay in the role.

    1. SallytooShort*

      I don’t know. I write memos on my laptop at home while in my bathrobe all of the time. Sometimes just wearing a towel.

  58. Desi Jane*

    Regarding the sheet mask, I know this is very different, but it’s along the same lines for why I’ve never done a fraxel treatment. Granted, it’s something you can have done in your off time or on a lunch even, but the appearance afterward for a few weeks is a bit shocking to some and will definitely garner some attention and stares. The sheet mask thing adds another element to the issue in regards to the degree of inappropriateness while at work, but at least they’re a bit similar as to their appearance and attention it draws.¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  59. Lady Phoenix*

    #2 I would discourage going full scale with sheet masks. It just screams unprofessional and it gives this bad idea that you care more about your vanity than your work. I guess as a girl, I get worried about coworkers seeing my gender and myself as a lesser being because I adore makeup.

    Sephora sells smaller masks for eyes that I sometimes like to work with because it helps rejuvinate them and they aren’t as noticable (and can easily be thrown out) versus a full blown Face mask. You might want to give it a go.

    If anyone has recommendations for good, inexpensive masks for dry skin or eye masks that perk up and resuce dark circles, I’m all ears.

    1. Sheet Mask OP*

      For affordable dry skin masks, I used the Neutrogena overnight gel mask (not paper, you rub the goop on) and it was HECKA hydrating. I got two uses out of it, so it was about $1.50 per use, which is, in my view, an affordable occasional luxury.


      They also have a paper mask one, but I haven’t tried it.


  60. Lora*

    OP1, I just want to say that I totally feel your frustration and alarm.

    Had a colleague once who did not read English. At. All. He spoke reasonably well, but reading and writing, nope. For three years that I worked with this guy, who was a peer and supposedly a rock star in his home country, I kept getting my work thrown back in my face as “irreproducible” because even though people who could read English could reproduce it just fine, this one guy couldn’t, so therefore it must be unreliable. I did not realize at the time that he didn’t read English, I just thought it was weird that he ordered duplicates of everything and hoarded it when we already had all these materials: he couldn’t read the English labels and would re-label new things in his native language and keep them in his personal freezer so he could be confident of what they were.

    We worked with a lot of chemicals which are all visually alike. When I tried to walk him through an important process, I realized that he couldn’t read the labels on the chemicals…and at the time, you couldn’t look that up in Google Translate. You still cannot, some of them are trade names or abbreviations that are never spelled out. Went to boss explaining what I had discovered, because this is a serious safety thing, nevermind not being able to follow a simple protocol without hand-holding or being able to send an email your colleagues can comprehend.

    Turned out that boss knew and had been encouraging the guy to go to ESL classes, which the company would have paid for, but the guy complained that he didn’t have time for it and would rather be at home with his family. Boss was a wuss who felt he couldn’t push back on that, because the guy was technically competent if and only if literally everything he used was re-labeled for him and if protocols were demonstrated instead of simply written out.

    Dude thought he was totally fluent though, because he spoke well. Bless his heart.

    1. Spider*

      YIKES. Please tell me this story doesn’t end with him killing someone via poison gas cloud or fiery explosion…

      1. Lora*

        No, but a great many of his projects simply didn’t work because he needed to be able to read a protocol and read other people’s emails correctly with all the nuances, and he just couldn’t. So there’s a lot of drugs whose development was killed by the company for lack of results because he was assigned to the project.

        That particular company kills a lot of promising drugs that DO work though, for other reasons (insufficient margin, bad reimbursements from insurance, unfavorable regulatory environment for a particular indication, inside knowledge that a competitor is further along with a similar thing, stuff like that), so his incompetence was lost in the noise. In a smaller company which really relied on every single project for profit, it would have been noticed and acted upon.

    2. Observer*

      Your boss was incompetent and irresponsible. You can’t claim that someone is “competent” to do the job if he doesn’t have one of the skills needed to do that job. And, the inability to reliably ingest information and identify the similar items used in the job IS a failure of a critical skill. What in heavens name made him think that he couldn’t push back?

      1. Lora*

        No idea, but he did get demoted when his boss found out. His other reports were sent to other managers and he was only allowed to manage that one guy with the rationale of “hey, he’s YOUR problem.” They didn’t get fired because the company has been on a tear for a while about not adding FTEs or replacing anyone who leaves in that department.

  61. INTP*

    OP2, I don’t know if masking at work at all is a great idea, but if you wanted to try one, a brand called Paula’s Choice sells samples of their masks that you can keep in your desk. The skin recovery hydrating mask is translucent and basically just looks like you have a really greasy face cream on. I think you could get away with it at work for sure. (If anyone notices, just say you have on thick moisturizer for dry winter skin.) I’ve been buying the samples and using it on planes since before sheet masks were a thing, lol.

  62. Stormy*

    Alison, since you seem slightly hopeful that sheet mask wearing will occur, can I adjacently mention that it would be hilarious if you did “Evil Week” like they do at Lifehacker?

      1. MoodyMoody*

        Unfortunately, April Fool’s Day this year is also Easter Sunday. I don’t think that’s the best time for a special column.

  63. Arts Ambitions*

    Piggybacking on #3: how can I navigate an interview for an office “day job” when my real career ambitions have nothing to do with the job? My “ambitions” for the day job are just to do work in exchange for a reasonable amount of money, hopefully not be bored to death by it, and to work in a non-toxic environment that will be flexible enough for me to pursue more meaningful things. I’d love to work someplace that is actively supportive of my real ambitions, but I’ve never found that. I’ve tried both being fairly opaque about it, and trying to tease it out by asking questions about “office culture” and “work-life balance” but in truth, I wish to find a day job that cares more about the quality of my work than whether or not I have my butt in their chair from 9 to 5 every day.

    My real career is in the arts field, which is hard work and way more rewarding, and also impossible to get anywhere if I have no money (I’ve tried).

    To be clear, I have a decade of experience in my day job field, I’m very good at what I do, and I’m happy to do it well in exchange for money, but it doesn’t mean anything to me beyond that. I only care if the company succeeds because I don’t want the distraction and stress of an annual job hunt. If I found a company I could live with I wouldn’t ever willingly leave, and this would be especially true if they were openly supportive of my real ambitions. I don’t want to climb ladders or have more responsibility or manage people. I don’t want to get sucked into a deeper investment. I want work that’s not boring and enough money to pay for food and shelter and my real career, and enough time to pursue it. That’s it.

    My day job is also creative, and in my experience tends to be pretty devalued, so that’s an additional problem — the attitude is very often that I’m not worth keeping if I rock the boat in any way, even if what I’m asking is reasonable (such as having offers rescinded because I tried to negotiate).

    How do I find these mythical supportive companies, and how do I reel them in? I’d prefer open honesty but that typically bites me in the ass.

    1. Fabulous*

      My advice to you would be to find a line that is closest to the truth without being specific to the field. So, I’m in the same boat – I have my Bachelor’s in Theatre, Masters in Arts Admin with a focus on financial management of nonprofit organizations, and yet I currently work in for-profit medical sales. My go-to line for this question has been, “I hope to contribute to the financial success of whatever company I work for.”

    2. Steve*

      Maybe it’s how you are asking? Are you asking if you can work less than 40 hours, or are you asking if they are results focused? Are you asking how flexible the hours are or are you asking “do I have to have my butt in your chair from 9 to 5 every day?”

      I suspect there is a correlation between places that have a good work-life balance, and places that want your but in their chair for 40 hours, no more but also no less. My sample size is limited so it’s just a suspicion at this point.

      Can you meet your financial on a part-time salary?

      1. Arts Ambitions*

        I could meet my needs on part-time, and tried to find that job for 10 years, both through freelancing and through trying to find a place that was explicitly looking for a part-timer. The second was virtually non-existent, the first put me into poverty from lack of consistent work. I’d still be freelancing if I could, it works way better for me to be able to manage my time myself, but by the end I was spending every waking minute trying to find work instead of actually working (in either field), and at this point it’s “normal” job or becoming homeless. My clients love me, they just don’t have more than 1-2 quick projects per year that they farm out. (And especially in the last two years the market has shifted so new clients want cheap newbies doing this stuff, instead of expensive highly experienced folk.)

        The irony is, in nearly every office job I’ve had I did not need 40 hours a week to get my work done. I’d finish in 2-4 hours and sit there bored the rest of the day “just in case someone needed me,” and suggesting on-going projects that I could work on was summarily dismissed until I gave up and stopped asking. (I lose SO MUCH TIME to the butt-in-chair credo.) I asked for a meeting to attempt to negotiate a flexible schedule after a year of working like this at one place, only to be laid off before I could open my mouth. I don’t know if they don’t understand how long it actually takes to do what I do, or if they just have no idea how much the workload actually is.

        I haven’t directly asked if I could work less than 40 hours, except in one case where the company told me I’d have to accept a (very large) pay cut to stay on, so I attempted to negotiate in the sense of “well if you’re concerned about money, here’s what we can do to account for this pay cut.” I was laid off for suggesting it.

        More recently I have indirectly tried to suss things out in interviews by asking broad questions like “what steps do you take to foster work-life balance” and “what’s your policy on occasional work from home” and “what do you anticipate the volume of the workload being like?” I’m not being blunt about it, which I’m sure makes me seem nicer but also doesn’t really get to the heart of what I want to know. I have always tread carefully, but that ended up leaving me with some unpleasant surprises once I started working at a place. I’d LOVE to just be able to come out and say “I have found that I only rarely need more than 20 hours a week to accomplish what most companies are billing as a 40 hour a week job. I’d like not to be penalized for being effective, and I’d like to know if you’re open to non-standard arrangements in scheduling to account for this.” I don’t because I’m pretty sure no one would be receptive even when it would make sense, and would probably think I’m making it up/exaggerating. I’m a very direct person, so I have only the vaguest idea of how to ask without asking.

  64. RecombobulationArea*

    OP#4 sounds exactly like my mom. She’ll use the smallest thing to elevate me while simultaneously denigrate herself.

    Mom: This meal is delicious! Wow! You should be a chef. I could never make anything like this. I’m such an awful cook. No one should ever have to eat my meals.
    Me: I followed the recipe…
    Mom: No, you’re definitely an amazing cook. I wish I could cook like this but I just don’t have the talent. I’d just burn it. I couldn’t make something like this.

    In her case, she’s fishing for a 30 minute long love-fest in which I tell her how wonderful she is, listen to her problems, and then counsel her through them. After entering therapy because of my childhood, I’ve realized that I am not responsible for the emotional well-being of my mother (or father, for that matter). So whenever she starts using me to put herself down, I’ll respond matter-of-factly (e.g., “I just followed the recipe”) and then engage with someone else, turn away, or change the subject. I’ve noticed that by not responding to that behavior, it’s decreased. Granted, the underlying processes that make her say those kinds of things haven’t decreased, but that’s an issue for a therapist.

  65. whyo*

    Don’t diss the Queen Helene Mint Masque! It’s still around and still works great! I use it all the time.

  66. Someone else*

    To OP#4, I think most likely you are dealing with the scenario many other commenters have described, but I wanted to suggest a possible outlier case:
    It is possible he thinks that the standard set by you is the standard expected by the company. So even though you’re a rock star, and he is generally good, or even better than good, since you acknowledge you know it is true that you’re in many ways better, just complimenting him back might not help. Most likely, he’s got imposter syndrome or is just looking for approval. But it’s possible he knows he’s just fine, but is worried that the company expects stellar, from everyone, all the time. You being the primary example. So he might have some anxiety that even though in the general body of Professionals Who Do What You Two Do, he’s a totally reasonably skilled dude, if in this job he’s being compared to you, he might view himself as failing. If that’s the case then just complimenting him back may not help ease his worries. But Alison’s script that you’re really fast and it doesn’t mean everyone else is slow is the one that most targets the type of thing I’m thinking of.
    You know your relationship with this guy best, but also, if you did get a vibe it might be what I’m thinking, a lot of what you said in your letter might be a reasonable thing to say to him. Tell him he shouldn’t be comparing himself to you. Or tell him what the actual standard for “excellent” is, even if it’s less than your output. See if maybe you can reset his sights to the correct targets. It might chill him out.

  67. stitchinthyme*

    Re #3: I’m not in the same field as the OP, but I am also quite happy with what I do and have no desire to advance. I have always answered this question honestly, by saying, “I’d like to be doing exactly what I’m doing now! I mean, I wouldn’t mind new and interesting projects, but I lack the temperament and the desire to manage other people or anything of that sort. I’ll be happy if I can just keep on coding.” I figure, if someone doesn’t want to hire me because I don’t want to move up, that’s not a place I want to work anyway.

    1. Steve*

      There are lots of us in the coding industry who would prefer to not have to manage other people. If that was a disqualifier for getting hired, the industry would be devoid of employees. (Or full of people who learned to pretend they wanted to manage while avoiding actually getting promoted to management.)

  68. Lauren Hopkins*

    #2: Sephora (and probably other beauty companies) make sleep masks that you might be able to get away with. They are a gel-like substance that you apply before bed time. It might make your face a bit more shiny than usual, but they actually absorb quite a bit into your skin so it’s a totally different look than a sheet mask.

    I’d also say that if you have a private office where you could close your door and take a private lunch hour, it’d probably be just fine to apply a sheet mask while you’re in there alone!

  69. user987*

    # 1. I think a coworker is cheating on her work using Google Translate

    Google Translate got much better lately.

    So I would only approach her if I was 100% sure her translation are incorrect.

    1. Yasmin*

      There’s no such thing as “cheating”. The objective is (a) being correct, and (b) working with expediency. I’m a professional working in English and Spanish, and a NATIVE dual language speaker. I need to sometimes translate complex documents from one forum to another. If I have a long document or script, I make sure to put through Google Translate FIRST, and then I use that as the document, side-by-side, from which to correct and polish. It saves me at least 30% of the time the work would take without it. Because I am fully fluent in both languages, I don’t need to waste the time of typing every single word over. I compare what Google gives with the original document, then use my time wisely to then adjust/correct polish where Google gets it wrong or is in anyway “off.” I am also fluent in many different international version sof both languages, so I know how to do this if I’m making something Australian readable and normal for a Cuban in Miami or an Argentinian or an audience in Mexico City, and vice-versa. The ONLY things that should matter about the person in the OP #1 post are: Does that coworker provide translation at the level required for the job, and, do they provide it expediently per the requirements of that job. A real professional uses every available tool to make both happen.

  70. AnonMurphy*

    In other news, since I am working from home today, I appreciate the reminder that there were two sheet masks in my Ipsy bag this month. Relaxing lunch, here I come!

  71. Dolorous Bread*

    OP #5: I interviewed for a 1-year contract position once. The interviewer told me that for whatever reason the company is prohibited from extending contracts due to legal/benefits/employment reasons (I think, they didn’t have a headcount for a full time person in the role, but they had this contractor approval. But they didn’t do permalancing or something) and thus had to hire and find a new person for this position every year, no matter how good they were. They had it down to a bit of a science, allowing enough overlap for the old person to train the new one. Pretty inefficient and expensive way to operate, imo, but those were the breaks. Could that be what’s going on in your position?

  72. Elle Kay*

    OP #5: Unfortunately, just because there may be someone in the same position as you next year doesn’t necessarily mean that it *is* the same position or that it could be you.
    At the college that I work for I have 2-3 people on 1-year contracts at any given time. B/c of university-wide policy we cannot extend any contract longer than 12 months. If someone works for the college for more than a year then, according to policy, the type of employee that they are changes, their salary structure changes, they become eligible for different benefits, etc.
    This means that we find staff, train them, get them doing their jobs and then, in a year, have to do the process all over again. Sometimes this is fine and our dept head uses it as a way to get rid of not-great employees but we’ve also lost great people because we *don’t* have the funding to change the position.
    (The person this will be happening to in May would be looking at a 75% increase in the funding needed for the position between the mandatory salary and benefit support changes!)
    So, yes, definitely ask your boss about staying! But realize it might be a (stupid) policy issue that’s out of their hands.

  73. Madame X*

    LW2: Do you have the option of teleworking? I love the idea the idea of sheetmasking while working, but would only be comfortable doing that from a home office

  74. Business Socks*

    #1 reminds me of a situation at my job – one of the things we do is provide letters for people showing they have a minimum amount of insurance coverage in order to obtain work visas in various countries. Most of the time letters in English are accepted, but certain countries require letters in the native language. We have a translation department, but their turnaround time is 48 hours, non-negotiable. From time to time, a client will come to us in a panic, needing a letter RIGHT NOW. In those cases, I’ve just plopped wording into google translate, sent it on, and prayed. I’ve never had one rejected, but I’m terrified to think at some point I’ve promised the Slovakian government that our client will be reimbursed with twelve shipments of fine silks should their hovercraft crash into the prime ministers palace.

  75. haley*

    Lmao this sheet mask question is amazing. I’m also a software engineer at a casual tech company and folks here are pretty into skincare – Glossier stopped by to do a demo yesterday for christs sake – but I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to do a mask at my desk. OP, could you book a conference room for half an hour and wear it in there?

  76. Kira*

    Regarding #5: I wouldn’t think it was terribly odd if you had a post-doc position. My spouse works in academics, and it’s very normal for a post-doc to be a limited term contract, even though the hole is just going to be filled by another post-doc the following year. Part of what makes getting a professorship so painful is the years spent hopping from one post-doc to the next until you get full-time job somewhere. It’s less about the funding drying up, and more about the… well… I really have no idea why they insist that the people rotate so much.

    That said, saying “I’d love to be considered to stay in the position” can’t hurt! Spouse just didn’t do that because hopping to another workplace let Spouse get new skills so hopefully we only need one hop.

  77. Jen*

    Just an observation, many of the commenters who think sheet masks are ok at work seem to be in academia.
    Btw, loving the suggestions for clear/gel masks. My stance used to be no masking at work or on airplanes, but now I am rethinking that.

  78. Beth Anne*

    #1 – What I would do is find someone you know fluent in Spanish and ask them how accurate the translation is. It could be like others have said google translate is getting better.

    #2 – That’s awesome! I’ve thought about doing weird stuff like that at work but I know it wouldn’t be good. If you do it send us photos and report back lol

  79. The Rat-Catcher*

    My go-to:

    Them: “I wish I had an amazing memory like you!”
    Me: “…and yet I never know where I put my keys!”

    (I retain numbers and words really well, but I’m sort of absent-minded at the same time.)

  80. JerseyGirl*

    I always read but never comment… just had to say – I work in the beauty and fashion industry in NYC – and literally everyone wears sheets masks at work so long as there’s no important meetings or guests coming in! It’s not even a question in this industry.

Comments are closed.