my old boss still assigns me work, coworker doesn’t wash her hands when leaving the bathroom, and more

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

1. My old boss is still assigning me work

Recently I came back from FMLA leave to discover that my boss had been (willingly??) demoted and quickly replaced with an outside hire. It turns out I rather like the new boss. I am the lead assistant in the office, and I enjoy working for him in comparison to the former boss. The problem is workload. This new boss has lots of lofty ideas for implementing new systems, many of which I welcome and think we need. This has required a new focus and increased workload on my end.

At the same time, my former boss is reaching out to me to complete simple tasks for him — items I would have pushed back on for any other staff member (making a simple edit in a PowerPoint, scheduling one-on-one meetings in Outlook). These are items I attended to when and because he was the boss, but now he’s not in charge, and he should be fending for himself in these areas.

I’m torn about bringing this up with the new boss. I don’t want to be unhelpful, but being interrupted to complete these tasks is frustrating, and it’s going the extra mile for someone who is now just “regular staff.” I suspect I should let it go, gritting my teeth while putting my other work on hold and attend to his neediness. What would you do?

No, don’t let it go! It’s getting in the way of you being able to focus on the work you actually need to do — and especially with a new boss, now is a time for you to really kick ass and impress that new boss. Don’t let inappropriate requests from your old boss potentially derail your focus.

One option is to just politely decline these tasks. When your old boss sends you work you shouldn’t be doing for him anymore, say something like, “I’m booked solid with work for (new boss) this week so I won’t be able to do this.” You could add, “By the way, I don’t typically do that kind of thing for the staff — which I know is a change from when I was your assistant.”

But it would also be perfectly appropriate to say something to your new boss like, “Fergus has been sending me lots of admin work to do for him — tasks that everyone else handles on their own, like editing Powerpoints for him or booking meetings in Outlook. I need to focus on the work you’ve given me, so I’m going to let him know that he should handle those himself now — but before I do, I wanted to confirm with you that that’s correct.” Then, assuming your new boss confirms that, you’ll be able to tell your old boss, “(new boss) asked me not to take on these kinds of tasks for people and to focus on assignments from him instead.”

2. Coworker doesn’t wash her hands after using the bathroom

Weird/uncomfortable one for you. What do you do (if anything) when you see someone in a shared bathroom at work and they don’t wash their hands? I was at the sink, someone flushed, and then walked out of the bathroom at the same time as me, without stopping at the sink. I was left super uneasy but didn’t say anything. Should I have?

Nope. You’re not her parent so you don’t have standing to correct her on this. This is a “mind your own business” thing, although you’re allowed to be grossed out privately.

3. Letting my mom volunteer at my organization

I work at a nonprofit that relies heavily on volunteers. I’m a recent grad and in my early 20s. I’ve been working here for about seven months and was an intern before that, so my coworkers generally know my work ethic, as we’re a pretty small bunch. I feel as if the staff respects me and sees me as a hard worker. Oftentimes spouses or children (teenage or adult) of employees will volunteer (I work with kids). I’m single without any children, but my mom is very interested in my organization and loves kids. Would it be inappropriate for her to volunteer or possibly infantilizing to me? I feel like I work hard at presenting myself professionally, especially since I’m the youngest in the office, so I don’t want anything setting me back.

It depends on your mom! Do you trust her to interact with you professionally while she’s there and not act like your mom? And do you trust her not to act like your mom when you’re not around too, in terms of what she says to the other volunteers and staff? If she’s very good with boundaries and if, when you talk to her about this, your sense is that she gets that she’d need to basically pretend you’re not her kid while she’s there, then it could be fine. But if you’re not absolutely sure about those things, I wouldn’t risk it.

4. Should I put my photo on my resume?

How do you feel about adding my photo to my resume? I already have a job but am in the process of shifting careers. I have seen this tip–about adding a resume photo–different places on line. On one hand, it seems like a great way to stand out and help them put a face to my information. On the other hand, it seems like it could come off the wrong way to some employers. Just wanted to get the Alison take on it!

Don’t do it. It’s not a thing that’s done in the U.S., and it will come across oddly, as if you’re not quite in touch with professional conventions.

(It is a thing that’s done in other countries though, so if you’re outside the U.S., ignore this advice.)

{ 708 comments… read them below }

  1. KarenT*

    #2 Now that’s a tough one. I probably wouldn’t say anything but I’d be side-eyeing everything that employee touched.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I would be mighty tempted to carry my own stash of Lysol wipes to wipe down any shared surfaces.

      (Obviously I don’t mean that, really, but the no-hand-washing really grosses me out.)

    2. Jen S. 2.0*

      A friend of mine has said that she just aggressively tells herself that the coworker has hand sanitizer at her desk, and prefers that to cheap office soap.

      Which … fair. I have encountered a number of bathrooms, including my office and a favorite restaurant of mine, where I haaaaaaaate the smell of the cheap soap.

      (Note: I often note that I wash my hands in the ladies’ NOT because I peed on my hands, but because I should wash my hands several times a day, and going to the ladies’ is the best opportunity for that. I still am weirded out by people who don’t wash their hands, though.)

      1. Engineer Woman*

        Hand sanitizer at desk: Yes, but don’t you have to touch the door handle / door handle on the way out? So…….ew.

        This is why I save the paper towel with which I dried my hands to open the door. If possible, throw towel away before the door slams shut. If not, towel gets thrown away at desk or any other garbage bin.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Our bathroom at work is pull to enter, push to leave–so I usually just kind of back up against it when I’m leaving and don’t touch it with my hands at all.

          I don’t generally use it instead of soap, but I do have hand sanitizer at my desk and the soap dispenser in the women’s bathroom randomly stops working all the time so sometime’s it’s easiest. It’s definitely possible the person in the question above just prefers to use hand sanitizer!

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            I often don’t use whatever nasty liquid soap is available because it’s perfumed and I can’t stand to smell it on my hands. BUT!!! I’m still at the sink washing my hands thoroughly under running hot water. It’s not as good as using soap because the soap affects the actual bacteria in a physical way because chemistry but it’s still way way better than nothing and it’s better than the “quick rinse” action that I see many people use.

            (And at home I do a thorough medical-professional-level hand scrub every time I scoop the cats’ litter box.)

        2. YoungTeach*

          My office br door is a push so i just lean on it… no paper towers, it’s the main reason i prefer hand sanitizer…

        3. Kathleen_A*

          I do the paper towel thing, too (or sometimes the “use my own shirttail” thing). The way I look at is that it protects everybody. It protects me from other people’s germs, and it protects other people from my germs, e.g., if I miss a spot on my thumb or something.

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Agreed wholeheartedly … but better than nothing. If leaving without washing your grubby paws is a D+, hand sanitizer at your desk is at least a B.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            But who knows what that person may have to touch on their way back. Someone could stop them to hand them papers, ask them to come in their office to talk, their could be other doors, the stair rail…

        2. On a pale mouse*

          A sign at the last place I went when I was sick said that if the hands are not visibly dirty, then hand sanitizer actually is better. I think they had brochures and I keep meaning to pick one up because that’s not what I ever heard before.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Now that you said that. My BF told me recently his bathroom doesn’t have hot water and there’s a sign saying something special about the soap doesn’t require ther be hot water.

            1. dawbs*

              Unless the water is REALLY hot, hot water/cold water, temp hasn’t really ever mattered. I think people said hot water because it made people more likely to do it for the appropriate amount of time, but the only time temp would actually be important is if the water was hot enough to affect microbes, and, realistically, that’s water much to hot to put your hands in (although possibly relevant for doing dishes, etc)

          2. Nurse Molly*

            I am a nurse. You are supposed to wash your hands after eating or going to the bathroom before returning to work AND whenever your hands are visibly dirty WITH SOAP AND WATER.

            Hand sanitizer is sufficient at other times

          3. Artemesia*

            Hand sanitizer is not better — it does not touch some of the worst germs. Norovirus will wash off with a good handwashing; it is not effective to use alcohol gels.

        3. LS*

          It depends! As long as the sanitiser at least 70% alcohol, both are good at removing actual germs (with some exceptions that you’re not likely to worry about unless you are in a hospital or immunocompromised), but soap and water are better at removing larger particles. So if you have the chance to wash your hands with soap and water, do it, but sometimes you don’t (like between serving customers) and then the sanitiser comes into its own.

          1. ES*

            I’m allergic to all common soap, and even touching a tap that someone else has used can make me come out in hives – same if my partner uses soap throughout the day. This may not be the case here – but please be aware that you don’t know everything about everyone else.

            1. AlexandraVictoria*

              This. The soap at my office strips the skin off my hands. I rinse at the sink, then use hand sanitiser at my desk. Not ideal, but neither is pain from using the cheap soap.

            2. JDusek*

              I sympathize. I have an allergy to fragrance. Lotions, perfume or hairspray can trigger hives. Thankfully, if someone else is wearing these things it doesn’t cause a reaction unless they are wearing it heavily. My spouse cannot wash with any other brand of a specific soap or laundry soap otherwise he gets hives that scab over.
              Thankfully, his stuff doesn’t make me have an allergy reaction.

            3. MI Dawn*

              I was coming here to say the same thing! I’m very allergic to the soap in the bathroom – I used to bring my own but people kept walking off with it while I was in the toilet. So now I mostly rinse my hands with water and dry them and use safe-for-me products at my desk.

                1. Jennifer Thneed*

                  I used to think that, too, but the bacteria you most want to get off your hands are very “sticky”, so you do need the scrubbing motion. And soap works biochemically to actually disrupt their cell walls; it isn’t just a hand-washing lubricant as I used to think.

                  A useful term to know: anti-bacterial, as opposed to antibiotic. Antibiotics poison bacteria and that’s why they can be evolved against. Anti-bacterials kill bacteria in physical ways (like disrupting their cell walls). Soap is an anti-bacterial, and so is alcohol.

                2. fposte*

                  @Jennifer–I think some stuff is getting mixed up there. Bacteria absolutely can develop resistance to antibacterials–that was one of the concerns about triclosan, for instance. There’s a great page at Tufts I’ll link to in followup that breaks down the EPA categorizations, the FDA involvement, and the actions of the different classes.

              1. InfrequentCommenter*

                They sell travel squeeze bottles in the travel section at Walmart for 97 cents. You can carry hand soap in that. Nurses at my work, who have a preferred soap, do this.

                1. Anxa*

                  I honestly just wish more bathrooms had a gentle soap option. I could never manager to carry soap into the bathroom all of the time, use it, and reclose the bottle without recontaminating my hands in the process.

              2. Marillenbaum*

                Once, when my nieces were little (like, 7 and 4) they wanted to help me bake cookies. I told them to go wash their hands so we could get started, and the younger one pipes up, “Daddy says Alyssa’s allergic to soap!” I snickered, because it seemed like one of those things kids repeat their parents saying (ie, Alyssa washes her hands so infrequently her parents joke she must be allergic). I checked with their dad, and it turns out she was sensitive to a lot of soap (but not, thankfully, the kind my mom keeps in stock for just this reason!) So, hands were cleaned, cookies baked, and I learned a thing.

            4. Camellia*

              Thank you, I came here to say something similar. I don’t wash my hands in the bathroom, either. I can’t stop anyone from getting squicked out about it, and I’m sorry about that, but please don’t get all judgey on me. And if anyone ever says hey, you didn’t wash your hands/aren’t you going to wash your hands, I’m going to say, “Nah, I just lick them clean”. And revel in their expressions.

              1. AMT*

                Just out of curiosity, how do you normally clean your hands post-bathroom/pre-food-prep/etc.? Sanitizer? Plain water? Special soap?

              2. FirTrees808*

                You seem fun- people are going to judge you because no one wants your personal germs or waste particles spread all over the office. You can buy travel size to carry into the bathroom, but to act like you exist in a vacuum and its ok to spread your own personal filth everywhere is pretty entitled and rude. I don’t know what you have, and I don’t want it. Just clean your hands.

                1. Sarah H*

                  We are all constantly spreading our personal filth everywhere. Wiping away your (sterile) pee with clean toilet paper without actually touching your body is probably way more sanitary than picking your nose, which most people do freely without washing their hands afterwards.

              3. Former Employee*

                I’ve never heard of anyone being allergic to water, so I have no understanding as to why someone wouldn’t wash their hands. Washing itself is helpful even if soap cannot be used. Then hand sanitizer can be applied.

            5. Teclatrans*

              Yeah. For me, best case scenario with those soaps is mild headache,l and sinus pain, worst-case is tingly nerve pain and hives along with a more severe headache. Not something I would want to risk at work.
              I absolutely would wash my hands after pooping (if there is warm water, all the better) — I just would not use soap. But if I only peed? Hand sanitizer at my desk seems sufficient to the task. And given the number of people who refuse to poop at the office, I would tell myself that someone who didn’t wash their hands probably had only peed.

            6. LS*

              I’m also allergic to most scented products, which is why I said “if you have the chance” to use soap and water. I use hand sanitiser at work because I can’t use the perfumed soap.

            7. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              One of our good friends has a lot of allergies that we try to accommodate. We were using a hand soap in the bathroom she was fine with, but the next time I bought it they must have changed formulas because it made her hands hive. After that, we just kept a bottle of sanitizer in the bathroom for her because we weren’t sure what soaps would be safe for her to use.

          2. fposte*

            It depends on the specific microorganism; norovirus, for instance, isn’t easily killed by sanitizer (nor is C. diff, but most of us aren’t dealing with that in the office). Sanitizer is, however, very effective against yer basic cold and flu viruses.

          3. Brila*

            That’s not actually 100% accurate. It’s a common misconception.

            “Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.“

            Soap is always better.

            Hand sanitizer is only effective if there are not large particles.

            It is not “at least as good” as soap and water. It’s just supposed to be a backup.

            Sanitizer also kills both good gems and bad ones. Soap and water don’t do that.

            That being said, DH used to make soap as a chemical engineer. He would tell you that the most effective and important product out there for removing bacteria and other gems is water. Water.

            So if you want to use hand sanitizer instead of soap, that’s ok. Just rinse with hot water first.

            If you are allergic to the soap, just rinse with hot water.




            1. Nurse Molly*

              This! but doesnt have to be hot water. just the friction under water. but if soap is available, use it

          4. Brila*

            The CDC says that soap is always better. Always.

            The hand sanitizer is never better, but only works if there are no large particulates.

            (Google CDC + soap + hand sanitizer)

            As it turns out, the single most important substance for de-germing is water. Just water.

            DH was once employed to manufacture industrial soaps as the chemical engineer. He would tell you that the whole purpose of soap is to get the water to do it’s job by getting it in contact with the skin.

            (A few years back there was an article in the Atlantic about this).

            So, if you don’t have large particulates, the best thing to do is to wash with water. As hot as you can stand it.

            If you want to add hand santizer or soap to the process, more power to you.

            Also, fyi, most research shows the problem with hand sanitizer is that in order to be effective, it has to be concentrated at 60%. In that case, it’s killing both good germs and bad ones. Water and most non-anti-bacterial soaps do not kill the good ones. They’ve adapted. (Tons of articles if you google this)

            So, order of use should be:

            Hand Sanitizer

            If you are allergic to the soap or simply don’t like it, that’s ok, but you should still rinse with water.

            Never skip the water rinse. (Unless you are allergic to water, which is apparently a thing).

            1. Brila*

              PS It’s been a year or two, but I heard a CDC employee talking about this on NPR. They always rinse with water. The soap or other product they use depends upon what they are dealing with. But always water.

            2. Julia the Survivor*

              Allergic to chemicals like chlorine, added to the water. or in the case of untreated water, allergic to other particles in it.

              1. Kate 2*

                Do you mean you are allergic to it? If so, how do you shower or bathe? Or cook? Or wash dishes?

              2. only acting normal*

                There is such a thing as just allergic to water: Aquagenic urticaria. Reproducible with distilled water, so not particles or chlorine etc.
                I can’t imagine how difficult it is living with it.

              3. Julia the Survivor*

                No, I’m not allergic to it. I happened to see an article recently about the chlorine allergy.
                Chlorine and it’s derivatives are linked to the development of allergies. Avoid as much as possible!

            3. MI Dawn*

              Yeah, I should have been specific and say I *do* scrub my hands under the running water, just don’t use soap.

          5. Former Retail Manager*

            This is interesting and, although I’m aware that many people have a plethora of allergies, soap isn’t one that even entered my mind. Thanks for sharing!

        4. Pollygrammer*

          I can’t help but think soap=bacteria washed away, hand sanitizer=dead bacteria still on your skin.

          I know this doesn’t really make sense.

          1. Irene Adler*

            Yes, you do make sense. I cringe when I think about what’s really going on with hand sanitizer vs. washing.

            1. Natalie*

              How so? Most live bacteria aren’t anything to be concerned about, and dead bacteria definitely isn’t – they don’t do anything when they’re dead.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                Plus, there are bacteria on your skin anyway. And on your desk, and your office chair, and the walls, and . . . etc. Your hands are probably no cleaner than they were before you washed them, as soon as you touch anything in your office. The world is very much not sterile.

          2. Brila*

            The issue isn’t dead bacteria with hand sanitizer, it’s killing good germs (flora your body needs) as well as dangerous ones.

            Soap + water generally doesn’t do that.

            1. fposte*

              Apparently now that we’ve dumped the anti-bacterial sanitizer and gone just for the alcohol-based the effect on good bacteria isn’t really much of a problem–your hands repopulate them pretty quickly. (I’ve got a link in moderation to the Atlantic article mentioned–I think that’s stated in there.)

          3. Pollygrammer*

            Now that I think about it, also: soap=possible traces of bodily waste washed away, hand sanitizer=sanitized traces of bodily waste still on your hands.

            There’s a reason the signs say “Employees Must Wash Hands” don’t say “Employees Must Wash Hands or Use Alcohol-Based Gel.”

            I’m not a germaphobe, but I’m firmly on Team Soap.

            1. fposte*

              But the microorganisms are still the problem with bodily waste; if they’re neutralized, the traces aren’t a risk. The space shuttle recycles urine into drinking water, after all.

              1. Pollygrammer*

                Eh, other people’s disgust is also a reason to follow the norms of hand-washing. Germs aren’t the only reason to not pick your nose or scratch your crotch in public, social norms and horrifying others is a huge factor.

                1. fposte*

                  I think that’s getting the causality wrong, though; you’re just grossed out by people who don’t wash their hands, not by sterilized bodily waste.

                2. Pollygrammer*

                  I don’t think there’s any difference? Not washing your hands=traces of poop, and poop is gross. (In my brain, not according to science, I’m perfectly aware)

                  Here’s my fun disgusting story: a bunch of years ago, my old apartment building had a brief little roach problem. One of their last holdouts after pest spraying was in the outer casing of my microwave. (This is apparently really common). No way of getting them out.

                  The pest guy told me all I had to do was put the microwave somewhere really hot for a while, like the trunk of my car on a hot day. But…my microwave would still have dead roaches in its casing. Probably some people would be okay with that–they would be dead, they wouldn’t spread, they had never been in contact with the inside where my food went–but that microwave went in the trash.

              2. Massmatt*

                We are not only talking about urine. Astronauts don’t recycle their Pooh and eat it, do they?

                1. fposte*

                  I doubt it, because it wouldn’t have much nutritional value and it takes more work to recycle; you can, however, buy it (known tastefully as “composted biosolids”) on Earth as a fertilizer to use on your growing food. Apparently about 50% of the biosolids we produce get returned to the ground as fertilizer.

                  Where is Gene on this thread, anyway? Genuine sewage guy should have good information about this.

        5. Kate*

          A couple of years ago, I judged a school science fair where one of the projects was comparing different methods of washing your hands. The kids put some compound on their hands that was supposed to make “germs” show up, though it could have been just dirt. They were 4th graders, so I’m not going to fault them too much if it was not entirely scientifically accurate. But the conclusion was that hand sanitizer did absolutely nothing. Their hands were just as dirty after hand sanitizer as they were before. It changed my whole world view.

        6. Julia the Survivor*

          Sometimes at my desk I’ll use sanitizer and then wipe my hands with a paper towel. Reasoning it both kills the germs and gets them off me. I like to do this after handling snow boots, etc., with mud and salt…

          1. FirTrees808*

            That’s not how it works- you need to rub it in and let it dry to effectively kill bacteria. Your method just means your hands are still germ infested and you’ve wasted hand sanitizer.

      2. TheCupcakeCounter*

        This is a thing! My coworker is allergic to the soap (as well as so many other things) at our office and the company has opted to provide a large bottle of hand sanitizer right outside the bathroom for her (and anyone else who wants to use it). She will usually rinse her hands off then head to the sanitizer but a lot of people noticed she wasn’t using the soap so she told a few busybodies (they do have uses!) about all the issues she was having with her allergies and word spread.
        Some people are just gross though…

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          So why don’t all the allergic folks just carry your hypoallergenic soap to the restroom with you? Lime I said upthreead, there’s a lot of things you could be touching on the way back to your desk, not to mention people you’re grossing out that may never shake hands with you, use your pen, or whatever again. All because they don’t know

          1. OhNoNotAgain*

            This. Hand sanitizer does not kill cdiff spores (and one can be a carrier of those spores and *not* show signs of illness). The only things that kill those spores are extremely high heat and bleach. That’s one reason why scrubbing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (and under the nails!) is recommended. I really wish people who are sensitive to certain soaps would bring in whatever they use at home to work and use it out of consideration of others. I had cdiff. I also told my coworkers at the time out of consideration for them and expressed how important it was for them to scrub with soap and water, too. I didn’t want anyone else to get it. After using the toilet, I used bleach to clean the toilet. And scrubbed and scrubbed my hands after toileting–multiple times in a row. I was as careful as could be and as far as I know, no one got it at work. I had a mild case, but it wasn’t fun and was extremely hard to get rid of. I don’t know how I got it–I’ve always been a dedicated hand washer, but I suspect being on antibiotics made me vulnerable enough to allow an infection to happen. Other than treatment for the cdiff, I have not taken antibiotics since.

            1. KatieZee*

              CDiff can survive up to 160F – you aren’t washing your hands in water that hot, so it’s irrelevant.

          2. Kate the Little Teapot*

            Why don’t all the non-allergic folks stop messing with our hypoallergenic and/or fragrance free soap so we can leave it in the bathroom and reasonably expect it to be there when we need it, just like you expect that awful fragranced soap to be in the dispenser?

            Seriously until temporarily able-bodied people can take responsibility for not messing with things other people have for their medical needs, none of you get to point and shame at how we handle it.

              1. nonegiven*

                Your comparing stealing people’s non allergenic products with not washing with soap?

      3. YoungTeach*

        I do actually keep hand sanitizer at my desk bc my office bathroom doesn’t have paper towels OR hand dryers so it is just simpler… So this was actually my first thought…

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I do too because apparently, my allergies have decided to be year-round, and my nose runs CONSTANTLY. I always have to wipe it, so I use the sanitizer (alcohol-based stuff).

          1. Julia the Survivor*

            In case you don’t already know, allergy shots can help a lot!
            Also afrin nasal spray, though you can’t use it continuously more than 5 days. Maybe an antihistamine spray would help too. You have to get a prescription for that. See an allergist! :)

      4. Someone else*

        Hand sanitizer isn’t a replacement for soap handwashing though. If there’s no soap, sanitizer is better than nothing, but if you’re talking about reducing spread of infectious disease the level of effectiveness goes: handwashing+sanitizer at other intervals (not doing both at once), handwashing alone, sanitizer alone. So even if this person is going back to desk and using sanitizer instead of soap, that’s better than nothing but really not remotely as good as having washed her hands.

      5. Kate the Little Teapot*

        Hi, I actually do have hand sanitizer at my desk and it’s because I’m fragrance-free and office soap is always fragranced and carrying soap around is annoying and tends to result in soap accidents.

    3. PB*

      Yes. I’ve encountered this with a co-worker before. I filed it away and moved on with my day. This became useful information the time she offered to bring me food at a staff party (ick).

    4. Irene Adler*

      We had a temp employee that wasn’t washing her hands after using the bathroom. When we (all the female employees) compared notes, each one of us had witnessed her not washing her hands. So it wasn’t a one-time event. Even worse, she had a habit of touching whomever she was talking to (shoulder rub, or patting one’s arm). ACK!

      So we all approached her. Repeatedly. Asked her to wash. She explained that she didn’t wash because the water hurt her hands (arthritis). We insisted. So she would run the water and then put just her fingertips into the flow.

      Then one day we had a potluck lunch. The word passed. Don’t touch her dish. That’s when management learned about the situation.

      She was let go.

      1. Bebe*

        I work in a Physical Therapy office that shares space with 2 physicians. Our central ladies’ room is shared by all staff & patients. I noticed one of the PTs didn’t wash her hands after going to the bathroom. The next day, we had signs up reminding people to wash their hands “for your and others health & safety.” She still didn’t wash her hands. She was ultimately let go.

        However I don’t think anyone ever addressed it directly – she was just told there had patient complaints. Which I think was a poor way to handle things – someone should have said specifically that a) we are a health care facility you need to do this and b) a patient saw you and complained about it. She was a good PT and maybe a heads up would have made her correct her behavior.

        1. RVA Cat*

          This. Obviously this is a serious issue in healthcare – also in food service (“Poppy is sloppy” anyone?).

      2. Yada Yada Yada*

        I feel like that’s kind of mean :( You know that a kitchen is filthier than a bathroom, right? I would have never insisted someone wash their hands if it caused them pain from arthritis, I mean come on

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This. And unless they’re scrubbing down all their desks, chairs, walls, etc. constantly, her hands were probably no dirtier than everyone else’s. As soon as you touch *anything*, your hands are no longer very clean.

          And this is from somebody who has worked in both food service and for a veterinarian and washes her hands all the time just out of habit. But I’m under no illusions about the sterility of my keyboard and wrist-rest.

          1. Pollygrammer*

            There’s a difference between accidentally being exposed to unsanitariness (not a word, I know) and having someone deliberately expose you to unsanitariness.

            1. fposte*

              It may be a difference in how you think of the person; it’s not a difference that automatically makes them a health menace and everybody else germ-free.

            2. Chameleon*

              It actually isn’t. Any bacteria that she might have gotten rid of by washing you probably already had on your hands from touching…literally anything else in the office.

              People don’t really get how much bacteria is everywhere, and how unimportant that really is most of the time. (Source: PhD in microbiology)

              1. Someone else*

                It’s not a matter of “yes of course you already had that bacteria”; it’s a matter of how much of that bacteria. Sure everyone has some amount of that on their hands at pretty much all times, but someone immediately post bathroom use has a lot more than others who wash their hands properly (although I acknowledge a hell of a lot of people wash their hands improperly and are somewhere in between not-at-all and clean depending on how poor of a job they did). You’re not suggesting handwashing doesn’t actually make a difference at all?

                1. fposte*

                  At this point, though, you’d need to talk about specific strains of microorganism. You don’t have more cold and flu viruses on your hand after using the bathroom. It also matters what you’re doing with yourself next–if you’re preparing food, it’s a bigger deal than if you’re filing paperwork.

                  (Looks like one of the studies also indicates it’s good for to people wash their hands before and after sex. So even if that’s all you’re doing in the stall, you should still wash :-).)

                2. Anna*

                  Are you explaining microbiology to a microbiologist? Wow.

                  I wash my hands for me, not anyone else. I’m not worried about anyone else. I may give someone side-eye if I see they didn’t wash their hands, but I can guarantee that within five minutes I’ve completely forgotten about it.

                3. Grapey*

                  “You’re not suggesting handwashing doesn’t actually make a difference at all?”

                  Washing your own hands is the best way to prevent getting sick.

                  If you wash your own hands often enough and don’t touch your face/bite your nails, any ickiness that someone else left behind is drastically reduced.

                  If you see a coworker acting in a way you find gross, the best thing to do is pass on their potluck contribution and wash your own hands more often.

              2. RB*

                Yes, I mean dozens of people use our department’s printer/copier and I’ve never seen it get wiped down ever. Ditto with the handle of the refrigerator, and the cupboard/drawer handles in the community coffee area and the kitchen. And if you touch paper money you’re picking up all sorts of things. I’m not sure why people have this intense focus on bathroom bacteria when it’s not all that much different from other bacteria that is everywhere in our lives.

                1. Sarah H*

                  This. And our phones, good lord, our germy phones. We are cruising in bacteria at all times. If you ever leave your house, you WILL be exposed to new bacteria/viruses, your immune system will deal with 99% of it just fine, and once in awhile you’ll get sick. Hand washing in the bathroom by a non-sick person isn’t going to make a dent in the bacterial load we encounter. It’s useful to wash our OWN hands, but I can’t see any reason to care what other people do.

                2. Anxa*

                  Some bacteria are pathogenic, some aren’t. Concentration of virus and bacteria matter. Some bacteria and viruses can live longer outside of the body than others.

                  Bacteria is pretty much omnipresent, but it’s much more efficient to interrupt the chain of infection on their exit and entry to the body rather than try to control the environment.

            3. Mookie*

              But the difference has no measurable effect on anyone’s health. Other people don’t have to introduce someone’s “germs” to their mouths or other orifices. They, too, can wash before and after eating, defecating, picking their noise, whatever. They can also readily avoid licking surfaces in public places.

      3. Bette*

        Wow, I think that was pretty shitty of you all. Especially if she did in fact have arthritis.

        1. Yada Yada Yada*

          Agreed. Persisting after she revealed the diagnosis was shitty, then they acted even shittier when gossiping about her like schoolchildren. I hope the person found a kinder workplace at her next job and didn’t encounter too much hardship after being let go

        2. Irene Adler*

          She didn’t take any steps to keep things sanitary. She could have used hand sanitizer but she did not. She could have put on disposable gloves but she did not. We’re a lab and there are boxes and boxes of disposable gloves throughout the company. All she had to do is store a box of gloves in the bathroom for her use. No one would have had a problem with that. When co-workers talked to her about it, she could have asked us for suggestions on what to do given the arthritis issue. But she did not. She just giggled and walked away. Every time. Arthritis or not, if one isn’t going to wash hands after using the bathroom, at least take equivalent steps to clean off.

          And we doubted her arthritis claim as well. She had no issue with it performing her manufacturing tasks where 95% of the worked entailed manual dexterity actions-including wearing gloves to wash glassware and rinsing it off in cold water. That should have bothered the arthritis a whole lot more than applying water after using the bathroom. But she had no complaints regarding the glassware.

          As far as disability goes, there were no doctor’s notes provided that proved this claim. In addition, the temp agency should have alerted us to her condition. They did not. The “ick” factor had folks bothered such that management decided it was best to take action.

          1. Katniss*

            You still forced a person who said they experienced pain when they washed their hands to wash their hands, seemingly in front of you. If someone tells you doing something causes them pain, the correct response is not to insist they do the thing. You’re not her doctor, so you don’t get to decide what is a “real” disability or not, by the way.

          2. Yada Yada Yada*

            Ok, the context does help with my feelings on this, but this was still a gross (no pun intended) overreaction in my opinion. You really want someone to use gloves while they go to the bathroom? Seems like overkill to me and I just fail to see why this was such a huge deal.

          3. Bette*

            Why should she have alerted you to her condition? Unless frequent hand-washing was a prerequisite for the job, she had no reason to tell anyone anything. It’s private. And unless you’re a specialist in arthritis, you have no way of knowing what might trigger her condition–you’re making vast assumptions with very little knowledge. This just seems like mean girl behavior.

            1. Someone else*

              It sounds like it was a lab, in which case I’m imagine it was a prerequisite for the job?

              1. senatormeathooks*

                Presumably wearing gloves is a requirement as well, so while it’s not ideal to not hand wash, there is, at least, a barrier.

          4. FirTrees808*

            Nope I’m on Irene Adler’s side. That’s nasty, you can figure out a way to clean your hands regardless of arthritis. Soap and water, hand sanitizer gel/foam/lotion/wipes… That’s gross. Wash your hands. End of story.

      4. August*

        Management learned about the situation? So…you guys told them. Your office doesn’t sound like a nice environment.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          Yeah, and I wonder how much work everyone had to do if they’re all gossiping about whether or not someone washed their hands in the bathroom. Seriously.

        2. Yorick*

          Also, if I were a manager, I’d roll my eyes so hard at someone who tattled on a coworker for not washing her hands (unless it were food service or something where it’s required)

      5. Jesmlet*

        Couldn’t you have just asked for her to not touch you guys? Realistically you come in more contact with bacteria by touching your personal cell phones once than you would from this woman patting your arm all day long.

        1. Anna*

          There’s this whole thing at comic conventions where artists don’t shake hands with fans because GERMS! There’s nothing wrong with precaution, but I have always wanted to ask them if they refrain from touching door handles, elevator buttons, railings, literally anything else around them to avoid them, too, otherwise it’s them making a show of something for no good reason. A friend of mine does shake hands, but he keeps a bottle of hand sanitizer sitting at his table and uses it liberally.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            I completely understand the impulse. I used to work in college admissions, and students were often dead set on shaking your hand, even if they were under the weather and could spread illnesses to you, which is how I ended up getting strep for the first time in my late 20s. It was not fun.

          2. Artemesia*

            hand sanitizer doesn’t kill the germ that causes 24 hour stomach flu which is the worst! When you have this type of ‘flu’ you are contagious for a couple of weeks and can spread it if you don’t wash your hands thoroughly after using the toilet. No one washes all that thoroughly and that is why this stuff spreads like wildfire through cruise ships, offices, schools and family reunions.

            1. kitryan*

              I just had it while I was staying in temporary location and I researched (between ’bouts’) and bought stuff recommended to kill it (I think Lysol spray and hydrogen peroxide wipes) and as soon as I was out of the estimated window of contagion, I cleaned everything I could think of with the wipes and spray- and I mean everything- because I’d aerosoled those germs all over the place.
              Because I have human empathy, right then, the worst thing I could think of to possibly do was to be the cause of someone else going through what I was still recovering from.
              Actually, remembering that ‘bring your norovirus kid to work’ thread on AAM was what gave me the base knowledge on how bad and tenacious noro and its relatives can be!

      6. Old MacNonnald*

        …I never thought I’d find myself siding with the person who doesn’t wash her hands after going to the loo, and yet here we are. Congrats, I guess?

        1. Engineer Woman*

          Me too! I mean, the woman did then turn on the tap and run her fingers in the water to “pacify” the lot of you. By that time, it would have been a whole lot easier in my opinion to just Wash The Hands, but yet she didn’t do that. Maybe there really was some health (physical or psychological…?) problem with her?

        2. AfterBurner313*

          I can top that on people channeling their inner Mean Girl. I worked with people that the minute they found out you had a cat, nothing that came out of your kitchen was “sanitary” because indoor cats hop on counter spaces with their poopy litter box paws.

          Was a ton of fun to see tasty, wonderfully made dishes mostly go uneaten because of cat paws/litter box/counter top phobia.

          I also had relatives flat out refused to eat at others relatives homes because the dogs got to lick the random dinner plate. Mind you, the plates were hand scrub in screaming hot water, and ran through a very expensive high end dishwasher.

          The cat/food phobia is common enough that I heard about it at three different jobs.

          1. Plague of frogs*

            When I told a coworker I was getting pet rats, he said, “Do you expect anyone to ever come to your house again?” I felt like saying (but did not say), “Well, you won’t be coming because you will no longer be invited.”

            1. Mookie*

              Their loss. Anyone who eschews the company of rats deserve what’s coming to them. Rats are so clean and so into cleaning they’ll clean your mouth for you because, face it, you’re a disgusting hairless ape.

          2. FirTrees808*

            That would be me. I don’t want cat litter in my food. I absolutely would not eat food my aunt brings to potlucks because she doesn’t wash in her hands when she goes to the bathroom. Hard pass.

            1. senatormeathooks*

              Us cat owners don’t want cat litter in our food either, so we tend to make sure we don’t make food with cat litter in it. It’s not hard.

              That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever read.

        3. Property Manager*

          I have to say … I agree with you!

          I really thought about it while reading these comments and realized that (1) I don’t wash my hands every single time I pee when I’m at home putzing around the house, even though I always do in a public restroom (and no one I ever lived with thought that was gross); and (2) I wonder if people are judging ME every time I go in a restroom stall to do a quick clothing check or something non-toilet related and the autoflush activates.

          Aside from pee, which I don’t find terribly gross, I do get a bit obsessive about washing after no. 2. What I tend to find gross is that I have to touch the clothes I’m wearing, and then the stall door, and then pick up whatever I have with me when I’m in a public restroom, BEFORE I can get to the sink to wash my hands. Who knows … maybe this coworker is going the hand sanitizer route and she’s using before she leaves the stall?

          Either way, my vote is to also just let it go. Germs are everywhere — all you can do is wash your own hands and not let it ruin your day.

      7. Snark*

        “She explained that she didn’t wash because the water hurt her hands (arthritis). We insisted.”


    5. Zoe Karvounopsina*

      I swear I saw one of our consultants do that yesterday.

      After she left, I screamed silently at the mirror.

    6. Aaron*

      Ugh at my prior job, there was a guy on another team who would regularly go #2 without washing his hands. I’m a bit of a germophobe, so this was particularly brutal.

    7. It's-a-me*

      A coworker at my office used to come out of the toilet, fix her hair, squish her hand through the puddle of water and soap that had accumulated on the counter under the soap dispenser, and then rinse it off.

      In my opinion, it’s worse than not washing at all ugh.

    8. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I was at a restaurant once and a lady was changing a baby’s diaper in the changing station in the next stall. I knew this because she talked to the baby the entire time, about how what a huge mess it was and it was everywhere. Then when I was washing my hands she carried the baby out of the stall, breezed past me and walked right into the restaurant. I was frozen in horror. I admit, I do not have kids so I don’t know how one would juggle a baby while washing their hands – but I have consulted parents who assured me it can be done and I was right to be horrified.

      1. ML*

        I clean my hands with baby wipes and sanitizer after dealing with the diaper. Much easier than washing with a baby under one arm.

      2. Anon librarian*

        You just switch what hip you are holding them on. I do this all the time.

        Or use wipes to wash your hands, bring the kiddo back to the table and drop them off with whoever you’re eating with and then go back and wash with soap and water.

      3. Oxford Coma*

        Former waitress here: I’ve had people change their kid ON THE TABLE. And the type of person who does that really does not appreciate being told to stop. Fun times.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Reason number one why I carry a small pack of Clorox wipes with me onto a plane and clean the F*CK out of that little tray table before putting anything on it.

          Also the armrests.

        2. bonkerballs*

          I have seen this happen out of neccessity on occasion. Not saying this is the case for you and your restaurant at all, but more than once I’ve been on one of the Seattle ferries and watched a man getting hassled for changing a diaper on the tables. They’re told they can’t do that there, and the poor man has to say ”I’m alone with my child, there are no changing tables in the men’s bathroom, and as a man I’m not allowed in the women’s room. What would you like me to do instead?” And so it’s a crappy situation all around for everyone.

          1. Starbuck*

            Yikes! Why not the floor, at least? Or the bench, rather than the table? People eat and do puzzles on those tables. Hopefully it wasn’t one near the food court.

            1. TheVeryWorst*

              I’m not putting my baby on the floor to change their diaper for anything. The table can be wiped off. Maybe advocate for changing stations in bathrooms? They’re surprisingly rare.

        3. AfterBurner313*

          I’ve had the joy of being with in viewing/smell range of a mother changing a blow out poopy diaper at a restaurant table.

          No pad under the baby. Strip off onies, gross diaper on table, gross baby wipes on table. I don’t think the baby actually touched the table, but by that point…does it really matter?

          Wait staff screamed there was a baby changing table mom could use. Mom yelled back that table was “germy” , and she wasn’t going to change the diaper on her car.

          I’m pretty immune to gross, but that skeeved me out

        4. Anxa*

          I had a family that left my a sub <15% tip after what I felt was pretty good, but not great (dinner rush) service after their child had an accident at the table near the end of their meal. I never really cared much about what tip I got, but that still haunts me to this day.

      4. OP2*

        I’m also a mother and when my son was a baby would always use hand sanitizer when washing my hands. I suppose, in hindsight, I could’ve assumed this coworker did the same thing. I posted in a reply to another comment – I was honestly just curious on etiquette because I don’t recall ever seeing someone not at least rinse their hands. I don’t even remember who the employee was anymore.

        1. Carmen*

          There is a limited number of times I can wash my hands in the day in the winter without them cracking and becoming red and painful. So if my hands are reaching a bad state, I sometimes don’t wash my hands in the bathroom. (Only in cases of pee only.)

    9. govt_drone*

      I’m shocked by the number of people opting to not say anything. I would, and have, called people out for behaviors that spread bacteria around for no reason (including not washing your hands after using the toilet).

      1. Natalie*

        That sounds pretty rude, actually! You’re not the Captain Public Health, and if you were I’d hope you’d focus on effective intervention. Somehow I doubt calling strangers out for what you consider insufficient sanitation does much to change their behavior.

        1. only acting normal*

          There are actually signs in our toilets reminding us that we are all responsible for health and safety (a parody of the ‘Your country needs YOU!’ posters). So I suppose in our office we are all deputised “Captain Public Health”.

      2. Ann O'Nemity*

        I’ve said something to people who don’t wash their hands on a few occasions. I do it as nicely as possible, but I still do it. And you know what, every time the person has gone back and washed their hands.

        In one of the restrooms at my current job, there’s two stalls but only one sink. It was easy to say ,”Oh, I’m done washing my hands so you can wash yours now” when I saw someone trying to make a beeline from the stall to the door. They guiltily came back and washed their hands.

        I’ve even told a stranger, “Oh don’t forget to wash your hands! You know, my daughter always forgets too.” With a chuckle, like, kids these days, ha.

        1. Yorick*

          You should stop doing this immediately. It’s not appropriate to treat other adults like children.

          1. Anna*

            For reals. The reason they went back and washed their hands wasn’t because of your helpful (meddling) insistence. It’s because you made them feel shameful and that’s gross.

          1. VelociraptorAttack*

            I can’t imagine that in this type of situation, I’d respond well to a “kids these days” type lecture from a stranger.

            1. Yorick*

              No, I would for sure not go back to wash my hands, and I’d consider wiping my dirty hands on her face (not really, but you know)

        2. Anne (with an "e")*

          I always, always wash my hands. However, I would really be very offended if anyone told me/reminded me to wash my hands before I even had an opportunity to do so. So, I come out of the stall and you say, “Oh don’t forget to wash your hands! You know, my daughter always forgets too.” With a chuckle, like, kids these days, ha.”

          I am not a kid. I especially am not your kid. That is so beyond condescending. Why would you even do that. Stop doing that. It is rude. Do not patronize me. I am an adult.

      3. Mookie*

        called people out for behaviors that spread bacteria around for no reason

        Merely by existing and moving around in the world, we are spreading bacteria. We all host bacteria.

    10. fieldpoppy*

      The thing with all the people saying “I only touch my own genitals when I pee and I don’t pee on my hands” — well, I hope you flush the toilet, and people touch the flusher before they wash THEIR hands. Yes, of course we need to “build our immune systems,” but the world is already covered in germs — wash your hands to avoid spreading them further. (Or rinse, if the soap bothers you).

      I’m not a germaphobe but I’ve had dysentery and all manner of foul gut rot from touching stuff while traveling in Africa and SE Asia, and I work in hospitals and with immune-compromised people, and as a result I can almost see those little bacteria glowing at me in a public washroom. Why NOT wash your hands?

      1. Salamander*

        As a normally-healthy person who was nearly killed by a c. diff infection – yeah. Wash your hands, people. It doesn’t seem like a big deal unless it happens to you.

        1. OhNoNotAgain*

          Thank you. My cdiff was fortunately mild (still not fun to have or get rid of). I have no problem vocalizing how gross it is that people don’t wash with soap and water after toileting. It’s a public health issue–people cam call me judgy, nosy, whatever. DON’T CARE. Cdiff is dangerous. They can come for me with that after they get cdiff. Don’t wish it on anyone, but dang. People just do not realize how awful even a mild case is–the cramping and sudden urges to defecate several times a day.

    11. BeautifulVoid*

      When I went back to school in my late 20s, one of my classmates (who was a bit older than me) had worked in a bakery/candy shop before deciding she wanted a career that paid better. She brought in her old portfolio one day, and there was no denying she was supremely talented at what she did. For every holiday, she would bring in treats for us, and they looked and tasted amazing.

      You know where this is going. Toward the end of the first year of our program, I went to the bathroom with her and noticed she didn’t wash her hands between leaving the stall and leaving the bathroom. D: D: D: I didn’t say anything, and I couldn’t figure out a way to quietly warn other people, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything she brought in after that.

      1. Yorick*

        A lot of people are talking about bathroom behavior and food sharing, but I don’t think they’re related. I don’t wash every time I use the bathroom because I get painful dry hands if I wash too many times during the day. But I do wash my hands thoroughly before cooking food for other people.

        1. Anon for this one*

          I’m in the same boat and the times that I don’t wash my hands, I still run the water and open the trash can so it sounds like I did to the other people in the stall or outside the door. I know the stigma! My hands are much better now so I can at least use water each time at this point. I use soap maybe twice/day.

          1. Rana*

            Lotion doesn’t necessarily help with that particular problem. Sometimes it even makes it worse.

            1. Anna*

              Not to mention, it kind of compounds the issue since you put lotion on your hands, make your hands sticky and wet, which means more germs stick to your hands and you transfer them to other things. People needs some basic science lessons, I think.

    12. essEss*

      I give the same side-eye to coworkers that come vaulting out of the auto-flush stalls and are partway out the door before (if ever) the stall flushes. They’re the reason that more than half of the time that I go to use a stall it is still sitting there unflushed. Gross. Everyone should make sure their ‘leavings’ are flushed before exiting the stall. Auto flush toilets have a button to manually flush if it doesn’t activate automatically.

      1. Julia the Survivor*

        Not all – the one at my allergist’s office has signs that say, “if the toilet doesn’t flush automatically please flush it manually”. I’d be happy to if I could figure out how!
        Luckily, so far it’s always flushed after I leave the stall.

        1. STG*

          Just a side note that the auto flushers usually have a button on the side where the sensor is.

    13. Julia the Survivor*

      Use your paper towel to open the bathroom door after washing your hands. I actually would use sanitizer to wipe down shared surfaces. I like organic sanitizer, it’s not as harsh on skin or surfaces.
      If I got the opportunity to do it casually and appropriately, I might mention it to others as a warning to be careful of her areas. Before she spreads a rotovirus. :p :p :p

    14. No Mas Pantalones*

      This is one of the reasons I never eat potluck food. I don’t know what those people’s kitchens look like, and I don’t know how often they wash their hands. I’m not eating anything they cook.

      1. Not a Germaphobe, but...*

        I suspect that one of the reasons that my colleagues are happy to eat things that I cooked is that they’ve seen my handwashing habits in the ladies’ room- I still sing “Happy Birthday” in my head whilst scrubbing between my fingers and down into my cuticles. One person once joked that I looked like I was prepping for surgery.

        1. Not a Germaphobe, but...*

          (that should say that I sing 2 rounds of Happy Birthday. Or sometimes Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. One verse of HB is not enough time to really clean my hands.)

      2. Property Manager*

        Side note about potluck food: I don’t eat it because I read the safe food handling section of the CDC website and learned that bacteria on food doubles every twenty minutes at room temperature. I’ve never been to a pot luck at work where people didn’t prepare there food ahead of time and leave it sitting out a room temperature until lunch, and then claim that microwaving it made it safe again. It doesn’t work like that.

        I’m also reminded about the recent later with the guys who sticks his full on hands in the office food …. can’t remember what the post was called?

    15. JKP*

      I went to a huge public event once where they had a massive field of port-a-potties, but literally no handwashing or sanitizing stations. I kept wandering around the area, thinking I must have missed it, so I stopped a worker who told me that nope, no facilities for cleaning hands. It was a full day event, with lots and lots of food, and I couldn’t believe how no one else seemed to be even looking for a way to wash their hands after using the bathrooms. Like it didn’t even cross their minds that it was something they should do, so they didn’t even notice the absence of soap/water or even hand sanitizer. Was really a wakeup call on how many people don’t habitually wash their hands in the bathroom.

      1. No Mas Pantalones*

        For all day (or multi day) music festivals, I find even when they do have washing/sanitizer stations, they quickly run out. I’m that girl who always carries extra toilet paper, sanitizers, and wipes.

      2. CheeryO*

        That’s a pretty unique circumstance, though. I run a lot of races with massive fields of port-o-potties near the start/finish, and while I would prefer to have hand sanitizer available, it’s not exactly high on my priority list if I’m just trying to use the bathroom before the race, and it doesn’t really say anything about my regular bathroom hygiene practices.

        1. JKP*

          Makes sense for a temporary thing like a race, except the event I was talking about was a permanent fairgrounds, open all summer, and people pay for the day to come in and eat food and be entertained. Massive crowds of families all day and no place to wash or sanitize hands. Gross.

    16. AKchic*

      In my building, because of the building itself (it’s old and military and falling apart), the water in the bathrooms are freezing. The soap is extremely cheap (to the point that it breaks my hands out in a rash). They will not change the soap.
      Both my mom and I (yep, we work together) will come back upstairs to our work area and wash our hands in the kitchen sink with our own provided-from-home hand soap rather than use the bathroom sinks. I’d rather have warm water and soap that doesn’t make my skin rashy. I already have to urinate in an ice box (yeah, the heat doesn’t always work in the bathroom. We love military buildings), I’m not washing with ice water in the winter in Alaska.

      1. The Wonder Cootie*

        So much this! In Florida, state buildings are not allowed to have hot water in most restrooms (and it takes an act of God to get an exception). I think they pipe the water in through Alaska some days! I have problems with circulation in my hands, so if they get too cold, I literally can’t move my fingers. Most of the time, I’m stuck using hand sanitizer, so I’m sure I gross some people out, but it is what it is.

    17. Jana*

      Me, too! I once worked as an assistant/receptionist in a small law office and one of the lawyers would go to the bathroom (which was right next to my desk) and emerge without washing his hands EVERY AFTERNOON. He’d then go through his mail and bring me the checks, etc. to take care of. I was Purell-ing my hands constantly there.

    18. Artemesia*

      Assume that most people don’t wash their hands and that every door nob, shared computer keyboard, and flat surface is covered in flu viruses and noroviruses. The only way to protect yourself is to wash your own hands frequently (alcohol gels don’t kill norovirus) and to train yourself to not touch your face. Always wash before eating. You see this woman not washing but most people you dn’t see and all the guys in the office are also not washing — it is just a fact of life and the only way to deal is to protect yourself.

    19. Jackie*

      I thought handwashing signage was law and required in all USA states and not just businesses related to the healthcare or the hospitality industry. But of course, a sign won’t make a person wash their hands but it could be a great conversation opener.

      1. Former Employee*

        Nope. It only applies in places where there is a direct connection, such a places that serve food or provide healthcare. I am not aware of any laws applicable to other types of work places.

    20. Stranger than fiction*

      I think I’d say “did you forget to wash your hands” unless maybe it was someone high up the chain/intimidating.

    21. GreenDoor*

      But can’t you get away with “scolding” this person if you do it in a super upbeat, casual way. Like in a laughing tone say, “Whoo, Jane! You must not have had enough coffee today – you were about to walk out of here without washing your hands!”

    22. BananaPants*

      About 1/3 of my coworkers consistently don’t wash hands after using the ladies’ room – you’d think they’d realize that with such a small group of women working here, one’s shoes are pretty distinctive. It’s gross and I use hand sanitizer.

    23. Jiya*

      To be fair? Hearing a flush doesn’t mean that anything genitalia-adjacent happened in that stall. Maybe she stood close to the auto-flush sensor and it went off, and she was really just in there to change her shirt or sit on the toilet to read personal texts or who knows what.

  2. Nobody Here By That Name*

    #2 – as someone with a cruddy immune system I’m with you on wishing people would wash their hands more often. (Also stop sneezing and coughing into their hands and then TOUCHING EVERYTHING IN THE OFFICE, GAH.) But as far as the bathroom thing goes FWIW not everyone can wash their hands. My mother has a skin condition that makes repeatedly using soap and water like that very painful for her. She can and does, however, use other means of keeping her hands clean since her immune system is worse than mine.

    I know sadly this probably isn’t true for the majority of people who don’t wash their hands when they leave the rest room, but at the same time I hate to think of people looking judgmentally at my mom or folks in situations like hers just because they didn’t stop at the sink.

    1. Rosie*

      I was thinking this as I have a skin condition which means I can’t use normal soap. I actually bring my special soap with me to the bathroom so that my coworkers don’t think that I’m gross, but it does make me look a bit weird. Lesser of two evils I suppose!

    2. NGL*

      I had to stop washing my hands at the office after I got pregnant. First it was the overpowering perfume smell, then when I got over that I discovered that using the soap 5+ times a day (thank you, increased bathroom trips) was painfully drying out my skin. So mostly I rely on the hand sanitizer at my desk.

      1. Yorick*

        Yes, dry skin is what I was thinking when I read it too.

        I usually wash if someone is in there with me, but don’t always wash if I’m alone.

    3. InfrequentCommenter*

      This is something a dermatologist may be able to help with. They do wonders for nurses who have to frequently use harsh soaps and wear latex gloves.

  3. Drew*

    LW2, I am told by some of my woman coworkers that we have such a person in our office, and she also tends to leave the remains of her lunch on her desk well into the afternoon, and occasionally even overnight.

    I don’t think there’s anything you can (or should) do, but you have all my sympathy for the shudders you must be feeling.

    1. LouiseM*

      What does her lunch have to do with her handwashing? Like she eats without washing her hands?

      1. Anon for the moment...*

        Translation: she seems to be kind of …dirty, by many people’s general standards. Her food sanitation habits, especially in shared space where people often try to be cleaner, are catching people’s attention, and not for good reasons. Her hand washing habits are probably equally unsanitary (which is the connection to the post), and likely just the tip of the iceberg.

        I make no claims about being a neatnik, but I once had a roommate who would leave half-full cups of hot chocolate in her room until they grew layers of mold, and who I once saw dumping the blood from a package of meat directly onto the dish sponge. I never ate a thing that girl touched. I also had a friend over this evening who works in a cafe, and he mentioned seeing his boss drop a cooked egg on the floor and then slap it on a customer’s sandwich. IIIIIIIICCCCCCKKKKKK.

        Related: why are these types always so insistent about bringing a main course to the office potluck?

        1. Julia*

          My husband’s grad school roommate had a friend over who used the bathroom in their apartment. We heard her flush, but not turn on the sink (thin walls) – when she came out, she introduced herself to me by shaking my hand and then offered us food she had made. EW.

        2. Specialk9*

          Blood in the sponge – this has me gulping repeatedly, trying to deal with the nausea. That’s awful. Sponges are gross enough already. That’s – hurk – I gotta stop.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            I am so uptight about kitchen sponges! I use bleach and water on them after use, and toss them once a week for this very reason.

            1. AMPG*

              You can microwave them for a couple of minutes to sterilize them! It’s a great trick and works really well. Just make sure the sponge is thoroughly damp before you do it, and use tongs or something to take it out of the microwave so you don’t get burned.

              1. fposte*

                No longer recommended–it doesn’t sterilize effectively and it just convinces people to hold onto their sponges longer. Chuck ’em after a week.

            2. Starbuck*

              I used to do all these different things to keep my kitchen sponges from getting gross, but I still never liked them and feel much more at ease getting a non-porous scrub brush instead. Works just as well (sometimes better) doesn’t ever smell, and my hands don’t feel gross after I use it.

        3. Your Weird Uncle*

          I had a housemate who would take food up to her room and leave it for…..god knows how long. She had to go when my other housemate was passing her door and a maggot crawled out from underneath it!!! We were horrified.

        4. CleverGirl*

          Just FYI, that’s not actually blood in meat packages. It’s mostly water and some protein called myoglobin, which is what gives meat it’s read color. So it’s more like “meat juice” than blood, which is still not a good thing to pour over a sponge, but feels a little less gross than blood in my mind.

        5. JerryLarryTerryGary*

          I had a roommate microwave a raw hamburger. No plate. Then just walk away from the crime scene.

    2. Sylvan*


      A long long time ago, there was someone in the office with bad bathroom habits that do not need to be described. There was nothing to be done about it. If this person had worked in my department, I would have made a note of not shaking hands with her, but our paths never crossed outside the bathroom, thank God.

    3. Bea*

      We are strict about not leaving food out in the office, that’s how you get a pest problem! It’s not just “ew gross”.

    4. Julia the Survivor*

      Now I come to think of it, this would be an issue for me since I’m allergic to several kinds of mold. If the food on her desk was getting moldy, I would have to leave or wear a mask.
      At home I never leave stuff in the sink with water sitting in it, use antibacterial soap to kill the mold, empty the trash every night, all to avoid those spores multiplying.

    5. Teclatrans*

      …well into the afternoon?? I think perhaps that is a little too much casting about for edge cases to roll into the main indictment. Overnight seems problematic, so I hope someone has told her that the office expectation is nothing left overnight.

      There is a really wide gap between “leaves food on her desk for a few hours” and “doesn’t wash after using the loo,” and rolling them together sounds like it might be a bit of gossipy badmouthing? Or BEC? (Where everything she does is more horrible because of one horrible thing.)

  4. Laura H*

    Re letter 2…

    Ok I confess to not washing my hands as much as I should when I’m at my own home.

    But Somebody else’s place? My Work? A Restaurant? Opposite. Not that I overwash, but I know where the things I interact with in my home have been… other places, I don’t have that same certainty-and not near any sense of predictability on what I’ll come into contact with…

    1. CanCan*

      For this reason, I often skip washing after #1 at home, but have a routine to always wash hands when coming home from work, shopping, or anywhere.

      1. Anna*

        I suspect a lot of the people with Very Strong Opinions about hand washing in the restroom don’t actually do it every time at home.

        1. OhNoNotAgain*

          I wash my hands frequently at home, too. I was like this even before I got cdiff. I’m baffled at the huge number of people who think not washing after toileting is just fine. Also, if I blow my nose/pick my skin/other gross things, I wash my hands. Always. Consideration for others matters greatly to me. And I keep on top of dry hands with lotion so my hands never get to the point of cracking. If I would ever become allergic to certain soaps, I would carry around my own. Failing that, I would use gloves. If for some reason I’m still carrying cdiff spores, I absolutely do not want to pass that to anyone and will do everything I can to keep my hands clean.

          1. Anna*

            And my best friend who had cdiff doesn’t. It’s different for everyone. My point was that you’re probably in the minority and a lot of the other folk on here howling about how horrible humans are probably don’t wash at home that often and don’t even think twice about it.

    2. Ambpersand*

      I remember reading something about the amount of fecal mater that’s left on grocery & big box store shopping carts (mostly due to babies and toddlers in the seat), and ever since I’ve carried sanitizer in my purse AND my car. We use the provided lysol wipes on the handle and everything before we shop, but I always sanitize immediately after leaving the store and then wash my hands fully once we get home.

      1. Julia the Survivor*

        I use santizer as soon as I get home and wipe everything with my homemade disinfectant made with alcohol and vinegar.

  5. Allie*

    I’ll out myself as someone who rarely washes her hands at work. The reason is that the commercial soap they use really irritates my hands. We’re talking burning and itching skin. I have hand sanitizer at my desk that I use.

    1. Sylvan*

      I don’t know if it’s worth the price for you, but you can buy or DIY single-use paper soap.

    2. Not Australian*

      I have similar problems, so I carry hand sanitizer in my pocket. Public bathrooms, in my experience, can rarely manage to have hot water, soap *and* towels, and you’re lucky to get one out of three.

    3. Emilie*

      I have an allergy to perfume, and there are only a few places that I know for sure that the hand soap is unscented. If I’m not sure about the soap I’ll rinse my hands at the sink, and then use hand sanitizer from my purse/pocket. I actually only do the rinsing part since I’m a bit self consious about people thinking that I didn’t wash my hands.

      1. Specialk9*

        For most people, rinsing is enough, we’re not paying attention. And it at least nods to the social norm.

        As an aside, we did a pandemic simulation once, and they had an unobtrusive microbe simulant that glowed under black light. They shook hands with people (who were in on it), who then washed and then did their normal day. We all had gross glowing microbes on the backs of our hands and between fingers, and they were all over the office, on the door handles, and on the hands of people who hadn’t directly been exposed. It was… Well.

        So realistically, none of us are washing well enough, but even so, soap and water is the best option if possible. Hand sanitizer is a good stopgap measure but not perfect. Anything is better than nothing though.

        1. Typhon Worker Bee*

          My old employer (health care organisation, lots of immunocompromised people around) used that stuff in a hand-washing demonstration at staff orientation. Very effective! It made me start washing my hands much more thoroughly.

          My friend and I did some science outreach in local schools a few years ago, and we borrowed the orientation kit to run the same exercise – we put it on our hands, let it dry, then shook hands with the first couple of students through the door for each lesson. An hour later we pulled out the portable UV lights and that stuff was everywhere.

    4. Engineer Woman*

      Okay. Rarely washes hands at work: but still do so after using the toilet, right?

      Otherwise, how do you ensure you don’t touch anything between the toilet and your hand sanitizer at your desk?

      1. Anonymous for today*

        Washing/sanitizing my hands after the toilet: For #2? Yes! For #1 when other people are around? Yes. For #1 by myself? Nope. I’m good at peeing, I don’t get any on my hands. Pee is sterile anyways. There are way dirtier things we do on a daily basis compared to peeing, and we don’t think to wash their hands for these. I think the whole grossed out phenomenon is an overreaction. We’re not dealing with Ebola here, if somebody god forbid touches an item before they reach their hand sanitizer, nobody’s gonna get hurt

        1. Blue Anne*

          I agree. What do people do? Go into the bathroom and pee onto their hands?

          We have survived for thousands of years without hand soap, running water, loo roll or flushing toilets.

          1. Anonymous for this*

            To be fair, poor bathroom habits did cause a lot of serious disease spread in the past, but this was definitely related to #2, not pee. Also was related to lack of plumbing and proper containment of feces, it wasn’t the lack of hand washing. But I’m glad I found a potty friend!

            1. Blue Anne*

              True. I mean, I don’t think we should be peeing on our hands and I also don’t think we should be crapping in the river and drinking downstream.

              Still. Non-germophobes unite! We are not that gross!

              1. fposte*

                Right, a lot of the problems with fecal contamination were about sanitation practices generally.

                It’s interesting to look at other countries’ and cultures’ practices on this now, especially in countries that are still very light on plumbing infrastructure in rural areas.

              2. Another person*

                This website does always shock me with how strong opinions are on germs. I’ve also never met so many people opposed to potlucks in my life as on the site (but also, I have seen at least 3 of my current coworkers eat food that they dropped–and I would too, depending on the food–although they wouldn’t serve it to others.)

            2. Wehaf*

              Poor bathroom habits still spread a lot of disease, especially norovirus. Studies on norovirus spread on show that the biggest contributing factor to disease spread is people not washing their hands enough, or thoroughly enough. Washing hands is very effective for norovirus, using hand sanitizer is not. Norovirus causes about 20% of acute cases of gastroenteritis, so it’s relevant to day-to-day life. Having one employee who doesn’t wash hands after using the bathroom can significantly increase the risk of everyone at work getting norovirus if that employee is exposed at all.

              And that’s just norovirus; there are plenty of other diseases that, in modern-day Western society, are spread by poor hygiene, specifically lack of hand-washing.

              Some links:




              1. Hotstreak*

                For this reason I disagree with Alison’s advice to stay silent while a coworker does this. I see it along the same lines as seeing someone openly cough, and ask them to cough in their sleeve or a tissue instead.

                Even if you only peed, you can pick up other peoples fresh feces from touching the door latch, the flush handle, or the toilet paper dispenser.

                For all the folks who have issues with soap, or prefer using hand sanitizers, I would suggest you should still rinse and scrub your hands before you leave, using water only. You should also see if your employer will get hand sanitizer for the bathroom. They make nice ones now that are motion activated and dispense foamy, no-rinse sanitizer. Most people won’t make it to their desk 100% of the time without touching something along the way. 90% okay, maybe 95%, but let’s be real, sometimes things happen.

          2. myswtghst*

            “What do people do? Go into the bathroom and pee onto their hands?”

            Nope. But based on the state of our bathrooms at work and the number of people who don’t even pretend to wash their hands after using the bathroom, even if I don’t pee on myself, I’m still touching plenty of gross stuff.

        2. Yorick*

          I mean, I rarely get my hands dirty with #2 either.

          We wash in the bathroom because of touching things other people touched, but you touch things other people touch all over the office too, so….

            1. Anna*

              But it’s dry, so it’s less of an issue if you don’t lick your finger before you pick up the piece of paper.

          1. myswtghst*

            I mean, part of the reason I wash my hands when I go to the bathroom (and keep hand sanitizer on my desk) is because of all the potentially gross things I touch every day. I acknowledge that I don’t often go out of my way just to wash my hands, so it makes sense to me to wash my hands while I’m in there (and touching gross bathroom surfaces) anyhow.

        3. anon scientist*

          Urine is sterile when it is still inside the bladder. It can pick up bacteria from the urethra on its way out, so the pee is not sterile.

          1. fposte*

            Apparently that’s turned out not to be true–there are low levels of bacteria even in the bladder. (And of course if there’s a bacterial infection the levels are higher.)

            1. anon scientist*

              Yes, there can be some inside the bladder. I was just trying to correct the “pee is sterile” myth.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, that’s turned out to be wrong at a few different levels. But I think Chameleon’s right that it’s still probably less of a problem than your face (and I’ll again add “your sneezes”).

                1. anon scientist*

                  Yep, I wasn’t commenting on the how much bacteria there was in urine that left the body. Just that it is not sterile.

          2. Chameleon*

            Pee is a lot less sterile than any other part of your body, though. Including the skin on your face, but few people are grossed out when someone scratches their nose and then goes back to answering the phones.

        4. My job is EPIC*

          Urine itself is sterile but is stored in a bladder that is not and also moves through a urethra that is full of bacteria. So by the time urine comes out it is no longer sterile. That is why they test your urine to find out if you have a bladder/urinary tract infection.

        5. JerryLarryTerryGary*

          Urine may be sterile, but what comes out of your body isn’t. And what travels up to 6 feet from a flushing toilet definitely isn’t. So anything you picked up in the germ cavern you’re taking out with you.

        6. Strawmeatloaf*

          Okay I don’t get how people don’t know this, but pee is sterile while it’s still in the bladder.

          It is not sterile once it hits the air and the opening of whatever system you have.

    5. John B Public*

      How about rinsing your hands? A lot of the work is done by the water, and you won’t expose yourself to harsh chemicals.

          1. Anna*

            So what I’m getting is that there’s bacteria every which where and maybe we should focus on keeping our own stuff in order and not so much on what other people are doing. At least, that’s what I’m going to take away.

            1. fposte*

              My version is: wash your hands when you get a chance–the bathroom is a good chance–because it keeps microorganisms down to a dull roar. But unless you’re in health care or food prep, it doesn’t make enough of a difference to lecture a co-worker over.

      1. Mary*

        This is what I do. Soap hurts very quickly, so if I don’t have any soap substitute I use water as hot as I can stand and friction. The

        Though the other problem is basins where the water is actually too hot to do that!

        1. Boris*

          Recent studies indicate that the temperature of the water doesn’t contribute much to the handwashing process, so you can use cold water.

    6. Oxford Coma*

      I take my own soap into the bathroom when my hands get cracked in severe winter weather, but I’m already the weirdo who brushes my teeth at work and brings my own condiments to meetings. (What? They never have hot sauce.)

      1. Justme, The OG*

        I have two bottles of hot sauce in my desk, so I understand.
        And I think some soy sauce.

      2. radiator*

        Yeah I have a little travel bottle that I refill with non irritating soap that I just generally carry around with me. beats using whatever harsh soap that they have in public bathrooms.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          I wonder how many offices use the cheap bar soap that looks like someone named Lisa carved her name into the soap with a long fingernail.

    7. Elizabeth West*

      I have eczema, so this happens to me too. But I still wash; if the soap in the bathroom is irritating, I scrub my hands under the running water and then use the sanitizer. The scrubbing action helps loosen stuff you want to wash away.

    8. Ambpersand*

      For anyone interested- Gold Bond makes a great travel size lotion WITH sanitzer in it, so you can keep your hands clean from germs and moisturized at the same time!

    9. TootsNYC*

      or, based on comments above, just rinse with water.

      (I remember hearing, when hand sanitizer first came out and told you to rapidly rub your hands together, that you got just as good results doing the rubbing thing with plain water. That the friction created heat that killed germs.* I have no idea if that’s true; my sister said she saw it on the TV news.)

      *that came out “germans”–I’ve been reading too much WWII stuff, I think! I love the Germans of today!

      1. Kelly L.*

        I don’t think it creates heat–you’d be injured if your hands got that hot–I think it just mechanically knocks them off.

    10. oldbiddy*

      I sometimes get eczema from the soap at work. I just leave a container of unscented soap in the bathroom with a note asking that the bottle not be removed.

  6. LouiseM*

    Great advice from Allison for OP#2–but my guess is, since OP was bothered enough by this to write in to an advice column, I think the advice may be easier said than done. What I think OP needs is a way to get over this in her own mind. Perhaps it would be helpful to read some blogs about epidemiology, sanitation, that kind of thing. Then when you go out into the world, including to your office, think like a microbiologist. All of a sudden your desk chair, keyboard, elevator buttons, etc. all seem like petri dishes. But by overloading your brain with all these gross thoughts, you simply won’t be able to care about all of them to the degree you appear to now. So this no-washing coworker will seem like no big deal–because she is!

    Best of luck, OP!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I hate to make the problem worse, but the OP is definitely encountering this all over the place; this just happens to be the one situation she knows about. I’m tired so I’m just going to quote what I wrote in a 2013 post about this:

      Look, yes, this is gross, and yes, it’s unsanitary, but … do you really think that you’re not encountering the same sort of problem in other places? I assure you that this woman is not the only one engaged in this behavior; she just happens to be the one you know about. When you go to the mall, the grocery store, the park, wherever — you’re undoubtedly encountering things that have been touched by other people who also don’t wash their hands. The only difference here is that you happen to know who a specific culprit is.

      (I just looked this up to see if there were any statistics on hand-washing, and I found this study, which says that 28% of adults don’t regularly wash their hands after using the bathroom. And to make matters worse, another study found that even people who wash their hands don’t wash them well enough to wash off germs.)

      1. LouiseM*

        Well said! I think it actually makes the problem better, not worse, to realize how often you undoubtedly encounter this sort of thing.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        This makes me feel worse… I don’t see why learning it’s a much bigger problem is supposed to be a relief. If I touch the door handle of a public restroom, yes I’m aware that gross people may have touched it. But that’s a different level of germ-interaction-probability than the door handle of the bathroom at work.

        1. Atalanta0jess*

          I think because once you realize it’s everywhere, you realize how much of a problem it isn’t. It’s like those articles that tell you how many germs on your phone. Guess what? There are bacteria everywhere. Like, everywhere everywhere. Saying they are somewhere is irrelevant. Tell me how they harm me, and I’ll care.

          But yucky people are everywhere, and guess what? Most of us are just fine anyway! So yay!

          1. Mad Baggins*

            I mean, touching people’s snot might not /harm/ me, but I certainly would rather not. And if that person is on the subway, OK, I can choose to not touch them or the handrails. Kind of harder to avoid if the person is at work.

            Like when the teacher licks their fingers and then turns the pages of my essay before handing it back to me. I might not get sick from it but it’s still gross. And hearing “lots of teachers do that!” doesn’t make me go “oh well I guess my feelings are silly!”, it makes me want to avoid teachers like the plague (no pun intended).

            1. On a pale mouse*

              Customer service here. Cash handling, all day. Cringe every time. Oh god why, why must you put saliva all over that just before you give it to me? We have quart bottles of hand sanitizer.

              1. Oxford Coma*

                Former waitress here. OMG, the smears of stuff on two-dollar bills. Especially glitter, the devil’s dandruff. *shudder*

                1. The Other Dawn*

                  Forgot to mention cocaine on bills. A family member was in prison for many years (drug- and robbery-related). We went to visit him across the country. We stopped at a diner before heading to the prison. In this particular prison they did substance testing on people’s hands to make sure visitors weren’t bringing in drugs or other things. Two out of three of us tested positive for drugs on our hands. Like, very high readings, as though we had rolled up a dollar bill and used it to snort coke. They ran the test again and one of us got a negative reading, so two of us were allowed in and my sister wasn’t. (It was devastating after not seeing our family member for at least four years and then flying across the country, only to be denied entrance.)

                  We talked to the guards about it afterwards because we couldn’t figure out why we would have illegal substances on our hands when we absolutely knew 100% we hadn’t handled drugs or anything else illegal. Turns out when we paid for our lunch at the diner, my sister got change back in bills and my niece had taken them to the table to leave a tip. I hadn’t touched any of the money so I was the only true negative reading. So, the money they got back in change was very likely used to snort coke, or was handled recently by someone involved in drugs.

                  All this to say there’s a lot of nasty stuff on money; it’s probably one of the dirtiest things you can handle.

                2. Chameleon*

                  Oh, god, I remember this. One guy always did this and his feet sweat. He’d just plop a roll of wet, footy bills on the counter like a cat with a dead mouse…bleargh.

              2. August*

                YES. I hate being on cash register in the summer, I get hordes of construction workers handing me wet money (not that it’s something they can help, but I literally have to lay the bills out on the counter to dry).

            2. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Licking fingers to turnpages grosses me out, and I’m one of the least germaphobic people I know. *shudder*

              However, for some reason, I don’t worry about germs in the general world. Just when I’m looking straight at them as they lick their damn fingers. Same with people who use their fingers instead of knives to shove food on their forks.

            3. LouiseM*

              Maybe I’ve misunderstood–how can you avoid touching the subway handrails? That’s exactly the kind of thing I had in mind. Impossible to avoid, part of life, gross if you think about.

              1. Mad Baggins*

                Train commuter in a big city–if you don’t want to catch a cold every 2 weeks, you learn to balance :)

            4. Tardigrade*

              Your feelings about it are not silly at all. We do have a natural aversion to that stuff, for good reason, but at the same time it’s also true that bacteria is plastered all over the place and unavoidable, and some of it is even good for you.

            5. Alton*

              Same here. These aversions aren’t always just about fear of germs/illness.

              Similarly, I get annoyed when people make fun of stuff like putting toilet paper or seat covers on a toilet seat. I know that it’s probably not a big deal, germ-wise, for my skin to touch the seat. That’s not why I do it. I do it because it feels weird to come into direct contact with something someone else has come into contact with.

              1. fposte*

                On the weekend thread, Sylvan and I were discussing the work of Paul Rozin, who studies food behaviors and has a lot of interesting work on disgust. It tends to be really hard-wired because it’s such an important survival instinct (I think a lot of us are familiar with being unable to touch a food that we once barfed up, for instance). I think you’re talking about a similar thing–it’s sort of conceptual contamination rather than literal germs that you’re averse to.

                I suspect that’s why contamination OCD is such a common form, too–it’s a natural impulse gone to extremes.

              2. the gold digger*

                I am not squeamish at all except about showers. The first time I met my husband’s parents, they were ticked off because I had not wanted to share a room with Primo under their roof. (I know – I know now that I am totally out of touch.)

                Given that context, what was Primo’s dad thinking when he told me that if we wanted, Primo and I could

                1. Shower together
                2. In the shower in the master bath
                3. Where he and Primo’s mother showered together all the time.

                That was 13 years ago and just thinking about it still turns my stomach.

                1. Marion Emte*

                  Who is Primo? I did not see the name in the letter. I didn’t see showers mentioned either? English is not my native language so I apologize but I don’t understand.

            6. Julia the Survivor*

              My boss and some of my colleagues do that. I use sanitizer when I get back to my desk. :p

          2. Queen Esmerelda*

            I used to work with an infectious disease doc that said “The world is covered in fecal bacteria. How do you think we replenished our gut bacteria before probiotics became the rage?” He also used to rail about all the antibacterial cleaners that were out there, saying that we needed to be exposed to different bacteria to maintain a functioning immune system.

          3. JM60*

            “I think because once you realize it’s everywhere, you realize how much of a problem it isn’t.”

            I think that’s fallacious reasoning. Just because something is ubiquitous doesn’t mean it isn’t much of the problem.

            I’m not saying we’d be much better off in a 100% sterile environment, but I just don’t think that this is very good reasoning.

            1. SignalLost*

              If it were the problem we’ve been encouraged to see it as by marketing and by social convention, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, because germs would have killed off humans before they ever left Africa. We’re pretty resilient, and also pretty covered in germs.

              1. JM60*

                I think this too is a similar kind of fallacy. Just because germs haven’t killed us off doesn’t mean that not sanitizing hands after using the bathroom isn’t causing health issues.

          4. X. Trapnel*

            I’m a dairy farmer. My 260 “colleagues” do not wash their hands. They also have extremely insanitary poop and piddle habits.
            I, on the other hand, do wash mine. Often. None of us has got sick from the others.

        2. TL -*

          Well, if you’re in a first world nation and not spending lots of time sick in hospitals or immunocompromised, germs aren’t going to be a big worry for you. Your body has a whole system for dealing with unwanted microbes and even having the low-by-USA-standards hygiene isn’t going to put you at risk for microbial illnesses. (But having too high of standards might actually put you at risk for autoimmune disorders. Embrace the dirt!)

            1. TL -*

              nope; I wash my hands every time I went to the bathroom (and I just got over a major kidney infection so believe me, that was a Commitment.)
              I do have a background in biology and biomedical research. No judgment if you think it’s gross, but y’know – wash your hands a couple times a day, shower at least once a week, clean out cuts, and don’t eat things that smell or look off and you’re likely to be okay.

            2. London_Engineer*

              I’m not actually. Ok but do you also wear gloves when touching lift buttons or opening doors or using the photocopier or any shared equipment? Because the point here is that realistically you will be encountering surfaces touched by people who don’t wash their hands.

              Washing strictly is important for food preparation and regular washing provides a certain level of herd cleanliness but given that we have not yet been devastated by pandemics despite the fairly clear evidence that people don’t follow the instructions it is probably worth adjusting your mindset a bit

                1. Ambpersand*

                  I fully admit to using my knuckles or the back of my finger/hand when dealing with the photocopier and microwaves/fridges/coffemaker/etc in the communal kitchenette. Sometimes I even get a napkin to use so I don’t have to directly touch the water faucet. I’m not a super germaphobe by any means, but some of the things I’ve seen people do in this office gives me the willies.

            3. LouiseM*

              I wash my hands all the time. I just also have better things to do than wonder who else does or does not! :)

            4. Dead Quote Olympics*

              Don’t google around if you want to continue enjoying fountain soda at your favorite fast food place, but the bathroom door handle might be the least of your worries when it comes to the bacteria about which you are most concerned. Also — microspray from toilets. I’d drive myself nuts if I dwelled on it, since I’m not immunocompromised. And really, I’m now more worried about slug residue on insufficiently washed salad leading to paralysis (don’t google that, either).

              1. LavaLamp*

                The old soda machines are nasty. They’ve been transitioning to computer machines that run much differently and I think are probably more cleanly.

                1. TL -*

                  The ones with a single spout? If I can taste the Dr Pepper in my Coke – which I can – I think your hopes of increased cleanliness are perhaps a wee bit unrealistic.

                  On the realistic side, people do not get routinely sick from the old ones, so they’re fine.

      3. Jiya*

        My understanding is that “well enough to wash off germs” requires at least 20 seconds of lathering. How many people count up the time?

    2. Specialk9*

      That actually doesn’t help. I’ve read many bioweapons books, and it decidedly didn’t make me feel better, it made me feel like we’re one slip away from an extinction event. (The time since then has mostly been finding a way to stuff knowledge away and not think about it.)

      It’s like telling germaphobes about eyelash mites or the composition of dust. O_O Not helpful.

    3. OP2*

      OP #2 Here! Honestly, I was just curious. I don’t sit and think about it and I’m not overly concerned about germs in general. I just honestly haven’t seen someone so blatantly not wash their hands before it took me by surprise and I was curious if it was a thing. I obviously didn’t say anything, and couldn’t even tell you who the problem employee was anymore, I’ve forgotten about it. But was curious if there was a norm I wasn’t aware of to tell people to do so.

      After reading some of the other comments, I didn’t think of other health issues, which could definitely be the case. The soap definitely dries out my hands and I hate it myself. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself on this and just assume they’re using hand sanitizer.

      1. Bostonian*

        FWIW I did get the impression from your letter that you were just curious and asking what the norm was. Alison’s response was spot on: it’s just not something that should be commented on.

    4. Chameleon*

      Yeah, I’m a microbiologist. I notice that we tend to fall into one of two camps:
      1. Bacteria are everywhere, so you should sterilize everything you might come in contact with using 10% bleach and wash your hands as often as you humanly can
      2. Bacteria are everywhere, and for the most part don’t cause any problems if you have a decent immune system, so really there’s not much difference between the potato chip I’m touching with my hand and the potato chip that fell on the floor (as long as the floor isn’t high traffic and gets cleaned fairly often) so go ahead and eat that floor chip.

      I am firmly in camp #2. I don’t really care whether people wash their hands or not.

      1. LouiseM*

        Ha, same!

        It’s funny how much your work affects your attitude about these things. I’m in a profession where many people assume I wear gloves all the time–you should see people’s shocked expressions when I explain that actually, it’s usually safer not to wear gloves to do what I do.

        1. CheeryO*

          I spend all day walking around wastewater treatment plants… I did get some NASTY five-day-long diarrhea once when I forgot to wash my hands before eating lunch, but otherwise, I’m not super particular about wearing gloves or avoiding railings or anything like that. It definitely does give you a new perspective on germs, not that I was ever much of a germophobe to begin with.

      2. Teclatrans*

        Definitely in the floor chip category, though not on a city sidewalk.

        And I only wash (or rinse) my hands after peeing if others are around. (I do my best to flush without touching handles in public restrooms, though!).

      3. myswtghst*

        I mean, I’m in camp #2 as someone who worked in veterinary hospitals / zoos for years and is no stranger to poop and raw meat. However, I’m currently pregnant and have a close family member who is an organ transplant recipient, so I realistically do care at least a little bit about whether people are washing their hands, especially if they’re touching me or my things.

    5. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand*

      My mom refuses to go bowling because of the possibility that there might be poop particles in bowling ball holes from people who went #2 and didn’t wash their hands.

      1. LeRainDrop*

        I was already a little grossed out putting my fingers in the bowling balls and now you mention this! Eek!

        1. the gold digger*

          For me, it’s always been the shoes.

          Which I guess makes me squeamish about showers and shoes.

          (Although I will buy used Ferragamos on eBay. I figure they are from the estate sales of little old ladies who wore them to church.)

  7. Observer*

    #1 I’m curious, why do you think it might be necessary for you to put your actual work aside to help someone who is not your boss?

    The dynamic that he was your boss and is now in a lower position means that you want to be very polite about this. But, the fact that he’s your FORMER boss, and his requests are effectively stepping in the prerogatives of your CURRENT boss, who is his successor, means that you need to extra careful here and focus your work on what you CURRENT boss needs from you.

    1. Oilpress*

      Right! It’s that peacemaker role that many of us are conditioned to adopt in uncomfortable situations. Instead of dealing with the problem, we agree to being taken advantage of, just to avoid conflict.

    2. MLB*

      Exactly. Just say no. He’s no longer your manager so there’s no reason you should feel obligated to do his work for him. If he asks you HOW to do something AND you have time, I could see that being okay, but you should no longer be doing the work for him.

    3. Reba*

      To me the issue is not so much between bosses, i.e. stepping on the New Boss’s territory, but lack of comprehension or respect or something between Old Boss and OP. Or maybe he just genuinely doesn’t know that OP doesn’t do that stuff for staff, but I rather doubt it. Old Boss should know that she works for the boss (because, uh, that used to be his job)! I think it’s bad form of him to ask her.

      But I agree that focusing on New Boss’s directives in the chat she is going to have with Old Boss is a good way to go.

      It sounds like there may not be total clarity on what the Old Boss’s role is now… could that be why the OP thinks she should grin and bear it, because otherwise I don’t understand that line of thinking?

      1. Reba*

        Ah, Augusta Sugarbean named what I was trying to say in a thread below: is this a sign he still views you as his subordinate?

      2. Ama*

        I think some of the confusion here is also that because OP was on leave when the transition took place, she feels like she doesn’t have a clear understanding of what happened and what everyone’s roles are now. So she’s not sure if maybe Old Boss was told “oh you can still use OP for X and Y.” I’d just encourage her to follow Alison’s advice and ask New Boss to clarify.

        And I have worked with enough bosses who had absolutely no clue how admin stuff worked to think Old Boss may very well just not fully understand that X and Y task were only things OP was doing for him because of his old role. I used to have a big boss who was constantly telling the regular staff that the admins in my department could help them do X when they were supposed to take care of X on their own — our boss finally had to have a sit down with him and explain that we did X for him because he was the big boss but we didn’t have the capacity to do that for anyone else. He had been a big boss for so long he really didn’t remember that having an admin do X wasn’t standard operating procedure.

    4. LBK*

      Agreed. You’re not his assistant anymore, this isn’t your job. I think his new boss would probably be galled to learn he’s relying on you to get his work done.

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      OP, if it feels weird/wrong/hurtful, try to think about it as you’re not doing him any favors by doing his job for him. It’s better for im to learn now when I’m guessing people are more willing to give him a break.

  8. Magenta Sky*

    #2: There is considerable value to washing one’s hands several times throughout the day, but *after* going to the bathroom is actually not as helpful, in terms of germs and sanitation, as washing them *before* you go, because your (and my, and everyone’s) hands are dirtier than any other part of your body (with the face being a close second). It’s more of a fetish than a practical thing, but it does encourage something of practical value.

    I always come back to the old joke, about the sailor and the marine. They are out on leave, and end up drinking in the same bar. Being a sailor and a marine, it becomes a competition, and after a few beers, they have to use the bathroom. The marine wins (I heard it from a marine, but it works either way) turns to leave without washing his hands. The sailor says, “In the Navy, they teach us to wash our hands after we pee.” And the marine replies “In the Marine Corps, they teach us not to pee on our hands.”

    1. Nacho*

      Right, the only thing I touch when going to the bathroom has been wrapped in cloth all day, safely kept away from anything even slightly dirty (we have automatic flushers, so no flushing anything). I probably add more germs by touching the communal sink than I do taking a wiz.

      1. Dove*

        Not unless you somehow manage to not sweat even a little bit during the day. The sweat down there will travel, and it will carry germs with it. Even if you don’t get any sweat or urine (or anything else) on your hands, you’re not touching something completely clean.

        There’s a few people in the threads, from what I’ve read so far, who have good reasons for not washing their hands. “I wear underwear” isn’t a good reason.

        1. TL -*

          You have about 3 lbs of bacteria on your skin alone. If you define clean as sterile, there’s no part of your body that is anywhere near clean.
          For peeing, I’m a fan of washing hands, but you’re unlikely to give someone a disease by skipping. For other things – well, you can get creative with the TP if soap is hazardous to your health but washing is advised.

      2. Mad Baggins*

        Yeah but… what if I don’t want to touch that “thing”?? People don’t share underwear for a reason!

    2. Foxtrot*

      I looked this up when I had a similar hand-washing-adverse coworker. There’s nothing inherently disgusting with the bathroom. Kitchens have way more harmful bacteria and things growing in them than bathrooms, but we don’t associate them with being icky or dirty or gross.
      Turns out that the hand washing after the bathroom thing started as a public service campaign. Doctors and health officials found that washing your hands 5-6 times throughout the day is really good at stopping the spread of a lot of things. Healthy adults also happen to go to the bathroom 5-6 times a day at decently spaced intervals. It was way easier for them to tie in this new habit to something we were already doing than just create it fresh out of nothing.
      Just lie to yourself that your coworker goes straight to his/her desk and applies hand sanitizer. There’s really no damage done on the walk from the bathroom to the desk. It’s not like they picked up anything. And if you’re really germ-adverse, avoid communal kitchens.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think the unconscious cultural belief is along the lines of bathroom = tainted; handwashing = purifying. The reality is more along the lines of regular handwashing (with no regards to what you’re doing in the toilet) = helpful in keeping infectious microorganisms to a modest level. And that’s a serious benefit, but it’s not a clean/dirty binary, just keeping the numbers lower than they might be.

        1. JokersandRogues*

          Yes, ritual contamination is what it is for a lot of things. Like throwing away something into a plastic garbage bag you just opened (nothing else in it) and feeling unable/squeamish to get whatever it is out again.

          1. fposte*

            Oh, great example! And while it’s a lot more effective than logicking out every situation, it can take on a life of its own.

      2. myswtghst*

        “There’s nothing inherently disgusting with the bathroom.”

        I feel like the studies about the “spray” that happens when flushing the toilet would suggest that’s not really true, especially in public restrooms where you can’t put a lid down and the spray range includes all the things you have to touch when using the bathroom (stall door, lock, flush handle, etc…). But to me, that’s just a vote for washing our hands more often in general (after using the bathroom, when you’re in the kitchen, etc…), not an argument against washing at any particular time.

    3. Specialk9*

      I have never read that in any NIH or CDC literature, do you mind providing a reputable link?

      Because lots of bacteria is neutral to beneficial (50% of the human body is microbes*), but human fecal bacteria is very much not. Plants fertilized by live human manure (as opposed to heated to sterility) actually get people sick, the microbes get passed right back.

      Bathrooms have fecal matter from hands and from toilet flush spray.

      I really wouldn’t wash my hands before touching fecal matter rather than after. But I’m open to education.

      *It was originally thought 90% microbes, but that’s been updated to 50-50.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        (50% of the human body is microbes*)

        But if we’re 50% microbes, and 60% water, how does that work? Shouldn’t we just be a bag of wet germs, then?

        1. hermit crab*

          Presumably the microbes’ water content counts toward our overall total, right? That’s a fun image, though. I feel like it’s not entirely inaccurate…

          1. fposte*

            My guess is is that the microbial percentage is by cell count and the water percentage is by volume, but maybe somebody else knows better.

        2. dr_silverware*

          We basically are a bag of wet germs :D

          But those percentages are based on different measures–water is by weight or by volume, depending on what figure you see. Using both weight and volume, the ratio of water to other stuff in the human body is pretty stacked toward water.

          For the microbes percentage, if you look at mass, the NIH says it’s like 1-3% of body mass is microbes. But the massive percentages SpecialK9 is referring to are by number–eg, for every 1 human cell there are 10 microbe cells. (Though that’s not the most updated figure, as SpecialK9 notes).

        3. Chameleon*

          That really is pretty much what we are. ^_^

          (The 50% bacteria is by cell number, not weight; the % water is by weight.)

        4. Grapey*

          Bacteria are much smaller than animal cells. So it’s ~%50 occupancy, but only about 3% weight.

  9. Mr Grinch*

    #2 Why is this a “mind your business” situation? This gross coworker could be spreading norovirus.

    1. Dove*

      It’s a “mind your business” situation because unless the coworker is visibly getting grossness all over the door handles to the washroom or something similar, or is *known* to be the culprit for a bug that went through the office and made everyone seriously ill, there’s no way to go “hey, wash your hands” without it coming off like you’re the bathroom police.

      About the only situation I can think of where it’s perfectly acceptable to go “hey, wash your hands” is when you’re on a cruise. And that’s because you’re in a much smaller group and it’s a lot easier for one person who’s even just slightly under the weather to get the whole ship sick.

    2. Mary*

      They could only be spreading norovirus if they actually *have* norovirus, and if you have norovirus, thevadvice is to stay away from public spaces, not just “wash your hands after you go to the loo”!

    3. LiveAndLetDie*

      Come now, if the coworker had norovirus, washing their hands wouldn’t stop it spreading to their coworkers.

      1. hermit crab*

        Yeah, unfortunately, if someone has norovirus, then it’s pretty much assured that they are spreading it. The infectious dose for norovirus is astonishingly tiny – less than 20 individual viral particles – and infected people “shed” huge numbers of them even if they aren’t symptomatic. If you’re into that sort of thing, there’s a fun (well, for certain definitions of fun) article called “Noroviruses: The Perfect Human Pathogens?” that goes into all the gory detail. In any case, norovirus isn’t a great example for situations like this.

    4. anonforthis*

      I’m on immunosuppressants and I have zero patience for people who don’t wash their hands. I agree this is not a “mind your business” situation. Other people’s lack of hygiene can make me very ill or even kill me because I have no resistance to infections.

      I would like to remind readers that there are many immunosuppressed people around them: cancer patients, transplant recipients, and many others. It’s important to practice good hygiene for everyone’s sake. Washing your hands both before and after using the toilet is a good start.

      1. MLB*

        I understand why you feel this way (my mom had lupus and was extra careful about germs), but you can’t FORCE people to wash their hands. All you can do is worry about yourself and how you live your life surrounded by germs. That’s why is a MYOB situation.

        I say this as someone who thinks is gross, and uses a paper towel to open the bathroom door when I leave. If

      2. fposte*

        I haven’t heard the advice to wash both before and after–what’s the enhanced benefit there?

        1. a different Vicki*

          The idea is that you want to wash anything noxious off your hands before touching your mucous membranes, as can happen when you wipe after. I don’t generally do this myself; the person I know who does this is a chemical engineer, who realized that she often had dust or powder on her hands by the end of the workday.

          Most of us don’t work in chemical labs or factories, but I also don’t generally wash my hands after handling things that lots of people touch with their bare hands (like escalator handrails), and the logic would be similar.

          1. nonegiven*

            I heard this mentioned by a guy on Usenet that cut up jalapenos to put on his frozen pizza. Then later he engaged in a self soothing activity and suddenly realized he hadn’t washed his hands after the pizza.

      3. Specialk9*

        Do you post signs telling people that and asking them to wash? I would certainly appreciate that reminder, and I’m someone who always washes after the loo. But sometimes I forget to cough into my elbow, or wipe my nose without noticing. I would be much more vigilant if I knew I was endangering someone.

      4. LBK*

        I don’t mean this to be snarky, but do you just not go out in public unless absolutely necessary? I’m genuinely curious how being immunosuppressed works when you can’t even come close to ensuring the cleanliness of most public places.

        1. myswtghst*

          Not anonforthis, but I am currently pregnant and I hang out with my Dad (who received a lung transplant about a year ago) at least 1x per week. The short answer is, you do the best you can and wash your hands a lot.

          The longer answer is, it’s basically a calculation you make every time you decide to go out to eat, or go shopping, or whatever, of whether the reward is worth the risk. Which is fine when it’s deciding it’s worth the risk to go eat at a favorite restaurant that you trust, or to swing by the drug store for chapstick, and making sure you wash up as soon as you get home each time.

          The trouble is, with work, you don’t really get to “decide” whether or not you’re going to go (because you probably need that income to pay for your health insurance/medication/etc…), and you’re often put in situations where you have to decide how much social capital you’re willing/able to spend once you know someone doesn’t wash after flushing, and they’re trying to shake your hand or pass you a pen. Plus, you’re typically at work with the same group of people for 8+ hours 5 days per week, so it’s harder to do the one-off wash everything routine after every single meeting. So while I might not call people out directly, I am judging them silently and avoiding contact with them going forward as politely as I can once I know they don’t wash their hands (or do other unsanitary stuff in public places).

        2. anonforthis*

          I stay away from any events with big crowds. I can’t avoid taking public transport but I changed my work hours so I can travel at quieter times in order to reduce the risk of coming across someone with an active infection. I wash or disinfect my hands many times a day. I used disinfecting wipes on my phone and keyboard and other equipment. I only eat in a few restaurants, never go to a buffet and I’m very cautious about what I eat and drink when travelling. I can’t receive live vaccines so I avoid visiting areas where a large percentage of the population follows the antivaxxer movement because I can’t rely on herd immunity to keep me safe.

          I’m far too young to retire but If I won the lottery I would quit my job right away. Not because I don’t like my job but to avoid germ exposure. I’d love to find a job that is completely home-based.

          The point of my comment was that people like me are increasing in numbers, and many readers of this site are working with an immunosuppressed colleague, sometimes without knowing it. People who live with someone who is immunosuppressed also have to take precautions. If everyone practiced basic hygyene, we would all be safer. People who don’t wash their hands after pooping are leaving fecal bacteria on everything they touch. I also wish people who are sick would stay home instead of spreading their germs around the office, but unfortunately that’s often due to the work culture that doesn’t let sick people rest at home.

          Someone asked about washing their hands before going to the bathroom, this one is for your own protection, because during the day you accumulate germs from doorknobs, the coffee machine, any office equipment you’ve touched. It’s best to wash them away before you touch your nether regions.

          1. Former Employee*

            Thank you and I’m sorry you have to be on immunosuppressants, anonforthis. I have a low level, well controlled medical condition, but one of the “rules” is don’t get sick. When the doctor told me this one, she also said she realizes that is not totally within my control, but I should try my best to avoid being around people who are sick.

            I wash my hands a lot. I make a point of doing so after I get home. Everyone should wash their hands upon arrival at their destination if they took public transportation. I always use hand sanitizer before I eat if I can’t wash my hands or even if I can, but it’s at a public facility.

            Plus, if I’m on public transportation during a busy time, I wear a mask.

            Finally, I haven’t participated in a potluck in years.

      5. Observer*

        To be honest, in your situation, I would just not shake hands with ANYONE. Because most of the world doesn’t wash their hands before using the bathroom, you don’t know who didn’t wash their hands afterwards, and even if you could deal with both of those things, you would still not come close to dealing with the vast majority of “stuff” people have on their hands. Even people with good hygiene are likely to be carrying stuff on their hands. And, if they happen to come into contact with populations with high levels of contagious stuff, that gets multiplied.

  10. Augusta Sugarbean*

    #1 Maybe look at it from the company’s perspective. They are not paying him to delegate/manage anymore; they are paying him to do his work. This really isn’t personal – it’s business.

    1. Augusta Sugarbean*

      Also, I’m not sure what his title is but assuming he’s more like your colleague and less like management, it’s probably best that he not still view you as a subordinate.

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      For this reason I like looping in new boss more, so it’s not OP saying “you’re no longer too important for this”.

      I’m sure the former dynamic really plays into it, especially since OP was out on FMLA during the transition.

      1. Yvette*

        My only caveat with looping in the new boss, and presuming the boss agrees it should stop, would be to make sure to use Allison’s phrasing it “(new boss) asked me not to take on these kinds of tasks for people and to focus on assignments from him instead.”

        Make sure you say “for people” and not “for you”.

  11. Emily Spinach*

    The mom volunteer letter could go so many ways depending on you, your mom, and the organization! I personally would be more likely to try it for a role that my mom was specifically well suited for versus a general-interest volunteer position, but I am not totally sure why that is. The professionalism, maybe?

    1. OP 3*

      I actually want her to volunteer alongside me with the kids, other coworkers have done it with the younger kids in another department but with spouses or teenage kids. Also the kids in the other area are young enough to probably not notice there’s a relationship between the staff memeber and volunteer, where in my case they’re old enough to possibly notice. I trust my mom’s judgment and it’s a pretty laid back environment, so Alison’s response just gave me some encouragement in possibly bringing her.

      1. hbc*

        If you can imagine yourself correcting her (say, she gives hugs to upset kids and your policy is to go no further than hand patting for physical contact) like a normal volunteer and not worrying about how it will impact your personal relationship, than it should be fine. But really fully imagine the scenario, picturing her face and the exact words you would use.

        And congrats on having such a good adult relationship with your mom that you would even consider this. I’m 40 and my mom still thinks it’s helpful to remind me to switch over health insurance when I change companies, so that would be a hard pass for me even if she was Mary Poppins with those kids.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only person whose mom thinks she is incapable of routine adult things :P Maybe they just can’t help themselves after decades of taking care of us.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Actual thing I’ve said to my mother lately: “Mom, I’m XX years old. I know how to fold a burrito.”

      2. Emily Spinach*

        I think that added context that other people have their family members volunteer directly with the makes it seem more ok. It seems like your work is happy for the help and people enjoy having their loved ones come participate. It could be fun, and if your mom is like mine maybe she’ll treat you to lunch after!

      3. LUCYVP*

        For what its worth. My mother volunteers at my place of employment. I’ve been here 10 years, she has volunteered for 8.

        Generally it works really well, She loves our org and is a really valued volunteer. I try not to be in the position where I am supervising her volunteer work very often. My issue is not that I favor her but that I speak to her more bluntly than I would a regular volunteer and it can come off as snapish if it is overheard by someone who doesnt know us and our relationship. Most of her volunteerwork is done for another department but there is some overlap into my work.

        The other thing (which is a bit strange but not in bad way), my mother has made friends with one of the staff (my co-worker). They are now very close and see each other often outside of work. The co-worker has even been a guest at my mothers home for holidays as her children and grandchildren live out of state. This is just a bit strange as I really enjoy this co-worker but without the relationship with my mother she isnt someone I would necessarily see outside work.

        My mother is super non-drama and that is part of what makes this work. I agree with everyone else that if the personalities involved are the right fit this wont be a problem.

      4. Elemeno P.*

        I volunteer at a big place where a lot of families volunteer together (it’s also working with kids). There’s one family that was volunteering together and then one of the sons got hired, and his parents and brother still volunteer. He directly oversees his brother on occasion, but not very often. It works pretty well for them, and I imagine it will for you too if you’re close enough and comfortable giving her feedback if she does something wrong.

  12. Alternate hand washer*

    re #2 – I’ll share an experience from a previous place of employment. The only hand-drying method that particular restroom had was the hand drying machines, which while they may be more sanitary, I personally hated. So I would use the facilities, exit then wash my hands in the kitchen where I could use a paper towel to dry my hands. You never know /shrug.

    1. Eliza*

      Hand-drying machines aren’t all that sanitary, anyway. It turns out that physically wiping your hands dry is an important step in actually getting them clean.

    2. Richie*

      I’ve read that a lot of germs love the drying machines which are cosy and warm for them. When the heat blows they are blown on our hands. Not sure how much more sanitary they are.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Not to mention that whatever’s already on your hands just gets blown onto everything in the nearby area. Mythbusters did a thing on them!

    3. Specialk9*

      It’s nice that you’re actually washing eventually, but you’re still carrying fecal material to doorknobs and anything else you touch on the way. Not max grossness, but a bit gross still.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        I hate those hand drying machines with a passion.

        I work in a medical school where there are posters all over the place about handwashing, and the steps on the poster for best practices include wash your hands with soap, sing a verse of happy birthday while washing (ie long enough), then dry well on paper towels.

        One of these posters is in a washroom that has no paper towels, just a hand dryer.

        I may have annotated it with a sharpie.

    4. Michelle*

      I actually do this as well (washing where I can use paper towels). I will grab a few squares of TP and use that to open the washroom/breakroom door and toss it the trash bin. Then I use the paper towels to open all the doors on the way back to my desk and toss them in my trash bin.

      I know there are germs everywhere and even my thorough hand washing I’m still coming in contact with them. I wish just thinking that and people saying that would stop me from worrying about it, but it doesn’t. I use to be really bad. When I worked a cash register, I would wear gloves because money is pretty gross. I’m much better than I use to be, but I am still going to wash my hands after using the washroom and before eating.

    5. Ghost Town*

      My husband does this at home: uses the downstairs toilet then washes his hands in the adjoining kitchen. Bothers me to an irrational degree. Not in an ew-germs way, b/c he’s still washing his hands immediately, but in a why-can’t-you-just-use-the-bathroom-sink?! way.

    6. Close Bracket*

      That means you are getting fecal bacteria in the kitchen sink. Can’t you wash your hands in the bathroom and dry them in the kitchen? Grab paper towels from the kitchen on the way to the restroom?

  13. Someone*

    LW2: If this person is an employee in the food service industry then you should report it to management. Washing hands is not optional then (at least according to the little signs in every restaurant bathrooms in the US). People could get sick. It might be required in other areas like healthcare, but I am not sure about that.

    1. Dove*

      My understanding, from reading threads and blogs by healthcare workers, is that hand-washing is mandatory in that sector too. And using hand sanitizer between tasks, too. There’s a lot of discussion among nurses about what lotions work best for alleviating the dryness and cracking that this policy causes.

    2. Mary*

      Yes, it’s absolutely report-worthy in healthcare. There are questions about this regularly in situational judgment tests for healthcare workers!

    3. Anna*

      My understanding of the hand washing in the restroom before going back to work is it’s for optics. If the person goes back to the kitchen and washes thoroughly there, they’ve done what they need to do, but so many people are so worried about seeing someone wash their hands (hence this entire conversation) that people in food service are required to do it in the bathroom to at least make people know it’s been done. Then they do it again when they get to the kitchen to take care of anything they may have picked up on the way there.

      1. fposte*

        Though I think it’s supposed to be at a dedicated handwashing sink in the kitchen–it’s important not to mix the food-use sink and handwashing sinks. (I actually follow this at home but mostly because my bathroom faucet is easier to turn on with elbows.)

  14. TL -*

    OP4: one of my classmates is applying to jobs in the USA with her photo on her resume and I cannot convince her that it’s a bad idea, even though she’s not getting any positive responses. To make it worse – she’s American!

    Don’t do it. In most jobs, people want to hire you on your skills, not your face.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah, they can look you up on LinkedIn if they need. Which they shouldn’t, because there aren’t too many non -ism reasons to need a photo for hiring.

      1. Anna*

        I don’t have my photo on LinkedIn for this reason. I have a little tiny screen cap of my favorite Picasso painting. You want to know what I look like? Invite me in for an interview.

    2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Yes! I do a lot of hiring and it really weirds me out when there’s a picture. (I also don’t want you to include your marital status, birthday, or other information that I don’t need and can’t use in a hiring decision)

      1. Just Allison*

        I feel the same when I was hiring we received a lot of applications from millennials that included their pictures and it was just weird. Though it was usually for our sales or receptionist positions that this happened for so maybe they hoped they had the face for the job? I dont know. it was weird and it made me think they weren’t ready for a serious job.

    3. AKchic*

      The only time I can think it would be a *good* idea to have your photo with your resume would be actual head and body shots if you were an actor or model. That’s it. But then, it is generally required. Otherwise, why bother? It’s unnecessary fluff and takes up space.

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP4… not in UK either! In some companies it’s liable to get it rejected without reading because of the risks to the company of being accused of discrimination, and even if it isn’t immediately binned, it’s a black mark that you would put them in that situation.

    1. Al Lo*

      Not in Canada either!

      (Although I find that most of the customs and norms one would find in the U.S. [if not the legal side of things] are pretty similar here.)

    2. The Foreign Octopus*

      It is a European thing. I had a hell of a time trying to persuade mainland Europeans to remove their pictures from their CVs when applying for jobs in the UK because we just don’t do it.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I once heard of a young woman who was rejected from a job, because the hiring manager saw her photo on the application (it’s common here) and decided “She doesn’t look like she needs the money”.

          A local photography shop has a service for “Passport and CV photos”, as do the automatic photo booths at the train station (some tickets and passes need a photo to be valid). Mind you, considering how many regulations there are for a passport photo, and how unflattering they can be, I am not sure including one in your application would help, even if it was a normal practice where you were.

          1. Oxford Coma*

            I’m trying to imagine what kind of photo would give the impression that the applicant doesn’t need the job. Was she lounging on the hood of a Lambo, or taking a selfie in a ball pit full of cash?

          2. Perse's Mom*

            I think in some cases, those places also photoshop the image to make it more flattering.

        2. Allison*

          Yup, I see a lot of resumes from Singapore and India with pictures, and what’s especially off-putting is the blank stares on them. As if to simply say “this is what my face looks like.” As opposed to American corporate headshots that have some personality.

          And I learned quickly in my career that there are cultural differences in resumes and CVs, and I’m not so turned off by it that I reject someone based on including non-standard info, but I do think it’s a good idea to research a country’s resume/CV norms before applying to jobs there.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            Yeah, you’re not supposed to smile in resume/passport photos in Japan, so this has lead to many people not smiling in photos in general.

            Combined with the gendered sitting norms (men: legs hip width apart, fist knuckles on knees; women: knees together, hands crossed in lap), everyone looked like copy paste versions of each other until I got used to it!

      1. Jo*

        This recently threw me too. My mum applied for a job in Germany and asked me to read over her CV – and I was horrified to see she’d included not only her photo, but also her date of birth, marital status and far more detail about her family than I would ever have considered appropriate here (Australia)! But then I was even more horrified when she told me that HR at the company had specifically told her to include these, and it was still considered the thing to do. If you ask me, it’s an unconscious bias case waiting to happen – or, for that matter, a conscious one! As a single woman in her 20s,including my marital status would make me super uncomfortable, it sounds like it would just lead to all sorts of (incorrect, for me) assumptions about my future family/career…

        1. Dani*

          I’ve just turned in a job application a couple of days ago with my date of birth, marital status and number of children. I live in Denmark, it’s completely normal and how we are taught to do it in school.

          1. Dani*

            Oh, and whether I have a driver’s lisense or not. Though, I only include a picture if I deliver the application by hand instead of through e-mail.

            I am a single woman, by the way.

            1. Lance*

              Driver’s license, at least, is perfectly relevant; they want an impression of how reliable transport you might have, after all. The rest… I’m really failing to see an actual, business-related, purpose, to be honest.

              1. Knitting Cat Lady*

                Unless you apply for a job as a driver licenses don’t really matter.

                Most places in Europe you can get around without a car just fine.

                1. Myrin*

                  Not to mention that having a driving license is no indicator for having reliable transportation!
                  I got my license in 2008, but my family hasn’t owned a car since two months after that and I haven’t actually driven a car since 2010, so there’s that.

                2. Just Employed Here*

                  Even in Europe, a heck of a lot of jobs involve driving, even if the job isn’t actually “driver”.

                  Some examples just from thinking about my immediate family and friends: sales people, managers managing staff at different locations, consultants, caterers, etc.

                  This is why the concept of “company car” exists: a car that is yours to use as you please, but owned by the company and which you pay pretty hefty taxes for as it is part of your overall compensation package.

                  There are a heck of a lot of (especially rural) places in Europe where you really can’t get around reliably without a car. And even more places where it’s not useful for your employer for you to take (slower, possibly less reliable) public transport instead of having you drive there.

                3. Knitting Cat Lady*

                  @Just Employed Here:

                  I live in Germany.

                  You really don’t need a car for most jobs.

                4. Just Employed Here*

                  Well, I didn’t say “most jobs”, did I?

                  “Most places in Europe you can get around without a car just fine” — that’s true for most *urban* areas. I’ve worked or studied in four different European countries (including Germany), and never needed to have my own car, but that was in urban areas and occasionally needing to ride along with someone else (so *someone* still needs to have a car…).

                  Some meetings aren’t going to happen if we all take three hours to get there by public transport, when it’s one hour by car.

                  And outside of urban areas and/or typical office hours — it’s hit and miss. That means that this is relevant for a lot more people than just those whose job is to be a driver.

              2. Natalie*

                Eh, I doubt that’s the idea. Commuting by public transportation, bike, or on foot is vastly more common in European cities than in American so I’m not sure they have the same “car=reliable transportation” bias we have here.

            2. Erin*

              Some jobs have travel and frequent driving as a requirement of the job. In many rural areas of the US there isn’t any sort of public transportation.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Not-so-rural areas too, where public transport often lacks adequate funding or good infrastructure. I live in a mid-sized city and our buses have huge time gaps in between them and take forever to get anywhere.

                1. AKchic*

                  Agreed. Alaska has no great public transportation. Anchorage has a bus system, but budget cuts every year have made it so bad that it really only services maybe 1/3 of the core city, not the city-city, or even the entire tax-paying city.
                  (Explanation: We don’t he counties in Alaska. Anchorage is the Municipality of Anchorage. We had a few “neighborhoods” that ended up turning into their own towns, but because they were considered “rich” neighborhoods before becoming small city-sized as far as square-footage/small town sized population-wise, Anchorage refuses to annex them and let them be their own towns. So, Anchorage is Anchorage, Girdwood to the south, and Eagle River/Chugiak to the north, plus the Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson military installation. Including federal park land Chugach National Forest, Anchorage is the same size as the state of New Jersey. Our city’s population is around 300,000. They removed the bus route from my area completely. One bus drops off about 2 miles from my house for the teens on our side of town (serving a 10 mile area) twice a day (7:30am and sometime in the evening), but consider our side “rich enough to own a car”.

            3. else*

              In the US, there would be a concern that they are asking in order to rule out people who have children, probably because they’d use more company-subsidized healthcare, and take off more time, and be unable to come in at odd hours. Or, to rule out young women who might be assumed to be soon to take significant time off to have babies and thus “waste” resources used to train them. These are real concerns because people know that this has been done, and sometimes still is. So, you just can’t ask legally, which I think is good. What possible need could a business have to know this, especially in places where healthcare costs are shared across the entire population?

        2. Jen RO*

          I’m in a country where photo + marital status is very common in resumes and I still don’t understand why people keep adding this information. The photo – OK, I can get that it puts a face to the CV… but your marital status, your kids? I don’t care, stop cluttering the page with that!

          In most cases, I think these details are included because we use job sites intensively and the sites push you to fill them in. The practice is dying down though, less than half the resumes I screen include a photo. (And the photos are terrible in most cases!)

          However, I do think that receiving a resume without a birth date is weird, it makes me feel the person is trying to hide something… it’s not like I’m not going to figure out their age based on the graduation years.

          1. Lance*

            Rather than hide something, though… does their age actually matter? I can’t imagine it’s something you’re basing hiring off of, so I’m just curious what the worry seems to be.

            1. Jen RO*

              It’s the norm here to include it, so not including it is extremely unusual. I can count the resumes I’ve seen without a birth date on one hand.

              In contrast, photos, marital status etc. are common, but that means 50-70% of resumes have them, not 99%.

            2. Jen RO*

              As for why it’s important for me personally – if someone in their 20s has several short jobs on their resume, I will be more lenient (they are still figuring things out, maybe the jobs were part-time and they forgot to mention that, etc) and lean towards assuming they will be more stable once they realize my company offers long-term prospects; if someone in their 40s has several short jobs on their resume, I will assume they are a job hopper who will just ditch us in a year.

                1. LBK*

                  Hmm, I’m not sure it would – someone having a clearly established pattern of job hopping over 20+ years seems like a perfectly legal reason to reject them, even in comparison to someone younger who’s changed jobs every year but has only had 2-3 jobs. It’s normal to take a few years early in your career to settle into a role/company, so the latter isn’t necessarily a red flag. If you still haven’t figured out what you want from a job or an employer when you’re 45, that’s a valid concern for someone looking to hire you.

                  It’s only a factor of age insofar as someone older has been alive longer and therefore has had more time to establish that pattern; it’s just not chronologically possible for someone who’s only 25 to have held 10 one-year jobs.

                2. McWhadden*

                  @LBK if that were all she were doing the birth date would be irrelevant. It would be obvious from the jobs listed and descriptions that this person jumped around too much and it would be based on that entirely. If you have 10+ jobs that’s an issue no matter the age.

                  Instead she is making assumptions based on nothing but age. It’s outrageous.

                3. LBK*

                  She said that’s why age matters, not why birthdate matters. You’re correct that it would be apparent from the length of someone’s work history either way – I’m confused why you’re so shocked that someone would make that judgment knowing the birthdate but totally fine if they took 5 seconds to estimate age based on how long they’d been working. You end up with the same information so it seems arbitrary.

                4. McWhadden*

                  I am shocked because she is judging two people with similar resumes differently based on nothing but age. It’s shocking because it’s discrimination based purely on age and that is wrong.

              1. McWhadden*

                You don’t see huge issues with making those major assumptions based purely on someone’s age?

                1. Jen RO*

                  No, not really. It’s not about age, it’s about time in the working world. There’s a difference between job hopping when you’ve been working for 5 years and job hopping when you’ve been working for 20.

                2. Anna*

                  But you’re still making discriminating decisions based on age, whether or not you think you’re being helpful.

                3. McWhadden*

                  It absolutely is about age. You are making a completely baseless assumption about work history (you have no idea why their employment was that way) on the completely irrelevant factor of age.

                  I get that sadly this isn’t as wildly illegal in your country as it should be here. But it still is a bad and discriminatory practice.

                4. LBK*

                  It’s not discrimination based on age, it’s a judgment based on a clear track record. You seriously wouldn’t have massive red flags going up about someone who changed jobs every 1-2 years for 20+ years? I think people are just getting thrown off by Jen’s phrasing.

                5. LBK*

                  You are making a completely baseless assumption about work history (you have no idea why their employment was that way) on the completely irrelevant factor of age.

                  Huh? So are you saying a long history of job hopping is not something an employer should be concerned about?

                  Someone older is going to have more history. That’s just…how time works. More history means more information from which to draw patterns. It’s not discriminatory to be concerned about 20 years of job hopping, any more than it is to hire someone because of 20 years of experience in a field vs someone with only 5 (I understand the law only goes one way, I’m just speaking colloquially/ethically).

                6. Scion*

                  @LBK, I think Jen’s phrasing was perfectly clear. She was not comparing a few years of job hopping to 20+ years. She was comparing:
                  “someone in their 20s [who] has several short jobs on their resume”
                  “someone in their 40s [who] has several short jobs on their resume”

                  As you can see, it’s the exact same wording for both people. The only difference is their age.

                7. LBK*

                  I read that as saying someone who, at age 40+, had only ever had short stays at jobs. Are you interpreting it as someone 40+ who had a few short jobs, but the rest of their history was average length stays? Because if it’s the latter I would agree that’s not necessarily indicative of a job hopper.

                8. LBK*

                  (But I would still say that suddenly having several short-term stays after you’ve been working for 15+ years would be more concerning than someone who’s only been in the workforce for 2-3 years but had multiple employers, because that’s more normal at the beginning of your career. That would generally mean it reflects worse on people who are older, but again, that’s just a function of how time works. I can’t judge a 25-year-old on 20 years of career history that they don’t have.)

                9. Scion*

                  @LBK, yeah – I get what you’re saying.
                  It’s definitely more complicated than what I originally posted. It’s because age and length of work history are so correlated. But it’s not a perfect one-to-one relationship. And while “job hopping is more acceptable at 20 than 40” is very similar to “job hopping is more acceptable early in your career, as opposed to later” – I think that it’s important to make that distinction. The latter is fine – good, even. The former is age discrimination.

                10. LBK*

                  I think my point is just that 99.9% of the time, those two things are going to be the same – pretty much the only exception will be someone who doesn’t start working until later in life, so they’re both over 40 *and* at the beginning of their career. I get that in a vacuum, penalizing someone 40+ for something you wouldn’t penalize someone who’s 25 for is illegal discrimination, but the context of how the situation at hand will generally play out is such that it’s most likely not illegal and definitely not unethical.

                  That’s what I meant by people getting hung up on Jen’s phrasing, because it seems like a lot of people just saw her mention being in your 40s and freaked out without giving consideration to the fact that, with very rare exception, it is going to be more of a problem to job hop when you’re older than when you’re younger because you’ll be later in your career. It feels like willful misinterpretation of what Jen was saying and/or being overly cautious to be so picky over semantics. I think it’s pretty clear she didn’t actual mean that, regardless of specifics, she would always give a 20-something a pass on something she would judge a 40-something for, as she clarified:

                  No, not really. It’s not about age, it’s about time in the working world. There’s a difference between job hopping when you’ve been working for 5 years and job hopping when you’ve been working for 20.

                11. McWhadden*

                  @LBK If they were the same thing she wouldn’t need the birthdate to calculate the age. She’s only discriminating based on age.

                12. McWhadden*

                  @LBK Not only that but she gets annoyed when the person leaves off their age. Meaning it’s not otherwise apparent without that information.

                  How much clearer does the statement need to be that this is pure discrimination than literally saying she wants the birthdate to evaluate the resume?

          2. SarahKay*

            The problem with adding is birth date is it allows for discrimination on the basis of age, whether ‘Oh, we don’t want him, he’s so young he’ll be unreliable’ or ‘Oh, don’t take her, she’s only three years from retirement, no point spending time training her’. Both of which ignore the fact that anyone can be unreliable, or decide to move on after a couple of years, regardless of age.

            1. SarahKay*

              Oh, and in the UK, discrimination because of age is illegal, hence the expectation that you leave your date of birth off, thus limiting any opportunity for early discrimination at the CV/resume stage.

              1. Scion*

                It’s (partially) illegal here in the US too, but it only applies to people over 40. (At least federally, some states are probably stricter)

          3. Oxford Coma*

            Do you not come across many adult learners? I’ve often seen a graduation date not correlate to age.

            1. else*

              Yes – and several short term jobs would make just as much sense for somebody in that stage of education regardless of age.

            2. Jen RO*

              That is very uncommon here. The majority of people do not take any breaks between school, high school and university. (University is either free or cheap – for American standards – so there is less of a barrier to entry.) Gap years are also not a thing.

        3. Susan Calvin*

          “The thing to do” is maybe overstating it, but I also might by biased by typically applying to large-ish, likely international tech companies. Norms are definitely changing though, and while photos and DoB are not quite about to go away yet, I don’t think either of my parents (who are in more conservative fields) have mentioned my existence on an application since the 90’s, so there’s that at least.

          1. Myrin*

            Although I always have to say, there’s really no point in not mentioning your DoB since you’d have to include all your schooling anyway and from there, anyone can calculate how old you are anyway (give or take a year).

              1. Myrin*

                I spoke specifically about Germany, where you list all your primary and secondary education on a CV. When you see that a candidate started primary school in 1997 and you simultaneously know that children in your country start school at six or seven, you can calculate pretty easily – and usually (though not always) accurately – that they were born in either 1990 or ’91.

                (And even if primary school isn’t listed, at least you graduation from school is. And people from here know how old students typically are when they graduate from a certain kind of secondary school (we have several different ones). I only have to list “Abitur: 2010” and you can guess accurately that I’m 26 or 27, depending on my birth month.)

                1. Erin*

                  Good luck trying to contact my elementary school they closed 7 years ago. It’s now a haunted house.
                  And the school district I graduated high school from may be dissolved in about 5 years.

                2. Blue*

                  Genuine question: what is the point of including the primary school? I can’t imagine any valuable information it would provide.

                3. Myrin*

                  @WellRed: I don’t imagine they do (mostly, anyway; there are all kinds of weirdos everywhere, so who knows). But it’s still a thing you include.
                  @Erin: It’s not about contacting the school, it’s just that it’s on there. You don’t contact former employers here, either.
                  @Blue: Damn if I know! But we in general have lots of stuff on our CVs that isn’t relevant. Like I said, it’s one of these things you simply do. It’s a lot more about tradition/”how things are done” than about practicality, if you ask me.

              2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

                If you went straight through, you’re between 21 and 23. If not, then not. But Myrin is right–most people do go straight from high school to college and take the average 4 years to complete college, making their graduation date a pretty accurate (though of course not in all cases) predictor of their age.

                I didn’t, but I also list the full dates of my college attendance on my CV (1999-2001/2008-2011) so they could still use that. I just had my final graduation and if you add 18 in 1999 to 2017, you get 37 in 2018.

                1. Mookie*

                  most people do go straight from high school to college and take the average 4 years to complete college, making their graduation date a pretty accurate (though of course not in all cases) predictor of their age.

                  Well, no, not in the US. The average American enrolled in a post-secondary program is attending a community college and the most common highest-earned degree in the US is an associate’s. The average time it takes an American to earn a bachelor’s degree is 6 years. The average age of any post-secondary student depends on the college / university / program and their profit- and degree-granting status (including vocational), the degree or course, and the race and class of the student.

              3. only acting normal*

                Good question.
                I finish a Bachelor of Arts degree next year. How old am I?

                I also have a Masters in Physics already, class of 1999. Now how old am I?

            1. Scion*

              Well if people can figure out your age anyway, what point is there to including a DOB? Maybe you’d prefer to use that extra space for something else. Resume real estate is precious.

              1. Myrin*

                Sure, and I didn’t advocate for its inclusion. (Nevermind that it’s so ubiquitous that I personally couldn’t change anything about that norm anyway.)

                I was merely responding to the general sentiment of horror on American sites when it comes to including your age on CVs, saying that ours are structured in such a way that even if you don’t specifically mention your DoB, it’s very easy to figure out your general age anyway.

                And as for “resume real estate”, there’s so much on our CVs whose cutting would free up much more space that the single line with your birthdate doesn’t really register as “taking up space” to me (although it objectively is, of course, even if it’s just one line).

                1. sb*

                  This may be more about the still-pretty-standard assumption in the US that if you’re junior and your resume goes over a single page, you’re being arrogant/ridiculous. So one line can be important.

        4. Myrin*

          I’m German and if you’d ask me why this is a thing, I’d guess because of tradition. Like Dani says above me, it’s how we’re taught things, so that’s just how it is, and you don’t really think about it, it’s just the normal way of things. (Although I personally don’t add marital status or anything about my family and many people I know do the same; it’s true that it’s relevant for taxes, but the form where I have to include that information usually only reaches me after I’ve already been given an offer and accepted a job. Eccentric academics seem to be very fond of mentioning all about their spouses and kids on their CVs, though!)

          As for why it became a thing in the first place… I’ve sometimes wondered about this and honestly? I think it’s pure nosiness and because people want to be judgy. I haven’t delved into this and you could probably research it factually and prove me wrong but I’m secretly convinced that that’s the original reason for this stuff going on a CV.

          1. TL -*

            Or it’s because they didn’t want to give jobs to women when there were men out there with families to support. Or let a woman take a job that would inappropriately take away from her mothering duties or hire a young woman who’s just going to quit when she gets a husband.

                1. Myrin*

                  Absolutely! I meant it in the sense of “pass judgment on someone”, which includes the sexist reasons, but also other stuff like “looks unlikeable”, “why is he married but doesn’t have children like normal people”, “his family background is one I don’t like”, and so on.
                  (I can’t quite gauge if you’re being snarky or not? Like you think I’m somehow minimising the potential effects of that information on a CV? I didn’t want to write a whole paragraph about my in the end irrelevant speculations but I was definitely judgmental of my hypothetical reasons. Apologies if I’ve drastically misread your tone!)

          2. Kittymommy*

            @Myron, I find this fascinating because I don’t think I even know the name of my primary schools! Legitimate questions: what would a company do if an applicant didn’t include it? Would they reject it? Would they treat a CV different if it came from an American or another country where this would probably not even occur to the applicant? (Sorry for all the question, I’m just really curious.)

        5. Yellow Bird Blue*

          I vote for conscious bias. Lots of companies here in Germany don’t want to hire women in their ~fertile years if they can help it. I’m a woman and of prime child-bearing age – it sucks.

          For what it’s worth, it’s increasingly less common to ask for details like the marital status, especially in younger companies. And in the past you not only included your professional history, but also the jobs of your parents (“my father is an engineer, my mother is a housewife” – i.e. adding a healthy dose of classism to the sexism). Baby steps. Tiny, tiny baby steps.

    3. lady in hr*

      LW4- It’s the same in Canada.
      I work with an organization which hires 15-20% of its work force internationally (African and Asian countries). The resumes I receive from applicants in Asia all contain pictures which is the norm there. One employee’s husband recently sent me his resume for another company I work for, and I had to explain that including a photo and personal details (religion, height, weight, ethnicity, children etc) would actually make a potential employer less likely to interview him for fear of discrimination accusations. It was a wee bit awkward!

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

      Here it’s usual for front desk or public facing roles (retail, receptionist, restaurants, etc). If they add “neat appearance” then it’s heavily suggested. I’m grateful it’s not a thing in my field.

  16. Matt*

    #2: This gets really gross when the one not washing his hands is your grandboss and you’re supposed to shake hands with him …

  17. Pip*

    OP #4: I think from my understanding (from a resume workshop at University) it is usually not Western English speaking counties where this is usual – you would probably know if it was usual in your country as either everyone does it or it is often an explicitly stated requirement to apply.

    Apologies if this is wrong and happy for anyone to correct me, the workshop was in about 2015!

  18. Comms Girl*

    #4 – Having a picture of yoursef on your CV is quite common here in Europe (especially Central Europe, which is where I am, and have been, working for the past 5 years), although certainly not mandatory – unless clearly stated in the job advert, which rarely happens anyway.

    However, the rule of thumb seems to be: if you want to feature a picture on your CV, either get a professional one or don’t bother at all, because amateurish or very casual pictures will reflect poorly on your candidacy. With this I’m not saying you need a rigid, ID-like photo, but please consider getting a proper photographer to take a good picture of you instead of just cropping something out of your Facebook account.

    Fun fact: at the very beginning of my career, when I was quite new to my current work bubble, I went with a couple of friends and classmates to a free-of-charge, open day event for young provessionals where, among other things, you could get advice on your current CV content and layout, and get a professional photo taken. I remember telling one of my classmates that his picture didn’t look suitable for a CV – think leaning against a wall and towards a camera with what Tyra Banks would call a *smize*, with an overall quasi-flirty vibe to it. He said he thought otherwise because it showed his laid-back personality. After the CV session with HR professionals, he came running to me beaming and told me that his assigned HR professional said his picture was exactly what a CV photo should be.

    Now I’m not an HR person by any means and I don’t pretend to know more than they do, but I remember common sense telling me to be horrified at what seems to me to be such bad advice. Five years have gone by and I haven’t met anyone, both in a professional and personal capacity, who thinks this kind of picture is a good idea…

    1. Traveling Teacher*

      It is common here, too (France), and it’s one of my main “things done differently” in North America for my students applying for internships abroad.

      That, and not putting their marital status on their CVs!

      1. Thlayli*

        Not judging – genuinely interested. Why would marital status be on a CV? Does it affect tax or something?

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          Possibly. Not in France, but where I am there are different tax bands depending on whether someone is married, divorced/widowed or single. Althought that information would be linked to a social security number and the tax authorities would also have your details, so only HR would really need that information. Nevertheless, I have seen marital status plus ages of children on a CV before.

          1. Mary*

            I once collected academic CVs from colleagues to create a resource bank for students and an Austrian guy had his marital status, wife’s name *and her degree* on his CV.

            I mean, heaven forbid we should hire someone who was married to some kind of ignoramus who only had a BA and no MA!

            1. Blue Anne*

              That’s kind of interesting. I wonder if there was a reason behind it. My parents were both criminologists and I know universities were always trying to sweeten offers to my dad by offering my mom a place too. (Which made mom FURIOUS.)

              1. fposte*

                That’s a pretty common practice in academia, on the fairly logical basis that people are going to be likelier to come if their spouse has a good reason to move too. But also, how cool to have criminologist parents! You should have starred in your own chapter-book mysteries.

                1. Blue Anne*

                  Ehhhh. In practice it was not so great. I tended to find things like bullets and murder scene photos while rummaging around in the basement. And last week I had a date with a really awesome guy who, it turns out, knows all about my dad’s work because Dad was a crucial expert witness in a trial which found a police officer not guilty of murdering someone of my date’s race. Awkward.

                  I mean I’m grateful, because actually they were both huge activists with massive soapboxes and it really formed who I am. And I did grow up with a lot of Nancy Drew. But yeah. “only child of noted criminologists Dr Blank and Dr Other” was a weird way to grow up.

                2. Blue Anne*

                  I got to do a lot of travelling, though! Only child of professors in the same field gets toted around to a lot of international conferences! :)

      2. Comms Girl*

        “Marital Status ” – that’s one I’ve never seen around here! But I do work in Brussels within the EU bubble, so I *guess* there would be an uproar if that was a requirement…

    2. Yellow Bird Blue*

      Good advice. Let a photographer take your picture, otherwise your application will almost certainly be rejected right away!

      I remember when we were looking at CVs for a student job at university, and this one applicant sent a CV with a picture of her lounging on the couch and looking sultry at the camera. The professor told us to reject her right away. (Which was a good call).

      That aside, why is including pictures still a thing? It makes it SO much easier for companies to discriminate against POC and/or women, and/or people who are not conventionally attractive. And there are enough studies that demonstrate that.

      1. Reba*

        Yes, I don’t think this is all that common but some companies (I’m in the US) are making efforts to make hiring as “blind” as possible.

        I don’t know if the photo would get you thrown out of the pool, but they’d strip the photo and other details before it got to anyone judging your candidacy.

    3. GermanCoffeeBean*

      In Germany, it’s customary to include your picture and state your marital status and if you have children (+ their ages) as well. A few year ago, a new workplace anti-discrimination law was passed, so theoretically you don’t have to include all of this anymore, but people still do it, since a lot of recruiters still expect it and may otherwise reject your application. When I was applying for an apprenticeship* about 20 years ago, I was expected to include my parents’ name AND their occupation on my CV as well, which is wild. Luckily, this isn’t expected anymore, either.

      I think the reasoning behind including your marital status (and if you have children) was to determine if you are eligible for special protection under German employment law and to determine if you are flexible or need special accommodation, although I feel it’s very discriminatory and unfair.

      (*I’m a trained legal secretary, and here you don’t go to college/university to study that, but do a two to three year apprenticeship where you work in a law firm for three days a week (with pay) and go to school for two days a week.)

  19. Faintlymacabre*

    For #3- Definitely depends on the person! I would let my mom do anything at my work place because she is wonderful and understands boundaries. My dad, I would torch the building before letting him anywhere near it.

  20. Kat*

    I’m a bit uncomfortable that not washing hands is seen as something that isn’t anyone else’s business. I realise it isn’t cool or indeed probably possible to do anything about it, but it spreads germs. This is exactly the reason I end up off sick from work, because I know the people at work who touch door handles with gross hands, cough and spread all their colds and sneezes. Although I might not say something personally, I am quite close to asking management to post something on our intranet to remind people to be a bit more hygienic. I’m not their parent, but neither am I the cleaner, yet I end up having to periodically clean door handles, taps, etc, when they really are gross (not a germ-phone and not unrealistic; I just can’t deal with that level of yuck).

    It also depends on the workplace, I think. My sister is living in a residential accommodation. If one of the people there working there and looking after her was seen not to be washing their hands I would absolutely expect somebody to take action on that, in a place where there are vulnerable people more susceptible to bugs. I can take care of myself but she can’t.

    1. InfrequentCommenter*

      Thanks for being the first to say this. As a nurse I can’t believe how cavalier and misinformed the readers are about this. Full stop there is no conceivable reason to not wash your hands.

    2. Angelinha*

      I totally agree with you, but a ‘reminder to be a bit more hygienic’ is not going to do anything. The people who you’re trying to target with it are NOT the same people who would read an announcement like that and think to change their own behavior based on it. It’s like those signs that say “all employees must wash their hands.” Ok, but if they don’t, nothing happens.

      I agree that it’s gross though. You’ve got to be pretty clueless or pretty brave to walk out of a bathroom without washing your hands when coworkers are watching!

      1. Kat*

        True, but it’s really an issue management should address and I know for a fact that here the only way they’ll do it is with a reminder like that. I think they should really tell people to stop being gross, but that’ll never happen.

        I suppose I ought to have said something when I saw a coworker wash her feet in the sink, but I was younger then…

    3. Bostonian*

      So if you saw someone suddenly cough and not be able to get their arm/hand to their mouth in time to cover it, you would lecture them about coughing and not covering it?

      Or if you found out someone was wearing the same pants as 2 days ago without washing them, you would ask them to wash them? (because, you know, germs)

      1. Kat*

        I don’t believe I’ve ever lectured anyone, but I may be wrong. I’ve certainly never told someone at work not to cough. However, not washing your hands after using the toilet is not sanitary. I already said I’m not a germ-phobe and y’know in your own home do whatever you like. In a communal area, be considerate and not gross.

        The ‘what-if’-ery here is just stretching a point.

    4. Anna*

      I think we can all agree that there are some professions where not washing hands is a much bigger issue than others. I work in an office all day in a non-medical facility and while I think it’s important to wash my hands, nobody uses my computer but me and nobody is at risk if I don’t wash my hands. On the other hand, we have a nurse on staff who should wash her hands and does, because in her professional capacity that is vital.

      The thing is, if your goal to change behaviors on an ongoing basis or not? Mentioning to someone you see leaving the bathroom that they should wash their hands might change their behavior that one time, but it’s not likely to change their behavior overall. So it’s more about your peace of mind of seeing them was their hands right then, which means it’s just performative and has no long term benefit.

  21. Mad Baggins*

    I get that washing your hands after the bathroom can sometimes (ie outside of healthcare/food service) be a bit of a “performance” (like how the TSA is “security theater” that makes you feel safe vs. actually be safer) but–if you’re not willing to perform this bit of personal hygiene and care for others, it raises real questions about your cleanliness and conscientiousness!

    You can make similar arguments about wearing deodorant or sneezing into a tissue/your elbow or washing your clothes regularly or brushing your teeth. Yes, being overly fastidious can be a problem, yes everyone breaks these rules once in a while, yes the world is full of germs. But if you openly flaunt these social standards of cleanliness and care in front of your fellow humans then they’re going to get those Sims minus signs over their head when they interact with you.

    That said, I think it’s hard to speak up about this without seeming like a busybody (even though they’re the one transgressing, not you), but I think if you happen to grimace when you notice they haven’t washed their hands, and they notice, then that can’t be helped…

    1. fposte*

      The thing is, if you’re sneezing into a tissue and not washing your hands afterwards, you’re probably more likely to spread common viruses than if you poop or pee and don’t wash your hands. But people tend not to care about that, because it’s more about, as you put it, those Sims minus signs of breaching cultural expectations than it is actual hygiene, and for some reason the sneezing/coughing thing doesn’t carry that same squick.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Evolution has trained us to be disgusted by poop because once upon a time avoiding it helped us survive, just like we’re innately disgusted by rotted meat–so it’s pretty ingrained and not entirely logic-based.

        1. fposte*

          Right, exactly; that’s why the arguments about “it just feels gross” actually have more merit (even though they’re not more actionable) than “it’s spreading disease,” because most of us don’t feel gross about some of our major disease-spreading behaviors.

      2. Luna*

        The thing is though, if I sneeze and then half an hour later I go to the bathroom and wash my hands, at least I’ve washed my hands at some point, even if it isn’t immediately after I sneezed.

        But the people who won’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, when it is the easiest time to do it (there is a sink right there!) – when DO they wash their hands during the day? Never? That’s why they are seen as gross and more likely to be the one spreading germs than the people who do wash more frequently.

        1. myswtghst*

          “But the people who won’t wash their hands after using the bathroom, when it is the easiest time to do it (there is a sink right there!) – when DO they wash their hands during the day?”

          Yes, this, thank you! At my workplace, if you aren’t washing your hands in the bathroom, the only other place you could be washing your hands is in the *one* sink in the break room shared by the entire building, where people are constantly washing dishes and rinsing out coffee cups. Which means it doesn’t feel like a huge leap to think that if you aren’t bothering to wash your hands at the most obvious, easiest opportunity, you probably aren’t doing it much, if at all, throughout the day.

      3. Mad Baggins*

        Oh man I can’t speak for anyone else but every time I see someone sneezing/coughing into their hands and then not immediately sanitizing them I get major Sims minus signs. No woo-hoo happening here!

  22. Deus Cee*

    #2 – It’s gross, and I’d be side-eyeing the heck out of her personally, but unless you work with food, or in healthcare, or other places where contaminants need to be contained as all heck (museum conservators are pretty hot on this), I’d suck it up and just make sure you’ve got the means to keep your own hands clean.

    1. Bridgette*

      Our director of curatorial services make you put on rubber gloves and then cover those with cotton gloves before she will even THINK about letting you in the collection storage room.

  23. Marthooh*

    OP#1 – If you want to be kind to ExBoss next time he comes to you for help, offer to show him how the task is done instead of doing it for him. He may have forgotten the details of how to make the software go, or he may not realize you don’t do that for everyone. Or he may be a selfish jerk, who knows.

    Regardless, don’t waste your valuable time doing what is now his work.

    1. Rebecca*

      That made me smile a bit – I suspect it’s not so much former boss has forgotten how to do these tasks, he probably isn’t exactly sure how to do them. Signed, someone who worked for a boss who wouldn’t learn simple things because “that’s what I have you people for”.

    2. Sara without an H*

      It’s entirely possible that Old Boss has no clue how to do these things above a very minimal level. Offering to show him how, or to send him links to training materials, would be a kind thing to do, although he might not take it well.

      And your last sentence sums it up perfectly.

  24. Lisa*

    My father absolutely refuses to wash his hands after using the restroom. He won’t make it a habit, and says that men don’t wash their hands, which I’ve never heard of to be honest. Some people think they only have to wash their hands if they poop.

      1. Knitting Cat Lady*

        There is a subset of the MRA fringe that is of the opinion that real men don’t wipe…

        …or wash between the cheeks, for that matter.


        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          And then they conclude that obviously no women want to date them because nice guys finish last, not because they’re expecting some poor woman to deal with their skidmarks. Eeeew.

        2. AKchic*

          And a subset of the MRA fringe that also don’t wear underwear because they could get wedgies and also because their manhood needs to be free and underwear is a cage/shackle that binds/restricts them like feminism. Only women wear underwear (for obvious reasons like menstruation and chastity belts), therefore men do not.

          My first ex-husband was of this belief. He also didn’t wear socks, but I never figured out why he didn’t wear socks. He had nothing against them. He just never wore them. Of course, the stories (weird, odd, amusing, abusive, and just downright “huh?!”) I could tell would fill an entire blog for years.

    1. Justin*

      I have met men like this.

      Yo, a lot of men do stink (speaking as a dude).

      (Not that some women don’t act this way as well…)

      Honestly people are gross and I accept this about life, lol.

    2. Wehaf*

      Men do have lower rates of hand-washing overall, but not, like 0%. Hand washing rates from observational studies tend to be around 40% for men and around 80% for women.

  25. Amelia*

    A picture on a resume seems off in the US. But if you think your photo would be an asset, isn’t the solution just to link to your LinkedIn profile?

    I have it so my name is hyperlinked to LinkedIn. I also include a link to my professional Twitter account.

    It seems to be well-received. My husband, a financial services recruiter, started seeing the hyperlinks a few years ago and now finds it very useful.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      A lot of people don’t have their pix on LI either, and for much the same reason. (I don’t.)

      1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        One of the candidates I interviewed yesterday had the QR code to his LinkedIn page. I’d never seen that before.

  26. Sarah M*

    Eh, I don’t know about the answer to OP2. Perhaps it’s because my entire family just came down with norovirus in the last 18 hours, but I respectfully disagree. This is literally how norovirus and many, many, many other illnesses are spread. Remember the letter about the woman who brought her very sick toddler (noro again) to work, who ended up infecting most of the office and several family members at home – including a cancer-stricken child? This is one of those incredibly uncomfortable conversations a manager has to have from time to time. No less squicky than telling someone their body odor is affecting other co-workers, but much more important.

    1. Colette*

      You don’t get norovirus by going to the bathroom, and if you’re sick, you can’t wash off the germs to the point where you’re not contagious. It may feel better to believe everyone washes their hands, but I doubt it’s terribly effective at stopping the spread of really contagious illnesses.

      1. fposte*

        My understanding is that outside of situations where you’re preparing food the real gain of handwashing is minimizing the spread of colds and flu. However, in those cases the actual excretory aspect of the bathroom is tangential–it helps just to wash your hands off, not because you were just doing something that makes it likelier you’ll spread it. You’d be better off if everybody washed their hands after they sneezed, but that doesn’t have the broad perception of taint that poo and pee do so it doesn’t bother us in the same way.

        1. Colette*

          As I understand it, a big part of washing your hands is to protect yourself from all the germs you’ve encountered over the day. It’s not about stopping you from spreading illnesses you’re infected with, it’s to stop you from being infected.

          So I was a little unclear – I believe it helps spread illnesses to the person washing their hands. It doesn’t stop sick people from leaving germs on things they touch, cough on, etc.

          1. fposte*

            I think it’s some of both, but it’s mostly self-protection; the balance shifts depending on what you’ve got to offer, as it were, and how much you spread it on the way to washing your hands (if you’re sneezing like crazy people are probably better off if you just lock yourself in an office than if you run back and forth to the bathroom a lot).

          2. Close Bracket*

            > It doesn’t stop sick people from leaving germs on things they touch

            And how do you think norovirus gets on people’s hands? It gets there when the sick person uses the restroom. That’s how everything that transmits via the fecal-oral route gets on peoples’ hands. Your groin is coated in fecal bacteria. Your hands get it from there.

            1. Colette*

              But the majority of people at work aren’t sick, and the majority of people who wash their hands don’t wash them well enough to get all of the germs off. If you’re preparing food or caring for someone with a contagious illness, hand washing is key (at the point that you’re doing those activiites). For the rest of us, it’s more about protecting ourself than the public.

        1. Colette*

          From that link:
          “The virus is highly contagious and commonly spread through food or water that is contaminated during preparation or contaminated surfaces. You can also be infected through close contact with an infected person.”

          Washing your hands is good to protect you from touching your mouth or eyes with stuff you may have encountered out in the world. It’s a good practice, absolutely. But if not washing your hands after going to the bathroom doomed everyone around you into getting norovirus, we’d all be dead.

          1. Sarah M*

            Also from that link:

            Norovirus infection is highly contagious, and anyone can become infected more than once. To help prevent its spread:

            Wash your hands thoroughly, especially after using the toilet or changing a diaper.”

            Also from that link:

            “You may continue to shed virus in your feces for up to two weeks after recovery.”

        1. Sarah M*

          I am so sorry this posted so many times. I couldn’t get it to post the first time and kept trying. Each time I did, nothing happened.

      2. Wehaf*

        No, actually, the single most effective mechanism to reduce the transmission of norovirus is hand washing. This is also true for food-borne illnesses and most other cases of infectious diarrhea.

        Some links of norovirus spread and hand washing:

    2. McWhadden*

      You share germs with dozens of people who don’t wash their hands every single day of your life. This one person isn’t the one making you sick. Confronting them does nothing but give the illusion of control.

    3. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      First off – that sucks! I hope your family gets better soon, and if (against all odds) you’ve dodged the bug so far, you continue to dodge it. Noro isn’t anything to play around with.

      That said, LW2 might not be in that person’s direct reporting line or even a superior to begin with. Because of that, the framing is a little bit ambiguous, and I think that’s why Alison’s advice was to let it go. Of course, if LW2 was managing Filthy Hands, they’d have more standing, as well as if they were friends, or the company empowered employees to call each other out on hygiene, or if it’s a setting where hygiene is paramount like food prep or healthcare. But we have none of that information.

      Absent all of that, though, it would likely be considered a bit presumptuous. I’d probably just judge them silently and not eat anything they brought to the office potluck, but that’s why I’m just commenting on this instead of writing the actual column.

      1. Sarah M*

        Yeah, I know what you mean. I don’t think a peer really has any standing to comment. I do think it’s worth approaching a manager about, though. I’ve tried several times to post a response upthread with a link to a Mayo Clinic page with info on norovirus and how it can spread (e.g., contact with fecal matter), but it just won’t go through.

        1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

          Hm. If someone came to me and let me know about that, I’d probably not directly address it with the person immediately. Sometimes the soap dispensers are empty! Heck, this week there was brown water coming out of our pipes one day, which I didn’t realize until after I used the restroom! (I was…pretty upset about this. I also dumped a ton of sanitizer on my hands when I got back to my desk. I probably looked like a dirtbag, but that’s because the alternative of washing my hands with pungent brown water was worse.)

          I’m a supervisor, not a parent. Unless it’d be directly affecting our team or our customers (for example, you go to the bathroom and then serve your world famous potato salad at the office potluck), I feel like addressing individual instances of being a dirtbag would be over-stepping my boundaries.

          1. Yorick*

            Right, I’d be pretty upset that the coworker wasted my time with this, unless there was an obvious hygiene implication (like they were food service or healthcare) or maybe if clients were grossed out.

            1. Yorick*

              I mean, what do we tell small children to do when they tattle about their sibling or classmate’s minor bad behavior? We tell them not to worry about what Little Johnny is doing.

              Why are grown adults not following this?

    4. Winifred*

      My elderly parents were part of the hundreds of people who got norovirus on the cruise ship a few years ago … traced back to bad personal hygiene. They were very sick!

  27. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    LW1: Do not suck this up. Yes, your sorry your ex-boss doesn’t like being demoted. But he can’t pretend it didn’t happen pretend he’s in charge by assigning you work.
    Since you do have some concerns that you should be assisting him (you should not btw, but working for a jerk skews your perspective) definitely and right now-today loop in you boss about this and stop doing his work.

  28. Nobby Nobbs*

    # 2 – I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to read one of these letters again (and they seem to come in pretty regularly, or maybe they’re just memorable) without thinking about that guy from The Shape of Water. At least she didn’t pee on the floor right in front of the janitors!

  29. Kisses*

    I didn’t read all the previous, so I hope I’m not reiterating, but as for #2- would anything change if the business was a good service one? I know working as a waitress we could get fired for that!

    1. Natalie*

      In food service its generally a matter of health code, and I imagine you’d be required to tell someone about it the same way you’d need to speak up if someone was thawing chicken improperly or not putting sanitizer in the three sink.

  30. Temperance*

    LW1: I encourage you to reframe your thinking here. It’s not “going the extra mile” to do menial admin tasks for a guy who fancies himself as your boss. It’s more work for you with no benefit to your career.

    1. LBK*

      Well said. Especially at the expense of work that is actually great for your career – spearheading a technology initiative is a very nice resume builder.

    2. Tace*

      #1 Reframing old boss’s expectations and understanding of what his new job role involves (ie, doing all his own scutwork) may involve an uncomfortable conversation with him for you or your new boss, but getting it all straight will be a kindness to old boss in the long run.

      Old boss needs to learn these key skills in his new role – and quickly! I mean, what’s he going to do when you take a day off or go away on holiday? Throw his hands up in the air and run around the office flailing and wailing like a comedy skit extra? He has some leeway now during the transition period – but that’s a month or three, not forever.

      Learned helplessness can be a short-term success, but it often backfires long term. I’d bet you aren’t the only person in your team/dept. noticing that he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing in his new role, and that’s not a good look for anyone. If/when coworkers notice that he needs and is getting ‘extra help’ to do basic things, that’ll breed resentment of him faster than almost anything else can.

    3. Genny*

      Agreed. And if you do these menial tasks for him now, at some point, you’ll reach your breaking point with doing these menial tasks in addition to your actual job, and then he’ll wonder why you have to stop helping him now because you’ve been doing it all this time and it hasn’t been a problem. Much easier to make a clean break of it now than after you’ve hit your breaking point.

  31. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    LW1 – this is kind of tangential and doesn’t affect the primary correct answer, but does your old boss even know how to do the stuff he’s asking you to do? Has he ever had to do it before? If not, maybe offer to sit Fergus down and show him how to do some of the stuff he’s asking. (If your new boss is willing to give you the time to do so, of course. And if you want to.) And then let him fend for himself as he should.

    Obviously, I should note that this is totally going above and beyond your job for him – and by all means, if you don’t want to you’re not obligated to! But he might be asking you because he’s clueless.

    LW2 – I would push back if they were a friend. But in that case, you do have standing because you have a personal relationship, and you probably wouldn’t be writing into a work-advice column about that.

    LW3 – FWIW, unless your mom is The Worst, I’d be all right with her volunteering if I worked with you. (And if your mom is the kind of person that does do embarrassing mom stuff to you in public, that’s her problem, not yours.) I think most people would feel the same way – it’s probably going to be ten times more awkward for you than it is anyone else (with the possible exception of your mom).

    Plus…regardless of how new you feel, you already have at least a year’s worth of history, and they considered your internship good enough that they hired you. So you are already super professional, regardless of how awkward your mom may or may not be.

    I guess what I’m saying is – it really comes up to you, and I think that unless your non-profit is also The Worst, no one there will think less of you because your mother volunteers at your job.

  32. Teapotty*

    I had to attend an ‘Employability’ course some years back as part of the conditions for receiving unemployment benefit in the UK. We were instructed that our ages, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, children, birth date, or address are not needed on a CV (as most of these could lead to claims of discrimination if you don’t get the role and the company were aware of these characteristics). Name, email and contact mobile, plus the first part of our postcode (zip code) were as far as we needed to go.

    Secondly you don’t know how respectful an organisation is towards personal data; I’ve seen enough CVs laying on a desk in an open recruitment office to not to want my extra information out in the wild unnecessarily. When you accept an offer from a company is the time to reveal much of the above. In the meantime, it wastes space on your CV that you could fill with something more relevant. It does vary from country to country though.

        1. Thlayli*

          I think Amelia is more surprised that the course tutors felt it necessary to tell people NOT to put it on their CV.

          I can see someone thinking it would be beneficial to include it in, say, a cover letter when applying to an LGBT organisation, but really they shouldn’t, because as said above, it could lead to discriminatory hiring practices.

  33. LQ*

    I would definitely check in with New Boss first. Sometimes people who are demoted are told they can continue to do some things (like delegate stuff) so that they’ll be more ok with the demotion, or for it to not feel so abrupt. New boss should be able to identify if that is the case and make sure to figure out the right way to handle it. It sounds to me like a lot of this is about your role shifting to support the implementation of new systems and other good things, which is a very good reason to push back on making edits to a powerpoint or using outlook to schedule a meeting.

  34. Gregori*

    I find the topic of the norm of not putting your photo in your resume in the U.S. interesting in context of the rise of the social media. People can simply google you for your social media accounts (facebook, linkedin, etc.) if you have them (which probably a lot of people do) to see what you look like. I’m not saying people will discriminate against on you based on what they see (i.e. not giving your application a fair chance), but with social media it makes the no photo in your resume moot nowadays since a lot of people have a least one social media account with a photo of them.

    1. ErinW*

      Social media is WHY I think it’s valuable for a hiring committee to see your photo. I don’t have one on my resume, but I do have one of those professional websites (from grad school) that Alison tends to deem useless, and there is a photo on there. I think that’s valuable simply because I am not the only person in the world with this first and last name combination. There’s a woman in Alaska, one in Iowa, and who knows how many others, and I have no control over what THEY are putting on the internet. There could be nudes, there could be accounts full of hate speech. My picture is of me demurely smiling in front of a bookcase. “This is the one you’re thinking of hiring.”

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Rather than in a resume, would it work to have a small headshot as part of your email signature?

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        About 30 years ago, a friend showed me an ad in the back of a porn mag that had “MY NAME Wants To Be Spanked” for the headline. MY NAME has since gone on to star in and then direct fetish porn films. All I can say is, anything I do in my own life is way tamer than that, and I can blame anything on her. (Of course nobody has ever brought it up in interviews.)

        However, there are lots of MY NAME’s out there, including medical and religious professionals. I’m feeling okay about things, in general.

      3. Political staffer*

        I don’t do social media anymore, but I intentionally made every photo of me on there only visible to friends. IF you bring up any of my SM profile pictures, you will see my (late, great) kitty.

        I’m camera shy and protective of my image. This is why I don’t do LinkedIn.

    2. J.*

      People have a lot of implicit biases around race and ethnicity, gender, body size, etc, and if you’re getting a look at the picture before you even read the rest of the resume, it can color your perception. It’s different to actively seek out the person on social media after you’ve already gotten an initial impression.

    3. Scion*

      I am of the optimistic (and perhaps naive) belief that nowadays most discrimination is not conscious. As in, a nefarious hiring manager thinking “we shouldn’t hire that young lady – she might get pregnant and take time off.” Rather it would be the hiring manager unconsciously associating better leadership qualities to the male candidate. So, not having the potentially discriminatory information (gender, age) be in their face would prevent this kind of discrimination.

      Plus, people (even nefarious HMs) are lazy. Making it even slightly more difficult for them to intentionally discriminate (by making them make 20+ google searches) can still help.

      TL;DR – let’s not make it easy for people to discriminate.

  35. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    Re #3: I completely agree with Alison’s advice, and would add – do you trust *yourself* not to act like she’s your mom if she volunteers? Would you be able to have tough conversations about her performance, schedule, reliability, what have you? Would you be tempted to ask her advice on decisions you need to make (beyond the input you’d solicit from any other volunteer)? A lot of this depends on how closely you interact with volunteers as part of your job, like if you’re the volunteer coordinator vs a program officer.

    It does sound like this is the kind of place that families often get involved, which sounds lovely. Maybe see if you can find out if there was ever a time when a volunteer related to another staff member caused an issue – how was it handled? Was the staff member’s relationship with the organization or their coworkers affected as a result?

    Finally, I’d pay attention to the politics of volunteers vs. staff members. I sincerely hope this isn’t the case in your org, but I’ve definitely seen it happen that a group of volunteers can become agitated with something the organization is doing – policy changes, leadership transitions, even new equipment – and either take it out on the staff, or try to lean on certain staff members to get things changed. How would you react if your mom came to you with complaints about the organization and wanted you to “fix things”?

    In general I think it would be great if it were to work out that your mom could volunteer, but it’s important to weight the pros and cons, especially since it sounds like you are pretty early in your career. Good luck!

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’d also add that to me, a parent becoming involved with one’s work seems like a bigger issue than a spouse or child because of the power dynamics at play. This probably isn’t true for everyone, but in my experience (with a non-overbearing, non-helicopter parent) – no matter how old you are, you will always be your parents’ child and they are often accustomed to having their input taken very seriously.

  36. Sailor Bee*

    #2 – Oh, I know. Create a scenario where it’s not gross at all for her to not have washed her hands, and firmly tell yourself that’s what happened. She didn’t go to the bathroom at all. That flushing sound you heard? 3 kilos of cocaine. Or the last remaining copy of a document containing an internationally devastating secret. If she disappears tomorrow, it’s not the Russians.

    1. Jen RO*

      Sometimes I go inside a stall to fix my clothes, then I flush because I don’t want people to think I peed and didn’t flush, then I wash my hands because I don’t want people to think I don’t wash my hands after I pee…

      1. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

        We have autoflush toilets, so going into the stall to fix my clothes causes it to flush anyway! The day I was sewing a button back on set off multiple flushes; my colleagues probably thought I had sever intestinal issues.

    2. Brandy*

      I was really sick earlier this year and would go and just stand in a stall sometimes to be close in case I did throw up. Our commodes auto flush so theres that, it flushed when I would get over my nausea and didn’t use the commode. I did wash my hands just because no one knew what I was doing in there. I didn’t want to get talked about.

  37. John Rohan*

    About handwashing – this can’t hurt. Put up a simple sign above the toilets and on on the inside door of the restroom: “PLEASE WASH HANDS AFTER USE”

    That’s something anyone can do. It’s not like a supervisor is going to object and have you take it down.

    1. Property Manager*

      Please don’t do this … as a property manager, this would be taken down almost instantly if the restroom is in a common area. Also, I’ve seen passive aggressive note wars start this way and it never ends well. Your landlord does not want to be in the middle of this drama.

      Not only that, but putting tape on the wall is a thing of property management nightmares. Most people use scotch tape which is a nightmare to remove and of it causes damage, your boss gets to pay for it.

      It sounds nit-picky, but I literally spend my entire day dealing with this stuff — and not because I want to.

  38. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    #2 If it makes you feel any better, there are some people (I know one of them) who are wildly allergic to one or more of the ingredients in the sort of cheap commercial soaps one usually finds in office and public bathrooms. My acquaintance always goes directly from the bathroom to their jumbo bottle of unscented hand sanitizer. Just imagine your coworker doing the same. Who knows, it might even be true…

  39. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

    #2 – I think this is the first time I’m going to have to disagree with Alison. I’ve called people out on not washing their hands. When I was with another company we shared the floor with another business and it was an employee from the other business that would not wash her hands. After witnessing this a couple of times, I couldn’t not say anything.
    Me: “Why don’t you wash your hands after using the restroom?”
    Her: “Well I use hand sanitizer when I get to my desk”
    Me: “Yes, but you are touching all sorts of things before you get to your desk that others have to touch as well. At the least, please rinse your hands or use a towel in order to be considerate of the rest of us.”

    We didn’t have any more problems after that at least when we were both in the restroom at the same time.
    I think it’s okay to ask why someone does that and ask that they take others into consideration and make an adjustment.

    1. Yorick*

      You really shouldn’t do this. You’re not actually making your floor cleaner or yourself safer by doing this, and you’re bothering another person.

    2. AnotherJill*

      You: “Why don’t you wash your hands after using the restroom?”
      Me: “Why do you feel like you have to monitor the behavior of your coworkers?”

      1. Close Bracket*

        Me: Because you are spreading fecal bacteria on everything you touch between here and your desk.

    3. angela*

      Yes, you are overstepping here and bothering her. Not a good idea. She doesn’t have to justify her bathroom habits to you. The woman uses hand sanitizer for goods sake. I’m sure we all spread germs.

      1. Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way!*

        I think when you have a shared space then you should be considerate. In this case, we were the only two businesses on this floor and in essence, neighbors. If it was someone I would probably never see again, I’d let it pass and chalk it up to “no home training”. Whether you agree or disagree, her actions could have an implication on my health and for that I will advocate for myself. #Sorrynotsorry

  40. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2, I can’t imagine not washing my hands, but how does this work in dog friendly offices where some of the employees might have paws (such as you find in the animal kingdom) rather than actual human hands? Additionally, not all people have hands either (there are hooks, etc..) I just don’t think there’s a “one size fits all” solution..

    1. fposte*

      You genuinely made me curious about whether it’s safe to wash prosthetic hands with electronics in them. A quick search didn’t reveal the answer conclusively, but I found a website of one manufacturer that bragged their myoelectric hands were the first waterproof ones, so I’m guessing usually it isn’t safe to wash them.

      (I’d be less worried about the dogs than the cats. The dogs’ feet generally stay on the floor. I’ve heard from quite a few non-cat people that cats walking on counters with the same feet that were just in the litterbox is one of the reasons they don’t want them.)

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        Cats lick their paws incessantly, very clean critters. Do not criticize cats.

        1. AfterBurner313*


          For my *cat paws/litter box/counter/never eating anything out of your home* coworkers, the fact cat “spit” is all over their paws doesn’t make it any better. It’s still germy cat tongue over germy cat paws, and germy cat paws (licked or not) all over the counter tops. My current job assigns people with pets to bring soda/wrapped food (from a store), paper products etc, because there was too many people who would not eat the potluck food. Two coworkers has cats, one has a guinea pig (? I don’t get that one), and the other has various reptiles.

          All pet owning coworkers neat, clean, wash their hands after going to the toilet. Some people have issues with any animals in the home. Period.

          I have no problems with pets in the homes. There is a sh*t ton of people who do. I’ll eat your fabulous cheese cake whether Friskie is around or not. The office still wants potlucks (I have food anaphylaxis which makes this hell), and the assigning non home made food to others made everyone happy.

    2. Murphy*

      As dogs generally cut out the middle man and insert food directly into their faces, I think they’re exempt. See also: licking their own butts.

      1. Rookie Biz Chick*

        Absolutely best comic relief for the righteous saga of hand-washing! Thank you!

      2. AKchic*

        Yes, but in many cases (such as my own household), doggos also eat the kitty rocha – so washing (or gargling) would be appreciated. And morning breath after a midnight “snack” is so much worse.

    3. Close Bracket*

      > how does this work in dog friendly offices where some of the employees might have paws

      Well, the dogs aren’t employees, and they don’t touch their genital region when they relieve themselves. They also don’t touch doorknobs, tables, the photocopier, etc. The reason you wash your hands after using the restroom is that your entire crotchal area is coated in fecal bacteria which is transferred to your hands when you touch that area during the bathrooming process. You wash your hands so you don’t get that bacteria all over everything else you touch. None of that applies to dogs.

  41. Narise*

    OP#2 I worked at a place where we had food days regularly and an employee who didn’t wash her hands. No one ever saw her wash her hands in the bathroom or before she ate or use hand sanitizer even when it was offered. Soon whenever there was a food day someone would identify what she brought and no one would eat it. After two months she finally asked someone why no one ate her food and she was told bluntly because everyone knew she didn’t wash her hands after using the bathroom. My hope is that you are not having food days at work and if you are make sure you identify what she brought and avoid, avoid, avoid.

    1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

      Ok, now I’m curious–how did she respond to that? Did she keep bringing in food no one would eat?

      1. Narise*

        She was surprised people knew that she didn’t wash her hands. But she was even more surprised that this was the reason why no one was eating her food. She really didn’t understand why people wouldn’t eat her food. She left three months later and I don’t remember if she brought food from home during that time.

        1. ThisIsNotWhoYouThinkItIs*

          Thanks for the update! Really interesting to me how she couldn’t make the link between the hygiene concerns and the food she brought.

  42. Louise*

    My dad, who works in academia, once received a resume that had pictures of the applicant… sexy pictures… in a low cut dress… with a chair…

    It was probably over a decade ago, but we still joke about it.

  43. Another Human*

    I’d say you CAN have standing on #2 if you work in food service, health, or other relevant work where it is extremely important that they wash their hands. I worked in a grocery store when I was younger and I caught the produce manager not washing their hands after doing #2. I told the store manager immediately.

  44. Smiling*

    #2 Love this one. At old company, ladies’ (single person) bathroom was right next to boss’ office. If boss caught someone repeatedly flushing and not washing hands, she would make me go talk to them.

    So embarrassing for me to have to personally address someone’s personal bathroom habits.

  45. Allergic to Harsh Soaps.*

    Some people are allergic to the soap in those dispensers which is usually commercial grade garbage. Don’t judge. And she doesn’t owe you an explanation.

    1. InfrequentCommenter*

      It’s 99 cents to get a squeezable travel container for soap at Walmart. She can bring her own. It’s not unreasonable to expect that people practice the hygiene step the CDC considers the #1 way to prevent illness.

  46. Where's my coffee?*

    I’m really grossed out by non-hand washers. I don’t have a problem telling them about it (privately and straightforwardly…I’m not a monster.) I also don’t have a problem arranging for a special soap or gloves for them. Sure there are bugs everywhere, but why add to the chance of spreading noro, hep A, whatever…

  47. Goya de la Mancha*

    Related to #1 – How do you handle this when the NEW boss is asking you to do things for OLD boss who doesn’t even work there anymore? (face palm)

  48. Healthnerd*

    LW #4 If you are in the U.S., PLEASE DONT SEND A PHOTO! I just went through several resumes to hire a new student research assistant and 2 included photos. In all fairness, one was an international student and the photo looked like a passport picture of sorts but the other one was from a current Undergrad and was very cutesy and posed outdoors. Photos open up the possibility for all sorts of issues related to job hiring discrimination. I find it to be a huge turn off in hiring. Just dont do it!

    1. AliSays*

      My firm recently interviewed an applicant who included a photo on her resume, and the near-universal reaction was negative. The ones who weren’t negative were neutral. No one had a positive reaction. Basically, why would you use up resume space to provide information that the employer is not legally allowed to consider like race and age and gender?

  49. bookartist*

    OP#2 – this is me! At least it appears to be. My child requires assistance in the toilet (& will have to for the foreseeable future), and so I have gotten into the habit of carrying nitrile gloves and sanitizer (and TBH paper towels) with me whenever I leave the house. I also now have the habit of using the sanitizer on the seat and gloves on my hands for every toilet encounter, for my child or myself. At the office, I used to toss the gloves in the sanitary napkin disposal box before exiting the stall, and then just leave the bathroom, but I was stopped once by a coworker who said in a very loud voice “Oh my god, what are you _doing_?” I explained myself to her, but now, if there is someone else in the bathroom at work, I’ve bring the gloves out and toss them out in full view of everyone.

    Is it at all possible your coworker is doing something similar?

    1. 808*

      Healthcare provider here- gloves fail all the time. You still want to wash your hands despite using gloves.

  50. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    I always wash my hands with soap and water after using the restroom, but in winter I also get really bad dry skin and I already have eczema. My hands will literally crack and bleed.

    So if anyone has ideas on how to be clean without hand washing that dries them out, and also how not to get the disgusted side eye if I go that route, I’m all ears.

    1. Judy (since 2010)*

      Personally, I’ve found that if you can manage to use an actual towel rather than paper towels, that helps.

      It also helps lots to wear gloves outside when it’s under 40F, even if you think you don’t need it.

    2. Sylvan*

      I have the same problem! When I wash my hands, I use a pea-sized amount of soap, not the full amount that a soap dispenser gives you. Washing with cool water instead of hot helps. Taking shorter, less hot showers helps. If I know I’m going to go a few hours without washing my hands, I use lotion (whatever works best for you, I’ve had good luck with Eucerin so far) and then put a very thin layer of Vaseline on the problem spots to keep them from drying out. I wear gloves when I clean and when I’m outdoors in cold weather.

      1. myswtghst*

        Cool water plus bringing my own gentle moisturizing soap in a tiny travel bottle I can fit in my pocket makes a huge difference. If my hands are cracking to the point of bleeding, hand sanitizer just stings, so I’d rather wash gently and put on tons of lotion after (the Neutrogena Norwegian Formula is my fave for super dry hands).

    3. LBK*

      I have this problem too. I use moisturizing soap at home, liberally apply Eucerin in the morning and before bed, and always wear gloves when I go outside. Obviously that doesn’t make at-work hand washings any easier on your hands, but I’ve found if you improve your baseline hand moisture then at least you usually won’t get to the cracked-to-the-point-of-bleeding stage from washing your hands a few times throughout the day.

      1. LBK*

        (To be clear, I only wear gloves outside when it’s, like, 50 degrees or less. I obviously don’t go out in August in shorts, a tank top and my wool mittens.)

      2. RB*

        Yeah, if I have just put on my $20 hand lotion and find I have to pee, I’m not going to do a thorough handwashing, but I will go through the motions with my fingertips and a bit of water. I realize there are cheaper hand lotions but I use what works for me.

    4. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

      I use cooler water during the cold months, and apply Aquaphor to prevent cracking.

    5. J.B.*

      Aquaphor is a lifesaver in winter. It’s water based but is really thick. If I put it on my hands before bed then they are much less dry the rest of the day.

    6. SpaceNovice*

      Goats Milk Soap. Bring your own bar of it. You might have a local producer, be able to get it off a seller’s website, or Etsy. There is some variation to the quality, but look for products where Goats Milk isn’t added as an afterthought. If you get a good bar of soap, the lather should feel nice. Yes, you’ll get some silly looks for it, but it makes a huge difference.

      Also, a really good lotion helps. Places like Bath and Body Works (specifically their Super Smooth ones), and Lush generally have better lotions than you get in the store. My dad also swears by O’Keeffe’s Working Hands. You want something that’s a little bit thick and sinks into the hands quickly. Also, if you’re allergic to the stuff you’re using, the cracking/bleeding gets worse (I learned I don’t always get hives).

      Dry your hands completely after you wash them–it really helps. Make sure you drink more water to stay hydrated (but not too much! you can actually drink too much). As others suggested: wear gloves outside under 50F. You can do an overnight treatment by slathering lotion on your hands and covering them with cotton medical gloves like the ones you can get at CVS.

      Dry skin can be made much worse by underlying health issues, like hypothyroidism (which made my skin much worse in winter). You may want to talk to your doctor about getting some tests done to see if there’s not something more severe causing the issue.

  51. Alienor*

    The other day I was in a bathroom stall at work not actually using it, but doing a clothing adjustment, and when I was finished I walked out past a woman at the sink who probably thought I was a gross animal. (I’m kind of wondering if she wrote this letter, except I didn’t flush because there was nothing to flush.) I would have washed my hands just for show, but by the time I registered her standing there, I was already halfway to the door and just kept going. Now I feel bad!

    1. Matt*

      Actually I’d still wash my hands – even if I didn’t use the toilet, but I still touched the door handle etc. …

  52. Secretary*

    For OP#4; also inore if you’re in a field that this is typical. For example, the entertainment industry usually wants a photo.

    1. Amphian*

      I have to say that, in a culture as self-absorbed as the US, I’m so glad the obsession with having a picture of ourselves everywhere hasn’t spilled over into putting photos on resumes. It makes total sense in a very limited number of industries (entertainment obviously being one) and makes no difference in the other 99% and is just a distractor. In studies on LinkedIn (by TheLadders), if you have a photo, the recruiter spends more time looking at it than your qualifications.

  53. Needs a name*

    It’s worth mentioning that washrooms tend to be one of the cleanest places in most office buildings. If you want to avoid bacteria/germs stay away from the communal lunch room counters and coffee machine.

    That said, still – gross! If she doesn’t do that I can only imagine what her hygiene is like generally. People like her are the reason I open bathroom doors with a paper towel or a sleeve ;)

    I wash my hands after peeing more out of habit/obsession than anything… really, I wash my hands in public washrooms primarily because I touched the stall lock, flush, sink tap, and paper towel dispenser and there’s sure to be something of everything in there. But pee on it’s own is sterile.

    1. Close Bracket*

      > But pee on it’s own is sterile.

      Only while it’s still in the bladder, and not even always then. To exit the body, pee has to pass through an opening. That opening is no more sterile than the rest of your skin.

      Anyway, pee is not the problem. The problem is all the bacteria you pick up from the skin around your groin when you use the toilet.

  54. MamaSarah*

    Not washing your hands after using the rest room is like begging for a norovirus outbreak in the office. You can be an asymptomactic shedder. A person needs as little as 18 particles to get sick…oh, and a gram of poop can have up to a billion viral particles. Hand sanitizers do not eliminate or kill norovirus. Say something! Or post a sign or storyboard. The CDC and FightBAC have some cute handwashing signs you can print.

  55. T Benj*

    For #1, I once had a supervisor who did not like the fact that I had a 4 year degree and made more than her ( was put under her as a supervisor when the company split our department up). When the split occurred, the team of 4 became a team of me but I was still expected to keep up with all the work. Go figure! This supervisor decided that in addition to this workload, I also needed to be a team resource for questions, which I pushed back on because they already had 2 people on staff who got paid for it but no one wanted to ask them questions because they were poor communicators. I told them I would only help if the questions were emailed and the supervisor and teams resources were also emailed. That held off some of the questions. Then the supervisor decided that it was becoming “too much work” on the 2 people assigned to review phone calls for errors and that now it would be my sole function. And they were calls I was not even qualified to answer. After about 2 weeks, I was out for a sick child and after being up for close to 24 hours, had to go to work so I would not get too behind. My supervisor’s manager saw me and asked why I came in ( she had been told about my sick child issues) and I told her about the quadruple duties I had been assigned and could not afford to get behind. The manager about fell out! By the end of the day my normal duties had been reassigned and the additional duties taken away. I thought my supervisor was gonna explode. Was fun to watch. After that her manager also approved me working from home a couple days a week even though the supervisor had denied my request ( even though she worked from home a couple days and I was not a supervisor with direct reports like she was). You should have seen my supervisor trying to talk the manager out of letting me have it. Right in front of me. Luckily the manager saw right through her. So if the old boss is sending you stuff to do, forward the requests to your new boss and ask for direction on which assignments you were working on in addition to these comes first. I keep a list of everything I have on my plate and find that when a supervisor “forgets” or “doesn’t know” how much is on your plate, giving them the list and asking which duty comes first periodically keeps them up on my activities. Sometimes they have no clue until you tell them…

  56. Cheeky*

    Maybe I’m an exception, but I would say something to the coworker who doesn’t wash their hands, especially if I caught them in the act in the bathroom. I’ve done it at my office. That’s basic hygiene, and dirty hands are a common way that illnesses are spread in offices.

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