open thread – March 9-10, 2018

It’s the Friday open thread! The comment section on this post is open for discussion with other readers on anything work-related that you want to talk about. If you want an answer from me, emailing me is still your best bet*, but this is a chance to talk to other readers.

* If you submitted a question to me recently, please don’t repost it here, as it may be in the to-be-answered queue.

{ 2,174 comments… read them below }

  1. Sunflower*

    I’m looking for guidance on how to speak to my grandboss about the issues I’ve been having with my new boss of 7 months and job overall. My last check in with my grandboss was 4 months ago(she wants us to do quarterly one on one check-ins) and I expressed that morale on the team was low. It feels like things are getting worse and I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t feel that my boss is an advocate for our team. I feel like I’m losing a sense of autonomy and I don’t feel empowered to make decisions anymore. My boss is enforcing new guidelines but when I ask for clarification on them, she isn’t able to give anything but vague responses. She is disorganized and will complain that no one ever told her of things even though I have emails that refute that. I can’t trust her either as I’m never sure whether the information she is giving to me is correct or not because she is so forgetful. She has an overall bad attitude and provides very little customer service to the teams we support. The biggest issue is people we support have complained to me and said they don’t trust her to handle their projects and they would prefer me to be involved in them (I realize I shouldn’t say all of these things but to give you an idea of the struggles I’ve encountered with her)

    Do you guys have suggestions of how to word things or topics to stick to so I can keep this strictly about me and my job while still giving hints that these issues are related to my boss? I’m nervous about opening up this can of worms as it’s very unlikely this meeting is going to lead to an immediate change. I debated whether to bring this up but I’m at the end of my rope and I need to know whether this is the new status quo here(in which case, leaving is 100% right). Thanks in advance to this awesome group of peeps :)

    1. CTT*

      Ugh, that’s a bad situation. I think the best advice when bringing this up is to stick solely to quantifiable things: issues it’s caused with the people you support, late projects, or similar. If you focus on her being disorganized/giving vague responses/etc., that could make your grandboss think it’s just a clash of management styles and be less willing to intervene.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        Agree with CTT. No personal issues, just business issues and how it impacts the work.

    2. Parenthetically*

      So sorry! No fun.

      I’d agree with CTT to try to keep it to specific, quantifiable things, and I’d add the “show, don’t tell” rule — so rather than “I don’t feel Jane is an advocate for our team,” try “On several occasions, Jane has done X (thing that illustrates how Jane is failing to advocate for the team).” Talk about HOW she has micromanaged you, or in some other way taken away your autonomy or ability to make the independent decisions required by your role. Discuss the impact of her forgetfulness with specific examples. I think the key things for me are specific, quantifiable, related to the requirements of your job, and focused on impact.

      1. Lance*

        And more than that, I feel you’d be justified in bringing up the complaints, and the refusals to work with your boss, from the people you support. If they’re not getting what they need from your department due to your boss, that’s very much something your grandboss would want to know.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          And even show the emails that show where she knew something and later claimed she didn’t

    3. Marshmellin*

      You don’t happen to work at a global company in the Health division, do you? Because I’m having the exact same issue and I’d bet money you’re my coworker, A.

      No real advice to offer, sadly. I’ve tried managing up in my situation, and I’m not making headway. I had resigned myself to a job search because she and grandboss are very tight due to shared hobbies, etc. and grandboss brought her in.

      Sorry to not have advice. I so commiserate, though. :/

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Regarding your biggest issue, in time it will become apparent that everyone is avoiding her. You really don’t have to say or do anything on that one.

      I think pick 2-3 of your biggest problems. Have at least one, preferably two examples of each problem.
      Okay so using what you have here:

      “Big Boss, I am having trouble getting a clear handle on the new guidelines. I ask New Boss and she said xyz where what I was looking for was more along the lines of abc. Well, she’s new and the guidelines are new, so there is that learning curve. Do you have any advice for additional materials that would help give me a more accurate read on what to do?”

      “I have had problems getting correct information regarding As, Bs and Cs.I can see where the info I am getting is indeed incorrect. I need this to do my work. How can I get this information on my own so I can verify that it is right?”

      In short, you are asking for work-arounds so you are less dependent on your boss for your information. But you mention the boss as little as possible and try to minimize what the problem is. My experience has been that if I minimize something the big boss hears me and reacts. If I say, “oh this is soooo baaddd”, the big boss instantly starts in on saying why everything is okay.

      1. Casuan*

        I agree with NSNR.
        The caveat is that before you talk with your grand-boss, you should be able to tell GB that you’ve made several attempts to discuss these issues with your direct-boss & why those efforts didn’t succeed.
        You might have already done this?
        If you have suggestions as to how your communications can improve then you could offer them, too, such as by saying that DB gives vague responses when you really need more specifics.
        Be confident in your intent, Sunflower. You’re not trying to undermine, tattle [I hate that phrase in the workplace], or otherwise badmouth your boss. You are simply telling grand-boss that your work is not efficient when you can’t get the guidance you need from your DB. It’s a big deal that your boss can’t clarify objectives or plainly communicate what you & the team need to know. It’s also a big deal that clients are circumventing your boss & grand-boss needs to know this. If you tell GB how your work is affected then GB will piece together the bigger picture.

        eg: If your boss won’t make time to listen to your concerns, or if she did then you realised that neither of you could really understand the other… I’ve had managers who never seemed to understand me when I say “The sky is blue.” They’d respond as if I said it was purple- every single time. I had to believe they thought the same of me. It was maddening & thankfully quite rare.

    5. designbot*

      “I feel like I’m losing a sense of autonomy and I don’t feel empowered to make decisions anymore.”
      I would focus on this part of it. You can bring in the bit of other teams specifically requesting you because they trust you to handle their projects as a counterpoint to this, as proof that you do good work and are deserving of the trust you used to enjoy from your manager.

  2. Amber Rose*

    More of a rant today: My supervisor was badmouthing me in a meeting with our newly promoted manager… and I know because the meeting took place in the room directly behind my desk, with the door open.

    She later thanked me for something I did but it’s hard to take that at face value when my first thought is, “you two-faced bitch.”

    I adore my coworkers but my direct management, both of them, treat me like I’m an annoying waste of space. It’s messing me up. The advice here is probably “job hunt” but I don’t even know where to start. I feel lost.

    1. Alternative Person*

      I hear you. My co-worker decided ornery was a better path than polite today over something pointless and my manager who told me last week that I do a very good job, decided the best tack when I went to him about it was to play the ‘you’re no better’ card. Just. Urgh. He wants me to help the workplace be better but he also wants me to not expect my co-workers to be at least minimally polite.

      I looked around job boards but now is just not a good time for me to change jobs.

      *Fist bump of solidarity*

      1. Samiratou*

        On the ornery coworker, assuming she’s not ornery all the time, that could just be a bad day or a straw-that-broke-the-camels-back situation but your boss’ response was totally assholic.

        1. Alternative Person*

          Honestly, I thought with ornery coworker and I had tacitly agreed to have non crossing orbits but over the past few weeks he’s decided that he must get in all the digs.

          I’m not particularly bothered because I’ll in all likelihood be out of this place in a year or so whatever happens but I also want to tell him ‘can we just go back to not stepping on each others toes’.

    2. fposte*

      Can you think about where you’d start? This employer has been less than satisfactory for you for a while, so it’s probably time. I don’t know whether the economy around there has rebounded at all, but it wouldn’t hurt to window-shop to see what’s out there.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’ve thought for a long time. I just don’t know. I don’t have a great job history so I don’t seem to be qualified for anything.

        1. StrikingFalcon*

          “I’m not qualified for anything” is a pretty normal feeling after spending too much time in a highly dysfunctional office. But what do you have to lose by putting some applications out there anyway? I think I’d start by listing all of your accomplishments at past jobs – no matter how small. Don’t let yourself dismiss them as unimportant, just put them on the list. “Almost responded to emails within 24 hours,” for example. Then, what on the list do you feel good about? Can you match it to any of the job requirements out there?

          1. spocklady*

            This seems like really good advice to me. When I’ve struggled to get a sense of perspective with lots of feelings/anxieties swirling around, writing things down without judging them first was SO helpful. It’s one of those techniques that I think I forget about because it seems so basic, and it always takes me by surprise how helpful it is.

            On that note, I’m off to go start writing out the main points of a conversation I need to have with newboss.

        2. Fortitude Jones*

          You have done soooo many things at this employer that I think you could find something in just about any field. Have you looked into risk management? I say that because I (think) recall you saying they had you doing safety-related things as well as handling compliance issues even though they weren’t your job. You clearly work well under pressure and tight deadlines, so you might actually be very qualified to go into that field should it interest you and you find job postings in your area for it.

    3. Mike C.*

      Whenever I get this way, I set my default webpage to the internal career/job posting page.

    4. disconnect*

      I read a great response on captainawkward the other day that I think fits here. Whenever a person does this Thing, say to yourself, “I see you.” Meaning, “I see what you did there. You’re an asshole who did an asshole thing, and I think deep down you know you’re an asshole and it’s keeping you up at night.” People are going to act poorly, and you can’t change them. But you can change your response to them, and labeling their actions in a neutral tone of mental voice is a great first step.

      1. shep*

        This is great advice. I’m working with some people in my office I haven’t crossed paths with before due to a restructuring, and while my interaction with them has been FAR less adversarial/two-faced-y than Amber Rose describes, I was utterly taken aback at how patronizing they can be.

        I haven’t been spoken to like I’m five aside from when I was five.

        It’s certainly not a LOT of patronizing, but cutting me off mid-sentence, and then kind of steamrollering through why my thought is utterly unworkable…

        It wasn’t that my idea didn’t pan out; ideas often don’t pan out. It was how said non-panning out was presented to me. It, embarrassingly, left me far more defensive than I otherwise am, and I admit I didn’t handle the feedback super gracefully. (I think I handled it more or less fine, but with a distinct lack of fineness and a touch too much defense–by way of explanation, because I hadn’t finished my initial thought when I was cut off.)

        I’m usually super chill and roll with things, and I just have to recalibrate my expectations for these new folks and, as you say, change my response to them with an eye toward neutrality.

    5. i am the night*

      Same. Boss shit talks me for things that aren’t even my fault or have nothing to do with me, and then sometimes is more polite to my face. It really messes with my head. I’ve been applying everywhere and I’m starting to suspect my suffering self-esteem is showing in my resume and cover letters. :/

    6. TheCupcakeCounter*

      Sorry I can’t help you here. When that happened to me I called out very loudly “I can hear you” without even looking up.
      That shut it down pretty quick.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OP, I would be sorely tempted the next time to do this. Clearly she is just going to keep bad-mouthing, but she does not have to do it so you can hear.

        If confronted, you can say, “I don’t talk about you that way for a reason, I don’t expect to be spoken of in that manner.”
        “I fail to understand how you see your remarks here will make me a better employee or make this a better work place.”

      2. Amber Rose*

        She knows I can hear her. She doesn’t care because she has all the power. It’s all stuff she’s said to my face before too. If I rock the boat I’ll be unemployed.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          Had a boss a bit like this, although just backstabbing, not backstabbing+bullying. I’m sorry you’re dealing with that. My mantra, for every encounter, was “It really sucks that I have to deal with you, but I’m glad I’m not you.”

          1. Kewlmom*

            LOL! We have a similar saying: “The only thing worse than dealing with you would be being you.”

      3. Too good to be true usually is*

        I’ve been at a place for just less than 7 months; it didn’t take me long to discover its history of astonishing turnover. There is a lot of not particularly subtle emotional abuse in meetings and bad-mouthing of past (and present) employees. Micromanaging, too, and crazy-making inconsistency. It’s amazing how it’s never the bosses’ faults that people keep leaving. I’ve been working long enough to know that however amazing I might be (and I’m pretty good), I will never be good enough at this place. I have no control over what my boss thinks and says, now or after I inevitably leave, but I do have control over what I do when I’m not here — and that’s get my resume ready, look for openings, and get those cover letters out.

    7. Weyrwoman*

      Job hunting can certainly be a good idea. My advice here as a starting point would be to update your resume and cover letter. Maybe do a huge refresh on how the resume is organised? Get any notable projects noted, update to reflect your skills, and then hunt through job boards for positions that match about 80% of those skills. You don’t have to actively apply to any at first – just searching through listings can give you a good idea of where the market is, and what to expect.

      1. Amber Rose*

        There are no such jobs. My skills are random. Most people in my line of work need to have either hands on technical expertise, or an expensive certification that I can’t even apply to take the test for until 2020.

        That’s why I’m lost. I ended up in this field by fluke, and I’m stuck here by my own limitations.

        1. Alice*

          Even if you can’t leave now, you can start working towards leaving by beefing up your experience. If you can’t get the experience you want from your job, could you volunteer for something that would give you additional skills? Plus, Network, network, network. Join a networking group, let everyone you know (outside of work) know that you’re open to new opportunities. You never know what will pop up and when. Plus, if you volunteer and/or network, when you are ready to jump ship, you’ll have all of these wonderful contacts ready, willing and able to hopefully assist you in finding your happier place.

        2. Cloud 9 Sandra*

          Do you have the resources to see a counselor of some sort? Just being able to tell your story to a neutral party who validates you can be so helpful in finding focus.

        3. Specialk9*

          Lots of jobs are random collections of skills. So general advice, don’t get too stuck in this particular field or that one particular cert you can’t get yet.

          And definitely don’t let those bullying voices worm their way into your brain – you’re here, consistently, and you make good comments, which shows that you are dedicated to self improvement and capable of learning. That’s a huge portion of success right there.

          Can you look into a general cert? For example, work your way through Microsoft certifications, or ITIL foundations (which is doable for non-techies), or any of the IT newbie CompTIA certs (Google “best IT beginners certifications”). If you need in person teaching, how about a community college or local education (in the towns where I’ve lived, there are local classes on all topics – how to use a computer, how to cook soup, how to knit – and there have been professional development courses).

          Lover term, think about working toward Project Management Professional, or a cybersecurity cert (CISM is more manageable for a newbie than CISSP, I think).

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      I use to work for a bully (like hold team meetings with everyone but me to get feedback and pressure everyone to say bad things together) bully.

      It is very hard. Reward yourself. Track your accomplishments and remember that any manager worth their Sally will take negative feedback they did not witness work a grain of salt. If you do good work for the new manager and stay polite they may even become an ally and source of new job satisfaction.

    9. June*

      Two books that might help you is Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average, and Do Work That Matters by Jon Acuff and 48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal by Dan Miller. These books helped me leave some pretty toxic work environments*. After realizing it was them, not me, I left and went to college. Four months after graduation, I found a great job working for the state. I love, love, love my job and am excited to come to work every day. And been promoted once already ($10K bump with a great title) in the 2 years I have been here.
      * I had 3 bad jobs, back to back, after I retired from the military. I started thinking all the good I had done while active duty was a lie and that I am actually complete screw up (not an award winning airman). Found out that I was working for horrible people. And you know what? Those bosses who said I would never amount to anything are still in the same, sad location that I left (or was asked to retire). The one boss who said I wasn’t smart enough to go to college, well… now both of us have master’s degree. I know that I make more than my first boss ($40K) and the same as the other two bosses ($82K). Two of the horrible bosses are locked into their jobs (school principle) and will probably not advance any higher (their reputation precedes them in our local area).
      I posted this story was not to brag (but gotta admit it did feel good to talk about my accomplishments and personal growth) but to tell you that I have been there, done that, have the scars. You deserve better and I truly believe you will not only survive this but be better than the boss you left. Not because she is a horrible person in the first place but because you are already so much better than you realize. So go read, dream, take some classes, change job, and move forward. You got this!

    10. spocklady*

      Ugh, that is awful, Amber Rose. What a jerk move, to treat someone who reports to them that way, just because they have power in this situation.

      I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this and feeling stuck.

    11. AnonyNewb*

      Wow, do we have the same boss? Sounds just like mine.
      I’ve been job hunting for a year now trying to get out of a super toxic work environment – getting really frustrated at this point, but hoping it’ll all work out soon.

    12. Safetykats*

      Did others also hear this? Because it’s so inappropriate (having these kinds of conversations where others can overhear) I actually had a grandboss fired for that. We had more than one employee go to HR saying they felt their position was in jeopardy, due to overhearing this kind of thing, and ultimately all those folks were transferred to another department (so they had new management) and based in part on that information grandness was fired. Especially if this is something that happens (not a one-time thing) and if you have others to corroborate your story I would highly recommend going to HR. Because what your boss did was to have a conversation containing employee confidential information (performance assessment) in a highly inappropriate manner (lack of confidentiality due to volume of conversation and open doors). HR should be concerned, because she should know better – and because if she’s found it on purpose, it could be considered bullying, intimidation, or hostile work environment.

  3. Sleepy*

    A friend of mine visited from abroad recently, and apparently where she lives it’s quite common for staff to use their lunch time to take a quick nap – it’s not a company thing, more of a cultural thing.

    I don’t know about lunch hour, but usually around 3pm I start thinking about how I could really benefit from a 20-minute Powell nap, and I’d be quite happy to give up 20 minutes of my lunch time to fit that in (assuming it’s not the middle of a meeting or anything of course!). Alas, that simply doesn’t fly here.

    Side note: I went to primary school in that country, and I remember mandatory ‘heads down’ times – you didn’t have to be asleep, but the rule was you stoped working for a short period of time so students could recharge (I don’t know for sure but I assume the teachers stayed awake during this time). I thought it was silly back then, but I kind of miss it now!

    1. Yams*

      Oh yeah, afternoon naps are the best. I’m very thankful my job lets me go home for lunch, that way I can just eat, take a short nap (if I want! no pressure), and then head back very refreshed.

    2. Seal*

      The last time I had mandated nap time was in kindergarten. Everyone had a nap mat, the lights were turned off and we were supposed to at least lay down and be quiet for the duration. We all hated mandated nap time back then, but I’d absolutely love it as an adult!

      1. Christmas Carol*

        Followed up with a half-pint of milk and a graham cracker square. Little did we know that was the best it was ever going to get

        1. Seal*

          I forgot about the milk! Although as an adult I’m lactose intolerant, so no milk after my nap these days.

    3. Where's my coffee?*

      We had a nap room at a prior job. It was fantastic. People occasionally napped there, but it was also used when someone just needed a quiet break or to help quell an incoming headache, since it was dimly-lit and didn’t allow laptops or talking.

      1. working abroad*

        Yes, I’ve temped at a PR firm in Beverly Hills that had a “mental health” room where you could check out a key from the front desk and go into a comfortable, dark room and take some time for whatever–nap, have a private call, cry, etc. It was supposed to be used by only one person at a time, though. I was surprised at how few people actually utilized it!

      2. working abroad*

        Yes, I temped at a PR firm in Beverly Hills that had a “mental health” room where you could check out a key from the front desk and go into a comfortable, dark room and take some time for whatever–nap, have a private call, cry, etc. It was supposed to be used by only one person at a time, though. I was surprised at how few people actually utilized it!

    4. Goya de la Mancha*

      I’m very pro-nap, I always have been actually. I’m the type of person that wiggles down into the bedding and giggles because I get to SLEEP!!!

      I would love if our culture allowed naps at work. That being said…I would find it very hard to deal with communal nap rooms. It would weird me out I think to share a sleeping space with others. Maybe with headphones/eye mask, but I don’t know if that would work.

    5. SophieChotek*

      When I visited my company’s HQ, 90 minutes for lunch was the norm. People literally brought a pillow and laid their head on their desk. that said, it made the day go later – I would have preferred 30 mins for lunch and be done earlier — though I could see the appeal of a nap. (I remember the “heads down” time in lower grades in the USA too!)

    6. Leah*

      Ahhh, siesta, you beautiful bastard. I always get so tired after lunch, and I just crave for a future job that offers a decompressing room with couches and bean bags for you to have some quiet time for yourself. I wish I lived in a country were siestas were normalized, but alas, I’ll just have to stick to daydreaming.

      1. Healthnerd*

        Awhile back our department was encouraging employees to meditate 10 minutes each day as a part of their wellness initiative. I’m horrible at mediating and would inevitable 10 min power nap but what a world of difference it would make for my afternoon energy level. Sometimes I will still find an empty room (in an open office plan now), turn off the lights and play a meditation app to give me a pick me up in the afternoon. Much more effective than coffee.

          1. lurkalittletalkalittle*

            Not OP, but the app “Calm” (I have on ios, probably exists on Android, too) has some decent options (nature noises, a handful of quick meditative sessions) in its unpaid form.

    7. Karo*

      I’m in the U.S., so it’s definitely not culture here, but I regularly take lunch naps in my car. I have a pillow and everything!

      1. CMart*

        Same! Especially since I own a hybrid car now, so when it’s otherwise too hot/cold I can run it with little guilt since it would mostly pull from the battery.

        Even just laying back and shutting my eyes for 20 minutes helps SO MUCH. Being able to allow my body to droop, rather than fighting it for hours, makes a world of difference.

    8. Opalescent Tree Shark*

      The best job I ever had, my apartment was literally right next door to my office. We got an hour lunch break and I would totally go home and nap almost everyday.

    9. Bostonian*

      Aaaah yes, work naps! When I worked night shift, people definitely used their cars or empty conference rooms to take a nap during their (clocked out) lunch.

      Now that I work day shift, I definitely feel the 1:30-2:30 pm drag. I don’t know if anyone else does this at my current (exempt) job, but we have dozens (it’s a large campus) of private rooms that you can book for either pumping or relaxation… perfect for quick naps!

    10. D.W.*

      At my last place of employment we had a nap room, and I was in their faithfully! If not there, then I’d sleep outside when the weather was nice.

      I’ve moved and there’s no where to do that unless I book a conference room. And now that I live in a major city, I would never just sleep outside. So I zombie it through the day sometimes.

    11. Delphine*

      I am intensely pro-napping and I would love for it to be more acceptable to take a 20-minute siesta during lunch.

    12. Nervous Accountant*

      When I’m desperate to get away I go to the bathroom. Seriously. Lock myself in the stall, put a timer on my phone and just close my eyes. Not the most comfortable but at least no ones going to bother me. we don’t track people’s bathroom Trips.

      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        I’ve totally done this too! If I’m just so sleepy I’m not functioning, ten minutes in the bathroom with my head propped up on my knees and my eyes closed is close enough to a nap to get me back to functioning.

        I’d love to work somewhere with nap pods…

    13. H.C.*

      Thankfully my workplace has an indoor garage so some days I’ll take a late lunch hour to squeeze in some shut-eye in my car.

    14. Overeducated needs a new name*

      Standing up helps if you can get a standing desk! I just did and it definitely counteracts the post-lunch fatigue. But yes, I wish we had nap breaks too….

    15. Chaordic One*

      I used to have a coworker who would go out to his car in the parking lot and take a short nap during his lunch hour. (He had an alarm clock in the car.)

    16. SkyePilot*

      At a previous job I had a cubicle that afforded me some privacy and sometimes during my lunch I would set a timer for 15 minutes, pop on my headphones, and “watch” an educational webinar (on mute) with my chin propped up. It also helped that we were allowed to bring dogs to work, so I knew my doggo would alert me if anyone came over to my desk while I was taking a powder.

      1. amy l*

        Lots of people here go out to their car (we have a parking garage) and nap. Pretty common, I think. If the weather is cold or hot, it’s not uncommon to walk by seemingly empty vehicles that are running – for heat and A/C. I worked in a building once that was about 50% occupied. The floor below us was completely vacant. We would walk down the back stairwell, find an open office, lock the door and nap. Some had desks so you could sit and put your head down, or you could sit in the floor in a corner, leaning back against the wall.

    17. Angela Ziegler*

      One of my co-workers was just telling me how she went out to her car during lunch for a quick power-nap. It seemed to work, and it wasn’t a problem whatsoever!

    18. CMart*

      I worked from home a couple days ago and took a 20 minute “nap” during my usual lunch break. I maybe actually dozed off for 10 minutes. It was shockingly rejuvenating!

      I still have access to the pumping-mothers’ room in my office and occasionally consider going down there for a power nap. Haven’t done it yet, but the thought is really tempting.

    19. Thlayli*

      In Spain and a lot of former Spanish colonies they still do siesta times. It’s not so common in big offices but out in the country and in tourist areas it’s pretty common. In Argentina it seems to be the most extreme siesta – lots of Argentinians have their main sleep in the middle of the day and only a few hours at night.

    20. The Office Napper*

      I work at a university full time and am taking classes part-time for my MS. I’m also pregnant. This semester I had a class that met one night a week. Luckily I’m one of the few people in my area who have a private office, my lunch break on that one day a week was spent sleeping under my desk during my first trimester.

      I was worried about being spotted (my boss knew but others in the office did not) so I built something of a fort with a blanket covering the opening. It may not have been the most professional thing to do but it allowed me to not literally fall asleep staring at my computer by the end of the day or end up crying out of exhaustion.

    21. Wintermute*

      Working third shift I take naps in my car all the time, even though we only have a half-hour lunch, it’s much needed sometimes. Even 25 minutes can make you feel like a whole new person and let you finish out the day strong.

    22. G*

      I recently heard about the napping culture in Japan. Over there it is actually encouraged for people to fall asleep whilst working because it means that you worked so hard that you tired yourself out. Apparently some people pretend to be asleep to look like hard workers.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        I wouldn’t say it’s /encouraged/ or that people pretend to fall asleep, but it’s definitely common for people to put their heads down on their desk at lunch, and it’s not /as/ big a deal to fall asleep in meetings or at your desk here. My old boss used to fall asleep at his desk or in meetings with pencil in hand, and if you talked to him he’d perk up and respond like he had a jolt of caffeine! We said he was “recharging”!

    23. Fish Microwaver*

      I’m trying to advocate for a quiet room at work where people can decompress or try to ward off a migraine or just take 5. I work in a call centre and the noise, stress and constant computer work can be very tiring. A few of us are migraine sufferers and being able to sit/lie in a quiet dark room could be the difference between finishing our shift or going home early. Some companies allow it.

  4. Promotion fake-out*

    My organization is so messed up. In December senior management told me I’d be getting a promotion in January. I specifically asked and they confirmed it would be a manager title job (I’m a “team lead” now, aka worst of all worlds.) January came and went and they told me the promotion was postponed. Finally last week they told me that I would be taking on the responsibility of my alleged promotion (managing a department that brings in a third of the org’s revenue), plus a significant portion of my previous duties, plus yet more duties…. But my title and pay will remain the same.

    I complained and my manager (the same one who originally discussed the promotion with me) said he’d “fight” for me. I just know if/when he gets me that title he’ll expect to be thanked as if it’s a gift he’s giving me and not something previously promised and owed to me. Ugh. I need to get the hell out of here.

    1. DowntheUpstaircase*

      In light of your job duties changing, can you request a new written job description? Something that accurately reflects your responsibilities.

    2. Boredatwork*

      Good lord, the things some of you guys put up with! Can you politely decline the promotion? Say in light of the lack of job title change and increase in salary you are unable to take on any additional responsibility?

      This of course is a horrible double edge sword, where it could limit your growth, and management will be VERY annoyed they can’t make you do more work for the same amount of money. If you already have one foot out of the door, take the position, update your resume and GTFO.

    3. Artemesia*

      Get the promotion and keep looking for a new job at your leisure with no pressure. Hope one comes through. No greater pleasure than walking away from a badly managed organization. (and even more so after they ‘fight for you’ to get what should be obviously given)

    4. Goya de la Mancha*

      While a raise in pay is right to be expected for taking on all those extra duties, I find job titles to be so tricky since they vary from location to location.

      I applied last year for a job that was titled very high in my career hierarchy. Since their company is smaller then my current one though, their structure is obviously different. I was offered the job after all the interviews and while I would have had a GREAT title to add to my resume – my responsibilities/skills/pay would have been taking steps backwards!

    5. BRR*

      I’m sorry that happened. I’m going through something similar where I was told I would be receiving a promotion last year but between getting a new manager and my previous managers not keeping any records, the prospects look dim. Bring up that I was told this was in the works hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

    6. WellRed*

      If he was going to “fight” for you, he would have already done it. Otherwise, you’d have the title and raise.

      1. Paperclip Plenipotentiary*

        Titles are free.

        And in a job interview, much better to have to let some air out of an inflated job title than have to pump up a crappy sounding one.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      Play the game. Tell him thanks. You don’t have to gush, you can just use a “hey, thanks”. The silently finish the rest of the sentence in your head, “…for over promising and under delivering…” or whatever.

      You will not lose a part of yourself by thanking him AND he is needy enough that he needs that thanks. He will lose MORE of himself if he is not thanked than you will lose of yourself by thanking him. I hope my sentence here makes sense….

      1. Specialk9*

        Or you can very warmly say something like “it means a lot to me that you have there integrity to make sure the company delivers on its promises. I know that can be an uphill battle sometimes.”

        The first is a bit pointed, and the second makes it sound like you and he are facing together against the ones who break promises. There is power in telling someone that you see them as someone who does X good thing, because most of us think of ourselves as fairly decent people. (But also then you’re not thanking him for only partially screwing you over.)

        Get the title, start job searching.

    8. Green Goose*

      Can you say something like, “before I agree to take on these additional duties in an interim capacity I need to discuss my compensation.”

      I had to do this when my manager left unexpectedly and it was decided that I would not get a promotion and they would not add a second person to my department. It was terrifying in the moment but they ended up giving me a very generous raise, but they would not have if I hadn’t pushed back.

  5. Beancat*

    I’m quite possibly lined up for a second interview with a company where I had a first interview that felt really strong! What sorts of things can I expect from a second interview? What might be different from the first one? Thanks in advance!

    1. Llama Wrangler*

      I think it depends a lot on your field and level. Did they give you any idea of what to expect? (Duration, who you’d be meeting with, etc). In general, you can expect them to go more in depth on questions about your experiences for the position, as well as possibly to meet with additional stakeholders (which might involve rehashing some of what you’ve already discussed). Often, a second interview is a good time for a work-related task for them to assess your skills in a hands-on way; I’ve had a few cases where those are sprung on me without warning but in general I’ve been asked to prepare something prior to the interview.

      1. Beancat*

        Well, I was told the second interview would either be directly with the client or just a second round if they had a lot of qualified candidates to narrow down but wasn’t given any indication other than that. It’s still good to know I may be expected to work on a task, so thank you!

    2. Starley*

      It will vary a lot from company to company but in my experience, the questions go further in depth with “how would you handle this” type of questions. I’ve also seen a lot more assessment of fit vs. the basic “can you do this job” type of discussion, which is also what I tend to do when hiring. Best of luck!

      1. Beancat*

        I suspected maybe behavioral questions would be on the table! I appreciate your insight from the hiring side as well. Thanks for the well wishes!

      2. Betsy*

        Oh, that’s a good point! I forgot to prepare for behavioural questions in my last interview, even though I’d thought of all kinds of other possible questions, done my research, and done a practice interview. I kind of blew the behavioural question due to the lack of planning. So don’t be me!

    3. it_guy*

      Expect to talk to : More senior and or junior people. Senior people want to find out if you fit in the company and can sing the company theme song, and Junior people want to find out if you’re a total troll.

      This would also be a good time if it hasn’t come up before to talk benefits and such.

      1. Beancat*

        Thank you – that’s all really good to know! Also amazing icon :) He actually laid benefits out for me at the first interview which I thought was unusual, but I was glad to have more information!

    4. A ninny mouse*

      In my experience, a first interview is usually more general – “Tell me about your strength/weaknesses, are you a team player etc.”

      The second is usually more job specific – ‘how familiar are you with software X? So if I asked you this technical questions, how would you respond?’ ‘When would you pass on a complaint to management and when would you deal with it yourself’ etc

      1. Tiny Orchid*

        That’s so interesting! At my organization, the first round is usually to assess technical qualifications, and the second round is to assess culture fit.

        1. A ninny mouse*

          Very interesting – I work in a technical field, so usually the first interview at my company is by someone in HR (who doesn’t have the background to ask technical questions). The second and third rounds are by a manager, who can ask more detailed questions related to the work

    5. Stranger than fiction*

      Not to get you too excited, but all three times I’ve been invited for the second interview, it’s been to meet to President, CEO, or owner, (like a final sniff test), and then they presented me with the offer.
      I’m mid-career, experienced level, non-manager. Like others say, it depends on the field and career level. My BF is mid-manager level and he’s been on all day second interviews with multiple stakeholders. So I know tbis varies widely.

      1. Beancat*

        I’m definitely not holding my breath but appreciate the viewpoint! Thank you for that!

      2. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, the only time I’ve done a second interview was at my last company (insurance), and I met with the corporate office’s AVP and SVP to determine culture/program fit. I wasn’t even mid-career, but they were both actively involved in the trainee program I was interviewing for, so they wanted to get a feel for me since the hiring manager (who was a director at the time) was only so-so on me.

  6. Librarian Ish*

    I’ve been refreshing this page all morning. Today I learned that Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince was originally written as a job application. This makes me feel much better and also much worse about any resume I’ve ever written hahaha

      1. nep*

        My MA thesis never happened — for ridiculous ‘reasons’ I stopped my MA program a little more than mid-way through.

  7. Processing and Processing*

    How long should I expect for a transition from one system to another begin to run smoothly? Especially when the client does not upgrade their processes and systems.
    Background notes: This is a pilot program. Fifteen months ago we were asked to begin transitioning the client. It took the client and their secondary vendor 4 months to get their systems in place. It took an additional 4 months to get into a routine. Can I expect at some point it will really come together as intended or is this the new normal? The “new normal” being extra work because the old processes do not “talk” to the new one, so I have to constantly baby sit the project. They want daily interaction in the system.
    I believe they are attempting to streamline two departments, but instead of actually rebuilding the processes from the ground up they keep adding more processes on top of the old ones.
    Lastly, as far as the pilot program. Our org has a decades long relationship with client. Client is not known for eliminating programs. They just adding more processes. I actually have little faith that we will even be told if pilot program is a success or not.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I don’t know what kind of systems you’re using, but I’ve been through three migrations of websites from one platform to another, and in my experience there are ALWAYS things you need to fix after it goes live. Often for six months to a year, just to get things working as good as they did in the old system, even counting the better features of the new system. So if the expectation was that the project could be completely put to rest once the new system was in place and everyone was trained, I think that was a planning failure that led to unreasonable expectations rather than a technical or training issue.

      With the old processes not talking to the new one and adding more processes on top, it sounds like the whole architecture and planning phase was botched. My guess is that the requirements should have been investigated and tested a lot more thoroughly, and now instead of going back to rebuild the process properly, it’s being tinkered with, which can create its own problems.

      Of course, I’m talking about all this from an information architecture and project planning standpoint. I’m not sure if your technical systems and processes work the same way as the ones I work with, but from the limited information given, those are the things I noticed.

      1. Processing and Processing*

        Thanks Cosmic, you said things I have been expressing myself.
        The system will never be put to rest so to speak, but hearing you say six months to a year makes me feel a little better. It has almost been a year, so the time frame is ok.

        “It sounds like the whole architecture and planning phase was botched.” It really was. They had the wrong people involved, VPs not workers, didn’t ask the right questions and didn’t adequately listen to concerns. That aside, because sometimes clients are like that. ugh

        Thank you again.

        1. Samiratou*

          “They had the wrong people involved, VPs not workers, didn’t ask the right questions and didn’t adequately listen to concerns.”

          This type of thing, sadly, is endemic to corporations, and adds years and ridiculous amounts of money to projects that could be avoided if they actually talked to the people who use the systems and get them involved in the process.

          In my company, your scenario above about “adding more” instead of rebuilding is common, and trying to kludge systems together like that will require constant maintenance. Think of it as job security.

          1. Processing and Processing*

            Job security. Yeah, that’s a good way to look at it.

            I think the worst part is that the client did it to save money, and possibly outsource a department. What they inadvertently did was give said department more job security. I know the department has struggled with it more than our company has. The entire project cannot work without their constant input too.

            If they had built it bottom up, they could have eliminated a lot of jobs. So, yes, I am thankful. I appreciate the excellent points Samiratou and the commiseration!

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          We have some great VPs, but I would not want most of them to be in charge of a migration. You need a dedicated project manager, and even among the talented PMs I’ve worked with, they had varying degrees of skill at eliciting requirements and setting expectations. Both of those are absolutely crucial when designing a system for clients, which is basically what you have to do to plan out the new platform/process.

          And also, the whole migration process, including training in a new platform, took 1-2 years each time.

          1. Processing and Processing*

            Ok, wow. I will back my expectations way down, since I am only in month 10!

            Thanks again CA and Sam! It means so much to be able to reach out to this supportive community and get good info.

    2. Jadelyn*

      My team is a bit over 2 years in on a new system (going from a couple of separate systems for employee data and payroll to a single all-in-one HRIS) and it’s really only in the last couple months that we’ve started to get everything to “gel” in a way that’s an actual improvement on our old patchwork of multiple systems. Our implementation was also botched – we got some very bad advice from the vendor from people who have since been fired, and like you our implementation people on our own side were mostly higher-ups who don’t actually *use* the system themselves.

      Why is it that the old processes don’t interface with the new ones, out of curiosity? Is that something they’d let you work on, or is it inherent in either/both systems and not something you can change?

    3. SpaceNovice*

      Just reading your top comment and the replies, I feel for you. Can’t really offer any advice because you don’t have the power to change things out of your hands, but I fully sympathize. There’s only so much you can do when someone is unwilling to change. Transitions can take a while to get to a point where everything is running smoothly again, but your customer is going to be a huge roadblock to that.

    4. Susan Calvin*

      Oh boy, do I ever know what you’re talking about.

      If you’re an external vendor/consultant/…, then hopefully you’ve got some kind of SoW or other doc in hand that defines your scope. If you’re still there multiple months after you expected to leave, and your own org isn’t mismanaged enough to let you work for free without anyone noticing, you’re either racking up extra billable hours for the client, or whoever made the initial calculations for this project misplaced a decimal point somewhere.

      Ergo, it’s in everyone’s best interest to get a grip on this. What we normally do, for customers who need more after-live support than anticipated, is to collect all out-of-scope requests for a while, make estimates, and then hand this to the customer with a request to prioritize. “Next [month/quarter] you can get X man-days for [price], please let us know what you’d like to see done then.” Key is to bundle stuff, not get tangled up chasing after every daily whim of some key user or another.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Spot on advice, this is pretty much what we’ve done before, although it sounds like our circumstances are more flexible and we’re more dedicated to supporting this one client full-time than P&P.

        1. Processing and Processing*

          You got it CA. My role actually has no control with their processes. But their processes hinder my ability to perform certain functions for the client and other vendor.

          CA, Sam, Jadelyn, Space and Susan thank you. It seems I am not alone in my experiences. It is very reassuring to read that others have gone through the same thing.

          I am smirking at Susan’s comment about daily whims – YES!

          Space’s comment about the customer being the biggest roadblock. – YES!

          Jadely’s question about the systems not talking to each other. I wish I knew. The industry is notoriously stingy and I suspect the cost of actually making the whole thing work correctly is prohibitive for them.

          I would expect that these exercises make the customer realize that they need to revamp the whole thing, but the speed which this large organization reacts is agonizingly slow. Thank you all so very much.

  8. Underpaid*

    If you know you are being underpaid compared to your coworkers doing similar work, should you bring this up when negotiating for a raise? Or is it better to be general and say your salary is below market?

    For some context, even though I negotiated for more when I hired into my current job, I accepted a salary that I thought was slightly below market for my skill set/expertise because I “knew” employers in this sector tended to pay below market and I really wanted the job. Now almost two years in, after conversations with co-workers and some more extensive research, I’ve come to find that my salary is below market not just for positions outside my organization, but also within it (even when accounting for education level, years of experience, responsibilities, etc.). As an example, a colleague who’s senior to me by only two years is currently making 25% more than me, which is a full 50% more than my original offer before I negotiated.

    Allison’s recent post in asking for a raise was super helpful, but I’m specifically wondering if I should I bring this point up in my negotiation (not the specific numbers, but rather the internal inequity of pay)? Or do I rely on the information I’ve gathered about the market in general? To me it seems like a clear case of internal inequity, and it counters what they often fall back on about salaries just being low in this sector (it is what it is, our hands are tied, etc.). But I’m also concerned bringing up the internal inequity might come off as whiny or immature (i.e., “It’s not fair!”). Based on the feedback I’ve gotten about the caliber of my work, I know I’m deserving of more, but I’m just not sure if raising the point of internal inequity will help or hurt me in making my case.

    1. a-no*

      I think I’d phrase it as “Market value for my skill & experience is X and I’d like to come up to that because of X, Y, Z that I’ve done/contributed to the company” but I’d likely use the market value number as the co-workers salary. Then if they come back lower, you’ve hit the target you want.
      I think using the internal inequity as a Plan B – like if they come back and say ‘salaries are just low’ or the like, wouldn’t be the worst idea but I don’t think you should lead with it.

      1. Underpaid*

        Love the idea of having the internal inequity in my back pocket as a plan B – thank you!

      2. Specialk9*

        I’d also look into any gender inequities. Then you can use one of Alison’s ‘I’m worried that we might be exposing ourselves to illegal gender discrimination here’ kind of scripts.

    2. Happy Lurker*

      I think it really depends on your boss and the relationship you have with them. I had a work friend who took the route that everyone was being paid more than her and got a raise, but she had an amazing relationship with her boss and knew her boss would have her back.

      1. Underpaid*

        Yes this context is super helpful. I do have a very good mentor relationship with my boss and I know he would advocate for me. Thanks for this insight!

      2. Lil Fidget*

        Yes, the typical advice is not to use this information because you’re supposed to be talking about your own value, but I had a good relationship with my boss and was able to explain that I knew people with my same title and similar experience in our own org were making 10K more than me – and he was great about it, took it seriously and bumped my salary (not by 10K but by something). I have seen bosses react badly though, by trying to “punish” the other employee who shared their wages or tell the employee that wants a raise that they shouldn’t be asking other people’s salary, so it can really go either way.

        1. Specialk9*

          Which is illegal btw. You have the right to discuss salary, though many companies lie about this and have policies forbidding it. If a manager says that, it’s good to remember that’s illegal in the YD

      3. Happy Lurker*

        Take Lil Fidget, and the others, advice about your market value. The story about my friend is really a one off and I would not recommend it. The relationship they had was very unique. I have only had 1 boss relationship like that in 30 years.

      4. Where's the Le-Toose?*

        I had this situation way back when. I started as an associate at a small law firm about 4 weeks after my friend and although we were hired at the same level and the same book of business (plus we had the same legal experience for the most part), I was paid $10K less than my friend. I brought it up to our boss, and he gave some sorry reason that he had to reward my friend for her extra 4 weeks of labor. But he added that if I proved myself, he would make our salaries match when it came time to getting a raise again in 12 months.

        So I would go into the office between 7 am and 8 am every day, and my friend would show up between 9 am and 9:30 am, and we’d leave at the same time. After the first six months, I did the math and I had made up the extra 4 weeks of time that had separated my friend and I when I was hired. I got constant feedback from the boss that I was doing great work.

        When it came time to the annual raise, I got the $10K raise to match what my friend made when she started. I figured this meant my friend didn’t get any raise given the prior comments of our boss. I was all set to be sad for her, but when I spoke to my friend, she got the same raise, so I was still $10K behind what she was making. In response, I scaled back on my time in the office to match my coworker and the boss didn’t care at all. Both my friend and I saw the writing on the wall, and we were both out of there within 8 months. The firm ended up folding about 3 years after we left.

        A good boss will remedy the pay inequity. A bad boss won’t.

    3. DowntheUpstaircase*

      If you are asking for right-sizing, keep your emotional focus on the fact that you are asking for money based on what the position is paid at across your company/industry/market. Not what individual people are being paid.

      You are not asking for what Fergus gets, or saying no fair, Shellington is paid X. You are asking for the pay within the market range, for specific skills. And for the company to remain competitive, they need to address any inequity – it is not personal, it is business.

      1. Underpaid*

        This framing is so helpful. You’re right that I wouldn’t be saying “Fergus is paid X, pay me that or else.” It is that the market, both internal and external, for my skill set is X and I need to be brought up to that level. Thanks for your perspective!

    4. Lala*

      I think it’s worth mentioning. I used a similar argument to have my position reclassed into the correct salary rank (the previous boss and the person in the position before me had both done a poor job of articulating what the position involved the last time HR evaluated salary rank), which meant an automatic pay raise for me. It took a year because of HR red tape, but it has made such a difference. Internal equity gave my boss a good reason to argue my case for reranking to HR beyond “this is a really good employee”.

      1. Underpaid*

        Funny you should mention this, because I also think that lack of clarity in my position may have contributed to why my original offer was so low. Good to know internal inequity can be a useful tool not just for the individual, but also for their boss in making a case with the org. at large. Thanks!

    5. LowMoraleMarch*

      Related, I have a similar situation where I hope to receive guidance. I am the lowest paid person but do 2-3 times the volume of projects and supervise far more staff that my colleagues do. One colleague told me the other day that they were bored in their position and had to hunt for things to do while I did not get a lunch because an urgent problem only I could fix had to be addressed. Due to a technicality even a colleague that started a couple of years after me now makes the same salary. Should I just give up and start looking for a job that pays more? We all received a very small raise and my boss, who is aware of the work disparities, has failed to get me a merit raise so I don’t think things will change.

      1. Underpaid*

        Yikes! That’s a really tricky situation. Have you spoken with your boss directly about this? What’s your boss’ explanation/reasoning been when not giving you a raise? I think only you can decide for yourself whether you should leave or not, but I’d probably be sure to have a direct conversation with your boss about it first, and possibly even hint at the fact that you can make more taking your skills elsewhere.

      2. Lil Fidget*

        If you’ve named the problem and asked for the specific raise you want (like, you said the number out loud to your boss) and they haven’t done anything, then yes – it’s time for you to start job searching, because they’re not going to fix this. But many people are hoping their boss will read their minds and spontaneously offer the raise they want – I have never once seen this work out. So it’s worth asking clearly once.

      3. Marcy Marketer*

        I would leave.

        Talk to your boss once. Say “I handle 4x more projects and manage the most people, but I have the lowest pay. We will need to bring my salary up to $X for me to stay in this role long term.” If he says okay, ask for a specific time frame and then start job hunting from the minute you leave his office.

      4. Close Bracket*

        > my boss, who is aware of the work disparities, has failed to get me a merit raise

        Do you mean at various times in the past or during the most recent review cycle, which I guess is therefore over? During your review is the best time to ask for raises, but if that ship has sailed for the year, schedule a meeting with your boss so you can talk about it uninterrupted. Tell them it’s to talk about your career trajectory or some such thing.

        Merit raises and quantity of work level raises are not the same, although there is only one bucket of funds available. The advice for you is similar- make your pitch on your own work, not on the comparison to other people’s workload. Make the case that you are working at a higher level than you were at your last raise, if you ever got one, or at the time of hiring, if you have never had a raise. If your only raises, assuming you have had any, have been cost of living raises, make your pitch for a larger raise bc this is about the value you give to the company, not about the cost of groceries.

      5. Tootsiemoll*

        Ask for a title change and salary raise that reflects the extra duties you have. Make sure that you focus on the duties that are higher level, and stress the supervision of staff as important points of your job. Side note, has your boss ever had a discussion about your career development plan? What is the next step for you? How are you being prepared for promotion? Because it shouldn’t be ‘work really hard and wait for someone to notice’. It should be, ‘what do you need experience in, what are the assignments that can raise your visibility, where are the opportunities in our company in the next few years, and how can we prepare you.’

      6. Specialk9*

        Yes, you should. Definitely. Job hopping every few years is usually the best way to increase your salary.

    6. J.B.*

      I think it would help to prepare bullet points for both scenarios. Market rate is x, you are asking to be brought up to it for reasons a, b and c. I would also ask that as soon as possible, don’t wait for review time. Internal equity analysis should compare you to the group, not just to one individual. One individual opens the door to he gets more because of some specific reason. Good luck.

    7. Alice*

      I would be very careful to reference others’ salaries in your request. Depending on how you came by the information, it could backfire badly. I knew someone who, when they finished their MBA program, put a proposal together requesting a pay raise, but they used internal salary data that they had access to as part of their job (in HR) as part of their reasoning, and ended up getting fired for accessing her peers’ informaiton (you’d think an HR person would know better). I think it’s better to cite external market, or, if your company has published pay ranges, where you fall in the range.

    8. Safetykats*

      The thing is, if the people being paid more for the same work at similar experience levels are in your group, your boss already knows they are being paid more. I don’t think you need to show numbers for coworkers salaries (and I wouldn’t) but you can and probably should state that you have reason to believe your not only underpaid in the grand scheme of things but also as assessed internally.

  9. Anonforthismonth*

    I am a freelancer and was looking for advice on applying for part time work. I’m not looking for anything special just something I can do part time to get me out of the house and get my dose of human interaction. But what do you say to employers who ask why you want this position? Because boiled down all I keep coming up with is I just need a reason to get out of the house once in a while…

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think that depends on the type of work. With retail, you can always say that you love the store’s products and your desk job keeps you from interacting with people. I don’t think that’s a bad thing; retail is all about being with people, and enthusiasm for customer service can be hard to come by. If you’re thinking of, say, ticket sales at a museum, same thing applies. In other words, for many part-time jobs, it’s a good thing to want to get out and be with people. So it’s less about “I need to get out of the house” and more, “I love being around people”.

      1. SophieChotek*

        I agree – especially with retail/food service, most of the time they won’t want you FT (because of benefits, etc.). Obviously the only bad thing about retail/food service is the schedule can vary widely from week to week. Generally (I think anyway) one doesn’t want to go in as the new employee with demands like “I’ll only work between 10 and 4pm and no weekends or holidays” but if you are like “Oh I’ll take anything, I just don’t want to work more than X a week” you’ll get anything!

        The focus on the desire to interact with people/enjoying customer service/liking the product (or food) is probably all you need.

        1. Xarcady*

          Do ask about scheduling. I have a part-time retail job at a major US chain of department stores. The scheduling is done by computer. But for retail, I have a fair amount of control over when I can be scheduled to work.

          As a part-timer, you do have to be available Friday evenings and all day Saturday and Sunday. But I can choose the hours I am available on the other days of the week, and even pick one day a week where they can’t schedule me at all. Because I temp full time, this means I can pick just evening closing shifts during the week.

          But smaller stores with less staff are probably not going to be as flexible.

          1. Al Lo*

            When I worked at Starbucks, you had to be available 150% of your requested hours. So, for instance, if you wanted to work 16 hours/week, you needed to be available for 24. That seemed very reasonable to me. Now, if you’re hired for a specific shift, you probably need to keep that in mind, but I didn’t feel like I had to stay available 100% of the time; I just needed to be open for 24 hours/week.

    2. SophieChotek*

      Another idea – if it’s really just about human interaction and you don’t care about the money at all, perhaps there would be volunteering opportunities that either a) fit your skills or b) your interests or c)causes you support or d) some combination thereof.

      While some volunteer jobs are much more strict about hours/shifts, etc., some are much more relaxed. It probably depends on the institution and how many volunteers.

      For instance, I volunteer at a local food shelf and I can pretty much say “I’m coming in tomorrow” and they are “great”…

      1. Easily Amused*

        I was thinking volunteering might fit the bill as well. I have periodically volunteered with a local animal rescue group that has a full-time care facility. Opportunities included helping out at adoption events, transporting animals, fostering short or long term, or just going to the facility to walk dogs. One time I showed up and was asked “can you play with these puppies to help socialize them?” Why yes, yes I can please and thank you!

    3. HB*

      I used to live in a mountain resort town and I love to bake so I applied at a very high end resort bakery. Since it was a mountain resort summer and winter were very busy but the shoulder seasons were quite slow. They were thrilled that I was flexible with scheduling and I was able to work when times were busy and still take off/travel without it being an event asking for vacation time. Some weeks I would work full time, others maybe just a day depending on how busy the resort was. I worked there for 8 years and loved it. Depending on what you like to do some employers/industries might be thrilled with that scenario.

    4. Been There*

      I waitressed at a pub for a while for this reason. The hiring manager was skeptical about why a middle-aged woman with a graduate degree would want to be a server. I joked that I was losing my people skills, and explained that I wanted something steady that would let me be both physically and mentally active.

      I also pointed out that I am extremely reliable. I think that part really hit home, considering his employee roster was a sea of 18-22 year-olds who kept calling off with hangovers.

    5. atexit8*

      There is nothing wrong with saying that you are looking for a job to fit with another job.
      I know people who work 2 part-time jobs to add up to 1 full-time job.

      They don’t have to know you are a freelancer.
      I would actually keep that under wraps; otherwise, they may schedule for crazy hours thinking you are “flexible”.

    6. Bea*

      Part time gigs tend to LOVE someone like you. You’re truly part time, no worry about you hoping to gain more hours or eventually going full time.

      I would say exactly that you’re looking for something different and interacting with people. That would be a good for for front desk relief or reception as well as cashiering or hosting etc.

    7. working abroad*

      If you live in a bigger city, try temping. I freelanced in Los Angeles in TV Production as my main job, and had a temp agency that would check my availability and offer me stuff on my off days or between gigs. It was fascinating because I got to see the work environment of so many cool companies. One day I may work the front desk at Red Bull, the next I may answer phones at a super trendy tech startup, the next I may fill in for the Personal Assistant of an investment firm. Most of the places I temped had really nice perks too–free drinks and snacks, breakfast bars, super cheap all-organic and healthy cafeterias. Good money, as well!

    8. Tootsiemoll*

      Wrong focus, the question is not really ‘why do you want this (a) job?’ It is actually, ‘why do you think this job is a good fit for you?’

      Because otherwise 90% of the people would say, I want this job because I need money. Also if getting out of the House was your only reason, you could volunteer and work for free.

    9. Specialk9*

      Why don’t you look into shared office space, like Workbar? You’ll get out of the house, see the same people, etc.

  10. MissingArizona*

    I’m about to start my job hunting, and I’m going for regular m-f 9-5 administration type work, but I have a vacation already planned and paid for in 2 months. If it takes a while to even obtain employment, that means I’ll either still be interviewing, or just about to start working, right at my vacation time. Should I put off the job search for a few more weeks, or would employers actually be ok with “hey I’m going to Hawaii for 10 days!”?

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I would keep interviewing and then once you get an offer, let them know that you have a pre-planned vacation. Most employers will be willing to work with you on allowing an existing (and paid-for) vacation take place.

    2. An Underemployed Millennial*

      I would start the job search now and then when you get an offer let them know about your vacation. I haven’t personally been in this situation but I know someone who has and that’s what they did.

    3. Ambpersand*

      They should be fine with it. I was in a similar position a few years ago when I got my current position, and I was headed to Europe for 10 days between my interview and start date. It might not be an issue if you don’t get any interviews at first, but if it does fall during your vacation you can just say that you’re going to be unavailable for in-person interviews or to start (after they’ve offered the job to you, of course) between the dates of X and X due to an out of town trip. Obviously you can still answer emails or do a phone screens/interviews while on vacation, but they should be understanding.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      Most of the time, if you tell them you have a pre-planned vacation, employers are willing to work around it, whether that means postponing your start date or just accepting you won’t be there. I’ve had this happen a couple times, and in fact when the job offer was all ready, the hiring manager or HR usually would ask if I had any travel plans in the near future they needed to know about.

      My current employer has a “town hall” meeting once a month during which new employees are mentioned. One guy was not present for his introduction because shortly after being hired, he left on his honeymoon! There was some good natured ribbing about how the brand new guy was taking all this time off, but no one held it against him and he was re-introduced at the following meeting.

    5. KRM*

      I have been in this situation. I got a callback from a place while I was on the planned vacation, and just e-mailed that I was currently on vacation but could be there anytime after the date I was coming home. They scheduled the interview for after and never batted an eye. I would think you don’t have to say anything unless they call you to schedule before you leave (and then you just say “I’m out of town from X to Y), and your email and VM messages can just say “Thanks for your call. I’m on vacation until X date and cannot respond till then/will check this sporadically and get back to you/whatever applies.”

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah my biggest fear is that they would schedule interviews while I’m gone, but there’s nothing to be done about that – if it happens, and they can’t be flexible, then it’s too bad but not worth worrying about ultimately. (Two months is likely too short a time in my field to expect to be starting a new job, but I know it varies in different fields).

        1. Safetykats*

          If you’re able to check emails/ receiver phone messages while you’re gone, you can easily deal with the interview scheduling issue. I’ve never been in a situation where we didn’t conduct interviews over at least 2-3 weeks – if only because our people who need to be there are busy people too! I’ve done a phone interview while in vacation – and got the offer. I’ve hired people (and been hired) with an impending long (2 week) vacation, and I second that you just need to make sure they understand your schedule. It will usually require some coordination with HR and payroll, because if your vaca is soon after your hire date you will obviously be taking that time unpaid, but that’s not at all rare.

    6. MissingArizona*

      It sounds so reasonable when I hear other people say it’s reasonable, but I’m still pretty anxious because of my last toxic job where taking any time off was a mortal sin.

      1. AudreyParker*

        Thanks so much for asking this, as I’m in a similar position, both with 2 weeks of vacation bought & paid for later this year AND having previously been in jobs where you often weren’t able to take that kind of time away. I’ve been trying to trust that this happens all the time, but it definitely helps to see the responses here! For me, it’s also that I don’t tend to be in high level positions that I feel would be held for me if I’m planning to be gone… arrgh, lots of deep breaths and trying to trust it’s ok.

    7. Joielle*

      I was in this situation when I accepted my current job! Accepted the job in December to start the first week of January, and I was getting married and going on a honeymoon (so about 10 days off total) in March. Which also happened to be right in the middle of the office’s busiest season.

      I brought it up during the offer conversation – I basically said “I’d love to accept your offer but I have to let you know that I’m getting married in March and will need ten days off. I know that’s inconvenient timing on your end but I hope we can make it work.” They were totally fine with it.

    8. alannaofdoom*

      I did this last fall! I started a new job near the end of August, with a two-week vacation already planned around Labor Day. I mentioned it to HR when they sent the offer letter – it’s a huge company so they have all new hires start en masse one day each month, and my hiring manager wanted me to start right away rather than push my start date back a month. So I worked for a week, was away for two, then came back to – it felt like – “really” start.

      (One thing to be mindful of once you’re at the offer stage is how PTO days work: will your allotted PTO days be available immediately upon start, or do you accrue them over time as you work?)

  11. Folklorist*

    LOOK! OVER THERE! (err…over here?) It’s an…ANTI-PROCRASTINATION POST!!!

    Go and do something you’ve been putting off and then come back here and brag about it! Mental de-cluttering before the weekend.

    I know it’s not work-related, but I’m going to call the student loan office and figure some stuff out. I’ve been putting this off for at least six months now. Uggghghhhhhh.

    1. Temperance*

      I need to call back a really unpleasant and terrible client today. His green card application was delayed because he didn’t sign the forms we needed by the drop-dead date, so they all had to be redone, and he acts like it’s my fault that there’s a delay because, and I quote, “all of his friends already have THEIR green cards”. (He was told multiple times of this, BTW, but won’t accept blame.)

      1. Cookie Monster*

        High-five for immigration law and clients blaming you for problems they created! Also good luck with Cap Season, which I presume you’re also going through right now.

        1. Temperance*

          I manage pro bono, so I actually don’t have to worry about Cap Season this year! I assume that you’re in it, and if so, good luck!

    2. HigherEdPerson*

      But I don’t wanna reconcile my procurement card report :-(

      FINE, I’ll go do it.

    3. Cercis*

      I need to edit a newsletter article and make sense of the photos and captions. I’ve been putting it off for two days (deadline isn’t until Monday …).

      Okay, that one is done. Just one more to pick photos for and match them with captions.

    4. Bostonian*

      Quintessential procrastination- I read this post, and this was my thought process:

      1) Ah, what a good idea, I should make that phone call I’ve been putting off all week.
      2) It’s lunch hour, everyone and their mom is probably making phone calls right now.
      3) Maybe I’ll try calling later…

    5. D.W.*

      I need to slog through an abyss of voicemails dating back years….if I can at least get through 5 today, I’ll be happy.
      Challenge accepted!

    6. periwinkle*

      Just sent a meeting request I’ve been too busy… okay, lazy to send since yesterday morning. Now I’m going to pare down that ridiculous Inbox From Hell.

      1. Weyrwoman*

        Oooh Inbox from Hells. I had one for the longest time before I finally sat down and dealt with it. I’m now a zero-inboxer, but I also have something upwards of 20 folders/subfolders for emails that I want to keep records of.

    7. JeanB in NC*

      I already did my thing I was procrastinating on! I did my state income tax return at lunch and it’s ready to mail.

    8. Hellanon*

      Oh, arrgghh, the typing of student evals awaits… no, I don’t usually do this. Yes, these evals are so scathing I don’t want to share them with my assistant, but I do want to march down and fire this teacher’s worthless ass myself…

    9. anonfintechgal*

      Need to get my resume together. I like where I’m at but the compensation is low and I’m tired of settling. That’s my Friday frog!

    10. Tuna Casserole*

      Finished entering stats into a spreadsheet. Been putting it off for a week. I’m now enjoying a celebratory coffee.

    11. Elizabeth West*

      I took my walk. As soon as my lunch settles, I’m going back outside to rake up more sweetgum tree balls. Ugh. Cue massive shoulder pain, but it has to be done.

      1. Mrs. Fenris*

        Ugh, sweetgum balls. My mom had a huge sweetgum tree taken down just to stop dealing with them.

    12. Bibliovore*

      Thanks, I needed that. Turned in January Ex. Didn’t do Feb. but did finish one teapot and delivered with two more hanging over my head for the weekend.

  12. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    This was just one of those weeks where I want to slowly stand up, purposely gather my belongings, walk out the door, and never return. Between getting in the umpteenth argument with a coworker about what I need to do my job (I’ve been her over five years….I know what I need), the insane micromanagement, and having to explain that, no, it is not cheaper to overnight something to Oregon from Florida as opposed to sending it from Minnesota……..I’m exhausted.

    And frustrated.

    1. HigherEdPerson*

      I’m sorry. I hope you’re able to do something relaxing this weekend to help recharge your energy

    2. someone else was using the same name*

      I’m sorry those weeks are the worst. Make sure you take some time for yourself this weekend. Take a bath, go for a long walk, play with your pets and unwind and recharge. That is so important for my mental health after a hard week. Good luck! Yikes, you have all of my sympathy.

    3. Mockingjay*

      My team and I felt the same way this week. Things had been going pretty smoothly for months, but grandboss is back to his usual tricks – overstaffing (because he gets a bonus for every body he puts on the contract, needed or not), micromanaging (we have to account for every work action down to the second we spend each day – no other teams have this level of granularity in reporting), and butt in seat time (cause what does that accomplish other than to make him feel powerful?).

      And to top it off, I went to the dentist this morning for a routine cleaning and had to have a filling replaced. Can’t wait until the novocaine wears off.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Keep an eye out for interfering with someone else’s learning experiences. Sometimes we just have to let people learn by doing, especially those know-it-all people. ;)

  13. Probably Nerdy*

    Need employment law advice – I work in a place where we are supposed to bill our time to specific projects kind of like consulting. But we are federal so we are also subject to the whims of the federal budget. So that means sometimes we don’t have project funding to bill to. Sometimes they let you bill to overhead, but sometimes your boss puts you on PTO or unpaid leave without your consent. I’ve heard that this is illegal – can anyone point me to some laws that clarify this?

        1. Close Bracket*

          If you bill the federal government, you must bill the actual project you worked on. I don’t know the legality, but I know not doing so will get your company in BIG trouble.
          Legally, you have to be paid for hours worked, so I don’t see how they get away with putting you on unpaid leave. With PTO, you still get paid, so it’s iffy and sake, but legal (I think IANAL)

      1. Probably Nerdy*

        It’s kind of a game of chicken most pay periods – can I drum up one pay period worth of funding before the end of the pay period? If not, screw you.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Just to clarify- are you considered a contractor/working off a grant or a full-fledged federal employee?

        1. NotALawyer*

          Sometimes the Federal Gov’t exempts themselves from various employment laws, which is super frustrating. I’m not sure if that’s the case here, but maybe check out the DOL’s website to see if they’d act on a wage/hour claim.

          An alternate avenue to address this would be through the/a union. Are you or any of your coworkers unionized? If so, you can try to address the issue through your collective bargaining agreement. If not, you could reach out to one of the unions, I know AFGE is the biggest one for feds, to learn what it would take to unionize and whether your jobs are eligible for unionization (the Fed Gov’t doesn’t allow unionization for some jobs). If you all aren’t getting paid and don’t have the assurance of being paid, putting together an enforceable collective bargaining agreement should provide extra protection and forums for future pay issues (there are federal boards that can hear about disputes for unionized employees that are separate from your management).

          1. Probably Nerdy*

            We are non-unionized for reasons unbeknownst to me, possibly having to do with our agency or career tracks (this is a military research laboratory, to throw a few monkey wrenches into that). The only union-ish thing I know of that is semi-active here is the NARFE which isn’t really a union. I guess it may not hurt to reach out to them and see if they have any advice.

            1. soon 2be former fed*

              31 year fed here, have worked at several different agencies. Go to/call your payroll office! You can find the number on your pay stub! Leave must be requested by the user and entered into a timekeeping system of some sort, and there are actual laws governing all federal pay. Effing around with federal pay is an absolute no-no!

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          My spouse is a federal contractor, and they do the same thing. He gets ample vacation, and that’s good, because he has to bill to it while he’s working on projects that aren’t adequately or finding work that will be funded. Sometimes he just works that as extra hours unpaid, but sometimes he bills it to his vacation time, since there isn’t enough paid time to make up the 40 hours for the week.

          1. caligirl*

            Wow, that’s not industry standard… I’m a federal contractor too and both my current and past company have a different set of numbers to use in those funding situations and not our own PTO! That’s very risky for the employees, IMHO.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Whether an overhead charge code is provided seems to be political. Finding projects doesn’t get a charge code, and does take time, sometimes a lot of time. So if he needs to make up time so he has 40 hours of funded time for a week (after working unpaid overtime, of course), he uses PTO. In addition, he has required meetings, weather delays and closures, a required office move, and more that don’t provide charge codes. Add in the underfunded projects, that if are successful might lead to more funding.

              I think it should be illegal. I also think management with their overhead codes should be getting the work for their people. He figures he’s paid well, and part of the pay is to put up with stuff like this.

              1. Probably Nerdy*

                You sure your husband doesn’t work with me?!?!

                Part of it is definitely political. I’ve heard that technically there is an Unfunded Labor overhead charge code, but managers get their performance ratings dinged if they have direct reports that use it. IDK how true that is, or if those are just the rumors of the disgruntled.

                I probably would not have taken this job had I known how common it is to be in this situation.

            2. Safetykats*

              It’s hella risky for the employees, because signing that time card with the charge code you know is incorrect is fraud at the federal level. Doesn’t matter if you go back and correct it later – and in fact knowing that you’re likely to go back and correct it later just points out more clearly that you knew it was fraudulent at the time. Your employer is asking you to take the liability for their lack of a compliant billing system, and that’s not okay. There should be a charge code for “work not billable.” That work could be not billable because of pending funding, because it’s corporate rather than government work, or for other reasons. If you ask persistently enough, my bet if you’ll find there is such a charge code; it’s just more convenient for them not to give it out. I know this because I usually have to refuse to sign time cards before that charge code is divulged. (I’m signing as the manager/approved. And by the way your manager/approved should be concerned too, as he’s also committing fraud, and way more likely to end up prosecuted for it because of his level of responsibility.)

              And people do end up prosecuted for this kind of thing – don’t kid yourself that it doesn’t happen. Usually at the management level, but not always. In a recent case they did initially file against worker-level people, although it was mostly to get them to testify. Doesn’t make it any less trouble or stress when you’re charged though.

            3. Specialk9*

              We were told that working for the govt for free could get us fired, our manager fired, and anyone else who knew. You don’t f around with pay in the federal government.

              File a complaint with the DOL. It’s online, or call 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243)
              TTY: 1-877-889-5627
              Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

          2. Probably Nerdy*

            Well if we ever figure out if it’s illegal, maybe he can use the info too :D

            It appears to be illegal to not pay employees for hours they worked and “sitting at work doing nothing waiting for things to do” DOES count as “working” according to the DoL…

            Dang I wish I knew a lawyer.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Yeah, if you’re unpaid sometimes, that seems really uncool. Using the vacation is not as bad, since the paycheck doesn’t change.

              1. Specialk9*

                But they worked, and later it was decided that they had actually worked for free and had been on unrequested unapproved unpaid leave, while sitting at the office working for the govt. Oh hell no.

        3. Short & Dumpy*

          Unless you are in a subject-to-furlough, term, or temp position, this is not legal. You can contact OPM directly. I can dig out the phone number tonight if you can’t find it.

          (Federal employee, though not DoD. I worked in an office where a ton of our funding was cost recovery billable to specific projects such as big mine permits and they were definitely NOT allowed to do this…not that one of the managers wouldn’t have loved to)

          1. Specialk9*

            Oh yeah, duh, me — I forgot about the OIG, Office of Inspector General. They’re the group at every Fed that is the watchdog. They’re there to keep them from doing things exactly like those shenanigans. You can just drop by their office and ask them. (I’ve always loved the OIG staff I worked with, they seem to actually really care.)

            1. Short & Dumpy*

              Yup. I’ve been really impressed with both OPM & OIG. They don’t mess around!

              (side note…if any of my fellow feds ever get a chance to take an ethics training from someone from OIG, hop on it! the examples will curl your hair…and if you can go out for beers with the instructor later, you’ll REALLY hear stories. A few of them may even be from my old office….hmmmm, I should really go look to see if those managers are still in jail….)

              1. Short & Dumpy*

                I probably should have clearly stated this:

                My former managers are in federal prison for directing employees to bill hours to cost recovery accounts when we were actually doing ‘normal’ duties that should have been covered out of base funding. That is the degree to which this is not legal. Multiple senior managers with a heck of a lot of political clout sitting in prison. (None of the staff who followed their orders were penalized in any way)

    2. Marcy Marketer*

      You could send a cease and desist letter, but sometimes that just adds fuel to the fire. I personally would just let it go.

      1. Marcy Marketer*

        Uh sorry this was meant for a different post, where a former boss was slandering someone.

        1. Q*

          No, no, I like the idea of sending a C&E for “billing me for unpaid leave when I worked”

    3. MeMeM*

      Reminds me of a cartoon i saw when i worked for NASA as a civil servant.

      Four convicts in a cell. One is an engineer in a tie and a hangdog face. The others name the crimes they’re in for – theft, murder, robbery. They ask him what he’s on for and he replies “Timecard fraud.”

      We got the message.

  14. Solaire*

    I posted a couple of times about my boss antagonizing me after I asked disclosed my health conditions. I didn’t get the links to the actual comments but they’re from the last few open threads of 2017.

    I left that job over two months ago and I found a new one. The new job is good and I thought everything from my last job was behind me now, but that was wrong. Someone I got along with at the bad job reached out to me to tell me that my old boss there is accusing me of “deleting a server” before I left to sabotage the company. My boss isn’t elaborating on what I did, he’s just telling that I “deleted a server” and “deleted months of work.”

    That story is complete BS, but I’m worried about it spreading around and coming back to hurt my reputation. I quit without notice, because my boss was a bully and a general asshole. But before I put in my resignation, I sent out emails to everyone I worked with sharing all the documents I owned with them. I forwarded copies of everything to my personal email (not the documents!!).

    My question is: what course of action do I take? I could go to a lawyer but that seems preemptive because I don’t have any more details and I haven’t heard from the old company officially yet.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this! I think I would let it sit for now. For one thing – as an IT person, “deleting a server” just doesn’t sound right to me. I haven’t heard that terminology used so it sounds like someone who is making something up. Also, if he’s a bully and a general asshole, then people aren’t really going to take him at face-value anyway, even if the story gets spread around. And you have evidence from coworkers that you left documentation for them and were behaving professionally. So unless you did something totally egregious during your leave period that others can attest to (which it sounds like you didn’t), then I wouldn’t do anything just yet, and let it die.

      I don’t know anything about legal action in this matter so someone else will have to jump in there.

      1. Solaire*

        I think he means I deleted everything on a company server. Think “rm -rf /” if you do Linux. My big worry is that he got another technical person to do something under my account, but now that I say it it sounds like paranoia. He’d have to get someone willing to put themselves on the line if they got caught, and his career would be done if he was caught.

    2. Observer*

      I agree with HEDD. Even with a virtualized environment “deleting a server” makes no sense. So unless your coworker is not reporting what ex-boss is saying accurately, you don’t have a lot to worry bout here.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        We are a very small office and even if our server files were deleted, we have mirrored drives, cloud backup, and a handy dandy old fashioned backup.
        Boss is reinforcing why you left. Don’t give him any more of your energy thinking about it.

    3. Starley*

      If I heard this from someone, especially a known asshole, I would think it sounded made up, honestly. IANAL but from a legal standpoint I don’t think there’s much you can do, unless you can show damages (like it costing you a job). If that place had a decent HR department you could maybe try contacting someone there, but if your coworker reached out to you I’m sure everyone who has heard this knows it’s bullshit. I’m glad you’re out of there!

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah this is one of those situations where your best revenge / recourse is probably to do great in your current role and be happy and successful. You don’t work for these guys anymore and don’t have to care what they say about you, as long as your current reputation is good it’s just going to come across as sour grapes. It’s like when your ex trashes you to others – not your circus, not your monkeys.

      1. Solaire*

        Not in a way I’ll be able to see or handle, unfortunately. He could lie about me like this to someone who controls whether I get a job, without me ever hearing about it. So I’ve decided to stop worrying about it unless I find out that he’s been doing that.

        Which is possible because he was dumb enough to email other people saying I was using a health condition as an excuse to not work, but again, I’ll care when he does something.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, let it go. Most people will figure out that he sounds like an idiot and a jerk. (I’m not technical, and even I giggled at “deleted a server” – that’s… not how servers work.)

          Generally, mean people can’t keep the mean in. People figure it out. But you’re out of there anyway. Be at peace.

    4. Samiratou*

      I would ignore it unless something comes of it. Legally I don’t think you’d be able to do anything, unless you could prove his lies cost you a job or something.

      I doubt anything would ever come of it, anyway. Your former coworkers know what he is, and anyone outside the company is unlikely to listen or care, even if he did drag it outside of the company.

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      That is tough but ultimately it is probably not hiring you. Put it out of your mind.

      I use to obsess about my old bully manager (she is coming up a lot today) who went and telling everyone I was fired. I still worked at the company and had actually landed a huge promotion into another department. Her lies had zero impact my career path but I worried for far too long about it.

    6. Not So NewReader*

      Deleting a server. What does he think you did, shoot it? The phrasing suggests he has no clue what he is talking about.
      Knowledge is power. Tell your friend that you gave everyone copies of what you had. Tell him that you have documentation that you did this. Let your friend have this knowledge and take it from there. If your friend was on his toes he could have saved that email and forwarded to the boss again. “Look boss, we all received copies of what Solaire did.”

      Your boss is probably known for who he actually is and not everyone will pay attention. Keep rocking your current job. Until you know for sure you have a definite,concrete problem, let it go. Focus on being a great employee.

    7. LKW*

      I would imagine time stamp, account and IP would clear you from most of this. Additionally, if they used your account, that would assume that they had no policy to terminate accounts when people leave – which shows incompetence. Plus if they retain account information and can use other people’s accounts well that’s just stupid –
      sharing passwords is a no-no.

    8. Close Bracket*

      I have been hoping you would update us! Congrats on the new job, I hope it goes better for you. I’m sorry your old boss is still weighing you down.

    9. ..Kat..*

      In previous letters from people in similar situations, Alison has recommended having an employment lawyer send a cease and desist letter.

    10. Solaire*

      I’ve decided to just ignore him.

      Unfortunately, he could lie about me to someone important and damage my reputation, without me ever hearing about it. That really sucks, but it’s not worth worrying about.

      If he does try to take this somewhere, I have the records proving my innocence. It would suck to have to do that, too, but it’s unlikely and I can’t do anything about it right now.

      So I’m moving on with my life. He can be weird, obsessive, and angry in his own little corporate fiefdom.

  15. La Chismosa*

    In light of yesterday’s post about waifu, I wanted to see what your thoughts are on these types of communities and being open about it at the workplace – otherkin ,therian, waifu, etc. I follow the otherkin subreddit and am absolutely fascinated by these communities. Here is a post I read the other day about a man who is wolfkin who was fired for growling at customers.

    Do you think they will eventually become more accepted in the general population and workplace? I compare it to homosexuality and being transgender (please know that I am well aware that believing you’re a wolf is not the same as being gay or identifying as a man when you were born a woman). I compare it to this because there was a time where being gay was not accepted (and even still not in some rural areas of the US and in some cultures) and even more recently being transgender.

    In our world of acceptance and not shaming communicates in addition to how popular the internet is and how easy it is to find someone who identifies similarly to how you do, no matter how rare it may be, I believe these communities will grow in the future.

    1. grace*

      Maybe it makes me close-minded, but I hope that’s one of those trends that stays out of the workplace… I don’t want to work closely with someone who believes they’re a wolf or a dragon or whatever else, mostly because I’m not sure I could ever trust their decision-making.

      Idk, I think the more vanilla you are in the workplace, the better. Do whatever you want on your own time – just not in the office.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      One thing I know for sure: no matter who you are or how you identify, it is never ok to growl at customers or co-workers.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        This. It’s all about behavior not belief within the work place, and that goes for any personal thing even religious beliefs and sexual preferences. People can go ahead and believe they are a dragon trapped in human form, but if they start setting fires and eating their coworkers, it’s no longer appropriate for work.

        1. Arjay*

          Yes. If you identify as a wolf, maybe the local superstore isn’t suitable employment for you.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Oh my goodness. I received a letter a few months ago from someone whose employee had announced she was a wolf trapped in a human body, and I assumed it was fake and didn’t use it. Hmmm.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I have a feeling we might be seeing the writer of that letter ’round these parts these days. I understand why you wouldn’t want to publish it, but… it may be time to let that cat out of its cave.

          1. Casuan*

            AvonLady, I think you mean wolf out of its lair.

            +1 to keeping these identities from the workplace. Although I’m interested in reading about how these traits affect everyone in the workplace because really it isn’t unlike other discussions on how to keep certain things private, as opposed to making them known to the workplace.

        2. JamieS*

          Kinda hope it was fake because now I’m just thinking about that poor letter writer having to navigate managing a wolf solo for months.

      3. Jules the Third*


        It’s all about behavior, not identity. In most professional workplaces (eg, everyplace that’s not sex work), sexual behavior is Not Ok, whether the people acting out are straight, gay, cis, trans, whatever. Aggressive / physically defensive behavior to non-threatening people is Not Ok, whether you are human, dragon, wolf, alien, whatever.

        I like Alison’s framing best: it’s part of your job to get along with your coworker, customers and clients.

      4. Candy*

        Yeah, the tumblr person La Chismosa linked to was let go because they were growling and snarling at coworkers and customers, not because they identified as a werewolf.

      5. Thlayli*

        If I believed that he was part wolf, that would make me less happy about him growling at me, not more happy!

        1. Thlayli*

          Just realised this wasn’t very clear! What I mean is an actual wolf growling at me would scare me more than a human growling at me. So if I believed that someone was part wolf, I would be more scared of them growling at me than a regular human growling at me.

          Which is all to say – being part-wolf shouldn’t give you a right to growl at customers.

        2. This Daydreamer*

          Humans are less predictable than canids. I think I’d prefer the wolf. And a safe place to get to.

      6. Alton*

        Yes. I think it can be helpful, when looking at behavior, to compare how people would react if someone who wasn’t part of that group did something similar. In the case of LGBT people, individuals are often discriminated against for doing things that would be seen as normal for someone who’s straight and cisgender, like mentioning a spouse or wearing clothes that fit their gender identity.

        But if I brought my cat to work, it would be unprofessional and disruptive, so it would also be unprofessional and disruptive for me to act like a cat. I also think that in the case of things like people saying that they’re in a relationship with a celebrity or fictional character, the biggest issue is that people associate “being in a relationship” with certain criteria and actions that don’t apply in this case, so it sounds dishonest and inaccurate. There can be social norms regarding relationships that don’t necessarily involve discrimination against a marginalized group. Some people feel that you shouldn’t bring a casual dating partner to a workplace party, for example, and that you should only bring a serious, committed partner as your plus-one.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      I have no clear opinions on this but I will say that an online acquaintance of mine who is transgender was very upset and insulted that he was put into the same category as otherkin.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, it’s pretty offensive to a lot of people. I’m experiencing — maybe not flames, but definitely glowing embers up the side of my face here.

        1. HannahS*

          Yeah. Take this as constructive criticism about communication, La Chismosa: don’t say, “I know these two things are not the same” and then compare them anyway. Comparison suggests that there is some essential similarity. If you know they’re not essentially similar (and they’re not), don’t compare at all, because it trivializes a heck of a lot of people’s real actual current violent oppression. You could have made your entire point the same way without comparing the LGBT+ community and trans people to otherkin. Hedging (saying that you know they’re not the same but then implying that you kind of think they are) is like saying, “No offense, but…”–it doesn’t actually mean that what you said wasn’t gross.

          1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

            I guess what I got out of the post was not that these two identities are comparable, but how they are or have been treated in the past IS comparable. And I would agree that for most of history the LGBT community has been treated in a “don’t talk about that” or “don’t be open about that” type of way. Things are in process of changing. That doesn’t mean that being gay or trans or whatever is the same as being otherkin, but that they have experienced people in their lives having similar reactions to their identity.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              But the problem is that the way they’re treated isn’t comparable.

              Otherkin/therians/whatever do not face the kind of systematic religious, political, and economic disadvantages that LGBT people do. By trying to claim that “don’t talk about that” is the core of our oppression, you’re completely ignoring what we actually face.

            2. General Ginger*

              How these identities are treated is not comparable, though. Systemic discrimination and systemic prejudice is a thing; it goes beyond “don’t talk about that”.

        1. Specialk9*

          Meaning that the way to say that is “identifies as a woman, although identified at birth as male”, as opposed to “born a man but identifies as female” (ie demonstrably wrong). Because the people who made that ID were not the trans person, it was doctors/parents/etc who made a call based on genitalia – which is different than one’s own identity.

          (Not trans, any error here is mine.)

      2. AMT*

        Yep. I’m trans. Not to over-medicalize trans identity, but there has been tons of research over 50+ years that strongly points to cross-gender identity (and gay identity, for that matter) having a biological origin. Trans women likely have feminized brains and trans men masculinized ones.

        That doesn’t mean that people’s identities shouldn’t be respected if they aren’t biological in origin, and I’m strongly of the belief that expressing identities that don’t harm anyone should be totally fine in the workplace, but I do think that being trans is fundamentally different from being a dragon trapped in a human body. Man, that felt weird to type out.

      3. Plague of frogs*

        Yeah, not cool at all.

        Science and society are in agreement over what constitutes species membership.

        Gender is poorly understood, and at least to some degree a social construct.

        Comparing the two is comparing apples and oceans. They have literally nothing to do with each other.

    4. ThatGirl*

      For the record, I am a queer white cis lady.

      But whoooo I am sort of mildly train-wreck fascinated by otherkin but I do NOT think it is the same as being queer or trans. Gender expression exists on a spectrum, there are known biological, societal and social factors at work… this is not the same as identifying with animals strongly, or AS an animal. I am pretty much a live and let live sort of person but there is also a standard for working in public, and not bringing your private life into it. I would not talk about my sex life at work, I would not talk about my spiritual life, and I think this sort of thing is firmly in the “don’t discuss it at work” family.

      Also well-behaved dogs can be trained not to growl, I don’t see why identifying as part wolf means being scary or mean to customers.

      1. Plague of frogs*

        I mean, no workplace hires wolves. So if you think you’re a wolf, when you try to get a job you’re barking up the wrong tree (see what I did there?).

      1. Manders*

        Hah, yes! Well-behaved canines can listen attentively and be friendly and polite just like humans. I think this guy was looking for an excuse to scare a customer he didn’t like.

    5. Snark*

      I would, just as a preliminary aside, not use the LGBT comparison to frame this question. I read and understand your parenthetical disclaimer, and I get where you’re coming from, but….it still feels a little off to have sexual orientation compared to waifu.

      That said.

      There are some things I feel like we just have to accept, and which nobody should be expected to hide or edit, whether we personally feel they’re normal or moral or acceptable – orientation being one. A voluntarily, actively embraced fandom, subculture, religious belief, ideology, or similar framework doesn’t really rank like that. Of course, if you want to believe you’re a wolf, or that you’re astrally married to a cartoon character, and you identify with those communities, knock yourself out! I’m delighted that you found your tribe and I won’t shame you for it. But when you start proudly informing clients that your boyfriend is that framed pic of an anime dude, or growling at customers, that’s dragging them into your fantasy life in a way that will probably not play well, and which should really not be expected to. It’s like the letter from the person whose coworker was demanding everyone call her boyfriend “Master.”

      1. selina kyle*

        Snark, as always, you’ve managed to phrase this so well. I really love your framing of the fact that it is identifying with a culture and not simply identifying with yourself – that really makes sense to me.

      2. Meh*

        I was just about to comment about the calling boyfriend “master” as well. It’s dragging everyone into TMI territory. Do what you want on your own time, but don’t bring it into the workplace. We all have our quirks and the workplace isn’t the place to show them off (at least the vast majority of workplaces).

      3. Observer*

        Also, how would another IT person have your credentials to do anything on your account. If someone changed your password after you left, that would show up in the logs…
        It doesn’t sound to me like people in these communities are actually CHOOSING this. At least the otherkin and therian communities. Waifu is a different story.

        Having said that, at a fundamental level it really doesn’t matter. There are certain behaviors that don’t belong in the workplace. Period. Growling at people is one of them (unless it truly is a matter of self defense). Being fired because you GROWLED at someone is NOT “oppression”.

        1. Snark*

          Eh, we can agree to disagree on the choice aspect, and maybe that’s not the best word for it….but I think there’s a level of active embrace that has more in common with religions and ideologies than anything, particularly given the self-reinforcing aspect of a lot of online communities.

          1. Observer*

            I hear you. But if you look at what these people say, it’s clear that they don’t see it as an embrace of something but their identity.

            My point though, is that that’s really not a terribly fruitful path to go down. As I said, it really doesn’t matter. As a secular society, “an it harm no on, do as you will” is probably as good a motto as we get. But, that’s for your PRIVATE life. At work, it’s a different deal and you simply can’t allow “your nature” whatever that may be, to overshadow reasonable norms such as NOT THREATENING OTHERS.

            1. Snark*

              Agreed. I think it boils down to “be cool.” Whatever your deal is, at work and otherwise moving through the wider culture? Be cool about it.

          2. Emi.*

            I don’t think it’s really relevant how much of a choice it is. You think you’re a wolf, you’re choosing to think you’re a wolf, you’re pretending to be a wolf, I don’t really care. You’re just … not a wolf. I am not going to pretend that you are one, and I really, really hope you do not manage to rally HR to the cause of demanding that I deny reality to protect your feelings.

            1. Plague of frogs*

              I dunno, if they were sufficiently obnoxious I think I would go with pretending they were one and insisting that they be fired. Species is not a protected category.

            2. Adele*

              There has been a big debate about legalizing wolf hunts again in my state. Just sayin’

      4. Close Bracket*

        Otherkins don’t think their identification is a choice, though. Telling them that would be as offensive as me telling someone their religion is a choice.

        1. Snark*

          And a lot of religious folks think their affiliation is a calling impressed upon them by a deity. But the distinction remains.

      5. Turquoisecow*

        I agree.

        I mean, I get that we want to be open and able to talk about or relationships at work, with coworkers, and not hide who we are. And to that extent, unless you spend the entire time you’re supposed to be working talking to coworkers or clients about your SO, it doesn’t really matter to an employer whether someone is gay or straight. Same thing with if someone is trans. Can you enter these TPS reports? Ok, then I don’t care about your gender and whether it matches your birth certificate. It’s irrelevant.

        If you want to marry a fictional character, I also don’t care. I think the reason the previous post was an issue was less that issue and more that she kept talking about it at work. To coworkers. To clients. I mean, slightly more uncomfortable because it’s outside the norm, but if I were a client and someone was babbling about their real spouse, it would also be a little uncomfortable. Like, ok, let’s talk about work now, thanks?

        But otherkin – that’s something different, and I see it as inherently contradictory. How can someone believe, simultaneously, that they are *really* a wolf, or whatever AND that they can do this job that they’re doing as well as any other human? If you can’t, then why were you hired?

        Being true to oneself is important, yes, but the workplace is not the place to do that. In the workplace, you need to conform to certain standards of behavior, which can be somewhat conservative and restricting, but are most definitely human standards. As someone said above, growling is unacceptable behavior for the workplace, regardless of your identity. Excessive talking about your SO, or your sex life (in the case of the “Master” question), or your religious beliefs (unless you work for a religious organization!) or anything else that’s too personal, is unacceptable behavior for the workplace regardless of your sexual orientation, gender, or religious beliefs.

        Is the workplace becoming more tolerant? Sure, because people are more tolerant. You’re less likely now to be refused a job because of gender, race, religion, orientation, etc partly because of laws, but also because people who are hiring are more tolerant. But some unacceptable workplace behavior is always going to be unacceptable, and growling at people? Definitely one of those.

      6. AMT*

        This is something I struggle with. As a trans guy, I find that a lot of people in queer and allied communities are into various subcultures (e.g. BDSM, extreeeemely serious TV show fandoms, otherkin-type stuff, paranormal beliefs). Such people often consider these subcultures integral to their identities. Some assert that it’s different from an innate, unchangeable identity like being gay, Asian, or disabled. I want to respect that, but I find myself thinking, “Have furries been beaten to death or subjected to medical experiments? Have Benedict Cumberbatch fans been subject to ethnic cleansing?”

        What I’m finding difficult to articulate, though, is a clear line between these things. I know that many (most?) people wouldn’t consider their religious or paranormal beliefs “chosen.” Lots of otherkin wouldn’t, either. Hell, plenty of trans/non-binary people *do* consider their identities “chosen,” don’t think that it’s a biological thing, or think biology doesn’t matter. Even for people on the more lifestyle-y end of the spectrum of these identities (e.g. TV show superfans, BDSM), it’s sometimes such a huge part of their everyday lives that it’s almost as impactful as religious belief or ethic identity. And there’s no denying that some of these communities have experienced a certain amount of discrimination and ridicule.

        I suppose you could say that the line is “biological versus chosen” or “innate versus elective,” but that’s only scratching the surface. I mean, a bisexual person could “choose” to date only opposite-sex people and certain ethnic groups could hide their identities, but asking them to assimilate sounds pretty horrible. Are we horrible for asking these subcultures to assimilate or to hide the not-overtly-sexual aspects of their lives in the workplace? I definitely FEEL like there’s a difference and FEEL that the otherkin-trans comparison is offensive, but I can’t put into words why.

        1. Manders*

          Hah, yes, I’m also queer and I run in some crowds where people tend to be very quirky. I think I fall pretty far on the side of accepting harmless oddities, but I still feel like there’s a difference between being a bit of an oddball and using the language of genuinely oppressed groups to argue that there should never be any professional or social consequences for yelling at people about your anime boyfriend.

          Do I tell my boss I went to a comic convention and had a good time? Yes. Do I give him a play by play of the “comics and kink” panel I watched there? Nope.

        2. AMT*

          *”Some assert that it’s different…” should be “Some assert that it’s NO different…”

        3. anon attorney*

          Thanks for this comment. I feel the same. Instinctively I think that seeking equality and recognition as a queer person (I’m bisexual) is different from doing so as someone who believes they’re descended from elven, but I too am having difficulty pinning down why.

          1. Plague of frogs*

            LGBT people are just asking for the same rights that non-LGBT people enjoy. Someone who believes they are a wolf is asking for more rights than the rest of us. They are saying that they should simultaneously be treated as fully human and wolf. If they want to work in my workplace without growling at me and marking the furniture, cool. If they want to run with the other wolves in the Yukon, cool (up to the point where they stress the wolves out…). But they don’t get to have both.

            I don’t know if that’s why it bothers me, but it’s part of it.

            1. General Ginger*

              Same rights vs getting both, that’s definitely an aspect I was having trouble putting my finger on, thank you for articulating!

        4. Sparkly Lady*

          Yeah, I agree with you on all aspects of this. I also feel that there’s an important difference, but I am uncomfortable with what often seems like glib dismissals of people’s descriptions of oppression, especially for things like BDSM where being outed has factually cost people jobs and custody of children. If I can’t articulate the difference, I think it’s important to to be open to the idea that I could the one wrong here. Maybe I only feel there’s a difference because a lot of this stuff is so fringe.

          However, I think there are some clear lines that can be drawn around behavior that a reasonable person would consider socially disruptive, like a wolfkin growling at a customer or a customer being expected to treat a cartoon character as a boyfriend. But maybe there are areas that should be treated as personal quirks. If a non-client-facing co-worker calls a cartoon character her boyfriend but otherwise does work fine, is it really a problem?

        5. Jules the Third*

          So, here’s the thing: the otherkin types I knew have been beaten up for ‘being weird’, and threatened with involuntary commitment to mental hospitals. Otherkin isn’t the same as furry – most furries I know do see it as a choice and a community; only a very small subset see it as a way to express their otherkin selves.

          Neither group faces the same legal issues that LBGTQx do. Otherkin challenges are much more along the lines that people with mental illnesses face. But it does include a ton of real legal and social challenges, but because of the small size of the community, we don’t hear much about it.

          The comparison is offensive because people assume that otherkin is 1) a choice and 2) if not a choice, then an expression of mental illness. We’ve worked for a long time to help people understand that LBGTQx is not a mental illness, and there’s still a TON of stigma around mental illness, so anything that refers back to that is a problem.

    6. Andi*

      This sounds exactly like the kind of thing certain people should use to argue against furthering of LGBT+ rights because ‘slippery slope’.

      So I sincerely hope for the sake of that alone that this does not become a ‘thing’.

      Why does it even need to be? How much time do you devote in your work day to discuss that kind of thing (from what I know of fandom-related talk, they usually run long and deep)?

    7. Naptime Enthusiast*

      I think the problem in yesterday’s post and what you described above is that it is impacting the workplace and making customers uncomfortable. Sexual orientation and gender identity do NOT impact work, unless you are actively displaying either in a way that is inappropriate. If someone was showing people their genitals or having sex in the workplace, the ACTION would be the problem rather than the fact that you belong to a certain community. And neither of those acts would be appropriate for a hetero/cis person either.

      Love who you want to love, be who you want to be, live the life you want to live, but don’t shove it in my face and I won’t shove my differing personal life in yours.

    8. selina kyle*

      I’m really uncomfortable with the comparison to LGBT matters honestly. It’s something I see on occasion and I think it discredits the struggle LGBT folks have had. It seems that these otherkin types of beliefs weigh in on how a person acts, whereas being gay or trans is more about one’s own self.
      (I’m having trouble fully articulating this and don’t intend it as an attack just – something I’ve seen on occasion elsewhere and it bothers me.)

        1. Snark*

          I understand what you were getting at, but Countess Boochie Flagrante and others have articulated well that such comparisons have problems for queer folks regardless of intent, and I think there’s lots of other comparisons that could illustrate the same point.

          1. Jesca*

            So what say you to those of that subgroup who do regularly compare their struggles of acceptance to that of the LGBT community? I am really just wondering. In a sociological way, I ponder this often when I read about it. I mean, a lot of these people really do believe they are vampires, or wolves, or are paraplegic. It is literally a part of their identity. I have a hard time separating between someone born one sex identifying with another as a person born human but identifying with an animal? Is it the loss of identifying with another human that makes the distinction? Or is it that one has become more mainstream? Or is it because we have some evidence that identification of gender is fluid and non-nurture based and that we don’t have those studies to support human/animal?

            I am really just curious on this!

            1. Homoplasma*

              + 1 on this. I am a gay male and I did not find La Chismosa’s post offensive. I viewed it as they were trying to make a comparison and that was the best one. Is there another one that would be more appropriate? Finding an example of a group that was not accepted in the past and is more so now? Struggling to find a better example. Let me know if you have one!

              1. Snark*

                I would personally have compared it to the rise of non-mainstream religious practices like Buddhism becoming more generally accepted, or gamer culture, or polyamory.

                1. grace*

                  I think polyamory would be a great example. There’s a lot of online acceptance, not a lot of it in the “real world,” and bringing it into the workplace is seen with caution — yes, most people do it well, but there’s those few who mess it up for everyone else.

                2. Manders*

                  This thread ran out of nesting, but I wanted to +1 what Grace said about polyamory. It’s likely that a lot of people think of polyamory as a TMI thing… because a few polyamorous people actually did get TMI about it, so they’re more likely to be noticed and remembered.

                  I knew a polyamorous person who did get way, way too vocal about her messy personal life in the workplace. She’s now out of a job, and probably will be for a long time, because her judgement about what’s appropriate at work is just awful. I also know a whole lot of polyamorous people who are killing it professionally and can bring up their multiple partners with the same casualness as monogamous people.

                  It’s not about the identity, it’s about the behavior.

                3. Jules the Third*

                  I like the polyamory comparison, because there’s a similar ambiguity about choice and identity.

                  And none of these are usually relevant in the workplace.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Jesca, if you’re really interested “in a sociological way” you might try doing some research into the sociology and history of LGBTQ struggles. There’s a lot of good writing out there are about the alienation, mistreatment, abuse, and other horrors visited upon people who are identified under that umbrella, and it’s stuff that people who think they’re married to Snape on the astral plane don’t deal with.

              1. Jesca*

                I have actually done research on it. And I have actually done research on other fringe beliefs as well. My question, in that regard, still stands. Lots of people go through ostracization, abuse, and other horrific things for being different than mainstream. Actually, and sometimes people do find this shocking, that many things we do regularly in our own culture would get us killed in another. Sadly, it is not just limited to one group over another, and being ethnocentric can be very dangerous.

            3. Snark*

              Hard to say. I mean, there are some people in those groups who really embrace that identity and those practices, but who are prepared to admit that it’s something other than objective truth and reality. And, especially with the coworker we discussed yesterday, I think there are some who exhibit elements of clinical delusion.

              I think I’m most comfortable noting the observed neurological and structural difference between trans and cis people, and fact that trans folks tend to strongly identify with a gender from very early childhood, to distinguish between the two. There’s biological indications that trans identity is not a delusion or overvalued thought, and psychologists sharply distinguish between the two.

              1. Jesca*

                Right now they do, yes.

                In recent past, it was actually considered a form of body dysmorphia and other cognitive disassociation that were in the end harmless. I am trying to see how believing and internalizing that one is an animal is any different. And unfortunately I do not think I will get that answer until science decides to study it as in depth as they have other things.

                1. Snark*

                  Well, we’ll see. Unfortunately, I can’t take into account science that hasn’t been done.

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  I suspect you might not get the answer you want even if they do. You’re not likely to find canine characteristics hardwired into a primate brain.

                  But I agree with the folks who’ve said workplace norms are different from those in private life. At most workplaces, everyone is expected to conform to certain standards and focus on work, not personal things. While more casual workplaces with camaraderie among employees exist, people still need to be able to control their behavior in the prescribed manner no matter who they are.

            4. Q*

              Gender is a social construct, and is imposed on humans by themselves and other humans with basis in…anything else.

              Being a wolf is not a social construct.

              1. Laura*

                This is a few days late and I don’t know if anyone will see it, but I think it’s interesting that someone said being a wolf is not a social construct. Is being human a social construct? Not in a biological way but in the sense of ‘humanizing’ someone or ‘dehumanizing’ a group.

                Dehumanization is used against many groups that don’t fit the mainstream from the mentally ill and neurodivergent, to various ethnic groups at different times in history.

                I wonder if part of the otherkin identity is involved with rejecting the social construction of humanity and in a sense recognizing the futility of fighting the “no true Scotsman” approach to being a “real” person.

                I know that neurodivergent folks are over represented in some of these subcultures and that historical oppression of these groups has occasionally hinged on denying their essential humanity.

                In this sense, workplace conventions (not across the board of course) are really there for the comfort and convenience of the neurotypical majority. I feel like dealing with otherkin identity is probably not the least of the trouble that some of these people face, but discerning and understanding the social conventions that would generally dictate keeping that type of thing under wraps might itself be more to the point as the kind of thing that would be difficult for some.

            5. Safetykats*

              I think part of the problem is that we have no construct under which to manage this. If you think you’re a wolf, or a paraplegic, and it doesn’t cause you to do your job any differently that the rest of the staff, there’s no issue and it shouldn’t be the basis for discrimination even if I don’t understand it. If you’re asking for an accommodation – a disabled parking spot or dispensation to growl at customers or coworkers – then as a manager I do need to ask whether that accommodation is really required, and on what basis. And that may entail medical assessment to figure out whether you’re really a wolf, or mentally ill, or have just taken a lifestyle choice to a level that we can expect you to reasonably dial back into the realm of more normative behavior.

              That’s where these things get sticky, because deciding whether your growl at people because you have a neurological condition line Tourette’s, or a mental condition that causes you to think you’re a wolf, or because you really are a wolf, or because you’re just an ass, is going to be highly dependent on the state of the scientific understanding of the issue. It seems to me that societal acceptance of the spectrum of gender, and legal protection for the same, has tracked with scientific understanding. (Maybe it just seems that way to me because I’m an engineer). So maybe the best thing for the otherkin is for there to be some good science based work on their condition, such that we have a good basis for concluding whether growling at customers is something we should expect and accommodate, or not.

        2. Betsy*

          It’s also, as you said above, about the limits of normalisation. And I think there have been some pretty solid reasons provided as to why gay relationships and otherkin are quite different in important ways.

        3. Hellanon*

          No, it’s really not, because being gay, being trans, are things that are objectively true about a person – feel however you want about other people being gay, but they simply *are* and thus it’s not really for anyone else to choose to accept. Thus legal protections, etc, under the equal right clauses in the US constitution. But believing you are a wolf, or married to a cartoon character, or whatever, is just simply not objectively true: I can accept that you believe this thing, but I don’t accept that it is true. Nor do I have to.

          1. Jules the Third*

            Given the social structure of gender, being trans is more complex than ‘objectively true’ or ‘objectively not true’. We respect individual’s gender expression because we respect their personal identity and sense of self.

            Though I base a lot of stuff on ‘objectively true’ (climate change, car safety), I find that ‘personal autonomy’ gives a more consistent, compassionate and legally actionable basis for most social issues.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I would love to work someplace where both the employer and customers gave absolutely zero [cares] about what you did in your spare time. But the reason we don’t usually talk at work about the great sex we had is because we are forced together with a bunch of random people, some of whom will be VERY different from us. So we leave out a lot of personal, controversial things in most workplaces. Of course, it’s important to understand the culture at your particular workplace, and since many coworkers discuss personal activities when socializing (“What did/are you doing this weekend?”), we hope people can be open enough to at least mention that they’re part of a minority group.

      But you’re right, the boundaries are biggest for the majority groups, and generally get less restrictive and tolerant as the population falls. One place this doesn’t always apply as proportionately as we would expect in the US is religion, both because of our country’s history as a haven for a religious minority, and because “practicing religion” is seen as a heterogeneous group.

      I agree, otherkin, bronies, furries, and other “fringe” groups are at least more widely recognized, if not respected, but the expanding knowledge of their existence indicates that tolerance is trending upwards. After all, increased exposure to a minority has a very high correlation with increased tolerance and acceptance.

      1. Snark*

        I think you’re hitting on a good distinction here. I think it’s possible to be pleased that people are embracing non-mainstream affiliations and subcultures without shame, and that people can find their tribes so much easier now….while also holding firm to the tacit understanding that there’s a difference between being true to your own authentic self and expecting the wider world around you to validate your affiliation, embrace its particulars, and accept intimate levels of detail about it.

        1. Manders*

          Well said. I typed out a long and rambling comment about the people from oddball groups I’ve known who manage to stay professional, but you summed it up way more succinctly. There’s a pretty clear line between expecting tolerance and expecting to let it all hang out at work with no consequences.

        2. Arjay*

          White, heterosexual, married, cis female here – pretty mainstream identities. And my boss still has no desire to see me be my “authentic self.” My authentic self is bitchy and challenging and smarter than he is: he prefers me to be nice and accommodating and that’s what he pays me for.

          1. Windchime*

            Yeah, this. My authentic self wants to sit on my butt and knit all day. My boss is cool, but not THAT cool. She wants me to work when I’m on the clock.

    10. An Underemployed Millennial*

      I think it’s fine to be into that subculture if that’s your thing, it’s not hurting anyone, but I don’t know if growling at customers will ever be accepted in most professional environments unless you happen to work at a haunted house or something.

      1. Tardigrade*

        Right. I feel like acceptance would look more like:
        “I’m a wolfkin.”

        Rather than:
        “Hey that’s cool.”

        Because, hey, that’s not cool.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Many pet-parents consider growling to be a threat and unacceptable.
          Growling and crouching, in other words positioning to pounce with intent to injure, is even worse.

          Honestly, I am having a hard time picturing why this would be a norm in a workplace.

          1. An Underemployed Millennial*

            Yeah. I refer to my cat as my son on a pretty regular basis but would certainly never act like a cat at work, ESPECIALLY when dealing with customers, and expect to not be fired. Granted, I don’t really believe I am a cat or that my cat is my biological child, but I can see why other people might think I was weird just for comparing him to a human child at all.

            1. Snark*

              I’m trying to imagine how weird it would be if I acted like my dog at work. I’d just stare at people until they did what I wanted.

              1. Tardigrade*

                /rolls in the floor to expose belly, eyes widened, head tilted, hands dangling limply for added cuteness/

                1. Snark*

                  *Runs frantically after squirrels on fence, whimpers plaintively, play bows*

                  Collies are weird.

              2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                I wanna act like my cat at work — nap all the time, except to wake up and scream at people when I’m hungry.

                Sadly, they don’t generally pay people to do that.

                1. An Underemployed Millennial*

                  Yeah if you ever find a company that will pay you to do that please let me know because I’m so in.

            1. An Underemployed Millennial*

              No I haven’t, though I have several years of restaurant, two years of tutoring teenagers, and a year of tech support experience so I can understand the urge.

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          As someone who has trained the occasional dog and worked with sled dogs (which have to work as domesticated within a more explicit pack behaviour than normal domestic life gives you), I would not consider growling and crouching or hunching the shoulders or trying to make hair stand on end to be acceptable in a work environment.

          If the sled dogs start arguing with each other, I stop and perhaps rearrange the dogs on the gangline. If dogs from different teams get close and start trouble, we separate them and maybe change the order of the sleds in the group. This is because they are not doing their jobs. If a human wants to adopt canine behaviour, they better keep work dogs in mind, too.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Early intervention is way preferable and much cheaper than late intervention.

    11. DoesThatMakeMeSpeciest*

      I must not be as open minded as I thought because the link led to an example of “otherkin” behavior that, had I witnessed, I would assume the person was having a mental break down. Crouching on the floor and growling and snarling? And they thought their manager would be ok with that?

      Do what you want in your own home or even in general public but your basic behavior at work needs to imitate expected human behavior and norms

    12. fposte*

      I don’t believe they will, but who knows? If the culture shifts so that supporting that behavior is a priority, then that becomes right to do.

    13. Ramza*

      So my thought is that on the one hand acting threatening toward customers is not something that is ever gonna fly but on the other I do think we shame these sorts of people more than we need to.

      I can remember being on websites that mocked furries heavily and while I did think what they did was silly, so what? They are still people and as long as they aren’t hurting anyone making fun of them just makes you an asshole. In that sense its kinda like LBGT, people often mock what they don’t understand and that’s shitty behavior, not just because it hurts those we mock but because I think acting like that is bad for us as well. I don’t really like the person I am when I mock others.

      1. Observer*

        Well, firing someone who GROWLS at customers, and doesn’t bring any plan for avoiding that kind of behavior in the future is hardly “shaming more then we need to.” It’s the minimum any responsible boss can do. When people actually claim that they got fire because they are theiran / otherkin as though it’s just the fact that they admitted to that, rather than because of the completely unacceptable behavior they were trying to excuse, of course there is going to be push back. Claiming that such a firing is “oppression” is either delusional or bad faith. Calling this stuff out loudly and firmly is not excessive shaming.

        To be honest of someone told me that they are really a cat (or whatever animal) in human form, I’d probably look at them differently and watching out for signs of poor judgement. But I would not typically think of firing them. But, but that’s a really different thing from acting like and angry (or even scared) animal in the workplace. That is something that CANNOT become acceptable.

    14. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      This isn’t directed at you personally, but…

      I am so, so, so friggin sick of weird personal choices being compared to LGBT rights. PSA to the world, my orientation is not your hypothetical kickball, please stop comparing it to every screwball behavior out there. “Well, people who wear sneakers on their hands are weird, but we used to think gay people were weird…?” STOP. Just stop. Not comparable. Get it out of here.

      Discrimination against LGBT people is based on a lot more than ‘oh you’re weird’ and it ties in to gender roles and religious beliefs. This is stuff we have experienced significant personal and legislative violence over. Please leave us out of your hypothetical nonsense. Someone’s choice to hump a body pillow is not even in the same realm.

      1. Rozine*

        But do you think that if someone believes they truly have the brain or soul of a wolf or another animal and they identify as that animal, it should be accepted just as any other form of identity? Is it not discrimination to deny someone that way?

        1. Snark*

          People embrace all kinds of identities, religions, and tribal affiliations that they feel so strongly about as to believe it’s a calling or an immutable truth. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily treated the same way as inborn characteristics like orientation, gender, or ethnicity, or that they should be.

          1. Jules the Third*

            My caveat: We don’t actually *know* for sure that otherkin identification is a choice and not an inborn variation of the temporoparietal junction. Nobody’s looked at it. It’s an assumption, and a judgement, of someone who is ‘other’.

            For a long time, and by some still today, inborn characteristics such as orientation and gender were labeled as choices. We’re only just now starting to understand how they work, biologically.

            While I greatly respect the struggles of LBGTQx, in my long association with the culture, I have seen orientations like bisexual and trans change, over time, from ‘b* can’t make up her mind’ and ‘b* doesn’t want to come out of the closet’ to a more respected and accepted role. There was a strong tendency for the embattled group (LG) to ‘circle the wagons’ and require clarity. It made sense given the social and legal challenges of the times, but it was a huge step forward when the LBGTQx community became empowered enough to be more tolerant of ambiguity.

            I do, and always will, work for equal protections for all identities under the law and within society. I recognize my privileges, and try to understand the struggles faced by people without the same. I want everyone to be able to be themselves, and I hope it makes for happier lives. But if you can afford it, be kind.

            My aspiration to kindness starts with the assumption that people’s self-perceptions are inborn, even when that self-perception makes no sense to me.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Discrimination is unequal treatment, not my opinion on someone’s hobby.

          Please do not compare the ongoing national debate about whether people can deny me services because I’m not living in compliance with their religious beliefs to “oh look at this person being weird on the internet.”

        3. fposte*

          Depends what you mean by “accepted.” I don’t need to argue them out of it, but I also don’t need to deal with it. Just because it’s an important identity to you doesn’t (currently, anyway–I think the question is about the future) mean that it’s relevant or professional at your workplace. That’s where we landed with the “wearing a BDSM collar at work” thing, after all.

          (I also think there’s a really animal-damaging anthropomorphism at the heart of such approaches that bothers me even more than cat ears in the workplace, but that’s a separate rant.)

        4. disconnect*

          I think that’s a great question and worthy of discussion, and it deserves to stand on its own and not at all be compared to gender identity or sexual orientation.

      2. La Chismosa*

        My point is about acceptance. Don’t you think x number of years ago people thought being gay was weird? not normal? they could not imagine why anyone would be like that? Now looking at these new-ish emerging behaviors/communities and being accepted, that is my comparison. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Today, in today’s world, people are being killed for being gay. They’re being thrown in concentration camps. They’re being subjected to personal violence, rejection, and hatred.

          Stop making this comparison. Seriously, stop it.

        2. Tardigrade*

          But these kinds of arguments are co-opting the struggles and experiences of LGBT persons, and unfortunately they haven’t fully gained the rights and acceptance you’re discussing. There’s a long and complex history behind this issue, a heck of a lot more than “people thought it was weird.”

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Show me a coordinated nationwide campaign to “fix” furries by subjecting them to ongoing physical and sexual abuse. Show me where kids who identify as furry are 40% more likely to be homeless and experience many times the level of abuse that non-furry kids do. Show me the stats where damn near half of them make serious suicide attempts before age 18. Then talk to me about how “it’s all really just about acceptance.”

          1. Snark*

            Exactly. You can’t pare down the comparison. It carries this kind of baggage, whether you wanted to carry it or not.

                1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  And the point of many comments, including the one heading the subthread your in, is to leave real people’s actual current suffering out of your damn hypotheticals.

                2. Snark*

                  Not hypothetically, you can explore that question without resorting to offensive comparisons that co-opt real, painful experiences for your rhetorical convenience.

            1. Paperclip Plenipotentiary*

              Homosexuality is a fact of human existence. Denying it is stupid and cruel.

              Furriesness is a n

              1. Paperclip Plenipotentiary*

                …while Furries are a niche sexual fetish somehow coalescesed into existence by socio-psycho-sexual trends.

          2. Jules the Third*

            Otherkin is a not furry. Furry is a clear lifestyle choice. Otherkin’s ‘choice’ aspect is less clear. Conflating the two is like similar to saying drag queens are transgender.

            Furries do not face structural, governmental violence as LBGTQx have and do, but they do face elevated suicide rates, and many times the level of abuse / bullying as non-furry. It’s not usually because of being a furry, it seems to be more of a ‘got bullied and found furry fandom to be a safe space’ thing. (supporting doc in name link)

            Otherkin who express it before adulthood do face being medicated or imprisoned as people work to suppress their differences from normal, accepted social behavior. Anecdote, not data, but: I have two friends who are trans, and a third who was an elf when we were in high school together. All three struggled; the elf was threatened multiple times with involuntary commitment. He suppressed his perception, eventually. Did he abandon his identity, or grow out of a psychosis? Do we really get to judge that? Do we need to judge that?

            Can we extend compassion for a group that face significant social persecution because of their self-perception, without feeling that it lessens the struggle that other groups face?

            I can understand if the answer is ‘no, they are so far from the norm that the comparison threatens our position’, but that’s a different thing from ‘they don’t exist and aren’t worthy of compassion.’ My experience is that their self-perception can happen pretty early, and if expressed, presents them with threats very similar to those faced by LBGTQx.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              I’ve got no argument with extending compassion. Mistreatment is mistreatment.

              However, I do have a very strong objection to drawing comparisons between LGBTQ oppression and otherkin/therian/etc treatment. It’s the same as trying to say that homo/transphobia is the same as racism — it’s not, and in a lot of cases, trying to draw that comparison winds up pushing a lot of the specific issues under the rug.

              For example, La Chismosa’s question and a lot of the responses wind up ignoring the religious and political oppression of LGBTQ communities and treating homo/transphobia as “people think of you as weird.” Being considered weird is probably the smallest part of what most LGBTQ people have to face, and certainly doesn’t hold a candle to systemic oppression. That is what is threatening and problematic — not the notion of comparison, but deliberately ignoring systemic oppression in favor of “well people are mean.”

              1. Jules the Third*

                This is a totally fair and reasonable critique. I agree with you completely.

                1. Jules the Third*

                  I really like the LBGTQx persecution and racism example – there are so many economic aspects to racism, and religious aspects to LBGTQx persecution that do make them relevantly different.

            2. Specialk9*

              I’m really thankful for this whole thread. My personal line is that I can’t know every experience personally, but I can listen and be as kind as possible when people seem to be suffering.

              I appreciate the queer perspective being shared here on the line between compassion and comparison.

              I have straight-up LG friends, but hang out more with people in the BTQA+ sides of the community, and I hear a lot of people who aren’t L or G talk about how the queer community often reacts with unkindness and open rejection to them (one quote to a bi friend was “you shouldn’t be here, because you can pass and I can’t, so you’re not really queer”), and how it’s only technically their community because there isn’t a better option for them.

              It’s always seemed odd to me that a group whose primary identity is around shared suffering isn’t kind unless the suffering fits into certain boxes. So I’ve been appreciating hearing some of the thoughts on the other side on why they’re so protective and react so strongly.

              And I get it, if anyone with a thing is in, it delegitimizes and dilutes the group.

              Educational all around. Thanks everyone for the shared insight.

        4. Betsy*

          I don’t think all strange behaviours or identities that are not considered normal will inevitably become normalised. For a start, I think there are too many different niche sexual behaviours or identities for them to all become mainstream. With sexual and gender identity, there have always been at least homosexual/homoerotic behaviours, if not always accompanied by clearly defined identities. There have also always been people who transgressed gender boundaries. And as others have pointed out, gender and sexuality are seen as key social divisions.

          I’m sure, though, that we’d be surprised by future identities if we were suddenly transported into the future; there will almost certainly be some we never would have predicted. I agree with you about that part.

          Early queer theory did try to argue more for coalitions between non-normative sexual groups, but that’s since become a pretty unpopular argument as queer people became pretty keen to keep their distance from groups like NAMBLA, for instance.

          For me, expectations around gender and sexuality have been quite restrictive up until recently, so that really accounts for people ‘deviating’ from the norm. Of course, if there are strict social rules about only having married procreative sex with someone of the ‘opposite’ sex, and men needing to act and dress in certain ways, and women being expected to be completely the opposite, then some people will break these restrictions. They were pretty much impossible to keep, so you could say the rules themselves ensured the ‘deviations’ in a way.

          However, I think not being a wolf is a pretty clear physical limitation of being a human, in a very different way than the idea that being born male means you shouldn’t wear lipstick and dresses and have long hair and be kind and caring. (*I’m not ruling out any biological influences here, but I think biology is beautifully variable).

      3. Dust Bunny*

        OMG this. And I’m a cis straight white woman. But my weird private life is not comparable.

      4. Tea*

        As another queer person whose eyes roll heavenward when people bring up any kind of comparison between animal/fandom identities with gender or sexuality I completely feel you.


        I know trans people and queer people who are mentally ill/also on the otherkin wagon, and who actively compare the “discrimination” faced by people in those groups to the oppression and struggles they faced being LGBT and/or to the struggles faced by mentally ill people trying to integrate with the rest of society. To be honest, I wholly disagree, but at the same time, it seems pretty crappy to argue with other queer folks or non cis folks about how they should or shouldn’t feel about the oppression they’ve faced.

    15. dr_silverware*

      Maybe. I only think it compares to homosexuality and being transgender once you get really, really, really deep in the weeds of “everything is a construct.” At that point you’re saying “since race is a construct you can be transracial, since gender is made up you can be a fictional character.” And that place is not actually helpful to start from, though it’s really easy to try to be so fair, so acknowledging of societal constructs, that you end up there.

      I think there’s a lot of value in meeting people where they are, whether that’s with quirks or mental health or health. But I still really don’t think that America especially is at all close to an anything-goes work atmosphere.

      Here are some of the litmus tests imo:

      1. Is this involving someone in my sex life or making someone think they’re being involved in my sex life? (Example: kinky sub wanting everyone to call her boyfriend her master)

      2. Is this plucking the strings of other social power structures? (Example: the waifu subculture in the US can end up pretty racist–rife with fantasies about submissive Asian women and acting out those fantasies on body pillows; or, more seriously, Rachel Dolezal)

      3. Is this harming anyone? (Example: frightening customers by growling and snarling, and being physically uncontrolled)

      4. Is this signal a problem with your decision-making (per grace’s comment)? (Example: if you’re deeply enmeshed in another subculture’s norms and misapplying those norms to work without recognizing that the culture and context are different)

      I think, for me, those are the big signs that a behavior needs to be modulated at work.

        1. dr_silverware*

          Yeah, I feel a little bad for being the one, since it’s such a gimme–but I do think that she’s a good example of erroneously reducing identity to “everything is made up and the points don’t matter” in a really harmful way.

          1. Snark*

            Yeah, no, wasn’t intending to call you out, it just struck me as an interesting parallel that didn’t really fit into any point I was going to make.

            1. dr_silverware*

              I get you, but thank you for the clarification–just thinking out loud a little more about an example that’s still pretty loaded.

      1. Manders*

        I think those litmus tests are great. #4 is the umbrella the rest all fall under–really, if you’ve got poor decision-making skills, you could be doing something inappropriate at work even if you’re not part of any oddball groups.

      2. Annie Moose*

        This is an incredibly useful comment to me. I’ve come in contact with some of these communities before (otherkin, “Snapewives”, etc.) and never knew how to articulate what my issues are and where to draw the line between “I don’t personally understand this and it squicks me out on a personal level” and “this is a legitimate issue and not just my personal issues”.

        I’m going to save a copy of these and have a look at them when I start getting weird about stuff. I know your focus was on work, but I think they can apply in other contexts too.

    16. Opalescent Tree Shark*

      Eh, I don’t think it will ever be fully accepted. LGBT identities have no impact on your ability to do your job. If you are a transwoman and want to be treated as a woman at work, that is your right and has no impact on your ability to do your job. On the other hand, if you are an otherkin who believes they are a wolf, wolves don’t have jobs and can’t do most human jobs, so that could theoretically very much impact your ability to do your job.

      Similarly, the gender of your partner has no bearing on your work, but just the generally concept of “being in a relationship” with an inanimate object or not real person or even a person you don’t know could definitely call into question your judgment. I would think it’s equally weird for someone to have a picture of Chris Evans on their desk and refer to him as their boyfriend as it would be to have a picture of a cartoon character, even though having a crush on a celebrity is much more conventionally accepted.

      1. Luna*

        I went to college with someone who used to refer to a certain celebrity as her boyfriend, in a serious way.

        Turns out that celebrity had an actual restraining order against her because she had been stalking him. She has pretty severe mental health problems.

        So I don’t think it does anyone any good to “accept” certain fringe behavior that is clearly not okay. It’s usually a sign of pretty serious mental and/or emotional health issues.

          1. fposte*

            Sure. But I also think implicit in the question was the notion that there’s a consensus about the expression of identity at work as a right, and I don’t think there is that consensus; I think it’s an overextrapolation from discussions about some specific kinds of identity.

            (BTW, really like your upthread post on this. I think it’s easy to be overdismissive on this–it’s a temptation I succumb to sometimes as well.)

      2. Specialk9*

        This is awfully dismissive of the simple fact that still today, many many people believe that being gay or trans is very applicable to work, because it’s a sign of perversion, mental illness, etc – and so calls into question one’s ability to make sound decisions (in the exact way people were questioning the husbando’s decision-making). My prior company was unusually LGB weighted (not friendly per se) and they almost all kept their personal lives very private because it would impact their careers. So I feel like these bright shining lines you’re drawing here are not really reflected in the reality I’ve seen.

    17. Rozine*

      If I identify as a cat and wearing cat ears to work is part of my identity and helps my dysphoria much like a trans person dresses as the gender they identify with, denying that is oppression is it not?

      1. Snark*

        No, it is not. And the comparison is a problem, and that’s been explained multiple times already, so maybe cut that right out.

        1. Sparkly Lady*

          But it does seem similar to the Body Integrity Identity Disorder thread. Whether caused by a mental illness, a currently unknown physical cause, or something else, if someone genuinely has serious distress that can be mitigated by cat ears or similar, why shouldn’t that be respected?

      2. Envoy*

        If you (this hypothetical, otherkin “you”) truly believed you were a cat and wanted to wear cat ears all the time, I would naturally also expect you to spend all of your time sleeping, hunting for and eating live mice, peeing in a litterbox, etc. I would expect you to be able to communicate solely in meows and growls, and to have no interest in “human” things like voting rights or iPads or oh I don’t know, working for a living.

        But as a human being who, presumably, IS interested in working for a living, you’d need to put the cat ears away and act like a human at work.

        1. Specialk9*

          A more compassionate answer would be:

          “Sure, wear your cat ears! But recognize that you’re far enough in the fringe that you will have to find or create a community in which that is considered acceptable. This may mean that making a living is very hard, or that you may have to balance making money with the need for your cat ears. But you get to make choices in life, and good luck!”

          But that may just be my hippie commune childhood talking here. :D

      3. fposte*

        No. At least not in current culture. Work limits all kinds of expression of people’s identities; that’s the default, and it’s a huge chunk of Alison’s columns. It’s not oppression; it’s the norm. It takes a lot of cultural work (and legal change) to carve out an exception to that default right.

      4. Paperclip Plenipotentiary*

        I’d accept you as long as you can walk the walk by eating tin of cat food for lunch.

        Cheap cat food mind.

        1. Specialk9*

          Seems weirdly punitive. Hey you’re weird, you shouldn’t be allowed to do this thing unless you do this other thing I find gross.

          (Side eye to you)

          1. Perse's Mom*

            I think it’s more about ‘you believe you’re a cat but conveniently only in the ways that are cute or positive, but not in any of the other ways that define a cat being a cat.’ If that’s how you’re a cat… then you identify as someone who likes to wear cat everywhere.

    18. Close Bracket*

      I except everybody as part of whatever community they want to identify with, although some, like other kids, I think our delusional. I won’t tell them their delusional though, I keep that to myself and smile and nod, just like I do when people bring up acupuncture.
      If my coworker growled at me, I would hit them on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and yell, “NO!”

      1. La Chismosa*

        Acupuncture! hahaha

        I accept everyone as well. I grew up around gay, trans, and cross dressers and have a close trans friend who has otherkin friends. I love hearing stories! One is a succubus. She also has vampire friends who are in a small blood sharing community (although she told me that blood sharing is monogomaous and sex is poly).

        I have never met any otherkin people but I do have a 7 pointed star tattoo that I got when I was 18 (at the time I researched it, it was a type of spiritual star called the Elven star) and to my surprise the otherkin wikipedia page has that star as the “otherkin sign” hahah

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          For someone who “accepts” us you’re certainly very bad at listening to us.

          1. Betsy*

            To be a good ally, it might be better not to use phrases like ‘I have gay friends’ to justify disagreeing with queer people about queer issues. It’s been parodied a lot and reminds me of shows like Absolutely Fabulous, where one of Eddie’s catchphrases is ‘All my friends are gay’.

            1. Snark*

              And it usually helps to not implicitly assume the primacy of your own assumptions and experience when someone tells you you’re off base. It’s nice that you have gay friends. That doesn’t immunize you from stepping wrong or give you the benefit of blanket doubt.

            2. CityMouse*

              This. So much this. Cranky protective older sister time:

              I have observed my sister deal with real painful discrimination out in the world with her girlfriend. Things that you take for granted, like walking with your partner or eating at a restaurant, become fraught with peril. She got mistreated in school just because people guessed she was LGBT and by one of our aunts for just wanting to live her life quietly with her girlfriend.

              The comparison doesn’t work. Leave it.

    19. Rad Fem*

      One of the fun benefits of NOT bringing personal life (esp subcultures) into the workplace is that nice little feeling that one gets from having a “secret” or out side of work life!
      It does concern me that the internet has become a catalyst for mass folie a deux. Why should we all become non consenting participates in someone’s belief that they are other than their physical and biological reality?

      1. Snark*

        In the context of the transphobic site you linked to, I’m real not okay with that last line.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I like the assumption that you can be privy to someone else’s “biological reality” when you first meet them. And by “like” I mean “am rolling my eyes extra sarcastically hard at” cause that’s hilariously stupid.

        2. Galatea*

          Right? Loving the explicit transphobia being snuck in under the guise of dunking on otherkin, it’s a GREAT look /s

      2. Betsy*

        But how do you know that biology neatly divides into manly men and womanly women? How about people who don’t fit and how can you prove that’s not also a biological reality?

        I wish rad fems were still focusing on violence prevention and reproductive rights instead of bashing minorities. Because I really respect all the awesome stuff they did back in the day.

        1. CityMouse*

          As someone who has studied biology, the whole argument is also based on a complete understanding of biology. Nature itself is not binary, external sex characteristics and chromosomes are not always the same, showing that hormonal factors really are crucial to ones own sex identity and we know that people are exposed to a wide range of hormones in the womb. Biological knowledge shows that being transgender is actually “natural”.

          Of course even if it wasn’t this isn’t something that is anyone else’s business or decision.

          1. Jules the Third*

            I think you mean ‘INcomplete understanding of biology’, and yes yep yeppers to the rest.

            1. CityMouse*

              Yeah. I am bad at typing on my phone and need to proofread better (autocorrect doesn’t help).

          2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

            People like this make me want to grow my beard out, just so I can stare them down challengingly.

            What biological reality am I then, huh?

            1. CityMouse*

              To be clear, I am saying that anyone who has taken a basic biology course knows that nature itself doesn’t have a good way of defining sex. Trying to define male or female using genetics or external sex characteristics would still leave ambiguities.

              Genes =/= biological sex characteristics =/= gender expression.

          3. Fumika*

            Humans are dimorphic animals- meaning male and females have different appearances and characteristics. Certain gender traits such as wearing dresses versus ties are certainly social constructs, however a trans woman cannot be truly female and vice versa. I think that was the point.

            1. fposte*

              But there is no “truly.” There is no immutable external measurement having nothing to do with human perception that makes that incontrovertible.

              1. Specialk9*

                Fumika, the point was understood, but it is a point contradicted by the very science it tries to simplify, twist and use as justification; and it is in contradiction with kindness and the golden rule in the religions it tries to simplify, twist, and use as justification.

                In short, it’s a mean ignorant bigoted point.

            2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Nature is not binary.

              There are people who are intersex. There are people you would identify, on looking at them, as women — but they have XY chromosomes. I (presumably, I’ve never checked) have XX chromosomes, but I can grow a beard.

              Nature is not frickin binary.

              1. Fumika*

                That would be a deformity, people can certainly dress how they want or call themselves what they want, but you were either meant to carry a fetus or fertilize an egg. Wearing a dress does not change that

                1. fposte*

                  You’re falling afoul of the teleological fallacy there. The only “meant” comes from humans, and “meant” is generally the way they try to make their own beliefs sound external and immutable.

                2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


                  Reducing people down to their reproductive organs is pretty fucked up, in case you weren’t aware.

                3. Amtelope*

                  What do you mean by “meant”? Biology doesn’t have intentions. Intersex people are as much a product of biological processes as XY males with typical anatomy and XX females with typical anatomy.

                  Also, you’re conflating sex and gender; even if it were true that there are only two biological sexes (reality is more complex), that isn’t the same question as how many genders a given society has, or who belongs to what gender.

                4. Just Jess*

                  OK, there’s a lot to address in your X:42pm comment Fumika, but I’m wondering what’s your point?

                  This sub-thread already covered that there are intersex people who can neither get pregnant nor get pregnant. There are people who grow beards (without hormonal supplements) who can get pregnant, there are people who are biologically XXY and so on. BTW, these people tend to not say “deformity” about themselves anymore than they’d say “Freak.” The “there are only two sexes and those two sexes line up with two genders” argument is done.

                5. Fumika*

                  Isn’t the purpose of having two sexes for biological reproduction? Having more than 2 actual sexes is redundant.

                  If you don’t like deformity then anomaly?

                6. Tardigrade*

                  Sexual reproduction produces more genetic diversity, the very thing you’re terming “deformity” or “anomaly,” but that has shit-all to do with how people identify. And it also seems reductive to suggest a person’s entire purpose is purely reproductive (meant to carry a fetus or fertilize an egg). Wheezus.

                7. Just Jess*

                  First, I have a small typo. I meant to say that there are fully complete, worthy, and valid people who can neither get pregnant nor get someone else pregnant. They are awesome folks who have lives that are bigger than their reproductive systems.

                  Second, I’m acknowledging the response to be that “having more than two sexes is redundant” is Fumika’s stated point after this whole thread on acknowledging people’s identities as more than what their reproductive systems do.

                8. Amtelope*

                  Can’t nest comments any further, but two things: first, “the purpose of having two sexes is for biological reproduction” still implies purposeful creation. That’s not how evolution works. The existence of more variation than “there are two sexes” may be redundant for reproduction, but lots of features that evolve are not perfectly “efficient,” because evolution does not work that way.

                  And second, sex is STILL not equal to gender. How many sexes humans have does not determine how many genders humans have. Those are not the same question.

                9. Specialk9*

                  I have a friend with Turner Syndrome, XO, which comes with sterility. Tell her to her face she isn’t a woman (or presumably even human, by your reasoning).

                  Actually, don’t, she might actually commit suicide this time.

                  You’re deeply cruel, Fumika.

                10. This Daydreamer*

                  People have been killed for being trans. They have lost jobs. They have been tortured. They have been tortured in the name of “therapy”. Trans people have faced every single kind of physical and mental violence out there.

                  Saying they’re deformed is, at best, adding insult to injury.

                  Science has shown us that there are demonstrable differences between his brains and trans brains. Imagine waking up tomorrow in the body of the opposite sex. Would you feel comfortable? Would you feel like you can truly be yourself in this foreign body? I know I would be extremely uncomfortable in a man’s body.

            3. CityMouse*

              My point then is that nature isn’t binary. For instance, XY individuals with total androgen insensitivity naturally appear completely female and often behave and identify as totally female. Genetics and phenotype do not match up.

              There really is no such thing as totally male or female in biology because genotype=/=phenotype. There is no one way to define sex that nearly puts everyone in logical boxes.

      3. Jules the Third*

        Because everyone gets to define their own self. You don’t get to define it for them. Their identity is not up for your participation.

        It is the one freedom that every adult should have – control over their own self, body and mind.

      4. Rulesfor*

        Alison, if you see this and get the chance, I’d really appreciate seeing you address this comment in whatever way you feel is appropriate.

    20. Laura H*

      I don’t want to be offensive so FWIW, I’m straight and cis, thus my sense of this issue is highly skewed and not at all comprehensive.

      Haven’t read the replies to this yet but I don’t think this stuff is likely to go mainstream anytime soon. The LGBT stuff is just now getting where it needs to be- but still prolly has a long way to go. (This isn’t my area of expertise.)

      Again my opinion is sorta small potatoes, but I feel like this kin stuff undermines the progresses that other classes (lgbt, disabled,women- im prolly forgetting some) have made in the workplace.

      Frankly- I’m still torn between whether that particular expression of fandom of yesterday’s letter is either “mad props for doing something I never could” or “I’m all for having a Mr. Really Hot in one’s fandom of choice but THAT is waaaay too far”.

      1. Manders*

        Yes, you put your finger on the thing that’s really making me uncomfortable here. Is it ok to have a quirk like an anime boyfriend or a wolf persona? Sure. There’s no need to go out of your way to “fix” a coworker who’s got a weird but harmless habit.

        But the language about discrimination and acceptance comes from some really painful, complicated stuff and the people who worked hard for labor rights aren’t going to drop everything to fight for your right to growl at customers.

        1. DoesThatMakeMeSpeciest*

          Why does a wolf need a job? Don’t they need a pack? Isn’t a human job against their nature anyway? If you can rationalize the need for an animal to be employed then you can rationalize that they need to behave like a human to keep that job.

          1. Manders*

            I think we’re pretty much in agreement here. I don’t think you can logically argue someone out of their belief that they’re a wolf, but you can hold them to the same standards of professionalism as everyone else.

          1. VelociraptorAttack*

            I also want to pop in and say you’ve been wonderful through this whole thread, thank you for no doubt being annoyed and mentally exhausted throughout your day in order to share your thoughts.

            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

              Hah, thank you! I spent enough years quietly cringing and saying nothing in the face of people being homophobic and nasty; now that I’m old enough and confident enough in myself, I’m pretty much ready to fight for my rights whenever.

          2. Autumn anon*

            I too want to add my voice to those thanking you. I really appreciate your comments on this thread and the emotional energy you’ve put into making them.

        2. Alton*

          I think that last sentence is key. It’s not that multiple groups can’t have some similar experiences or even conceptualize their own identities in similar ways. This just doesn’t make them the same or directly comparable. I also think that there’s especially baggage associated with drawing comparisons to LGBT people because because 1) LGBT people are often compared to or accused of being sexual predators and 2) the nature of sexual orientation and gender identity make them inherently subjective and difficult to define, and many people are accused of making things up for attention, going through a phase, or being “confused.” So comparing LGBT identities to identities that are often more explicitly sexual (like BDSM) or that come across as pretend to many people (like being otherkin) has some heavy baggage.

    21. AngelicGamer aka that visually impaired peep*

      I do know someone who considers themselves, a bit, otherkin. However, they don’t really display it at work all that much. When they do, it’s considered one of their quirks because they’re a barista and they can read people extremely well. So they know when / when not to bring in a customer or employee for what they’re doing. Their co-workers have accepted them well but they’re also in Madison. Madison is one of those places where I think it’s more “oh, they’re doing that, okay” type places than a lot of other places in the US. I think it would be okay in the same type of job in Chicago but with a lot more side glances / complaining to management about it. They really picked the right place to have their quirk (their word about it, not mine).

    22. Mephyle*

      Many people have repeated that the person was “growling at customers” but note that this wolfkin wasn’t growling AT customers, they were growling and hunching over at work when customers might have seen them (and probably did). Still not appropriate, but not the same as interacting with customers in a growling fashion.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Eh, I think that might get into the “distinction without a difference” point. Just because there isn’t a customer actively looking at you at the very moment doesn’t mean you’re no longer under the obligation to act like a professional at work.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yeeeeah, I don’t think that makes any kind of difference. Growling, hunching, scratching in places humans find inappropriate? That’s not ok in the workplace, and call me an old fuddy-duddy, but I am just fine with it staying that way.

      2. Mephyle*

        I’m not saying it was in any way appropriate or professional (it’s not!) but it still seems to me that the distinction is the same as between saying “F* you” to a customer, or saying “sorry, this f*ing pen is out of ink” in front of a customer. Both are offensive to the customer, but the former is aggressive toward the customer where the latter isn’t.

        1. Observer*

          Actually, if someone were screaming that and slamming the pen in full view of the customer, most people would consider it aggressive enough to be a problem.

        2. Mephyle*

          I agree. I’m not making a distinction between acceptable and unacceptable, or comfortable and uncomfortable, but between aggression directed towards a customer and behaviour (unacceptable as it is) which is not aggression directed towards a customer.

      3. Observer*

        Also, no “might” about it. One of the reasons he was acting this way was because there were customers there who were addressing him, and he was overwhelmed. He was reported by some of those customers.

  16. Foreign Octopus*

    I have a problem that’s come up this afternoon.

    I’m an ESL teacher and I normally have to explain to students why certain words can’t be said – think swear words – and I also have to teach them the degree of severity. For example, why shit isn’t as bad as fuck. It’s part of my job and I don’t mind it because I have the same difficulty in Spanish of understanding which swear words are stronger than others. You need someone to explain and I’m that someone.

    However, this afternoon, one of my students used the n-word to describe the Luke Cage Netflix show. He said “and that n***** show”. At first, I thought I misheard because he said it so quickly but when he repeated it, I stopped him and explained that we don’t use that word to describe black people, we simply use the word “black”. Normally (this has happened once or twice before), that stops it and they’re really embarrassed that they made the mistake and it’s not a problem, they never use it again.

    This student though said “oh, I know, it’s just between us” and then proceeded to ramble on.

    I’m really not sure what to do now. I addressed it in the moment how it wasn’t appropriate but the fact that he knew it wasn’t and said it was between us shocked me for long enough that he was able to keep talking. I have one more lesson booked with him and then I intend to not take any more classes from him because it’s made me deeply uncomfortable.

    My question is, how should I have approached it after the second point where he said it was just between us from an ESL point of view (I know how I would have done it in a normal situation but in this situation where the language is a second language, I’m torn on my approach).

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I don’t think the ESL dimension really makes this all that different from how you’d handle it normally. When the student says “Oh I know, it’s just between us” you stop him and reiterate that no, it’s not just between us, that is not acceptable language and it won’t be tolerated.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes, exactly this.

        Octopus, you definitely have room to push back in the next lesson and say, “I was thinking about you using the n-word in our last lesson and I wanted to bring it up again because it’s important that I emphasize how incredibly offensive and unacceptable that word is for you to say — in fact, I won’t hear it being used at all. There isn’t a context you’ll ever be in where it will be ok for you to say that word.” Depending on your relationship with him, I think you could also talk about the impact using a word like that will have on how he is perceived.

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          I really, really like this script. I’ve just copied and pasted it so that I don’t forget it.

          As for my relationship with him, today was my first lesson with him so he’s a brand new student. He’s booked one more lesson with me (he booked two at once) and depending on his reaction when I use this script, I might not continue with him.

          Thanks so much for the great words. I really appreciate it.

        2. Little Bean*

          I do think it’s possible that the ESL dimension is relevant, because hopefully the student doesn’t realize the history of this word. It’s possible he’s just thinking that it’s like a swear word – you shouldn’t use it in polite company but it’s ok to say around friends. I have known people from other countries who have used the n-word rather casually before being informed that it was not ok in the US.

          1. Julianne*

            I’m also an ESL teacher, and I agree; it’s still not acceptable to use certain words, but without knowledge of the historical/cultural/etc. reasons why we don’t use certain words in English, it’s conceivable to me that in the first-ever conversation about a word, the learner may not grasp just how serious it is. I have had this experience as a teacher of English with the n-word, as well as other derogatory terms for black people, and also with derogatory terms for East Asians. That said, this possible lack of understanding isn’t a free pass for the student to use the word repeatedly or ignore/brush off correction, and I do think it’s part of my/our job as ESL teachers to address it. I like Parenthetically’s script!

      2. Alternative Person*

        I think the ESL dimension can matter because you’re dealing with a different set of cultural norms, and with people who might not be old enough to truly understand the nuances involved with certain words, or might not have access to the kind of information that would make the difference clear and might not even have the language to understand why its a problem. I work in Japan and there are several well, blindpots when it comes to things like racial issues that a lot of people, especially young people don’t understand because they don’t know the history or haven’t seen how it functions in real life and don’t have the frame of reference for it.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I don’t think it matters in the response, because what you’re saying is the same as trying to teach any kid social norms — first and foremost, ‘That is not a word we use. Do not use that word. There will be consequences if you do.” Understanding why is important, but getting it out of the working vocabulary is the most important.

        2. Observer*

          None of this is relevant. For some context – I’m a member of an immigrant community. I’d say 90%+ of my parents’ cohort learned English as adults. My husband is ALSO an immigrant, who learned English as a teen. So, I have a very good understanding of the reality of how these issues play out.

          People make a lot of weird mistakes when using a second language. That’s completely true. Which is why it was totally appropriate for Octopus to initially respond with an informational type of response. But the minute someone says “I know” and “This is just between us” that means that they ARE perfectly aware that what they just said is NOT acceptable in general polite company, at the very least, but they are saying it ANYWAY. Maybe they don’t get HOW bad it is, but they most definitely know that it was not appropriate.

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            I think this is a really interesting and relevant point of view. Thank you for sharing, Observer.

            People do make weird mistakes with their second language. God knows I have in Spanish (a memorable time was when I accidentally called a woman a dirty pig instead of ordering a specific white wine with a name that was very close to a sexual slur in Spanish – oh, the fun).

            I’m troubled by the fact that I didn’t shut it down after he said “this is between us”. I felt uncomfortable with what was happening and I moved past it and I wish that I hadn’t because that’s not the type of person I want to be.

            I’m not sure if he’s aware of how bad it is but since he knows it’s a bad word and showed no remorse for using it after I explained it wasn’t something we used, I’m not really willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in this situation.

            1. Specialk9*

              Lots of us draw a blank in the moment and need some time later to reflect (that’s my whole life in a nutshell!). It’s totally ok to come back later and address it. I used to think that I either had to say something then or never, but it’s not true.

              And as someone who has lived in foreign languages, ‘oh I know’ can mean I’ve learned a rule incorrectly or from someone who is not correct, not that I’m not open to a better rule. Getting a better handle on how to act is a huge kindness to people floundering through unfamiliar waters.

      3. A Teacher*

        fellow teacher, high school for what its worth. Can you do an SEL lesson on the context of the word? I know one of our SPED teachers is doing one on students using the terms “queer” and “gay” as insults and students saying that they would beat their kids if they came out that way. I think how you initially handled it was great, lots of random stuff comes up when teaching. Focusing on what we can use. Like a compare contrast or, and I don’t always love them, a mini Socratic seminar with terminology?

        1. Foreign Octopus*

          Normally I do that with students that I’ve had for a while where we take certain phrases and we talk about the history of the word but he’s a brand new student and he said it within 15 minutes of meeting me, which made me very surprised.

          1. A Teacher*

            Might be good for a compare contrast activity with terms–even with new kids. It can also be tied to class expectations and use of certain words or types of words.

      4. Lady Sybil*

        It’s just possible the ESL dimension is partly relevant. On the one hand, this person obviously does know that the word is inappropriate. On the other, there might be room for some benefit of the doubt as to their awareness of just how inappropriate it is for them to use it.

        For context, English is my second language as well and I have noticed that even relatively proficient ESL speakers residing in non-Anglophone countries often do not quite understand the specific history of this word in English and its reclaiming – it’s the latter that seem to confuse them. After all, they do hear it used in entertainment, and might even think it’s transgressive in a cool sort of way.

        So if (IF!) you think there might be more ignorance than racism here, this might be a worth clearing up. This looks like a relevant reading assignment for your student:

    2. dear liza dear liza*

      I would shut it down, politely but firmly. I had a colleague who had recently immigrated from another country and while her English was fluent, she didn’t know the accepted nuances of slurs etc, and she would often try to wave off derogatory language with, “oh, you know what I mean.” We were also work friends, so I think she felt she should have more verbal freedom. I took to saying, “No, that’s not okay. Don’t say that, even to me.” She’d roll her eyes at me, but she did rein it in.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, I used to have a coworker who spoke good English but wasn’t up to speed on the subtle meanings. He had sense enough to come ask a few of us whom he trusted particularly, before using any new and unfamiliar words. Mostly, they were harmless, but we had to warn him off a few terms.

    3. Tardigrade*

      Oh boy. Is there any chance he thought it was a swear like “fuck” and not a racial term? Or something like that?

      1. Naptime Enthusiast*

        That should be part of the conversation, it’s not okay because it is a terrible word to use and shouldn’t EVER be used even if you hear others use it, not because it’s a curse word that’s not okay in certain situations.

        Some native English speakers still don’t understand that.

      2. Emi.*

        Yeah, if he just thinks “sh–” is a rude way to say “poop” and “n—–” is a rude way to say “black person,” you have to clear that up. This is a different ball of wax from “don’t swear.”

      3. Foreign Octopus*

        I’m not sure. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what sort of influence has reached certain students. There are some countries where students know immediately it’s unacceptable, and others where they might have heard it in a TV show or film and not made the connection.

        1. Sleepy teacher*

          I had this type of situation with an ESL student, who in response to the question “What did you do at the weekend?” answered “I was hanging out with my n*****s”… he’d picked up the word from some media he’d been consuming, and genuinely thought it was an informal way of saying “friends”. He hadn’t grasped that the word was being used in an incredibly specific context, and had no idea of the connotations associated with it.

    4. ANon.*

      “You might not be fully aware, but that word is not appropriate to say to anyone under any conditions or circumstances. Ever. If I ever hear you say that word again, I will have to terminate our lessons.”

    5. Alternative Person*

      If the student’s level is high enough and you have time (and knowledge), you could try talking about the historical and societal connotations and the ‘meaning’ meaning of the language involved.

      I had a student somewhat naively connect Muslims with terrorists and basically all the bad, untrue things people say about Islam and spent about ten minutes talking about and debunking the various misconceptions in somewhat simplified terms. The student seemed somewhat surprised but was very receptive (she’s one of my best students).

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        I do generally try to do that, simply because I really like the history behind words and why they’ve come to mean what they are, and most of my students appreciate it. I find the conversations that follow are really informative for both parties.

        Part of the problem with me was that I was just so surprised that he used it and then admitted to knowledge of it. Normally when I call people out on it, they stop using it. I’m slightly ashamed of myself that I didn’t press harder because I felt embarrassed.

    6. Snark*

      I think you need to re-address it, and emphasize that racism is not an okay thing even if it’s between two people not of the race being slighted. That’s a big deal. He might not understand that it’s, like, the Tsar Bomba of offensive things to say in English, but whether he thought it was milder than it is or not, he can’t go doin’ that.

    7. Anonymous Educator*

      I think you can approach it two ways:

      1. “I wanted to come back to you about you saying ‘It’s just between us.’ That word isn’t appropriate to use ever. It isn’t something that is just offensive in the presence of Black people. It is offensive period. I don’t approve of racism just because I’m _______ [whatever you are—not Black, I’m assuming?].”

      2. You’re the teacher. This student is learning English. You have to explain from a teacher perspective (not just a human being perspective) what the meanings and appropriate uses of words are in the English language.

    8. Not That Jane*

      Depending on his background, you could also just let him know who his bedfellows would be if he got into the “real world” outside of class and used that word. That is, tell him something like, “I know you don’t intend this at all, but if you use that word in front of almost anyone, you can come across to them as the worst kind of racist / white supremacist. That may not be true in your native language / culture, but it is true here and you should know that so you can make sure to come across how you would want to.”

    9. Observer*

      This has nothing to do with this being a second language. This guy knew that he was using an unacceptable word. He just thought he could use it with you because you share his racist ideas (or his level of potty mouth).

      Had he either apologized or asked questions about it, that would have been one thing. But when someone uses an unacceptable word and TELL YOU that he KNOWS it’s unacceptable, there is no wiggle room.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        This guy knew that he was using an unacceptable word. He just thought he could use it with you because you share his racist ideas (or his level of potty mouth).

        Precisely this. He knew exactly what that word meant – he said what he said. Anti-blackness is not just an American thing, it’s worldwide, so no, he doesn’t need to be given any benefits of doubt.

      2. Specialk9*

        Enh, not necessarily. When I lived in Spain, a common term used by university students to mean “awesome” was “puta peor”, or “worst b1tch”. (There are worse translations.) ‘Good I saw the worst-b1tch movie, it rocked.’ I thought it was bad, but along the line of b1tchin’, not along the line of f-ing. I put my foot in it, using that in other company, thinking I was showing my hard-earned colloquial slang, but I was just being very offensive.

        I’ve also mixed up git and tw@t with British people. Git is an insult, and kindergartners shouldn’t use it, but it’s pretty mild. Tw@t is basically the c-word, and as offensive. So there are lots of ways to think you’re being a little edgy, but not realize you’re way way way over the line.

        1. Specialk9*

          Or Germans with sh1t – the apparent equivalent “scheisse” seems to be used pretty casually, by respectable German grandmothers I’ve known… But it’s just not used that way in English. They use it like “crap” (a word that also means excrement and isn’t the most refined word, but isn’t a curse), but the similarity in meaning and sound throws them off.

    10. another ESL teacher*

      It’s still your prerogative to go back to it now. After all, if you realized that you taught the subjunctive and you didn’t address inversion, it would be perfectly fine to say “ok, returning to something we discussed yesterday, I want to give you more detail about how people use this grammatical structure.”
      While it’s great to get bigots to change their worldview, it requires a level of emotional labor, and an investment of time, that I can’t provide any more.
      In the end I focused on 1 enforcing standards for respectful behavior and language in the classroom and 2 communicating the expectations for professional behavior in American firms. This is actually similar to some of Allison’s advice — reframe success not as “getting your jerk direct report to become a nice person” but as “requiring your direct report to behave appropriately in the office.”

      1. Anonymous Educator*

        While it’s great to get bigots to change their worldview, it requires a level of emotional labor, and an investment of time, that I can’t provide any more.

        Additionally, getting bigots to change their worldview is a lofty goal, but there is a lesser and still worthy goal of not giving them free rein to use racial slurs in front of other people. Sometimes changing behavior is a good first step. I don’t need to hear every horrible thought that every person has just because they have those thoughts.

      2. Foreign Octopus*

        I think this is great advice. Thank you.

        I think I do need to go back and enforce the behaviour because it made me very, very uncomfortable, and you’re right about the fact that if it had been grammar or something else, I would go back to it without a problem. Thanks for this.

    11. Shannon*

      Can you explain the historical significance behind that term? That it’s not just a bad word, that there’s a lot of ugly history behind it?
      Maybe that will help the student.

      1. Bleeborp*

        Everyone here seems to have really jumped to the conclusion that since the student knew it was bad they are definitely racist and there is nothing left to teach them that could help. The poster was very clear that the issue was explaining the severity of different words and it could easily be the issue that the student is underestimating the severity of the word and needs more context to know exactly how bad it is.

    12. disconnect*

      “And keeping it between us, I find that word gross and offensive. Don’t use it again.”

    13. Spider*

      If it helps, when I took Russian in college, both of my professors took the time every semester to talk to the class about the cultural minefield of swearing in your non-native languages.

      In your native language, you learn by experience how much of a social taboo it is to say one word over another, and in what circumstances is it socially acceptable to violate those taboos and to what degree. But in learning other languages, everyone thinks it’s funny to learn the profanities, but you really shouldn’t use them with native speakers because you really can’t tell what kind of impact you’re having.

      In Russia in particular, swearing is more shocking than it is in the US and basically has its own dialect — my native-Russian speaker would even reword sentences in our textbook that used words which were (in another context) euphemisms for profanity, because she was uncomfortable using them herself and teaching us to use them in any context. (An analogy might be something like the word “sucks” in English — “this sucks” is a pretty mild term these days, but imagine the professor rewording the sentence, “The hummingbird sucks nectar from the flower” to avoid saying “sucks”. That might seem like kind of an extreme move to avoid an innocuous word, but it really struck me as an indication of how much more impactful profanity is in Russia vs the US.)

      So, all this long-windedness to say, I think it would be a great idea to spend some time in class on the issue of profanity with your ESL students as a whole. You can then pull individual students aside and talk to them about particular words they’ve used, reminding them of what you told the class.

      1. Specialk9*

        Oh yeah, my Russian boyfriend wouldn’t even teach me curse words in Russian when I was studying it, and he used the f-word in English like a Marine. He practically got the vapors at the idea, which… was odd. So that’s useful context!

    14. Not So NewReader*

      “oh, I know, it’s just between us”

      No, he does not know.

      This is what causes racism to remain alive. People tolerate it in their private conversations because “it’s just between them”. You can explain to him that we EACH are responsible for ending racism, sexism and so on. And we do that by telling the offender NO. It does not matter if it is a one-on-one conversation or a group who know each other fairly well.

      If it were me, I would have to say, “When I tell you guys that something is reeeeally bad to say in English, ‘oh I know, it’s just between us’ is NOT the correct answer. The correct answer is an apology to the group and a promise not to do it again.”

      You may have to have this conversation again when he finds the c-word. It will be handy to have this to go back to.

  17. RemoteDreams*

    My first interview went well! Have a second interview setup for the beginning of next week. My remote dreams might come true :) This one’s via Skype. Anyone happen to have any awesome advice for video interviews? I know the general stuff, like dress up and pick the one room of your house that’s good looking (that’s the hard part, haha).

    Also, I had to name a number despite trying not to, so I suspect if I get an offer it could be that number… is it possible to negotiate up after you’ve named a number? I feel like as long as I didn’t push it, it’d be fine? Something like “after learning more about the position…”

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’ve done a few skype interviews, and I would just make sure you’re in a location with good internet connectivity, not the one black hole in the house where the router never quite seems to reach. Also, give yourself a few extra minutes on the front end in case any technology issues arise – I’ve had my internet randomly cut out 5 minutes before a skype call and I frantically had to reset the whole thing and wait for my laptop to reconnect.

      Also, if you have any pets (or kids, I suppose) who like to make noise, make sure they’re safely sequestered away from the room you’ll be interviewing in. Nothing like trying to stay calm and professional while a deranged cat tries to break down the office door (ask me how I know….)

      1. RemoteDreams*

        No pets or kids, only my partner. I’ll have to do my best to keep them from trying to break down any doors ;)

    2. Wendy Darling*

      Make sure your webcam isn’t pointed up your nose. If you use a laptop you might want to put it on a stack of books or something. Your interviewer won’t care, but you will keep looking at the little cutout window of your video and going OH GOD I HAVE EIGHT CHINS.

      I know this due to reasons.

      1. Snark*

        Warm lighting, too. Normal sunlight on a webcam makes me look like I’m about to shuffle off and eat brains.

    3. Triplestep*

      I googled this topic once and read a few tips about lighting. I can’t remember them, but just wanted to suggest you do a ‘net search yourself and not leave the lighting to chance.

    4. Make an assessment.*

      Ah sweet Skype. So simple, but remember – to simulate eye contact most accurately – to look into your camera, not at the interviewer — and PRACTICE this, because it’s super unnatural and hard to do consistently! But having been on the hiring manager side of this, wow, it’s an impressive (and rare, sadly) display of confidence. Good luck!

      1. RemoteDreams*

        Oooo that’s great, I always try to do this, but I bet practicing it would be so much better! Thanks :)

        1. SCanonibrarian*

          stick a sticky note with eyes drawn on it onto the webcam (don’t cover it up) to draw your eyes up
          there and give you something to look at. A friend took it a step further and put a nice encouraging smiling photo of her favorite celebrity up there.

    5. Goya de la Mancha*

      If you have a toddler and nanny – make sure the door is locked to your room….

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        The woman who came to get the children out of BBC Dad’s unlocked home office was their mother. His wife. Not the nanny.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          Oops! I don’t know if I ever read anything on it, I just remember seeing the clip and they way she rushed in hunkered down reminded me of a employee going “oh shit, oh shit, please don’t see me screw up!”

          1. Specialk9*

            In the original, the lighting made the first kid look towheaded, and the second kid was bald so in pixelation also looked blonde. (In the follow on interview it was clear the older kid was dark haired, and the baby had dark stubble.) It’s not a leap to see a blonde dad, two light haired kids, and an Asian woman and think nanny. I get the underlying social reasons why people got so mad, but it’s not crazy for someone to have a nanny, or to piece together information the best you can.

    6. catsaway*

      Definitely do a test run of the lighting – Set up video on FaceTime or Skype etc so you can see how you look on camera before the interview starts. I’ve done Skype interviews and I’ve found that I need a good source of light behind the computer (i.e. in front of my face). Since it’s Skype you can use whatever stage lighting looks best in your room as as long as it’s not behind you the interviewer won’t know

    7. Shannon*

      My advice for skype interviews is to pin my resume and notes (like reminders of good “have you ever” stories) behind the computer. Make sure it doesn’t look like you’re reading when you glance up.

      Good luck!

    8. nep*

      Congratulations. Glad first one went well — all the best with the second one. That’s great!

  18. Leggings aren't pants*

    Does anyone have a short-and-sweet dress code for a business casual environment? I’m a new manager in a new place and I’d hoped to avoid having a written dress code (my boss said I could have one or not, up to me), but my direct reports have come in wearing jeans, sneakers, and leggings. I spoke to them individually about appropriate clothing and those conversations went fine, but I’m about to onboard a bunch of new people so I’d like a policy in place.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      I don’t think a written dress code is something to avoid. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but having something that employees can refer back to is actually a plus, not a minus.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yes, agreed. It doesn’t have to be super complex, but something that specifically lists what they *can’t* wear would be useful, and the fact that it’s written down means that it’s not just “manager doesn’t like this,” or otherwise subjective.

    2. Leggings aren't pants*

      To clarify: can you share a short-and-sweet dress code? Everything I’m coming up with seems too wordy.

      1. Arielle*

        Our dress code is “Do not come to work in anything you’d wear to the beach, the club, or to bed.” I think that’s pretty short and sweet.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, ours is basically that plus gym – jeans are fine but not sweatpants/track pants sort of thing.

        2. Yorick*

          That’s a terrible dress code. It isn’t at all specific about the sort of things you shouldn’t wear.

        3. JHunz*

          Short, yes, but the opposite of sweet. It’s so non-specific that it could be used against almost anyone at any time, without offering any real guidance to anyone new about what they actually should be wearing. If you read the policy literally about the only footwear allowed for anyone are soberly colored flats – sandals and sneakers are beachwear, high heels, platforms, and boots are clubwear. Is this actually that formal an environment?

          1. Arielle*

            No, it’s an extremely informal and casual environment that trusts people to be adults with their clothing choices. It doesn’t mean don’t wear any individual item of clothing that might hypothetically be worn to any of those places, it means do not wear an entire outfit that would be better suited to the beach, like shorts and a bikini top.

          2. Specialk9*

            And there are lots of clubs – chess club, country club, Fight Club, duck club, Babysitters Club. Which eliminates pretty much all clothing.

      2. Tardigrade*

        Maybe have a statement like, “business casual dress should portray professionalism: shirts/blouses, slacks, skirts, and dresses without holes and of appropriate length” and then list some things that absolutely should not wear, “no jeans, leggings, sneakers.”

        1. Laura H*

          On the topic of jeans, there is such a thing as “dressy denim” that my workplace allows- I don’t utilize that part of the dress code, but if I ever choose to-I’ll be certain to get 110% correct on what does and does not fall under that dressy denim category.

          It’s worth noting.

          Is it that you want a thorough dress code but concise?

        2. Not for profit mid-level cog*

          Our code is literally just a chart:
          Acceptable Casual Slacks, Pants, and Skirts; Casual Shirts and Blouses; Casual Dresses and Sweaters

          Not Acceptable Denim Blue Jeans, Cotton or Nylon Sweatpants, Athletic Attire, Shorts, Spandex or other Form-Fitting Pants; Tank Tops, Halter Tops, Bare midriffs, T-shirts, or Low Cut Necklines; Strapless or Spaghetti Strap Sun-dresses, Sweat Suits or Sweatshirts

          It’s not perfect, but it covers most of the bases.

      3. JustShutUpAlready*

        And, just so it might come up, you may want to add that “just because you’re feeling hot, you cannot remove your sweater and be seen only in your bra.” This has happened in a place I used to work. There are photos.

        1. Bored All Day*

          We had a guy who decided to work one day in our warehouse without a shirt on. I think it only happened one time, but still…

      4. CheeryO*

        Why not just keep it simple and say something like, “Dress code is business casual. No leggings, jeans, or sneakers, or [whatever else you don’t want to see at work] are allowed.” I’d say that most working adults are capable of parsing that.

      5. LKW*

        I haven’t seen one in a while but used to be

        1. Clothes are clean and presentable, no holes or “distressed” clothing
        2. Jeans and athletic clothing are not work appropriate, track suits, leggings
        3. Men must wear long pants, shirts with collars and shirts can not have logos, writing, images.
        4. Women must wear skirts or long pants (no capris), tops should not be sleeveless or one should wear a jacket or sweater.
        5. Flip flops, sandals or other open toed shoes are not acceptable.

        1. Specialk9*

          No sleeveless, capris, or going without jacket or sweater?! So… Orthodox Jewish business casual?

    3. anon 4 now*

      Unless you are public facing you are going to get A LOT of pushback on this. A lot of people consider the ability to dress casually for work a huge perk. Taking that away with no justification WILL torpedo morale.

      1. Leggings aren't pants*

        We are public facing, and my direct reports said the dress expectations were appropriate.

    4. Seal*

      Why not just spell it out? Something like the dress code is business casual – no jeans, no leggings, no sneakers, no sandals, or whatever else you don’t want to see in the office. Don’t go overboard, though – that just irritates people.

      1. Grits McGee*

        I like this approach- unless you’re working with people that reasonably might not be familiar with the broad requirements of “business casual” (ex- interns, people new to the workforce), then people probably won’t need every acceptable and unacceptable item delineated and defined. I could see a dress code looking something like this:

        “The dress code at Llama’s Inc. is business casual. Inappropriate attire includes:
        Sleeveless shirts
        Athletic shoes (Except when necessitated by medical accommodation)

        If you have any questions about the dress code, please consult [HR Rep/Manager/Etc]”

        1. LadyKelvin*

          I would edit this to say “Inappropriate attire includes but is not exclusive to:” that way if someone wears something to work that isn’t on this list and isn’t appropriate, they can’t argue that you didn’t tell them they couldn’t wear it.

          1. Seal*

            Agreed. I’d also add something about t-shirts with political messages or slogans and the like to the list – it might save someone from an argument down the road (such as t-shirts aren’t on the banned list, what’s wrong with this one?).

            1. Annie Moose*

              Well, if the dress code is business casual, T-shirts probably aren’t allowed anyway.

              Either way, you could do something like, “no shirts with text” (they often look less formal than shirts without text). I guess you could even say “no overt political or religious messages”?

        2. Shannon*

          I like this. Especially since it isn’t gender specific. Every dress code I’ve ever had was a full paragraph on how women should dress and a sentence to not wear jeans for men.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah, dress codes tend to be super restrictive for women, and not at all for men. (Restrictive and sloot-shaming, even for little girls.)

    5. Drama Mama*

      As an employee, I’d rather have the clarity of a written dress code than a “manager will call you out if you don’t read her mind” dress code.
      Why are you trying to avoid having a written one?

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          I think she’s trying to not reinvent the wheel if someone already has one? That’s how I took the post anyway.

      1. kb*

        Yeah, especially because talking to individual violators privately when there is no publicly available set of rules tends to perpetuate the issue and create more work for you. The original offender will stop, but someone else has seen the offender wearing jeans. The other person doesn’t realize the offender was talked to, so this other person will wear jeans, assuming it’s chill, and need to be talked to.

    6. Snark*

      “I’d hoped to avoid having a written dress code”

      I understand the temptation to want to be the hip manager who doesn’t have a list of rules, but dress codes are the kind of thing that really do need to be codified.

      1. Leggings aren't pants*

        Eh, I have no dreams of being hip. I just have witnessed how dress code battles can spiral out of control. At one place I worked, an employee would wiggle through every loophole, almost seeing the code as a challenge. “Sure, it says I have to wear closed toe shoes, so bedroom slippers should be fine.” Thankfully, I don’t have the sense that anyone here is looking for those kinds of games.

    7. a-no*

      Mine at work is pretty simple, it’s only a couple phrases and it works.
      1. if you can see up, down or through it – not appropriate for work
      2. if you could wear it to sleep/lounge in, go to the gym in, or party in – not appropriate for work *includes shoes
      3. better to be overdressed then under
      4. No visible undergarments, clothing must be whole (no ripped clothing), and cover ups must be available if your shoulders are visible (this is because we end up with a ton of high ranking people showing up on and off but in the summer, our A/C isn’t the best so we have to be able to cover up if needed)
      and there are a few photos of celebrities in appropriate wear and a big note at the bottom that says “if you are unsure if it’s appropriate, ask before you wear to work”

      When I worked in a business casual offices, they just gave us a list of Yes & No’s.
      No – jeans, sneakers, leggings, graphic tee’s etc
      Yes – blouses, cardigans, button up shirts (no ties required) etc
      But if it’s business casual are jeans that bad? Maybe it’s where I’m from (Alberta) but 90% of business casual here is wearing jeans with button ups / blouses and dress shoes (or cowboy boots but that’s a whole other thing)

      1. Leggings aren't pants*

        Thank you! This is very helpful. I personally think a dark wash jean can look professional, but the baggy acid washed jeans my direct report had on looked extremely casual.

        1. a-no*

          ah, the revival of the acid wash jean gives me nightmares. I don’t get it.

          I’d probably just put a note that “dark wash jeans are allowed” and leave it at that instead of listing all the not allowed jeans.

          1. Arjay*

            I think you either allow jeans or not. Even specifying dark wash leaves you having to interpret various levels of distressing, feathering, whiskering, etc.

            1. Windchime*

              Maybe. My workplace allows all jeans except “blue jeans”. So you can wear black jeans, purple jeans, pink jeans, green jeans…..but not blue jeans.

              It’s really weird.

      2. a-no*

        I really don’t know why my end italics won’t hold.. only the explanation on cover ups was supposed to be in italics.

        1. Weyrwoman*

          the capitalization should be consistent across the HTML tags, maybe that’s it? ending with instead of ?

    8. L*

      Company expects all employees to dress in business casual attire. Business casual attire includes suits, pants, jackets, shirts, skirts and dresses that are appropriate in length and fit for a business environment.

      Jeans, t-shirts, spaghetti strap/tank shirts and footwear such as flip flops, non-medical sneakers, and sandals are not appropriate for business casual attire.

      Employees are expected to demonstrate good judgment and professional taste in their appearance for work. Please check with your manager or HR if you have specific questions.

    9. Shiara*

      I think part of the problem is that business casual is -so- broad that everyone defines it differently, so I’m not sure if I can share something that’ll be applicable to you. (For instance, is it only blue jeans that aren’t allowed? At my “business casual” place, the people who have to abide by the dress code can wear nice black jeans. Also, leggings are fine if you’re wearing them with a dress, or a tunic just not with a normal shirt. Sandals are allowed, including fancy flip flops but plain beachwear flipflops aren’t.)

      1. Cheesecake 2.0*

        Yeah this is the real issue here! I work in California and we have “California business casual” which is much more casual than other places, I think. Basically no shorts, no flip flops, no spaghetti strap tops, nothing ripped or dirty. Everything else is fine.

    10. Nervous Accountant*

      Our dress code is nothing torn/ripped, dirty or smelly. And no shorts. Aside from that everything goes. We’re a pretty casual bunch. I love that one day you can wear a suit and tie and the next day jeans and sweatshirts. Also most of us don’t c clients dace to face so there’s that.

    11. What's with today, today?*

      Thank you. LuLaRoe somehow took over our small town two years ago, and the leggings are everywhere. I’m on our Chamber of Commerce board, and when I say they are worn for almost every occasion, I am serious.

      Banquet? Wear a loud print pair of leggings! Meeting? Wear a loud print pair of leggings! Interview? Wear a loud print pair of leggings!

      They just won’t go away.

    12. Observer*

      You’ve gotten some good suggestions.

      I very much agree with “includes but not limited to” being included in the policy. Also, make it clear that you get the final say for something that is not 100% It shouldn’t be an issue for most people, but you do see a surprising number of people who either want to “rules lawyer” or genuinely don’t get that just because it is not spelled out in the policy that doesn’t mean you can’t enforce it. Obviously fairness requires that you don’t penalize someone for something that wasn’t spelled out and could be a genuine error. I’m talking about the people who think “They can’t tell me to do X, since it’s not in the policy.”

    13. Symplicite*

      Ours is business casual. However, we’re more specific with table of what is acceptable per gender (make/female ), as well as what is NOT acceptable.

      For example, under the “unacceptable” category, we have:
      All types of shorts
      T shirts with offensive logos
      Tube tops / crop tops
      Backless dresses / halter dresses
      Combat boots / combat wear
      Beach sandals / flip flops
      Athletic /camping / beach / wilderness wear

      At the bottom is… ” All staff are to exercise good judgement. Garments should be in good, clean condition with no rips, tears, or holes.”

      1. Decima Dewey*

        Sometimes the dress code is a practical matter. In my library system, the dress code is mainly “Clothes, please. Clean would be nice.” Open toed shoes aren’t forbidden, but it’s generally not a good idea to drop a volume of the OED or Strong’s Biblical Concordance on your foot when wearing them.

    14. Flinty*

      Ok wait this raises a question for me: are leggings under dresses too casual for the typical business casual environment? I find tights to be uncomfortable and not warm enough, so I usually wear leggings under my dresses/skirts along with boots. Or are you just talking about wearing leggings instead of pants?

      1. turquoisecow*

        I’ve worn leggings under dresses/skirts on days when it’s cold, along with a pair of boots. They’re not loud print leggings, just black, and in fact some of them are only slightly thicker than tights, so I don’t think anyone notices.

        If other people in your workplace are wearing it, it’s probably okay.

      2. Bleeborp*

        Yeah what business casual workplace doesn’t allow tights under dresses? Additionally, why would someone not be able to wear leggings under a dress when they are thicker and provide more coverage than tights? To me tights and leggings under skirts and dresses are usually fine and don’t need to be addressed at all but specifying that clothes not be overly tight and dresses not be overly short would address leggings (or tights!) worn as pants.

      3. Mints*

        I’m pretty sure it’s legging as pants that’s the problem, not leggings as pantyhose

        1. Leggings aren't pants*

          Yes. I wear leggings under dresses in the winter and have never felt underdressed. I see leggings as similar to tights or pantyhose, though. If someone wore one of the three with just a top- no.

      4. Yetanotherjennifer*

        I would say it’s ok if your leggings cannot be distinguished from tights or hose in the way you wear them. So you’re probably fine. I could also picture someone pairing a dress with mid-calf leggings and those I would consider too casual.

    15. Candy*

      My university library’s dress code is pretty short-and-sweet. It simply states: “Please remember that we are often the first point of contact for students, faculty, administrators, and visitors coming into [the Library]. If you can leave your desk and go directly and comfortably to the beach or bar, you might be too casual. Use your judgment and ask if you are unsure.”

    16. dr_silverware*

      I’d actually look for dress code illustrations. My exceedingly casual old job would bump up the campus-wide dresscode to business casual for about two weeks out of every year, and would post info sheets about it in every break room. You might be able to snarf one off of google images, but it was pretty gender neutral.

      IIRC for this brand of business casual it had items like:

      -close-toed shoes

      -clothing fits and is neat

      -long pants, or skirts at or below knee-length

      -shirts must have sleeves

      -non-graphic tshirts are ok

      -no denim

      1. Specialk9*

        Photos are helpful. Someone awhile ago mentioned that their onboarding included slides of people dressed appropriately, and inappropriately for illustration. Be careful of sexism and racism and other -isms, but pictures can be really helpful.

    17. blondie*

      I really don’t understand legging hate (when leggings are worn with long tops). Do you having anything against leggings when paired with a tunic length shirt? It kind of blurs the lines between dresses + tights. There are also a lot of pants that are basically glorified leggings but technically still pants.

      Honestly I wear leggings all the time (with longer shirts and usually some kind of sweater) and I think it looks great! It’s a very flattering look on my body type and not suggestive at all.

      1. Hope*

        Same. I never wear leggings if my butt isn’t otherwise covered by my top. As long as I have a tunic-length top, I think it often looks better than just a dress/skirt with bare legs or a shirt with khakis.

      2. kb*

        I understand that companies and schools just go ahead and say no to leggings because it’s a simpler policy to deal with, but I’ve definitely seen people in legging outfits who look more put-together than people wearing pant-pants. Unfortunately, when one person wears an appropriate leggings look, there’s always someone else who tries and misses the mark.

        1. Leggings aren't pants*

          And this is why dress codes are so hard. I’ve seen people wearing skin tight trousers or pants with hems that drag on the ground, and they look less professional than someone with leggings and a nice tunic. And I hate the challenge of keeping up with fashion. This year’s ‘cold shoulder’ look will be replaced with something bizarre and equally inappropriate next year.

          1. kb*

            I totally feel for you! I can’t say there is a perfect solution, especially for a job that is client-facing so it actually matters.

            I guess my ideal dress code would have a FAQ section that gets into the nitty-gritty of jeans and leggings and other issues you encounter a lot. Maybe include some yes and no pictures? I think sometimes when someone sees that they are allowed to wear leggings, they have a vision in their head of activewear so they go that route. But if you show them leggings paired with business-y tunics and blazers, they better understand the expectation.

          2. Half-Caf Latte*

            I was in the infant section today and they had 12-month cold shoulder outfits, for reasons that shall remain a mystery to me.

    18. Hiring Mgr*

      Guess it depends what industry and/or region you’re in, but these days “business casual” could mean anything (I’m a VP and wear jeans, sneakers, etc. frequently)… if it matters to you what people wear, then you need to spell it out pretty clearly…I wouldn’t worry about it being short or sweet, just clear.

    19. Librarygal30*

      I live in knit jeans, which look like dressier pants, but, they are comfier, not quite like sweats, but close. I always go for the dark wash ones, since they look good with everything. I’m finding my personal dress code works slightly better than my company one. M-Th, I do the nice shirt, scarf, jacket and knit jeans, while on Fridays I go for a more “fun” shirt. I usually wear tennis shoes, or else flats when I’m presenting to a class.

    20. Safetykats*

      So – our dress code also prohibits leggings, and it is a bit of a contentious point. I think your handle perfectly captures why. I understand that leggings aren’t pants. Are they footless tights? Can I wear them that way? (Because I do, and I think there’s nothing wrong with that, and honestly I challenge you to figure out when I’m wearing leggings as tights and when I’m actually wearing tights.) and what about jeggings? And what about yoga pants, including the Beta-brand yoga dress pant (which my sister, a director level at a pretty good sized company, wears fanatically).

      I understand this isn’t helpful, but I’ve honestly never worked with a dress code that wasn’t pretty flawed. As a result, I’ve never really worked with a dress code that was well-enforced. I would recommend trying to keep it straightforward, and limited to the things you really can’t tolerate. And think about it, for heaven’s sake. Because if you’re trying to tell me I really can’t wear leggings as tights, under a dress or tunic, while Becky down the hall has to use a coat hanger to zip her pants, I do want to know why.

  19. Jess R.*

    A couple weeks ago, at the suggestion of my supervisor, I applied for an open team lead position in my department (one step up from my current role). I had an interview on Monday, where I found out that they’d already filled that particular team lead role but were looking for another team lead, still in the same department but working a different shift.

    I work 7a-3:30p right now, and the position (I thought) I was applying for is a 6a-2:30p shift, which would be fabulous. The one they interviewed me for — and, the very next day, offered to me!! — is a 9a-5:30p shift. I had to turn it down. There is so much of my life and my ability to be a functional human being that relies on having time and sunlight after work, and I can’t sacrifice my health and self for this promotion. I’m super bummed, though.

    Not seeking advice — I’ve made my decision — just commiseration and similar stories, if you’re so inclined.

    1. Reba*

      Hey, you got an offer! That’s great. Sorry it turned out to be So Close and Yet So Far from what you need.

      I’m really not a morning person these days, but I do remember fondly how in high school we got out at 2:20 — we started absurdly early for teens, but feeling like there’s still a whole day left after school was great.

    2. RemoteDreams*

      I’m annoyed for you that you didn’t get the priority for that shift! Is it possible that in the future, they’ll be sure to prioritize you for that? I wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t think you’d care that much, but now they’ll know and keep you in mind next time!

      But I really admire that you put your self ahead of a promotion – a lot of people would be tempted to do it anyway.

    3. Bostonian*

      I’ve seen plenty of people in my last job take an opposite shift for more money, and then be absolutely miserable. They usually try to switch back within a year or two. Kudos for knowing what works for you and what doesn’t.

    4. Espeon*

      How disappointing and frustrating for you! I have a 4:30pm finish and it still feels late and such a waste of my day – a 2:30pm finish sounds so good. Later hours are one of the reasons I turned down a promotion in January – my time is more precious than money.

      1. Q*

        I also get out of work at 4:30pm, and by the time I commute 30 minutes home, everything is closed. Doctor’s, dentist, bank….

        I’m not a morning person at all, but I make the earlier hours work because I want to have time for myself after work.

  20. Marina*

    Is there any way to fit in better socially at work? I feel left out, but don’t know what to do?

    1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Feel left out how?

      I’m quiet by nature and am not married have no kids. Almost everybody in my office is the opposite. It took a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG time for me to feel included. But I found that by connecting with people one on one (I love animals and all things pet related, so as soon as I found out someone has a pet, I start asking questions) lead to me feeling more included in the bigger groups.

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

        That’s a good strategy to take! I love animals too, and most people around here do as well. One woman even sneaks in her poodle puppy, which none of us mind. :)

      2. Ambpersand*

        This. As an introvert, it can be really hard! But I’ve found that it’s really easy just to ask people about themselves! People love to talk about their own stuff. Start off by asking how their weekend was (or if they have big plans for the weekend), and they’ll usually respond really well. Then you can use that as your in to figure out if they have hobbies/interests/traits that you can bond over. Oh, Fergus is going camping this weekend? Respond with your own anecdote about your experience and expand the conversation. Sally is taking her dog to the dog park? Ask her questions or tell her about your own pets. Wakeen is taking his family to the local festival? Ask him for tips about what’s good to do there, or tell him about your experience when you went (if you did).

        This will help you learn more about your coworkers and vice versa. They’ll also ask you the same questions in return, and keep the conversation going! Take advantage of the opportunities as you see them- in time that will help and you’ll definitely feel more included socially.

        1. Thlayli*

          This. My go-to is “do anything nice at the weekend” (mon-tue) / “doing anything nice at the weekend”? Then LISTEN to the answer. If gives the other person the choice of exactly what and how much they want to share and people LOVE talking about themselves/their kids/ lives/ dogs/ hobbies.

          Plus you then have something to talk to them about next time you see them “so how did the concert go?” Or whatever.

      3. someone else was using the same name*

        I agree this is a great suggestion. My very quiet coworker and I bonded over running, and we often talk about it. It’s to connect one-on-one like that.

        1. K.*

          I became friends with a former coworker because we both used to work out in the gym a few blocks from the office after work, which eventually led to “hey, are you going to work out? Want to walk over together?” to grabbing drinks or dinner after the workout. It evolved organically over a common interest.