sharing an office when people are fasting, IT remotely accessed my laptop when I asked them not to, and more

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

1. Sharing an office when people are fasting

I am the supervisor of a team of four (counting myself). I have been a member of this team for 10 years, while the other three have only been here one to four years. The four of us share a tiny office that’s really not meant for more than two people, so we are pretty much all up in each other’s personal space all day, but we’ve developed a pretty great working relationship.

All three of my teammates are Muslim and take their religion seriously. It is currently Ramadan, meaning they are all fasting from sunrise to sunset. I always try to be very respectful of this, and try not to eat or drink anything in our shared office, but as a regular water drinker, it’s difficult. I’ve gotten in the habit of going to the water cooler every so often and chugging a plastic cup of water because I feel as though I can’t keep my usual bottle of water on my desk during the day. I also always eat lunch at my desk, at the same time every day, and they all know this, but I feel like it’s unfair for me to do so when they are fasting, even though they’ve said it doesn’t bother them.

Everyone in our office suite uses a conference room to have lunch together at noon each day, and I cover the receptionist during this time. I always take lunch when she comes back at 12:30, but the conference rooms are in use then which is why I eat at my desk. The only other option would be to eat outside (which isn’t doable in bad weather) or to go the campus cafeteria, which results in my spending most of the half hour break just looking for a place to sit. I guess I’m just wondering am I going too far out of my way? I’m trying to be respectful of the fact that they can’t eat or drink anything during the day during this holy time, but at what point can I say it’s my office too and not feel guilty about having a cup of coffee and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich at my desk?

You are being really thoughtful and considerate here, but I think you’re probably taking it too far. I agree that if you can easily avoid eating in front of people who are fasting, that’s a kind thing to do, but I definitely don’t think you need to take it as far as not drinking anything at your own desk — and if they’re assuring you that food is fine too, it’s okay to take them at their word. It sounds like you’ve made it very clear to them that you want to be thoughtful and accommodating — which is lovely — and you have good relationships with each other, so I think you’re safe assuming that they mean it when they tell you it’s fine! I still would probably not spread out a whole buffet of exotic fruits and fancy cheeses and cakes across your desk, but it sounds fine to eat a PB&J in the same space as them.

2. IT guy remotely accessed my laptop when I asked him not to

Today at work I was experiencing some technical issues, and raised a ticket with our IT support team who are based in another location. Later in the day, I was having a VERY busy hour when a member of the team instant messaged me in response to the ticket. I told him that it was a really bad time and asked if we could look at the issue a bit later, but he remotely accessed my computer anyway! (As in, he could see my screen and had taken over control of its function.)

Am I in the wrong for feeling like this out of order? Not only was it a bad time, but I actually had my online banking open in my browser which I would have preferred to have kept private. And what if I had been halfway through a presentation with an important client?!

On the other hand, I guess his job is to fix things — not to wait on a time that’s convenient for me, and I suppose I have no right to any real privacy on a company computer. I don’t know — I’m torn! What do you think?

I’m with you. If he absolutely had to do it right then because of his own schedule, he should have said something like, “This is the only time I’ll be able to look at it this week — okay for me to go ahead or would you rather wait until next week?”

As you pointed out, not only does this raise privacy issues (and sure, you don’t have real privacy on a work computer, but you’re still entitled to at least say, “Hold on, let me close my banking info”), but it could have been far more disruptive to your work than waiting would have been to his (like if you were presenting to a client, or dealing with a work crisis, or so forth).

3. Resigning when my boss is on an overseas trip

I have a second interview for a job this Friday, and while I know nothing is ever guaranteed, I really hope I get an offer. Things are moving quite quickly (I applied just over a week ago, had a first interview yesterday afternoon and got a call back first thing this morning) and I know that they’re hoping the successful candidate will start by the beginning of June. I told them during the phone interview that I would need to give my company two weeks notice, as is the norm.

However, I just realized that if I were to get an offer in the next week or so, the timing will be awful. Both my bosses, along with the rest of the senior team, leave next Tuesday for Europe and will be gone for over two weeks. The way I see it, two things could happen here — I get an offer before they go and resign but my two weeks will end before they get back, or I get an offer while they are away and have to resign while my boss is in Europe. (And, of course, the third thing is that I get no offers, in which case this is all moot!) There will be a significant time difference while they are away so it would be hard to call, although I know that would be better than emailing.

Honestly, neither option sits well with me! I don’t like my job and I’m not that fond of my boss, but I would feel very bad leaving without even seeing him. I would also feel bad having to resign via email or an international phone line (notoriously crackly!), especially considering this is my first professional role. We are a small team (only about six to seven full-time staff) so unfortunately I can’t just slip under the radar. How would you go about this?

This is totally normal, and the sort of thing that happens all the time! Sometimes resignations come at inconvenient times, like when your boss is away. People make do! And your boss will understand that you don’t have the luxury of telling your new job that you need to push your start date back to wait for someone’s European travel to end.

So once you’ve accepted the offer and it’s officially a done deal, tell your boss. If it’s right before she leaves for Europe, so be it. If it’s after she’s already gone, call her on a crackly international phone line; she will still be able to hear you, crackles and all. If you’re unable to reach her, send her an email saying, “I normally would never do this by email but I want to give you as much notice as possible.” And however you contact her, you can also say, “I realize the timing isn’t ideal — what’s the best way for me to make the transition as smooth as possible since you’re away?”

This will be fine!

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Asking a coworker not to joke about suicide

I’m hoping you can help as I’ve found no easy answer amongst my support group. My coworker, a nice guy, makes jokes about “you’ll want to kill yourself if you do this or that” and I’m not sure how to discuss it with him that it bothers me. The main reason it bothers me is that I’m an attempt survivor and I lost my brother to suicide. No one at my workplace knows about my attempt as it occurred before I was with the company and I don’t want the perception of me to change. Any assistance would be appreciated.

Be direct! “Please don’t joke about suicide.” That’s really all you need to say! A polite person will immediately stop, but if he pushes back in any way, you can say, “It’s a difficult topic for a lot of families, as I’m sure you can understand.”

5. My boss is the hiring manager and HR rejected me before my resume even made it to her

I recently applied for a position inside of my work group that is essentially my current role with some larger project and mentoring responsibilities added in. I went through the proper channels, filled out the excessively long application, submitted my cover letter and resume tailored for my boss (who is the hiring manager), took the mysterious personality assessments, and then received a nicely worded email saying that HR would not be passing my resume on to hiring manager (aka, my boss, who would obviously know nothing about my work ethic, skills, and personality … even though we work closely together and see each other five days a week). And I’m now somewhere between livid and devastated.

I know people get passed over all the time, but I was expected to apply for this job by everyone on the team, including my boss. Because of degree requirements that were added to the position (upper management’s decision), I’m the only member of the team who was eligible to apply. And after being informed by the powers that be that they are no longer able to advance … well, my coworkers aren’t pleased with having to train someone from scratch in our niche field where the standards we design to are company-specific, not industry-specific. (This is a job you learn over years, not months.)

Should I even mention to my boss that I applied? Or just let it go? My company is so worried about the possibily of appearing discrimatory that all HR decisions are final, so there is no chance of being reconsidered even if I talk to my boss. I’m torn because I was expected to apply and I don’t want my boss to feel like I’m unwilling to step up and take more responsibility. But I’m also ashamed of the fact that I somehow didn’t make it past HRs filter when the position is so closely related to what I’m currently doing. Logically, I know the rejection isn’t a reflection of the feelings of any of the people I actually work with, but it still makes me feel like a failure when my boss updates us at a team meeting that she has 30 resumes to sort through and I know mine isn’t one of them.

Yes, you absolutely should tell your boss that you applied and were rejected. First, it’s possible that the rejection was an error; errors like this do happen. Second, it’s possible that this will indicate to your boss that there’s something wrong with the way HR is screening candidates. Third, even if there’s really nothing your boss can do (which would be weird, for the record), she needs to know because this is something that affects you, her, and your team.

Say something like this: “I applied for the X job, and I got a rejection from HR a few days ago saying they’re not going to pass my materials along to you. I’m obviously disappointed, but mainly I wanted to let you know so that you’re aware that I did apply.”

{ 551 comments… read them below }

  1. RG*

    OP, I know that at least for Christians, we are instructed to go about our lives normally when we’re fasting – in short, people shouldn’t be able to tell we’re fasting unless it’s time for a meal. I can’t speak for Muslims, but it’s possible they have a similar approach to fasting for Ramadan.

    1. MissGirl*

      I occasionally fast and it’s my responsibility to manage my cravings, not anyone else’s. As long as your not going on about food, how something is so delicious, and your coworker just has to try it; you’re not a jerk.

      1. Enya*

        There are several Jewish fast days throughout the year (many people call them “minor fast days”.) My office mate fasts during those days, but I don’t. The first few times I apologized for eating and drinking in front of her, she always assured me it was fine. So for the last few years I’ve been eating and drinking without saying anything to her. I don’t make a big deal out of it. As others have said, it’s the faster’s responsibility to be OK with people not fasting at work.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Yesterday, a couple hours before time to break the fast I was drinking some water. I don’t normally police my consumption in front of Husband, but I try to be considerate because…I kinda like him. I said “Oh, sorry…” His response? “This isn’t my first Ramadan, you’re good.”

          I don’t know about any other religions (atheist here) but for the Muslims I know (and I know a lot, lot, lot of them, they tend to figure it’s their thing and not expect that everyone else will tip toe around them. Of course there are those exceptions that prove the rule, but jerks will be jerks and not just about fasting, so there’s that.

        2. Sarah*

          Totally. I am one of these fasters, and it really doesn’t bother me at all when people eat/drink near me. In fact I usually don’t tell people I’m fasting because I don’t want people to feel weird. I think most people who fast on days when the majority doesn’t fast (and who have different holidays, etc. etc.) are really used to being in the minority and basically fine with everything short of people bugging us to eat.

      2. CityMouse*

        I think it would be kind to avoid food with strong smells. I used to help out with Yom Kippur services. One year the rabbi wasn’t fasting because she was pregnant (she didn’t pretend she was fasting), but she kept the food away to be polite. I would also make sure to take food breaks away as well.

        I think water is fine, but I can see strong smelling food making fasting harder and I would err on the side of kindness.

        1. Miss Elaine e.*

          I was coming on to say this. Also, it would likely to be kind to avoid noisy foods: crinkly potato chip bags (and their crunchy contents) and so forth.

          That’s so kind of the OP to be so considerate.

          1. Rebecca in Dallas*

            That’s good advice in general, haha!

            I would say maybe avoid things that are smell strongly (like fast food, not a bad smell but man you can smell fries from a mile away!), but otherwise go about your normal business. You are so nice to be considerate of them!

        2. Dino*

          This is what I was going to say. My wife is Muslim but I am not, so during Ramadan I try not to cook very smelly food in the house until it’s iftar (time to break the fast) each day. She never asked me to or anything, but it just seems polite and I know she appreciates it.

        3. Susie Cruisie*

          And while I understand the suggestion, perhaps avoid the PB&J because of the smell associated – it can make a hungry person go mad. Stick to weaker smelling foods would be more considerate.

          1. Fiennes*

            I don’t know—you have to get pretty close to smell peanut butter; it’s not the kind of thing that wafts across a room. Whereas Mexican food or Indian, or even a hamburger, would carry a lot more.

          2. Beth*

            Is PB&J really that strong-smelling? I would totally have it on my list of ‘not particularly strongly scented foods, fine for just about anywhere/anytime’. Any food is going to have some level of scent to it–avoiding strong scents seems more like fish, curries, garlic, onions, etc. to me.

            1. JSPA*

              If I’m hungry, I can smell room temperature PB from across the room. Maybe freeze one the night before, so it’s still cold by lunch, if you want to be extra considerate.

            2. Turtle Candle*

              This is one of the things that makes any conversation around what foods are polite in the office so fraught—one person’s ‘obviously inoffensive’ is another person’s ‘highly offensive.’ I am like you—I find peanut butter smell highly unnoticeable unless my nose is right in your sandwich—but other people are driven nuts by it. If you cook with a lot of garlic you won’t likely notice it as much as someone who never cooks with garlic. I would have found a cup of yogurt to be almost completely unnoticeable but for some people with misophonia it’s like torture. On the other hand, I can smell a bagel, even untoasted, from a mile away, which completely baffled my husband who can basically only smell bagel if it’s right under his nose, or burnt.

              It’s why I think that consideration of coworkers has to come from checking in with them, not attempting to make a master list of offensive or strong-smelling foods.

        4. Nita*

          I was about to suggest the same thing! When I’m around someone who’s fasting (and I’m not) I stick to food that doesn’t smell, and water, and try to keep it out of their sight but don’t go out of my way if that’s impossible. Also, it’s a very sensitive and kind thing you’re doing, OP!

        5. Rat in the Sugar*

          It can be kind to do that, but I do want to mention that you’re not being rude at all if you don’t! I fast as a Roman Catholic, and I never mind people eating in front of me on fast days. It’s supposed to be a sacrifice, after all; so if I can smell others’ food it’s on me to deal with it, and that itself is part of the fast.

          I just don’t want OP to be worried that she’s being unkind if she needs to eat at her desk. As long as you’re not waving it under their noses or going “Mmmm, so tasty!” or whatever, you’re totally fine.

      3. Chinook*

        Ditto. As a Catholic who fasts, I don’t expect anyone to alter their lives to make room for my commitments. In fact, part of fasting is knowing that you are making a sacrifice and that a sacrifice should feel uncomfortable otherwise it really isn’t a sacrifice (i.e. what is the point in giving up alcohol if I don’t drink).

        Case in point, I met my family for a weekend during Lent at a hotel where dinner was pre-ordered. Friday is normally meat free and I had given up chocolate. My mom was organizing and we both forgot to mention my dietary restrictions to the hotel, so I ended up watching everyone enjoy a beef roast and chocolate mousse (the hotel had enough time to create an alternative for Saturday night and would have changed it on the fly if I had asked, but to me it wasn’t necessary as it was my error, not theirs.). If I had spoken up, the meal would have been changed to be be chocolate free and I would have been served fish, but the sacrifice would not have been as noticeable to myself.

        Luckily, I was also surrounded by understanding people who didn’t force me to eat and accepted that I wasn’t doing this AT them but FOR myself (and God). It also led to short conversations with nieces and nephews who weren’t being raised as practicing Catholics about why I and others do stuff like this.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      A couple years ago, I specifically asked the Muslims I work with what their preference was in regards to eating and drinking around them during Ramadan. They told me that fasting during Ramadan was an intensely personal thing and that they would find it slightly off-putting if their fasting changed my own behavior in regards to eating or drinking around them.

      Also, according to my coworkers, it’s OK for non-believers to wish Muslims “Ramadan Mubarak” which is Arabic for “Blessed Ramadan”

      1. Katie the Fed*

        “they would find it slightly off-putting if their fasting changed my own behavior in regards to eating or drinking around them”

        This exactly. They’re used to this and don’t expect you to do it. And they do find it offputting. Similar to when I went to Jordan I asked someone if I should cover my hair and they were like “what? no. Why would you do that! We’re the Muslims, not you!” I think partially because hospitality is SO important they don’t want you to feel that you should have to be uncomfortable.

        1. Specialk9*

          Though I didn’t think that was a universal belief across the Muslim world.

          (Which makes sense – no belief system that is geographically spread is monolithic, not even Catholics who work hard at being just that. And even in one location there are multiple sects.)

          1. MM*

            It’s not. In the Levantine countries and Egypt, I never experienced anybody expecting me to cover unless I was entering a mosque. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, they have enforceable laws. Similarly, in Beirut nobody would blink at seeing my bare arms or a pair of shorts; in Cairo you’d be stared at. It varies from place to place as you’d expect with any cultural norm about clothing and modesty; in New England I’d be taken aback to see people in swimwear at a nice cafe, or walking around town barefoot. In Southern California these seem to be normal things to do.

        2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          That’s interesting. A guide in Morocco seemed put off that I was covering up my collarbones with a scarf and said “don’t do that, you’re not Muslim”. I was quite happy to take that scarf off because it was 107 degrees. But then, unlike the day before, several people glared at me (I was wearing an loose ankle length skirt and a plain t-shirt that was not tight or at all low cut…the neck was just below my collarbones). I am an experienced traveler and try to be respectful, but I couldn’t figure out which way to go on this one.

      2. Kittymommy*

        I was going to say this as well. For my Muslim friends they would never want their observance to negatively affect someone, especially a coworker and one who has been so welcoming of their religion.

    3. earl grey aficionado*

      Yes, this is exactly it. OP #1, fasting for Ramadan isn’t like a medical fast or food insecurity, where the person doing it is likely miserable and would rather be eating. Instead, Ramadan is a time of self-reflection and mindful self-denial where life is supposed to go on 100% as normal while you’re not eating and drinking. That includes being exposed to other people who are eating! (For example, many Muslim football players still practice and play games during Ramadan, and you can bet their non-Muslim teammates are still eating and hydrating thoroughly around them.)

      It’s good that you’re trying to be thoughtful, but unless your coworkers are cranky, unreasonable people–which is possible, but a separate issue from this–your eating lunch as usual shouldn’t bother them and would in fact show even more respect toward their religious beliefs.

      (source: I live in an area with a large Muslim population and have had this discussion with friends many times.)

    4. Specialk9*

      Can I just say what a balm it is to read about non-Muslims being *too* thoughtful and careful with their Muslim neighbors? This is so at odds with so much of the world today, and I’m so glad to hear about this.

      1. earl grey aficionado*

        I know! This letter really warmed my heart today. I hope OP will eat their lunch with a clean conscience now, but what a sweet and respectful thing to do for coworkers.

      2. Amber T*

        Agreed! I kind of braced myself when I read the headline because sometimes the world is poop, but OP1, you sound like an awesome and super considerate coworker and person, so thank you!

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It is uplifting to hear people working at acceptance and understanding. Speaking of which, I (an atheist) almost started a discussion above about whether we should use Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem, but as my Muslim friends seem to use them equally, I’ll just say that either is probably fine. (Mubarak means joyful, so some Muslims see that as not fitting a fasting day, meant to remind them of deprivation, and so use kareem, which means something close to generous, to honor the spirit of remembering those who may go hungry not by choice.)

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          If you say “Ramadan Kareem” you are saying “holy ramadan.” If you say “Ramadan Mubarak” you are saying “happy Ramadan.”

          Also the first fast day after Ramadan ends, “Eid Mubarak.”

        2. Legal Beagle*

          That’s so interesting! It’s become something of a custom in observant Jewish circles to say “have an easy and meaningful fast” instead of just “have an easy fast”; the idea being that while we want the fast to be physically bearable, the intent of the day is to reflect and be somber, and rise above our physical discomfort to focus on spiritual matters.

    5. Sigrid*

      I have a number of Muslim friends and I have had this conversation with each one of them at least once, because I don’t want to be rude or unkind, and each one has said essentially the same thing: not only do we not expect other people to change their habits around us, but because part of the point of Ramadan is having the self-control to avoid temptation, having other people remove all causes of temptation from around us would kind of defeat the purpose. In general it would be polite not to schedule The Big Annual Work Gala during Ramadan if you have Muslim co-workers, unless you schedule it after sundown, but other than that, every Muslim I have talked to expects that life will proceed apace.

      Just don’t ever say something like, “oh, I should start fasting too! I need to lose weight!”. That’s rude.

      1. Genny*

        Your last line made me smile. When I was working in a Muslim-majority country last year, everyone joked about how people tend to gain weight during Ramadan because the food they eat for Iftar tends to be oily and they essentially end up binge eating (probably consuming more calories in a couple hours than they would if they were eating throughout the day). Chalk that up to one more reason to avoid making that kind of remark.

    6. Erin*

      I live in SE Michigan. FYI it’s common for middle eastern restaurants in the area, that are owned by practicing muslims, are still open during Ramadan for business as usual. I only know that their Muslim because they break for prayers.

      1. BB*

        I had family in Dearborn, MI and yup the restaurants are always reliably open every holiday, even in Ramadan.

    7. Teapot project manager*

      You are being very nice and considerate but honestly it’s ok for you to have your water glass at your desk and eat your lunch as normal. They aren’t expecting you to fast. Just don’t have an elaborate, fragrant lunch and wave it under their noses asking if they want a bite.

      Singed a Catholic who many years come into work on Good Friday to pieces of candy on my desk left by the fun committee. I just put aside to eat later

    8. Catelyn*

      Yeah, Muslim here: I, and many other Muslims, have been fasting since we were 13. We are completely used to it. It is not a problem. And honestly, with 16 hour fasts, smelling food doesn’t make me any more or less hungry than I was before, because I was already pretty hungry.

    9. GreenDoor*

      OP1, I’m Catholic and we have fasting periods. Part of the purpose of a religious fast is that, when we are tempted, we are to turn to prayer or some other faith-based mantra/meditation, etc. to get past the temptation. If I, as a person of faith, am choosing to participate in a fast, then it is on me to cope with anything that might tempt me. It is not up to others around me to save me from myself, or to make it easier on me by denying their own needs and wants. I would suspect it’s the same for other faith groups, too.

    10. f ehsan*

      fasting muslim here. it’s so nice of you to be so considerate, but i wouldn’t think about it too much! alison’s advice is sound.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I can guarantee you that your coworkers will be ok with you drinking water in front of them—it’s extremely common during Ramadan. I can’t imagine they expect you to change your eating/water habits because of their religious practice. I suspect food is fine, too, but it is kind of you not to eat in front of them when they are fasting.

    1. Rosie*

      I think the ‘not changing habits’ part is key – you’re just carrying on as normal. If you went out of your way to make their lives more difficult, like bringing in hot food with a strong smell and talking loudly about how delicious it was, then you would be rude. It sounds like you’re being very considerate.

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    OP1, I used to sit across from a guy who is Muslim, and we were good buddies. We were chatting while I was eating lunch one day, and I offered him one of my cookies. He said no thanks because it was Ramadan and he was fasting. I apologized for eating in front of him and said that was not very considerate of me. He told me that he didn’t expect everyone to stop eating and drinking around him during Ramadan, because it was something he chose to do, and assured me that I was not being rude. You’re very kind to be so concerned though.

  4. LouiseM*

    #1: they told you they are fine with you eating and drinking in the office and you seem to be avoiding doing so to prove some sort of point. Why? If you are not Muslim then no part of the fast is obligatory for you, even if a Muslim can see you. It doesn’t make you seem more tolerant to act weirdly and martyr yourself.

    1. Tim Tam Girl*

      This is an odd and uncharitable interpretation of the LW’s question. I see nothing in here to suggest that the LW is trying to ‘seem more tolerant’, is ‘act[ing] weirdly’ or is ‘martyr[ing]’ themselves. It can feel really uncomfortable to eat and drink in front of people who are fasting, even when it’s a choice for everyone involved and there’s no expectation on you to participate; I would imagine that this would be even more pronounced in a small, close group when you’re the only one not fasting.

      I agree with Alison that the LW has done due diligence and should feel comfortable eating their lunch and drinking their water at their desk, but I don’t agree with you that the LW is virtue-signalling or even doing anything particularly unusual in considering all possible options. I reckon the LW is just being thoughtful.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        That’s how I read this, too. It reminds me a bit of how people who eat meat get concerned about eating meat around vegetarians. I think they just want to be considerate.

          1. Anonymoose*

            Eh, I see it more the equivalent of not drinking in front of a pregnant mother. Because she technically could have a glass of wine, but she chooses not to. The alcohol is either all or nothing, there’s no temperance there.

            Does that make sense?

      2. just dropping in*

        I don’t think this is a particularly harsh response, but rather one that reflects the constant frustration of POCs who often deal with well-intentioned people who are trying to be thought but end up just making you feel even more “othered” and exhausted.

        My boyfriend’s white family is about to meet my Chinese immigrant parents for the first time and his mother is so worried about accommodating their language and cultural differences that it’s actually patronizing and borderline offensive. I know that it’s coming from a place of love (and nerves) but it’s frustrating when she keeps asking if she should buy chopsticks for them to use because she has her ideas about what it means to be Chinese and isn’t listening when we tell her that’s not necessary, they’ve been in the US for 35 years and know how to use forks. She’s trying so hard to be considerate of their Chineseness that she completely forgets that they’re people too. And when she keeps stressing out and trying to go the extra mile (because she isn’t listening), then the burden falls on us to educate her, reassure her that we understand she means well, and soothe her feelings.

        The best way to be considerate here is to listen to what your coworkers are telling you and accept it. Trust them when they tell you it’s fine for you to eat, don’t put your own worries and assumptions above what they are telling you they prefer.

        1. myswtghst*

          “The best way to be considerate here is to listen to what your coworkers are telling you and accept it.”

          Yes, this.

        2. Lana Kane*

          I agree with this 100%. The last paragraph, “at what point can I say it’s my office too and not feel guilty about having a cup of coffee and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich at my desk?” didn’t sit right with me. I would say that the point would be when your coworkers say that it’s ok (which has already happened).

          Not listening to that, to the point where frustration seems to be creeping in, goes from being considerate to not listening to what the people actually going through the fast are telling you – which is a form of othering, and one that the most well-meaning of people can fall into. And while one can be appreciative of the attempt to be sensitive, as a POC myself I would be frustrated if I had already said that X activity is ok with me, but wasn’t really believed. It’s part of a larger pattern, and I think it’s valuable to point it out.

        3. LabTech*

          I have to agree with this. People act weird about my fasting during Ramadan, and it is exhausting. It’s to the point that I’ve started keeping it to myself just to stop people from acting so uncomfortable about it – whether the well-intentioned, but misplaced “I can’t eat around you or it will offend you” sentiment, or blatantly offensive remarks about my religion. Plus the constant fear that management will not take kindly to my decision to fast, as I am less as productive without my coffee.

          Basically, stop stressing and listen to what they’re telling you. It’s not offensive to eat in front of them, but it is offensive to ignore what they’re saying and insist that you have to act differently in front of because they’re Muslim.

          Also, for full disclosure: I’ve chosen not to fast for Ramadan this year.

      3. just dropping in*

        BTW I’m not trying to rag on the LW too much. I think it was very kind of her to be thinking about her coworkers. I also appreciate that wrote in here with her question and did her own research, instead of putting the burden on her coworkers to educate her.

      4. myswtghst*

        Actually, I think that because OP#1 appears to have good intent, and is being very thoughtful in how they approach this, it’s also worth it for OP#1 to take a step back and examine their behaviors to ensure they aren’t over-correcting in a way which might make the coworkers uncomfortable. I mean, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the coworkers are feeling awkward if they’ve noticed OP#1 gulping water down at the water cooler when they’ve already told OP#1 they don’t mind the water bottle in the shared office.

        I’m currently 7 months pregnant, and while it’s not exactly analogous to OP#1’s situation, there are some similarities. I really appreciate when people are thoughtful, and ask once if something will bother me (“hey, are you okay if I eat my onion-filled lunch in our shared office?”) but I’ve definitely had people with good intentions perform an elaborate dance of self-flagellation and/or rope me into unwanted emotional labor when they make a big production out of “accommodating” me by doing things I don’t want or need them to do.

    2. Not Australian*

      A little harsh, don’t you think? LW is going the extra mile for their colleagues comfort, and even if it’s further than most of us would usually go we can’t and shouldn’t fault their intention.

    3. Sami*

      I really don’t see where your interpretation is coming from. The OP obviously isn’t fasting and is simply checking with an expert that the polite actions she’s taking are appropriate.

      1. Kate*

        But this doesn’t really seem like it needs ‘expertise’- AAM is neither Muslim nor one of the coworkers in question. If for some reason her answer was ‘No I think you should go and eat somewhere else’, would OP blindly ignore her colleagues and go and sit resentfully in the cafeteria? Why not listen to them?

        1. Fritz*

          Hello, I am the original letter writer here. I asked Alison for her advice because this is a question about courtesy in the workplace. It’s one thing to be eating in a public place in front of someone who is fasting but it is quite another to be in a small shared space, particularly when I KNOW that they can’t eat anything. Yes they’ve said they don’t have a problem with it, but it still is a little awkward for all involved (they feel like their religious practices are infringing on me and I feel rude eating because they can’t) and I was asking Alison’s advice because I was unsure how far to extend basic courtesy regarding religion in the workplace. Thank you for your input.

          1. Tardigrade*

            It makes perfect sense why you wrote in, and you shouldn’t need to defend it, especially when Alison thought it was appropriate enough to answer and feature on her site.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Yup. This blog is for questions about the workplace, where workplace norms are going to change the calculus you would use in your non-work life.

              Also agree about tardigrades being cool.

            2. SophieK*

              Alison makes her living from answering weird and petty questions.

              The answer to most of these questions is ask the person in question/stay out of it/keep your head down and work/check your company handbook/do as the boss asks unless it’s illegal/yeah, that’s screwed up and toxic, find another job/you are being pushed out and there’s not a lot you can do about it.

              The enabling and hand holding on this site are actually at odds with what she purports to do, which is make the workplace better for all. If we are constantly looking for problems we will find them, and that mindset is nothing but trouble for other people who are just trying to live their lives.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                @SophieK, my therapist tells me our brains are wired to look for problems. This tendency developed in primitive times to protect us from things like falling rocks and animals trying to eat us.
                I think it’s better to work with it than deny it, and Alison helps millions of people with this blog!

          2. Specialk9*

            @Fritz, I thought your question showed a kind spirit full of generosity, empathy, and thoughtfulness. I wish more people were like you!

          3. a1*

            Yes they’ve said they don’t have a problem with it, but it still is a little awkward for all involved (they feel like their religious practices are infringing on me..

            They feel their religious practices are infringing on you because you’re making them infringe on you by not taking them at their word and changing your behavior around them. Why not just believe them? Go about your day as normal. Drink water when and where you want – i.e. don’t go gulping down a cup of water while standing at the water cooler. That’s what makes it more awkward.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Yes. It’s like OP is actually drawing attention to the fact that they are fasting. They can’t drink any water therefore the OP goes to the water cooler and furtively gulps down a couple gallons as fast as possible because doing that is less conspicuous than just having a bottle of water on her desk like normal…not.

              I’m sure OP’s coworkers mean it when they say “ just be normal.” If OP really respects her coworkers and wants them to be comfortable, she needs to “just be normal” and live life in the office exactly the same as she always has.

              1. Chinook*

                “Yes. It’s like OP is actually drawing attention to the fact that they are fasting.”

                That is the perfect way to describe it. If I am fasting for spiritual reasons, I don’t want to draw attention to it because it is a personal action. The times I was fasting and had to attend a staff lunch meeting was uncomfortable, not because everyone was eating in front of me, but because everyone was pointing out that I wasn’t eating and wouldn’t believe me when I said that my green tea was good enough or just ignore me and go back to the meeting. I tried “bean dipping” a few times (ironically with no bean dip) but no one would take the hint. This turned out to be a red flag for the toxic work environment in general where everyone is was in everyone else’s business.

            2. just dropping in*

              They feel their religious practices are infringing on you because you’re making them infringe on you by not taking them at their word and changing your behavior around them. Why not just believe them?

              THIS x1000.

              LW is putting what she thinks they need over what they say they want.

          4. Shamy*

            I think you’re being incredibly thoughtful and kind, but it really is ok for you to eat and drink. My fiance is Muslim and my understanding is part of the fasting has a discipline/sacrificial element. They are also encouraged to feed others that are less fortunate as well. I am being as supportive as possible, but since I am pregnant, I have to eat, many times in front of him, but even if I wasn’t, he wouldn’t want me to go way out of my way to accommodate him. Not to mention, he even still does food prep for our children, etc. I assure you, they mean it when they say it’s ok for you to eat and are used to the rest of the world eating around them.

          5. Catelyn*

            Hey OP – I’m Muslim, and you eating your food is totally fine! Seriously, I have never once gotten hungry because of someone’s lunch near me. However, one of the best sets of things you can do to make your Muslim coworkers’ lives easier:

            1) after 2-3 pm, please don’t ask them to do anything taxing. our brains are totally fried
            2) Please don’t try to make small talk/talk too much! Our mouths get really dry because of the no water thing, and talking to people near the end of the day is exhausting.

          6. Kali*

            They can eat something. They’ve made a choice not to, for a variety of reasons. I think there are some comments further up that point out the distinction.

          7. Meme*

            I think it’s very sweet that you are willing to follow sharia law to make your colleagues comfortable, and that you don’t find it taxing. I know I wouldn’t/couldn’t follow the rules of a religion to appear “polite”… their religion, their rules, their choice…

            The only thing my (old) Muslim boss asked of us was to carefully hide his favorite whisky (and a certain soft drink beginning with C) when his bosses from the ME came for a visit! And of course, not to get him his ‘usual’ when offering drinks around! LOL

        2. savant*

          Why not? Because a lot of the time people will say things they don’t mean because of Politeness and what’s Polite To Say In The Moment isn’t necessarily the thing they want or the thing that will make the situation better.

          Where I grew up, it’s not polite to accept a favour the first time it’s offered. You have to sort of refuse-while-signalling-you-want-it and then let the other person go ‘are you sure? it’s really no problem’. You might really want the favour! But it’s not polite to accept it.

          “Oh, no, it’s fine, it’s not a problem at all” is a way that people are commonly polite at the expense of what they really want. So in a situation like this, it makes sense to get a second opinion, doesn’t it?

          1. Mad Baggins*

            This! Especially since OP is their boss! And not practicing the same religion, and in a small space. It must be hard for OP to tell if the employees are saying, “No, it’s OK” because they feel pressured to do so, and I think it was very thoughtful of the OP to be considerate to their needs. I don’t think you need to “courtesy fast” whenever you’re with them but I think it’s considerate to be discreet about it.

    4. Kisses*

      I didn’t take that from this at all. And it’s not just her religious tolerance (which we should all practice as gracefully!), but I also consider if I would pig out in front of people who were dieting or had allergies. It’s called common courtesy.

      1. Penny Lane*

        Eh – even that is subject to different interpretations depending upon the diet/allergy. Jews who keep kosher don’t care one bit if you (a non-Jew) order a bacon cheeseburger. The person who is gluten-free doesn’t expect everyone around them to never eat bread/pasta. The person with a peanut allergy, though, WILL mind if you eat your peanut butter sandwich in their presence.

        1. KellyK*

          Definitely true. As long as you’re not cross-contaminating their food (or their air, in the case of peanut allergies), it’s usually fine.

          If you know someone is having a hard time with a food intolerance (especially one that’s newly diagnosed), it’s definitely a kindness (not obligatory, just nice) not to eat things they want to and can’t. But, really, as long as you’re not gloating or rubbing it in, you’re fine.

    5. MsSolo*

      I got a touch of self-martyrdom about this too – “they’ve said it’s fine, but I’m inconveniencing myself anyway and I want permission to stop” is the vibe I’ve got. I don’t think it’s necessarily weird, though; if you come from a culture where the pressure is to say you don’t mind regardless of whether you do it’s common to second guess other people based on your own preferences. If LW wouldn’t like people eating around them while they’re fasting, they are probably assuming their coworkers actually feel the same and are just being polite, so LW is trying to out-polite them! But you have to trust people when they use their words, and the coworkers have. This isn’t the limbo – there’s no prize for being the one who bent over backwards the most.

      1. myswtghst*

        Agreed. I think certain segments of the population are socialized to always be “fine” even when they aren’t, and it can be tempting to interpret the coworkers’ “don’t worry about it!”s through the lens of “they’re just being polite and if it were me…” However, in this situation, the best course of action is to take the coworkers at their word, and to avoid drawing unnecessary attention to the matter.

        1. Meme*

          There is also the “crime” of offending someone else that people are so fearful of these days. Some people go so far in the opposite direction that it’s farcical.

    6. Kate*

      Yeah I agree with the martyr comment. ‘At what point should I stop feeling guilty’… No one’s making you feel guilty!

    7. CityMouse*

      I mentioned above that I used to help out with services during the high holy days. I am not Jewish but I did avoid eating in front of people during Yom Kippur, though I did not fast. It’s to be kind. Just like the Rabbi was kind to me and explained some of the significance during the service, well beyond what I needed to do my job. I think the world would be a better place if more people were like LW and who tried to accommodate and be kind to people who are different from them.

    8. neeko*

      I agree with you. It’s a bit patronizing and exhausting to not take people at their word when they say it’s fine.

    9. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

      As someone who was raised muslim, I agree with you. It’s weird when people try to be ‘excessively tolerant’ – it makes things awkward!

    10. The Other Dawn*

      I don’t think OP is trying to prove a point. Yes, I think she’s overthinking this and should just go about her business, but she’s trying to be respectful or her office mates.

    11. Doe-Eyed*

      “I felt obligated to tell my coworker that something was ok that totally wasn’t” is basically a weekly theme here. I can understand wanting to check and make sure her coworkers didn’t feel obligated to minimize their discomfort with the situation in the name of playing nice in the office.

      1. Genny*

        This is doubly true when the issue of privilege comes into play. I can see how LW might feel like his position of relative privilege might make it more difficult for his Muslim coworkers to express their real feelings (like how a boss might not get an honest answer from his reports about the utility of that “totally fun” team-building thing or how HR might suspect they’re not getting the full story on a boss’s bad behavior from the person with a work-sponsored visa). There are lots of situations where people may not feel like they have the ability to be completely honest, especially with people who have some power (real or perceived) over them. No harm in LW giving an extra thought whether this might be one of those situations.

    12. Nita*

      Because common human decency. Would you unwrap a giant burrito in front of someone you knew must go in for a fasting blood test in two hours? Would you wave around a fruit platter in front of someone who’s not allowed to eat because they’re going into surgery? Granted, OP’s coworkers are fasting for religious rather than medical reasons, but they’re fasting all the same, and there’s nothing wrong with OP thinking of how to make it less difficult for them.

      1. poolgirl*

        People fasting because it’s medically necessary are completely different than those fasting for religious reasons. Undergoing challenges while you are doing so makes it more meaningful.

        1. Nita*

          Maybe… I never thought of it that way. I have a family member who fasts, and the reasoning doesn’t seem to be as much about resisting temptation, as it is about stepping out of one’s routine and thinking only about spiritual things for a time. So while I’ve never been asked to not eat in front of them, I can’t imagine it would make their day easier or more on-point. I guess the reasons are pretty individual deep down, though.

          I’m also thinking that fasting while working must be a good deal harder than fasting while not working, but I could be wrong here too. I get light-headed from skipping meals very easily, so maybe something that seems impossible to me is not that hard to others.

          1. Chinook*

            I actually find fasting while working easier because it takes my mind of the growling stomach. And, while the first few times did cause me to be light-headed, I found that practice does make it easier because you learn to ignore symptoms and learn which activities should be avoided or limited. Now, after 20 years of this, I find it a simple task and am looking at doing it more often during Lent so that it feels more like a sacrifice.

          2. Chinook*

            “the reasoning doesn’t seem to be as much about resisting temptation, as it is about stepping out of one’s routine and thinking only about spiritual things for a time. ”

            I think it is a combination of those two things. It also refocuses your mindset after the fast because, even though you are back to “normal,” it takes a few weeks to break the mindset of being mindful of what you are eating.

      2. Catelyn*

        Look, most Muslims who fast have been doing so for literally decades. Sure, it sucks sometimes, but we are super, super used to it. Someone eating a burrito doesn’t tire me out. Actually, my best advice to OP is not to ask his coworker to talk too much – our mouths get really dry!

      3. Kali*

        You’re making the same mistake the LW is, in conflating “not allowed to eat” with “chosen not to eat”. They are different internal experiences.

    13. Genny*

      Etiquette says you don’t eat in front of people who aren’t eating. It’s generally considered rude. Even with the permission to eat, I can still see why LW feels weird about breaking a normal piece of etiquette.

      1. Gyrfalcon*

        But eating at your desk in a shared workspace might often involve eating when people’s le wround you aren’t eating. Is it rude to eat your sandwich at noon when your office mate usually doesn’t eat until 1:00? Is it rude if your office mate can’t eat until 1:00 on this day only because they have a project to finish first? This supposed etiquette rule seems like it may be generally good to consider, but it doesn’t make sense to apply it rigidly.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        But this is work where people will likely eat at different times of the day anyway, not going on with your dinner while unexpected guests are sitting there watching you eat and you not offering them anything.

        More to the point fasting is supposed to be a sacrifice. Being all Secret Squirrel about eating/drinking anything during the day while one’s coworkers don’t (for whatever reason, but particularly during a religious fast) is basically pointing a neon arrow at the fasting party with a sign that says “other.”

        1. Genny*

          I agree that workplace norms can sometimes be different than social norms (and I agree that this LW doesn’t have anything to worry about), but I can still understand why someone might be uncomfortable engaging in an activity that socially wouldn’t be okay even if it’s okay in a work context. It doesn’t have anything to do with being a martyr or pretending to be super tolerant like LouiseM said; it’s more likely that it’s just hard to switch the flip from one context to another.

      3. Mookie*

        No, that is not universal etiquette. That’s a cultural idea that we don’t all share or abide by.

        1. bonkerballs*

          That’s fine, but it IS a social etiquette for many people. It’s certainly the way I, and everyone in my childhood community, was raised.

          1. Mookie*

            And plenty of people belowthread give examples of that behavior feeling and seeming Othering, particularly when it is unnecessarily performative and in response to someone fasting.

    14. Fiennes*

      Has anyone else noticed a VERY strong trend in the comments section toward uncharitable, unkind, and even mean interpretations of OP intent? It seems to me like things have taken a turn the past six months or so. It’s one thing when a boss writes in about whether to lecture the woman who quit because no time off was given to her for college graduation—you know, that deserves some pushback, or even outrage. But it’s now okay to jump on people who are asking *if something is polite*? This is not the AAM community I value.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        Yeah, I know it’s easy to overanalyze and hunt for clues to get a new insight on the situation but I’m afraid some people’s takeaway from this will be “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

    15. Kali*

      Honestly, same kind of vibe. This seems like the kind of thing that leads to headlines like “MUSLIMS WANT TO DESTROY CHRISTMAS” out of literally nothing.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that the OP is thinking anything like this.

  5. LouiseM*

    OP #2: this IT guy does not understand boundaries. Be careful around him. Is he safe?

    1. Rincewind*

      Agreed. It actually IS the IT guy’s job to wait until your work can comfortably be interrupted. That said, I would never conduct any personal business — most especially financial business — from a work computer. You have *no* privacy, and there’s a possibility that everything you do is being recorded.

      1. Sami*

        Agreed. I’d never do much, if any, personal business on a work computer, especially banking. Probably 95% of the time, nothing untoward will happen, but no one wants to be in that 5%.

        1. Percy*

          Agreed, don’t do personal business on a work computer. It is not your PC, you have no expectation of privacy. We had a user this week who was curating her trash file, saving stuff going back 7 years. Trash was emptied (not by me), user was upset, there was a lot of personal stuff. Not our problem.

          1. Jesca*

            Well aside from that, this would actually be considered a huge deal at my company now. We are a huge global company based out of a EU country. Because of the new data privacy laws, we would have to report this incident. This is because even though the the OP didn’t actively have customer information showing, they could have been and someone did actually breach the protocol to access someone else’s computer. Companies have to keep track of all these incidents now and provide details of what they are doing or otherwise can face huge fines.

            We are actually all now really careful about sharing any sort of documents or information via email anymore just because we do not want to ave to deal with our internal privacy security department.

            So, I just want to throw that out there to OP that most companies (even before the new data laws in the EU) have strict rules around IT gaining access because most employees in one way or another at their job have access to what is considered private information (customer personal data, trademark designs, employee information, etc.) I would report him.

            1. Kyrielle*

              At $PreviousJob the IT person would have had a talking-to for this because I might have been remoted into a customer system (a 911 center). I know all our “operations” IT were authorized for client systems, but I don’t know if our internal IT was, and even if they were you’re not supposed to view or put yourself in a position to view that info unless you have a business need to do so.

              In my current job, I actually can’t think of anything I’d have on my screen that would need to exclude IT – I may have company-confidential material, but I don’t think I ever have more-restricted or need-to-know info here.

            2. Zombeyonce*

              I like the way my IT department at work handles it. They call you or IM you to see if you’re ready to work on the problem, ask if they can connect remotely, and you get a pop up on your screen you have to click to allow them to start. If you don’t accept, it doesn’t happen. I would hope most remote-access software has this setting capability.

              1. OhNo*

                My IT department does something similar, except I have to be the one to share my screen and give control to the IT person – and those are two separate steps.

                That’s especially helpful if I have something running in the background that they shouldn’t see, because I can share my screen and still keep control of the mouse. They just give me instructions and watch to make sure I’m doing it right.

            3. Lindsay J*

              Yeah, I’ve actually never worked somewhere where IT could remote in without the user clicking on a popup that explicitly gives them permission to do so.

          2. Colette*

            Well, “no expectation of privacy” doesn’t mean that you should expect random coworkers to view your screen without your permission if there is no business need to do so.

            Sometimes people do personal things (like check their bank account). I normally don’t login to my bank from work – except one payday where some people didn’t get paid. If IT had been doing an audit and saw I logged into my bank, that’s the risk I took – but that’s different from having people from IT checking it out just because they can.

            1. Jadelyn*

              And not all offices are that intense about “no non-work business!” anyway. My coworkers and I are perfectly fine to check bank accounts/make bill payments/doctors appointments via our work computers on our breaks or while we’re on lunch. Basically, so long as it’s not anything truly NSFW and doesn’t interfere with us getting work done, nobody cares. Which is a “know your office” sort of thing, of course.

              1. JustaTech*

                I’ve had to log into my banking information at work because someone messed up our 401K and we had about 6 hours to get it re-set up or we wouldn’t contribute to the 401K for a whole pay cycle.

            2. Chinook*

              “Well, “no expectation of privacy” doesn’t mean that you should expect random coworkers to view your screen without your permission if there is no business need to do so.”

              For me, it is not about the breach of privacy so much as IT doesn’t know if I am in the middle of some complicated thing that would need to be restarted if interrupted. Or, worse, if I am in the middle of data entry and they suddenly move my pointer and now the data I was entering is either incomplete, wrong and/or saved. Or, I could be working on a deadline that cannot be moved and now they have ensured that someone’s payroll or invoice won’t be paid until next month.

          3. Out of Office Message*

            Yes, but a lot of people’s WORK contains confidential information. You may have an employee medical leave request, or an incident report, which contains HIPAA protected information. You may have up someone’s corrective action form, or compensation record. You could have up banking or financial information of a customer, or proprietary information that’s restricted to certain employees.

            And that’s just in a basic business: people in healthcare, social work, teaching, law, finance, would have way, way more reason to not want anyone remote accessing their computer during the workday.

            1. Jadelyn*

              This is the sticking point for me – I’m in HR. If someone from IT logs into my machine remotely without warning me, I could have all KINDS of sensitive employee information on my screen! I could have someone’s PIP or MOU open for editing or review, I could be doing someone’s term paperwork for a person who’s about to get fired for performance issues, I could be doing a comp parity analysis for a manager so it shows their whole team’s comp and comp history, I could be reviewing the LOA logs or compiling someone’s peer feedback results…any number of sensitive things. It doesn’t have to be my own personal business to be confidential information. Anyone in IT who pulled this kind of stunt would be getting A Talking To by my VP and their own.

            2. Gyratory Circus*

              Exactly. I work for a health insurance company and we have strict insanely strict rules about who can view what, and this would NOT fly at all. I would immediately report it.

            1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              Maybe they think it’s a safe, secret place no one will snoop in? That’s all I can think of.

        2. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

          I know several people whose financial data/credit cards were stolen at work when they shopped or banked on a work computer. Just don’t do it. Not worth it.

          1. Oxford Coma*

            My spouse was required to use his personal credit card to purchase access to a specific training program (the company would reimburse with proof of successful certification, but would not pay up front). Next month, bam! Our statement was full of fradulent charges.

          2. Canarian*

            Huh, are they sure it was from their work computer? I guess it depends on the office setup and IT, but I don’t know why a work computer would be more vulnerable to access than their home networks or phones. Unless there’s a rogue IT guy in the company logging keystrokes and stealing credit card numbers… I don’t get it.

            I enter my credit card regularly on my work computer when I have to register for a conference, book travel expenses, pay professional association fees, whatever other incidental expenses come up*, and never had a problem or had any reason to believe it was less secure than doing all the same from my phone or at home.

            *OK, and yeah, I’ve definitely done some online shopping on a slow day or paid a last-minute bill.

            1. Nanani*

              For one thing, this site has a policy of generally taking people at their word

              For another, “this never happened to me” at your completely different work with compeltely different people is in no way relevant. The world does not revolve around you.

              1. Jadelyn*

                This seems to be an oddly aggressive response tbh. Even if it’s genuinely necessary to push back on someone who’s simply sharing their own personal experience in contrast to someone else’s to demonstrate a diversity of experiences (which I don’t necessarily think it was anyway, but that’s beside the point) there’s no need to be rude about it, re the “the world does not revolve around you” comment.

              2. Canarian*

                Wow, that’s disproportionately harsh. I know this site has a policy of taking LWs at their word, but I don’t think asking the commenter why they believed it was their work computer counts as not taking someone at their word. Credit card fraud can come from all kinds of sources.

                I also noticed that you didn’t reply to Oxford Coma to point out that their confirming anecdote was exactly as relevant as mine. Are you sure the world doesn’t revolve around me? Your extraordinary interest in me suggests otherwise.

            2. JM60*

              For all you know, your employer might be running a keylogger on their computer that you use to log every button press you make to audit your work. If this is the case, your credit card or bank login information may be saved onto that computer when you typed it into a website.

              If I need to buy something using my personal card online while I’m at work, I use my phone.

              1. JM60*

                That being said, it’s unlikely that some outside force will get into whatever hard drive is storing that information and find your credit card details. However, with monitoring software tools making it easier for employers to automate oversight of their employees, I think it’s best to proceed as if everything you do on that device will be permanently stored on the employer’s server somewhere. That is a bit on the paranoid side, but running a keylogger and a screen capture program in the background without your knowledge isn’t as difficult as you might think.

            3. Elsajeni*

              Yeah, I think my work computer is likely to be much more secure than my home computer — its security measures are set up and maintained by a whole team of people who know what they’re doing, while my home security setup is maintained by one person who is, honestly, just guessing most of the time. Obviously security breaches can happen anywhere, but computer security would be pretty low on my list of reasons to avoid doing personal stuff on my work computer.

      2. JM60*

        As a general rule, you shouldn’t access your bank account from a computer owned by someone you wouldn’t be okay sharing that bank account with.

      3. JS*

        Agreed. We actually have a system we have to download in order for IT to remotely connect and on the system a widow will pop up where we have to give permission every time before they take over.

    2. OP #2*

      OP#2 here. Thanks for the concern LouiseM – I’m happy that he’s completely safe, just perhaps a little oblivious!

      1. Millennial Lawyer*

        OP, it’s not just obliviousness – it’s not the norm, he isn’t doing his job right. At my job if I’m busy, they send an e-mail saying please e-mail or call when it’s a good time for us to make X change. I would be making a complaint if IT at my office did that.

      2. Violet Fox*

        You really really really should not be doing personal banking from a work computer that has that sort of screen takeover enabled. Really. Don’t do it. Figure everything you do on that computer is seeable and accessible by the company and treat it as such.

        Something that might be worth checking out is if and what your company has on IT policies in-place including for things like screen take over, and work from there.

        If the person is bit oblivious he honestly might have thought he was helping by getting to your ticket as quickly as possible, and might have had a busy day as well. Might also be worth trying to just talk with them about it.

        The truth is also that people who do this sort of work are used to seeing a bit of everything and anything and usually don’t notice anything besides “ticket. fix. next!”

    3. Kisses*

      My husband does this kind of work. I promise, he could care less what is on your screen. And my husband is safe, even though required to do this at a certain time like Allison suggested. I’m surprised though, the program he uses still requires the person he is assisting to click a box or connect to a mutual server.

      1. Artemesia*

        IT people snoop all the time and the most common way people get busted for illicit material on their computer is when the IT guy spots it and reports them.

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          IT people snoop all the time and the most common way people get busted for illicit material on their computer is when the IT guy spots it and reports them.

          IT person, and no we don’t “snoop”. I am responsible for hundreds of end users in dozens of locations nationwide – I wouldn’t have the time or energy to snoop, much less any idea of who to start with.

          Like I tell people here: there are literally 60K pieces of email in and out of this building every day. I do not have the time or inclination to monitor them. I don’t care what you look at on the interweb, I’m not monitoring that either (obviously no one is, ’cause here I am on this site!).

          *However* it is my duty to investigate if I get a report of misuse (usually porn related), and you can bet that the people we are investigating do NOT know we are doing so.

          If I happen across misuse while I am otherwise working on the machine, I am also required to report it.

          As others mentioned, our users must hit a button to allow access if I am working remotely on their machine – so if I have access during the work day, it’s because they granted that access.

          And I always tell people to do nothing on a work computer they wouldn’t want the owner to read word for word. Will he? Probably not. But he *can* if he decides he wants to.

        2. NotAnotherMananger!*

          My IT people would die laughing at this. They don’t have time to snoop, they’re trying to keep a 500+ organization not only running, but using technology effectively and moving forward. In the time I’ve worked in an IT-adjacent field, often as part of the department, one person was caught using their remote access inappropriately, and they were immediately terminated.

          That said, we HAVE had to turn equipment over to the FBI based on materials found on it. You know how illicit materials are usually found? The dumbass that downloaded them also brought some sort of re-alert virus or security risk down with it, and THAT got caught by the firewall/sentries.

          1. LavaLamp*

            Y’know I’m just gonna be grateful I have a nice IT person who downloaded me the Razer Synapse program so I have a rainbow keyboard. At work.

            1. Violet Fox*

              I’m not your IT person, but well I love my rainbow mice and keyboards too. Also sometimes, it just feels good to be able to do something a bit extra nice for someone to make them happy.

      2. soon 2 be former fed*

        This. Bomgear requires the user to consent to being remote controlled.

      3. soon 2 be former fed*

        This. We have to consent to being remote controlled. Maybe OP did so without noticing because she was so busy.

      4. sssssssssss*

        Yep, have to download a software each and every time, enter a nine-digit key (provided by the IT guy) and then consent to have him remote in. It’s quite the (short) process.

      5. Elizabeth West*

        At Exjob, they’d call you and ask you to share your screen, or ask permission to remote in. That gave you a chance to close anything you didn’t want them to see, like a customer file or whatever you were dicking around with online (the company didn’t much care if you went online, as long as your work got done). They never just did it.

      6. Healthnerd*

        Its not necessarily about the IT person caring whats on your screen. It could be a huge violation of policies and laws. I work in research and if I had identified participant data open that I was working and a non authorized person gained access to my computer, our project would be in major trouble with the institutional review board or HIPAA laws. While I have to give my IP address every time for IT to remote in, it wouldn’t be too hard for them to figure that out from my previous work tickets. I would be concerned about this boundary violation.

        1. Violet Fox*

          As a general thing, if your workplace has written IT policies, knowing what they are is a very good idea.

      7. Environmental Compliance*

        At my old job we did *not* have to consent for remote access. Our IT guy would randomly jump in constantly, which was incredibly disruptive.

        It stopped only after I brought up that I occasionally need to access a HIPPA-protected database, which IT guy did not have proper access or clearance to. Even then I had to escalate it.

      8. Is This How We End Up On 20/20?*

        Our IT accesses after our work hours thankfully, we’re in different time zones. So that helps with privacy issues and interrupting someone’s use. It also means they do not need any extra permissions. We don’t work with any regulated materials though, so no safty roadblocks needed.

      9. What's with today, today?*

        At OldJob, our IT guy did what he wanted when he wanted (10 years ago, huge global media company, OKC market). I’d be working and all of a sudden he’d just take over. He also had the system so jammed up that he was essentially non-fireable. He quit shortly before I left and they were still trying to figure it all out.

      10. Seriously?*

        It is possible that they are already on the same server. I needed IT to install some software on my computer (we are not given administrative access to our computers) and it was as if my computer was suddenly possessed. I didn’t have to click on anything to allow it.

      11. Risha*

        That’s not how it works. If I had taxpayer info up on my screen when someone who doesn’t need to view that information remoted in, regardless of whether that person cared about it or actually read it or could do anything bad with what was visible, that’s technically a security breach that I’m supposed to report to the company (and I believe would get reported to the state). I could get fired/fined/jailed/etc. if I didn’t.

    4. Llama Grooming Coordinator*

      I was going to say something about how it seems like you were jumping to conclusions, but…yeah, IT Guy’s actions did violate boundaries a lot. The problem isn’t that he picked an inconvenient time to start working on the computer, it’s that he did not give LW2 any notice whatsoever. I’ve had IT come up when it’s not convenient or remote in at an inconvenient time for me. But at least they tell me beforehand.

      That said, tell me if I’m reading too much into YOUR comment, Louise, but it seems like you’re implying that IT Guy might be a harasser or a predator. Do I have that right?

      1. Mad Baggins*

        This. I agree the IT person overstepped but I don’t think that suggests anything about their character.

    5. Specialk9*

      I’d recommend you look up that guy’s manager, if you remember the IT guy’s name, and have a short call with him. Explain that you were accessing PII data and your computer was taken over after you expressly told him no.

      Privacy is actually a big deal (even though there is almost surely a policy that you’re not entitled to privacy on your work computer — but last I checked, the courts were still hashing that out, and the new European GDPR privacy laws are upending things anew). Use the word PII and Private. It’s not ok, at all.

      Also, don’t do your banking or social media or personal email on your work computer. Not only is it not secure from the IT techies, or from possible misuse by Corporate (people get fired for posting on Facebook during work hours, even if they did it on the toilet), but it’s a big cybersecurity risk.

      One thing hackers do is to get into the network and just lurk, and gather data, and look for opportunities. For YEARS. So don’t trust your organization’s network. And don’t trust your organization.

    6. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I found the situation weird because at my company, there is a system to prevent this.
      Two pop ups: first: FergusW is asking for permission to access your computer. Is this OK? Yes No.
      Desktop is now run by FergusW Yes No.
      It seems like overkill, but it also makes me aware of what I’m agreeing to and what’s happening. And then I get a pop up that FergusW has logged off.
      Now I understand why. I can’t imagine any of our IT people going rogue in the first place, though.

    7. Michaela Westen*

      I think he was way out of line. Even without legal and confidentiality concerns, he was very disrespectful!
      When I was still pretty new I put in a ticket with IT for a minor problem. The overcaffinated tech who called remoted into my computer before I consented. I work in medical and I might have had patient info up, but tech support is cleared to see that. What I had up was worse – salary info for some of our specialists!
      Being new I didn’t feel I had standing to report him. Instead I always refused to give my computer number when I opened a ticket and explained why.
      We also have a rule that no one should access confidential info outside their job duties. They say people have been fired for that.

    8. Tech worker*

      Someone set things up wrong in your system. IT should require your explicit approval before connecting, where you explicitly have to click ok. It also should warn you to hide your work. Let your IT team know and they’ll likely implement that change because otherwise that’s a giant security risk.

  6. Mike C.*

    With regards to the IT guy just butting in, I think the concern about privacy doesn’t go far enough. The OP could have easily been working on sensitive materials involving employee or client personal information, privileged financial or legal data, export controlled/classified documentation and so on.

    Where I work the IT people always, always remind us to minimize or close information of that nature before remoting in. If the OP deals with any sort of protected information, they should report this to their management. Doubly so if their IT is outsourced.

    1. H.C.*

      Agreed, also – most places I worked I would have to remote access requires my explicit permission to do so (as in I get a window that “[IT person] wants to remotely control your computer. Accept or Decline?”); you might want to bring that up as a possibility with your head of IT, for all the reasons you & Mike C. listed.

      1. H.C.*

        bah, garbled my first sentence – meant to say most places I’ve worked at requires my explicit permission to remote access…

        1. Kittymommy*

          Mine does too. I didn’t even know you could remote in without permission!! Huh, learn something every day.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, the software my IT guy brother uses for remote access/control absolutely requires permission! I can’t imagine setting up a program where the IT guy can just burrow into people’s computers after they’ve already said “not now, please.” Yikes.

    2. Erin*

      Yeah. In our guidelines, it is very specifically stated that you are not supposed to have your banking info (to use Alison’s example) open on your work computer in the first place. That is entirely on you, and you could actually get in trouble if you used it as an argument. But sensitive info on projects, staff reports (one of the most confidential matters here) or communications with the Director… That would get you much further, a complaint to HR about that could be really damaging.

      1. Jessie*

        That’s in your guidelines, but that doesn’t mean it’s an issue where OP works and doesn’t mean she’s be “in trouble.” I assume OP knows enough about her company policies to know it’s not a terrible thing to do at her office.

        1. VioletEMT*

          At my employer, people work so much and travel so often that if we didn’t do banking, etc. from our work computers, it wouldn’t likely get done.

          Work reminds us that nothing on our machines is truly private, but they also don’t go out of their way to look unless there’s a reason.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Even if she wouldn’t be in trouble, the argument “IT could see my personal life info I had displayed” isn’t nearly as strong as “IT derailed me at 3:15 from a project I had to hand off at 3:45” or “IT butted in when I was presenting to a client” or “IT took over my screen when I had confidential employee assessments open.”

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Well, sure, but I was responding to Erin’s comment that “you are not supposed to have your banking info (to use Alison’s example) open on your work computer in the first place. That is entirely on you, and you could actually get in trouble if you used it as an argument.” No need for us to try to make OP panic that somehow it was a terrible no good very bad thing she did.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Same. I’ve worked in both healthcare and education which means I’m always sensitive about HIPAA and FERPA.

    3. SarahKay*

      Agreed wholeheartedly. Like for Mike C, our IT also remind us to ensure nothing sensitive is showing on our monitors before we share or they remote access.
      OP 2, I would raise your concerns to your boss. What happens when IT guy remotes in and sees classified or sensitive documents? If he’s not going to wait for someone to agree, I can guarantee that sooner or later this will happen.

    4. Just J*

      Agree. Think HIPPA.

      When we do survey work (for architectural and engineering renovations) at medical facilities, prior to taking photos of areas, we have to give notice that we are coming through so that staff can shut all open paper-copies of files and close down open files on computers. If we do not do this, we get sharp reprimands from staff. This is serious stuff.

      1. Colette*

        The seriousness really depends on the industry and the job within the industry. There’s no indication that the OP works with confidential data of any sort – many people don’t.

        That doesn’t mean that what the IT person did was right. He was still out of line even if there was the OP never has access to confidential data. IT is a support function – interfering with someone’s ability to do their job is not acceptable.

        1. Mike C.*

          Every industry deals with private personal information – that of their employees. The rest is just further supporting my point.

          The other examples I gave cover a massive number of industries so I’m not sure why these best practices seem so limited to you.

          1. Colette*

            But not every person within every industry has access to the employee info, so I’m not sure what your point is here. There are industries and/or jobs where confidential data is an issue. There also are many more where it’s not.

            That doesn’t make the IT guy right. But there’s no indication that he was wrong because he could have accessed confidential information – he was wrong because he was disruptive to a client’s ability to work.

            1. KellyK*

              Even if he’s in an industry where the only confidential data the company handles is employee data, it seems like a really bad practice on his part to assume that there couldn’t possibly be sensitive data on the employee’s screen and just go ahead and take over.

              I wouldn’t necessarily expect someone in IT to know everybody’s job functions so deeply that he could even say for certain what he’d find on a random employee’s screen. If nothing else, certainly, the OP could have had their own electronic pay stub open.

            2. Mike C.*

              The IT person won’t know if the person they’re helping has access to such information for not, so they should assume that they do and work accordingly.

        2. Penny Lane*

          This is just a case of the IT person being thoughtless / rude, however – it would be courtesy to say “what’s a good time for you” or “can I do this at 3:30 today” and accept “no, tomorrow morning at 8 am is better” or let the person say “hang tight, let me close down a few things on my desktop and I’ll grant you access.”

          There are plenty of industries where there’s nothing on anyone’s desktop that the IT guy couldn’t see – the marketing report for the client may be confidential to the client, but the IT guy isn’t going to do anything with it. And there are plenty of industries where it’s perfectly fine to use an office computer to do one’s personal banking, Amazon shopping, etc. (within reason of course). We don’t all need to pretend everyone here is in a regulated industry bound by HIPAA or similar compliance laws.

          1. Just Employed Here*

            Thoughtlessness leads to data breaches, though.

            And data breaches are not about whether the IT guy is *actually* going to do something with the data or not, it’s about the risk that someone *could* do something, and they can lead to very serious legal consequences and big fines.

      2. Le Sigh*

        Well, and all of issues of security and data protection aside, if I’m on deadline for a client and IT overrules me and derails that, you best believe I’m going up the chain of command. I appreciate and realize it can be a challenge for IT to get their work done around others, and I don’t think I’m more important than anyone else, but you have to prioritize. Missing a client deadline is bad for everyone, including IT.

    5. Lora*


      When my employer asks someone in my department to go do due diligence on a company they are thinking about acquiring, they don’t even tell you where you’re going exactly. They just tell you when and what major airport to get to and whether you should pack a winter coat. If it’s very high stakes they have someone else make the travel arrangements so you don’t even know what country you’re going to and they don’t tell you if you need a coat or not, because it would give you serious insider trading advantages. They certainly don’t want some offshored IT dude fussing around your computer while you’re typing up your due diligence report.

      1. Oxford Coma*

        Not giving people information they need to protect their bodies from the elements is a ridiculous interpretation of insider trading. I’m not questioning your honesty, I’m just saying that behavior is cr@p.

        1. Penny Lane*

          Oh, come on. I’ve worked on acquisitions for a major company, and we knew who we were going to see and where. We couldn’t share it with our loved ones, but we didn’t act as though we were the CIA.

          1. Lora*

            For other companies it wasn’t an issue, this particular one happens to be SUPER-cagey. Dunno why.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              You all are *very* patient! I would so hate that, and couldn’t handle the stress. And the traveling. And wondering if I’ll get killed, abused, or imprisoned in a chauvinist country. Yikes!

        2. Lora*

          I don’t disagree. They had a hard time getting anyone to go on the last trip because we all looked at the manager with extremely suspicious expressions and said, “HOW many hours on a plane?”

          To be fair, if you get stuck in that situation, they’ll give you a jacket with the company logo on or let you charge a jacket on the company credit card.

    6. Samiratou*

      Yes, this, exactly. Our IT people work the same way–if they need to access our machines remotely they tell us to close any confidential or sensitive information before they take over, and we tell them when it’s ok for them to remote in. And there’s a popup that indicates someone is requesting remote access and we have to click that it’s ok before they’re allowed to take over.

      I’d raise this with your boss as a significant security risk, particularly if your IT is outsourced to another company like everyone’s is these days. Having an employee of your company potentially accessing information they shouldn’t is bad, but for a third party to do so is even worse.

      1. Emily K*

        > there’s a popup that indicates someone is requesting remote access and we have to click that it’s ok before they’re allowed to take over

        That’s what surprised me in the story. Not that it’s a huge shock that IT is capable of building back doors into every machine on the network, but I’m pretty sure the default behavior of all those RemoteView applications to require the end user to grant permission before the screen is given over to the IT person. It honestly doesn’t bode well for LW’s complaint going anywhere if someone in that company made a conscious decision to bypass/disable that feature.

    7. NotAnotherMananger!*

      I work in legal, and our IT folks are required to undergo the same client confidentiality training as anyone else who handles client materials. They also have to undergo any specific training required for groups with more stringent security requirements – including signing onto protective orders – because they can’t do their job effectively if they can’t look at the material that they’re troubleshooting, particularly with office applications. This may be different than companies that outsource the IT function, but an attorney sharing client information with one of their agents (someone who works FOR them) doesn’t waive privilege.

      That said, our remote access protocol specifically requires user permission to access and requires the user to click the “I Accept” button to screen-share, and IT should not be in your computer unannounced unless you’re being investigated.

    8. Beth*

      Agreed. Even if personal privacy isn’t a concern (which…yes, work computers come with no expectation of privacy, but it’s still courteous to give a heads up before looking over your coworker’s shoulder, and I think that applies digitally as well as IRL), there are a lot of business reasons that IT should wait for an OK before taking over. Imagine if OP2 had been in the middle of a client presentation or virtual meeting!

    9. Student*

      When the IT person tells you that, it’s most likely to trigger you to close dumb crap they don’t want to see (the Netflix movie you are watching, porn, your personal email to your mother about chronic gastro problems).

      It’s not actually to protect the sensitive info from IT support, because IT can generally get access to whatever you do on your computer. That is explicitly their job. They have all the keys to the computer kingdom, and they are being socially courteous (and hoping for return courtesy) by not looking while you (hopefully) close your porn stash and personal bank statement. It’s very much like the janitor knocking and announcing he’s coming in the bathroom to clean it up before he enters – it’s because he doesn’t want to see anything gross from you or frighten you, but he’s entitled by his job to just waltz in if he wants.

    1. Diluted_Tortoiseshell*

      Yeah I’m pregnant so sorry fasters I have to eat several small meals a day. I can’t eat regular sized meals due to the heartburn even though I am not showing yet. So I don’t think anyone who fasts should take offense to people snacking. There are loads of invisible reasons someone might need to eat frequently:
      Early Pregnancy
      Weightloss Surgery

      1. Specialk9*

        Right, I don’t think anyone has implied otherwise. They in fact said the opposite, but OP is struggling with feeling discourteous about taking them at their word. It’s basically a clash of courtesy.

      2. Genny*

        A lot of people are exempted from fasting during Ramadan (pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, those who have a health condition that prevents it, the elderly, etc.). I suspect because of that, most people observing Ramadan (or really any religious fasting since I’m sure all religions have exemptions) would completely understand why others are still eating.

  7. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: I agree with Alison here. I just recently started a new job and resigned from my last one via email. My boss was in Vegas manning the company’s booth at a trade show. I was there last year, so I know that the exhibit hall is chaotic, loud, and you’re spending all your time trying to get people to stop and talk to you while they’re being plied with free food and liquor. It’s impossible to take a call. Then it’s dinner with your colleagues, and you don’t get back to your hotel room until 10 or 11.

    I sent him an email, and apologized for resigning that way, but I knew he probably wasn’t able to take a call and I wanted to let him know as soon as possible. He completely understood and thanked me for not waiting.

  8. Anon for response to #4*

    I have also been suicidal and have had many family members suicide and had a coworker speak of suicide. She said she was going to kill herself so I informed my supervisor and his supervisor. She then said she was only joking and then started to make fun of me for letting other people know she had ‘jokingly’ said she was going to kill herself. She made another suicide threat and I did what I did before and alerted the bosses. She said again that she was kidding. I told her both times that I would always take those kind of threats seriously, no matter what. I then went to my boss and privately asked him to ask her to not kid about it in front of me, I was having a difficult time with it. My boss spoke to her some more and then she started blaming me for a bad yearly review. My boss was my best advocate for me at that time and I never told him of my personal experiences with suicide and suicide attempts. If you have a good relationship with your boss, consider letting them know that this coworkers talk is making you uneasy and see if they can talk to the employee if your words aren’t doing the job. It took me a while to stop fixating on suicidal thoughts after that though and it was awful because she decided she needed revenge and she did things in the office that were less than kind.

    Eventually, she started seeing someone professionally for help. Unfortunately a while later, she did make a suicide attempt but didn’t tell anyone prior to it. She is in a better place now mentally bit it was very rough for a while.

    1. Also anon for this*

      Yes, I have lost family members to suicide, and had an older sibling attempt when I was in high school. For whatever reason the high school I went to didn’t have a culture of making jokes about that kind of thing, and when I got to college and realized that people will just jokingly say “I’m gonna kill myself” it was…not great. I basically had to start telling other 18 year olds not to make those kind of jokes “at least around me, thanks”. You get weird looks sometimes but most people will respect your boundaries.
      (Also had close family members struggle with OCD coupled with depression. The number of “lol just my OCD” jokes also drives me crazy, though seems like not as many people say that anymore!)
      Good luck OP!

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        It was a huge part of the lingo when I was in high school, so I trained myself later to say “F***-” or “screw myself” instead of “kill”. And to not say even that at all in polite or professional company and use the actual words which seems to usually just be about being frustrated.

    2. Also Also anon for this*

      Completely agree with both of you. Suicide is not something to joke about. I, too, have had family members attempt and I would really have a difficult time being around someone who joked about it.

      1. LNZ*

        I feel like the fact that it is such an insensitive thing to joke about makes it easier for the LW to push back. You don’t have to have been personally affected by it to be bothered by those jokes, but at the same time so many people have lost friends or family that the LW doesn’t even need to justfy her dislike of the comment or privide any personal details. Its almost like the general tradagdy of how comon this type of loss is provides cover for her specific tragic conection.
        If they do ask a firm I don’t want to talk about it should suffice because again, its a very sensitive subject.

        1. RVA Cat*

          It reminds me of the letter where the intern made an utterly tasteless 9/11 joke – in front of someone who lost a family member in the World Trade Center. The joke in question (which was also suicide-related) was gross enough that it would be inappropriate in any professional context.

        2. DJ Roomba*

          I’m guessing this isn’t something OP struggles with how to handle at work only, but probably across the board. And Allison is totally right – people shouldn’t make those kinds of comments at work.

          I lost my husband to suicide 5 years ago, was an advocate for a couple of years and I also take this joking very seriously. No, not in the sense that I think my friends who say “OMG I want to kill myself right now” actually want to, but in the sense that it’s not funny or cool to me.

          The thing is, when I was in my teens and early 20’s (before all this) I said it too. So even though I hate hearing it now, and I never say it myself, in most instances I tend to give people a pass since this phrase is so ingrained in their lexicon. Even when they are a close friend and they know my whole backstory. To ME it feels insensitive, but mostly I think it’s so routine that people aren’t thinking about it…which makes it thoughtless but unintentional.

          I DO however stand up – for myself and anyone else who may be around me – when a comment doesn’t feel like an off-the-cuff comment but an intentional joke or even a glamorization of suicide (yes – I’ve seen all of this). I let these people know that what they’ve said is not cool or funny, it’s hurtful. Depending on the setting and severity I’ll explain why. It doesn’t always feel great to have to be THAT person, but I’d rather stand up for what I believe in than stay silent and seething internally.

          I know this probably isn’t too helpful as it isn’t a prescriptive solution. I guess I’d just encourage OP to check in with himself/herself- if you are saying something because what the person has said hurts/bothers you then please do! If you’re doing it on principle, maybe stop and think about the person and their intentions (or lack thereof) when saying it. But don’t ever feel too ashamed or embarrassed to stand up for what you believe in. All the best to OP4 and any other survivors here or anywhere else <3

      2. VioletEMT*

        It’s so pervasive, too. I lift weights with a trainer. He was showing me a new exercise. I gripped the bar with a standard or closed grip, thumb wrapped around it in the opposite direction of the fingers – a strong grip. He said, “Use a suicide grip for this one,” meaning either no thumb, or thumb going in the same direction as the fingers – a weaker grip. Y’know, the image of someone just barely hanging onto the ledge or something. I just stared at him for a minute, and then said, “How about we not call it that?” He stammered, then said, “Open grip.” To his credit, he hasn’t used the other term since, at least not with me. But he’s been training for more than a decade. I wonder how many other clients he’s said that unthinkingly to and hurt with it.

        1. Penny Lane*

          I have an immediate family member who committed suicide. Having said that, when someone says “I’m going to kill myself if the computer crashes one more time and wipes out my work on the TPS reports!” – they aren’t really talking about suicide and it’s important to remain in reality and understand it’s just a common expression. Actual threats of self-harm are another thing entirely, but that’s not what the OP was talking about. My relative’s suicide was by drowning, but I don’t get to be offended if someone says “I’m drowning in work these days.”

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            Being common doesn’t make it appropriate.

            And, if I said I was drowning in work and you asked me not to use that phrase, I would respect you. Same as how I’d respect someone who asked me not to use the phrase “burn it with fire” if that was upsetting to them.

          2. KellyK*

            You get to to decide that you’re not allowed to be bothered by other people’s expressions, but that’s your decision. It’s not any more based in “reality” than the reaction of a person who has an issue with the expression, it’ s just your personal preference.

            People get to have reactions to things, whether you approve of those reactions or not. When someone says something that bothers them, they get to ask the person to please use a different phrase.

            1. Penny Lane*

              But people who say “I’m going to kill myself if the computer crashes one more time!” aren’t *actually* talking about / joking about suicide. That’s the point. Just like people who say “I’m drowning in work ever since I got the XYZ account!” aren’t *actually* talking about the process of being underwater and gasping for air. Or people who say “I’m so bummed – I crashed and burned on the bar exam” aren’t *actually* talking about airplane crashes. Or people who say “she really nailed that presentation – she was on fire!” aren’t talking about immolation.

              I certainly get not using such expressions in the moment with people with recent losses, but I’m not sure if it’s wise to continue to be Outraged-to-11 by these common expressions/metaphors/hyperbole. I think there is some kind of expiration date on this.

              1. tusky*

                But here’s the thing: suicide is still a major society-wide problem, and one that tends to carry stigma, so the chances that any given person has (unbeknownst to you) been impacted by it are fairly high. So, it seems reasonable to try to keep that metaphor out of our lexicon for the time being.

                Also, whether or not you think people *should* be bothered, they *are* bothered (although asking that people refrain from using an expression does not require nor automatically imply “outrage-to-11”)–pointing out the impacts of this expression is mostly meant to give people the information they need to avoid causing harm. It is entirely your choice whether you put this information to use.

              2. Delphine*

                I doubt people are “Outraged-to-11.” Just bothered and uncomfortable. Some people may find it a bit triggering. Generally, it doesn’t hurt to be sensitive.

              3. Vegan Atheist Weirdo*

                Sorry, no. There’s no “expiration date” on sensitivity. A person being individually upset by something you’ve (general you) said isn’t practicing “virtue signaling” or outrage at you. It doesn’t matter how popular or uncommon a phrase is, or how acceptable the term is in the current social climate.

                1. Pommette!*

                  “Hey you! The coworker who lost a loved one in a horrible and haunting way! Stop being hurt when I remind you of your loss and grief!”

                  Some topics are fine for joking among close friends who know one another’s life histories well (and may want to use humour to deal with difficult events in their lives!), but not acceptable for casual workplace jokes. Suicide is probably one of those topics.

              4. Anna*

                I agree. But in general I don’t believe in policing other people’s language about these minor things. Her co-worker actually meant ‘suicide’, it’s a metaphor and to get up in arms about it is not very adult.

                There’s a hairstyle called the ‘suicide roll’ – it’d be kinda absurd to yell at someone for using that term.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  I was thinking about “suicide doors” for car.

                  I don’t even know what they’re actually called? Inverted doors?

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  I was thinking about this. How is another way to say what I meant?
                  “I would hate that!”
                  “I would be so miserable if I had to do that!”
                  I’m going to work on being more articulate because I don’t want to hurt or trigger anyone. :)

              5. Pommette!*

                For people who are struggling with suicidality, casual mentions of suicide can bring up intense and painful feelings and urges. This is one situation where the joke can be harmful even when it is clear to all people involved that the joker is speaking in jest or for rhetorical effect.

                Every few years, I go through serious depressive episodes during which I struggle with suicidal urges. I have learned how to keep myself safe during these times. It takes a lot of work and energy. Jokes about suicide don’t outrage me. They just hurt me. I can guarantee that this is true for many, many, others who struggle with suicidality. I’m sure that it’s true – in different but still important ways – for the many, many more have lost loved ones to suicide.

                It’s just not an appropriate topic for casual workplace jokes.

                1. Anna*

                  I’m sorry Pommette, and I truly hope you’re in a better head-space now. I guess I don’t see it as a joke, but as an expression as it’s been overplayed so much and it’s invoking a certain ‘extreme’ as a contrast. The way I see it, if my co-worker told me that they’d appreciate it if I didn’t talk about death that way in a kind and casual manner, I’d be a jerk to not take it to heart and try my best. But they’d be the jerk if on the occasions I slipped up, they make a huge fuss about how I hurt them. Does that make sense?

                  I just really don’t like my language policed even in the work place.

              6. Michaela Westen*

                I think I see what Penny Lane is getting at. Some people try to control others with their sensitivities. Like, “don’t sing/hum/tap your fingers/mumble to yourself/play that song/sigh/ because it bothers me!” taken to the nth degree.
                People like this don’t take responsibility for themselves and their reactions and put all of it on the people around them. Is this the kind of thing you’re talking about, Penny?
                However, I think it would be good to not use suicide references because it could hurt or scare people who’ve had bad experiences. A few months ago I said to a friend, “Oh my God, I would kill myself if I had to do that!” and she laughed.
                Later I remembered one of her friends had committed suicide a few months before. Oops! I hope my saying that didn’t hurt her!

              7. Also anon for this*

                I’m not necessarily outraged or offended, my thing is that saying things like “I’m going to kill myseld because of all this work” can be said as a joke, but it can also be said (even in a jokey tone) prior to someone actually attempting. So for me, with my history, I would always assume the worst, and I don’t appreciate people using it casually around me. Because to me it’s a serious thing. And if you want to say stuff like that, go ahead, but not around me please. Which is what I always say. I always tell people it’s a me thing, not a them thing.

                And obviously not all usages of the words upset me- I used to play volleyball and having to run “suicides” was fine. It’s specifically (for me) people saying “I’m going to kill myself”.

              8. Anonymous for this*

                Long time commenter here. My father committed suicide in 1979 when I was fifteen years old. I also attempted suicide many, many years later and was hospitalized for a time. I have suffered from Major Depression most of my life. I have been in and out of therapy. I am currently on medication.

                Expressions such as, “I’m going to kill myself if…” are extremely common. And furthermore, I do not think that the people who use this expression are really talking about actual suicide. Nor do I think that people who say this sort of thing are joking about suicide. I don’t think these people are being insensitive or rude either. What truly upsets me are the speech police. If you are offended or triggered, you need to work on yourself. You are being overly sensitive, IMO. It is an expression. It is a rather common expression. I think you should face the fact that you will hear it throughout your life. Best of luck to you. I realize it can be hard. But, seriously, it is just an expression.

    3. We're all anon for this*

      I am also an attempt survivor. That was a very dark time in my life, but I’m in remission (I won’t say recovered, not just yet) and no one at my work knows. One day, my officemate, who is struggling professionally, called out sick, and our boss was like “She’s not swinging from the end of a rope somewhere, is she?” I just blurted out, “You can’t say things like that!”

      1. tusky*

        What a terrible thing for your boss to say! I’m so sorry you (or anyone) had to hear that.

      2. rldk*

        That’s horrific! I would have the exact same reaction, and my experience is very dissimilar.

    4. Specialk9*

      Did I understand correctly that your coworker who was joking about suicide, and continued to do so after you objected (and blamed you for speaking up) then went on to actually try to suicide? Whoa, that’s another shade on the situation.

      I generally (perhaps naively) assume people are being accidentally insensitive the first time (given how common that terminology is), and louts for continuing after it’s been pointed out as distressing. But it sounds like you accurately picked up on the stage of suicide that involves expressing interest or intent. Wow. What a rough situation!

    5. Matilda Jefferies*

      OP4, I’m sorry you’re going through this. I have also lost a good friend to suicide, and I also don’t appreciate people making casual jokes about it.

      Hopefully a straightforward request like “please don’t joke about suicide” will be enough to get your coworker to stop – you shouldn’t need to disclose anything about your own family situation for something like this. If he is insensitive enough to ask why not, you can say that you have lost a friend to suicide – no need to go into the details of your attempt or your brother’s. Or you can be even more general than that, and say something like “you never know if someone has been personally affected.” Meaning, not necessarily you, but there could be another half dozen people around who have been impacted by suicide in different ways, and just because they’re not speaking up doesn’t mean it’s appropriate.

      Love to everyone who needs it here. <3

      1. working on it*

        One of my co-workers (whom I supervise) very gently pointed out to me that I say things like “don’t kill yourself over this” when I’m saying “do what you can on this, and I want it to be good, but not at the cost of your mental health/family/social life/ overall well-being” and asked me not to. I’m working on it, but it’s a surprisingly hard habit to break. But if you had asked me if I ever make jokes about suicide, I’d have said “of course not.”

    6. Cucumberzucchini*

      My cousin very unexpectedly took his own life. It was very hard for the whole family, he and I were almost the same age so we had spent a lot of time together as children. I had no idea this was something on his mind, it felt like it came out of nowhere. We found out later he had been talking to a friend about how if he killed himself it would “show them” (referring to an ex-girlfriend.) It was so unlike the person I knew, and I was very upset that my cousin’s friend hadn’t looped the family in or tried to get my cousin help. I was reading his MySpace page (back when that was still being used) because people were leaving really nice comments after his funeral and one of his friends made a comment about wanting to kill herself and I did call the police about it and she sent me a very angry message but mentioned she needed help so I was glad I had called.

      In contrast to the above, I also make joking comments all the time like, “this report is going to kill me, or I’m going to kill myself if I have to edit this document one more time”. It doesn’t bother me if others make suicide jokes. However there is a big difference about a joke and someone who is actively talking about suicide. Just out of curiosity was your coworker making comments like that or was it more serious? (If someone ever asked me to stop because it is a sensitive subject for them I absolutely would. My personal sense of humor is pretty melodramatic.)

    1. Kathlynn*

      Sometimes, I once phoned a help desk for work and ended up having them call my cellphone (which I’m not supposed to use), because I was getting a lot of static/interference on the phone call. No problems with the connection between my cell and their phone and no problem any other time I have called them.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        I had a call from a neighbouring country which sounded like the person was talking whilst standing in a skip with the lid closed. The other one I get sounds like distant in a fish tank.

        Crackles optional in both cases.

      2. JetlaggedExpat*

        I’ve lived in Europe for ten years and I’ve never had any issues. I very rarely use a landline, though.

    2. The Winter Rose*

      Not in my experience! I talk to people in the US from the UK all the time for work, and the line is perfectly clear.

      1. Anonymous Ampersand*

        Ha, when I call UK people from the UK my phone line is horrendously crackly!

      2. pleaset*

        The world is a big place. Experience between two of the most wealthy and powerful countries in the world doesn’t mean that much in this context.

          1. pleaset*

            Thanks for clearing that up. I had of course assumed you were talking about someone else’s experience. Very helpful indeed to read your specific experience from 2 (two) countries in the world. Great data point that is.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        Same, only reversed; whenever I talk to my auntie I can hear her fine. There’s just a slight delay sometimes (I’m on a cell and she’s on a landline).

    3. arjumand*

      I was just going to comment on this – to the tune of: “We do have WiFi in Europe, you know. Skype and Facetime exist too.”
      I live in a tiny island nation in the Med, and my uncle lives in Virginia, and every Sunday my dad calls him on one of those (or facebook messenger) for a long and involved discussion of one of the local football teams (sigh).

      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        Hi arjumand – I’m sorry to go off topic here (totally understand if this gets deleted) – but I’m thinking about trying to relocate to a tiny island nation in Med that takes their local football teams quite seriously (so I’m suspecting it might be your home island) and was hoping to connect with some folks there to ask a few questions – mostly about job searching methods/norms.

        I don’t want to name the island in case you’d prefer to keep that private (maybe this will ring a bell – last time I was there there were celebrations for the local football team including nuns and parades with decorated coffins for their rivals), but if you’d be willing to connect to chat a bit let me know!

        1. arjumand*

          I’m not sure (about the parades with the decorated coffins, though I do vaguely remember someone at work mentioning something like that, but I try to block out the football talk) if we’re talking about the same place, so I’m just going to say it – it’s Malta, ok? Lol.

          1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

            Arg- I hope you’ll see this even though I’m days late in responding. It is Malta (just felt bad calling it out if you weren’t comfortable mentioning it)! I’m a US citizen, but have been looking to relocate for awhile. Visited Malta and just fell in love (I’m not an impulsive person at all, but it just sort of clicked), so now I’m trying to get a sense of just how difficult it would be to find employment there as a non-EU citizen. I’m in finance, with some experience in the gaming industry (on the investment side – worked for companies that have bought out/owned/invested in some large gaming conglomerates) – just from a cursory glance through some online job boards it looks like there are a decent number of jobs there that I’d be a match for experience-wise but I also understand that EU-citizens get “first priority” so to speak. Just wondering exactly how stringent that is. (EG – the US has the HB1 visa program for foreign workers, it’s definitely more difficult for foreign nationals to find work, but for in-demand fields, which I think mine is, I know it’s not impossible. Have had enough friends who have found work that way to get a general sense of the difficulty – wondering if the situation is somewhat similar in Malta).

            Also was wondering if there is any specific job hunting advice that would be good to know for Malta. Is it typical to go through recruiters? Are there any local norms for CVs/Resumes that you can think of (ex: I understand that it’s common to include a photo in some European countries – is Malta one of them?).

            I’m sure a lot of this industry dependent (so sorry to bombard you with questions if you’re in something totally different), but just hoping to get started somewhere and happy to have any advice/thoughts/etc… I hope this isn’t against the posting guidelines, but I just created an email address if you’d be willing to chat further. (

    4. Kisses*

      Yes!! You should see the dinosaur my husbands company sent him for a landline. I’m surprised it doesn’t have a rotary dial.. And it is crackly as peanut brittle.

    5. only acting normal*

      My home landline is atrocious. It’s because the exchange is a long way away (a few roads over is on the next exchange).
      I think fibre optic lines have cleared up a lot of crackle because there’s less interference and signal degradation over long distances compared to copper wire.

    6. Specialk9*

      I thought that too, and am interested in all the people who say it is! My experience is that other than the outsourced contractors in India & the Philippines, lines are pretty clear these days (and I figured that was due to them having low cost phone service). Interesting that people still get crackles!

      1. Wicked Odd*

        I get province-to-province weirdness too, mostly in the form of echoes and such. Seems to depend on the strength of our connection day-to-day. (Canada)

    7. RadManCF*

      Something to do with the decommissioning of the last copper transatlantic cables? The last one (TAT-7) was decommissioned in 1994. It’s all fiber-optic, now.

    8. Good Company*

      I have to call European Union officials often from within Europe. It is like you’re calling the moon it is that bad. I just don’t understand it.

  9. Bobstinacy*

    OP #1: If you have a good relationship with your officemates I’d just ask them! “Does it bother you if I eat and drink around you when you’re fasting?”

    For what it’s worth all the observant Muslims I’ve known were laid back about it – their fasting is their own personal religious thing and being around people eating and drinking wasn’t an issue. Also if you’re unable to fast a common way of ‘making up’ for it is buying a meal for someone in need, so it’s less “food=bad” and more “consciously upholding the tenets of one’s religion to strengthen their relationship with god”.

    I think it’s only a problem if people are being jerks about it – trying to force them to eat or drink, making a show about how good your food is around them, trying to poke holes in their beliefs, etc. If you just want to quietly eat or stay hydrated at your desk there’s a good chance it won’t bother anyone.

    1. Bobstinacy*

      I just read the letter again and it sounds like they gave you the go ahead so, y’know, go ahead.

      1. Jojobean*

        Yes, this.

        I spent several years working in a conservative Muslim country so I experienced several Ramadans there. I actually did refrain from eating or drinking around anyone (and under no circumstances openly in public) during fasting hours, but that was of my own choice. It helped that all offices observed Ramadan hours, which meant no lunch break and the office shutting down at 2 PM rather than 4 PM so people could go home and take it easy during the hottest part of the day.

        I also had an excellent relationship with my two office-mates so despite them constantly urging me to go ahead and eat and drink if I needed to, I always refrained. Again, that was entirely my personal choice. They would have been completely okay if I had gone ahead and had a quick snack or kept my water bottle with me as usual. I did miss my endless cups of green tea, though…

        However, since those Ramadans were both during the height of summer I would usually keep an insulated water bottle in my desk drawer and quickly whip it out to take a drink during those infrequent moments whenever I found myself alone in my office.

        Then there was the year that only one of my office-mates was fasting; the other was not (although that was not public knowledge because it would have been frowned upon at best and actually dangerous for him at worst) so whenever he and I were alone in the office we would both pull out our food and drinks and inhale it as fast as we could before our coworker returned :P

        I actually always rather enjoyed Ramadan and the camaraderie that came with it. It did also help that the primary armed opposition group operating within the country traditionally declared a temporary halt to all attacks during the holy month, so we usually had a short break in which to let down our guard from constantly anticipating the next attack and relax a little.

  10. a naan*

    Hi I am Muslim (but not fasting currently for my health) and everything I’ve seen from other Muslims is that being tempted is part of the process and its for us to manage. Your intentions are good but others changing their behaviour for our fast misses the point of it.

    Also I’ve seen people worry about this but you can’t do anything to break our fast! Like being exposed to swearing or someone smoking does not mean anything for our fast

    1. LNZ*

      A really great quote from a muslim classmate that comes to mind is temptation needs to be seen to be resisted. Hiding away from all temptations defeated the purpose of the fast. To her at least.

      1. MattKnifeNinja*

        I live in an area where there is more Muslims and Hindus than Christians. This is in the US.

        My Muslim neighbors get aggravated when people change their behaviors because of the fast. It suggests you eating that bag of cookies has more power over them than their faith.

        The middle and high school here wanted to set up an area during lunch where the kids didn’t have to be around food. The Muslim parents and students blew a nut and said absolutely not. They were insulted, because they had told the district that WASN’T a big deal for them during the fast. The kids didn’t need to be isolated from “temptations”.

        I don’t change my behaviors during Ramadan, and my neighbors appreciate it.

        Personally, I would keep my water bottle out, just live my life and do my work. When you start playing Secret Agent Man, hiding food and drink because of your Muslim coworkers, my neighbors say it borders on weird. It’s like their words mean nothing, and their faith isn’t very strong.

        Been through 14 Ramadans where I live. Keeping the status quo is all my neighbors want from the non fasting.

      2. Specialk9*

        Ohhh interesting, so it’s actually kind of a mitzvah to eat in front of a religious faster.

        1. MattKnifeNinja*

          Well, maybe the good deed (mitzvah) is making the Ramadan fast a non issue for the non fasting. Lol..

          I have a Lubavitcher friend who is in the import/export business. He travels to China, India, all over SE Asian. He keeps Glatt kosher. Yeah. That’s a real hoot, especially when he isn’t in Tokyo, Shanghai etc…places that have a Chabad House.

          He tells me it’s almost easier on him when people don’t understand the stringencies of Glatt kosher. He tells them, “Don’t worry about it.” foodwise, and they don’t. It is much harder meeting someone with a little bit of knowledge. Their heart is really really really in a good place, and it’s a huge swing and a miss. Like they know there is no Glatt kosher beef to be had, and serve up some fish similar to catfish (has no scales). And a wonderful meal that a good 70% he can’t eat.

          I guess the mitzvah is not making the other person uncomfortable by calling attention to the situation that has nothing to do with you :) I’m sure someone more learned in the Talmud and Halacha can tell us which law that is.

          1. Catelyn*

            ^ Muslim here, and I agree. After a while, it comes off as weirdly patronizing?? Like, we’ve been doing it for a long time, we’re used to it, it’s fine, your actions aren’t really a big deal, and honestly, I have too much of a caffeine-loss headache to care.

            1. LNZ*

              Yeah, i feel like making a big deal about it is still othering even if someone’s heart is in the right place. Like i have family that is part of the LBGT community and people reacting to this knowledge by making a big deal about how not bothered they are by it is almost as weird to deal with as people being low key homophobic.

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yes, I was going to say a similar thing! It’s so kind that the LW is trying to make it easier on her colleagues, but “easier” is most definitely not the point of a season of fasting for any religion! :)

    3. kitty*

      That’s really interesting to know, that resisting temptation is part of the fast. Thanks for sharing!

    4. Iris Eyes*

      Not Muslim but generally from what I’ve always heard part of religious fasting is being tempted, the idea is to turn all those temptations into things that redirect your thoughts toward God. So more hunger pains equals more spiritual benefit. Not that you should try and tempt them by doing more or more flamboyantly, that would also be not great.

      I’d think that it might be more helpful to keep in mind the side effects of fasting. Hangry is in the dictionary for a reason, so extending a little extra patience and even maybe with their permission calling them out (as I imagine the idea is not to have your emotions and interactions be negatively impacted.)

  11. formerscribe*

    OP 5

    Sometimes HR is looking for something the hiring manager told them to in hopes to keep the candidate pool low. Mention it to the your boss and she/he will probably either contact HR to move you along or give you the right verbiage to follow up with HR themselves.

    “Dear recruiter,

    I wanted to follow up on the Burger Flipper opening. Bob let me know that I should call out I spent two years as an egg flipper on Hell’s Kitchen. This should count toward my experience.”

    (I had a VERY similar experience internally earlier this year and after my email to HR I had an interview on my calendar within the hour.)

    1. formerscribe*

      *mention it to your boss

      (My smartphone typing skills leave something to be desired.)

    2. Thlayli*

      Also, sometimes HR don’t really understand the position. I met a woman at a conference once who I thought would be perfect for a role we were hiring for. I told her to pass on her cv to me but unfortunately she went through the regular channels. They told her she was “too technical” and they were “looking for someone with more project management”. Somewhere wires had got crossed, because we wanted someone with both technical and pm ability, but the technical was definitely more important! Luckily I met her again at another conference where she told me what happened and I got her to send me her cv and I passed it on direct to the hiring manager (my manager). She was exactly what we were looking for.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The recruiting/filtering level not understanding the job requirements is a recurring theme on here. Could also be something where people in the narrow field understand all the synonyms for things, while HR is just looking at a list that says “must have 2 yrs ABC coding” and crossing off everyone who doesn’t use that exact term, with no idea what it describes.

        OP, even if your company has a strict HR is final policy, this is worth bringing to your boss. Quite possibly they are filtering out qualified people because they don’t understand the role.

        1. Artemesia*

          I have trouble imagining an organization giving final screening power to HR for pretty much anything above an entry level position. The hiring manager should have access to applicants and be the final word.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            But.. that’s explicitly not what happened in this letter. And not what happened in several other examples given in the thread, of higher-level positions where someone told to apply by the hiring manager did so and HR cut them early and never passed on the application.

          2. Lora*

            Nah, this is not unusual in my field. In my particular location, Biotech Mecca Of The Universe, we have recruiters who specialize in technical headhunting and at larger companies they have a sackful of technical recruiters who know how to interpret technical terms on a CV (e.g 4 years experience doing IEX, affinity, sizing = 4 years experience HPLC). It’s the smaller companies and employers at non-technical parts of the country that it gets tricky because they usually have an HR generalist who doesn’t know these things and erroneously excludes good people from the candidate pool. If you’re in the Midwest you have to be verrrrry careful how you write the job requirements and make sure every permutation of a technical term is made exceedingly clear for the HR person.

            And you need someone who can do resume screening for you, because you’re going to get hundreds of resumes for any given job posting, many of them not remotely qualified.

            1. Polymer Phil*

              I can count on one hand the number of recruiters who really know my industry. I get inundated with phone calls from 21-year-old kids at Aerotek, Yoh, Kelly, etc who matched a couple of keywords between the job description and my LinkedIn profile, but have no idea what any of the technical terms mean.

          3. PizzaSquared*

            We get literally hundreds of applicants for every position we post. For some positions, the vast majority of those are completely unqualified. I might have 3-4 roles I’m hiring manager for at a time. I don’t have time to be doing the screening on those, especially when it’s blatantly obvious that the person doesn’t meet the requirements. In fact, I have worked places where not only does the hiring manager not do the screening, but not even the RECRUITER does it – they have separate people whose entire job is screening before it goes to a recruiter. Once the recruiter/screener has gone through and found potentially interesting candidates, they have initial conversations with them and then bring them to me if they still seem good (or sometimes they’ll ask me for an opinion before the initial call if someone is borderline). Internal applicants and employee referrals usually get different treatment, but in my industry it would be very rare for the hiring manager to be looking through the entire pool of resumes to make decisions on all of them.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This happened to me with a job–I applied online and their recruiter called me. He passed me on to the hiring manager, who then called me back a day or so later and said the job was NOTHING like the description, which someone else had posted while she was away. She apologized for wasting my time. Apparently, nobody told the recruiter this!

        3. only acting normal*

          Our HR once sent through an application which had listed a degree in comparative religion… for a mathematical modelling/analysis role. We never did fathom their logic on that one.

          1. Samiratou*

            How long ago was the degree? Had they experience in modeling & analysis in the meantime? None of the analysts I work with went to school for it–there weren’t any programs for it when we were in college, so our degree fields are all over the map.

            1. only acting normal*

              It was for a graduate role, new degree. The analysis we do is highly mathematical stuff: prerequisite is typically a maths/science/engineering degree, preferably a masters. There are parts of the business that might hire humanities degees (historians, sociologists) but not us.

          2. Autumnheart*

            Maybe they have a drop down list of majors, and someone accidentally chose “Comparative Religion” instead of “Computer Science” and didn’t realize it.

            1. only acting normal*

              I’d agree if it had been passed on electronically, but it was on paper!

          3. Jenny Next*

            Maybe they wanted someone who was savvy enough to pray to St. Vidicon if things went south?

            But actually, I can see how it happened. Imagine that the person writing up the job description has to select a college major from a pop-up list:

            Comparative literature
            Comparative religion
            Computer science

            It’s not much of a flub to accidentally end up on the wrong one.

            1. only acting normal*

              The job add was correct.
              It was more than just the degree title – there was more detail given than that, think dissertation info (so the applicant didn’t make a mistake).
              The other CVs were relatively sensible. It was all passed to our team on paper, not on an e-system (so HR didn’t pick a wrong drop down choice).
              Maybe HR fancied throwing in a wild card, who knows! :-)

              1. Jenny Next*

                Too funny! Well, short of wanting a very specific person for the role, I’m stumped!

              2. Jenny Next*

                Oops, I misunderstood. I thought you meant that HR put that in as a criterion for the position.

        4. Jadelyn*

          When you’re recruiting for positions outside of your norm, it can be challenging to effectively screen resumes – to actually remove the totally unqualified, without accidentally also removing qualified candidates who didn’t phrase things the way you were expecting them to. It’s an imperfect art. Ideally, if HR is doing any screening for the hiring manager at all, they should meet at the start of the process and go over a handful of resumes together so that the HR person can get more context for what the HM is looking for.

          What I’ve done in some cases is send the HM two batches for the first set of resumes – one that’s all the resumes we actually received for that position that week (we do our resume batches weekly), and one that I’ve gone through and screened and filtered out candidates I thought the HM wouldn’t want to see. I then ask them to compare the two and look at the people I filtered out and tell me if there’s anyone I was overzealous with screening out, so I can recalibrate my standards and be a more effective first-pass screener for them. It’s more work for them on that first batch, but it means they can have more confidence in the pre-screened batches I send them after that without being inundated with all the resumes received.

      2. Emily K*

        Yes, this. HR screens resumes for all positions at my company, but the hiring manager does have access to the full pool including rejected applications and all the good hiring managers do a second pass through the rejected pile (and frequently find candidates they want in there). It’s annoying that we have to spend that time when theoretically HR is supposed to be saving us time, but it would almost take longer to try to get HR to understand the nuances of what we need than it does to just check them ourselves.

    3. Nick*

      I used to work for a government agency that had a strict hiring process (as such places are wont to do). I was leaving for a new job in a few weeks, so my boss was talking to his contacts about a possible replacement. Through the grapevine he found someone who looked perfect for the role, so he told them to apply once the position posted. Turns out HR decided this person did not meet the position description. A description my boss drafted . . . and that matched the position’s requirements and the applicant’s background perfectly. My boss was pissed, and made HR push the application through. In short, HR is not always in line with what the hiring manager wants, so definitely bring this up with your boss!

      1. The Original K.*

        I was in a similar situation as the candidate you describe and as the OP. A professional contact reached out to me about something and we agreed that I would apply, and I did. HR bounced me out. I let my contact know and she gave a heavy sigh and said she’d talk to HR, and they pushed the application through after she did. She told me they consistently have problems with HR filtering out qualified candidates because they don’t understand the roles.

      2. Michelle*

        This happened to me too. I work at a public university and our hiring system filters out people based on time of experience, degree, etc…While the qualitative part of my experience made my boss want me to apply for a particular job, I just barely met the quantitative part (and I erred too much on the conservative side for listing my number of years/time of experience). I was initially filtered out of the pool, and luckily I had told my boss I applied so when he got the list of applicants he came to me and asked why I wasn’t on it. At that point, he was able to go back to HR and have them push my application through so I got an interview. Definitely bring it up with your boss!! Being at a public university, we have very strict and specific legal guidelines for hiring that private companies do not but your boss should still be able to get around it if you are clearly qualified and wanted for the position.

      3. Specialk9*

        And in the govt they’re often screening for other things – do you have military service, etc. You can meet the quals but be screened out, and not meet the quals at all and go forward.

        1. Former Govt Contractor*

          This is what happened to me – thus my screen name FORMER Govt Contractor. I was a contractor for 4 years, my office loved me and when a permanent spot opened up, they drafted the job description to suit my background specifically – my degree, everything. I did not even get an interview for the very job I had been performing for 4 years. However they did refer for interview a co-worker who did not have the REQUIRED degree and no specialized experience – but she was former military. I left within 3 months.

    4. epi*

      I agree. I’ve lost track of the times I got discouraged by a very strict sounding written policy only to talk to my boss and find out there was more going on and we actually did have options. This OP shouldn’t assume that they know what is possible behind the scenes of the hiring process, no matter what they read or heard.

      A company that is truly trying to avoid even the appearance of impropriety is not going to want to reject qualified internal applicants with zero recourse. It would be a terrible look if that were really the policy– which in practice it probably is not.

  12. Courtney Schley*

    #1: I assume you have good intentions, but your fasting coworkers told you that it doesn’t bother them if you eat and drink in their presence. You should have taken them at their word and followed your normal lunchtime and water drinking behaviors in the office. As an observant member of a religious minority myself, I can attest that it is off-putting and sometimes embarrassing if coworkers make a big deal about things I personally do that are different from what they do. I keep kosher, for example, so it would be embarrassing to me if a coworker thought I’d be offended or upset if she ate ham or meatballs with cheese in front of me. My religion is personal, and I don’t project it onto other people; your Muslim coworkers likely feel the same way.

    “There are ways that it *can* be important to go an extra length to be considerate–for example, if you’re going to plan a big office pizza party, pushing it off till after Ramadan (assuming it’s feasible), would be an example of being considerate. Recognizing that by the end of the day, your coworkers might be feeling extra tired or have a headache is also considerate. But going to awkward lengths to not drink water in their presence isn’t considerate, because they didn’t–and wouldn’t–ever want or need you to do that.

    1. Kate*

      Agree with this. My office suspends all office-wide events involving food during Ramadan (e.g. pizza party), but otherwise the non-Muslims eat and drink regularly during Ramadan.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


      Lord, the weirdness I have experienced from people when it comes to drinking in my presence.

      (Now, it would be nice if folks extended some of that same reticence to talking loudly about their medical problems, which is far more uncomfortable for me than someone having a beer when we’re out for lunch as a group…)

    3. Umvue*

      This is my intuition, too. When people don’t take me at my word about something, it feels like they are asking me to do extra work to manage their feelings about it. I… don’t really want to do that work? I would rather be able to deflect attention back to something that doesn’t awkwardly call attention to whatever choice I’ve made that is at issue. I’ve never fasted in this way, so I don’t want to speak for OP’s officemates, but that’s the feeling that reading OP#1 gave me (because they already spoke for themselves, and she appears not to be listening).

      1. bonkerballs*

        But you not being bothered by something doesn’t mean it has to not bother the other person. I was raised with very strict etiquette around food and no matter how many times someone told me it didn’t bother them for me to eat in front of them, it would still bother ME and I absolutely would not. This may not be quite the same as OP’s situation, but sometimes you also have to take the other person at their word that your “no worries” doesn’t just automatically alleviate the worries. You don’t have to do extra emotional labor – I can manage my own feelings of guilt or not wanting to be rude, you just have to let me. Just like I’m not going to do any extra emotional labor to alleviate your feelings. We all get to feel how we feel and do what works for us.

        1. Umvue*

          Here’s my take – if Betty says, gee I feel weird eating this in front of you because X, and I say, No worries, that’s fine. That’s an appropriate exchange. If she decides, enh, it’s too weird and I don’t like it, I’m just going to work something else out, okay, that’s her business. But if Betty brings the subject up again, in my book she’s crossed the line from acceptable to annoying. I now have to do all this work of figuring out, okay, why did our previous exchange not solve this problem? Did I pull a face when I said it was okay? What conformation can I put the face in next time that will avoid the continuation of this awkwardness? Supposing it does not actually *feel* okay to me but I am pretty sure it’s on me to deal with the feelings, how do I convey that in a way that will not prolong my discomfort further?

          I have a family member who does this kind of thing. I think there’s a regional aspect to what’s considered polite behavior (which may also differ by gender) and this family member has spent her whole life in a region different from the one where I grew up – so I can’t entirely blame her. But man, I hate the norms of this part of the country.

          1. bonkerballs*

            I get the idea that she’s crossed a line from acceptable to annoying if she’s bringing the issue up again, but I don’t get that you now have any emotional labor to do. Like I get it in that I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t get it in that…well, you DON’T now have to figure anything out. There’s no reason for you to take her issues on. If she’s weird and uncomfortable, let her be weird and uncomfortable.

            I do realize that can be easier said than done and that letting people feel their own negative feelings without feeling a need to assuage them is in fact a skill that not everyone has developed.

            1. Umvue*

              I mean that I have emotional labor to do if I want the annoying repeated requests for reassurance to stop. I mean at a minimum I have to respond to Betty’s question, no? Or at some point do I just pretend I have earbuds in or something? ;)

            2. Mookie*

              Being weird and uncomfortable AT and in response to someone is placing a burden on them.

      2. Emily K*

        I can somewhat relate. I have a food intolerance that is minor enough that cross-contamination isn’t a concern as long as I don’t eat a large quantity of the food.

        My close friends and work team know and are great about remembering me for group meals. But in general, when I’m offered that food by someone who doesn’t know better, I almost never say that I have an intolerance and can’t eat it. I just say, “Oh, no thank you, I’m not hungry,” or “No thanks, I’m filling up on this [other food that I can eat].” I just don’t like drawing attention to myself or my dietary needs as A Thing that people need to be aware of and discuss. It’s so much simpler and easier for me emotionally to be able to just politely decline and not have to explain why I’m declining by way of confessing my weird bodily issues to a near-stranger. Most people in my life didn’t learn about my food intolerance until they had known me a long time, I just managed my own plate without needing to bring it up.

  13. Cam*

    As a Muslim fasting in Ramadan, I really don’t mind if you eat or drink around me. I can’t speak for everyone, obviously, but I think most of us are kind of used to it.

    On a similar note, it’s a good time to point out that your female Muslim coworkers may not be fasting during Ramadan when they’re having their period. So if you see a Muslim woman fasting some days and not others, you don’t need to bring it up… it just makes for unnecessarily awkward conversations.

      1. Jemima Bond*

        I’m told one also doesn’t fastbif one is unwell – and AAM has plenty of discussion about privacy for medical matters!

        1. UKDancer*

          Absolutely, that’s right. My team as 2 Muslim llama herders, one is severely diabetic and so doesn’t observe the fast for Ramadan. The other one does observe the fast. It’s their individual business what they do.

          I only know about the one who does because he asked to vary his work pattern during Ramadan to make it easier for him. I was very happy to accommodate. I also make sure the summer picnic is well after Ramadan so everyone can participate, and don’t make the observant one do a lot of business travel at this time.

    1. MyBossSaidWhat*

      Yeah in general just don’t comment on people’s religious observation. “Religious freedom” includes “freedom to be a cafeteria Catholic”. For health reasons I *could* easily take get official dispensation from a priest not to fast during certain days (I do abstain from meat; just can’t fast without getting very sick) however I choose not to ask permission from a man with no medical training on how to take care of my body. It’s a very personal decision (religion and health aren’t secrets but not aspects of my life I choose to share) and while a question or two is fine, a full-on challenge is not.

      1. Miss Elaine e.*

        Not to derail the conversation, but as an observant practicing Catholic, I just wanted to say you don’t need an official dispensation from a priest. If you have health issues, you are automatically dispensed from fasting.

          1. Emi.*

            Ooh, shame on him. Someone should report him to the Bishop if he’s still doing that. (Kidding, but actually not.)

          2. Miss Elaine e*

            I am so sorry you were misinformed. As Emi says, you may want to contact your Bishop if your priest is misleading others.

      2. Nervous accountant*

        That’s an interesting take in religious freedom!!! I have a lot of coworkers who tease me about not eating pork but I still drink alcohol. The issue goes deeper but…I like this line of thinking.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        I like that framing! It’s not just about the freedom to practice your religion, but the freedom to decide how you practice it. If there’s one thing that’s true about faith across the board, it’s that getting any two people to agree completely on all aspects is an impossibility :)

    2. Parenthetically*

      “your female Muslim coworkers may not be fasting during Ramadan when they’re having their period.”


  14. anon from across the sea*

    OP1 – I’m chiming in to share about my experience, and about how this question does have a slightly different context outside the US/West.

    I’m writing in from Malaysia, where in certain more conservative offices/areas eating and drinking in front of Muslims is A Thing – neighborhood restaurants and even school canteens are closed, etc. I also happen to be from a racial minority that has a similar skin tone (and is often mistaken) for the majority Malay Muslims here – so sometimes when eating in public during Ramadhan my sibling and I have got scrutinized, lectured at (for not fasting) and stared at before because we are assumed to be unobservant Muslims (we’re not Muslims). So usually when fasting month comes around I end up being hyper-aware of not eating around Muslims and also in public (if I eat in public, I try show my ID to the waiter/cashier as proof that I’m not Muslim/Malay although my skin color makes me look like one)

    These are impersonal experiences though – most of my Muslim colleagues and friends are very much like OP1’s colleagues and have no issue with me drinking water or eating in front of them. I too strive to avoid eating in front of them unnecessarily, so it’s a win-win.

    Also, happy Ramadhan to all Muslim readers seeing this :)

    1. MyBossSaidWhat*

      You have to *show your ID to prove you’re not Muslim to be served food*. Holy crap, maybe being a “religious minority” in the US Bible Belt isn’t as bad as I thought. Jaw. On. Floor.
      And happy Ramadan to Muslim readers!

      1. Graig grain*

        Omg, yes, it’s insane that it’s 21st century and so many people still believe in fairies in the sky and that if they break this one totally arbitrary rule, they’ll go to hell. Pure insanity

          1. Graig grain*

            I know but it still boggles my mind that so many people still believe in God and that we don’t think of monotheistic religions the same way we think of Greek mythology – as an interesting historical phenomenon, with no bearing on real life.

            1. Pomona Sprout*


              The above is meant to represent a blank stare because the insensitivity of this comment is boggling MY mind. I am more or less an agnostic myself, but tbh, when atheists take a tone of intellectual superiority towards those who believe in things they don’t really rub me the wrong way.

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                “…it really rubs…” (I changed the early part of that sentence but forgot to fix thed nd of it, lol.l

      2. synchrojo*

        Malaysia is an interesting country when it comes to the intersection of religion and state. It’s a constitutional monarchy–from spending a little time there as a non-Muslim, my understanding of the situation is that while there’s a secular government, there is also a Malay (the dominant ethnic group in Malaysia, being Muslim is part of the definition of being Malay) monarchy that rotates rulership between the sultans of the various provinces. The role of the sultans at the federal level is largely ceremonial, but they have a fair amount of power within their respective states. There are separate/parallel court systems that enforce Islamic law. but if you’re not Muslim, you’re not subject to those courts (hence needing to show ID, at least in some conservative areas). Rather than viewing it as a way of policing the behavior/religious practices of the majority, you could see it as a method of institutionally preserving religious freedom in a country with a large Muslim majority. Not to say this is necessarily a perfect method– To me it seems like it would actually be more difficult/complicated to be a non-practicing or less observant Muslim– but I think it’s worth considering that this isn’t as harsh as it may initially seem to western observers.

        1. Anon for Today*

          Agreed! I spent 2 years living in a rural/conservative area of Malaysia in a Malay Muslim town, and religion was seen SO differently than it is in my urban area of the States. I’d encourage Western readers here to consider the context before judging so harshly – not saying that certain practices were a-okay there, but they definitely made more sense given the country’s history and demographics.

        2. MyBossSaidWhat*

          Yep read it twice. “Prove you aren’t Muslim (printed on an ID card, is this the Third Reich?) if you want to eat” isn’t religious freedom. Religious freedom is CHOOSING how you’re going to practice your religion.

        3. tangerineRose*

          What if a Muslim had a health issue and shouldn’t fast? Do they need to carry around a doctor’s note to get food?

    2. Susan Calvin*

      Agree with MBSW – sounds harsh! So happy not-fasting to you, and I hope you get a long weekend out of Wesak :)

    3. Nervous accountant*

      I’m in a Muslim country right now and tbh I was super annoyed when I went to a mall and the food court was closed. Im Muslim and I don’t fast and I know I had no right to feel annoyed but given how “westernized” the country is/is getting I was pretty surprised, it seemed a bit intolerant of those w health issues/non Muslims/tourists. But people here believe it’s a sin to eat in front of a fasting person….so. Idk.

      1. Specialk9*

        So where you are, it’s believed to be a sin to eat in front of a fasting person?! Does that apply to people of other faiths?

        1. Lehigh*

          And to breastfeeding women so they can’t eat in front of their husbands? Children can’t eat in front of their fathers? Ouch.

        2. Chinook*

          My guess is that, from a financial stand point, they don’t get enough business during fasting hours to make it worthwhile to stay open. But, if you were that one shop open in the region, you probably would make a killing (like that one Tim Horton’s open Christmas Day).

          1. Margaret*

            Or if you’re fasting yourself you’re probably not going to want to operate a food service business, and run around on your feet all day serving up food.

    4. Chinook*

      “anon from across the sea” I feel horrible that you have to put up with this as it is the number one reason I believe that no one should make a big deal about someone else’s fasting. There are reasons not to (inculcating not being part of the group) and it would be exhausting to live like you have to. Really, the only person who gets to judge if you are doing your religious duties correctly is the One you are worshiping. With luck, everyone who judges you that harshly will be judged with equal harshness in the end.

      I jokingly want to send you a gigantic, gaudy cross like Madonna used to wear in the 80’s to wear whenever you go out to eat during Ramadan so you can signal your exception to the rule, though I suspect that would open up another can of worms.

    5. Margaret*

      Do women in Malaysian muslim communities fast when they have their period? I’ve been living and working in Muslim countries for years and I’m astonished to imagine this kind of scrutiny. What about people who have health difficulties? There are so many reasons and conditions where you’re not supposed to fast…

  15. Laila*

    OP1 As a Muslim who also observes Ramadan, I think it is lovely of you to be so thoughtful. However, you are doing way way too much. You don’t need to abstain just because they are fasting. You don’t need to inconvenience yourself like this at all! We are not delicate flowers who will break down at the sight of coffee lol. I’ve fasted before in offices where people ate and drank freely, and it never bothered me. In fact, I found the smell of coffee while fasting to be comforting lo. As Muslims, they should not expect you to hide your food in Ramadan, and if they do they are wrong!

  16. Akcipitrokulo*

    Everyday feminism has an article on what not to say during Ramadan… and no. 4 addresses this (obviously ymmv) (worth a google :) ). Hope it helps… I have felt awkward eating near muslim friends in past, but it’s seriously OK! Just believe what people tell you when they say what they’d prefer.

  17. AlwhoisthatAl*

    It’s a also this sort of behaviour round religion that lead to other people misinterpreting your actions on a wider scale. Your good and kindly intentions could lead to a of a certain type of people going “Look at OP, can’t even eat in her own office with ‘those people’ in there” I’m sure you know what sort of person I’m talking about.
    The people in your office don’t mind you eating, you don’t mind them fasting so just enjoyed being a chilled office unlike so many others.

    1. o.b.*

      Yikes. I don’t agree with your first paragraph. That’s a pretty hyperbolic scenario and I don’t think it’s worth taking into account. There is really nothing to be gained from assuming that someone will be determined to make wild assumptions and see totally-off-the-mark prejudice and ill will in your actions and deciding you must change because of it.

      1. scm*

        People are fortunate who don’t have to worry about stuff like this, and I don’t the the OP is going in that direction at all with her own thinking – but I do agree with AlwhoisthatAl. I have unfortunately worked with several of what I call “wink-wink/nudge-nudge racists” – they carefully feel others out to see if they can start indulging in some quiet nasty conversation. A comment about not eating around fasting Muslims is the type of hook they’re looking for to see if it’s an ok environment to go a teensy step further, even if they indulge in nothing more than a Look or an eyeroll or a tone of voice.

        I try to treat to differences like this is a bland matter-of-factness partly for stuff like that.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      If it’s not eating in the shared office during Ramadan, they’ll find something else. If they can’t find anything, they’ll make something up.I don’t think there’s any purpose to be served trying not to give these people any “ammo”. Haters gonna hate. :-(

  18. London Calling*

    OP1 – haven’t read all the comments but have had the same dilemma. I asked a Moslem colleague during Ramadan if he minded people eating and drinking around him when he was fasting and he said that being presented with the temptation and avoiding it actually strengthened his faith and his belief in the rightness of his fast. Your Moslem colleagues probably feel exactly the same way

  19. Regina*

    Another US Muslim reader (based in the Midwest) chiming in to say that while LW1’s intentions might be kind, the impact is off-putting if LW is trying to avoid even drinking water at their desk. Please take your co-workers at their word when they say it’s fine – which they already have. During Ramadan, children don’t fast, those who are sick don’t fast, those who are on their period don’t fast, those who are pregnant don’t fast… and many of us are cooking or meal prepping for ourselves or others while we’re fasting. So we’re around food and drink plenty without it being a big deal.

    I get that it might be weird being the odd one out in the room… but for plenty of us born and raised here, that’s our entire lives. I get that the LW might feel that same awkwardness for a month but please don’t overthink this.

    As an aside and on a broader note, while it makes sense to have written in to AAM in this particular example, the larger trend of having people seek validation from white non-Muslims to really hear what Muslims are already saying loud and clear is frustrating. For context: we deal with a lot in the broader political climate with bigots constantly claiming anything we say is a lie (#taqiya) or the religious practices of 2% of the population are on the brink of taking over the country (#creepingsharia). Please do us the larger favor of listening/taking us at our word, especially when we’re saying to keep on keeping on. It means a lot more than hiding food during Ramadan ever could.

    1. VioletEMT*

      This is an excellent point/reminder about not looking to people outside a minority community for permission to believe what’s members of the minority’s community have told you about how to treat them. Thanks.

      1. Persephoneunderground*

        I assume the commenter was referring to Alison, not all the commenters.

        1. soon 2 be former fed*

          She said “white non-Muslims”, plural. I did not assume she was just talkng about Alison since the commentariat is very voocal here. Go figure.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            The comment refers to a trend of multiple people asking questions of multiple non-Muslims.

          2. Yorick*

            She also said she was talking about a trend, so she’s referring to Alison and other situations.

            There are Muslim commenters on this site, but it isn’t a Muslim site, is the point.

            1. Seriously?*

              I thought she was referring to non-work situations. She said that it makes sense to have asked Alison in this case (the case being “I’m unsure how to navigate this work situation”) but many times non-muslims give instructions about how to be respectful of muslims and it makes more sense to listen to what people who are actually Muslim say they want. The same is true of other religion, ethnicities and other identities.

          3. Specialk9*

            They said the larger trend, so of course the trend is inherently required to be plural. That doesn’t mean the application in this situation is plural.

            And are you really nitpicking when someone makes an excellent point like this? It’s eye-opening, and I for one needed to hear it. I thought ohhh, yeah, right, that’s a good point.

            “the larger trend of having people seek validation from white non-Muslims to really hear what Muslims are already saying loud and clear is frustrating”

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          She wrote “while it makes sense to have written in to AAM in this particular example, the larger trend of having people seek validation from white non-Muslims…” so I think she’s referring to, as she says, a larger trend.

          1. CM*

            Alison, would you consider deleting this subthread started by soon 2 be former fed? It derails an important conversation. Thanks!

      2. Susan Calvin*

        As are many other regular commenters, and I don’t think anyone denies that. I can’t imagine Regina would have objected to OP throwing this into an open thread, but she asked Alison specifically, who – to the best of my knowledge – is decidedly not Muslim.

        1. soon 2 be former fed*

          No need to condescend. I get that, but she could have just have easily used Alison’s name or said a white non-muslim. I may be a bit pedantic here but I do not think my understanding is invalid. Enough said.

          1. Susan Calvin*

            No, there really isn’t, so I apologize for not being able to word this better, because I truly concede your point about race! But there’s a difference between being pedantic, and picking the much less charitable reading in a case of syntactic ambiguity. Using Alison’s name would defeat the purpose of talking about a ‘larger trend’.

            (Just for the sake of clarity, and for anyone reading who can’t see the ambiguity: It’s parallel to how “A and B’s fathers, X and Y” can either refer to two different father-child pairs or to a gay couple with two kids)

        2. soon 2 be former fed*

          And being non-muslim is the important factor here, Alison or anybody else being white is irrelevant. That’s why it stood out to me, it was not necessary to refer to race at all to make the point being made, which I have no objection to at all.

              1. Kyubey*

                Why? There are a lot of white Muslims too so her being non Muslim is significant but her race isn’t, since that’s not correlated with one’s religion..

                1. neeko*

                  As it’s been pointed out several times, Regina was referring to an overwhelming trend.

      3. soon 2 be former fed*

        But your point also applies to folks seeking validation from non-black people about how to treat black people when we have already told you.

        1. Regina*

          Thank you all for the kind comments and sorry for not being clearer. Yes, I’m talking about the broader trend. Alison does happen to be white, but she’s also so uniquely positioned with this blog AND qualified to answer this question that I’m not annoyed at all by LW writing in to ask AAM specifically.

          For context/to address some other points – I work in a field that educates on Islamophobia and organizes against anti-Muslim hate on a community level and it comes up in big and small ways that Black Christians, Arab Christians, Sikhs, Indian Hindus, etc. (i.e. non-Muslims of color) can vocally back up what Muslims of all races are saying but it’s not until a white non-Muslim is aligned with us that the matter is ‘settled.’ There’s a long history when it comes to orientalism of white non-Muslim ‘experts’ on the Middle East being seen as the highest authority on issues and this then extends to all things Muslim due to stereotypes that all Muslims are Middle Eastern. (Edward Said’s book “Orientalism” is a classic and Khaled Beydoun just published a new book called “American Islamophobia” that gets into the relationship with Orientalism and Islamophobia, plus other things.)

          I’m certainly grateful for having white allies in the fight but it’s frustrating when I’ve seen this trend of “well, the Muslims are saying it’s ok/not ok but let’s see what white non-Muslims think” happen multiple times before we can move forward on something. The lack of agency is frustrating and even well-meaning people can fall into this trap. This observation isn’t intended to be an attack on anyone. It’s something I wanted to point out that can make a meaningful difference if people keep an eye out for this and catch themselves when it happens – please listen to us/take us at our word, since there are a lot of societal forces out there asking you not to.

    2. neeko*

      “Please do us the larger favor of listening/taking us at our word, especially when we’re saying to keep on keeping on. ”

      Yes, this exactly.

    3. CM*

      Regina, your comment is perfect, especially this: “the larger trend of having people seek validation from white non-Muslims to really hear what Muslims are already saying loud and clear is frustrating.”

      Here, OP#1 is bending over backwards to do something for coworkers who have explicitly told her they have no desire for her to do that. This worry about whether OP#1 is being accommodating enough is based in an acute awareness that the coworkers are different. It was very considerate of OP#1 to check with her coworkers about whether they minded her eating and drinking in front of them. But still feeling like she is unable to sip water at her desk or eat lunch, to the point where it’s impractical and she’s feeling resentful (“at what point can I say this is my office too”), is ignoring what her coworkers have told her and making it about her own feelings of discomfort.

  20. SusanIvanova*

    #5: I was on a software team once that had been acquired by a company with a very academic background. HR had modified our job description for a new opening and was filtering out resumes that didn’t meet their standards, so all we were getting was people with PhDs in theory who thought that coding was what grad students did, when what we’d asked for was people with practical experience who could write their own code.

  21. Jemima Bond*

    OP1: it’s nice of you to try to be as considerate as possible but in my experience of Muslim colleagues they don’t expect others to hide food/eating so I wouldn’t worry about it. A nice thing to do would be to be sure to wish them “Eid Mubarak!” when Ramadan is over. You can check when that is on the Internet. According to my former colleague Eid is like Christmas, it’s when you have presents. She appreciates being wished well on that day (I send her an email) and a sympathetic comment about the challenge of it when Ramadan is in summer and the days are longer.
    OP4 I sympathise – my boss kept saying she was “a little bit OCD” when she meant she was fastidious etc which ground my gears because I know someone who really does suffer with that and it’s not to be taken lightly. I was all set to politely ask her not to, but she stopped. Maybe someone else said something
    OP 5 yes definitely say to your boss that you tried; best case scenario there was a mistake, but at least your boss will know that you did your best to do what she expected you to do. And she’ll be aware you might be feeling a bit undervalued right now which is a good thing for a boss to know.

    1. Yorick*

      As someone with OCD I hate when someone says they are/have it. Your perfectly normal file organization is not a disorder, Sharon.

      1. Yorick*

        I tried to explain that to a former friend once and she went on about how language evolves and I’m trying to be unique and special by being OCD but not letting other people say they are.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I have a family member with OCD. Prior to his diagnosis I had some idea of what it was but until I saw it first hand I really underestimated how much misery the intrusive thoughts and compulsions could cause. I’m so frustrated now when I hear people talk that way because it’s not something I wish on myself.

          1. Lumos*

            I’m almost positive I’ve got un-diagnosed OCD, but you will literally never catch me saying “Oh, I’m so OCD” number one because I’m not fastidious. I know where everything is and so help you if you move it I’m going to have a panic attack and a mental breakdown because you have disrupted my entire routine and therefore my anchor for getting through the day. It drives me up the wall when people say they’re so OCD when they just mean they’re very clean. Look, Sharon, I’d love to trade mine for yours but I don’t think you’d enjoy the actual thing. My MIL is staying with us for a month and has turned my house upside down. Everything is clean to her standards, I can’t find a thing, my house doesn’t even look like I live there, and if she touches my room I’m losing it.

      1. Delphine*

        Eid-ul-Fitr is a celebration to mark the end of Ramadan. There’s another Eid later in the year, too.

        1. jb*

          “Eid” is the Arabic word for “Holiday.” Every Muslim religious holiday is “Eid” something.

          “Fitr” means “breaking one’s fast,” so “Eid al-Fitr” is the holiday at which people start eating normally again.

          1. Jemima Bond*

            That is also my understanding – pleased for any Muslims to jump in here!
            Ramadan isn’t a “holiday” in the American sense – might be helpful to think of Ramadan like Lent with Eid al Fitr as Easter. The bit at the end is the celebration.

  22. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    LW#1, you’re considerate for thinking of your colleagues’ comfort.
    But they’ve also let you know what they want you to do, and that is then the considerate and respectful thing to do. :)

    Listen to them and follow their lead.

  23. Anon36*

    OP#1 – as a Muslim American I can assure you that we’re used to fasting while others around us are eating and drinking all day. Experienced it all throughout school and work and it doesn’t bother me at all, and I feel comfortable saying it wouldnt bother 99.99% of other Muslims either.

    PLEASE take your coworkers at their word when they say they dont care and just eat and drink as you normally would. I feel like you’re possibly creating resentment against your coworkers for all the inconveniences you’re causing yourself for not believing them when they tell you it’s okay, and that’s really not fair to them (or yourself)!

    Thank you for caring enough to ask them about it. Now enjoy your food and drinks!!!

      1. Specialk9*

        Enh, I think they’d maybe feel exasperated, more than the deeper feeling of resentment. ‘Hey thanks, I know you mean well, but really, we said it’s cool’. Because in the world today, there are so many people who are rabidly anti-Muslim, I’m willing to bet this is more annoying than something deeper.

        1. Anon36*

          To be clear, I meant that OP might start to feel resentment towards his/her coworkers, not the other way around. Basically OP is creating all these inconveniences for his/herself and the root cause is the coworkers fasting, so eventually OP might start harboring negative feelings towards them even though they told OP they had no problem with OP eating/drinking in front of them. It wouldnt be fair to the Muslim coworkers if that was the case, so I think it’s best for everyone to just take people at their word.

  24. Sled dog mama*

    I work in healthcare (in the US so laws would be different elsewhere) so I frequently have patient information on my screen and as I understand even if IT remotes in my computer and doesn’t take control they can still see the screen. This would be a violation of federal law because the IT person doesn’t (generally)have a need to see patient specific information to do her job, remoting into your computer whenever would be a huge thing at my workplace.

    1. soon 2 be former fed*

      I would hope that any healthcare organization with any level of IT security would require the user’s permission before a third party could see your screen. IT can’t see anything or take control until I grant permission.

      1. Violet Fox*

        As the IT person, I would not want screen takeover access of computers/accounts with personal healthcare data. There are way too many whoops or “they clicked okay to allow access and shouldn’t haves” in those situations.

    2. Liane*

      I used to be medical transcription QA and it was not uncommon for IT to remote in when I had problems with my dedicated computer. BUT, I had to give permission on my end and I didn’t have dictation or transcription files up because remote access didn’t happen unless the problem was bad enough I couldn’t do any work **at all**.

  25. Princess Cimorene*

    #1 – Someone I’ve dated who happens to be Muslim, owns a restaurant and while he and his family who work with him observe Ramadan (as well as many of the customers) they do not close the restaurant during Ramadan. So he and his employees are not only around food and others eating during fasting hours, they are also preparing it, all day long 6 days a week! The only difference is during Ramadan he will keep the restaurant open later for friends and family and community members to congregate to break fast at his establishment if they choose to. That being said, you don’t need to drastically alter your normal behaviors, although as stated it is kind of you to be considerate, but don’t overthink it so much! Take them at their word that they are fine with you eating and drinking in their presence.

  26. Orfeo*

    #1: Agreeing with everything above, would it also be helpful to consider the fasting a bit of a red herring? If I’m reading correctly, you have four people in a very small space, with a schedule that means that the LW is eating lunch at a different time than everyone else, at her desk because she doesn’t have access to the temporary break room. During the rest of the year, there will still be a balancing act between the LW getting to eat her lunch in peace, and not disrupting or distracting the other people working in the very small space. I know that even if I wasn’t trying to be considerate about fasting, I’d be very aware of crumbs and noises and smells possibly making the shared space unpleasant.

    Being the only person in the room not fasting is awkward (probably unavoidably), but so is being the only person in the office who eats alone, and the only person in the room who is eating while everyone else is working, even when they’ve already had their lunch.

    Only the LW knows if it makes sense to push for some kind of rearrangement, like maybe rotating who covers the receptionist so that the LW can sometimes join the others who take their lunch breaks together, or staggering the lunch breaks a bit and extending the time that a conference room is booked as a lunch room.

  27. Princess Cimorene*

    #5 I can’t imagine your boss wouldn’t want you to apply or be a candidate in her pool. I’m a bit surprised that you haven’t said anything or didn’t mention it to her when you were doing it. I don’t think your candidacy stops here. Advocate for yourself. I am sure your boss has pull when it comes to who will be in this role (I mean, they are the hiring manager after all) and would definitely prefer to have a known quantity who is already trained in the role or at least in her candidate pool. Sometimes HR gets it wrong. They’e human after all, at least at this point still and aren’t as connected to the work as you are. Things get missed sometimes. But don’t be so dejected about this that you don’t speak up about it. I’m even betting your boss might be surprised to hear this happened and fix it. Bet wishes.

    1. NotAnotherMananger!*

      This was my thought as well – my first stop would have been to have an informal conversation with my boss expressing interest, getting details about their vision for the role, and then letting them know I submitted my application. I am lucky to have really good HR who would never NOT tell a hiring manager that one of their current employees applied, but I wouldn’t take the chance on HR that I didn’t know well enough to have that confidence.

      On the flip side, someone (not in my department but that I had spoken to a handful of times) quit my organization last year, and they told HR in their exit that they expressed disdain that I hadn’t considered them for a position that (1) they hadn’t applied for and (2) they hadn’t reached out to me about at all. Apparently, I was supposed to psychically sense they were interested?!?!?

      1. Zombeyonce*

        “Apparently, I was supposed to psychically sense they were interested?!?!?”

        All the best managers are psychic. Time to up your game.

  28. The Indomitable Snowman*

    OP #5

    Definitely say something! In my current role and the new role my partner just got offered this happened to both of us. Our HR screening system is rubbish, everyone knows this but it’s global and unlikely to change. We got rejected, myself for not having enough experience in managing people (I had pressed ‘some’ not ‘a lot’) and my partner for not being senior enough (he was going for a promotion).
    We contacted the respective hiring managers, both who had told us to apply and lo and behold, it was over turned, we interviewed and here we are!
    You’ve got NOTHING to lose by asking, and Alison’s script is ace

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Agreed! I’ve shared this before, but my application wasn’t passed along to the hiring manager for the job I started recently. It *was* passed along for a similar role in a different department, so obviously I meet the qualifications. Luckily, I had some connections that put my name in front of the hiring manager and she immediately contacted me for an interview and here I am :)

    2. Susan the BA*

      Yes! I was once specifically contacted by a hiring manager at my institution to say ‘please apply for this job’, and then was terrified about saying something when I got a rejection notice – I thought maybe the hiring manager had decided I was actually crap and was too polite to say so. Turns out HR had just not known how to read my resume (it was a niche job with odd titles). I got the position and my eventual boss changed her hiring process so no one got pre-screened out. So glad I made that call!

  29. Humble Schoolmarm*

    OP 1 this discussion is interesting because my school (ages 5 to 15) has a significant Muslim population and the teachers have been asked to be mindful about eating and drinking in front of our students (although more emphasis was put on being understanding about tiredness, crankiness and headaches). I hope that we aren’t inadvertently being condescending to our students, but I’m going to guess that the age of the folks involved makes a difference here (plus non-Muslim students aren’t being asked not to eat, just not to rub it in anyone’s face, as other posters have said).

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah that makes sense, kids would have a harder time. (But aren’t kids exempted?)

      1. Beth*

        My understanding (as a non-muslim, so may be flawed, but based on growing up with some muslim classmates) is that children are exempted, but the line between ‘child’ and ‘adult’ isn’t necessarily at age 18 the way it’s legally set to in the US. I don’t remember when exactly my classmates started participating, but it was definitely a thing by high school (which age 15 would be).

      2. Humble Schoolmarm*

        We were told that different families have different ages when their kids can begin to participate, so some are and some aren’t.

  30. Chereche*

    OP #5: Definitely let your boss know what happened.

    I went through a not quite the same but somewhat similar issue about two months ago. I started at my department March 2017 and within a few weeks had been told that two of the persons in a vastly superior role would be retiring by the end of the year and that I should definitely apply for their job position because I met the criteria. This statement was increasingly repeated from numerous people over time until the two actually retired and the listing opened up. I applied and put it out of my mind.

    About a week after the deadline one of my direct supervisors comes to me frantic because HR was in the process of doing the short listing for the job and she hadn’t heard my name being mentioned and they were saying that I had never applied. I assured her that I had applied and should her the email in my Sent folder to boot but took the “oh well, whatever” stance towards the whole thing, especially since so much time had passed after the deadline.

    She was not having it.

    She contacted the person in charge of the recruitment process in HR and well…long story short, I’m in the role right now, my second application having around nearly two weeks after the fact and it definitely would not have happened if my (then) supervisors hadn’t known/basically told me to apply and followed up after the fact when it was apparent that something had gone ‘wrong’.

    So definitely speak to your boss about it and good luck!

    1. Nita*

      Yeah. Even if the boss is expecting OP to apply, if they just don’t see an application they may assume OP decided not to go for it, and by the time the truth comes out the hiring process will be over. Definitely a good idea to talk to the boss now and find out whether OP really doesn’t have some crucial quals or (more likely) there was some glitch on HR’s end.

  31. MicroManagered*

    OP1 Over the years, I’ve worked with several people who fast for religious reasons (both Muslim and Hindu). One time, I said something along the lines of how difficult fasting all day must be and one said: “Yeah but you have to remember, I’ve done this almost my whole life.”

    So I’d say try to realize that, even though you’re being considerate by not wanting to eat or drink around them, they very likely don’t experience it the way you are thinking they do! As Alison said, it’s ok to take them at their word. If they say it’s fine, it’s fine! :)

  32. Cordoba*

    #5 should definitely tell their boss they applied.

    Big dumb organizations do big dumb things all the time just due to institutional inefficiency and miscommunication. When this happens it is absolutely appropriate to flag it for scrutiny and ask “is this the outcome we actually wanted here?”

    As for:
    “My company is so worried about the possibily of appearing discrimatory that all HR decisions are final, so there is no chance of being reconsidered even if I talk to my boss.”
    this seems very unlikely to actually be the case. It might be what HR *says* but (unless it’s actually required by an actual law somehow) I promise there is somebody up the chain who can handwave it away on a case-by-case basis.

    1. Darcy*

      While I can only speak for the companies where I’ve worked, HR never has the final say on decisions; even when people think it was HR that made the decision because the HR team was willing to fall on a sword for someone. In my experience, Operations and Finance always have much more pull. So talk with your boss as there is most likely something that can be done.

      1. Cordoba*

        From what I’ve observed in big companies from Director level on down is just flunkies who will generally rigidly adhere to the letter of policies because they’re afraid of rocking the boat and getting in trouble.

        VPs and up are typically people who are used to having power and are comfortable actually wielding it; and a few minutes with folks at this level can get bureaucratic issues cleared up quickly.

        I recently experienced this when discussing a tuition-reimbursement plan with my employer. I’m a remote employee and am in a different state than the one where their HQ is located and where 95% of their work force lives. The tuition reimbursement policy said they will only pay for schools in the HQ state, no exceptions, so HR refused to approve my request to take classes near where I actually reside instead of in their state a 16 hour drive away. After unsuccessfully going round and round with HR worker bees I finally just emailed the HR VP asking politely “Is this how you intend this policy to be applied?” and in less than 2 hours got a response back that my request was approved.

      2. Jadelyn*

        “even when people think it was HR that made the decision because the HR team was willing to fall on a sword for someone.” I’m so glad some people recognize this!!! We have to deliver the bad news a lot of the time, and in those cases rather than playing toxic games of “Well *I* think this is unfair, but *your manager* said…” it’s better to just suck it up and be the bad guy in the situation. It’s exceedingly rare that we as HR actually have the power to override management on decisions – only when it comes to literally illegal stuff like discrimination or labor law, and even then only for so long as upper management is willing to listen and back us on it.

  33. Exotic Buffet*

    I don’t know anything about fasting, but now I am suddenly wanting a buffet of fruit and cheeses (and cakes!) to spread across my desk.

  34. Boredatwork*

    op #2 – You really need to raise this with someone above the IT guy. While in this case it was your private banking information, next time it could be a client presentation (like you said) or in my case, a lot of extremely confidential information, (the site of which, if shared would be insider trading) The stakes are real and this needs to get nipped in the bud.

    I mean it takes him almost zero effort, to say, can I access your computer? Pause, and wait for a yes/no.

  35. Mom MD*

    I would not complain about the IT guy. These people are busy and this is when he had time to address your problem. You weren’t in a meeting so that’s hypothetical. Also your keystrokes are probably monitored so they have access to anything you entered that is private. Check your bank account on your phone. Your work computer is theirs, not yours. It seems like ours, but it’s not.

    1. Alice*

      Wow. I guess I should be grateful that the IT support for my team addresses my problems at a time that works for me and my client meetings, instead of whenever is convenient for them.

    2. Liane*

      Oh, really? If IT remoted in while someone was typing/editing a transcription of your latest dictation, that would be a HIPAA violation right there, if you practice in the US.

      Seriously, I thought medical professionals understood HIPAA…

    3. Artemesia*

      LOL. Every organization I have worked in the IT guys are the ones who are watching TV, playing games, avoiding work by being somewhere else and when you check with somewhere else, they were told that IT guy was elsewhere else. They have been masters of little work and creative juggling of demands. So busy. But somehow not doing anything for anyone. I am sure there are companies where that is not true, but it was a running joke at the last two places I worked that these guys had mastered the art of obfuscation and doing nothing.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        So, every organization or the last two places? Truly, your IT guys are not the norm. How were the cultures at those companies? How horrible was management? How was morale? Was they the kinds of place where nobody ever got fired no matter what they did?

        I’m not IT, but I’ve worked alongside IT people and many of my friends are IT people. Most of them are really dedicated to making machines and software work right, including privacy concerns.

    4. Mike C.*

      So you’re seriously going to ignore the massive risk that the OP could be dealing with information that might be sensitive in all sorts of ways?

    5. The Original K.*

      This ignores the notion that the OP could have been working on confidential work-related stuff that the IT person shouldn’t see.

    6. Millennial Lawyer*

      This is incorrect. It has nothing to do with what OP could be doing on her work computer. What he did is not in IT norms for all sorts of really important privacy reasons. I work in a law office and *every single time* IT support needs to remotely access my computer, they call or send an e-mail asking me to let them know when they can go in to fix something. And if there was a real emergency (has never happened to me), they would call and say – hey do you mind closing open documents now, it’s an emergency because X. It is reaaaaaaally striking that IT would remotely access her computer when she said it was a bad time.

    7. Specialk9*

      You really don’t seem dialed into the huge concerns big orgs have about privacy – HIPAA, PII, GDPR, etc – not to mention the fact that IT is a support role, not to override operational needs. No, it’s not ok behavior on a number of fronts.

    8. Jennifer Thneed*

      Disagree. Most IT people are working on multiple things at a time, so he could easily have gone on to the next ticket and come back to OP.

      I agree with Millenial Lawyer. There are Best Practices in IT, and there are industry norms, and it is absolutely the usual thing for IT to make sure they’re interrupting you at a good, or at least not-terrible, time. Many companies make it systemically impossible (meaning: they’re using system software) for the IT person to force the connection — like Tasha indicates in another reply.

  36. Tasha*

    On the remote access question: our work computers are set up so that you have to accept someone’s request to see your screen, and our IT people must ALSO verbally ask for permission to share your screen. Good policies.

    1. Already Hungry*

      ^same. My system has two confirmation screens before you remote in. I’m surprised IT could just remote in without some sort of screen confirmation…

  37. cereal tower*

    #1 – Haven’t had a chance to read the comments so sorry if I’m duplicating, but when I apologised to a Muslim coworker for eating in front of him (not realising he was fasting until too late) he said that his point of view was that it spoke highly of my character to consider him like that, but that making other people recognise his fast and amend their habits would actually be detrimental to what his fast was supposed to represent. So I wouldn’t worry! The whole point of the fast as far as I understand is that it isn’t simple (though it is of course good manners not to intentionally make it harder for them, lol). It sounds like you’re probably being more considerate than your coworkers would expect of you :)

  38. Kat Em*

    OP 1, I also have an annual religious fast with essentially the same rules as Ramadan. We’re so, so used to this. We go out to cafes and just hang out, we sit at the lunch table, we cook for children and family and get other people to taste it to make sure the recipe is on track. It was hard as a teenager (when you’re always ravenous), but as an adult, I just want people to act normally and not make me feel like my religious beliefs are a burden that they have to take on themselves. As long as you’re not offering them any, you’re really fine!

  39. Amelia*

    My company uses 3rd party program called Bomgar for remote access. I never thought about it before reading this letter but I realize I like how uniform and straight-forward it is. Before anyone gets access to my computer, I receive a pop-up asking “Do you grant remote access to X person?” Then you must provide a session key.

    While the tech is accessing the system, there is a banner stating that remote access is occurring. And then the pop-up returns to say the session is closed. I would be very put off my someone accessing my computer the way the LW described.

  40. Re: Number 4*

    How should you handle it if you’re in a situation like this and use Alison’s script, and get blown off? I recently had a problem where I was on an interview committee and one member asked a question that involved graphic violence. I later brought it up to the chair of the interview committee, and told him that I’m a trauma survivor myself and didn’t want our interview process to needlessly put trauma survivors at a disadvantage. I asked that he set limits for appropriate questions, like no graphic descriptions of sex, violence, illness, or injuries. He blew me off because plenty of other people on the committee thought that question was fine, and what makes my opinion more important than theirs?

    I still don’t know where to go or what to think about this. Am I crazy for reconsidering whether I want to work for him at this point? Because it seems like he has an empathy chip missing.

    1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      WTF? What kind of an interview question would involve invoking graphic violence? I’m struggling to think of how that question could even be relevant or helpful to the interview process at all.

      That attitude would be a perfectly good reason to start looking to work somewhere else, IMO.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        This seriously WTF.

        Unless your job is like… law enforcement-adjacent or something… how is this even appropriate.

      2. Re: Number 4*

        It was interviewing college freshman for an academic scholarship, and one of the committee members thought that a lengthy, graphic leadup to the question “if you were drafted, would you serve your country?” was a good test of character.

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          This is where I would make one of those Seinfeld exits like, “Okay, thank you very much everyone, goodnight! Tip your waitress!”

          1. Re: Number 4*

            That is, in fact, exactly what I did! After the first interview, I waited through the post-interview discussion to see if anyone would bring it up (I’m pretty junior so I didn’t know what the norms were), and when nobody did, I noped my way right on out of there.

        2. only acting normal*

          So glad my university’s (small £) scholarships were based purely on grades.
          I believe the phrase used in these parts to describe the chair and the questioner is “banana crackers”.

          What did they even consider a ‘correct’ answer? “Yes, here are my measurements for my uniform.”
          “No, I would stand by my pacifist convictions.”
          “I’m invisibly disabled so… no.”
          “I already served. You just triggered my PTSS. Where should I send the bill for my therapy?”

        3. Specialk9*

          Oh my God. That’s appalling. Do you have any way to slip this info to someone more senior (I dunno, a Dean or something)? That’s really not ok.

        4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Ugh, wow, that is absurd and disgusting. And yeah, the chair blowing you off on that is a really great reason to start job-hunting.

    2. Oxford Coma*

      That really depends on how it came up. If the issue is relevant even if he brought it up in a clunky way, that’s one thing. (Like if you work with troubled kids who may get violent, or the job is a facilities manager who would be responsible for site/employee safety and security.) If he just brought it up out of the blue for no reason, I might pursue it over his head.

    3. CM*

      Definitely empathy chip missing, and you’re not crazy at all! I am not a trauma survivor but I still don’t want to hear about graphic violence in an interview. You mentioned you’re pretty junior, but if you have the standing you may want to mention this to other people on the committee so the chair doesn’t think this is just one person being overly sensitive. (Given his response, though, he will probably think it is multiple people being overly sensitive.)

  41. BK*

    @OP2, when I worked as remote IT support, I always asked people before remoting in, and told them to close any sensitive information. One guy told me to go ahead, remote in and take control. So I did, and the first thing i saw was his personal email account with an email open that is a raging all caps tirade from his (I assume) ex-wife because he, again, did not pay the monthly child support. It took me about 3 seconds to recover and to minimize the window (luckily I didn’t have to do anything in the browser), and neither of us acknowledged it, but WOW.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      The first time an IT person said he needed to remote into my Windows box, I didn’t expect him to see my screen and take over my mouse – I was used to Unix remoting where they’d use a terminal or remote display and I’d never even know they were there. But at least there wasn’t anything sensitive on the screen.

  42. Trudy Scrumptious*

    OP #5-“Mysterious personality assessments”-I used to work for a retail company that used personality assessments in certain regions but not others. The stores that had to use them hated them. Some of the general managers who were required to use them “applied” to their store so they could experience the process from start to finish, and many of them didn’t pass the test (these were district leaders, not underperforming managers). Or, the manager would find a great applicant for a key position who subsequently didn’t pass the assessment. I find them incredibly frustrating as an applicant. My experience has been they ask multiple choice questions that never fit what actions I would actually take as a manager.

    1. Liane*

      My current hypothesis is that these types of tests are intended to measure one’s ability to figure out what the customer wants from cryptic and illogical statements like, “I got green after I ordered green,” “Am not happy [followed by silence],” “Ice cream?[not in grocery/restaurant]”

    2. JeanB in NC*

      I don’t even continue the application procedure if they want me to do a personality assessment. They are meaningless.

  43. Xarcady*

    #1. I was a house guest of a Muslim family during Ramadan. Although I was prepared to eat breakfast and lunch out of their house, they insisted on cooking me breakfast every day. They also insisted that I “sleep in,” which means that they did not want me to get up before dawn to join them in their breakfast.

    Did eating breakfast in front of them make me feel awkward and a bit guilty? Yep. But it made my hosts happy.

    I was out and about sightseeing every day, so I ate lunch out. This was in a majority Muslim country, so the restaurants’ staff were all Muslim, and I presume most of them were fasting.

    And then in the evening, I joined the family and their extended family and friends in breaking their fast–during which meal my plate was loaded with so much food that I couldn’t eat it all. They were very concerned that I was sick because I didn’t appear to be eating enough, so they’d heap more food on me. I had thought it might be tough getting enough to eat if I couldn’t eat in front of my hosts most of the day, but instead I was stuffed to the gills.

    So I would say to eat lunch as normal in your office and don’t worry about it. I mean, I wouldn’t wax lyrical about the best ever double-chocolate cake that I was enjoying, but just eating a normal lunch shouldn’t be an issue. Nor would drinking the occasional glass of water at your desk.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      There is nothing in the world like Arab (assuming they were Arab) hospitality :)

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        Iranian-American author Firoozeh Dumas:

        “You can show up at the house of an Iranian at any hour of the day or night, and they will offer you food. It can be an hour after you have just eaten a wildebeest; you can be lying on the ground, pants unzipped, groaning, and they will still offer you food “for your special condition.”

      2. LNZ*

        Seriously, i visted Lebanon last year and on the final leg of the flighs there realized my sunglass case was no longer attached to my bag. While disembarking i asked the flaight attendant if anyone turned in a found case and she insited i wait til everyone else got if then the whole crew helped me look. Didn’t find it but i was blown away.

  44. jenniferthebillionth*

    OP5 – Say something! When I applied for a previous job, I was the candidate my supervisor wanted to hire (I had been a temp and a full-time position opened up). I applied, and HR rejected it without consulting my supervisor. Turns out, that HR group tends to do that a lot! There were some phone calls, and I had to re-apply, but it all got cleared up. That may not be your situation and circumstance, but bringing it up is the best way to get an answer and understanding.

    1. Troutwaxer*

      And if you learn that the manager truly does not have any power, you’ll know to get a new job elsewhere.

  45. Muslim Here*

    You do not need to feel obligated to not eat/drink near us during Ramadan. It is a time of personal fasting and reflection. I am perfectly capable of being able watch someone drink or eat in my presence and not feel offended.

  46. Darian*

    “IT guy remotely accessed my laptop when I asked him not to”
    In addition to possibly violating personal privacy, the technician may violate the company’s information security policies. For example, if your company is publicly traded and you are working on financial or sales information the technician could gain insider information. Or if you are in human resources and have another employee’s information on screen. Even file and folder names could be telling. E.g. “merger”, “acquisition”, “downsize”.

  47. Kyubey*

    OP 1 – Even if your coworkers did demand that you not eat or drink in front of them, you have no moral obligation to change your behavior to suit someone else and that would be rude of them. I would not worry about this especially if they say it’s fine.

    1. JM60*


      I think changing your standard lunch behavior in this case falls into, “It would be a kind favor to do this,” category rather than, “Not doing this is rude.”

  48. Uranus wars*

    #2 gave me flashbacks to a time an IT guy remoted into my computer to fix something I was having trouble with and closed all my windows…including a spreadsheet of data I had been working on for 3 hours. He click “no” when it asked if you wanted to save. I periodically save but it still made me want to vomit; mainly because I lost about 1/2 the work I’d done.

    1. Millennial Lawyer*

      Wow, I would have reported that. That’s absolutely insane and out of norms. I hope you told his boss.

      1. Uranus wars*

        Yes I did. And now he explicitly asks “should I save this?” when he remotes in with my permission.

        1. Penny Lane*

          I don’t understand why, when the IT guy accesses your computer remotely, HE doesn’t want you to stop as much work as possible and save what’s there before he does his thing. Why would he want to be in the position of deciding whether or not to close / save your files?

    2. Chinook*

      That to me is what I would be worried about – the IT Guy destroying what I had been working on or, worse, submitting partially completed work by accident.

  49. The Other Dawn*

    OP2: Perhaps this IT guy is just oblivious or is thinking he needs plow through a bunch of support tickets. That’s not an excuse, but maybe an explanation for this particular incident. Does he always do this? Is it a one-off?

    It’s happened to me a few times at my current job. 99% of the time, the guy who does the support tickets makes sure to IM and ask if he can remote in, which gives me a chance to close anything I don’t want him to see–I work in banking and my particular job entails filing confidential reports. Every once in a while, though, he just logs in without asking, which annoys me. When that happens I make sure to call him up and tell him that I working on X and now isn’t a good time. If I happen to get a random survey, which they sometimes send after a ticket is closed, I make sure to mention what happened.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I totally missed that OP said she had asked the IT not to remote in because it was a bad time and he ignored it. Yeah in that case I’d be pretty upset and make sure to say something to him and likely mention it to his boss, too. It’s possible he was rushing and didn’t see your IM, but he still should have waited a minute so he could see your response.

      1. Millennial Lawyer*

        Not seeing it wouldn’t be an excuse. IT can’t just remote into your computer without a confirmation that you’re aware of it.

  50. Penny Lane*

    Basically, OP#1 –
    You used your words and expressed to them (appropriately) your concern that eating/drinking in front of them during Ramadan would be seen as rude, problematic, inappropriate, whatever.

    Your officemates used their words back and expressed that they were fine with you eating/drinking (within reason of course) and not to worry about it.

    They took you at your word; take them at their word. This is how respectful business communications work. Just take it at face value.

  51. Uranus wars*

    OP#5, absolutely say something to you boss! I was referred to a position (in a different org than mine) by a hiring manager once and got a rejection based from HR saying my experience did not meet the requirements – even though they did. I let the hiring manager know and he got in touch with HR and I got pushed through, along with some other candidates that were rejected based on how they answered a question that had code written wrong behind it.

    He was thankful, not upset at all. Ultimately I didn’t get the position because someone more qualified was chosen (who I think might have been a reject like me but I might be making that up).

  52. I think this is the job I'm hiring for*

    OP 5, I don’t know if this is your situation or not, but as someone in the process of hiring for a vacancy in my office in a highly regulated HR environment (government), I’ve learned a smidge about how applications get past our HR screening. Our applications have a series of questions, developed by the hiring manager (not HR, that is), about the candidate’s level of experience, and candidates self score. Only the candidates who score over 90 (I think) get passed on to the agency. So candidates who inflate their experience get interviews, and candidates who are honest do not. I really worry that this is what happened with Moonlight Doughnut’s application to my job, because I don’t think she is one of the 9 applicants we got from HR, based on the advice I gave when she asked about it in the open thread a few weeks ago. Another candidate who I know applied also didn’t make it past the HR screening. I told the person from HR that I was worried we were missing good candidates and she said we could only interview more if NONE of the first group of candidates were good.

    1. HappySnoopy*

      Be more firm and specific about this. Expressing a general concern about good candidates being overlooked is not the same as saying I know 2 experienced qualified internal candidates that have been overlooked. Of course vet preference and the questionnaire can sway the score, but that could be looked into by you, your mgmt and hr management

  53. Nervous accountant*

    OP 1–you’re really. Ice and considerate. There’s not more you can do (other than don’t ask a woman why she’s not fasting like mentioned above).

    It’s my responsibility to manage my own religion, and if I was fasting no way would I, or any reasonable person, expect the rest of the world to stop eating just bc I’m fasting.

  54. Rachel M*

    OP4, be direct even though it’s going to be really hard. I had this problem at my last job, especially right after I’d lost someone, and I finally just had to ask people to stop. FWIW, when I was in my 20s I remember making a comment like you’re describing to someone and a friend said “Please don’t joke about suicide” and I never did again and I’m so glad that person said something to me.

    1. Ennigaldi*

      This wording works so well. I work in an open office and have one cubicle neighbor in particular who is a LOUD talker, and another next to her who is a rambler. It took myself and my other neighbor, who supervises the phone bank right next to this block of desks, making a concerted effort to shut down their exuberant discussions of entirely inappropriate sex and/or death related topics. “Please don’t joke about suicide” is powerful coming from one person, and if you can get a couple other coworkers to back you up on it it’s even more effective.

  55. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    OP1, you’re being very accommodating! Don’t worry too much.

    I studied in Germany with a tight-knit group of students from many places. One of the guys was fasting that summer, and I guess it was hard for him- so the rest of us didn’t stop eating near him, but basically refrained from eating like Cookie Monster or talking about how delicious food was. Eating is fine, just don’t go, “omnomnomnom, WOW I LOVE THIS FOOD!”

    Another thing my classmates and I did, that may apply or not depending on your work schedule and amount of out-of-work networking, was to sometimes wait to go out for dinner until after sunset, so we could all eat together.

  56. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Am I the only one who also wishes people wouldn’t joke about self harm? One of my first jobs for the summer in college was manufacturing, and dealing with a lot of cardboard. You would invariably get a lot of cardboard “cuts” on your arms. With 19 year olds, that led to a lot of dumb jokes about being emo/slitting your wrists.

    I wanted to tell them to stop, since it wasn’t so much a joke for me (I had stopped two years prior, but still). But, they were my former classmates and it was my small hometown that loved gossip.

    You never know what happened with someone or their family. Those jokes are crass.

    1. Ennigaldi*

      Oh not at all! I consider it extremely rude to ask about scars for this very reason. Unfortunately my habit is to say stuff like “I’d rather stick a fork in my eye” instead….

  57. HyacinthB*

    In my industry (federal govt), it is not out of bounds to contact HR and ask them why you did not pass their screening. As noted, HR makes mistakes. And they make have overlooked something or misread something. Even though they ostensibly have a policy that their word is final (WHAT?!), I’d give it a shot and also tell my boss what happened.

  58. HyacinthB*

    I once did not make it through the HR screening for an internal position for which I was eminently qualified. The hiring manager mentioned to me that the list of candidates wasn’t very good (not knowing I had applied). I told him that maybe there was something wrong with the announcement or the screening process because I didn’t make the list. He was shocked and had HR close the announcement and start over. (I didn’t apply because by that time I had a better offer!)

  59. CPAlady*

    #5 – this happened to me! And it was a job that was specifically opened with me in mind. I told my boss (also the hiring manager) and she marched down to HR and had some strong words. And ftr I got the job.

  60. reezinha*

    “…at what point can I say it’s my office too and not feel guilty about having a cup of coffee and my peanut butter and jelly sandwich at my desk?”

    OP#1, you reached that point when they told you it didn’t bother them for you to eat at your desk. You perceived that they “take their religion seriously”.. so I’d think you could have taken them at their word. KnowwatImean?

  61. ToOP1*

    OP1, I’m Muslim and I assure you it’s fine to eat normally. Most of us keep our normal routine during Ramadan, which means we will be around food at some point (some of us volunteer at places that serve food, like soup kitchens, since charity is a big part of Ramadan too. As long as you’re not rubbing it in their faces thaf they can’t eat, or annoying them with questions/advising them its bad for their health (I’m saying these from experience), you’re fine and seem very considerate to ask them!

    Also, don’t mind if they’re a little quieter the first few days at least. I always take a few days to adjust to fasting, despite doing it every year

  62. Indie*

    OP1, I think you are imagining how uncomfortable and tempted *you* would be, in their shoes but it’s an incorrect parallel you are drawing. They’ve trained years to be able do this!

    I asked my Muslim friend if it was acceptable for me to fast for a day with her as I wanted to experience some of the benefits she spoke of. She said: ‘Of course! You might struggle though. When I started in my early teens I had to work up to full days slowly from half days’. She was right. I felt faint after four hours! Meantime she’s doing after work mega gym sessions without water.

    I’ve seen Muslims challenged by Ramadan, and cheer for sunset, but their focus and challenges seem completely internal. Ive never seen them pay attention to people eating around them.

  63. Massmatt*

    #5 definitely talk to your manager, don’t be too quick to believe the process is so rigid.

    If the process really IS that rigid, and you are met with shrugged shoulders and blithe apologies, start looking elsewhere. They are either not seeing your value or dysfunctional, or both.

  64. thelettermegan*

    #5 – Your HR team could do a better job of routing internal candidates through a separate bucket so they can take internal references into account. Sending a generic rejection letter to someone applying of a position on their current team is inappropriate – that rejection has to come as specific feedback from your team lead/hiring manager.

    On a positive note, a family member of mine was an external referral for a job and got a generic rejection, but the person referring her went to HR and made them rescind it because he wanted to her on his team. She did get an offer and is working for that company now.

  65. Delphine*


    LW, I’m Muslim and also fasting for Ramadan. Like your Muslim teammates, I definitely don’t mind when people eat around me. In fact, I prefer when people just go about their normal lives, and it would make me feel a little uncomfortable to know that a coworker or teammate was going out of her way to avoid eating in front of me, especially if I had already told her it doesn’t bother me.

    When I was in college, one of my professors–who was very kind–would nod politely to me instead of shaking my hand, when we were in situations where people normally shook hands (e.g. at honors ceremonies or awards events). I understood that he was being incredibly thoughtful to consider that I may not want to shake hands with him–however, I had already told him that I didn’t mind shaking his hand at all. He would still avoid shaking hands, and I never pushed it, but it often made me feel like awkward. I’d shake hands with all the other professors and just nod to him. It was a bit silly. :)

    I think the respectful thing, in this case, would be to take your coworkers at their word. I always appreciate people being accommodating, and it is better to be a person who errs on the side of being extra thoughtful, but from the other side…it can sometimes feel like it’s own tiny burden when someone goes out of their way to make an accommodation that I’ve already said isn’t necessary.

    You checked in with your teammates, and that’s all you need to do. Now, don’t feel guilty–eat, drink, enjoy!

  66. oxfordcomma4life*

    I worked in a Muslim country for years, that had actual laws about eating and drinking in public during Ramadan whether you were fasting or not (also padlocks on vending machines!). But more importantly I shared open plan offices with many people, both fasting and non, and really, you’re on the right track. Many of my Muslim friends expressed that one of the goals of the holy month is to maintain self control, resist temptation, and keep your temper– all things that they’ll actively be practicing while you drink quietly from a water bottle they can’t touch till Iftar. That said, my rule of thumb was always to not be a jerk about it, and avoid heavily scented foods (now is not the time to waft McDonalds as far as the nose can smell). I also did try to avoid drinking coffee from anything but a closed travel mug that held in the scent because one former office mate was an absolute coffee nut and that was what he struggled with the most during Ramadan. Be discreet, be courteous, but also don’t feel like you have to put yourself out entirely. Also, if you ever get the chance, maybe attend an Iftar or Suhoor, and use this opportunity to learn more!

  67. The Bimmer Guy*

    Re OP4: I agree with Alison. Most reasonable people will understand and apologize, or at least back off.

    Not that long ago, I was with a good friend of mine when a certain song came up and I thoughtlessly remarked that the original singer of that song said they would kill themselves if they had to hear it again. It was particularly thoughtless because this friend had lost her father to suicide when she was 12, just before I met her. She calmly said, “Dude, please don’t joke about stuff like that. You know how I lost my dad.” I apologized, and we moved on.

  68. RUKiddingMe*

    OP#1: Married to a serious Muslim here… It is their responsibility to fast, not yours. If they are reasonable people then they understand that non-Muslims aren’t going to be fasting and respect your right to eat and drink at will.

    Sure, be considerate. That’s totally cool and humane. I make a point of trying to not eat in front of my husband while he’s fasting (**oh and heads up…Ramadan isn’t the only days of the year they will be fasting, you just might not be aware of it when it’s not Ramadan**), but I long ago quit beating myself up about forgetting he is fasting and making myself a cup of coffee…and drinking it in the same room.

    Religion like lots of things is a choice. Husband, and your coworkers choose to follow that religion and the rules that apply, you (and I) don’t therefore we are not required to 1) adhere to said rules or 2) change our daily routines in order to accommodate their choice to fast.

    That’s not to say you should order burgers, fries, and milkshakes and then eat it in front of them making “nom nom nom” noises or anything, because that would be a jerk thing to do, but go ahead, get your coffee, have water at your desk, and eat your own lunch. Your right to not be held to their religious standards is just as valid as their right to adhere to them.

    **FWIW There will be times when people you know are Muslim, and you know it’s Ramadan or some other fasting day will eat/drink during the day.

    Because the rules were created by reasonable people there are built in exceptions: e.g. illness (Muslim coworker eating an orange might be diabetic), under 15 (assuming your coworkers aren’t under 15, but just FYI), mensuration, recovering from a medical procedure, diabetic, required medication that 1) needs to be taken and/or 2) needs to be taken with food/water…etc.

    Just pointing this out to whoever might be interested because recently I’ve seen some “My muslim friend/coworker was eating during Ramadan…they are lying about being Muslim, they are cheating, they should be strung up…” types of comments around the internet recently.

    1. Nicki Name*

      Because the rules were created by reasonable people there are built in exceptions: e.g. illness (Muslim coworker eating an orange might be diabetic), under 15 (assuming your coworkers aren’t under 15, but just FYI), mensuration, recovering from a medical procedure, diabetic, required medication that 1) needs to be taken and/or 2) needs to be taken with food/water…etc.

      Yeah, there is a lot of pragmatism around the fasting rules. A couple other expections that may show up in a workplace environment are being elderly or doing dangerous work.

      I’ve heard a Muslim sum it up as, “God doesn’t want you to be stupid.”

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        IIRC, there’s a stance that says that trying to fast when you shouldn’t be is actually transgressive, because it’s a prideful behavior, which is the exact opposite of the point of fasting.

        1. Chinook*

          Same theory in the Catholic church – fasting is not meant to be harmful, just uncomfortable and mindful.

  69. Lady Phoenix*

    Op #1: Drinking water around your Muslim coworkers is fine. And it is corteuous of you to not in front of them. I would sinply try to avoid fragrant foods if you do need a snack—like maybe a couple almonds or a banana.

    Otherwise? You’re fine.

  70. OldJules*

    As a fasting Muslim, I don’t tell anyone that I’m fasting because my religious activities shouldn’t impair other people’s life. It’s very nice of you to go that far but you don’t have to. Fasting is part of an act of devotion. I’m not fasting so that I feel hungry. I am fasting to feel the hunger and thirst as a testament of my faith. Fasting for 16+ hours is no joke and if the smallest thing will make me not fast, well…. so much for my faith. When my coffee friends ask if we are going in the morning, I can say no thanks or walk with them for the company and when they ask me for lunch, I just tell them that I’m fasting and if I am up for it, we’d hang out while they have lunch.

  71. stitchinthyme*

    #3 – I resigned when my boss was traveling once, and therefore had to do it over the phone — it was either that or reduce my notice period. He did not take it well (I got a massive guilt trip), but that was just him; he wouldn’t have taken it any better if I’d done it in person.

  72. Zombeyonce*

    OP #5: If HR is so worried about being discriminatory, you’d think that would make them more inclusionary rather than excluding people based on some mysterious requirement you didn’t meet. I think you should definitely talk to your boss as soon as you’re able. There may be more wiggle room here than you think if avoiding discrimination is really HR’s reason for being so strict.

  73. Manager Mary*

    Oh man, this stuff re: OP 2 is hilarious to me. Here is what probably happened IRL:

    When you were hired, you signed a form acknowledging that you would only use your work machine for actual work and/or that you understand every single thing you do on your work machine is monitored and/or that IT can remote in at any time without your permission. You probably also signed a form saying you read & agreed to adhere to your policy manual, which undoubtedly says something about time theft. Fast forward to the day you needed tech help. Your IT tech responded to the ticket, opened your screen, saw you were on banking site, realized it wasn’t a work-related website because you don’t work for that bank, and immediately dismissed it as not important because you aren’t getting paid to balance your checkbook and he IS getting paid to fix your computer.

    If he’d seen that you were in the middle of a work-related project or a Skype call, he would have determined now was not the time to resolve your ticket. If he weren’t capable of making that judgment call, then other people would be complaining about it. But they aren’t, so either everyone else is actually working or everyone else knows not complain about this. And let’s lay off the hysterical hand-wringing about privacy rights. If you worked for a company were HIPAA or whatever applied, there would be actual procedures in place to ensure those privacies were protected because laws and stuff are important.

    We’re all adults here. Let’s act like it. Your job is to do work at work. Your IT tech’s job is to do work at work. He was doing his job. Don’t be mad because you got busted not doing yours. Check your bank balance on your phone and get over it. If you have actual security concerns, then pose it to your boss as “hey, I noticed when IT tech remoted it that I didn’t need to grant permission. At OldJob, that was standard, and I’m wondering if that would be useful here.” It’s not a bad idea and can be useful in a lot of settings. But if you go running to your boss to tell on the IT tech for interrupting your time theft by resolving a ticket you opened, I don’t think you’re going to be very happy with how things shake out.

    1. Indie*

      I think your rule of checking bank balances on phones only is probably a good one where you work but it would be a ridiculous idea where I work. Phones are strictly banned but people are welcome (encouraged, actually) to check on important things like banking briefly at their terminals. Maybe the OP understands the conventions of her own workplace better than you?

  74. kimonawhim*

    A couple of years ago, I was on a very small island off the coast of Malaysia during Ramadan. It was pretty remote and the only way to eat was to patronize the little beach cafes, all of which were staffed by Muslims who prepared and served us food every day, while they themselves were fasting. Probably not awesome for them, but they all seemed ok with it (so long as you didn’t show up for dinner right after sundown)

  75. Keyboard Cowboy*

    OP4, sometimes these conversations are easier to have via written medium – does your work have office IMs? Whether you do it in written form or verbally, I also recommend doing it out of context, NOT right after your coworker makes a joke and you’re feeling upset. This makes it easier to plan out what you’re going to say, and not accidentally give away more information than you meant to because you’re keyed up. I recommend something like, “Hey, a few times you’ve made jokes about suicide, and I wanted to let you know that for me and lots of other people this is a sensitive topic that isn’t funny at all. I’d appreciate it if you made an effort to stop making these jokes in the workplace.” Depending on your rapport with the coworker, you could also mention that those kinds of jokes are extremely unprofessional looking and probably impact your coworker’s perception by others.

  76. Lindsay J*

    #5, please mention it to your boss.

    If you were my employee I would want to know, not only because I would want to help you but because it would indicate to me that there was something drastically wrong with HR’s screening process, and that I needed to get that sorted out because I was likely missing out on other good candidates as well.

  77. LadyCop*

    #5 I can’t say it would go well…but if your situation happened to me, I would go running and proverbially screaming to my boss. Have worked in many a bureaucracy, I realize there may be nothing that can be done (although if there’s any place with double standards about stuff too it’s a bureaucracy) but as Alison pointed out, it’s possible there is a flaw in the system…especially since it sounds like human eyes never see any part of the (lengthy) application.

    Also, as a general comment, it’s stuff like this that causes good and awesome people to leave jobs. I really hope this one works out for OP.

  78. Bookworm*

    #1: That’s considerate of you, but at this point you’re definitely overthinking it. If they’ve said they are fine then take them at their word. It’s highly likely they’ve encountered this before and so long as you’re not flaunting it and they’re not demanding you not eat in front of them (and it sounds like this isn’t the situation at all) then it shouldn’t be a big deal. I used to have Muslim roommates and I’d even offer them food during Ramadan, totally forgetting. It was never a big deal, because they knew I wasn’t being malicious and just being courteous (and in fairness, they said they’d sometimes forget themselves and take a bite). Just go about your normal routine and eat as you do.

  79. ScottishOnion*

    For poster #2, you shouldn’t be doing non-work related things on your work computer. Maybe next time you won’t be upset when IT remote-accesses your computer if you are actually working. And you hit the nail on the head with your post, the computer at work is a work computer and you have no privacy. IT needs to access it and it is their job to do that.

  80. Miles*

    #5 this likely won’t be your boss’s first time fighting over a candidate with your hr team if he decides to fight for you. It happens all the time, especially in companies that don’t have the best chain of communication.

  81. Shawn*

    OP #5…I believe that most managers have a way of pulling a resume (via HR), even if it was rejected. Not sure if this is the case everywhere but, it is at my current company. Good luck!

  82. Freelancer*

    Re #4
    My twin brother committed suicide around 10 years ago. We were born on our mother’s birthday so events like birthdays and Christmas are still very difficult although thankfully the pain has gotten much much less over time. Suicide jokes, I find highly inappropriate as I just can’t respond with any appropriate emotion, especially as i don’t necessarily want to disclose to everyone – talking about it is still painful, any many of us have our own ways of coping.

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