a client is trying to rope me into a MLM, receptionist says we can’t email her during her vacation, and more

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

1. A client is trying to rope me into a multi-level-marketing scheme

I recently took a new job as a sales rep. I’m new to this job, but I’ve been in the larger industry for quite some time. I inherited several accounts and have been going around introducing myself.

At one particular account, I met with the woman who is the buyer and also owns the business. We had a great meeting but at the end she mentioned a side hustle. Of course I asked about it and then I got a 15-minute hard pitch on Rodan and Fields. Not just on buying products from her but also pushing me to join her downline and sit in on an “informative” call this weekend. I begged off as much as possible without actually saying no. This is a client that I could potentially sell quite a bit of product to. I’m feeling somewhat resentful that she’s put me in this position in the first place but I don’t want to jeopordize the relationship. She made a point of telling me about how another rep (who no longer calls on her but did) buys tons from her. How do I navigate this?

“Thanks, but it’s not for me!” Repeat as necessary. Truly, that’s it. Multi-level-marketing schemes rely on people caving under the pressure or agreeing to listen to a spiel just to be polite. Stick to a firm “nope” and she’ll likely drop it over time. Being direct like that is actually better than the hinting it sounds like you were doing. MLMs train people to ignore or overcome hints; a direct no will actually save you both time and trouble.

And as long as you’re cheerful and polite about it, it shouldn’t jeopardize the relationship — but if it does, then that means the price of keeping this relationship is becoming involved in a multi-level marketing scheme, and that’s almost certainly an unreasonable price.

2. Coworkers keep scheduling over my pumping times

I’m a breastfeeding mom, so I need to pump at work twice a day. The good news is my company has breastfeeding-friendly policies and a nice lactation room in every building. My manager is also supportive.

The bad news is that I have a very meeting-heavy job. I block my pumping times on my calendar weeks in advance. However, my coworkers constantly schedule critical meetings at the same time. I’m not talking about an occasional urgent request; this happens 2-5 times a week.

This actually happens with any appointment on my calendar; over-scheduling is pervasive at my company. We are generally expected to just rearrange according to priority. That’s often what triggers the awkward conversations. For example:
“I can’t make the meeting at 3, can we move to 3:30?”
“This is the best time, just move the other meeting.”
“I really can’t.”
“Why not? It’s really important you be at the 3 o’clock.”
“I have something else. I can do 2:30 or 3:30.”
“That doesn’t work for Jane. What is the other meeting?”

It’s not easy to move my pumping times around. I share the lactation room with several other coworkers, and long delays are uncomfortable and can cause health problems or decreased milk supply. I really just need people to respect the blocked time. However, I feel that openly discussing pumping at work, especially with male coworkers, is taboo. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. I also don’t want to contribute to the perception that working mothers are less capable or dedicated. Any tips for how to bring this issue up with minimal awkwardness?

Just come out and say it! This is a normal thing, it’s not taboo, and you don’t need to pretend it’s not happening, particularly when there is a work-related reason to just say it rather than dancing around it.

You could either do it case by case (“I’m pumping then and can’t schedule over it”) or more big-picture with people who do it all the time (“Hey, please don’t schedule over things on my calendar for the foreseeable future, because some of those are pumping times and can’t be moved”).

3. Our receptionist said she’ll delete any emails waiting for her when she’s back from vacation

The building that I work in doesn’t get much foot traffic, so the receptionist also doubles as a general administrator for, e.g., reserving meeting rooms, filling out financial or HR paperwork, etc. Because she’s very chatty, and because my job requires a lot of traveling and working odd hours, people in my position typically email this receptionist if we need anything non-urgent.

Today the receptionist sent out a mass email to the building. She’s going on vacation next week, so she requests that we don’t email her. Indeed, she will delete any email that she receives during that week, because she “doesn’t want to deal with 100 emails when she returns.”

And, look, it’s not *that* hard for me to pop into my calendar “don’t email the receptionist,” but isn’t dealing with one’s work emails when one returns from vacation a basic part of an office job? Of course if I emailed someone and didn’t hear a response, I would follow up, but the thought of someone just deleting my emails because they didn’t want to deal with them is one I find very perplexing. Or is this normal office admin behaviour, and I’m just confused? I want to be treating admins respectfully, and I’m worried that if I wouldn’t be corrected even if I were making some sort of email faux pas.

Ha! No, it’s not normal to delete all your emails after you return from a vacation, and it’s also not normal to tell people not to email your work email while you’re away. It’s certainly normal to say that you won’t be reading said emails while you’re away, but typically the expectation is that people will continue sending things to your account when they need to and you’ll deal with them once you’re back. And particularly in an admin position, where the job is a support role and at least part of the job is to make other people’s lives easier, everything about this is silly.

I don’t know the dynamics in your office, but in most offices it would be reasonable for someone to talk to her manager and say, “Hey, this won’t work — can you intervene here?”

4. I’m shedding hair all over the office

I have a weird problem. I work in a small office — less than 10 people. It is a very open and collaborative environment so we move about the office throughout the day. My problem is my long, thick, dark hair — I shed! My husband jokes that I leave a trail of hair wherever I go. It has become a bit of a running joke in the office when a coworker plucks one of my hairs off a chair, the carpet, etc. In an effort to be more professional, most days I wear my hair up. That makes a bit of a difference but I don’t want to do that every single day. I pick up every hair I see to avoid someone else having to interact with my hair. Coworkers aren’t visibly too grossed out and sort of laugh in an “Oh Sally was here!” manner, but I’m trying to prevent this as much as possible.

I’m sure they realize I can’t really help it and are being kind but I’m trying to be as courteous as possible. Am I making a bigger deal about this than it is? Is there anything else I can do? Does this happen to other ladies out there?!

Yes, you’re making a bigger deal out of than it is. People shed hair! And when you have long hair, it’s more noticeable when it happens. It’s definitely considerate of you to pick it up when you see it, but I wouldn’t worry about people being disgusted or thinking you’re unprofessional.

5. Listing memberships on a resume

I’m updating my resume for a new job search and I’m wondering if I should include “memberships” in internal groups at my current company. Specifically, I’m a member of the women’s network and a board member on the wellness committee, the latter of which required an application process. On one hand, who cares; on the other hand, maybe it will look like I’m involved in the company for more than just a paycheck.

As a follow up, how do you feel about listing activities done with the current company, like participating in the Pride March or food drives? Worth adding? Too Max Fisher?

I wouldn’t add internal work memberships unless you can list specific accomplishments tied to them; otherwise there’s too much chance that it’ll be read as “signed up on a list and attended a meeting or two,” which isn’t resume worthy.

Similarly, I wouldn’t add activities that aren’t substantive, ongoing ones where you can clearly describe your impact and results. Something like participating in a march or food drive isn’t enough to put on a resume. In some cases organizing them could be, if you can frame your work in terms of size or results (even then, though, it won’t always be strong enough to include).

{ 610 comments… read them below }

    1. Prickly Pear*

      Yep, I’m allergic to MLM (Amway kid here) so I’m always gonna default to “ew, no”.

      1. Penny Lane*

        The key is the tonality. “Thanks, but not for me!” in the same bright cheery tone you would use if someone tried to give you pistachio ice cream – not dissing the choice but it’s not my style, but you go ahead and enjoy if you like.

        1. Media Monkey*

          i can’t believe you are dissing pistachio ice cream – it’s the best (even if weirdly green).

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Especially the Ben & Jerry’s version, since it has pistachios in it and not almonds. Yum!

    2. The Original K.*

      Funny coincidence – I just got a LinkedIn request from someone at Rodan & Fields this morning! I don’t know her and we had no mutual connections, so I deleted it.

      1. Ann Nonymous*

        I’ve been blindsided at least 3 times in the past year with “old friends wanting to reconnect” – yeah, they did, as they saw me as a prospect. Jeez.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          An old friend messaged me on Facebook saying she wanted to talk to me about a business opportunity. I was completely shocked when it turned out to be a legit business opportunity and not a MLM thing (I love her but she’s really gullible and I could see her getting sucked into some MLM nonsense).

    3. Czhorat*

      Is especially inappropriate with a potential client; their decision to buy gives them power over the sales rep, making this feel coercive at best.

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        Actually, isn’t that WHY the client asked? I mean, I’m in total agreement with you, but I believe that at least some MLMs (or some people involved with MLMs) encourage you to “leverage your relationships,” so to speak.

        Or in other words: you’re totally right that this was VERY coercive, but I think that was intentional on the client’s part.

        1. LW1*

          It definitely felt coersive, with the way that she pointedly mentioned another rep that buys a lot from her.

          1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

            You in danger, girl.

            Does your company know that she tried to pressure you into R+F? I’d honestly consider a lot of that meeting suspect, because of the power differential. I’m not a sales rep myself, but I think the last time I saw that many red flags waving at once was at a drum corps competition.

          2. Ophelia*

            I’ve had good luck with being pretty direct, saying things along the lines of “I’m really not interested in this, and I don’t want to waste your time, so let’s keep it out of our friendship” have worked pretty well, I bet you could tailor it for a professional context, too.

        2. Wintermute*

          “leveraging your relationships” is a mild way of putting it! I’ve heard of Amway people switching churches, sometimes even religious denominations when their entire current congregation got sick of them talking about their “business opportunity”.

          I would be wary of navigating this, but at the end of the day if a client is going to try to abuse their position there’s not much that can be done and a good company should back you up.

      2. JessaB*

        Is it at all possible to get with management at the job? I mean if it were my employee I’d be more than willing to back them up if they want to say “I’m not allowed to do a second sales job on top of this one, especially with a customer as an oversight of it, because it’s a conflict of interest, I’m sorry.”

        I mean seriously it’s on management at OPs job to protect their people from this kind of stuff.

    4. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

      I am thoroughly annoyed by the amount of this I have to deal with this on social media, I can’t imagine having to address it in the workplace. Love Alison’s script!

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I’ve actually started reporting MLM posts as spam on Facebook, because that’s what they are. It’s advertising that I haven’t signed up to see. I wish MLM salespeople were required to have business accounts.

    5. LQ*

      There is a manager here who does a lot of MLM stuff and it makes me crazy. She mostly doesn’t pressure people but her actual position is more than enough pressure. Every few months she’ll bring it up and I’ll give her a don’t do that at work do you understand how horrible that is talk and she’ll stop for a few months, at least within my ear shot. (I’m not her boss, I’m technically below her but not directly, but I am willing to use my capital on this. I know her boss talks to her about it too.)

        1. Snark*

          YES. Someone in my org started hard-selling Scentsy stuff to coworkers and clients, and I believe the reaction was “Oh hell no, you will stop this and never do it again or we will fire you without warning.”

      1. Kate*

        This is true. I’m pretty sure MLM’s train people to ignore the word “no” just as much as they ignore hints, so you’ll probably have to repeat yourself. Overtime, hopefully she will drop it, but just remember to hold firm no matter how many times she asks. I’d also be inclined to add something about not wanting to mix business ventures or something like that so they know trying to sell you on the product isn’t going to change your feelings on not wanting to get involved in the business. But overall, my experience with MLM’s is to just keep declining and eventually to decide whether that relationship is worth the effort. Good luck!

        1. Snark*

          And, OP1, you may very well have to make the call that this potentially lucrative client is not actually worth it. And that’s fine. There are many clients out there who will buy from you and who won’t expect a quid pro quo. You do not need to abase yourself.

      2. Samiratou*

        Does your company have any conflict-of-interest policies or anything that would prevent you from buying from her or working downline or whatever that you could fall back on? Or is there anything in your policies that could be construed as a ban on that sort of thing? She may not respect a no from you as an individual (though she should, obviously!) but a “this would violate my terms of employment, so no” might require a bit less repetition.

          1. SophieK*

            Former sales and sales manager here–there is one of two things going on here:

            She does indeed expect a quid pro quo. You need to give her a reason to buy your products from YOU. Everybody wants something. Why should SHE (or anybody else) give YOU money?

            OR: She is not buying anything from you ever ever ever and is trying to get you to go away by babbling at you about MLMs.

            Your assumption that you could sell her quite a bit of product to her may be showing. Nobody likes to be seen as a walking wallet. The fact that you are not MLM makes no difference whatsoever in how you may have made her feel when you approached her.

            Were you trained to “assume the sale?” That is a sure route to failure unless it’s used purely to give yourself confidence in presenting your product. If not handled artfully it turns customers off.

            If you want to continue to try to sell to her, it’s best to see her actions as just another objection. Alison is not qualified to help you with sales objections as far as I know and you should be going to your sales manager for this. If your manager doesn’t want to help you figure out a strategy you are being poorly managed.

            1. RB*

              This seems like a disproportionately aggressive response. LW said it was an inherited account, so I’d assume they know roughly what the sales from that account will be. And MLM pitches aren’t a “sales objection,” they’re a wildly unprofessional digression from a business interaction. It’s a wild leap from, “I don’t want to offend a customer, but MLMs are terrible” to “You’re being poorly managed and on a sure route to failure.”

    6. soon 2 be former fed*

      MLM people view everybody as fresh meat, that’s how they are indoctrinated. I hate MLMs with a passion.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Same. Someone signed me up to their Facebook group for one of the leggings ones. I have posted it a ton of times–do not sign me up to groups without asking but people keep doing it. I think I might have to be more ruthless about unfriending people.

        1. JessaB*

          That is the one thing that gets an automatic unfollow/ban from me on FB. I protested when FB decided to allow people to do this in the first place. I despise the fact that someone can chose to put me on a list that I have no interest in or am even actively against.

    7. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Absolutely. A good friend from school was selling for a MLM and tried to get me to sign up to sell. She asked twice, was met both times with a resounding “no”, and never asked again. Our friendship didn’t suffer at all from it, and since she’s recently stopped selling I think I made the right decision!

    8. Bob*

      I’ve never had an issue with people bugging me about anything. I never had peer pressure to drink in high school, I rarely get asked more than once to attend social functions, etc. I honestly think it just comes naturally to me to give an immediate and assertive ‘no’ as my initial response (assuming I’m not interested). I know myself and what I don’t want to do. I’m not a jerk about it but I’m also not wishy washy either. Most people won’t waste their time if they truly believe you’re not interested and they won’t change your mind.

      A MLM offer would get a particularly swift ‘no’ from me but I would tone it down a little due to the work angle. I might add a quick ‘thanks for thinking of me but…’ before giving a clear ‘no’. But when I walk away, there is never any doubt about my response.

      But I’m also one of those weirdos that doesn’t hesitate to tell someone I’m dating that it is not working out and there won’t be another date. It just seems like the best way to handle it for everyone involved.

      1. Submerged Tenths*

        Bob, do you happen to sell plants? Because it would really make my life easier if you’d just TELL me the dating isn’t working out . . . .

    9. heatherskib*

      Ugg. I even have a side MLM but never mention it unless someone’s specifically having a problem that I can help with, and it’s never more than let me know if you want to try and I walk away. I have absolutely had disagreements with my upline re them encouraging people to push at work. Encouraging people to endanger their day jobs is an absolute NO in my book.

      1. Mark*

        I have to agree. There are some in Rodan and Fields that are overzealous with the business. When my wife first became involved I was skeptical. She went through with it and I have been impressed with the business model of it and how she handles it.

        As she has worked her business I would often give suggestions on not becoming too overbearing with the sales side of it as it will turn people off (a lot of people). She has done great with her approach and so far has surrounded herself with a good team. Others just went all out and got whoever would listen and got them from wherever. They are the ones working 10x harder than my wife with some of the people they have surrounded themselves with.

        I think the advice given of politely saying no thanks, it’s not for me is spot on. All in MLM should respect that and should wait and see if it just gets them interested later down the line. If it doesn’t, then move on.

    10. Specialk9*

      I totally agree that it’s inappropriate. But, I mean, it’s kind of amusingly ironic that the OP is like ~’I’m resentful because I was hoping to sell a ton to her, but she’s ruining it by selling to me.’ It made me laugh, then go back to sympathizing, because ugh, MLMs are the worst.

      The Mercy Thompson series has a funny take on MLMs, in one of the later books. I can’t remember which one.

      1. MerciMe*

        Reminds me of the time a friend tried to pitch an MLM to us by waxing eloquent about how one guy was so successful he was able to take his kids to see the pyramids… I’m afraid it was all over when someone asked why he had to go to Egypt because we could all see them from here…..

      2. LadyCop*

        Fire Touched. -but- as much as the author was bashing MLM…the essential oils were actually plot relevant ex machenas…soooooo

    11. Chickaletta*

      Seems like everyone and their aunt is in an MLM these days, sometimes more than one. On social media, I just ignore it. But I was in a similar situation as OP1 a couple years back where a meeting with a client turned into him pitching his MLM to me. By the time I realized what was happening he already had his brochures out and was talking a mile a minute. I sat through it politely, probably longer than I should, and told him no thanks at the end. He sent me home with brochures, of course, but that turned out to be the end of that. I think he realized that I wasn’t going to do it. I’m not good at masking my true feelings and I’m pretty sure that during our meeting, even though I was verbally polite, my face probably said WTF? .

      Note to everyone out there: nobody likes your MLM, they’re just being polite.

  1. Greg M.*

    yeah hair shedding is kind of a normal thing. after my sister visits I’ll find long hairs from her a week later.

    1. River*

      It really is normal, but there are ways to reduce the shedding if you feel uncomfortable about it: brush hair thoroughly at home, and consider braiding hair for the office. But if you don’t want to, it’s no big deal. Hopefully the office gets cleaned regularly anyway.

      1. nosilycuriously*

        I second the recommendation to brush hair thoroughly at home, if possible. I have long-ish hair (reaches about mid-shoulder blades down my back) that sheds a lot and wear it down regularly. I found that a good brushing in the morning minimizes shedding throughout the day. Now I wear white blazers without worrying about the mass of hair I’ll find woven into the back at the end of the day!

        Overall, I hope you won’t worry about it too much, OP!

        1. peachie*

          OP, you definitely don’t have to do this (as has been noted, everyone sheds, it’s nbd), but, if it’s useful for anyone, this makes a difference! I started doing this before my showers because I way, way too grossed out by cleaning out my drain.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I always do this if I’m going to wash my hair (I don’t do that every shower). A hair catcher over the drain helps too. It really does help to brush a lot.

            1. peachie*

              I know my hairdresser would hate this, but I also keep a wide-toothed comb in the shower and I comb out my hair so the extras stick to it before I put on my hair towel. I clean it after every shower. It is kinda gross, but it’s definitely less gross than fishing the same hair out of a drain.

              1. Julia*

                I think hair care methods like Curly Girl recommend combing hair when wet (and drenched in conditioner), so it might not be as bad for your hair as you think. I comb mine wet because I don’t want it to dry in weird patterns, I just do it really carefully without pulling.

                1. Media Monkey*

                  yep, i follow curly girl and do this. i also do it on my daughter as it’s much easier than combing out the tangles. i think as long as your comb is smooth and doesn’t catch, it’s not a problem!

        2. Anonymoose*

          Yup. Also:

          1. Try not to brush your hair when it’s wet. You’ll break and pull more hair than normal, plus the wet hair will stick together, only falling down – ‘shedding’ – once it’s dry. Also, get your hair but regularly. Snags and split ends will make you shed even more because it gets caught on your brush teeth.

          2. Make sure to bring a mini lint wand.

          3. VITAMINS. I find a shed more when I’m not eating the best. Odd? Probably, but vitamins won’t hurt regardless. ;)

        1. OP - Shedding*

          Unfortunately not problem solved. Problem mitigated a bit, but after a week of hair in bun I still find hairs below my desk chair.

          1. Kathleen_A*

            I used to have very long hair (past my waist), and I wore it up most of the time, not because of hair-shedding but because I couldn’t make all that long hair look professional if I wore it loose. Perhaps some people could, but it always made me look like either a “Hair is a Woman’s Glory” fundamentalist Christian or an aging hippie. Now, neither of these things are bad in and of themselves, but neither of them was me.

            Ironically, I actually appear to shed a lot more hair now that it’s shorter (shoulder to chin length), just because I almost never wear it up.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            OP, I have crazy long hair and often wear it up. You’re totally right that the hairstyle can mitigate, but doesn’t eliminate, shedding. Braids will be more helpful/effective than a bun.

            But it’s honestly ok that you shed. Everyone does. I think the rate for most humans shedding is something like 50–100 hairs per day. This is why your coworkers are laughing it off.

            But if it’s still bugging you, here’s what I do (as a person with long, thick hair that sheds frequently):
            I brush my hair out really thoroughly before heading anywhere (I also finger comb my hair in the shower—YMMV, as some hair specialists discourage this because they say it puts too much pressure/tension on hair and can damage it). I often braid it and then pull it into a bun, but this is because wearing it down, for me, is a pain.

            And then I just clean under my desk and my chair, daily, because the truth is I’m still going to shed, and the shedding will be slightly more noticeable because my hair is super long. I have to inspect my fleece and wool coat every time I wear them for the same reason. But this is me being self-conscious about my hair shedding—my coworkers have never complained about or noticed the shedding or thought it was out of the ordinary (compared to others) or a problem.

            1. fposte*

              I was thinking that there’s a linear footage factor here. If your hair is three feet long, you’re shedding six times as much linear footage as somebody whose hair is six inches long. That has a much higher visual impact even if you’re not losing more actual hair.

              1. Elizabeth H.*

                Yeah, I’ve gone through phases where I was worried there was something wrong with me because I was losing SO MUCH HAIR in the shower and eventually decided that I was mostly just not used to having my hair that long anymore and that I was seeing length rather than quantity. Because the problem mysteriously went away after I finally got a long delayed hair cut. (I think shedding does vary some too naturally depending on hormones/time of year/diet/??? and even though I used to have insanely long hair through college, I think that I probably shed more as a 28-30 year old than I did as a 17-20 year old!)

              2. smoke tree*

                I can attest to this–I used to have waist-length hair and now it’s only a couple of inches at its longest. I likely lose the same amount of hair that I used to, but since the hair is so short, I rarely notice it.

              3. Kathleen_A*

                When I had long hair, the loose hairs would come out during washing, brushing and arranging, so I didn’t leave that many scattered about at other times – some, of course, and those that were scattered were really obvious, but not that many.

                But now that my hair is shorter, it requires a lot less washing, brushing and arranging, and therefore the loose hairs come out at other times besides the washing, brushing and arranging phases. The longer hairs were a lot more noticeable, of course, but the shorter hairs are more disbursed, I guess you could say. I have a really hard time when I’m cooking, particularly now when my hair is only about chin length and is really hard to pull back.

        2. BettyD*

          Also, depending on the length/heaviness, this can cause significant head and neck pain. I have a friend with beautiful long hair, which she sometimes braids into a bun, but because of the weight, it causes headaches very quickly.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Yes! I keep mine shoulder length with long layers (think layered long-ish bob) but I have a lot of it, so even at that length it’s super heavy. Even just wearing it down will cause pain after a while if I don’t get regular trims because the longer it gets the heavier it gets. Any kind of pulling on it like into a hair tie, pin, clip, etc. can cause its own brand of pain.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          Except for some people restraining their hair can cause headaches.

          The very best I can do is a loose braid or a loose low ponytail. The no-shed benefit of those is debatable, some but not much. I can do a bobby pin on each side to keep it from floating all over my face and ‘tickling’ the hell out of my face all day (annoying in the extreme) but they can’t pull even a couple of hairs, at all or else I get an hours long headache.

          Ergo, most of the time I wear it down. I do keep it shoulder length but that’s mainly because I prefer the look of the length and it makes it less work to flat iron (a necessity) but even still it’s long and shed-dy.

      2. Oxford Coma*

        I comb conditioner through my long hair in the shower, and that pulls out 95% of the loose pieces. (Of course, a good hair snare/drain catch is important.) I quit doing it for a while when my hair was thinning, but the tickling of loose hair falling into my shirt was enough to make me nuts, so I went back to it.

        1. Ben There*

          Three things that can help reduce shedding (not eliminate, but significantly reduce):
          1. Brushing well (as appropriate for your straight or curly hair.
          2. Stop using conditioner or at least don’t use it every time you shampoo. Many of today’s conditioners contain silicone and other ingredients that can build up on your hair and actually cause the hair (especially long hair) to break off more easily.
          2b. If you can’t imagine life without conditioner, try putting it on BEFORE you shampoo, which can help slow down the buildup.
          3. Get regular trims to keep hair healthy.
          Long hair isn’t unprofessional by definition, and it sounds like OP’s is worrying her more than her coworkers. That said, I work with someone with long hair who seems oblivious to the fact that when it is not tied back, or when it smells of cigarette smoke, it does not do them any favors in how they are perceived.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Long hair worn loose isn’t unprofessional if it’s well-groomed and well-maintained. I only put mine up at home.
            The smoky hair is sort of eww, however.

      3. NicoleT*

        I have the same problem and have curly hair. Brushing I say a no no for curly hair, so I got a detangling brush that I use to brush through shampoo and conditioner in the shower, as well as to massage my scalp and encourage shedding in the shower.

        But yeah, totally normal to shed. Don’t sweat it!

        1. Localflighteast*

          I have dyed hair ( unnatural colours like green and purple)
          its really obvious when shed hairs are mine but no one seems bothered by it

      4. Spooky*

        I was going to suggest braiding as well–it will keep the hair trapped, and less of it will fall out.

    2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      I mean, to some extent yeah, hair shedding is normal- but to the extent it’s noticeable on surfaces in an office? That would bother me if I worked with the OP, and I’m a long-haired female who’s lived happily with heavy shedders. Not trying to rag on the OP, but I disagree with Alison. What you describe sounds far enough outside of the norm that I think you should consider having it up (or in a braid, etc- just confined) most of the time to minimize the shedding.

      1. Mom MD*

        I totally agree with you. If it’s out of the norm it’s on the person involved to deal with it. I disagree with the advice.

        1. soon 2 be former fed*

          Me too. I find hairs all over stuff to be nasty, especially when food is around. Very short hair here, no shedding.

            1. Julia*

              Depends on the hair! I definitely notice my husband’s thick, black short hair as much as I notice my own long but super fine hairs around the apartment. Time to vacuum…

        2. JeanB in NC*

          She’s doing what she can – she cleans up as best she can. I don’t think there’s any reason to make her put her hair up every day. And if you are a doctor, you should know that hair loss like she’s describing is perfectly normal.

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        I mean, it depends. A strand or two aren’t a big deal. A bunch of them, or a hair ball, is to much.

        I have long, wavy , thick hair dyed red. A lot of it. I shed hair even when it’s in a braid or a bun. Because of the way my hair is, it’s a lot more noticeable, too, even when it’s a single strand.

        1. Alex the Alchemist*

          Same! I have thick, teal hair and even though I shed the same amount as my other roommates, the fact that it’s so noticeable makes me feel like a labrador in the summertime shedding-wise.

      3. Diamond*

        Yeah… if it’s at the point of being a running joke in the office that seems like more than normal? I have thick, shed-y hair and I would tie it up every day if it became a Thing in the office!

      4. Seriously?*

        Long hair is so much more noticeable than short hair that there is a good chance she is not outside the norm. I have had both very long and very short hair. I only ever notice hair shedding when it is long. I don’t think I actually shed more hairs when it is long, but the strands are long enough to catch the eye.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Exactly. Every normally shedding person sheds….about 100 hairs per day. Source: I spent way too many years as a cosmetologist. Short hair sheds at the same rate as long hair (note: “shed” ≠ “breaks off from not getting regular trims”).

          I really resent the idea that people with long hair, and let’s be honest here, in an office that would be likely 99+% women— need to/should restrain their hair. Women aren’t expected to restrain themselves in all aspects of our lives, take less space, etc. enough right? People notice long hairs that have been shed because they are …long.

          OP the brushing —and frequent washing to remove lose hairs is a good idea. Otherwise, don’t sweat it. If you aren’t shedding big honking balls of hair, you’re fine…normal even.

      5. Cait*

        Totally agree. If I was constantly picking up my coworker’s hair (which if it is a running joke, it must be often), I would be grossed out. I would joke with the rest and not say anything but, ew, I don’t want to pick up someone else’s hair or see it all the time on seats or surfaces.

        Sorry, OP, I think you need to keep your hair up.

          1. soon 2 be former fed*

            See a dermatologist to make sure that your shedding is within normal limits, do what you can to mitigate it, then forget about it. In the context of a busy day, I can’t imagine that anyone is going to fixate on this. You are thoughtful to be concerned though, I commend you for this.

          2. Observer*

            If you are also making sure to give your hair a thorough – but not hard (which makes the problem worse) – brushing morning and evening, it sounds like time for a talk with your doctor. SOME shedding is totally normal. But this sounds like it’s a lot more than that, and that COULD be a health issue going on. Has this always been a problem, or has it gotten worse over time?

            1. Star Nursery*

              It’s possible it’s just regular shedding. It’s also an good idea to consider if it’s shedding more than usual it could be tied to a change in health or stress… If it’s more than usual you may want to visit your doctor to check if their is an underlying cause.

      6. Rosemary7391*

        I only need to lose one hair for it to be noticeable – they’re a good metre long. However hard I try I’m not going to achieve zero loss! I do keep my hair braided mainly for my own sanity though, otherwise I’d be forever snagging it on everything.

        1. Katie*

          I shed a fair bit too – mostly when brushing and blow drying my hair in the morning. If it REALLY bothers you (though unless you’re like, actively shedding ON my desk while we’re meeting, and unless you’re secretly a longhaired cat I’m not sure how that’s possible), maybe keep a dustbuster at your desk so you can touch up your area at the end of the day? In my place of work, offices aren’t vacuumed very regularly unless we specifically request it, so a dustbuster could be a quick solution. I have one in my bathroom at home, so I can do a quick swipe each morning rather than hauling out the full-sized vacuum. That said, humans shed! It’s normal! I understand feeling self-conscious, but unless you’re developing bald patches (in which case, please see your physician to rule out anything problematic), don’t feel bad about it!

      7. Elizabeth H.*

        Maybe they have white carpet and all light colored office furniture or something? Everything here is kind of dark colored and variegated so hair definitely doesn’t show up here.

      8. Shaped like a friend*

        At the very least, please clean your hairs out of the sink in a shared bathroom. Simple to do with a paper towel or tissue, and shows respect for co-workers in common spaces.

    3. attie*

      My mom has about a metre long, very thick hair. I actually shed more than her, but my hair is thin, shorter and mousy brown so it’s just not as visible. Nobody has ever mentioned anything about the ring of hair that accumulates around my chair over the day, whereas my mom visits long-distance friends and is greeted with “Welcome! We just found the last of your hair from last year’s visit!” I get that it shows up more, but why do people have to be so mean about it just because of an aesthetic difference.

      1. Mookie*

        “Welcome! We just found the last of your hair from last year’s visit!”

        Wow. I don’t think I possess the inner warmth necessary to make that line sound like something other than unkind and unwelcoming, but I hope your mom’s friends do because, otherwise, yikes-a-rooni.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. My reaction was “Wow, that’s rude.” I’m sorry about your mom’s friends—this comment makes them sound unkind.

        2. LizB*

          Eh, I have a friend whose hair shedding is a running joke between the two of us after we spent a summer traveling together, so I could totally say something like that to her in a kind way. It really depends on the relationship.

        1. attie*

          Well, to be fair they only found it because they were doing a deep-cleaning in preparation for our arrival. Hair has a way of getting stuck in the unlikeliest places.

          1. Oxford Coma*

            It does stick around in crazy ways, despite cleaning regularly. When we shampooed the rugs the spring after my favorite cat passed away, I was in tears seeing her fur in the drain pan.

          2. Jayn*

            DH once found one of my hairs woven into his chair at work. I’d never even been in the building before. Hair gets around in the weirdest ways.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I have some dog hairs woven into the chairs in my office (I keep my bag on one of them). He has only been to the office one time. I also vacuum regularly. His hair just travels, as does mine. Static cling!

              1. Willis*

                I read that as “I keep a bag of them (dog hair)” and was really worried for a second!

                1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  I love my dog. He is my bestest buddy in the whole wide world. But nah, I don’t love him THAT much!

              2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                I’m so relieved to know that other people find dog hair in their office. Mine has never been here and I use a lint roller before leaving the house and still I’ll find the occasional dog hair.

                1. Elizabeth H.*

                  I found a big clump of our cat’s hair stuck to one of my boyfriend’s pillows last night. The cat lives at my house and has never been to his place, so it clearly traveled over on ME. (She is fluffy and white and the pillows are black!)

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Yep. Neither my dogs nor my cat have ever been in my office, but their DNA is definitely present.

        1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

          They’re calling attention to a weird quirk of her body that she has little to no control over and that she may be self-conscious about. That’s pretty mean, in my book. It’s like saying “Boy, you sure are fat!” Even if it’s true, you just don’t say that.

          1. Not My Monkeys*

            What? She CHOOSES to have hair that long, which is why it’s noticeable when she sheds. It’s not a weird quirk. She has control over the length of her hair.

            1. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

              I’m not talking about the length of her hair! All over this comment thread, you will find examples of people with various different hair lengths who have struggled with the problem of more-than-average shedding, or more-noticeable-than-average shedding. For instance, my hair is slightly less than shoulder-length. Also see Wendy Darling’s post below.

        2. Julia*

          I think it depends on tone a lot and how comfortable the addressee is with this joke. I’d probably find it pretty funny the first few times, but I can see it getting old.

    4. Robin B*

      Agreed. I also keep scotch tape handy and run it down my jacket or chair when needed–picks hair up quickly.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Scotch tape and packaging tape. They are so much more effective than lint rollers (I suspect I keep 3M in business).

  2. Drew*

    OP#2, you aren’t making things awkward here – you’re blocking time on your calendar for a necessary scheduled activity and your coworkers are ignoring it. Feel free to return that awkward to them! “Sorry, I’ve scheduled the lactation room at that time and I can’t move that around. Please check my calendar; I’m diligent about marking the times I’m unavailable for meetings so we can avoid these conflicts.” If you have a good rapport with someone, you can add, “By the way, Wakeen, you aren’t the only person who is scheduling things without looking at my calendar; can you help me get everyone else into the habit of checking first, scheduling second? It would help a lot of us out, I’m sure!”

    1. Not Australian*

      I agree. OP should try just not showing up at these meetings on the basis that she’s got a prior commitment, clearly marked on her calendar, that other people have ignored.

      1. Mookie*

        Right. Unless this particular office just regularly ignores or flouts other co-workers’s non-negotiable prior engagements, this, coupled with the long interrogation, raises a flag for me. (It’d raise a flag, anyway, if this is universal practice, but that flag would represent the nation of Staffwide Dysfunction.) If the manager is normally supportive here, she may need to be sounded out or looped in.

        1. Eye of the Hedgehog*

          She stated in the letter that they do indeed regularly ignore people’s prior commitments.

          1. Epsilon Delta*

            Right, it sounds like an office culture problem. How would you decline the meeting if you had another important meeting that you could not miss, like with a client or with an important boss? That language may help you here.

            I would also add that many people are clueless about how pumping and breast feeding work, including women, so they may not understand why pumping has to be done at a certain time or why you can’t just skip a session. So if they continue to push you might have to either briefly explain the consequences of skipping pumping if they seem like they would be receptive to learning something like that, or tell them it’s a legally required medical accommodation that cannot be skipped or postponed.

            A few other thoughts. You could ask the other pumping moms how they handle these types of meeting requests. Maybe you could send someone else in your role/department. And you should certainly loop in your manager and ask for their advice, especially if you get the sense that people are very frustrated and might complain to them anyway. And if all else fails (and you have your manager’s support), what happens if you tell them you cannot come, they still do not move the meeting, and you don’t go? At my office people do that all the time, but it may or may not fly at yours.

            1. Meg Murry*

              In addition to getting advice from other pumping women if they are in a similar role or have been doing this a little longer than you, for meetings where you really can’t push back very hard (for instance, something scheduled by someone multiple rungs up the ranks), could you try asking the other women scheduled at 2:30 or 3:30 if they could swap you for your 3:00 session this one time? When I worked at a meeting heavy place and we had 4 women trying to share the lactation room, we were often swapping times in order to accommodate each other. It wasn’t ideal, and wasn’t always feasible to swap, but we made it work when it was possible.

            2. ket*

              I once awkwardly blurted out, “My boob is going to explode!”

              Maybe not the ideal way of handling it. But it worked.

              1. CoveredInBees*

                But very illustrative of how it feels!

                I was sick with a stomach bug recently and elected to crawl into bed instead of doing my nighttime pump. Just this once. Nope! I ended up crawling downstairs to what has become my pumping throne because it hurt too much to sleep.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              You could ask the other pumping moms how they handle these types of meeting requests.

              That’s a good point. If there are so many women using the lactation room that scheduling is an issue, and if corporate culture is to change scheduled meetings on the fly, this has to got to be a problem for someone else too. You guys need to get together.

            4. MerciMe*

              Also, they do not have a right to details for your scheduled appointments. What if your boss had set up a disciplinary meeting, or you had a phone appointment with your doctor or your attorney? It is absolutely none of their business, which is why it is marked private. If they have a problem with that, they can complain to your boss (I shouldn’t need to state that your boss’s role in this situation is to defend both your time and your privacy).

          2. Hills to Die on*

            Ive worked in places like this. If you have a public calendar option, name the appointment ‘Hard commitment-do not schedule over this’. I agree though that just explaining it will do the trick. Lots of people in this environment have competing appointments they can’t move.

            1. Coconut Ladened Swallow*

              She could also list it as ‘out of office’ time versus ‘busy’ assuming Outlook is being used. If not, I would hope any scheduling software would have a similar feature.

      2. OP*

        And if that isn’t feasible, could you talk with your manager aboutndialingninto meetings that offer when you need to pump?

        I work remotely and pumped on calls for basically 3 years since I nursed 3 kids.

        The suggested pushback is far better, but in case you need another option…

        1. Amy S*

          +1 for this suggestion. Calling into the meeting while you are pumping may be annoying but seems like the best solution here.

        2. Triumphant Fox*

          That may not work when so many others are using the lactation room at the same time. If she were pumping in her office, totally. Also, some women cannot multitask while pumping – a quiet room, with a picture of their baby and no stress can be essential for some to pump effectively. If I was one of those women and someone was taking a call in the lactation room while I was trying to pump, I’d be pretty frustrated.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah agree to all this on why that’s not ideal.

            Not to mention, if you have to talk, you’re not only being a PITA to other pumping moms, but you have to speak up over the loud vwhupa vwhupa vwhupa vwhupa.

    2. Beatrice*

      My office is similar to the OP’s in that meetings are constantly scheduled over other meetings and people are expected to shift and prioritize. It’s not that people don’t realize they’re doing it – they know. But when you have to make a decision about X tomorrow and the best possible time is only free on 3 of the 6 players’ calendars, you just do the best you can and expect people to help you figure it out. They might help by sending a proxy to your meeting, skipping or sending a proxy to the other meeting that conflicts so they can attend yours, attending yours for 10 minutes of the 30, calling in rather than attending in person, sending thoughts via email in advance, etc. Sometimes you have to just schedule *something* to get that ball rolling.

      OP, can you use a different marker to indicate pumping times vs. meeting times? In Outlook, I can schedule meetings as “out of the office” time, which are a different color block on my calendar. At least in my office, those times seem to be regarded more seriously than meeting times and I’m less likely to be scheduled with a conflict.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like the idea of having a color for “seriously I cannot move this meeting.”

        Second Alison’s advice about just stating to your coworkers why you can’t rearrange. Most of them, and especially men, have no idea how the lactation room schedule works–just like most people don’t know how long it takes to order office supplies until it actually impacts them. The biology (discomfort, the thrill of mastitis) is also going to be somewhere between never relevant and a vague memory for a lot of people, such that it just wouldn’t occur to them that that’s what Sally’s standing 3:00 is.

        1. Seriously?*

          It seems like if scheduling over other meetings is a habit the office should have a dedicated color to indicate when that is absolutely not happening. Although just expecting people to reschedule for your meeting seems like a terrible practice unless it is a true emergency (which should be rare).

          1. soon 2 be former fed*

            This office sounds like chaos! What’s the point of scheduling meetings if the schedule is ignored? Gah.

            1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

              Eh – my old office was like this. It was very hierarchical – so if 6 people were in a meeting and the top 3 most senior/important could only do xday at ytime – well, it was just known and expected that the 3 more “junior”/less important folks would move their other meeting. It was what it was – otherwise the meeting might not take place until 8months down the line – bc that’s the first time all 6 have overlapping avail.

              It wasn’t really chaos, it was just an intricate hierarchy that everyone abided by.

              1. nonymous*

                My major professor was like this. but… she didn’t share her calendar with students and didn’t tell subordinates when she was double-booked (although it was safe to assume that she was). There’s nothing like working hard in prep for a meeting, run across campus on time only to lurk outside a locked office for 20 minutes.

                Nothing against hierarchies and cancelled meetings, but it was literally 45 minutes of completely wasted time b/c she couldn’t be bothered to cancel the meeting from her calendar.

          2. Ted Mosby*

            yea, I kindd of felt like OP didn’t even need to bring up the reason, because for me the lack of respect is a bigger issue. It’s fine if there’s a culture of time shifting, but if someone clearly says “I cannot move that meeting, I have to do another time,” you don’t keep pushing back and trying to convince them you’re more important, or demanding to know what the other meeting is so you can tell her you’re more important. Super obnoxious behavior.

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          The color/out-of-office thing is a really good idea, because my first thought at hearing that the culture is one where meetings are constantly juggled is that schedulers need to know which meetings are etched in stone and which are optional, otherwise it’s pretty understandable (the first time) that they keep scheduling over the OP’s pumping time.

          The whole grilling her about it is a bit more dysfunctional, but it’s mostly a side effect of being overscheduled, I think. But my office is very collaborative, so we’d probably already know a coworker’s pumping schedule and work around it from the beginning. (We also schedule a lot of audio-only Skype meetings, and although pumps can be noisy, I find that headsets help cut out a lot of ambient noise.)

    3. GM*

      This. Also I hope OP#2 is declining these overscheduled invites with some comment like “Sorry, already booked!”

    4. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I’ve worked in an office where the calendar is treated as a suggestion and you moved stuff around according to priority. I’m wondering if the OP can make her pumping time appointments have a visible title of “Can’t be moved”. I’m not sure with this kind of office culture it will help much, but perhaps a combination of that and an email that asks for people to watch for those appointments could cut it down.

    5. Insert Clever Handle Here*

      Yes, this. Return awkward to sender! I was in a situation where the mothers room was shared between several women and booked almost all day, so rescheduling was hard. I called in to a few meetings (like mandatory safety meetings) that legitimately could not be scheduled around my pumping schedule. Maybe that’s an option for you…and if someone complains about the noise of your pump, you can say “yes, well I told you this was not the ideal time.” Good luck!

    6. Good Wording!*

      I really like your wording suggestion. “Scheduled the lactation room” seems to provide less of a “visual,” versus actually saying “pumping” so this might feel less awkward.

      1. tangerineRose*

        And if anyone pushes back, maybe the OP should say something like “I can explain why the lactation time can’t be moved, but I’m not sure you want to know the details.”

    7. A Non E. Mouse*

      OP#2: can you change the subject line of the scheduled pump times to indicate they are non-negotiable? Especially if the culture is bad about overbooking, making it clear these particular times are immovable could help.

      Maybe “NON-NEGOTIABLE” or “SET IN STONE”, something like that.

      I would also just tell them those are set pumping times when they inquire, and I would also loop in HR that this has been a problem for you. It’s likely been a problem for other pumping employees, and it’s NOT OKAY. Since HR has made sure to accommodate pumping mothers, they should be told that pumping mothers are getting resistance elsewhere, through other means.

    8. hellcat*

      Yep. I’m currently pumping at work (in my office, because it’s easier than schlepping downstairs to the pumping room). Telling people why you can’t reschedule may be awkward, but not as awkward as being in pain and/or leaking onto your shirt during a meeting!

      1. Safetykats*

        Definitely just tell the meeting schedulers your conflict. As previously said – return awkward to sender. My guess is you won’t have to do this very many times before word gets around and people start to respect your calendar. And seriously – don’t feel bad about this. Just tell them you won’t be there, and why, and that your schedule is on your calendar for their convenience, so they should use it.

        My last building didn’t have a Mother’s Room, but we did all have offices with doors that locked. When our tech editor was pumping. She would put up her normal Do Not Disturb sign – which just resulted in people (mostly the guys, as most of the women were smart enough to figure out why the sign was up) knocking anyway, as obviously whatever they wanted was more important than her need to not be disturbed. After she made a new sign that said Do Not Disturb – PUMPING the knocking stopped. The guys were all mortified, which was completely appropriate. For most of them, it had honestly never occurred to them that was why she had the door locked.

        Also, if you’ve got so many nursing mothers that scheduling the room is a serious difficulty, ask for another room to be designated. The law says they’ve got to provide appropriate facilities – which should not be read as a single room if you’ve got more women needing the room than can reasonably be accommodated.

        1. hellcat*

          Yeah, I’m lucky to have an office with a door that locks. So far, all I’ve had to do is lock it and put a “do not disturb” sticky on the outside and I’ve been left alone. My office is also small enough that most everyone knows I’m recently back from maternity leave and can hopefully connect the dots enough to realize why I shouldn’t be bothered. So far so good, but I’m a lawyer, so we’ll see how things go for the trial I have set next month!

  3. San*

    For internal committees, they need to be substantial – chairing/co-chairing. Also, look at the hiring company to see if it is relevant. One example was my recent move where I mentioned chairing the office’s health and safety committee ( with accomplishments) since I applied to a company in heavy industry where safety is key.

    1. Nothing Left, Toulouse*

      I am the newly-appointed Sustainability Coordinator for my office, one of the largest individual offices (~200 employees) in the company which is also the company’s headquarters. The company has a larger sustainability initiative but each office’s coordinator is responsible for implementing office-specific efforts. I will be looking into the feasibility of composting, LED’ing/energy conservation, and so on, as well as the obligatory monthly calls. If any of this gets off the ground I would definitely add it to my resume since much of it can be quantifiable.

      You need to be able to tie your efforts to something substantive where you can illustrate your effort with actual numbers. Otherwise it will seem like filler fluff especially if it’s really just attending meetings or participating with others.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I also wonder if too much of that could back-fire, in the sense of someone wondering how much time you were spending on your job, if you were able to commit such a serious amount of time to the “extracurriculars.”

  4. LouiseM*

    #2 is so frustrating because even though it *shouldn’t* be taboo, I totally understand why the OP doesn’t want to discuss it with coworkers face to face. To me, even if it wouldn’t bother me to have it be generally known that I’m pumping, I would feel a little awkward telling Wakeen that I’m pumping on Thursday at 3PM. I wish the coworkers would just respect that there are some time conflicts that can’t be changed and not push so much. There are a lot of reasons besides pumping that someone might have a personal appointment that they cannot move, so I’m sure OP and the other lactating coworkers aren’t the only one dealing with this situation.

    1. Hey Nonnie*

      I would just say “I’ll be in the lactation room,” in the same way that we might offer “I was in the bathroom” as an explanation, but do not go into any detail about what, specifically, we were doing in there. We have a culturally-agreed-upon verbal-mental distance when discussing bodily functions anywhere outside of a medical setting, and there’s no reason that can’t apply here.

      “I’ll be in the lactation room and I can’t change it without potential medical consequences” is clear and uses some distancing language so no one has to bring specific images to mind.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, this. Or “I’ve scheduled the lactation room,” which suggests that not only are you in there, but reminds them that it requires scheduling and isn’t done on a whim.

    2. Sam*

      OP needs to see a scene from the newer episode of New Girl. Cece gets fed up of men in her office scheduling meeting during her pumping time, so she wears her breast pumps to the meeting!

      1. RoadsLady*

        I know a few ladies of such pragmaticism they would do this if needed. Oh, they’d go for reasonable discreetness, but they would see nothing taboo about it!

        1. CB*

          I was going to mention that New Girl scene too. So funny! I only recently stopped pumping at work, but I was lucky in that I have a private office, a meeting-light job and the ability to adjust my pumping/meetings as needed. (Though I was sharing the office with a part-time employee, so that was sometimes challenging/awkward.)

      2. Specialk9*

        As an aside, the Freemie cups would let you return awkward to sender by showing up to a meeting hooked up to your pump, loudly, without actually showing your nipples to your coworker. And if someone does that, please please let us know!

    3. HR Here*

      I was similarly squeamish about talking about pumping and then similarly frustrated my first time around. I’ve learned essentially no one is being malicious, it’s just not their priority like it is mine. This time around I’ve been less shy to tell people 1. My pumping schedule is blocked on my calendar, 2. It can’t be moved, 3. If there’s a conflict just reminding them, I’ll be 30 min late etc. The more matter-of-fact you are, it really won’t be a big deal. Don’t be shy!

      1. Gyratorycircus*

        A lot of people also don’t realize that if you don’t pump on time it’s physically painful. When I was pumping I had to get up and leave meetings that ran over because of engorgement.

        1. Is pumpkin a vegetable?*

          So, so true. I haven’t breastfed for 18 years, and I vividly remember that feeling. It’s very unpleasant, bordering on painful!

      2. SpaceySteph*

        I had a day long meeting (no lunch break even!) a few times when I was pumping at work. At the beginning I would mention to the leader that I’d be stepping out for 20 mins around 11 and 100% of the time it was a man that I was telling. I started with euphemism like “mom ops” but after a couple favorable responses I just said “I’m going to step out to pump” and never once got anything less than an “of course.”
        I think people take their cue from you. If you act like its something embarrassing then they might act embarrassed. If you act like its totally normal and not embarrassing then they will probably do the same– even if they are embarrassed they’ll realize they need to downplay it to avoid seeming like a jerk.

    4. MLB*

      Sounds to me like she’s more concerned about making the others uncomfortable, especially the men. I say screw it. You don’t need to sugar coat it, just tell them. I guarantee if you bring it up once, they’ll stop pushing. It’s like women who try to hide the fact that they’re on their period. I’m not going to go around shouting it from the rooftops, but I’m not going to be embarrassed if Fergus sees me carrying a pad.

      Also, assuming you’re using Outlook, mark it as Out of Office instead of Busy. When I have to schedule a meeting with a group, I usually try to find a time when everyone is in the office, even if they’re marked as Busy.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I agree with the idea of not caring about making some of the men uncomfortable.

        Hey–it might make the squeamish ones take you seriously, just so they never have to hear you say it again!

        I think she’s OK to not go straight to “I’m pumping,” but if someone won’t take her non-specific request seriously, she should just stop caring whether they’re weirded out. They deserve it.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          I also want to point out that some men might be just as understanding and supportive as women if they know what is going on. I imagine many men whose wives pump(ed) would be aware of all the difficulties and complications of pumping at work, as well as the medical ramifications of delaying. I’ve seen this play out, actually, including the HR rep at my employer of the time anticipating things I hadn’t thought about because his wife had pumped. (Also not saying that men would have to be fathers to be understanding and supportive, just that many men have seen the frustrations essentially first-hand.)

          1. TheCupcakeCounter*

            My OldBoss was the perfect man to work for while I was pregnant and then again when I was pumping. He had a wife and 5 daughters (who at this point all had multiple kids) so really got it. He sent me home 3 or 4 times during my pregnancy but never required me to take PTO for it and got me a laptop to replace my desktop (my role traditionally didn’t have laptops since it was a desk jockey role with almost no meetings and intended to be entry level) so I would be able to flex my schedule more with daycare, pumping, and the requisite 22 days a year a daycare baby is sick.

        2. Annie Moose*

          As Captain Awkward puts it: return awkward to sender.

          That is, if someone is making the situation really awkward for you (by repeatedly ignoring you going no really, I can’t meet at this time), it’s not rude to make things a bit awkward for them by being straightforward. Even if it feels very weird and awkward to tell coworkers you’re pumping, remember that they’re the ones who made the situation weird and awkward first, by not respecting/believing you when you tell them that you can’t make a meeting time. (even more so if they try to get you to move your pumping time and you have to explain to them that that can have serious medical implications–maybe you don’t want to talk about mastitis and the like in the office, but they’re the ones who drove you to it!!)

    5. NewWorkingMama*

      The first day I came back and had to leave in the middle of a meeting to pump, my (awesome) boss said. You’re in control of your schedule, do what you need to do. I took it to heart and have no issue telling people that time is reserved for pumping. It’s kind of awkward at first, but like anything else the more you say it the more you normalize it and honestly, if someone is like ew gross PUMPING … that’s their problem. Pumping is SUPER hard, so more power to you.

    6. Pumping Peer*

      I was the OP who wrote in awhile back about not wanting to put up a Do Not Disturb sign on my door while pumping, so I absolutely get the squeamishness associated with feeling like you are broadcasting your pumping status. I think the color-coded or special “NONMOVEABLE” meeting title are good options, but I have also found that returning the awkward to sender tended to be the most effective, efficient way to have it stick for individual offenders. I.e. “Why do YOU get to have a mini-fridge in your office?” “It’s for my pumped breastmilk” = “Ahh, fair” + absolute respect for the closed office door going forward.

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        I’m happy to hear the update Pumping Peer and that things seemed to have improved re: closed office door!

  5. LouiseM*

    OP#1, Alison is so right that you need to be direct and stand your ground. MLMs ruin lives and break apart families. You might think it is a small price to pay to buy in a little to get this client off your back, but the price will almost certainly be much higher. STAY AWAY!

    1. LW1*

      There’s no danger of me joining, purchasing product, or even listening in on a call. MLMs are predatory and actively harm women. My question was about how to stand my ground without losing the client.

      1. Reba*

        Firmly, with a smile but no reasons given. Just “thanks, it’s not for me” + subject change, that sort of thing.

        If you give a reason, which is a normal thing to do that feels polite, (e.g. “no time,” “I travel too much”) she is trained to keep chipping away at these reasons.

        If it is a repeat offense, maybe a big-picture conversation like, “I really need to keep these meetings on the business at hand” would help, if that kind of boundary-setting is ok in your work.

        Good luck!

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Agree with Reba, a reason is just sticking on a label to indicate where she should hammer. It’s negotiating, in her view.

          I suspect she’s going to interpret any soft denial that rests on people recognizing social cues as an open for negotiating, too. An early hard denial will serve you better–from her determined viewpoint, soft denials suggest that you might come around, so if you do soft soft soft soft soft HARD she will mutter angrily to herself about how you led her on. The next time it comes up stick resolutely to “Thanks, not for me.” Repeat as needed. Avoid the slippery slope of softeners about how maybe next time.

          1. Wicked Odd*

            Exactly, MLMs give their salespeople scripts hammer their way through a soft no. Someone who’s already brought this into the workplace is unlikely to respect that boundary.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            With MLMs I go straight to explaining how unethical and exploitative they are. That’s a pretty emphatic no. But to do this with a client you’d have to be…. more tactful than I am.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      I don’t know anything about MLMs…but do they really ruin lives and break up families? Can you elaborate on that? It sounds like hyperbole, but again I don’t really know much about it

      1. Sam*

        Agreed, I’d like to learn more…obviously a lot of people waste/lose money with them, but that’s the case for owning ANY business.

        1. Nanani*

          They’re pyramid schemes. Scams. Not legitimate businesses in any way. Google is your friend here.

          A LOT of them prey on women, either by focusing on feminine-coded products, by targetting homemakers for sales/membership, or making it sound like a social party thing instead of business, and so on.

          1. fposte*

            There are plenty that prey on men as well, but they’re likelier to fly under the radar as MLMs, aside from classics like Amway.

          2. Mayati*

            They especially love to go after new, stay-at-home mothers — plenty of women right now are SAHMs because of high daycare costs and because employers make so few accommodations for working parents, not because the women’s partners make enough money to support the whole family comfortably. So they’re financially vulnerable, they need money, and they’re often dealing with the loss of identity and self-sufficiency that many first-time parents experience.

            An astounding number of people who sign up to “be their own boss” with an MLM don’t even know how to balance their earnings versus their expenditures, and MLMs certainly don’t teach them, because why teach people to understand just how much money they’re using when, instead, you could be screaming at them to “invest back in their business” by spending whatever they make on inventory? And all this is gendered, too — culturally, we aren’t good at teaching girls about money. We’re not good at teaching anyone, of course, but girls are socialized to think that accounting and money issues aren’t within the realm of things they should really understand. Math is for boys, right?At least in the communities where MLMs thrive best — religiously and culturally conservative ones with strict gender roles — boys grow up knowing they’ll be the heads of their households, responsible for being breadwinners and other financial stuff, and girls grow up expecting their future husbands to be in charge of the finances. These girls grow up and they’re hungry to do something for themselves, something that will give them a certain level of autonomy and “success,” but something that will still be traditionally feminine and ostensibly compatible with their status as wives and mothers.

            The only way to make money from an MLM is to start one.

        2. fposte*

          With an MLM, you don’t own the business. You don’t have anywhere near that kind of control, and your utility is mainly to provide money to the people upstream of you, and if it’s by spending your own money on the products, so be it. That’s why getting in early makes a huge difference to how much money you make. Then there’s the fact that the coaching and guidance is all about how to convert friends and family to income streams.

          It’s sort of like a franchise from hell–no control over how many other McMLMs are open on the same block, and you only really make money when you convince one of your customers to become a competitor as well.

          (That being said, there are plenty of people who get sucked into the “starting a business” idea with about as much thought and financial awareness as MLM reps, so you’re right that there’s nothing special about wasting money that way.)

        3. Spreadsheets and Books*

          But that’s the thing – with an MLM, you *don’t* own a business. You’re a glorified salesperson tricked into thinking you own a business.

      2. fposte*

        Not always, and of course nobody can swear that it wouldn’t have happened without the MLM but with something else. But here’s what can happen: the rep is required to spend her own money to buy product and may not even get commissions on her sales until she’s sold a relatively high volume. Then once she’s attained a level, honor, or perk she has to keep selling the same amount monthly to retain it. As a result, people buy a ton of the product themselves. LulaRoe clothing is, I think, particularly bad for this, because 1) it doesn’t go bad and 2) the suppliers send you a big old box of whatever patterns they please (pattern is the big thing in LLR) and you have to pay for the crap you can’t sell in order to find the occasional one that’s actually desirable. And all the time while this is going on you’re being “supported” by your upline, who makes money from you, and who tells you the only way to succeed is to commit more and invest more money. There’s also a very cultish “nobody understands you but us, don’t listen to the haters” love bombing going on that makes it very difficult to fight back against.

        The result seems to be kind of a gambler’s addiction with some people who go into a lot of debt because they’re going to make it big. And then spouses find out (there are a lot of gross memes about how to hide your purchases from your husband), and the MLM rep promises to stop but doesn’t or insists it’s her right to have her business (that put them $40k in the red) supported.

        1. Anion*

          Eek. Thanks for that.

          The second a business started telling me how to hide my involvement from my husband, I’d be outta there, but that’s apparently just me (and others here).

        2. Kipper*

          To be fair, those memes are mostly directed towards customers and not retailers. Customers spend more money than they should on the product and try to find ways to hide it from their spouses. I think they actually encourage husbands to join in on the business if the wife is a retailer.

      3. Anion*

        Yeah, I know they can be pains in the butt, but I’ve known people who sold candles or Pampered Chef (does that count as an MLM?) or Avon and it didn’t ruin their lives and/or families.

        I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, just that I too would like to learn more.

      4. Lauren*

        That comment was EXTREME hyperbole. There is a HUGE difference between “pyramid schemes” and legitimate network marketing businesses. Like any business, the results someone gets out of it will be determined by the effort they put in, so anyone expecting to “get rich quick” is going to be disappointed.

        Like Nanani said, Google is your friend here. But they missed the mark about network marketing businesses being “not legitimate in any way”. Do your research and learn about actual network marketing businesses.

        1. bolistoli*

          I disagree. More than 99% of all MLM reps make or lose money. Some to the tune of thousands of dollars. Many people claim they’re making money, but when you look at their expenses vs. their sales, it’s never the rosy picture they paint. Except, of course, for the top-line people who make it look easy. They prey on (mainly) women, but pretty much anyone who is vulnerable or desperate. It is a very cult-like mentality, that often uses false claims to sell their products (essential oils cure cancer and treat PTSD – really?), and shame their reps into badgering friends/family for business (I mean what business can stay afloat if it only relies on friends and family) or abandoning the “friendships/fellowship” when a rep decides to leave. On top of it, most of the before/after pictures (for the relevant ones) are either doctored or stolen. It’s an unsustainable business model built on lies and taking advantage of people for gain. Plus all MLM products are seriously overpriced – they have to be to pay out to everyone in the upline. You’re better served kindly and directly saying no and taking your business elsewhere.

        2. fposte*

          “Like any business, the results someone gets out of it will be determined by the effort they put in”–the thing is, that’s how MLMs get sold, and it’s a heck of a stretch of the truth. For one thing, the very nature of MLM means that the effort their downline puts in matters as much or more than the effort they put in; for another, it ignores the role of timing and market saturation, so that those who put in less effort early in the game make more than those who kill themselves working later.

          That’s also a kind of “bootstraps!”/blame the victim approach that conveniently ignores the huge flaws in the model. If the model is this hard to follow profitably, the fault isn’t with the people.

          1. Spreadsheets and Books*

            Your last point is particularly important. Women (largely) are told that everyone has the ability to succeed and that if you work hard, you’ll make enough money to help support your family. So instead of quitting when it looks like things aren’t going well (because of course they aren’t going well, because it’s MLM), they pump even more money into a failing venture in an effort to right the ship and end up thousands in debt.

          2. Lauren*

            @fposte: That may be true of *some* multi-level marketing companies, but not all. For example, I am aligned with a company where someone enrolled in my downline could easily surpass me in rank and make more than me if they chose to. We also have no overhead costs, no “buy-in” to start a business – the only products I purchase and keep in my home are those I personally use. I don’t lose any money if I don’t get new customers in a particular month – I just don’t *make* money.

        3. Lindsay J*

          Can you share with us what you think some legitimate network marketing businesses are?

          1. Lauren*

            Certainly. I am partnered with Isagenix. I didn’t have to pay anything to start my business, I don’t have to purchase or keep inventory – in fact, the only products I purchase and keep in my home are those I personally use. While yes, I do make a profit on those in my downline, our compensation plan is set so that those who are in my downline could actually surpass me in rank and earnings if they put more time and effort into their business than I do. If I don’t work on my business or add any new customers in any particular month, I don’t actually lose any money – I just don’t MAKE money.

            There are plenty of other companies out there like this.

            Also, the idea that having an upline/downline and anyone in my upline profits off my business efforts is a “pyramid scheme” – please understand you’re describing literally any business where a product/good/service is sold. The VP of sales makes a profit when her traveling sales team goes out and drums up business, even though *she* didn’t personally make the sale (or have anything to do with it, in some cases). That’s no different than my upline (who also trains and supports me, unlike the unfortunate experiences of others in other network marketing businesses) making a commission off my sales.

            (This is not meant to be a promotion of my business – just explaining how it works.)

            1. Amanda6*

              “the idea that having an upline/downline and anyone in my upline profits off my business efforts is a “pyramid scheme” – please understand you’re describing literally any business where a product/good/service is sold.”

              This is a common MLM retort and it’s untrue at its foundation. A VP and her subordinates don’t have to purchase their company’s product in order to go and make sales. You say you don’t lose money if you don’t add new customers or work on your business, and that’s true, but at its core, you have to spend money (buy products to sell) to make money, and if you fail to sell the product you’ve purchased, you’re at a net loss. (Or, you are very charismatic and you can recruit people under you without ever laying out any of your own capital, and pass the risk off onto them. Kudos!) That risk is simply not the case with traditional companies. A sales person who makes no sales might be fired, but they won’t have put money into the company they won’t get back.

            2. Michelle*

              It’s hard to say your particular MLM is legitimate when the product itself is shady. Isagenix is yet another weight loss scam.

        4. Hiring Mgr*

          Never mind then..i don’t want to put effort into my REAL job, let alone this sort of thing…

        5. Lindsay J*


          Networked marketing business is just another name for MLM, which is just a slightly disguised pyramid scheme.

          Most businesses don’t require you to put in $100 (or more) of your own money every month to be allowed to make money off of your sales.

          Nor do they involve recruiting your friends to set up competing businesses selling the same exact products you are.

        6. Student*

          These are scams. Sorry you got taken in by them, but they are scams.

          The point of a MLM is specifically tailored to get a mark, who really wants to be an entrepreneur, to get their friends to buy stuff by leveraging maximum emotional arm-twisting against everyone they know. The MLM exists only to milk money out of your friends into the executive’s pockets through pure emotional and social manipulation. The business model relies on the mark being an enthusiastic sucker who is unable to do basic cost-benefit analysis or basic business accounting.

          Any products that are actually useful enough to have a profitable demand aren’t sold this way. Cosmetics that people actually want get sold in normal stores. Kitchen gadgets that people want get sold in stores. You know why? Stores (online or brick-and-mortar or magazines) are efficient delivery vehicles for products that people like and want. Individual salespeople off in their homes are very inefficient by comparison; the only reasons to use them is if they can (1) deliver sales to people who don’t want the end product through emotional manipulation (2) will be manipulated into buying stock themselves, and last but not least, (3) aren’t going to expect minimum wage returns for their work.

      5. Falling Diphthong*

        When my husband was in graduate school, a faux-pyramid email went around for completing your thesis. You would write 1 paragraph about the first 5 topics on the list and send them to those people, take the top name off, and add your name and thesis topic to the bottom. In a couple of months you would receive a few hundred paragraphs which you could string together into a thesis.

        Obviously the only people who would get a thesis out of this would be the first few in the door.

        Like that, but it involves contractually agreeing to buy hundreds of dollars in yoga pants every month.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Oh, and you had to send the chain email to 5 other graduate students, or 10, some number.

      6. Mananana*

        For a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look, check out “Elle Beau Blog” . She was involved (disastrously) with the Younique cosmetic MLM (aka pyramid scheme). She talks about the deceptive practices, the pressure, and the financial losses. For instance, 97% of all participants in these MLMs don’t make money; many of them lose money.

      7. Totally Minnie*

        I know a family that was pretty well wrecked by an MLM. Sister #1 got in early and recruited several sellers below her. By the time she recruited sister #2, most of their social circle was already saturated with salespeople. Sister #2 lost a lot of money on her required monthly buy-in, but was having trouble finding people to sell to or recruit. So sister #1 made enough money to quit her day job and sister #2 went into debt. This was a couple of years ago and they’re still not speaking.

        So yes, MLM involvement can and has split up families. John Oliver did a segment on Last Week Tonight about it. If you want to know more, head on over to YouTube.

      8. Becky*

        Google John Oliver’s segment on MLMs. They can ruin lives.

        (Warnings for NSFW language.)

      9. nonymous*

        It’s a completely unsustainable business model long term, and even in the popup format generally have very low margins. The lower-level sales peeps are the product, not the leggings or makeup or whatever, so depending where in the life-cycle the product is in it may be completely impossible to move past first level sales. Unlike a franchise model, most (if not all) of the risk is borne by the entry level sales, and there can be a pretty big buy-in. I think for LuLaRoe it’s $3K buy in and a certain amount each month to stay active, but the “investment” is all consumables – there’s no asset to liquidate if someone wants to move on to another project.

        If the company wanted to be honest, they would say “We have product that sells for $X with $Y potential markup. Normally this quality of product sells for $Z, where $Z < $X. You can make $Y if you can find a customer base which will pay the inflated prices. Likely this will mean that you have to add value in some way (e.g. provide free childcare and food during "parties"), the cost of which will come out of $Y. At some point the quality of the product will diminish. This cost will also come out of your $Y. We will not provide any meaningful tools for you to analyze your market, however in order for you to make minimum wage you will need N layers of salespeople below you generating M $ in sales. We will not provide any checks and balances to avoid over-saturating your market. We will use high pressure sales tactics to get you to buy inventory that exceeds your market. At some point, any inventory you have on hand will become worthless, and that might be in the next 3 months. All of the overhead of infrastructure, marketing, delivery, admin, business analysis, data gathering, etc comes out of your $Y."

  6. PubServant*

    #3: I’ve read about this email management strategy before. It manages the expectations of people who need you while you’re away, helps you adjust back to work and email flow on your return.
    Does it make a difference that the person is a receptionist? Discuss. :)

    A couple of articles I just Googled (I don’t recall the original article I read) –

    1. Sarah G*

      nteresting concept. The “I’m going to delete every single email” approach could work in a very specific type of role,I would imagine, but I think there are more jobs for which would not be acceptable/appropriate. I mean, I prefer to go through and quickly delete the emails I don’t need to follow up on, and then look through and prioritize the others. But my work culture is very email dependent. It would be nice if there was a “vacation” setting which would automatically delete emails about the fridge getting cleaned, or the database will be down for 1 hr this afternoon, or here’s your third reminder for this baby shower for co-worker-at-another-building-whom-you-don’t-even-know, and the like.

      1. PubServant*

        I guess the idea is that if it’s super urgent/important, people will follow up when you return.

        Also, as a receptionist, she probably receives a lot emails, and a lot are likely urgent requests? Without giving people the heads up, she’d probably come back to a lot of emails that required action while she was away. So rather than sorting through a majority of out of date emails, deleting the whole thing allows her to start fresh, and also to immediately get back in to the swing of things first day back.

        I can see the merit in it, having just returned from a few week’s break myself…! But then I am a notorious email hoarder, so deleting things terrifies me!

      2. Beth Jacobs*

        I have a filter so that emails sent to all staff go to a different folder. So when I get back from vacation, I deal with the ones in my main inbox: that have been addressed to me only. If they’re not relevant anymore, I can generally determine that within a few seconds. As for the all staff emails? Yeah, I don’t read those after vacation. If it’s important, someone will follow up.

        Now I don’t know how many emails the receptionist gets, but I still thinks it’s completely possible to skim through them rather quickly. Sure, it’s annoying that there will be a backlog of substantive work – but that’s just part of going on vacation. If it creates an unbearable workload, then she could address that with her manager, but this isn’t the way she framed it.

        1. Chinook*

          I have been and currently am a receptionist and I agree that mail rules are a better way to deal with email while you are on vacation (and with work in general). Even if it is creating a folder labelled “vacation emails” and dumping them in there to either sort through later or even just keep for reference. Deleting them just guarantees that something important will get missed.

          You also need to have a very clear Out of Office Message that appears every time someone messages you in your absence that tells them who to contact regarding things like meeting rooms, deliveries, guests, etc. At my last job, I listed 5 common scenarios and who to contact for each and had very few issues waiting when I returned from vacation (and I would leave for a week at a time). This also had the side benefit of showing people what I did during the day, which was a mystery to a lot of the people I supported because I did it so seamlessly.

        2. HR is Fun*

          Beth Jacobs, you know your company’s all staff emails better than I do, but it seems like there are some that could be really pertinent to your job. So-and-so got laid off and now you have to contact someone else for X. Potluck party the day after you return to work. New holiday added for next Monday. Company policy change and all TPS reports now have to be on orange paper. Just sayin’

      3. fomerGR*

        I’ve inherited some of my father’s contrarian nature (but only some, thankfully!!), and what I’d probably do is use Outlook’s delayed send feature to schedule all the emails to the receptionist to show up in her inbox at various times throughout her first day back. Problem solved.

        1. Ashloo*

          That’s what I was thinking too. Gmail’s Boomerang extension has a similar feature that I’ve used to not appear to send email in the middle of the night. Hey, your emails won’t be deleted, OP!

        2. Chinook*

          Ditto. Delayed send is a godsend for wanting to ensure that something gets noticed the day someone returns from vacation. If timed for mid-morning of their return, it pops up at the top of their inbox instead of buried in the older stuff.

    2. memyselfandi*

      I would just write all the e-mails as needed and put a delayed delivery on them for her first day back, maybe starting half-way through the day and staggered through the end of the day. After writing that, it sounds a bit passive aggressive, but that is not my intent at all. I think it would make me more thoughtful about what really needed to be put in an e-mail to her, and it is possible that some of the items might get resolved before she returned, in which case I could delete them from my outbox.

      1. fomerGR*

        Ha, I just wrote pretty much this exact same comment (should have refreshed first), even down to the staggering them throughout her first day back!

    3. Jen RO*

      If someone on my team told me that they are considering deleting all their emails after their holiday, it would raise a whole ton of red flags. It would be a huge no-no in my office in general and my department in particular. If someone else had an out of office message like this, I would think that s/he feels that s/he is above us mere mortals who are expected to actually *read* our email.

      1. Violet Fox*

        We had someone on a one year contract with the idea that they would become permanent if they did a good job. That she deleted emails from when she was away was one of the big reasons that we declined to renew her contact and actually let her go from it early.

      2. PB*

        Yeah. When I go on vacation, I put all my listservs on hold, put up an out-of-office reply, and plan to spend my first hour or so back going through emails. That’s normal. If I announced that I would delete all emails sent during my vacation, I would be in a lot of trouble, and rightfully. It is not normal or reasonable to expect other people to manage their own workflow around your vacation schedule.

      3. Amber T*

        Yeah, this is a Huge No for anyone in our firm. When our admins are off, they’re expected to be able to catch up on the travel arrangements and meetings of the people they support when they get back – I’m not sure how they would do that if they just deleted all of their email from their time off, other than having the person/people that covered for them sit and explain everything to them, which would be a huge waste of time. Our receptionists need to know Important Meetings were scheduled for these days, and random facts here and there that, again, could be explained to them after the fact, but would just be a time waster since it was already put into an email for multiple people.

        This really just screams “I can’t be bothered, so everyone has to redo their work for my benefit.”

        1. -*

          Right. The whole setup implies that the admin’s task management takes priority over task management of those people they are supposed to support. In most organisations that would not fly.

          There are plenty of legitimite things that might pop up over a week and that can wait until the next. At least our e-mail system is configured to show internal recipients’ out of office messages before sending anything. If I’d regardless decided to send my request to an absent admin, it’s because I’ve judged it to be best overall for me to type it up when I’m working with it anyway and for them to handle it when they are back. Plenty of senior people juggle tons of priorities as it is and if they had to add even more items to their to do lists because the admin can’t be bothered, that’s terrible waste of resources.

      4. I Love Thrawn*

        As an admin., I would never dream of doing this. Most people simply have to wade through emails on return from being out, it’s just part of the employment landscape. She doesn’t get a pass to delete because it’s annoying to her.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Yes, exactly. We would *all* like to come back from vacation to find that, although we were missed and are cherished, of course, we don’t have any catching up to do.

          But that’s not how it works – not for me and not for this receptionist. And BTW, I can’t think of very many employees, and that includes both me and any receptionist I’ve ever heard of, who has the authority to decide that “Emails Sent During My Vacation Are an Abomination and Shall Be Deleted.”

        2. TootsNYC*

          and most of us figure out strategies for sorting through it quickly!

          I will say, I don’t think it’s out of line to say, “I’m going to be out, and my inbox will be hellacious when I get back. Please don’t email me urgent stuff, and help me by using really clear subject lines, and maybe even put the deadline in the subject line as well.”

          1. TootsNYC*

            (by “don’t email me urgent stuff,” I mean, “remember I’m not here, and don’t clog my email with stuff like ‘please do this tomorrow’ when I’m actually out tomorrow”)

          2. Amber T*

            Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with being proactive and saying “I’ll be out the week of X, please be sure to email Fergus for scheduling and Lucinda for teapot arrangements” – in fact, it’s probably best that she do that!

      5. Cacwgrl*

        Yeah that definitely won’t work for me nor would it work for our department. First of all, we know when our OM is gone and try to do our best to function without her without screwing things up too badly. But I know we all send messages like “when you have a chance, please order X” because she’s the only person that handles that and it can be addressed once she’s back, where if I waited, I’m likely to forget I put the last toner in a week later. She understands and prefers that whoever sits at her desk while she’s gone doesn’t try to take on some tasking. Yeah, she doesn’t need to know that I took the car for an hour one day, but she does need to know if there’s a maintenance problem we need to keep an eye on. So I guess I see it as an organizational issue, where people need to understand that someone is gone and they may have to do things on their own for a bit, but also the receptionist needs to set an out of office and prioritize messages once she’s back.

    4. Pickle Lily*

      Yes I was thinking about all the similar articles I’ve read on the subject as I was reading #3. I think it’s becoming more and more common. I like the idea and whilst it would probably work fairly well on internal emails, I wouldn’t feel comfortable enough to do it on external client emails.

    5. MK*

      It’s rude and lazy. If you want to manage expectations, put an out-of-office autoreply, telling people when they can expect a response and who to contact in an emergency. You would be very likely to miss important communications, because not everyone will remember to resend the mail you deleted, and I question whether it would really help with work flow, as you are likely to receive a bunch of mails on your first day.

      It being the receptionist makes little difference, and only in the sense that a higher up is more likely to get away with this

      1. ADK*

        This! My out of office (which shows up in internal emails as soon as you type my email address in the To box) says, “I am out of the office and will be back on Date. If your message cannot wait until Date, please contact Other person.” That way people can see as soon as they start addressing the email that I won’t get it until after the event has passed, so they can go ahead and take me off the list. Or not, and I can take care of it when I’m back. I just got back from a 2 week vacation, had 121 new emails when I got back. I quickly went through to delete all the spam, refrigerator clean-out reminders, etc. I responded to anything that didn’t require research. And I had fewer than 15 emails remaining that required my action. I was done with all but 4 of those by the end of my first day back. Done and done.

        1. SignalLost*

          On my personal email, I routinely have 100-150 emails a day. Takes about two minutes to skim senders and subjects and keep everything I want or need to reply to – almost always fewer than ten. A lot of my email is stuff I could unsubscribe from, but I don’t feel like the stated 100 emails this woman expects to come back to is exactly an onerous hardship.

          1. Umvue*

            Right?! 100 emails sounds totally manageable to me. My partner usually has an order of magnitude more when we come
            back from a trip. Maybe I’m missing something.

            1. Lynn*

              Yeah, I came back from a 2 week vacation once to well over 1700 emails. It took me a whole morning to read through and delete/respond/plan follow-ups, but by the end of the morning I was back in the swing of things and knew all of the project statuses. People knew I was out, so there was nothing incredibly urgent, but there was information I wouldn’t have got any other way.

    6. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      I see this less as a “strategy” than as a “temper tantrum that somehow gained a touch of legitimacy.” I can’t imagine anyone I know doing this successfully without the people on the other end of the email finding it offensive, and rightly so.

    7. MLB*

      I can think of no time where it’s acceptable for someone to delete all of their email from a week when they were out. There are plenty of times when I think of something and send an email even if I know the person is out. I tell them that I don’t expect an answer immediately, but don’t want to forget about it. Which is exactly what will happen if I’m told not to send anything for a week. And I would be really surprised if her manager gave the ok for her to do this, because it’s extremely unprofessional.

      1. Mandatory Fun*

        I agree. Recently, I sent an email to someone who works in another location but whose work touches on my work–she was out Friday and her out-of-office message stated she’d be back Monday. Well, I work a compressed week, so I don’t work on Mondays, and wouldn’t be back until Tuesday. Instead of waiting till Tuesday (at which point the info might be too late), the info is there for her when she comes in on Monday. Also, numerous times, we have on-going issues and an email will go out to all staff with updates on how to handle that particular issue. It would be very counterproductive to delete those emails just because they came in during a vacation week.

        What I do to manage my email inbox is aggressively filter–based on key words in the subject line, things get deleted or sorted to a subfolder, based on my knowledge of my job. There’ll still be a few random unsorted emails when I come back from vacation, but more on the order of 15-20 after a week away, and that’s pretty manageable. I do use an out of office message which states when I’ll be away and provides contact info for something that can’t wait until I get back.

    8. Agent Diane*

      I did CTRL+A then delete on my entire inbox once. It is one of the most satisfying actions in the universe. It was also after 9 months on maternity leave, not after 1 week’s holiday.

      I’m actually going to pick up the “because she’s chatty” from the letter. This is the behaviour the line manager should talk to the receptionist about as it’s this which is, in part, prompting people to email rather than speak to her to give her a task. Less chatty means less emails overall, and more time to action the tasks that do come by email. Her chattiness, good for actual receptioning, is working against her need for a manageable workload as an admin.

    9. Bea*

      I’m a one person department, my bosses would sack my ass immediately this shenanigans. They also wouldn’t allow anyone else to dare try it, there will always be work waiting for you after a vacation.

    10. Observer*

      Sorry, this is NOT an email “management” strategy. And it’s totally unnecessary as a means to manage expectations.

      The way to manage expectations is to have an auto-responder that outlines that you are out of the office. In the case of Thrive, at least this is a company policy and the company as a whole has hopefully figured out a way to work effectively with this, including with outside people, although I’d be willing to bet that it’s negatively affected some relationships. Also, there ARE other ways to insure that people don’t read their email when they are out on vacation.

      The other two articles are full of buzziness and self indulgence. If you are lucky enough to be in a position that you can inconvenience everyone around you, then you’re very, very lucky. But at least get off your high horse and don’t look down your nose at people who don’t think they have that power. (“You” isn’t “pubservant” but the authors of those articles.

    11. Observer*

      I’m going to point one other thing out about the concept. It is DESIGNED to inconvenience people. The authors explicitly state that it “puts the responsibility back on the sender”, ie make the SENDER do the work of keeping your schedule in mind and dealing with it.

      1. Wicked Odd*

        It’s a school of thinking that says our organizations have artificially created a ton of extra work for all employees (especially specialists/non-admin) due to the convenience of email. I don’t think they’re wrong, even though the situation with the receptionist seems to have exploded.

        Are we sure this was the receptionist’s idea, or has her manager been reading organizational theory books?

      2. MK*

        Does it? If this employee let’s an important task slip because she deleted the relevant email from co-worker X, I doubt her boss will be impressed by the rationale that it was X’s fault for not resending the email.

    12. Nita*

      Sorry, but this just doesn’t make sense. If a client emails me about a project that’s been on hold for months, I may have not spoken with them for a while and they would have no way of knowing I’m on vacation. And I’m pretty sure they won’t remember to email me again in a week, if I delete their first email in a fit of temper. They’re just going to call me two weeks after that, when the project has shovels in the ground, wondering why I never called back and do not have any staff on-site.

      Does it make a difference that the person is a receptionist? Maybe. It depends on how much contact with external clients they normally have. Anyway, Murphy’s Law and all that, this could be the week that an important email gets mixed in with all the requests to order some paper towels and print a document. It really isn’t hard to at least scan email headings before deleting the whole thing.

    13. SittingDuck*

      I did this when I went on Maternity leave last year. I took 3 months off completely and for at least a month before hand I had in my signature ‘I will be on extended leave starting #date# – please send future emails to office@company.com” I would also respond to emails telling people to use the office email address going forward.

      I think it worked great – we successfully reset the expectations of our clients to send emails where they should go (office@company.com) which we have kept up since my return. We use the office email as a catch-all and then it gets forwarded to the correct person – which also helps when others are unexpectedly out.

      I’m not saying ALL emails go through the office account – just ones that may need immediate attention (order forms, booking forms, bill requests, etc.). We are a pretty small office though, and generally can do others jobs if it is really needed for a day or so.

      I realize my time away was longer than a week vacation – and therefore the backlog of emails and the game of (did someone else handle this?) would have been nonsensical when I returned.

      I don’t think what the admin in the question did is that out-there though. She is setting expectations for people not to send her small requests (please fill the copier with paper, etc.) since she won’t be there to complete them, and then when she returns she’ll have to weed through all these – and then reach out to people (‘did you find someone else to order more copier ink while I was gone?) which is annoying and time consuming for both parties involved.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Don’t most people who have jobs that involve e-mail have to weed through the e-mails and follow up on some when they get back from vacation? I’ve had to do it. I thought this was just standard. There are usually a lot of e-mails I can delete, some I need to follow up on, some I need to spend some time on,… but that’s part of the job.

    14. misplacedmidwesterner*

      Here’s an option. If you use outlook, they have a delayed mail feature. Everytime you’re going to email her that week, write the email and use the delayed feature to come in an hour after she gets back to work.

      That way you get the info you need to her and she gets it after she returns. I know if I don’t send some things immediately, they get lost in my flow of work and forgotten/slipped through the cracks.

      It’s also slightly petty and passive aggressive.

      I wonder if she is more thinking, I’ll delete all of it because half of it is “donuts in the breakroom” that won’t apply anymore.

    15. alana*

      I use this strategy for lengthy trips (anything of a week or longer) and I love it. My out of office message says something like “I am out of the office from DATE until DATE, and due to the volume of messages I receive, I will not be reading or responding to email I receive while I’m out. If you have an urgent request that can be handled elsewhere in the organization, please email COWORKERS/BOSS. Otherwise, please email me again after DATE I’M BACK.”

      Then when I’m back I do at least scan through the list while I’m deleting to make sure I’m not missing anything super-urgent.

      I’m sure it wouldn’t fly in all industries or workplaces, but my office runs primarily on Slack for internal communications and most of the 150+ emails I get per day are not addressed to me personally or require any kind of immediate action.

    16. Grouchy 2 cents*

      It’s something of a nasty power play in my opinion. The people that use this “strategy” are the first to complain if their email/text/voicemail gets deleted.
      (Source: a former boss who did this with voicemails and texts but woe betide the person who didn’t answer her back!)

      The receptionist could certainly program her out-of-office message to say something like ” if this is an urgent request please contact X otherwise I’ll process orders etc upon my return.”

    17. Dataceptionist*

      I worked as a receptionist that would use this rule of thumb. I would come back to literally 1000 emails. So we would bulk delete.

  7. Emily Spinach*

    I would be really irritated by a request not to email a person in that kind of role, and actually maybe any role?, but would not be annoyed by an out-of-office with helpful suggestions for getting my issue solved while there recipient isn’t in: “for booking rooms, call Sydney at X, and for teleconference support, email London at Y, and I’ll help with other issues when I return on DATE.” This could save her work when she returns but not be so abrasive to her colleagues, potentially.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah and likely some of the stuff people could just do on their own that week like filling out some paperwork or something. An oof could remind them she’s not there and maybe let them know to make other arrangements for urgent stuff. But deleting everything is weird and seems like a job performance issue unless it was sanctioned by her manager ahead of time…and what about external emails?

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is what I’ve always done, both as a receptionist and not. “I’ll be out of the office starting Month day through Month Day. If you need assistance during this time, please contact Fergus McCoworker at Email/Phone number.”

  8. Mom MD*

    Our admin assistant sets up an I’m not here please e-mail whomever when they are on vacation. You are using her in a dual role. How hard is it to cover her for a week. When our administration is out someone else covers. No one comes back to a 100 emails. That’s unreasonable and what if some of those emails are urgent.

    My only correction to her would be the unprofessional content of her message. She is right about not wanting to come back to a mess.

    1. Lara*

      I come back to a 100 emails if I take a weeks vacation. So do a lot of people. You can’t just decide that you don’t feel like dealing with a bunch of emails so you’re going to delete them.

      1. Elemeno P.*

        I just counted my emails from Friday alone and I had 49. I took two weeks of vacation in a row once and had about 400. I’m actually on the lower side of emails for my department!

        Agreed; the emails are important enough to send initially, and they are important to go through when you get back. It takes a lot of time, but the people who sent them still deserve a response.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I’m in a lot of groups for auto emails, and if I’m in the office, they matter. But if I’m out, they don’t.

          However, I can delete them en masse by sorting them out.

      1. Wendy Darling*

        I’ve had colleagues who were subject matter experts in super high demand who had inboxes like that. I also had one job where I got 70-150 emails a day and so had an elaborate filtering system and also had to take at LEAST a full 8 hours per 2 week vacation to sort out my inbox.

        I also had a standing 30-minute appointment with myself every morning entitled “OMG EMAIL”, because the first thing I did every morning was clean up any remaining inbox carnage from the previous day and then triage new emails.

        That was literally part of my job. Fielding all those communications was part of my job. Some stuff could be fielded by someone else while I was gone, and I definitely did not check work email while on vacation, but a lot of stuff just hung out and waited until I got back.

        1. Jules the Third*

          +1 100 emails a day is about normal for my job, not including the 200/week automated ones. A lot of strings at least, so I can read through the last and delete all the separate ones leading up to it.

          1. Paxton*

            I agree. A one week vacation last year and had over a 1500 messages when I returned. It took me a week and a half to get through everything (and keep up with new work) but I would be written up for deleting/failing to respond reasonably to everything.

        2. Amber T*

          I remember when I took my first real vacation day at current job and I came back to 14 emails. I thought WHOA 14 EMAILS THAT’S SO MANY.

          I miss the days of 14 emails :( One average day will net me anywhere from 50-100. I’ve yet to take 3+ consecutive days where I haven’t at least scrolled through my email, but a week will net me a couple hundred. Even our spambot emails I have to check, because occasionally it’ll catch legit stuff.

      2. A Non E. Mouse*

        Fun story: I was running a Q&A session when we switched email systems, and someone asked a question about inbox management.

        So I pulled up mine: 6000+ emails in the inbox. *AUDIBLE GASPS*.

        I then got to reiterate that the best way to reach IT for help is the Help Desk Ticketing system….

    2. E.*

      What? No. The admin should obviously have an auto-reply set up while she’s away, but she’s still responsible for the handling e-mails sent to her when she gets back, just like she would be any other emails. Yes it’s annoying to come back to a million emails, but that’s part of having a job. This was a ridiculous request.

        1. E.*

          To answer her emails and deal with things that came up while she was gone? I think it’s a fair assumption that that’s part of her job (unless management explicitly says it isn’t? That would be very bizarre, which is why Alison suggested looping in her manager).

    3. pleaset*

      “No one comes back to a 100 emails.”
      No, plenty of people do.

      I get 50 emails a day at times.

      1. Susana*

        I wish I just got 50 a day! I get more like 150, if you include personal and professional. I can easily delete the coupons,etc. What’s really driving me nuts are PR people who reach out to me to interview their client – clearly not taking 3 minutes to figure out if that’s in my area – then send me 3 or 4 follow-ups, saying “circling back to see when we can schedule a time for you to talk to Mr. X.” I want to send them that New Yorker cartoon, where the guy behind the desk says, “no, Tuesday’s out. How about never? Is never good for you?” And then – folks I’ve never talked to or worked with, mind you – say in the email, let me know either way. These are the emails I not only delete, but sometimes lead me to delete, without reading, anything from that PR person

    4. Seth*

      Pretty sure Mom MD is saying “no one comes back to 100 emails” in the context of what she wrote before it – meaning that someone else covering her admin assistant so that she, the assistant, doesn’t come back to 100+ emails. It’s just written in a more generalized way, like “we do it this way and no one gets hurt”.

      1. Christy*

        Yeah but it implies that if you get coverage, you don’t come back to 100 emails. I wish! At my work we always designate someone as our backup and trust me, we still come back to >100 emails when we return.

        1. Elemeno P.*

          Even more sometimes! You’ll get an email for x request, an email for y request, and an email from your coverage letting you know that x and y were handled. All important to know!

        2. CMFDF*

          We had a temp cover my maternity leave, but after 12 weeks, I still came back to an inbox of literally thousands of emails. I’m an hourly employee, so I refused to even look at my inbox unless I was clocked in to work. That went double for my leave.

          Most of the emails were things that didn’t apply to me, they had been dealt with by the temp and I’d been cc’d as a courtesy, but there were a lot of things I needed to just scan through so I’d have an idea where we were on projects. I was fortunately able to delete a lot, but I think I spent 5+ hours my first day back just going through that mess.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I think it implies that if Mom MD‘s team gets coverage, no one on her team comes back to 100 emails.

          I don’t think she was talking generally; she was talking about all the admins at her office, and how they handle it for one another. It sounds like they very proactively manage one another’s email inboxes specifically to avoid that huge pile of emails.

          And I can see that for an admin, a lot of what they handle is very “in the moment”–“we need copier paper now, not next week,” and “do you know who I contact for this?” So those get handled and deleted by the backup. If that’s a huge percentage of the email, then it’s going to be lower.
          It might be pretty rare that an admin gets an email she needs to hold onto for reference. And even if she does, her backup will have opened it, dealt w/ anything urgent, and then either left it floating in the inbox, or filed it for her.

          1. boo bot*

            This is what I was thinking as soon as I read the letter – I bet 99% of the emails she gets are immediate requests, and she’s worried that people will email her while she is away and then get angry when she doesn’t fulfill their requests (because she’s away). Saying “Don’t email me because I’m just going to delete it when I get back,” is a way of saying, “Resolve this without me, and I Really Mean It.”

          2. Seth*

            That’s what I meant by generalized – it generally applied to her situation. Her, her admin, her team. Not the whole world.

      2. Elizabeth H.*

        Oh, that makes sense – I genuinely misread that and was like “what?”

        I’m a program administrator and even though I put up a vacation message about who to contact for urgent issues, I definitely still come back to hundreds of messages. It doesn’t really bother me though because a lot of it I can ignore – even if the email is THERE, a lot of the time the situation has cleared itself up so I still don’t need to do anything.

    5. Sandy*

      So 100 emails a (week)day is common for me. A week’s vacation will net me between 500 and 700 unread emails.

      Typical practice for me is to turn my work blackberry on when I land at the airport, and leave it alone to do its thing for about an hour.

      Then I can triage it as necessary. To be sure, not all of those 500-700 will require action from me, I can just delete or (more likely) file them away. Somewhere around 250-300 will typically require a real response?

      I would never do a mass delete like that. Not only would t get menlegitimately fired, but even if a colleague is handling things in my absence, I would like to know how it was resolved in case it shows up again!

      1. Parenthetically*

        Somewhere around 250-300 will typically require a real response?

        Oh ye gods. I… I need to lie down.

          1. Jules the Third*

            It is – 90% of my job is handling information flow, and most of that is through emails.
            “Hey, transportation contact, these imports are stuck, can you shake them loose?”
            “Hi, what’s the quote on that part?”
            “Here’s who we bought from this month, and how much we spent”

            I spend a little time building / maintaining tools to let other people access the info directly, but email is *the* way my team (four sites, three countries, two continents) gets work done.

          2. Bea*

            It’s really not. I can get 50 emails answered within an hour depending on content and requests. 50% of the time the answer is in my brain already, the other is a few clicks to pull an account up and look at it.

            I have very few clients and vendors who don’t respond quickly and I know there even larger scale than our company. The thousands a day companies take 48hours tops to return messages.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      After a vacation at OldToxicJob, I came back to over 1000 emails and that was with my teammates covering for me.

    7. MyBossSaidWhat*

      Yeah… I don’t check when I’m not at work (that’s 10 hours a day I have to commute & do everything else… I come in to 100-200 emails and people screaming mad that I didn’t reply to. I can’t imagine a week.

    8. Lady Blerd*

      “No one comes back to a 100 emails”

      That’s because we can easily comeback with twice that, sometimes more waiting in our inbox. The upside to the out of office marker in Outlook it that it cut down the number as people realize you are gone but you still get emails that can wait for your return to be actioned. And as a secretary/admin assistant, she can’t just delete her emails unread, some of them can be critical.

    9. Michelle*

      I’m an assistant and when I come back from 2 weeks of vacation, I have thousands of emails. Since I’m technically the “owner” of the Outlook calendar, every time something is added by the 3 other people who are allowed to add, I get a notification. Then I get the invitees response. If they forward it, I get a notification of that. This is all with someone else covering me. I go through and delete all those when I return because I know they have been taken care of (due to have an OOO message on and who to contact), then deal with the others.

    10. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      In my last job I got a 100 emails a day – on a slow day. I would have coverage for while I was out, but the emails still come to me first, then they get the out of office and then they send to the person covering *only if it can’t wait*. So not only would I come back to 700-1000 emails after a week’s vacation, I’d then have to actually read through and see if everything had been handled. 100 emails in a week is nothing.

    11. Myka Bering*

      At the height of one project I was working on, I averaged 500 emails a day. Approximately 2/3 of those required me to touch them. Thankfully I’m at about half that demand now.

  9. Mom MD*

    Sorry but excessive hair shedding is gross. Especially in kitchen or bathroom areas. We had a very high shedder and virtually the entire staff was bothered by it. I’d wear the hair up. That was her solution.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      What am I supposed to do, shave my head? The way I shed you’d think I’d be bald by now but somehow I never have less hair. I already wear my hair too short to tie it back and I still make hair-drifts in my bathroom at home. Between me and my dog, we actually managed to destroy a roomba. With hair.

      My hair is clean and well-kept and falls out a lot. Short of completely covering my hair entirely whenever I leave my house there’s nothing I can do about it except brush it off surfaces when I notice it there. I have legitimately zero idea what I would do if someone was like, “Wendy, we’ve noticed you are a heavy shedder and everyone in the office is bothered by it,” because there is not a whole heck of a lot I can do to solve that problem except come to work in a balaclava.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        This. I also shed hair even when I put it in a braid or in a bun. And because my hair is long, wavy, thick and red, it’s a lot more noticeable, so while someone with lighter or thinner hair may shed more than I do, it’s not bound to be found that readily. I’m not talking about hairballs or a bunch of hair, but one or two strands. It can skew the perception to me shedding “a lot”.

        I will pick it up when I notice it. I will always keep it up around food (mine or someone else’s). I’m specially careful in kitchens and bathrooms. But other than that, there isn’t much I can do.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        You’re doing fine and don’t need to do anything else. You’re alreadybbeing thoughtful and if someone is rude enoigh to make a thing of it, I’m sorry you need to deal with them, but it’s not on you.

      3. jamlady*

        I shed everywhere and no amount of tucking my hair away helps. Honestly, if someone (or an office) had that much of an issue with it, I’d tell them what I’m already doing about it and expect them to move on. This shouldn’t be a big deal, and any office that makes it one isn’t the right fit for me.

      4. memyselfandi*

        I shed a lot of hair, and I always wonder why I am not bald. My individual hairs are not particularly thick, but a hairdresser once told me I had an unusually high number of hair follicles per square inch on my head. I have no idea if that it true, but I once had to have electrodes put on my head and the technician had a hard time getting a good connection with my scalp and he complained about not being able to find any bare places on my scalp. If you are not in food service I wouldn’t worry about it.

      5. T3k*

        This (and also why I’m afraid to get a roomba). I have very long, individually thick strands of dark hair to the point it looks like a hair massacre after I’ve brushed, when in reality it’s only 10 or so strands. I try to scoop up what I see and throw it away but honestly, my hair is pretty dang clean and I can think of (and seen) much grosser things at work than hair.

        1. Artemesia*

          You just have to groom the roomba more often. I shed like crazy and have to do it. I would prefer to groom the roomba than to vacuum.

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            I groom the Roomba. It’s obvious to me when it’s shedding season for my rabbits because the hair in the Roomba’s rollers is primarily their color rather than primarily mine. (I take a scissors and snip lengthwise through the rolls of hair down the roller, between the rows of bristles, to make cleanup easier.)

        2. SusanIvanova*

          The first time I had my carpet steam cleaned they were using a carpet broom first and I bought it on the spot – it has saved so much vacuum untangling. A quick pass to pick up the hairs from the surface, and then the Roomba can pick up everything else.

          1. Yolo*

            Ooh can you explain carpet broom? I googled it and came up with a variety of things and I would love to know what specifically can help get hair out of carpet. Thank you!

            1. Neosmom*

              My carpet broom is like a rake with several rows of rubber tips. You actually rake sections of carpet and then pull the tufts of hair and fluff out of the tines and toss them in the trash. Then you can vacuum without risk of tangling the cleaner’s rollers.

              1. PhyllisB*

                Haven’t thought about carpet rakes in years. In the days of SHAG CARPET that was the only way to get all the stuff out.

                1. Nerdling*

                  Holy crap, my childhood home needed one of these so badly! (She says, having flashbacks to the ridiculously tall and thready carpet pile and its effects on the vacuum.)

              2. SusanIvanova*

                Yep, like that. The tines are about half an inch long and densely packed, and the surface area is about 2″ by a foot and a half. It’ll catch and hold whatever’s on the surface of the carpet.

            2. Anion*

              I recently bought a Bissell Pet Hair Eraser hand vacuum, and it has changed my life–I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s literally true. It comes with two heads, a rubber one like Neosmom describes below, and a regular “flat” type head. It’s a really powerful little hand vacuum, and that rubbery head is amazing (it works great on berber-style rugs or shag rugs; no more dog hair stuck in the plushy bath mat and then transferring to our damp feet when we get out of the shower).

              I no longer have dog hair all over everything! I don’t have to use a lint roller before leaving the house! Laundry is easier; the washer filter and the dryer filter are cleaner, the house never smells “doggy,” at all, and my carpet and couch are C-L-E-A-N.

              It’s a little heavy and the handle is a little awkward, but it was super inexpensive (I paid about $25 on Amazon, but it might have been on sale. It would be worth it at twice the price, though). The container isn’t huge–it’s not tiny, but it’s still only a hand vacuum–so I have to empty it fairly often, but that’s a minor inconvenience.

              Honestly, I love that thing. It’s made my life so much easier, and I can really, really see a difference both since I started using it and if I skip a day–I usually don’t vacuum much on weekends and man, Monday morning our rug is just coated with fur, to the point that the colors are dulled. One going-over with the Pet Hair Eraser and it’s bright and clean again.

              It’s not powerful like a Dyson, of course (sigh, we’re saving up for one now), but it’s also not five-six hundred dollars. I highly, highly recommend it if you have problems with hair or fur in the carpet. (And yes, it does pick up human hair and dust etc. just as easily as pet hair.)

              *I do not work for nor am I associated with Bissell in any way. I just really love that little vacuum.

        3. Shiara*

          As someone with long hair and a roomba, the roomba’s actually really nicely designed to be easy to partially disassemble and clean the hair out of the wheels and brushes. Much easier than our old vaccum cleaner.

        4. Wendy Darling*

          I have a combo of lots of hair and lots of carpet that is rough on robot vacuums. My first low-end roomba couldn’t get through a cycle without stopping and crying at me to clean it halfway through. I ended up giving that one to my parents (who have short-haired pets and hardwood) and getting a higher end model that has two rubber brushes that spin toward each other and are specifically made to avoid tangles, and THAT one is brilliant.

      6. anon for this*

        Same here!

        I think it’s cruel of the co-workers to bring it up — not to mention making it into a running joke! — since there’s not much the LW can do. She isn’t *choosing* to jettison hairs, and it’s not exactly reasonable to expect her to grow out her hair so that she can always put it up (if it’s short enough that she doesn’t already).

        (I for one have a huge head and look ridiculous with my hair up, so I keep it short and face-framing. If I grew it out to braidable/bunnable length, I’d just be replacing one problem with another.)

      7. Mookie*

        And a blanket Wear Your ‘Do Up is not constructive advice. It doesn’t mitigate the problem for a lot of people and shedders come in all shapes, including bowl-cuts. If you can’t handle the normal detritus of other people’s bodies, Close Your Mouths, You’re Probably Drinking Their Airborne Skin Flakes (and your own), which, like a lot of human residues, apparently helps scavenge ozone in indoor spaces. Also, everyone got excited a few years back when smelling other people’s farts was touted as “healthy.” So, there’s probably an upside for bystanders to other people’s hair-shedding.

        1. Lora*

          I work in a field where in many offices, hair must be worn up, always. You can choose how you want to put it up but some offices forbid products, too. In the manufacturing areas, you wear hair coverings. If they found hair anywhere other than, say, one strand on the back of your office chair, it would be a Very Big Deal, like a “you have a week to figure out how to keep your hair in place or here’s a pink slip” big deal.

          Miraculously everyone figures it out. At one job that had a medical device polymer prototyping lab, there was a lady who complained mightily that she just couldn’t put her hair up. We showed her the video about how to do a rescue when someone’s hair gets stuck in a calendaring mill. She put her hair up.

            1. Lora*

              Dunno. But that’s the clean room rules in certain facilities: no product, no makeup, no perfume, no lotion, nothing. Some places don’t even allow deodorant, require multiple showers, freshly-brushed teeth and hair-washing with unscented shampoo and unscented soap before entry and after exit, and you have to change into company–provided scrubs before you can even start putting on the other layers of PPE. It’s not up to you, it’s to protect the drugs they’re making. Well, in the case of antibiotics and cytotoxics it’s to protect you as well, but mostly it’s to protect the drugs.

              The Black people I worked with mainly had very short natural hair or shaved bald; I can only think of a couple of women who didn’t, and they had office jobs that didn’t require them to go in the manufacturing area. And most people would shower in the company gym and put all their usual lotion and conditioner and whatnot back on before they left for the day. You’d show up in khakis and a blouse for meetings, change into scrubs and do the whole showering rigamarole to go in the suite, spend 4-6 hours in the manufacturing suite, then hop out and change back into your street clothes to finish up all the emails and paperwork that piled up while you were in the suite, then go in the bathroom to put on your chapstick and lotion (the whole ordeal makes your skin very dry) and put leave-in conditioner on your hair, then head home.

              1. Wendy Darling*

                I have a friend who works in a lab with similar requirements and I’m like, man, my skin would FALL OFF. My skin is very dry without having to shower into work every day!

            2. Yolo*

              In the context of manufacturing or “clean rooms” I think it’s a bona fide occupational qualification/requirement to follow their grooming/product rules. Generally in this context people have to also wear the kind of personal protective equipment that covers the head, the whole outfit…basically what you imagine when someone says “hazmat suit”. So it’s unfriendly to everyone’s hair, and there’s no amount of cultural norm that is exempt.

            3. TL -*

              I know several Black women who have had weaves, very short hair, braids, or chemically straightened or easily braidable hair. When we shared hair care stories, my understanding was that those styles had options that didn’t need day-to-day maintenance and/or consistent product.
              Presumably if it’s clear in the interview/job description (and when I interviewed at a BLS-4 lab they were very clear on what it required) people who feel that really well done hair and lotions and stuff is an integral part of their workday will opt out. I decided that wearing a bra was an integral part of my workday and opted out of the BSL-4 lab.

              1. cookie monster*

                can you explain why a bra would not be allowed? I am not familiar with this kind of work place at all and am just really curious!

              2. Elizabeth H.*

                I would imagine that you’re not allowed to wear literally anything besides the scrubs underneath the rest of your biohazard gear, and that the scrubs don’t include undergarments.

                1. Lora*

                  You can usually wear underpants but clothing that rubs against your skin tightly, i.e. a bra, will shed skin flakes much more than regular underpants and socks.

                  I know, you’d think that when you’re wearing scrubs, a bunny suit, dedicated suite shoes that live in the suite and are disinfected daily, a hair cover under the bunny suit head cover, shoe covers, knee-high boots, a Tyvek coat, two layers of gloves, sleeve covers that cover the occasional gap between glove ends and sleeve ends when you stretch your arms, every bit of shedding skin flakes would be well contained. There are just some sites where they do not take any risks ever due to frequent contaminations, and they feel that tight clothing is a risk.

                  My professional opinion is that they should look to their water system management first as it’s often the culprit, but water systems take months-long shutdowns to remediate and usually $$million$$, while it is only a month of re-training and SOP revision and a couple of meetings with the PPE providers you already have to make your gowning requirements more restrictive, so people usually try that first before they go to the more expensive remediations. But what do I know, I’ve only been doing contamination investigation and remediation since 2003…

              1. The Original K.*

                It’s not, I imagine, but Black women’s hair tends to be naturally dry and requires adding some kind of moisturizing product as part of a healthy regimen. My mother wears her hair short and natural and has for decades because she likes to keep her hair low-maintenance – but the little maintenance she does involves applying a moisturizing product to it every day. I honestly don’t know any Black women who wear their own hair, whether natural or chemically straightened, who don’t use some kind of moisturizing product, myself included (I have bra-strap-length natural curly hair).

            4. Anion*

              …follow the rules like everyone else?

              As others have explained, it’s a sanitation/contamination issue, not a “personal style” issue.

              1. tangerineRose*

                Curly hair is drier than straight hair, and the curlier it is, the drier the hair is likely to be. It’s not as much about the style.

                1. Anion*

                  Yes, but the point is the rules don’t care about how dry one’s hair or skin is; everyone has to follow them, and it is not culturally insensitive or racist to do so.

                  My (naturally curly/frizzy) hair is dry, and my skin is dry, but I still have to wash my hands quite a few times during the day. I would especially still be expected to wash my hands quite a few times a day if I worked in a place/field like food service, where not doing so could cause harm to others.

          1. TootsNYC*

            yes, but if the OP worked in that situation, she wouldn’t have a problem–she’d just use a hair covering all the time.

            She works in a situation in which a hair covering like those is not appropriate.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            I would have to wear some kind of a hat/cap because the hair on the back of my head is legitimately like 2 inches long and there is no putting it up. I would not complain about having to wear a hair covering in an environment where everyone’s hair must be covered, but that is in fact what it would take to keep me from shedding.

            I don’t think that would be appropriate for my office job though.

      8. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        In most kitchens and some other places like medical settings, the staff are expected to wear hair or beard nets. They do have a lunch lady vibe but they do contain hair. Or you could try to find a Victorian era like snood, they are very attractive. It’s like a hair net but with beads sewn into it.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          I would like to wear a snood on occasion but I get the vibe that they aren’t really included in the business casual realm. It might work if it was hair colored but anything that has a decidedly retro vibe doesn’t seem to be done.

        2. A.*

          I feel like hair coverings in kitchens should be required. There have been too many times when I am halfway through my meal and find a hair. I wish I could just remove it and keep eating but I immediately lose my appetite.

          1. Wicked Odd*

            I react exactly the same way. And yet the inevitable cat hair in my food at home doesn’t even phase me…

            I think it’s fair that kitchens and clean rooms have strict requirements around hair. In part due to necessity, but also because those environments have norms like hair nets and specific gear to keep you from shedding. It’s not reasonable to expect that in an office, where a hair net would be seen as downright unprofessional.

      9. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I’m also a shedder. No matter what length my hair is, it falls out. I keep a shawl on the back of my office chair and spend some time every morning picking out hairs. It’s just how it is, and it’s been that way my whole life. The only time anyone in my office notices is when the tumbleweeds appear, and that’s because our cleaners don’t vacuum– and they’re irritated at the cleaners, not with me.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I disagree that hair shedding is gross. Unless you are finding someone else’s hair in your food or having to fish it out of a plug hole, neither of which I would expect to be the case in an office environment.

      OP, I agree that vigorous brushing in the morning before you come in to work may help reduce the problem, and perhaps doing it again during your breaks, if there is somewhere where you can contain it and clear away anything you shed.

      It may well be that your hair length & colour mean your hairs are more noticeable that those of your co-workers.
      And if putting your hair up reduces how much you shed, then doing that most days will also reduce the over all effect.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Agreed. Most people don’t find other people’s hair as disgusting when it’s still attached to their heads, but the minute it falls off we find it repulsive. No, it doesn’t belong in your food. But some hair on the floor is not gross.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          +1 Yes its a hassle to clean but it isn’t gross. Even in your food the problem is the safety risk not the germyness or whatever.

          Maybe we should go back to everyone wearing head coverings, that way we wouldn’t have to deal with any gross hair.

        2. whingedrinking*

          Martha Nussbaum’s “Hiding from Humanity” has a really interesting section about the way we treat stuff that’s part of the body vs. stuff that’s been expelled from the body and how it affects our perceptions of disgust (eg, you’re probably fine with having saliva in your mouth – until you spit it out, at which point you’d refuse to put it back in).

      2. Wendy Darling*

        I actually feel like one of the benefits to being a heavy shedder is if I find a hair in my food that is not actually legitimately baked into the center of a cookie or something, I just assume it was my hair, pick it out, and carry on with my life. I’m sure sometimes it’s not my hair but I don’t think a cooked hair is gonna give me germs and I have plausible deniability on my side.

      1. Kizzy Bennet*

        Glad to know I’m not the only one picking up on the abrasive vibes Mom MD puts out every time she’s here!

    3. pleaset*

      I’d rather it in the bathroom than the kitchen or desks.

      I agree it’s gross, but am not sure what the OP can do about it other than picking it up if s/he notices it.

  10. Chocolate Teapot*

    3. I heard of an out of office message which went along the lines of:

    This inbox will not be accessed until September. Your email has been deleted.

    Short and to the point, but not very helpful.

    1. CityMouse*

      Yeah that is a terrible outgoing email. At a minimum there needs to be an alternative contact instruction.

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      I work with someone who once put “I am out of the country from X until Y. Please don’t email me until I get back as last time I came back to 250 emails and reading these cuts into the amount of time I have left until I retire.” I did hear later he got in trouble for that.

    3. Annie Moose*

      The only time I can see something like that is if someone’s going to be out of touch for literally months… but even then, I’d expect something a little more useful than that!

      “I will be on sabbatical until January 2019 and this inbox will not be monitored during that time. Please direct all inquiries about French fries to Stephanie, mashed potatoes to Cassandra, and all other potato-related inquiries to Barbara. For potato emergencies, contact Helena.”

      Or something like that.

    4. Kim*

      My office once sent a personal e-mail to someone who had provided their work e-mail (strongly dislike this, but okay). We received an out-of-office but did not really minded this, since we receive a lot of those.

      Months later, when the time came for this guy to actually visit our office, he called to complain why he’d never received confirmation of the appointment. We pointed out that he did, whereupon he told us that he had deleted all e-mail in his inbox up to a certain date, as per his out-of-office, which had apparently also requested us to re-send the e-mail after a certain date. I told him that this was his problem and that we could not reasonably be expected to accommodate such requests.

      Honestly, no. I am not going to make your inbox management my effing problem.

  11. BePositive*


    Hello fellow shedder! I have the same problem. I put my hair up most days because of it too. However on the days I don’t I do pick up when I see it as well. Everyone is nice about it and they know you can’t help it. What I found helped immensely is to regularly condition the hair. My hair I found is it sheded but haven’t worked it’s way loose. The conditoner makes the hair slippery enough that the loose hair comes out in my hands and drain catcher. When i first started it was so much that I felt I had a health issue. Even went to the doctor who was amused at me. After a while the loose hair was less. Made a big difference of the amount ending up in the office and home.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I have long light-coloured hair and when I was a teenager my friends were always picking hairs off the back of my black school blazer! Similarly to BePositive, how about combing through your conditioner with a very wide-tooth comb? I find that brings out a lot of the hair I would have shed later that day; just remember to clear the shower drain regularly! It may also be worth (if this is suitable for your hair type and you haven’t put it up that day) going to the ladies and giving your hair a nice vigorous brush when you get to work and maybe at lunchtime, and that way you get the shedding done in a controlled environment and can put the hair straight in the bin from your brush.

  12. Close Bracket*

    #3 What do you plan to email your receptionist about while she is away? It’s not as though she is going to be making your travel plans while she is on vacation. It seems like most of the things she would normally need to know about will be over by the time she gets back. Not emailing her in the first place sounds like a good idea.

    #4 are used to have very long, down to my hips, hair that I left everywhere as a calling card. I eventually cut it, so it was not as remarkable when it fell out everywhere, but it still fell out everywhere. Then in my 30s I was diagnosed with an under active tyroid. I got it treated, and low, my hair still falls out, you can’t tell where I have been sitting by the stray hairs anymore. So while yes, hair does the fall out, but only up to a point. Normal shedding should be kept under control with regular brushing. If regular brushing isn’t keeping it under control, there might be something treatable going on.

    1. Sami*

      Agree with you on checking with a doctor. I was shedding A LOT and it turned out to be a low functioning thyroid. Something to consider.

    2. MsSolo*

      My thought on 3 is she’s probably anticipating coming back to a lot of emails that are already dealt with. There may also be a few people like certain of my colleagues who, when they get an out of office, reply to it to apologise, then copy you in to their email to whoever’s covering that function and again to every single reply to that thread. Coming back to over a dozen emails about whether the doughnuts that were put out in the kitchen on monday need throwing away yet is not a good use of anyone’s time (and bonus points if a lot of people don’t use subject lines, so 90% of your inbox is just re: and fwd: and you can’t tell the various conversations apart so you have to check every single email).

    3. MLB*

      What the LW wants to email to the admin is beside the point. The admin telling everyone she’ll be deleting all of her emails from the week she’s out is beyond unprofessional. When you’re OOO, you set up a message letting people know who to contact for certain things, based on who’s backing you up. And you are prepared to sift through your emails when you get back. Is it fun? Of course not. But it’s part of being in the professional world and she needs to get over it. I’d be interested to know if her manager knows about this email she sent out and gave her the go ahead, because if he/she did agree and allow it, the manager is just as bad as the admin.

    4. Nephron*

      If the admin does the ordering for office supplies and I realize I have grabbed the last pack of printer paper then I am going to email immediately as I can easily forget by the time she is back.

      I work weekends/nights/and early mornings and will email things to the admin I cannot do because I lack authorization or access. I do not expect it to be solved that minute, or even that day, but I also need it to be fixed next time she is available and leaving notes to myself is added another step and risking us running out of supplies.

      1. What are koalas, anyway?*

        I once had a job as an academic’s PA and the types of things I got emailed about — as well as the types of things that I emailed other admins about — could be anywhere on the scale from “tomorrow” to “July 2019”. Our office culture was such that if someone needed an immediate response, they picked up the phone or found the person in-person. (Which, I mean, good luck, academics are notoriously elusive and sometimes this extended to admins, but some people could be found if you knew how to look.)

  13. Sarah G*

    Interesting concept. The “I’m going to delete every single email” approach could work in a very specific type of role,I would imagine, but I think there are more jobs for which would not be acceptable/appropriate. I mean, I prefer to go through and quickly delete the emails I don’t need to follow up on, and then look through and prioritize the others. But my work culture is very email dependent. It would be nice if there was a “vacation” setting which would automatically delete emails about the fridge getting cleaned, or the database will be down for 1 hr this afternoon, or here’s your third reminder for this baby shower for co-worker-at-another-building-whom-you-don’t-even-know, and the like.

    1. MLB*

      I can’t think of any job where deleting every email would be appropriate. It’s entitled and selfish to think it’s okay to tell everyone that. I would bring this up with her manager if I were the LW. If her manager gave her the green light to send that email, then the manager sucks too.

      1. kb*

        If it’s a job where the only emails received are things are things that should be covered by someone else while they’re gone, I think I could see it being semi-reasonable (but not appropriate to say in this way). Like, if you’re one of two office admins and the other one will be covering all your duties while your out, I think it’d be reasonable to make it v clear that all emails should be sent to the other person.

    2. CM*

      I’ve seen a couple of people do this as freelancers, with advance warning to their clients. I think it can ONLY work if you have a lot of independence and power (the people I’ve seen do this are highly sought after, and don’t have to worry too much about annoying their clients).

    3. alana*

      I do it and it works fine for my role. (Our internal conversations are all on Slack, I don’t have a big public-facing role, and most external email I receive — 150+ messages per day — does not require a response.) I set up a standard out of office that gives people a point of contact for urgent requests, as I would anyway, and asks them to email me again after I’ve returned.

      I was a reporter in the past and got the idea from a source I once emailed when they were OOO. I found it honest rather than off-putting. We all get a lot of email.

  14. MarkA*

    #1. Interesting that your predecessor seems to be no longer part of the MLM.
    Why did your predecessor leave…?

    1. LW1*

      My predecessor got moved to a different territory but is still hearing from the client about “talking about R&F”. I’m going to use Allison’s advice and just shut it down early and firmly. I don’t want to just kick the can down the road like my co-worker did. Ultimately, my colleague mostly neglected the account. I don’t want to do that either.

      1. Cait*

        I wonder if it would be prudent to give your boss a head’s up to what the client is doing. That way, if the relationship sours, you have it documented what they were asking.

        As a note, I’m in sales and if a client was pressuring me to buy something on the side from them in order to retain their business, that would be considered a side letter which is a huge ethical no-no at my company. It just might help letting your boss know, maybe you can get another account to make up for this one.

        1. LW1*

          I’m going to mention it to my boss this week. I know that he’ll tell me that I’m totally allowed to abandon the account. I just don’t want to. I’m especially frustrated because throughout our meeting, she was VERY interested in picking up several skus and then dropped this mlm thing at the very end. I’m going to use Alison’s script and see what happens!

    1. Cats fence*

      I see you’ve been successfully brainwashed.

      MLMs are not sustainable because they require each new recruit to recruit other recruits in order to make money. At some point you’re going to run out of people. Most people end up making a net loss and that’s not their fault, it’s just the way the so called business is intended to work. It’s extremely unethical and exploitative.

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      People at the top have success stories. Becuase at the end of the chain, a lot of people don’t.

      And anti-oxidant natural drink? Not the best example to choose if you want to avoid being seen as a scam.

    3. Not Australian*

      Google ‘South Sea Bubble’ to get an idea of how destructive this sort of thing can be. That is, if you actually want to know.

      1. Aphrodite*

        I can highly recommend reading the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, an early study of crowd psychology, particularly applicable to today’s MLMs, by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay. It was first published in 1841. I really loved the tulip bulb mania and that one poor man’s breakfast.

    4. E.*

      Of course there are a few success stories – there are with any scheme, that’s part of what attracts other people to it. Your example also demonstrated another problem with MLM unrelated to the business model: the product is often (not always, many aren’t) a useless supplement that’s a waste of money.

    5. Boy oh boy*

      I doubt you’ll be convinced, but if anyone reading this isn’t sure please read this recent Bloomberg article about LuLaRoe (the legging MLM) for a good description of problems. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2018-04-27/thousands-of-women-say-lularoe-s-legging-empire-is-a-scam

      There’s a great first person story about being dragged into Younique selling and how it goes wrong here: https://ellebeaublog.com/poonique/ it really helped me understand the model and why people join up.

      Stay cool and don’t join an MLM folks.

      1. E.*

        That’s a fascinating article, I’m surprised I’d never heard about the Mormon connection before. “a disproportionate number of MLMs are started or run by Mormons. The church’s members’ familiarity with pitching something to strangers as well as their preference that women remain at home have helped make direct selling Utah’s second-largest industry, after tourism.”

        1. MissGirl*

          It’s not a religious thing; it’s a regional thing. Thanks to some of our politicians, companies that thrive under MLM have less regulations in Utah. Also, we have a large, young stay-at-home mother population that MLMs target aggressively.

          1. E.*

            But isn’t the young stay-at-home mother population largely a result of the religion?

      2. Kipper*

        I have a relative who sells Lularoe. I will definitely say it’s not for most people, but my relative works her butt off and has been very successful with it, and she doesn’t have much of a downline. I think the company is doing a disservice to people by telling them they can make a lot of money in their “spare time”. It’s my relative’s full time job, and she spends easily 80 hours a week on it. But she also loves it, and happily puts that time in. I couldn’t do it, that’s for sure.

      3. Spreadsheets and Books*

        For those who hate MLMs and want more anti-MLM goodness like Elle Beau, r/antimlm on Reddit and the Facebook group “Sounds like MLM but ok” are wonderful.

    6. SamPassingThrough*

      “It really pisses me off that you spread this kind of ignorant viewpoint to the masses.”

      …. Right back at cha!

    7. Artemesia*

      I once sat on the deck of a mountain cabin while a MLM leader trained half a dozen of her ‘downlines’. Yes, she trained them to ignore hints and provided scripts to bully and mislead. I have personally had MLM sales people question my religion and my patriotism for not wishing to participate as it is apparently very Christian and very patriotic to buy overpriced crap from ‘friends’. And it is common to be told ‘a friend who won’t help you make money is not a friend.’ Participants tend to pollute the social groups they are a part of as well as the workplace; I once quit a pretty good book club when members started hijacking meetings for ‘just a few minutes’ for a pampered chef demonstration or to show cleaning or health care products.

      These organizations are monstrous when they function like this as they mostly do. And to bring a side hustle into the work place is particularly abusive.

      1. MyBossSaidWhat*

        I’ve had “Christian” family by marriage get in my face and scream at me days after major surgery that I didn’t deserve medical care, they hope my attacker comes back and (insert graphic sexual/physical violence here) and that they’re praying I have to declare medical bankruptcy. It’s a major reason I’ll never convert.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          What????????? That’s sickening. I’m so sorry and hope you have good people around you to counteract these subhuman ‘family’ members. Just disgusting.

            1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

              Then I am sending you all the good thoughts, as well as cuddles and purrs from cats. We’ve got your back! I hope you find good people near you soon.

              (As for the evangelical part – don’t want to get off-topic so will just say your story sadly does not surprise me. You deserve better than this nonsense.)

            2. Temperance*

              That is pretty accurate. Basically, it’s your fault if you get sexually abused because you did something to make the man want to attack you. You tempted him, thus it’s your fault and you need to be punished.

            3. Specialk9*

              It seems problematic to post something so universally condemning on this site. You don’t know who your fellow commenters are.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          Let’s please not derail into a religion discussion here and stay focused on MLMs, thanks.

        3. Lindsay J*

          I’m sorry that that happened to you, but I’m not sure that this has anything to do with the post at hand.

      2. eplawyer*

        I have no less than 3 friends sellinig R & F. Only one is silly enough to try to get me to use her products. I don’t use makeup or do much more than wash my face with Burt’s Bees. She actually suggested I need the eyebag stuff before my wedding. Yeah, contemplating unfriending that person.

        What people unfamiliar with MLM don’t know is it’s not the Tupperware parties of old, where you get some friends together and they order stuff and you get some money. You have to buy a kit every single month. Every single month costing $200 or more. You have to buy it whether you made enough last month or not to justify it. So the only solution is to guilt all your friends into helping you and recruiting a downline. So they have a monthly committment. Eventually you run out of friends to scam.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Connie Willis had a wonderful bit about writing science fiction based on her experience going to Tupperware parties. The group gathers, and then attempts to form words from the letters in TUPPERWARE and the champion receives a small plastic egg slicer.

          The stories based on MLM meetings would be a lot darker.

          1. fposte*

            Tupperware actually is MLM (and I’ve been to one of those parties!). So is Avon. They’re the old-school classics.

            1. Laura H*

              Tupperware, Pampered Chef, Avon and Mary Kay are probably the ONLY ones I’d entertain considering. Because they have a time-related reputation.

              Still prolly wouldn’t buy anything. But all these new ones? NO THANK YOU! Go hawk your makeup nail polish scented bricks elsewhere!

              1. fposte*

                I wouldn’t subsidize Mary Kay; it does too much nasty stuff. See pinktruth dot com for the behind the scenes stories.

              2. Nea*

                I joined Pampered Chef just in time for a whole bunch of traditionalists to lose their mind because something something Warren Buffet something something “aborshun!” So that was fun.

                Stayed just long enough to realize that I was getting sucked into “but I want this incentive so I’ll just buy some of my own stuff to get it,” realized that this was what sanity looked like in the rear view mirror, and got out.

                That said, while I ended up selling most of the clayware in a yard sale, there are still some Pampered Chef tools that I use on a daily basis,* so I’m not adverse to making an order now and then… through someone ELSE.

                *Some of them even for their originally intended purpose

                1. Birch*

                  Yeah, I have bought stuff from Pampered Chef and Arbonne becausethe products are actually good. I don’t appreciate how the businesses are run, though.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                I don’t like Mary Kay but I have and still would buy Avon. I heard you can order from them direct these days; I haven’t seen a catalog or a rep in ages. They were always good quality and I never had any issues with them over a wide range of products. I also liked that most of the reps didn’t push me to buy–they just put out catalogs. Anyone who pushes me gets an automatic no.

                As for Tupperware, I’m not familiar with their newer products, but you can buy vintage stuff in flea markets ALL the time. That’s where I get most of mine. It lasts nearly forever. If the quality hasn’t changed, I’d still buy the new if I could afford it.

              4. Becky*

                I mean I actually like Tupperware brand products and Pampered Chef has some great kitchen gadgets that I can’t seem to find similar of anywhere else, but I buy direct online, I do not and will not ever host a party in my home and get pitched how I can empower myself by becoming a distributor. (GAG.)

          2. Arjay*

            What’s fascinating to me is that back in the 80s, I had friends selling this stuff who actually hosted “parties” at their homes and pretended to at least be entertaining you. They’d do live demos of pampered chef products or have beautiful displays of Partylite candles glowing. I’m wearing a necklace today that I bought at a jewelry party around 2005. Cheese and crackers and a cheap glass of wine at least made it seem something like an occasion.
            Since the parties have all moved to online, facebook-live events, I feel much less obligated to participate at all.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I once had to go out randomly (maybe to the library for a couple of hours?) because my neighbor was hosting a party for some MLM, and would know if I was “busy” sitting at home. (This neighbor is good about stepping up if things go sideways and you need help, so I want to preserve the peace. But not at the expense of sitting through an MLM presentation.)

      3. Allison*

        The guilt tripping is the worst! I almost don’t mind if my friends decide to try MLMs, they have their reasons, it’s none of my business and they’re not gonna listen to me anyway, but screw you if you tell me I’m a bad person or a bad friend because I’d rather buy my go-to cosmetics from Sephora and CVS rather than switch to Younique or Mary Kay. Money and friendships don’t mix, even when makeup is involved, let me buy what I like in peace.

      4. Michelle*

        I had a woman – a total stranger – tell me that I was bringing negativity into her life by not buying the weight loss snake oil du jour from her.

    8. RoadsLady*

      Good grief.

      I know a few MLM milliinaires. I am happy for them.

      I also know many more failing ones including one who lost her home.

      1. Becky*

        If you’re employed by corporate side, its actually very good pay/benefits etc. but it is all on the backs of the distributors. A very close friend’s brother in law is the founder and CEO of a very well known essential oils MLM. He is crazy rich.

    9. Dawn*

      Good Lord! What a very strange comment.

      I’m sorry to see that you have been so duped, and that your ego cannot handle the realisation of how misled and wrong you are and so is reduced to this sort of bizarre posturing. It’s very sad. I hope you are able to overcome this in the future and do not lose too much more time to this nonsense. Best of luck!

    10. Beatrice*

      I’ve personally known women who were in dire financial straits who spent meager savings their families couldn’t afford to lose, buying stock to start their “exciting new careers” selling whatever MLM crap they got conned into selling. None of them got out of their dire financial straits that way. Shame on people like your clients, for getting ahead on the misery of people looking for a way out of a tight spot. To get to 48 millionaires working for them, they’ve contributed to the fleecing of thousands of vulnerable people. Appalling.

    11. CityMouse*

      These MLMs literally engage in cult-like tactics to keep people on the leash. The reality is that almost everyone (like 93%) of most MLMs lose money and those who make money only do so on the backs of other people who are convinced to buy inventory they can’t sell. Which I fully believe is immoral.

      I have seriously had to cut off people who would not take no for an answer and insulted my career and marriage based in their culty vile scripts. My sister in law got roped in and fortunately only lost a few thousand dollars before getting out.

      These businesses should be illegal.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Not to defend MLMs as a general rule, because I got pressured into selling Mary Kay years ago and HATED it, but there are a handful out there that don’t require you to purchase stock/inventory. They still have very low ratings for people making money, but most people don’t join those companies to make money, just to get “member pricing” for the products. I have friends in MLMs and must be the luckiest person on the planet, because they don’t do sales pitches.

        1. Penny Lane*

          Is CABI clothing considered MLM? I’ve bought at CABI parties and there was no pressure to then sell for them (unless, of course, you so desired).

        2. Tobias Funke*

          Even the “discounts” are trash because the products are trash. The consultants are the customers and the products wouldn’t exist without the pesky little laws about having to have an actual product. Nothing sold by a MLM company is worth buying for so many reasons.

          1. Michelle*

            Eh, if I could get Jamberry at Walgreens, I’d start buying it again. I can’t paint my nails because the smell makes my husband sick, but I love nail stickers, and the glue on the Jamberry ones works better than any others I’ve tried. I just refuse to support the company since I’ve learned how awful the business model is.

      2. Lara*

        “These businesses should be illegal.”


        John Oliver did a pretty blistering expose of MLMs. Key issues are that you have to buy a certain amount of product to stay ‘qualified’ (product that expires); that most vendors lose money; that it has a devastating social cost and that these programs deliberately target vulnerable people. I don’t care whether they are a pyramid, a circle or a tetrahedron. they need to be gone.

    12. Hazelthyme*

      Attend the tale of 2 committed MLM sellers in my FB feed:

      Joanne makes a few MLM-related posts per month, many of which end with some variation on “If you’d like to know more about this exciting career, message me and we’ll talk.” Fine; it’s her page, she can post what she wants — and I can quietly roll my eyes and ignore the MLM posts, and just enjoy/interact with the ones about her kids or her garden or the new recipe she made for dinner. For that matter, I can snooze or unfollow her if the MLM posts or anything else about her FB presence start getting on my nerves. Be like Joanne.

      Maureen posts at least daily, sometimes more, and about 75% of her posts are about her MLM side hustle. Mostly I apply the same rules as above (you’re free to post what you want on your own social media, and I’m free to ignore it or block you). However, Maureen has also been known to PM her FB friends and make aggressive pitches for them to join her downline … after combing those friends’ own FB history in search of a good, individually targeted hook. After I responded to her first “Hey, can we schedule a 20-minute call for me to tell you about Alwronge?” with “No thanks, not a side gig that would work with my travel schedule,” she came back with, “That’s why I thought of you. I know you post a lot about how much you hate all that travel and how often you’re delayed, and thought you might be ready for a career change.” I then moved on to a few rounds of “Nope, not my thing” until she went away. My good friend Mimi, a volunteer firefighter who also knew Maureen in college, got a similar pitch about how she and her fellow firefighter
      s could really benefit from Alwronge’s protein and muscle mass products. (Side note: the majority of my work travel-related posts are positive to neutral ones about how pretty sunrise looks from the airport or the interesting plants I saw on my morning run or the delicious local specialty I had at the town diner, so there’s been some selective reading on Maureen’s part.) Don’t be like Maureen.

      The piece that gets my goat is that this is Maureen’s side hustle. She’s also a physician, with her own practice. I don’t know if she hawks her MLM products to her patients, but talk about a captive audience.

      1. MLB*

        Those are the “friends’ that get unfollowed and eventually blocked from my FB feed. After all the political hoo-ha started in 2016, I started unfollowing friends, then realized I could unfollow pages instead of friends, and even unfriended some of those friends. I come to FB for happy posts about your kids, pets and the fun goings on of your life. I don’t care which political side you’re affiliated with, what kind of deal I can on leggings or why you think I should use this face cream. Which basically means that my FB feed is not updated often, but when it is it makes me happy, and ultimately I spend less time on my phone. So win-win for me :-)

        1. Brandy*

          yep. I had to. I had an admin for a facebook group wear me out, PMing me trying to sell me MLM thru the mail as shes in another state far away. I tried to be nice and just say “IM good” but shed come back with “how do you know youre good” or something else. These people cant take a hint. I had to finally block her.

        2. Arjay*

          So true. I do this as well. I have a friend who complains about how negative his feed is, but he won’t do anything to curate it and weed out that negatvity. I try to say a little mental thank you to some of my friends who share from pages I disagree with because they helped me identify one more page to block.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Ugh, my least favorite tactic is the “friends” who PM you and pretend like they just want to have a nice conversation, and then it rolls into a marketing pitch. I am no longer FB friends with a particular person who did it rather badly to me–we legitimately hadn’t talked for a long time and I really did want to get back in touch with her, so I was so excited when she messaged me! And then after literally one message of pretending she was interested in talking to me, it went straight into the pitch. And she went straight onto the unfriended list.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That happened to me with a relative once. I was living in another state and she came out to visit family there, and we met for lunch. I was so excited to see her, since I hadn’t for a while. But she had gotten sucked into that melaleuca oil thing and that is all she talked about the entire time. I was so disappointed, and yes, I was angry.

        2. shep*

          Not quite the same, but I had a random woman text me about doing a Mary Kay (or something similar) demo on me, because my friend “Amanda” said I’d be interested, and if I signed up, both of us would receive a free X or Y or Z. I had ZERO IDEA who “Amanda” was.

          Then she texted a picture of herself and “Amanda,” ostensibly to prove she wasn’t some spam bot.

          “Amanda” turned out to be a woman I’d met on three or four occasions during a writing workshop, whose name I could never quite keep in my brain, and whom I hadn’t seen in probably a year and a half.

          I was SUPER-irritated that she probably just flipped through her contacts to find someone she didn’t really mind annoying with this MLM thing, and maybe on the off-chance I’d bite and she’d get a free whatever.


    13. Pomona Sprout*

      Reading the responses to this is almost making me wush I’d gotten here in time to read it, lol,

      But not really. Just almost!

  15. Akcipitrokulo*

    When I read headline about “don’t send me emails” I thought fair enough, don’t chase people when they are on holiday… they are not at work so don’t expect answers til they get back on non urgent and have an out of office to point urgent enquiries to the cover staff.

    Just deleting them? No.

    If she feels that she gets pressured to jump straight back in without having a chance to catch up, one solution may be to keep the coverage going for an hour or two on her return so that she can go through them all?

  16. Coffeelover*

    #2 Set the meetings you scheduled for pumping as out of office. In most (all?) calendars you can select whether to show your meeting as “busy” or as “out of office” so when someone checks your calendar they can automatically see there’s something up with those particular meetings. And then you can tell people “don’t schedule anything for the meeting that shows I’m out of office. I’m not available at that time.”

    1. Artemesia*

      That was going to be my suggestion; find a way to label these particular obligations on the calendar as unmovable.

      1. Christy*

        The manager of one of our IT offices uses the dark red color for his critical appointments, and even if you can’t see his meeting names, you can figure out that those meetings are critical and can’t be moved. Perhaps that might work.

    1. Miso*

      Ha, you know, this article perfectly explains the horror and culture shock I experience reading half the stories on this blog!

    2. Panda*

      +1 very common when I was in Germany. However, you do need to communicate it very far in advance, AND give people an alternative. The messaging is not “I don’t respect you or your email, so I’m going to delete it”, it’s rather, “I am sure you will have already solved this, before I return, since alt arrangement is in place, so unless I hear from you when I’m back in the office on X date, I will not trawl through old emails before getting back after my vacation.” I had 4 months of maternity leave and came back to 4,800 emails! I’m still trying to sort those out.

      1. Mookie*

        I think the wording, as you say, is key here. Verbally thumbing your nose and blowing a raspberry about this is only going to antagonise people for no reason. “lol I delete your email” is counter-productive and doesn’t even name the problem the receptionist is trying to manage.

      2. agmat*

        Thousands of emails are my fear – I’m going to be on maternity leave for 5 months with absolutely on check ins. Not sure how I’m going to sort through it all when I get back.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Could you set up folders that will auto sort some of your more common email things/people? Like all emails that mention teapots go to the OOO Teapot folder, same for the coffeepots etc? That way they would at least all be grouped by subject and then when you sit down to go through them you can stay in one mode. Collapsing conversations might help too that way you would see if something is already solved.

        2. Ophelia*

          I’ve found (after two maternity leaves, one of 9 months) that in general, unlike a week’s vacation, people really don’t expect you to have followed up on emails while away or to catch up on them in the same way when you return because most things will have been overtaken by events by the time you return. What I do is: 1) address the things from the recent past – say, 2 weeks or so; 2) sort by sender, and then scroll through and look for any priority contacts to make sure I haven’t missed anything important that came through; and then 3) mark all as read, but don’t actively delete, in case I need to go back and dig. FWIW, both times, I had a co-worker designated in my away message as “if this is urgent or time-sensitive, please contact X” and that pretty much solved it.

    3. Colette*

      I had a manager who did that, but he was away for a month (not a week), and he was willing to take the fallout of doing it.

    1. Mookie*

      Say what you will about him, Max Fisher had a pretty great work ethic. He’d never join a committee if he didn’t intend to become its dictator.

    2. LW5*

      “I guess you’ve just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to quoting Rushmore.”

  17. kay*

    With #2, I think the best way forward is to tell coworkers what the time is for, even if it is uncomfortable or weird. It seems like from the writing that meeting are over-scheduled and less important meetings are pushed, and it also seems like your pumping isn’t labelled as such, so it makes sense they’re getting scheduled over if people don’t know what this standing appointment is.

  18. Jemima Bond*

    LW#2 if you really really don’t want to say you are pumping breast milk/using lactation facilities etc could you say something along the lines of “I have to keep this appointment for health reasons” – after all, pain and reduced milk supply are health problems. And if like to think people would be understanding if a colleague was diabetic and had to eat/inject insulin at a specified time no delays or you call the ambulance, or say had to take time to do stretching exercises on an injured knee or whatever.

  19. MyBossSaidWhat*

    OP#3 – my first thought was perhaps your receptionist is hourly and constantly dealing with pressure to work off the clock for free. I’m in a higher-level position but most of the jobs in my field are “permatemp” and “serial temp” types and that’s the case. On so many occasions, I’ve had, say, Salaried Appreciated Jane email me at 11 pm, then at 2 am, then at 5 am (which I don’t check since I wouldn’t be paid for that time). Come 9 AM, Jane is frothing at the mouth and spending the bulk of a meeting shrieking obscenities at me for ignoring her emails. So much entitlement.
    I’ve been tempted to tell people I’ll delete their
    Emails too, though being a temp that’s a way to control the peons and keep us in line.

    1. Lara*

      Refusing to respond to the emails is entirely reasonable. Deleting them is not. It’s the difference between “No, I will not work for free while I’m on holiday” and “No, I will not catch up on my work after going on vacation, and what’s more I’m going to burn any papers left on my desk.”

      Also Salaried Appreciated Jane sucks and needs to stop.

      1. MyBossSaidWhat*

        Salaried Appreciated Jane is a conposite character. As a temp, part of the expectation is that you’ll take verbal abuse from salaried appreciated douchebags.

        1. Lara*

          :S I appreciate there isn’t much job security in temping (been there) and you might not be in a position to up sticks but it still sucks that you’re expected to just take it. I just wanted to acknowledge that those people are terrible and any decent manager would prevent their staff from treating anyone badly. Regardless of place in hierarchy.

    2. Rosemary7391*

      I think I’d actually walk out if someone was shrieking obscenities at me for any length of time, let alone repeatedly for something as trivial as working a different shift / timezone to her…

      The deleting thing could be reasonable or could not. If the bulk of it is going to be “Can you fix this thing” followed by “Oh you’re not here, nevermind then” then very little is lost by just deleting them. If it’s mostly stuff for to do after the vacation then no, it isn’t helpful. But it takes a few seconds to resend the email after the week vs potentially a long time to sort through them all and high chance of it getting missed anyway.

      1. Lara*

        Eh, nowadays I agree with you, but when I was the only breadwinner and in debt, walking out wasn’t an option, and I likely would have tolerated it too.

        1. Rosemary7391*

          Yeah that isn’t a great situation… although I’m honestly not sure I *could* tolerate it (well enough not to get fired). I’m not good with that sort of thing. So I’d probably still get out as fast as I could.

      2. Observer*

        It actually doesn’t “take a few seconds”. Because it means that you have to stop what ever you are involved in, go back and find what you needed and re-send it. In other words it’s NOT just the few seconds to click “resend”.

        The reality is that in most cases, people who do this WILL miss important stuff. They just don’t care because “email is not my job” and “It’s YOUR responsibility (to manage my vacation.)”

    3. Farm Fresh*

      I second this. I’ve also worked in offices where the receptionist was also expected to be the office mom, so I would come back to 50 emails telling me that the coffee pot was empty, the copy paper needed refilling and had x package arrived.

    4. Parenthetically*

      WTF. Shrieking obscenities? Your workplace and its entire culture suck epically.

      1. London Calling*

        I temped for years, and if anyone had ever shrieked obscenities at me ( they didn’t), I’d have been straight onto my agency who would have yanked me out of there toute suite. Good temps are far too valuable to piss off by leaving them with an abusive employer.

        1. MyBossSaidWhat*

          Ah you’re in London. Where I live – Red State in the US – there is way more talent than there are perm jobs. It becomes a real banana republic culture. I’ve had a colleague (another temp) get a staple gun chucked at her face by the client. She had to go to the ER for stitches (no insurance, temps aren’t human!)
          Had she pressed charges, 20 people with multiple Ivy advanced degrees would’ve lined up to take her place, and she’d never work again.

          1. Rosemary7391*

            There has to be a line somewhere for what should be tolerated – if criminal assault isn’t it then where on earth do you put that line?

              1. Rosemary7391*

                This sounds like a community thing though – if no one else around was going to hire her if she made a fuss. Realise that just walking out isn’t always an option – but getting a new job in whatever the normal timeframe is and then cooperating with the police absolutely ought to be an option.

                1. fposte*

                  If the unemployment is as high as My Boss suggests, “whatever the normal timeframe is” could exceed the statute of limitations for a battery claim.

  20. American in Ireland*

    #4. My husband jokingly comments on my hair trail sometimes, I counter with “you’re just jealous, when I shed hair it grows back!”

      1. alexa, set timer for ten minutes*

        OP – Shedding, I agree with others who have suggested a doctor visit just to make sure nothing is amiss.

        I have had problems with this in the past as well, and after a lot of thought and research, I invested in a really, really nice hairbrush appropriate to my hair type (it’s Mason-Pearson). It was painfully expensive BUT made a huge difference in the amount of shedding, even with minimal morning and evening brushing.

        I wouldn’t normally suggest such an expensive item, and historically I scoffed at crazy expensive everyday items, but it made such a difference for me that I want to mention it. It would be worth talking to a knowledgable hairstylist or other professional about it to see if it would be a promising option in your case.

  21. No thanks*

    You can schedule emails to show up at a certain time. I use “follow up then.com.” So just schedule the emails for the morning of her arrival and you can still be sending her emails while she is gone.

    1. Parfait*

      Outlook has this feature too. I used to use it all the time when I had a boss who kept replying to his emails while on vacation. I don’t need your answer now! Tell me when you get back!

      1. Chinook*

        I once threatened to do that to my boss when he went on his honeymoon. He was the owner, so I told him that I know he will relax more if he reviewed his inbox for emergencies, but the moment he replied to my day-to-day emails that could wait for his return, I was sending them to show up in his inbox for 10 am on the day of his return. He laughed but I didn’t get one email from him the entire time.

  22. Call me St. Vincent*

    #2 If you pump at the same times every day, you should just send an email to the team cc’ing your manager (presuming you have her okay to do so) saying that they need to avoid scheduling meetings that you need to attend from 10-10:30 am and 3:00-3:30 pm (e.g.) every day for the forseeable future, no budging, and that if they have an issue with that to approach manager. That way you stop having to deal with this on a meeting-by-meeting basis and people know that yes this is EVERY DAY at that time and they need to stop hassling you about those particular times.

  23. Sled dog mama*

    Hello fellow dark haired heavy shedder!
    What I’ve found to work for me on days when up isn’t the solution, is a through brushing before work then a slightly less through brushing on my lunch break. My husband calls it controlled shedding.
    Have you considered asking your doctor about this at your next check up? Yes some people just shed more but a change in hair shedding can be a sign of things not being right.

  24. Lynca*

    OP 3: “She’s going on vacation next week, so she requests that we don’t email her.”

    That’s…odd but not completely over the line. Generally people aren’t that blunt and just set up an Out of Office message saying they won’t be checking email until X date. If there are not systems in place to deal with her being out, that needs to be addressed. I generally just state I’m not going to be checking email (which is fine), I will be back on X date, and to email or call X people for a response before my return date.

    But full on deleting all received emails upon return? That would be a huge problem and I’ve never seen someone say that before. I would go to the manager because while the emails are typically non-urgent, what if she did get something urgent? You can’t really control what happens when you’re out of office and this practice seems like it would hurt the admin’s job rather than help.

  25. WeevilWobble*

    I think there is a compromise for the admin. She has a point. Most stuff sent to receptionists are for quick turn around. “Book X conference room.”

    So the majority of her emails will be stuff it’s too late to manage. She’ll just be going through dozens of now irrelevant emails. And some not so irrelevant ones.

    I’d say only email if it can be handled next week. And if there isn’t someone covering who could also handle it. People just email out of habit when no one will see it for a week helps no one.

    1. Denise*

      I agree. She could have made a request for her coworkers hold any requests requiring her attention until she returns on X date, excepting group emails and other company-wide information.

    2. Bea*

      That’s the point of an Out Of Office response though. “I’m out until X, if it’s urgent do Y. Otherwise I’ll get to it next week.”

      It’s wildly out of line to just announce you’ll clear the box upon return.

      1. Denise*

        But an out of office reply comes after the email has already been sent. The receptionist does not want to spend her time wading through tons of emails that have already been resolved and figuring out what has and has not been resolved, as I’m sure many people won’t write back to say that they went ahead and took care of x, y, or z.

        Saying she’d delete the emails is unnecessary, but letting people know beforehand that they should wait until she gets back is, to me, an OK way for the receptionist to attempt to manage her own inbox. Obviously the tone would need to be tweaked.

  26. Katie the Fed*

    #2 is hitting a little too close to home. I’ve just decided to wind down breastfeeding/pumping in large part because pumping is SO time consuming and difficult and the mental load of remembering to pack all the parts, find time to pump, etc while working a busy job has just been too much. The reality of pumping is that I’m cramming an 8-hour-a-day job into 6.5 hours. Sigh. It’s SO hard. OP – I hope you can make it work. Absolutely tell people you’re pumping! There’s no shame in it!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This depends on how predictable your schedule is and your baby’s opinions, but if you want to nurse longer but not pump, some people have had success with nursing 2-3 times a day (morning, pickup from daycare, bedtime) and using formula for the other feedings. Or nursing just at bedtime. Since it’s a predictable 8 or 12 or 24 hours between these, their body adjusts to this level of milk production, just as it would if you were weaning to solids but still nursed once or twice a day. (I type that having had one child who was really difficult to nurse, and one who was like “aha, food”–no generic fits-all advice. And the one who had no trouble nursing was the one who wound up getting straight cream cheese to try to get his weight up.)

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Yep, this could be an option. I pumped at home (one side for eating one for pumping) that got me through months 9-12. Then after that nursling got cow milk during the day but a 2.5 years he still nurses at night and on the weekends. I think that this would be hard to start out with but once you are past the 6 month mark or so I’d bet the chances go up of it working out.

    2. Science!*

      I cut back to once a day when my daughter was about 9 months old because of my frustrations with the pumping room and maintaining a proper pumping schedule. I’m still pumping once a day, which gets her 2 bottles, and then she has 1-2 of formula, but she’s almost a year (in 2 days! my baby) so I’m working on transitioning to milk now. I plan to nurse mornings and evenings for now.

    3. NW Mossy*

      One thing I did when I stopped pumping was to keep the time blocks on my calendar – I now use them as desk time. That 30 minutes twice a day has been a godsend, because it gives me some starting line of defense against the rapacious Meeting Monster. I can always move them around if I need to, but it helps enormously to have a couple blocks each day where I can catch up on non-meeting work, take a dang bathroom break, and eat something. Otherwise, some days would be non-stop meetings and I’d drown.

  27. anonagain*

    OP 4: Your coworkers pick your shed hairs up off the carpet?! That is so weird.
    They’re probably not too upset by your shedding if they are doing that.

  28. Nox*

    2] We operate under majority rules so if majority of the meeting people can make 2pm, we are not moving a meeting to 2:30 to accommodate 1 person with a conflict. Oftentimes this means the person who’s pumping will have to dial in to the meeting and be on mute just to be in the loop.

    We do try to consult with everyone on availability but priority is given to more senior staff.

      1. TL -*

        My guess is other time conflicts are handled the same way; the meeting is scheduled around the people who have to be there and the rest of the nice-to-haves are invited but not prioritized because you’d have to schedule meetings 6-8 months out just to get everybody and by then it wouldn’t be an issue anyways.

      2. TootsNYC*

        and at least the pumping person -can- dial in; the person w/ a doctor’s appointment will just miss it.

      3. fposte*

        I’m always interested in disparate impact, but I’m having a hard time seeing it there–can you explain? I’m seeing the affected class as people who had appointments at 2, which I don’t think is going to have any particular demographic skew.

        1. Wehaf*

          Well, most people will have no more than one doctor/dentist appointment a month, if that. Women who are pumping will have one to two “appointments” a day; the likelihood that they’ll be forced to miss or dial in to a meeting (on mute) will be drastically higher.

          1. fposte*

            Ah, okay; for some reason I was thinking of a category other than breastfeeding mothers to be involved here.

      4. Glomarization, Esq.*

        What’s the adverse impact? This would kick in only if the pumping employee can demonstrate that, because of the scheduling issues, she experienced an adverse employment decision. Here, she’s attending the meeting, just remotely.

  29. Anon cat*

    #3: Wow. While I am fully in support of employees not having to respond to emails while on vacation, if the receptionist plans to just delete everything upon return, maybe she also shouldn’t have a job when she comes back. Problem solved!

    1. Kittymommy*

      Ditto. Where I work (and everywhere else I’ve worked) nobody would expect you to respond during vacation and nobody would expect a response regarding emails that are no longer relevant but just outright deletion (and I’m assuming unread). Yeah you probably won’t need to worry about that email account at all anymore.

  30. it_guy*

    #2 – In case your meetings run over, which a lot of them do; I’ve heard a lot people starting to use the verbiage, “I have a hard stop at XX:XX am/pm”, so we have to wrap up before then.

    This cuts down on all the chatty people that just want to take over a meeting.

    1. Workerbee*

      I have done this! For some reason, that verbiage cuts through any of the “Well buts” that would ordinarily crop up. “Hard stop” is respected where “I have another meeting right after” doesn’t.

      It has taken me quite awhile, but I have finally started to get better at just packing up and heading out when a meeting is running over. Perhaps not yet if the CEO is running the meeting, but for anyone else, especially with the folks who take a lot to say a little (tm Phantom Tollbooth), I’m keeping on moving. I don’t care if you only got to Agenda Item #2 in an hour-long, 8-item meeting just as the end of the hour strikes. Plan better!

      …I have been in way too many needless meetings.

      1. Glomarization, Esq.*

        +1 to just getting up and leaving when you have another thing to do. Whether it’s another meeting, the daycare closing, or just my own lunch, when the meeting/seminar/phone call is scheduled to end, I’m apt to just get up and go.

    2. Chinook*

      For the volunteer group I used to chair, I would move to vote on extending the meeting time if we started getting close to 9 pm. They always approved but we were suddenly able to fly through the rest of the agenda with no chitchat as they suddenly realized how much it was holding is up. After this happened 4 or 5 times, it started to no longer happen at all.

      Aaahhh…the power of Robertson’s Rules of Order

  31. Temperance*

    LW3: I would just set a delay on every email you need to send to the receptionist, so that they arrive midday on her return from vacation. Or just reforward her everything you sent during the week when she returns, with a note that you wanted to make sure she saw it. Fight petty with petty.

  32. Bookworm*

    #3: That’s weird. I’ve heard of and totally respect not answering emails/messages while on vacation and/or checking them rarely and all but something could happen while she’s away and she’ll need this info when she gets back.

    Only thing I can think of is that she doesn’t want to go through the hassle of reading through all the emails and sorting it all herself–she only wants the information as needed when she’s actually on the clock (I was once in a temp job where my then-boss did the same thing with my timesheet and made me resend it because he didn’t want to look through the *day’s* emails to find it).

    Sounds like taking it to a manager would be a good idea. Good luck.

  33. DCompliance*

    OP2: Is it possible, sometimes, for you to propose a new time through your calendar instead of having a conversation? Given this is happening so often, that may not always be feasible, but instead of going back to the organizer to find a new time, are you able to try as well?

  34. Tea*

    #1-Haha, I have no advice except also not to buy products from her to shut her up. Just say sorry, and ignore it. I made that mistake with a client who was like hard selling me either joining her make up thing or buying, so I bought like $100 of product from her so she would leave me alone. I couldn’t even really use it because of my sensitive skin, I gave it away. Three years later of not buying a thing, she still comes around every other month. I take her catalog and made up a skin disease and she still comes. It’s just uncomfortable.

    In an aside-A relative of mine does R&F. She genuinely makes a lot of money on it! It’s her second source of income and she lives a very comfortable life doing it. Her IG, FB, snap, etc. are full of before and after pics, and while I have to give her credit for the hustle, it’s super annoying. Like when I got my eyelash extensions or if I ever post ‘haul’ pics from shopping for make up or skin care, it’s all comments like ‘why not use my lash serum?!’ or ‘why didn’t you come to me if you needed skincare?!’
    (However, I would not recommend buying these products like, at all. I used their acne wash-so harsh, it gave me chemical burns. And the stuff she gave me for eczema caused like massive blind zits. And the smells all linger. My boyfriend wouldn’t touch me after I used it because it just has an odor.)

    1. Tobias Funke*

      There are entire MLM groups about how to have a fake social media life. MLM hawkers are not living that well unless they’re the .01%

      1. fposte*

        And if they’re the .01%, they get there by exploiting the people under them who are going into debt.

      2. Tea*

        She genuinely is making like 10s of thousands each year on it. She’s one of those people who like gets to lead the regional conferences and etc. because she’s a ‘success story.’ I don’t want any part of it but she’s able to benefit from it and that’s cool for her.

          1. Tea*

            I mean, I’m only telling you what I know, which is that she really does make a ton of money from it. I’m not advocated for MLM schemes, I’m just saying that she is one of the rare exceptions that benefits financially from doing it.

            1. fposte*

              No, I get that some people do and you may know one of them; I’m just saying that being a success at a conference doesn’t mean your income is particularly notable, just your sales.

              1. Tea*

                I don’t know much about the process-it’s not my preference for making money. She really is just one of those stories you “hear”, like in debt for thousands and thousands and now she’s debt free with a luxury car, vacations abroad, etc. I’m closely related to her and I’m like, wow, but not wow enough to try it.

    2. Oxford Coma*

      That stuff is dangerous. There was just a news bulletin about a class-action against R&F for the lash serum causing major skin damage.

      1. Tea*

        She claims she uses it but I can’t see how when just using it once or twice resulted in majorly painful skin issues for me for like nearly a month. I’m sure someone is putting together a class action lawsuit against them somewhere.

  35. rolling*

    You can schedule emails; I use followupthen. That way you can write the email when it’s convenient for you, but they don’t receive it until they come back from vacation.

  36. Oilpress*

    #2 – Don’t be worried about mentioning pumping or breastfeeding to your male coworkers. The vast majority can handle the topic just fine.

    Your office has a respect problem, though, if people are just overbooking each other and one-upping their meeting priority. I just decline meeting invites that attempt to overbook me, and others generally do the same. If someone is perennially booked because they blocked off their calendar from here to 2025 then we just count them out and let them isolate themselves into eventual obsolescence.

  37. Hiring Mgr*

    #3 is strange. If she’s normally a reasonable employee, it could be that she’s just putting this message out in hopes of reducing the email she has to deal with when she gets back, but that she won’t really be deleting them all. Still, it’s a peculiar way to do that.

    1. LBK*

      I was thinking that too – maybe this is just her way to discourage people from emailing her. And potentially a pretty effective one since people will actually think twice about what the more appropriate way to address the situation is in her absence rather than just blithely emailing her even when she’s out of the office. I’ve run into that before – it’s like, I have a whole team of people that can help out when I’m on vacation! Why did you email me on Monday when I wouldn’t be back for a week and not bother following up with anyone else listed on my OOO message?

  38. Emi.*

    #2 This sounds like a terrible system! If you’re supposed to just reschedule based on priority, doesn’t that mean people are constantly emailing each other to say “Sorry, Fred, your meeting isn’t as important as you think it is so you have to move it?”

    But I agree with the people saying to use whatever language you would use for a normal priority-based rescheduling. (When it’s pumping time, pumping is priority #1!)

  39. OP - Shedding*

    Thanks all for you comments!

    To clarify, I pick up hairs roughly twice a week or so (at least around the office – there are more near my desk of course but that’s my business and I clean those up quickly without anyone the wiser!). And my hair is in a bun typically 4 days a week – just depending on what is going on. I’m not in the food industry or anything that requires it – I just prefer it so it’s out of my way and I think it looks more professional. I just like to have it down every so often. There is certainly more shedding when my hair is down, but it happens when my hair is up too. Last week I wore a bun every day and still had a few hairs on the floor beneath me come Friday.

    I appreciate the tips on conditioning and brushing – will certainly be trying those out!

    Thanks again everyone!!

    1. Meg Murry*

      The other thing that can make a big difference is to try to keep your hairs off of your work clothes. When you put your hair in a bun, are you already wearing your work shirt? Wearing a robe or hoodie over your work shirt (or instead of your work shirt if you are going to wear a button down that can go on after your hair is done) while you are styling your hair will help keep you from getting hairs accumulating on the back of your work clothes that then fall off when you get to the office. Alternately, wearing a top layer that you can take off and then lint roll also helps. I’ve found that most of my shedding doesn’t go directly from my head to the floor – it goes from my head to my back/shoulders, and then from there it falls on the floor or elsewhere. Regular vacuuming or lint rolling of your car can help too, especially if you are like me and wind up brushing your hair or putting it up in the car regularly – my husband complains that whenever he drives my car he always winds up with my hair on his back from what I’ve shed on the drivers seat.

      Also, if you haven’t already, get yourself a hair catcher for your shower, especially if you plan to take the advice of using a wide toothed comb in the shower (which is what I do, and it does help get a lot of the loose hairs). I use the tub shroom, but any hair catcher will do if you don’t want to spend a lot of time de-clogging your drain, or a lot of money on a plumber to do it.

      I’d add that finding 2 of your hairs around the office a week is not something to worry about, unless your coworkers are also finding bunches. I suspect everyone sheds about that much, but yours is just more noticeable because the hairs are longer.

      1. OP - Shedding*

        Thanks Meg!

        I’m relieved as I read through everyone’s comments – I think I made a big deal out of nothing.

        And I definitely have a hair catcher – I learned the hard way in college – a girl can only buy so much drain-o hehe.

  40. Nope Just Nope*

    No, your overpriced oils and makeup and crappy leggings and other garbage isn’t anything I want to buy. You’re not a “Boss Mom” or any other epitaph you wish to give yourself. You’re a pest who needs to find a real side job, not someone who tries to exploit friendships to buy your junk.

  41. Tobias Funke*

    I want to implore all readers to not fall for the awesome fake lives MLM shills post online. There are literally groups on FB teaching people to post like this. The income disclosure statements and the FTC do not support the claims that people are making. Even if a seller receives a check it does not mean they’ve profited.

    1. DelaLara*


      Unless you’re getting to see several years of their tax returns, assume it’s not happening. Schedule C!

  42. Moose*

    #4: A friend of mine in college had very long hot pink hair. We would find her hair all over the dorm, the office (we worked in the same building during school), etc. Even after I graduated, I would occasionally find a pink hair on a shirt I hadn’t worn in awhile, where it apparently had hitched a ride and stayed for a year. We treated it as more of a joke than anything, and no one was grossed out.

    1. essEss*

      I wore a brand new shirt that had subtle glitter in the fabric. The first day I wore that into the office, you could follow a trail through the office of EVERY chair I’d sat in and EVERY bathroom stall I’d used. There were little piles of glitter stuck everywhere. I apologized to my coworkers for weeks because of that shirt. :-D

  43. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    LW2: Squirt the next person that schedules over your pumping time. Repeat as necessary.

    (Don’t do this.)

    (Actually, do do this and report back to us.)

    (But seriously, don’t do this.)

    But in all seriousness: The TPS reports can probably wait until you’re done pumping. But also from the dialogue you posted, it seems like you and the person you’re talking to are both Super Busy People, but neither of you comes out and says why. Like, why can’t Jane meet at any time other than 3? (From Fergus’s perspective – I assume that the person you’re speaking to is a dude – why can’t you meet at 3?) If that’s indicative of your company culture, that sounds…a little dysfunctional to me, like everything you guys are doing is Super Important and Top Secret.

    I hope most people – and your company in particular, since it seems like they have a lot of new mothers – would be understanding of a simple, “Hey, I need to use the lactation room at X time,” or even a more discreet “Hey, I have X blocked off for medical reasons and I can’t really move it around, sorry.” I mean, clearly you’re not the only one to breastfeed in all of human history (or even your company’s history). I think even dudes (and yeah, I’m a dude) would understand that.

    1. Snark*

      (But if you do, report back, because that story will be sung by the bards to the children of our children.)

      1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

        See, I just imagine this entire situation going down like the woman who bit her jerk boss after he bumped into her and broke her coffee mug: they both stare at each other in disbelief of what just happened, and then no one Ever Speaks Of It Again. And Fergus still continues to schedule over her pumping times.

  44. Workfromhome*

    0P#2 I’m going to tell you what works for me around people having unreasonable expectations scheduling. My situation has nothing to do with pumping (since I’m male and my kids are 11 and 14 :-))
    In my prior job I’d often have people ignore my schedule, ask me for reports at the last minute or invite me to meetings that brought no value to me. What I did was an experiment that eventually turned into my process. I would schedule what I needed including “meetings with myself” (if I needed uninterrupted time to do projects). If someone tried to schedule over my stuff (unless of course it was obviously something critical from the CEO etc) I’d just decline it. No explanation just decline.

    Here is what happened- I’d say I never heard anything about 90% of the things I declined. Those people either found someone else, found the answer themselves or really didn’t need me and were inviting me out of habit laziness far of excluding someone>
    Eventually the invites for this 90% either stopped coming or it became painfully obvious that it wasn’t even important enough for them to notice I was not attending.

    The other 10% where I got some pushback on me decline I had discussions with that person direct about if they could consider accommodating my schedule or if I could provide input in another way rather than attend the meeting. Rather than telling them no I cant help you it was “I cant attend your meeting but I can help you with xy or Z)

    1. J.B.*

      Yes, if the whole office is overscheduled it is quite likely there are too many meetings going on for everyone!

  45. EMW*

    For the pumping time slot – can you mark it as out of office or otherwise note it as an unmovable appointment (make it public and put something in the meeting title to denote it)? I’m assuming people will still need to schedule over some appointments on your calendar when making meeting requests. Making it easier to see which ones can or cannot be moved would be helpful.

    1. Lisa Babs*

      I was going to suggest the same thing. Mark it or name it as un-moveable or priority or what ever your system allows. That way it might not be double booked as much. And then when it still is, use Alison’s excellent script.

      1. EMW*

        Exactly. Or getting ahead of it by talking with the frequent meeting schedulers to let them know whatever system she implements is in place and any meetings during the time will be declined for that reason.

  46. Tea*

    #3-Maybe something else is going on here? You said the receptionist is chatty and therefore she gets emailed about such and such, blah blah. Maybe this is a passive aggressive attempt from her to get people to stop emailing her things that are out of her job description? “The building that I work in doesn’t get much foot traffic, so the receptionist also doubles as a general administrator for, e.g., reserving meeting rooms, filling out financial or HR paperwork, etc.
    Because she’s very chatty, and because my job requires a lot of traveling and working odd hours, people in my position typically email this receptionist if we need anything non-urgent.”

    Maybe she feels overwhelmed or that she’s underpaid for all her responsibilities that are out of the general norm for a receptionist, etc.? I’ve felt like that before when I wasn’t a manager, like I get back from a day off or a weekend, and there’s a thousand notes for me, wherein some of it could easily have been taken care of or handled by someone else or is not really my job, etc.

    1. Observer*

      Well, then, she needs to find another way to deal with it. Passive aggression is not all that useful.

    2. Snark*

      Reserving meeting rooms, taking care of random admin needs, and other duties as required is basically the job description for that role, however, and most admins are asked to take care of stuff that is not precisely their job. Hell, most if not all other professional roles require that you take on stuff that’s not precisely your job, for that matter. This admin in particular sounds like she works with a lot of people who require her to be in that kind of role.

      And in any case, being passive-aggressive is not how to handle being overwhelmed or feeling like you’re spread too thin.

    3. Bea*

      That’s the problem with giving her a receptionist title when you have so little foot traffic. She sounds like a front desk agent to me and giving her the right title may show her and others after her what to expect for duties. I’ve met very few who are simply receptionists in this day and age.

      Front Desk and Receptionists tend to make the same pay though.

  47. Observer*

    Re pumping:

    I’m going to agree with all of the people who say that you should mark those slots as “out of office”. Also, that you should most definitely say what you are doing. Don’t dance around it. The language “That’s when I get the pumping room” is perfect, because it implies one of the reasons you can’t move your slot. However, if it is possible to call in, offer to do that.

    1. paul*

      Particularly since over scheduling is a consistent issue anyway; it sounds like they expect people to miss meetings at times.

  48. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

    LW3: So, I think the admin is within her rights to request that you refrain from emailing her – she’s on vacation, I think she should be able to set some boundaries! (Granted, this is where I’m coming from, and I’ve almost always been non-exempt.) Where it gets into dicey territory is in two ways.

    First, she says she’s going to be deleting all emails she receives. People are forgetful. Sometimes there’s something only one person can really handle. That’s actually…kind of hostile, I agree with.

    Second, using my own org’s convention, we cross-reference. My current OOO (I’m off this week, so I’ll have time to kill on the AAM comments) is, “Hi, I’m out of office, but for X issues you can contact Lucinda or Jane (here’s their work contact info) and for Y issues you can contact Fergus or Bob (here’s their work contact info).” That way, people know where to go to get their requests filled more quickly. If she’s not arranging for Sansa to cover A routine thing and Arya to do B routine thing while she’s gone, and saying, “Hey, you guys, contact Sansa and Arya while I’m out,” I think she’s falling down on the job.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      LW3: So, I think the admin is within her rights to request that you refrain from emailing her – she’s on vacation, I think she should be able to set some boundaries!

      I don’t get this. As long as no one expects her to *read* the emails while she’s on vacation, how is it setting an appropriate boundary by requesting that no one send her anything to be dealt with when she gets back?

      1. Susana*

        The thing is… I think a lot of people do expect vacationers to read emails. And then there’s the subtle pressure to prove you’re a “team player” by checking in while you’re away. I’m not defending the delete-all at all, but a lot of people do not think “I’m away and not checking emails” applies to them. I do think it’s fair to say, when I return I will will be dealing first with contemporaneous emails, and may take awhile to get to ones sent while I was away. It’s not really a vacation if you have to stay later to do the work you would have done had you been working instead of vacationing.

        1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

          Pretty much. I mean, again – this is based off of my experience, but I don’t see the issue in saying, “hey, I’m OOO, please don’t email me unless X.” The issue is then that you have to make arrangements for whatever needs to be covered, and then actually follow up – which is where the admin is out of line.

          If she doesn’t want to come back to 100 emails, that’s great. But that still means that 100 things need to get taken care of while she’s off or when she comes back, and she can’t just throw it all in the trashcan.

          1. LBK*

            I think it’s all about how it’s framed. If you’re positioning it as though it’s for the sender’s benefit, basically just reminding them that they won’t get an answer from you in a timely manner and that they’d be better off emailing your backup, that’s probably fine. But doing it because you don’t feel like having to deal with a lot of emails when you get back…I dunno, that doesn’t seem great.

            There is always that trade off when you go on vacation of making up the work when you get back, and while certainly your backups should be there to cover most of it, it’s not completely avoidable.

            1. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

              Thanks for being more articulate than I was! (Seriously.) I don’t really think it’s an issue with the request itself so much as the framing. She does come off as unconcerned about inconveniencing people, which I think is the major problem.

            2. essEss*

              Even when they are emailing your backup, it is good practice to cc the person on vacation so that they are aware of what happened while they are gone, and why. This way they don’t come back and freak out when something they are responsible for has been changed without their knowledge.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          It just doesn’t make sense that an organization that subtly pressures you to check email while you’re gone would support this “not only am I not doing that, but I’m going to trash anything you send during that time” stance.

          1. Susana*

            Oh, I agree completely, RS! I’m just wondering if this was just some rash, irresponsible email or if is the (unworkable overkill) reaction to people treating her as though she’s working remotely and not on vaycay.

      2. bonkerballs*

        Agreed. I’m sending any and all emails whenever I want/need to. She can reply whenever she needs to. But it is absolutely ridiculous to think anyone in the office should have to memorize people’s schedules and make sure not to email them when they’re out. Absolutely ridiculous.

      3. tangerineRose*

        I don’t expect people to read e-mails when they’re on vacation. If I send an e-mail when I know someone’s out of the office, it’s something that I need to send them (they need to know it, or they’re the only person who knows x or can decide on y) that can wait until they get back.

  49. Orfeo*

    #2 – I think one issue may be that from your perspective you are having the same ongoing conversation without it sinking in, but from your co-workers’ perspective they are having lots of discrete one off discussions. I’m not sure there’s a way around this. The best case might just be a matter of whittling down the discussions to ‘could you meet earlier?’ ‘No, I’ve a room booked that I can’t change’, ‘of course, we’ll move it/we can’t move it because of other commitments, we’ll loop you in by email’, but there’s probably not a way to stop the discussions altogether.

    With the example conversation above, it’s entirely possible that Jane is silently increasingly irritated because she has to leave at three sharp to pick up her kids or making a standing medical appointment or catch a train, and yet it seems like every other day she has to have the same conversation because someone tries to move a meeting she has to be at to 3.30.

  50. Susana*

    I’m somewhat sympathetic to the receptionist mentioned in Letter 3 (and also the to LW). I get why that email seemed drastic, but I also doubt it was done without provocation (not by the LW, but others). I’ve been away for weeks at a time and wold STILL get people emailing me saying, “I know you said you were away, but…). Once, I worked somewhere where we had mandatory furlough days – union told me it was actually illegal for me to work, or for mgt. to contact me, on those days – and I would STILL get a request from one mid-level boss saying, “I know you said you wouldn’t be checking emails today, but…”. I imagine LW 3 is not one of those people, but believe me, those people are out there. I would not be surprised if that is what led receptionist to write such a drastic note.

  51. heatherskib*

    Ugg. I even have a side MLM but never mention it unless someone’s specifically having a problem that I can help with, and it’s never more than let me know if you want to try and I walk away. I have absolutely had disagreements with my upline re them encouraging people to push at work. Encouraging people to endanger their day jobs is an absolute NO in my book.

  52. Jackie*

    OP#2 — maybe you’ve thought of this already, but you could try to call into the meetings instead of being physically present. I worked at a place where we did this with pumping Mom. She was the director of the department, and this needed to be in these meetings (some of which really couldn’t be moved to other times)—when this happened we just called her phone in the lactation room and carried on the meeting that way.

    1. Friday*

      I saw this call-in suggestion upthread as well, and feel like a general PSA is in order. It’s not reasonable to expect a pumping mother to work during her pumping, which is why the law protects her non-working pumping time. Pumping isn’t like peeing where you push and it’s out. It’s a hormonal thing that requires a specific response from the woman to be able to have a “let-down” where the milk is pushed to the forefront, then a good 15+ minutes of pumping after that moment to thoroughly drain the breasts.

      Some women need to focus on nothing but their baby to have that let-down and subsequent milk release during pumping, needing pics or videos of the baby, maybe smelling something the baby wore. Some women are like me where once let-down happens, I can then totally work on my laptop and be fine as long as I’m not working on anything stressful. The vast majority of women don’t want to hold audio conversations with anyone during pumping, because it’s a mechanical weird thing, not like breastfeeding at all. And the noise the pump makes is awkward. I would never call into a meeting while pumping, and I’m super thankful nobody put an office phone in my lactation room. Not to say women never call into meetings while pumping, but it’s probably a rare woman who can and definitely not a standard to hold all pumping women to.

      I have however done some phone interviews while pumping but that’s different because the person on the other end didn’t know I was pumping (muffled the pump with a pile of clothes.)

      1. fposte*

        It’s worth remembering that the federal law only protects the pumping time of non-exempt mothers, and if your employer has fewer than 50 employees it might not even have to accommodate the non-exempt. They also don’t have to pay for any break time above and beyond what they usually cover for breaks (so if everybody’s break time isn’t paid, your lactation breaks don’t have to be; if everybody’s paid for 40 minutes of break time, you don’t have to be paid for lactation breaks above that).

        1. Friday*

          That’s true but for the OP it’s not necessary for her coworkers to know if she’s taking paid or unpaid breaks or any other arrangement she has with her manager about her working hours. They just need to know that she’s pumping and the company supports her pumping and therefore they need to stop scheduling meetings during her pump breaks.

  53. Friday*

    Had a baby four months ago, can address both the hair shedding (bye gorgeous pregnancy hair!) and the pumping. I wear my DGAF like a badge. When I have to ditch a meeting or step out of a meeting early to pump, I do so and if questioned I simply say that I’m pumping, and so far no dude I work with has freaked out over it. If any did, they’d get an eyebrow and an icy stare and silence.

    For the hair, I’m not playing with my hair in front of anyone but it falls out and that’s that. If anyone noticed and said anything, they’d get the same eyebrow/stare. I’m also not pulling it back or putting it up because my hairline’s patchy now. Life is what it is, and in my case, the baby was/is worth it all. Good luck OPs.

  54. Lauren*

    Rodan and Fields is a legitimate network marketing business, not a “scheme”. Alison’s feedback was spot-on about how to decline if you aren’t interested, but I wish more people would actually educate themselves about network marketing instead of inaccurately labeling it a scheme (and usually being super judgmental about anyone involved with one). (Disclosure: I do NOT represent Rodan and Fields, sell for them, or even use their products).

    1. Spreadsheets and Books*

      This doesn’t change the fact that 99% of MLMers lose money and MLMs like R+F prey on women looking for a way to supplement household income. Not to mention that the company is being sued for using dangerous and contested ingredients in their products.

    2. Snark*

      I refuse to humor distinctions without differences made in the services of business models that are shady whatever one calls them. Rodan and Fields is not a “network marketing business,” it’s an MLM, run along the lines all MLMs are run on, and they tend to be a bad, exploitative deal for most people involved in them, because they’re essentially legal Ponzi arrangements, and they deliberately mislead new people as to what a bad deal it should be expected to be for them. All that sounds like a scheme by any reasonable definition of the word, and I will feel free to call it one, and I will decline to be condescended to for doing so.

      1. Lindsay J*

        This. 100%.

        Real companies don’t operate by having individual direct sellers, or “network marketing”, or whatever you want to call it.

        Some are more or less problematic than others. But there is a reason 99% of companies do not operate on this business model.

    3. bolistoli*

      This is going to sound harsh, but I wish people who buy into the idea that MLMs are legitimate businesses that offer financial independence would educate themselves. MLMs are the pseudoscience of businesses. Check out this well-done analysis of R+F income statements: http://www.finance-guy.net/streetonomic/money-rodan-fields-review. A direct quote (based on the analysis): “As we can see, only 2.17% of all Rodan + Fields Consultants earned more than $10,000 in 2016. That means that only 1 in 50 Consultants made more than $200 per week from this ‘life-changing opportunity’.” Keep in mind, this is earnings, not profit. How much have these folks spent to “earn” their $200/week? The only people profiting are the founders and the very top .01%. You get a better return from a regular job with benefits. Oh yeah, that’s one more thing: there are no benefits with MLMs – no vacation, no health plan, etc.

    4. Lindsay J*


      It is a scheme.

      It relies on consultants spending $100 of their own money every month in order to be allowed to make money.

      Consultants are expected to recruit and make money on the sales of their downline people.

      It operates like every other MLM in the world. There is nothing special about them.

      And, most telling, when it was owned by a legitimate beauty company and sold in actual retail stores, it wasn’t successful and this wasn’t as profitable for the owners as sucking misguided people into thinking that they can make tons of money.

      If you don’t sell for Rodan and Fields, represent them, or even use their products, why bother defending them on this website?

  55. Flower*

    I shed a lot and I tend to have either really short or *really long* hair – for a while I buzzed my hair every few years and otherwise just let it grow. I’ve been at a couple feet of thick brown hair for a few years now. I always wear it back and I do my best to only fingercomb my hair outdoors or at home – if I absentmindedly do it at work my seat and the ground end up covered in long hair, which I try to clean up. Mostly I just apologize for my shedding. A friend once came to hang out in my apartment with my partner before I got home – I did my best to get all my hair and none was visible anymore, but when I walked in I was told that the friend swept his hand over the rug, came up with a clump of my hair, and just looked at my partner to ask “flower sheds a lot doesn’t she?” To which my partner laughed and said “yes. Yes she does”

  56. Morgan*

    OP#2, could you just send whatever emails you need as they arise and set a delivery delay on everything you need for the second day she is back, maybe in half hour intervals? :D

  57. Noah*

    If I were OP3, I would draft all my emails to her, save her in the Drafts folder and send them all at once on the day she got back.

  58. Noah*

    OP4 is not making a big enough deal out of this situation, but she’s focused on the wrong thing: it is COMPLETELY inappropriate for her coworkers to make her feel uncomfortable about this. She should ask them to stop the jokes.

  59. Erin*

    #3 – Nope, that falls into the not normal category. Has anyone mentioned to her the option to set up an auto response to email? It doesn’t totally solve what she’s trying to solve but maybe there is a compromise there. It could say, “I am out of the office from X date to X date and will not be checking email during this time. For urgent matters, please call so and so.” Then hopefully people will respond with something like, “Okay, I’ll have Lucinda order the paper clips then, thanks!” so that she’ll know she doesn’t need to get back to that person when she’s back in the office.

    I’m not clear from your letter if you’re her manager or not, but if you have the standing, I might say something like, “Hey, I’m not sure if you realized it but your email came across as a little strange and abrasive. It’s perfectly normal – and necessary! – to want to decompress and not check work email when on vacation, but deleting everything that comes in is not a normal business practice and might rub people the wrong way. If you want to avoid having a mountain of emails to respond to when you get back, can I suggest setting up an auto responder? That might field off some of those requests.” And then maybe show her out to set that up.

    But honestly, the fact that she already sent out the email saying she’s deleting all emails…maybe the damage has already been done. If I got that email I’d be like wow, she clearly does not enjoy doing her job and will not be going out of her way for anyone, I’d better reach out to someone else when I need help with something or have a request.

  60. Rusty Shackelford*

    #3 – What happens if there’s a company-wide email about something *good* and the receptionist misses it? If HR sends a notice about a new incentive, or someone invites everyone to happy hour a week from Friday, does she expect them to remember to send her a separate email after she comes back?

  61. alana*

    I would like to put in a plug for the burn-without-reading school of out of office email management, which I use and love any time I am out of office for more than a week.

    If I’m gone for more than a week, I typically come back to at least 800 emails. Probably 10 of them are actually worth reading, and 4 of them require some kind of action on my part. Two years ago, I set up an out of office message for when I was gone on lengthy trips saying that I would not be reading or responding to emails I received when I was out, that urgent questions should go to [boss or catchall organization email address], and that otherwise I looked forward to hearing from them after [return date].

    I don’t use the d-word because we have gmail, so I don’t delete them, I just archive them. But I’ve used this at least four times with no ill effects that I can tell. The people I want to hear from usually do send the request again, and it makes a huge difference in my engagement and productivity on my first day back. It helps that my organization has strong norms around not contacting people when they’re out on vacation, though. I wouldn’t necessarily use it in a different field or office culture.

    1. alana*

      oh — and my org doesn’t do much internally on email at all. I have emails from within our domain sorted into a different folder so I can at least scan through the subjects/senders when I’m back easily.

  62. Student*

    #2 – Remember that there are two types of meetings: ones that matter and ones that don’t.

    Tell your colleagues that you can’t make their meeting time and hold firm. Don’t engage in any of the back-and-forth banter beyond “I cannot make that time. He’s my availability (name three options at most or point towards your calendar).” If you engage in the back-and-forth beyond that, people think it’s negotiable and you just need to be persuaded. If you act like your pumping time slot is a non-negotiable meeting, other people will treat it like it’s non-negotiable.

    If the meeting is that important, and you feedback is critical to the meeting, then people will rearrange around your pump time. If it’s the second type of meeting, people will whine and get over it and life will go on.

  63. Old Earth*

    The letter #2 made me think of this scene from the New Girl: https://youtu.be/6abmPxZdzxs?t=48s

    But yeah… I second earlier suggestions of, if you can, marking those times as “not moveable” and if they press just tell them what it is it should take once and then it should be dropped… and if not and it’s a problem this is one where HR should have your back.

  64. ENFP in Texas*

    Indeed, she will delete any email that she receives during that week, because she “doesn’t want to deal with 100 emails when she returns.”

    Wow! 20 years in an Admin Assistant role and I never knew that was an option! That sure would have made my life easier!!

    Seriously, though, that is nowhere near normal behavior.

Comments are closed.